Flush this post twice! It's a long way to NBC . . .
at a post-election wrap-up session, when a fellow panelist "mentioned that bloggers had had a big impact on the reporting on Election Day, Williams waved that point away by quipping that the self-styled journalists are 'on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem.'"

-- Brian Williams (Via InstaPundit.)

someone in a bathroom with a modem ?!?

They're really asking for it, aren't they?

posted by Eric at 08:41 PM | Comments (2)



Look MOORE like a Republican?

What an odd coincidence!

I was just discussing fashion with Sean Kinsell, (in comments to an earlier post), then nearly fainted when I saw this:

MooreNU.jpg

Not only does Moore have a new look, he's got new lines to go with his new garb:

Moore appeared on stage wearing a suit and tie, no beard or hat and a trim haircut.

When asked by Jay Leno about his appearance, Moore quipped, "I thought I should look a little sharper for my IRS audit" and "If you can't beat them, you might as well look like them."

Moore told Leno that there was a reason President Bush was re-elected November 2, "He got more votes."

"The Republicans - I'll give them this - they had a story to tell," Moore continued. "The Democrats, often times, aren't very good at telling a story. And the [Bush] story was: Out of the ashes of Sept. 11 rose one man. And he stood on the rubble of lower Manhattan with a bullhorn and he said, 'I will protect you.' "

Moore had some advice for Democrats who were unhappy with the results of the 2004 presidential election. "[Bush's victory] was just a couple of percentage points," Moore told the "Tonight Show" audience. "People who voted for Kerry shouldn't be depressed at this point. They should pick themselves up . . . There's another game in four years. And we'll come back and do the best we can."

What the hell is going on here? I mean, I tried a new makeover for Moore before (and Justin said he never looked better; hmmm . . . . ) but I never thought I'd see this.

You'd almost think there was an election or something.

UPDATE (BUT AN EXPLANATION IS NOT AN EXCUSE): I guess one good picture deserves another.

Suits.jpg

Sigh.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 02:27 PM | Comments (3)



More Beheadings? Say it's not so!

After reading this account of Ivory Coast atrocities linked by Glenn Reynolds, I began to wonder whether there might be other atrocities which haven't managed to find their way into the MSM.

What I want to know is: did French troops behead demonstrators in the Ivory Coast?

The news seems to be disappearing as fast as it appears, so I'll provide the link to the Google cache of the story I found (with another version here):

IVORY COAST LEADER CLAIMS FRENCH TROOPS DECAPITATED DEMONSTRATORS
Received Saturday, 20 November 2004 22:16:00 GMT

PARIS, Nov 20 (AFP) - Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo said Saturday he believed reports were true that French troops had decapitated local demonstrators during anti-French riots in the west African state this month.

"I wasn't in the hospitals myself but everyone who went there said so: you may take it that the evidence provided by several people is true," he responded online from Abidjan to a website discussion in Paris.

Asked by AFP, French army information services in Paris would say only: "We have no comment to make on this kind of statement."

Cardinal Bernard Agre, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abidjan, first made the decapitation charge, saying November 11 on Radio Vatican: "I have just come from the hospitals. It's unbearable, these young people decapitated by the French army."

Read the whole thing. The French deny beheading anyone, of course.

[BBC on French denial here.]

I don't know quite what to make of it, but surely such grotesque allegations of prisoner abuse -- by an Archbishop, to the Vatican -- will be investigated by the International Red Cross . . . (Commenters at this anti-French blog are suggesting that someone should call the UN as well.)

MORE: There's an atrocity video here apparently showing that heads were shot off, not cut off:

....the French are making the point that no one had their head intentionally lopped off… like with a sword. Apparently it doesn’t count as a beheading if it is a bullet that releives you of it.
In all fairness to the French, shooting off someone's head in combat is not the same thing as deliberately cutting off a prisoner's head with a sword. But should French statements of denial always be accepted on their face?

UPDATE: That last video was pretty tough to watch. It's quite obvious that a number of civilians were shot to death by French soldiers; I lost count of the number of dead and dying women. The headless corpse is pretty gruesome too, so if you download the (long) video, consider yourself warned.

But why isn't it being widely reported? Because it's French soldiers shooting civilians in the Ivory Coast? Had Israelis or Americans been involved in anything remotely like this, there'd have been front page headlines all over the world.

posted by Eric at 10:02 AM | Comments (1)



Greetings, Annan! ... I shall speak with you Anon.

Though Kofi Annan is still safe in the public eye and still the image of all that is pure and holy in the old press, times they may be a changin'. Political cartoons these days tend to be hacky, easy, and a bit behind, so Jerry Holbert's cartoon from today's Boston Herald is encouraging (via Yahoo):

kofi.jpg

Meanwhile, St. Kofi tsk-tsks his naughty little son.

posted by Dennis at 07:52 AM | Comments (1)




Philadelphia threedom!

This morning I broke with my usual routine after an email from Sean Kinsell invited me to join him and fellow blogger Tom Brennan in Philadelphia.

What a treat! Tom is one of the great ones, whose writing skills I have long admired -- but from afar. I'm rather shy, and this is only the second time I've actually met a real blogger. As it turned out, none of us had met other bloggers before. (Well, I once attended a lecture delivered by a rock star-type blogger, but that's a little different.)

Tom led us to an Indian restaurant so good (and so reasonably priced) that it deserves a plug, so if you're ever in Philadelphia, by all means try Samosa Indian Vegetarian Restaurant.

After we ate and were getting ready to leave, I realized that if I didn't have a group shot of this occasion I'd be kicking myself for days. My camera has a timer setting, and as I was trying to balance the thing precariously on a railing so I could set it off and then jump into the picture, a nearby customer took pity on me, and here's the result:

ETS2.jpg

Yeah, the layout, focus, and lighting need work, and there should be something in that niche on the wall, but the spirit is there, and I am not about to Photoshop tasteful wall decorations into an informal luncheon snapshot.

Sean had a gift for Tom; some beautifully packaged green tea from Japan. I made Tom and Sean slow down the tea presentation ceremony while I whipped out my camera (despite protestations that it might look like a drug deal was in progress).

SeanTomTea.jpg

(So far as I know, green tea is still legal in every state.)

After that Tom had to go back to work, while Sean spent a little time sightseeing before continuing his travels.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for kindly linking to this post -- especially for recognizing the need for limits.

But now I'm thinking about the wall decorations at Jessica's Well, and I'm wondering.... Maybe she got the picture right. (You know, parallel universes and all that.)

Welcome all InstaPundit readers!

UPDATE: A missing wall decoration has been found:

ETS3.jpg

It's, um, tasteful (if not tofurkey).

MORE: In a post called "Where Is the Outrage" AgendaBender offers grim warnings about the future of the Gay Industrialized World. And something about a problem with painful spikes! (Heads will roll....)

And they're closing in on poor Sean, who's beginning to discover what he was missing in Japan!

posted by Eric at 05:43 PM | Comments (12)



Satan is coming! In a theater and closet near you!

I see that the Alexander the Great film is stirring more nonsensical controversies like this:

.... conservative Christians have loudly denounced Alexander as "pro-gay" propaganda from Tinseltown, insisting that Alexander was a firmly hetero hero. To add to the film's problems, the public has stayed away from what was to be the big movie of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Since opening, it has grossed just under $20m (£10.5m), leaving it in sixth place in a table of the most popular current films behind National Treasure, The Incredibles, Christmas with the Kranks, The Polar Express and even The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

The mainstream press has also ridiculed the movie - calling it everything from a "noble failure" to an "indifferent epic".

It is being suggested that a film about a global warrior with dyed blond hair and waxed legs was never going to conquer an America fresh out of a presidential election in which gay rights became a major issue.

The film is a blowsy biography of the Macedonian conqueror, long on emotional speeches and short on battles. But the poor script and suspect casting is only partly to blame.

According to one online critic,Alexander is a flop because he is "as gay as a maypole". Christians considering seeing the film have even been urged to "speak to your pastors immediately because Satan is attempting to enter your mind".

As I have argued before, both "sides" (assuming they are that) are missing the point. Alexander's homosexuality cannot be measured, judged, or even fairly portrayed in modern terms. He was not "gay" in the Hollywood sense as the ancients did not see sexuality that way. They didn't offset homosexuality from heterosexuality as sexual identities, much less human identities (or "isms"), and the modern concept of gayness -- so hopelessly mired in reactions to guilt and shame -- is at least as inapplicable to ancients like Alexander as are contemporary conservative religious views. To claim Alexander was heterosexual is as ridiculous as claiming he was homosexual. Even claiming he's bisexual presupposes two sexualities. It just doesn't work. Alexander had male lovers and many wives, and I doubt he saw much of a contradiction there.

But enter modern politics, and they'll slam a closet door on a man who never imagined such a thing, then open the closet and "out" him, then argue over and denounce a "sexuality" he wouldn't have comprehended, and then place him in the "Satanic" camp when he never knew Satan.

The whole thing is laughable.

Except no one seems to be laughing.


MORE: Did Alexander the Great anticipate that someday, he'd be expected to reach out and "conquer an America fresh out of a presidential election in which gay rights became a major issue?" I think I followed the presidential campaign as closely as most people, but until today I never realized that "gay rights" was a "major issue" -- much less that it was setting the stage for Alexander's final conquest.

But then, I'm not Oliver Stone. . .

UPDATE: Once again, Belmont Club's Wretchard has an excellent post about what Oliver Stone is not saying about Alexander's dark side, especially the cruelty and slaughter so common in ancient times:

While attempting to organize a resistance against Alexander, Darius was betrayed by one his subordinates, Bessus, and slain. Bessus had calculated on winning the gratitude of Alexander; but the demi-god understood above all how treason, now that he was king, had to be rewarded. Bessus was cruelly mutilated at Alexander's command and executed.

Hollywood may have calculated that none of this was important; that the sole point of interest of a population weaned on the tabloids was the earth-shaking question of whether or not Alexander was gay. Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman convincingly argues the poverty of the question. In her monograph, Reames-Zimmerman argues that the concept of gayness, as it is presently understood, did not exist in the ancient world. From her discussion it is possible to say that Alexander might have been gay in the sense that convicts in a penitentiary are gay -- an exercise in power by one man over another -- and if that analogy is inexact so is any other. The world of 320 BC is as distant from us today as the 19th century, the last point in time when men intuitively understood the ancient world.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

I am reminded of a previous post about cruelty and pain -- and I suspect the ancients' attitudes toward pain and cruelty are as analogous to modern ideas as ancient "homosexuality" is to the "gay movement."

Try as we might, we can't feel either.

More: Pain and ancient morality:

Gaius Mucius, a Roman youth, vowed to assassinate the Etruscan King Porsenna but mistakenly killed the king's treasurer, who was distributing wages to the soldiers. Brought before Porsenna, Gaius announced that he was but one of many youths sworn to slay him.

To prove the Romans' resolve to resist the invading Porsenna, he held his hand in the fire without flinching until it burned away. Amazed by this demonstration, Porsenna set him free and concluded peace with Rome. Thereafter, Gaius Mucius, known as Mucius Scaevola (the left-handed), became a symbol of Roman virtue.

Ouch?

posted by Eric at 09:10 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (1)




Birth Of A Notion

Here's hoping all Classical Values readers had an edifying, tasty Thanksgiving. We all have much to be thankful for, and in line with our holiday traditions, I'm hoping that you leave here feeling stuffed. And have I got the turkey to do it for you.

I promised you more Rifkin ages ago, then failed to deliver. Mea Culpa. Today, months later, we begin our exploration of what many Rifkin aficionados consider to be his most important work, the one that put him on the map, "Entropy". This one is the gold standard by which all subsequent Rifkiniana must be measured. I would classify his earlier evangelical work as more of a "hidden treasure".

The Rifkin Ideal Form is followed, as always. Identify a Problem, with as much fear-mongering hyperbole as the market will bear. Follow up with a selective statistics dump, from whatever cherry-picked sources suit best. This is to establish "credibility". Sorces should sound authoritative, even if they're not.

Propose a grand, overarching theory, that neatly and simplistically explains How We Got Here as well as what we should Do About It.

Laud the marvels of the brave new world to come, a world almost within our grasp, if only a few simple transformational concepts can be implemented. Caution the naysayers (more sorrow than anger, please). Re-emphasize the importance of destroying industrial capitalism.

Close on a quiet note of swelling, inevitable triumph. That's our Rifkin!

Let's start slow and savor the experience, shall we? And fair warning. This is going to be a long slog. Most Rifkin Fans like to focus on a mere half dozen or so of his most memorable gems. Here at Classical Values we give you the real deal. Acre after acre of "misanthropy and misconceptions", scarcely touched by an editorial presence.

Before we're through, I want you to feel in your bones just how how much of a horse's ass this guy is. If you get a little weary, by all means feel free to skip my snarky interjections. The real meat is in the block quotes. And if you feel as though you just can't take any more, I surely couldn't blame you, but please, please read the bold-face excerpts.

If we continue to ignore the truth of the Entropy Law and its role in defining the broad context in which our physical world unfolds, then we shall do so at the risk of our own extinction.

The grandest motivator of all marketing strategies, learn my message or die!

Each day we awake to a world that appears more confused and disordered than the one we left the night before. Nothing seems to work anymore…Our leaders are forever lamenting and apologizing…The powers that be continue to address the problems at hand with solutions that create even greater problems than the ones they were meant to solve... P 3
…garbage and pollution are piling up in every quarter, oozing out of the ground, seeping into our rivers, and lingering in our air. Our eyes burn, our skin discolors, our lungs collapse, and all we can think of is retreating indoors and closing the shutters. P 3

Now, whenever I find my lungs collapsing, getting indoors is not the first thing to cross my mind. What good would it do, anyway? This is a textbook example of Rifkin's curiously infelicitous prose style. "Closing the shutters"? Sheesh.

…at the present time no single leader or ideology on this planet can effectively address the universal crisis at hand, because all are committed to the existing world view, one that is diseased and dying and is contaminating everything it gave birth to. P 4

Subtlety is for losers, eh? You have to get the marks fired up early.

The Entropy Law has a special power. It is so utterly overwhelming that, once fully internalized, it transforms everyone it comes in contact with; it is this almost mystical attraction that makes the Entropy Law so frightening to take hold of. Yet.... few people can resist the temptation to do just that. The allure lies in its all-encompassing nature.The Entropy law is the assassin of the truths of the Modern Age.... Now those truths have metamorphosed into monstrous lies which threaten our continued existence. Pp 6-7

I should probably take a moment to point out that this entropy Law he goes on about is not generally recognized by scientists or engineers. It was manufactured more or less out of whole cloth by Nicholas Georgescu-Rogen, an economist with a fancy-pants name and seemingly, a knack for the creative interpretation of physics.

Already the outline of the new entropy paradigm is being filled in by scholars around the world. Within a few years every academic discipline will be turned inside out by the new entropy conception. P 7

Reality check. Twenty four years have come and gone, and Entropy Studies have yet to sweep the campuses.

It should be emphasized that the Entropy Law deals only with the physical world where everything is finite and where all living things must run their course and eventually cease to be. It is a law governing the horizontal world of time and space. It is mute, however, when it comes to the vertical world of spiritual transcendence.
The spiritual plane is not governed by the ironclad dictates of the Entropy Law. The spirit is a nonmaterial dimension where there are no boundaries and no fixed limits to attend to. The relationship of the physical to the spiritual world is the relationship of a small part to the larger unbound whole within which it unfolds. While the Entropy Law governs the world of time, space, and matter, it is, in turn, governed by the primordial spiritual forces that conceived it. P 8

Jacques Ellul has clearly been a major influence here. As they say, "A little knowledge..."

Studies of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies bear out much of Hesiod’s account. Detailed examinations of the African Bushmen and other hunter-gatherer groups provide some real surprises for those of us who like to believe that human history has been a progressive journey....
…The fact is, contemporary hunter-gatherers work no more than twelve to twenty hours per week, and for weeks and months each year they do no work at all. Instead, their time is filled with leisure pursuits including games, sporting events, art, music, dance, ceremonies, and visiting with neighbors. Contrary to popular opinion, studies of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies show that some are among the healthiest people in the world. Their diets are nutritious, and many,--like the Bushmen in Africa--live well into their sixties without the aid of modern medicine. Many hunter-gatherer societies place a premium on cooperation and sharing, and show little inclination for warring and aggression against each other or outside groups. P 11

Gosh, they live well into their sixties... Stumbling across the hunter-gatherer meme was an unexpected treat. Someday I hope to compare and contrast the various passages from Kass, Ehrlich, Rifkin, and everyone's favorite tobacco farmer, the incomparable Wendell Berry. For now, let's just say that subsequent field surveys by cultural anthropologists have shown that life as a hunter-gatherer can be less satisfying than the idyll described here.

Jane Jacobs first brought to my attention the truly horrific (comparable to inner Detroit or South Central L.A.) homicide rates among the Inuit and the Kalahari Bushmen. The most cursory follow-up on my part acquainted me with the Gebusi, a tribe where one in three adult male deaths is the result of a murder. Quibblers may note that the Gebusi practice agriculture. Shame.

The machine age is now so firmly inside of us that it is difficult to know where it stops and we start. Even the words that come out of our mouths are no longer our words, they are the machine’s words. We “measure” our relationships with other people by whether we are in “synchronization” with them. Our feelings are reduced to good or bad “vibrations.” We no longer initiate activity; instead we are a “self-starter.” We avoid “friction” at work and choose to “tune in” rather than pay attention. We think of people’s lives as either “running smoothly” or “breaking down.” If the latter, then we expect that in short order they will be put back together or “readjusted.” P 18

Note: One could as easily argue that we have been nauticised by exposure to His Majesties Royal Navy. We "make headway", we are "taken aback", we are in the "doldrums", we don’t have room to "swing a cat", nonsense can be "utter bilge", our house can be "shipshape" from "stem to stern", we give the old "heave-ho", or try a different "tack", set a "new course" etc., etc., et tedious cetera. I think of Rifkin as a "loose cannon". Don't get me started on cowboys.

Here on earth there are two sources of available energy: our terrestrial stock and the solar flow from the sun…While the sun’s energy is degrading with every passing second, its entropy will not reach a maximum until long after the earth’s available terrestrial stock has been completely used up. Pp 36-37

Not to be pedantic, but the sun is actually getting hotter. If nothing is done to ameliorate the situation, Earth may well become uninhabitable in as little as half a billion years. You could not possibly make me worry about it less than I do now.

Every time you light a cigarette, the available energy in the world decreases. Of course, as already pointed out, it’s possible to reverse the entropy process in an isolated time and place, but only by using up additional energy in the process and thus increasing the overall entropy of the environment…A point that needs to be emphasized over and over again is that here on earth material entropy is continually increasing and must ultimately reach a maximum. That’s because the earth is a closed system in relation to the universe. With the exception of an occasional meteorite that falls to earth and some cosmic dust, our planet remains a closed subsystem of the universe…

Would that it were so. Interestingly, many of the richest nickel and platinum lodes appear to be the sites of ancient impact events. I suppose we could ask the dinosaurs to confirm that, if they weren’t all dead.

The fixed endowment of terrestrial matter that makes up the earth’s crust is continually dissipating. Mountains are wearing down and topsoil is being blown away with each passing second. That is why, in the final analysis, even renewable resources are really nonrenewable over the long haul. While they continue to reproduce, the life and death of new organisms increase the entropy of the earth...
Every farmer understands that, even with recycling and constant sunshine, it’s impossible to grow the same amount of grass on the same spot year after year in perpetuity. Every blade of grass grown today means one less blade of grass that can be grown some time in the future on that same spot. P37-38

Ireland has been green for six thousand years, at least. How did they manage that?
Another funny thing. I drove across Oklahoma last year and couldn't find any trace of that dust bowl thing. What happened? And what about the rain forests? Are they guilty of overly profligate entropic expenditure? They sure do grow a lot.

Today, the frontier mentality remains alive and well among space enthusiasts who claim that we can always move on to colonize and exploit other planets. Their expectations can’t be met. Sending up just the population increase on earth of six days of births would cost the equivalent of our entire gross national product for one year. Then, too, astronomers tell us that the nearest solar system to ours with planets that might possibly be comparable in climatic conditions is ten light-years away, and with our present technology it would take over a hundred years to travel there…

Reality check. More like one hundred thousand years. NASA would sacrifice your first born children to reach one tenth light speed.

Finally, the idea that valuable resources could be mined and sent back to earth from other planets in the quantities needed is completely ridiculous. The cost of mining additional resources on earth is already becoming prohibitive. Even assuming we could locate planets with resources that would be usable in some way here on earth, there is no way we could ever afford the costs of mining and transporting the materials from these distant places. Pp 66-67

Actually, I think there might be something to the idea. Certainly, if you believe in technological advancement, it should eventually become more affordable. Just ask that Rutan fella. But, the certainty displayed here, "no way ever", is pretty much a standard feature of a good Rifkin Rant.

The faster we streamline our technology, the faster we speed up the transforming process, the faster available energy is dissipated, the more the disorder mounts… In short, we live in a kind of nightmarish Orwellian world. P 79

So I suppose we might just as well quit. Go out all at once, in a huge blowout party. After all, if we start husbanding resources for our grandchildren, leaving them “in the pantry” as it were, we can eke out a bit more time, but what’s the point? The grandkids will have grandchildren of their own one day, and so on, ad infinitum. Just how many generations are we planning on scrimping for? Collectivization offers a modicum of hope.

In hearings before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in 1976, many of the experts on technology even suggested that diminishing returns might have set in across the board and that America’s great technological strides of the past would probably never be repeated. One witness before the hearings shocked the congressional assemblage by pointing out that in the past ten years, after all the billions of dollars spent in research and development, only two technological breakthroughs with a 100 percent market potential were introduced, permanent-press pants and pocket calculators. Not very impressive. P 85

Well, no wonder space resources can't save us. The irony here is just killing me.

Addiction! There is simply no other way to accurately describe America’s energy habit. The statistics are overwhelming. With only 6 percent of the world’s population, the United States currently consumes over one third of the world’s energy. P 99

"No other way..."

It has been said before that the world could not possibly support another America. Looking at these figures, it becomes apparent that even one America is more than the world can afford.

"could not possibly..." Nice. "Another America..." Nicer.

It should also be understood that there is no way to allow for the needs of future generations in classical economic theory. When we meet as buyers and sellers in the marketplace we make decisions based on the relative abundance or scarcity of things as they affect us. No one speaks for future generations at the marketplace, and for this reason, everyone who comes after us starts off much poorer than we did in terms of nature’s remaining endowment. P 134

And we are SO much poorer than our nineteenth century ancestors, as they, in turn, stand positively beggared beside their medieval forbears. A clincher, a definite clincher...

…One would be hard pressed to deny what everyone accepts as gospel: that American agricultural technology is extraordinarily efficient. Yet, the truth is that it’s the most inefficient form of farming ever devised by humankind. One farmer with an ox and plow produces a more efficient yield per energy expended than the giant mechanized agrifarms of modern America. Hard to believe, but it’s absolutely true. Pp 136-137

And therefore we should...what? Farm with oxen? The seventies were chock full of conceptual blockbusters like this one. If one chooses to measure crop output per man, or even per man-hour, the conclusion is reversed. We trade the liberal use of energy for hours of lifespan spent away from the farm, a good deal if you’ve got the fuel for it.

The well-known exception to these historical limitations was the ancient city of Rome. At its peak, it grew to a population of nearly one million people. The Roman city could only be sustained, however, by attempting to colonize everything in its path. Without its vast pool of slaves, intensive farming techniques, massive aqueduct-building projects, and, most importantly, the empire’s armies, Rome could not possibly have supported its population. In a sense, the entire known world had to be pillaged to overcome the natural limitation imposed by a solar-agricultural energy base.
Murray Bookchin puts it well when he writes, “The Fall of Rome can be explained by the rise of Rome. The Latin city was carried to imperial heights not by the resources of its rural environs, but by spoils acquired from the systematic looting of the Near East, Egypt, and North Africa. The very process involved in maintaining the Roman cosmopolis destroyed the cosmopolis.

That seems just a little too simple to me. But who am I to question Murray Bookchin?
I'm just glad I could work in a Classical angle. I don't do enough of that.

Once embarked on the course of urban expansion, Rome was in a losing race…
Rome serves as a case study of what can happen when an urban area vainly seeks to ignore the growth limitations imposed on it by its surrounding resource base. Seeking out far-flung energy resources can serve to delay the collapse, but eventually the day of reckoning must come. Such is the case in our own time. Pp 150-151

"must come..." But what about Alexandria, or Constantinople, or Jerusalem? Or the great millennia-old cities of India and China and the Fertile Crescent? Rather than looking to some theoretical notion of entropic limits, might it not be more helpful to examine the waxing and waning of political and military power, and how those can be affected by negative incentives in the tax structure? I think they call it history.

The near fiscal collapse of New York and Cleveland is a sign of what lies ahead for our overgrown and outworn cities in the next two decades. P 156

Not Cleveland!

The remaining reservoirs of untapped nonrenewable resources are primarily in the hands of the poor Third World nations. These resources are their only remaining trump card to bargain for a more equitable redistribution of wealth between the industrialized countries and their own…

You knew it would come down to equitable redistribution, didn't you?

To those of us who have lived for decades on huge quantities of energy and resources provided by the Third World, it is easy to resent the squeeze that cartels will put on our economic system. A popular country-and western song of the summer of 1979 summed up the frustration many Americans felt over escalating OPEC oil prices: “No crude, no food.” In other words, if the Third World won’t sell us its petroleum, then we should withhold food exports from the world’s hungry.

No, no, just the hungry oil vendors. We’re fine with everybody else.

This kind of jingoistic attitude on our part is not only morally and politically indefensible, but it threatens our very survival. The choice is ours. We can either accept the new terms presented by Third World nations and cut back dramatically on our energy flow and material consumption, or we can intervene militarily to seize the resources we need… p 188

Again with the either/or ultimatums. How about, we can seek out other sources in the North Sea and Russia and Latin America, while simultaneously keeping the pressure on OPEC by bankrolling solar, coal, and tar sands research. And it’s not too late for “safer” next generation fission reactors. How I hate these reductionist analyses.

…as long as we in the United States continue to consume one-third of the world’s resources annually, the Third World can never rise to even a semblance of a standard of living that can adequately support human life with dignity. Those who are irate over the formation of resource cartels as an economic weapon to be used against rich nations like our own had best ask themselves what they would do if they were living in the Third World…. P 189

Yep. We're the bad guys again.

As long as we continue to devour the lion’s share of resources, squandering the great bulk of them on trivialities while the rest of the world struggles to find its next meal, we have no right to lecture other peoples on how to conduct their economic development. Therefore, if we are truly committed to preventing our planet from being turned into a giant industrial sewer, we must begin, now, voluntarily, to substantially limit our own material wealth. We must show our own willingness to accept hard sacrifices in the name of humanity. P 190

"Hard sacrifices"equals redistribution, at the very least. Maybe with guns, eh?

However, this too must be said: no Third World nation should harbor hopes that it can ever reach the material abundance that has existed in America over the past few decades.

This last quote angered me greatly as a young man. To be honest, it still kinda ticks me. Let's play it again, with the volume turned up.

"NO THIRD WORLD NATION SHOULD HARBOR HOPES THAT IT CAN EVER REACH THE MATERIAL ABUNDANCE THAT HAS EXISTED IN AMERICA..."

This is just sinister and wrong. Did he even believe it himself?

To put its faith in Western-style development is a cruel hoax, simply because it is a physical impossibility even if there were a complete redistribution of the world’s resources….

Yeah, and if redistribution can't do it, we all know it just can't be done.

It is thus impossible for the rest of the world to develop as the United States has. In fact, as we have already seen, absolute resource scarcity makes it impossible that even the United States can continue at anything near its present level of energy flow. This is not, however, to dismiss the absolute necessity of fostering economic development in the Third World. The question is: What kind of development is appropriate to poor nations? Pp 190-191

"Appropriate” development, eh? Sounds unpleasantly familiar.

….It is clear that Third World nations must seek different forms of development from those used in the industrialized West. High-energy, centralized technology should be eschewed in favor of intermediate technology that is labor intensive and can be used in local villages…

In other words, peasants.

Several appropriate models for Third World development already exist. Before Mao’s death, the People’s Republic of China organized itself in a way that maintained the rural base of the society and favored labor-intensive production. China is not a rich society, but no one is starving to death--or is jobless or homeless, either.

Make that oppressed peasants. And they WERE starving.

More attention should also be turned to the Gandhian economic model….Gandhian economics favors the country over the city, agriculture over industry, small-scale techniques over high technology. Only this general set of economic priorities can lead to successful Third World development. Pp 192-193
Accepting higher and higher prices for all nonrenewable resources means a steady contracting of the American economy. For the first time in our countries history we will have to deal with the ultimate political and economic question—redistribution of wealth…
The contraction of the American economy has already begun. On September 6, 1979, the Secretary of the Treasury warned the nation that it must go through “a period of austerity”.… There is really only one viable solution: it is imperative that there be a massive redistribution of wealth and power in this society. Without that redistribution, the poor and working classes in America will rightly condemn any talk of austerity or economic sacrifice…

"Mom, he's scaring me."

"Hush, baby."

Without a fundamental redistribution of wealth, all talk of lowering energy flow and heeding our planet’s biological limits will result in nothing but the rich locking the poor forever into their subservient status The chic upper-class ecologists, with their hot-tubs, their quarter-million-dollar homes, their designer clothes, and their Mercedes Benzes, had best realize that their calls for clean air must be accompanied by meaningful actions that will lead to a redistribution of their own unwarranted economic abundance. If they do not voluntarily begin to make this economic adjustment, then others will make it for them. Pp 194-195
UNWARRANTED ECONOMIC ABUNDANCE
In a high-entropy culture, the overriding purpose of life becomes one of using high energy flow to create material abundance and satisfy every conceivable human desire….

Which would be wrong?

having banished God from society, the high-entropy, materialist value system attempts to provide a heaven on earth….

Mere assertion, manifestly untrue.

We have denied the qualitative, the spiritual, the metaphysical…We have gloried in the concepts of material progress, efficiency, and specialization above all other values. In the process, we have destroyed family, community, tradition….Now our world view and social system are falling victim to the very process of their creation. Everywhere we look, the entropy of our world is reaching staggering proportions…. P 205

Again, not necessarily true.

There is no doubt that we are in for a massive institutional realignment….But before we can even begin to broadly outline the nature of agriculture, industry, and commerce in a low-entropy society, we must turn our attention to first principles….the Big Questions of the past are destined to re-emerge in the low-entropy world that awaits us….. p 206
The governing ethical principle of a low-entropy world view is to minimize energy flow. Excessive material wealth is recognized as an irreversible diminution of the world’s precious resources…. A low-entropy society deemphasizes material consumption...Human needs are met, but whimsical, self-indulgent desires—the kind pandered to in every shopping center in the country—are not.
The traditional wisdom, as embodied in all the great world religions, has long taught that the ultimate purpose of human life is not the satisfaction of all material desires, but rather the experience of liberation that comes from becoming one with the metaphysical unity of the universe…

I beg to differ.

In Sanskrit, it is put most succinctly: Tat tvam asi (That art thou). To know this in the very ground of our being and to conduct our life in accordance with this transcendent reality: this is the human development that that comes from an adherence to traditional wisdom…. Pp 206-207

So now he’s channeling Joseph Campbell.

In a low-entropy culture the individual is expected to live a much more frugal or Spartan life-style….In the new age, the less production and consumption necessary to maintain a healthy, decent life, the better….
In a high-entropy environment, human labor has no real positive value….Work, especially physical labor is considered demeaning….

Unless you worked in silicon valley during the nineties…

As for what is produced, that hardly matters at all…No one takes responsibility for determining whether something should be produced or not. As long as a market for the item can be developed, it will be provided. Thus, society is deluged by a plethora of material effluence—microwave ovens, hair dryers, automobiles that poison the air, and prescription drugs that poison the body….

And this is clearly a sore spot for Rifkin. No one takes responsibility. No one is IN CHARGE. No one is there to say no to consumer demand, and make it stick. Clearly it would be wrong to allow choice to remain in the hands of the consumers. Clearly, they need guidance.

In a low-entropy culture, work is understood to be an activity as necessary for the proper life-balance as sleep, contemplation, or play….
But not just any kind of work can be considered appropriate. It must be designed, first and foremost, to provide dignity and purpose for the worker…. Pp 208-209

That is, small crafts, tilling the soil, animal husbandry…life is very beautiful at the ashram. Can we do weaving?

In a low-entropy culture the concept of private property is retained for consumer goods and services but not for land and other renewable and nonrenewable resources. The long-accepted practice of private exploitation of “natural” property is replaced with the notion of public guardianship….

As pronounced and elaborated upon by “Public Guardians”, no doubt. The road to serfdom, with an entropically correct gang of Mutaween to promote ecological virtue...

Individual rights are protected, but they are no longer regarded as the dominant reference point from which to judge society. Instead, the notion of public duties, and responsibilities once again gains ascendancy as the dominant social motif, as it has been throughout most of history.

Do we really want to return to living as we did throughout most of history?

In a low-entropy society, our modern view of man and woman divorced from the workings of the ecosystem gives way to a holistic comprehension of the interrelatedness of all phenomena…. Once it is understood that human beings are “one” with nature, then an ethical base is established by which the appropriateness of all human activity can be judged. P 211

The scary thing is, there are still plenty of citizens who totally agree with these sentiments. I bought a Rifkin book (used) six months ago at a local, independent bookstore. My attractive, friendly, clearly under thirty salesperson opined that my purchase looked “really interesting”. She went on to say that she just “loved!” Jeremy Rifkin. She looked so cute in her levis and fringed buckskin vest, that I could only nod my silent assent.

All the great teachers of traditional wisdom have embraced the values inherent to a low-entropy life. Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed, the prophets of Israel, and the mahatmas of India all led exemplary lives of simplicity, voluntary poverty, and communal sharing. P 212

One wonders.

Small-scale labor-intensive agriculture will require a massive shift of people away from the cities and back to the farms. The transition will not take place overnight…. Eventually the proportion of farm to city population will have to reverse itself if human life is to survive….An agricultural way of life will dominate the coming Solar Age as it has in every other period of history before our own….

Cambodia will have much to teach us as we implement the relocations.

“Large” cities will once again return to their preindustrial size of 50,000 to 100,000 citizens.

Perhaps. But more likely because of terrorism, suitcase nukes, and cheap telepresence than ginned up entropic limits.

Along with the scaling down of cities, transportation systems are also going to be vastly reoriented in the years to come. The high cost of energy is going to force a fundamental shift in the pattern of travel away from automobiles and trucks and toward greater mass transit and long-distance rail use…
Our social and economic life will undergo radical changes reflecting the change in transportation….

You CAN live your dream, Jeremy.

Because of escalating energy and resource costs, industry will reverse its historical trend and convert back from energy- and capital-intensive production modes to labor-intensive ones….
Agriculture, which will no longer be able to continue its mechanized farming techniques, will also become far more labor intensive….

Channeling Pol Pot and Wendell Berry, simultaneously...

In keeping with the dictum that the low-entropy economy is one of necessities, not luxuries or trivialities, production will center on goods required to maintain life. To recognize the extent to which production will be diminished, we have only to take a tour through a suburban mall and ask ourselves, “How many of these products are even marginally useful in sustaining life?” Any honest appraisal is sure to conclude that most of what is manufactured in our economy is simply superfluous. P 218

...Not to mention Savonarola.

The production that does continue should take place within certain guidelines in keeping with the low-entropy paradigm….Of course, adhering to these guidelines will necessarily mean that certain items will become impossible to produce.

These next few quotes sound as though he’s in labor with Paul Ehrlich’s Malthusian love-child.

A Boeing 747, for instance, simply cannot be manufactured by a small company employing several hundred individuals. Thus, a new ethic will have to be adopted as the litmus test of what should be produced in the low-entropy society: if it cannot be made locally by the community, using readily available resources and technology, then it is most likely unnecessary that it be produced at all.

Pacing, Jere. Remember your breathing.

Many industries will not be able to withstand the transition to a low energy flow. Unable to adapt to the new economic environment, the automotive, aerospace, petrochemical, and other industries will slide into extinction.

The new paradigm’s head is in sight!

The move toward a low-entropy economy will spell the end of the reign of the multinational corporation…. pp 218-219

Remember, It’s Paul’s baby, too…

….the low-entropy age we are moving into will require a great reduction in world population. The massive explosion in world population is really only understandable when viewed in thermodynamic terms….

Push, Jere. Push!...Say to yourself..."It's Paul's baby.".

The implications of a thermodynamic view of population growth are staggering…

Breathe! Push!

Ooops. It was stillborn.

Lucky for us.

posted by Justin at 10:34 PM | Comments (8)



Blogging can be murder . . .

I'm sure the MSM will have lots of fun with this:

"Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered."

This simple yet startling sentence marks the last entry Rachelle Waterman made in her Internet journal before she was arrested on charges she participated in killing her mother. And it marks the beginning of an online discussion that's as remarkable for its popularity as its content.

Waterman is the 16-year-old high school honor student from Craig jailed with two 24-year-old men who troopers say schemed for months to kill 48-year-old Lauri Waterman.

Waterman started her diary on LiveJournal.com in September of last year, and anyone with Internet access can read the 100-plus entries she's written.

She made her final entry Nov. 18, the Thursday after she spent the weekend in Anchorage playing in the state volleyball tournament. While she was at the tournament, police say, her two accomplices killed her mother.

The Nov. 18 entry includes two more sentences by Waterman explaining she won't be online for a while, because police seized her computer.

For several days, the Web site was quiet. Then came stories about Waterman's arrest and arraignment, some of which mentioned the journal. Since then, it's become a hot spot.

On Wednesday, the day of the arraignment, 11 readers had commented on Waterman's final entry. By midday Friday, the number was up to 256. Twenty-four hours later, it was over 1,600.

Most seem to be written by teens and young adults. Many are glib, some are heartfelt, a few are disturbing and a number are obscene.

Taken together, they create a fascinating peephole into a world where lock-and-key diaries have been replaced by journals written for the whole planet to read and respond to, a world where voyeurism has been compounded by participation.

So finally it's come to this!

Here's the proof (the fatal journal called "My Crappy Life"). (Via Geeklife.)

Blogging causes murder!

I just knew it!

Clearly, something has to be done. How many more must die?

If we could save just one life!

(And I thought all blogging might lead to was political hardball.)

UPDATE: Here's an example of the type of political hardball which I might expect to be directed against bloggers of unpopular opinions. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 07:41 PM | Comments (3)



When ugliness assaults beauty . . .
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

-- Winston Churchill

It isn't often that I get as angry as I was last night. But I've had a good night's sleep and calmed down, so now I might be able to write about the problem in what I hope will be a more or less objective manner. (Considering that Sean Kinsell has called me mellow, I now have a -- what's the word? -- reputation to uphold!)

Anyway, some recent intrusive personal attacks against Nick Packwood -- one of my oldest and dearest friends in the blogosphere -- are simply outrageous. Nick's post was highlighted earlier by Steven Malcolm Anderson in a comment, and linked by Glenn Reynolds yesterday, and it's important enough that I think a little background is in order.

It seems that a jealous blogger (apparently a licensed clinical psychologist) tried repeatedly to glom onto Nick's site and was banned from commenting. For that, she's launched into a major snit fit, and is questioning Nick's fitness to teach. (For the details of the dispute, I suggest reading this fairly neutral account from a Canadian blogger originally loathe to take sides, but who ended up siding with Nick.)

Nick, it seems, committed two major crimes in the eyes of this psychologist:

  • 1. He posted non-pornographic pictures of highly attractive women (this was deemed "exploitation" by the offended psychologist); and

  • 2. He will not grant the psychologist a free forum to harrass him in his own blog, nor will he help promote her blog.
  • Here's what Nick said, in a wonderful analogy to free ice cream:

    Ghost of a flea is a blog written and published at my time and expense for reasons I am not certain I can properly articulate. Most of the time it is a labour of love but it remains labour nonetheless. If you spot something here and choose to write about it please have the common courtesy to offer a link in recognition of my work. If you are an argumentative soul regularly outraged at my ramblings I suggest you vent your feelings at your own expense elsewhere. And if you find all this free ice cream is not to your taste please feel free to read something else or, better yet, write something more interesting. I am certain the world will beat a path to your door and bask in your fascinating thoughts. When I shut down the Flea it will give people something else to read and if you are especially lucky you can pay for the bandwidth they will use to tell you how boring your work is.
    I don't blame Nick for entertaining thoughts of quitting, because this is all so damnably unfair. In the year and a half I've read his blog, I've never seen him show malice towards anyone. I've characterized his blog as an "eclectic cultural cuisinart," because it features all the following and more: humor, art, fashion, politics, history, archaeology, the weird, the offbeat, and yes, pictures of incredibly sexy women. Nick is always cheerful, clever, witty. No one could be less deserving of the despicable kind of attack to which he's being subjected. Questioning the employment fitness of a blogger (while I've seen it before), is just so low that it ought to be outside the bounds of civilized conduct among bloggers. I know that there aren't any enforceable rules in this game, but as I've said before, bloggers have every right to recognize that certain things are just plain wrong. I have condemned incivility, even though I am not perfect and have been rude myself. But trying to hurt a blogger's employment -- that is so far beyond name calling and rudeness that it ought to be unthinkable.

    My admittedly low standards are offended.

    As to Nick's "crime," well, there's no question that the women are extremely attractive. I have admitted that I am bisexual, but I think if I were 100% homosexual I'd still be turned on. That's how good they are. I have never asked Nick whether he's turned on personally by the pictures, because it's none of my business. But whether he is or not, whether I am or not, is that the point? The women are incredibly beautiful. They're as much art as any classical works of art depicting the female anatomy, and while they're hot and slick by modern American standards, they're not even nude, much less pornographic!

    So come on! Unless you're an Iranian mullah, what exactly is the problem? The more I thought it over, the more I suspected that the primary complainant is more along the lines of a troll than anything else. And by definition there's no pleasing a troll, because they seek attention, not fairness on the merits.

    Nick has also been featuring regular posts like this on Winston Churchill:

    We will not win a war against fanatical puritanism by pandering to the puritans in our own ranks. There is plenty we have to say that may offend one another. That is the first and last prerequisite of the liberty for which we fight. If we are not to be intimidated by the men who would saw off ours heads we cannot allow our purpose and our policy to be dictated by those who are afraid of their own shadows. You may eat granola, watch improving documentaries and wag your finger as you wish. I would rather have champagne for breakfast. We shall see who lives longer and who dies happier.

    The Winston Review is a Flea-feature intended to offer spirited, uplifting alternatives to the defeatists and apologists of the mainstream media. This week's Review is dedicated to smoking, drinking and loving too much (as if that last were even possible). God bless the spirit of Winston Churchill.

    God bless Nick, too.

    I see this as an attack on the beautiful by the ugly. The dark side is that when ugliness attacks beauty, the ugliness is made uglier. The bright side is that the beautiful is made more beautiful.

    So I think Nick will win.

    As he should.

    posted by Eric at 12:02 AM | Comments (5)




    The compassionate and merciful . . .

    When I created the "What ancient form of execution would you LEAST prefer?" test, my American naiveté was showing. Considering a news item I saw today, some of them really shouldn't be called "ancient."

    In Iran, they're scourging to death children as young as 14:

    14-year-old boy ‘flogged to death’ by para-military police in western Iran

    Tehran, Nov. 25 - New information has come to light over the sudden death of a 14-year-old schoolboy in western Iran, who died after being flogged for “eating in public” during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

    Kaveh Habibi-Nejad died Nov. 12 and was buried in the cemetery of the Kurdish city of Sanadaj on Nov. 13, according to his death certificate.

    The new information is the official report by the coroner’s office in Sanandaj. The report states that the boy died “as a result of brain hemorrhage, after the back of his skull was fractured by a blow from a hard object”.

    Eye-witnesses had previously reported that Kaveh lost consciousness while being flogged by agents of Law Enforcement Forces, Iran’s paramilitary police force. They said they believed he died because “the metal cable being used to flog him hit his head”.

    Flogging young men and teenagers in public for a range of offenses such as drinking alcohol or eating in public during the fasting season is common in Iranian cities. (Link via Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi)

    Odd that I didn't read about this in the Philadelphia Inquirer. They always keep me informed about U.S. atrocities at Guantanamo, including a recent case involving a woman running her fingers through a prisoner's hair. But flogging a 14 year old schoolboy to death with a metal cable for a food crime? Who cares?

    (You'd think they could have at least used a sjambok or something less lethal.)

    MORE: Here's Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi on the Iranian reaction to Michael Moore, and Fahrenheit 9/11:

    After 25 years of living in a virtual concentration camp, Iranians have become exceedingly socio-politically savvy. Moore’s anti-American propaganda did not attract anywhere near as many viewers as the Mullahs had hoped for. Tehran’s despots had hoped the film would challenge the Iranian people’s favourable notion of President Bush and promote John Kerry.

    But Iranians are too smart.

    A group of 12 university students, for example, composed of both men and women who had seen the film, collectively wrote me and signed an e-mail which said: “Wow, this guy complains that Bush lied once. What would this windbag do if he lived here where our president lies to us once an hour?”

    Another comment was: “This guy gets to publicly accuse Bush of lying and becomes famous and adored worldwide. We, here, complain about some decrepit and inconsequential government lackey and we not only go to prison but some of us get death sentences. He ought to thank his lucky stars he lives in a country where he’s allowed and even encouraged to be this obnoxious…”

    Someone else quipped: “If he thinks that the U.S. is so bad, he’s welcome to trade places with us…since he’s so forgiving of brutal Middle Eastern dictators!”

    Another young man said: “They are showing this film to erase from our minds the idea of America being the great liberator; maybe Americans themselves don’t appreciate what they have but we sure do!”

    Another comment was: “Outside such pathetic ideological schemes, Moore’s fixation to reprimand and castigate his own society is so great that he is BLIND to the fact that our ancient land and society cannot be regarded and dealt with in the same fashion; therefore he has fallen pray to the Mullahs for whom he is nothing more than a tool to discard when his mission for them is completed.”

    My father, Siamak Pourzand, a 75-year-old Iranian journalist, film historian/critic/promoter has been a political prisoner since November of 2001 in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he has experienced severe torture. During this time, not one member of the self-involved, international film community, to whom I reached out about his plight, responded. When in the fall of 2002 I called Michael Moore’s office, (like I did many other Hollywoodites) I was told: “Sorry, but Mr. Moore is too busy AND just can’t get involved in these types of matters because we can’t be sure who you are and what your agenda is.”

    Hmmm..... Moore's been awfully busy lately. I wonder if that's why he didn't have time to condemn the flogging to death of the fourteen year old boy.

    Or, the hanging of a 16 year old girl by a religious judge who personally put the rope around her neck? How about this 13 year old sentenced to be stoned to death? Is Moore too busy and "can’t get involved in these types of matters" because he can’t be sure who they are and what their agenda is?

    posted by Eric at 07:52 PM | Comments (2)



    Mythology crosses another line!

    Dennis hit the nail on the head with that last post about the damnable toll-takers' strike. Today's Inquirer featured a gruesome addition:

    As Black Friday shoppers crammed into the King of Prussia mall, a pro-union Santa stood vigil with striking Pennsylvania Turnpike toll collectors nearby on day three of their first-ever strike.

    At 380 pounds, the bearded, 60-year-old retiree and friend of striking workers was the picture of Santa, albeit with a Teamsters shirt beneath his red coat and a picket sign shoved under his wide black belt.

    "My deer will not cross a picket line," Drexel Hill resident Tom Anthony warned as he waved to motorists at the Valley Forge interchange. "It will be a sad Christmas if Santa cannot come to the Northeast."

    Motorists will first have to get through tomorrow, when the Turnpike Commission will use managers and temporary workers to collect $2 for cars journeying home from Thanksgiving celebrations and $15 for commercial freight. The commission decided against waiving tolls all day tomorrow, one of the busiest days of the year.

    The problem with this strike is twofold:

  • 1. No one wants these damned tolls in the first place. To sit in line for twenty minutes just to fork over $2.00 which goes not to the roads but into general revenue, is so artificial as to be medieval. Hell, as Dennis made clear, the Romans wouldn't have tolerated it.
  • 2. Adding insult to injury, human beings are paid $18.69 an hour to do something which could be done much more easily by machines.
  • It's a disgrace all the way around, and the public is more than unsympathetic. Truly, the world would be a better place without tolls or toll takers.

    Notice that the best they can come up with is support from imaginary animals -- Santa's reindeer!

    Ungrateful ungulates! How dare they approve of harrassing the Christmas shoppers!

    posted by Eric at 11:54 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)




    BeLabored Day

    I was driving home on the Pennsylvania turnpike early Thursday morning for Thanksgiving with the family, and it happened that the tollbooth workers were on strike. When I'd originally gotten on there was simply a sign that read 'No Tickets' and I assumed that meant also 'No Tolls' so I may be getting a traffic ticket for speeding through the exit on the other end. (As it happens they're charging flat fees of $2 for passenger vehicles and $15 for commercial -- woe to ye planning short trips).

    But that's not what this post is about. It's about labor unions, and the sage words of the emperor Trajan.

    (I suspect I've gotten Eric's attention.)

    When I reached my exit it seemed cars were avoiding the right lanes, but I need to veer off immediately after the booths to get home, so I always try to take the rightmost booth. As I approached I realized why people were steering clear. Two union strikers with large picket signs were walking slowly through the booth toward my car, and in annoyance I hit the horn and gunned the engine.

    To their credit (and well-being) they got out of the way.

    I have no tolerance for people disrupting my life or inconveniencing me for any reason, the least of which being a work-related dispute. The fact that you pay dues to a thuggish political organization doesn't give you the right to bring your disputes to my doorstep or to my bumper.

    So as I drove away annoyed at the nerve of these men I remembered the correspondence of Pliny and Trajan on the aftermath of a devastating fire (Pliny Letters X.33-34).

    Pliny asked the emperor whether it wouldn't be a good idea, having ordered the necessary equipment, to institute a guild or a union of firefighters.

    Trajan warned that such unions invariably become political, and considering the state of the province in question, in which political faction was the norm, establishing a labor union would be inadvisable. Instead Pliny, commended for ordering the necessary equipment, was to employ a sort of volunteer force on an as needed basis.

    Today the political nature of labor unions is unmistakable, and the sense of the union above all else results at times in thuggish behavior as simple as attempting to block a car, to making little girls cry.

    I suspect many will object, but hey, I could have worse company than Trajan in my objection to the politicization of organized labor.

    So I just knocked out this little graphic while chatting with a friend on the phone. Enjoy:

    union.jpg

    posted by Dennis at 06:27 PM | Comments (4)



    International blog incident (such things do happen in Doylestown, PA . . . )

    I'm WiFi blogging right now with Sean Kinsell, who is visiting from Japan.

    Not a bad picture, considering it's the first I've taken of another blogger at work:

    SeankK 002.jpg

    I'll let Sean see this before I publish the post.

    I don't know whether I should say "WELCOME HOME, SEAN" or what, because it's just a short visit.

    posted by Eric at 03:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)



    Reality-based election fraud?

    One problem with holding Thanksgiving so close to the elections is that people who disagree with each other are forced to gather together and do things like eat turkey, or at the very least call distant relatives on the phone -- in a process that inevitably seems to invite the creeping in of political discussions.

    Which means I have to hear heated abuses of logic, and yesterday it was coming from Kerry supporters.

    Right now there is a BIG abuse of logic going on, and for some reason it's being kept out of MSM (and even off the editorial pages of most newspapers). For the most part, in reponsible circles this is limited to an aroma of innuendo, but the hardcore are already starting to scream. They are pissed because there's a big stink about the Ukrainian election, but for some reason, the "BIG MEDIA" are ignoring the OBVIOUS parallel to our own recent election. In their minds, evidence of election fraud and chicanery in the Ukraine points to election fraud here.

    In logic, of course, Ukrainian election fraud no more equals American election fraud than would election fraud in Uganda, but the human love of mythology (which drives most unfounded conspiracy claims) has very little to do with logic. Human nature being what it is, if people dislike a set of facts, they'll look for a way to deny them. Even the most scanty evidence will do.

    As I pointed out previously, I think the Kerry supporters are grieving, and and in such a state it is as natural to cling to any form of denial available -- in much the same way that the family of someone who is dying grasps at the slimmest hopes, while death itself can often cause the most hardened (and reality-based?) atheists to develop heretical ideas about spirituality.

    The obvious problem with the Ukrainian situation is that it's too close to our own election, and it invites denial-based speculation.

    While the conspiracy sites I listed here are desperately soliciting funds, so far, the biggest reality-based sites aren't directly stoking this connection, but their surrogates [I guess "Hecate" is that] are already dangling hints like this:

    Sounds as if they take election fraud seriously in Ukraine.

    Interesting discussion concerning whether any position of power is worth a single human life. Too bad Lame Duckie [Bush] made exactly the wrong decision on this issue. In fact, his seizure of power has been based on the expenditure of human lives, both American and foreign. I believe we call people like that sociopaths.

    Actually, that was Wednesday. As of today, things are heating up! Election fraud is such a bad thing that even if it can't be proven, well, it's time for a reality-based Christmas shopping boycott:
    All I Want for Xmas Is Fair and Verifiable Elections

    ...Watching what’s been happening in Ukraine, I wonder why Americans haven’t taken to the streets, as well.

    ....I don’t know for sure if this last election was stolen, although I know what my gut tells me. This study certainly gives me pause. However, the point of this thread isn’t to restart the why-did-Kerry-concede-why-isn’t-Atrios-screaming-about-Diebold debate. Here’s what I do know for sure and think everyone can agree upon: it’s important for all Americans, including those whose candidate didn’t prevail, to be able to have faith that our elections are carried out fairly and honestly. And the current situation doesn’t allow us to have that faith. Instead, what we have is a patchwork of fallible systems that appears designed more for the purpose of allowing skullduggery than for the purpose of ensuring fair elections. And that, I believe, is worth an economic protest.

    So it's boycott, boycott, boycott! Till what? Till Kerry wins? Till Atrios advertisers get enough Christmas money for a recount?

    Not quite. The stated purpose is something else:

    until this country has a system in place that ensures fair and verifiable elections.
    That ought to bring the heartless capitalist pigs and of course, Mr. "Lame Duckie" to their knees!

    I'm looking for reality, but I'm just not seeing it in Atrios's call for a boycott. I hope the American boycott isn't based on Ukrainian reality, because that would undermine Ukrainian freedom.

    And cheapen reality.


    UPDATE: What the hell is wrong with Daily Kos, anyway? At least on the blog's main page, there's no tie-in between Ukrainian election fraud, and Bush's stealing of the election. No boycott. Nothing. Are they trying to be responsible or something? (I must be looking for reality in all the wrong places!)

    posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (5)




    Please remember that it isn't Thanksgiving everywhere . . .

    The downpour delayed my departure, and while I don't have time for one of my usual lengthy posts, I am very concerned about the revolutionary situation in the Ukraine, and I wanted to share a memo from a friend of Ukrainian descent.

    He writes (in part):

    An acquaintance of mine who is the former U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Washington and a "wheel" in Republican circles offered to convey this modest effort on my part to the proper folks in D.C. on Friday.

    Let's hope that Yuschenko emerges victorious. This second wave of falling away from Communism and the Russian orbit (Georgia broke off last year with the "soft" revolt), is the real thing. It must work!

    I agree, and I think the memo (which follows below) is well worth reading.

    I am sure that better bloggers than I will do a good job of keeping everyone informed. Glenn Reynolds is doing a fantastic job, so if you want more about emerging developments in Ukraine, keep checking in with InstaPundit. As Glenn just observed, the curious WaPo now sees "'business executives who take orders from the state' as a sign of thuggish autocracy!"

    (I'm always thankful to see signs of positive change . . .)

    Continue reading "Please remember that it isn't Thanksgiving everywhere . . ."

    posted by Eric at 10:58 AM



    One last item . . .

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE ! !

    I'll be out of town, and I don't know whether or when I might manage to post.

    (I'm not very good at predicting my life.)

    In keeping with the spirit, here's something I haven't Photoshopped. (Wouldn't want to get ahead of myself, eh?)

    turkey4.JPG

    Anyway, I don't know where it belongs, but I'm sure there are a lot of them lying around somewhere!


    posted by Eric at 07:35 AM | Comments (2)




    For the 114th time, go educate yourself!

    Be sure to check out the 114th Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by the very fine blog, Interested-Participant.

    Excellent posts all, and I so love Sean Gleeson's Autorantic Virtual Moonbat that I decided to install it here.

    Speaking of moonbats, read John Ray's post about a mean law professor with zero sense of humor. (And, as I have noted before, this same professor refuses to discipline students who commit plagiarism.)

    More nonsense from academia is spotted by Brian J. Noggle, who blows the whistle on a power grab by librarians seeking criminal sanctions for overdue books!

    But, as the Gleeful Extremist shows, there's much dishonesty in education, especially when blue staters tweak the stats.

    Enough education about the Carnival.

    Please go read the rest of the posts!

    In the spirit of the season, I should add that Darleen has an especially good one about Thanksgiving.

    posted by Eric at 03:01 PM



    Very sorry to be rather sorry!

    (Yes, this is the sorriest post I have ever written. Shame on me.)

    Possibly it's because holidays are coming, but I seem to be running out of either steam or gas right now, and I hope it's temporary. (Haven't done today's running yet, and looking out the window at cold wetness does not inspire...)

    Considering the importance of RatherGate, though, I thought a largely ceremonial observation would be in order.

    Lately, I have taken to watching Rather out of morbid curiosity, and last night I did not know he was to announce his resignation until the moment of, er, truth arrived. This is probably my bleeding-heart liberalism showing, but I have to say that I detected in that rather stiff man's voice a distinct breaking, a cracking. Barely detectable as it was, I really think he was as close to crying as it's possible for so public a man to get.

    I hesitate to pen a thought such as this, but with the tears of the dead streaming outside, I feel I must confess: I felt sorry for Dan Rather! (Ouch! No, really.)

    However, unlike the denizens of this sorry site, I am sorry that I am sorry!

    UPDATE: Trying to atone with rather poor Photoshopping:

    PJDan.jpg

    Sorry again, folks.

    posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (7)




    Crossing my fingers for Ukrainian freedom . . .

    This (report on the Ukrainian election sent from Congressman Bob Schaffer) is exciting stuff:

    The parliament is meeting now but without the president's supporters or the Communists. After several speeches, they called Yushchenko to the podium to swear him in as the new president (escorted to the podium with guards). The Rada Speaker Litvin walked out. Then the TV station (only one station covers anything about the election and it only covers 30% of the country) went off then cut to news and footage from earlier in the day. This is similar to the revolution in Georgia.

    It seems the opposition has now claimed control of the parliament and most likely named Yushchenko as the president. He walked to the podium with a Bible and a copy of the oath in his hand. 300,000 pro-Yushchenko supporters are in the city square and watched what I described above on a jumbo TV. They're celebrating what they believe is their new president. Provocateurs are infiltrating the crowd. Special forces are said to be moving in to disband the crowd. This is now a clearly declared revolutionary effort. A confrontation seems unavoidable now.

    It's very tense here. School has been cancled (again) for tomorrow. I'll report more as I learn it.

    Now we hear Yushchenko is headed to the city center to address the masses. His lieutenants will be giving instructions to the people outside the Rada building on "what to do."

    Telephones in the outlying towns have been shut off.

    Now we hear there are Russians in Ukrainian special forces uniforms. I'll report more as I learn it. May God bless and protect Ukraine and her people.

    A representative of the Greek Catholic Church (a man who appeared to be a priest -- dressed as one) announced at the demonstration that he was speaking on behalf of the Greek Catholic Churchn the Kyiv Patriarchiat and several Protestant denominations (Lutheran was the only specific one I heard but there were several others). He said this coalition of churches recognizes Yushchenko as president.

    Yuschenko is now leading 1 million people from the square and surrounding streets to the administration headquarters of the Ukrainian government. He is in front of the column and many fear he is vulnerable to getting shot. They should be at the steps in 15 mins. Keep in mind, this is where the Russian special forces are stationed, dresses in Ukrainian garb.

    If violence comes to define this revolution it will likely be within minutes.

    The Georgian President (surrounded by Orthodox priests) just appeared on Ukrainian TV congratulating and encouraging the opposition supporters and "President" Victor Yushchenko. He spoke in Ukrainian which is verysignificant.

    The Russian special forces just stopped the crowd approaching the administration headquarters. Bob

    Sent via BlackBerry

    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who has more, including a statement from Vaclev Havel.)

    This whole thing reminds me of the Gorbachev/Yeltsin manuevering, when tanks were sent in, and Russia's fragile new freedom was preserved.

    The presence of the Greek Catholic Church patriarch is highly significant, as in the past, the Orthodox Church worked with the Communists to suppress the Greek Catholics. (This ancient religious schism is highly significant in the Ukrainian nationalist movement, and I have discussed it before here and here.) It should be noted that the Greek Catholic (aka Uniate) Church is in the Western Ukraine, while the Orthodox is in the East. This religious split naturally tends to mirror the election results:

    The dispute has split this former Soviet republic down the middle, with the Ukrainian-speaking West mainly behind Yushchenko and the Russian-speaking east backing Yanukovich.
    I read these depressing reports earlier about the rigging election results, and I am glad to see that Yushchenko's people are putting up a fight. The Ukrainian people have suffered enough, and for far too long. (Unfortunately, some of their suffering was caused by Americans like Walter Duranty).

    I'm glad to see the blogosphere helping, and I hope Yushchenko prevails!

    posted by Eric at 10:18 PM | Comments (3)



    Painful backlash

    The latest Classical Values poll got me thinking about "original intent" (as well as "original meaning") as opposed to the "living, breathing Constitution" doctrine in Constitutional Law.

    While the Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment," history shows that the whipping post was a standard punishment at the time of the founding, and George Washington was known to utilize the lash as a matter of routine. Flogging as punishment in the United States did not disappear until comparatively recently; Delaware's whipping post wasn't finally abolished until 1972.

    Yet try going to a cocktail party today and advocating a return to the lash. You'll get one of those looks usually reserved for cranks who like to talk about the death of Vincent Foster. Why? Because times have changed, and the law -- even part of the constitution unchanged since the founding -- has changed with them. Social conventions simply do not countenance tying a man to a post and scourging him with the cat-o'nine tails -- for any reason.

    But just because times have changed, does that mean logic has changed with them? I have asked a number of people whether they'd rather be sentenced to five years in prison or receive 100 lashes. The answer is almost always the lash. That's because, even though 100 lashes would be very painful and would leave heavy, permanent scars, the suffering would be mostly over in a month, whereas five years is five years, and worse things can happen in prison than a scarred back. Logic, however, is lost where it comes to prevailing social conventions.

    Sodomy laws were once as standard as the lash, although the lash has a much longer tradition. In that respect, the lash is more traditional than "traditional" sodomy laws. Why, the lash is downright classical. Sodomy laws are more modern.

    Not that I'm advocating the lash, of course. (Or the sodomy laws, although getting rid of them by judicial fiat seems to have transformed them magically from anti-heterosexual into anti-homosexual laws, thus transforming sodomites into homosexuals.)

    I'm just wondering about living and breathing documents and the moral absurdity which can result from simple attempts at logic.

    Ditto drug morality. As M. Simon reminded me (indirectly, by means of an earlier comment) we tend to think it is immoral to medicate emotional pain, but absolutely moral to medicate physical pain. (M. Simon's thoughts here.) Yet when anesthesia was first invented, many doctors refused to use it lest it damage their patients' "moral character." This strikes us as absurd today.

    But what if they were just as right (or just as wrong) as those who believe it immoral to medicate emotional pain? After all, pain is mostly emotional anyway, which is why narcotics work so well. Emotional pain is generally agreed upon to be worse than physical pain. Are these moral distinctions not more than a bit arbitrary -- even in American culture? Back in the good old days before drug laws (pre-1914), society had failed to make much of a moral distinction between the medication of emotional pain and the medication of physical pain, so it never occurred to anyone that one was "good" and the other "bad." Certainly not enough to criminalize one while legalizing the other. What changed? Did the use of anesthesia in surgery have something to do with this cultural shift? For the many centuries before modern anesthesia, there was no practical way to avoid pain entirely, and certainly no one would have thought about it in terms of a patient's "right." Sure, they had opiates like laudanum, but like all narcotics, that only helps one cope with pain by dulling the emotions; it could never be used successfully in, say, an amputation. Laudanum would provide some relief, but the orderlies would still have to hold down the screaming, struggling patient. Once anesthesia (whether general or local) allowed the worst pain to be escaped entirely, we entered into a new world where the absence of pain was -- or at least seemed -- possible.

    And, possibly, immoral. I suspect that in the half century or so between the mainstream use of anthesthia and the passage of the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act, morality had come to be redefined. Some pain had to be declared legally unavoidable. Quite arbitrarily, the line was drawn at the emotions.

    It would not surprise me if somehow (as a result of a murky, poorly understood shift in human psychology) the notion that there is a "right" to avoid physical pain also led ultimately to the abolition of corporal punishment.

    What if there's a sort of poorly understood ecological niche for human pain? What if, by establishing a right to be rid of pain in the physical space, society created a backlash in another? Thinking the unthinkable, might the doctors who refused to use anesthesia have been onto something?

    What a painful thought. I think I need medication.


    ADDITIONAL NOTE: The arbitrariness of our definitions of "pain" as well as "cruelty" may be amply demonstrated by a couple of examples. In the hypothetical choice between 5 years in prison or 100 lashes, most people would take the lashes. Obviously, this begs the meaning of the word "cruel," because an arbitrary construct we call "society" has taken the decision in advance that 5 years is less cruel than 100 lashes -- even though most of us know the opposite is the case.

    As to pain, I'll give an example (from real life) of a man who had surgery and was given a 30-day supply of the narcotic Oxycodone for relief of post operative pain. Because he preferred emotional pain relief (yet knew that no doctor would write Oxycodone for that), he simply "toughed it out" and endured the pain, while he looked forward to enjoying the supreme relief that would come when the physical pain passed and he'd only have his emotional pain to medicate. Obviously, to him the emotional pain was worse -- so much worse that he didn't want to squander valuable anti-pain resources on mere physical pain. Again, society has arbitrarily declared that his physical pain is "worse" --despite clear evidence to the contrary.

    posted by Eric at 05:04 PM | Comments (3)



    Why Rove can't replace Roe

    Ramesh Ponnuru speculates about the world after Roe v. Wade:

    What if the first move of pro-lifers after Roe were to try to ban third-trimester abortions? The courts would no longer be in the business of rescuing pro-choice Democrats' most extreme positions. Wouldn't the shoe be on the other foot then? The Democrats would then have to choose between satisfying hard-core pro-aborts and appealing to the center.
    Assuming the repeal of Roe v. Wade, I don't think it would be so simple as a "first move" to totally ban anything. Roe v. Wade did not declare all abortions legal; it merely said that the right of privacy outweighed the rights of states to prohibit first trimester abortions:
    ....[T]he decision established a system of trimesters, whereby the State cannot restrict a woman's right to an abortion during the first trimester, the State can regulate the abortion procedure during the second trimester "in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health," and in the third trimester, demarcating the viability of the fetus, a State can choose to restrict or even to proscribe abortion as it sees fit.
    If Roe is reversed, the states will once again have the right to prohibit such abortions. Whether they would do that and how far they would go remains to be seen. But it's not a one-shot deal. The only way to prohibit abortion nationally would be by a constitutional amendment.

    Unless, of course, states' rights were abolished by the same hypothetical court which overturned Roe v. Wade. (Hint: it's NOT Rove v. Wade, OK? Why do I keep seeing that?)

    Very unlikely -- because the very basis of overturning Roe would be states' rights!

    Several years ago, I spent some time with a group of anti-abortion conservatives who were very worried about the post-Roe scenario, and they were not at all sanguine about "states' rights." One of them opined that no state should have the right to legalize abortion, because that was simply as wrong as legalizing slavery.

    My point here is not to argue issues of right or wrong (although I have discussed abortion before.) The founders envisioned that states might have differing views of right and wrong, as they did at the time of the founding.

    So, in answer to Mr. Ponnuru's question, "Wouldn't the shoe be on the other foot?" I'd say that it can't be, because one size won't fit all.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Considering that a reversal of Roe v. Wade would have to be based on states' rights, is it in the long-term interest of the anti-abortion folks to seek such a result? Would congressional legislation prohibiting third trimester "partial birth abortions" be consistent with a Roe reversal? What about the reemergence of federalism on the left?

    Am I a heretic for raising this issue? I'm in neither camp, so I don't see how. But if I were advising the anti-abortion lobby, I might suggest they think about unintended consequences of reversing Roe v. Wade. States' rights can be a two edged sword.

    posted by Eric at 02:32 PM | Comments (4)



    Pseudo Fuxcism leads directly to Nieuw Nutzism!

    I haven't been keeping up with my reading, so I missed a new word made up by David "NewWord" Neiwert in August -- "Foxcist." First noted as a new word by this blogger, it hasn't quite gained the wide adherence it deserves. Which is why I decided to give it a plug. We New Worders should stick together so that we can help build a better New Word of tomorrow.

    More from the blogger who spotted the nieuw word:

    But then it dawned on me that, except for Second World War hobbyists and political-science geeks, nobody remembers what the word "fascist" means any more, except that it's some kind of insult.
    How true. But I think it's really important for us to make young people today remember the true evils of fascism, not by teaching about dead men like Hitler or Mussolini, but by keeping the word "fascism" alive and connected to today's world. And what better way to do that than to create a word association between the old time fascist dinosaurs and a news network featuring regular appearances by storm troopers like Geraldo Rivera and Greta van Sustern?

    As I keep saying, you can't be too careful!

    UPDATE: Despite my previous fit of paranoia, we can now all breathe a big sigh of relief. According to Glenn Reynolds himself, the French nieuwspaper LeMonde has rehabilitated him:

    Glenn Reynolds is part of the (imagined) world-wide popular wave trying to stand up to (and only to) the Bush administration, its "lies", and its "illegal" war (as well as Yankee capitalism and imperialism).
    Now that the anti-imperialist Reynolds has been cleared of any association with pseudo fascism (or its near relative, Foxcism), I expect some apologies are in order . . .

    I mean, who knows more about fascism (and Nazism) than the French?

    posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (2)



    From "basketbrawls" to buggery:
    Beer, breweries, and bloggers are to blame!

    Violence at sporting events is much on the mind of the public, and so, it seems, is violence everywhere. I thought it was worth spending a little time "searching for answers" in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, and I discovered that no matter what the nature of the violence or the individuals engaged in it, the answer lies elsewhere.

    Here's an excerpt from the Inquirer's analysis of Friday night's "basketbrawl" (they're "grappling" for explanations, of course):

    Beer, anger and societal changes may have been behind the Friday night fight.

    By Alfred Lubrano and Jeff Gammage

    Inquirer Staff Writers

    When professional athletes attack spectators at a sporting event, people naturally grapple for explanations.

    How could Friday's brawl between enraged Indiana Pacers players and beer-throwing Detroit Pistons fans have occurred? And what did it say about who we are?

    The quick answers:

    We may have become meaner as a society.

    Our athletes are spoiled and overpaid.

    Beer makes people a little nutty.

    "I think we're seeing a reflection of society," said Mitchell Abrams, a New York sports psychologist and expert on violence.

    "We" are meaner. "Our" athletes have been spoiled. "Beer" is also to blame. Why didn't they mention "me" in the "we"? I try to be polite, I don't like sports, and I hardly drink at all. And when I did I was known as a sweet drunk.

    What did I do? Was it my blog?

    Inquirer Sports columnist Bill Lyon thinks maybe it was:

    The debate about exactly what the price of admission entitles a spectator to is ever ongoing. Common sense should be enough to set those boundaries. But lately our society has blurred that as well because we keep ourselves in such an emotional froth with chat rooms and blogs and TV and radio whoever-shouts-loudest-wins crossfires.

    BLOGS?

    Ouch, that really hurt. I had no idea that online writing could cause drunks to throw beer at athletes, or athletes to invade the stands.

    Obviously, I need to be more careful in the future, lest I encourage more of this. I don't know which blogs the fans and players read, but if it can be shown that any of them is a daily reader of Classical Values, (hmmmm, isn't that beer-swilling drunk in the white hat a regular commenter here?), well, I promise to refrain from saying anything bad about any basketball player for a full 90 days!

    But it wasn't my fault, honest! Other, bigger bloggers have encouraged me by linking. And the readers! They come here. And then I feel blogligated! It's really complicated, and then the next thing that happens, I guess some of the fans of Classical Values must run to the basketball games and imagine they're attending a Roman gladiatorial event, with all too predictable consequences.

    It's as if I did it myself.

    I did it. I confess. I'm really sorry! Honest!

    But once again, it wasn't my fault!

    Let's move to this account of what's being billed as a death of a "child":

    Police said that shortly after classes ended yesterday, a large crowd formed outside the school at 32d Street and Ridge Avenue. Arguing and fighting erupted.

    The crowd then drifted onto the 2200 block of North 31st Street, police said. Somewhere on that block, at least two people opened fire.

    Police recovered at least 18 shell casings believed to have been fired from at least two weapons.

    Lt. Philip Riehl said last night it appeared that Speaks was the target of the shooting and that the other teenagers were hit by stray bullets.

    Investigators believe that at least two shooters "were laying in wait" for Speaks to appear, Riehl said. After releasing the fusillade, the shooters ran to a green Pontiac with tinted windows and sped off. Police were searching for the vehicle last night.

    Riehl said investigators did not have a motive or suspects and were not certain whether the after-school rumble was related to the slaying.

    A woman who lives around the corner from the school, on Susquehanna Avenue, said the gunfire blast unnerved her.

    "It was so loud I thought they were shooting in my living room. I told my grandkids to get on the floor," said the woman, who did not want to give her name for fear of retaliation.

    She said she went to the corner and saw the dying teenager.

    "He was on the ground with blood coming out of his head," she said. "He looked like he was trying to say something, but I think his body was just going into convulsions."

    She was one of several people in the neighborhood who said Strawberry Mansion students frequently fight after school.

    Paul Vallas, chief executive of the Philadelphia School District, called the shooting "a real tragedy."

    "There didn't appear to be a problem inside the school today," Vallas said. "The problem is we have unsafe neighborhoods. Too many guns and too much crime. I'd like to think our schools are very secure."

    Maggie Murray, 15, a 10th grader at Strawberry Mansion, said there had been talk among students: "Somebody said there was going to be some shooting after school."

    The 16-year old "child" was recalled by his brother:
    One of his brothers, John, was at the memorial briefly last night. He remembered his brother as an aspiring rapper who hoped to make it big, and the father of a 3-month-old daughter.
    A father and a rapper? My, such precocious children! Growing up fast, aren't we? I'm 50, and I still don't have a child. No rap career, either. Guess I've still got a lot of growing up to do.

    But I'm realizing that my blog could be held responsible for this incident too, because I'm a Second Amendment gun nut, with lots of gun-related links.

    And guns were responsible for the death of this child:

    State Rep. Jewell Williams, who was at the scene yesterday, said youth violence was "beyond an epidemic" in Philadelphia, and he placed part of the blame on loose gun laws.

    "There are too many guns. Anybody can get access to guns," Williams said. "We have got to change the gun laws."

    While I think it could be argued that anyone who's an aspiring rap star and has managed to father a child might be able to get access to guns anyway, the fact is, my blog created a climate allowing this to happen.

    So I'm guilty again. Gee, the day has barely started, and I've ruined the game of basketball, ended a young man's life, and fractured God-knows how many families.

    Let's see what else I've done.

    Well, there's this bizarre story of elementary school students raping each other. What happened, believe it or not, was that an 11-year old boy raped another 11-year old boy, and at a rally to protest the rape, the parents of the victim and the rapist embraced, blaming the school and, well, television!

    As parents protested the rape of a male student at John B. Stetson Middle School in Kensington, the mothers of the victim and the alleged assailant shared an emotional embrace yesterday morning.

    "It's not the kid's fault," said a tearful Carmen Cuevas, the mother of an 11-year-old boy accused of raping a sixth grader, as she hugged a weeping Damaris Rivera, whose son was the victim of the rape inside the school last Tuesday. "It's the school's fault."

    Those sentiments were echoed by about 35 parents who gathered outside the middle school about 9 a.m. yesterday to protest safety problems.

    Eva Caraballo, the parent of two children at Stetson and an organizer of the protest, said: "We can no longer sit at home watching TV while our children get raped."

    I hardly watch any television. But if the school was at fault, well, the tax dollars go to fund the school. And I also defend the First Amendment rights of all sort of foul programming. Someone might, I suppose, by misreading my blog get the idea that I advocate 11-year-olds raping each other. I don't advocate such things, but I guess there are people who'd say I'm responsible for that too. A "climate" of some sort which I helped "create." Maybe because I mentioned behavior by ancient Greeks at one time or another?

    Blaming everyone except the individual wrongdoers reminds me of the emotionally charged fallout after Columbine shooting, in which everyone from Marilyn Manson to Charlton Heston to Lockheed Aircraft was said to be responsible. The problem, of course, is that if everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible.

    I don't advocate even rudeness by fans or players, much less physical violence by either. But why are people so quick to jump on others who had nothing to do with it, who weren't there, or who don't even watch basketball on the television? This minimizes actual responsibility. By blaming things like the beer a particular oafish drunk consumed, they minimize what he did and let him off the hook, which then tends to move the blame up the ladder: the beer sellers must be blamed, then the brewery, and finally, the bloggers!

    Ultimately, shared blame and collective guilt do not work, and my ready "confessions" above illustrate why. If people who really aren't responsible are held responsible for the conduct of other individuals, the concept of individual responsibility is destroyed.

    Once that happens then I am responsible!

    And so are YOU!

    Nice to share, isn't it?

    posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (1)



    Adamant Eve vs. Adamant Steve

    Am I the only one who thinks textbook definitions of marriage and adolescence are wholly unnecessary?

    Next we'll be debating whether health textbooks should define 'boys' and 'girls' in terms of sex or gender.

    "Some children are masculine while others are feminine, regardless of superficial physical distinctions. Terms like 'boy' and 'girl' lead to fascism."

    posted by Dennis at 07:57 AM | Comments (4)




    Plus Ca Change...
    But we were not always in the air, and our idle hours were spent taming the Moors. They would come out of their forbidden regions (those regions we crossed in our flights and where they would shoot at us the whole length of our crossing), would venture to the stockade in the hope of buying loaves of sugar, cotton, tea, and then would sink back again into their mystery. Whenever they turned up we would try to tame a few of them in order to establish little nuclei of friendship in the desert; thus if we were forced down among them there would be at any rate a few who might be persuaded to sell us into slavery rather than massacre us.
    Now and then an influential chief came up, and him, with the approval of the Line, we would load into the plane and carry off to see something of the world. The aim was to soften their pride, for, repositories of the truth, defenders of Allah, the only God, it was more in contempt than in hatred that he and his kind murdered their prisoners.
    When they met us in the region of Juby or Cisneros, they never troubled to shout abuse at us. They would merely turn away and spit; and this not by way of personal insult but out of sincere disgust at having crossed the path of a Christian. Their pride was born of the illusion of their power. Allah renders a believer invincible.

    From "Wind, Sand and Stars" by Antoine de Saint Exupery

    posted by Justin at 11:51 PM | Comments (2)



    Autumn interiors

    It's a mystery to me why I took this picture today.

    dkp2.jpg

    It's even more of a mystery why I'm posting it.

    posted by Eric at 06:09 PM | Comments (7)



    Heretic flies prefer honey!

    Via Roger L. Simon, I found this very depressing article on the refusal (apparently by moderate Muslims) to condemn the murder of Theo Van Gogh.

    Smugness oozes from European politicians who demand that Muslims repudiate violence as a precondition for residence in the West. To repudiate the death sentence for blasphemy would be the same as abandoning the Islamic order in traditional society in favor of a Western-style religion of personal conscience. The West spent centuries of time and rivers of blood to make such a transition, and carried it off badly. Whether Islam can do so at all remains doubtful.
    It certainly is bad news that moderate Muslims refuse to denounce cold-blooded murder, as well as depressing to contemplate that Islam itself may be the problem. But it is not "hypocrisy" for America to demand from its citizens basic adherence to a minimum standard of religious tolerance upon which it has been based since the American founding. It's all fine and good for the Asia Times to deliver moralistic lectures about Thomas Aquinas and the execution of heretics, but with all due respect, America has never been known for the execution of heretics; quite the contrary.

    I am not convinced that all Muslims believe in the death penalty for blasphemy. If they do, then they'd better not try carrying it out here. And whether there are moderate Muslims or not (I happen to think there are), it still behooves us to behave as if there are (along the lines of divide and conquer).

    Hell, many would argue that we're a nation of heretics anyway, and always have been.

    Might as well be proud of it.

    posted by Eric at 04:44 PM | Comments (4)



    Alexander takes a bath

    Who invented religious tolerance?

    Alexander the Great?

    Despite the man's genuine accomplishments, people these days are preoccupied with something other than his advocacy of religious tolerance.

    Let's back up a little. Before Alexander the Great, there was another architect of religious tolerance called Cyrus the Great, author of what may be the first charter on religious freedom.

    Artefact 90920 is wending its way from the British Museum to Tehran, where it has fired debate between those who see it as a national icon and others who say it represents all that is worst about Iran's pre-Islamic past.

    The controversial relic is an unassuming 23-centimetre-long (9-inch) cylinder of baked clay covered in densely packed lines of Babylonian cuneiform script.

    It is generally agreed to be the world's first human rights charter -- but Islamic conservatives say it is redolent of paganism and a monarchy ousted in the 1979 revolution.

    Here it is:

    cyrusprayer.gif

    Roughly translated, the inscription says that "each man would be free to worship his own gods, no race would oppress another and no man would be enslaved."

    Can't have that, can we? Two hundred years before Alexander the Great! Cyrus was quite a guy.

    Does that mean we now need to know whether he was "gay" in the Hollywood sense?

    Was Cyrus as hot as this writer claims Alexander was?

    Alexander was hot, his boyfriends were hotter, he threw hissy fits that would take Liza Minnelli’s breath away, he had fag hags hanging off him like laundry, and he loved the arts (especially music and theater). It’s the interplay between his personal fabulousness and his public greatness that makes Alexander the Great one of the most exhilarating characters in world history.

    Alexander hadn’t intended to remake the world. He merely wanted to be the greatest hero of all time—greater than Achilles or Heracles (a.k.a. Hercules). But even Alexander wasn’t immune to the law of unintended consequences. As you’ll read in this book, Alexander was responsible for many aspects of life we take for granted, like raves and circuit parties and that thing you never use: your gym membership.

    So reads the teaser for Alexander the Fabulous (a book no doubt helping to inspire Oliver Stone's latest film).

    Forgive me, but I think the issue of religious tolerance is tad more important than personal sexual habits. While I do recognize that these issues overlap, I think it places the cart before the horse to place the latter ahead of the former, because without religious tolerance, well, you can kiss sexual freedom, and RAVEs, and circuit parties goodbye. So, at the risk of boring readers, I want to shift focus slightly. . .

    Opinions differ on the extent to which Alexander believed in religious tolerance, but there's little question he tried (and might have died for his efforts). Here's Orson Scott Card:

    Alexander the Great tried to combine Persian and Greek public religions (and there are those who think that this might have led to his being poisoned, though most historians accept his death as being of natural causes). The Romans simply matched their own gods up with the Greek gods and declared them to be "the same," so that Greek religion could be tolerated.

    Indeed, the Romans created the most religiously tolerant society up to their own time, by allowing all their provinces to continue to worship their ancient gods, as long as they added to their rituals the public worship of the emperor-as-god. That way, there would be a shared public religion throughout the empire -- one which nobody actually believed in, but which would unify the people and make it seem as though they were one nation.

    This worked well enough with most conquered lands. It was only the Jews and, later, the Christians who refused to fit in. And since the rejection of the public religion was viewed as treason, not just heresy, these noncompliant, intolerant religious "fanatics" either rebelled and had to be re-conquered, or were persecuted.

    And when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, that was the end of religious tolerance of any kind.

    Um, not quite. Mr. Card forgets Emperor Julian (the so-called Apostate) who arguably made a last valiant attempt at religious tolerance.

    Interestingly, Julian believed himself to be a sort of reincarnation of Alexander the Great:

    According to Socrates Scholasticus, Julian believed himself to be Alexander the Great in another body via transmigration of souls, as taught by Plato and Pythagoras (Book III, Chapter XXI of his writings).
    In any case, Alexander's form of religious tolerance (likely motivated more by his restless, conquest-based culture shuffling than by his need for "RAVE" parties) may have paved the way for Greco-Buddhism.

    The latter is a fascinating essay, and reflects the vastness of this overall topic -- admittedly much too daunting for another blog post. (Indeed, books like this have been written on the struggle between Monotheism and Polytheism. More here from Michael McNeil. Perhaps it should be also be borne in mind that Alexander stands accused of destroying the Avesta -- original sacred book of Zoroastrianism.)

    This all touches on a central theme of this blog -- a mission many would consider hopeless. What most people reflexively call the "Culture War" is, in my humble opinion, merely the latest (by no means last) vestige of unresolved tension between America's Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions. This tension is reflected in the very founding of this country. American democracy would have been impossible but for the Classical-friendly founders drawing heavily from the Greco-Roman wellspring of Western culture. Yet at the same time, their religious and moral views were steeped in Judeo-Christianity. The fierce religious struggles of the Enlightenment being much on their minds, they revived the largely pagan idea of religious tolerance, and the world has not been the same since.

    Regardless of the outcome of the "Culture War," I think it is extremely important that the "neopagans" (for lack of a better term for those on the Greco-Roman side of the American spectrum) not fall into the camp of the cultural nihilists. To do so would (as I warned in an earlier, more emotionally-charged essay), throw the Greco-Roman baby out with the Judeo-Christian bathwater.

    What disturbs me is to see so many people who don't take the time to educate themselves all too willing to throw the Greek-Roman "baby" out with the fundamentalist "bathwater."

    That baby was the seed of freedom, art, creativity, and free spirituality, and it proved too much for the forces of control that claim the right to tell man what to do in the name of their tyrannical deity. So, they gave the baby a vicious, gratuitous bath. A very dirty bath it was: bloody, murderous, barbaric, deliberately ignorant. Over the centuries people who yearn for freedom have tried to throw out the bathwater and we have seen periods like the Renaissance -- only to see the baby grabbed anew and then thrown once again into the dark and terrible waters of Puritanism, Calvinism, and the Inquisition. They've scalded, beaten, burned and drowned the baby, and cut off pieces of its genitalia. They have smashed, looted and burned, destroying beauty every step of the way.

    Yet in spite of all this, the baby (which I call Classical Values), still lives. It would be tragic if, in a reaction against the horrible bloody bathwater, the baby is thrown out along with it. If we toss out Greco-Roman values simply because of the excesses of fundamentalist Judeo-Christianity, then I fear that a wave of malignant nihilism could eventually destroy the good aspects of our culture, much as Rome was trashed and sacked by Visigoths and Vandals in the Fifth Century (and then again by Protestant fundamentalists in 1527.)

    Extremist utopian thinking (which characterizes much of the fundamentalist right as well as the Marxist left) springs in my opinion from the dark, intolerant side of Judeo-Christianity which is steeped in authoritarianism and believes in moral compulsion by force. While fundamentalists claim to be acting for God, and Marxists claim to be acting for man (or "science") the underlying motive -- perfecting man by force -- is the same. Whether sexual morality at gunpoint (fundamentalism) or economic morality at gunpoint (Marxism), the logical fallacy is similar, and, I believe, is grounded in misinterpretation of religious texts.

    I for one do not believe that Judaism (a highly civilized and tolerant religion) is responsible for the tyranny that uses its name in that hyphenated word which has become code language for fundamentalism. Nor is Christianity (especially its original version) responsible per se. Nor are dead white males as a group. It is wrong to blame individuals for the acts of others merely because they are done in their name. But some individuals really are the problem. Some of them are alive.

    Well, it's been more than a year since I wrote that (in retrospect some of my words appear too strong and too generalizingly judgmental, but it's a blog post and I can't change it!) and we now see early warning signs -- from the extremely tolerant Netherlands, no less -- of the unraveling of tolerance. Belmont Club's Wretchard recently reminded me of the underlying ancient tension within the West:
    It would not have been the first time that public authority had forgotten its cultural roots. In medieval England the legacy of classical Greece was often regarded as a form of heathenism, even though it lay at the root of Western Civilization. Homer was regarded as the "devil's entertainment". The knowledge of classical antiquity was largely forgotten. It was not until the Renaissance that Europe rehabilitated its wellsprings, readmitting it into public life partially because of its technological utility.
    Heathenism, utility, tolerance. As much a part of us as monotheism, morality, and intolerance? Wretchard also recalls Byron -- a man who "could name his saints and remember his Homer." (Well done, Wretchard.)

    Wretchard is quite correct to criticize Oliver Stone's frivolously simplistic modernistic concentration on the personal sexuality of Alexander. Interestingly, Hitler is tossed into the equation:

    Maybe Oliver Stone had the right idea, but the wrong historical figure. The Nazis were swingers in their own way, not at all like the stuck-up inhabitants of Jesusland. The wife of Martin Bormann, for example, thought having a menage a trois was a great idea. "A fanatical adherent to Nazi ideology, she bore her husband ten children, the first being named Adolf, after his god-father. Of her husbands mistress, Manja Behrens, she wrote "See to it that one year she has a child and next year I have a child, so that you will always have a wife who is serviceable". The Nazis were big fans of alternative families, as exemplified by the Lebensborn program.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Perhaps for his next film, Stone can team up with the assorted crackpots who claim Hitler was gay!

    Considering that the struggle over tolerance touches on such huge portions of Western (and even Eastern) history, and considering the stakes involved in the religious conflicts today, I think I should repeat my plea that we not throw the Greco-Roman baby out with the Judeo Christian bathwater. But my standards are admittedly lower than those of the founders, who realized that Western Civilization includes both the baby and the bathwater. How is it that they were capable of taking both into account?

    Surely the founders understood that tolerance itself can be intolerable for the intolerant. But what if tolerance became equally intolerable for the tolerant?

    (I hope the baby has matured, because I wouldn't want the founders to have been mistaken.)


    UPDATE (a historical footnote, really): Not to focus on irrelevancies, but according to Wikipedia it appears that Cyrus the Great was not homosexual:

    Dhul-Qarnayn is mentioned in the Qur'an, and often regarded as a prophet; the name means 'one possessing two horns'. His identity is controversial; many medieval Arabs and modern historians identified him with Alexander the Great, who is depicted as having horns on ancient coins. However, there are many differences between the figure described in the Qur'an and the history of Alexander the Great. The fact that the latter was described as a homosexual also leads many to believe that he is not the individual spoken of in the Qur'an. Some have speculated that Dhul-Qarnayn is actually Cyrus the Great, or even linked him with Gilgamesh.
    Just wanted to get that, um, straight.

    MORE: Do not miss Ghost of a flea's post on Alexander. Best picture, too! (Not the film, obviously; the picture in Nick's post!)

    posted by Eric at 07:56 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (1)



    The Weekly Idiot Award Returns

    The following comes from a 'progressive' newspaper oddly enough called the Capital Times.

    For the first time in Weekly Idiot Award history we've got a tie. Although more than 75 idiots were eligible, University of Wisconsin student Ashok Kumar and university employee John Peck take away the (dis)honors:

    Four UW students were arrested Thursday after they went into the Army Recruiting Station near campus and demanded that the office be shut down.

    The four were among up to 75 people who gathered at University Square Mall Thursday afternoon in an impromptu protest that also drew about 20 officers.

    "We were mostly protesting that our peers are being sent off to get killed in a dumb war," said John Peck of the General Defense Office, which offers educational and legal support for demonstrators. The group arranged for a couple of legal observers to attend the protest.

    The group gathered at about 2 p.m., when three students, Ashok Kumar, Liz Klainot and Nick Limbeck, and university worker Charlie Hoyt walked into the recruiting office and confronted two recruiters.

    "We said, 'We don't agree with the practice of taking students and saying we'll give you an education if you die. We're not going to leave until you close down this office and turn it into a financial aid office,' " Kumar said.

    The recruiters immediately locked the doors to keep out other intruders and called police.

    The four were taken to the Dane County Jail and handed citations for trespassing, at a cost of $288 each.

    Kumar said the group targeted the recruiting office because they see the military as preying on poor students who can't make tuition during financial aid cutbacks.

    "It's at the center of where new students come it, so for many students who have a hard time with tuition it looks like an attractive offer," he said.

    Peck and Kumar said organizers didn't make their plans known until several hours before the protest because they didn't want the recruiting office to close up shop before they got there.

    According to Peck, it's not the last the recruiters will see of the protesters.

    "I'm sure there will be further actions for the recruiting station," he said. "This is not the last one."

    (Emphasis mine.)

    Now that's what I call progress!

    posted by Dennis at 07:55 AM | Comments (5)




    It Takes a Village? Of Republicans?

    Bismarck famously observed that ordinary people should never be allowed to see sausages or legislation made.

    The foul contents of legislation are viler than anything stuffed into sausages, and nothing is worse than what gets stuffed into omnibus spending bills. Two items I find especially distasteful, but only one has reached the wide attention both deserve.

    Many people have heard about this provision -- which would allow two committee chairmen to see the tax returns of any American upon demand:

    The language was caught and removed in the Senate on Saturday, but the House will have to approve the fix before the spending bill can be sent to the White House for President Bush's signature.

    "I have no earthly idea how it got in there," Frist said on CBS's "Face The Nation." "Nobody is going to defend this."

    Sen. John McCain said Sunday that the episode points up the problems created when Congress passes gigantic spending bills at the end of a session, before anyone has time to read them.

    "If there is ever a graphic example of the broken system that we now have, that certainly has to be it," the Arizona Republican said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "How many other provisions didn't we find in that 1,000-page bill?"

    I can think of one he didn't find: a spending provision that would "implement forced mental health screening for every child in America, including preschool children." Ron Paul is doing his best to stop it, but the powerful American Psychiatric Association supports it, as do the manufacturers and distributors of drugs like Ritalin, Paxil, and Prozac, which are being used in place of corporal punishment to control children:
    The goal is to promote the patently false idea that we have a nation of children with undiagnosed mental disorders crying out for treatment.

    One obvious beneficiary of the proposal is the pharmaceutical industry, which is eager to sell the psychotropic drugs that undoubtedly will be prescribed to millions of American schoolchildren under the new screening program. Of course a tiny minority of children suffer from legitimate mental illnesses, but the widespread use of Ritalin and other drugs on youngsters who simply exhibit typical rambunctious, fidgety, and impatient behavior is nothing short of criminal. It may be easier to teach and parent drugged kids, but convenience is no justification for endangering them. Children's brains are still developing, and the truth is we have no idea what the long-term side effects of psychiatric drugs may be. Medical science has not even exhaustively identified every possible brain chemical, even as we alter those chemicals with drugs.

    There's been a last minute flurry of activity to stop this $44 million spending provision, but most people don't know about it, as it's been sneaked through without public scrutiny.

    Is invading the privacy of taxpayers a greater crime than forced testing and drugging of kids? I don't have children, but I can certainly understand the concerns of people who do.

    What's really alarming is that the story about this Orwellian program (which ought to interest everyone) only seems to get picked up by an occasional libertarian writer and by sites like FreeRepublic and WorldNetDaily. Why more people don't care, I don't know.

    Mandatory testing of schoolchildren for "mental illness" is even more ominous considering what passes for disease these days. There's Attention Deficit Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and innumerable Adjustment Disorders. Simple shyness is now called "anxiety disorder." Religion? Hell, even blogging can be considered a disorder.

    The truth is, anything can be included as a disorder. Just take a look at this list, found at random by Googling. While there's no question that adults have the right to consult mental health professionals, have themselves labeled and treated as they might see fit, the mental health of children is clearly the responsibility of their parents.

    Since when did schools acquire such total jurisdiction over child raising?

    posted by Eric at 09:04 PM | Comments (10)



    POLLS CLOSE AS CALIGULA TIES WITH KERRY!

    Well, it's OVER.

    I just ended the "Who is your favorite candidate for evil emperor?" poll, and the official count has been completed. 1447 votes were cast, and Caligula is the clear winner by a plurality. While he didn't quite win the majority of votes cast, he did reach about the same percentage of total voters as John Kerry.

    Not that this is surprising, of course. But some readers may wonder why Caligula didn't do better.

    There are rumors that Hollywood attempted to influence the election, but as usual I can't prove anything.....

    IMPORTANT: In a show of unity, the imperial candidates have kindly asked everyone to please participate in a brand-new "EXIT POLL" which can be found over on the right hand column. You need only choose one answer to a simple question: "What ancient form of execution would you LEAST prefer?" Public opinion counts -- so please make your voices heard!

    MORE: Whoops, almost forgot to display a picture of the winner, Caligula!

    caligula.gif

    Why the bashful look after such a big victory?

    posted by Eric at 06:33 PM | Comments (3)



    Classical ASSHOLES!

    Much as I abhor having the agenda of this blog dictated by squirrelly political operatives, there are some things I cannot ignore, and Oliver Stone's latest bullshit is a classical example.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Ann Althouse has already nailed Stone's obviously political motivations -- and the film has greatly upset modern Greeks, who want to sue for the defamation of Alexander! What a circus. (Although I saw similar modern Greek sensitivities displayed when I visited Ephesus and Corinth.)

    While there isn't much serious debate about the homosexuality, bisexuality -- whatever modern term we might use -- of Alexander the Great, Stone has apparently presented him according to the dictates of modern American stereotypes. A big mistake in terms of historical accuracy, but entirely consistent for Oliver Stone, whose films are about as concerned with accuracy as Michael Moore's.

    Stone's purpose is a cynical attempt -- right in the middle of a post-election "moral values" debate -- to misuse classical references to inflame the culture war. A stated purpose of this blog is to "end the culture war by restoring classical values." So I can't ignore it, much as I'd rather ignore Oliver Stone.

    Of course (and more importantly) indignant moral conservatives won't ignore Stone either. Many of them are all too glad to have the ancients cast in terms of modern political stereotypes, because they like to spin homosexuality as a bad thing which led to the fall of nearly everthing and everyone in pre-Christian times. They might find themselves oddly aligned with Stone here, because of the strange mutual appreciation for historical inaccuracy.

    Of course, I haven't seen it, so I can't review the film. Josh Cohen has already done a pretty good job of reviewing the film without seeing it though.....

    The most irritating aspect of this issue is that I have written about it so many damned times. I really don't like having to repeat myself, especially because of Oliver Stone, who can read this, and this, and this, and this and this and this! (And that's just for starters.....)

    Hollywood, my ass!

    Makes me feel like starting a new blog. I'm seriously pissed off.

    Do I have to pay money to see the film so I can get even more annoyed?

    posted by Eric at 07:15 AM | Comments (10)




    Must read!

    Via Justin, I just learned that Bill Whittle is all geared up to sell his book, Silent America: Essays from a Democracy at War.

    I just ordered it, and I can't wait!

    UPDATE: The book is for sale now at Bill Whittle's site (via Paypal and credit cards) and will be available at stores and at Amazon later in December.

    posted by Eric at 06:21 PM | Comments (1)



    A mind, like silly putty, is a terrible thing to waste!

    Well, it's now official:

    Blog owners usually don't allow their readers to add their own comments, preferring their monologues to others' dialogues.
    So claims Greg Hill, a librarian at the Fairbanks (Alaska) North Star Borough Public Library, who thinks ignorance has been made faster because of the blogosphere. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Perhaps Mr. Hill doesn't want us to lose sight of his own usefulness:

    The infoglut is certainly a bummer, but it does answer that persistent question, "Why are librarians needed now we have the Internet?" There's an immense amount of information that's not on the Internet, which itself is like a library with all the books scrambled up on the floor and no librarians to put it in order. For librarians, the infoglut means job security, and for information seekers, the best search engine you can ever access is a librarian.
    If that's true, why the touchiness about bloggers? Why misspell at least two names in an article decrying blog accuracy? Why accuse bloggers as a group of not allowing comments?

    This calls for a comment and a true confession, folks! Thanks to Glenn Reynolds' link to Mr. Hill, I have been having a wonderful time browsing through the latter's collection of essays. Why, not only is he a natural blogger (he even links to a super etymology web site run by this excellent blogger), but he's been stretching and shaping my proto-thoughts with incredibly cool trivia about things like silly putty:
    Before planning a drop from the Ice Palace at 40 below, know that 100 pounds is the minimum order, and experiments have shown that while large balls of Silly Putty do bounce incredibly well once, they shatter on the second bounce. As Goethe put it, "Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action."
    Agreed. Anyone who's been blogging for any length of time understands this principle. That's why the better bloggers believe in correcting themselves at least as much as they do in correcting those who don't believe in self-correction.

    So where are Mr. Hill's updates, anyway?

    (Surely he has a corrections page . . .)

    UPDATE: You know, I hate to be picky, and I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, so I don't usually correct others' obvious typos. BUT . . . what's with the title Greg Hill has given to his collection of essays?

    Historical Column's
    Historical Column's what? Considering the erudition of the man, it must be some sort of inside joke. Mebbe a word left out somewhere.

    "This Historical Column's Actually A Post" perhaps?

    (Yeah, that's gotta be it!) Sometimes a column is a post. Other times, it's dumber.

    MORE PICKY PICKINS: In the post column cited above, Greg Hill twice misspells (UC) "Berkeley" as "Berkley." (Twice in the same column is not a typo, I'm afraid.) Asks Hill,

    What sort of data's being imbibed?
    I don't know about the corybantic data he's imbibing, but that's my alma mater he's misspelled!

    But byte overload is not his fault. There's just too much misinformation out there!

    (I'd blame bloggers too.)

    posted by Eric at 03:42 PM | Comments (4)




    Right wing liberal bleeding hearts . . .

    Here's a news item which didn't seem to make it to prime time: two of the suspects arrested in Holland's recent anti-terrorist sweep were Dutch Americans:

    THE NETHERLANDS: REPORT SAYS 2 TERROR SUSPECTS ARE DUTCH-AMERICANS Two brothers arrested in antiterrorism raids on Wednesday are Dutch-American converts to Islam, NOS television reported. Five other people were arrested in the raids in a continuing investigation into a network that appears to be linked to Islamic extremists in Morocco and Spain. It is not yet clear whether they are connected to six suspects in custody for the murder of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh on Nov. 2. Craig S. Smith
    I found more (fortunately written in English) at this excellent Dutch blog (entire post follows, with links):
    Terrorism is all about family values

    Two of the seven terrorism suspects that were apprehended yesterday, turn out to be brothers.

    Yeah, I got a warm fuzzy feeling too.

    What's more, they're not Moroccans. They're Dutch Americans, both from Amersfoort. Their father is an American soldier based in Europe. Their mother is Dutch. The oldest of the two is names Jason W. He is 19 years old and, according to some sources, converted to Islam five years ago. Another source states he converted at the age of 13, which at least isn't contradictory. At that time, he got a new name: Abu Mujahied Amrik, according to shock blog GeenStijl. Jason left a goodbye note for his parents in Dutch. It is mainly rethorical drivel, although one sentence intrigues me: he begs his mother not to erect another altar like the last time.

    Jason was arrested in The Hague yesterday and got hurt. This probably means he's the guy that didn't follow police orders. Yesterday it was reported that one of the suspects was subsequently shot in his shoulder. GeenStijl has a really small picture of Jason here. His brother Jermaine is 17. He was arrested in Amersfoort.

    Jason had finished VWO (the highest level of secondary school in the Netherlands) and had started his university studies. As with Mohammed B., who was also well educated, and as with many of the hijackers during the 9-11 attacks, this goes to show we are not dealing with mindless drones, but misguided ones.

    It would be foolish to underestimate them.

    Why apparent involvement by Americans in international terrorism isn't worth press coverage over here, I'm not sure.

    The only reason I stumbled across this was because I was fascinated by the dyed blonde "liberal right winger" in today's Internet news, and I googled the guy. It's hard to ascertain his politics (is he a Dutch Zell Miller?), but what if he's more along the lines of a pissed off libertarian than the Nazi he's being made out to be?

    Will we ever be told?

    Go figure. Anyway, here's the Drudge-linked story on Geert Wilders:

    Wilders split with the free-market coalition partner Liberal Party two months ago because it backed the candidacy of predominantly Muslim Turkey for the European Union.

    He formed his own conservative party, the Wilders Group, which has one seat in the 150-member parliament. But a recent poll suggested his anti-immigrant message was reverberating through the electorate, and he would win 24 seats if elections were held today -- up from 19 seats before Van Gogh's murder.

    Wilders said that without swift, bold action, Islamic fundamentalism will topple the country's democratic system.

    "The Netherlands has been too tolerant to intolerant people for too long," he said. "We should not import a retarded political Islamic society to our country. There is nothing to be ashamed of to say this. It's not Islam. I speak out against the facts."

    Is Wilders a right wing racist bigot? He says he's not against Islam, just Islamic jihad in the Netherlands:
    .....Wilders said closing the borders isn't enough. Newcomers should be forced to integrate.

    "If in a mosque there is recruitment for jihad, it's not a house of prayer, it's a house of war. If it's not a house of prayer, it should be closed down," he said.

    Wilders, known for his radical positions and peroxide-blond hair, has been a member of parliament since 1998. He was born and educated in the southern city Venlo, near the German border.

    "I'm very tough on radical Islam. I have the toughest ideas on beating this problem and I'm proud of it. I say nothing wrong. I'm no racist, no anti-Islamist," he said.

    Wilders, by the way, is one of the politicians threatened by the Van Gogh assassin, and the target of an Internet video calling for his beheading -- for which the beheaders are promised the usual 72 virgins.

    Why does it always have to be about sex?

    Anyway, the religious views upsetting Wilders include throwing homosexuals off buildings, mutilating the genitals of young girls, and a rule that women who lie deserve 100 blows. Lovely. (Hardly what Dr. Laura would call tough love....)

    As I said before, freedom of religion is one thing. But cutting out bleeding hearts is another.

    So cut it out!

    Unless you think opposing such butchery is right wing.

    MORE: Once again, 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.
    Interesting to see the Netherlands, perhaps the most advanced of all countries in terms of libertarian-style tolerance, having to learn this painful lesson firsthand. Must we reinvent the wheel?

    MORE: Here's an unsettling piece on Dutch anti-Semitism -- old and new. Just who's calling who fascist, anyway?

    posted by Eric at 08:00 PM | Comments (4)



    Independence is subservience!

    While I know that people disagree with Condoleeza Rice, what's with the relentless racial bigotry coming from the left?

    By any standard, it is racial bigotry to insult or stereotype people because of their race, and calling Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice an "Uncle Tom" and an "Aunt Jemima" respectively is nothing less than racial bigotry.

    It's also inaccurate as hell. Would an "Aunt Jemima" believe in armed self defense of black people against white bigots?

    Rice has said memories of Birmingham's racial turmoil shaped some of her core values.

    During the bombings of the summer of 1963, her father and other neighborhood men guarded the streets at night to keep white vigilantes at bay. Rice said her staunch defense of gun rights comes from those days. She has argued that if the guns her father and neighbors carried had been registered, they could have been confiscated by the authorities, leaving the black community defenseless. (Via InstaPundit.)

    While I realize that not much can be done to stop racial bigotry when it takes the form of verbal abuse, I am wondering why there's so much silence about this [in the MSM, at least] when other talk radio hosts have gotten in far more trouble for far less. Usually, they're at least made to apologize. Far from apologizing, the guy who hurled the latest insult (who's white, by the way) flatly refuses to apologize to Rice:
    MILWAUKEE -- A Wisconsin talk show host said he's willing to apologize for a comment he made about Condoleezza Rice, but not to her.

    On his radio show Thursday, John Sylvester of WTDY in Madison called Rice an "Aunt Jemima'' and said she isn't competent to be secretary of state. He said he used the term to describe Rice and other blacks as having only a subservient role in the Bush administration.

    Rice has served as President Bush's national security adviser and was named this week to replace the departing Colin Powell as secretary of state. Sylvester also referred to Powell as an "Uncle Tom.''

    The mayor of Madison called the remarks "racially insensitive.'' Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold said the statements are regrettable.

    Sylvester was undeterred. He said he'll give away pancake mix and syrup today and "apologize to Aunt Jemima.''

    What intrigues me about this latest incident is that John Sylvester is supposed to be a libertarian.

    I listened to an interview with Sylvester (which can be streamed here), in which he attempts to put the remark "in context." He justifies the remark by calling Dr. Rice "an incompetent boob, an absolute disgrace to her profession" and declares that "she is a subservient black woman!" Clarence Thomas's price of admission to the Supreme Court, Sylvester claims, was to be a "subservient right wing hack." (The problem with such an analysis is that no price can be put on "admission" to the Supreme Court; once appointed, they're in for life and can only be removed for serious misconduct of the impeachable offenses variety.)

    I think what ticks off guys like Sylvester is not the subservience of Condoleeza Rice, but her independence and toughness. Any woman who grew up believing in guns for self-defense, who made it on her own as she did, is not subservient.

    Whether one disagrees with political conservatism or not, equating subservience with conservatism is a major error in logic. The fact that blacks (but not whites) who dissent from the left are called "subservient" makes me think the motivation is racism as opposed to a simple abuse of logic.

    I'm sure that if Condoleeza Rice ran for president and won, the same people would still be saying she's "subservient" and an "Aunt Jemima." Dr. Rice saw worse treatment by racists in the South, and I think she can stand up to this nonsense too.

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (7)




    So sorry!

    This is utterly charming. (Via InstaPundit.)

    fahrenheit.jpg

    And no, she's not sorry, either.

    Not that I can recall any election in U.S. history in which those who voted for a losing candidate felt the need to apologize to the world. It's just weird. What's with the shame, anyway?

    I voted for losing candidates in 1972 (McGovern), 1976 (McBride), 1980 (Carter), 1984 (Mondale), 1988 (Dukakis), and 1996 (Dole). Not once did I feel any need to apologize to anyone. First of all, it strikes me as a bit odd to apologize for losing anyway. So I think what they're trying to do is apologize for the fact that Bush won. Is this really their place? I doubt any of them are saying that they did something wrong by voting for Kerry, so they must be saying that they didn't work hard enough. Or not enough of them voted, perhaps? Or they didn't manage to persuade more of the "stupid" fellow citizens to vote for Kerry?

    How can such an apology be made without apologizing on behalf of other people? Let's look at this more closely....

    It strikes me as the height of arrogant communitarianism to apologize on behalf of other people who didn't vote at all, for their failure to vote is not the fault of people who did vote. To apologize on behalf of people who obviously do not agree with you is seriously misguided, and, I think, extremely condescending. I don't think too many Bush voters are "sorry" on behalf of Kerry voters, nor do I think they would have been sorry for them had Kerry won. Jealous, perhaps, but not sorry.

    So what's with this "sorry" thing, anyway?

    Unless I am mistaken, the apology seems to be directed towards the rest of the world, as if Bush voters have done something to the world at large. What that might be, the apologists are not saying. Perhaps they don't want to.

    I don't think they're proud of their country, and I don't think it has much to do with Bush winning. I don't think they'd have been proud had Kerry won either.

    I'm wondering whether they even are sorry. By definition, one cannot apologize or atone for the conduct of others. But apparently, that is not the understanding of the Sorry Everybody website:

    Some of us — hopefully most of us — are trying to understand and appreciate the effect our recent election will have on you, the citizens of the rest of the world. As our so-called leaders redouble their efforts to screw you over, please remember that some of us — hopefully most of us — are truly, truly sorry. And we'll say we're sorry, even on the behalf of the ones who aren't.
    Apologizing for other free people over which one has no control is, to my mind, an idle act. But what I think is really going on is an attempt to make other Americans feel ashamed of themselves as Americans.

    Shame. A losing proposition, all the way. By definition un-American.

    MORE: Still scratching my head, I asked a friend how people can attempt to "apologize" for other people? Answer? "Eric, they don't see themselves as individuals!"

    Is that it?

    And all this time I thought individuality was the whole idea of America.

    UPDATE: The above was PhotoShopped by Aaron.

    posted by Eric at 10:42 PM | Comments (4)



    Imagine a better world without truth

    The Arafat story touches on something which has always annoyed and intrigued me: the tension between truth and human emotional needs. For the sake of this discussion, I'll define as truth as the facts. Whatever it is that happened or did not happen. If facts prove elusive or unmanageable, what people want to be the truth is often what becomes the truth. And thus, different "truths" become true for different people (including governments, which are always run by people) with different biases and emotional needs.

    This leads intellectual hucksters like Michel Foucault to leap to another erroneous "truth" -- the canard that there is in fact no such thing as the truth. While this is palpably wrong, cases like the Arafat death (where the facts prove unascertainable and conflicting versions arise) give much credence to the theories of Foucault and company. What bothers me is that this leads to a tendency to dispense with even bothering to ascertain the facts, and ultimately to a rejection of the notion that there are any facts at all. Perhaps this is aggravated by metaphysical disputes over such things as whether there is any reality or whether we can be said to even exist, but I think that is another, very different dispute which should not contaminate the process of ascertaining facts.

    I guess I am old-fashioned. Perhaps I don't exist after all. If words are not truth, then this post is a complete waste of time, and I am only imagining that I am writing it, just as you are only imagining that you are reading it.

    Any comments are equally imaginary, and will be left up to the imagination.

    I mean, if no truth is valid (including, of course, the statement that no truth is valid) then why bother?

    (Might go to France and "die" -- to be reborn into French-made mythology . . .)

    posted by Eric at 10:40 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)



    Official canard?

    What did Yasser Arafat die of?

    You'd think that in the days of modern interactive media and the blogosphere, that would be a rather straightforward story, but now I hesitate even to use the word rather.

    Or how about CANARD? No, really:

    The Canard story said doctors realized soon after Arafat arrived that he had "what is called mechanical cirrhosis," or a severity of cirrhosis that made liver function difficult.

    "The most likely scenario is that there were multiple causes of death," the story said. Arafat's coma "was caused by the aggravation of the cirrhosis, and the result of that was a hemorrhage."

    Rather hard to argue with the official CANARD!

    Welcome to the new era of peace and cooperation in news-gathering, where the official sources and the blogosphere work tirelessly to make sure that no truth is left un-canarded.

    Sorry to sound sarcastic, but I'd just like to know what the hell the man died of. For my own curiosity, OK? While it outrages me that this grandfather of modern terrorism was appeased and enabled for most of his career, and I think that giving him the Nobel Prize made about as much sense as it would have to have given it to Hitler, still I think a question as basic as the man's cause of death ought to be verifiable.

    Of does the Arafat myth-making machine continue after his death? If so, why?

    I keep reading stories like these speculating Arafat died of AIDS. Without question, death from AIDS is considered the most disgraceful, morally tainted death one can die. It's fully understandable that Arafat's enemies would want him to have died of AIDS because it furthers his disgrace. But if it's untrue, it's hardly fair to the many good AIDS sufferers to promulgate the idea that AIDS is a disease so associated with truly bad, truly villainous, people. (While Arafat's bisexuality has been well known for years, that neither proves he had AIDS, nor that he died from it.) And if AIDS is so bad that propagandists will go out of their way to give it to someone who might not have even had it, how does that advance modern medicine or science, or help Third World countries deal honestly with the problem?

    But the emerging story right now is cirrhosis of the liver -- also not a "good" disease, especially for Muslims.

    Allegations that Arafat was a heavy drinker - forbidden in Islam - would have clouded the mourning that began Nov. 11, when the 75-year-old died.

    The report that Arafat was suffering from cirrhosis was bolstered by an article in another French newspaper, Le Monde, which said Arafat had suffered from "intravascular coagulation," a blood-clotting condition that can be a sign of late-stage liver failure and can be consistent with cirrhosis.

    Le Monde, citing "very good sources," reported that doctors could not make an indisputable diagnosis, however, since the blood abnormality "is not a disease as such, but the symptom of a pathology, which in a patient of his age is either of infectious origin or of cancerous origin." Doctors found no evidence of cancer.

    These questions are being asked again and again (with conflicting answers being given each time) and no one -- friend or foe of Arafat -- is satisfied. As Charles Johnson pointed out yesterday, the Arab press is not satisfied with liver disease as a cause of death, preferring instead to believe that the evil Israeli Mossad poisoned him:
    The government stood by its refusal to provide any details, despite speculation among Palestinians that Arafat was poisoned by Israel and a request for more information by Palestinian leaders. Israeli officials deny poisoning him.
    It strikes me that the French (who are, after all, supporters of Arafat and directly stand to benefit from his undistributed millions by his wife Suha's retirement in France) are enjoying their game of cat-and-mouse, and that they might not want to say what killed him. Better to encourage official mythology. AIDS is not a sexy death, nor is cirrhosis -- but poisoning by the Mossad? That's true romance!

    Because the French are not stupid, the world may never know the truth. Why, they're so bad, they might even be able to hide the truth by telling the truth! Example: for the many years during which infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele was hiding in Brazil, the world believed he was being hidden in Paraguay. Why? Because Paraguay's dictator (Alfredo Stroessner, a known Nazi sympathizer with every reason to help Mengele) stated in a very guilty manner that Mengele was NOT in Paraguay! Naturally, he was lying. Or so they thought.

    Can the blogosphere ever get to the bottom of this? Or might it be one of those situations where everybody gets to spin his own canard?

    I think this calls for an official Yasser Arafat Death Canard-O-Matic.


    The insisted on Wednesday that Yasser Arafat was not . But meanwhile, the quoted doctors as saying Arafat after .

    If anyone has a better explanation, I'm all ears!

    UPDATE: While I'm still puzzled over the official cause of Arafat's death, I'm delighted to discover an official explanation for all the new visitors. Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for kindly linking this post. Welcome everyone!

    I'm honored to be mentioned in the same post which links to these thoughts on Arafat's real legacy by Austin Bay. It's a must read, as are these insightful posts by Israelpundit on Arafat's death and the Mideast's "shifting sands" approach to homosexuality. (I'm reminded of the sick sheikh's sixth slick sheep or something..... May Allah forgive me!)

    UPDATE: Link added to last update for purposes of clarification.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds' question about whether credit should be given Mad Magazine made me recall the origin (in the blogosphere at least) of the Canard-O-Matic. When I'd been blogging for just a week, I borrowed the idea from one of the first bloggers to blogroll me, the very talented Mike Silverman, who had applied Mad Libs technology in adapting Stefan Sharkansky's Canard-O-Matic, originally designed for CanardMeister Robert Scheer.

    (Which is the most factually accurate history up with which I can come right now.)

    UPDATE: It occurred to me that some of the readers might not be able to (or want to) read the above link to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which requires a subscription. So here's more about Le Canard -- a French satire magazine.

    So, why is the cause of Arafat's death considered satire, anyway?

    posted by Eric at 08:09 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBacks (1)




    Honesty as heresy
    McGreevey in a position of giving other people guidance seems to me not to be getting the order quite right....
    -- Sean Kinsell

    I love such understatement....

    Crooked Jim McGreevey as "Gay Leader"? They've got to be kidding!

    Sean's post comes straight from the heart, and should be circulated widely. He touches on gay tribalism, hypocritical hype related to "coming out," cowardly gay "leadership," and identity politics -- all of which have all melded into one sinkhole in the case of Governor McGreevey. All that matters is that he's gay, and he's a governor, so bingo! That's prestige, and that passes for "gay leadership." Never mind how corrupt the man is.

    And never mind how he'd fare if he were a gay conservative. Or even (as in the case of Andrew Sullivan) a gay Democrat who refuses to toe the official party line of identity politics.

    I consider non-conforming gays to be far braver than McGreevey, but instead of being lionized like the crooked McGreevey, they're singled out for ad hominem attacks similar to what's meted out to Condoleeza Rice. (And for very similar reasons; people who who've earned their stripes on merit can't be controlled or made to grovel as easily!)

    Heresy doesn't involve religion any more.

    posted by Eric at 10:18 PM | Comments (4)



    This Carnival is special

    The 113th Carnival of the Vanities is hosted at Food Basics:

    Why on earth is a foodie hosting this wordie event?

    Because man does not live by bread alone.

    What I did not know until today was that the blog author's (Trudy Schuett's) father just passed away. I'm really impressed that she hosted a blog Carnival during a time like that. Her dad, Reuben Carl Whitlock, was born the same year as my dad: 1909. (Reading the obit, I can tell he was a hell of a good guy; they don't make 'em like that anymore.)

    My sincerest sympathies to Ms Schuett and the rest of the family.


    Everyone please go read the Carnival. It's incredibly, edibly done!

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



    Sarcasm ahead...

    E-Roc at the Dave pointed us toward this piece of blatant neo-con propaganda from FOXsnooze which purports to further damage the U.N.'s heroic Oil for Food program by citing its support of terrorism insurgency.

    Next they'll be telling us that Yusuf Islam (the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) didn't deserve the Man for Peace award!

    Damned Bushies and their red state lies!

    posted by Dennis at 03:00 PM | Comments (2)



    Can't bloggers dream too?

    Via a friend whose name I shall not give, here's some good news:

    WASHINGTON - The government promises anyone with a computer will have access within a few years to millions of pages from old newspapers, a slice of American history to be viewed now only by visiting local libraries, newspaper offices or the nation's capital.

    The first of what's expected to be 30 million digitized pages from papers published from 1836 through 1922 will be available in 2006.

    "Anyone who's interested — teachers, students, historians, lawyers, politicians, even newspaper reporters — will be able to go to their computer at home or at work and at a click of a mouse get immediate, unfiltered access to the greatest source of our history," said Bruce Cole, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He announced the project in a speech at the National Press Club.

    Even newspaper reporters?

    Isn't that carrying this free flow of information thing a bit far?

    Sheesh!

    Next they'll be saying "even bloggers!"

    posted by Eric at 09:49 AM | Comments (2)



    Immodest proposal?

    Condoleeza's place in the spotlight has been somewhat stolen by this ridiculous Monday Night Football stunt, in which a woman was, well, not covered sufficiently enough to satisfy the "religious police."

    Surely, it's no coincidence that the Broadcast Decency Act is being ramrodded through Congress as I write this post. (Via Jeff Jarvis, who I see has already beaten me to Monday Night Uncovered Football coverage.)

    More than killing two birds with one stone, they might even be killing three, or (depending on your political paranoia level) four:

  • steal the spotlight from Condoleeza Rice;
  • stir up those the left consider their best allies (the "ignorant and stupid red state moral conservatives"), thus encouraging infighting within the Republican Party;
  • make it appear that the Broadcast Decency Act was a huge "triumph" representing the final ascendancy of the far right "Republican religious police";
  • position the Democratic Party as the voice of sanity and reason.
  • The liberal media is still in liberal hands, so who can blame them for using it? The idea, of course, is to cause the moral conservatives to to what they do best: ORGANIZE AND GO BALLISTIC.

    It is an article of faith among liberals (and among many libertarians) that moral conservatives are the most stupid people in public life, and have nothing better to do than monitor the networks for the slightest sign of indecency. Thus, the merest hint of the "F" word, a misplaced towel, inappropriate or "suggestive" commenting, is enough to trigger an avalanche of phone calls, faxes, email, and more.

    And as Jeff Jarvis showed recently, three people can constitute an avalanche.

    It took only three people to sic the FCC on a supposedly filthy television show called "Married By America." I have never seen it, just as I never watch Monday Night Football and I missed the Superbowl. My TV watching of late has consisted of the relatively sexless The Sopranos and Six Feet Under (although frankly I'm afraid to know what the monitors think of them!). I already know how they hate Howard Stern, and I have posted about this topic many times.

    I got pretty steamed up when I learned (via InstaPundit) that three people can impose their tastes on the rest of us ordinary millions, and I started a satirical piece about it which I didn't post because I thought I might be seen as equating uptightness about sex with stupidity. I've gotten in trouble with my comparisons lately, so I may be getting gun-shy. (Well, not gun-shy; you know what I mean!)

    My "aborted" (now born again, I guess...) humor was along the lines of witchcraft -- and numerology. I speculated that because the evil Jeff Jarvis was (at least in the minds of the censorship crowd) most likely a godless liberal atheist, he might have missed the obvious numerological significance of the fact that there were THREE listeners:

    This is America's "moral values" army: three strong.
    And here (in red letters) follows the missing Satanic post -- the post I never published until now......

    An Army of three?

    Let's look behind the numbers, and see what this "three" really means.

    As we all know, 22% of the voters believed that "Moral Values" -- though undefined -- were nonetheless the most important issue in the election.

    Now, it just so happens that three is 22% of 13.6!

    And, if we divide 666 (the Mark of the Beast), by 13.6, we get almost 49 -- the very percentage of the vote which Kerry won in the election!

    Coincidence? Jeff Jarvis might think so.

    Well I think numbers are reality.

    And even Jeff Jarvis cannot deny that three is half of six. And from there it all builds, in classic pyramid style:


    6 is poor!

    66 is average!

    666 is worth playing to the ANCIENT ONES!

    Why can't he see the truth about these evil government agencies and the dark forces behind them?

    Need I spell it out as well?

    Let's look at F C C

    F -- the SIXTH LETTER in the alphabet!

    C -- the THIRD LETTER in the alphabet!

    C -- the THIRD LETTER in the alphabet!

    The SIXTH letter once followed by the THIRD letter, TWICE! Isn't it obvious why Jeff Jarvis saw the need to tell us that there were three letters to the FCC?

    And that's not all! In his original post, Jeff Jarvis used the word "three" exactly SIX times! After that, in an update, he used the word "three" exactly THREE more times.

    And none dare call it a beastly conspiracy?

    If there are still any doubters out there among you, this stunning admission comes straight from the files of the Satanic FCC itself:

    The FCC rejected that claim, timing the segment at six minutes in length and saying it is the focus of the episode.
    I don't think any further proof is needed.

    OK, back to reality based analysis.

    Today, the not-so-Satanic Jarvis states:

    I'm going to start a site that allows all us sane, normal, red-blooded Americans send thank-you notes to the networks -- and the FCC -- every time there's a hint of sex or colorful language on broadcast.
    I agree that what Jeff's "Gang of Three" would call the "immoral majority" is not being heard from. Surely, there are a lot of South Park Republicans among them! They certainly have at least as much right to be heard as a handful of people who spend their time forwarding around a prepared text and then scolding people into signing it and sending it in. Doesn't democracy work both ways?

    And is it really paranoid to suspect a political operation in any of this? I can't prove a thing, but tend to agree with FDR's assessment that in politics there are no coincidences, so I very much enjoyed the last paragraph of the Philadelphia Inquirer's front page story:

    For the record, the Eagles-Cowboys game scored 17.1 million viewers, ranking it fifth among the 11 Monday Night Football telecasts this season.

    Locally, it delivered a 34.3 Nielsen rating, which translates to almost one million homes. It rated No. 3 among the nine Eagles broadcasts.

    Monday Night Football bits this season have included actors Dennis Hopper and Sam Elliott, as well as the New York Jets' Curtis Martin and the Miami Dolphins' Jason Taylor.

    Bill Clinton, no stranger to forward passes, did one when he was president.

    ABC is no stranger to such shenanigans either. If what's good for ratings is also good for their political agenda, should anyone be surprised?

    This all touches on an issue which I've discussed before and will have to be addressed sooner or later. When sex and sexuality are politicized, and when sex becomes politics, at what point does sexual speech become politically protected speech?

    It's not a silly question. The enemies who attacked us on September 11 were at least as concerned about sex as they were about things like support for Israel. And even while we're at war, there's talk of cracking down on sex as an appeasement strategy.

    (In debating this topic, might it behoove us to take into consideration that we are fighting a war against people who object to our sexual freedom?)

    posted by Eric at 07:38 AM | Comments (13)




    Margaret Hassan executed

    Via Dr. Rusty Shackleford, I see that Islamic terrorists (presumably connected with Zarqawi) have executed British aid worker Margaret Hassan.

    The British embassy in Baghdad confirmed on Tuesday that a video tape had surfaced appearing to show the killing of kidnapped British-Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan, and said it was probably genuine.

    "We can confirm there is a tape that appears to show Margaret's murder," an embassy official told Reuters. "We believe it is probably genuine."

    How such execrable human beings can claim to worship a god they call "merciful" and "compassionate" is beyond my comprehension. This is how they reward an innocent woman who devoted her life to helping unfortunate Iraqis.

    I suppose the sickening video will be out soon; when it is it will probably be available at the usual sites like Ogrish.com.

    (As if another reminder was needed as to the nature of the enemy.....)

    posted by Eric at 02:14 PM | Comments (2)



    Baring the blunt of Brokaw
    The first amendment was never intended as a blunt instrument to punish contrary points of view.
    -- Tom Brokaw, Ohio University Commencement, May, 2004.

    Let's see. The First Amendment exists to prevent government from restricting or abridging free speech, and to prevent official establishment of religion while protecting the free exercise thereof.

    It's there to prevent contrary points of view from being punished by the government. Of course it's not intended to be used as a "blunt instrument" to punish contrary points of view!

    Why would Brokaw need to remark the obvious? It wasn't accidental, else why would he repeat the same remark at Northwestern University?

    What sort of blunt instrument might Tom be talking about? I'm intrigued by these remarks by Michele Catalano, and I can't help wondering whether Brokaw read them, and perhaps took them personally:

    What the hell crawled up Tom Brokaw's ass last night? He was snippy, feisty and reminded me of an argumentive drunk who challenges the whole bar to a fist fight. Except Kerry and crew evaded his punches.

    Does anyone actually answer a question in a debate, or do they just try to suck up their alloted time by cheerleading for themselves and throwing insults at their opponents?

    I think it would go a lot better - and produce a clearer picture of the candidates - if they were all tied to metal chairs with bright lights shining in their eyes and a devious looking man with a blunt instrument standing by. And the chairs were placed on electric currents which gave them a shock every time they avoided asnwering a question.

    That was Michele's reaction to the candidate debates in January. For whatever reason, Brokaw made her think of a blunt instrument being wielded in a grotesque perversion of the First Amendment.

    So why would this same feisty, snippy man, who acted like an argumentative drunk, be complaining about the First Amendment's misuse as a blunt instrument?

    Later in the same "blunt instrument" speech, Brokaw hinted not so bluntly that he wanted his young audience to be understanding of people who clearly hate the First Amendment:

    We have to work harder at understanding an enemy who is eager to sacrifice their bodies to do great harm to what we hold dear, hundreds of millions of young Muslims who love our culture and hate our government, who envy our successes, disdain our pluralism and, most of all, who are enraged by our sense of entitlement.
    It should come as no surprise that the enemy hates our government, for there is a war, and it is axiomatic that in war, governments officially wage war with "the enemy."

    But "love our culture?" How can envying our successes and disdaining our pluralism constitute "love"? As to being "enraged by our sense of entitlement," if I didn't know any better, I would say that Brokaw is being argumentative, and -- how did Michele put it? -- feisty, snippy, and argumentative in the style of a maudlin drunk given to fits of moralization. These are the sort of words I associate with religious-based scolding, and above all, shame. Why resort to shaming young people at a graduation by scolding them -- as Americans -- for an alleged "sense of entitlement" without supplying a single example of what he means?

    If words are blunt instruments, I'd say Tom was wielding them there.

    And now (via InstaPundit) I read he got booed at a football game. Doubtless he'd consider that a blunt instrument.

    I try to have compassion, as I have been booed myself, under conditions in which my physical safety was also threatened.

    But I'd never take it out on the First Amendment.

    MORE: Is Rush Limbaugh a blunt instrument? Mental Health experts claim he's upsetting their patients:

    “Rush Limbaugh has a way of back-handedly slamming people,” said Sheila Cooperman, a licensed clinician with the American Health Association (AHA) who listened Friday as Limbaugh offered to personally treat her patients. “He’s trying to ridicule the emotional state this presidential election produced in many of us here in Palm Beach County. Who is he to offer therapy?”

    The Boca Raton News reported last week that more than 30 distraught Kerry supporters in South Florida contacted the non-profit AHA following their candidate’s Nov. 3 concession to President Bush. AHA officials have diagnosed the disorder as Post Election Selection Trauma (PEST) and have scheduled the first of several free group therapy sessions for just after Thanksgiving.
    Cooperman, whose professional practice is based in Delray Beach, said the election-related symptoms she sees in the Kerry supporters more than quality PEST as “a legitimate syndrome or disorder within the trauma spectrum,” according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

    “Rush Limbaugh has no clinical qualifications to counsel anyone,” Cooperman said. “He’s not only minimizing PEST, but he’s bastardizing the entire psychological field and our clinical expertise.”

    I prefer Howard Stern to Rush Limbaugh, but neither man invades homes or causes suffering. I'd advise people who dislike them to change the dial or turn it off; there's a simple principle called "sticks and stones."

    Still, there's no denying that people are grieving (although I disagree with the PEST people over causation.)

    posted by Eric at 08:51 AM | Comments (4)




    NOTICE TO ALL COMMENTERS!

    Regular readers know how I hate to impose rules, so it is with a heavy heart that I find myself forced to write this post. But it has come to my attention that there is a serious shortage of expertise and of intellectual horsepower -- on all sides -- being displayed on this blog. Most recently, I stand accused of satirizing Michael Moore without having first formally declared whether or not I have seen "Fahrenheit 9/11." Likewise, I dared to compare Leni Riefenstahl to Michael Moore without making it clear whether I had seen any of her films!

    These are very serious charges, but as I endeavor to be fair to all sides I have decided to institute some new rules around here.

    Until now, I have been very liberal (and more than patient) and I have not attempted to question commenters about the state of their knowledge of material which might relate to what they're commenting on, even though some have grilled me at length about mine. After much soul-searching, I have decided to make this change in the hope of being fair to all.

    Here they are: The Classical Values Eleven Rules of Etiquette for Commenters.

  • 1. No commenter will henceforth be allowed to opine on Adolf Hitler without having read at minimum Mein Kampf in its entirety, nor on Karl Marx without having read Capital. (No, I'm afraid The Communist Manifesto isn't enough....)
  • 2. Commenters shall not discuss Bill Clinton without having read My Life, nor shall Hillary Rodham Clinton be discussed by any commenter who has not read Living History. NOTE: The Clintons' older books (Between Hope and History and It Takes a Village) will NOT satisfy this requirement!
  • 3. Considering the recent misuse of this blog to launch a troll attack, henceforth no one will be allowed to criticize Glenn Reynolds without reading The Appearance of Impropriety. Nor may they comment on Law or Outer Space without having read Outer space: Problems of law and policy. To avoid any further appearance of impropriety, I must also require them to have seen Dr. Helen Smith's (aka the InstaWife's) movie Six.
  • 4. Similarly, in the event that any politician or public person under discussion has written a book, I must insist that all commenters first read such book or books before making any comments or pronouncements agreeing or disagreeing with that person. Rules 5 through 7 expand upon this general rule, spelling out specific requirements for certain well known celebrities.
  • 5. There shall be no further discussion of George W. Bush by anyone who has not read George W. Bush: On God and Country.
  • 6. Commenters will be not allowed to discuss Mel Gibson unless they are willing to execute a Declaration Under Penalty of Perjury that they have seen The Passion. (NOTE: There are many older Mel Gibson films, but be warned, they will NOT satisfy this prerequisite!)
  • 7. No other Hollywood figure or celebrity may be discussed unless the commenter is willing to certify to having seen at least two (2) of that celebrity's films. In the event that said celebrity is either a news, radio, or television personality, commenters must be willing and able to supply proof of familiarity with the celebrity's show. At this time there is no requirement as to how many hours must have been spent watching (or listening to) said shows, but I might be forced to impose such a requirement if this "honor system" is abused. (A word to the wise!)
  • 8. No one may discuss Machiavelli (or use the word "Machiavellian") without having read Machiavelli's Discourses. (Sorry, but The Prince is just lowbrow introductory High School stuff, folks!)
  • 9. There will be no discussions of either morality or immorality except by people who can demonstrate expertise in either or both fields. Similarly, there shall be no discussion of homosexuality by persons other than homosexuals, nor heterosexuality by persons other than heterosexuals. (While no official reading list has been yet announced, beware, as I will reserve the right to spring a moral/immoral heterosexual/homosexual pop quiz at any time!)
  • 10. Issues pertaining to race and racial differences may not be discussed except by members of the race under discussion. Merely being a human being is not sufficient to prove that one is a member of a particular race.
  • 11. No blogger shall ever speak ill of another blogger! Considering that even disagreement is taken by many to be a sign of stupidity, by others as evidence of outright evil, I must request that there be no disagreements of any kind posted in any future comments. Further, commenters are cautioned to be very careful of agreeing (whether with me or anyone else) if there is a possibility that someone who disagrees might interpret such agreement as disagreement with his or her own opinion.
  • I reserve the right to make changes and additions at any time as needed, but for now I will allow commenters to continue to make remarks without subjecting them to an official Knowledge Background Examination or other relevant personal inquiries.

    (I hope it doesn't have to come to that!)

    UPDATE: Glad I reserved the right to make additions. I'm hereby adding a rule about abortion: No man may discuss abortion or the abortion issue unless he has had one. (Sorry folks, but I'm afraid this means only Glenn Reynolds.)

    posted by Eric at 04:47 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBacks (2)



    The "Mammy state"? Oh really?

    Justin's post on H. G. Wells (a must read, of course) reminded me of the hopeless confusion so often created when political differences are shaped by differing perceptions of human nature. As I opined in a comment I just left below, advocates of political liberalism (which I think includes one-world socialism of the sort advocated by Wells) tend to mistakenly view bad people as good under the delusion that others are like them. Bad people (Josef Stalin will serve as an example) think otherwise.

    So do:

  • liberals who've just been mugged
  • political (but not necessarily moral) conservatives, and
  • assorted political cynics and ideologues.
  • I'd also include those libertarians whose leave-everyone-alone-because-all-force-is-bad isolationism was "mugged" by September 11 and its sequelae. Many of the latter were forced (in my view, at least) to reach back to the classical thinkers and dust off an old idea best expressed as "SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM." Not that they have discarded the idea of leaving people alone unless they do you harm, mind you. It's just that some of them now realize there are people who have no intention of leaving YOU alone, and if you sit around and wait, you might find yourself on the rapture end of a huge mushroom cloud.

    There is an ever larger disconnect between those who would sit around and wait for an attack and those who would take preemptive action to prevent one. The latter are accused by the former of being out of touch with reality. (I have a bit of trouble understanding this, and I have posted about it before.) I think that there exist fundamental differences in the perception of human nature which explain why political (and even religious) disgreements make well-meaning people see the other side as "evil." (Trouble begins when such political thinking crosses that line where opinion becomes more than opinion.)

    H. G. Wells, a visionary, touched this nerve when he interviewed Stalin:

    STALIN: You, Mr. Wells, evidently start out with the assumption that all men are good. I, however, do not forget that there are many wicked men. I do not believe in the goodness of the bourgeoisie.
    Stalin, of course, was a thorough realist, and a thoroughly evil man. While he was right about the existence of evil people, what he failed to tell Wells was that he didn't care about good or bad; he merely used the terminology to manipulate well-meaning people. Tens of millions of people were murdered, and it mattered not at all to Stalin whether they were good or bad, because he didn't care about such things.

    Howard Dean implicitly accuses George W. Bush of a similar lack of principle:

    Though Dean, a Democrat, complimented President Bush, saying he "ran a great campaign" and was "very disciplined," he compared the president to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, at least in one regard.

    "The truth is the president of the United States used the same device that Slobodan Milosevic used in Serbia. When you appeal to homophobia, when you appeal to sexism, when you appeal to racism, that is extraordinarily damaging to the country," Dean charged. "I know George Bush. I served with him for six years [as a fellow governor]. He's not a homophobe. He's not a racist. He's not a sexist. In some ways, what he did was worse … because he knew better."

    Dean also criticized Bush for the ballot initiatives in 11 states calling for gay marriage to be outlawed, saying this "had only one effect, which is to appeal to homophobia and fear and gay-baiting in order to win a presidential election."

    And he took a shot at Rev. Jerry Falwell.: "Most Americans are decent people -- not all. I mean, there are those hate-mongers. I wouldn't call Jerry Falwell a decent person."

    (from Brendan Nyhan via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Is Howard Dean right about this? I don't think so.

    And it is here that I must take issue with both liberals on the left and and moral conservatives on the right. The last communitarian president we had was Jimmy Carter. There is no way to be a successful president of the United States if you believe that all people are basically good, and therefore all good people must be made to welcome the mandate of goodness by government fiat. But I think that any president so foolish as to believe that all people are evil, that evil lurks everywhere and is manifested in things like sexual temptations and other human vices, and that government exists to root out this evil by means of social engineering -- such a president would be equally as communitarian as Jimmy Carter. And just as doomed to failure.

    Howard Dean objects to Bush not for being a communitarian, but (apparently) for seeming to be one.

    Sorry, but I'm not reminded of Hitler. Nor Stalin. Nor even Milosevic.

    I am reminded more of Hattie McDaniel, who uttered the famous line, "I'd rather play a maid than be one."

    Oddly enough, I'm hoping Dean is right. (But not in the way he thinks he is.)

    Hey, since I'm into Hollywood imagery these days (and being plenty misunderstood), it occurred to me that political ideologues (of the left as well as the right) might not appreciate the Bush-as-Mammy "comparison." To them, I humbly offer a better analogy: that of the apparently too-cynical Prince Feisal, played by Alec Guiness in Lawrence of Arabia:

    General Allenby: I thought I was a hard man, sir.

    Prince Feisal: You are merely a general. I must be a king.

    Mammy, Feisal, whatever.

    (I'm sure both were equally misunderestimated at one time or another.....)

    MORE: Speaking of PARA BELLUM libertarians.... "Fuck yeah!" (A crude synonym for "Indeed!" Unfortunately, it's an expression I can't use lest my blog be content-filtered into oblivion. But there's a store in New York spelled FCUK, so maybe my "error" will escape notice!)

    posted by Eric at 09:51 AM | Comments (5)




    Blast From The Past

    I was reading Lileks the other night, and thought I would check out the excerpts from his new book. One passage in particular caught my eye.

    In another era these items would have been a symbol of shame. In the Seventies they thrived. Everyone knew someone whose mom was into this crap, and stuffed the house with home-made bric-a-brac that just looked stupid and weird. Owls were often involved. Owls made out of pipecleaners and elbow macaroni....

    Now, this put me in mind of a similar passage in an old polemic I once read, one that might be worth your time.

    The evidence of a pathetic, perpetually thwarted urgency to make something, is one of the most touching aspects of the relics and records of our immediate ancestors. There exist still in the death area about the London bombs, a region of deserted small homes that furnish the most illuminating comment on the old state of affairs.

    That’s H.G. Wells in “The World Set Free”.

    These homes are entirely horrible, uniform, square, squat, hideously proportioned, uncomfortable, dingy, and in some respects quite filthy, only people in complete despair of anything better could have lived in them, but to each is attached a ridiculous little rectangle of land called ‘the garden’, containing usually a prop for drying clothes and a loathsome box of offal, the dustbin, full of egg-shells, cinders and such-like refuse. Now that one may go about this region in comparative security – for the London radiations have dwindled to inconsiderable proportions – it is possible to trace in nearly every one of these gardens some effort to make.

    Makes Lileks look gentle, to a degree.

    Here it is a poor little plank summer-house, here it is a ‘fountain’ of bricks and oyster-shells, here a ‘rockery’, here a ‘workshop’. And in the houses everywhere there are pitiful little decorations, clumsy models, feeble drawings. These efforts are almost incredibly inept, like the drawings of blindfolded men, they are only one shade less harrowing to a sympathetic observer than the scratchings one finds upon the walls of the old prisons, but there they are, witnessing to the poor buried instincts that struggled up towards the light. P156

    So much for Wells’s observations on the indomitable human Will to Putter. Friedrich Nietzsche, call your decorator. What I find REALLY interesting, strictly as a prognostic curiosity, is the rest of the book. As best I can tell, Wells wrote the first fictional depiction of a catastrophic atomic war, and he did it back in,... wait for it….1913.

    Naturally, it has a kind of fusty-archaic tone to it, but I give the man props for even KNOWING about atomic power…in 1913.

    Of course, being Wells, he couldn’t just give you a rousing adventure story. Rousing, this book is definitely not. He was interested in big ideas, he was a concept guy.

    The sober Englishman at the close of the nineteenth century could sit at his breakfast-table, decide between tea from Ceylon or coffee from Brazil, devour an egg from France with some Danish ham, or eat a New Zealand chop, wind up his breakfast with a West Indian banana, glance at the latest telegrams from all the world, scrutinize the prices current of his geographically distributed investments in South Africa, Japan and Egypt, and tell the two children he had begotten (in the place of his father’s eight) that he thought the world had changed very little. They must play cricket, keep their hair cut, go to the old school he had gone to, shirk the lessons he had shirked, learn a few scraps of Horace and Virgil and Homer for the confusion of cads, and all would be well with them….p16

    I kind of like the early “globalization” imagery. As for the dismaying lack of imagination, it was thought by Wells to be a real threat to long term human survival.

    At the close of the nineteenth century, as a multitude of passages in the literature of that time witness, it was thought that the fact that man had at last had successful and profitable dealings with the steam that scalded him and the electricity that flashed and banged about the sky at him , was an amazing and perhaps culminating exercise of his intelligence and his intellectual courage. The air of ‘Nunc Dimitis’ sounds in some of these writings. ‘The great things are discovered,’ wrote Gerald Brown in his summary of the nineteenth century. ‘For us there remains little but the working out of detail.’p19

    Lest we feel all smug and superior, let me point out that similar things were still being said back in the good ol' seventies...

    In hearings before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in 1976, many of the experts on technology even suggested that diminishing returns might have set in across the board and that America’s great technological strides of the past would probably never be repeated...Jeremy Rifkin "Entropy" P 85

    Back to Mr. Wells, an incomparably more accomplished thinker...

    All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the amount of energy that men were able to command was continually increasing. Applied to warfare that meant that the power to inflict a blow, the power to destroy, was continually increasing. There was no increase whatever in the ability to escape. Every sort of passive defence, armour, fortifications and so forth, was being outmastered by this tremendous increase on the destructive side.
    Destruction was becoming so facile that any little body of malcontents could use it; it was revolutionizing the problems of police and internal rule. Before the last war began it was a matter of common knowledge that a man could carry about in a handbag an amount of latent energy sufficient to wreck half a city. These facts were before the minds of everybody; the children in the streets knew them. P74

    Okay, so prior to the commencement of World War I, we have H.G. Wells worrying about asymmetrical warfare, and weapons of mass destruction, i.e. handbag nukes.

    For many years the price of coal and every form of liquid fuel had been clambering to levels that made even the revival of the draft horse seem a practicable possibility, and now with the abrupt relaxation of this stringency the change in appearance of the traffic upon the world’s roads was instantaneous. In three years the frightful armored monsters that had hooted and smoked and thundered about the world for four awful decades were swept away to the dealers in old metal, and the highways thronged with light and clean and shimmering shapes of silvered steel. At the same time a new impetus was given to aviation by the the relatively enormous power for weight of the atomic engine…PP 33-34

    Sounds nice, eh? Naturally, there has to be a worm in the apple...

    This spectacle of feverish enterprise was productivity, this crowding flight of happy and fortunate rich people – every great city was as if a crawling ant-hill had suddenly taken wing – was the bright side of the opening phase of the new epoch in human history. Beneath that brightness was a gathering darkness, a deepening dismay. If there was a vast development of production there was also a huge destruction of values.
    These glaring factories working night and day, these glittering new vehicles swinging noiselessly along the roads, these flights of dragon-flies that swooped and soared and circled in the air, were indeed no more than the brightnesses of lamps and fires that gleam out when the world sinks towards twilight and the night.

    Clearly, industrial capitalism would be inadequate to the task of building an equitable social order, be it ever so blessed with cheap energy.

    Between these high lights accumulated disaster, social catastrophe. The coal mines were manifestly doomed to closure at no very distant date, the vast amount of capital invested in oil was becoming unsaleable, millions of coal miners, steel workers upon the old lines, vast swarms of unskilled or under-skilled workers in innumerable occupations were being flung out of employment by the superior efficiency of the new machinery, the rapid fall in the cost of transit was destroying high land values at every centre of population, the value of existing house property had become problematical, gold was undergoing headlong depreciation, all the securities upon which the credit of the world rested were slipping and sliding, banks were tottering, the stock exchanges were scenes of feverish panic…P 35

    It’s interesting that Wells anticipates Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” here, but not especially surprising. Most of his generation lived through very interesting times, indeed.
    If cold fusion had panned out, we might perhaps be facing these problems today, though hopefully with more flexibility.

    For there had been no foresight of these things. There had been no attempt anywhere to even compute the probable dislocations this flood of inexpensive energy would produce in human affairs…P 36

    On the other hand, we’re not out of the woods yet. If advanced nanotech is one tenth as disruptive and transformational as predicted, then we are still in for a rough ride.

    The world was so little governed that with the very coming of plenty, in the full tide of an incalculable abundance, when everything necessary to satisfy human needs and everything necessary to realize such a will and purpose as existed then in human hearts was already at hand, one has still to tell of hardship, famine, anger, confusion, conflict and incoherent suffering….
    Under this tremendous dawn of power and freedom, under a sky ablaze with promise, in the very presence of science standing like some bountiful goddess over all the squat darknesses of human life, holding patiently in her strong arms, until men chose to take them, security,, plenty, the solution of riddles, the key of the bravest adventures, in her very presence, and with the earnest of her gifts in court, the world was to witness such things as the squalid spectacle of the Dass-Tata patent litigation. PP 36-37

    How very prescient. Intellectual property disputes. Being a one-worlder socialist, Wells thought of patent law as an outmoded impediment to progress.

    I’ll skip lightly over the nuclear holocaust section. It reads rather oddly today ( the bombs are dropped from open cockpit biplanes, Paris, London and Berlin are destroyed). The interested reader can go here to reach a free online version. Extra ice cream includes a preface by the great man himself, circa 1921.

    Here and now, let’s just say that we pull through by the skin of our teeth, and the disaster provides an impetus toward the founding of a truly just society. Gotta love those happy endings!

    Men spread now, with the whole power of the race to aid them, into every available region of the earth…an astonishing dispersal of habitations has begun…They lie out in the former deserts, those long wasted sunbaths of the race, they tower amidst eternal snows, they hide in remote islands and bask on broad lagoons.
    For a time the whole tendency of mankind was to desert the river valleys in which the race had been cradled for half a million years, but now that the war against Flies has been waged so successfully that this pestilential branch of life is nearly extinct, they are returning thither with a renewed appetite for gardens laced with watercourses, for pleasant living amidst islands and houseboats and bridges, and for nocturnal lanterns reflected by the sea. P 150

    Is eradicating the fly ecologically sound? Where were the Peter Singers of 1913?
    I do like the houseboats, though…


    ‘We have so many men working now,’ said Fowler. ‘I suppose at present there must be at least a thousand thinking hard, observing, experimenting, for one who did so in nineteen hundred.’
    ‘Not counting those who keep records?’
    ‘Not counting those. Of course the present indexing of research is in itself a very big work and it is only now that we are getting it properly done. But already we are feeling the benefit of that…Here…we have our copy of the encyclopaedic index – every week sheets are taken out and replaced by fresh sheets with new results that are brought to us by the aeroplanes of the Research Department. It is an index that becomes continually truer. There was never anything like it before.’ P 169

    Hypertext! Well, no. But still...

    The next sciences to yield great harvests now will be psychology and natural physiology….and we shall go on to mould our bodies and our bodily feelings and personal reactions as boldly as we begin now to carve mountains…P 186
    ‘I do not see,’ said Karenin, ‘that there is any final limit to man’s power of self-modification.’ ‘There is none,’ said Fowler.
    ‘And then the inconveniences of age and those diseases of the system that come with years; steadily you drive them back and you lengthen and lengthen the years that stretch between the passionate tumults of youth and the contractions of senility. Man who used to weaken and die as his teeth decayed now looks forward to a continually lengthening, continually fuller term of years. And all those parts of him that once gathered evil against him, the vestigial structures and odd treacherous corners of his body, you know better and better how to deal with. You carve his body about and leave it re-modelled and unscarred…

    If only the boy Leon had picked up THIS book, instead of “Brave New World”. Ah, well.

    ‘And how is it with heredity?’ asked Karenin. Fowler told him of the mass of enquiry accumulated and arranged by the genius of Tchen, who was beginning to define clearly the laws of inheritance and how the sex of children and the complexions and many of the parental qualities could be determined.
    ‘He can actually DO…?’
    ‘It is still so to speak a mere laboratory triumph,’ said Fowler, ‘but tomorrow it will be practicable.’…

    1913. Genetic Engineering. Yep.

    ‘These old bodies, these old animal limitations, all this earthy inheritance of gross inevitabilities falls from the spirit of man like the shriveled cocoon from an imago. And for my own part when I hear of these things I feel like that – like a wet crawling new moth that still fears to spread its wings. Because where do these things take us?’
    ‘Beyond humanity,’ said Kahn.

    H.G. Wells, transhumanist.

    ‘No,’ said Karenin. ‘We can still keep our feet upon the earth that made us. But the air no longer imprisons us, this round planet is no longer chained to us like the ball of a galley slave….

    Or not.

    ‘In a little while men who will know how to bear the strange gravitations, the altered pressures, the attenuated unfamiliar gases and all the fearful strangenesses of space will be venturing out from this earth. This ball will be no longer enough for us; our spirit will reach out….Cannot you see how that little argosy will go glittering up into the sky, twinkling and glittering smaller and smaller until the blue swallows it up. They may succeed out there; they may perish, but other men will follow them…. PP 187-189

    Damn, but I wish he was alive today.

    posted by Justin at 09:27 PM | Comments (8)



    Red-blooded redneck pit bull beats blue-blooded Frenchie!

    Ferocious battle in the park today between two contestants: a red-nosed American Pit Bull Terrier and a French blueblood bulldog.

    The American redneck dog, "Growly," and the Frenchie, "Georgina" (no idea why anyone would give such a name to a French dog) started out by evaluating each other carefully:

    GrowlyFaceoff.jpg

    Notice that Frenchie is a female, and seems a bit startled by the interest the American redneck has taken in the smell of her derriere!

    Mon dieu!

    Growly and Georgina ran around, circling each other rapidly, and the situation escalated....

    GrowlyCircle.jpg

    Finally, the grappling began!

    GrowlyBites.jpg

    And more!

    GrowlyAction.jpg

    BASH! CRASH!! SMASH!!!

    GrowlyMore.jpg

    Before long, Growly had Georgina down for the count.

    GrowlyDown.jpg

    Clearly, Growly was having his way with her.

    (Lest anyone be confused by these pictures, this was completely harmless playing by two small, very cute, puppies.)

    posted by Eric at 07:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)



    Troll Management 101

    My apologies for not posting much this weekend; I have out of town guests and between entertaining them and attending late right parties, the blog has been neglected. (I realize I've neglected some annoying but overdue business, but the dog ate my homework, OK?)

    My InstaLanched satire -- a sort of comparison between Michael Moore and the Nazis -- drew a couple of insulting comments of the sort I'd normally ignore, because I don't think there's any duty to respond to people who fall into the category called "trolls":

    A troll is deliberately crafted to provoke others with the intention of wasting their time and energy. A troll is a time thief. To troll is to steal from people. That is what makes trolling heinous.

    Trolls can be identified by their disengagement from a conversation or argument. They do not believe what they say, but merely say it for effect.

    Trolls are motivated by a desire for attention by people and can't or won't acquire it in a productive manner.

    I'll leave it up to others whether I'm dealing with a troll here. In any case, I feel obligated to respond, because this particular individual has used my post as leverage for what I consider a troll attack against Glenn Reynolds. After sending an email (and getting a courteous reply from Glenn Reynolds, whose volume of email can only be imagined) he repeats [apparently in an email to Glenn Reynolds] his remarkable claim that I compared the Democratic Party to the Nazis:
    ....anyone who compares either major party to the Nazis is being inflammatory. And anyone with a part in the public political debate should take the same point of view. Such comparisons are an attempt to inflame and promote misunderstanding and hatred. Put yourself above such nonsense, or you really are the partisan hack I have been concluding you are.

    Lastly, as a lawyer, you should have at least a rudimentary understanding of the lack of value in any argument that uses the strawman fallacy, which is precisely what this useless kind of comparison does.

    So, here is the really key question. Are you being slow-witted when you link to this kind of garbage, or are you being calculating?

    Only two choices? The commenter (writing in a new blog called "CounterPundit") offers further taunts and dares, in classic troll manner.
    I doubt I will hear back from him. His little brain will decide this is "hate mail."

    My point to him--pause to think for a minute--was purposeful. I really think this guy dashes stuff off without a thought. Asked to actually compare Leni Riefenstahl to Michael Moore, I doubt he could write a five paragraph comparison and contrast essay that would get even get a "C" in community college.

    As to the suggestion that I compared Nazis to the Democratic Party, is Michael Moore in charge of the DNC? The last time I looked, he wasn't. Nor was Indymedia. To the extent that there's overlap between the stated political beliefs of the ridiculous Moore and those of the even more ridiculous "National Socialist Movement," I think they are more than worthy of satire and parody. A comparison and contrast in bad taste.

    If my post wasn't obvious, self-apparent satire, then what is? Do I have to write musical score, and have an animated Moore caricature as a waltzing Storm Trooper, a la Springtime for Hitler? How funny does deliberate bad taste have to be before wealthy Manhattanites will line up to see it? I know that humor varies, and perhaps some wealthy Manhattanites are more capable of humor at the expense of people other than themselves, but really.... While I doubt it will matter to the humorless crowd, does anyone remember the regular, numbingly routine comparisons of Republicans to Nazis?

    Is the lesson here that such pranksters can't stand a little humor at their own expense?

    I'm quite fascinated with the repeated, serious assertion that I have compared the Democratic Party (which I only left recently) to the Nazis. This from a man who claims I am engaged in a straw man fallacy argument? Such speciousness, coupled with the claim Glenn Reynolds is so stupid that he wouldn't be able to compare Leni Riefenstahl to Michael Moore, is classic trolling.

    ("Come on, Glenn Reynolds! I dare ya! I double triple dare ya! Betcha can't write about Leni and Mike! Stupid! Moron! Nyahh Nyahh!")

    For the record, let me say that I believe Glenn Reynolds to be more than capable of writing "a five paragraph comparison and contrast essay that would get even get a "C" in community college." But I just don't think it's fair to require him to do it at the insistence of a brand-new blogger, even if he is a CEO and author apparently working for the advancement of "Digital Rights Management," and even if his blog name seems deliberately contrived to have a go at the evil InstaPundit.

    But since I'm the one whose post has so upset the guy, for once -- just this once -- I'll be the peacemaker here, and do the comparison and contrast he has demanded of Glenn Reynolds.

    Moore Riefenstahl
    MooreComp.jpg Leni4.jpg
  • Filmmaker
  • Male
  • Wined and dined by top Democratic Party leaders
  • Not generally considered attractive
  • Poor physical condition

  • Has not attained the age of 101
  • Sat next to Jimmy Carter

  • Filmmaker
  • Female
  • Wined and dined by top Nazi Party leaders
  • Attractive

  • Fit, health-conscious body
  • Lived to the age of 101
  • Sat next to Adolf Hitler



  • Sheesh!

    Can I have my "C" now?

    UPDATE: Links added; comparison table updated with more historical detail.

    MORE: Slow is me! Via Glenn Reynolds, (newly appointed Professor of Creationism) I see James Wolcott demonstrating that an ability to write does not preclude being a troll:

    A racist-t-shirt wearing professor of Creationism at Wayback University who goes by the handle of Instapundit claims that if a Republican had written what I did about Andrew Sullivan's phantom creeper on Real Life on Bill Maher, it would have been considered "homophobic."

    Let me put Mr. Muzzle Velocity's wee mind at ease.

    I see that, contrary to what I thought earlier, Wolcott does indeed understand how to link (unless, that is, he disagrees; then he'll keep you searching).

    Lots of intelligent, logical, discussion too....

    Creationism? Wayback University? Wee mind?

    Let's hear it for reasoned disagreement!

    I'm slow with the flow, so I'm having a little trouble figuring out where Mr. Wolcott's wee is headed.

    And no! I'm not giving the man "a hard time."

    Muzzle Velocity?

    Really now....

    UPDATE: I've been savaged for this post and the last one about Michael Moore, by commenters who believe quite passionately that I have no right to disagree with Moore unless I certify in writing that I've seen "Fahrenheit 9/11." In trying to address this concern while being fair to everyone, I've implemented sweeping changes. Read about them here!

    posted by Eric at 10:23 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBacks (2)




    The Bigots are coming! The bigots are coming!

    Charles Krauthammer explores (and explodes) the "Moral Values Myth":

    The way the question was set up, moral values were sure to be ranked disproportionately high. Why? Because it was a multiple-choice question, and moral values cover a group of issues, while all the other choices were individual issues. Chop up the alternatives finely enough, and moral values are sure to get a bare plurality over the others.

    Look at the choices:

    • Education, 4 percent.

    • Taxes, 5 percent.

    • Health Care, 8 percent.

    • Iraq, 15 percent.

    • Terrorism, 19 percent.

    • Economy and Jobs, 20 percent.

    • Moral Values, 22 percent.

    "Moral values" encompass abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood's influence, the general coarsening of the culture and, for some, the morality of preemptive war. The way to logically pit this class of issues against the others would be to pit it against other classes: "war issues" or "foreign policy issues" (Iraq plus terrorism) and "economic issues" (jobs, taxes, health care, etc).

    If you pit group against group, the moral values class comes in dead last: war issues at 34 percent, economic issues variously described at 33 percent and moral values at 22 percent -- i.e., they are at least a third less salient than the others.

    Pretty much my initial reaction when I saw the CNN poll.

    Krauthammer specifically slams the canard that anti-gay bigotry by medieval-minded "Bigoted Christian Rednecks" put Bush in office:

    In the 11 states in which the gay marriage referendums were held, Bush increased his vote by less than he did in the 39 states that did not have the referendum. The great anti-gay surge was pure fiction.

    This does not deter the myth of the Bigoted Christian Redneck from dominating the thinking of liberals and infecting the blue-state media. They need their moral superiority like oxygen, and they cannot have it cut off by mere facts. Once again they angrily claim the moral high ground, while standing in the ruins of yet another humiliating electoral defeat.

    I expect to be told for the next four years that I'm living under a fundamentalist, fascist theocracy which I helped create.

    How foolish I was! Any day now, the Christian religious police will be coming to haul me off to one of the internment camps for homos, atheists, religious heretics, and neopagans!

    May the immortal gods protect me!

    MORE: Via InstaPundit, I see that M. Simon at Power and Control offers those the left maligns as "Bigoted Christian Rednecks" a polite warning from the Republican side, suggesting that it isn't nice to throw RINOs off the bus. I agree.

    posted by Eric at 08:10 AM | Comments (3)




    Yesterday's joke is today's news . . .

    My sense of humor must be out of touch with the national mood. A few days ago, I thought it was quite funny when Greg Palast reported that Kerry actually won the election. Now I see that this wacky idea spread; first to the point where Peter Jennings gave it serious attention on the national news, and now it appears there's going to be an official recount. More here.

    Aside from the Libertarian Party's Badnarik and Green Party's Cobb, several 527s have already leaped into the fray, including http://www.ballotintegrity.org/, http://www.helpamericarecount.org/, and http://blackboxvoting.org/.

    The following is from a statement from Dan Trevas, Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director:


    After the Unofficial Results reported Nov. 2 - George Bush leads John Kerry by 136,483 votes.

    Provisional ballots will be counted.

    155,000 provisional ballots have been cast and not yet been counted.

    County Boards of Elections have until Friday to verify the eligibility of those who cast a provisional vote. Counting will begin, Saturday, November 13. County Boards have until Dec. 1, 2004 to certify their vote totals and report them to the Secretary of State.

    Two Democrats and two Republicans sit on each County Board of Elections.

    Tabulations of the votes will be done in a bi-partisan manner. Only if there is a tie vote on the board does the decision go to the Secretary of State.

    Overseas absentee ballots have not been counted.

    Overseas Absentee ballots by civilians may have been received by County Boards of Elections by Nov. 2 that have not yet been counted. The Boards of Elections will count those votes.

    Overseas absentee ballots by military have until, Friday, Nov. 12 to arrive and be counted by the Boards of Elections in the final total.

    93,000 punch cards were cast, but a vote for president was not counted.

    Again, the spoiled ballots. Obviously, some voters are unable to cast their votes properly. (Should they have "help" voting?) If they have been "disenfranchised," then what about the people who were too flaky to show up and vote at all? Should their votes be "counted" too?

    In the many years before 2002 2000 [sorry!], the punch card system brought no complaints that I ever heard about. I worked as a poll watcher in numerous elections in Berkeley (hardly a bastion of conservatism), and voided ballots were simply considered voided ballots. No one ever gave it a second thought.

    In light of the pitfalls presented by electronic voting, paper balloting makes a lot of sense, but I still see no way to overcome the hopelessly stupid. (Glenn Reynolds, by the way, makes an excellent case for paper ballots.)

    I doubt this recount mania will accomplish much, although I am sure it will help fuel the usual conspiracy theories.

    UPDATE (11/13/04): Many of the election fraud claims are debunked here. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    MORE (11/15/04): Tom Maguire nails the New York Times' blaming of the blogosphere for spreading election fraud claims they've actually been debunking. (Via InstaPundit.) Killing two birds with one stone while pretending to be retarded is always an editorial challenge.

    posted by Eric at 05:55 PM | Comments (1)



    Quotations from Michael Moore? Indymedia?

    Who is responsible for this slogan?

    BUSH, CHENEY, POWELL, SHARON, and BLAIR.
    The true Axis of Evil.

    And who said this?

    How well do you sleep at night Mr. Bush? 160 million dollars? That is a great deal of money you have raised Mr. Bush! These soldiers you have murdered, how much of that money will you provide to their families? Know this Mr. Bush their deaths are on your hands.
    Or this?
    Do not waste our time on National Television with your false "patriotism", "weapons of Mass Destruction" lies, and your fake alligator tears.
    Whose platform seeks better health care?
    We demand the treasonable system of health care be completely revolutionized.

    We demand an end to the status quo in which people die or rot away from lack of proper treatment due to the failure of their medical coverage, Health Maintenance Organization, or insurance policy.

    We further demand the extensive development of insurance for old age and that prescription drugs be made both affordable and accessible.

    Who demands real environmental protection?
    We further demand the abolition of ground rent, the discontinuation of all taxes on property, and the prohibition of all speculation in land.

    The secondary land reform will be to ensure the environmental integrity of the nation is preserved;

    By setting aside land for national wildlife refuges;

    By cleaning the urban, agricultural, and hydrographical (water) areas of the nation;

    By creating legislation regulating the amount of pollution, carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases , and toxins released into the atmosphere;

    And for the continued research and development of clean burning fuels and energy sources.

    Who demands confiscating war profits?
    In view of the enormous personal sacrifices of life and property demanded of a nation by any war, personal enrichment from war must be regarded as a crime against the nation. We therefore demand the ruthless confiscation of all war profits.
    Nationalizing big business?
    We demand the nationalization of all businesses which have been formed into corporations (trusts).
    Who demands a boycott of Israeli products, as well as companies supporting Israel?

    Who says all these things and more?

    Why, the National Socialist Movement, that's who!

    "an organization dedicated to the preservation of our Proud Aryan Heritage, and the creation of a National Socialist Society in America and around the world."

    Many around the world would agree with them.

    Michael Moore, call your Fuhrer!

    As to where I found the above links, I know nothing!

    (Must have been some right wing hate site.)

    ACHTUNG: Once again, the dots have been connected! Commander Moore himself has spoken!

    (For what it's worth, I hate Nazis too.....)

    UPDATE: Just returned from a long night out, and lo and behold! I see that Glenn Reynolds has linked to this post -- noting dryly the "parallels in their platforms."

    There are indeed disturbing similarities. But really now! Green Nazis? Autorantic Virtual Moonbats? Something has to be done to reign in this rain of Internet error! What's next? George Linkin' Rockwell?

    Working together, eventually we'll get this totalitarian thing right, folks!

    Thank you Glenn Reynolds! And a warm welcome to all InstaPundit readers!

    More: Justin thinks I should rein in my reign of error! I have much for witch to apologize.

    UPDATE: A commenter below used the occasion of this post to launch what I consider a troll attack on Glenn Reynolds (for the latter's crime of linking to me). My response is here.

    MORE: UPDATE: I've been savaged for this post and the subsequent one about Michael Moore, by commenters who believe quite passionately that I have no right to disagree with Moore unless I certify in writing that I've seen "Fahrenheit 9/11." In trying to address this concern while being meticulously fair to everyone, I have (only after much discussion and debate with myself) decided to implement The Classical Values Eleven Rules of Etiquette for Commenters!

    posted by Eric at 11:26 AM | Comments (50) | TrackBacks (1)



    Kulturkampf Uber Alles!

    By now most people have read about Bush getting 23% of the gay vote.

    I'm beginning to think that the left is not too happy about such "treason." I think it's interesting that Andrew Sullivan is being targeted with such a vengeance even though he supported Kerry, and I don't think this is an accident. I had fun with an example of this yesterday, but I think it's bigger than James Wolcott's remarks, and worth a second look.

    Here was Atrios in September:

    Look, there are moderates and open minded Republicans whose opinions we can respect and whose opposition to the Bush administration is more than welcome, but Andrew Sullivan is not one of those people. Andrew Sullivan is one of those people who, as Charles Pierce has suggested, should simply be shunned by all decent people.
    More here.

    More recently, Andrew Sullivan has been attacked for the crime of (gasp) scratching his butt! Has anyone ever been to New Jersey? While the butt-scratching is laughable, the fuss over it reveals what I think is the real objection to Sullivan:

    I also thought Andy actually voted for the guy who did run; you know, the one who didn’t have the platform that not only endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage but also insisted on banning all civil unions. Some people seem to think that the Democrats' refusal to condemn people like Andy was the reason they lost the election in that heartland with which he professes to be in such close contact. I suppose I don’t blame him for blaming MIT Linguistic professors instead. (Eric Alterman, quoted with agreement by Atrios.)
    What's fascinating about this is that Sullivan was for Kerry and for gay marriage, yet here outspokenly pro-gay Democrats are objecting to him as unpalatable to middle American "values." Why? From what I can see, it's because he's against Noam Chomsky, against Michael Moore, and outspokenly in favor of the war in Iraq. Thus, he's fair game on the grounds of his homosexuality.

    Significantly, Alterman refers to Sullivan as "Little Roy." Obviously intended to compare Sullivan to Roy Cohn as a sort of inside joke, I think it reveals more about Alterman (and many like-minded thinkers) than Sullivan. Roy Cohn is noteworthy for being:

  • 1. a fiercely anti-Communist aide to Joe McCarthy (side by side with Bobby Kennedy, who escaped any political liability), and
  • 2. a closeted homosexual and therefore a hypocrite [despite the fact that the prejudices of his times excuse others' closets!]. Sullivan is of course against Communism (although I haven't read about him ruining lives), but is anything but a closeted homosexual.
  • In light of the uproar over butt-scratching, what gives here? Are they trying to stuff Sullivan into a closet so they can "out" him? Or is the real objection simply to the fact that Sullivan is openly gay but refuses to conform?

    What's with the left suddenly declaring open-season on a gay Kerry voter? Why so soon after the election? Is there an emerging "get the gay conservatives first" strategy? Targeting a high-profile gay Kerry voter like Sullivan certainly lays down the gauntlet, and shows, I think, that whoever is ultimately behind it believes the best defense is a good offense.

    Another interesting development is that "outing" (once largely the province of rabid gay activists), is now openly encouraged as a standard tactic of the left.

    Again, Atrios approvingly cites this leftist hit piece attacking Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman for the crime of refusing to discuss his sexuality, and urging readers to call the RNC and Ed Gillespie:

    America is in the throes of a culture war, nurtured by groups like the RNC and people like Ken Mehlman. Americans have a right to know which side of the culture war Ken Mehlman is on, and whether, as RNC chair, he would be a fifth column for those very forces that the RNC tells us are out to steal America's Bibles and jam homosexual sex down its throats and the throats of its children.
    (Be sure to read some of the charming comments equating opposition to gay marriage with Auschwitz!)

    It all makes me wonder whether there's a newly emerging unholy alliance behind the Culture War....

    Some of the champions of this particular smear just can't seem to let go of their own past and move on. Despite his claims to the contrary, David Brock comes immediately to mind.

    I can't prove anything, but I doubt he's working without help from above. (I don't think I mean God.....)

    posted by Eric at 08:48 AM | Comments (6)




    How many sides can there be?

    Hugh Hewitt asks a good question in the Weekly Standard:

    George W. Bush collected around 59,750,000 votes, about 3.5 million more than did John Kerry.

    What percentage of Bush's votes were pro-choice, I wonder? Thirty? Twenty? Ten?

    Even if it is only 10 percent, those 5.7 million votes provided Bush with his margin of popular-vote victory. Should the first action of the new Senate be the announcement that pro-choice Republicans will not be trusted with power?(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    10%? Actually, the much cited CNN poll narrows it down a little further. Voters were specifically asked whether abortion should be legal, and the survey broke down their voting patterns as follows (Nader omitted):
    ABORTION SHOULD BE....

    Always Legal (21%) BUSH 25% KERRY 73%

    Mostly Legal (34%) BUSH 38% KERRY 61%

    Mostly Illegal (26%) BUSH 73% KERRY 26%

    Always Illegal (16%) BUSH 77% KERRY 22%

    Clearly, anti-abortion voters favored Bush, but if the always/sometimes legal vote is broken down into numbers.......

  • ABORTION ALWAYS LEGAL:

    5.25% (21% of 25%) of 115,409,172 voters

    6,058,982 Bush voters

  • ABORTION MOSTLY LEGAL:

    12.92% (34% of 38%) of 115,409,172 voters

    14,910,865 Bush voters

  • Which means depending on how "pro-choice" is defined, Bush received at least 20 million votes from pro-choice voters.

    Here's a definition of "pro-choice" from a website which tries not to take sides:

    Within the term of Pro-Choice exists a spectrum of political opinion, ranging from the idea that all abortions, under any circumstances, should be legal, to the idea that only abortions in certain circumstances should be legal (such as pregancy by rape or incest), or that abortions should only be legal until a certain date in the progression of the pregnancy (such as the third trimester, which is generally considered the period that the fetus could survive outside of the body).
    Well, according to that definition, even the third category ("Mostly Illegal") would be considered "pro-choice" -- which means that (at least by one interpretation) the vast majority (i.e. 42 million) of Bush voters could be considered "pro-choice."

    I know this may sound crazy, but I'm just looking at the data.

    The CNN statistics, of course, highlight the difficulty in defining terms. But let's look at the hard core anti-abortion group -- those who believe abortion should always be illegal:

  • ABORTION ALWAYS ILLEGAL:

    12.32% (16% of 77%) of 115,409,172 voters

    14,218,410 Bush voters

  • And finally, here's Bush's largest group -- those who believe abortion should be "Mostly Illegal."

  • ABORTION MOSTLY ILLEGAL:

    18.98 (26% of 73%) of 115,409,172 voters

    21,904,661 Bush voters

  • I don't know what "mostly illegal" means, but I suspect that unless it was defined clearly as meaning, say, "except in cases of rape or incest," the group might include people who'd properly belong in the "mostly legal" category. For example, some people who would limit legal abortion to the first trimester might think this means they want abortion "mostly illegal" without realizing that the vast majority of abortions are already performed in the first trimester.

    Here's the breakdown of Bush's vote numbers, listed in order, from lowest to highest:

    6,058,982 "ABORTION ALWAYS LEGAL" for Bush

    14,218,410 "ABORTION ALWAYS ILLEGAL" for Bush

    14,910,865 "ABORTION MOSTLY LEGAL" for Bush

    21,904,661 "ABORTION MOSTLY ILLEGAL" for Bush

    As anyone can see, it's a mixed bag. Bush certainly received a higher percentage of anti-abortion than pro-abortion votes, but in terms of numbers of actual voters, those who believe abortion should always be illegal are Bush's second lowest group. Interestingly, Bush got a higher percentage (25%) of the hard core, "pro-choice," always-legal group than did Kerry of the hard-core "pro-life," always-illegal group (22%).

    The problem with analyzing this data politically is that if Bush had failed to win the votes in any one of these groups, he'd have lost the election.

    Fortunately for him (and, I think, for most citizens) the war on terror was considered far more important than the war for or against abortion.

    And despite all the arguments back and forth, there's one guy whose opinion doesn't seem to be getting heard: the guy for whom all the above decided to vote, notwithstanding their opinions on abortion.

    posted by Eric at 08:17 PM | Comments (5)



    Remember the veterans

    Happy Veterans Day everyone! I am not going to have much time for blogging, because this is one of those semi-holidays when things are supposed to get done. I'm going to try to stop at Valley Forge for a moment of contemplation.

    Today is also the Marine Corps birthday, and we owe a huge debt to them.

    Enjoy, but remember!

    posted by Eric at 01:03 PM | Comments (3)



    Butting in with penetrating anal-ysis
    The sign of a true pomposity in the making is when a man begins quoting himself.

    -- James Wolcott

    I want to add something before it slips through the, um, cracks. I think that another sign of a true pomposity in the making is when a blogger ridicules what another blogger says without even having the courtesy to link to what he's criticizing.

    James Wolcott, of all people, ought to know better than this:

    Andrew Sullivan addresses the burgeoning controversy that has come to be called (by me, anyway) "Buttgate."
    I found this via Glenn Reynolds, who says that if a Republican had written it, it would be considered homophobic.

    Glenn is certainly right about that; imagine the uproar if someone at the Corner had written the same thing. But what I want to know is why isn't there a link to what Andrew Sullivan actually said? It strikes me that if you're going to engage in detailed personal criticism of another blogger and something he said -- especially to the point of inventing a brand-new word -- you ought to at least link to whatever it is you're criticizing.

    Considering that it is well known that a general link to a home page will not give the blogger a clue (and in many cases won't even show up as a link), and considering Mr. Wolcott's vast experience in online writing, I am wondering what's going on.

    I mean, I can forgive sloppiness in blogging, as I'm a slob myself, and I miss a lot of details. But this Wolcott guy is so punctilious, so hypercritical of others that he won't even tolerate self-quoting, so fashion-conscious as to repeatedly expresse disapproval of novelists wearing hats, that I just doubt it's an ordinary omission.

    I have to wonder whether this omission might indicate, well, a fear of the subject matter at hand.

    Not that I really must know; I'm just curious. It strikes me as odd that in politically progressive, gay-friendly New York city, Mr. Walcott would have to go to such pained lengths to not link.

    Don't read me wrong! I'm not saying he's into butt-linking or anything like that. Precisely the opposite! He's gone way, way out of his way to prove that he isn't.

    But when you also go out of your way to invent a term like "Buttgate," well that's butting into a very sore, very tender area. Much as I dislike wallowing in "Buttgate" I feel that butting out would be the cowardly thing to do.

    We need to remember the lessons of history: it is axiomatic that in all matters to which the suffix "gate" is attached, the merest appearance of a coverup can be worse than the underlying crime.

    (Gee. What if I've only scratched the surface of something much deeper?)

    posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (10)




    The real issue!

    I don't often reprint cartoons, but I saw this one posted by Craig at mtpolitics.net, and it was too precious not to lift.

    gaymarriage.gif

    Via Cox and Forkum.

    posted by Eric at 09:14 PM | Comments (1)



    Stuff they don't want you to see?

    According to John O'Neill, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan cheered President Bush's re-election -- but it's not being reported:

    U.S. troops stationed in Iraq were visibly heartened when they got the news that President Bush had defeated John Kerry in last week's election - but the media are refusing to report their reaction to the folks back home.

    That's the word from John O'Neill, whose successful mission to expose Kerry proved critical to Bush's win.

    "It hasn't been carried on the networks, but I've talked to children of our friends," O'Neill told ABC radio host Sean Hannity on Monday, in one of his first post-election interviews. "People were cheering in Iraq and Afghanistan - our kids were - when the election results were announced."

    O'Neill said one of the chief motivations for the Swiftvets' crusade was a concern for the well-being of GIs on the frontlines. "We were convinced that [Kerry] would be a disaster for our kids in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

    I don't know whether that story has been confirmed or not, but you can be damned sure that because the source is the hated John O'Neill, there'll almost have to be a video of it for it to be reported on the MSM.

    Of course, videos showing atrocities against Americans (or commited by Saddam Hussein) will be pulled from shelves -- especially if they take issue with Michael Moore:

    The 90-minute video, titled Buried in the Sand, shows the gruesome way Saddam Hussein tortured his country. It also prominently features the end of Nicholas Berg's life -- in all, a series of brutally graphic, violent images culminating with the beheading.

    The DVD was on a shelf right inside the front door of a Shell station on E. Busch Boulevard. The station's assistant manager, 'Sal,' couldn't explain why the station was selling it, but he admitted the images made him sick.

    "What's in there is very disgusting. What you see is disgusting. It's not something to be proud about. I think it shows the U.S. isn't bad about the war. They free a country," he observed in broken English.

    What might be most surprising about the video, however, is who was behind it. The movie was actually produced by two Republicans out of California as part of the campaign propaganda, meant to counter films like Fahrenheit 9/11.

    "I just wanted to get the truth out there and let people know what the face of our enemy was really like," producer Rob Cartee told Action News.

    Well, we can't have that sold in stores, can we? Under pressure, the company is launching an investigation:
    Shell was unaware the DVD was being sold at a station with their name on it until informed by Action News. The company said it would immediately start an investigation.

    A company spokeswoman said that at any station where "merchandise is offered for sale that is morally offensive or distasteful, Shell will demand that the retailer take the appropriate steps to bring the operation into compliance with its contract."

    The DVD was on sale for two weeks, and Sal said they sold about half a dozen. But he pledged to pull the remaining copies off the shelf late Monday.

    "Right now, I can assure you from this moment, I am going to call whoever supplied it and ask them to pick it up," he said.

    If such atrocities as beheadings, torture scenes, and dead bodies are morally offensive, I wonder why there isn't pressure to pull Fahrenheit 9/11 from store shelves. (It has plenty of such morally offensive material.)

    I haven't seen the Buried in the Sand DVD, and for the sake of argument I will assume it is political propaganda, as this mainstream review site claims:

    For a long time now I’ve been quite vocal in my opposition to Michael Moore and what he does, which is essentially to pass off extremist propaganda as honest political discourse in his books and films. My differing political point of view had nothing to do with it, I’ve argued, but to those who’ve supported what he had to say, I was little more than some right wing fascist trying to suppress dissent.

    Now comes the answer to everything Moore has had to say about the war on terror in a film called Buried in the Sand. It’s a movie that defends a lot of the points of view I’ve held dear over the past few years. But just because I agree with what it has to say doesn’t make it any less a disgusting, vile, over-the-top piece of propaganda than Moore’s work. The left has called Michael Moore their answer to Rush Limbaugh; I’m here to vehemently plea on the side of the right that WE don’t need an answer to Michael Moore.

    As hosted by Mark Taylor, this is a picture that brings together just about every depiction of brutality ever recorded against the regime of Saddam Hussein and the terrorists who have tried to thwart the emergence of democracy in the Middle East. These are the images that our media have largely withheld from us in favor of daily force-feedings of pictures of Abu Ghraib abuses. Many of them have been talked about, but seldom seen. By stringing them together and punctuating them with “this is why we fight” sentiment, the film aims to win support for the war from those who have withheld it.

    If the reviewer is correct, then I don't expect the DVD will take "Best Documentary." Nor should it.

    But why is pressure being brought to bear to pull it from shelves, and not Fahrenheit 9/11? Why are murderers like Che Guevara being glorified?

    From what I can see, Buried in the Sand is not claiming the murderers or beheaders are cool. Nor is it comparing them favorably to early American patriots.

    It shows them as the enemy!

    We can't have that, can we?

    posted by Eric at 03:11 PM | Comments (3)



    Bush supporters called "gay," beaten with baseball bat!

    How odd that just after analyzing the claim that Bush voters are physical abusers (with Kerry voters as their victims) I see direct evidence to the contrary: a report of Kerry supporters attacking Bush supporters for allegedly being.... gay!

    I am absolutely not making this up.

    Tough as it is to do, I'm trying to make sense out of this Drudge item:

    The argument began earlier in the day Thursday with a discussion about candidates the minors had supported for president, Backstrom said. The two victims supported President Bush.

    "We were sitting in the computer room at school, and there was kind of a political debate," said Chad McKay of Arden Hills. "Some people said only gay people vote for Bush." Chad said the victim said "only gay people would vote for Kerry because he supports gay marriage."

    Backstrom said the victims then "called the other guys some names."

    Chad said later in the afternoon when he and the victim were walking to their cars they heard their three senior classmates yelling at them, according to the police report.

    Chad got to his car, but the three 17-year-olds attacked the victim, he said, hitting him in face, including with a baseball bat and kicking him. One boy had a padlock wrapped around his finger, Chad said.

    Well, it certainly isn't true to say that only gay people supported Bush. (Most estimates point to 23% of the gay vote going to Bush.)

    But then, neither is it true to assert that only gay people supported Kerry. (Nor is it true to say that Kerry supports gay marriage.)

    Once again, we see clear abuse of statistics, by people old enough (they're 17) to know better.

    I hate to carp about morality, but I think there's a lesson to be learned here.

    Sometimes, simple logic is a moral value too!


    MORE: Perhaps I've got this all wrong. Maybe the Kerry supporters believed they were the victims of the Bush supporters.... (Mobilizing passions can be so mutable.)

    posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)



    Mobilizing passions?

    Via Megan McArdle's pointer to Kevin Drum, I found myself drawn to and mesmerized by this post, written by a self-described "advocate for victims of domestic abuse" who "draws some parallels between her work and the reaction of many Democrats to the election":

    Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, “Why did they beat me?”

    And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

    They will tell you, every single day.

    The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.

    A few posts ago, I complained about the misuse of the term "we." This takes it a step further, actually characterizing Bush voters as the evil "they" who are now physical abusers of the "we."

    Let me get this right: I abused the people who voted for Kerry?

    Still in a state of shock and awe, I returned to Megan McArdle, who's never looked more like a bastion of sanity:

    It's not only grossly hysterical, logic-deprived, and thoroughly risible, it also belies the claim that the commenter has worked in a domestic violence shelter, where she would have seen families in desperate fear for their lives, not their tax code or farm subsidies.
    Political hyperbole is one thing.

    But falsely accusing others -- complete strangers -- of abuse, well, I'm sorry, but that's the sort of thing Julius Streicher used to do. Abuse? The belief that one's group is a victim? Betrayal? ("Even if you do everything right, they’ll hit you anyway.") A sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions?

    (But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After all, there are people who actually defend Julius Streicher.)

    Und And it is time for victim empowerment!

    ....we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, “loose”, irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.

    Yawohl!

    UPDATE: As Glenn Reynolds reminds, Bush voters are tied to slavery too! Victims, we have nothing to lose but our chains!

    posted by Eric at 08:52 AM | Comments (5)



    Try the Carnival at "Let's Try Freedom"!

    The 112th Carnival of the Vanities is up at Bob Hayes' excellent new blog, Let's Try Freedom. The theme for this week's carnival is "Things Having Nothing To Do With Partisan Politics," and my post has nothing to do with the theme (nor do about half the disobedient entries). Bob does a great job with them all, and I like his general approach:

    I may not end up in libertarian territory, but that's generally the way my instincts tell me to head.

    All the entries are good; here are some I especially liked:

  • Josh Cohen (originally scheduled to host the Carnival this week) has ominous warnings about Hillary Rodham Clinton:
    All that matters to her is winning, and in 2008, we'd all better watch out.
  • Via The Key Monk, here's a shocker that I, a Pennsylvanian, managed to miss: Kerry/Specter signs! Say it's not true! Please?
  • Dissecting Leftism debunks the "Hick Christians" myth.
  • Les Jones offers advice for those wishing to "escape the concentration camps of Bushaliburton's Christian Reich." (Warmer than Siberia, eh?)
  • While we were all busy doing the election thing, Andrew Ian Dodge and his British buddies celebrated Guy Fawkes Day.
  • Quibble and Bits comes out of the CD closet with a true confession.
  • And don't forget to say Happy Blogiversary to La Shawn Barber, folks. (Can't believe it's been a year already!)
  • Read 'em all!

    posted by Eric at 08:16 AM




    Meme too!

    Secession?

    A blue state idea?

    (Above meme compilation by Glenn Reynolds.)

    Why, the way some of these folks talk, you'd almost think it was their idea.

    Hardly. Then or now.

    And how are they going to divvy up the turf when it looks like this?

    countymap3.jpg

    Impossible to secede. They'd have to intercede.

    posted by Eric at 09:34 PM | Comments (9)



    The Blue And The Grey

    I've been a little down lately, as so many of us have. It's on account of the election. Not for the usual reasons, though. Oh no. See, I made my mom cry by voting for George Bush.

    Looking back, perhaps I should have lied about it. She never tried to conceal her loathing for the man. It would have been both easy and merciful to tell a little white lie. But I respected her too much. I wanted to be honest with her.

    I can still see the look of shock on her face.

    "You're really voting for Bush?" she whispered. " You're not joking?"

    "No Ma. I'm afraid your vote will cancel out mine."

    Wrong thing to say.

    Much weeping and lamentation ensued. Much.

    "I thought I raised you SMARTER!!" she finally wailed.

    "Try to stay calm." I advised her. No dice. Then the nurse came in, wondering what all the commotion was about. They are never there when you want them.

    "HE'S VOTING FOR GEORGE BUH, BUH, BUH.....AHHHHHH!!"

    Okay, now I really felt guilty. There was a witness. And she was glaring at me.

    "Honey, you jus' gotta not think about things like that, okay?"

    "I'm trying to change the subject." I muttered. "She keeps coming back to it!"

    "HE'S GOING TO PUH, PUH, PACK THE SUPREME COURT.....AHHHHHHH!!"

    Turned out she wouldn't let go of it, so I did the right thing and beat a hasty retreat. Can't go around upsetting the old folks. It would be wrong. And the election has come and gone and not one word of politics have we discussed. It's better that way. Sometimes I reflect on how clever and open-minded, albeit eccentric, she used to be. Time and illness have taken a great deal from her.

    How many times has this little drama played out across America? However many, I extend to the players my deepest sympathy.

    A couple days later, I was recounting the episode to my dad. He and my mom split up years ago, but they still enjoy keeping tabs on each other.

    When I had finished, my grim, taciturn father, a man who fought at Pearl Harbor, a thirty year man in the United States Navy, simply snorted.

    "She did all that?"

    "Yeah."

    "Tell her I'm voting for him too."

    posted by Justin at 08:27 PM | Comments (7)



    Just grievances?

    Is there more to this post election period than Republican triumphalism, Democratic wound-licking, and the usual arguments?

    Stuff has been making me think that there is.

    Stuff like "bink's" earlier comment. Like a letter I received from a friend (excerpt below). Like the tone of general conversations with liberal friends around here.

    And like this post by John Perry Barlow:

    I feel like I'm suffering the death of a loved one. I'm not sure which of the stages of grief I've reached at this point, but I'm pretty well past denial. I'm mourning a number of losses, one of which is the belief that "my side" is actually a clear majority that would reveal itself if we ever shuffled off our disdain for politics and voted in any force. ( Actually, we may be a majority - I don't trust these results - but even if we are, our margin is very slender and we were too dumb, diffident and disorganized to prevent the other side from successfully gaming the system. I would be angry about that if it would do any good, but I see where anger has gotten us so far.)

    I worked last night on processing all that wrath.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who offers other thoughtful links on the subject)

    There is an undeniable sense of genuine loss. And with that, there's a genuine need for grieving. This might not be something that most Republicans will readily understand (although I think Democratic crossover voters will), but I think it's worthy of discussion, because it isn't an opinion so much as it is a feeling.

    Surely anyone who has had a family member, a close friend, a lover or even a pet die (I've had all four many times over) will understand. Grieving is just something that comes over you and must be experienced. It is not rational, nor is it an opinion to be debated.

    When someone you love dies, it does not matter what other people might have thought of that person, they should respect your period of grief.

    I notice that one comment to the Barlow post says "FUCK BUSH AND FASCIST USA" 221 times, which interferes with grieving and makes the post tough to open, and shows that some people are stuck in the anger stage, and may remain there. (Another example, via Glenn Reynolds' link, is this hateful screed against the South.)

    Grief and rage are not rational, and I saw a lot of this watching so many die of AIDS. It was natural for some of their grieving loved ones to blame a vast right wing conspiracy, CIA scientists working at Fort Detrick, the drug companies themselves and a host of others. I had anger I never could process, and I am not sure I ever will. Grieving is something which has to be understood apart from the merits of any arguments.

    Yet as I say this, I continue to be fascinated by many of the arguments themselves.

    For some reason, I was quite taken with John Perry Barlow's view that this is part of a continuing war between the 1950s and the 1960s. Many of today's voters were not yet born in either the 1950s or the 1960s, and many more have only the dimmest memories of either of those periods. There's no denying that a culture clash occurred involving certain 1950s values being set against certain 1960s values, but I think both have been so stereotyped as to have little meaning to young people today. As for me, I grew up in the 60s, but remember being a boy in the 50s, and I continue to thrive on 50s nostalgia -- especially the music of the period. But I don't think that has much to do with the election. As to politics, I think there is a sharp dividing line in the Baby Boom generation between those born before 1953 and those born afterwards. The dividing line involved the end of the military draft, which ended the major motivation for opposition to the Vietnam War. (That's another long rant beyond the scope of this post.)

    Oddly, the 50s-versus-60s take on the election reminded me of a conversation I had with a recent college graduate. She's a Bush voter -- but her mom (a staunch Kerry supporter) was so upset by the election that she demanded to know why her daughter hadn't sent her a "condolence" email.

    Mom was not joking. She meant this most seriously, and had become so rabidly, irrationally anti-Bush that her daughter was afraid to tell her that she voted for Bush. She's literally afraid her parents will disown her. (They blame Bush for September 11, which they do not forgive.)

    OK, that's background for my own college voting experience. My parents were both staunch Nixon supporters, and, being the young Marxist that I was, I voted for McGovern. Far from being afraid to tell my parents, I'm ashamed to admit that I pretty much shouted about how proud I was in voting for the left, and against Nixon. I'm sure I wasn't alone.

    Yet when McGovern lost, I didn't grieve at all. I considered Nixon's victory "typical."

    Why the difference today?

    Things were much more contentious in 1972. There was a much bigger, much more unpopular, much more divisive war. The war between the 50s and the 60s was in full dudgeon. Watergate was on the horizon.

    I find myself recognizing that people are grieving, and naturally I respect it even if I don't understand it fully. Something seems to have changed in American politics.

    But where was the grief?

    One difference stands out. In 1972 America had not been attacked.

    Isn't it a big deal when your country gets attacked? How well have Americans been able to process that very real grief?

    So, just as I acknowledge the anti-Bush grief (so often manifested as/channeled into rage) I'm wondering, and I must ask: exactly what happened to the 9/11 grief? Where did it go? Might some of it be misdirected as anger towards Bush?

    I can't be certain, but once again, I'm reminded of AIDS.

    UPDATE: Don't miss Dean Esmay's "Letter To John Perry Barlow From A Pot-Smoking Deadhead Bush Voter." It's a real tour de force -- and as it turns out, Dean and I are fellow Deadheads! Who knew?

    (HT Steven Malcolm Anderson, whose full title is beyond the scope of this essay.....)

    MORE: Hey now! Speaking of Deadheads, how about constitutional rock star Randy Barnett for Attorney General? Well? We wouldn't want an unconstitutional rock star, would we?

    Besides, someone has to grease the skids for the Reynolds court.....

    I say the Constitution rocks!

    Continue reading "Just grievances?"

    posted by Eric at 09:50 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)



    Carville's cacophonous caterwauling cadaver . . .

    While Dennis beat me to Carville's carcass, there are a few bones left for me to pick.

    According to James Carville, the Republicans were elected because they ran with the following winning "narrative":

    we're going to protect you from the terrorists in Tikrit and from the homos in Hollywood.
    Really? I never felt threatened by the homos in Hollywood. I love the place, have gay friends there, and I resent Carville's stereotype.

    I notice that the cacophonous Carville likes alliteration, so terrorists are to Tikrit as homos are to Hollywood. It's strained in light of what I know -- and in light of Roger L. Simon's direct observations of recent Hollywood area voting patterns:

    Bush's support in Beverly Hills was up 22 percentage points (more than double) from 2000. Caveat: these stats are still unofficial but they are obviously very significant.

    Here is the breakdown for Beverly Hills:

    2004 UNOFFICIAL

    BUSH 42.38% KERRY 56.98% OTHER .64%

    2000 OFFICIAL

    BUSH 20.47% GORE 76.51% OTHER 3.02%

    I'm sure this is astounding news to the Democratic Party and supposedly liberal Hollywood. My source is now engaged in checking other neighborhoods, including ultra liberal West Hollywood, the central gay neighborhood of Los Angeles, where Bush's support has gone up 8% on first count. There may be many explanations for this, but it is interesting indeed. I received several emails explaining how the exit polls had undercounted Jewish voters for Bush. That seems to have been true.

    Why would Hollywood be voting against itself (and, apparently, its own "homos")? In an election this big, where large numbers of people crossed over, I think it's necessary to took for larger areas of agreement. And if there's any Large Area That People Most Hate about Hollywood, it would be Michael Moore.

    Kerry supporter Jeff Jarvis (unsurpassed as media critic, for he's also a media insider) expresses this sentiment better than I could:

    Moore lost the race for Kerry and the Democrats by turning them, by association, into a bunch of rabid seething fringie liberal loonies, all angry and extreme and too quick to forget what the real war is and who the real enemy is.

    The right-wing is usually the side that is portrayed as fringie and rabid and extreme and, Lord knows, many of them are.

    But Moore made the left seem just as extreme if not more so.

    He demanded that we should all be as angry as he is. But what if we don't want to be angry at our own side?

    He demanded that we see conspiracies everywhere but where they exist: in the Islamofascist world.

    He lowered the level of discourse to this: hyperbole, hype, lies by omission, and attack as a substitute for fact and discussion.

    And that make it harder for Kerry to complain when the other side did likewise to him.

    ....

    But who wants to vote for the party of seethers and demeaners? Who wants to join the angry people and think that's going to improve life? Who feels welcome in the company of disapprove snots? That is the party of Michael Moore.

    The moral to the story: Don't listen to Michael Moore. He led you astray, Democrats.

    And Republicans: Just as I am tell Democrats not to believe that most of you are rabid religious nuts, you'd be unwise to think that most Democrats are rabid Michael Moore nuts; that would be just as wrong.

    I love to find words of wisdom whenever I can -- and they don't come much wiser than that.

    Moore drove away far more people than Carville's "Hollywood homos" ever could. The man radiates hatred for his country. Middle and upper class homosexuals, unpalatable as they may be to millions of Americans, far from hating their country, instead want full integration into the middle class mainstream. For the most part, they are the absolute antithesis of a slovenly Marxist apologizist for terror who wants to destroy American middle class values.

    So why has Carville singled out "homos" for his sing-songy diatribe? Might he be too embarrassed to admit his party's endorsement of the Moore strategy?

    Might it be because a higher percentage of the Michael Moore left voted for Kerry? (23% of the gay vote went to Bush -- and I'd be willing to bet that zero percent of the Moore vote went to Bush.)

    Singling out "Hollywood homos" kills three birds with one stone:

  • serves warning to the homos that they'd better toe the DNC line;
  • ratchets up Culture War rhetoric, in the process painting the Republicans as bigots;
  • provides a more alliterative sound byte, for the most memorable media meme . . .
  • Enough carrying on (or should that be "carrion on"?) about Carville. I hope his remarks prove as forgettable as they are regrettable.

    posted by Eric at 08:05 AM | Comments (2)



    Wake-Up Call for the Reality-Based Community...

    James Carville on the way things are:

    "We can deny this crap, but I'm out of the denial. I'm about reality here," Mr. Carville told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "We are an opposition party, and as of right now, not a particularly effective one. You can't deny reality here."

    He said the party is desperately in need of a compelling narrative to tell voters, rather than the "litany of issues" the party stands for now.

    Both Carville and Bob Shrum found ways to state in this article that the Republican party is anti-gay:

    Carville -

    "These guys had a narrative — we're going to protect you from the terrorists in Tikrit and from the homos in Hollywood. ..."

    Shrum -

    "The Democratic Party is not going to be better at competing with the Republican Party at being anti-gay. And frankly, I wouldn't be in that party. I would leave that party."

    A narrative in the works?

    The culture war is always easy ammo.

    posted by Dennis at 07:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)




    Lover of patriotism, and peace!

    In an earlier post, ("None dare call it fascism"), I reacted to the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic extremist.

    More recently, Glenn Reynolds noticed that Michael Moore was strangely silent about the murder (after all, they're both directors).

    I wondered too, but I assumed anyone who'd consider fellow filmmakers who behead Americans to be analogous to American patriots might refuse outright to criticize Islamofascist murderers of any variety. Then today I saw a BBC report that Van Gogh "has been described as the Netherlands' Michael Moore."

    While it's not a nice thing to compare a murder victim to someone who'd be likely to show solidarity with his murderers, it adds jealousy to the list of reasons why Moore hasn't condemned the brutal murder of a fellow filmmaker.

    Maybe Moore couldn't figure out a way to use Van Gogh's death to his own advantage. How could he blame Bush for the murder?

    Moore does not hesitate to blame Bush for the deaths of his fellow countrymen, however, as he did by posting this mosaic of dead American soldiers.

    [NOTE: Moore has now taken the full mosaic down from his web site, and directs his readers to the Washington Post's "Faces of the Fallen."]

    Do I have to have a friend or relative in that picture to be upset? How does Moore reconcile his stated support of the troops with the fact that he's using a picture juxtaposing them on the face of a man he absolutely abhors and considers responsible for their deaths? If Moore thinks they died for the evil Bush instead of for their country, then how can he claim he "supports the troops?"

    I suspect he does not support the troops, any more than he sympathizes with Theo Van Gogh.

    MORE, BUTT MOORE: Not to make light of the grotesque, but Power Line has posted another Moore mosaic. Bottom line: it's a gas!

    UPDATE: The deafening silence surrounding the Van Gogh murder is not limited to Michael Moore. As Roger L. Simon notes, all of the (usually vocal) Hollywood has fallen silent:

    It's stunning how silent the American artistic community, Hollywood in particular, has been about the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam. Do they even know what happened to one of their own? Have they even heard of him? Do they care someone was killed for making a film which protested violent abuse against women? Are they even interested? So far nothing from Hollywood. Not a word that I've heard anyway.
    Why the silence? Is it fear? Sympathy?

    Or has the murder of artists now become politically correct?

    UPDATE (11/10/04): Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Austin Bay on the strategic significance of this foul murder:

    Holland benefits from the democratic rule of law, and Bouveri is already in custody. However, his crime is a glimpse of how the "murder tool" is used by political and religious reactionaries to thwart moderate voices and frustrate freedom's advocates throughout the Middle East. For decades, Palestinian moderates have complained that they literally live under the gun, fearing reprisal and death.

    Is the international press describing Bouveri as a Dutch insurgent or an Islamic insurgent? No, and he certainly isn't, except perhaps in the demented, self-loathing minds of arch-leftists like Michael Moore. The thugs in Fallujah, whether inspired by Saddam or bin Laden, aren't insurgents, either. They are reactionaries whose only route to power is murder. Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi now says the rule of law is coming to Fallujah. It would be nice to see a few of van Gogh's film-land friends (who claim to value political and artistic freedom) send Allawi a letter of thanks.

    And Dan Darling at Winds of Change expands on the strategic implications, arguing that this is no ordinary murder, but "the tip of the iceberg."

    I hope Moore's malignant narcissism isn't helping to keep the iceberg afloat.

    Stay tuned!

    posted by Eric at 04:52 PM | Comments (2)



    Blogs Shmogs! Damned kids and their meddling ways...

    Eric Engberg at CBSNews takes the infantile blogosphere to task in a specious display of pseudo-journalism.

    By his logic 'newspapers' qua newspapers can be judged by sampling the Weekly World News and the Daily Mirror.

    All food tastes terrible if we can judge by a British menu, and thus the blogosphere is inherently flawed because Ana Marie Cox is 'smutty' and Andrew Sullivan shows 'hubris.' I suppose Engberg fashions himself nemesis, though this makes a farce of the old tragic process. Is he all the gods can muster?

    Like others who've been critical of blogs lately Engberg seems unsure even of what a blog is: the Drudge Report? That's a news portal. (And a handy one at that -- without it I wouldn't have read Engberg's piece.)

    Here's a telling bit on election night blogging:

    This is the kind of stuff we used to run in my aforementioned school paper, when the speculation surrounded who was going steady. The difference is that the bloggers aspire to being a force in our public life and claim to be at the forefront of a new political-media era. It was clear to me, from following their efforts that night, that, unlike journalists, some blog operators who are quick to trash the MSM not only don’t care about the veracity of the stories they are spreading, they do not understand when there is a live hand grenade on their keyboard. They appear not to care. Their concern is for controversy and "hits."

    First, it's not the kind of stuff he used to run in his school paper, because as speculative as any of the material is at a given time, blogs are created in real time and updated constantly. That's one difference. Another is that blogs are not interested in reporting who's going steady, or in reporting at all: they're about individuals or groups of individuals commenting on any number of things, from their pets, to their passions, to the state of the world. And blogs often naturally stand as a critique of institutions, the mainstream media included.

    Classical Values for example is notionally about the culture war, but like all other blogs it is also about the people writing the posts, their personal invovlement in the subject, and their reaction to the world at large. Governing bodies, outspoken individuals, other blogs, authors of all kinds are fair game for a medium that is at its base a form of commentary.

    And Engberg is only showing his ignorance of blogging when he assumes that bloggers aspire to being journalists based on Andrew Sullivan's irrelevant ramblings. Sullivan himself is as open to critique in the blogosphere as Michael Moore or Dan Rather. This is the second critique of the quoted passage: Engberg presumes to speak of all bloggers as one with a common goal, a common ignorance, and as representing a common danger. That danger is, of course, the danger of a little information.

    It takes people like Engberg to filter information for the dirty masses, which is what lies at the base of his empty cry.

    posted by Dennis at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)



    Michael Moore's wee voters
    We only lost by three and a half million!

    -- Michael Moore

    There we go again.

    The word "we" has an ugly habit of sneaking its way into political discussions, with an almost hypnotic tendency to induce people of good will (or people who don't enjoy debating) to imagine themselves in the same ideological group as whoever is using the "we" to claim that those in agreement with them have a right to dominate the larger group. In Moore's case, he's talking about some 55 million people. But in this piece, he repeatedly uses the "we" word to refer to himself and "young people" as a sort of combined Michael Moore "slacker" phenomenon:

    From the beginning, I believed that young adults and "slackers" would rise up in this election. As we began our slacker tour in Syracuse's football stadium on September 20, we could tell that this election would be like no other. It was no longer uncool to talk politics like it was five or ten years ago. Now, you were considered a loser if you didn't know what was going on in the world.

    After speaking to the 10,000 gathered in Syracuse, we went on to hold rallies in 63 cities, mostly on campuses. Every night the events were packed, with anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 people showing up. We registered thousands to vote and got tens of thousands more to sign up to volunteer with Move On, ACT, the College Dems and other groups like Vote Mob and the League of Pissed Off Voters. We reached perhaps a half-million people in person and millions more on local TV and radio in those 63 cities (all but three of them in swing states).

    Moore's slackers are now "we" and "we" have cause to rejoice. Because, Moore claims, there was a "landslide" (54%-46%, according to the Boston Globe), and "we" led it.

    Let's see, the young people (the "slackers") were 17% of the total vote.

    54% of 17% is just over 9%.

    That's "we"?

    What I'd like to know is how many of the 54% of the 17% are really Moore's slackers? Does he really speak for them? For the sake of argument, let's assume he speaks for a large number of them. Does this make Moore's "we" ones the "base" of the Democratic Party? Some would argue that it does.

    But who benefits from having Michael Moore's "we" slackers as the base of the Democratic Party? The Democrats? Here's Mark Steyn:

    The Michael Mooronification of the Democratic Party proved a fatal error. Moore is the chief promoter of what's now the received opinion of Bush among the condescending Left -- Chimpy Bushitler the World's Dumbest Fascist. There are some takers for this view, but not enough. By running a campaign fuelled by Moore's caricature of Bush, the Democrats were doomed to defeat.
    Moore can yell about "his" millions all he wants, and while I think he inflates his own view of his power, there's no denying that the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party has become a powerful force in American politics. A mean-spirited, ugly, divisive force, but a force nonetheless.

    Yet there's a serious problem with any static analysis.

    Looking at Moore's voters as a bloc, one might be able to come up with a serious estimate of hard numbers (i.e. exactly how many voters did Michael Moore directly cause to go to the polls and vote?) But such a static analysis does NOT answer a more vexing question for the Democratic Party: exactly how many voters did Michael Moore directly cause to go to the polls and vote for the other side?

    To answer that, you'd have to ask people who voted for Bush.

    (I might start by asking the 46% of the young voters for Bush what they think.)

    ADDITIONAL QUESTION: Is 54% to 46% a landslide?

    I'm not sure what definition Moore is using, but this one seems reasonable to me:

    landslide - an overwhelming victory in an election. Of recent U.S. presidential elections, those in 1980, 1984, and 1988 can be considered landslides, because the Democratic candidates carried only a few states in each case, and were thus "buried" under a landslide.
    Examples of landslides in the recent election would be McCain over Starky or Obama over Keyes.

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's London's Daily Telegraph, with a different take than Moore:

    ....if John Kerry's strategists feel like slitting anyone's throat right now, it is Mr Moore's.

    This was supposed to be the victory that the podgy sage of Flint, Michigan, delivered for the Democrats by winding up students into paroxysms of anti-Bush rage and propelling them into the polling booths. In the event, he achieved the first but not the second objective. The proportion of young voters did not increase on Tuesday. In the gleeful words of one anti-Moore website, "pot-smoking slackers are still pot-smoking slackers": they meant to vote Kerry but, like, couldn't get out of bed in time.

    But isn't it possible they might have helped others, by negative example?

    MORE: As I just said in a comment to this excellent post,

    There must be a mathematical formula of diminishing returns in there somewhere. The more extreme the extremes, the more the extremes repel the non-extremes. They drive away more people than their numbers bring in. Thus, Michael Moore can draw a crowd -- and simultaneously drive twice as many voters into the opposite camp.
    Wish I knew something about statistics and math!

    posted by Eric at 09:18 AM | Comments (5)



    In a free country, anyone can have sects with anyone!

    Much as I like Professor Bainbridge, I have to confess to a little disppointment with his repeated characterization of those who disagree with him [presumably myself included] as "chirping sectaries." First because I am sick of labels, and second, because it's not his label -- which means I have to spend time reading the thoughts of someone else uttered in another place, another time, against another group of "sectaries" of unknown origin.

    As to the meaning of the term "chirping sectaries," I can't ask Russell Kirk what he meant, although many others (example) have taken issue with him. I'm not a follower of anyone's religious sect or political philosophy, and I never met an "ism" I liked, so I'm a little taken aback at being called a "sectarian." (Although I'm routinely called a conservative by liberals and a liberal by conservatives, so whatever my "sect" is, it must be a rapidly mutating one.)

    David Bernstein recalls the term as a famous insult, evocative of his wild college days:

    This reminded me of my college days, when I was testing out various political philosophies. I decided to spend Spring Break (yes, it was a wild college life for me!) reading the three books National Review consistently referred as the foundational works of modern conservatism: Kirk's almost unreadable and unedifying The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot; James Burnham's racist and imperialist Suicide of the West; and Whittaker Chambers' meandering and hallucinatory Witness. I was, not surprisingly, sorely disappointed. Around the same time, I received my first Laissez-faire Books catalogue, and started reading Hayek, Nozick, Rothbard, and, especially, Milton Friedman (unlike many libertarians who get their first inspiration from Ayn Rand, I didn't read her until much later). I started calling myself a "libertarian-conservative," and the rest is history.
    (In high school I dared to call myself a "Marxist-Leninist" and my self esteem has been sliding ever downhill since!) I don't want to get into the details of the Hayekian-Randian-Rothbardian philosophical take on Kirkist deviationism (Kirk himself has been called a notorious factionalist who voted for Eugene McCarthy) because, well, I am not a strict follower of any of them. I just think what I think, and I don't claim to be ideologically correct, or even necessarily right.

    It's only fair for me to ask, however, whether Kirk's insult isn't ultimately headed for the same sort of sectarian oblivion he claims to be attacking (along the lines of Lenin's "infantile disorder," Stalin's "rootless cosmopolitanism," or the more recent "Reality Based Community.") It's not only an argument to authority (I'm assuming Kirk is that) but like most labels, it dismisses criticism without addressing it.

    And what's with the "chirping?" What might Kirk have had in mind? The term seems evocative of either birds or insects, but I'm thinking the latter -- if only because "sectaries" has a distinctly insect-like ring.

    In defining "chirping," my dictionary refers to crickets. But are they noted for sectarianism?

    Well, there is the Mormon Cricket (Anabrus simplex):

    AnubrusS1.jpg

    Hmmmm......

    What a cutie. I like his legs.

    But why does everything have to come down to sects?

    posted by Eric at 07:50 AM | Comments (6)




    Leaving politics behind . . .

    The 70 degree November weather was just too good to spend at the computer all day, so Puff and I played hookey by spending it at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. So few people were there it was downright spooky.

    PuffOceanBch.jpg

    The above was taken at Corson's Inlet, a small beach abutting a wild and unspoiled sand dune area they've turned into a state park.

    Well, almost unspoiled. On one of the trail marker signs, someone scrawled grafitti about Governor McGreevey which might be called disrespectful.

    LooseJim.jpg

    Note that Puff is demonstrating a complete lack of interest in this politically motivated smear.

    After miles of walking and a good amount of driving, we're both now happily exhausted.

    posted by Eric at 09:55 PM | Comments (2)



    Attention, students of alternate reality!

    An organization called PIPA (the Program on International Policy Attitudes) seems to be at the center of defining the word "reality" as it is used in the term "Reality Based Community."

    PIPA's Director, Steven Kull, described as "a political psychologist specializing in the study of public and elite attitudes on public policy issues" has this to say about American attitudes about the Iraq War:

    It may seem contradictory that three quarters of Americans say that the US should not have gone to war if Iraq did not have WMD or was not providing support to al Qaeda, while nearly half still say the war was the right decision. However, support for the decision is sustained by persisting beliefs among half of Americans that Iraq provided substantial support to al Qaeda, and had WMD, or at least a major WMD program.
    No word on what this leading political psychologist thinks about statements made by Democratic Party leaders just before the war. (They were of course nearly unanimous in their sincere belief that Iraq had WMDs.)

    Is it reasonable, then, to pose the question whether it was "the right decision" to go to war then in light of information available today (and still incomplete) as a result of having fought the war?

    Whether it would be the right decision today is in my view such a silly question that I'm amazed that so much time and energy was apparently spent asking it. Might as well ask whether it was the right decision to allow people to go to work in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, knowing what we know now. To pose such a question would seem, well, out of touch with reality.

    (Far be it from me to ask whether a leading political psychologist might be motivated by factors other than reality....)

    MORE: Might the goal be education of the ignorant? Here's what Tim Worstall expects:

    ....teach-ins to explain to these pig-ignorant homophobes and evangelicals that their entire worldview is wrong and that their self-identification with ShrimpyMcBushChimp was all a delusion based upon their ignorance. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    Clearly, some voters are too ignorant to be trusted. Might it be time to abolish secret voting?

    posted by Eric at 08:37 PM | Comments (2)




    Spirited Fall Photos

    On Thursday, Puff saw his old girlfriend Emily in the park. He's getting pretty old (nearly 15 -- ancient for a large dog) and seeing her really lifted his spirits.

    Puff&EmilyFall2.jpg

    Here's how Puff looked this afternoon, basking on a sort of lovers rock near the Schuylkill River. (Initials carved in the rock date back to at least 1935.)

    PuffRocks.jpg

    Driving around aimlessly on the way home from the river, I passed a very striking Ukrainian church. This was taken at sunset.

    UkGk.jpg

    Hey, everything can't be about politics!

    (And I say this fully mindful of the recent controversy over the Ukrainian Greek Catholic patriarchate. More here.)

    posted by Eric at 10:14 PM | Comments (4)



    They make me say "I told you so"

    I was fascinated to read about Kerry's assiduous, almost obsessive courtship of John McCain:

    Kerry's courtship of Senator John McCain to be his running mate was longer-standing and more intense than previously reported. As far back as August 2003, Kerry had taken McCain to breakfast to sound him out to run on a unity ticket. McCain batted away the idea as not serious, but Kerry, after he wrapped up the nomination in March, went back after McCain a half-dozen more times. "To show just how sincere he was, he made an outlandish offer," Newsweek's Thomas reports. "If McCain said yes he would expand the role of vice president to include secretary of Defense and the overall control of foreign policy. McCain exclaimed, 'You're out of your mind. I don't even know if it's constitutional, and it certainly wouldn't sell.'" Kerry was thwarted and furious. "Why the f--- didn't he take it? After what the Bush people did to him...'"
    From the same report, there's also this intriguing exclamation from Kerry (as he watched election returns):
    "He said with a sigh to one top staffer, 'I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot.'"
    Believe, brother!

    What I can't believe is that Kerry would miss a golden opportunity he had to win the election by doing something as appealing and reassuring to middle America as it was long overdue: simply putting Michael Moore in his place. Instead, he left it to John McCain -- and the moderate Republicans got the credit.

    Once again, I must violate Wolcott's Rule®, and quote myself. Here's pompous me, on July 28, 2004:

    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.

    Well, he didn't take it, and so here I went, two days later, on July 30:
    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.
    If you read the rest of the post, you'll see that Kerry's daughter (and advisor) Alexandra is a Moore fan. It's too bad she had more influence on her father than political reality.

    There's only one thing worse than having the Democrats ignore my advice.

    And that's when they take my advice!

    Clinton attributed Kerry's loss to the Democrats' failure to combat how they were portrayed by Republicans to small-town America.

    "If we let people believe that our party doesn't believe in faith and family, doesn't believe in work and freedom, that's our fault," he said.

    Democrats "need a clear national message, and they have to do this without one big advantage the Republicans have, which is they won't have a theological message that basically paints the other guy as evil," he said.

    Clinton said the country was more divided than it was in 1968 and called for an end to the "culture war."

    Fair enough. But who's fueling the Culture War? Isn't it a bit disingenous to stoke the fire of something you claim you want extinguished?

    Surely the "Culture War" isn't going to become another triangulation strategy?

    I'd hate to say I told you so. Again.

    MORE AND MOORE: Here's Mark Steyn on Michael Moore:

    The Michael Mooronification of the Democratic Party proved a fatal error. Moore is the chief promoter of what's now the received opinion of Bush among the condescending Left -- Chimpy Bushitler the World's Dumbest Fascist. There are some takers for this view, but not enough. By running a campaign fuelled by Moore's caricature of Bush, the Democrats were doomed to defeat.
    But hey, maybe it didn't matter! Greg Palast says Kerry actually won. (Both gems from Tim Blair via Glenn Reynolds)

    MORE: Michael Moore agrees that the election was stolen again -- and by golly, he's got proof!

    UPDATE: Roger L. Simon also thinks that Kerry lost the perfect opportunity for a Sister Souljah moment, while Jeff Jarvis (who sounded an early warning) thinks the execrable Moore lost the election for Kerry. Well, I'd say they're in agreement that Moore was a primary cause of Kerry's loss.

    So why is Carville blaming "homos in Hollywood?" Does he know something about Moore the rest of us don't?

    posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (3)




    Here come the Leo-Cons!

    Once again E. at the Dave has the scoop -- this time digging up a site which exposes Karl Rove's Fascist Plot!

    posted by Dennis at 10:07 PM | Comments (4)



    Realistic?
    Slightly more than half of the citizens of this country simply do not care about what those of us in the "reality-based community" say or believe about anything.

    -- Eric Alterman

    Only slightly more than half? How many Americans have ever heard the expression "reality-based community" -- much less know what it means? I'd say the figure is considerably more than half.

    Might even be 90%.....

    Regular readers know how much I loathe labels, slogans and code-language. Perfectly good words are borrowed by various sorts of ideologues (left and right), with the result being that it's tougher and tougher to use once-ordinary words. "Family" is a perfect example which I have discussed before. A couple of years ago, some people started using the word "bright." "Choice" is another one. (Don't get me started on the word "values......") When this happens, my only resort is to tear out my hair (which is thinning, so I'd rather not), or complain to anyone who'll listen.

    The latest example of this phraseology ("REALITY BASED COMMUNITY") abounds in leftish circles of the blogosphere, and it involves the use of the word "reality" to denote opposition to Bush, opposition to the war in Iraq, and opposition to religious influences on policy making. The phrase "REALITY BASED COMMUNITY" appears on leading leftist blogs and T-shirts like this one are apparently selling like hotcakes:

    RealiT.jpg

    The slogan appears to have arisen as a result of an argument between writer Ron Suskind and a Bush official over who got to determine the nature of reality. "Bush reality," it seems, was made up, while the other reality was, well real (and therefore unacceptable to Bush.)

    "In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

    The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'

    Is the slogan limited to the meaning of a particular remark made during an argument in the summer of 2002? A writer claims a Bush official said reality was henceforth to be created and defined according to the Bush administration's imperial designs on the world. So, in theory, the slogan would mean that those who would oppose Bush's alleged empire-building are in fact "reality-based." In theory that would include me, and a lot of other people who voted for Bush.

    Obviously, that's not what the "REALITY-BASED COMMUNITY" is.

    What was going on in the Summer of 2002 when the phrase was uttered?

  • There was a war in Afghanistan.
  • And, of course, there was an antiwar movement.


  • An accompanying petition stating the following (among other things):
    We say NOT IN OUR NAME. We refuse to be party to these wars and we repudiate any inference that they are being waged in our name or for our welfare. We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed.
  • Not In Our Name works with another group called "International A.N.S.W.E.R." -- which sells this T-shirt:

    answer.jpg

    I guess this is supposed be be reality-based, but I'm confused. There is a war. It exists and it was, and is real. This was and is real:

    wtccrash.jpg

    Why is only opposition to war considered reality-based, but not support for the war? I find it odd that the phrase "reality based community" would be so popular among people who usually champion, if not alternate realities, at least, um, different realities for different people.

    The word "reality" is invoked in a way suggesting that those who use it have a monoply on truth, and it reminds me of the way the word "bright" was used (although the latter never quite got off the ground). It strikes me as a bit arrogant to suggest that anyone who supports the war is out of touch with reality, and the term almost seems designed to mock the "red state" people for simplemindedness.

    It's understandable that the "reality based community" is upset over the reelection of a man they consider hopelessly out of touch with reality -- by people they believe to be out of touch with reality. But I don't see how it advances dialogue to apply the label of "reality" to one's own view of the world.

    Nor do I see how it advances reality.

    UPDATE: Reality has struck -- in the form of a second Instalanche today! I'm amazed, and I don't know what to say, but many thanks to Glenn Reynolds, and a warm welcome to all InstaPundit readers.

    posted by Eric at 06:30 PM | Comments (123) | TrackBacks (4)



    More Irony at Slate?

    I was first alerted to the rhetorical use of irony at Slate when E. at the Dave pointed me toward Christopher Hitchens's non-endorsement of John Kerry. Slate missed the irony and made it an endorsement, but have since apologized for the error.

    It seems that they've come a long way since, having learned to master Swift-style satire (forget irony) as this piece by 'Jane Smiley' demonstrates:

    I grew up in Missouri and most of my family voted for Bush, so I am going to be the one to say it: The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well, almost 58 million—my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)

    I'm purposefully witholding the really good bits like the origin of red state mentality in vicious frontier street fights, and the very direct pronouncement "Here is how ignorance works."

    You've got to read it to believe it.

    And yet, you can't believe it. Because if the Left thinks this is a reasoned response to the election and to political differences among Americans it's an uglier entity than we'd ever imagined. Clearly this is a shrewd effort to exorcise the demons of division by exposing the most inflammatory and ignorant kind of discourse to public scrutiny.

    If only.

    When 'Smiley' says that 'progressives' "have to assume the worst" she's already a step behind the rest of us. Her hate-filled rant leaves us to assume nothing, but rather to know the 'progressives' for what they are.

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



    Freedom is annoying

    Stephen Bainbridge takes the view that libertarians just don't understand the value of morality (link via Glenn Reynolds), and here he expands upon his point:

    As long as large-L Libertarians refuse to contemplate the prospect that law may reflect any moral norms other than a radical individual autonomy, they will remain a fringe element in American politics. As long as small-l libertarians insist on using the courts to achieve what they cannot obtain through the vote, they will be on the other side of the culture wars from conservatives.
    Fair enough as a starting point, but I don't think it's entirely fair to small-l libertarians with common sense enough to believe that voting is preferable to using the courts. (More here, if I may be permitted to cite my pompous self.)

    I think it's a bit of a stretch to portray all libertarians as being against "any moral norms other than a radical individual autonomy," because individual autonomy itself -- even radical individual autonomy -- is not in conflict with moral norms. As to what the law may "reflect," I'm not quite sure what is meant by that. The law may reflect a lot of things, including the right to individual autonomy and personal morality. Were it not for individual autonomy, there'd be no such thing as freedom of religion. What we often call personal morality would cease to exist without individual autonomy, because without free choice, there would be no such thing as the good which is freely chosen. It's a bit like the difference between charity and taxation. The latter cannot be called "charity" even if the money goes to feed the poor -- any more than a military draft can be called volunteer service.

    I don't know too many people who would assert that the law may not "reflect any moral norms other than a radical individual autonomy," because most laws reflect morality, at least in the philosophical sense.

    I think that big government statism is bad, and that it is immoral to use government force to tell people how to live their personal lives absent harm to others. I consider this a moral view -- my moral "norm" if you will. At the heart of the recognition by the Second Amendment of the right to keep and bear arms is a very moral view that individuals have a right to defend themselves and their homes, and to overthrow a tyrannical government.

    This is at once morality AND individual autonomy.

    As I and many others have argued before, at the other end of the spectrum (for lack of a better word), there are people who believe that various collections of written words (which they attribute to God) should supersede individual autonomy, and should constitute the final word of human "morality." Their ultimate goal, theocracy, would, by eliminating the element of choice in personal morality, destroy morality in the name of saving it.

    To me, this is not morality. We have only to look at people living in theocratic countries (Shariah states like Iran and Saudi Arabia will do fine as examples), and it is clear that adults live like and are treated as children. They are told how to live, what to eat, what to wear, how to screw, and any deviation is severely punished. But, no sooner do the mullahs or the mutawein turn their backs and their wards run amok and behave like naughty children, drinking, screwing, and partying. That's because they have no individual autonomy. (Something which can't happen here -- unless you believe the First Amendment provides a perverse theocratic loophole.....)

    "Annoying libertarians" like Glenn Reynolds and David Bernstein (and me) would help these people overthrow theocracy and, I guess, allow them to run amok -- in the name of freedom. Eventually, by being allowed to take on life for themselves, they may learn something Bill Whittle has called personal individual responsibility.

    My view is that personal responsibility cannot exist without individual autonomy. It may be annoying, but so is freedom.


    UPDATE: With all due respect to the man's superior writing skills, I must again violate Wolcott's Rule® against self-quoting, because in my earliest blogging days I offered gratuitous etiquette advice on coping with the nauseating annoyances of freedom:

    As I said yesterday, "You have a constitutional right to be sickened by anything and everything which sickens you. Just don't get mad at me for not puking."

    In a free country, we have the following social compact: you promise not to arrest me for making you sick, and in return, I promise not to arrest you for getting sick. What is wrong with that?

    How utterly pompous of me!

    Considering that that's a quote within a quote of something I said previously, I think I'm guilty of a triple violation of Wolcott's Rule®.

    May the King of Pomp forgive me! I'm a victim of circumstance!

    (Hmmmm...... Didn't Wolcott say something about choking? On your own vomit? Really now, was that necessary?)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post in his ongoing discussion of "annoying libertarians." A warm welcome to all InstaPundit readers! (Those seeking more background on what I jokingly called "Wolcott's Rule®" might enjoy this post.)

    I very much agree with Randy Barnett about the need to avoid acrimony, and I think it is well worth remembering that only two days ago Republican libertarians as well as social conservatives were able to unite (more or less) around the war on terror:

    Those libertarians who support the administration's strategy for fighting the war against radical islamicists, including the battle for Iraq, and perhaps also its proposals for private social security accounts, Medical savings accounts voted Bush. They may also prefer Bush's prospective judicial nominations to Kerry's (or not). Be this as it may, many thousands, if not millions of libertarian-leaning voters supported the President as part of his winning coalition.

    It ill-behooves one constituent of a winning coalition to gratuitously insult another member. Disagree with, even passionately, yes. Belittle and ridicule, no.

    Mr. Barnett is absolutely right.

    Which leads to another important matter (also via Glenn Reynolds) -- expressed brilliantly in a comment left at Belmont Club:

    If Kerry had won, the war would undoubtedly be repudiated in the press everywhere. But now that Bush has won, it has been decided that he won on other issues like gay marriage and abortion. Behind this is a cynical determination among those on the left to deny the President a mandate for the war. And it is a desperate effort to avoid facing up to the broad support of the American public for the war.
    I think that is absolutely right. Why this sudden outbreak of cultural infighting? Might it have been triggered as part of a manipulative, divide and conquer strategy? If so, I certainly hate to see libertarians being forced to bear the brunt of it, because libertarians always seem to get it from both sides..... (It may be worth keeping in mind that much of the current-day lifestyle acrimony that we call the "Culture War" dates back to the Vietnam War -- when it was encouraged and cultivated by cynical antiwar activists with a bigger agenda....)

    MORE ANNOYANCES: Glenn Reynolds thinks that James Wolcott, by bringing down killer hurricanes helped engineer the re-election of President Bush!

    In Wolcott's defense, I'd point out that manipulating the weather, like manipulating politics, is not an exact science. Mistakes are occasionally made. They'll get it right eventually.

    MORE: Professor Bainbridge has responded, if not to this post, at least to the sentiments expressed about "annoying libertarians." In response I crossed my legs and chirped here.

    posted by Eric at 07:40 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (2)




    Demonstrators should be careful what they wish for....

    Glenn Reynolds has posted some incredibly offensive pictures, while opining in his usual understated manner that the people in them aren't "laying a good foundation for a Democratic comeback."

    I'll say!

    Glenn also suggests that "the Democrats are going to have to distance themselves from stuff like this, if they want to carry swing states."

    I don't know about Democratic comebacks, or swinging states, but some of the pictures are giving me mixed messages.

    UPDATE: My blogfather Jeff tears the protester (the "sneering jerk" in the picture below) a new one:

    The young punk in the photo is telling the no longer silent majority that we don't matter and he could care less about our opinions on anything. As far as he is concerned, there will never be hope of compromise on any issue. That is why the Democrats lost the presidency and several senate and house seats.
    (If I didn't have my rule against ad hominem attacks, I'd almost be tempted to say something like "one asshole at a time.....")

    Continue reading "Demonstrators should be careful what they wish for...."

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



    For the record, I voted FOR Bush, and AGAINST Culture War!

    It's no longer news that voters in eleven states -- Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah -- voted to pass initiatives to prohibit same sex marriage.

    As Glenn Reynolds and others make abundantly clear, a lot of pundits are already saying that these ballot initiatives put Bush into office for a second term. Some argue that it was part of a plot:

    As many other have already noted, Rove and Co. cleverly managed to get anti-gay marriage initiatives and referenda on the ballot in a number of key swing states. And that seems to have played an key role in mobilizing 'peripheral' evangelical and culturally conservative voters.
    I disagree.

    While I haven't done detailed research, common sense would suggest to me that the initiatives can't have helped Bush in states which would have given him their electoral votes anyway. Is anyone seriously suggesting that Kerry would have won in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah? (All these states were won by Bush in the closer 2000 race.) Kerry did win Oregon and Michigan, notwithstanding the initiatives. (Moreover, Gore's 2000 Oregon victory margin was smaller than Kerry's.)

    That leaves Ohio. It went to Bush in 2000, and while it went to Bush again, it was a closer fight this year than in 2000. The fact that more Ohioans voted for the marriage initiative than for either Bush or Kerry suggests that this issue has its own momentum totally apart from Bush.

    Similar initiatives were passed earlier in the year by voters in Louisiana and Missouri. Bush won those states too, but would the numbers have been much different had they been on the November ballot? Considering Kerry's statement that he and and Bush had "the same position, fundamentally" on gay marriage, I don't see how. While it's more of a Bush issue than a Kerry issue (because of Bush's support for the FMA), both candidates downplayed it during the campaign.

    In short, I see no evidence that Bush won a single state which he wouldn't have won had there not been a single gay marriage initiative.

    This is not to say that the gay marriage issue hasn't produced a backlash. I just fail to see how it re-elected Bush.

    NOTE: I have discussed the backlash issue regarding gay rights, and the win-or-lose nature of these "Culture War" arguments many times. I have expressed reservations that same sex marriage might become involuntary. The issue is certainly a contentious one, but no matter what happens I don't think any of it is worth another civil war.

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I was drawn to this comment left at Belmont Club:

    If Kerry had won, the war would undoubtedly be repudiated in the press everywhere. But now that Bush has won, it has been decided that he won on other issues like gay marriage and abortion. Behind this is a cynical determination among those on the left to deny the President a mandate for the war. And it is a desperate effort to avoid facing up to the broad support of the American public for the war.
    Divide and conquer is a time-honored technique of the left. Bear in mind that much of the current-day lifestyle acrimony that we call the "Culture War" dates back to the Vietnam War -- where it was encouraged and cultivated by cynical antiwar activists with a bigger agenda....

    [That last update was posted twice, as I think the point is worth repeating, and applies to both of these posts.]

    UPDATE (11/06/04): Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Andrew Sullivan has posted statistics which demonstrate quite conclusively that Bush's numbers were no appreciably different in states with the no-gay-marriage initiatives than in states without them. Ditto the Ashbrook Center, which adds this interesting tidbit:

    ....the counter-mobilization against these amendments is at least as large a part of the Kerry coalition as mobilizing on their behalf is part of Bush’s. Four of the twelve states in which Kerry improved the most over Gore had gay marriage initiatives on the ballot, whereas only two of Bush’s top twelve had them.
    The argument that Bush owes his election to these initiatives is all hype, but no substance. (The problem is, it greatly appeals to ideologues at each end of what passes for the "spectrum" of American politics.)

    posted by Eric at 08:02 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (1)



    MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE?

    Glenn Reynolds said something that's been on my mind for the past couple of days:

    [T]o me, the election was about the war. But if victory has a thousand fathers, it also produces a thousand people with their hands out, wanting to share in the spoils.

    Much is being made of exit poll statistics showing that "Moral Values" was the number one concern of all voters, and certainly first and foremost on the minds of Bush voters. Leaving aside the validity of the exit polls themselves, as well as the precise definition of moral values, I wish to examine whether this is even true according to the data presented.

    According to the CNN poll cited by Eugene Volokh, "Moral Values" was given as the most important issue by 22% of voters. Of this number, 80% voted for Bush, and 18% for Kerry.

    80% of 22% is 16% 17.6%. [Error corrected; see comment below.]

    But 19% of voters stated their number one concern was "Terrorism," with 86% of that number voting for Bush.

    86% of 19% is 16.34% (meaning a higher percentage of Bush voters stated terrorism was their number one reason than moral values.)

    But wait just a minute!

    Another 15% gave "Iraq" as their number one reason, with 26% of them voting for Bush. (I find it hard to believe that 73% of them voted for Kerry, but that's what the poll says. I suspect that the poll was designed to split the war on terrorism from the war in Iraq, and I am very suspicious of these numbers. But my purpose here is not to argue with the exit polls' data; only to examine whether the statements made about them are accurate.)

    Anyway, 26% of 15% makes another 3.9%, which makes Iraq and terrorism -- seen as the same issue for Bush voters if not Kerry voters and CNN -- the number one issue for over 20% of Bush voters.

    Since when is 16% greater than 20%?

    And if we discount the Bush/Kerry split and add 15% (Iraq) to 19% (Terrorism), that means "THE WAR" was considered the number one issue by 34% of all voters.

    Since when is 22% greater than 34%?

    I do not mean to belittle anyone's moral values, nor do I mean to underestimate the importance of morality. (Longer discussion here.)

    I just don't think the numbers -- regardless of whether they are accurate or not -- are being used accurately.

    UPDATE: A commenter just noted that 80% of 22% is 17.6%. Sorry! My mistake! That means that a lower percentage of Bush voters stated terrorism was the most important issue (even if the total for terrorism and Iraq exceeds the number for moral values.)

    MORE: Boi from Troy discusses possible meanings of the phrase "moral values."

    But what are moral values? While alot of people have jumped the gun and said "gay bashing!" the category is so broad, it is certainly not just that. In Florida, a ballot measure on parental notification drove voters to the polls, so abortion issues are also considered "moral values" by Bush voters.

    Divorce is considered immoral by many in the Catholic Church, so could John Kerry's pattern of marrying-and-divorcing-and-marrying-up-for-money have been perceived as a flawed moral value on his part by the 10% of hispanic voters who switched to vote for Bush?

    If the issues that compose "moral values" were broken out the way that the media broke out "Taxes" and "The Economy" or "War on Terror" and "War on Iraq", we would have probably seen gay marriage, abortion and other such issues polling each in the single digits. Similarly, more truthful headlines could be written saying "Economic Policies drive voters to polls" since 25% of voters said they were voting on either "Taxes" or "The Economy"...(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Precisely. It strikes me that there's an ideologically driven agenda, fueled by activists hoping that code language will fool people into believing that their numbers prove something other than what they actually prove.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I was drawn to this comment left at Belmont Club:

    If Kerry had won, the war would undoubtedly be repudiated in the press everywhere. But now that Bush has won, it has been decided that he won on other issues like gay marriage and abortion. Behind this is a cynical determination among those on the left to deny the President a mandate for the war. And it is a desperate effort to avoid facing up to the broad support of the American public for the war.
    Divide and conquer is a time-honored technique of the left. Bear in mind that much of the current-day lifestyle acrimony that we call the "Culture War" dates back to the Vietnam War -- where it was encouraged and cultivated by cynical antiwar activists with a bigger agenda....

    posted by Eric at 03:28 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (2)



    Eliminating pompous regurgitation!
    The sign of a true pomposity in the making is when a man begins quoting himself.

    -- James Wolcott

    I had honestly wanted to return to the subject of Arlen Specter, not necessarily as a barometer of the election, but because I think his candidacy reveals much about the way voters think, and the state of American politics at this time. Specter was nearly defeated in the Republican primary by a very conservative candidate named Pat Toomey.

    This was something I had discussed extensively in previous posts, and, almost reflexively, I had wanted to cite my own posts, not because I like quoting myself, but because I'd rather avoid having to say again what I have already said before.

    I don't like to bore regular readers, but on the other hand I think it's only fair to allow interested readers who are seeing this for the first time an opportunity to read more if they desire. The Toomey-Specter conflict is now old history, and not worth a lot of time.

    But now I see that I'm up against a rule recently enunciated by James Wolcott that quoting yourself is "the sign of a true pomposity in the making."

    While Wolcott began his analysis believing it's a guy thing ("because women are far less prone to cite their previous remarks"), he later discovers that certain "conservative" women are also violators:

    I noticed that two other conservative bloggers in this op-ed roundup--Joanne Jacobs (a longtime member of Reynolds' blogroll) and Ann Althouse (who guest posts on Reynolds' site)--also quote from themselves. So evidently I'm wrong about this particular pomposity being a male trait. It must be some form of Instapundit viral infection instead.
    Gee.... Might this be another form of creeping InstaFascism? Once again (at the risk of pompous self-quoting), we can't be too careful!

    Seriously (no, really!), does Wolcott have a valid complaint? Is it wrong to cite yourself? Or is it only wrong when you were wrong in the first place? I must say that I had I been "rooting for the hurricane" (to say nothing of rooting for the wolves -- first against Elmer Fudd-as-Bush, then against Glenn Reynolds), I might not want to cite myself either.

    (There I go being mean. In my evil and pompous heart, I know that Wolcott is not always wrong, so I shouldn't make sweeping generalizations.)

    Still, I think there's just something too, well, harsh about not being able to quote yourself. Who wants to live in a world where you're ever on guard lest you say the same thing twice? Wolcott, for example, was utterly ingenious in calling Roger L. Simon a novelist who wears a hat. Doubtless, he later recognized that his own rule didn't bar him from saying that twice. Why, I'll just bet he'll say it again – without ever bothering to credit himself for his previous brilliance!

    Modest boy!

    And what a cruel world it would be if we weren't allowed to tell the world about clever comments we made previously – especially on important occasions! Even Wolcott doesn't begrudge himself such simple pleasures:

    When Miramax was preparing the audio version of my book (read by the actor Dennis Boutsikaris, who does a Shakespearean job on the Peggy Noonan chapter that is pure Arcadian delight), I got a call requesting helping on the pronunciation of certain names. Alexander Cockburn, for example--last named is pronounced "Coburn," not as if your penis is on fire.

    I was asked if Mark Steyn's last name rhymed with "stain" or "whine."

    The answer is "whine,".....

    Imagine if Wolcott hadn't allowed himself to share that gem!

    With these exceptions in mind, let's return to Wolcott's remark about rooting for the wolves against Glenn Reynolds. Here's what Wolcott said:

    Since Glenn Reynolds is supporting Bush's reelection, I believe the same principle applies that I enunciated in my previous post. Go wolves!
    And sure enough, there was a previous post in which the very principle was enunciated! Go wolves indeed!

    Isn't it fair to ask whether Wolcott is quoting himself there? Does this not violate the same principle he enunciated about the sign of a true pomposity in the making?

    Actually, I wish Mr. Wolcott would cite more of his previous posts, because if you started reading out of the blue, you might not understand the full context of what he is saying.

    For example, when Wolcott reacted to the Bush victory, he titled his post "Anyone Know How to Make a Noose?"

    If you weren't a regular reader, you might not be sure what he wants the noose for. He really doesn't say, and it worried me, because a noose is hardly a nice image or a reassuring symbol, and if someone wants to make one, it's cause for concern.

    Is the noose intended for himself, or for others?

    Fortunately, he left a clue earlier: the title of his Bush victory day post was to have been "Good, Go Ahead, America, Choke on Your Own Vomit, You Deserve to Die."

    Gee.....

    If I didn't know it was mere pomposity in the making, I'd almost swear that Wolcott was regurgitating eliminationist rhetoric.

    posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (3)




    Time to party, no matter what your party!

    I have to admire the stamina of anyone who could host a blog festival in the middle of the biggest presidential election I've ever seen -- so this week my hat's off to two bloggers who've done just that.

    Neophyte Pundit hosts this week's Bonfire of the Vanities.

    And Quibbles and Bits is hosting the Carnival of the Vanities.

    Excellent posts, and a refreshing change of pace.

    Whether you're celebrating the election or recovering from it, take a break, and enjoy!

    posted by Eric at 09:41 PM



    Dear George,

    What was all that about building alliances? The AP says
    Europe Allies Extend Olive Branch to Bush.

    The headline forgot the rest of the world, but they're in there too.

    UNRELATED: But irksome, and needing to be posted somewhere. Being in a left-leaning area (the academy only agitates things) I've overheard a few disturbing things today (I'm a great eavesdropper -- especially at eateries).

    I've heard grumblings about the superiority of New York and Boston to the rest of the country, which I was surprised to learn is populated by 'moral, religious nutjobs.'

    I've heard a number of people taking turns reassuring one another why things went 'wrong.' This, especially on campus, is usually done with a very professorial tone. I'm imparting wisdom here, child. If only the ignorant masses could see it through my eyes. If only they'd read Foucault.

    I've heard people suggesting that exit polls indicating a Bush victory kept Democrats away, but this is a shameless and indefensible statement when the election, by all accounts, generated the greatest voter turnout in decades.

    I've had enough of dismissal, enough of denial, enough of elitest disdain and the rhetoric of self-preservation.

    I talked to a friend on the phone tonight and his roommate couldn't believe I voted for Bush. He said only confederate states did that. He was teasing, but it says something about leftist ideology.

    The opposition is easily packaged: stupid, racist, Christians.

    And as an intelligent atheist who shudders at nationalism (let alone racism) I'm fed up. Enough with labels, with institutionalized bigotry on cultural and religious lines, with rolls of the eyes and sarcasm substituting for reasoned debate. It's enough to attack the opposition these days for being 'southern', 'rural', or 'religious' and take pride in one's own imagined superiority.

    But open your eyes. I'm the opposition, and I'm none of those things.

    Nor do I find any one of them a reproach.

    posted by Dennis at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)



    Kerry outclasses his running mate
    One senior Democrat familiar with the discussions in Boston said Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, was suggesting that he shouldn't concede.

    The official said Edwards, a trial lawyer, wanted to make sure all options were explored and that Democrats pursued them as thoroughly as Republicans would if the positions were reversed.

    And the country should be thankful for that.

    posted by Dennis at 02:37 PM | Comments (7)



    European blues?

    Quick thought before I leave.

    Looking at the red-and-blue election map, one thing stands out: the closer the state to Europe geographically, the closer it is to Europe politically.

    redblue2.jpg

    In general, the Northeast strikes me as closer to Europe and more European (especially in terms of voting) than anywhere else in the United States.

    Obviously, there are a lot of reasons for this, but I think one is that America is a pioneer culture. The immigrants who were more possessed of the pioneer sprit tended to get further away from the ships that brought them and the big cities of the East. The ones who stayed tended to be more Eurocentric in their thinking.

    Not that "how far from the boat" the people traveled completely settles the question, and I know people will cite the West Coast as an example.

    Say what you want about California, but how many people think Arnold Schwarzenegger could have been elected governor of a Northeastern state?

    UPDATE: Much as I think my point is valid, in general I dislike generalities! And in view of the fact that both President Bush and Senator Kerry have both just stressed the need for unity, I would remind everyone of something that's pretty much common sense: the vast majority of the population lives in states which are for the most part varying shades of purple.

    Anyway, here's the 2000 electoral map, colorized by county:

    countymap.jpg

    posted by Eric at 11:46 AM | Comments (5)



    It's over!

    Glad to see (via Fox News) that Kerry has conceded. He did the right thing.

    posted by Eric at 11:24 AM | Comments (1)



    Voters speak against ideology?

    I want to return to last night's thesis that Arlen Specter can be seen as a sort of national barometer.

    Here are Pennsylvania's presidential numbers:

    9342 of 9425 precincts - 99 percent
    x- John F. Kerry Dem 2,868,674 - 51 percent
    George W. Bush (i) Rep 2,746,856 - 49 percent
    Michael Badnarik Lib 20,902 - 0 percent
    Michael Peroutka CST 6,426 - 0 percent
    David Cobb Grn 6,192 - 0 percent
    And here are Pennsylvania's senatorial numbers:
    Pennsylvania race for U.S. Senate
    9338 of 9425 precincts - 99 percent
    x- Arlen Specter (i) Rep 2,880,584 - 53 percent
    Joe Hoeffel Dem 2,282,425 - 42 percent
    James Clymer CST 216,266 - 4 percent
    Betsy Summers Lib 77,260 - 1 percent
    Note that Arlen Specter was the top vote-getter in Pennsylvania, out-performing either Bush or Kerry. That a Republican moderate can win in a Democratic state is newsworthy in itself, but that he'd get more votes than either presidential candidate in a highly-charged election like this -- well, in my opinion it puts ideologues in both parties on notice that the voters like moderately conservative candidates who can work with both sides.

    Factor into this Arnold Schwarzenegger's huge popularity (65% in a heavily Democratic state) and I think it's obvious that the Republican Party is in a position where it could become the party of consensus.

    I stress "could" because I know the ideologues in both parties will do their damnedest to stop this from happening. Consensus and ideology are like tar and water. Yet ordinary Americans love consensus and eschew ideology. Regardless of his positions on individual issues, Specter is seen as a symbol of both.

    NOTE: Far right senatorial candidate James Clymer got a whopping 216,266 votes -- with help from the left. That's 34 times more than his party's presidential candidate drew in Pennsylvania -- and (as of this writing) more than twice the national numbers of his party's presidential candidate (Michael Peroutka). Clymer's Pennsylvania numbers even approach Libertarian Badnarik's national numbers. What this shows is that at least in Pennsylvania, even an unholy alliance of the left and the right working together cannot defeat consensus.

    None of this constitutes an endorsement by me of Specter, his policies, or his positions. Rather, I think the Republican leadership needs to recognize that there's a reason why ordinary voters like him. I think it's related to why they lie to the damned in-your-face pollsters. They don't like people, candidates, or issues which make them nervous.

    UPDATE: In Alaska, legal marijuana is more popular than Kerry, but less popular than Bush (although more people voted for Bush than against marijuana.)

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    MORE: Despite the gay marriage issue, it seems gay voters are more capable of independent thought than previously credited.

    (I'm not surprised.)

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM



    Sneaky, secretive Republicans lied to pollsters!

    A lot of people are lambasting the exit polls for obviously flawed methodology. I just saw Frank Luntz on Fox News, and he explained the problem: people don't want to tell the truth about how they voted. Instead, they tell the pollsters want they think the pollsters want to hear.

    They hide, and if confronted, they lie!

    It reminds me of the absence of Bush signs around here, and (apparently) even in Republican strongholds.

    My take on this? If secret voting were abolished, the Democrats would win. (It's a point I've made before.)

    Why should Republicans be allowed to hide the truth?

    What are they ashamed of?

    (Not a bad question, actually, but I'm quite outspokenly against shame.)

    UPDATE (01:38 p.m.): I just heard Dick Morris opine that the exit pollsters simply lied in order to suppress the turnout for Bush.

    MORE (06:25 p.m.): I now see that "bloggers" are to blame for the bad exit polls!

    "I think people believed them, and it's particularly the case with Internet bloggers," said Kathy Frankovic, CBS News' polling director. "That's unfortunate because it sets up expectations that may or may not be met. I think it's a good exercise because it reminded people that early exit polls can be unreliable."
    It may surprise Ms. Frankovic, but I actually knew that information from other sources can be, yes, unreliable! (It's a major reason I blog, believe it or not....)

    What I didn't know before today is that bloggers are to blame for the unreliability of information that falls into their hands! This whole time I thought we were here to share it, comment on it, and maybe learn whether it's true.

    MORE (And this really ought to be the Quote of the Day):

    Perhaps people were ashamed to tell exit pollsters they'd voted for Bush; I would have been leery of doing so in my polling place, which resembled a Kerry campaign rally.
    -- Megan McArdle, guest-blogging at InstaPundit.

    AND MORE (11/04/04): Now (according to this WaPo report) there's a new explanation; the results were only "preliminary."

    At least they've stopped blaming "the bloggers"!

    posted by Eric at 08:15 AM | Comments (4)



    The lines of battle are long . . .

    Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's over. Bush won no matter how you look at it.

    The election, at least.

    But not the war. I've been watching CBS News this morning for indications of how the Democrats are going to fight the war for the hearts and minds of what they see as America's "conscience."

    It's about meanness and cruelty in Ohio.

    Republicans, of course, are cruel and heartless, but Democrats care. You can see this in the repeated stories of long lines, video footage of elderly poor people, standing as if in endless 1930s bread lines -- facing virtual "disenfranchisement" at the hands of cruel Republicans who made them stand in line for up to nine hours.

    And by any standard, having to stand in line for nine hours is outrageous, and does border on a denial of the right to vote of any individual forced to do that. I find it hard to believe, though, that 150,000 people were disenfranchised this way.

    Still, that's the spin.

    Long lines = Republican chicanery.

    Might resonate, I suppose. I hate long lines, and so do a lot of other people. I'm actually sympathetic, but sympathy is not victory.

    Eventually, though, people will get tired of hearing about long lines. Unless there's a viable strategy to turn lines into votes, Kerry will have to concede. (As long as the people in the long lines remember that Republicans are cruel.)

    posted by Eric at 07:32 AM | Comments (2)




    A mind-bloggling experience . . .

    I don't know how many people are still able to read this blog, but I've had trouble opening it myself, and it's at the server level.

    At InstaPundit, Michael Totten reports a denial of service attack, while the server Hosting Matters (which is my server too) reports that traffic is up "120% of our total bandwidth commitment and have been for a bit now." (Something which could be caused by a DOS attack.)

    Not that there's anything to report.

    Although I agree with Glenn Reynolds about perverse possible outcomes. An electoral victory for Kerry with Bush winning the popular vote would be par for the course in this race.

    UPDATE (08:06 p.m.): Arlen Specter (who was more than ten points ahead by all counts) is now neck-in-neck with Joe Hoeffel, and they're saying it's "too close to call." Such a turnaround makes me think that Kerry will win the election, not only in Pennsylvania (which he apparently has), but nationally.

    I'm not taking any pledges, either.

    UPDATE (09:06 p.m.): Florida (now 54% for Bush) seems to be proving my national prediction wrong. (But hey, I live in Pennsylvania, it it looks bad for Bush here. Specter is being creamed by Hoeffel, and I am shocked. Kerry is winning 72% of PA!)

    GO AHEAD AMERICA! PROVE ME WRONG! PLEASE!

    MORE: Will someone please explain to me what is going on in Pennsylvania? For the past month, it's been in the 50-50 range, plus or minus a few points. And now (at 9:40 p.m.) yahoo shows a HUGE gap:

    1297 of 9425 precincts - 14 percent
    John F. Kerry Dem 333,868 - 71 percent
    George W. Bush (i) Rep 131,695 - 28 percent
    Bizarre! Kerry has a bigger lead here than Democratic stronghold states like New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts.... There has to be an explanation for the sudden shift.

    AND MORE (10:55 p.m.): Specter has picked up numbers bigtime:

    5729 of 9425 precincts - 61 percent
    Joe Hoeffel Dem 1,247,463 - 48 percent
    Arlen Specter (i) Rep 1,208,941 - 47 percent
    At this rate, Specter might just win -- which means I'll have to reverse my previous prediction -- from a Kerry win to a Bush win!

    MORE ELECTION ENTRAILS (11:13 p.m.): SPECTER IS NOW AHEAD!!!!

    6251 of 9425 precincts - 66 percent
    Arlen Specter (i) Rep 1,397,180 - 48 percent
    Joe Hoeffel Dem 1,372,707 - 47 percent
    James Clymer CST 99,432 - 3 percent
    According to the superstitious, augur-driven system of divination in use here at Classical Values, my reading of the entrails is that if Specter wins, Bush will win! If this gets any crazier, I'll have to actually go out and analyze the entrails of some fresh Pennsylvania roadkill!

    MORE GUTS (11:26 p.m.): It's looking better and better!

    6573 of 9425 precincts - 70 percent
    Arlen Specter (i) Rep 1,534,469 - 49 percent
    Joe Hoeffel Dem 1,451,268 - 46 percent
    James Clymer CST 112,280 - 4 percent
    What a turnaround! Florida of course follows the Specter lead, and I expect Ohio will too.

    MORE (11:51 p.m.): Ohio seems destined to be this election's Florida, so I think I'm going to attempt sleep. Florida is for Bush. The omens look good.

    And here's the last omen of the evening:

    7227 of 9425 precincts - 77 percent
    x- Arlen Specter (i) Rep 1,789,000 - 50 percent
    Joe Hoeffel Dem 1,631,416 - 45 percent
    James Clymer CST 132,390 - 4 percent
    (I know people will think I'm crazy, but I'm using Specter as my barometer.)

    posted by Eric at 07:33 PM | Comments (2)



    None dare call it fascism!

    I see that the grandson of Vincent Van Gogh has been murdered for making a film critical of the treatment of women under Islam:

    AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - A Dutch filmmaker who had received death threats after releasing a movie criticizing the treatment of women under Islam was slain in Amsterdam on Tuesday, police said.

    A suspect, a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality, was arrested after a shootout with officers that left him wounded, police said.

    Filmmaker Theo van Gogh had been threatened after the August airing of the movie "Submission," which he made with a right-wing Dutch politician who had renounced the Islamic faith of her birth. Van Gogh had received police protection after its release.

    Dutch national broadcaster NOS and other media reported that Van Gogh's killer shot and stabbed his victim and left a note on his body. NOS said witnesses described the attacker as having an "Arab appearance."

    A witness who lives in the neighborhood heard six shots, and saw the man concealing a gun. She said he walked away slowly, spoke to someone at the edge of the park, and then ran.

    "He was walking slowly, like he was trying to be cool," she said, describing him as wearing a long beard and Islamic garb. "He was either an Arabic man or someone disguised as a Muslim," she said.

    Van Gogh had been working on a film about Pim Fortuyn (also assassinated for his "outspoken" views about Islam) which was to be released in December.

    Pity the poor Dutch. At least in this country, critics of Islamic fascism don't have to worry about being murdered for their opinions.

    Yet.

    UPDATE: Justin notes my error in referring to the director as a grandson of Van Gogh. I didn't read the text carefully enough and I'm of course way off. He was actually a great-grand nephew:

    The slain filmmaker was the great grandson of the brother of famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, who was also named Theo.
    Thanks Justin!

    MORE: Better article here, with photo. (Via InstaPundit.)

    posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)



    VOTE WITHOUT VOTING! (EARLY AND OFTEN AND OFTEN.....)

    UPDATE: Dennis beat me to the punch here, so you can go read his report first!

    What the hell; I'll leave what I wrote earlier unedited. Sorry to repeat you, Dennis! (I should read the blog before I post, especially today....)

    A taste of more to come?

    Via Drudge, I see that in Philadelphia, you can vote without even being there, and before the polls are open!

    Before voting even began in Philadelphia -- poll watchers found nearly 2000 votes already planted on machines scattered throughout the city... One incident occurred at the SALVATION ARMY, 2601 N. 11th St., Philadelphia, Pa: Ward 37, division 8... pollwatchers uncovered 4 machines with planted votes; one with over 200 and one with nearly 500... A second location, 1901 W. Girard Ave., Berean Institute, Philadelphia, Pa, had 300+ votes already on 2 machines at start of day... INCIDENT: 292 votes on machine at start of day; WARD/DIVISION: 7/7: ADDRESS: 122 W. Erie Ave., Roberto Clemente School, Philadelphia, Pa.; INCIDENT: 456 votes on machine at start of day; WARD/DIVISION: 12/3; ADDRESS: 5657 Chew Ave., storefront, Philadelphia, Pa... MORE... A gun was purposely made visible to scare poll watchers at Ward 30, division 11, at 905 S. 20th St., Grand Court. Police were called and surrounded the location... Developing...
    Ah, the marvels of electronic voting!

    There was something unsettling about pushing a green button earlier this morning and wondering whether I'd really voted. I don't know anything about the machines, so how do I know whether it was in "TEST" mode?

    There's a lot to be said for the old analog way of paper balloting.

    MORE: Don't miss Dennis's report about stolen signs. A real scoop.

    MORE: The above Drudge link is now here.

    AND MORE: Yahoo reports the story as a dispute between "Republican activists" and "city officials":

    In Philadelphia, Republican activists claimed voting machines already had thousands of votes recorded on them when the polls opened. But city officials countered that the activists misunderstood numbers on odometers that records every vote ever cast — not just those for this election.
    Odometers? Whatever.

    MORE FROM DRUDGE: Matt Drudge has updated his report, noting a comment from the Kerry campaign about his site:

    The Kerry Campaign says reports of votes already on machines are 'false.'

    "Serious news will not appear first on the DRUDGE gossip website," senior Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart told reporters.

    Officially, election officials explain the discrepancy is being caused by a number showing how many times various machines have been used.

    But officials could not explain why used machines in other locations were reportedly 'clean.'

    I wonder how Mr. Lockhart defines "serious news."

    posted by Eric at 10:43 AM | Comments (1)



    Democrat Dirty Tricks?

    Drudge currently has this on the front page:

    Before voting even began in Philadelphia -- poll watchers found nearly 2000 votes already planted on machines scattered throughout the city... One incident occurred at the SALVATION ARMY, 2601 N. 11th St., Philadelphia, Pa: Ward 37, division 8... pollwatchers uncovered 4 machines with planted votes; one with over 200 and one with nearly 500... A second location, 1901 W. Girard Ave., Berean Institute, Philadelphia, Pa, had 300+ votes already on 2 machines at start of day... INCIDENT: 292 votes on machine at start of day; WARD/DIVISION: 7/7: ADDRESS: 122 W. Erie Ave., Roberto Clemente School, Philadelphia, Pa.; INCIDENT: 456 votes on machine at start of day; WARD/DIVISION: 12/3; ADDRESS: 5657 Chew Ave., storefront, Philadelphia, Pa... MORE... A gun was purposely made visible to scare poll watchers at Ward 30, division 11, at 905 S. 20th St., Grand Court. Police were called and surrounded the location... Developing...

    Stay tuned.

    So much for my hope for the future.

    PS: When I went home this morning to vote in my heavily Republican town I noticed hundreds of pro-Democrat signs and not a single Republican one. Then on the side of hill I noticed three tiny homemade signs, apparently printed on an ink jet printer and laminated. At the polling station again there were dozens of pro-Democrat signs, and a single homemade sign. The word around town is that all of the Republican signs were stolen or destroyed. Three cheers for democracy!

    posted by Dennis at 10:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)



    How many votes were "lost in translation"?

    NOTE: This post is hurried, and I apologize for its length. I tried to shorten it by putting the lion's share of the text below.

    I hope I'm not alone in my outrage over what appears to gross media censorship of Osama bin Laden's speech.

    Here's the "official" CNN text we were given last week:

    You, the American people, I talk to you today about the best way to avoid another catastrophe and about war, its reasons and its consequences.

    And in that regard, I say to you that security is an important pillar of human life, and that free people do not compromise their security.

    Contrary to what [President George W.] Bush says and claims -- that we hate freedom --let him tell us then, "Why did we not attack Sweden?" It is known that those who hate freedom don't have souls with integrity, like the souls of those 19. May the mercy of God be upon them.

    We fought with you because we are free, and we don't put up with transgressions. We want to reclaim our nation. As you spoil our security, we will do so to you.

    I wonder about you. Although we are ushering the fourth year after 9/11, Bush is still exercising confusion and misleading you and not telling you the true reason. Therefore, the motivations are still there for what happened to be repeated.

    And I will talk to you about the reason for those events, and I will be honest with you about the moments the decision was made so that you can ponder. And I tell you, God only knows, that we never had the intentions to destroy the towers.

    But after the injustice was so much and we saw transgressions and the coalition between Americans and the Israelis against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it occurred to my mind that we deal with the towers. And these special events that directly and personally affected me go back to 1982 and what happened when America gave permission for Israel to invade Lebanon. And assistance was given by the American sixth fleet.

    During those crucial moments, my mind was thinking about many things that are hard to describe. But they produced a feeling to refuse and reject injustice, and I had determination to punish the transgressors.

    And as I was looking at those towers that were destroyed in Lebanon, it occurred to me that we have to punish the transgressor with the same -- and that we had to destroy the towers in America so that they taste what we tasted, and they stop killing our women and children.

    We found no difficulties in dealing with the Bush administration, because of the similarities of that administration and the regimes in our countries, half of which are run by the military and half of which are run by monarchs. And our experience is vast with them.

    And those two kinds are full of arrogance and taking money illegally.

    The resemblance started when [former President George H.W.] Bush, the father, visited the area, when some of our own were impressed by America and were hoping that the visits would affect and influence our countries.

    Then, what happened was that he was impressed by the monarchies and the military regimes, and he was jealous of them staying in power for tens of years, embezzling the public money without any accountability. And he moved the tyranny and suppression of freedom to his own country, and they called it the Patriot Act, under the disguise of fighting terrorism. And Bush, the father, found it good to install his children as governors and leaders.

    We agreed with the leader of the group, Mohammed Atta, to perform all attacks within 20 minutes before [President George W.] Bush and his administration were aware of what was going on. And we never knew that the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his people in the two towers to face those events by themselves when they were in the most urgent need of their leader.

    He was more interested in listening to the child's story about the goat rather than worry about what was happening to the towers. So, we had three times the time necessary to accomplish the events.

    Your security is not in the hands of [Democratic presidential nominee John] Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.

    And now, three days later, we get the full text of Osama bin Laden's speech. In the interest of space and ease, you can read it below. (From Tim Blair, via Michael Totten, guest blogging at InstaPundit.)

    NOTE: Additions are in RED:

    Simple question: Why wasn't the full text released in the American media before today? CNN describes its text as "a transcript of his remarks as translated by CNN senior editor for Arab affairs Octavia Nasr."

    Who is Octavia Nasr, and why did she omit more than half of the text of the speech?

    What happened to the following, many, crucial paragraphs between the paragraph ending with "three times the necessary" and final paragraph about "your security"?

    And it's no secret to you that the thinkers and perceptive ones from among the Americans warned Bush before the war and told him: "All that you want for securing America and removing the weapons of mass destruction - assuming they exist - is available to you, and the nations of the world are with you in the inspections, and it is in the interest of America that it not be thrust into an unjustified war with an unknown outcome."

    But the darkness of the black gold blurred his vision and insight, and he gave priority to private interests over the public interests of America.

    So the war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threaten his future. He fits the saying "like the naughty she-goat who used her hoof to dig up a knife from under the earth".

    So I say to you, over 15,000 of our people have been killed and tens of thousands injured, while more than a thousand of you have been killed and more than 10,000 injured. And Bush's hands are stained with the blood of all those killed from both sides, all for the sake of oil and keeping their private companies in business.

    Be aware that it is the nation who punishes the weak man when he causes the killing of one of its citizens for money, while letting the powerful one get off, when he causes the killing of more than 1000 of its sons, also for money.

    And the same goes for your allies in Palestine. They terrorise the women and children, and kill and capture the men as they lie sleeping with their families on the mattresses, that you may recall that for every action, there is a reaction.

    Finally, it behoves you to reflect on the last wills and testaments of the thousands who left you on the 11th as they gestured in despair. They are important testaments, which should be studied and researched.

    Among the most important of what I read in them was some prose in their gestures before the collapse, where they say: "How mistaken we were to have allowed the White House to implement its aggressive foreign policies against the weak without supervision."

    It is as if they were telling you, the people of America: "Hold to account those who have caused us to be killed, and happy is he who learns from others' mistakes."

    And among that which I read in their gestures is a verse of poetry. "Injustice chases its people, and how unhealthy the bed of tyranny."

    As has been said: "An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure."

    And know that: "It is better to return to the truth than persist in error." And that the wise man doesn't squander his security, wealth and children for the sake of the liar in the White House.

    And where the hell was all of this stuff which suddenty appears right after the paragraph ending with "killing our women and children" and up to the paragraph first mentioning Muhammad Atta?
    And that day, it was confirmed to me that oppression and the intentional killing of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy. Destruction is freedom and democracy, while resistance is terrorism and intolerance.

    This means the oppressing and embargoing to death of millions as Bush Sr did in Iraq in the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known, and it means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives at millions of children - also in Iraq - as Bush Jr did, in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq's oil and other outrages.

    So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great wrongs, should a man be blamed for defending his sanctuary?

    Is defending oneself and punishing the aggressor in kind, objectionable terrorism? If it is such, then it is unavoidable for us.

    This is the message which I sought to communicate to you in word and deed, repeatedly, for years before September 11th.

    And you can read this, if you wish, in my interview with Scott in Time Magazine in 1996, or with Peter Arnett on CNN in 1997, or my meeting with John Weiner in 1998.

    You can observe it practically, if you wish, in Kenya and Tanzania and in Aden. And you can read it in my interview with Abdul Bari Atwan, as well as my interviews with Robert Fisk.

    The latter is one of your compatriots and co-religionists and I consider him to be neutral. So are the pretenders of freedom at the White House and the channels controlled by them able to run an interview with him? So that he may relay to the American people what he has understood from us to be the reasons for our fight against you?

    If you were to avoid these reasons, you will have taken the correct path that will lead America to the security that it was in before September 11th. This concerned the causes of the war.

    As for it's results, they have been, by the grace of Allah, positive and enormous, and have, by all standards, exceeded all expectations. This is due to many factors, chief among them, that we have found it difficult to deal with the Bush administration in light of the resemblance it bears to the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half which are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents.

    Our experience with them is lengthy, and both types are replete with those who are characterised by pride, arrogance, greed and misappropriation of wealth. This resemblance began after the visits of Bush Sr to the region.

    At a time when some of our compatriots were dazzled by America and hoping that these visits would have an effect on our countries, all of a sudden he was affected by those monarchies and military regimes, and became envious of their remaining decades in their positions, to embezzle the public wealth of the nation without supervision or accounting.

    So he took dictatorship and suppression of freedoms to his son and they named it the Patriot Act, under the pretence of fighting terrorism. In addition, Bush sanctioned the installing of sons as state governors, and didn't forget to import expertise in election fraud from the region's presidents to Florida to be made use of in moments of difficulty.

    All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

    This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahidin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.

    All Praise is due to Allah.

    So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah.

    That being said, those who say that al-Qaida has won against the administration in the White House or that the administration has lost in this war have not been precise, because when one scrutinises the results, one cannot say that al-Qaida is the sole factor in achieving those spectacular gains.

    Rather, the policy of the White House that demands the opening of war fronts to keep busy their various corporations - whether they be working in the field of arms or oil or reconstruction - has helped al-Qaida to achieve these enormous results.

    And so it has appeared to some analysts and diplomats that the White House and us are playing as one team towards the economic goals of the United States, even if the intentions differ.

    And it was to these sorts of notions and their like that the British diplomat and others were referring in their lectures at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. [When they pointed out that] for example, al-Qaida spent $500,000 on the event, while America, in the incident and its aftermath, lost - according to the lowest estimate - more than $500 billion.

    Meaning that every dollar of al-Qaida defeated a million dollars by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs.

    As for the size of the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars.

    And even more dangerous and bitter for America is that the mujahidin recently forced Bush to resort to emergency funds to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan - with Allah's permission.

    It is true that this shows that al-Qaida has gained, but on the other hand, it shows that the Bush administration has also gained, something of which anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Halliburton and its kind, will be convinced. And it all shows that the real loser is ... you.

  • Blood for Oil?
  • Inspections were working?
  • Robert Fisk?
  • Patriot Act?
  • Election fraud?
  • Florida?
  • Loss of American jobs?
  • Halliburton?
  • If Al Jazeera's translation is correct, Osama is spouting vintage Michael Moore, Moveon.org stuff.

    MEMES, even?

    How dare CNN be so brazen as to omit what amounts to the guts of the bin Laden speech?

    Surely, such words and topics aren't that hard to "translate"?

    Isn't it more likely that someone, somewhere, might not have wanted anything to appear which might translate into votes?

    MORE: Octavia Nasr is CNN's "senior editor for Arab affairs."

    Hmmmm......

    My mother always told me to say nice things about people, so I'll say that Ms. Nasr is better at editing than translating.

    But I can't help notice that Ms. Nasr can be very punctilious where it comes to spotting translation errors by the United States government.....

    Continue reading "How many votes were "lost in translation"?"

    posted by Eric at 10:10 AM



    War without bloodshed?

    While it was a little anticlimactic after an entire year spent immersed in the election, finally it happened.

    I voted.

    I was there when the polls opened. I lined up, went into the booth, closed the curtain, and without anyone watching me, I pushed the buttons of my choices, and then at last, the final VOTE button. The descending electronic blip tone sounded, and the screen told me that it -- my precious, long awaited vote -- was all over.

    It just didn't seem right. A whole year of insane acrimony just so I could anonymously push a button and hear a computer tone?

    Surely there has to be more to war than that . . . .

    posted by Eric at 08:59 AM | Comments (4)



    Here's to the future

    I'll be getting very little sleep tonight, then driving 40 minutes home to vote when the polls open.

    Incidentally, I too am voting for President Bush. My endorsement is the bulk of my contributions to this site, though that matters little more than the flood of endorsements floating around the 'net.

    What I really wanted to post about tonight was the future. I have hope that we'll soon be able to talk about things other than partisan politics, Michael Moore, the failings of the mainstream media, and speculation over who's lying about what. My hope is that after tomorrow we'll all find ourselves -- for the first time in awhile -- writing not about the lowest common denominator -- that which makes us either the same or different on the simplest scale (namely being for the President or against him) -- but writing rather each our personal interests, each our passions, our careless thoughts outside the narrow confines of an election period.

    Here's to a future devoid of fisking, a tomorrow free of memes. Here's to a clear victor and a good night's sleep.

    I'd like nothing more than to never have to post about this election again.

    A boy can dream.

    posted by Dennis at 12:56 AM




    Glaring holes and other nuisances

    More from Thomas Lipscomb in the New York Sun:

    A former officer in the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps Reserve has built a case that Senator Kerry was other than honorably discharged from the Navy by 1975, The New York Sun has learned.

    The "honorable discharge" on the Kerry Web site appears to be a Carter administration substitute for an original action expunged from Mr. Kerry's record, according to Mark Sullivan, who retired as a captain in the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps Reserve in 2003 after 33 years of service as a judge advocate. Mr. Sullivan served in the office of the Secretary of the Navy between 1975 and 1977.

    On behalf of the Kerry campaign, Michael Meehan and others have repeatedly insisted that all of Mr. Kerry's military records are on his Web site atjohnkerry.com, except for his medical records.

    "If that is the case," Mr. Sullivan said, "the true story isn't what was on the Web site. It's what's missing. There should have been an honorable discharge certificate issued to Kerry in 1975,if not earlier, three years after his transfer to the Standby Reserve-Inactive."

    Another retired Navy Reserve officer, who served three tours in the Navy's Bureau of Personnel, points out that there should also have been a certified letter giving Mr. Kerry a choice of a reserve reaffiliation or separation and discharge. If Mr. Meehan is correct and all the documents are indeed on the Web site, the absence of any documents from 1972 to 1978 in the posted Kerry files is a glaring hole in the record.

    The glaring hole is what I have been kvetching about as loudly as I could. But the election's tomorrow, and like it or not, Kerry's records are a glaring hole we're stuck with.

    For blogosphere reaction, see N.Z. Bear, Glenn Reynolds, PoliPundit, Captain Ed. The consensus is that no matter what the truth might be, it's too late.

    There are too many glaring holes, in too many places, and they've been there for too long.

    Now that I think about it, there's a bit of a glaring hole in this blog! I don't think I've ever endorsed anyone, much less stated clearly my preference in the presidential race.

    As symbols go, the glaring hole will do quite well, for a lot of reasons. Most Americans have been thinking about the glaring hole in the ground where the World Trade Center once stood. Before that, concerned Americans worried about other glaring holes -- from the first WTC blast, to the Khobar Towers blast, to this glaring hole:

    Nuisance2.jpg

    Vietnam is another unresolved glaring hole. Regardless of how anyone feels about it, I don't think the way to address the glaring hole which has been staring us in the face since September 11 is to return to a hole still glaring after three decades.

    I'm not saying it's easy for anyone to face these or any other glaring holes, but I think a lesson from childhood which might shed light. We often hear people pontificate about the need to stand up to bullies. Every child has had to contend with the issue at one time or another. Parental views differ about what a child should do if he is bullied. I try to understand both points of view, but I tend to lean strongly towards the view that one should always stand up to bullies, and encourage children to do the same.

    I stood up to bullies as a kid. (I was lucky enough to be picked on by bullies I could beat, so after that I was left pretty much alone.) But back in the 1970s, my view was put to the test with someone else's kid, and it made me a little more understanding of the rationale behind the other viewpoint (that sometimes it's better to back down).

    A 12-year-old boy who lived across the street from me had the usual complaint -- one we've all heard many times. A pack of bullies in school preyed on him, took his lunch money, and his teachers wouldn't help. His parents didn't encourage him to fight, either, as they didn't want him to get in trouble or have the situation "escalate." I told him that while he might not be able to defeat all the kids at once, he should pick out one of the bullies, and single him out for an all-out, highly visible, full frontal attack. That way, the group would collectively decide he's too much trouble, and pick on someone else.

    I soon forgot about dispensing this advice, but a few days later, the kid came running over and told me that he had publicly kicked the ass of one of his tormenters (the one he believed was the most cowardly), and that it worked! He was feeling proud of himself, and his parents were greatly relieved.

    Happy ending? No way; that Friday night the family went out to dinner, and when they got home they found most of the windows in the house broken. It seems the bullies had older brothers, and told them where this upstart who dared stand up to them lived.

    My advice had escalated the situation to the point where it could be called a quagmire!

    Each broken window was, figuratively, another glaring hole.

    And I recognize that others can make a strong case for not standing up to bullies by looking at the precise example I just gave.

    Except I think they're very, very wrong.

    To give in under duress, to yield to superior force to preserve your safety, is to lose your dignity, whether as a child, as an adult, or as a country. While smaller countries such as Sweden might make an argument that they must yield to survive, once a large country considered the champion of freedom does that, then it ceases to be a champion of freedom.

    I realize that many would consider the story of a boy's lost lunch money too simplistic. Surely the world is more complicated than that. True, the world is more complicated than a boy and his lunch money, but there's no getting around the fact that the principle involved is not complicated.

    Hemingway and MacArthur, while philosophically very different, agreed that wars are caused by undefended wealth. (I don't want the glaring hole in the ground created on September 11, 2001 to become a glaring symbol of undefended wealth.)

    This is not a question of wanting to vote for Bush. I have to vote for Bush, even though I disagree with him on many things, because he understands this elemental principle better than Kerry. Too many of Kerry's statements make me think he's immersed in the philosophy of denial, and pandering to a mindset which thinks the same way.

    It's very tempting to say, "Just change the channel so you don't have to look at that glaring hole!" "Vote for the PREVIOUS CHANNEL!" (People forget that the previous channel was one glaring hole after another -- each one unaddressed. It might as well have been called The Nuisance Channel.)

    Return to the simplistic story of the boy and his lunch money. In light of the broken windows which were visited upon his family, wouldn't it have been "safer," also "wiser," to do the smart thing, and simply go back to handing over his lunch money?

    In the long run, might it even make him "stronger"?

    To me, that's surrender -- the opposite of strength. Even hinting at such a thing during war is unconscionable.

    It's why I'm voting for Bush.

    MORE: As I write this I see (via InstaPundit) that Osama bin Laden's statement has been translated more accurately; it's as a threat to retaliate against individual states that vote for Bush:

    Bin Laden is now accepting surrenders on a state-by-state basis.
    Sure, if you pay up, the bullies will leave you alone!

    UPDATE: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell thinks Osama Bin Laden wants Bush to win because he's so hated:

    ...it's just another reminder of the fact that we're at war and we're fighting terrorists, and that's the only card that the President has in his hand.

    "But it's obvious to me that bin Laden is trying to help George Bush, because George Bush is the best recruiter that al-Qaeda has. George Bush is so disliked in the Arab world that we're creating terrorists every single day - more terrorists than we can even come close to killing."

    I'm sorry, but that's like telling little boys (after they've been attacked) that they should be careful not to offend their attackers, and instead they should try to make friends with them!

    A president more terrorists can love? Is that what Ed Rendell wants? (To think that I voted for him in the 2002 Democratic primary.....)

    posted by Eric at 08:41 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)




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