Some small comfort, infinity . . .

What's life? What's death? One of these days I ought to pontificate. The problem is, I've seen much too much death -- more than most people my age. I've known death up close and personal. Familiarity with it does not qualify me as an expert though, so I should probably shut up and let this post die a graceful death. Otherwise I'll set myself up as an expert on something I admit know less about precisely because of my familiarity with the subject matter than the people who claim to know a lot about it but don't.

At least I know something about the unknowable.

Knowing what I don't know is knowing something.

So, rather than pontificate, I'd like to leave a suggestion, based on my experience with 20-plus deaths, and my own close brushes, glimpses if you will, with what's on the other side (I should add what isn't for those who want to see it that way).

It isn't about politics.

Politicization of death ought to be the last straw. Based on my experience, I really ought to be furious by the denial and stupidity that's been on display these past weeks.

The only reason I'm not in a total rage is that I've been there, and I know it's about letting go -- and in the most personal way imaginable.

Politics is the absolute antithesis of that.

So the people who want to politicize death are in reality more ridiculous than they are despicable, which is some comfort. They're more in denial than in touch.

And they too will die.

UPDATE: Lest anyone get the idea that I am condemning Terri Schiavo's supporters, I am not -- because I was one of them. I don't think I need to repeat that I thought it was wrong to pull her feeding tube. My point is that the exploitation of death -- especially the human fear of death -- is terribly misguided.

Via Glenn Reynolds, here's a religious blogger who feels pretty much the same way (about politicization):

I disagree with the position of the Instapundit (and others), but then again he, and others, are looking at it from the perspective of a law professor. I on the other hand am not so constrained to see it merely as a Constitutional issue, but one of a concerning cultural paradigm shift. A good topic for a good healthy debate - not to spew venom at those who disagree. Stop It!

Third - expect voices from the euthanasia lobby to get very loud very shortly.

Fourth - expect members of the Body (both conservative and liberal) to exploit this for all sorts of political and/or financial gain.

All in all, a sad day.

posted by Eric at 09:40 PM | Comments (1)

Delink is deleast I deserve!

Via this radio show (transcript here, via the YodelMeister), I just heard that a blogger I'd never wanted to hear of -- one Malachy Joyce (sex unknown, but who has been described as a "pissy little Buchananite") -- has started an official delinking campaign, and he or she has accordingly delinked the following blogs (what follows is the actual html; I'd love to know why so many multiple links are provided for the letters of each delinked link):


Not sure what their crimes were, as I can't keep up with the fast and furious fur-flying these days. But I imagine they said stuff with which M. Joyce disagrees.

To my mind, that is no reason to delink anyone. I have plenty of links to people who have not only disagreed with me, but who have insulted me. I try to be as polite as I can no matter what the insults, and occasionally I cross my own line of civility, although I try not to let it happen too often. There is no duty whatsoever to give anyone a link, but delinking is a squalid thing to do. In fact, I agree with Frank J., who said it's the ultimate insult to a blogger.

I have never delinked anyone, and I have no plans to. Even when I have been deliberately delinked (as happened at least one time that I know of), I deliberately didn't delink in return.

But I have to admit to feeling a little neglected here, knowing that I'm not even good enough to deserve a delinking from ol' hunnert percent of whatever it is that's being totaled.

Waaaahhhhh! Nobody hates me!

(And I'm still waiting for the Classical Values Watch. . . .)

UPDATE: From Bill at INDC (link via InstaPundit), I just found out that 100% Trash is probably just another Hillary Clinton operative. . .

(Sometimes I'm easily fooled.)

UPDATE (04/01/05): As of this morning, I've apparently been delinked by my own blog! I'm speechless, and I can offer no explanation for this outrageous insult . . . I knew my self esteem was low -- but this goes too far.

MORE: Glenn Reynolds has apologized. And it's about time. In fact, it's long overdue. But how can any apology begin to restore the wreckage of countless ruined lives, blended puppies, and dreadfully exploited protest babes?

Nevertheless, bleeding heart, incessantly-whining libertarian that I am, I think this threat to take away Glenn's Legos is a tad harsh. After all, he tried to be good, and he's promised not to do it again!

MORE: Retrofuturistic (who has had the good sense to delink me deliberately and redundantly) adds an important point to this debate:

[T]his Malachy Joyce character has never heard of Blog Retrofuturistic.
Well, I have! And Retrofuturistic has a much finer blog too -- which I'd heard of before I'd heard of hunnert percenter.

BTW, the argument about anti-Semitism is interesting, and while I'm not sure the beenie remark completely proves it, considering this announcement -- HUNDREDPERCENTER RE-ADDED TO GOOGLE NEWS! -- I'd say the evidence is accumulating. . .

posted by Eric at 04:26 PM | Comments (8)

I will defend to the death your right to make me vomit!
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

-- Mario Savio

I love to kvetch about how I prefer California to the East Coast! And, much as I hate to have to eat my words, occasionally something so foul, so odious, so grotesque comes along that I find myself unable to ignore it.

I should have foreseen that something like that would happen earlier today when Justin directed me to Little Green Footballs' link to this photo and videoblog of Ward Churchill addressing the San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair.

Before clicking on the link I prepared for the worst. I am well acquainted with Churchill, the fake Indian claim, the little Eichmanns remark -- the rest of it. A sickening and disgusting display I fully expected.

But nothing prepared me for this:


What do I have to do to make them stop? Throw my free market body on the grotesque gears of scrotalist apparatchiks?

I'll say this. Shocking though he may be, Ward Churchill has been upstaged. (Well, I guess someone had to show some balls.....)

And while Churchill and the "scrotal inflation" warriors may not realize it, the fact is that by working together, they're all helping to show the rest of the world that freedom is a many-splendored thing.

Why can't al-Jazeera show the world what is tolerated in the land of George W. Bush? Huh? Huh?

Who knows, it might also be a good way to cut down on immigration....

(Thanks for the tip, Justin! Hmm... Is he trying to get me to stay here on the East Coast??)

posted by Eric at 02:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

I am not "we" (and you probably aren't either . . .)

Terri Schiavo died this morning.

While I don't think that removal of the feeding tube was right (and have said so repeatedly), I think it should be remembered that it was Michael Schiavo who wanted the tube pulled, and the courts which ordered this carried out.

It wasn't the ill-defined "Culture of Death." (Often referred to as "we.")

We didn't do it. And therefore, I didn't do it -- any more than I shot the Columbine victims.*

*Or, for that matter, clubbed the seals.

AFTERTHOUGHT: In the course of the debate over the morality of feeding tube removal, what seems to be getting lost is this: had Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers agreed on the feeding tube removal, Ms. Schiavo would have starved to death years ago and no one would have heard of this case. (It happens every day.) To me, the dispute between the parties is the distinction. But I fear that for many, this distinction is being forgotten, and while I know I'm repeating myself a bit, I'd hate to see a kneejerk overreaction lead to the imposition of a feeding tube requirement even when people don't want such things.

posted by Eric at 10:33 AM | Comments (3)

Dial The Message To Medium

Over at More Than Human, Ramez Naam has a few sensible observations to make regarding the term "transhumanist".

I tend to take the view that almost everyone is a closet (or at least potential) transhumanist.
That is to say, when presented with a biotech product that will produce a clear improvement in their lives and that 1) is reasonably affordable; 2) has been demonstrated as safe; and 3) doesn't carry an awful social stigma, I believe the majority of Americans and Europeans would be willing to use the product...
...I don't think I need to convince the hardcore Kassians of anything to have a positive effect. If I can reach the people who are uncomfortable with biotech enhancements simply because they don't understand them, and educate those people on some of the myths and realities, I think that's enough to sway public policy.

I tend to agree with that, and I enjoy hearing it proposed in a sober, sensible manner.

This line of thinking also contributes to my dislike of the term "transhumanist". I think it's a horrible word from a PR standpoint. It adds a taint of weirdness - the very thing that makes people uncomfortable - to technologies that will either not work or will have straightforward benefits.

Amen to that. The term conjures up precisely the wrong image, and generates the exact opposite of popular appeal. You look at some of the folks who really go for it, and you get a sinking feeling. Much the same could be said, of course, for any group with a Mission.

In my mind, there's no need for the label at all. The vast majority of things transhumanists want, if they work as advertised, will be desired by millions of mainstream consumers...

A situation devoutly to be wished for. I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the enthusiasm these developments can generate. It's sometimes difficult, looking at the wonderful possibilities around us, not to be swept away on a tide of irrational exuberance. I'll take optimism over pessimism any day, but, yeah, it can be overdone.

I'm about halfway through Mr. Naam's book and thoroughly enjoying it. It has much the same temper and tone as the passages quoted above. More on that when I've finished it. While careful to stay grounded throughout most of the book, in the final two chapters he allows himself a little more latitude for the "sense of wonder" stuff.

Yes, I skipped ahead to the end.

If the technologies he speculates about are actually brought into being, then humanity is in for some big changes. Some readers (Ms. Schaub?) will immediately think "Borg", or "Comprise". That's the kneejerk negative.

A more positive outcome might be more like John C. Wright's "The Golden Age". If he hasn't already done so, I would urge Mr. Naam to check it out. It's a great read.

Hey, if Dr. Schaub can spout fiction with a straight face, then so can I.

posted by Justin at 08:02 PM | Comments (2)

Science is elementary, my dear . . .

This is a post which really should have been written by Justin.

Justin might have even called it "Meet Dr. Watson." Anyway, one Robert T. Watson has managed to steal the global warming show today with a huge, Drudge-linked, incendiary doom-and-gloom headline along with plenty of Chicken Little predictions:

Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'

Tim Radford, science editor
Wednesday March 30, 2005
The Guardian

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says.

The report, prepared in Washington under the supervision of a board chaired by Robert Watson, the British-born chief scientist at the World Bank and a former scientific adviser to the White House, will be launched today at the Royal Society in London. It warns that:

· Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the last 60 years than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined.

· An estimated 24% of the Earth's land surface is now cultivated.

· Water withdrawals from lakes and rivers has doubled in the last 40 years. Humans now use between 40% and 50% of all available freshwater running off the land.

· At least a quarter of all fish stocks are overharvested. In some areas, the catch is now less than a hundredth of that before industrial fishing.

· Since 1980, about 35% of mangroves have been lost, 20% of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed and another 20% badly degraded.

· Deforestation and other changes could increase the risks of malaria and cholera, and open the way for new and so far unknown disease to emerge.

Etc. (Which is a clever Latin way of saying "Blah blah blah.")

From what I can glean about Dr. Watson, his real gripe is that he lost his job as Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Here's Patrick Michaels on Watson's 2002 demise:

A variety of factors conspired against Watson. Ten years of carping about the United States did not endear him to the current Administration, nor did his expressed preference for doing global warming policy rather than global warming science.

"Global Change," a Washington newsletter, said of Watson in 1997: "In his work for the federal government and now the World Bank, Watson retains his involvement with science but can also influence directly and strongly the social issues that matter to him." Of his potential to influence policy, Watson said, "I find it an order of magnitude more rewarding, much more rewarding."

Watson in that interview described the Clinton Administration's position on global warming as "absolutely admirable." Of the then-Republican Congress, he said, "Rather than moving things forward constructively, we've [?] been trying to make sure that the things we've been doing were not undone."

That quote probably didn't help him with the current Administration. Nor did his statement at a U.N. press conference in Shanghai on the day of George Bush's inauguration: "A country like China has done more, in my opinion, than a country like the United States to move forward in economic development while remaining environmentally sensitive." A look at the opaque air of Shanghai and Beijing argues otherwise.

Watson was in Shanghai to preside over the approval of the UN's third and latest compendium on climate change, which included a ridiculous "storyline" (that's what the UN now calls its forecasts) of an 11°F global warming in the next 100 years. Those of us in the scientific community who reviewed the document never saw this outlandish projection because it was inserted after our peer review. John Christy, the Alabama scientist who has developed the satellite temperature history (which shows very little warming) subsequently told a hearing chaired by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), "This is one forecast that isn't going to happen."

At the time, the UN also made 244 other temperature forecasts, all cooler. But Watson seized on this one and told the press that it "adds impetus for governments to live up to their commitments [under the Kyoto Protocol] to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."


There's lots of hot air. But most of it emanates from Watson, who has been called one of the world's leading "Political" scientists:

Watson presided over the IPCC's Third Assessment Report (TAR), published last year. The assessment reports are supposed to be a comprehensive review of the state of climate science in support of the international climate negotiations. What they have become under Watson's guidance is a political bludgeon to enforce global warming orthodoxy.

The first inkling that Watson was manipulating the panel's work for political ends was two weeks before the 2000 presidential election. A draft of the report's Summary for Policymakers was leaked toThe New York Times, which reported that the IPCC "has now concluded that mankind's contribution to the problem is greater than originally believed," and that, "Its worst-case scenario calls for a truly unnerving rise of 11 degrees Fahrenheit over 1990 levels." The leak was clearly calculated to aid Al Gore's campaign.

In January 2001, Watson publicly released the final draft of the summary, even though the report itself was still under revision, producing another media circus. Watson chimed in that, "This adds impetus for governments of the world to find ways to live up to their commitments … to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."

The Summary for Policymakers, written by U.N. politicos rather than scientists, is used by Watson to misrepresent the science. IPCC lead author Dr. Richard Lindzen noted that the 35-page chapter that he worked on was summarized in one sentence, and avoided any mention of the many problems with how the models misrepresent key climate processes.

By releasing the Summary for Policymakers before the report itself, Watson assured that its alarmist message was well ingrained in the public psyche before the real science could get a fair public hearing. Watson's unorthodox strategy has achieved the desired political impact as the report itself has been largely ignored.

Unfortunately, the report itself wasn't free of Watson's meddling. The new report estimates that the Earth's average temperature would rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius -- or 10.44 degrees Fahrenheit, which The New York Times rounded up to 11 -- over the next century, a big change from its earlier estimate of 1 to 3.5 degrees C.

The higher prediction is not based on new evidence or on a new understanding of the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change, but on an unwarranted change in the assumptions about future population growth, economic growth and fossil fuel use.

Stephen Schneider, a professor at Stanford University and staunch proponent of the global warming agenda, expressed reservations in Nature magazine about the new assumptions. According to Schneider, "This sweeping revision depends on two factors that were not the handiwork of the modelers: smaller projected emissions of climate cooling aerosols; and a few predictions containing particularly large CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions."

To come up with the outlandish CO2 projections, for instance, Watson formed a group of academic scientists, environmental organizations, industrial scientists, engineers, economists, and systems analysts that decided to "create 'storylines' about future worlds from which population, affluence and technology drivers could be inferred. These storylines "gave rise to radically different families of emission profiles up to 2100 -- from below current CO2 emissions to five times current emissions," according to Schneider.

To get the final "dramatic revision upward in the IPCC's third assessment," he wrote, it combined the climate sensitivities of seven general circulation models (GCMs) with the "six illustrative scenarios from the special report" within a simple model to get 40 climate scenarios.

To add insult to injury, these storylines were not subjected to peer review. In fact, they were added to the IPCC report during a "government review" after the scientific peer review was concluded.

Watson's actions proved that he was not fit to continue as the head of a scientific review process. The product of his tenure was not science but advocacy. The IPCC's new chairman faces the difficult task of getting the IPCC to promote sound science rather than political advocacy masquerading as science.

I guess after three years, Watson and his promoters are hoping we've forgotten about the man's history of politicized fakery.

For all I know, he's a pal of Rifkin, Ehrlich and company. Where is Justin when I need him?

Anyway, I'll grant that the man has stamina.

Nonetheless, it is a bit unfair. Watson really is indefatigable, or at least he doesn't show fatigue. At the interminable U.N. meetings, such as the one that slapped together the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, he stayed up all night, a lot of nights, to craft text acceptable to Al Gore. In an earlier incarnation, as a graduate student in atmospheric chemistry at University of Maryland, and later as honcho of NASA's stratospheric chemistry program, his drive and commitment were legendary.

Along the way, though, Watson discovered that his true calling wasn't science so much as it was using science to tell people what to do. And he's proud of it, too. In April 1996 he left his position as associate director of President Clinton's Office of Science and Technology Policy for the World Bank. In an article on the job change, Washington's greenie gossip sheet Global Change wrote:

In his work for the federal government and now the World Bank, Watson retains his involvement with science but can also influence directly and strongly the social issues that matter to him. [Said Watson:] "I find it an order of magnitude more rewarding, much [italics in original] more rewarding.
Using science to tell people what to do? Has Watson now been officially rehabilitated? Or are they just hoping three years is long enough to forget about the past?

UPDATE: Here's today's Drudge headline:


If the Phildelphia Inquirer did that based on such a crummy story, I'd be all over them.

(Glad I'm not a journalist, and don't have to answer to anyone....)

posted by Eric at 02:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

Foolish vanities!

The "2nd Annual Flim-Flam-Fabulous April Fools Edition of the Carnival of Vanities has been posted by Eric Berlin. The entries are supplemented by fictitious, made-up posts.

Each set of five Carnival entries you see below consists of four real and true postings from all around the Web. And one entry in each set is a complete fabrication. Can you avoid all the traps I've set to fool you? Can you tell which entries are fake and which represent cold, hard, and profoundly weird reality? Only one way to find out. Start clicking.
Reality is for fools!

So go enjoy it.

posted by Eric at 12:23 PM

Some communities are more gated than others . . .

Joe Gandelman's (via Glenn Reynolds) very thoughtful piece made me think about a question I don't think about too much: am I a journalist?

While there's a huge debate going on among and between MSM journalists and bloggers over whether the latter are really "journalists," I think there's something being missed.

At the risk of sounding insolent, I'd like to ask, does it matter?

To me, the whole thing feels a little like whether I'm a liberal or a conservative. For years now, my answer has been that I think what I think. The labels ("conservative" and "liberal") are bestowed on me by others -- usually in a manipulative manner, and I have found that those calling me a "liberal" tend to be conservative, while those calling me a "conservative" tend to be liberal. It's a process of manipulative exclusion: if you don't agree with me, I'll accuse you of being on the other side and maybe that will hurt your feelings into agreeing with me!

And now it's "I'll say you're not a journalist!"

But did anyone ever ask me whether I wanted to be a journalist?

Frankly, one of the reasons I took up blogging was my anger at journalists -- particularly their supreme arrogance. I spent almost ten years trying to get the bastards to take another look at the Watergate scandal, only to repeatedly discover that journalism is dominated by a cadre of high priests who cut their teeth on Watergate. Media Titans like Woodward, Bernstein, Rather, Hersh, who never cease reminding ordinary mortals that they -- the all-knowing, all-seeing JOURNALISTS -- Delivered Us From Evil By Saving Us From Nixon!

Without debating the particulars of Watergate here, their attitude gave me (and gives me) the creeps. Would I want to "be" one of them?

Hell no!

Blogging allows me to think what I think and say what I think. Once I allow someone to define me, I lose some of that freedom. That loss of freedom begins with accepting the definition. From there it's a very slippery slope to joining.

There's that old expression, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," but again I ask,

what's to join?

I blog because I don't have to join. So that no one will have the right to tell me what to think or write. Or what not to.

To "be" a "journalist" strikes me as akin to joining a (very) gated community.

I prefer no gate.

posted by Eric at 09:44 AM

Making sense now?

Speaking of free speech, I'm trying to make sense over what Houlin Zhao, director of the ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said about the Internet:

People say the Internet flourished because of the absence of government control. I do not agree with this view. I argue that in any country, if the government opposed Internet service, how do you get Internet service? If there are any Internet governance structure changes in the future, I think government rules will be more important and more respected.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

OK. Late last night I copied the above quote. I thought that it made no sense, but I figured what the hell, I'm tired, and tomorrow morning I'll immediately understand.

I've had two cups of coffee now, and I'm at more of a loss to understand it than I was last night. This man -- who wants to run the Internet via the United Nations -- is wholly unable to distinguish between government controls and the absence of government controls! Thus, he says, "if the government opposed Internet service, how do you get Internet service?" Such a mindset assumes that government must be everything -- an all-seeing, all-knowing entity which must grant or deny permission before anything can happen.

The reason I can't understand the man's thinking is because it is not thinking. It's a circular mass of mindless totalitarianism run amok.

And these people want to take over the Internet?

Why, yes.

Obviously, it all makes sense -- to them.

And if we let them, they will!

posted by Eric at 08:14 AM | Comments (3)

No closets for free speech !

Via InstaPundit, I see that more controversy (see last night's post) has developed over the use of the expression "gay terrorist":

Gay activist Michael Rogers, of, continues to target critics in an ongoing saga of an online jihad within the blogosphere.

This time the target was, a blog whose site was taken down overnight by the site's commercial service provider. According to sources, LimeShurbert had taken GayPatriot's "WANTED: GAY TERRORISTS" post and created his own "wanted poster" targeting Michael Rogers and John Aravosis (Americablog). Rogers alerted the service provider which then shut the site down.

Here is a message from's blog author, Robert Shurbet:

I will be back, content intact one way or another. Michael Rogers has tried to silence a voice of dissent. He will fail.

UPDATE 3:16PM - Robert Shurbert posted the following on Haloscan:

Show your support for GayPatriot by placing the "WANTED" banner from my sidebar on your blog.

GayPatriot deserves to have his voice heard! All gay conservatives have a voice that needs to be heard too! The gay community is not a "liberals only" club any more than the Republican party is for "straights only." It is high-time gay conservatives and those that support them speak out against the terrorist tactics employed by Michael Rogers!

Don't let Michael Rogers silence a voice of opposition. He can try to silence one - he cannot silence many.
[Robert - Haloscan - 03.29.05 - 1:29 pm

This whole matter intrigues me. First of all I think outing is a monstrous, grotesque violation of human and sexual freedom (and I say this as someone who knew the original founder and many members of the Sexual Freedom League). Second of all, I dislike restrictions on speech as much if not more than restrictions on sexual activity, and I think those who want to tell us what to say or how to say it are at least as bad as those who tell us what to do with our genitalia.

Third, I enjoy satire. And I think the poster in question is quite amusing. Plus it's art!

All good reasons for displaying it here.


BTW, I refuse to be "outed!" (The term has no meaning to me anyway.) I'm staying right here in my hard-earned, openly public, closet!

Good luck making me come out! And good luck making me take it down!

MORE: Via Michael Demmons, here's some very entertaining reading.


UPDATE (03/30/05): Michael Demmons reminds us that free speech lovers (as well as those opposed to "outing") should go right ahead and copy the above "WANTED" poster without fear of recriminations. While I can't vouch for other ISPs, I am delighted to see confirmation from Michael that Host Matters (also home to Classical Values) is not easily intimidated:

Content cannot be defamation by definition unless it can be shown that the content is inherently and deliberately untrue. In your particular case, a simple google of “michael rogers gay” brought me to an article by The Independent (UK) about the very bullet points you have listed in the graphic, with quotes from him related to that subject. Further searches reveal other stories by regular journalistic outlets as well, with and without quotes. Suggesting people email him to voice their opinion of his actions is also not an actionable offense, since a look at his own site has links for email to the addresses you have listed - since he is inviting contact via email, and lists available addresses, your posting of them poses no violation of any of our policies or of any statutes. It is your opinion that his actions are as you describe them, and people are free to agree or disagree as they see fit, and post their own opinions, if they’d like to do so. In addition, there is nothing in your graphic that urges any violence against anyone - it reads, in fact, more like the sort of online boycott calls that go around from time to time. Therefore, we would take no action related to complaints by the individual about this item on your page other than to suggest he take it up with you.


Abuse Investigations
Hosting Matters, Inc.

Go Host Matters!

UPDATE (03/30/05 -- 08:30 a.m.): Both the GayPatriot site and that of its current author, Christian Grantham seem to be down as of this morning. (No idea why....)

UPDATE (03/31/05): Here's more on a guy whose name I didn't think was worth mentioning at the time . . .

posted by Eric at 04:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (4)

This pushes my button!

I never had the, um remotest idea that such a thing would happen, but alas! Glenn Reynolds is promoting a device which enables censorship.

Perhaps we should have seen it coming. After all, he has previously defended copyright-infringing technology, as well as guns.

It's a slippery slope down the remote path.

I never thought I'd be advocating such a thing, but isn't it time that we think the unthinkable and ask ourselves.....

Has the time finally come for REMOTE CONTROL?

At the very least, should the sale of television remotes to children be prohibited? Shouldn't there be a waiting period? To this I imagine the proponents would come up with simplistic slogans like:

Remotes don't turn off televisions. People turn off televisions!
Outlaw remotes and only outlaws will have remotes!

But I am not remotely persuaded by remote hypotheticals from people who don't have the remotest idea what they're advocating.

Something must be done.

posted by Eric at 01:50 PM | Comments (2)

Saying "NO" to reality!

In the latest outbreak of zero tolerance, a school has forbidden a student from bringing to school a picture of her Marine Corps brother -- because he is holding a gun in the picture:

If a student wants to share a photo of her brother's chosen career, the Marine Corps, it stands to reason that a weapon will be part of it.

Unless, that is, the student attends high school in the Salem-Keizer School District. Then she'll be told that the photo violates the district's zero-tolerance policy for weapons.

That's nuts.

This is the same weekend, remember, when Salem is festooned with yellow ribbons because hundreds of our National Guard troops have returned home from a yearlong stint in Iraq. Welcome home, soldiers, but could you digitize the weapons out of your photos before visiting our local high schools? We don't want our impressionable kids to get the wrong idea about what you've been doing.

In most cases, the district is right to forbid students from carrying or displaying any kind of weapon at school, even on a T-shirt. This city has had problems in the past with gang violence. A school shooting this week in Minnesota serves as a painful reminder of the allure guns hold for some troubled kids.

However, "zero tolerance" can be an overly rigid approach to solving problems. That's true in the case of Shea Riecke, the McKay High freshman who hoped to bring a photo of her brother, Cpl. Bill Riecke, to her social studies class.

What a great chance for an alert teacher to engage kids in a discussion about a career that some of them quite likely will choose -- will be recruited for, in fact. The photo shows three Marines stationed in Iraq, one bare-chested, carrying a fully automatic rifle and a machine gun between them. They look young, serious and yet brash.

How much more it says about their situation than the alternatives the school district is said to have suggested -- a photo of Cpl. Riecke in dress blues or the same photo but with the weapons removed by computer enhancement.

(Via G. Gordon Liddy, who protested that "pictures of guns are not guns.")

How dare anyone suggest that common sense should be involved in education?

A picture is an image is a depiction is a thoughtcrime is a gun!

And I'm very concerned....

Because if an "image" of a gun is the same thing as a gun, then what about images in textbooks? Should students be allowed to study such evil images as part of their "history"? I think it's high time that depictions of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Vietnam had all "images of guns" airbrushed out.

And why stop with gun images? Isn't it also time for a crackdown on words that evoke these images?

posted by Eric at 11:18 AM | Comments (3)

Victory from the jaws of death

Here's Andrew Sullivan on the Schiavo case:

It's been striking lately how the rhetoric of some conservatives has morphed into revolutionary tones. Bill Kristol, at heart an ally of religious radicalism, calls for a revolution against the independent judiciary we now have. Fox News' John Gibson has argued that "the temple of the law is not so sacrosanct that an occasional chief executive cannot flaunt it once in a while." Bill Bennett has said that the courts are not the ultimate means to interpret law and the constitution, that the people, with rights vested in the Declaration of Independence, have a right to over-turn the courts if judges violate natural law precepts such as the right to life. Beneath all this is a struggle between conservatives who place their faith in the formalities of constitutionalism and those who place their literal faith in the God-revealed truths they believe are enshrined in the Declaration, truths that alone give meaning, in their eyes, to America as a political project.
Andrew Sullivan also links to this discussion of the tension which some conservatives argue exists between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (An argument I believe nonsensical, which I have treated irreverently.)

What interests me as a political pragmatist is that the Republicans may be spelling their defeat in 2008 -- much to the advantage of Hillary Clinton, who is all but certain to be the nominee.

As Sullivan argues elsewhere:

For others, the Schiavo case is a first battle to win over the religious right primary voters who will determine the next Republican nominee. The Republican leadership is gambling that the intensity of their religious base will outweigh the more general public's disdain for this exercise in government over-reach. The broader public, they calculate, will forget. The zealots will always remember. And if Schiavo dies, they will have a martyr as well. And they will figuratively prop her up as a symbol in the campaigns to come.
The religious right primary voters will determine the next Republican nominee? But I thought that was precisely what Hillary Clinton wanted!

Anyway, the Republicans are right that as a general rule, the attention span of the American public is very short.

But I think there's something about death which tends to make it the exception to this general rule. Most people spend their lives in mortal fear of death. And regardless of the merits of the Schiavo matter (as I've said, I don't think her tube should have been pulled) the fact is that Big Government has poked its nose into one family's struggle with death. This is likely to be remembered, and exploited.

And exploited.

(No matter what I say, please remember that these doomsday scenarios need not happen. My hat's off to Bill Quick and Jon Henke for thinking ahead. And need I mention Glenn Reynolds?)

UPDATE: Just this morning, I see that Michael Schiavo is requesting an autopsy, contrary to earlier reports. Is someone thinking about 2008?

MORE: A lot of bloggers are debating whether the religious right has gone too far this time. InstaPundit links to a fascinating debate between Jeff Jarvis (who's great, and who links to this excellent analysis by Joe Gandelman) and Hugh Hewitt, who articulates the conservative position better than anyone else, and makes a good point about avoiding stereotypes. The problem is that I find myself agreeing with much of what both Jarvis and Hewitt say, which prevents me from declaring either a "winner."

But my truest sentiments are with The Anchoress:

Randall Terry and his zealots full of certainty and moral superiority are now coming off like their unbearable counterparts on the left. Their rhetoric is becoming the equivalent of "America is a horrible country because Bushitler is killing people in Iraq!"

Balance. Things are out of balance. But imbalance by the left is shrugged of in the press and never used against the democrats. Imbalance on the right, that's another story. It is, as I said, the story that is gift, and it's going to keep on giving.

And I still think that when the dust settles, ordinary voters will tend to remember this as Big Government trying to butt in.

And Glenn Reynolds is absolutely right about Randall Terry:

....[H]e needs to be loudly and regularly denounced as a nut. Otherwise you're in the same boat as lefties who don't want to be identified with Ward Churchill, but happily use him when they want to draw a crowd.

(In fact, the Terry / Churchill axis is surprisingly close -- they both view 9/11 as a necessary chastisement for a sinful America. If that's not a distinguishing mark of full-bore idiotarianism, I don't know what is).

(Of course, considering that Churchill is working for Karl Rove, can Hillary really be faulted for hiring Terry?)

STILL MORE: Jesse Jackson has arrived on the scene.

(Wouldn't want to have a circus atmosphere develop....)

AND MORE (03/30/05): Nat Hentoff's Schiavo piece in today's Village Voice is an awfully good read, and provides food for thought to people who'd probably otherwise never hear it:

Months ago, in discussing this case with ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, and later reading ACLU statements, I saw no sign that this bastion of the Bill of Rights has ever examined the facts concerning the egregious conflicts of interest of her husband and guardian Michael Schiavo, who has been living with another woman for years, with whom he has two children, and has violated a long list of his legal responsibilities as her guardian, some of them directly preventing her chances for improvement. Judge Greer has ignored all of them.

In February, Florida's Department of Children and Families presented Judge Greer with a 34-page document listing charges of neglect, abuse, and exploitation of Terri by her husband, with a request for 60 days to fully investigate the charges. Judge Greer, soon to remove Terri's feeding tube for the third time, rejected the 60-day extension. (The media have ignored these charges, and much of what follows in this article.)

Michael Schiavo, who says he loves and continues to be devoted to Terri, has provided no therapy or rehabilitation for his wife (the legal one) since 1993. He did have her tested for a time, but stopped all testing in 1993. He insists she once told him she didn't want to survive by artificial means, but he didn't mention her alleged wishes for years after her brain damage, while saying he would care for her for the rest of his life.

Terri Schiavo has never had an MRI or a PET scan, nor a thorough neurological examination. Republican Senate leader Bill Frist, a specialist in heart-lung transplant surgery, has, as The New York Times reported on March 23, "certified [in his practice] that patients were brain dead so that their organs could be transplanted." He is not just "playing doctor" on this case.

During a speech on the Senate floor on March 17, Frist, speaking of Judge Greer's denial of a request for new testing and examinations of Terri, said reasonably, "I would think you would want a complete neurological exam" before determining she must die.

Frist added: "The attorneys for Terri's parents have submitted 33 affidavits from doctors and other medical professionals,all of whom say that Terri should be re-evaluated."

In death penalty cases, defense counsel for retarded and otherwise mentally disabled clients submit extensive medical tests. Ignoring the absence of complete neurological exams, supporters of the deadly decisions by Judge Greer and the trail of appellate jurists keep reminding us how extensive the litigation in this case has been—19 judges in six courts is the mantra. And more have been added. So too in many death penalty cases, but increasingly, close to execution, inmates have been saved by DNA.

As David Gibbs, the lawyer for Terri's parents, has pointed out, there has been a manifest need for a new federal, Fourteenth Amendment review of the case because Terri's death sentence has been based on seven years of "fatally flawed" state court findings—all based on the invincible neglect of elementary due process by Judge George Greer.

There's more, and while I know everyone's tired of reading about the Schiavo case, seeing Nat Hentoff accused of "wingnuttery" -- by the same people who've just honored Kim du Toit with this breathtakingly ingenious exercise in academic wit -- made me feel obliged.

MORE: John Hawkins' Schiavo FAQ is well worth reading too.

UPDATE (03/31/05): While it's probably too late to write an update that few will see, I feel obligated to make an exception here, because just as I realized that I'd forgotten to credit Glenn Reynolds for that link to Right Wing News's Schiavo FAQ, I read this:

...[T]he entire "libertarian" culture []... is astutely ignoring the actual facts of Terri's case, preferring to argue peripheral issues instead. InstaPundit happens to embody that culture to a tee, unfortunately.

(Once again, link via Glenn Reynolds.)


I guess that mean that I am not part of the "libertarian" "culture" -- because I haven't ignored the facts.

Has Glenn Reynolds?

I must ask: why would the "fact-ignoring" Glenn Reynolds bother with the RightWingNews link?

(I guess I should point out that one of the reasons I read InstaPundit is because I prefer facts to labels.)

FINAL NOTE: Considering that apparently sane people are still defending Randall Terry, this quote is well worth remembering:

"Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good.... If a Christian voted for Clinton, he sinned against God. It's that simple.... Our goal is a Christian Nation... we have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want Pluralism. We want theocracy. Theocracy means God rules. I've got a hot flash. God rules."

[Randall Terry, Head of Operation Rescue, from The News Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Aug 15, 1993]

If this raging loony tune isn't a theocrat, then who is?

posted by Eric at 08:59 AM | Comments (2)

Enemies of sexual freedom strike again!

Via InstaPundit, I see more confirmation of what I've been warning about for some time: war on gay conservatives [and non-conforming gays generally].

Thanks to the efforts of two noted practitioners of a form of stalking they euphemistically call "outing," GayPatriot (who started his blog to oppose such tactics) has quit blogging -- apparently to save his job. (Fortunately, the blog is being continued by GayPatriotWest.)

Getting someone fired is the lowest form of sleazy backstabbing I can think of. Going after someone's job is analogous to robbery, because it takes away someone's living. If anything should be a crime, it's that.

From what I can determine, GayPatriot's crime was to call these tactics a form of terrorism. If someone makes enough trouble that you lose your job, it might not be terrorism in the legal sense, but is it terrorism in the moral sense?

Let's see how my dictionary defines "terrorist" . . .

terrorist: 1. One who favors or practices terrorism; one who administers or coerces a government or community by intimidation.....

Webster's New International Dictionary (Second Ed., 1958)

Without getting into the question of favoring terrorism, I think it's fair to ask whether threatening to have someone fired constitutes intimidation.

There's a lot of it going around.

There'll be a lot more too.

UPDATE (03/29/05): Michael Demmons had this email exchange with Gay Patriot:

According to GayPatriot, whom I had an email exchange with following Rogers’ pseudopsychopathic episode, here’s what happened:

He had somehow found out who I am and called my employer. He terrorized my secretary and threatened to call the police, FBI and sue my company as well as threatened a nationwide boycott of my company’s products. My secretary was scared to death and was shaking in fear.
If a terrorist is one who terrorizes, the Mike Rogers is one of them. That’s his job - to make gay conservatives so fearful of being outed that they will do anything he asks. Mike Rogers called GayPatriot’s employer because of a blog posting. If Rogers was actually concerned about his own safety - a ludicrous claim - he would have made his first call to the police. That wasn’t his concern though. His concern was intimidation, and what better way to intimidate someone into silence than to go through the trouble of finding out his employer’s name, and then start making harrassing, theatening phone calls.

You spend your life terrorizing and intimidating people into doing what you want, and you wonder why someone calls you a terrorist?

Mike Rogers is a petty man, and I am glad to see how much he is being called out by some of the larger blogs for this act of complete immaturity.

Trying to get someone fired for his opinions crosses a line which should never be crossed. I'm glad to see people speaking up, as this sort of thing shouldn't have to be tolerated anywhere.

posted by Eric at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

Compromise at last! Confidential gay marriage!

Did gay marriage exist while Ronald Reagan was governor of California?

Boi from Troy, citing the Sacramento Bee, says yes:

In May of [1972], a brief item appeared in The Sacramento Bee, saying that three lesbian couples would share in a "holy union" ceremony at the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church, which today has more than 300 churches worldwide.

What the story, and a follow-up, didn't say was that one of the couples wanted the union registered with the state, said then Rev. Joseph H. Gilbert, who has since retired.

So Gilbert went to the Sacramento County clerk's office and asked for a confidential marriage license, which can be issued only to couples who are living together as husband and wife at the time they apply. As Gilbert recalls, a man in the back "looked up and smiled at me and tore off three forms," instead of just one.

"That's when I knew he'd read the article. He knew what I was doing," said Gilbert, who filled it out accurately and returned it after the ceremony, no questions asked. He believes it was filed, though confidential licenses cannot be viewed by the public without a court order...

When the Rev. Freda Smith took over the Sacramento congregation in 1972, she took out confidential licenses for at least a dozen gay couples in the 1970s - again, without challenge...

The rhetoric then sounded pretty much like it does today. In declaring that marriage must be between a man and a woman only, Nestande was quoted as saying that that definition is "the essence of Western civilization."...

But Sacramento gay activist Jerry Sloan believes that revealing this page in California history could be politically potent. "I don't know why any of these couples haven't come forward already," he said. "If they have been married the last 30 years, California hasn't slid off into the ocean."

And, with more than 3,000 gay couples married in San Francisco - a number growing daily - Western civilization still appears intact.

California is the only state which allows "confidential marriages" -- an anachronism dating from the 1800s:
The idea behind this is to provide a way for people who have been living together to be married without the embarrassment of admitting in public that they were not really married in the first place.
The confidential marriage statute requires that the couple be "living together as man and wife."

I guess that's a matter of interpretation.

The devil is always in the details.

posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (2)

Stumped by stubborn Barbarian stubble

I hate to talk about personal issues, but just this once I'll make an exception, and weigh in on the great razor debate now rocking the blogosphere.

I'm with Michael Demmons:

....if you use a blade, stick with it. Here’s why. Men, in general, always had smoother skin when they became older because they shaved with a blade. What do you need when you shave with a blade? You need cream. Where does that cream go? On your face, obviously. What’s in the cream? Moisturizers. Since men have largely stopped using blades, they’re now as wrinkled up as old ladies are, when they never were in the old dayes!!
I'm not a Metrosexual type, so I'd never buy or use a "moisturizer." But I've used both electric and blade razors, and I prefer the blade. Here's why. Electric razors pull on the stubble, and I have a very heavy beard. In my opinion, the hacking and pulling toughens the stubble, making each stump grow wider over time. Plus, the rotary blades wear out, but very slowly, so you really can't tell exactly when it's time to buy news ones. (They aren't cheap, either!) I also suspect that the constant stress on the little hair stumps cause them to recede underneath the skin, which creates painful ingrown hair infections. Like zits except with a decaying stump festering in the middle. (Yuck!) This condition used to plague me regularly when I used the Norelco, but since I've switched to the blade it hasn't happened at all.

As to the blade, I love the Gillette Mach 3 (or the previous Mach 2), with the triple blade. I almost never cut myself shaving because the three blades add the kind of stability you'd never get with a single blade. I admit, the styling of these razors gets a little ridiculous. Almost scifi, like a rocket ship about to blast off.

But my view about heavy beards finds confirmation:

Tom Nardone:

Type of Use: A very thick, fast growing beard. I've had really bad luck with electrics because my beard is too thick. Using an electric made me look like I forgot to shave. Before the Mach 3 I was using an Atra. I never switched to the razors that flexed to "match the contours of your face" because they seemed a little to unrealistic to me.

Actually, some people very much enjoy the "forgot to shave" look. Much as I hate to politicize this otherwise non-political post, I should point out that the best way to maintain the Yasser Arafat look is not to use a razor at all, but one of these.

I've tried the stubble look, as well as the bearded look, but I'm enough of a barbarian as it is without needing to look like one.

UPDATE: More on the Mach 3 Turbo, along with a complaint that it does not, um, vibrate like the power version:

And oh how it vibrates. The folks at Gillette truly have taken it to the next level with this little honey. The three blades trim your whiskers as effortlessly as an opposing quarterback slicing and dicing the Vikings secondary, while the vibrating handle creates the sensation of a gentle massage. Shaving really doesn't get much better.
Wow. I never thought anyone could actually like shaving.

MORE: In the general spirit of this blog, it's probably worth a reminder that the civilized ancients believed in shaving the face -- and more.

The Romans also disapproved of pubic hair; young girls began removing it as soon as the first hair appeared. They used tweezers, which they called the "volsella". They also had a kind of depilatory cream, the "philotrum" or "dropax", sometimes made with bryonia, the forerunners of the current depilatory creams. Waxing was also a way of depilating; this was done with resin or pitch. And the practice of pubic hair removal wasn't unique to Rome. It was practiced in even the most remote parts of the empire. Julius Caesar (101-44 BC) writes that, "The Britons shave every part of their body except their head and upper lip." It is reported that Poppaea, wife of the Roman Emperor Nero, used depilatory creams to remove unwanted body hair daily. The latest available creams included some wonderful ingredients, like resin, pitch, white vine or ivy gum extract, ass's fat, she-goat's gall, bat's blood, and powdered viper.
I think I'll stick with my Mach 3.

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

Slicing It Fine

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Dr. Schaub: The cloning of human beings would be the triumph of the Machiavellian project to conquer fortune and bring everything within the power of human choice and calculation...It shows how human dignity is bound up with the lottery of nature and how the ground of human dignity could be imperiled by an attempt to extend human controls over the human essence.
In talking of the complexity and difficulty of the bioethical enterprise, chairman Kass was, perhaps, being diplomatic...Nonetheless, and with considerable trepidation, I feel I must take issue with the statement.
The trepidation arises because Mr. Kass was my teacher at Chicago and because I believe the nation-at-large is now blessed in having him as their teacher...
Of my teacher, I would like to ask, is it either incorrect or misleading or unhealthful to see the dispute over cloning as of a peace with the slavery crisis and the abortion debate? And, further, if the example of Lincoln is pertinent, then does talk of moral complexity and the intertwinededness of good and evil and the intractability of the issues make it harder to identify evil as evil and more likely that we will end up in "Brave New World?" where despotism masquerades as a conception of the good?
Dr. Kass: Let me say one thing. Diana, I don't know what to say to you. I mean, it's one of those wonderful moments where, if I might return a compliment, Leo Strauss' famous remark that one should always teach as if there were a silent student in the class that was one's superior in heart and in mind.
I won't finish the thought, but it's perfectly clear, Diana, it was, I don't really know how to answer you...

December 9, 2003

Dr. Kass:We want to perform better in the activities of life. But do we want to accomplish this by becoming mere creatures of our chemists or by turning ourselves into bionic tools designed to win and achieve in inhuman ways?...We want longer lives. But do we want it at the cost of living carelessly or shallowly with diminished aspiration for living well...
Dr. Schaub: In the course of deepening our understanding of our own desires and of the goods we seek, the report leads us to doubt whether the sorts of biotechnologies that are likely to be developed will really satisfy us, despite the fact that they're being offered to us as answering certain deeply felt and widely shared human desires and aspirations.
Dr. Lawler: I now have to say what I hope you already know. The case I just gave for conscious, biotechnological mood control only makes sense to those who really believe that we do or will be able to completely understand human consciousness or the human soul. So it doesn’t make much sense to me. And I think this penetrating report would be even more powerful if it were more consistently confident that the mood control project is finally mission impossible-in fact, finally nuts...
Our futile biotechnological pursuit of happy souls will erode still further our experiences of continuity, permanence, love, and friendship- our genuine connections with the world and the human beings around us-that really do moderate our genuinely human experiences of homelessness in this world...So all honor to and God bless Leon Kass for getting government to venture a bit into thinking about the soul.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Dr. Kass: Two additional members are joining the council...Peter Lawler, a distinguished political philosopher and student of American government...
Diana Schaub, a young political scientist and also a student of literature, has written insightfully about the attitudes of the young and the old, a perspective crucial to understanding the way society will confront its aging demographics.
Both are known among their colleagues for their openness to discourse and their devotion to public deliberation and democratic decision-making.
Their personal views on the matters to come before the council in the coming term are completely unknown, but I am confident that they will come to them only as a result of genuine reflection and a full consideration of all the scientific and other evidence.

UPDATE: My former personal secretary reminds me that mere quotations are pallid things compared to a vigorous commentary thereon. I had hoped to let the words speak for themselves, but I am urged to spice things up a bit. Here goes.

The question I'm attempting to illuminate is simply this. Does "His Nibs" ever stretch the truth in what he doubtless perceives to be a good cause? Looks like a big fat yes to me...

Their personal views on the matters to come before the council in the coming term are completely unknown...

After reading the rather fulsome praise (and yet more florid opinion) oozing about the stage at these events, peals of wild laughter would seem to be the most appropriate response. But wait, it gets better. According to the Slate article I linked to above,

The ruckus over changes in the composition of the President's Council on Bioethics has its roots in a White House meeting that occurred on July 9, 2001. It was during this meeting that President Bush began to formulate his policy on stem-cell research...
Mr. Bush had asked Dr. Kass to bring along someone who had a different viewpoint from his own. He thought Dr. Callahan would have a different view, but as it turned out he too disliked the idea of destroying embryos and had a position similar to Dr. Kass. This apparently made a big impression on Mr. Bush.

As well it should. This would be the same Daniel Callahan who memorably said,

There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death.

Thanks for thinking of us, Dan. As the Slate article notes,

Callahan was a Democrat and former editor of the liberal magazine Commonweal, but it stretches credulity to suggest Kass had no inkling that Callahan, a longtime friend and colleague, would have views on stem cells that were similar to his own.

If memory serves me correctly, Daniel Callahan is singled out in the forward of "Toward A More Natural Science", originally published in 1985, as being tremendously helpful during the exploration and elaboration of the ideas in the book. Long walks, long talks, that sort of thing. I'll post the line in its entirety when I get the chance. Here's more from Slate.

Kass was asked by his commander-in-chief to present a true debate. Even if Kass honestly didn't know that Callahan would agree with him, it was negligent of him not to find out....The story of the Great Non-Debate goes a long way toward explaining why journalists are unwilling to cut Kass much slack now that his intellectual honesty is being called into question once again.

UPDATE: Here we are. From the preface, pages xii and xiii…

The author of this volume is by rearing a moralist, by education a generalist, by training a physician and a biochemist, by vocation a teacher—and student—of philosophical texts, and by choice a lover of serious conversation, who thinks best by sharing thoughts and speeches with another.

And how. Move it along sir, people are waiting.

Such a fellow incurs many debts—especially regarding a book written over fifteen years—which at this juncture he wishes gratefully to acknowledge.

Right. A list of names worthy of an Academy Award Acceptance Speech follows, for the most part thankfully omitted here, but among whom we find (envelope, please), Dan Callahan…

Dan Callahan and Will Gaylin and my other colleagues at the Hastings Center have provided a warm and lively collegiality and steady invitations to develop and present my own thinking

So by the time of the Great Non-Debate they had known each other for, what, fifteen or sixteen years at the very least? It can be hard to get to know a man in just sixteen years, regardless of the warmth of his collegiality. But still, an accurate surmise or two wouldn’t seem totally unreasonable. Seems unlikely that it was a blind date.

posted by Justin at 06:30 PM

Going To Mass

Great news from Randall Parker. The Germans are now officially fatter than Americans...

The International Obesity Task Force estimated that Finland, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Malta have exceeded the United States figure of 67% for overweight or obese males.

Good news indeed. As a "Person of Weight" myself, I feel no guilt in indulging my schadenfreude (a German word, you know) at the expense of the Deutsche Volk. And how delightful to discover that there is such a thing as an "International Obesity Task Force." I envision it steaming into San Francisco Bay, laden with low-carb snacks.

"O brave new world, That has such people in't!"

posted by Justin at 04:01 PM | Comments (2)

Rambling Disconnected Thoughts

Ray Radlein at Science Fiction Blog made a cogent point regarding Diana Schaub. He refers to her use of Star Trek as a springboard to wisdom… may well wonder about the qualifications of Professor Schaub, who is neither an Ethicist nor a Biologist, to sit on the President's Council on Bioethics. Well, thanks to the Sun, we can now rest easy, secure in the knowledge that she has turned for guidance to two impeccable sources of wisdom: Abraham Lincoln and Star Trek.
She did keep her two influences separate, however, so we don't have to worry that she was talking about "The Savage Curtain," at least. Because basing national policy on the results of a battle between Good and Evil staged by a powerful lava creature would just be silly, wouldn't it? Plus, it's a third season episode — one of the very last, in fact — and we all know what that means.

I know exactly what he means. The rest of the blog is also worth checking out. Just be careful where you click. As he illustrates in this post, some artwork can be mentally scarring.

Just as a for instance, how about this giant robot vagina laser cannon? It may not be work safe, but it certainly does open one up to new cultural perspectives. What would Captain Kirk do?

For a yet more venturesome, um, venture, try this Severus Snape/ Witch-King of Angmar slashfic. Not for the easily offended, it features explicit adult (though still hilarious) content. Actually, hilarity is sometimes hard to gauge, so maybe this won’t be your cuppa. Caveat emptor.

...Yet the ring was quite a lovely thing, beckoning with a deceptively wholesome golden light, although Severus had no doubt the black stone had the depth hidden within it to contain a stolen soul, and he wondered what the hell he was doing accepting anything from a personage that resembled in any way an unusually charismatic Dementor...And before he knew it, it was on his finger. Had he put it on?...He couldn't remember... And he looked up at the proud creature that was now glowing with a pale funguslike light--square jawed and skeletal, handsome somehow and yet fell and unclean, cold as bones and yet somehow heating a hidden flicker of monstrous desire within him, and it was smirking, and intent, and unfastening his robes...

While others stand lamenting the decline in the arts, vigorous new forms sprout up amidst the crannies…

Changing course (and not a moment too soon), I must confess to feeling just a smidge of contrition at taking Diana Schaub to task the other day. Further research shows her to be as nice a person as could reasonably be hoped for, with a very endearing love for her dogs

The 8-year-old Portuguese water dog jumped into a rowboat on Montague Lake, shook the water from her curly coat and soaked her co-owner, Diana Schaub.[Cute picture in article] Instead of scolding Dill, Schaub wrapped her arms around the black dog and cheered.Dill had just earned her "courier water dog excellent" certification at the first Southern Splash Water Trials, hosted by the Movers & Shakers Portuguese Water Dog Club of the Carolinas. Her brother Fennel -- who completed the same trial Saturday -- also belongs to Schaub and Lauren Weiner, both of Baltimore, Md.

…As well as having friends who have leapt to her defense (nice graphic!), which is also a good sign.

Anyone who champions American Staffordshire Terriers, these days, has at least a little good in them. Alas, her politics as a whole are not so agreeable to me. I think that her “embryo research equals abortion and slavery” analogy is severely flawed. Flawed, hell, it’s just plain wrongheaded, and will get people killed to boot. And that bothers me.

A friend once asked me, “Why do you let these people irritate you so much? They don’t have any real power. They’re not going to win.”

Of course I agreed. I had to; my own words were being thrown back at me. Don’t you hate it when that happens? In the long run, I’m confident their agenda will not prevail. In a century or two, people will look back in wonder and shake their heads. But that’s the long run. It’s the short run that worries me. During the next few years, real damage could still be inflicted. That’s why I keep ranting about it.

Say there’s a disease that kills 100,000 people a year. If a therapy can eventually be developed that saves just ten percent of those people, it would be a good thing, right? If someone manages to drag out and delay that development by as little as five years, that’s 50,000 people needlessly dead.

I’m intentionally choosing conservative numbers here. My personal belief is that many more are at risk, and you can find some quite interesting numbers along those lines. Are the people responsible for that five year delay morally responsible for those deaths? Opinions vary, but depending on the exact circumstances I would be inclined to say yes.

It’s not quite as simple as not donating to the tsunami relief fund. I wouldn’t blame anyone for that. What I would blame them for is trying to enact legislation banning the relief fund outright, all over the world, forever, when donors are clamoring to give.

Some say let’s take our time. Let’s think it through in advance. What’s the harm in that? Medicine has always been slow to adopt new techniques. It’s an inevitable part of the process. Just look at poor Semmelweis.

I would reply yes, I know. It’s already far too slow. If anything, that increases the sense of urgency. Do we really want to pile yet another layer of gluey, obstructionist bureaucracy atop the glacially slow mess we already have? Do we really want an ultimately ineffectual moratorium putting the brakes on a promising avenue of research? Well, some of us do and some of us don’t. And we may never talk our way to a compromise. Look at the level of discourse we’d be up against…

Cloning is an evil; and cloning for the purpose of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion...Is it either incorrect or misleading or unhelpful to see the dispute over cloning as of a piece with the slavery crisis and the abortion debate? And further, if the example of Lincoln is pertinent, then does talk of moral complexity and the intertwinedness of good and evil and the intractability of the issues make it harder to identify evil as evil and more likely that we will end up in Brave New World, where despotism masquerades as a conception of the good?

If various parties deliberately attempt to shut down embryonic stem cell research, those parties should at least be willing to acknowledge the possible human cost. Mostly, they don’t. Instead, they paint rosy pictures of adult stem cell research picking up the slack. That’s all we really need, they say, that embryonic stuff is just mad scientists running a con game. Not so fast, please.

Various reputable scientists have repeatedly, publicly (and truthfully) said that we need to study both kinds of stem cells. Both kinds. The research paths are mutually reinforcing and illuminating. To say that one or the other is unnecessary is something we simply don’t know at this point. We simply don’t know.

My personal preference is that we do whatever it takes (ethically, of course) to speed things along. If you have a particular problem with the sanctity of first month embryos there is very little I can do to ease your conscience. I don’t feel that way myself, nor do many other Americans. We just don’t see the problem. If I order a sturgeon fillet and my waiter brings me a shot glass full of caviar, have I been well served? No. That is not a sturgeon fillet on my plate. If I contested the matter with my waiter, I don’t think he could simply pour a jigger of milt in, and say “Now it is!”

"A seed is not a tree."

Of course, less controversial techniques will eventually come along. But it’s hard to predict when. At a wild guess…later than we would like. We should be using what tools we have now, all of them, to the best of our abilities. But we aren’t. As Reason, over at “Fight Aging!” has pointed out time and again, there is a chilling effect on investment at work here. Private companies don’t want to spend dumpsters full of cash and then have their work declared illegal. It’s only prudence on their part to hang back a bit, waiting for a more settled legal situation. And as I’ve already said, a delay finding cures will end up costing lives.

It aggravates me that so many people profess to find death ennobling. It's how we cope with death that's ennobling, not the death itself. The fear that people would do nothing worthwhile without that constant spur of mortality urging them on strikes me as foolish gloomy hearsay. There are plenty of other spurs to get people up and moving. Love and lust. Poverty and peer pressure. Curiosity. Showing off. Mercy. We might find people building more cathedrals, not fewer, if they had a chance to see their projects all the way through.

For a fact, I have known many old people still in good health to be resistant to new endeavors. They tell me that they don’t have enough time left to make it worth their while. It’s sad. Then too, many younger people stick it out with a dead end job, or even a lucrative trade that they hate, because they feel that they have “come too far to turn back”. They have commitments, and can’t afford the time and money it would take to re-skill. Or so I hear. How conducive to creativity and human flourishing is that? I would change all that, if I could. Others are more conservative.

Daniel Moore wants to defend our humanity, to keep us human, surely a laudable goal. But on closer inspection, how exactly does one go about such a thing? What real world actions do you have to take to “keep man man”? If all you are talking about is “friendly persuasion,” then we really don’t need a government program. We already have the first amendment. Talk away, and good luck to you! But what if you actually wanted to be effective? You would need to take steps.

A more muscular policy might look a lot like arresting or heavily fining scientists and doctors for illicit research (as defined by legislators and advocated by some bioethicists). You would also want to maintain a comprehensive real-time database of who is doing what in the research community. Government monitors might need no-knock warrants on request, along with wiretaps and computer surveillance.

Since customers would be willingly complicit in such activities, to be truly effective, penalties would probably need to extend down to the end-user level. So defending our humanity would also look a lot like arresting people for trying to purchase life-extending therapies for themselves or their families. Suppressing enhancement technologies might require much the same tactics. The end result of these policies would be to force such people to use offshore providers.

Interestingly, our farsighted congress is way ahead of such miscreants. If memory serves, Sam Brownback has been trying to pass a law forbidding American citizens from using embryonic stem cell therapy abroad. Uncle Sam takes an interest in his citizen’s doings wherever they may be. I can’t imagine that this is what Daniel has in mind, but if he is serious about getting the job done, I don’t see anything less being effective.

If you’re not willing to accept a police state, you should probably be more accepting of change. Incarceration is even more aggravating than a “national conversation”.

Do we really need this “national conversation”? What’s the point, anyway? Schaub and Kass can make up stories about how bad things will be. Someone like me can make up stories about how good things will be. In the worst case, they could tell each other such stories for years on end, talking past each other, never achieving anything solid or meaningful.

People could, I suppose, continue to live their short diseased lives, dying young, waiting for a consensus that never arrives, and for what? At the end of that time we would still have reached no firm conclusions. We would have no facts. Just opinions. Great bales of opinions, neatly typed and attractively bound. The only way to be sure, to really know, is to run the experiment.

...the perception of endless time or of time without bound in fact has the possibility of undermining the degree to which we take time seriously and make it count...And so the question would there some connection between the limits that we face and the desire for greatness that comes from recognition that we are only here for a short time?...If you push those limits back, if those limits become out of sight, we are not inclined to build cathedrals or write the B Minor Mass, or write Shakespeare's sonnets and things of that sort...

So we make the leap from "has the possibility" and "is there some connection?" to "we are not inclined to" within a couple of brief paragraphs. Certitude on the half-shell, rising like Aphrodite from the foam of airy disquisition. Saltation indeed.

So we'll stop building cathedrals? Stop writing great music, great poetry? What if the simple act of living longer does in fact rob us of something ineffable and precious?

Here's a fair question. What if it doesn't?

posted by Justin at 02:56 PM | Comments (3)


No time for an egg hunt!

posted by Eric at 12:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

Objectifying the Objectionable

I had just finished reading about the valiant efforts of one courageous man to spread the word about the evils of Fox News Channel (whilst turning a profit, natch), and I thought, 'bully for him! Children might see that rot and get all sorts of bad notions about having opinions. The ignorant masses must be sheltered from ideas! They're not equipped to distinguish the good from the bad!.' Remote controls are too danged complicated, and when the V-Chip just isn't enough, well now there's the Fox Blocker.

Then I read this piece about the madness of Bobby Fischer upon his departure from Japan:

After nine months of captivity and bitter legal struggle the former world chess champion flew to freedom in Iceland, spraying his vitriol far and wide. Japanese politicians, he declared, were “gangsters”. The US was “Jew-controlled”. “This was not an arrest,” he said, in the few minutes that he was audible to reporters between his arrival at Narita airport in Tokyo and his departure for Reykjavik. “It was a kidnapping cooked up by Bush and (the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro) Koizumi. They are war criminals and should be hanged.”

To underline his point, he unzipped his trousers as he approached the airport, and made as if to urinate on the wall. This is the man who on the night of September 11, 2001, applauded the attacks on the United States as “wonderful news”, expressing the hope that Americans as a consequence “will imprison the Jews, they will execute several hundred thousand of them at least”.

Isn't it clear that we need to stop playing chess? NOW?!?? Slap that bishop from Billy's hand before it's too late!

posted by Dennis at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)

A Sincere Belated Birthday

The Instapundit reminds us that yesterday was Norman Borlaug’s birthday. Happy returns! In honor of the occasion we’re going to the Classical Values Archives and pulling out an old tribute…

Borlaug recalls, "We were to help Mexico solve its own food problems. In other words, alongside our own work we were to train local scientists and ease them into our jobs. Moreover, we were to be neither consultants nor advisors, but working scientists getting our hands and boots dirty, and demonstrating by our own field results what could be done."
...But in the process Borlaug had to fight some aspects of Mexican culture, in particular the conviction that scientists were above hand labor or getting dirty. He was told by one of his colleagues in the early days, "Dr. Borlaug, we don't do these things in Mexico. That's why we have peons. All you've got to do is draw up the plans and take them to the foreman and let them do it."
Borlaug lost his temper (it wasn't the last time). He yelled back "That's why the farmers disrespect you. If you don't know how to do something yourself, how can you possibly advise them? If the peons give you false information, you wouldn't even know. No, this has to change. Until we master our own efforts, we will go nowhere in this project."

You can read the whole thing here. Dr Borlaug is a man who fully deserves the honors he has earned.

Real good for real people. We need many more like him.

Have a Happy Easter.

posted by Justin at 10:14 PM

Who has a lock on death?

Bill Quick's post (via InstaPundit) about whether libertarianism might find a better home in the Democratic Party prompted an initial outburst from me:

The problem with the Democratic Party is that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee in 2008, and I can't support someone with far worse baggage than John Kerry's 1971 flirtations with North Vietnam or lies about Cambodia. The crass sale of pardons to rich criminals, and (worse yet) the pardons of terrorists, happened in 2000, and it was all swept under the rug. She is unfit to be president, yet I see no alternative on the Democratic horizon.

Other than this stubborn problem, you have a good point overall. The Republican Party is more hostile to libertarians than ever, and I guess I could switch parties again -- as if anyone cared.

But now that I've had a chance to think it over, I'm more confused than ever. Maybe I can blog my way out of this confusion; maybe not.

The fact is, the socialist, antiwar, left wing of the Democratic Party has held power in a sort of stranglehold (a deathlock, if you will), since 1972. People speculate about a new generation taking over, that the Democrats are willing to change their position in order to win, but the fact remains that the ideologues and activists are the ones who make things work.

This is also true in the Republican Party. Religious activists tend to be the only reliable people -- the ones who staff the phone lines, man the tables, show up at every committee meeting and platform discussion, etc. While they might not have the actual, castable, votes it takes to win an election, it takes them to win anyway, because as a practical matter where is a candidate going to find people who don't just say they'll show up, but who actually will?

The same applies to activists on the left, and of course this is why the parties tend to be dominated by ideological extremists whose views are not in the mainstream.

Saving for now the issue of which side has more of a deathlock on its particular party, what matters in elections is not who does the behind-the-scenes gruntwork, but public perception. I think that in general, left wing activists do a far better job of cleaning up their public image than do their religious counterparts. This is because socialism (particularly its more extreme forms) is not palatable to the majority of free people, and the activists, not being stupid, know this. Religious activists hail from a very different space. Their goal is not merely power, but evangelism, salvation. This, in my view, prevents a conspiratorial mindset from taking hold in the same way.

And overall, I think it makes the latter less dangerous politically.

I have only to read the last post (and its link to a typical example of the left wing mindset) to remind myself of how the left succeeds in imposing its views at the local level. They are far more relentless, far more organized, and far more successful than religious conservatives. They're willing to sell their principles down river at the drop of a hat in order to win. But this "selling out" is always strategic -- for appearances' sake -- and meaningless once they hold power.

There's not much selling out going on among religious conservatives. It's just not their style. So, let us assume for the sake of this discussion that religious conservatives have the GOP in a deathlock, and the McGovern socialist antiwar left have the Democratic Party in a deathlock.

Long term, I'd say it means the antiwar left wins, provided they change their color scheme. As to which party is more amenable to change from within, it boils down to degrees of entrenchment. The religious conservatives have not held the Republican Party in a deathlock for nearly as long, and there's still debate over whether they do now.

But I see a troubling -- perhaps the most troubling -- tendency in the Republican Party.

If history shows one thing, it's that when enough people want something to happen, it will happen. People can want things to happen for some very strange and divergent reasons, too. I think that the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 will be facilitated by three groups of people:

  • Her natural constituency, including not only the left wing activists, but the much larger groups of ordinary Democratic voters and liberals generally. (I don't think this requires much discussion.)
  • The hardline religious right, who (discussed infra) would prefer an unpopular left wing president to a Republican not to their liking.
  • Conservatives who, while they do not want her elected (and who would vote against her), would nonetheless enable her candidacy under the delusion that a hardline leftist candidate would assist a Republican victory. This might make them less willing to compromise, and more willing to rationalize supporting a hard right moral conservative -- under the delusion that having a "far left" candidate would ensure victory even for a hard right moral conservative.
  • This last group would be making a terrible miscalculation, of the sort which comes from taking power for granted. Assuming that Hillary will be perceived as "far left" -- and therefore as a license for religious conservatism run amok -- is exactly what HRC is counting on, and I think it will work.

    Returning to my initial question, I'm still not sure which party is more amenable to libertarianism. Left wing activists seem more "tolerant" of libertarianism than ever before, and I think they're delighted to see a war breaking out between libertarians and moral conservatives. But in the long run, which party is more likely to really consult libertarians and take their views seriously? A party of antiwar socialists promising all things to all comers? Or a party wracked (should I say "racked"?) by fractious internal debate?

    I may be mistaken, but I think a bitter internal debate is a better indicator of being taken seriously than official "tolerance" and the usual condescension.

    Putting aside the war, libertarians not only are not socialists, but libertarians hate socialism. Socialists do not like people who hate socialism. They only pretend to.

    For what it's worth, I'm still registered Republican, and although I've changed parties three times in the last five years, I don't see much point in it. I don't feel especially welcome in either party, but I did learn that opposition to socialism in the Democratic Party is a dead-end. In the Republican Party, there still exists solid, legitimate opposition to socialism.

    They need to remember that it's not "socialism or death."

    Socialism is death.


    (Above picture originally expropriated from Samizdata.)

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

    Imagine 101

    Here's a tidbit from the Berkeley Daily Planet:

    Berkeley High Teach-In Targets War and Military Recruitment

    Special to the Planet (03-25-05)

    The military recruitment budget is $3 billion annually; 90 percent of the people killed in war are civilian noncombatants; 91 percent of Berkeley High students believe the war in Iraq is wrong and illegal; 65 percent of veterans never get their education benefits; 33 percent of homeless men are veterans….

    It was more than these factoids splashed across the screen in the school auditorium and the anti-war rap pulsating in the background that kept the Berkeley High students riveted to their seats Wednesday. It was the real life lesson in war, taught by some who touched battle up close and by others who escaped it that kept the teens’ attention.

    The idea of the anti-war teach-in—four different presentations given to four groups of about 300 students—was hatched by students studying social justice and social action in CAS, Berkeley High’s Communication Arts and Sciences school. The project was guided by CAS teacher Joanna Sapir.

    The first presenter, Aidan Delgado, a 23-year-old conscientious objector, brought the war home to the audience, which sometimes gasped in shock, other times tittered with discomfort, as they viewed images depicting the graphic reality of war they had never seen on the evening news.

    Delgado was 19, just a bit older than the students he was addressing, when he signed the Army Reserve contract that changed his life. The son of a diplomat who grew up in Egypt and other countries abroad, he said he did not go into the service for college money—his family was paying his way—but because he wanted a change in his life. He thought he’d join the reserves and put on a uniform a couple of days each month.

    Soon after the war began in March 2003, Delgado’s unit was deployed to Iraq. “I got to Iraq and felt totally unprepared,” he said.

    He told the students that he had always been opposed to war intellectually, but in Iraq he began to understand the meaning of pacifism and began studying Buddhism. After three months, he told his commanding officer that he wanted to apply for conscientious objector status. The process took two years and he was honorably discharged in January.

    Delgado said he was upset by many things he observed in Iraq. On various occasions he would see a group of civilians walking and U.S. soldiers would tell them to stop. “They didn’t understand. (The soldiers) would shoot them down,” he said.

    Delgado knows Arabic and was able to communicate with the people. For most of the soldiers, though, “every Iraqi was an enemy,” he said.

    They would call them “Hajjis,” (normally a reference to those who have made the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca), using the term to denigrate them. He saw a fellow soldier whip children who had annoyed him with a Humvee antenna. He would watch soldiers break bottles over the head of Iraqis as they drove by.

    His unit spent six months working at Abu Ghraib, where prisoners were punished with the removal of their tents and blankets during the cold months. Once when the prisoners rebelled and started throwing stones, the guards responded by shooting several of them dead and wounding others.

    Delgado showed the Berkeley High students pictures of dead children, and of soldiers degrading corpses. “That’s the reality of war,” he said. “This is what you have to think about.”

    Nine percent of the kids not only support the war but actually dare to say so?


    Maybe there's hope after all.

    posted by Eric at 11:40 PM

    Our inner child -- breathlessly revealed!
    Every time these people open their mouths, they reveal their inner rot, a kind of moral halitosis.

    -- So says A man named Justin (not our Justin).

    Every time?

    These people?

    I must protest the above remarks! While ostensibly directed at Glenn Reynolds (and Tim Blair), there's a clear implication that InstaPundit belittled the name "Dennis" as inferior to "Justin." Furthermore, there's an implied assertion that some pen names are more equal than others:

    One could go on in this vein: would you rather read a book by Ayn Rand -- or by Alice Rosenbaum? Charles Lutwidge Dodgson -- or "Lewis Carroll"? I see nothing wrong with the name Eric Blair, but for reasons of his own the man we know now as George Orwell shed his old name and assumed a new, more adult, more authentic identity. What of it?

    To attack a writer because he has a pen-name is akin to accusing him of all sorts of other non-crimes: yes, writers like to change their names. They also like spending inordinate amounts of time alone, sitting at a desk. Odd, but true. So shoot me.

    Oddly enough, I agree, and I said as much in this post.

    Was Glenn Reynolds's remark really an "attack" on a pen name, or on the inferiority of one name to another? Let's examine this, by testing the hypothesis on familiar people.

    As most readers know, Classical Values has:

  • 1. a blogger named Dennis; and
  • 2. another blogger named Justin.
  • When Glenn Reynolds (subject of the above tirade) said that the name "Dennis" "doesn't have quite the same ring," was Dennis offended?


    And did Justin take it as a compliment in any way, shape or form?

    Of course not!

    In fact, Glenn Reynolds was -- and is -- right!

    Dennis does not have the same ring as Justin. This I swear on all the Bibles in the world.

    Some people are overly sensitive about names, but around here, we know how to take a joke!

    If we are accused of moral halitosis, well, we'll be grateful that we weren't accused of immoral halitosis! (Or the non-metaphorical variety, like stale cigarette breath.)

    The Other Justin also hints darkly that Tim Blair and Glenn Reynolds might have it in for him -- along the lines of a Logan's Run scenario.

    Well I'm 50 -- and as most of you know I'm not allowed to reveal anything about Justin (a scifi fan who had to educate me about Logan's Run....). But he carelessly left a loophole (might have been drinking, I suppose) which I am about to exploit shamelessly, as soon as I turn on my scanner.

    It's a picture of Justin!


    Our very own Mr. Let's Pretend himself!

    I'm not allowed to say how old he is, but some of the sharper analysts out there might be able to hazard a guess......

    And in light of the photo games which have been going on, no, you may not link to it, copy it, or even look at it!

    Avert your eyes now!

    UPDATE (03/29/05): According to Tom Palmer, the Other Justin may have more of a sense of humor than previously thought. Unless I am reading things incorrectly, he complains that the following accurate quotation from his colleague constitutes a "smear":

    I will stand up proudly for it. I have cheered on men attacking US troops. I will continue to cheer any defeat US troops meet.
    After complaining that the quote is a smear, the Other Justin defends it:
    ....having denied that he has cheered on the killings of American troops and Iraqi police and soldiers, Mr. Raimondo admits it in his blog post by defending....the killing of U.S. soldiers.
    I am reminded of a person in authority I knew (but will not name) who used to make outrageous statements, following which he'd say,
    But don't you dare quote me, because I'll say you're crazy! And who do you think they'll believe! You or me?
    Once again, everyone, avert your eyes now!

    posted by Eric at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

    How About A Game Of "Let's Pretend"?

    I see that Diana Schaub’s frank admission of her Trekish philosophical influences has been winning mindshare across the blogosphere.

    The show has "left me receptive to the view that mortality is, if not precisely a good thing, then at least the necessary foundation of other very good things," she wrote in an article last year. "There is something misguided about the attempt to overcome mortality."

    All to the good, I say. And clearly, Ms. Schaub has the sort of impish humor that delights in mild naughtiness, motivating her to season her rich scholarly gravy drippings with the occasional spicy infusion of purest rat-madness. Or so I surmise.

    Before someone starts citing statistics about the number of dog bites per year (and the breeds most involved), let me say that, yes, the number of reported dog bites has greatly risen over the last 30 years. My hunch is that feminism is largely responsible.

    Among the chatterati, as in the blogosphere, a memorable quote can be life’s breath itself. Certainly her dead-tree book hasn’t been doing so well. I refer to “Erotic Liberalism: Women and Revolution in Montesquieu’s Persian Letters”. Well gosh, what was she thinking? Am I alone in thinking a better title might have helped? Truth be told, the contents don’t exactly grab me either. But still…

    Now, if she had written “Jim Kirk’s Hidden Loves: A New Fanfic Perspective” she could have tapped into the Trekkers and quintupled her sales. At the very least! Better yet, she should go after the Harry Potter fans. They’re young and impressionable and have disposable income. Too bad that Meilaender guy already has a lock on the Narnia market

    Aslan sends Digory on a journey beyond the borders of Narnia, into the Western Wild...Digory is to “pluck an apple” and bring it back to Aslan, who intends to use it to plant the Tree of Protection that will keep Narnia safe from the evil witch Jadis for many years.
    Digory finds the garden and the tree, picks an apple, and puts it in his pocket. The sweet smell of the fruit is so ravishing that he is tempted to take it for himself...a far more powerful temptation then faces him. Jadis has come to the garden...Why, she asks, take the apple of youth to the lion Aslan? Why not eat it himself and live forever?...Why not take the apple for his mother?
    Use your Magic and go back to your own world. A minute later you can be at your Mother’s bedside, giving her the fruit. Five minutes later you will see the color coming back to her face. She will tell you the pain is gone...Next day everyone will be saying how wonderfully she has recovered. Soon she will be quite well again. All will be well again. Your home will be happy again.
    Digory gasps, realizing that “the most terrible choice lay before him.” Aslan’s instructions had been clear...And Digory must choose what sort of person he will be, whether the meaning of “compassion” is governed by any other moral goods. He resists, returns with the apple, and hears Aslan’s “Well Done.”

    In my book, Mr. Meilaender can go pound sand, but perhaps I am doing Ms. Schaub an injustice. When read in context, her giddy insights actually make sense, a little. And she likes Pit Bulls! It’s distinctly unfair of me to clip out her “funny bits” and leave the rest hanging. Well, our motto here at Classical Values (for today only) is “Fairness…Up To A Point”. Let’s look at the larger Schaub, the Schaub most people don’t know.

    So, to anyone interested in these issues, I strongly recommend Star Trek, the original series, of course, not any of the second-rate might expect that the show would be gung-ho for the conquest of nature, including pushing the envelope of our human nature. In fact, however, episodes of Star Trek repeatedly confirm the needfulness of human limitations...
    Many episodes of the show dealt with issues of mortality and immortality. Let me mention just two, an episode entitled "Miri" (a name intentionally reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Miranda who delivers the famous line "O brave new world that has such people in’t!") and an episode entitled "Requiem for Methuselah"...In the first episode...the crew happens upon the results of a Life Prolongation Project that went disastrously awry...All the adults on the planet are dead...The planet is populated entirely by children, who are hundreds of years old...As a result of the Life Prolongation Project, they age one month for every one hundred years of real time, until reaching puberty at which point the virus causes them to age rapidly and horribly.
    The show raises some important considerations...Perhaps most fascinatingly, the episode is premised on the connection between mortality and fertility-a connection highlighted by the Council’s report. Apparently, in the research conducted thus far, the most common side-effect of age retardation is sterility or reduced fertility. It seems as if, in pursuing an ageless body, the balance between the individual and the species is altered. When we choose vastly longer life for the individual, the propagation of the species is sacrificed...In a sense, the virus is the internal truth of their project, for the virus makes impossible the succession of the generations. Fertility brings with it an immediate sentence of death...Without any power of regeneration, this society of perennial youngsters is slowly dying. "Miri," for whom the episode is named, is a girl on the cusp of adolescence, fearful of growing up, but also drawn to the adult world and especially Captain Kirk with whom she falls in love. Fittingly, it is her love for him that eventually allows the crew to intervene and reverse the effects of the Life Prolongation Project.
    The other episode, "Requiem for Methusaleh," examines another sort of immortality, lest we think that perpetual maturity would be better than perpetual youth. The Enterprise encounters Flint, a 6000 year old man...He was born in 3834 BC, inexplicably endowed with the capacity for instant tissue regeneration. He has lived a thousand different lives...Over the centuries, he has amassed wealth and knowledge. And yet, he is now as cold and unyielding as his name, Flint. He is quite prepared to kill the whole crew of the Enterprise in order to protect his privacy...His longevity has rendered him misanthropic...In the end, Flint learns that in leaving Earth’s atmosphere, his immortality has been compromised. From now on he will live out a natural lifespan. This knowledge of his mortality immediately improves his character, as he resolves to devote the remainder of his now precious days to helping his fellow man.
    My years watching Star Trek have left me receptive to the view that mortality is, if not precisely a good thing, then at least the necessary foundation of other very good things, and that there is something misguided about the attempt to overcome mortality. Still, one can’t help but wonder "what if…?"...We are told in Genesis that the earliest generations of men, through Noah, had lifespans closer to a millenium than a century. We also know that things ended rather badly for them. While Star Trek’s "Methuselah" reforms, the Biblical Methuselah was done away with in the Flood. Would greater longevity for modern man result in the same incorrigibility?...Antediluvian man was unfamiliar with death. Perhaps our sense of mortality is sufficiently well-established to allow us to delay the actual blow...if time still presses us, won’t the salutary human responses to death perdure?

    Okay, maybe it doesn’t make sense after all. But full props for using "perdure" correctly in a sentence. At least two points leap out at me immediately.

    Point one. She is not being faithful to her sources. When she says “not the later, second-rate shows” she’s trying to stack the deck. While she doesn’t take it to the same wretched excess as Jeremy “I am a cherry picker” Rifkin, she does choose her examples rather carefully. I wonder where she learned to do that? Let’s not go invoking “science fiction” as our star witness without invoking all of it. A brief cross-examination would seem to be in order.

    Point two. She attributes archetypal wisdom to popular entertainment. This is by far the more serious mistake. I love science fiction, always have, and I agree that at its best it can provide unique insights and new perspectives. But I never lose sight of the fact that it’s not real. It’s fiction, and I read it for fun. I would be embarrassed to stand up in front of an audience and cite “To Live Forever” as a source of philosophical inspiration. Ditto “Brave New World”. And as for “Star Trek”? Please, just shoot me.

    Perhaps this confusion of art with life is a characteristic endemic to bioethicists as a group. Remember Meilander and Narnia. And Mr. L.R. Kass of Chicago writes as though in some ill-lit cranny of his classics-loving brain, he considers “Brave New World “ to be a real place. Hey Leon! Gilbert! They’re just made up stories!

    At least Art Kaplan has his head screwed on straight, which I suppose invalidates the entire hypothesis. Damn.

    Since today’s theme is “Let’s Pretend” let’s tackle the sillier, shallower point first.
    Ms. Schaub manages to disregard much countervailing evidence from the very people that she claims inspired her. Note that I use the more accurate term “people”. Not “Science Fiction”, not “Speculative Fiction”, not even” The Jungian Collective Unconscious”. People. Science fiction is people. If you don’t believe me, just ask Charlton Heston.

    Science fiction in its entirety is a wildly various assemblage of often contradictory notions, written by individuals, expressing their individual opinions (and sometimes not even that). Remaining ever mindful of these facts, let’s see what her “original sources” have to say. Hey, if it works for Atlantis Studies it should work here, right?

    Take Leonard McCoy. As a matter of “fact” he lived to be at least 137. And the specious old series/new series dichotomy doesn’t even apply in this instance. The “fact” came from Gene Roddenberry himself, not Berman or Braga. Perhaps we should take "Miri" as a wash, nullified by Roddenberry's vision of the ancient McCoy.

    Take a look at “The Deadly Years”. Subjected to a lethal “fast-forward” agent, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and company experience decades of aging in mere days. The earthmen are reduced to doddering wrecks in short order. Spock, with his Vulcan biology, fares far better, acquiring a touch of gray at the temples and a reduced tolerance for cold. Though he’s in fine shape for “any Vulcan on the high side of a hundred”, he finds his mild cognitive deficits objectionable. You might argue that Spock isn’t a human being, but you would be wrong both “factually” and morally. In the limited, technical sense of the word, he was half human, born of a human mother. If “Dolly was a sheep,” then Spock was a man.

    In the larger sense, Spock was an intelligent being in a galaxy of many such, and thus fully deserving of “personhood” regardless of his genetic heritage. His father Sarek, a full-blooded Vulcan, looked to be about 45 years old when he was 103 (“Journey to Babel”). Now, Sarek is generally acknowledged by most Star Trek fans to be an accomplished and moral character. He is admirable. And it would surely be a clumsy stretch to say something like “It is in the nature of Vulcans to live for 200 years. What is right for them is not right for humans.” Star Trek was always about breaking down barriers. Hey, if you can marry a human babe and father a human baby, I think you’re as human as you need to be. In Roddenberry’s universe, the Vulcans are much longer lived than humans but not thereby less admirable. Of course, they did need to loosen up a bit.

    What about “Requiem For Methuselah”? I’m glad you asked. It was written by Jerome Bixby. So when you turn to Star Trek for ethical insight, in this particular instance you are turning to Mr. Bixby, a not bad screenwriter with a not unimpressive body of work. Some of you may remember the Twilight Zone episode with Anthony and the cornfield. Terrific wasn’t it? He wrote that.

    That is, he wrote the short story it was based on, which is available here, absolutely free. If you’ve only ever seen the televised version by all means check out the original. It’s really quite good.

    Anthony looked across the lawn at the grocery man--a bright, wet, purple gaze. He didn't say anything. Bill Soames tried to smile at him. After a second Anthony returned his attention to the rat. It had already devoured its tail, or at least chewed it off--for Anthony had made it bite faster than it could swallow, and little pink and red furry pieces lay around it on the green grass. Now the rat was having trouble reaching its hindquarters

    Now, I don’t want to disparage Jerome Bixby’s contribution to civilization. Far from it. To my mind it’s been way more positive than Diana Schaub’s, and is likely to remain so. But I am very dubious that his opinion on these matters is any more relevant to the questions at hand than those of Irwin Allen, or Robert Heinlein. Or for that matter, Lois McMaster Bujold, whose books and opinions I recommend highly to Ms. Schaub, particularly “Memory” and “Komarr”. Please, revel in their Regency Romance lushness, all the while enjoying her frequently biology driven sub-plots. Sample some of her quotable quotes here.

    This one is a particular favorite of mine…

    Experience suggests it doesn't matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive.

    Here’s another…

    His mother had often said, When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action.

    But enough with the Bujold plug, let’s get back to the wisdom of Star Trek. A point that should be remembered is that we don’t really have Jerome Bixby’s opinions. What he truly thought about any of these matters is an open question. He was a writer, and a good one, practicing his craft in Hollywood, the land of make believe. But for matters such as these, he’s just another citizen. I’d like to think he would be amused. The same can be said for Adrian Spies, who wrote "Miri".

    This ties in nicely with my second point. Most people aren’t going to look to Star Trek for life-defining wisdom. Nor should they. Who in their right mind would turn to ANY part of Hollywood for advice on living the Good Life? Try to imagine such a world, or worlds. “Dallas-world,” or the “Dynasty-verse”. The mind reels…

    Should popular fiction inform our ethical deliberations? I’m pretty sure that it would be ill advised. Better to stick with the Iliad and the Bible, though in this case not by much.

    Does Star Trek argue against extended human life? The honest answer would surely have to be…yes and no.

    A small irritating point remains, the rhetorical abuse of Dr. McCoy’s nickname.

    "Star Trek" episodes repeatedly confirm the needfulness of human limitations and, indeed, revel in the self-imposed acceptance of those imitations. Interestingly, this attitude is embodied most in the ship's chief medical officer, Doctor McCoy, whose nickname is "Bones," a nickname that forcibly reminds us of the limitations of the medical art: The bodies doctors attend upon will die.

    Nonsense. Nobody called him “Bones” to provide 21st century bioethicists with a poetic talking point. I always figured “Bones” was a contraction of “Sawbones”, an old slang term for a surgeon. Nineteenth century military men and twentieth century railroad men used it, to give just a couple of examples. Pretty simple, really. How can our distinguished Professora not know that? Clearly, more research is called for. It can begin here, with these pictures of nineteenth century medical equipment. Feast your eyes. Imagine yourself looking at that as a potential patient. We’ve come a ways, no doubt, but we can still do better.

    Time to throttle back a bit, and start wrapping up. I’ll close with a pet peeve.

    Some bioethicist/philosophers are irredeemably committed to endless talk. They see far, far too much in terms of complex symbolism, which represents the deeper, less accessible truths they crave. And then they want to tell you about it. Hand them a saltshaker and they see eternity. Ask for more wine and they’re off on Arthurian Grail Lore…

    It can be maddening, this special way of thinking, and apparently not just for us. Reportedly, Leon Kass has had dreams (nightmares?) of embryos. And they talk to him. They ask him “How are you going to help me today?” I am not making this up. Take a vacation, doctor. Go somewhere tropical. Catch up on your bird watching.

    For him, the invisible world is expanding into his outer reality. Not a good sign. Meanwhile, vaporous ruminations of little or no intrinsic merit are solemnly presented as deep excursions into the true nature of life and man.

    He’s not alone in that scary place. Here is one of Ms. Schaub’s contributions to the genre.

    On the cover of Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics is the image of a fingerprint. It’s an inspired choice, for the fingerprint, as the Council’s Chairman, Leon Kass, explains in the Foreword, “has rich biological and moral significance.” The fingerprint is at once emblematic of our common humanity and our individual uniqueness... As Kass points out, fingerprints are the marks left by our grasp on things—a grasp that is sometimes illicit. This is why the police know as much about fingerprints as scientists do. And it is why the decisions to be made about cloning are properly political decisions. It belongs to citizens and legislators to police the bounds of the human grasp...Let me suggest another metaphoric image that comes to mind while reading the Report: not the fingerprint but the navel, and especially the exercise referred to as “contemplating your navel.”

    Fingerprints. Bellybuttons. These people could find equal significance in just about anything. Color me unimpressed. I could say much the same things about a bookcase, with equally little meaning. In fact, just for the hell of it I think I will…

    The vertical members betoken the male, upright societal principles, providing overall structure and a firmly clasping support to the horizontal female elements, or shelves. Encouched upon these uplifting yet supportive planes of well-finished wood (a material itself starkly revealing of the organic and therefore ultimately transient nature of humanly acquired knowledge and its origins) we find the ontological reasons for this embodied integral unity, the books themselves. Yet I am not sure of these books. I just don’t know if they (if such can be said to constitute a they) can be said to articulate a reason in and of themselves. Nestled warm and snug (much like eggs in a nurturing ovary, themselves symbols rich with meaning) upon their shelves, they are revealed as deeper symbols of humanity, or more accurately, humanity’s focused volition, or more accurately yet, of volition itself, which leads me to a sober meditation upon why I didn’t just say that to begin with.

    It’s a gift. I can spin this stuff out by the yard, without even thinking about it, which is perhaps why I hold it in such low esteem. Want another? Sure you do. Just give me a minute here…

    The mystery of the vacuum bottle is concealed within a smoothly reflective shell, giving nothing to the outside observer by giving back everything. Concealed within this cool paradox is the yet more paradoxical core of hot dark nutriment. Former life pressed into the service of current life, death enabling growth, it waits decently hidden, behind a curtain-wall of mirrored glass, which is itself encircled and protected by an aegis of tough sheet metal, perhaps with a decorative plaid pattern. Such a pattern harkens back to older days and ways, when pastoral peoples wove their own garments and slaughtered their own provender, thus remaining mindful of nature’s given order. When one reflects upon the ancient Greek root word (one need merely think of Thermopylae, the “Hot Gates”, where the oiled and glistening youths of Sparta formed a muscular, nude bulwark against swathed Persian aggressors) one sees the rooted wisdom of the inventors. They named their contrivance for the essential quality of that which is carried within it. Therm. Thermo. Thermos. There is a satisfying fittingness to it. And yet, a thermos can also keep things cool…

    It won’t make you the life of the party, but there it is. We don’t get to choose our gifts. However, we do get to choose whether or not to work on them. Remember, it all sounds much better after you’ve had a few. None of which addresses the main question. Am I in the wrong line of work? Perhaps I, too, could be a bioethicist…

    posted by Justin at 02:12 AM | Comments (3)

    Think about it while you still can . . .

    As someone who still remembers the Karen Ann Quinlan case, I feel obligated to address a troubling moral issue which seems to have gotten its foot in the door as a result of the Terri Schiavo debate.

    Bear in mind that I think the removal of the feeding tube was wrong based on the totality of the circumstances as I see them. But that does not mean that I would want a feeding tube under similar circumstances, or that I think there's anything morally wrong about refusing a feeding tube.

    Others disagree, and their support for Terri Schiavo is not limited to persons in her position, but if I am reading them correctly, they maintain there is no right of anyone, anywhere, to remove -- or refuse -- a feeding tube:

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Removing the feeding tube from Terri Schindler Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman, or other patients in a similar condition amounts to "direct euthanasia," a "cruel way of killing someone," said the Vatican's top bioethicist. (Emphasis added.)
    Unless I am mistaken, this means that had Terri Schiavo's parents and Michael Schiavo been agreed on the removal of the feeding tube, then (from at least this particular religious viewpoint) they would have been committing "euthanasia."

    Does this mean that a decision not to insert a feeding tube is also "euthanasia"?

    If so, then there are a lot of people committing euthanasia without knowing it.

    Years ago, I accompanied my father on his medical rounds, and I remember one senile patient who had no idea what was going on. Dull eyes, repeating things that made no sense, no idea where she was, the whole thing.

    My father remarked to me, "Eric, if she was a dog we'd take her out and shoot her."

    Not that he supported euthanasia; he was just remarking on the irony to a small boy (who happened to be both horrified and intrigued).

    The irony in the Schiavo case is that if you had a dog in the same position and let it starve, people would say you were being cruel.

    On that point, at least, everyone seems to agree.

    No one would treat a dog the way Terri Schiavo is being treated.

    From there the debate gets fuzzy. I can't settle these issues for other people, and if I've learned anything from this case, it's the importance of making your wishes known clearly, specifically, and in writing -- before the time comes when it won't be possible to communicate them. People think it could never happen. I think it could never happen. It's the nature of life. Yet just a few weeks ago I stopped for a red light and BLAM! I was rearended -- really hard. Had it been an 18 wheeler instead of a van, I could have been killed -- or put in Terri Schiavo's position.

    And who would take my case? It would be a bit arrogant for other people to say that if I was mostly brainless, and unable to communicate or eat, that I'd have a "challenge to overcome," because there'd be no me there. I wouldn't be capable of wanting tubes to keep the physical body hydrated or fed, or not wanting them.

    But a point which must be acknowledged is that some people would want the tubes. Most of us would not have wanted to live like Christopher Reeve. Yet few of us would deny that shutting off his respirator would have been murder.

    These aren't easy issues, and I don't have easy answers. But it strikes me that they are personal decisions -- which must be made personally.

    Are there people out there (perhaps readers of this blog) who don't think I have the right to refuse a feeding tube? Why? Is my personal business theirs? Again, why?

    Perhaps I am worrying over nothing. As one conservative blogger puts it,

    This is also not a "right to die" case, as the media are calling it. That Terri has a right to refuse a feeding tube is not in question. What is in question is what happens when one person is making that decision for another, and when there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that the guardian and even the doctors are acting in bad faith.
    That Terri has a right to refuse a feeding tube is not in question?

    I hope it isn't. And I don't think religion could settle it one way or another; there's even a religious right to refuse treatment:

    In addition to the Cruzan federal case, there have been 30 state-court decisions affirming the right to disconnect feeding tubes alone, said Arthur Caplan, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Ironically, the issue began in the 1950s when Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to reject medication, he said. "The right to say no to treatment comes from religious reasons."

    Some would say there's a duty to say yes -- which also comes from religious reasons.

    But if religion isn't personal, what is?

    UPDATE: (10:30 a.m.) The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the Schindlers' appeal.

    MORE: William F. Buckley Jr. weighs in on the value of "Nazi" hyperbole in some of the arguments by Terri Schiavo's supporters:

    It was unseemly for critics to compare her end with that of victims of the Nazi regime. There was never a more industrious inquiry, than in the Schiavo case, into the matter of rights formal and inchoate. It is simply wrong, whatever is felt about the eventual abandonment of her by her husband, to use the killing language. She was kept alive for fifteen years, underwent a hundred medical ministrations, all of them in service of an abstraction, which was that she wanted to stay alive. There are laws against force-feeding, and no one will know whether, if she had had the means to convey her will in the matter, she too would have said, Enough.
    I am not Jewish, but had I lost relatives at Auschwitz, I'd likely be offended by the Nazi analogy.

    Some of this may be a product of the phenomenon known as "preaching to the choir." Unfortunately, one man's "choir" may be another man's mob. When I studied Rhetoric, I was taught that one of the most critical aspects to the science of persuasion was understanding the nature of the audience. A speech which might persuade a group of law professors might fall flat with a group of truck drivers -- or vice versa.

    With blogging, the audience tends to be a mystery.

    (Maddening, of course....)

    AND MORE: Such hyperbole is not limited to the right. Here's a Daily Kos commenter who believes that anyone discussing the Schiavo case is an insane drug addict:

    Almost all Americans are TV addicts, and this plague is destroying our nation. This week you will hear the hordes of these drug-induced insanity-suffering addicts talking about a brain dead woman name Terri Schiavo and her personal family matters, which affect none of us in any way. Realize, anyone you hear taking time to discuss this case is a drug addict, has allowed the media to control their brain to talk about something that affects them in no way; absolute mind control. When you hear the talk, realize, they are very, very sick and in need of help.

    To help them out, don't respond with any input to the story - to do that is to be a part of the problem. Instead, trying asking them if they know that on Friday, $1 billion dollars was cut from police funding, community hunger programs were completely eliminated, numerous education programs were slashed, and firefighter funding was slashed, while another $134 million in tax cuts was passed in the middle of a war and record deficits. And then just walk away, knowing there is no helping addicts until they can see the problem themselves - and by not participating in their insanity but, instead, helping to point out how insane they are being, you have taken an important step in reclaiming our nation from the drug-induced malaise it is in.

    I hardly watch television at all -- which means I must be merely insane.

    CORRECTION: While the above was posted at Daily Kos, the author, one Thomas J. Bico, is not the Daily Kos commenter, but a Google-approved official journalist who writes for an outfit called the Moderate Independent.

    Which makes him an expert on drug addiction and insanity.*

    *Among other things, Mr. Bico (who happens to be the Moderate Independent's "editor-in-chief") has diagnosed Alan Greenspan as suffering from "psychotic schizophrenia." (No wonder the Kos-o-philes like him.)

    Why blog? Isn't it easier to just be a Google news site?

    UPDATE: More on Google in the the previous post. Why be a blogger when you can just call yourself a news site?

    FEEDING TUBE UPDATE (03/29/05): Are Living Wills going to be subjected to new attacks? In today's Philadelphia Inquirer there's a story of a terminally ill man whose living will specifically stated that he did not want a feeding tube, but whose wife wants to insert one:

    Mariann Judith Clunk of Hatboro filed suit against her father's doctors and health-care facilities last week when she learned that her mother had asked for a feeding tube. His living will clearly says he did not want one, Clunk said.

    Her father, John P. King Jr., 72, a patient at the Delaware Valley Veterans Home in Philadelphia, signed an advance health-care declaration in 1998 stating that if he were "in a terminal condition or in a state of permanent unconsciousness" he would "not want tube feeding or any other artificial invasive form of nutrition (food) or hydration (water)."

    Judge David W. Heckler may issue an order in the case today.

    John King named his wife, Ann King of Philadelphia, as his surrogate to make health-care decisions for him in the event that he could not.

    Ann King did not attend the hearing in Doylestown yesterday, and did not send an attorney to represent her. Attorneys for the doctors called no witnesses.

    Clunk and the two doctors named as defendants all testified that John King was at the end stages of Alzheimer's disease and was no longer able to function.

    Clunk, who is an operating room nurse at Fox Chase Cancer Center, told the court that her father could no longer walk, feed himself, or control his bladder or bowels. She said his speech had been reduced to "almost nothing."

    Clunk said the question of inserting a feeding tube had come up in conversations with her mother several times throughout the nine years of her father's illness.

    "Dad said that he didn't want this," Clunk said. "I was told that this wasn't my decision."

    Gregory J. Lynch, medical director of the Delaware Valley Veterans' Home and a defendant in the case, testified that John King is at the end stages of Alzheimer's disease and "totally dependent on others."

    Lynch called Ann King "a devoted wife" who "was very faithful to him and doted over him."

    In meetings with doctors about her husband's disease, Ann King refused to discuss the life expectancy of end-stage Alzheimer's patients, Lynch said. "When we approached this with Mrs. King, she was not interested, and asked us to put our papers away," he said.

    Lynch said he did not understand why Ann King wanted doctors to use a feeding tube against her husband's wishes.

    Howard Bronstein, John King's family physician, testified that he "has an incurable, irrevocable medical condition" and probably has less than a year to live. He said it concerned him that Ann King was asking doctors for medical treatments that her husband specifically said he did not want.

    "I thought that he had clearly laid out the circumstances by which he wanted to die," Bronstein said.

    I haven't read the Living Will, and I don't know to what extent the wife might have power to overrule the language in it. But once again, this shows that families can disagree even when things look quite clear. I don't see why politics should enter into these things, though. (Silly me.)

    posted by Eric at 08:20 AM | Comments (3)

    Are you as shocked as Google?
    What if I don't see my favorite news source in Google News?

    We're as shocked as you are! If we're missing a publisher that we should be covering, please send us your ideas. While we can't guarantee that we'll heed your recommendation, but we do promise to review all the suggestions we receive without regard to political viewpoint or ideology.

    -- Google (replying to a question it asked itself.)

    Speaking of Google, and news sites, there's been a lot of controversy about how it is that Google defines or selects news sites. Charles Johnson reported earlier that Google seems to have no problem with Nazi news sites like National Vanguard, while Roger L. Simon no longer accepts Google advertisements. And in addition to the latest in Nazi news, Jeff Jarvis notes that Google reports highly illuminating stories like this:

    Geologists in the East and West coasts are busy understanding a new theory that shows possible underground UFO bases all around the world....

    According to this theory, the UFO bases need to be deep under the ground because the UFO crafts need to be close to the mantle of the earth. Servicing of these crafts can be done in that electromagnetic environment only.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Well, I have found another official Google news site called "Official Wire," which, at first glance appears legit.

    Until, that is, you notice (sandwiched between obsequious puff pieces about CAIR) the repeated, glowing stories about the exploits of Nazi crackpot Ernst Zundel (partial list shown):

    CAIR conference to tackle Islamophobia, anti-Americanism [03/22/2005]
    Online registration now available for 'unique and timely' DC event

    CAIR applauds denial of Visa to Narendra Modi [03/19/2005]
    U.S. cites Indian official's role in Gujarat massacre

    Is Revisionism in a crisis brought on by Zundel's deportation to Germany? [03/18/2005]

    Muslims reach prayer settlement with Dell [03/18/2005]
    Deal includes reinstatement, back pay and religious accommodation

    Ernst Zundel's first letter from Mannheim jail [03/17/2005]
    Describes journey to Germany and diversity of conditions


    I think most will begin to get the picture. "Official Wire" obviously either has a screw loose or else it's some kind of terrorist front. Unfortunately, I could find very little written about this well-funded outfit. While the following website obviously has its own bias, if what they're saying about baou/Official Wire is true, someone really ought to look into this.

    The JDO Intelligence Division has discovered what in our studied opinion is a Saudi-funded front group that mirrors the sleaziness of the Saudi Royal Family. The Baou Foundation even went as far as procuring women for the Saudis under their subsidiary, now shut down, known as SEX WHEEL. The main propaganda operation, OfficialWire, exists under the guise of a Foundation based in Greece known as the Baou Trust, and in the United States as a bogus charity known as QuakeAid. QuakeAid has been alleged to be involved in fraud, although we see it more a a Saudi money laundering operation, but these people's scuminess knows no limits. CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE TANGLED WEB THAT HAS BEEN WEAVED TO LAUNDER FUNDS FOR WAHABISM AND HAMAS IN THE GUISE OF AN EARTHQUAKE CHARITY, WEB ESCROW FUND, YACHT CLUB, ALBANY RANCH, RESORTS AND ON AND ON IN WINKIPEDIA, A WEBSITE WITH NO CONNECTION TO JDO.
    The QuakeAid link above goes to this Wikipedia post, with more information about "Official Wire."

    Google would have us believe its content decisions are not made by human beings, but by unthinking bots incapable of bias. I'm a bit skeptical -- especially in light of the disclaimer of "bias" -- especially considering Google's track record with the Second Amendment. (Nazis yes! Guns no?)

    And why aren't LGF and InstaPundit considered news sites? Do I have to be a bot in order to feign shock?

    UPDATE: (One link fixed, and another added above.)

    My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post -- and a warm welcome to InstaReaders! Thanks for coming.

    (And if you're shocked, be sure to contact Google!)

    MORE: "OfficialWire" is spelled without any spacing, and the Google News link above was revised accordingly.

    AND MORE: Why isn't considered a news site?

    LAST MINUTE UPDATE: (03/24/05 -- 3:06 p.m.) I know it's late in the InstaLanche to be raising a serious question, but I have one. What is it that makes the "Moderate Independent" site I discussed above a Google "news site" and not a blog? Is it all just a function of labeling? Or is it based on the failure of the site to use MovableType, Blogger or TypePad? I've seen plenty of blogs with similar-sounding names, and which similarly call themselves "angry moderates." I might be one myself. So what makes "Moderate Independent" a news site which prevents a blog from being one?

    Right now I am more stumped than shocked.

    Perhaps I should rebadge this blog as the (ahem) "Classical Values news site."

    posted by Eric at 03:39 PM | Comments (17)

    But whose use is fair?

    In an ominous development with direct implications for the blogosphere, the French news agency Agence France-Presse has sued Google Inc. for alleged copyright infringement, seeking damages for the latter's displaying of "story leads, headlines and graphics" without permission:

    In its U.S. suit, the news service is seeking at least $17.5 million in damages and an injunction against Google to immediately stop the display of the news service's stories on Google News.

    At stake is the way certain news-collection Web sites and search engines can display news content, said lawyer Scott Spooner, who specializes in trademark and copyright law.

    Certain Web logs, or blogs, could be forced to change how they display news stories published by another entity, he said. However, the effect on Web sites depends on how much content they display.

    "It is impossible to cite some bright line use that this is fair use and this crosses the line," Mr. Spooner said.

    AFP says Google News is impeding the market value for its news content because the site is posting the most significant portions of the news stories -- the headlines, leads and photographs -- without paying for it.

    "If you go on Google News, it's like a newspaper," Mr. Kaufman said. "There are news stories and pictures. Google News is not a search engine. Google News is a news aggregator."

    Agence France-Presse, which has bureaus worldwide, including in Washington, charges its customers for access to its news stories and photographs. The news service contends that Google News does not have the right to display the service's headlines, story leads or photographs.

    "When Defendant produces and displays AFP's photographs, headlines and story leads it removes AFP's copyright management information found at the original source," the complaint states.

    AFP also asserts that Google has ignored requests to "cease and desist from infringing its copyrights in its works."

    The news service has not decided whether it will seek actual damages -- the amount of money it thinks it has lost as a result of Google News posting news content -- or statutory damages, which would allow it to seek up to $150,000 for every instance in which the company used AFP's news and graphics unlawfully, Mr. Kaufman said.

    Google may respond by saying its reproduction and display of the news content is a form of fair use, as outlined in the U.S. Copyright Law used to determine whether infringement has occurred, Mr. Spooner said. (Emphasis added.)

    If I am still allowed to comment on this news story, I'll say that I figured it would come to this sooner or later.

    Will the copyright laws swallow what First Amendment remnants McCain-Feingold might leave behind?

    (As to the MSM defending the blogosphere's right to "fair use" of their stories, dream on.)

    posted by Eric at 12:16 PM | Comments (1)

    Some ironies are richer than others!

    Noting the rich irony, Glenn Reynolds links to this report about the inside funding of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform measure:

    Sean Treglia, a former program officer for the liberal Pew Charitable Trusts, claimed credit for co-coordinating a multi-year effort to secure the passage of the political-speech-curtailing McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill.

    Make no mistake: Pew and other liberal foundations successfully avoided any transparency in their financial dealings with propaganda organizations like National Public Radio (NPR) and the American Prospect (a left-wing magazine).

    They've been avoiding a lot of transparency for many years, and I find myself wondering whether the "trustfunder left" guilt discussed by Michael Barone (analyzed infra) might also apply to charities.

    Might the Pew Trust be suffering from precisely the type of irrational leftist guilt Barone identified? If this piece -- "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism" -- is even one tenth accurate, it might explain why the guilt involved would be severe, acute, and chronic:

    The Pew family’s main contribution to the American right has been its funding of a bewildering variety of extreme-right organizations, campaigns and publications. The Pew Charitable Trusts were created between 1948 and 1979 by Joseph N. Pew’s four children. J.H. Pew in particular was a major financier not only of the American Liberty League, and its front organizations in the 1930s, but a seemingly endless slew of ultra-rightring causes since then.
    Seemingly endless slew of ultra-rightwing causes? A long historical list follows, but let's move from the long-dead J. Howard Pew to the present day.

    Here's how the conservative American Policy Center sees it:

    Rimel, a 45 year old ex-nurse, is the president of the financially powerful left wing Pew Charitable Trusts. Once a benevolent charitable foundation of religious conservatives, Rimel has turned the trusts into one of the nation's most active supporters of the degenerate left. She funds programs and organizations that advance the restructuring of the American educational system, radical environmentalism, the obscene projects of the National Endowment for the Arts, and population control. Now she is determined to use civic journalism and Pew's $3.8 billion in assets to force changes in news coverage.
    Looks more and more like the atonement Barone described, I'd say.

    I knew the original Pew family quite well when I was growing up, and they were neither Nazis, nor Communists, nor flaming liberals, nor media manipulators out to undermine the First Amendment. While it is true that J. Howard Pew was an arch conservative, his two sisters were far more moderate. In any case, should the conservative political views of a family member require "atonement"?

    It seems there's a lot of that going on -- and it violates the spirit of donor intent:

    "When the family members who founded the Pew Charitable Trusts were alive, they supported the principles of free markets and limited government," says Wooster.

    According to New York Time’s writer Douglas Jehl, "Pew, which spent $52-million on environmental programs in 2000, with its deep pockets and focus on aggressive political advocacy is not only the most important new player but also the most controversial, among fellow environmentalists and its opponents in industry."

    Wooster concludes, "The sorry record of large foundations in preserving donor intent reinforces the conclusions I made in my book.

    (Here's his not surprisingly out-of-print book.)

    The irony is rich indeed. And I think in this case it comes from a legacy of rich liberal guilt.

    I know that many would disagree with Barone, and argue that the Pew Foundation (and other rich sources of wealth) should atone.

    But what about free speech for the rest of us?

    Should the First Amendment be made to atone for alleged crimes of the rich?

    That's the richest irony of all.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds additionally notes some "preemptive distancing" by a key Pew grantee. Whether of the pre or the post variety, a whole lot of distancing has been going on, for a long time.

    UPDATE: MSM versus the First Amendment?

    1. Campaign Finance Reform -- Blog entries in support of a candidate could be considered political contributions to that candidate. The danger for most bloggers would lie not in contributing more than the legally permissible amount to a candidate, but rather in having to fill out the paperwork necessary to report their "political contributions".

    The MSM, of course, would never permit their editorials in favor of a candidate to be considered political contributions. So to use campaign finance reform against bloggers, courts would have to distinguish between bloggers and the "legitimate" media. Any definition of bloggers will be imprecise, but this won't stop courts because most legal categories already have fuzzy boundaries. To define a blogger, courts could simply use the "I know it when I see it" approach famously employed by Justice Potter Stewart to determine whether something constituted hard-core pornography.

    2. Libel Law -- The MSM used to fight aggressively against any expansion of libel law, but I predict this soon will change. The MSM can handle the burden of defending itself from libel suits much more easily than bloggers can. By increasing the scope of libel law the MSM would impose costs on all journalists which they, but not bloggers, could absorb.

    3. Copyright Law -- Blogs often use information from other sources and, from what I have observed, sometimes flagrantly violate copyright laws. Imagine if Congress increased the complexity and penalties of copyright laws. Non-lawyer bloggers could never be sure what constituted legal fair use of MSM stories and information. Enhanced copyright laws could have a chilling effect on blogging.

    Via InstaPundit, who also links to this tale of (gulp! dare I say it?) "Pewgate." Cold, dead, fingers unite!

    I love the smell of irony in the morning!

    MORE (03/25/05, 10:38 a.m.): Googling the new word "Pewgate" yields eleven web hits, but zero in the "News" category.

    Well, unlike the blogosphere, the realm of official "News" is a gated community.

    Can't blame 'em for wanting to bar the gates.

    posted by Eric at 09:16 AM | Comments (7)

    Analyzing the Blogosphere's Magnetic Resonance . . .

    I always enjoy it when a favorite blog does the Carnival of the Vanities, and this week Code Blue Blog has surpassed my wildest expectations. I don't know how Doctor CBB does it, his kind words about my stamina notwithstanding....

    So many posts! Each one pointedly and intelligently reviewed; it's as if this raiologist (awarded as "The Best Clinical Sciences Weblog") has himself done a total MRI of the blogosphere, and then analyzed the results.

    You owe it to yourselves to read this one.

    And while you're there, be sure to check out CBB's analysis of Terri Schiavo's bone scan.

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

    Money ! Sex ! Work !

    Is it all about guilt?

    A long time ago I personally came to the conclusion that there was no way to live on earth without the stain of guilt, maybe the concept of Original Sin was a rueful recognition of this condition. Yet there is perhaps the chance that one may leave the earth forgiven. But that is another story.

    -- Belmont Club's Wretchard

    Michael Barone has touched on some very important guilt in his analysis of the "trustfunder left":

    Who are the trustfunders? People with enough money not to have to work for a living, or not to have to work very hard. People who can live more or less wherever they want. The "nomadic affluent," as demographic analyst Joel Kotkin calls them.

    These people tend to be very liberal politically. Aware that they have done nothing to earn their money, they feel a certain sense of guilt. At the elite private or public high schools they attend, and even more at their colleges and universities, they are propagandized about the evils of capitalism and globalization, and the virtues of environmentalism and pacifism. Patriotism is equated with Hiterlism.

    Their loyalties, as Samuel Huntington explains in "Who Are We?," are not national, but transnational -- they are citizens of the world with contempt for those who feel chills up their spines when they hear "The Star Spangled Banner." They are taught to have contempt for the economic contribution they make to their country as investors and to feel guilty if they make no other contribution. Their penance is that they must vote left.

    (Via InstaPundit.)

    The problem is that neither the trustfunder left nor those who exploit their guilt with ad hominem insults, ridicule and various shame tactics are being logical.

    These people should be asking whether and precisely why they should feel guilt. Is it because they have money? Or is it that the money was earned by someone else -- in this case, a parent?

    It is natural enough to feel guilty over money which has been stolen or is the result of criminal profits. That is because the money is seen as having an illegal taint, and most people with consciences do not enjoy living on the fruits of crime. While this might be expected to apply to inherited criminal profits, it's a bit different for those lucky enough to be descended from a family of guiltless sociopaths. (Interestingly, most of the children of Mob bosses with whom I've been acquainted lack the guilt which plagues the children of legitimate business people. Might it be because Mob kids are raised in shame, as opposed to guilt cultures?)

    I have also noticed that "old money" types are less likely to feel guilty than the children of the recently self-made. I can't say I know why, but I suspect it has something to do with having had generations to develop protective calluses against such things. I was shocked years ago to hear a sixth generation member of one of Philadelphia's Snottiest Old Families (the types who donate heavily to both parties) jokingly remark, "The rich get richer, and the poor have babies, and we just have to stay ahead of them all!"

    But the self-made, upwardly mobile businessman or professional who has worked himself to the bone does not generally have the time to thinking about doing political end-runs around the latest "isms" to infect the body politic. It's all he can do to send his kids to the best schools. Guys like that naturally tend to think that the system which has been so good to them will continue to do the right thing, and educate their children properly. What a shock to have the kids return for their first Christmas home from college only to denounce their parents' wealth as "evil."

    That's it in a nutshell. The Marxist, zero-sum philosophy is that wealth is simply evil. It is theft. Therefore, if you inherit it, you should feel very guilty.

    But in logic, in order for there to be any real guilt, there has to be something intrinsically bad about wealth. Otherwise, there would be nothing evil about inheriting it, for there is no way that good money can be turned into bad money simply because it is handed from person A to person B.

    This is where our much-vaunted "Puritan work ethic" comes into play. The moral communitarians on the left as well as many of the social conservatives on the right denounce those who do not "work" as bad. Not living up to their alleged "responsibilities." Again, this is no more logical than denouncing people as "bad" for loving a member of the same sex, but it is part of the culture (and it was a major reason "hard-working" Puritans in the North felt morally superior to the "lazy" slaveholders in the South).

    To those who adhere rigidly and unthinkingly to the Puritan work ethic, one must work even if one does not have to work. "Work" is often defined not as self-employment, nor as investment activity, but as working for a regular paycheck. Work is something which is normally not to be enjoyed.

    "Like the rest of the world!"

    Such moralistic, shame-based thinking is judgmental and mistaken, yet it is played to the hilt by ideologues and moral scolds on both sides.

    The result is that many of the trustfunders feel guilty because they do not have to work, and this guilt (whether deserved or not) is steered for a variety of reasons towards leftist political causes. Their enemies become the rest of the people who do work -- and the more successful they are, the more they're hated (the latter in turn often oblige by hating those who don't have to work). Their friends become all others who don't work. This can include other trustfunders, welfare recipients, penniless bohemians, or homeless outcasts psychologically unsuited for work.

    What surprises me is how seldom people stop to think. Is money evil? Is wealth bad? Why is the presence of gainful employment necessarily more virtuous than its absence? For the most part, these are moral judgments made by other people whose goal is to shame, influence, manipulate. Why should money be a source of shame in a free country? If there is nothing shameful about earning money or creating wealth, then it follows that there can be nothing shameful about giving it to another generation. It follows, then, that inheriting money cannot be more "evil" than making it in the first place.

    Furthermore, those designated as heirs (or beneficiaries of trusts) are guilty of nothing more than an accident of birth. At law, they are the "natural objects" of their parents' bounty. In a country operating with a free economy, why should that be a source of shame?

    Trustfunders who haven't thought these things through are lost sheep. I know the breed well. They're ashamed of their wealth and keep it in the closet. They remind me of the guilty homosexuals whose sexuality presents as a sort of deer-in-the-headlights syndrome.

    And if anyone can explain why the presence of money should be any more a source of guilt than the presence of sexuality, I'd like to hear about it.

    Barone concludes:

    The good news for Democrats is that they have found a new source of votes and money. The bad news is that an important part of their core constituency has the characteristic that the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin ascribed to the press, "power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages."
    Power? Hey, whatever happened to sex without responsibility?

    Not that I have anything against responsibility, but the problem is, the members of the trustfunder left have been taught to believe that they are behaving in a responsible manner. But it's all based on bullshit guilt.

    I'd say a dose of irresponsibility (and by that I mean freedom from this externally imposed guilt) would go a long way.

    Trustfunders arise! You have nothing to lose but your ill-gotten guilt!

    posted by Eric at 05:47 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    Oh baby, I want to upload into you!

    Here's one of the weirdest bits of high tech news I've seen in a long time:

    Your body could soon be the backbone of a broadband personal data network linking your mobile phone or MP3 player to a cordless headset, your digital camera to a PC or printer, and all the gadgets you carry around to each other.

    These personal area networks are already possible using radio-based technologies, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or just plain old cables to connect devices. But NTT, the Japanese communications company, has developed a technology called RedTacton, which it claims can send data over the surface of the skin at speeds of up to 2Mbps -- equivalent to a fast broadband data connection.

    Using RedTacton-enabled devices, music from an MP3 player in your pocket would pass through your clothing and shoot over your body to headphones in your ears. Instead of fiddling around with a cable to connect your digital camera to your computer, you could transfer pictures just by touching the PC while the camera is around your neck. And since data can pass from one body to another, you could also exchange electronic business cards by shaking hands, trade music files by dancing cheek to cheek, or swap phone numbers just by kissing.

    NTT is not the first company to use the human body as a conduit for data: IBM pioneered the field in 1996 with a system that could transfer small amounts of data at very low speeds, and last June, Microsoft was granted a patent for "a method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body."

    Cheek to cheek data transfers? How many kilobytes are in a kiss?

    What I want to know is: where are the electronic chaperones?

    posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (3)

    Teach your children where violence comes from . . .

    From the mouths of children in the Red Lake School District, here are the top two "Winning student essays on domestic violence."


    Indians didn’t use violence in the olden days. It is bad. Indians only used violence for hunting and fishing. We can be non-violent by trying to make good choices.

    Sara Seki

    1st Place

    Red Lake Elementary School


    Long ago Indians didn’t use violence in their families. Violence was only used for war, hunting and fishing rights. Men, women and children were treated fairly. We learned violence from the Europeans. We can overcome violence by relearning the traditional ways of life.

    Abby Seki

    2nd Place

    Red Lake Elementary School

    Violence is learned? Does that mean it's someone else's fault? Are "the Europeans" also responsible for the recent shooting incident at the school?

    It's hard to know where to start, but I hate to think that's what they're teaching the kids.

    UPDATE: The shooter, a 17 year old Indian student named Jeff Weise, was initially described as 15 years old. According to this account, he went by the name "NaziNative" and left posts like this:


    Native Pride


    Posts: 34

    Re: What is your heritage?
    « Reply #4 on: Jul 19th, 2004, 1:30pm » Quote Quote Modify Modify
    Both my parents were Native American, though from what I understand I also have a little German, a little Irish, and a little French Canadian in my blood as well.
    IP Logged
    "Obstacles do not exist to be surrendered to, but only to be broken."
    -Adolf Hitler

    As the Nazi website is pulling the posts, I decided to reproduce them here:

    Here's a "philosphical" discussion:

    IP Logged

    Native Pride


    Posts: 34

    Re: Can you name the philosopher?
    « Reply #2 on: Jun 3rd, 2004, 3:58pm » Quote Quote Modify Modify
    on Jun 3rd, 2004, 6:42am, richyrichard wrote:
    He sounds like an injun!

    Anyway, I believe it was Hippocrates who came up with the 4 elements of earth, water, air, and fire and drew many parallels to this.

    Man has his physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects seen as the earth element, water element, air element, and fire element, respectively.

    We eat the properties of the earth, inhale the air into our lungs, drink the water, and bask in the sunlight. Our exterior world is man turned inside out backwards. Man is the environment turned right side in. Sort of like turning a sock inside out and then right side in again. One is the inverted reflection of the other.

    Man IS the environment. As man becomes disorderly, so does his exterior world.

    The subjective world is the world of concepts and principalities, i.e., subjects. The objective world is the world of specifics, form, and substance, i.e., objects.

    Subjectivity, objectivity. Objectivity, subjectivity. The subject is not without the object, and the object is not without the subject. A secret of power: alter the subject, and you alter the object.

    Injun? You mean "Enjun"? Get your racial slurrs right, lol.

    Either way, I too agree with the philosopher... I can't put a name to the words though.
    IP Logged
    "Obstacles do not exist to be surrendered to, but only to be broken."
    -Adolf Hitler

    Interestingly enough, the Green Nazi site to which he posts has been mentioned by at least one commenter in this blog.

    Crazy as the Greenie Weenie Nazis are, I can't blame this shooting on them -- any more than I blame Michael Moore. Jeff Weise is the one I blame.

    UPDATE: Dave Neiwert is blaming people other than Jeff Weise:

    This is an unusual case in that it involves a minority, but that only illustrates the larger point: Hateful far-right philosophies poison many wells, and are clearly capable of crossing boundaries. (Another prime example of this is the African-American hate cult calling itself the United Nuwabian Nation of Moors.)

    Weise's hostility to multiculturalism was well fed by what he could find on the Internet, the bulk of which was produced by white supremacists, including an outfit called, the National Alliance, and Don Black's neo-Nazi Stormfront organization. You remember: the same folks who broke up Jesse Jackson's Florida appearance in support of George W. Bush in 2000.

    Here's a reality check for the mainstream right: right-wing extremism has always been, and always will be, the most vicious proponent of beliefs that destroy the basic fabric of civilization. They worship violence and bigotry and racial and religious hatred. That's as true in the United States as it is in the Middle East.

    When you go looking for threats -- and the people who both associate with and benefit from them -- a good place to start might be the American right's own bloody back yard.

    Weise was obviously deranged. I think it's about as fair to blame what he claimed to hate (Multiculturalism) as what he claimed to love (Nazism).

    But is it really fair to blame the Internet?

    And if we're going to blame the National Alliance, doesn't that mean we have to blame Google?

    posted by Eric at 07:27 AM | Comments (2)

    A Job For Rita Skeeter?

    Over at Bioethics blog, there's a link to a story in Forward (registration required) regarding a controversy which involves, among other things, Orthodox circumcision customs.

    Let repugnance inform your wisdom?

    ...prominent Orthodox rabbi and medical ethicist Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a bioethics expert and Talmud instructor at Yeshiva University, who was criticized by ultra-Orthodox leaders and newspapers after he was quoted in the press as saying that the practice of metzitzah b'peh, or oral suction of the circumcision wound, should be conducted with a sterile tube.
    In many ultra-Orthodox circles, especially within certain Hasidic sects, the ritual is performed by having the mohel suck blood from the wound with his lips directly on the baby's penis.
    Tendler spoke out against the practice following reports last month that a Jewish infant had died of herpes and that several other babies had contracted the virus after being circumcised by mohel Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, who practiced direct oral suction...


    It's hard to know what to say.

    Read the whole thing?

    In another post, bioethicist Art Caplan remarks on Diana Schaub and her love of Star Trek. Said love actually is rather remarkable.

    You may remember that Eric remarked on it some time ago.

    Diana Schaub, a Loyola College professor and adviser to President Bush, is convinced that cloning and embryonic stem cell research are evil. She says this belief was formed, in part, by watching Star Trek.
    The show has "left me receptive to the view that mortality is, if not precisely a good thing, then at least the necessary foundation of other very good things," she wrote in an article last year. "There is something misguided about the attempt to overcome mortality."
    "Cloning is an evil," she wrote in an article published in 2003. "It is slavery, plus abortion."

    I'm glad to see it getting more exposure. I believe that this may be the article referenced above. Though parts of it may have come from here, just as easily. Over to you, Diana...

    Kass suggests there is another difference as well. In the "Foreword," he says that with slavery or despotism, it is easy to identify evil as evil....But in the realm of bioethics, the evils we face (if indeed they are evils) are intertwined with the goods we so keenly seek....with considerable trepidation, I feel I must take issue with the statement. The trepidation arises because Leon Kass was my teacher at the University of Chicago and because I believe the nation at large is now blessed in having him as a teacher.

    Scarlett, we have ourselves an abolitionist.

    Cloning is an evil; and cloning for the purpose of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion.

    It's hard to know what to say.

    posted by Justin at 01:25 AM | Comments (1)

    Bad math, and worse logic

    22 equals 21 equals 20 in nine or eleven days or something like that.

    While I'm still on the subject of the Inky, here's something else I missed:

    Last year there were only 11 days when no one was shot in Philadelphia.

    On average, more than four people a day were struck by bullets. About one in six died. On one day alone - Oct. 22 - 19 people were shot, one fatally.

    It's a toll of injury and death that falls most heavily on the same few neighborhoods year after year: North Philadelphia. West Philadelphia north of Market Street. The southwestern edge of South Philadelphia.

    Police know it. City Hall knows it. The residents of those neighborhoods certainly know it.

    Those same neighborhoods were well-represented again in the last two weeks, as the city experienced another breathtaking spree of violence that saw 22 people killed by guns in 11 days. Among them was 9-year-old Wander DeJesus, who died while sitting in a van.

    Others died after arguments over drugs, women, and even a stolen cell phone. Some were victims of robberies. Half were carrying firearms. Nine of the 22 were young African American men.

    Pretty hard hitting, huh?

    I don't mean to pick nits, and I realize that anyone can make mistakes. But on March 16, I saw this report:

    22 Killings in Nine Days

    Since March 7, 21 people have been killed in Philadelphia. All but two died from gunfire. Three were children.

    The above comes from the chart which follows (I had to scan it, as it's nowhere on the Inquirer's web site):


    The above accompanied a report on Mayor Street's plea to Governor Rendell. Here's the text of an article appearing the next day:

    Mayor Street is seeking a moratorium on gun permits after a run of violence that has left 77 people dead in the city since the beginning of the year - including 22 over nine days. But Pennsylvania law requires Philadelphia to get state authorization before limiting the sale of guns.
    While I have no way to check out each name listed, there's a serious problem staring me in the face, in that two of the "gun" victims -- Kenny and Mimi Dang -- were not shot, but were stabbed to death by their mother. Yet we're told that "two out of three" of the "victims" were children, and the phrase "22 over nine days" keeps reappearing.

    Now I'm told there were "22 people killed by guns in eleven days."

    What am I supposed to believe?

    Just yesterday, another chart prepared by the Inquirer (accompanying this article) appeared in the paper but not online. So once again, my scanner was busy:


    Notice the ominous figure of 50% of the victims being "under 25." I don't know why they chose "under 25", but it's misleading as hell, and I suspect it has something to do with making the facts fit the ongoing meme that "children" are being slaughtered by "guns." Let's take another look at the first scan to see how the numbers stack up against the pie graph in the second scan.

    11 out of -- what's the number? -- 20, 21, 22?

    Let's just for the sake of argument make it 11 out of 20. That's slightly better than 50%. But how many were children?


    Considering that they're devoting half the pie to the demographic group that includes children, it's more than a little disingenuous.

    Imagine what would happen if bloggers had access to all the police data! How many of the "victims" of these "tragedies" were carrying illegal weapons themselves? How many were career criminals? The Inquirer won't say, because they want to drum up public sympathy, and the more innocent they can make the "victims" appear, the better.

    Here's some evidence (in a local blog) that not everyone believes in the innocence of all the victims:

    Posted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 10:11 am Post subject: Reply with quote
    Drugs likely behind killing of Manayunk man, police say

    By Thomas J. Gibbons Jr.

    Inquirer Staff Writer

    Police suspect drugs were the motive in a shooting yesterday that killed a Manayunk man outside his apartment and wounded a 32-year-old woman who was with him.

    Homicide detectives said Sangho Lee, 37, of the 200 block of Cotton Street, was shot once in the stomach about 1:15 a.m. Lee had just descended a flight of steps and was heading for his auto, parked in the street, when he was cut down by gunfire from a passing car.

    The woman was still on the steps when she was shot, detectives said.

    Lee was pronounced dead less than 45 minutes later at Temple University Hospital.

    The woman, whose name was not released because of her witness status, was taken to the same hospital, where she was treated for a minor back wound. She was later brought to police headquarters to be interviewed.

    Police were looking for a 1995 to 1999 Nissan Maxima in connection with the shooting. The auto may have been occupied by two men.

    pug Tastykake Maker

    Joined: 05 Mar 2004
    Posts: 212

    PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 10:31 am Post subject: Reply with quote

    One down and more many to go.

    I disagree with that last comment. I am not so cold-blooded as to say that any of these victims deserved to die, first of all because I believe the drug laws are more responsible for these intractable drug war problems than any other cause. But there is such a thing as an occupational hazard. And in law, there's also such a thing as assumption of the risk. If I decided that I could make better money selling drugs than blogging, and started packing a piece to protect my inventory and enforce my "turf," should I really be called a "victim" if another enforcer working for the competition shot me?

    And even if I would be a victim in the legal sense, would I be the moral equivalent of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq?

    Noting that more people were slain in Philadelphia than U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq over the weekend, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson, District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, and representatives from the police Homicide Division today denounced the carnage.

    "In one week in the city of Philadelphia, we had 42 shootings and 18 homicides. When we have these homicides and these shootings we need people to come forward and assist us," Johnson said.

    From Friday to Sunday, gunfire and stabbings left 11 people dead in the city. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq over the same period.

    I don't have the police statistics, and so I must concede the possibility that many of these victims were fine, upstanding young men who, but for an intervening tragedy, were indistinguishable from American soldiers serving in Iraq.

    But is the recital of that mere possibility persuasive? Here's what the police are willing to say (and the Inquirer is willing to print):

    Police said there have been 71 homicides this year, 9.23 percent more than the 65 recorded last year at this time. Of the homicides this year, 55 were committed by handguns and two by shotguns.

    Arguments, police said, resulted in 29 of the homicides. Three were caused by domestic violence, seven were caused by drugs, one was caused by sexual violence, one was caused by child abuse, nine were caused by street robberies, and two were caused by home robberies. No motives have been determined for 19 of the homicides, police said.

    Plenty of math going on there too!

    But first, what does "caused by" mean? If a burglar invaded my home in the middle of the night and I shot him, would his death be counted in this "shooting epidemic?" Why?

    As to "arguments" as a "cause", that's 29 of the 71 killings. What were these arguments about? Yesterday's Inquirer provided only the barest clue:

    Others died after arguments over drugs, women, and even a stolen cell phone. Some were victims of robberies. Half were carrying firearms. Nine of the 22 were young African American men.
    It's tough to get the numbers, much less make sense out of them.

    Couple enough elastic statistics with the even more elastic idea that the deaths were caused by "arguments," and reasonable analysis is rendered all but impossible. The word "argument" is, I think, deliberately misused, and in a circular manner. To say that an argument "caused" a murder is at least as frivolous as saying that a gun caused it. Do we say that domestic violence is caused by "arguments"? Would we say that a rape was caused by an argument over sex? Or that the deaths in Cambodia's killing fields were caused by Pol Pot's arguments with the bourgeoise? If so, wouldn't the Holocaust also have been "caused" by Hitler's "argument" with the Jews?

    I don't mean to trivialize any of this; in fact, my argument is against trivialization. If some maniac jumped into my car and shot me because I refused to drive him somewhere, I'd hate to have it said that my death was "caused by" an "argument."

    To do so would be cruel and misleading in the extreme. I suspect the idea is to make the shooters and the victims the moral equivalent of each other. No one is right, and no one is wrong (except the guns).

    The whole thing is horrendous beyond math.

    And beyond words.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: What about those who think that "arguments plus guns equals murder"? Would they even trust themselves to own guns?

    posted by Eric at 04:46 PM | Comments (2)

    180 is half of 360

    I don't know how I managed to miss it (must be that I have Inquirer deficit disorder), but via the Glenn Reynolds/Mickey Kaus grapevine I was somehow directed to my own newspaper!

    Yup, that's right. The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Dick Polman. Polman is a regular read for me, and I don't know how I managed to miss him.

    And I'm glad -- delighted in fact -- that thanks to the Reynolds/Kaus workaround, this temporary midlife attention deficit is fixed, because Polman's column (in which he sheds crocodile tears for Kerry) is actually very funny:

    For Kerry, indignities abound. He trails Hillary Rodham Clinton in every 2008 survey. The other day, he was assailed by Clinton aide Ann Lewis for running "an inconsistent campaign." Indeed, in focus groups conducted this winter by Democratic strategists, he was still seen as indecisive; one participant said, "He's the guy that holds up the line at McDonald's."

    And he's been dogged by bloggers who want him to authorize the release of all his military records, to clear up questions raised in 2004. He told NBC on Jan. 30 that he would sign military form SF-180 to do so, but he hasn't yet. Most of the heat has come from conservatives, but Democratic blogger Mickey Kaus also is on the case, urging party brethren to "remove this increasingly pathetic figure from our national stage." (The word in Washington is that Kerry will sign the form soon.)

    Kerry also seems compelled to defend his 2004 record; he boasts these days that he won 10 million more votes than Bill Clinton did in 1996 (omitting the fact that President Bush won 23 million more votes than Clinton opponent Bob Dole). And on Feb. 28 in Boston, he noted that he beat Bush among young voters and unmarried women (omitting the fact that he lost every age group over 30, and lost the biggest female category, white married women).

    But the remark that most galls his party critics is his contention that he'd be president today if only 60,000 Ohioans had switched votes - as he put it the other day, "half the people in a football stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on a Saturday."

    In the words of Dick Harpootlian, a former South Carolina party chairman, "Hey, what if Napoleon had had B-52s? Then we'd all be speaking French.

    And speaking French means, well, that Kerry would have won, of course.

    Kerry will sign the form soon? When is soon? Is there a hurry?

    Or is the election not over anymore?

    Does this mean I should update my previous posts?

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

    God hates race mixing?

    According to David Neiwert, the Terri Schiavo case has attracted the attention of some religious crackpots who call themselves members of the "Phineas Priesthood." According to a number of websites, they consider religious murders biblically justified:

    The Biblical reference indicates that Phineas, a priest, killed an Israelite man who was having sexual relations with a Midianite woman by thrusting a javelin through both of them together. This act of double murder apparently made God reverse his plan to set a plague on Israel for "committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab." And because Phineas was "zealous for my sake," God was moved to set up "the covenant of an everlasting priesthood." Contemporary Phineas Priests interpret these and other Biblical passages as a justification for the murder of "race-mixers" and for a program of establishing a whites only, Christian only, state in North America. Phineas priests believe themselves to be called by God to the use of any form of violence to re-establish what they claim to be "God's Law." Phineas actions, involving murder, arson, kidnapping, bombing, and armed robbery, become sacred actions designed to deliver the US and Canada from adultery, taxation, homosexuality, abortion, interracial marriages, and multiculturalism.
    I guess I'm out of step with the times, as I haven't been keeping up with these looney tunes as I should.

    While the above comes from a Communist web site, I verified independently that there is a loosely affiliated network of Christian murderers who claim they're killing in the name of their bigoted god, who (so they claim) hates race mixing:

    *Numbers 25:6-13
    6 "And behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his breathern a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

    7 "And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

    8 "And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

    9 "And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

    10 "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

    11 "Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.

    12 "Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:

    13 "And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel."

    A typical racist interpretation can be found here:
    This passage goes on and God gives to Phineas a perpetual, eternal priesthood. Then in verse 17, God commands the children of Israel to kill all of the Midianites. We note that Phineas killed both the non-white woman and metaphorically the mongrel offspring, by stabbing her through the womb. The man also was killed, as prescribed by the law which we have previously cited. Phineas's grandson, Esdras, faced the same problem. His final solution was again, as commanded by God, to command the offenders to kill the women and the offspring. Phineas is recorded in Israelite history as one of the greatest of all Israelites for his action of killing this race-mixing couple. In fact, Sirach 45:23 (LXX) records that Phineas was the third in glory, behind only Moses and Aaron, among all the heroes of Israel:

    "The third in glory is Phineas the son of Eleazar, because he had zeal in the fear of the Lord, and stood up with good courage of heart when the people were turned back, and made reconciliation for Israel."

    So Phineas's actions and those of Esdras are certainly among the most honorable in the Bible. Returning to Esdras, we notice also from that passage that the Israelites were first guilty of prescriptions given by the prophets and servants regarding these non-whites. This was the injunction that they were to eliminate these non-white mongreled peoples from the land before inhabiting it.

    That's just a particular interpretation of a particular assertion.


    It's too late, and I'm too tired.

    Besides, the real Phineas was a guy who thought there was one born every minute.

    He was probably right.

    posted by Eric at 11:07 PM

    Conservatism -- then and now
    If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals -- if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

    - Ronald Reagan.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    That was then. (1975, to be exact.)

    This is now:

    So it is now the federal government's role to micro-manage baseball and to prevent a single Florida woman who is trapped in a living hell from dying with dignity. We're getting to the point when conservatism has become a political philosophy that believes that government - at the most distant level - has the right to intervene in almost anything to achieve the right solution. Today's conservatism is becoming yesterday's liberalism.

    -- Andrew Sullivan

    My, how times change!

    Of course, there's still plenty for me to disagree with on both sides. Conservatives who disagree with me will always call me a liberal, while liberals who disagree will call me a conservative. It's their call; not mine.

    The Reagan quote appeared in Pejman Yousfezadeh's TCS piece which wondered whether the "marriage" between libertarians and conservatives can be saved.

    It may take a Hillary, now and then.

    posted by Eric at 08:37 PM

    Beating winter

    If anyone had told me a year ago that Puff would make it through another year and then past this winter and into spring of 2005, I'd have thought them crazy. He'd been having seizures (which I brought under control), his hips and legs were deteriorating constantly, and the vets couldn't figure out what was wrong. (Hey, he's 15.)

    But here it is a year later, and while Puff can no longer walk without assistance (his back legs have had it and collapse if he tries to stand), he manages to get around, and today he not only went out in the yard, but I was able to walk him around in his favorite park (holding his back legs up by a sling improvised from a split canvas shopping bag).

    Difficult as it is for me to believe, today is the last day of winter, and that means Puff has made it to spring!

    Here he is, sitting in his yard, unable to walk, unable to stand, but still looking proud:


    Well, it's a major triumph!

    posted by Eric at 10:29 PM | Comments (6)

    Politicized to death?

    I haven't especially wanted to discuss the Terri Schiavo case because I am so sick to death of the way it's been politicized. The moral conservatives have claimed it as their own, which is rather unfortunate, because there shouldn't be anything political about these things -- any more than there should be anything political about sex, religion, eating, or smoking.

    Here's the problem as I see it: the louder and shriller Operation Rescue types have poisoned the atmosphere to the point that many thinking people shrug the matter off entirely. Worst of all, I suspect there are a lot of people who'd be glad to pull the feeding tube -- only because they are so allergic to Terri Schiavo's supporters that they'd oppose whatever they were for -- or support whatever they're against.

    I admit that I also do not trust many of the people who've made a poster child out of a severely brain-damaged woman who cannot talk and who barely moves. (No need to worry about her spouting ideological heresies....) I suspect they'd love to have the right to butt into my life if I was dealing with similar issues -- even if I had signed a Living Will and my loved ones had no disagreement on the subject. Many of them would probably want to harangue me on my deathbed over what I should think about God. Why? Because, a little like socialists, they think they have a God-given right to mind other people's private business.

    Nonetheless, the following reasons would make me against pulling the feeding tube (and they don't have much to do with my thoughts about Operation Rescue):

  • 1. The woman is not brain dead, but is in and out of periods of consciousness.
  • 2. Several physicians argue that she can be helped by therapy, and one brain injury specialist stated that he has successfully treated patients whose conditions were worse.
  • 3. There's something fishy about this husband of Ms. Schiavo. He's a big, aggressive, allegedly violent man who seems to have remained married to his disabled wife for the money while living with another woman, he has pursued this case relentlessly, and he seems a little too determined to keep his wife's parents away from their daughter.
  • 4. She never signed a Living Will. While I would not want to be tube fed were I in her condition, her husband's word alone that "she wouldn't want this" is not enough.
  • 5. There is evidence which tends to cast doubt on the origin of her disability. This 1991 medical report shows unexplained fractures as well as a "history of trauma" That, coupled with indications that her husband may be violent, heightens the suspicion that Terri Schiavo was a battered wife, and that he may have had a hand in causing the disabling injuries.
  • Regarding the battered wife theory, it ticks me off to think that this might be precisely the kind of case which feminists would normally champion, but they are prevented from doing so by the heavy Operation Rescue presence. People in this country are losing their ability to think for themselves or think logically. Instead, they align themselves according to political affiliation or identity politics.

    Hillary Clinton, if the Republicans fail Terri, only you will be able to save her -- at very low political cost! Such a deal!

    Along similar lines, my dark side wonders why Leon Kass and company aren't raising the tried-and-true arguments against artificially prolonging life....

    Irrational questions abound. I wonder where the cryonics people stand on this.

    And is anyone trying to figure out a way to blame the homosexuals?

    Well, yes:

    In 1973, the Supreme Court created the “right” of a mother to kill her unborn child. This decision was molded by a philosophy opposed to natural law and based on a mistaken notion of liberty.

    Those who subscribe to this false philosophy naturally tend to take it to its final consequences, pressing for the creation of other “rights” equally detached from and opposed to natural law, such as embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, the practice of homosexuality, pedophilia, same-sex “marriage,” and euthanasia.

    Terri Schiavo’s death by starvation is the logical progression of the unnatural philosophy informing Roe v. Wade.

    I say that a feeding tube is at least as "unnatural" as the pill or a condom. Medically speaking, it's no big deal these days. While it might be more "natural" to let nature take its course, this woman has been living with artificial feeding for a long time. I'd no more pull her tube than I'd withhold nitroglycerin from a heart patient, or IV meds from an AIDS patient, and I don't see why the politics of nature (or religion) should be controlling.

    UPDATE: Mark Kleiman reveals a cruelly hypocritical double standard at work:

    Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday after a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keep the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed to find another institution taht would take the child during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law.

    Where, I would ask, is the outrage? In particular, where is the outrage from those like Tom DeLay, who referred to the withdrawal of Terry Schiavo's life support as "murder"? If it's appropriate to Federalize the Schiavo case, what about the people being terminated simply because their cases are hopeless and their bank accounts empty?

    Excellent questions, and of course I'm not surprised.

    Wouldn't be the first time "morality" was driven by money and politics....

    MORE: Jeff Soyer shares his thoughts.

    Without specific knowledge that Terri would want to end her life, I believe she should be kept alive. I am saddened that for all the political and legal contortions, the feeding tube has been removed. Death by starvation cannot be pleasant. But would she feel anything? Oh yes, I think she will. I believe there is still some dream activity going on within her mind, at a level that might not be able to be recorded.

    Sometimes, when I'm sleeping, I dream of thirst or hunger, and seeking water or food. I would imagine that Terri Schiavo will unfortunately experience days or weeks of such nightmares.

    Lastly, again -- without any real proof that she approves of being allowed to die -- a civilization is judged by how it cares for those who are least able to care for themselves, be it an unborn child or a comatose woman.

    America seems to fail at both.

    Really, I see nothing which should be political about any of it.

    UPDATE: According to an audio tape (released by the Family Research Council -- although I can't get it to stream) Terris Schiavo was responsive on Friday.

    In the 1980s one of my best friends was in a vegetative coma brought on by the terminal ravages of AIDS. He was able to look directly at people, and he made a number of audible grunts which sounded like attempts to talk. Thanks to the blessing of a morphine drip, finally he relaxed, let go, and died.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Ryan Sager

    Not a few people -- especially boomers with aging parents -- are going to see themselves in this case, and they are going to picture Rep. Tom DeLay in the hospital room with them, standing between them and their loved ones.
    Good point -- and one surely to be belabored ad nauseam in the inevitable elections. (I expect it will be coupled with clever sniping about Republican "hypocrisy" for opposing socialized medicine....) Emotion can lead to miscalculation, and while I think Michael Schiavo and the Florida courts were wrong, not every wrong allows for federal relief.

    However, if (and that's a big if) Terri Schiavo were to arise from her 15-year vegetative coma, it would be a major triumph (dare I say "miracle"?) for the moral conservatives. Unlikely, though.

    AND MORE: But unlikely as the last scenario is, if it were to happen, it would also be a disaster for the left. Which means that for utilitarian purposes, they're in the position of hoping Terri Schiavo dies ASAP, and if she lives, that her condition never improve. In that regard, even if her condition returned to where it was earlier, that would be a problem. (More here.)

    MORE RECENT UPDATE: Is this being suppressed?

    Carla Sauer Iyer (search), a registered nurse who provided care to Terri Schiavo from 1995 to 1996 at a convalescence home in Largo, Fla., told FOX News in an interview Tuesday that her patient would interact with staff, was alert and aware and could talk.

    "Her cognitive abilities including laughing, talking, letting you know she was in pain," Iyer told FOX News, adding that Terri Schiavo could say words like "mommy," "help me," "hi" and "pain."

    She also said Schiavo had accurate reflexes on demand. Nurses also were able, at times, to feed Terri thickened liquids such as pudding and Jello with a baby bottle.

    Iyer also claims that one time when she put a washcloth in Terri's hand to test her reflexes, Michael Schiavo would get upset and say, "that's therapy — take that washcloth out."

    "I think a gag order has been put on all positive things that Terri has done," claimed Iyer.

    Iyer said she was coming forward "to let the truth be known, to let the people know. I was one of the few people who was able to see Terri. She was able to talk, communicate with staff ... I want the public to know the truth."

    Michael Schiavo has not responded to repeated interview requests from The Associated Press and FOX News Channel.

    As a national issue, it's beginning to look like someone didn't vet this case. (Or, perhaps, someone else did!)

    MORE: If you've gotten this far (and this especially applies to Carnival of the Vanities readers) by all means go read CodeBlueBlog's analysis of Terri Schiavo's bone scan. His conclusion:

    It is my opinion that the most likely reason for these bone scan findings in March of 1991 is that someone either was physically abusing Terri or they dropped/mishandled her severely.
    Little wonder they don't want an autopsy....

    posted by Eric at 05:09 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBacks (3)


    The Philadelphia Inquirer (and probably most other dailies, as this is an AP story) has finally gotten around to reporting the details of the gun stolen by accused Atlanta killer Brian Nichols:

    Authorities say that while Nichols was in the Fulton County Courthouse Feb. 11 for his rape retrial, he attacked a deputy and retrieved her gun from a lock box, then moved on to the courtroom and killed a judge and a court reporter. Authorities say he later killed a deputy and a federal agent before surrendering. (Emphasis supplied.)
    I've grown very tired of reading accounts of how Nichols "wrestled the gun away from" Deputy Hall, and I'm glad to see some truth creeping into what was beginning to look like a coverup.

    Here's the reason the gun is such an important detail. Guns have a way of equalizing both size and sex differences. Once again, I'll quote the immortal words of the 19th Century Colt pistol advertisment:

    The Equalizer

    Be not afraid of any man,
    No matter what his size.
    When danger threatens, call on me
    And I will equalize.

    Without the gun to equalize things, of course, a 5'1" female deputy is at a rather serious disadvantage against a six foot something, 200 pound linebacker and martial artist. This isn't sexist or sizeist (I'm 5'6" myself and I know I'm no match for Brian Nichols), but a recognition of common sense.

    Basic animal stuff.

    The ugly reality of locking up large, dangerous, male criminals is that guarding them is a job for large men who can handle the physical danger. To me, this is all a rather large "Doh!" -- and I don't think it requires rocket science intelligence to grasp.

    But back to the danger. Guarding big and crazy criminals is especially dangerous -- precisely because guards cannot be allowed to carry guns. If they did, there'd always be the chance of them being overpowered (or even tripping and falling down, having a heart attack or seizure, etc.) and the gun taken away. A gun in the hands of a desperate prisoner is always bad. Hence, guards are unarmed. I hate to say it, but it's highly dangerous man to man stuff. A big guy has a much better chance of dealing with (and calming down) a big guy than does a little guy.

    There's an old expression (sometimes attributed to Heinlein), "Never frighten a little man, because he'll kill you."

    Well, who ever said that guarding prisoners is for everyone?

    UPDATE: In the future, the work of guarding dangerous prisoners will doubtless be simplified by devices which read the brain in time to automatically activate preventive countermeasures in advance of the "false move" itself:

    PASADENA, Calif. - By decoding signals coming from neurons, scientists at the California Institute of Technology have confirmed that an area of the brain known as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vPF) is involved in the planning stages of movement, that instantaneous flicker of time when we contemplate moving a hand or other limb. The work has implications for the development of a neural prosthesis, a brain-machine interface that will give paralyzed people the ability to move and communicate simply by thinking.

    By piggybacking on therapeutic work being conducted on epileptic patients, Daniel Rizzuto, a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Richard Andersen, the Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, was able to predict where a target the patient was looking at was located, and also where the patient was going to move his hand. The work currently appears in the online version of Nature Neuroscience.

    (Via Slashdot.)

    Lots of implications for preemptive violence detection!

    Unfortunately for the guards (and maybe, fortunately for the rest of us), we're not there yet.

    posted by Eric at 08:23 AM

    None dare call it fashionism

    How come a Lisbon fashion designer gets to make women look like this?


    (Photo via Drudge.)

    It may sound paranoid, but I see a double standard at work here.

    It strikes me that if Americans dressed a woman like that and put her to work guarding prisoners (either here or in places like Guantanamo), there'd be hell to pay. Someone would file a lawsuit alleging cruel psychological warfare tactics, and congressional hearings would probably be held.

    It wouldn't be a defense to call it life imitating art, either.

    I'll never figure these things out.

    posted by Eric at 09:17 PM | Comments (2)

    Lords of the Instrumentality
    We were drunk with happiness in those early years. Everybody was, especially the young people. These were the first years of the Rediscovery of Man, when the Instrumentality dug deep in the treasury, reconstructing the old cultures, the old languages, and even the old troubles. The nightmare of perfection had taken our forefathers to the edge of suicide. Now under the leadership of the Lord Jestocost and the Lady Alice More, the ancient civilizations were rising like great land masses out of the sea of the past.
    I myself was the first man to put a postage stamp on a letter, after fourteen thousand years. I took Virginia to hear the first piano recital. We watched at the eye-machine when cholera was released in Tasmania, and we saw the Tasmanians dancing in the streets, now that they did not have to be protected anymore. Everywhere, things became exciting. Everywhere, men and women worked with a wild will to build a more imperfect world
    I myself went into a hospital and came out French…

    Thus begins “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”, the first story I ever read by the legendary Cordwainer Smith. I’m not using that term lightly. If you want legendary, this guy was the real deal.

    I was in middle school at the time and found his story more or less at random. I didn’t much care for it. I had been looking for simpler fare, something more along the lines of Lileks’ “rockets and robots and ray guns.” Smith immersed me in a puzzling, repulsive, fascinating milieu. I found the story both disturbing and unpleasant. I also found that I couldn’t forget it.

    Of course I remembered my early life; I remembered it, but it did not matter. Virginia was French, too, and we had the years of our future lying ahead of us like ripe fruit hanging in an orchard of perpetual summers. We had no idea when we would die. Formerly, I would be able to go to bed and think, “The government has given me four hundred years. Three hundred and seventy-four years from now, they will stop the stroon injections and I will then die.” Now I knew anything could happen. The safety devices had been turned off. The diseases ran free. With luck, and hope, and love, I might live a thousand years. Or I might die tomorrow. I was free.

    We reveled in every moment of the day.

    The irony is that our protagonist has no more freedom now than he ever did. The Lords and Ladies of the Instrumentality still call the shots.

    Virginia and I bought the first French newspaper to appear since the Most Ancient World fell. We found delight in the news, even in the advertisements. Some parts of the culture were hard to reconstruct. It was difficult to talk about foods of which only the names survived, but the homunculi and the machines, working tirelessly in Downdeep-downdeep, kept the surface of the world filled with enough novelties to fill anyone’s heart with hope. We knew that all of this was make-believe, and yet it was not. We knew that when the diseases had killed the statistically correct number of people, they would be turned off; when the accident rate rose too high, it would stop without our knowing why. We knew that over us all, the Instrumentality watched. We had confidence that the Lord Jestocost and the Lady Alice More would play with us as friends and not use us as victims of a game.

    Mustapha Mond would feel right at home.

    A few weeks later I found “A Planet Named Shayol”, a prison story of sorts, but with a disturbing biological twist reminiscent of Prometheus and his liver. It too, was impossible to forget. Though it might not impress the kids today, back in the 60’s it had quite a punch. I was mightily impressed that a human being could conceive of such things. I wasn’t at all sure that they should.

    “Fine,” said the doctor, “that’s a healthy attitude. The crime is past. Your future is ahead. Now. I can destroy your mind before you go down—if you want me to.”
    “That’s against the law,” said Mercer.
    Doctor Vomact smiled warmly and confidently. “Of course it is. A lot of things are against human law. But there are laws of science, too. Your body, down on Shayol, is going to serve science. It doesn’t matter to me whether the body has Mercer’s mind or the mind of a low-grade shellfish. I have to leave enough mind in you to keep the body going, but I can wipe out the historic you and give your body a better chance of being happy. It’s your choice, Mercer. Do you want to be you or not?”
    Mercer shook his head back and forth, “I don’t know.”
    …“Do you want me to take your eyes out before you go down? You’ll be much more comfortable without vision.”

    Poor Mercer. Would any criminal deserve to become a perpetual organ donor? Depends on the crime, I suppose.

    There was a flash on the ground, no brighter than the glitter of sunlight on a fragment of glass. Mercer felt a sting in the thigh, as though a sharp instrument had touched him lightly. He brushed the place with his hand.
    It was as though the sky fell in.
    A pain—it was more than a pain; it was a living throb—ran from his hip to his foot on the right side. The throb reached up to his chest, robbing him of breath. He fell and the ground hurt him. Nothing in the hospital-satellite had been like this. He lay in the open air trying not to breathe, but he did breathe anyhow… Since he could not stop breathing, he concentrated on taking air in the way that hurt him least. Gasps were too much work. Little tiny sips of air hurt him least.
    The desert around him was empty. He could not turn his head to look at the cabin. Is this it? he thought. Is an eternity of this the punishment of Shayol?
    There were voices near him.
    Two faces, grotesquely pink, looked down at him. They might have been human. The man looked normal enough, except for having two noses side by side. The woman was a caricature beyond belief. She had grown a breast on each cheek and a cluster of naked baby-like fingers hung limp from her forehead.
    “It’s a beauty,” said the woman, “a new one.”…
    A woman—was it a woman?—crawled over to him on her hands and knees. Beside her ordinary hands, she was covered with hands all over her trunk and halfway down her thighs. Some of the hands looked old and withered. Others were as fresh and pink as the baby-fingers on his captress’ face….
    ”You can’t kill yourself,” said the man with the spike through his head.

    To hear (ahem) certain social critics tell it, “Brave New World” is the alpha and omega of science fictional dystopias, the one that totally nails the role. I’ve got news for those people. There are plenty more where that came from. In fact, there’s a glut on the market. I don't think any of them hold a candle to Smith.

    There was the Instrumentality, with its unceasing labor to keep man man. And there were the citizens who walked in the boulevards before the Rediscovery of Man. The citizens were happy. If they were found sad, they were calmed and drugged and changed until they were happy again.

    Sound like anyone we know? That’s from “Under Old Earth”, Smith’s last work, and to my mind not his best, but it captures the Instrumentality of Mankind and its “ruthless benevolence” in a nutshell. It wasn’t your everyday galactic empire

    The Stop-captain waited for him. Outside on the world of Sherman the scented breezes of that pleasant planet blew in through the open windows of the ship.
    Wu-Feinstein, finest ship of its class, had no need for metal walls. It was built to resemble an ancient, prehistoric estate named Mount Vernon, and when it sailed between the stars it was encased in its own rigid and self-renewing field of force.
    The passengers went through a few pleasant hours of strolling on the grass, enjoying the spacious rooms, chatting beneath a marvelous simulacrum of an atmosphere-filled sky.
    Only in the planoforming room did the Go-captain know what happened. The Go-captain, his pinlighters sitting beside him, took the ship from one compression to another, leaping hotly and frantically through space, sometimes one light-year, sometimes a hundred light-years, jump, jump, jump, jump until the ship, the light touches of the captains mind guiding it, passed the perils of millions upon millions of worlds, came out at its appointed destination and settled as lightly as one feather resting upon others, settled into an embroidered and decorated countryside where the passengers could move as easily away from their journey as if they had done nothing more than to pass an afternoon in a pleasant old house by the side of a river.

    I had been looking for something a little sportier at the time, something with rakish airfoils, hot jets, and lots of blinking indicators. You know, a rocket? Instead I got a Georgian mansion in space. With a virtual reality hull, no less… Both bizarre and memorable, it’s from “The Burning Of The Brain”, written in 1955. In all fairness, this story could be considered one of the ancestors of cyberpunk.

    Go-captain on the Wu-Feinstein, finest ship of its class, was Magno Taliano.
    Of him it was said, “He could sail through hell with the muscles of his left eye alone. He could plow space with his living brain if the instruments failed…”
    …his right hand depressed the golden ceremonial lever of the ship. This instrument alone was mechanical. All the other controls in the ship had long since been formed telepathically or electronically…From the wall facing him as he sat rigid in his Go-captain’s chair, Magno Taliano sensed the forming of a pattern which in three or four hundred milliseconds would tell him where he was and would give him the next clue as to how to move. He moved the ship with the impulses of his own brain, to which the wall was a superlative complement.

    For 1955, this was trail-blazing stuff, amazing stuff. Smith was using cyberpunk tropes as incidental plot devices, while Bruce Sterling was still crowing in his diapers.

    Wife to the Go-captain was Dolores Oh. The name was Japonical, from some notion of the ancient days. Dolores Oh had once been beautiful, so beautiful that she took men’s breath away, made wise men into fools, made young men into nightmares of lust and yearning. Wherever she went men had quarreled and fought over her.
    But Dolores Oh was proud beyond all common limits of pride. She refused to go through the ordinary rejuvenescence. A terrible yearning a hundred or so years back must have come over her. Perhaps she said to herself, before that hope and terror which a mirror in a quiet room becomes to anyone:
    “Surely I am me. There must be a me more than the beauty of my face, there must be something other than the delicacy of skin and the accidental lines of my jaw and my cheekbone.” “What have men loved if it wasn’t me? Can I ever find out who I am or what I am if I don’t let beauty perish and live on in whatever flesh age gives me?”…
    Magno Taliano had a niece who in the modern style used a place instead of a name: she was called “Dita from the Great South House.”…
    Magno Taliano came in. He saw his wife and niece together.
    He must have been used to Dolores Oh. In Dita’s eyes Dolores was more frightening than a mud-caked reptile raising its wounded and venomous head with blind hunger and blind rage. To Magno Taliano the ghastly woman who stood like a witch beside him was somehow the beautiful girl he had wooed and had married one hundred sixty-four years before.
    He kissed the withered cheek, he stroked the dried and stringy hair, he looked into the greedy terror-haunted eyes as though they were the eyes of a child he loved. He said, lightly and gently, “Be good to Dita, my dear.”…

    Strange. It reads as a mirror-world inversion of Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”.

    There, a stunningly beautiful woman with a superficial flaw is pressured to perfect herself physically by her boorish, arrogant husband. Out of love for him, she consents to the experimental cosmetic procedure, which kills her. Though they do get rid of that birthmark…

    Here, a stunningly beautiful woman with no superficial flaws at all, egotistically tests her husband’s love by relinquishing her physical beauty. Out of love for her, he consents to her unique anti-cosmetic procedure, and couldn’t care less when she ages into a hag. He successfully proves that he loves her for herself…

    So you see, Dita, being beautiful the way you are is no answer to anything. A woman has got to be herself before she finds out what she is. I know that my lord and husband, the Go-captain, loves me because my beauty is gone, and with my beauty gone there is nothing but me to love, is there?”

    It’s hard to decide which scenario is more repulsive, but it can be done.

    It’s difficult for me to wholeheartedly recommend Smith to potential readers. He wrote some amazingly fine stuff, but he also had his share of out and out dogs. If you go to people who have read him, asking for their list of which is which, results will vary considerably. Some have compared him to C.S. Lewis crossed with Aldous Huxley. I wouldn’t have found that a selling point…

    I’m reluctant to simply say that he was good. When I’ve seen a movie, and someone asks me if it’s any good, I’m often stumped. I can’t always tell if a movie is “good” or not. But I always know if I liked it.

    Given that bit of weaseling on my part, he might be worth your while. People who like him tend to like him a lot, and you might be one of them. I never cared for his poetry, or anyone else’s for that matter, and his sing-song oriental cadences might seem annoying in the beginning. Still, within six years of reading “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” I had hoovered up all the science fiction he had ever written and was sad there wouldn’t be more. He was one of a kind.

    The little girl had grown up, had married, and now had a little girl of her own. The mother was unchanged, but the spieltier was very, very old. It had outlived all its marvelous tricks of adaptability, and for some years had stayed frozen in the role of a yellow-haired, blue-eyed girl doll. Out of sentimental sense of the fitness of things, she had dressed the spieltier in a bright blue jumper with matching panties. The little animal crept softly across the floor on its tiny human hands, using its knees for hind feet. The mock-human face looked up blindly and squeaked for milk.
    The young mother said, “Mom, you ought to get rid of that thing. It’s all used up and it looks horrible with your nice period furniture.
    “I thought you loved it,” said the older woman.
    “Of course,” said the daughter. “It was cute, when I was a child. But I’m not a child any more, and it doesn’t even work.”
    The spieltier had struggled to its feet and clutched its mistress’s ankle. The older woman took it away gently, and put down a saucer of milk and a cup the size of a thimble. The spieltier tried to curtsey, as it had been motivated to do at the beginning, slipped, fell, and whimpered. The mother righted it and the little old animal-toy began dipping milk with its thimble and sucking the milk into its tiny toothless old mouth.

    Now that’s an imagination.

    posted by Justin at 05:56 PM | Comments (3)

    Compromise can be painful . . .

    My apologies for being so torturously late in weighing in on this one. (I should be particularly ashamed considering the poll on the right -- "What ancient form of execution would you LEAST prefer?")

    Hope my squeamishness isn't showing! We'll have to put an end to that.

    Anyway, as the Romans knew (and as Glenn Reynolds observed when he linked to Eugene Volokh's post) civilization is not for the squeamish.

    Here's Professor Volokh:

    Something the Iranian Government and I Agree on: I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

    I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.

    Clayton Cramer disagrees vehemently, reminding us of the torture deaths of those implicated in the plot to kill Hitler:
    I can understand those who argue that making execution excruciatingly painful might act as a deterrent also. This assumes that those to be deterred are rational enough to be influenced by this threat; at least for most murderers, this is simply not the case. They are usually such damaged, short-term people that they are not going to be deterred by a remote and unlikely event. I also cringe at the thought of a government intentionally taking actions to add suffering; it is way too reminiscent of the bloodlust that has driven tyrants throughout history. (I think of Hitler's execution of German officers who participated in--or were simply thought to have been part of--the von Stauffenberg coup plot. He had them executed by being hung with piano wire--a slow and painful death. Hitler had it filmed, so that he could enjoy watching their suffering at a later time.)

    What I find especially disturbing is the notion, expressed by Professor Volokh, that this torturous revenge constitutes justice. Does it bring back the dead children? Does it go back in time and prevent their suffering? Does it make the living less traumatized by what happened to their children? No.

    I don't think I'm any more squeamish than Professor Volokh, and it bothered me not at all to see victims' families obtaining vengeance. I understand the argument that some crimes are so horrible that the state ought to be able to at least take into account the inherent need for victims to have a hand at punishment.

    But I'd rather leave the state out of it. And might I be so bold as to offer a modest proposal from Classical Values as a sort of compromise?

    While it is true that the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and it would have to be amended to allow such things as flogging (discussed infra) or slow hangings by crane, I have a question.

    If the state is not the actor, does Eighth Amendment apply?

    The ancient Romans had a peculiar punishment called proscription (popularized by Sulla) which allowed private citizens to kill anyone whose name appeared on certain official lists. The state paid bounties (but took the bulk of the estates of the proscribed) and the system operated through a corrupt bureaucratic network of informants. Eventually, things went too far, and the proscription system degenerated into a murder machine directed against Sulla's political opponents. One of them, Julius Caesar, survived:

    The new dictator introduced a judicial process called the proscription. Essentially this new concept was the open publication listing names of people he deemed to be undesirable. A reign of terror ensued with rewards offered for the death or capture of any name on the list. At first the proscriptions, including confiscation of property were mainly focused on Sulla’s direct enemies and supporters, but eventually the death toll would reach epidemic proportions. In the first series alone, as many as 40 senators and 1,600 members of the equestrian class were butchered. Before long, in order to exact extreme control the list grew exponentially. There was simply no place to hide or run. People taking refuge in the temples were murdered; others were lynched by the Roman mob. An intricate network of spies kept Sulla informed and tracked down anyone who might be considered an enemy of the state, at Sulla’s whim.

    One member of the proscription lists who managed to survive was Gaius Julius Caesar. The husband of Cinna’s (Sulla’ rival) daughter and the nephew of Gaius Marius, he was most assuredly a top candidate for death. He managed to escape Rome prior to capture, but a delegation of Caesar’s supporters made an influence on Sulla. He allowed Caesar to live in exchange for divorcing his wife, but Caesar defiantly refused. Lucky to find himself alive at all, Sulla only confiscated his wife’s dowry. Sulla apparently was reluctant to let the ambitious young man live, commenting that he saw “many Mariuses” in his nature. For reasons not completely clear, Sulla did let Caesar live though and his prediction was later proven quite true.

    A Machiavellian before the term was coined, Sulla became a reformer, improved the Roman Constitution, and lived his life out in retirement.

    Obviously, I'd never advocate an official system of proscription. For starters, it would be unconstitutional.

    But suppose the state simply didn't prosecute people who committed murder under certain special circumstances? Anti-abortion activists see abortion as murder, and if the fetus is a person, they may be right. (Especially, as I've argued before, if the fetus has a brain.) But even if the fetus is a person, most people would not call abortion cruel and unusual punishment, because the state has not acted. The state, by its laws, is merely barring the criminal prosecution of either the woman who goes to a doctor for the procedure, or the doctor who performs it. So, it doesn't matter whether the fetus's arms and legs are slowly ripped off, or if the procedure takes hours. There's simply no way to claim that the state has administered cruel or unusual punishment.

    How about affording convicted perpetrators of particularly heinous crimes the same legal protection afforded fetuses? Is that politically incorrect enough for the squeamish?

    I realize that this compromise will not please everyone, and there's a lot of squeamishness around a lot of these issues.

    But we have to start somewhere.

    And I'm for a limited government role in all things.

    Especially when it hurts.

    UPDATE: Eugene Volokh carefully considers the views of many of his critics -- and this post by Mark Kleiman convinced him that he was wrong:

    Whatever one's abstract judgments about the proper severity of punishments, this is a punishment that will not fit with our legal and political culture.

    In any event, I much appreciate Mark's instruction on this. Part of me wishes that I could keep disagreeing, out of sheer bullheadedness. But the fact is that he's right, and I was wrong.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds)

    Eichmann is also mentioned:
    Maimon asks "if you 'execute' the serial killer of twenty children in this way, what do you do to criminals who are worse still? . . . What would Eugene wish the State of Israel to have done with Adolf Eichmann?" Yet this seems to me to support my original point rather than to undermine it. It seems to me an occasion for regret that Eichmann was executed by hanging. Such a decision was likely politically necessary; but I think it slighted the enormity of what he had done. He deserved a far worse death, and it would have been good had he received it.
    While I probably ought to take things like this more seriously, I do worry that if I become too serious I might begin to take myself seriously. Considering some of the horrors I have been through in life, the latter might prove unendurable -- so I tend to go with gallows humor.

    Anyway, I had hoped not to get serious about any of this, but now I'm reminded of of my childhood reaction to the Eichmann trial. I was in something like the second grade, and this very sour, very ordinary looking older man was on TV sitting in the locked glass booth, answering questions which were being translated into God knows how many languages. I asked my dad why he was locked in the glass booth, and he said that there were thousands of people who'd love to kill him. Why? Because he had killed their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandparents. This made little sense to me, and I asked my father why they were protecting him even though he was there because they were (apparently) going to execute him.

    He said this was because the Israelis, the Jews, were going to show the world that they were more civilized than the Nazis. And all they could do was hang him.

    All they could do was hang him? That didn't seem enough, considering the enormity of what he'd done. As I learned later in life, justice often isn't "enough." It isn't supposed to be.

    MORE: Ricardo Eichmann was around my age when his father became the only person ever to be executed by the state of Israel:

    Ricardo Eichmann, the youngest of four brothers, was seven years old at the time of his father's execution.

    The family returned to Germany shortly after the trial began, and Eichmann said his mother, Veronika, never told him what his father did or how his father died.

    For years, he thought his father had merely disappeared. It was not until he reached his early teens and began reading about the war that he learned what his father had done.

    The junior Eichmann led a quiet life in Berlin until he accepted an appointment in April as professor of Middle Eastern archaeology at Tubingen University in southern Germany.

    The local media ran a story about the new professor, and that in turn led to further stories in the German and Israeli press.

    Had it not been for the appointment, Eichmann said he would probably have kept his silence. Until recently, he had never spoken in public about his father.

    But he had dismissed the idea of changing his name to hide his identity.

    "This would have been only an exterior change. I would have been left with the burden," he said.

    In an interview published in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Eichmann said he was glad that he would never have to confront his father.

    "I am glad that the trial and sentence took place then, and that as a grown up, thinking man I don't have any contact with him," Eichmann said.

    Asked how he felt about talking to an Israeli, Eichmann said he comes from a different school of thought from that of his father and that he did not judge people by their nationality or religion.

    He admitted that as a child he may have felt anger at the Israelis for abducting his father, but in subsequent years he harbored no such feelings.

    Might feel very differently had his father been given the kind of punishment he truly deserved.

    posted by Eric at 09:34 AM | Comments (4)

    If we can save just one life frame . . .

    I wrote a long post a few days ago because my sixth sense warned me of an impending coverup. "News blackout" is a better expression, but whatever the expression, it appears my sixth was corrrect: there's been no MSM follow-up of the Atlanta courthouse murder hostage ordeal. Not in my local paper at least -- although it's tough to stop smaller outfits from releasing editorials like this one:

    Did Cynthia Hall, whose gun was wrestled away by Brian Nichols, meet a gender hiring goal for Fulton County? Women, especially short women, can do a lot of law enforcement jobs, but they can't do all of them as well as men. Four people are dead because someone didn't take that into account.
    Gun was wrestled away?

    Close but not quite.

    The Atlanta Journal and Constitution is covering the story, of course, but they're going out of their way to avoid reporting a key fact.

    The most telling detail -- whether or not Deputy Cynthia Hall had a gun (or locked it up as she was supposed to) -- has been suppressed. I think it's obvious from the video that she followed the rules and had it locked up, and I think the people suppressing this story know that full well. But they're not reporting it.

    I'm not cynical enough, because I never imagined that the media would engage in what George Lakoff calls frame thinking:

    Lakoff’s argument boils down to this: Facts do not matter. “People think in frames,” he writes. “If the facts do not fit a frame, the frame stays and the facts bounce off.”

    By frames, he means ideological blinders or emotional categories or familial roles. Or something. Whatever they are, Lakoff believes that Democrats need to change their language to appeal by exploiting “frames,” not dealing with facts. Much of his analysis stems from his belief that pretty much all conservatives act in bad faith. Conservatives, for example, “are not really pro-life.” No, conservatives see things through the “strict father” frame. Hence, “Pregnant teenagers have violated the commandments of the strict father. Career women challenge the power and authority of the strict father,” and therefore, he writes, “Both should be punished by bearing the child.”

    Liberals can succeed not by changing their views, but by changing their words. This should be obvious, since reality doesn’t really matter anyway. All Democrats have to do is successfully change the name for trial lawyers to “public-protection attorneys” and re-label “environmental protection,” as an effort to maintain “poison-free communities.”

    Sartre never smoked, so the cigarettes have been airbrushed out of his mouth. Because smoking is bad and that's all you need to know!

    In this case, Lakoff's "frame" happens to be mindnumbing feminist theory that holds women are just as big and just as strong as men. This is utter fraud, and everyone knows it, so when a story like this comes along it has to be simply but deliberately ignored.

    The absence of the gun is a real threat to the feminist frame, because it serves as a reminder that a 5'1" woman cannot successfully subdue a violent 6'1" former linebacker/martial artist. (True, many men couldn't either, but guarding prisoners isn't for everyone.)

    As I said earlier, it's like expecting a Chihuahua to subdue a Rottweiller. No theory, no frame, can alter simple reality. La Shawn Barber put it quite well:

    I hope this case stirs up a blog swarm over the idiocy of allowing women, big or small, even if they have guns, to watch over big, strong, dangerous, raping and murdering thugs. Is it irony or stupidity?

    This wretched political correctness poses a danger to us all.

    But as it is, too much of the story got out. Furious NPR listeners called their local radio stations demanding that all references to the sex of the deputy stop!

    We can't have people thinking outside the frame, can we?

    Hmmm . . .

    La Shawn also links to this picture, showing a properly "reframed" story, the subdued suspect being escorted by a smaller woman.


    But note the large, flak-jacketed man just behind..... Does he really need to be there?

    I thought I should frame things properly.


    Hope Lakoff approves!

    MORE: Speaking of George Lakoff, here's Steven Malcolm Anderson:

    To begin with, it has often been remarked, as, e.g., by P. J. O'Rourke, that liberals want government to be their Mommy, i.e., give them cookies and tuck them into bed, while conservatives want government to be their Daddy, i.e., give them a good paddling when they're naughty. A liberal, George Lakoff, wrote a book based on that concept, Moral Politics. In it, he argues that each camp views the country, and even the world, in terms of the kind of family in which they grew up, and/or their ideal family. For liberals, this ideal is the Nurturing Parent (either mother or father as the sexes are believed to be equal*) who teaches empathy (the primary virtue) through loving example. For conservatives, this ideal is the Strict Father (the man is usually perceived as by nature dominant*) who teaches self-discipline and self-reliance (the primary virtues) through rewards and stringent punishments. Conservatives view the world as a jungle, full of dangers and temptations, and one must be morally strong in order to deal with these. Libertarians, who don't want the government to be their parent, are a variant on the conservative world-view, emphasizing the value of self-reliance.
    I wonder which Lakoff would prefer as a guard -- if the prison was in his neighborhood!

    posted by Eric at 07:02 AM

    Crunching Some Tasty Numbers

    A few days ago I mentioned a new book, "More Than Human", by Ramez Naam. I still haven't read it, but as luck would have it, sample chapters are available online. You might also want to check out his blog.

    Over at "The Longevity Meme" Reason has posted a heartening exploration (by Mr. Naam) of twenty first century demographics. I've swiped a little bit of it to pique your interest, but you should read the whole thing.

    Because the birth rate is double the death rate, phenomena that affect fertility can have a far larger impact than similar size effects on the death rate. For example, between 2000 and 2050, the UN expects around 3.7 billion people on earth to die, while another 6.6 billion are born. Cutting the death rate in half would increase population by around 1.9 billion people. Doubling the birth rate would increase population by a further 6.6 billion. Thus the birth rate is a more significant lever on the size of the population.

    In 2000, world population stood at 6 billion people. Looking forward, the UN predicts that in 2050, world population will be somewhere between 8 billion and 11 billion, with a "medium" prediction of 8.9 billion.
    Demographer Jay Olshansky...has shown that extending human life would have an incremental, rather than exponential, effect on population...If everyone were made completely immortal today, he calculates, and taking into account declining birth rates, global population would hit about 13 billion in 2100, rather than the 10 billion currently projected.
    The immortality Olshansky is talking about isn't achievable. If we halted all aging, accidents, homicide, suicide, and infectious diseases would still kill people...More likely, we'll achieve the technology to slow but not halt the rate of aging in the next 10 to 20 years. Then it will take additional years for people around the world to gain access to the technology...

    posted by Justin at 09:21 PM

    "This is a definition thing"

    And I hate definitions! (Especially when they're definitions without a whole hell of a lot of differences......)

    When is an ad hominem attack not an ad hominem attack?

    According to many, when it masquerades as an attack on the argument, that's when. For example, when an (apparently and unabashedly) Stalinist Ethnic Studies professor attacked David Horowitz, she didn't call him a racist or a fascist. She merely couched her rhetoric as a disagreement in ideology:

    I admire immensely his ideological and racial fascism and its centrality to intellectual diversity.
    Does dressing up an ad hominem insult in this way really alter the ad hominem nature of the attack? I think not, and the attack on David Horowitz reminded me of this more civilized (but still insulting) characterization of Glenn Reynolds:
    Hmm... Glenn Reynolds manages to mention Leon Kass without some ad hominem, sophomoric attack attached to Mr. Kass's name. Is he turning over a new leaf?
    I left a comment, and while there's no reason to repeat everything verbatim, I pointed out that the disingenuous nature of what I consider a form of ad hominem attack:
    Calling an argument "sophomoric" without citation or explanation of why it's shallow and immature is an ad hominem attack. This makes the additional complaint about ad hominem attacks disingenuous. The failure to provide examples makes the assertions gratuitous as well.
    When it was pointed out to me that an attack on an argument is not an attack on a person, I replied again:
    Regarding your contention that calling an argument "sophomoric" is not ad hominem, if you also don't think calling an argument "fascist," "idiotic," "stupid," or "mean" would be ad hominem, then I could see the point you are trying to make. But the attacks would still be unsupported name-calling, and directing them to the argument does not alter their ad hominem nature.

    Characterizing a person's argument in such ad hominem terms (especially without offering examples) commits the ad hominem fallacy by substituting personal characterization for relevant argument.

    Finally, I was put in my place:
    This is a definition thing. If you call an argument fascist, this is a very different thing than calling the person making it a fascist. Really. I promise it is.
    Whew! This reminds me of the much-touted distinction between the homosexual and homosexual acts, and how some people love to hate the sins of the sinners they love.

    The distinction that is being lost here is one of basic relevance. To hurl insulting or abusive language at a person's thoughts or ideas, while it might not be exactly the same thing as hurling abuse at the person himself, is nonetheless injecting irrelevancy into the argument, because such insults ("racist," "fascist," "homophobic," or even "sophomoric") do not illuminate anything or resolve the merits of any questions under discussion. This is especially true when the epithets are aimed not at a particular statement, but are meant to characterize all or most of that person's views.

    While I do it myself (as I just referred to a professor I don't know as an "unabashed Stalinist"), I'm well aware of its limitations, and my limitations, and I do not admire the mediocrity of my arguments when I do so.

    But to take this further, if I declare that a particular person always (or most of the time) holds bigoted views, is that really different than saying he is bigoted? I don't see how.

    Sometimes it's done to save time, other times it's a way of preaching to the choir.

    For the record, I'll repeat that I'd rather not do it at all, and I wish others would make similar efforts.

    Definitions can be so sophomoric!

    No really.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds links to James Q. Wilson's articulate defense of Leon Kass, AND's criticism of him. For the life of me, I fail to discern the sophomorism (although I'm a regular practitioner of the latter.... and I don't think examples are needed!)

    REMINDER: Regular readers already know this, but Justin wrote a long response which goes to the merits of D.F. Moore's post. A lot of work and thought went into it, and if you haven't read it, it's a must-read.

    posted by Eric at 05:35 PM

    How to sign away your privacy
    (without realizing it)

    Larry Magid's piece on EULAs was a real eye opener:

    I have a deal for you. In exchange for a free piece of software that helps you keep track of your passwords and other log on information, I'm going to install other programs on your PC that will track your web surfing and display advertising that pops-up on your screen. There will also be other types of ads on your computer based on information we collect.

    Does that sound like a good deal to you? Well, if you're one of the many Windows users who have installed eWallet software from Gain Publishing that's exactly what you agreed to do. But you already know that because you read the End User License Agreement or "EULA" that was available prior to installing the program. You did read it right? Of course you did; before you could install the software you had to check a box certifying that you read the agreement. Legally speaking, that's the same thing as signing a contract with pen and ink.

    What did you just casually sign away with a click? Why, your rights to any online privacy at all!
    To its credit, not everything in Gain's EULA is in legalese. You don't have to pay a Harvard law graduate $300 an hour to understand the first paragraph:

    "GAIN Publishing offers some of the most popular software available on the Internet free of charge ("GAIN-Supported Software") in exchange for your agreement to also install GAIN AdServer software ("GAIN"), which will display Pop-Up, Pop-Under, and other types of ads on your computer based on the information we collect as stated in this Privacy Statement. We refer to consumers who have GAIN on their system as 'Subscribers.' "
    The rest of GAIN's EULA is also pretty clear. If you take the time to read it, you'll realize that you're giving the company permission to install software that "collects certain non-personally identifiable information about your Web surfing and computer usage." This, according to the agreement, "includes the URL addresses of the Web pages you view and how long you view Web pages; non-personally identifiable information on Web pages and forms including the searches you conduct on the Internet; your response to online ads; Zip code/postal code; country and city; standard web log information and system settings; what software is on the computer."
    In other words, you've agreed that they can track you, your web interests, and your finances, and install adware to muck up your computer.

    How can the utterly personal be made so impersonal?

    (No wonder so many people are running around just waiting for a chance to get even! With anyone, anywhere.)

    Lest you think that the purloined information is going to remain with the company whose software you installed, think again:

    The company says that it has all sorts of procedures in place to "restrict the third party's use of the information we provide." That's all well and good, but even if the company is as sincere and diligent as it says it is, things can change. And, if the company does decide to change its policy on how it handles personally identifiable information, it "will notify you by posting proposed changes to this Privacy Statement and on our web site." Those changes "will be effective immediately upon such posting.

    And don't think that can't happen. Even if the current owners are committed to keeping information private, there is no guarantee that the company won't be sold. If it goes bankrupt, there is even the possibility of your information being sold to pay off creditors.

    There used to be an expression "read what you sign."

    I guess now it's read what you click. The way things are right now, they could probably put a clause in there allowing the company to hire a hit man to kill you, and most people would impatiently click "ACCEPT."

    posted by Eric at 03:27 PM

    Advantage, Geeks!

    While I might not pass the requisite litmus test for being a True Geek, I know cool stuff when I see it, and I'm utterly intrigued by this development in file sharing technology:

    Most file-sharing programs aren't the most upstanding citizens of the computing world. Yes, the entertainment industry hates them for the way they're used to download movies and albums without paying -- but many of these programs also fail to treat their own users well, often installing an unadvertised, unwanted load of advertising and spyware.

    BitTorrent is different. This free, open-source program offers a spyware- and nuisance-free installation. And while it is certainly handy for downloading movies and other copyrighted material for free, it's also increasingly used to distribute software and entertainment legally.

    This makes BitTorrent ( not only a fascinating test case for legal experts, but it also looks a lot like the logical fusion of peer-to-peer file-sharing and traditional downloading. It's too robust to stamp out with lawsuits, but too effective not to adopt for commercial use.

    BitTorrent works by enlisting everybody into the file-distribution process. A BitTorrent download starts when you click on a ".torrent" link on a Web page, in an e-mail or some other document. That link gets handed off to your BitTorrent program, which follows that link to a "tracker" computer. (BitTorrent doesn't have any file-search capability built in; you must find these .torrent links yourself.)

    The tracker, in turn, points your copy of BitTorrent to a random grouping of other BitTorrent users who have the file you want. Your copy then starts downloading, assembling all these disparate chunks into a perfect copy of the original. But once you have part of the file on your computer, BitTorrent also begins uploading that to other people who come looking for it.

    This uploading continues until you close the BitTorrent program.

    I've long considered P2P to be an evolutionary leap in line with (but standing on the shoulders of) the Internet's original purpose. "Founding intent" if you will.

    Unless I am mistaken, BitTorrent is no mere "piracy" or "copyright infringement" software. The idea of "putting the entire Internet to work" could revolutionize the way we consume information and human knowledge.

    Most of all, I love the fact that apparently it can't be stopped!

    Freedom is a wonderful thing.

    UPDATE: In a nanomemory breakthrough, bigger things are about to happen in much smaller spaces.

    .... A memory cell in a conventional flash memory device cannot be made smaller than about 65 nanometres across, whereas Ovonic memory cells could potentially get down to 10 nanometres. That could be enough to put Ovonic technology at the head of the field for the next two generations of electronic devices, he says.

    But the key selling point is that the memory cell is remarkably simple to make, since it is essentially just a chunk of material hooked up to two electrical contacts. "I've spoken to a couple of companies and they're thrilled about this," says Wuttig.

    While bigger gets smaller, smaller gets bigger! (Or something like that....)

    posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (3)

    Sometimes, primary colors aren't true colors

    Has the abortion issue become the dividing line in American politics?

    If so, where is the line to be drawn, and who gets to draw it?

    The 2008 election is already lining up around abortion. Hillary Clinton has gone out of her way to stake out a moderate, centrist position which contradicts the fervency of what most analysts have considered to be among her core beliefs.

    On the other side, Rudolph Giuliani has outraged moral conservatives by taking a hard line in favor of a woman's right to choose, while Condoleeza Rice has also stepped into hot water even though her line is far more moderate-conservative-centrist (if such terminology is allowed).

    To the extent that Hillary Clinton's new stance is ideological treason to staunch members of the abortion left, I doubt it will hurt her. But if anything will abort Condoleeza Rice and Rudy Giuliani, it's the abortion issue. These days, it's more of a Third Rail in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party.

    Oddly enough, if you total all three of these candidates' positions on abortion, they're well within the views of the vast majority of mainstream America, which favors neither extreme.

    I think that at this point in time, the Republican Party is at a crossroads, while the Democratic Party is not. The Dems have learned from losing. They know what it takes to win, that winning means not allowing ideological elevation of form over substance.

    And I do mean form over substance. The president has little influence over abortion, which is not supposed to be a federal issue at all. The most any president can do is appoint judges who could be called upon to interpret Roe v. Wade. Even if Roe were overruled, abortion laws would then revert to the states. I doubt any federal ban on abortions would be held constitutional, because liberals would vote against it, and conservatives would have to jettison the concept of states' rights on which any overruling of Roe would be predicated. So the president is not now, and will never be, in a position to abolish abortions (or, to legalize them).

    So it's form over substance.

    Radical form over moderate substance. This makes the radical anti-abortion position (treating abortion for any reason as murder) out of touch not only with the mainstream, but with simple political reality.

    The Republicans are at a crossroads right now because I don't think there's any consensus on whether ideology should be subordinated to winning. This is because they've already won, and winners get cocky. They assume they'll keep on winning -- regardless of what dish they serve up to the voters. They forget that politics is a bit like running a restaurant. People don't have to come back. Serving up unpleasant ideological extremism is a bit like serving people bad tasting food and telling them it's good for them.

    Over a year ago, Dick Morris offered a taste of future Republican fare:

    Will the Republican Party escape from the embrace of the pro-lifers so that it can nominate candidates like Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice? Likely not. Those who see each election as an opportunity to hold candidates to litmus tests on key social issues are not likely to relinquish their hold or relax their vigilance.
    (From one of my older food reviews.)

    Many people on both "sides" often forget a key feature of litmus tests: they are not absolute.

    For example commonly available litmus paper (for sale here) offers varying scales of acid to base.

    Here's the widest range paper, showing 1 through 12:


    Further narrowing the scale towards the "center," here's 6 through 9.5:


    And finally, here's the most "centrist" litmus test available -- 5.5 through 8.0:


    Far be it from me to know which litmus test to apply in political matters or candidates. (Perhaps I should consult a spectrumologist!) But right away, it stands out that a preliminary issue in any "litmus test" is finding the right paper to use. Most candidates would love to get away with using one sort of litmus scale for themselves, and another, more extreme scale for their opponents.

    And I would go so far as to venture that in chemistry as well as politics, the vast middle space is not quite as colorful as the opposite ends, and in general the dividing line is not as clear as commonly believed.

    As to another contentious litmus test issue, gay marriage, the distinctions between the positions of most politicians are so subtle that I don't think there's a test paper yet made. Regardless of what anyone thinks or how anyone feels, there's an overwhelming consensus against same sex marriage, and the litmus paper would probably hover around whether it should be prohibited at the federal level. Because the latter can only happen with a constitutional amendment, I don't see it as a major looming campaign issue. It's a non-starter for both sides, and likely to be downplayed as it was in the last election. While the Democrats would like to push the Republicans to the right (just as the Republicans would like to push Democrats to the left), any "showdown" over a constitutional amendment is unlikely. And because of the prickly states' rights issue, it's unlikely to break cleanly for either side.

    While not right now of central importance in the next presidential election, homosexuality seethes as a religious issue -- in a cauldron supplying endless emotional fuel for the debate over gay marriage. There seem to be two Christian theological schools of thought, but even the question of whether Leviticus prohibits all homosexuality for Christians is far from settled. Even more fascinating is the question of what may have been lost in translation. (According to the latter scholar, the intent may have been to prohibit not all homosexual acts, but those which defile a man's wife's bed.) This religious debate is not about to go away.

    Plenty of litmus tests all around, and whoever hides the most "wrong" colors -- while seeming to have the most "right" colors -- wins.

    posted by Eric at 09:55 AM | Comments (4)

    A Victory for Rosie the Riveter!

    Via Drudge I see that doctors in the UK authorized and performed a third trimester abortion because of a cleft lip and palate.

    Really, who wants to be burdened with an imperfect child in this modern age?

    The Cleft Lip and Palate Association is understandably concerned.

    posted by Dennis at 07:53 AM | Comments (1)

    Street hates street crime . . .

    Speaking of open letters and tiresome arguments, Philadelphia Mayor John Street wants to do something about what he calls the city's problem with "gun violence," but he's not advocating getting tough with the criminal users of guns. Rather, he's written an open letter to Governor Rendell asking for help with a moratorium on the issuance of carry permits:

    In his letter, Street said that despite such administration programs as Safe Streets, which sought to reduce drug-related violence, and faith-based initiatives, the city was stymied by laws that make it unable to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

    Street said there were 28,000 active gun permits in the city, compared with New York City, where there are 16,000 such permits, prompting his review of the gun-permit policy.

    Street has not presented one iota of evidence that carry permit holders are the problem, because they are not. In order to obtain a carry permit in Philadelphia, applicants must apply in person, fill out this form (which asks extensive questions about criminal records, use of drugs, mental illness, juvenile delinquency, character and reputation). Philadelphia then performs an extensive background check, but only after an interview:
    If all paperwork is in order, the applicant will then be interviewed by Gun Permits & Tracking Unit Personnel. When the interview is completed, a state and local background investigation will be conducted to ascertain if the applicant is acceptable under law to be issued a “Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms".
    Philadelphia was specifically exempted from Pennsylvania's 1989 carry permit laws, and places more obstacles in the way of citizens seeking to protect themselves than anywhere else in the state.

    What should be painfully obvious by now is that those carefully screened people who are finally granted carry permits in Philadelphia are not criminals. They do not need to be disarmed. In fact, they are the kind of people whose presence on Philadelphia's streets makes everyone in the city safer. Yet Street wants to disarm them because of crimes committed by other people. Never mind statistics:

    Carry permit holders are much more law-abiding than the rest of the public. Only a minuscule percentage of permit holders commit firearm crimes.
    (More here.) Saying that guns owned by these screened citizens are the problem when they are not is about as logical as saying that guns in the hands of the police are the problem.

    But Street can cite no statistics at all, so instead he bases his opposition to carry permits on the homicide rate. And even that he exaggerates:

    Almost 80 percent of our 348 homicides in 2003 were committed with a gun...
    Not quite, according to the Inquirer:
    Nearly 78 percent of the killings were with a firearm, down slightly from a year ago.
    Nearly 78 is almost 80? (Tell grandma that 77 is almost 80!) Well, I guess that's consistent with the gun grabbers' notion that adults really ought to be counted as children.

    There's one statistic I'd love to see, but which will never see print in the Inquirer: the percentage of shooters who could have obtained a carry permit in Philadelphia (or, for that matter, anywhere in Pennsylvania).

    I'd be willing to bet it would be almost zero.

    posted by Eric at 08:02 PM | Comments (4)

    Bird's eye view of the blogosphere

    And now for a particularly excellent treat -- the 130th Carnival of the Vanities. Hosted at Bird's Eye View (known to some of you might know as the Radical Centrist), the quality of Bird's editing is matched only by the quality of the posts.

    A lot of thought, humor, and just plain work went into this, and it's a must read.

    posted by Eric at 05:40 PM | Comments (1)

    If it's not Spam, is it pseudospam?

    Perhaps someone out there knows more than I do about spam. Because, for the life of me I cannot figure out what earthly interest anyone (even a degenerated spammer) would have in spam that not only offers nothing for sale, but isn't even readable. Pure gobbledygook, like this:

    IP Address:
    Title: e3c0b66724b3d272c
    Weblog: e3c0b66724b3d272c

    55670b199eb2eacc0b6a2c97d7c901d1 41ffe81096980678e.

    The IP turned out to be the "Technical University of Vienna":
    inetnum: -
    descr: Technische Universitat Wien
    descr: Wiedner Hauptstrasse 8-10/E020
    descr: A-1040 Wien
    netname: TUNET-F
    descr: LAN Technical University of Vienna
    country: AT
    admin-c: TU917-RIPE
    tech-c: TU917-RIPE
    status: ASSIGNED PI "status:" definitions
    remarks: for trouble-reports contact
    remarks: for administrative request contact
    remarks: for security problems contact
    mnt-by: AS679-MNT
    mnt-by: ACONET-LIR-MNT
    remarks: changed: 19860613
    remarks: changed: 20010731
    changed: 20000529
    changed: 20000629
    changed: 20010722
    changed: 20040405
    changed: 20040422
    source: RIPE

    descr: TUNET
    origin: AS679
    mnt-by: AS679-MNT
    changed: 19980126
    source: RIPE


    This makes no sense at all, and when I get spam like this, they are typically sent at the same time from multiple IP addresses -- all showing similar incomprehensible gibberish. (I'm getting a lot of them, and they're a pain in the ass to delete with MT-Blacklist, as I have to delete them one at an effing time.)

    I have this crackpot theory that people don't do things unless they have a reason.

    Anyone out there have the slightest idea what the reason might be?

    posted by Eric at 04:58 PM | Comments (9)

    How to avoid blogospheric scrutiny

    In a local story now receiving national attention, New Jersey's Secretary of State upset young high school students by yelling at them and apparently calling them racists.

    TRENTON, N.J. -- A state Cabinet official whose fiery Black History Month speech apparently was too in-your-face for some listeners, issued a statement of regret Tuesday.

    Secretary of State Regena L. Thomas said her March 7 presentation to 600 freshmen and sophomores at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield was not meant to belittle the predominantly white audience, as some have charged.

    "My purpose was to raise the level of awareness and discourse of these issues, and to leave an impact," Thomas said in a statement issued Tuesday. "It was never meant to be personal or critical of the students or school."

    Thomas was not available to be interviewed Tuesday and a written copy of her remarks was not available, said her spokeswoman, Regina Wilder.

    Ms. Wilder did a good job, because I checked every one of these stories, and there's no account of what she said. The words appear nowhere.

    Without written remarks, what's a blogger to do?

    Sounds to me as if they're learning from the Eason affair.

    Never allow taping, and never allow bloggers access to written text!

    posted by Eric at 12:02 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Open Letter, Tiresome Argument

    I see that Daniel Moore has taken a non-swipe at Glenn Reynolds. En passant as it were, en route to these articles.

    Hmm... Glenn Reynolds manages to mention Leon Kass without some ad hominem, sophomoric attack attached to Mr. Kass's name. Is he turning over a new leaf?

    I hear that Reynolds hasn’t eaten any puppies lately, either.

    Hey Daniel. If you’re in the market for sophomoric, emotion-based argument, check this out. I hope you’ll harbor no ill feelings afterward. In fact, you’ll find a couple of posts of mine that are more to your liking here and here. Please do enjoy them. Sadly though, now is the time on Sprockets when we wrap up the small talk and become very unpleasant.

    I suspect, and quite strongly too, that you are letting your feelings of fondness and respect for your old mentor come between you and clarity of thought. You take Reason to task for not having read and understood the correct meaning of Kass’s writings.

    You say that "Leon Kass is clearly a man who doesn't like the idea of people living longer and healthier lives, even if he can't come up with a coherent factual argument against it" but it is quite clear that you have not actually read a word of Kass with an open mind because he comes up with many reasons for medicine directed at curing and thus living healthy, longer lives. However, death is not a disease or defect and does not require 'curing.'

    Quite frankly, from your discussions at 'Fight Aging!' about Leon Kass, I would recommend that you, along with Prof. Reynolds, needs to read a little more from the man you argue against. Because you show a severe lack of understanding of his position. I recommend starting with "Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity."

    This is a rather common informal debating tactic, and in my opinion not a very productive one. “If you haven’t read such-and-such by so-and-so, you have no RIGHT to an opinion on this subject!” is one of the more extreme variants of it. Thank you for being more moderate than that, but I believe your advice (and reading list) is misplaced.

    Leon Kass is a Public Figure, working in the Public Arena, doing his energetic best to influence Public Policy. He should be able to take the heat. So let him. Should the greater public (why, that’d be us!), have no “legitimate” opinions until we’ve been “properly” educated? I think not.

    As it happens, I’ve read a great deal of Kass over the last twenty years (as you know), so in a certain sense, Reason doesn’t need to. He could read me, instead. But if both Reason and I have come to differing conclusions than you have regarding Dr. Kass, perhaps it could be partially ascribed to his mode of presentation. My assumption is that you have had long and fruitful conversations with the man, exploring rich lines of inquiry. Quite delightful I’m sure, if you like that sort of thing. I, on the other hand, have had to rely on his mere words, lying dessicated and inert on paper, which makes a huge difference. Or perhaps one of us is just wrong.

    Now, when I am trying to be persuasive (or “con people” as my mother used to put it), I prefer a face-to-face encounter. There are subtleties of feedback, timing, and expression that allow for a much more effective presentation. I imagine it’s the same with Dr. Kass. A teacher, a pupil, a log between them and all of that, hey? So it does not surprise me that you, who have known him personally, should find him far more credible than either Reason or myself. Our impressions of the great man are necessarily filtered through various media, as are those of most other Americans. That’s just the way it is.

    That being the case, we are far from being alone in our “misperceptions” of him.

    First of all, "loss of dignity", is an abstract concept. It may represent some sort of symbolic truth for Kass, but it's significantly harder to define than a quality like sadness, pain, or grief. It's also incredibly subjective. Is "loss of dignity" limited to the way I feel about myself, or does it also encompass what you think about me? Have I lost dignity when I lose my virginity? Refuse to duel? Kill someone in combat?
    As far as I understand him, Kass acknowledges that he's talking about an abstract harm and then embraces it. Its like he's trying to assert that symbolic harm is the scariest kind. Why? Because he says it is. Moreover, by retreating to the abstract, the question of whether a particular technology might actually cause a loss of dignity can't be challenged by real life counter examples...Tellingly, I think, Kass retreated when faced with any real life examples.

    Hey, wait, she actually met him in person. Oops.

    I refuse to comment on the newfound role Professor and Presidential Bioethics Committee Chair Leon Kass has carved out for himself as "private citizen" lobbying Congress, utterly independent of his role as Chair of the President's own bioethics panel. It isn't that it is a surprising announcement, and the incredible gall of it requires no comment, but what is amazing to most who are reading Rick Weiss' revelation about the 'Neocon March on Washington' and the 'Bioethics Agenda' is how stupid a political move this is for the PCB...

    There.That’s an excerpt from “The American Journal of Bioethics”. It’s from their Editors Blog. Here’s another.

    I have an old-fashioned idea. That idea is that chairs of Presidential bioethics councils/commissions should, once appointed, go about their business with as much objectivity and neutrality as they can muster in order to facilitate the work of the council and ultimately to serve the American people. I have this idea because in years past it has been the case that chairing these councils or commissions has been viewed as a distinct honor and well worth the price of setting aside personal views at least for the duration of the group's work. It was with great distress, therefore, that I read Rick Weiss's article on p. 6 of the Washington Post this morning, "Conservatives Draft a 'bioethics agenda" for President."

    And another.

    Well, finally we got our hands on the heretofore unpublished document, "Bioethics for the Second Term: Legislative Recommendations," written by Chair of the President's Council for Bioethics Leon Kass and distributed to Congress this week in a lobbying push led by Kass himself. It contains the grand plan for all sorts of bans and restrictions of science to be enacted by the U.S. Congress, and has been unabashedly promoted by Kass - who says that he is not acting as Presidential Council Chair during his lobbying efforts.
    The agenda is sweeping, conservative, and odd enough that it has angered Republicans in Congress more than Democrats; the latter are beside themselves with joy at watching the right wing rip the Kass document to shreds for being too liberal. Democrats should not be too giddy - much of what is here could be pushed through the executive branch and left to the courts and states to reject.

    I hear that whole U.N. thing didn't go so well either.

    Given that I have never met the man, I believe that for my own limited purposes my perceptions of Kass may be substantially more correct than your own.

    One of those perceptions is that Kass is stunningly inept at advancing his own agenda. His forays into public policy have generated priceless levels of outrage on the opposing side, levels that Madison Avenue could only dream of aspiring to. He hands his political adversaries fifty caliber soundbites on a platinum chafing dish and then sadly shakes his head when they turn around and shoot him. For pity’s sake Daniel, the most debased, degenerate, leather-lunged ward heeler has better political instincts than Leon Kass. Charles Rangel has better political instincts than Leon Kass.

    But it would be a misperception on YOUR part to think that his adversaries don’t understand what he’s trying to say. Out of the entire vast body of his Thought, they most certainly understand the parts that are important to them. They hear what he’s saying, they understand it, and they don’t much like it. You could call it focus.

    Now, I have no difficulty distinguishing between a man and his work. You say he’s a great guy. Thoughtful, brilliant, caring, whatever. I say fine, granted. The man is not the book. You say if we just understood him better, as you do, we would see that our concerns refer to a crude caricature, and not the unjustly maligned humanitarian himself. I say, not so fast.

    Whatever allegedly misguided notions I may have about Leon Kass are based largely on his own words, dessicated and inert though they may be. I have bought his books. I have read them. I have understood what he is trying to say and, amazingly, I disagree with him. He’s wrong, Daniel.

    Just because he thinks he’s on the side of the angels doesn’t make it so. Take a good look in your history books. Plenty of good men, holy men even, have committed unspeakable acts, unshakeable in the righteousness of their convictions. Your beloved Professor is setting himself up to be one more in a sad line-up. Well, that or a laughingstock. That he would presume to set bounds on the human lifespan, is simply undeniable. It’s a plain fact. It can’t be spun. His motives, whether benevolent or not, are irrelevant. His sterling character is irrelevant. Even his great erudition is irrelevant. It’s his actions, and where they will take us, that worry me. He wants to force us down a particular path, and he’s doing it for our own good.

    You say he’s on the side of life? I say he’s on the side of life as he knows it, as he has chosen to define it. And he doesn’t think anyone should try to change that definition. Bad Things might happen.

    I don’t believe that. Doubling the human lifespan would not be a Bad Thing. Do you believe that, Daniel? You know that he believes that. What’s worse, he wants to Do Something about it. Am I making a bad call here? Honestly?

    If you think I’m misreading him, it’s hard for me to see how. Shorn from context, words can be twisted, but that technique only takes you so far. I think that I am reading him loud and clear. Here, you can double-check me. How is it exactly, that I am misreading the following “Kassages”?

    I wish to make the case for the virtues of mortality. Against my own strong love of life, and against my even stronger wish that no more of my loved ones should die, I aspire to speak truth to my desires by showing that the finitude of human life is a blessing for every human individual, whether he knows it or not.
    Paradoxically, even the young and vigorous may be suffering because of medicines success in removing death from their personal experience. Those born since the discovery of penicillin represent the first generation ever to grow up without experience or fear of probable death at an early age. They look around and see that virtually all their friends are alive.
    What we should do is work to prevent human cloning by making it illegal. We should aim for a global legal ban, if possible, and for a unilateral national ban at a minimum.... renegade scientists may secretly undertake to violate such a law, but we can deter them by both criminal sanctions and monetary penalties...
    ...if one could do something about Alzheimer's, if one could do something about chronic arthritis, if one could do something about general muscular weakness and not, somehow, increase the life expectancy to 150 years, I would be delighted.
    Withering is nature's preparation for death, for the one who dies and for the ones who look upon him.
    ...mortal danger is contained in the now popular notion that a person has a right over his body, a right that allows him to do what ever he wants to it or with it. Civil libertarians may applaud such a notion, as an arguably logical expansion of the right of privacy, of the right to be free from unwanted or offensive touchings. But for a physician, the idea must be unacceptable.
    even the perfectly voluntary use of powers to prolong life ... carries dangers of degradation, depersonalization and general enfeeblement of soul.
    Produce four, five, six generations alive at one time, and, by the way, continue the dwindling family size...One child, two parents, four grandparents, not counting divorce. We multiply this out. Sixty-four great-great-somethings focused on this one little guy. And that particular little guy is supposed to be looking after the well-being of his parents when they get older.
    I don’t know whether the earliest embryo is or is not my equal. I simply don’t know. I see the power of the argument from continuity, and yet my moral intuitions cut in a somewhat different direction, even if the existential choice were between preserving my embryo or rescuing someone else’s child...since I don’t know whether the early embryo is or is not one of us, and since the choice before us now is not this child versus this embryo but whether to engage in a speculative project of embryo research, I am inclined not to treat human embryos less well than they might deserve.
    ....Our cultural pluralism and easygoing relativism make it difficult to reach consensus on what we should embrace and what we should oppose....Since we live in a democracy, moreover, we face political difficulties in gaining a consensus to direct our future....we are in danger of forgetting what we have to lose, humanly speaking.
    ....we have nationally prohibited commercial traffic in organs for transplantation, even though a market would increase the needed supply....
    Revulsion is not an argument; and some of yesterday’s repugnances are today calmly accepted—not always for the better. In some crucial cases, however, repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason’s power completely to articulate it....
    But the present danger posed by human cloning is, paradoxically, also a golden opportunity.... we can strike a blow for the human control of the technological project.... The prospect of human cloning, so repulsive to contemplate, is the occasion for deciding whether we shall be slaves of unregulated innovation, and ultimately its artifacts.... The humanity of the human future is now in our hands.
    A few weeks ago an excellent federal anti-cloning bill was introduced in Congress, sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback and Representative David Weldon. This carefully drafted legislation seeks to prevent the cloning of human beings at the very first step, by prohibiting somatic cell nuclear transfer to produce embryonic clones, and provides substantial criminal and monetary penalties for violating the offers us the best chance—the only realistic chance—that we have to keep human cloning from happening... Getting this bill passed will not be easy....
    We are still early enough in the game, I think, that at least a certain amount of public discussion might be in order. We might try to hope to separate those interventions that deal with the degenerations that are not necessarily life-prolonging
    I would, I think, be inclined as we go forward over the next decades, to try to argue with the immortalists and the various other people who, it seems to me, have a very shallow view of this matter....a lot of idealists are shallow...there is a certain utopianism that is based upon the belief that if you somehow remove various kinds of limits, you will be producing simply good seems to me that to simply say life is good and more is therefore better—if that's as far as your thinking goes, then I would say it's shallow.
    Michigan, for example, has made it a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years or a fine of not more than $10 million, or both, to “intentionally engage in or attempt to engage in human cloning,” where human cloning means “the use of human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology to produce a human embryo"....
    The humanity of the human future is now in our hands.

    What sounds great in a dorm room bull session, sounds fairly awful coming out of federal policy makers. I tend to think he’s exceeding his mandate.

    I also tend to think concretely and simply. Hey, it’s just the way I am. Philosophy, as such, has often struck me as being a diversion from what truly matters. As well, it can sometimes mutate into yet another nasty “ism” and before you know it they’re rounding up and shooting the optometrists and planting rice on all the golf courses. Too much cerebration can blind men to the reality around them. They get caught up in grandiose dreams and lose sight of the basics. That’s why I like my scenarios simple.

    If our children are to flower, we need to sow them well and nurture them…But if they are truly to flower, we must go to seed; we must wither and give ground.

    Now tell the truth. If there were a pill that could add ten healthy years to your life, wouldn’t you take it? No icky pieces of embryos, no religious proscriptions or anguished moral dilemmas, just a simple magical pill, guaranteed to work. So would you? Would you want your girlfriend to take it too? How about your Dad, or your Mom, or Best Friend or Dog?

    Would you ever tell those people that they shouldn’t take it? Just how well would that go over, anyway?

    And let’s say the ten years go by, and it’s time to take the pill again. Do you have qualms? He does.

    And again, ten years after that, can you picture yourself as saying “Dad, wait! Don’t do it! Doctor Kass says you have to wither for us to flourish fully! Mom, please stop and think! I’m worried about the whole human race here!”

    Put that way, how ridiculous do these Kassian musings begin to sound? Think concretely. Think simply. We are talking about real people’s real lives. Some of them may be people you know. If you are out on your own now, getting an education, making a living, wooing and winning, do your parents really have to wither and die to validate your life?

    I am genuinely curious.

    My point here is that the personal will trump the theoretical almost every time. Barring the odd fanatic, of course. Got a sick wife? You’ll want that pill. Got a failing favorite aunt? You’ll want that pill.

    Even if you think it’s “bad for society”, you’ll want that pill. Forego the pill and you will still be far, far outnumbered by the shallow, thoughtless people like me who don’t care for philosophy. We’ll want that pill.

    Of course that pill is still imaginary today. But give it fifty years, a hundred years, and who knows? For the whole of recorded history people have dreamed of such a thing, along with other mad dreams like flying through the air, or not having their babies die of dysentery, or eating till they’re stuffed, the Whole Year Round. “Someday,” they might have thought, “those wolves and bears will be afraid of us! Just you wait!” Stranger things have happened.

    I expect that if it can be done at all, the next century or so should tell us. Barring the odd fanatic, of course. A self-guiding, self-perpetuating mandarinate of conservative bioethicists might manage to slow progress down a bit. Not everywhere and not forever, but long enough to be vexing. So it troubles me that people as intelligent as yourself nod approvingly and say “Yeah, he is really profound!” when Kass pronounces on human dignity and expiration dates. I wish that they would stop doing that. I think it just encourages him. I would like it even more if those selfsame people asked themselves the questions that I just asked you.

    If enough of them should answer, “Yes, I am willing to die for this idiotic notion, I and my entire family,”and assuming that they really, truly meant it, then I might start to worry in earnest.

    So how committed are you Daniel? "Death is not a disease or defect and does not require 'curing.'" Do you really mean that? I suspect that were it offered, you’d take the pill with no regrets. Am I correct in my assumption? If so, then as night follows the day, I must wonder why you put such credence in a man whose stated aims are so diametrically opposed to your own. Might it simply be that you like him? That would be a splendid reason to defend the man. But the man is not the book, nor is he the ideas the book contains. And some of those ideas are indefensible.

    Sincerely Yours,


    I am not a Luddite, I am not a hater of science. I esteem modern science and I regard it as really one of the great monuments to the human intellect...And if everybody else was worried about it, you would find me as one of its defenders. I am taking up the side that is weaker here, that needs articulation...

    AFTERTHOUGHTS: Daniel, thanks for replying to my open letter with such unexpected swiftness. I hope that you enjoyed the Kipling and Wells links at least. I note that you’ve answered some of my questions, but at least two still remain open, and I would love to hear your answers.

    Striving all the while for tact, I would like to know if you would object to your parents availing themselves of an inexpensive, truly effective life-extension therapy, indefinitely. If I am reading both you and Dr. Kass correctly, to live beyond our years is to cease being human, and I am wondering if you would view your parents as “no longer human” if they should happen to live past seven score and ten.

    Similarly, would you feel in any way personally diminished if your parents refused to “wither and give ground” on nature’s schedule? My suspicion is that your natural human sympathies would overcome your current philosophically derived opinions. “Of course he’s still human, he’s my Dad!” would be the gist of what I’m looking for here.

    Another point. Your reply seems somewhat self-contradictory. If, as you maintain, life-extension past a certain age renders us no longer human (which you say is problematic), then why are you yourself willing to use such therapies? Presumably, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Therefore, logically, anyone who wishes to use such therapies should have that same option. Which leaves us with what exactly? A vague sense of unease that the actions, which we all know we’re going to take anyway, might somehow lead to some vaguely delineated negative result? Whew! That same unease could result from almost any human action. So why are we agonizing over a decision that we know is already decided? I’m looking for the consistency here and not finding it, tiny minds and hobgoblins notwithstanding.

    A parting shot. If doing things that we’ve never done before can make us inhuman, then where does our own humanity stand in relation to that of our Paleolithic ancestors? I had buttered toast for breakfast today, a profoundly unnatural act in the Paleolithic Era. Then I indulged in a prolonged act of literacy, using my spectacles, equally unnatural. Why shouldn't living a longer life get the same free pass?

    Cordially Yours,


    posted by Justin at 11:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)

    Anti fascist?

    Stephen Schwartz does not seem to much care for Justin Raimondo:

    ....Referring to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, he wrote, “one needn’t refer to fiction when the relevant facts are so readily available.” (In other words, the Protocols may be fake, but they tell the truth.) According to Raimondo, “Today, the word ‘fascist’ is the political equivalent of the ‘f’-word, rendered virtually meaningless on account of its degeneration into pure epithet. Yet, Israel in its present trajectory fits the classic definition of fascism.” And: “Israel, far from being our faithful ally, is potentially an enemy.”

    Almost as intense as his hatred for the Jewish state is Raimondo’s loathing of democracy. Some may have been taken aback by the volume of his bile when he denounced the “orange revolution” in Ukraine as well as the current democratizing efforts in Lebanon. But not those who have followed Raimondo’s prominent association with the Russian Jew-baiting website,, and its American contributor, the neo-Nazi Bill White.

    There's much more, of course.

    I remember when Raimondo was a Libertarian. As I've noted before, he's reduced himself to being a defender of anti-Semitism.


    Maybe he'll come out of it.

    UPDATE (03/19/05): As pointed out by InstaPundit, "Dennis" doesn't have the same ring as, well, Justin.

    No wisecracks, please. This name-wringing stuff is very serious business.

    posted by Eric at 09:32 PM

    Love and war: an impatient pair

    Now in the spring, at the time when kings go out to war . . .

    -- 2 Samuel 11-1

    This damned winter is holding on with a vengeance, and doesn't want to let go. The last days of winter are usually much colder than the first days of winter. We speak of summer "fading" into fall, and fall "fading" into winter. But no one ever speaks of winter as "fading" into spring.

    Winter to spring is an out and out war.

    No wonder the ancients named this month (March) for the God of War. In so doing, Roman pagans were oddly in accord with the monotheists.

    Mars has been associated with two agricultural festivals one in March and one in October, when plants are put in the ground and when they are harvested. Roman people, although originally very pastoral, became very warlike and their wars began with the warmth of spring and ended as the weather grew cold in the autumn. This coincided with the two agricultural festivals of Mars. The Roman army gathered in Mars' temple for ritual and ceremony before going into battle and again, at the end of the war year, this time to purify their weapons. The main temple of Mars was also used as an exercising ground for the army. This may be how Mars and Ares became associated. Also, wars were often begun in March, the month named for Mars, because it was the beginning of spring.
    One difference between the pagans and the monotheists was that in the case of the former (at least with regard to Mars) no particular contradiction seems to have been seen between war and sex:
    The month March (Martius) is named after him. As the god of war, many of his festivals were held in the spring, the beginning of the campaign season. He was a god of spring, growth in nature, and fertility, and the protector of cattle. On March 1, the Feriae Marti was celebrated. The Armilustrium was held on October 19, the end of the campaigning season, the weapons of the soldiers were ritually purified and stored for winter.
    But many monotheists tend to see spring as a time for war, with sex being a sort of evil distraction.


    What David considered a casual dalliance with Bathsheba, he demonstrated his contempt for the creation of life (11:1-5). The Bible hints at his coming moral lapse in noting that in the spring of the year when kings go forth to battle, David tarried in Jerusalem. Had he been where he should have been, his sexual sin probably would never have happened. While his armies fought Israel’s wars, the king relaxed on his rooftop patio. Observing a beautiful woman as she bathed, he sent a messenger to invite her to see him. She complied.

    In the resulting sexual encounter, Bathsheba became pregnant. One can sympathize somewhat with Bathsheba. In those days, society not uncommonly ascribed all power to the king. Taking advantage of her, David desecrated what should have been a beautiful expression of love between a husband and wife and turned it into a tawdry expression of lust.

    I can understand why avoidance of war might be seen as a moral lapse, but I don't think it follows that sex and war are antithetical in nature. (In nature they most definitely are not antithetical!)

    I don't think you have to be a fundamentalist pagan to maintain that it isn't necessarily an either-or.

    Either way, it's still too cold.

    posted by Eric at 12:18 PM

    ACHTUNG! This blog is "diversity certified®"

    In his inimitable way, Jeff Jarvis takes issue with the notion that white is bad:

    OK, OK. I'm white. Very white. Pale white. Pasty white. Wonder-Bread white. Gray-haired, white-bearded white. Never-in-the-sun white. Just white. That picture up in the corner is color-corrected to give me the appearance of a healthy tone. It's a Photoshop lie. Actually, I'm vampirish. Bloodless. Practically transparent. Colorless. Odorless. Tasteless (just ask the FCC). White.

    (Via InstaPundit.)

    This outburst of transparency was prompted by a ridiculous remark by another paleface named Steven Levy who asks,
    Does the blogosphere have a diversity problem?
    And later,
    [I]s there a way to promote diversity online, given the built-in decentralization of the blog world?
    Well, I can't speak for other bloggers, but I try to do my part to promote diversity:

    And I don't appreciate Steven Levy's lame attempt at cultural shame.

    By way of illustrating the lameness of Levy's, um, argument, I thought I'd share this fascinating analysis of identity politics:

    The definition of group identity is at once the crux of identity politics and its fatal flaw. It is necessarily a process of exclusion. To mention two real-life examples, when Koreans decided to be Korean, they decided not to be Chinese, and when Lithuanians rather recently decided to be Lithuanian, they decided they were not Polish or Russian. But what if what one group excludes, the group they are excluding continues to include? Some Russian nationalists consider Ukrainians to be Russian; most Ukrainians disagree. If every group’s membership is determined by the group, than groups can arrive at contradictory determinations about the same people. Identity politics provides no principle for resolving these jurisdictional disputes.

    If the identification – or rather, the construction – of group identity is fundamentally arbitrary, fortuitous and even manipulable, identifying a group’s individual members adds another dimension of confusion and potential contestation. Politically organized groups like nation-states or hierarchic religions like Roman Catholicism can determine definitively who is a citizen or a communicant. But no authority can decide with any finality who is a punk, an anarchist, a Wiccan, a homosexual, etc.

    (Via Dave Kopel, at Volokh Conspiracy.)

    Well, I'll say this for Levy: skillful though he may be at the politics of shame, unlike Ward Churchill at least he isn't pretending to be other than white.

    I think he'll end up doing little more than scolding his own choir. Once scolded into submission, his choir may demand some sort of affirmative action linking (possibly even a "diversity certification" seal of approval) and denounce bloggers who don't comply with their demands.

    Might be worth another laugh or two.

    MORE: Levy's attempt at shame brings to mind the question of innate human guilt -- which practitioners of shame sometimes attempt to harness for political ends. Wretchard at the Belmont Club offers his personal speculation that guilt may be a universal human trait:

    A long time ago I personally came to the conclusion that there was no way to live on earth without the stain of guilt, maybe the concept of Original Sin was a rueful recognition of this condition.
    While I disagree in general with the general concept of Original Sin, it's more fair than race-based ad hominem attacks.

    posted by Eric at 10:05 AM | Comments (10)


    Here's a must-read piece on progress in the Middle East (link via ALDaily):

    The slogan for this nascent people's revolt has become "Kifaya," which means "enough." It's a word that is both emphatic and vague enough to be all-encompassing yet effective: enough of autocrats, enough corruption, enough occupation, enough repression. It has acquired magical and perhaps lasting power.

    A respected Egyptian analyst of the Arab condition, Abdel Moneim Said , argued in the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat last Wednesday that the "Enough" movement can already claim an important achievement -- sweeping aside the tired argument that "special circumstances" preclude Arabs and Muslims from sharing universal democratic principles.

    I always remember my intro. sociology professor's unflinching position that moral relativism is very often 'a subtle form of racism.' When people have told me in the past that democracy is a Western value and can't be 'imposed' elsewhere I would ask if it was the brown skin that made the difference.

    Here's hoping subtle racists everywhere come around and accept that freedom knows neither geography nor race.

    posted by Dennis at 09:57 AM | Comments (1)

    Symbolizing odds . . .

    For those who are tired of the usual stuff, here's a fascinating video of some sort of very colorful event in Japan. (Fun to watch and hear!)

    To the accompaniment of cymbals, medieval looking wagons full of soldiers crash into each other over and over again while the crowd cheers.

    If you don't want to bother with the video, here's a still:


    (A harmless sort of culture war. . . .)

    I stumbled onto this while engaged in a near-impossible search for pictures of another kind of crash; bullets colliding in mid-air. (Such an event is an extremely unlikely occurrence -- at least according to physicists.)

    These are the best I can do so far.....

    From a Japanese site:


    (According to the above, in the "most fierce battle "Taharazaka", 320,000 bullets were shot in a day," and some collided in mid-air.)

    From an American Civil War site:


    (The above collided in the seige of Petersburg. Called "the longest military action ever waged against an American city," the heavy losses led to Lee's surrender at Appomattox.)

    As to symbolism, I wasn't looking for it, and considered it meaningless to my search for colliding bullets. But I did find one web site -- apparently devoted to exploring "Queer Horror" -- and found this reference to colliding bullets in a Stephen King novel:

    Towards the end of the novel, the two gay men face off in an old-fashioned dual. They shoot simultaneously and their bullets collide in mid-air, deflecting them from their killing paths. The two seem to come to their senses, but are killed in an explosion set by other characters.
    Enough meaningless symbolism for one day!

    REMINDER: Never challenge Justin to a dual.

    posted by Eric at 08:20 AM | Comments (2)

    Garry's Endgame

    Garry Kasparov has retired his men to take on Vladimir Putin:

    Garry Kasparov, the world's top chess player for two decades and considered by many the greatest player in history, has announced his retirement from professional chess in an ambitious gambit and vowed to devote his energy to battling what he called the "dictatorship" of President Vladimir Putin.

    No word on just how he plans to do that, but I'm interested to find out. (link via ALDaily)

    posted by Dennis at 12:08 AM

    "A grandmother in her 50s"

    At least, that's how the petite (5'1") woman assigned to guard former linebacker and martial artist Brian Nichols was described.

    Which brings to mind Dennis's last post about bullshit.

    Why does bullshit seem to always get smeared across the headlines?

    I can think of many characterizations which might manage to find their way into a headline about triple quadruple murderer Brian Nichols, but "good person"?

    That's what stared me in the face in today's Inquirer as I simultaneously read Dennis's post:

    Views differ on accused Atlanta killer

    Family members call him a "good person," but others saw him having a knack for trouble.

    What evidence is presented about the man's alleged "goodness"? Well, there's this, um, inability to "understand":
    "We're trying to understand this whole thing," Nichols' sister-in-law, Felisza Nichols, said from her home in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., suburb of Plantation. "Why did this happen? His character is completely opposite to what is going on."
    His character? Reading that, I expected to see at least an attempt at a tale of a hint of goodness -- possibly an account of an honor student who'd suddenly lost it and just flipped out in court last week. Instead, there's this:
    Nick Pergine, who played football with Nichols at Kutztown, said Nichols' massive physical presence and martial-arts skills earned him a reputation as someone to be careful around.

    "He was a bad dude," Pergine said. "You didn't mess with him."

    Jake Williams, who coached Nichols at Kutztown, compared Nichols' physique with that of NFL star John Mobley, who also played at the university.

    "He was a physical specimen like you wouldn't believe," Williams said.

    Nichols was arrested at least three times during his short stay at the university.

    In 1990, he was charged with terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment, stemming from an incident in a university dining hall, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty to the two lesser charges and the others were dropped.

    The next year, Nichols was arrested twice in a month for criminal trespassing, misdemeanor criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. The charges were later dropped.

    After dropping out of school, Nichols moved to Georgia in 1995. He lived in an apartment complex in Atlanta; his last known job was working as a computer technician for a subsidiary of Atlanta-based shipping giant UPS. Company spokesman Norm Black says Nichols joined the unit in March 2004 and left in September 2004, which was when he was arrested in the rape case.

    Try as I might, the "good person" just isn't staring out at me. In fact, I see no evidence at all, save the statement by Nichols' attorney that he was "surprised."

    But "good person" makes the headline.

    Let's return to the tale of the tiny grandmother, and how she fared at the hands of this "good" man:

    Until Friday morning, Nichols, a 6'1" 210 pound former college football line backer and computer consultant, was in jail and standing trial for his alleged kidnapping and vicious assault on his former girlfriend. When returning Nichols to his jail cell from court on Thursday, jailers searched his shoes and found that he had smuggled two "shanks" or knife-like weapons from his jail cell into the courtroom. When advised of this, presiding Judge Rowland Barnes ordered additional security for Nichols' court appearance on Friday, however, he was nonetheless allowed to be alone that day with 5'1", 51-year old sheriff's deputy Cynthia Hall.

    Nichols overpowered Deputy Hall, grabbed her Beretta .40 cal. semi-automatic pistol, ammo magazines and police radio, and beat and shot the deputy. But instead of quickly fleeing the courthouse in furtherance of his escape, Nichols intentionally walked two or more minutes in the opposite direction and was somehow able to enter Judge Barnes' chambers. He captured another deputy and seized a second gun, and then entered the courtroom where he shot and killed Judge Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau, noting that the principal witness against Nichols (his former girlfriend), and prosecutor Gayle Abramson had yet to enter the room. He then ran from the court house, stopping long enough to shoot and kill deputy sheriff Hoyt Teasley who had pursued him from the building, car-jacked a number of vehicles while demanding that at least one car-jack victim stay in the car with him, but she instead ran screaming from her car. He next pistol whipped another vehicle owner who refused to accompany him, and then calmly walked down the street to the nearby rail station and rode the train to the northern part of town. Later that evening this "human Tsunami," one that cut a path of murder and mayhem across Atlanta, attempted to rob and then pistol whipped another victim, confronted and murdered off duty federal agent David Wilhelm, and finally took a local woman hostage in her own home. She was eventually able to talk her way out of her apartment and called the police who quickly surrounded Nichols and took him into custody.

    Remember, this all started because they locked this ferocious athlete in a holding cell alone with the tiny unarmed grandmother. (More in a moment on that; it's being downplayed.)

    Now, the grandmother's family is justifiably upset that no one was there to protect Mrs. Hall:

    A sister and a family friend of Fulton County Deputy Cynthia Hall say they are concerned about the fact that she was the only one guarding Brian Nichols before he allegedly attacked her.

    "If they had been on a heightened security alert on this individual, why weren't additional security measures taken?" asked Jean Hall, 46, of St. Albans, W.Va. "If it meant hiring an additional guard or two for the day — that's just common sense."

    Sheriff's Deputy Cynthia Hall may soon leave intensive care, her doctor says.

    Hall received severe head injuries in the Friday attack and remained in critical condition in Grady Memorial Hospital on Sunday night.

    Family friend Daphne Robinson, who grew up with Cynthia Hall in West Virginia, also said Hall should not have been the only guard on Nichols.

    "It should have been two or three," said Robinson, 43, who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. "They should have had more guards on him. He should have been shackled."

    The 51-year-old deputy is about 5 feet tall. Nichols, 33, is 6-foot-1 and weighs 200 pounds.

    You're damned right it doesn't make sense to lock this man in a cell with a 5'1" unarmed woman. The family is rightly outraged.

    She should not have been there. I know this is politically incorrect, but what happened violates the most elementary common sense.

    Would we expect a Chihuahua to successfully protect us against a rabid Rottweiler? (I'm afraid calling the Rottweiler a "nice doggie" wouldn't be enough either.)

    We come to the issue of whether Hall was armed or whether she should have been armed. I've been reading repeated accounts like this -- which make it appear that Nichols wrestled the gun away from Hall -- implying that she shouldn't have been armed.

    ATLANTA — On Wednesday, when Brian Nichols returned to jail from his rape trial, sheriff’s deputies found a pair of crude weapons in his socks.

    On Thursday, a judge, prosecutors and his attorney sought additional security for Nichols’ trial.

    Still, on Friday, the former football linebacker ended up alone — his handcuffs removed — in a room with a diminutive deputy almost 20 years his senior.

    Nichols, 33, overpowered the deputy, seized her handgun, and went on a shooting spree at the Fulton County Courthouse, authorities said. And the Sheriff’s Department faced difficult questions about how it performs one of its core jobs: protecting the county’s halls of justice.

    Many details about the episode remained unclear late Friday. Fulton County Sheriff Myron Freeman and other authorities declined to discuss whether officials had told the deputy assigned to guard Nichols, 51-year-old Cynthia Ann Hall, about the increased security concerns.

    They also would not describe Hall’s training or answer questions about why she carried a handgun into a locked room with an allegedly violent defendant.

    But she didn't carry the handgun into the locked room!

    Not according to a video captured by hidden cameras installed in the holding area:

    At 8:48 a.m. on Friday, Hall took a handcuffed Nichols from the detention area at the bottom of the downtown Justice Center Tower and put him in an elevator to take him to an eighth-floor holding area. There, Nichols was to change into his civilian clothes and resume a rape retrial before Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes.

    The holding room, which has two cells, is supposed to be a secure area between courtrooms in the modern Justice Center Tower.

    A video camera, which is supposed to be monitored by two guards in a command post, shows the two arriving in the holding area between two courtrooms, according to a law enforcement official who viewed the tape.

    The video shows Hall guiding Nichols, whose hands are still handcuffed behind his back, face-first into one of two open cells.

    Hall releases one cuff and turns Nichols around to unhook the remaining cuff, which is dangling from his wrist. She uncuffs him so he can change from a jail jumpsuit into street clothes.

    The muscular, 33-year-old Nichols then lunges at Hall, knocking the petite, 51-year-old woman backward into another cell. Both disappear from camera view because having a camera inside the actual holding cells is prohibited for privacy reasons. Two to three minutes later, Nichols emerges from the cell, holding Hall's gun belt and police radio. He picks up her keys from the floor and locks her inside the cell. Nichols then enters the empty cell.

    A couple of minutes later, he emerges dressed in civilian clothes. He locks the door behind him and saunters calmly out of the holding area, carrying the gun belt, according to the law enforcement official who viewed the tape. Nichols appears to know which key to use to unlock the holding area door and enters a vacant courtroom on the eighth floor.

    Nichols told Atlanta police that on the way out he retrieved the deputy's gun from a security lockbox where Hall had placed the weapon. He was able to get the weapon because he had Hall's keys.

    If I didn't know any better, I'd say it looks like they didn't trust small grandmothers to carry guns into the holding area. Why? Because there'd be nothing to stop guys like Nichols from snatching them away and doing exactly what he ended up doing.

    This whole, bumbling fiasco would almost be comical if it weren't for the tragic loss of life involved. Unthinking bureaucrats wrote the rules which placed the tiny grandmother (and everyone who died) at risk. Now they'll rewrite the rules again. I am sure they'll refer things to a committee. Maybe even a committee to study the results of the committee. And then a Commission! Maybe even a "Blue Ribbon Commission." (Dennis, please shut up about bullshit!)

    Of one thing you can be sure: common sense will not be considered.

    I'll therefore conclude with a few questions for the Commission as they ponder the "bad choices" which "led to tragedy" for a tiny grandmother and a "good person":

  • 1. Was the holding cell wheelchair accessible for handicapped deputies who might be assigned to guard prisoners?
  • 2. Couldn't more gun control laws have prevented these deaths? Doesn't this tragedy supply more proof of existing statistics showing that a gun is more likely to be taken away and used against whoever has it?
  • 3. In light of the fact that guns only fuel these types of cycles of violence, should the city consider enacting laws creating legal liability for manufacturers of guns stolen and used in crime?
  • 4. Were sufficient grief counselors present at the scene of the tragedy?
  • Stay tuned.

    (I don't know if I can stand to stay tuned, as I'm reminded of the many hours I spent sitting on committees . . . )

    MORE: Reading the most recent account I can find, it's still not being made clear whether or not Nichols wrestled a gun from Hall, later unlocking the cabinet and stealing another gun belonging to her, or whether she was unarmed, and he stole her only gun. From what I am reading, it appears that Hall was unarmed while in the holding area -- but that might be wrong. (I haven't seen the video, but if Nichols already had the gun, why bother to unlock the cabinet for a gun?)

    AND MORE: Yet another report does little to shed light on the status of Hall's gun:

    "Common sense says you lock up the gun in the lockbox, but policy and common sense aren't always the same thing,"said another deputy with long experience in courthouse security.

    The camera did not show whether Hall had locked her gun. In a confession Sunday, Nichols said he retrieved Hall's gun from a lockbox.

    The key to the lockbox is typically on the same chain with keys that unlock handcuffs and the holding cell door.

    Policy and common sense aren't always the same thing?

    I'd say they're becoming antonyms. . .

    posted by Eric at 08:47 AM | Comments (3)

    That's Bush League!

    During the latest Classical Values Summit (Justin, unfortunately, was tied up with Karl haggling over the definition of 'hit' -- Rove wants to pay us a dollar per hit as registered by SiteMeter, while we favor server statistics -- muy lucrativo[*]) the term 'bullshit' came up (as it often does, particulalry when discussing our own blog, which merely mimes the memes of Bush's minions).

    I was reminded of a column I'd skimmed on a retired philosophy professor's essay titled 'On Bullshit' and Eric was intrigued to hear more. I may have let it go if it weren't for this critique of Washington Post editor Phillip Bennett spotted on Roger L. Simon's blog (via Glenn Reynolds):

    BTW: I don't often use expletives on this blog, but the following excerpt seems to merit it. If you want bullshit at it's most rarified (or should I say blatant?), how about this quote from Bennett?

    We have a little bit different roles in newspapers compared with our counterparts in Europe and other countries. We don't have any political point of view that we are trying to advance. We don't represent any political parties. We are not tied to any political movement.

    Now that certainly does sound like bullshit. But what about the column mentioned above? Here's the crux of the biscuit:

    Frankfurt's conclusion, which I caught up with in its latest repackaging, is that bullshit is defined not so much by the end product as by the process by which it is created.

    Eureka! Frankfurt's definition is one of those not-at-all-obvious insights that become blindingly obvious the moment they are expressed. Although Frankfurt doesn't point this out, it immediately occurred to me upon closing his book that the word "bullshit" is both noun and verb, and that this duality distinguishes bullshit not only from the aforementioned Menckenesque antecedents, but also from its contemporary near-relative, horseshit. It is possible to bullshit somebody, but it is not possible to poppycock, or to twaddle, or to horseshit anyone. When we speak of bullshit, then, we speak, implicitly, of the action that brought the bullshit into being: Somebody bullshitted.

    Only not quite. The crux of Noah's biscuit is a kind of ad captandum,[1] an appeal to the emotions of the leftist rabble rather than any reasoned argument:

    The Bush administration is clearly more bullshit-heavy than its predecessors. Slate's founding editor, Michael Kinsley, put his finger on the Bush administration's particular style of lying three years ago:
    If the truth was too precious to waste on politics for Bush I and a challenge to overcome for Clinton, for our current George Bush it is simply boring and uncool. Bush II administration lies are often so laughably obvious that you wonder why they bother. Until you realize: They haven't bothered.

    But by Frankfurt's lights, what Bush does isn't lying at all. It's bullshitting. Whatever you choose to call it, Bush's indifference to the truth is indeed more troubling, in many ways, than what Frankfurt calls "lying" would be. Richard Nixon knew he was bombing Cambodia. Does George W. Bush have a clue that his Social Security arithmetic fails to add up? How can he know if he doesn't care?

    The evidence for our dopey President's blind indifference to the truth (i.e. bullshit) is this bit on those pesky '16 words':

    Frankfurt's definition is provocative because it allows for the little-recognized possibility that bullshit can be substantively true, and still be bullshit.
    . . . . .
    Did the FT's stories mean that the 16 words might not be bullshit? No. They meant the 16 words might be true, but still didn't legitimize the shoddy White House research that had led to their inclusion in the speech. When those words were written into the speech, the president and his staff lacked the evidence needed to support them. They were bullshitting. The 16 words therefore remain bullshit, and will continue to remain bullshit even if the charge is eventually proved true.

    Smell that, kids? Unmistakable.

    (Now maybe Rove'll pony up.)

    [1] In subverting reason in favor of unsupported 'truisms' with which the choir might gladly sing along, this differs from an ad hominem argument which generally resorts to personal matters which are demonstrably true, such as 'Ted Kennedy is a drunk.' While Ted Kennedy is certainly a drunk, it is his ideology and not his tippling that's the problem and any mention of booze in political discourse would be inappropriate. So too the claim that 'Ted Kennedy is clearly untrustworthy.' That just doesn't cut it.)

    [*]Correction: Not knowing Spanish I orignally typed 'mucho lucrativo' but upon proof-reading the post I realized it must be 'muy lucrativo' and have changed it accordingly. At least I didn't confuse things like nouns and adjectives in my native tongue.

    posted by Dennis at 07:48 AM

    But who shall review the reviewers of the reviewers?

    There's been a lot of talk about transparency in the blogosphere, but until today I had no idea that anyone was extending the concept to blog advertising.

    That's right; in the same way that readers might leave a comment relating to a blog post, consumers can leave comments relating to blog advertisements.

    For example, this ad for Lightscribe has already drawn seven comments:

    Lightscribe Welcomes Your Feedback

    This space is meant for Engadget readers to share their experiences about our advertisers, helping others gain insight and helping our advertisers to improve their offering. As such, please use this space to share what you know about Lightscribe.

    Share what you love, share what you want, and even share what you hate! Please keep comments constructive, we look forward to your insights.

    The following reason is given for ad transparency:
    Weblogs, Inc. Focus Ads are meant to create transparency in advertising — helping our readers to gain insight and helping our advertisers to create a better product or service. Our advertisers participate because they believe in their brands and are willing to improve them through the feedback of enthusiasts.
    Obviously, no one can compel an advertiser to allow comments, any more than a blogger can be compelled to allow them.

    I do see a possible downside to such "transparency," and that is the possibility of its misuse by cutthroat competitors. In a tight market, it might be in their interest to employ "shill commenters." Naturally, this could cause the victimized business to retaliate, by posting bogus favorable reviews, or counterattacks against the competing product. At precisely what point would a shill commenter be considered a spammer?

    Shill commenters? Gee, what am I saying?

    Next they'll be talking about transparency in commenting!

    Round and round it goes.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I sure hope there's no political analogy to be made here.

    (Best not to go there, I guess.....)

    I'd hate to have to institute a new rule requiring every shrill troll to pay a shill toll!

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that John Hawkins is now shilling for an advertiser -- despite the fact that he'd previously characterized the very same advertiser as a "SNAKEPIT!"

    (Surely there's a power imbalance nexus in there somewhere. I say more power to right the power imbalance which is always caused by, of all things, an imbalance of power!)

    posted by Eric at 04:31 PM | Comments (1)

    In my illegal opinion . . .

    What part of "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech" don't they understand?

    The Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman is claiming that "ideological extremism" reigns on the Internet, while seeming (in my view, at least) to manage an unconcealed wink at the proposed blog crackdown:

    ....there are also new storm signals about the Internet and its future potential for degrading public dialogue.

    The IPDI warns in a new report that the burgeoning use of Web political videos is bound "to further exacerbate the partisanship of an already polarized electorate." And a survey firm, NOP World, has discovered that online political devotees are more ideologically extreme than the public at large, more skewed to the left or the right.

    "I have an enormous amount of concern," said Phil Noble, an Internet entrepreneur, frowning at his shoes. "My son, who's a big Star Wars fan, likes to talk about 'the dark side.' Well, on the Internet, the dark side is at least as potentially powerful as the bright side. It's a huge, huge problem."

    Item: Back in 2002, the Democrats launched the first major Web attack video, which showed Bush shoving a woman in a wheelchair down a virtual stairway (actually, a descending stock-market graph). She crashed at the bottom and exploded in a puff of smoke.

    Item: Joseph Steffen, an aide to Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, was fired last month after he was exposed as the person who had posted anonymous (and, it turned out, erroneous) rumors on a popular conservative Web site alleging that Ehrlich's potential 2006 challenger, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, was involved with an African American TV journalist.

    But perhaps the most telling development occurred in Daschle's reelection loss to John Thune. Some observers believe that the South Dakota "blog offensive" could be replicated next year in other races. Two bloggers, launching ostensibly independent sites titled South Dakota Politics and Daschle v. Thune, hammered Daschle relentlessly; they also attacked the state's flagship newspaper, which they deemed pro-Daschle. The bloggers received payments from the Thune campaign ($35,000 overall) for their work, but they didn't reveal that on their sites.

    Online political devotees? Is that a new synonym for bloggers?

    It's tough to tell whether Polman is talking about blogs or the Internet, as he puts the word "blogosphere" in quotes. But he seems not terribly concerned about the obvious threat to free speech:

    Aides to former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle are still smarting over his narrow November defeat, which can be attributed in part to the dogged work of two conservative bloggers who were secretly being paid by the Republican campaign.

    And while all this, and so much more, is going on, the Federal Election Commission is now declaring that it intends to police the "blogosphere," starting with a formal announcement on March 24, and ultimately write rules that could crack down on some of the more adventurous online politicking.

    Much is made of the $35,000 paid to the pro-Thune bloggers. A recurrent, unsettled question in my mind is: how does money alter a message?

    I mean, I'm not looking in the mail for my check. But suppose Republicans paid me $35,000. How would that change what I'm saying or what I think about anything? I don't see how it would -- any more than it would change anything if I gave $35,000 to the Republicans. Or the Democrats. Or the Libertarians.

    Besides, I thought one of the chief complaints about bloggers is that (in O'Reilly's words), they "work for no one and can't be fired." Tough to have it both ways.

    For what it's worth, I think the pro-Thune bloggers should have disclosed that they took the money. It wouldn't have altered my natural skepticism about anything, nor would it have changed my mind, but it would have helped their credibility, which has suffered accordingly. That's how things should be. They're still free to write anything they want, and they always will be.

    If all readers used logic and reason, who paid who wouldn't matter. I am frequently told that the Cato Institute takes money from the lumber industry -- as if that taints their philosophy. I don't see how it does, as their work stands or falls on its own merit; whatever logic or statistics are used neither increase nor decrease in value depending on who contributes. There are, of course, people who contribute to causes they believe in out of perceived self interest.

    I'm a life member of the NRA, and I've given money to gun causes over the years. This, I am told, makes me a member of the "gun lobby." I defy anyone to tell me how this contaminates or changes any of my opinions about the Second Amendment or guns. If the NRA decided (for whatever bizarre reason) to pay me to write what I think about guns, and I took the money, how would that devalue, refute, or defeat my thinking in any way? In all honesty, I can't see how it would. What we're talking about are appearances. This "disclosure" business strikes me more as a game of "gotcha!" than anything else. The really devious and sneaky people will take steps to assure that they don't take anything which might have to be disclosed, and if they did disclose it, they'd do it in a skillful way to avoid the appearance of impropriety. (This whole appearance-of-cleanliness mindset is discussed in detail in this excellent book which I highly recommend. No one paid me to recommend it, either!)

    The FEC angle is even more interesting, because if McCain-Feingold is applied to bloggers, then the words I write can be magically transformed into "campaign contributions." This means that my opinions become donations subject to regulation by bureaucrats.

    While I can't speak for others, I'd go to prison before I'd comply with such nonsense.

    This is the biggest threat to free speech I have seen in my 50 years living in the United States. It's one of those "we must hang together or we'll all hang separately" things that everyone -- old media, new media, bloggers, MSM journalists, Republicans, Democrats, Neocons, religious conservatives, socialists, gun nuts, Marxists, Homocons, you name it -- should resolutely oppose.

    Better hurry -- because at this rate, working to defeat the new speech regulations will itself become illegal!

    posted by Eric at 09:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

    More Orwellian nonsense

    This may come as a shock to many who proclaim Jeff Gannon to be a "fraud," but after inquiring into the hiring practices of executive editors, Confederate Yankee examined the journalistic credentials of Jeff Gannon, and concluded that he's more qualified than many of his critics:

    ....would Jeff Gannon be hired as a “real” reporter by a real news organization on merit alone? Let's look at the facts.

    Gannon obtained a bachelor's degree from West Chester University, which would have qualified him among the 90% of hires that hold four year degrees, and among the roughly half of non-journalism degree holders that work as journalists.

    Another fact many also choose to omit, either by ignorance or design, is that Gannon didn't just jump into a career as a paid journalist. In college he was the school newspaper's sports editor for a year and occasional opinion columnist as well. He first wrote for Talon News as a voluntary contributor, and wrote many articles for them before he was hired full-time. This is consistent with what many hiring editors would appear to deem as an adequate display of ability and experience. At the time Gannon joined the news service, Talon News was staffed almost entirely by volunteer writers, just as the fledgling Blogger News Network is today.

    It was only after establishing a track record of articles for Talon that he was hired as a full-time correspondent. To date, Gannon has written hundreds of articles, which would satisfy the amount of experience apparently desired by even the most discerning executive editors.

    Jeff Gannon has a four-year college education. He has writing experience first as a voluntary contributor, and later as a paid correspondent. Whether or not you like his attitude, his past, or his unabashed conservative bias, Jeff Gannon does indeed have solid journalistic credentials.

    If you don't think writing for the high school paper plus four years of college are qualifications for journalism, ask Helen Thomas.

    But this is all beside the point to many of Gannon's critics -- who'd immediately claim that their quarrel wasn't with Gannon's credentials, or his allegedly too-colorful sex life, but the fact that he wasn't using under his real name.

    Try as I might, I am unable to find a rule requiring journalists to use their own true names. We might start with Helen Thomas' Hearst predecessor, Winifred Black, who wrote as "Annie Laurie." (She started out as an actress, then turned to sensationalized reporting.)

    I suppose we could turn on the Wayback Machine and go all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin writing as Silence Dogood.

    Or that "unscrupulous, diabolical journalist" whose real name was Daniel Defoe -- but who "used a number of pen names, including Eye Witness, T.Taylor, and Andrew Morton."

    Working our way forward, do The Federalist Papers count as journalism, or mere anonymous writing?

    And I'd hate to implicate Mark Twain in journalistic fraud, but his real name was Samuel Clemens.

    If all these false identities sound a tad Orwellian, ask Eric Blair.

    Do bloggers have to use their real names too?

    UPDATE: We all know about Geraldo..... But how many people know that Larry King and Wolf Blitzer are also practitioners of Orwellian fraudulence?

    posted by Eric at 11:22 PM | Comments (2)

    Free speech for thee, me, and we!

    I've received several emails from religious activists upset about the treatment by gay rights activists (and Philadelphia's criminal justice system) of anti-gay crusader and former Clinton White House intern Michael Marcavage.

    WorldNetDaily and many other sites have watched this case closely, and the charges were recently dismissed. Marcavage, whose talent I spotted some time ago (and who I predicted would go far), has a knack for upsetting gay activists and causing them to overreact. When the police side with the gay activists, it plays right into his hands, giving him a perfectly scripted morality play for the people who scream that "the homos" have taken over the culture.

    What makes it easy for Marcavage is the increasing tendency to apply time-place-and-manner restrictions to free speech by segregating opposing points of view. Police see this as a way of avoiding trouble -- especially when the dissenting message is viewed as likely to inflame. Republicans have tried to segregate anti-Bush demonstrators by designating zones where they are free to demonstrate (and be ignored). Marcavage wants to be right in the center of gay pride rallies denouncing homosexuality as a sin with bullhorns.

    I think he has just as much right to do that as would an anti-Bush demonstrator at a Bush rally, a Republican activist at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, a Klansman at an NAACP rally, or even a Nazi at an ADL rally.

    Despite his claims to the contrary, Marcavage's situation is not unique. Demonstrators were kept from getting too close to the Republican convention last summer. During my recent trip to Berkeley I attended a pro-Israel event at which the wreckage of an Israeli commuter bus (blown up by suicide terrorists) was displayed, and I filmed angry counter-demonstrators who were highly provocative, and who would not keep away from the rally by staying in the place the police demanded. Finally, they moved back after being threatened with arrest.

    While I found the terrorist supporters appalling in the extreme, in terms of free speech there is no logical difference between them and Marcavage at a gay rally. (Nor, despite the absurd charges, is Marcavage any more guilty of hate crime than the anti-Semites.)

    Either the police have a right to ask them to keep in a designated area or they do not.

    Interestingly, this former Clinton intern protested at the Bush inauguration, and has a history of harassing Catholics (he thinks the latter practice idolatry by praying to Mary and are damned unless they are born again).

    He's within his First Amendment rights to do all these things, but somehow I doubt he was allowed to get close to the inauguration.

    posted by Eric at 07:15 PM | Comments (3)

    A sincerely regretful plea to save our antiquities!

    Via Arthur Silber, I found a fascinating story which, if true, doesn't seem to have gotten the attention it deserves. Apparently, the Washington Post has run a story accusing Glenn Reynolds of condoning the nuking of Rome!

    U.S. troops near Baghdad fired on a car Friday night carrying an Italian journalist who had just been freed after a month in captivity, wounding her and another passenger and killing an Italian military intelligence officer, according to Italian and U.S. officials.

    Right-wing bloggers immediately demanded the resignations of the heads of all major wire services and the three U.S. broadcast news networks for reporting the incident, which they said reflected poorly on the U.S. military.

    "These are nothing more than vicious, cowardly attacks on our heroic warriors for freedom in Iraq," said conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. "The American people need to be protected from such defeatist nonsense." Malkin called for a far-reaching congressional investigation into the loyalty of the "so-called mainstream media."

    "Even if the commie slut did get shot, it was no more than she deserved for faking her own kidnapping," added the conservative blog Jawa Report. Meanwhile, commenters on the popular right-wing chat site Little Green Footballs demanded an all-out nuclear attack on Rome to end the scattered anti-American demonstrations that have been held there since the shooting.

    "Regretfully, I must agree," added conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, owner of the popular Instapundit site.

    Rome of all places!

    The eternal city!

    Immortal gods!

    Great Caesar's ghost!

    Nuked by InstaPundit?

    I love satire, but what bothers me about this story is that the WaPo link -- which was provided by Whiskey Bar -- doesn't bring up the actual story. So now I'm really frustrated.

    What's up with that?

    Let's assume the story is true. That means that, um, Glenn Reynolds actually wants to nuke Rome. (An odd thing considering his proven past affiliations. . . .)

    Hmmmm. . . .

    After much soul-searching, I have come to a painful decision.

    I believe in loyalty to the cause. If, and only if, Glenn Reynolds thinks Rome should be nuked, I guess I'll just have to go along with him -- but only very regretfully. And even then I'd implore, beseech him to please, please use a clean -- a squeaky clean -- neutron bomb!

    Our classical heritage must be preserved!

    UPDATE: I found a link to the story here. It still seems to be working, but I'd advise going there fast and reading it before they take it down.


    For the sake of the blogosphere, I hope the report turns out not to be true.

    I'd hate to see things mushroom out of control.

    UPDATE: I now learn that Glenn Reynolds delivered a lecture in Washington today. (Sheesh! A hell of a way to welcome a guy.)

    For what it's worth, I question the timing!

    posted by Eric at 01:24 PM | Comments (8)

    Searching for the root cause of cultural bias

    Via Charles Johnson, I see that Swedish giant IKEA refuses to depict women in its instruction manuals -- to avoid offending fundamentalist Islamic sensibilities. Norway's Prime Minister is justifiably incensed:

    OSLO, Norway (Reuters) - Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA is guilty of sex discrimination by showing only men putting together furniture in its instruction manuals, Norway's prime minister says.

    IKEA, which has more than 200 stores in 32 nations, fears it might offend Muslims by depicting women assembling everything from cupboards to beds. Its manuals show only men or cartoon figures whose sex is unclear.

    "This isn't good enough," Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was quoted Thursday as telling the daily Verdens Gang. "It's important to promote attitudes for sexual equality, not least in Muslim nations."

    "They should change this," he said. "There's no justification for it."

    I guess if women can't read maps, they can't put together furniture, either?

    Sweden has a long history of such appeasement, and I'm glad to see Norway isn't going along with this one.

    But I'd be willing to bet you won't see IKEA selling this mug:


    In the interest of full disclosure, I think it's fair to point out that I am an American of Norwegian descent, which may mean that my bias is showing by linking this story.

    In my defense, I should also note that this whole flap is probably another Karl Rove plot.

    Just ask Walter Cronkite.

    posted by Eric at 09:50 AM | Comments (3)

    Don't get mapped out!

    As if it's not enough to read about such idiotic new words as "heteronormative," via Rand Simberg I learn that gay men don't read maps the same way as heterosexual men, nor do lesbians read maps the same way as heterosexual women.

    Gay men employ the same strategies for navigating as women - using landmarks to find their way around - a new study suggests.
    But they also use the strategies typically used by straight men, such as using compass directions and distances. In contrast, gay women read maps just like straight women, reveals the study of 80 heterosexual and homosexual men and women.
    Going to the article itself, things get even crazier:
    Rahman and his colleagues designed the study to test a theory that gay men and lesbian women might show "cross-sex shifts" in some cognitive abilities as well as in their sexual preferences.

    The hypothesis is that homosexual people shift in the direction of the opposite sex in other aspects of their psychology other than sexual preference. That is, gay men may take on aspects of female psychology, and lesbians acquire aspects of male psychology.

    Gay men did indeed show a "robust cross-sex shift" in the study, says Rahman. Volunteers were asked to look at a pictorial map and memorise four different routes for about a minute. They then had to recall the information as though they were giving a friend directions from one place to another.

    "As we expected, straight men used more compass directions than gay men or women, and used distances as well. Women recalled significantly more landmarks," says Rahman. But gay men recalled more landmarks than straight men, as well as using typically male orientation strategies.

    Male orientation strategies?

    Is this serious? I've done a lot of driving, and I've known plenty of gay men who think in terms of linear directions, as well plenty of straight men who think in terms of landmarks.

    I think it's heteronormative to suggest that there's a right way to read a map. Must millions of frightened and oppressed male adolescents be forced to prove themselves "straight" at compass point?

    I say, the way you read a map or find directions are choices. They can be learned, changed, or ignored. I suppose one might be born with a propensity to use landmarks in finding directions instead of maps, but is there really a right way or a wrong way? Why should anyone have the right to decide for others? I see no need to impose a stigma or make people feel guilty about it -- any more than there should be for religion or sexuality.

    Let people find their own way.

    (I'm plenty disoriented without anyone's help.)

    posted by Eric at 09:13 AM | Comments (6)

    Controlling sex?

    Dean Esmay has caused me to think some more (since my previous post) about why women support (even encourage) violence and even murder of other women, especially in the form of Muslim "honor killings."

    Typically, women in these cases are killed for the crime of being "sluts." (Precisely what Hatin Surucu was called.)

    There's also the sickening tradition of women being mutilated genitally, and the traditional reason for this is also "slut prevention" -- the theory being that women who lack clitorises have lower libidos and are thus less interested in sex.

    Presumably, the covering of women is also intended (among other things) to prevent "sluttiness."

    Without getting into the effectiveness of any of these methods (I don't think I need to repeat that I abhor them), why would men would have a greater interest in preventing "sluttiness" than women? If we look at this at the most instinctive, animal level, might not women have a greater interest in lowering men's sexual interest levels than would men? Might, say, a village "slut" be more of a threat to women than to men?

    Dean's point is even more disturbing in this light. Feminism posits that women who enforce such practices as veiling, honor killing, and genital mutilation are oppressed creatures doing the bidding of the male patriarchy.

    Are things really so clear?

    Here's one of Dean's commenters (a female blogger named Caltechgirl):

    Perhaps the participation of women in these rites is considered by western feminists to be the ultimate in equality, ie that women are only truly equal to men when they become capable of opression and violence towards other women.

    However, it's much more likely that because women participate in female circumcision and honor killing, feminists are confused about what to say. Is it opression when we do it alone? How do we change an entire culture so that women don't feel that they have to protect themselves by killing or maiming other women? These are questions that are far too serious for what has become (for most) a dilettante movement at best.

    Dare I ask whether there might be unconscious reasons -- (as much pragmatic as instinctive) why feminists are silent about women's complicity in the use of violence to control sex?

    posted by Eric at 08:52 AM | Comments (10)

    Empowerment for losers?

    Things are happening faster than I thought.

    As if any further evidence was needed that the 2008 election campaign is now in full swing, here's photographic proof:


    Via the New York Times, which was forced to note (but not question) the timing:

    The timing of Mrs. Clinton's remarks is noteworthy: She has recently struck moderate themes, imbuing her speeches with references to faith and prayer and placing far less emphasis on polarizing issues like gay marriage and abortion.
    Not to be outdone by the Big Apple's reigning champion, the New York Daily News offered a bit more by way of speculation:
    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton stood with one of her most conservative colleagues yesterday to announce a bill to curb sex-and-violence-drenched TV shows and video games.

    Clinton (D-N.Y.) has several co-sponsors - including Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) - for the bill, which would provide government funding to closely study the impact of such video games and shows on kids. But it was conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) who caught the eye of political watchers.

    At a Kaiser Family Foundation event before a news conference, Clinton, who's believed to be eying a 2008 White House run, called the proliferation of violence and sex in the media "a silent epidemic." Clinton, Santorum and the others submitted a similar bill last May, but it went nowhere.

    Some observers believe Clinton is ratcheting up overtures toward the political right for '08; Santorum is a leading Senate conservative and a lightening rod among gay activists for his anti-gay marriage beliefs.

    Alan Van Cappelle, of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said Clinton understands "the mark of a good legislator is someone who could work across the aisle," and said he hopes she will "educate Sen. Santorum on some of the issues she cares about," like gay rights.

    This is a brilliant move by Hillary Clinton, and it shows what an astute and capable politician she is. Knowing full well that no triangulation strategy can place her to the right of the country's moral and religious conservatives, her strategy is to appear to side with them. This does three things:

  • 1. Provokes moral conservatives into "proving" themselves to be the "true" moral conservatives -- and the only way to do this is for them to move further to the "right." (A word I use advisedly, because I don't see logically why sex should dictate political positions.)
  • 2. By forcing Republicans into positioning themselves to her right on media issues (including the Internet!), Hillary cements more firmly into place the public perception of Republicans as pro-censorship.
  • 3. By leaving intact the perception that she is to the left of the Republicans, she keeps her hold on liberal voters -- while making the left-wing position ever-so-slightly more palatable to moderate Americans who fear or distrust religious conservatives.
  • Hillary's new image is also bound to please many of the moral conservatives -- who will see it as a victory for "traditional values." They will be in a position to demand a candidate to their liking, hopefully (from Hillary's standpoint) too "extreme" for socially liberal middle American tastes.

    As Rand Simberg recently noted, those who put "moral" principle ahead of victory are losers. (Megadittos from Classical Values!)

    The problem for the rest of us is that they'd rather have Hillary as president than Giuliani or Schwarzenegger. (More think tank money, more time to regroup, less compromising of principles.)

    That's not a problem for Hillary.

    In fact, that may be the whole idea.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Might it finally be the time to ask whether Hillary is being "heteronormative"?

    posted by Eric at 01:19 PM | Comments (2)

    Holding fingers to the whiff . . .

    I never thought I'd see anything like it, but here it is.

    On the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer, there's a column by the anti-Bush Dick Polman which dares to admit the possibility that the laughable Bush doctrine might be working:

    Mideast moves give Bush critics pause

    By Dick Polman

    Inquirer Political Analyst

    It may be too early for a victory lap. But President Bush, who has spent most of his tenure under fire for his bold foreign policy, is now winning praise for the nascent outburst of democratic sentiment in the Middle East.

    It's not often that Bush-bashing TV host Jon Stewart will quip, as he did the other night, "My kid's going to go to a high school named after him." Or that Democrat-friendly columnist Joe Klein will contend in Time magazine that Bush's critics were "embarrassingly, scandalously, blessedly wrong." Or that, in London, the left-leaning Independent newspaper will run a banner headline that asks, "Was Bush right after all?"

    After spending two years waging a difficult, polarizing war, at a cost thus far of $300 billion and 1,500 American deaths, Bush is now seeing some daylight, thanks to a confluence of historic events: the Iraq elections, the Palestinian election of a leader who wants to end the armed struggle against Israel, municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, the announcement of a multiparty presidential election in Egypt, the unprecedented challenge to a pro-Syrian autocratic regime in Lebanon.

    In America, the potential domestic impact is clear. If these rumblings ultimately bring peace to the region (and reduce the threat of terrorism), voters are likely to reward the Republican Party and reinforce their long-standing preference for the GOP over the Democrats on national security issues.

    I'm amazed. I'm so used to reading and hearing about the stupid, blundering Bush, a man who couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time, whose crackpot NeoCon policies were moving the world towards a fundamentalist Christian Stone Age.....

    And now this?

    What on earth might be going on?

    More amazingly, Polman concludes by being nice to Glenn Reynolds:

    But what buoys Republicans the most, and worries Democrats, is that, if democracy truly flowers in the Middle East, Bush will further cement the GOP's image as the national security party - just as Ronald Reagan did, when he was widely credited with hastening the demise of the Soviet Union. Republicans say that, while Bush didn't create the region's democratic rumblings, he has helped inspire them by invading Iraq and creating the conditions for free elections.

    The democratic breezes are fragile, however, which is why pro-Bush blogger Glenn Reynolds issued a no-gloat warning the other day. "It's just a whiff," he said, "not a gale."

    (Read Glenn Reynolds' no-gloat warning here.)

    It might not be a gale yet, and I'm far too much of a pessimist to engage in gloating. But things are getting breezy for the Democrats. There are sure to be more fingers in the air.

    But I won't gloat.

    And I'd never inhale.

    posted by Eric at 09:27 AM | Comments (2)

    Ice Cream, Again?

    Yes, indeed.

    I was treated to an amazingly tasty dessert earlier this week and thought I would share it with you. It's not complex, but it's still quite pleasing.

    Vanilla ice cream, lightly drizzled with red balsamic vinegar.

    That's it. Sweet meets sour, creating the sublime. So simple.

    posted by Justin at 12:52 AM | Comments (2)

    Why Yes, It Is An Offensive Agenda...

    This just in from Virginia Postrel, via The Speculist...

    The WaPost reports that Leon Kass and friends are promoting what they call an "offensive bioethics looks like they want to separate their anti-research agenda from the convictions of Sam Brownback and other religious pro-lifers. They seem to think they'll be stronger politically without their religious allies...

    Well good for him! It's nice to see him poking his head out. And best of luck to him in his new "Back To The Bronze Age" political scheme. He's been a public relations disaster for his own team for quite some time now, and I can only hope that he continues his crusade with renewed vigor and fluency, providing the world with many more uniquely memorable soundbites. Who could forget this little gem?

    The desire to prolong youthfulness is not only a childish desire to eat one's life and keep it; it is also an expression of a childish and narcissistic wish incompatible with devotion to posterity.

    There's nothing quite like initiating a frank exploration of values from a position of overwhelming superciliousness, is there?

    ...if one could do something about Alzheimer's, if one could do something about chronic arthritis, if one could do something about general muscular weakness and not, somehow, increase the life expectancy to 150 years, I would be delighted.

    Oh, yeah. That's sure to win over the little people.

    Long time readers may recall that it was Virginia Postrel who first introduced me to the enigma that is Kass. Over the twenty years that I've been reading his wet and windy prose, I've grown almost perversely fond of him. In a sense, the life extension movement is lucky to have such an obvious foil.

    And yet, "almost" is the key word here, since it most certainly would be a perverse fondness. Taking the man at his word, we find ourselves looking at a moral monster. He is willing to sacrifice human life on an unthinkably massive scale to promote his idiosyncratic vision of "the good". A few months ago, in this posting I raised the following points...

    Point one. Leon Kass cannot win his crusade against life extension.
    Point two. He might be able to slow progress down, for a while.
    Point three. Such a delay would cost lives. People will die early, who need not have.

    Which lead me to the following rhetorical questions...

    So what does he think he is doing? He isn't ignorant of this argument. Better men than I have told him much the same thing. Perhaps the Doctor feels that he can do no less. One must fight for human dignity regardless of collateral damage. Perhaps (almost certainly) he will not cede the inevitability. He believes he may yet pull it off.

    We'll come back to those thoughts bye and bye. For the next couple minutes let's review the following exercise in triage, and my foaming-at-the-mouth reaction to it, courtesy of the Pesident's Council on Bioethics...

    Actually, some of those Council scenarios were pretty good. Try this one on for size. A house is burning down, and there are children in it. In the east wing is a toddler that you just met today. In the west wing is a cryostat containing three dozen frozen blastocysts, produced using the eggs of your dead wife. You are their father. Clearly, you can’t be in two places at once. Do you go east, or west? Is it a big struggle for you?
    It took me all of a tenth second to make my choice. I will not stand by and let living children burn to death. I will not, even at the cost of my own “children”. Now, you can play word games here and say that the blastocysts are living too. Yes, yes, they are or at least could become, alive. Granted. Now what’s your point, bright guy? Shall we play at being medieval scholastic logicians? Will you try and convince me that the frozen embryos stand on the same moral plane as somebody else’s toddler? That I should have run west instead of east? Don’t even try, because I won’t believe you. At the end of the day, the “real” children are the ones who need to be fed, bathed, and tucked in. The ones who scream when they burn.
    To the nuanced, this might seem awfully either or, mightn't it? If not accorded the same respect as a two year old, the two week old embryo deserves at least SOME human dignity rather than none at all. It would only be when its rights conflicted with those of an older child that we would need to make such an awful determination. Precisely.
    If we were just talking about slacker scientists carving up embryos for cheap thrills, then yeah, this is an affront to human dignity. But that is the whole point. This isn't about cheap thrills. This research, this "violation of human dignity" is being done with the best of intentions, to save people’s lives. People with, you know, limbs. And a head. In an over-the-top metaphorical kind of way, lots of kids are being threatened by the flames, even now. Do we run east, or west?

    At the time I wrote the above words, my speculations regarding the doctor's thought processes were merely that. But now, comes the New Atlantis, and an answer to rhetorical questions is at hand.

    ...I don’t know whether the earliest embryo is or is not my equal. I simply don’t know. I see the power of the argument from continuity, and yet my moral intuitions cut in a somewhat different direction, even if the existential choice were between preserving my embryo or rescuing someone else’s child...

    Well, huzzah! Given the choice between saving his own embryo or someone else's child, he would probably opt to save the stranger's child. That's more than you'll get out of Gilbert Meilaender. Perhaps we should ask him about Narnia, instead. But let's return our focus to Dr. Kass, who, true to form, is still talking.

    ...since I don’t know whether the early embryo is or is not one of us, and since the choice before us now is not this child versus this embryo but whether to engage in a speculative project of embryo research, I am inclined not to treat human embryos less well than they might deserve.

    Bit of fast footwork there. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

    "The choice now before us is not this child versus this embryo..."

    Sorry, but that is exactly the choice before us. Or more correctly, the choice that some of us hope to have before us. It is the main reason we, as a society, are having this disagreement. And what are we to make of "a speculative project of embryo research"? The phrase seems unduly and deliberately dismissive when we weigh it against the remarkable results coming out of the laboratories. Why, it's almost a cheapshot.

    In order to do so, I don’t have to insist that the human embryo is the moral equivalent of my child.

    I sure hope he doesn't hurt himself trying to move that goalpost. And come to think of it, though the question, as such, was raised by Elizabeth Blackburn before the Bioethics Council, it was not followed up on at that time. They had to break for drinks or something.

    I can call instead for a certain kind of expansiveness, a certain kind of generosity, a certain insistence that we should not wish to live in a society that uses the seeds of the next generation for the sake of its own.

    Whoops! Again with the vigorous saltatory excursions. He's a tricksy one.

    Let's try to say things clearly. We are not talking about "The" seeds of "The" next generation here. To phrase it that way is a piece of rhetorical legerdemaine worthy of Classical Values itself. And where's the "moral seriousness" in that?

    What we are talking about is taking "some" seeds from "some" rather willing people. The "Next Generation" will still arrive, right on time. We are not strip-mining our future. We are not eating the seed corn. If any one woman should actually want to bear half a dozen fat, chuckling babies, she still has that option.

    How I hate it when "should" becomes "must".

    This argument appeals to the dignity with which we conduct ourselves, not the indisputable equality of the early embryo. It is an argument grounded in prudence and restraint, not in equality or justice. It is an argument that remembers that we must not sacrifice the opportunities to live well simply in order to try to live longer.

    This argument is mere hand waving, a rather pitiful fluttering that moves me not at all. Appealing to my nonexistent dignity is a fool's errand. And even if I had it, I'd sell it in a heartbeat to keep my family healthy. Who among us wouldn't? I'm inclined to say that we must not sacrifice opportunities to live well longer, out of undue concern with imprudent restraint.

    And another thing. Stem cell research, of whatever variety, is not congruent with the field of anti-aging research. The latter is not wholly dependent on the former.

    Let's say we dropkick the whole cloned stembryo mess right over the fence.
    Poof. It's gone. We will still end up with radical life extension by other means. Of course, it will certainly take longer and probably cost more. But it will eventually arrive.

    Thought experiment time. Through the miracle of Quantum Flux Modulation, powered by ten megawatts worth of Prigoginic Entropy Shunts, your tired, saggy carcass blooms like a blushin' rose. We could use cell repair nanobots if you prefer, but the end result will be the same. You feel like...a million bucks. Pity it's the freaking twenty fifth century, but at least no specks of nascent human goop were harmed in the production of your perky new corpus. All it took was silicon, electricity, and five hundred years worth of progress in Doubletalk Engineering.

    So, how does the average citizen feel about this? Pretty darn satisfied, I imagine. No moral quandaries regarding exploitive biological techniques. No religious objections, because after all, we aren't trying to cheat God. It's like antibiotics and vaccination, only better. It's well known that nothing physical can last forever, and presumably God doesn't mind waiting. We just have a slightly longer cosmic eyeblink to move around in. Wouldn't that be nice?

    Here's the thing. Leon Kass would still hate it. It's the thing itself, the lengthened lifespan, that chafes him so. The cellular indignity angle is just a sideshow, a preliminary skirmish. To him, extended life is a tragic societal mistake, no matter how it's achieved. That's why I think he's a moral monster.

    On a sunnier note, the Methuselah Mouse Prize has hit the million dollar mark in pledges. Sincere congratulations are in order. To take a wetter and windier tack, I aspire to speak truth to my desires by mentioning that this research is a blessing for every human individual, whether he knows it or not. No, really.

    If you like the idea of raging again the dying of the light, you might want to check out "More Than Human", a book about the coming age of advanced therapy and enhancement. Rand Simberg has a review up, with comments from the author, Ramez Naam. I haven't yet read it myself, but I'm aiming to. I hear it's optimistic. I like that.

    posted by Justin at 11:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    129th Carnival!

    It's up at Solomonia's great blog "A View New."

    How Sol managed to handle so many posts I don't know. But he's an old blog friend and a long time favorite, which makes this a very special Carnival.

    Justin is working on a great post (which should be up later tonight) so in the meantime go read the Carnival.

    posted by Eric at 10:14 PM

    "The enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear."

    Via Michael McNeil of Impearls (a genuine scholar whose blog should be read by everyone who likes Classical Values), I see that the Dutch blog Zacht Ei (an excellent blog I've linked before) offers a fascinating insight into the inner machinations of Giuliana Sgrena's school of journalism:

    Mr. Harald Doornbos is a veteran war reporter. He is no archetypical hawk nor a staunch supporter of the United States. In fact, he used to be a reporter for the communist newspaper 'De Waarheid' (The Truth, or Pravda, if you like) before it went bust. (This doesn't necessarily mean he was ever a communist, by the way. De Waarheid used to be a huge employer.)

    However, this doesn't make him overly sympathetic towards Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist who was held hostage by Iraqi insurgents. Some snippets from this article which was published today in a Dutch Christian broadsheet.

    'Be careful not to get kidnapped,' I told the female Italian journalist sitting next to me in the small plane that was headed for Baghdad. 'Oh no,' she said. 'That won't happen. We are siding with the oppressed Iraqi people. No Iraqi would kidnap us.'

    It doesn't sound very nice to be critical of a fellow reporter. But Sgrena's attitude is a disgrace for journalism. Or didn't she tell me back in the plane that 'common journalists such as yourself' simply do not support the Iraqi people? 'The Americans are the biggest enemies of mankind,' the three women behind me had told me, for Sgrena travelled to Iraq with two Italian colleagues who hated the Americans as well.

    (Doornbos goes on to explain how the women demeaned him for travelling as an embedded reporter with the US military, for security reasons. They didn't want to hear about any safety concerns.)

    'You don't understand the situation. We are anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, communists,' they said. The Iraqis only kidnap American sympathizers, the enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear.

    At the very least, I'd call that attitude so irresponsible as to make me skeptical of anything the person says.

    Doornbos's account reveals incredible naivite. He says he tried tell them they were "out of their mind," but "they knew better":

    When we arrived at Baghdad Airport, I was waiting for a jeep from the American army to come pick me up. I saw one of the Italian women walking around crying. An Iraqi had stolen her computer and television equipment. They were standing outside shivering, waiting for a cab to take them to Baghdad.

    With her bias Sgrena did not only jeopardize herself, but due to her behavior a security officer is now dead, and the Italian government (prime minister Berlusconi included) has had to spend millions of euros to save her life. It is to be hoped that Sgrena will decide to have a career change. Propagandist or MP perhaps. But she should give up journalism immediately.

    I assume MP means Member of Parliament (perhaps Moore's Patriots), and not Military Police.

    But give up journalism? Not while there's still a war going on, and she's on the other side.

    posted by Eric at 11:15 AM | Comments (3)

    Conservative Philosophers?

    E at the Dave points us toward a new group blog by conservative (and possibly libertarian) philosophers, Right Reason, growing from the ashes of The Conservative Philosopher, which had apparently been mired in a controversy over the founder's non-philosophical argumentation and deletion of critical comments. (I see that The Conservative Philosopher is still going, but seems to have lost credibility with many. In the interests of full disclosure I should note that I've recently come to terms with my own libertarianism and found Keith Burgess-Jackson's support of Robert Locke's 'Marxism of the Right' --a weak critique of libertarianism-- less than encouraging.)

    Right Reason has just launched today with only a welcome message but they've got quite a large roster of contributors. And I found this interesting and timely: contributor Roger Scruton wrote a book in 1987 called A Land Held Hostage: Lebanon and the West:

    Written in response to the events of the eighties, this brief guide to the history of Lebanon and its present martyrdom caused a stir when it first appeared, since it laid the blame for the destruction of the only democracy in the Arab world firmly on the Syrian President, Hafiz al-Assad. Incisively written, it offers a succinct and moving account of a tragic political experiment, the lesson of which we still need to learn.

    'There can be few parts of the world which have dominated our television screens in such a confusing and depressing way as the Lebanon over the past five years. Amidst this sectarian muddle the analysis of Dr Scruton is both welcome and lucid.
    Scruton documents the sad decline of the Lebanon from being a free country allied to the west to suffering occupation from Syria - a totalitarian surrogate of the Soviet Union. When under the rule of the Christians, before the Syrian occupation, the Lebanon was unique in the Arab world holding democratic elections, maintaining a rule of law and allowing religious and press freedom. Syrian President Assad found the customs of this type of independent country on his doorstep unbearable and has set about building the 'greater Syria'. Many western journalist have been duped into misrepresenting events, others have been intimidated by the Syrians - after the death of French writer Michel Seurat this is understandable'. - Portrait Magazine

    Who murdered Michel Seurat? Islamic Jihad working under the umbrella of Hezbollah, the same group organizing those counter-rallies in support of Syria.

    posted by Dennis at 08:46 AM | Comments (2)

    Drop that cookie! And gimme all your dough!

    If you thought selling dildos in Alabama was bad, check out this story of depravity involving the deliberate, premeditated sale of (gulp) Girl Scout Cookies:

    Hoi Louis was in Williamsburg delivering the cookies with his daughter over the weekend. Louis said it was his old neighborhood, before he moved to Bethpage, and he and his daughter have been selling Girl Scout cookies there since his daughter was in first grade.

    At 4:50 p.m. Saturday a police captain and a uniformed officer pulled up to their van as they were unloading cookies. Louis said the captain from the 94th Precinct ticketed him for selling cookies without a license.

    The NYPD said the man and his daughter were not delivering the cookies, but instead were selling the cookies from a table they had set up on the street.

    The child's grandmother, who was in the van, said her granddaughter was frightened by the police and the girl's father was flabbergasted.

    Surely, there must be a way to invoke the Patriot Act.

    Well, at least the RICO laws....

    What really galls me is the callused and depraved nature of these moral degenerates. Notice the almost casual way the habitual criminal father admits to ensnaring his daughter -- "he and his daughter have been selling Girl Scout cookies there since his daughter was in first grade".

    As if children needed yet another moral lesson that a life of crime is just the way the cookie crumbles.

    I blame Martha Stewart!

    posted by Eric at 08:04 AM | Comments (1)

    Please prove Cassandra wrong!
    We're all going to have to rethink how we deal with the Internet. As exciting as these new developments are, there are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function...

    -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, February 11, 1998

    That was then.

    This is now:

    ALBANY, N.Y. -- A growing number of registered voters believe Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton should run for president in 2008, according to a poll released Tuesday.

    Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion poll found that 46 percent of voters want the former first lady to run for the White House while 49 percent said she should not. In a December poll, 38 percent favored a run, while 50 percent were opposed.

    Clinton was the choice of 39 percent of Democrats for their party's nomination for president in 2008, while Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who lost to President Bush last year, was preferred by 21 percent.

    A quarter of Republicans said they preferred New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani for the Republican nomination, with Sen. John McCain second at 21 percent.

    Considering Andrew Sullivan's recent remarks, I'd wouldn't be surprised if the open war on independent bloggers I worried about yesterday will start soon.

    It may already be gearing up.

    Hope I'm wrong, of course....

    posted by Eric at 04:38 PM | Comments (5)

    English! Sexy!

    The following chart speaks for itself.


    Full story here:

    As Hispanic teens shed the language of their native countries and immerse themselves in American culture, they become dramatically more sexually active, a new study shows.

    A review of 7,300 Arizona teenagers' behavior, which should translate well to other states that border Mexico, including Texas, found that 31 percent of Hispanic teens who speak primarily English have had sex, more than twice the percentage of those who speak primarily Spanish, 14 percent.

    The key question — why? — remains unanswered.

    "I wish I knew," said the study's lead author, Dr. Mary Adam, a pediatrics researcher at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine. "This is certainly something we are continuing to explore."

    (Via G. Gordon Liddy.)

    Does this mean we should stop teaching English in the schools?

    posted by Eric at 11:37 AM | Comments (4)

    Utopian dreaming --with help from the Muslim street?

    A startling new poll shows dramatically increased support for the war on terror.

    Who are these gullible people? you might ask. The Americans Michael Moore described as the most stupid people in the world?

    Hardly. They're citizens of the world's largest Muslim country, Indonesia.

  • For the first time ever in a major Muslim nation, more people favor US-led efforts to fight terrorism than oppose them (40% to 36%). Importantly, those who oppose US efforts against terrorism have declined by half, from 72% in 2003 to just 36% today.
  • For the first time ever in a Muslim nation since 9/11, support for Osama Bin Laden has dropped significantly (58% favorable to just 23%).
  • 65% of Indonesians now are more favorable to the United States because of the American response to the tsunami, with the highest percentage among people under 30.
  • Indeed, 71% of the people who express confidence in Bin Laden are now more favorable to the United States because of American aid to tsunami victims.
  • The Terror Free Tomorrow poll was conducted by the leading Indonesian pollster, Lembaga Survei Indonesia, and surveyed 1,200 adults nationwide with a margin of error of ± 2.9 percentage points.

    This confirms Glenn Reynolds' recent observation that ordinary people are not fooled by the propaganda cranked out by enemies of freedom:
    If we're consistent in our defense of freedom, people will notice, and even our enemies will play into our hands. This happened in Iraq, where the hostile satellite networks Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya never missed a chance to show an anti-American protest. But what their audiences in Iran and the Arab world saw was something more -- not just anti-American protest, but anti-American protest that was allowed by the Americans. (The boomerang effect was something like what happened to the Soviet Union when it broadcast reports of Americans protesting the Vietnam War, only to have Soviet audiences notice that the Americans were not only free to protest, but also had new shoes!) Freedom is contagious, if we let it be, and open media are the most potent vector by which it spreads. That should drive our strategy, and our tactics, most of the time.
    This is now being reflected in the Arab street (via Glenn Reynolds) -- and even in Europe.

    But what's more remarkable to me is seeing solidly anti-war, anti-Bush columnists like the Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin having to go back a full two years in order to come up with an "I told you so!":

    Back in January 2003, I wrote about liberal Arab intellectuals who had adopted a "big bang" theory about the coming Iraq war.

    They preferred any change at all to the political paralysis that gripped the Middle East. They felt squeezed between the repression of authoritarian rulers and the growing popularity of Islamists. They felt an Iraq war would break up the Mideast's political logjam.

    And they were right.

    The logjam is broken, the wood hurtling downstream. The Iraq war - and Iraqi elections - precipitated a political chain reaction whose end we can't foresee.

    Um, yeah. Whatever you say Trudy.

    I'm glad to know she was right all along.

    Never mind what she wrote just weeks before:

    A U.S. triumph in Iraq would send a dramatic message. "If we can defeat a terrorist regime in Iraq, it will be a defeat for terrorists globally," Wolfowitz said in a speech on Oct. 16. Moreover, "[Saddam's] demise will open opportunities for governments and institutions to emerge in the Muslim world that are respectful of fundamental human dignity and freedom...."

    In other words, Iraq not only could become a democracy but could be the launch pad for transforming the entire Mideast.

    Only an a utopian dreamer could put forward such a vision.

    A dreamer?

    He's not the only one.

    MORE: Jonah Goldberg wants to know whatever happened to the "huge" story about missing explosives at al Qaaqaa.

    I want to know whatever happened to the reality based community....

    posted by Eric at 07:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

    Bury the past, but hide the hatchet!

    Andrew Sullivan (writing in the Sunday Times) not only doesn't think Hillary Clinton should be counted out, he thinks the Republicans might help her by miscalculating:

    Count me a sceptic of the view that Hillary is irreparably damaged. Time heals. Americans have increasingly fond memories of the 1990s. If Clinton can convince them she takes national security seriously she can overcome the dark side of the legacy.

    She has also been talking up her faith, which is genuine. Asked recently by a reporter whether she was running for president, she replied: “I have more than I can say grace over right now.”

    As Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, has observed, that’s not the same thing as saying she has too much on her plate.

    The other obvious factor is the opposition. Republicans are ebullient right now. But who are the potential candidates in 2008? None appeals. The popular ones — McCain, Rudolph Giuliani — are far too socially moderate to get past what is in effect the veto of the religious right in the primaries. Arnold Schwarzenegger is barred by the constitution.

    If Hillary gets to run against a grey, grim apostle of religious conservatism — a Bill Frist or a Sam Brownback — she stands a real chance. What she has shown these past couple of years is that she is, above all else, shrewd.

    And what the Republicans have shown is that they can overreach. That’s the formula that helped Hillary’s husband keep the presidency in 1996. It could help her win it for herself in 2008.

    The whole piece is well worth reading, and reflects a phenomenon I've remarked upon before:
    The more Hillary tries to moderate herself, the angrier her enemies will become.
    And the more successful she is at achieving the appearance of moderation, the angrier they'll become.

    Hillary's "vast right wing conspiracy" consists of a minority of highly motivated voters who neither forgive nor forget. This minority is likely to be irritated by (and in turn irritate) the majority who do.

    I'd say time is on Hillary's side. (Unless you think voters in 2008 will still be interested in hearing about Whitewater. Or a failed attempt at socialized medicine.....)

    A plus for Hillary is that she's not dumb enough to run as an antiwar candidate, or boast about her problematic past.

    The danger to her is that bloggers aren't terribly concerned about voter forgetfulness. If anything, shining new light on old facts (especially covered up facts) is what they do best.

    With that in mind, were I working for the HRC campaign, I'd stress the importance of discrediting independent bloggers ASAP, and by any means necessary.

    posted by Eric at 12:58 PM | Comments (5)

    Occupied niche
    ....[W]e need to have a master plan to do the same thing to the right that they've done to us since the Reagan years. There's a whole new generation of Democrats who aren't afraid to be labeled as "liberal," and as Bai says, we're "wiring a vast left-wing conspiracy."
    Truer words may never have been spoken by Garrett Graff, Jeff Gannon's left wing replacement.

    A blogger writing for FishBowlDC, according to his self description he hardly appears to be the amateur Jeff Gannon was accused of being:

    Garrett Graff is vice president of communications at EchoDitto, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based technology consulting firm. A Vermont native, he served formerly as deputy national press secretary on Howard Dean's presidential campaign and, beginning in 1997, was then-Governor Dean's first webmaster. In college, he was a news writer and executive editor at the Harvard Crimson, Harvard University's daily newspaper, where he wrote more news articles than any other writer in half-a-century and held internships at ABCNews' Political Unit and at the Atlantic Monthly. He is also a frequent speaker on blogging and the intersection of politics and technology.
    What? No background in running suggestively named websites? Sounds like a real square to me, and frankly, I'm more than a little disappointed.

    And more than a little bored. Gannon was interesting, but this FishBowl guy strikes me as warmed over affirmative action for leftists who demand access and bully their way in. (But I've never had much desire to be where I'm not wanted, so I'll probably never understand the mindset.)

    Graff is another left wing journalist. He started a blog and now he has a White House pass.

    The fact remains, though, that Graff is a media professional by any standard. Being a deputy national press secretary for a leading presidential campaign, and having written "more news articles than any other writer in half-a-century" hardly qualifies him for the role of vindicated little guy.

    I don't know why, but for the first time in my life, I feel like going out and buying a pair of pajamas.

    MORE: (I guess I should catch up on blog reading before I write anything in the morning.....)

    Bill Quick thinks Graff's background should be immediately investigated. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who playfully calls Graff a blogger.)

    UPDATE: Via the ever-alert Michael Demmons, I found this insight from Stephen Green:

    I think it's important - even vital - for bloggers to remain outside the system.
    DAMNED RIGHT! (Which is my point, although Stephen expresses it more articulately.)

    Stephen has more:

    We're outsiders. We're cranks. We aren't caught up in the system. Those are our strengths. As individuals, they can be weaknesses – even a moderately successful blog like this one is read by only a few thousand people each day. But in aggregate, the blogosphere works because we aren't enjoying expense account dinners with the Assistant Undersecretary of State for Screwing Things Up in Some Already Screwed Up Place. We don't consider the personalities we write about to be friends or sources. We have our causes, but we don't have to hide them behind a threadbare veil of "impartiality." We aren't being whispered sweet nothings (and being paid sweet somethings) by powerful lobby groups – well, I'm not, anyway. We know exactly where Power stops and We begin: Right here, at our keyboards.

    Media, government, whatever – to us, everything is fair game. Whatever respect blogs have earned in the last couple of years, we've earned in part because we aren't politicians, appointees, slick columnists, blow-dried TV personalities – or flunkies to any of the above. We own ourselves. We aren't caught up in the system.

    The blogger who gets access, is the blogger on the road to irrelevance if he doesn't watch himself.

    As Mike Gallagher complained recently, anyone can start a blog -- including Mike Gallagher. Or Dan Rather for that matter.

    What I think puts excitement in blogs is their role as alternative media -- with emphasis on the alternative.

    To borrow from Groucho Marx, I shouldn't want to join any club which would have me as a member. (Not that I'm especially worried, because I'm just not up to anyone's standards.)

    Am I alone in thinking that there's a crazy yin-yang aspect to all this? Is it that once a blogger has "arrived," it may be a sign that he's about to depart?

    MORE: Conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg (who also blogs), has a different take than mine, but it's worth reading:

    Left-wing bloggers believe they are part of the same "revolution" as right-wing bloggers are. They're not. The conservative blogs are the shock troops of a decades-long battle to seize back the culture. Conservatives have always had to rely on "alternative media" — magazines, AM radio, blogs — because the Mainstream Media closed the door to conservatives. And even when they let a few token ones in, they had to be labeled "conservative" first and journalists a distant second. The lefty blogs are something else entirely. They represent — much like the still-lame liberal talk radio and the new liberal think tanks — an attempt to copycat conservative successes. Their fight is not with the monolithic mainstream media (or academia) but with the usurpers. Politics is not a battle of technology. It is a battle of ideas, and therein lies all the difference.
    As someone who hates the culture war and who doesn't fit the conservative or liberal mode, I'm more inclined to agree with Stephen Green's characterization of the blogosphere than Jonah Goldberg's. But the Mainstream Media door has been just as closed to libertarians as to those styling themselves as "shock troops of a decades-long battle to seize back the culture."

    If you have to "seize" it with "shock troops," it ain't culture. In my view, culture wars simply do not work, as they tend to destroy culture in the name of saving it. (Or, as in the case of the deconstructionists, in the name of destroying it.....)

    UPDATE: I see that Glenn Reynolds has been severely taken to task for linking to the very same autobiographical sketch from Graff's own blog! (How utterly malevolent!) This leads ultimately to what the "News Editor" calls "the question at hand":

    is InstaPundit puerile, an imbecile, lazy, or merely an asswipe?
    I always hated multiple choice questions. Especially when they're so clever!

    MORE: The "asswipe" remark issued from the "tongues" and "lips" of an anonymous blogger who refers to himself as "News Editor" also known as "we." He (should I say "they?") accuses Glenn Reynolds of dishonesty because he dared to comment upon his strong emphasis of the phrase "gay hooker" to describe Jeff Gannon:

    Fifth, there is absolutely nothing in The Advocate article above which proves, or posits, or suggests, or implies, or even vaguely alludes to the notion that, as Reynolds would have it, "the gay angle really was the big angle on Gannon [for the Left]."

    No, Glenn, those are your Talking Points talking. Can't you tell the difference anymore?

    Here at The Advocate we talk with our tongues, so please (speaking of conservative misrepresentations) read our lips on this one: the "gay hooker angle" made up two words out of our eighty-three-word biography of Gannon.

    Again: 2 of 83.

    Really makes it look like our "big angle," doesn't it?

    Good Lord, are these guys debating with both brain cells tied behind their back or what? We demand a fair fight!].

    OK, let's look at the offending passage with both brain cells. Here's the bio at issue:
    Gay hooker. Uses Alias. Denied credentials by U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Had worked for a G.O.P. activist site for six days at the time of his application for a White House press pass. Received his journalism "degree" during a two-day "course" which set him back $50. Has a website on which he talks about guns. Fondly. Does not claim to be unbiased or non-partisan. Had never done any professional writing at the time of his application for a White House press pass.
    Two words? Yes, "Gay hooker" does consist of two words.

    The first two words in the biography!

    The most important words!

    Excuse me, but has the "News Editor" ever heard of the pyramid style of writing? Journalism 101? The most important information always comes first, and in a biography, the first words would be expected to describe the subject's most important occupation -- or whatever it is he is best known for. In this case, the "News Editor" thinks "gay hooker" is the lead item.

    Duh! (I didn't even need to use both of my brain cells for that one.)

    Advantage, Reynolds.

    (Not that it's especially relevant here, but reading through the passage above, I get the distinct impression that the "News Editor" doesn't approve of gay men with guns.....)

    posted by Eric at 08:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    Hip hip hypocrisy

    Boy George is complaining that Madonna is a "hypocritical homophobe" (should that be 'ypocritical 'omophobe?) for embracing the Kabbalah:

    Gay pop star Boy George has slammed Madonna for embracing the Kabbalah, the mystical offshoot of Judaism which preaches homosexuality is a disease.

    The former Culture Club singer is horrified the Material Girl flirted with lesbianism - most famously in her controversial kisses with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at 2003's MTV Video Music Awards – yet supports a religion which believes homosexuals can be cured.

    He fumes: "I have a problem with Madonna's devotion to Kabbalah, because I watched a documentary that said that Kabbalah believes that gay people are diseased and can be cured.

    "She's such a hypocrite. This is the woman who has embraced homosexuality and used it to her advantage.

    I'm no expert on Kabbalah, so I Googled this issue, and the very first site that popped up, while hardly gay-centric, did not strike me as "homophobic":
    While Kabbalah and its cardinal text, the Zohar, has little to say about homosexuality, it is a main focus of The Kabbalah Centre and Kabbalah in general to stay away from judging others for any reason, external or internal, physical or metaphysical. Kabbalah also explains that the most sharing act we can achieve on this planet is childbirth, which is unattainable between two members of the same sex alone. However, that is not to say that two same-gendered people cannot have the same or more loving, rewarding, and lasting relationships as heterosexual couples. Kabbalah is all-inclusive rather than exclusive, and I hope you feel comfortable continuing your study.
    I found the same thing at a couple of other Kabbalah sites, which makes me wonder whether Boy George did his homework before fuming over this silliness. Besides, Madonna is a Catholic by birth, and I doubt Boy George would attack her if she rededicated herself to her original religion.

    I think it's a monumental waste of time to attack people because of their religion (or lack thereof) anyway.

    And in any case, while I don't think sexuality is "curable," I don't see why people spend their time worrying about what others do or think. I wouldn't want to cure anyone, nor would I care whether someone wanted to spend time looking for such "cures."

    MORE: In other major news today, Coco the new puppy had a hot date with Tristan, a lecherous middle-aged Shih Tzu.


    Tristan humped, and Coco ran circles and hopped around him.

    posted by Eric at 10:46 PM | Comments (8)

    Atlantis Ho!

    Ever since that unfortunate incident with my older brother, I've been fascinated by the story of Atlantis. You've got a sunken city? Please, tell me all about it.

    Helike, Port Royal, Alexandria, it doesn't really matter. They're all good. But none can top Atlantis for, how to say this properly, _Style_. That is, until we take a closer look at our original sources.

    Curiously, the thing that we remember Atlantis the most for, sinking, gets only one sentence in Plato's "Timaeus". He seems far more interested in extolling the greatness of Athens.

    Solon, your country [Athens] shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.

    But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.

    That's it. The Athenian army gets swamped in a single day and night. Oh yeah, and Atlantis too. Whenever.

    "Critias" gives us more details about the lost land itself, its history, customs, natural resources and whatnot, but the actual sinking again gets short shrift.

    the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, which, as I was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean

    So now we know when. "Afterwards". Kinda sucks the romance right out, doesn't it?

    No beastmen, no levitating disks, no crystal technology or alabaster pyramids. Just a boring, bronze age gang of warmongers, sunk in an afterthought. What a gyp!

    Not to be a wet blanket, but Plato's version lacks the raw horsepower of later, more speculative narratives. Pity. But hey, why let historical accuracy drag you under? Regardless of what Plato said, generations of hobbyists have amused themselves and others with this material.

    The seemingly simple question of where Atlantis was located has generated acrimony for well over a century. Many theorists seem to strive for uniqueness when touting their personal best guess.

    A brief and incomplete list of such guesses would include Crete, Turkey, Spain, Heligoland, Ireland, the Azores, Cuba, Central America, Brazil, Southeast Asia, Antarctica (don't ask), and of course, Plato's imagination. I thought I had heard them all, but I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.

    How about Bolivia?

    Yes, Bolivia. Or, to be more specific, that Bolivian lake which has reduced generations of schoolchildren to helpless laughter. Yes, Lake Titicaca!

    To be fair, the above links make no mention of Atlantis. That connection is to be found here, or here. The science guys don't need to drag Plato into it, to have fun.

    Do I believe any of this stuff? I don't have to say.

    Do I have a theory that I favor? Perhaps another time.

    Let's close for now on a low note. They say that you learn something new every day.

    The latest search will take explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell from Lake Titicaca southwards via the River Desaguadero to Lake Poopo.

    Yup. Lake Titicaca is right next to Lake Poopo. Settle down, Beavis.

    posted by Justin at 09:40 PM | Comments (2)

    <sarcasm> The Republicans are paying me good money to link to this stuff </sarcasm>, so here goes:

    Bush never accepted the view that Islamic terrorism had its roots in religion or culture or the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead he veered toward the analysis that the region was breeding terror because it had developed deep dysfunctions caused by decades of repression and an almost total lack of political, economic and social modernization. The Arab world, in this analysis, was almost unique in that over the past three decades it had become increasingly unfree, even as the rest of the world was opening up. His solution, therefore, was to push for reform in these lands.

    That's Fareed Zakaria writing for Newsweek about how President Bush just may change the world, with special reference to the Iraq vote and the hope of Lebanon.

    I wonder when the kids at Kos will start digging through his past.

    posted by Dennis at 08:45 PM | Comments (2)

    Going Off Half-Cocked

    Apparently this story has been kicking around the blogosphere for over a week, but I only noticed it today. Sad to say, I was immediately indignant. I was all set to slip on my crime-fightin' jammies and Pontificate in Unison with all the other freedom lovin' typists. Then I re-read the article.

    A George Rogers Clark High School junior arrested Tuesday for making terrorist threats told LEX 18 News Thursday that the "writings" that got him arrested are being taken out of context.
    Winchester police say William Poole, 18, was taken into custody Tuesday morning. Investigators say they discovered materials at Poole's home that outline possible acts of violence aimed at students, teachers, and police.
    Poole told LEX 18 that the whole incident is a big misunderstanding. He claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class.
    "My story is based on fiction," said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. "It's a fake story. I made it up. I've been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies."
    "It didn't mention nobody who lives in Clark County, didn't mention (George Rogers Clark High School), didn't mention no principal or cops, nothing,"
    On Thursday, a judge raised Poole's bond from one to five thousand dollars after prosecutors requested it, citing the seriousness of the charge.

    Let's imitate Wretchard and try to read between the lines.

    First, we have an eighteen year old high school JUNIOR, who was shopped to the cops by his own grandparents, his apparent guardians. This doesn't bode well for Mr. Poole's credibility.

    Plus, the boy don't talk too good. As G. Gordon Liddy remarked, "He's guilty...of using double negatives."

    Maybe it's the Dan Rather Effect kicking in with a vengeance, but the quote from the obvious bad guy, the Podunk Police Chief, was what got me to slow down and think. It seemed just a little too perfect for this kind of story. And, kinda short. I wondered what else he said that never made the news.

    Now, the kid could be a shambling hillbilly mutant for all I know, and still be getting a raw deal. Arrested for a short story? Clearly, that would be an outrage. But, it should be obvious that we don't have enough facts yet to make that determination. Or at least you would think so.

    Over at Zero Intelligence the commenters pretty much cover all the bases for possible reactions. Most, like me, were immediately (almost reflexively) sympathetic to the imprisoned kid. There were even a couple snarky foreigners, saying it was all too, too American.

    Foreign snark requirements not filled just yet? Go here.

    Go beat up some fox hunters, you lot. Tossers.

    And yet, plenty of Americans are equally willing to take the poor kid at his word.

    If you are willing to credit "Icarus" as a valid source, Mr. Poole looks somewhat the worse on closer inspection.

    That's my school. Consider this if you're wondering about the boy's creditbility: his initial story was that it was a short story for vocational school (yeah, the place where you learn carpentry and welding, not creative writing). Then it switched to an English assignment. Funny thing is, he doesn't have an English class this semester. He's also been involved in a number of fights and assaults on campus. His sister is even worried because she read what he wrote and she says it's no zombie story. He had the sites of the cameras on campus mapped out and had timed out how quickly the police could arrive on campus. Heretofore, his grandparents have done everything they could to keep him out of jail.

    Not everyone is a gullible fool y'know. Commenter "Dementia" challenges "Icarus" regarding his credibility.

    Hey Icarus. How do we know your story isn't the Bullshit one? I read an article that said what you're saying. It was written in an ultra conservative newspaper in Kentucky. Hmm. Now let me be fair, and say I don't know what the true story is, and with the state of the country right now, with our leader being a moron AND an ass, I never know who to trust.

    It always comes back to Bush, doesn't it?

    I'm dismayed here, but for all the wrong reasons. That the internet is full of gibbering idiocy is not news. This whole sorry episode reminds me of nothing so much as a Slashdot thread. Much sound, much fury, much of it perpetrated by people who clearly never read the article. Or, in this particular case, read it and believed it wholeheartedly, because it fed their favorite prejudices.

    thank god i don't live in the states. i would have been drawn and quartered by age 8. if not i would have swallowed the end of a gun. to all you americans out there. stop and think. about what you ask? anything. it would be nice if there was one person in the states that actually had a thought that did not come from retarded officials

    Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'm giving Icarus the last word.

    What's truly disturbing is a public rallying behind this kid like he's the only intelligent life in Kentucky.
    posted by Justin at 08:12 PM | Comments (2)

    If dirt is fair, then fair is dirt!

    Via Jeff Goldstein (and indirectly via Glenn Reynolds), I found a classic example of why ideology is so tedious. This highly shrill call for unleashing a "blog swarm" (of ad hominem attacks, naturally) hardly falls into the category of political punditry, or even discussion:

    We should hunt down anything Greenspan has ever written, said or done that reflects poorly on him.This would include erroneous predictions, older statements which contradict things he's said recently, and anything that's just plain wrong, venal or stupid. The only rules are that it has to be true (of course) and sourced (preferably with a link, but if you're using Lexis, that's cool too - just tell us where it's from).

    And for those of you who want to really get down & dirty in the trenches, we can turn this into a one-degree-of-separation venture. That is, if you can find similar material for anyone who is closely linked to Greenspan, that's fair game, too. Good examples would be Greenie's idol, the nutbag "objectivist" Ayn Rand, and Andrea Mitchell, his NBC reporter wife. (An aside: We can debate the merits of this approach all you like, but suffice it to say, there is no question that Republicans do the same crap to us all the time. If you still want to play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules, fine - but I've moved on to brass knuckles.)

    Yawn. It's little more than preaching to screaming at the chorus.

    I think it's fair to say that the author -- an anonymous, nameless "blogchild" of Kos named DavidNYC -- is playing a pretty one-sided game of political hardball.

    Yet the same guy has this to say about himself at his own blog:

    I am a native New Yorker now studying law in Washington, D.C. I have always been interested in politics, and I consider myself a "blog child" of the DailyKos, a site which I cannot recommend highly enough. I am a lifelong Democrat, but my hope is that the analysis on this site is free from partisan favoritism. That is to say, I plan to examine all relevant issues rigorously, whether or not they favor Democrats.
    Not that I want to spend my time trying to "hunt down" anything DavidNYC has ever said, but if I were starting a "down-and-dirty" campaign I might find it a bit embarrassing if people could accuse me of being fair in the past.

    Somehow, the previous fairness looks dirty.

    I'm sorry I had to dig it up, and I don't mean it as an ad hominem attack.

    I certainly don't want it to appear that I'd engage in such vicious slander.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: (Just wondering out loud....) If there were such a thing as a full disclosure requirement for bloggers, and if I were in love with one of Greenspan's minions, would I have to disclose that? Or is "disclosure" becoming NewSpeak for invasion of privacy?

    posted by Eric at 09:56 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (2)


    While this link doesn't work (obviously from Drudge-link overload), I managed to find the text of the Daily Californian story story here:

    The Daily Californian
    Friday, March 4, 2005

    Senators Say Appointee Hid Conservative Affiliations
    ASUC President Plans to Override His Pick For Judicial Council
    By Lisa Humes-Schulz
    Daily Cal Staff Writer

    ASUC senators are alleging that a newly appointed judicial council member, who the senate confirmed Wednesday night, misled the Senate about her political group involvement.

    Senators say Amaris White, a former Daily Cal reporter, did not reveal her ties to the conservative California Patriot magazine and the Berkeley College Republicans when the senators asked what groups White participated in.

    “Did she deliberately try to mislead us? The answer is yes,” said SQUELCH! Senator Ben Narodick, who confronted White about her group affiliations outside of the senate chambers Wednesday. “It was obvious that she wasn’t being forthcoming with us.”

    White had told the senate at her confirmation hearing that she provided art for student publications, but did not specify the publications.

    An Internet search revealed that White is the art editor for the Patriot, Narodick said. He said he was unable to raise this issue during the hearing.

    “I didn’t mention it because I didn’t think it was relevant,” White said. “I don’t think that it will be a problem because the cases that come before the council are mostly concerning the ASUC. My political views should have no effect whatsoever.”

    The concerns over White’s honesty prompted CalSERVE senators to push the senate to reconsider her confirmation after the vote Wednesday, but they failed to garner the 14 necessary votes.

    ASUC President Misha Leybovich, who nominated White for the seat, is expected to submit a veto to override the appointment and oust White from the council.

    “Lying is unacceptable, especially in the body of the ASUC that is supposed to hold the association accountable,” Leybovich said. “To start off one’s Judicial Council career with a dishonest way of getting there just really doesn’t sit well with me. This is absolutely not a personal attack; clearly I think she’s qualified to be on the council, but a lie provides a barrier that no qualification can overcome.”

    Political affiliation can often tip the scales in a potential council member’s appointment, since the council hears suits that often split along party lines. Some senators are reluctant to vote for radical left-leaning and right-leaning appointees.

    Leybovich said he has seen council appointees hide affiliations to ensure their appointment.

    “I can see where she’s coming from to hide that information, though I don’t endorse her decision,” said council Chair Robert Gregg. “This situation might reflect negatively on the credibility of individual justices.”

    Some senators and officials said the push to void White’s appointment is driven by her political affiliation, not her failure to mention the Patriot.

    “They’re pissed as hell they voted for a Republican … and are demagoguing that she lied to save face,” former council Chair Mike Davis said in an e-mail. “It’s nothing new. They were saying vicious things about me when I was on the council.”

    But the legitimacy of a presidential veto is also in question. Leybovich can override main motions, but officials are at odds whether an appointment qualifies as a main motion.

    “The president can veto legislative actions of the Senate, which an act of confirmation is certainly not,” Davis said. “Amaris should apologize for lying and everyone should move on.”

    Of course, had Ms. White disclosed that she was a Republican, she'd have been denied the post.

    So she was damned if she did, damned if she didn't.

    It's worth reading between the following line:

    Some senators are reluctant to vote for radical left-leaning and right-leaning appointees.
    Notice the phrase "radical left-leaning" is followed by "right-leaning." In Berkeley, as a practical matter, being on the left is not radical at all. Only Trotskyists, or Maoist RCP types obsessed with armed-revolution-now might earn that appellation. But "right-leaning" simply means Republican. Or libertarian. Mere opposition to socialism is enough. It must be rooted out root and branch.

    Just for fun, let us suppose that a candidate for the Judicial Council failed to disclose membership in the Communist Party. If someone dared to bring that up, why, that would be RED BAITING! And there'd be hell to pay!

    (For whoever brought it up, of course.....)

    posted by Eric at 08:36 AM | Comments (4)

    Don't be crushed! Tune in today!

    There's been much talk recently about the coming government crackdown on bloggers, regulation of blogs as "campaign contributions," etc.

    Fortunately, the indispensable Glenn Reynolds has an excellent roundup of links.

    One of the most prominent figures in this discussion is FEC Commissioner Brad Smith, whose interview on C-NET has been widely linked.

    But today, Cam Edwards will interview Commissioner Smith for the second time:

    Not to toot my own horn, but if you're a regular reader to this site (or a regular listener at this is old news. I mean months old. I did my own interview with Commissioner Smith back in mid-October(!) in which he said these things.
    Today's interview will be dynamite, so if you're interested in the crackdown on bloggers, be sure not to miss it.

    NRAnews, by the way has become one of my favorite radio shows. It's hosted daily by Cam Edwards, is broadcast over Sirius Radio, and the show can be streamed here. NRAnews also features regular interviews with my blogfather Jeff Soyer of Alphecca, and if you've never listened to the show, check it out!

    Like Cam Edwards, I'm also not into tooting my own horn. I hate saying "I told you so," and if I started doing that regularly I'd never stop, because I'm a victim of the Cassandra Complex. I hate seeing something awful coming and being unable to do a damned thing about it, but it's been my fate for most of my life. Saying "I TOLD YOU SO!" only heightens my pain.

    But I have been warning readers over and over again about the dangers of McCain-Feingold as applied to blogs.

    And, considering that it's Friday, I need some timely graphics to spice up the blog, so I thought the PhotoShop I did late last year might be worth repeating:


    Tanks for the memories, folks! And be sure to listen to Cam Edwards today!

    UPDATE: For those of you who missed the interview, Redstate has a transcript here. (Via Captain Ed.)

    posted by Eric at 08:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    History as a business expense?

    In today's Inquirer, I stumbled onto a fascinating new development: city ordinances requiring companies to disclose past ties to slavery.

    A bill up for consideration in City Council today would require firms with city contracts to research and disclose whether they garnered any profits in the past from slavery.

    The bill, submitted by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, was approved by a City Council committee earlier this week. It is scheduled for a first reading today, and for final passage next week.

    Reynolds-Brown said yesterday that she modeled the legislation after a similar measure in Chicago, and is seeking to force businesses to look into their pasts and own up to any history of profiting from slavery.

    Under the bill, businesses would have to submit an affidavit within 90 days of receiving a city contract stating they have checked their records for evidence of any such profits. They would also have to disclose the names of slaves and slaveholders who were involved.

    If the business does not submit the affidavit or turns over false information, it could lose its city contract.

    "This is a chance to put in place an essential element - corporate disclosure and transparency," Reynolds Brown said at the hearing before Council's Finance Committee earlier this week, where the bill passed unanimously.

    "We will arrive at a new era when corporations are able and willing to face their past and make proper amends, whatever they may be, for any egregious wrongdoings," she said.

    Amends? For things that took place before anyone now living was born? Might as well ask me to make amends for something my great great grandfather did.

    I'm wondering whether this is merely symbolic (in which case it's a waste of time), or whether it's a foot in the door for reparations.

    Last month in New York, a similar bill was deliberately debated alongside a reparations resolution:

    ....[F]irms discovering their ties to slavery would not be barred from receiving municipal contracts; however, any company found falsifying its history would have its contracts voided. "This is about truth, enlightenment and accountability,” Perkins explained. “By exposing and confronting our past, no matter how painful, we can learn to combat prejudice and indifference now."

    The committees also considered a resolution calling on Congress to hold fact finding hearings regarding reparations for descendents of Africans who were held in slavery in this country and its original colonies between 1619 and 1865, and a resolution urging the establishment of a reparations commission on slavery in New York City. “This is a very emotional issue for me, going far beyond any kind of legislation we can pass,” commented Council Member Charles Barron, the resolutions’ prime sponsor. “It's hard for me to get intellectual when we talk about murder, rape and robbery of a people, and the impact it’s had on us to this very day psychologically, sociologically and economically. I hope this hearing can bring some justice.”

    Even the name of "New York" is suspect:
    The hearing began with testimony from Dr. Howard Dodson, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He presented background on the development of slavery and the slave trade going back to 1625 when Dutch settlers brought the first enslaved Africans to the city to exploit as its labor force. He showed how conditions went from bad to worse for captive Africans after the British won control of New Amsterdam in 1664 and the city became an even more aggressive actor in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Duke of York – for whom the city was renamed – was a major shareholder in the firm that held the monopoly in the British slave trade. York granted port privileges to ships engaged in the slave trade and encouraged the city’s residents to become more actively involved in it. All the while, New York developed elaborate slave codes to control and restrict the behavior of enslaved Africans and to strip free and half-free Blacks of the rights and property they had held, however tenuously, under Dutch rule.
    Does it even matter that the United States didn't exist at the time? No.

    What matters is that New York will have to be renamed along with Washington.

    I think this is all just a typical example of the politics of shame being used to bully and extort.

    If the businesses had any balls, they'd refuse to go along with it.

    posted by Eric at 11:50 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBacks (1)

    A few foreign thoughts

    I've been rather enjoying the debate over whether or not "foreign" law should be considered as a source of American law, or constitutional law.

    At the outset, let me state that I don't think any foreign law should supersede or in any way be controlling over the Constitution.

    But what is foreign law? Much of what Americans call "our" law is actually British common law, as it had existed for centuries, and as eventually collected by Blackstone.

    I don't think too many people will dispute that Great Britain is a foreign country.

    While I am as tired as anyone of liberal jurists seeking extraconstitutional sources of law to support unconstitutional bootstrapping, are they the only ones who've done it?

    Consider the following opinion by Chief Justice Burger in Bowers v. Hardwick:

    Homosexual sodomy was a capital crime under Roman law. See Code Theod. 9.7.6; Code Just. 9.9.31. See also D. Bailey, Homosexuality [p197] and the Western Christian Tradition 70-81 (1975). During the English Reformation, when powers of the ecclesiastical courts were transferred to the King's Courts, the first English statute criminalizing sodomy was passed. 25 Hen. VIII, ch. 6. Blackstone described "the infamous crime against nature" as an offense of "deeper malignity" than rape, a heinous act "the very mention of which is a disgrace to human nature," and "a crime not fit to be named." 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *215.
    Are these not references to foreign law? If only liberals resort to foreign law, doesn't that make Warren Burger a liberal?

    And what about the issue of the Decalogue, best known as the Ten Commandments? Accepting for the sake of argument that God handed the original tablets to Moses, they were intended as law for the ancient Hebrews. How do they become a part of constitutional law in the United States of America without resort to what is clearly extraconstitutional (and definitely foreign) law?

    Am I a religious heretic for believing the Constitution trumps foreign law?

    Obviously, I'm missing something, as usual. . .

    By the way, I'm not advocating anarchy here. There's nothing wrong with the ideas expressed in, or the philosophical basis of, most of the Ten Commandments -- most of which have been codified into law in every state. But a line is crossed when a certain deity (and a particular interpretation of that deity) is elevated above all others. It is one thing to proscribe murder, but quite another to require keeping the Sabbath.

    The founders knew that. Which is why they kept such foreign stuff out of the Constitution.

    posted by Eric at 11:32 AM | Comments (5)

    Strategic mistake?

    Back to the Der Spiegel article on the brutal "honor killing" of Hatin Surucu:

    At a memorial vigil held a few weeks after Hatin's death, a mere 120 people showed up. Almost none were Turkish. In fact, most were from a lesbian and gay organization that -- outraged by the crime -- organized the make-shift ceremony.
    Yet the killing had nothing to do with gay rights.

    Where were the feminists?

    Whether in Germany or America, I'm still baffled by feminist silence over honor killings, and I'm wondering whether attributing it solely to anti-Americanism might be overlooking a more pragmatic reason.

    If we assume that feminist theoreticians aren't complete morons (for the sake of argument, OK?), surely they must understand the following two basic concepts:

  • 1. Fundamentalist Islam is at its essence a brutal patriarchy in which women are treated in a far worse manner than in the West; and
  • 2. The most brutal and backward fundamentalist Muslims are against everything Western (with feminism surely topping their list of offenses), AND are at war with the West.
  • I'm wondering whether the war with the West is the key to understanding. Might it be that many feminists would privately acknowledge the horrors of Islamic patriarchy? Yet because Western "capitalist patriarchy" has been enemy number one for decades, they now see an opportunity to sit back on the sidelines and watch two enemies battle it out. Isn't this is in line with the basic principle of never interfering when two enemies go to war? Even if the West is seen as the more powerful of the two, the reason for sitting out a war while enemies battle it out is that both enemies will inevitably be weakened by it.

    Supporting the West would, in feminist terms, require acquiescence to the innate superiority of capitalist patriarchy, and, seen this way, any victory by the West would be seen as defeating feminism.

    If feminists are thinking this way, they are very wrong. While women are excluded from all male activities under fundamentalist Islam, in the West they serve in the military. Two have been Secretaries of State. The next presidential election is shaping up to be a woman running against a woman.

    War between patriarchies? Hell no!

    If anything, we're in a war which would protect (if not advance) feminist gains. Silence by American feminists about the horrors of Islamic patriarchy hurts their own cause.

    It also makes them increasingly irrelevant.

    posted by Eric at 09:55 AM | Comments (2)

    Killing the honor of feminism?

    This Der Spiegel article which Glenn Reynolds linked really did it for me. I am so sick of reading about these endless so-called "honor killings" that I'm almost beyond words. Women hacked to pieces for dating, murdered by their fathers for wearing makeup, running from abusive husbands they were forced to marry. The list goes on and on.

    I can't count the number of times I've see bloggers asking why Muslims are so silent. Why aren't more Muslims condemning the carnage? It's a good question, but it goes largely unanswered, and it tends not to be asked by the people in the media whom we've traditionally entrusted to do the question asking.

    But I have a question too: Why aren't more American feminists condemning the honor killings?

    It seems I am not alone. Here's Kay Hymowitz:

    As you look at this inventory of brutality, the question bears repeating: Where are the demonstrations, the articles, the petitions, the resolutions, the vindications of the rights of Islamic women by American feminists? The weird fact is that, even after the excesses of the Taliban did more to forge an American consensus about women’s rights than 30 years of speeches by Gloria Steinem, feminists refused to touch this subject. They have averted their eyes from the harsh, blatant oppression of millions of women, even while they have continued to stare into the Western patriarchal abyss, indignant over female executives who cannot join an exclusive golf club and college women who do not have their own lacrosse teams.

    But look more deeply into the matter, and you realize that the sound of feminist silence about the savage fundamentalist Muslim oppression of women has its own perverse logic. The silence is a direct outgrowth of the way feminist theory has developed in recent years. Now mired in self-righteous sentimentalism, multicultural nonjudgmentalism, and internationalist utopianism, feminism has lost the language to make the universalist moral claims of equal dignity and individual freedom that once rendered it so compelling.

    If "multicultural nonjudgmentalism" and "internationalist utopianism" have in fact swallowed feminism -- to the point where blatantly sexist male supremacist murders can't be resolutely condemned -- then I'd say feminist "theory" has been allowed to defeat feminism itself.

    I guess the Muslim sexists and assorted religious psychotics would snicker over that one -- being as it is the ultimate honor killing . . .

    (Besides, the real issue is not women slaughtered in the name of honor; it's Lawrence Summers.)

    posted by Eric at 10:32 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBacks (2)

    Stupidity is indecent too!

    Here is an example of why I get disgusted with the Republican Party:

    Indecency guidelines that over-the-air broadcasters must follow should be extended to cover cable and satellite broadcasters, congressional Republicans who are influential on telecommunications issues said yesterday.

    Most viewers do not differentiate between traditional TV and cable, so they do not know when they might be exposed to objectionable programming, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the head of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.

    "In this country, there has to be some standards of decency," said Stevens, who said he would push for such legislation. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group, said that people choose to pay for channels and, as part of their subscription, are able to block programming they do not want seen in their homes. Because of that, the group said, any legislation would face an uphill battle in court.

    Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, supported the idea of indecency guidelines for cable and satellite and said he would consult with Stevens on possible legislation.

    "It's not fair to subject over-the-air broadcasters to one set of rules and subject cable and satellite to no rules," Barton told reporters after a separate appearance before the broadcasters group.

    Where has this Barton character been living? The FCC's regulatory power derives from the public airwaves theory. Cable and satellite are private. You get what you pay for. Anyone who does not understand this strikes me as unqualified to hold federal political office.

    Who elects these people, anyway? Professor Bainbridge (no flaming liberal he) previously accused Barton of making the GOP look bad with his screwball proposal for government monitoring of the evening news. The kindest thing I can say about the congressman is that he has a very poor understanding of the First Amendment.

    Hey, if we want regulation, why not regulate congressmen, by requiring that they take proficiency courses in basic American Civics?


    As to Senator Stevens, I completely agree with what Jeff Jarvis said earlier:

    Go tell Ted Stevens to:
    1. Mind his own damned business.
    2. Read the First Amendment.
    3. Worry about the deficit and health care and homeland security and Social Security and...
    4. Retire.

    : I'll say it again: The internet is next. They will try to go after what you and I say here. Welcome to Maylasia.

    I say, send Stevens and Barton back there.

    posted by Eric at 01:01 PM | Comments (7)

    No rights left if nothing's left right!

    Our esteemed commenter, Steven Malcolm Anderson, has outdone himself with the most comprehensive look at political, social, philosophical, sexual, religious, and cultural spectrumology I have ever seen. It's an impressive feat of scholarship by any standard. And it's just an overview.

    A teensy sample:

    "If sex is nothing but a joke, as the liberal "Naturalists" think, then laws against it are nothing but a joke and can be laughed off and ignored. But if sex is a sin against God and a crime against society, as "Jehovanists" believe, then laws against it must be enforced to placate God and preserve society. And if sex is a holy manifestation of the Godlike/Goddesslike self, as this "Gnostic" dogmatically believes, then laws against it are an unholy abomination and must be abolished."
    I like the way Steven sees cultural disputes along the lines of mathematical equations; it's a good way to defuse the hyper-emotional rhetoric which so often prevents people from being logical. And in addition to being accurate, it's funny.

    Steven's work is definitely not to be missed by any regular reader of this blog. And it's a particular must-read if you're one of those like me who are frustrated by the traditional spectrumology of left and right.

    posted by Eric at 10:57 AM | Comments (4)

    There's only one villain in the world!

    From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

    WASHINGTON - A bitterly divided Supreme Court yesterday banned execution of juvenile killers, overturning 72 death sentences and extending a dramatic trend of high court decisions limiting the scope of capital punishment in this country.

    In an impassioned 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said a growing national consensus about the immaturity of youth and America's position as the world's sole remaining juvenile executioner led to a simple conclusion: The practice violates the Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment. (Emphasis added.)

    I'm not going to accuse the Inquirer of being the sole culprit here, but if they're quoting or even paraphrasing Justice Kennedy I think they have a responsibility to make it clear who is speaking, and avoid reciting as a statement of the truth what is in fact a false and misleading argument.

    The fact is, regardless of how anyone might feel about executing juveniles (or executing adults for crimes committed as juveniles), the United States is by no means the "world's sole remaining juvenile executioner."

    Iran immediately comes to mind:

    Sixteen year old Ateqeh Rajabi was executed for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’ and publicly hanged on a street in the city centre of Neka, Iran. She had no legal representation and was mentally ill. The judge, who had time to criticise her dress sense, hanged her himself and sentenced her co-defendant to 100 lashes. Ateqeh’s sentence was carried out on 15 August and, sometime later, her grave was robbed. Ateqeh Rajabi was one of four children executed in Iran this year and ten have been executed since 1990, so it’s an upward trend.
    From what I can determine, other countries which execute children include Iraq (until recently, I hope) Bangladesh, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    That may not be a complete list, but it's enough to show that the U.S. is far from being alone. And I'm sure that the above countries don't restrict capital punishment of children to murder. More likely, they're executing children for morals offenses, and at ages so young we'd be horrified.

    Why isn't that relevant to the Inquirer's reporting? I have never read a single account there of an Islamic execution of a child, yet once again the U.S. is being made out as the world's villain.

    Little wonder that so many people distrust the MSM.

    posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (5)

    Dumbing Down the Debate

    Despite Ted Rall's eloquent essay against non-credentialed bad guy bloggers, here's another critique of journalistic technique. UPI's Michael Kirkland, writing about the Supreme Court case on the Ten Commandments, reduces the debate to a simple binary opposition:

    On one side are those who say government has a role in promoting morality; on the other are those who say any government interference or promotion of religion is unconstitutional.

    This not only cheapens the debate but misleads readers. The picture painted is that of bible-thumping statists slyly infusing impressional children with Christian values by putting things on walls in courthouses, and constitutionally-minded rationalists protecting the interests of all.

    There are also those who don't care. You can print the whole of Manu's Code on the courthouse wall--in Sanskrit--for all this atheist cares. But at least the Ten Commandments is a part of the Western heritage. I wouldn't be surprised to find Manu's Code cropping up around Indian courthouses either (that would be defended as cultural preservation no doubt).

    I still fail to see how displaying religious images or text can be construed as congress making a 'law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' What has the Bill of Rights to do with questions like these?

    It's a non-issue pushed by those who would abuse the Constitution for political purposes, but the usual sort of reporting makes it the latest battleground in the culture war.

    posted by Dennis at 09:25 AM | Comments (2)

    Terrorist > Militant > Dissident > Devil's Advocate ...

    I spotted this on

    After years of referring to Osama bin Laden with the less-than-cuddly term "militant," Agence France-Presse sees the error of its ways and downgrades him to "dissident"

    So he's Noam Chomsky now? I reckon 'the responsibility of intellectuals' has changed some since 1966 ...

    posted by Dennis at 11:05 PM | Comments (3)

    Respecting the law . . .

    Glenn Reynolds doesn't think Alabama's law criminalizing dildos deserves respect.

    Well, it's my policy here, if not to literally bend over backwards, to at least attempt to be fair to both sides.

    So I feel obligated to give the law the respect it deserves.

    And the fact is, Alabama's legislators have made it a crime to sell marital aids like dildos:

    Sell "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" and risk a $10,000 fine and a year in jail. A Southern jail.

    But selling sexual devices "for a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement purpose" is permissible.

    Wait. Let's stop right there. While it strikes me as more than a little ridiculous (and in my view unconstitutional) to criminalize dildos and other sex toys, what on earth is going on with this exemption for judicial or law enforcement purposes? I mean, why should judges and cops be allowed to play around with these things while ordinary citizens have to get by without them?

    How might this make the United States look internationally? (To say nothing of the Arab "street....")

    Hmmmm..... And, considering the judicial and law enforcement exemptions, why isn't there an exemption for military purposes?

    Or, how about journalistic purposes? Don't journalists work long and hard on their stories, and don't they need to conduct in depth field research?

    What about our constitutionally protected protected right to freedom of expression? If we can burn bras or flags to make a statement, why can't we wave dildos? Might the "fair use" doctrine also apply?

    How about eunuchs? They have enough problems not getting enough sex as it is, and they've apparently needed artificial help in the form of dildos since ancient times. Is it really fair to deprive them?

    And, at the risk of sounding facetious, I must ask: why would a judge need a dildo any more than anyone else? To discipline errant attorneys?

    Hey don't laugh. It happened. In California:

    [Judge Geiler] invited a deputy public defender into chambers, produced a battery-powered dildo, and proceeded to thrust the object in the area of the attorney’s buttocks. Later, during the attorney’s cross-examination of a witness in open court, the judge suggested the dildo might be used to speed up the public defender’s cross-examination, a suggestion that the Supreme Court concluded was made with the intent of curtailing cross-examination.
    Actually, the dildo mainly served to get Judge Geiler in a whole heap of trouble.

    So, as a matter of public policy, why are judges being exempted from this law?

    What's the bottom line?

    And how on earth are dildos to be legitimately used in police work? The only law enforcement use I can imagine would most likely be considered entrapment.

    Well, there's always Tom of Finland. (But surely the legislators weren't thinking along these lines....)

    Hey, I'm trying to give the law the respect it deserves.

    As the saying goes, bad cases make hard law.

    UPDATE (03/02/05): Whoa, I've been out all morning and now I see that this post was linked last night by Glenn Reynolds! Thanks Glenn, and a warm welcome to all.

    posted by Eric at 07:29 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBacks (1)

    Old and current issues

    This afternoon I attended a sort of impromptu reunion with high school buddies, which took place in a professional sound studio in Conshohocken, PA. The owner collects and restores vintage organs, like this Wurlitzer that they've named "Tut":


    Speaking of vintage, the next photo shows a closeup "head shot" of a 2" reel to reel tape recorder that they use to engineer recordings for which I am told only tape recorder technology is suited. (A certain type of sound quality is uniquely peculiar to tape, and, as money is no object in getting things right, they use vintage professional sound studio equipment to do it.)


    I'm also told the 2" tape is no longer made by any company, anywhere. (Something my friend the sound engineer is not happy about.)

    Here's the high school group, wasting valuable studio time:


    If the doors in any of these studio rooms are shut, you can't hear anything outside of the room -- and no one in another room can hear you. Each wall consists of two 2 x 6 stud walls, each with three layers of sheetrock on each side, with air pockets in between. Then there's special material on top of that. There are baffles and movable partitions for acoustical adjustments, sound-insulated channels to run cords and cables almost everywhere, and special wiring panels which would baffle most electricians. For starters, the studio runs on balanced AC power -- a poorly understood new wiring technology not covered by the Electrical Code -- but which involves eliminating the noisy voltage flowing through ground wires by a relatively common sense method:

    Balanced AC is simply 120 Volts that has been split evenly across two AC mains. One phase is +60V while the other is -60V. The mains are always 180 degrees out of phase across the load and therefore sum to 120 Volts, the same voltage and frequency for which equipment power supplies were designed. In this case however, the reference potential (ground) has been located at the midpoint between the two mains so there is no "neutral" wire.
    I was impressed by the idea, and I am told computers are much happier with balanced power.

    Geez, all this talk of balanced power is starting to sound political. (I better stop before I'm accused again of taking money from Republicans!)

    posted by Eric at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

    March 2011
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3 4 5
    6 7 8 9 10 11 12
    13 14 15 16 17 18 19
    20 21 22 23 24 25 26
    27 28 29 30 31    


    Search the Site


    Classics To Go

    Classical Values PDA Link


    Recent Entries


    Site Credits