New tactics, new heroes!

Jeff Soyer (God bless him!) has sounded the alarm about a horrendous new piece of proposed legislation which would require ten year mandatory minimum sentences for anyone who so much as passes a joint to someone under eighteen:

As the Republicans continue to self-destruct and also continue the "war on drugs", along comes Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner who introduced a bill on April 6th that would impose mandatory federal sentences for even the most minor crimes. I heard about this tonight on the Rolley James show and actually dragged myself out of bed to blog about it.

It's called "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005". Thomas.loc.gov moves things around a lot so do a search for HR 1528 here. Please read it. It drastically increases the penalties for violating the federal controlled-substances act.

Here's what could happen. A bunch of folks are at a party and someone 21-years-old passes a joint to a person under 18. Mandatory 10-years in federal prison, no parole. Second offense: Life in prison, no parole. (Mandatory 5 years if they are 18-20 years old.)

As if we didn't need more proof of the Molochian nature of the Drug War. These laws create a constituency of armed bureaucrats who love to imprison people for human appetite crimes, and demand constantly harsher sentences. More and more people are sent to prison, and more and more people are subject to prosecutorial blackmail. Why, the latter is even being cited as a reason to pass the law:
In a way sentencing guidelines cannot, mandatory minimum statutes provide a level of uniformity and predictability in sentencing. They deter certain types of criminal behavior determined by Congress to be sufficiently egregious as to merit harsh penalties by clearly forewarning the potential offender and the public at large of the minimum potential consequences of committing such an offense. And mandatory minimum sentences can also incapacitate dangerous offenders for long periods of time, thereby increasing public safety. Equally important, mandatory minimum sentences provide an indispensable tool for prosecutors, because they provide the strongest incentive to defendants to cooperate against the others who were involved in their criminal activity.

In drug cases, where the ultimate goal is to rid society of the entire trafficking enterprise, mandatory minimum statutes are especially significant. Unlike a bank robbery, for which a bank teller or an ordinary citizen could be a critical witness, often in drug cases the critical witnesses are drug users and/or other drug traffickers. The offer of relief from a mandatory minimum sentence in exchange for truthful testimony allows the Government to move steadily and effectively up the chain of supply, using the lesser distributors to prosecute the more serious dealers and their leaders and suppliers. Mandatory minimum sentences are needed in appropriate circumstances, such as trafficking involving minors and trafficking in and around drug treatment centers.

Blah blah blah. Bureaucratese is bad enough, but there's something positively creepy about treating ten years of someone's life as a trading commodity to be bargained away through a legalized process of government extortion -- the goal of which is to replace a free country with a society of informants.

I realize that the hysteria surrounding what we call "children" is so impenetrable that some will continue to believe that any and all government abuses are justified, and I understand what a pain in the ass it is to read through mind-numbing legislation like this.

But please! Read on a moment more! (Especially those of you who "never get involved," and who think that because you'd never pass a joint to a teenager at a party that you're not affected.)

Kindly Congressman Sensenbrenner has not forgotten about you, the ordinary person, who might mistakenly attend a party where someone passes a joint to a teenager.

He's added a bonus!

If you see or even learn that someone handed the joint to a teenager, why, you'd now be required to become a rat! That's right, under this law, you'd have an affirmative duty to become an active government informant, or face a federal prison term of 2-10 years!

(m) FURTHER PROTECTION FOR CHILDREN.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--Part D of the Controlled Substances Act is amended by adding at the end the following:
"FAILURE TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM DRUG TRAFFICKING ACTIVITIES

"SEC. 425. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person who witnesses or learns of a violation of sections 416(b)(2), 417, 418, 419, 420, 424, or 426 to fail to report the offense to law enforcement officials within 24 hours of witnessing or learning of the violation and thereafter provide full assistance in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of the person violating paragraph (a).

"(b) Any person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be sentenced to not less than two years or more than 10 years. If the person who witnesses or learns of the violation is the parent or guardian, or otherwise responsible for the care or supervision of the person under the age of 18 or the incompetent person, such person shall be sentenced to not less than three years or more than 20 years.''.

Who even needs political hyperbole anymore? Possessory offenses are bad enough, but failing to be a narc?

Comrades! All hail Pavlik Morosov, Hero of the Culture War!

(Hey, maybe the legislation is just Congressman Sensenbrenner's way of engaging in satire . . . Gee, d'ya think so? I do so wish this could be comedy.)

posted by Eric at 04:41 PM



Old and in the way

Out and about today, I found a curious old cemetery (obviously abandoned, but dating back to the Colonial period) abutting a school. The gravestones are mostly illegible with many of them broken, and a couple of the above-ground crypts have been vandalized and emptied by ghoulyard brats. The interplay between the school buses and the graves intrigued me, so I took a couple of photos.

Here's one side of a now-pointless wall, which no longer encloses the cemetery, but which no one has bothered to tear down:

Wall.jpg

And here's another view of the buses from the graves:

School1.jpg

No one has any business being in such a place on a rainy Saturday . . .

posted by Eric at 03:21 PM



Deadly precursors and eliminationist rhetoric

My blogfather Jeff Soyer picked up on this story about the now notorious "burrito lockdown" incident:

CLOVIS, N.M. - A call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school. All over a giant burrito.

Someone called authorities Thursday after seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped into Marshall Junior High.

The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.

Much as I hate bureaucrats, in our haste to laugh at the story, some important scientific facts are being forgotten.

It is beyond scientific dispute that burritos, which consist of copious amounts of beans, are a precursor ingredient to not just one, but TWO deadly gases: Methane gas and Hydrogen sulfide gas. Not only have both types of gas proved fatal to humans, but it has been documented that the type of gas emitted after consumption of such precursors as the burrito in question has been used as fuel for vicious improvised human flame throwers!

"The only notable fact about methane is that it burns with a blue flame," says Van Thiel, "and that's why crazy college kids who like to, uh, ignite their flatus have to be methane producers. And those who make more methane are more like flamethrowers than those who don't."
Lest anyone think this is funny, it is a serious, growing, and um, explosive problem among young people today:
Flatulence ignition is the practice of setting fire to the gases produced by flatulence. It is practised primarily among young men, but discouraged for its potential for causing injury. Lighting such gas can result in burns or explosions. Clothing or hair may catch fire and sensitive tissues can be damaged.

Such experiments may occur among young men on camping trips or in single-sex group residences such as dormitories or fraternity houses, but the flammability of bodily gases has caused serious problems in the operating room and also in slaughterhouses.

Fortunately, the quick intervention of school authorities prevented the deployment of a possible terrorist device -- or even a weapon of mass destruction.

Moreover, the same gases are so deadly to the environment that they'd most likely violate the Kyoto Accord.

Furthermore, Spanish artist Salvador Dali associated beans with the rise of fascism, and the Spanish Civil War!

What's so funny about death and destruction caused by poison gas? Might it be time to start asking what's really behind such thinking? Wasn't this particular laugh-at-deadly-precursors meme started by Glenn Reynolds?

Yes! And the latter even joked about the deadly nature of this poison gas precursor!

Dare we call it eliminationist rhetoric?

posted by Eric at 10:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)




When reality sucks, time out for the surreal!

I finally went and saw the Dali exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's very, very impressive, and I am glad to see this much maligned artist finally getting the appreciation he deserves. There are as many views of Dali's life and politics as there are critics, and he remains a very puzzling, very contradictory man. Here's a sharply critical view of Dali, while here's one more favorable.

Personally, I love the guy's art, and it doesn't bother me in the least that he failed to take sides during the Spanish Civil War. Either outcome would have been awful, and the guy was an artist who hated war. He's been unfairly tarred as a fascist, and this caused his art to be disrespected and downgraded professionally for many years. And even assuming for the sake of argument that he was a fascist (which I don't think he was), why should this have been any more fatal to his art than was Pablo Picasso's Communism to his?

Dali's "Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Premonition of Civil War" (1936) is simply fantastic, and it's been hanging in the Philadelphia Art Museum since I was a boy. When I first saw it, I was so fascinated that I bought a small print, and I still have a print of it hanging on my wall.

Premonition.jpg

The horror and revulsion are there along with the fascination. While surreal, the surrealism is oddly real, because civil war is grotesque, twisted, and unresolvable, yet it springs from man's nature (which is all of the above). It's his unflinching view of horror, of human evil versus human evil, and it's horrible despite the wishes of partisans who each wanted their human evil side declared "good."

Here's a painting which wasn't in the exhibit, unfortunately:

War1940a.jpg

It's "Visage of War" (1940), and Dali had this to say about it:

"I was entering a period of rigor and asceticism which was going to dominate my style, my thoughts, and my tormented life. Spain on fire would light up this drama of the renaissance of aesthetics. Spain would serve as a holocaust to that post-war Europe tortured by ideological dramas, by moral and artistic anxieties…. At one feel swoop, from the middle of the Spanish cadaver, springs up. Half-devoured by vermin and ideological worms, the Iberian penis in erection, huge like a cathedral filled with the white dynamite of hatred. Bury and Unbury ! Disinter and Inter ! In order to unbury again ! Such was the charnel desire of the Civil War in that impatient Spain. One would see how she was capable of suffering; of making others suffer, of burying and unburying, of killing and resurrecting. In was necessary to scratch the earth to exhume tradition and to profane everything in order to be dazzled anew by all the treasures that the land was hiding in its entrails."
By way of stark contrast from that, here's my favorite of the ones I saw this evening:

ExplodingRaphaelB.jpg

That's "Raphaelesque Head Exploding" (1951), and reflects Dali's fascination with the ancients (that's the Pantheon of Rome inside the head) and with the modern atomic age:

Dali imagines that protons and neutrons (and consequently the atom) are angelic elements because in the celestial bodies, he explains, "there are residues of substances; it is for this reason that certain beings appear to me so close to angels such as Raphael. Raphael's temperature is like that almost chilly air of spring, which in turn is exactly that of the Virgin and of the rose." And he adds solemnly, "I need an ideal of hyperaesthetic purity. More and more I am preoccupied by a idea of chastity. For me, it is an essential condition of the spiritual life."
I didn't want to walk away from it.

UPDATE: My head is still spinning!

Short video of Dali speaking.

MORE: I've often seen that even when artists have huge political differences (as did Dali and Picasso) they nonetheless get along as friends. I think the following portrait Dali painted of his friend Picasso lends support to this theory:

DaliPicasso.jpg

Can we all get along? Como say llama Dali llama?

Oh se can you si?

posted by Eric at 11:26 PM



Enabling politically correct shame?

I've always enjoyed Andrew Sullivan, and in many ways I consider him an inspiration. He's always embodied non-conformity, and while I haven't always agreed with him, I've always respected him. (I've only been blogging two years, so I guess I can't always expect "always" to be that way always.)

The other day, Andrew Sullivan crossed a line when he insinuated that Glenn Reynolds was an enabler of the "theocratic impulses" of the religious right:

I'd like to think that bringing the evangelical right along was part of building a coalition to fight the war. I'm certainly not impugning Glenn's good reasons for voting for Bush on those grounds. But in my darker moments, I wonder whether the war wasn't a cover to persuade good, open-minded folk like Glenn to enable the theocratic impulses of the Republican base. Of course, Glenn can wait and see.
While I thought that was a crock of utter shit, I let it pass, because Andrew Sullivan is entitled to a tantrum every once in a while like we all are, and besides, earlier yesterday he seemed to apologize -- a little:
IN THE GRIP OF A "THEOCRACY"? Pace Glenn Reynolds, I don't think and have never said that we're in the grips of a "theocracy." We live in a constitutional democracy. Iranians live in a theocracy, and I am aware of the difference. But one element of our politics - one that happens to have a veto on Republican social policy - does hold that religion should dictate politics, and that opposition to a certain politics is tantamount to anti-religious bigotry.
OK, fair enough.

But shortly after the "apology," Sullivan issued an even more unfair outburst:

DOES GLENN KNOW ABOUT THIS? Banning new books in public libraries that feature any gay characters or are written by gay authors? There are no theocratic tendencies among the Republicans, are there? My favorite quote from the bigot behind this: "I don't look at it as censorship," says Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children." The guy wanted to ban some Shakespeare. But Capote, Wilde, Auden, Proust and who knows who else will be barred. Government as the protector of souls. What are these "hysterics" worrying about "theocratic impulses" going on about?
Sorry, but something about the tone -- DOES GLENN KNOW ABOUT THIS?" strikes me as almost, well, inquisitorial. Very unlike Andrew Sullivan.

Since when is Glenn Reynolds responsible every time a bigoted hick legislator acts up somewhere in the South?

It's not as if Glenn Reynolds hasn't made it clear where he stands. He's repeatedly slammed Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as idiotarians, and likened Randall Terry to Ward Churchill, supported gay marriage, legalization of drugs, opposed criminalization of dildos in the South, and I don't even see why I should have to list these things or defend Glenn Reynolds. What do I have to do? Cite his entire blog? It is as undignified as it is unnecessary.

Then this morning, I saw a long review of the president's press conference titled "INSTAPUNDIT."

What the hell is this nonsense about?

Screw this attempt (by Sullivan, anyway) to instigate a feud or whatever it is -- and screw this damnably PC inquisitorial mindset! Glenn Reynolds does not have to answer to Andrew Sullivan at all, much less be held accountable for antigay prejudice or bigotry -- least of all in the South. He has done and said nothing to deserve Sullivan's clear, repeated attempts at shame. I'd expect something like this from the moralistic scolds (of left and right) that Sullivan and Reynolds both condemn.

I just never, ever expected to see it coming from Andrew Sullivan.

It borders on outright political correctness, and it really bothers me. I didn't want to write about it at all, but I hate politically correct scolding and shaming and I know it when I see it. This recent theme of Andrew Sullivan's is not going away. Maybe I shouldn't be reading Andrew Sullivan. But I am, and while I hope I am misreading this, I don't like what I'm seeing.

If I said nothing, then I'd be enabling shame.

(Even by Andrew Sullivan's much higher standards.)

MORE: Regarding the bigoted legislator referred to above, there seems to be a meme going around that "the south" and "the Republicans" share collective responsibility for the actions of a few individuals (or for that matter, even a particular individual). Here's John Aravosis:

I'm sorry, but the south really needs to clean up its act, along with the Republican party. This man should be thrown out of the party and out of the Alabama state house. This is reprehensible.

Gay groups, PLEASE pick this up and make it an issue. This is your chance, grab it, use it, run with it, and force the GOP, the religious right, and the south to grow the hell up once and for all and take some responsibility for themselves.

There is no question that this obnoxious attempt at "legislation" is as bigoted as it would be unconstitutional. But it didn't pass, and despite the post's title -- "Ok, THIS is Nazi Germany in America," it isn't "Nazi Germany in America." Furthermore, attacking a region and a huge political party for the actions of a few bigots in this way is nothing less than another form of bigotry. Last time I looked, a lot of people lived in the South -- and anyone was still allowed to join either party.

It goes without saying that bigotry can take many forms. Not allowing libraries to buy books by gay authors is one form. I think attacking sexual freedom by means of that noxious practice called "outing" is another.

AND MORE: I hasten to add that Andrew Sullivan is not a practitioner of "outing." Actually he's been more like a victim of the people who do such things.

(Regular readers know this already, but I wouldn't want new readers making unwarranted assumptions about Sullivan.)

UPDATE (05/01/05): Andrew Sullivan links to this post by PolySciFi Blog highlighting an important fact: the Alabama ban on gay authors would prohibit advocacy of most heterosexual conduct as well! (As I keep saying, most sodomy is heterosexual. Why can't they get it, um, straight?)

High time we got all those Harlequin romance novels, and then (to quote Gerald Allen, the bill's sponsor), "Dig a hole, and dump them in it!"

Does Mrs. Allen know about the bill?

posted by Eric at 09:25 AM | Comments (9)




Finding and widening gaps

Are iPods causing crime? Some people think so.

.....[I]f thefts of iPods and cellphones are excluded, serious crime has actually fallen 3 percent so far this year, compared with last year, according to Michael J. Farrell, the deputy commissioner for strategic initiatives, who gave a presentation to the transportation authority's board yesterday.
That's like saying that if thefts of the most frequently stolen cars are excluded, the auto theft rate would be down!

Of the various inanities sputtered in the article, my favorite was this remark by an M.I.T. professor:

Henry Jenkins, the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, described the thefts as a consequence of unequal access to technology. "The participation gap creates techno-envy, where the kids who are locked out of participation in the culture covet those tools and devices that are considered essential to being a young person," he said.

New York officials were reluctant to discourage iPod use. "I would never tell someone to listen to music or not listen to music," Chief Scagnelli said. Apple Computer, which makes the iPod, did not respond to requests for comment.

I'm old enough to remember a generation gap, and who could forget the credibility gap? But a participation gap? People are being "locked out?" Hell, you can buy a new name brand mp3 player for less than $50.00 at Amazon, and the generic brands go for less than $20.00. A movie costs ten bucks in New York, Mister M.I.T. Professor, so why not just cut the gap crap, OK?

I guess I should be glad they're not contemplating a total ban on what the criminals want -- as a crime prevention measure! (Don't laugh, they're already attempting it with guns.)

The fact is, lots of people in lots of places hate iPods. They're are being banned in schools in Australia, in British corporate environments (although the UK military denies a ban in the armed forces), and of all things, they're apparently being targeted by Microsoft's next version of Windows!

(I wonder what "gap" the latter outfit is really worrying about...)

MORE: Getting his foot in the door, Justin points out that sneakers these days can cost a lot more than iPods! These Nike Air Jordans retail for around $279.00. The shoes are black, and look like an athetic shoe influenced by Science Fiction and LSD. (Note the moon-crater-like indentations, and psychedelic sole patterns....)

Hell, I know no one bothers to click on these links.

Here's a picture:

NikeAirJrdn.JPG

Steal enough iPods, and maybe you could afford to buy, maybe, a left shoe...

Obviously, shoes cause crime.

posted by Eric at 01:13 PM | Comments (6)



Cosseting the corseting of culture?

A noted libertarian blogger has linked to this infinitely painful, absolutely shocking group of pictures. His comment?

Whatever turns you on, I always say.
As a moral conservative, I take a very different approach.

I say "Ouch!"

posted by Eric at 12:22 PM



Parting shots?

Via Jeff Jarvis, I see that Air America is not doing well in Washington DC's talk radio ratings:

WRC, which turned to a liberal talk format in January by adding Al Franken and some of his "Air America" crew, was nowhere to be found. It captured less than 0.1 percent of the audience, too low to be counted.
Might desperation explain the gunshots on the air recently directed towards the president?

Now I see that Randi Rhodes has offered an apology (of sorts) to the Secret Service.

Considering the despair which low ratings can cause, I'd have advised her to say that this was all a big misunderstanding. The shots were intended to be a parody of Air America committing suicide.

Baghdad Bob would disagree, of course. (But he was never a champion of despair.)

MORE: Speaking of despair, what's up with Mr. Kos? There's nothing there about the big league astroturf war!

DailyKos is undergoing some maintenance right now.
It'll be back up just as soon as possible.
Thanks for your patience.
I think they're having the astroturf refurbished.

posted by Eric at 09:08 AM



Mean business

Interesting story here about man's best friend:

(WBZ) A Revere woman landed in the hospital Wednesday night, protecting her dog.

63 year-old Helen Lovell walks her purebred pug every night on Walnut Avenue. Around 8 p.m. Wednesday night, a man with a knife approached Lovell and her dog, Benjamin. The armed man demanded she turn over her pet. But Lovell refused.

That's when the suspect slashed her in the hand and chest.

Lovell was taken to Widden Memorial Hospital in Everett and treated for superficial wounds. Now police are searching for the man who slashed her.

By the way, the dog, 10 month-old Benjamin, is just fine.

She should have pulled a gun and shot the bastard. I have zero sympathy for anyone who'd attack a human and a dog like that.

But I have to say that, much as I believe that humans should be allowed to keep whatever animals we might want as pets, it strikes me that a primary purpose of the dog is as a protector. And I love pug dogs. They are incredibly cute animals.

But....

I'm inclined to agree with my blogfather Jeff Soyer that overly frivolous animals just aren't, well, the original idea of what a dog is all about.

Folks, dogs aren't meant to be washed and Vasolined and trimmed and blown-dry. They should be chasing a Frisbee or running a mole to ground or sitting by and keeping comfort for your child when they think the world is against them.
If I had to walk a dog like that in a crummy area, I'd want to either be armed or have an additional dog which wasn't "cute." Because not only could the cute dog not be expected to defend me, I'd expect that it might invite trouble.

Years ago, a friend and roommate had a fussy, fluffy little white dog, which somehow came equipped with a very effeminate looking red collar. The dog was a male, and the neighborhood was bad. My friend endured taunts from young thugs, who'd say things like "Isn't he cuuuute?!" Fortunately, he was never attacked. I had another roommate whose appearance invited similar attention -- except when he'd walk with the pit bull I had at the time instead of the fluffy little white dog. On one occasion the catcalls started from a distance. But when he got closer, the young thugs made menacing gestures and eye contact -- as if to test him and the dog. All she had to do was bare her teeth and snarl. They got off the sidewalk fast.

In an ideal world, people and dogs would mind their own business. But I like dogs who take care of business when others don't mind theirs.

posted by Eric at 08:40 AM



Occupational hazards

Nick Packwood (the great Ghost of a Flea) has told me I'm "it" -- by passing along the following challenge:

"Following this is a list of different occupations. You must select at least five of them. You may add more if you like to your list before you pass it on (after you select five of the items as it was passed to you). Of the five you selected, you are to finish each phrase with what you would do as a member of that profession. Then pass it on to three other bloggers. OF COURSE you all without blogs are welcome to play along in comments!"

What would I do? In a comment the other day, I speculated about what the Flea would do, so I guess I was asking for something like this.

Sigh.

Here are my five choices (and the extended list follows):

  • If I could be a missionary I'd convert Pagans to Christianity, and Christians to Paganism, and then back again, following which I'd ask each of the twice-converted to write 50,000 word essays ruminating on the "culture war" aspects of such conversion to be published in this blog -- thus allowing me to take at least several years off....
  • If I could be a llama-rider I'd make the Llama Butchers lull my llama into a false state of security by playing Mozart while they sharpen the knives....
  • If I could be a proctologist I'd simply commit suicide, as there are too many undiagnosed assholes in need of treatment, and I wouldn't be able to cope with the strain.
  • If I could be a judge I would dismiss every case I deemed frivolous, shred all court records to confound any appeals, and impose sanctions like this on any attorney who complained.
  • If I could be a Jedi I would immediately start a transparently fake campaign of appeasement to annoy Darth Vader, in pursuance of my dangerous crackpot theory that ridicule can distract warriors.
  • Here's the list as forwarded to Nick:

    If I could be a scientist...
    If I could be a farmer...
    If I could be a musician...
    If I could be a doctor...
    If I could be a painter...
    If I could be a gardener...
    If I could be a missionary...
    If I could be a chef...
    If I could be an architect...
    If I could be a linguist...
    If I could be a psychologist...
    If I could be a librarian...
    If I could be an athlete...
    If I could be a lawyer...
    If I could be an innkeeper...
    If I could be a professor...
    If I could be a writer...
    If I could be a backup dancer...
    If I could be a llama-rider...
    If I could be a bonnie pirate...
    If I could be a midget stripper...
    If I could be a proctologist...
    IIf I could be a TV-Chat Show host...
    If I could be an actor...
    If I could be a judge...
    If I could be a Jedi...

    I have to add five more? OK, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, and, er, IRS Commissioner. Oh, and Indian Chief.

    Done.

    Now who gets to be "it"? (Do I have to do this? I'm no good at games....)

    I don't like to make anyone feel obligated, but if I absolutely have to tag five bloggers, I guess I'll tag John Beck, Sean Kinsell, and Persnickety. And Harkonnendog should stand by at least as a backup...

    (Whew! Glad that responsibility is over.)

    UPDATE: It is my fervent hope that the serious traffic coming this way from Lord Vader means that my appeasement plan is being considered carefully. If history shows anything, it is that peace can be used to the advantage of the dark side. It is always in the interest of those who love peace to do whatever is necessary to avoid forcing Lord Vader to station a garrison nearby!

    AND MORE: The idea of Peace In Our Time is really starting to ignite old memories and spark my imagination!

    Is not politics the art of the possible?

    UPDATE: I now see that I'm extremely close to my one-millionth page view -- a magic and miraculous milestone I will most likely pass before tonight is over. My special thanks to Lord Vader's many minions for making this happen.

    (I'm afraid I'm now indebted to the Dark Side!)

    CORRECTION: Persnickety just emailed me and pointed out that I misspoke above -- saying five bloggers when I meant three! (It's five occupations and three bloggers.)

    UPDATE (05/05/05): As a few Darth Vader fans might still be trickling in, I thought they might enjoy this report from Jim Geraghty, a reluctant Palpatine/Vader 2005 campaign correspondent. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who still doesn't have an ewok in this fight.)

    posted by Eric at 07:59 AM | Comments (3)




    Carnival 136

    I was out all day today but I just got back to discover that the Carnival of the Vanities has been posted. This week's host, John C. A. Bambenek, living up to the best traditions of the Carnival, reviews more posts than I can count, and does this in spite of the fact that his blog has just moved. John's a really good writer, and I am sorry he's only made twelve dollars blogging so far. (If it's any consolation, John, I've lost hundreds already, so you're way ahead of me!)

    Maybe it's because Spring has finally sprung, but the posts are particularly good this week, and I thought I should mention a few:

  • SciFi fans, don't miss Lynn's post about growing up with Star Trek at Reflections in d minor!
  • Do women want feminine men? Read Taken In Hand now!
  • Discriminations has an interesting post about the politics of inter-religious warfare. (Or should that be intra-religious?)


  • Kevin at The Smallest Minority has almost persuaded Doonesbury to endorse concealed carry. (I don't know if I can hold my breath.)
  • You can't lose at poker if you read this post at Incite!
  • See? It pays to read the Carnival!

    posted by Eric at 08:30 PM



    Death can destroy your credibility!

    Speaking of dirt digging and background checks, this lesson in morality occupied three-quarters of the Philadelphia Inquirer's front page yesterday.

    Stanford A. Douglas Jr. told police that, for seven years, he thought about killing William L. Berkeyheiser over a perceived racial slur when the two men worked together at a care facility in Philadelphia.

    On March 27, he finally did so, riddling Berkeyheiser with bullets from a semiautomatic handgun on the porch of Berkeyheiser's Upper Makefield Township home, Bucks County District Attorney Diane Gibbons said yesterday.

    "That's the reason he gave us for it, that he was offended by a seven-year-old joke," Gibbons said. She called it the strangest murder motive she could recall.

    The Northeast Philadelphia truck driver was charged yesterday with killing his former coworker, a retired health-care executive, outside his upscale Bucks County home on Easter Sunday.

    Douglas, 29, of the 3800 block of Woodhaven Road, was being held without bail on first-degree murder and firearms charges. He was arrested late Sunday night after a tense standoff at his residence, Gibbons said.

    Douglas would not repeat the 1998 joke, Gibbons said. At the time, both men worked at Baptist Home in Philadelphia, now known as Deer Meadows Retirement Community.

    Nor did Douglas say why, after seven years, he allegedly decided to act on his ire. "There is absolutely no justification for his conduct," Gibbons said.

    On March 23, court records say, Douglas hired a private investigation firm to produce a report on Berkeyheiser, which included his home address.

    Four days later, Berkeyheiser, 62, had just finished Easter dinner when Douglas appeared at his door, authorities say. Berkeyheiser's wife, Viola, heard her husband invite the man inside.

    "I heard my husband talking to him, and it was kind of like, 'How do I know you?' " Viola Berkeyheiser said yesterday.

    William Berkeyheiser stepped outside, and a series of shots were fired. Felled by six bullets, Berkeyheiser died moments later.

    It turns out that the killer located his victim with the help of a private investigator:
    At A-Plus Investigations in Levittown, president Philip Olshevski expressed "shock and amazement" yesterday that Douglas had used his agency to help track down the victim.

    Gibbons said the firm had charged Douglas $150 for its work. Olshevski declined to discuss particulars. He said there was nothing illegal or improper about the work done for Douglas.

    "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," Olshevski said. "It sickens us that this sort of thing could happen."

    It also shows how easy it is for anyone. To get anything. On anyone.

    The remarkable thing about this case is the plaintive way the family has been forced to defend the victim of a murder:

    Gibbons and family members belittled the notion that the victim was racist. They pointed out that Viola Berkeyheiser is of part-Asian descent.

    "My dad was known for making jokes - not racist jokes - stupid jokes," his daughter, Jennifer, said. "But nothing that would offend someone for, like, seven years."

    A racist would not have invited Douglas inside his home, Jennifer Berkeyheiser said.

    ...The lack of a clear motive, she said, did not surprise her.

    "I knew that there wasn't a real motive," she said, "because my husband would never do anything to anybody that would warrant getting murdered, or get someone that angry."

    For his part, the accused murderer has for the past two days steadfastly refused to disclose the joke. Obviously, that's why the story only made the section B in today's paper. People want punchlines, and if they don't get them, they begin to bore. (However, I did find this attempt at psychoanalysis.)

    To stir up speculation about the relevance of a racist joke as a defense to murder is one thing. There's the old "fighting words" doctrine, but I don't think there's a "killing words" doctrine. In the heat of passion, might reduce a first degree murder to second, I suppose. But seven years later is a stretch, by any standard. However, I recall a case involving a child molester who was murdered many years after his crime, and the jury refused to convict. These are ultimately questions for the jury, and juries have been known to disregard instructions. I don't like the idea of being murdered because of an old joke, no matter how "offensive" it might have been. I guess Howard Stern needs bodyguards, for some people take comedy very seriously.

    But how could Berkeyheiser have known that he needed a bodyguard? For that matter, how is anyone supposed to know whether the man ever told a racist joke? He's dead, and his murderer is alive. So, while the murderer has the media advantage, the victim must content himself with a hole in the ground. They worked together for ten months, and it all comes down to a single joke? What if Berkeyheiser was a nice guy who never told this or any other racist joke, and his killer is a psychopath who hated him for reasons known only to him?

    Is there a morality lesson here? We will never, ever know. It isn't even one man's word against another.

    The only moral lesson I can see is that there's a distinct advantage to being alive. Wars of words are won by the living.

    It's an old moral lesson many people forget. A lesson Josef Stalin knew better than most people.

    Whether in politics or in life, you'll win the debate if your opponent is dead.

    posted by Eric at 09:02 AM | Comments (2)




    Reporting the digging before it's been dug?

    Are Republicans digging up irrelevant dirt on Melody Townsel? According to Ms. Townsel (who wrote a letter to Amy at Daily Kos) post, they are:

    Hello, Daily Kos-ers:
    Tonight, my deepest fears regarding my pending testimony in the John Bolton nomination process have come true: Republicans have dredged up un unfortunate chapter of my life and, clearly, are about to announce it to the world. When you read this, you may decide either that I was stupid to step forward, or that I no longer deserve your trust. I want, however, to be the one to announce this to you all since you've been so unbelievably supportive.

    When I was in college, 22 years ago, I plagiarized some columns while working for my college newspaper, and I was removed from staff. Months later, while working for another college newspaper, I wrote a review for a local play that tracked closely in format to another writer's review -- and, although it was not plagiarized, it made my editors, who had become aware of my recent past, very uncomfortable, and we mutually agreed that I would no longer submit stories to them.

    As you can imagine, I'm deeply ashamed to be forced to revisit these events so publicly -- and, while I was under tremendous academic, financial and family pressure at the time, there is absolutely NO excuse for what I did so long ago. I knew it was wrong then, and I remain deeply ashamed and embarrassed.

    I wish to stress that Amy, my friend who has been such a staunch supporter and has been keeping you posted on things happening with my pending testimony, was completely unaware of these events. There are some things you don't tell even your best friend.

    As you judge me, please keep in mind that I was 21 years old when this happened. Today, at 42, I can state emphatically that I've worked hard my entire professional and personal life to put my incredibly poor decisions and actions behind me -- and I believe my professional and personal life since that time speaks for itself.

    More than 10 years had passed from those college events when I had my brutal, ugly and unfortunate contact with Mr. Bolton. In that decade, I worked professionally as a copyeditor, a business writer, and a business analyst for major publications. I also worked as a senior planning analyst for a major airport project -- and, thereafter, I accepted a one-year posting with Black Manafort Stone & Kelly to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. There, as you know, I met Mr. Bolton.

    I want to tell you all this story, first and personally, before the Bush camp works its special brand of magic -- and I would deeply appreciate your help in posting this letter as many places as you can in advance of my testimony. Even as I write this, the Bush team is working overtime to destroy my life and business, telling and retelling the things I'm writing here. I just received a phone call from a Christian newspaper reporter.

    I know they'll tell you that my pending statement to the Senate cannot be trusted because I did some stupid things as a 20-year-old kid two decades ago -- even as they try to tell you that Mr. Bolton's bahavior toward me in Moscow and Kyrgyzstan 11 years ago just doesn't matter. They'll try to make my actions of two decades ago the story -- setting aside the forgiveness Mr. Bush grants himself about his own history of questionable behavior by stating, "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible."

    As of tonight, it's clear that I've truly risked everything to tell you -- and the U.S. Senate -- about Mr. Bolton. I've already told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee counsel about this episode in my life, and I remain committed to to going through with my testimony tomorrow. They still want to depose me.

    Since Amy first posted my letter, you may have read that former colleagues have stepped forward to verify its contents to the Senate regarding Mr. Bolton -- and other, similar tales of his abuse appear to be surfacing daily. The fact that they're working so hard to discredit me tells me they know that I'm right.

    That's my story. If you can still offer it, I would appreciate your continued support. I would appreciate your empathy. I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as I try to rebuild my life and my business.

    Perhaps most important, I would also appreciate your sharing my story, as quickly as possible, with anybody you can. Please help me get this out there first.

    Sincerely,

    Melody Townsel

    The post is headlined "Important Melody Townsel revelation--PLEASE DISSEMINATE," but from what I can see, the only people who disseminated it are, well Amy at Daily Kos, via Ms. Townsel herself. While Little Green Footballs and Power Line both picked up on it, their only source was Daily Kos. Here's John Hinderaker:
    Little Green Footballs notes that she has written her close friends at the Daily Kos to alert them to a history of plagiarism which she says will be used against her by Republicans. I haven't seen any sign of that yet, but it's certainly fair to say that if a Republican made an otherwise-unsupported charge against a Democrat, and turned out to have a documented history as a plagiarist, that fact would be considered relevant. What's more significant to me, though, is her close self-identification with the nutjobs at the Daily Kos.
    Here's what I think: I don't care about stuff that Melody Townsel, now 42, did when she was 21. That stuff is too old, and too irrelevant. Besides, she's not accused of plagiarism. Rather, at issue is her partisanship, and the accuracy of what she's saying about John Bolton.

    I didn't care about the DUI allegations about George W. Bush either. But lots of leftists sure as hell did.

    If the evil Republican dirt digging machine is at it again, then why is it that the only place the dirt has appeared was at Daily Kos and the blogs linking the piece? The commenters have gone absolutely ballistic over this latest Republican "attack" -- to the point that many of them are baring their souls, and sharing details:

    "smoking pot, taking LSD, mushrooms and playing in a texas-psychedelic band."


    "21 years ago I was a born again christian.
    -I got better though."


    "i had just finished taking the MCATs while at the same time my fiancee (yes, fiancee) and i broke off our engagement, i was about to turn 21, and in honor of the milestone out at the campus bars for the celebration drank 21 beers and 18 shots. why do i rememer the amount? i was po'd that i didn't make an even 21/21. oh yeah, that's the same night i tried to jump out of a moving camaro because i thought the driver was making a pass at me, made him pull ver, got out of the car and then proceeded to fall asleep under a tree by our campus library, and as dawn was breaking staggered back to my dorm room (waking all 3 room mates), and then did a few lines of coke -- using the album cover for heaven 17's "how men are" as my flat surface, and was as good to go again for another day and night of my birthday week's celebrations."

    "i don't know whether to laugh or HELL YEAH LAUGH -- what else is there to do?!?!

    WHAT A JOKE. LET THEM BRING THIS SHIT OUT. They'll be laughed out of the damn press conference!

    god, i don't think i went to enough classes to plagarize!

    GOD DAMN JOKE! & i'm talking about the people -- not this stunt.

    Did you roll through a stop sign when you were 24?"


    "Realistically, I think we all knew there would be a Herculean effort to drag this womans name through the mud. If this is the worst thing they can get on you, Melody, you are a far better person than I."


    "I wasn't respectable 30 years ago and I'm still not. Thank God."

    Naturally, Bush and Cheney and Gannon are all either implicated for their dirt or slammed for hypocrisy, while Bill Frist is likened to Josef Mengele.

    I have dirt in my past, and so do many of my closest friends. As I said, I don't consider this plagiarism stuff at all relevant. But my question remains, did the Republicans bring this up?

    I see no evidence that they did. We have only Melody Townsel's word that "Republicans have dredged [it] up" and "clearly, are about to announce it to the world." Then there's this curious statement:

    Even as I write this, the Bush team is working overtime to destroy my life and business, telling and retelling the things I'm writing here. I just received a phone call from a Christian newspaper reporter.
    The post was dated Monday April 25. Plenty of time for the Bush team to have finished working overtime.

    And why the call from the "Christian" newspaper reporter? Obviously, she thinks "Christian" is a dirty word, but did she ever stop to imagine how it would have looked had she said "Jewish?" Who would call her and say he was a "Christian newspaper reporter," anyway? What was asked? Who was this caller?

    How do we know that this is the handiwork of the Republican attack machine? Because Daily Kos readers are incensed? It's looking a bit too convenient for comfort.

    I'm very skeptical.

    I think it's quite possible that the "victim" dug up (more properly, presented to Daily Kos) the dirt against herself to set herself up to complain about the dirt digging. This both makes the Republicans look bad, and controls the damage in advance. Neat trick if you can pull it off, Melody.

    (And if that turned out to be what happened, no, I still wouldn't care about twenty year old plagiarism. I'd be caring about something far worse -- and far more recent.)

    UPDATE: This reminds me more and more of Philadelphia Mayor Street "discovering" the FBI bug (and harnessing hatred of the evil Republicans) just in time to transform defeat into victory.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: If assume for the sake of argument that sneaky, evil Republicans dug up the plagiarism dirt on Melody Townsel, then I have a couple of questions:

  • 1. Why haven't they used it?
  • 2. How on earth did she come to know about it?
  • I have no way of knowing whether people might be digging up dirt on me, or the nature of the dirt, and dirt diggers, by their nature, don't tend to broadcast to their targets what they're doing behind their backs.

    posted by Eric at 08:14 PM | Comments (6)



    Coverups always involve cycles of shredding

    I don't know why, but my dog Coco does not like my nice new document shredder. In fact, she hates it with a passion. Whenever I shred anything, as soon as she hears the noise, she charges in from wherever she is -- apparently in the hope of putting an end to the shredding process. This is the sort of thing which has to be seen to be believed, so I thought I'd try to take some pictures. Bear in mind that the camera's three second delay makes it tough, because the shredder moves fast. And so does Coco.

    In this first photo, Coco was quick, but arrived too late to actually stop the shredding, so she bit the edge of the evil machine:

    CocoShreds1.jpg

    Next, she grabbed a sheet on its way in, violently tearing one piece off, then grabbing at it a second time before it too disappeared into the meanspirited maws of document oblivion:

    CocoShreds2.jpg

    Finally, a more mellow-looking Coco tries again, this time pulling more gently (without tearing the document), as if she might yet save it from the terrible fate.

    CocoShreds3.jpg

    I don't know whether Coco is against coverups or actually feels sorry for these documents. I have tried to explain that I'm only trying to keep them away from bad people, but she's not interested in explanations. She's just fanatically anti-shredding, and obviously blinded by her passions.

    TECH NOTE: My apologies for Coco's red eyes, but the anti-red-eye feature of the camera is too slow to use in action shots.

    posted by Eric at 06:14 PM | Comments (5)



    A hellishly hair-raising coverup?
    On August 20, 1994, a white buffalo was born on a farm in Janesville, Wisconsin, fulfilling ancient predictions of many Native Americans tribes that peace will come to men of all colors when the white buffalo returns. As a white buffalo matures, it's hair changes colors, becoming yellow, brown and black - the colors of all human races - before becoming white again.

    -- Lynne D. Finney, J.D., M.S.W., writing in NewsMax

    Ms. Finney is the latest witness against John Bolton. And she has plenty to say -- not just about Bolton:
    Finney, whose anti-Bolton charges have been the subject of stories in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and other papers, also claims to have been taught by "Tibetan monks and Master Nome in Santa Cruz, California." Master Nome is a Hindu religious teacher. Finney was described by The New York Times as "a leading practitioner of recovered-memory therapy, including the use of self-hypnosis, a practice that some studies have shown can result in the creation of false memories."

    "In this new millennium, we entered an era of human evolution where we can reinvent ourselves and create new realities," the Finney website declares. "We all have the ability to clear out our limiting beliefs and behaviors and tap into the infinite power of Consciousness." The website describes her "many realities," including as "diplomat" and "United Nations policy advisor to the Agency for International Development." The latter is apparently a reference to the position in which Finney claims to have been yelled at by Bolton, then the top lawyer at USAID.

    Reached by telephone, Finney refused to comment, saying, "I'm not going to talk to the press until after the [Senate Foreign Relations] committee interviews me, which I understand is going to be sometime this week…I've just been advised to do that."

    Stories say that Finney emailed her comments about Bolton to liberal Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a strong opponent of Bolton and member of the committee, who passed them on to the press.

    The DC Examiner reports more nonsensical utterances, and speculates about the motives of the Democrats:
    Anyway, while we were enjoying the new-age loopiness at lynnefinney.com (see sidebar), we didn't have time to call Sen. Boxer and ask her whether she even believes this kooky story. Somebody ought to do that.

    Whatever her answer, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Democrats don't care. This isn't about facts. If Democrats cared about those, they'd debate the Bolton nomination on the merits. Bolton has said controversial things about the United Nations that assure he won't be welcomed with open arms by the international diplomats in Manhattan, N.Y.

    The problem for Democrats is that most Americans agree with Bolton. The United Nations is a corrupt dictators club badly in need of reform. The scandals of oil-for-food and sexual abuse have tarnished an image already suffering from inaction in Iraq, Rwanda and Darfur.

    So since Democrats can't fight about the U.N., they have to debate something else. That leaves only Bolton's character as a lever to keep him out of the United Nations and deal a blow to the Bush Administration's aggressive foreign policy.

    So much for the New Age aspect of the get-Bolton circus. I want to examine whether there's anything substantial to Ms. Finney's, um, allegations.

    Here's what she said on Friday, via a letter to Senator Boxer:

    On Friday, Lynne Finney, a former legal adviser to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif. Finney wrote that Bolton "screamed that I was fired" when she refused to lobby for a weakening of restrictions on the sale of infant formula in the developing world.

    State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said "no one at USAID at the time has any recollection" of such an incident. Ereli denied that the Reagan administration tried to weaken a 1981 U.N. recommendation against the use of formula in poor countries. "People who are opposed to the nomination are using vague memories and personal charges to attack what is substantively a strong nomination," Ereli said.

    According to the letter, a copy of which Boxer‘s office e-mailed to USA TODAY, the incident took place in late 1982 or early 1983, when Bolton, as the top lawyer at USAID, outranked Finney. She was on the staff as a legal adviser. Boxer‘s office verified that Finney sent the letter.

    Finney, who is now a motivational speaker, said in the letter that she cared about world peace and wanted to help defeat Bolton‘s nomination. She did not return phone messages left at her home.

    That's it? I care about world peace too, but I don't see what saying "you're fired" in a dispute over infant formula has to do with it.

    Obviously, further medication meditation is needed to make the requisite connection. ("Creating realities," as another blogger put it.)

    Formula? Peace? Formula for Peace? Peace. On. Earth? Purity Of Essence?

    How about creating the reality of satanic ritual abuse? Yes, the latter is discussed at Ms. Finney's website. [Specifically, she claims to have "worked with" "victims of satanic ritual abuse victims "as a therapist."] According to ReligiousTolerance.org, it has never been demostrated that "Satanic Ritual Abuse" even exists. However, it's closely associated with "Recovered Memory Therapy."

    Might there be a hidden reason why John Bolton has such a bushy head of hair? Has anyone actually inspected his head to see whether he has the 666 tattoo? Has he been examined carefully for signs of horns? He may keep them filed down. Not a new idea among Satanists.

    hellboy.jpg

    Isn't it time to at least take a look?


    AFTERTHOUGHT: I realize this is my third post (see infra here and here) about a serious situation and I should probably apologize for the buffoonery in this one. I do try to take these things seriously. Sometimes I just get carried away with newly recovered realities I've created.

    posted by Eric at 01:43 PM | Comments (3)



    Spraying into the campfire . . .

    This week's Bonfire of the Vanities is burning brightly at Boxing Alcibiades, whose blogname alone qualifies him for a blogroll link. His threat to deploy Diazanon against Classical Values is being taken most seriously, and is being submitted to our panel of resident scientists for further study, after which it will be referred to committee for further reflection.

    The posts are all quite funny, but I think I most enjoyed Kevin Aylward's true and accurate reporting of Drew Barrymore's rustic poo:

    "I took a poo in the woods hunched over like an animal. It was awesome,"
    The rest of the posts are almost as awesome!

    Hey is Diazanon flammable?

    UPDATE: Match anyone?

    diazAnon.gif


    posted by Eric at 11:30 AM | Comments (2)



    Abortionists Ensorcell Pharmacists, Murder Eggs

    "The battle over pharmacists' consciences has been building for some time...".

    That's how the Christian Post spins the Illinois governor's order that pharmacists comply with requests for emergency contraception.

    You see, it's a little abortion everytime. In cases of rape, broken condoms -- what have you. The law, we're meant to believe, forces Christian pharmacists to murder babies.

    But selling condoms and birth control makes pharmacists complicit in the spilling of vain seed, in the promotion of sex for purposes other than procreation. And we know that sin is sin.

    How do I spin the story?

    A pharmacist has a job to do: dispense drugs. That job has no ethical or moral component. The governor's order is not meant to fight for the conscience of pharmacist's but rather to ensure that those members of a free society who, for whatever reason, have need of a particular drug receive that drug without the morality of a self-righteous pharmacist standing in the way.

    The Virgina Pilot anticipated the Christian Post and had this to say about the moral conflict between pharamacist and patient:

    When the two conflict, then professional responsibility tilts toward serving a medical need. Those who cannot live with that standard ought to arrange for someone else to provide the service.
    posted by Dennis at 08:33 AM | Comments (2)



    Vigilante: An ill-defined Spanish word . . .

    As Darleen Click points out, semantics are being used to cloud the debate over illegal immigration -- with ordinary words being much misused:

    Read almost any story on illegal aliens and the MSM almost without fail refers to illegal aliens as "migrants" or "undocumented workers." The supporters and advocates of open borders engage in the war of words in an effort to reduce the public awareness that illegal aliens are breaking the law. The recent coverage of the Minuteman Project is a prime example of how semantics is used in attempts to give sympathy to criminals and criminalize law-abiding citizens.

    .... people opposed to a illegal alien hotline are accusing it of encouraging a "vigilante mentality." Hmmmm... I guess it's only vigilantes that call 911, or neighborhood watch, or drug-tips hotlines to report crimes in process, eh?

    There is a clear double standard at work, and it reminds me of how police dispatchers treated me once when I reported a burglary in progress and told her I had a gun. Instantly, her tone changed and she started yelling at me! About the gun! This led to the fastest police response I'd ever had, which included the almost immediate arrival of detectives in suits in an unmarked car alongside the regular cruiser.

    "Where's the gun?" "Where's the gun?" was the only thing that mattered. The burglar was irrelevant, and it struck me that their primary purpose was not to arrest the burglar (or protect me), but to protect the burglar from me.

    (Next time, I might wait a little longer before dialing 911.)

    I find it interesting that Americans who are trying to turn illegal immigrants back are called "vigilantes," while their counterparts (groups like Grupo Beta) are seen as humanitarians:

    Agua Prieta, Mexico , Apr 20 - For the past eleven years, Enrique Enriquez Palafox has worked on the Mexican border, rescuing migrants in need of food and water. As an employee with Grupo Beta, a Mexican government-sponsored agency whose mission, "Protección a Migrantes," is stamped across the back of his jacket, Palafox is accustomed to the constant search for men, women and children lost in the 23 mile-long stretch of desert between the Mexican border towns of Agua Prieta and Naco.

    Palafox was carrying out his humanitarian labor as he had for over a decade -- without fanfare -- when earlier this month a group of American vigilantes calling themselves the Minutemen began setting up lawn chairs along the north side of the border, bringing binoculars, pistols and countless reporters with them.

    Since then, with armed border-watchers planted on the US side of the border with the express intent to disrupt illegal immigration and report undocumented immigrants to US authorities, Palafox and other service providers have seen a drop in the number of migrants crossing in the area, but the true impact of the Minuteman Project on migration remains to be seen.

    The Spanish-language press has frequently run stories about the Minutemen, complete with footage of armed American civilians patrolling the border. In addition, Grupo Beta has posted flyers along the border and in Agua Prieta, warning potential border-crossers to avoid the area during the month of April.

    But Bertha de la Rosa, the coordinator for Grupo Beta in Agua Prieta, thinks the Minuteman presence will have no long-term effect on the status quo. Aa short woman whose friendly smile belies her no-nonsense attitude, she said she believed that for the most part, migrants were not deciding to abandon their journey entirely. She suspected they were merely moving farther west towards the border city of Nogales, or perhaps simply waiting for the Minutemen to go home.

    ....For Palafox, it was heartening to see the vigilantes wasting their time. "Let them sit there staring at us," he said. "If you ask me, they are just ignorant racists."

    I guess if the "vigilantes" are "ignorant racists," the Grupo Beta people must be "intelligent multiculturalists." (If you like this sort of thing, reliable old Aztlan.net has more.) And WorldNetDaily features this Los Angeles billboard:

    mexicobillboard.jpg

    What is being lost in this heated debate is that the people crossing the border illegally are by definition engaged in crime. The people trying to stop them may not ultimately be acting in the best interests of their own cause, but they are not criminals. (I don't mean to belittle anyone or sound overly cynical, but I know from experience that groups like the Minutemen attract agents provocateur like rotten meat draws flies. This "Mexican Family Values" portrayal might amuse my more cynical readership.)

    Whether they are in fact "vigilantes" is quite another matter. The term is not easy to define.

    Vigilantes regard the criminals and people they target as living outside the social bonds and communal ties that hold our society together. It's not so much that they dehumanize their target, but that the target represents an alien enemy that must be defended against. The target must also be punished, and punished outside the law. Any and all legal matters on the subject are seen as unnecessary intrusions on the basic freedom that all communities enjoy to protect themselves. Zimring (2004) says that the vigilante mindset is the opposite of the due process mindset. Vigilante thinking is precisely the opposite of any notion of fairness, fair play, or a chance for acquittal. Vigilantes do not care to wait for the police to finish their investigation, and they care less about any court's determination of proof. What they do care about is justice -- quick, final, cost-effective justice. To a vigilante, punishment should be inflicted upon those deserving of it at the first opportunity -- no waiting, and the more severe the punishment, the better. These are all romantic notions that feed an appetite for punishment more than an appetite for vengeance.
    The author argues that this type of vigilantism ultimately leads to criminal behavior. Yet I have seen no evidence that by attempting to shame the Border Patrol, the Minutemen are engaged in criminal behavior. What they are doing is theatrical and dramatic, but it's intended to be that way in order to get their point across. Unless they break the law, they simply aren't lawbreakers. (Similarly, when I grabbed a gun and called the cops, I got a lightning fast police response, but that was hardly vigilantism.)

    What bothers me is that the real problem -- an unpoliced border, with criminals crossing at will -- is being lost in a debate over "vigilantism."

    I mean, why have the border at all if it doesn't mean anything? And if it doesn't mean anything, it's fair for people to ask whether the laws of the United States apply. And where.

    UPDATE: La Shawn Barber reports vigilante-like talk from ultraliberal Maxine Waters:

    “Why isn’t anyone talking about the Mexican Mafia (a gang of illegal Mexicans that controls the California prison system)?” she thundered. ‘I don’t care if you’re pink or purple or white or black or brown, I want you out if you’re committing crimes.’ There is no excuse not to control the border, she said. ‘I’m a liberal with a capital ‘L’,’ she said, ‘but I’m sick of it.
    La Shawn ends with this dire warning to liberals:
    The point is that no matter how liberal people may be, everyone has a limit to what they’ll tolerate, and foreign criminals fighting in her district must be hers.

    Waters had better be careful with all that “control the border” talk, though. Her liberal friends might accuse her of being a “hate-mongering, right-wing anarchist who will stop at nothing to destroy” America’s wide open borders.

    Control the borders? Sounds like vigilantism to me!

    MORE: According to the Washington Times, the Minutemen are rallying this week in Washington. No word yet on whether Maxine Waters plans to address them.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds, speculating about immigration as the Achilles Heel of the Republican Party, links to this:

    The party's base hates the president's stance on immigration, and this threatens to sunder the Republican coalition. I remain amazed that the instinct for self-preservation among the big-business and libertarian elements within the party is still so weak that don't understand their stake in controlling and reducing immigration.
    Support for border control transcends (and may be the Achilles heel of) both parties.

    posted by Eric at 08:29 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)




    But when is it fair to be fair?

    In a recent discussion of Pope Benedict XVI, John Aravosis asks a "fair" question:

    When is it fair to call a Nazi a Nazi?
    I'm in a generous mood (and not interested in lengthy analysis), so I'll disregard the possibly rhetorical nature of the question, and treat it with the logic and respect it deserves.

    So, in answer to the question of when is it fair to call a Nazi a Nazi. . .

    I'd have to answer, um . . .

    Hmmmm.........

    When it's fair to call a Communist a Communist, that's when!

    UPDATE (04/28/05): Anyone who thinks it's fair to call a Communist a Communist should read this (via InstaPundit).

    posted by Eric at 09:37 PM



    Merry Earth Day Mr. Kunstler

    Well, Earth Day has come and gone. I suppose some sort of ecologically relevant sermon is in order, and I may actually have just the ticket. I’ve been idly musing about the impending Peak Oil crisis, a crisis that may eventuate this year, or fifteen years from now, or perhaps never.

    I won’t deny that such a thing is possible. Hell, it could even be probable, and this very year could be the year it happens. More knowledgeable men than I have spent decades acquiring expertise in these matters, and who am I to challenge them? On the other hand, equally erudite oil mages say that we have years, decades even, before the dark time arrives. As regards these dueling eminences, I can offer you no tie-breaking insight, only the humble observation that it’s hard to know where to place your trust. What I can offer you is certainty about one key fact, and the warm comfort to be derived from that certainty, the rock-ribbed and copper-bottomed key fact that James Howard Kunstler is a freaking loon. More on this later.

    Let me be clear with you from the beginning that my contribution to the ongoing dialogue will be relatively fact-free. I’m working off of my intuition here, and it’s telling me that this is probably just another false alarm. I’m not a petroleum geologist. I have no hard evidence to back me up, no special experience in the trade. What I do have is my memory, and I vividly remember hearing the same things (and far worse) over thirty-five years ago. Back then I was worried. I was a gullible kid. But over the years I’ve learned my lessons, and these days I’m sleeping like a baby. Yes, just like a big old baby.

    So I’m doing fine, but I do worry about today’s young people. Apparently, this Kunstler character is a popular speaker on college campuses.

    Kunstler got a rock-star reception last week at Middlebury College, where he entertained a standing-room-only audience with provocative predications about where our unbridled consumption is likely to land us. An eloquent, funny speaker who is not afraid to use the f-word, Kunstler agreed to a follow-up email interview with Seven Days.

    Students hear his message and it resonates with them. Small wonder. He’s glib, sarcastic, funny, and idealistic. Just like them. When I was a callow undergrad I could believe “twelve impossible things before breakfast” and never spot their contradictions. I doubt that young people have changed all that much in the interim. Perhaps they also think (he being such a good talker and all) that he must be really, really smart.

    Funny isn’t it, how so many people equate verbal facility with intelligence? Fluency in your native tongue is no guarantee that you’ll perceive reality any more accurately than the next citizen. Some of the smartest people I’ve met were downright laconic. Conversely, some of the best talkers were deeply, consistently idiotic. It took me awhile to figure that one out. Once you do, you’re a bit less vulnerable to the demagogic con jobs that seem so abundant these days, but it’s hard. Until you’ve actually been out in the world, making your own way, your mental immune system is weak and wobbly. At any rate, mine was.

    Bad enough that he’s a mind parasite, feeding off of youthful ignorance and idealism. Worse, is that I actually agree with him, a little. The sad fact is that he and I share a few opinions about the American way of life. Yeah sure, it could stand some improvement. Hey, what couldn’t? But then, I also like America enough to excuse the flaws and blemishes. I get the feeling that he can't.

    Beyond even that, I despise his tactics. He’s attempting to influence public opinion through fear, conjuring up the good old scary dreams of yesteryear. Stampede the ignorant sheeple into right thought and right action, oh yeah. Anything that contradicts his argument is summarily rejected, with little or no consideration. His arrogant condescension toward lifestyles (the suburbs, automobiles) that he finds distasteful leaves little room for honest disagreement. He seems unwilling to give the other side a fair hearing. Most of which would be tolerable if he were obviously correct. But he isn’t correct.

    He’s just another goofy zealot, longing for the social breakdown that will make his dreams come true. I hope he lives long enough for a rude awakening. Society might actually manage to cope and then where would he be? But even if luck falls his way and the bottom drops out on schedule, it won’t lead us to the small scale, appropriate-technology renaissance he envisions. Oh, no. Sadly for him, there will be a recovery. It may be preceded by a nasty, brutish interval of indeterminate duration, but a recovery there will be. None of our resource shortages are immutable. All of them have workable solutions, given enough time. New techniques will be developed and implemented. Unless you plan to force people, some will rush back to their old habits, given half a chance.

    Those would be the same people who miss their big fine homes, their fast comfortable cars, and their freedom from small town conformity and big city crime. They will not lightly abandon their old lives and will work hard to get them back. Remember, after the thirties and forties came the fifties and sixties. From breadlines and soup kitchens to jumbo jets and chrome trimmed tailfins. Kunstler simply doesn’t address this seemingly obvious observation, which makes me think he’s deluding himself. Well, of course he is.

    His Y2K essay is a perfect example. He really had himself convinced that it was all going down five years ago. This was the big one, baby! Do you think he was terribly disappointed when nothing bad happened? Did he have a sinking feeling when 01/01/2000 cycled through and all the machines kept working? That’s a fairly twisted outlook, to pin your hopes on a global calamity. It’s creepy and unseemly and I suppose it’s the thing that I like least about him. You can practically hear him licking his chops, as he describes all the Bad Things Coming. Making bank by scaring the children.

    Predictions of calamity were a staple of my tender years. For our younger readers, hearing the siren song of apocalypse for the first time, it may come as a surprise, but the world has been coming to an end for quite some time now.

    Allow me to dish up some nostalgia for you. I am indebted to Ron Bailey for collecting so many of these wonderful old squallings in one excellent essay. I've shamelessly swiped "the good parts" but please check out what else he had to say. It was written back in 2000 but holds up very well.

    Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that "civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."
    "We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation," wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner in the Earth Day issue of the scholarly journal Environment.
    "We have about five more years at the outside to do something," ecologist Kenneth Watt declared to a Swarthmore College audience on April 19, 1970.
    Dubbed "ecology's angry lobbyist" by Life magazine, the gloomy Ehrlich was quoted everywhere. "Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make," he confidently declared in an interview with then-radical journalist Peter Collier in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. "The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years."
    "By...[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s."

    Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the "Great Die-Off."

    Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, wrote, "Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions....By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine".
    In January 1970, Life reported, "Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support...the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution...by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half...."
    Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, "At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it's only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable."
    Barry Commoner cited a National Research Council report that had estimated "that by 1980 the oxygen demand due to municipal wastes will equal the oxygen content of the total flow of all the U.S. river systems in the summer months." Translation: Decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America's rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.
    In his "Eco-Catastrophe!" scenario, Ehrlich put a finer point on these fears by envisioning a 1973 Department of Health, Education, and Welfare study which would find "that Americans born since 1946...now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out."
    Keying off of Rachel Carson's claims about the dangers of synthetic chemicals in Silent Spring (1962), Look claimed that many scientists believed that residual DDT would lead to an increase in liver and other cancers.
    "We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones," warned Sierra Club director Martin Litton in Time's February 2, 1970, special "environmental report."
    Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.
    Kenneth Watt was less equivocal in his Swarthmore speech about Earth's temperature. "The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years," he declared. "If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age."

    Ah, the good old days! Back then, people really knew how to panic. Kids today have had to scrimp and make do with the pale and tepid pressings left over from Earth Day’s glory years. Those were fiery times, filled with passion, brimming with confident lunatic certainty. Apocalypse Ho!

    After a good dosing with the above quotes, striving for optimism seems almost tasteless doesn’t it? Nevertheless, we shall venture the attempt. But in honor of Earth Day, let’s do it in a relaxed, scattershot manner. We can check out a few things of an Earth Day type nature. Like wind power.

    Just between you and me, I love wind turbines. When I drive to Palm Springs, I always feel my spirits lift, watching the wind machines merrily spinning. I think they’re adorably cute. I gather that places me in a minority. Apparently, most people think they’re ugly as sin. Some folks even get a little nauseous from the whirly motions. Well, if you thought they were ugly before, get an eyeful of these babies.

    They remind me of old-fashioned tv antennas, or (speaking strictly hypothetically) Klingon erotic toys. Not that there's anything wrong with that. To the contrary, for a zero-pollution kilowatt or six, I’m willing to overlook a great deal. Think of these wind turbines as the plain jane wall-flowers at the alternate-energy barn dance. You know, the ones with personality? I wonder if that Kunstler yoinker would find them aesthetically objectionable. Wouldn’t that just red-line the old irony meter? Super efficient, appropriate scale wind power that looks at home in the worst parts of New Jersey.

    What impresses me here is the sheer ingenuity involved. Something like that windmill would never occur to me in a million years, but it and things like it are popping up all over. Of course most of them will never amount to much, but a few of them will, and even that tiny fraction will make all the difference. I came of age in a time when “progress” was deemed by many to be illusory, or outright evil. I very much prefer the naive optimism of my earliest childhood. Buying into hopelessness gets you nothing.

    Let me throw you a few more items of a generally positive nature…

    A spiffy new fuel-cell motorbike from England The power plant is detachable. For easy upgrades, maybe?

    A Scandinavian concept ship that will never be built. Intended for glum chiding, it’s still pretty cool. Sails that function as solar cell arrays. Sweet.

    A German kite-ship. I wonder what they do when the wind dies too quickly?

    Toshiba’s fast new lithium-ion battery. Eighty percent recharge in sixty seconds.

    Homebrew desktop fusion generators. Here’s how to build your own. My favorite two lines would have to be…

    You will need to borrow, buy, or build some vacuum equipment, obtain a small supply of deuterium, and figure out some instruments so you can tell if it is working...
    The real danger is in the potentially lethal high voltages used, and some lesser concerns for safe handling of compressed flammable gas...

    Kids, don't try this at home.

    Via Randall Parker, a demonstration in favor of nuclear power. Strange days indeed.

    One person, a local resident who was a Quaker, was looking at our materials with a concerned expression. I asked him if I could answer any questions, and he proceeded to tell me the concerns he had, which sounded like they were straight from the anti-nuclear material. We conversed about each one of his concerns. At first he seemed skeptical, but with every exchange, he became more and more interested. At the end of our conversation, he seemed genuinely thankful for having talked to us. He shook my hand and asked if he could contact me if he had more questions, to which I gladly assented.

    Plug-in hybrids. The best of both worlds, with growing corporate interest. With gas prices so high, we may all want one.

    Hopeful maglev guys. They never give up, do they? Europe has them too.

    Cheaper access to orbit (pdf) through progress in solid state lasers. Last year's ISBEP looked like fun. They all did.

    Africa and cornucopia are two concepts that seldom travel together. Yet the author of this last article does in fact juxtapose them. Caught my eye, it did…

    When I visited the villages in the district of Iringa, eight hours by road from Dar es Salaam, the capital, I could hardly believe my eyes. When I worked here as an agricultural extension agent 40 years ago, there used to be in the market place just a few heaps of vegetables. Now there was a cornucopia of produce - zucchini and pineapples, eggplant and guavas, fresh peas being podded and a truckload of fresh cabbages being unloaded.

    Where once you could only buy maize, now there were sacks of rice from local paddies and Nile perch from Lake Victoria. There was sunflower oil, brought in from the fields that dazzle the countryside with their yellow flowers among the green maize. And everywhere tomatoes - enormous baskets of them, with a local sauce factory consuming the surplus. All this is quite new, as are the cell phones that reach 90 percent of the villages in Iringa district, enabling traders and farmers to cut out the middlemen and find the best price on their own.

    The author freely acknowledges that the situation he describes is anecdotal, fragile, and could easily head south in practically no time. Noted and appreciated, sir. We know that bad things happen all the time. Which makes it all the more important to remember that there are gains as well as losses. People really can make things better. It’s important that we believe that.

    "I'm scared," confessed Paul Ehrlich in the 1970 Earth Day issue of Look. "I have a 14 year old daughter whom I love very much. I know a lot of young people, and their world is being destroyed. My world is being destroyed. I'm 37 and I'd kind of like to live to be 67 in a reasonably pleasant world, and not die in some kind of holocaust in the next decade."
    posted by Justin at 07:55 PM | Comments (1)



    A world of difference?

    I wish I could quit talking about sodomy.

    No, really.

    Even though I haven't hesitated to discuss it in the past, I honestly thought that because sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional, it wouldn't be all that much of an issue in the future. I guess no one really stopped to think about military sodomy. (More properly, sodomy in the military.)

    Bear in mind that I use the term "sodomy" as others use it, which is in the legal sense -- i.e. how statutes define it. As to the biblical definition, it's extremely problematic, because, as I have pointed out many times, what the real Sodomites did was to violently threaten to break down Lot's door in order to rape God's angels. (Aside from the question of whether angels are human, I have no problem with criminalizing such conduct, as reflected in the laws of every state.)

    Most legal definitions of sodomy do not require it to be either of a heterosexual or homosexual nature, which means that legally speaking, most sodomites are heterosexual. Neither that fact, nor the Biblical account have prevented "sodomy" from being associated primarily with homosexual men. And now, via Glenn Reynolds' link to Eugene Volokh, I see that the Army still prohibits sodomy.

    And, unless I am reading the statute incorrectly, sodomy is forbidden to heterosexual as well as homosexual soldiers:

    Article 125—Sodomy
    Text.

    “(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.

    (b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall by punished as a court-martial may direct.”

    Further down, the offense is defined:
    Explanation.

    It is unnatural carnal copulation for a person to take into that person’s mouth or anus the sexual organ of another person or of an animal; or to place that person’s sexual organ in the mouth or anus of another person or of an animal; or to have carnal copulation in any opening of the body, except the sexual parts, with another person; or to have carnal copulation with an animal.

    I see no exclusion for heterosexuals. Or married couples. While I haven't located statistics about sexual practices among members of the military, unless I am reading the statute incorrectly, it's pretty clear that to the extent that they fail to limit their acts of sexual penetration to penile vaginal intercourse, they are guilty of the crime of sodomy.

    According to a Discovery Health site poll, nearly half of the answering public "favor" oral sex, while a majority want more!

    49 percent said they favored some type of oral sex — either giving or receiving it. And finally, 61 percent said they wanted oral sex more often.
    I hate to have to be the one to point this out, but it strikes me as unavoidably clear that there's a larger percentage of sodomites in the military than commonly realized.

    And, it goes without saying that the vast majority of them are heterosexual.

    Nor should it be assumed automatically that all homosexuals in the military are practitioners of sodomy, and thus punishable under Section 125. Many homosexuals (to avoid the risk of AIDS, as well as for other reasons) engage in what is called "safe sex," much of which specifically avoids penetration, and thus, would not run afoul of the conduct proscribed above.

    I am not certain how Eugene Volokh is defining "nongenital sex," although from my reading of the statute, safe sex (such as mutual masturbation) is not prohibited under Section 125.

    Once again, the world of sodomy is a heterosexual world.

    So why isn't it a heterosexual word?

    MORE: Suppose I decided to simplify my point by means of a bumpersticker reading, simply, "SODOMY IS NOT GAY." I suspect that very few people would understand the irony. Most likely, they'd think I was a homophobic bigot.

    Hmmmm......

    Should I try maybe "SODOMY IS STRAIGHT." (?)

    posted by Eric at 06:57 PM



    A bothersome example?

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Matt Drudge has the honesty to admit he does not read blogs:

    As he approaches his 10th anniversary as an online clearinghouse for forthcoming news stories, unreleased books, tabloid yarns, Hollywood chatter and unconfirmed, sometimes bogus, rumors, Drudge, 38, is now treated more as an amusing diversion than a threat to journalistic integrity. The white-hot debate these days is over the role of bloggers, whom Drudge says dismissively he doesn't bother reading.
    Hey, it's still a free country, and no one can make anyone read anything. It's no more unfair to not bother to read blogs as it is to not bother to read a daily paper. Or books, for that matter.

    What with information overload, it's a wonder some of us can find the time to read anything.

    Still, I'm puzzled by one teensy tiny detail. If Drudge does not bother to read blogs, then why does he bother to link James Wolcott's blog?

    Is the link given by way of example?

    posted by Eric at 10:08 AM | Comments (4)



    Finally!

    For once, some good news! Late last night, a friend sent me a link to this fiendishly frustrating puzzle, which looks easier than it is. The idea is to jump over each ball until all the balls but one are eliminated, and the best I could do was only to get it down to two remaining balls.

    My sleepy brain was confounded by repeated attempts, and even though I was sensible enough to give up rather than lose sleep, it did little for my mood.

    Finally, this morning I tried again after I'd finished my first post and second cup of coffee. It didn't take very long. (Got it on the third try.)

    I humbly offer this screenshot as proof:

    RipleyV3.jpg

    Believe it or nuts! (I think that's 1960s Mad Magazine vintage....)


    BTW, I think sending this to anyone is a horrible thing to do -- and it should never be sent to a friend. I'm only posting it here because I know that there are some people reading who don't like me.

    posted by Eric at 09:27 AM | Comments (2)



    You have no business!

    What happens when some companies are too big to fail, and the rest are too small to succeed?

    I went out of my way to defend John Bolton (twice) not because I'm hoping that Karl Rove will send me the payment I've been accused of taking, but because as I see it, the main reason the guy was singled out (and why some Republicans seem to be turning against him) was because he had the balls to attempt the impossible -- to fire a bureaucrat.

    Government bureaucrats are now all but impossible to fire. (Something that even President Bush discovered when he tried to fire the people who handed out visas to Mohammad Atta and others.) For that matter, it's becoming impossible to fire anyone. I'm out of touch with employment law, and I should probably be glad I am, because in the California MCLE courses I took in January, I learned that almost anything can be construed as illegal discrimination. And "retaliation." You can't even fire people for being stark, raving mad. Hire a psycho as your "Director of First Impressions," and when the guy goes bonkers and starts munching the carpet because a customer looks at him the wrong way, you, the employer, may not fire the nut. (Were I the employer, I'd have probably just damned myself by calling him a "nut.") No; you must make "reasonable accommodations." (In other words, your business is now engaged in psychiatrist-directed handholding.)

    And they wonder why American companies are "outsourcing?"

    I know that California laws are extreme, so the picture I'm painting may be overly grim. But the trend is definitely towards doing to the workplace what rent control did to housing in Berkeley and Santa Monica. The idea is that once you hire someone, you have a duty to take care of that person as a sort of dependent, and you may not fire him, ever.* Whatever happened to the idea of a mutual employment contract based on free will? In this transaction, I agree to pay you if you do what you promise to do. If you don't like me or the work, you can quit, and if I don't like you or your work, I am free to fire you. What's wrong with that?

    Unless we are to be reduced to the status of slaves, I see no difference between the right to engage in freely chosen economic transactions, and freely chosen sexual transactions. Just as my body is mine, so is my money, and my business. Yet the old expression "Mind your own business!" is completely alien to the bureaucracy which seems to exist for the sole purpose of minding others' business. Bureaucracy is running (and, in my view, ruining) this country, and those who dare to defy it are few and far between.

    The idea that you have no business of your own is unfortunately shared by large numbers of people on the right as well as the left. Moral conservatives (Steven Malcolm Anderson once called them "moral socialists") think that sex and drugs are just as much their business as the economic socialists think your money and your business is their business. (More on drug-laws-as-socialism in M. Simon's comments here.)

    The bottom line is that people should not be allowed to consent to that which the bureaucracy deems "harmful."

    Whether it's drugs or money, it is not your choice. Your body is not yours. Your money is not yours. Your home is not yours. Your business is not yours. Your children are not yours.

    Which means your life is not yours.

    * While it's not the prevailing bureaucratic view in the United States, if the government can limit freedom so that an employer cannot fire an employee, what would prevent limiting the freedom of an employee to quit? Anyone who thinks such ideas died with serfdom should consider Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot . . .

    UPDATE: Jon Henke thinks "we're in more danger from the loss of economic liberty, than we are from the loss of social liberty." (Via Glenn Reynolds.) I agree completely, although I think there's a logical connection between the two which tends to get lost. Certainly, drug prohibition represents a loss of both economic and social liberty, and the moral justification (protect people from their own evil appetites) is quite similar.

    The danger posed by genuine theocrats is much overstated, not only because the First Amendment renders theocracy impossible, but because true religious radicals cannot obtain large scale popular support.

    posted by Eric at 07:37 AM




    Distinguishing the bloggers from the trees . . .

    Indirectly via InstaPundit, I unintentionally stumbled across an untested hypothesis:

    My group consisted of myself and one other classmate, Chris. We were assigned the fable "The Fox and the Grapes," which consists of a fox jumping repeatedly for grapes that are just out of its reach, before finally giving up and declaring that the grapes are probably sour anyways. The moral of the fable? "It is easy to despise what you cannot get."
    While the fable was cited in the context of the unattainable (for most men) Salma Hayek, and it had originally been a source of pants-splitting embarrassment, I thought of bloggers as the fox and the MainStreamMedia as the grapes.

    Is my hypothesis valid? Are some bloggers envious of the MSM? And, knowing full well that they'll never attain equal prestige, are they inclined to "dis" the MSM in the same way as the fox?

    EDITORIAL QUESTION: Why does the grape-seeker have to be a fox, anyway? Couldn't the great Aesop have foreseen that this might cause confusion because of the Fox News Network?

    Sorry to be second guessing Aesop, folks, but since I've started down this slippery slope, I might as well ask whether the fox and the grapes story suffers from a bit of static analysis. I mean, foxes are smart, right? And grapes are, well, more than dumb. Why, unless you're a New Age nut, they're almost inanimate. Surely the fox would realize that in time, the grapes would fall and be his to devour. They might even ferment a little, thus adding some gratification to the delay.

    But seriously, I want to be fair to the mainstream journalists. And fairness dictates that it be recognized that they are not as dumb as grapes. To that extent, the analogy and the hypothesis are both flawed. However, if we see the grapes not as professional journalists, but as symbols of their work, the fruit of their journalistic accomplishments, might there be some life truth still to be salvaged from the fable?

    Possibly. But there's still the static analysis problem. I think that in real life journalism, the grapes have to be considered as attached to something sentient. This might not have been a problem for Aesop, as his fables were intended to be broadly interpreted, but for the modern age, we need more drama, more real live action!

    Clearly, some type of Hollywoodish revisionism is called for, and I'm not thinking that sour grapes also need wrath.

    I was thinking along the lines of the angry old apple trees in the "Wizard of Oz."

    Oztree.jpg

    Dorothy picked an apple, was promptly scolded, and then the scarecrow had an idea.....

    SCARECROW:Come along, Dorothy -- you don't want any of those apples. Hmm!

    FIRST TREE: What do you mean - she doesn't want any of those apples? Are you hinting my apples aren't what they ought to be?

    SCARECROW: Oh, no! It's just that she doesn't like little green...worms!

    As we all know, they got more apples than they wanted or needed. (Although it's probably worth remembering that a single bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.)

    I just hope the trees aren't the bloggers.

    posted by Eric at 12:21 PM



    Not even doctors are immune!

    Douglas C. Weinstein's post about ICU psychosis (a condition brought on by extended stays in the hospital) reminded me that this can happen to the best of us.

    Even the best of them -- and I mean the caregivers themselves.

    When my father -- a surgeon who obviously should have felt at home in his own hospital -- had terminal cancer, he made the mistake of allowing himself to be admitted to the hospital as a patient. That was when the trouble began. While he wasn't the least bit senile, a few days in the hospital reduced him to an utterly paranoid and disoriented state. Late one night, he could take it no more and tried to leave in his pajamas. In a most humiliating experience, this man very accustomed to giving the orders was stopped and physically restrained by hospital security guards, and prevented from leaving. Finally, he called my mom, telling her something like, "We've been married almost forty years, and I've never asked you to do anything like this, but I want you to come in here and get me out!" She did, and only with great reluctance did the guards let him leave -- after he signed the form saying that he was leaving "against medical advice." Within a day, he was back to his old, normal (if cancer-ridden) self. He only had a few months to live, but it was much more dignified at home.

    He attributed his disorientation to a "morphine reaction," but I thought there was more to it than that, because this never happened when he was on pain meds at home.

    The fact is, being in the hospital is a real drag, as Glenn Reynolds confirmed in a post about his wife's experiences:

    The people at the hospital are very nice, but this leads me to wonder what would happen if you did the equivalent of those mental-hospital experiments, where normal grad students tested out as crazy after 6 weeks in a mental hospital. If you took 100 healthy people, then put them in a hospital for 2 weeks of this sort of thing and tested them again, I'll bet that they'd be significantly worse off. People joke about the sleep interruptions, or about the bad food, but it's really no joke when you're in there for a while. I wonder why they don't do better?
    No matter how you look at it, being in a hospital is a profoundly unnatural experience. Even for a doctor, and if they can't handle being patients in their own hospitals, who can?

    My father's advice at the time? "Never become a patient!"

    Like me, the guy had a good sense of gallows humor.

    (Hey, it outlasted the disease!)

    posted by Eric at 09:33 AM | Comments (2)



    "Everyone wants to be important."

    Is there something degrading about ordinary job titles? You know, the kind which have been around for years? I can remember when companies had personnel departments, but someone didn't like that so they're now called "Human Resources." Why? I don't honestly know. I did find this explanation:

    The human resource management or personnel function of an organisation covers a variety of activities. The term "human resource management" has largely replaced the old-fashioned word "personnel", which was used in the past. The type of work covered in the human resource function might include policy making role, welfare role, supporting role, bargaining and negotiating role, administrative role and educational and development role.
    And that's all there is to it. The word "personnel" died because it was "old fashioned."

    Anyway, the latest trend (actually, 3674 hits make it more of a done deal) is to do away with "receptionists." The position is now to be called "Director of First Impressions":

    She used to be known as the receptionist.

    Now she's the Director of First Impressions.

    Barbara Levine is one of several employees in the Scottsdale Unified School District whose job titles have changed in a sharp departure from the traditional titles that parents grew up using.

    National workplace experts say they are unaware of another school district in the United States that has changed its titles so dramatically, and they disagree over whether the new titles, which are designed to reflect the district's commitment to learning, are good. Parents, they say, could become confused over whom to contact if they have a complaint.

    Was the school bus late? Blame the "transporter of learners," formerly the bus driver.

    Got a problem with your school principal? Take it up with the 10-word "executive director for elementary schools and excelling teaching and learning," formerly known as the assistant superintendent of elementary schools.

    Sound confusing or like hyperbole?

    Scottsdale Superintendent John Baracy, who created the new titles for about a half-dozen employees, doesn't think so.

    "This is to make a statement about what we value in the district. We value learning," said Baracy, who pledges to back up the new titles with better customer service.

    The new job titles got the Scottsdale School Board's approval recently, and so far parents don't seem bothered.

    "I think it's more a positive affirmation than hyperbole," said new board member Jennifer Petersen, who has three children in school.

    Workplace experts disagree whether the new job titles are a positive step.

    Liz Ryan, who spent 20 years in human resources and founded WorldWIT, a Web site devoted to women's workplaces issues, calls the new titles "trivial, sad and misguided."

    "When you are talking about education, you better be kind of serious, and I don't mean stodgy, but grown-up. 'Director of First Impressions' makes me want to gag," she said.

    Ryan said the word "director" implies there is something wrong with being a receptionist.

    That was in February. Since then, the term "Director of First Impresions" has caught on -- to the point where not only is George F. Will (henceforth the nation's Stodginess Czar) complaining about it, but its appearing on official government forms like this. (Of course, there are "Director of First Impressions" training seminars too.)

    Once George F. Will and the government forms agree on something, I'd say we're stuck with it.

    Regardless of first impressions.

    Back to the lowly receptionist with a new title. She likes it:

    As for Levine, Scottsdale's Director of First Impressions, she loves her new title.

    "I think it's classy," she recently said while answering the telephone and directing a visitor to the right office. "It sounds so important. Everyone wants to be important."

    Maybe that's the problem.

    In other, totally unrelated news, I finally found a working definition (with emphasis on the word "working") of "professional journalist":

    Professional journalists are defined as those who receive at least 50% of their income from journalistic activity, either freelance or employed by a news organization.
    I guess that means that if you're not being paid, you're either unimportant, or self important.

    Don't look at me; I don't make these rules and I could never make them up.

    posted by Eric at 08:30 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)




    A delicate world where nice guys finish first!

    Since Melody Townsel complained that he put her through hell, there have been more allegations about John Bolton dressing down subordinates, and even of his "harsh treatment of intelligence analysts."

    Harsh treatment of intelligence analysts?

    We can't have that, can we? (Especiallly considering the exemplary analyses they've been providing lately....)

    Elsewhere, it's been reported that in the course of the argument between Bolton and Christian Westermann (the analyst now in the news), a veteran CIA officer sided with Bolton, while Westermann's superior officer apologized for Westermann's conduct. The latter, according to another analyst, "violated both state and intelligence community protocol big time."

    It's fascinating to see this stuff described as "fresh allegations. " This Bolton/Westermann flap was reported by the New York Times in 2003.

    Mr. Westermann had clashed repeatedly with Mr. Bolton.

    A State Department official sympathetic to Mr. Bolton's views said of Mr. Westermann, "He doesn't have anything that he can point to, and he doesn't have anything more recent than Cuba." That official added, "We're in a period where people are looking for particular evidence of intelligence being altered, and he's talking about mood swings."

    But other administration officials said there had been ongoing tensions between the two since the Cuban issue first came up, to the point that Mr. Bolton has unsuccessfully sought to have Mr. Westermann reassigned.

    Without taking sides on who was right or wrong, I think it's fair to say that Bolton is now alleged to have been "too hard" on an insubordinate subordinate.

    Perhaps I've had too many tough bosses, but I have to ask, does this really rise to the level of being a scandal? While I am not fan of either insubordination or bosses who are overly tough on insubordinate subordinates, I can't help notice that one of Bolton's critics, Senator Kerry, has a history of being unkind to subordinates himself. (I think an analyst is probably less of a "subordinate" than a Secret Service agent -- or a pilot.)

    Something about this whole flap just seems puffed up -- as if the real dispute involves something else. I find myself wondering whether that something might just be more objectionable to Democrats than Bolton's interaction with subordinates, except it wouldn't hold water nationally as a legitimate objection. Might it even come down to the infamous Butterfly ballots?

    Bolton, it may be recalled, was a former assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration before his State Department days, and was part of the Bush 2000 recount team in Florida, sitting at the tables, peering at the disputed ballots.

    "The undersecretary for chads," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell quipped.

    "Spring training," Bolton deadpanned. For the November Classic.

    While the "undersecretary of chads" issue hasn't been brought up in the hearings, it certainly hasn't escaped attention -- either on the left (nice picture of "hit man" Bolton glaring at chads!) or on the right:
    Democrats want a scalp, and John Bolton's would do splendidly. Their visceral opposition to his nomination as U.N. ambassador has its origins not in his outspokenness in defense of American prerogatives but in his role in support of George W. Bush in Florida in November and December 2000, where his was the mustache behind the magnifying glass examining the hanging chads. Let's not forget that there were 43 Democratic votes against his confirmation for his State Department job in 2001. That was a Florida effect. And Democrats in the Senate, though fewer than in 2001, have not become less partisan in the intervening period.
    If Bolton proves too "tough" and too "political" to qualify as ambassador to the highly civilized, incorruptible, nonpartisan gentleman's club at the United Nations, where in the world might his talents be properly utilized? We certainly wouldn't want him to hurt the feelings of delicate countries like North Korea, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, or France . . .

    Maybe we should all be glad the world is no longer a tough place.

    UPDATE: According to WSJ's James Taranto, Bolton's critics are faulting Bolton not only for trying to get the analyst fired -- but also for failing!

    To complain both that Bolton tried to get bureaucrats fired and that he failed to get them fired seems like a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition. Or is the Democrats' position that no bureaucrat should ever be fired for any reason?
    Not "should." "Can." (Although I think they should all be canned.)

    I should point out that in legal practice, this is called "arguing in the alternative."

    MORE (04/26/05): Talk about alternative realities! Check out the latest "witness" against John Bolton! More here. If such voodoo testimony is the best they can come up with, I think Bolton should be confirmed.

    posted by Eric at 07:49 PM




    Happy Earth Day!

    Justin is off celebrating Earth Day today. (Hmmm.... or is that Lenin's birthday?)

    But before he left, he told me about a wonderful new T-shirt site Called Little Lefties.

    Here's my Earth Day favorite:

    SaveEarth.jpg

    I also like the one that says "You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist" except I don't understand why the phrase is superimposed on the peace symbol. It should be on, well, the clenched fist! Like on this fistie thingie:

    Fist.jpg

    What else?

    Save some for me too Justin!

    (I mean earth!)

    UPDATE: Hey how about the not shaking hands with the clenched fist with the peace symbol too?

    Fist2.JPG

    Having something for everybody makes it easier to get along!

    posted by Eric at 02:48 PM



    Why I hate "science"

    When I was in high school, I was taught that DDT is dangerous. That this was a scientifically proven fact. DDT caused cancer, and it caused the thinning of egg shells in predatory birds. Thus it was responsible for the near-extinction of the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, and other raptors.

    Claims are now appearing (at least according to this site) that there's no evidence to support these "scientific" assertions. Yet I was taught them as "facts" when in school, and to this day I have never seen an official retraction. According to Steven T. Milloy, the ban was the product of a lying scientist who died last summer. Ron Bailey also pointed out that Rachel Carson's theories, while wrong, are still being invoked at the cost of millions of third world lives.

    Millions died because science lied?

    (Some scientists are still claiming that DDT is dangerous.)

    Needless to say, all of this pisses me off bigtime.

    Where is science?

    A more proper question should be what is science?

    I have no idea. If science is a form of politics, I can handle that. Much as I hate politics, I accept the fact that it is battleground of opinion. Things like facts and truth are often of secondary importance. It's all a game, and it can be a form of art.

    If science is the same thing, then how on earth can I say that I hate science? I should enjoy watching scientists in one camp launch ad hominem attacks against scientists in the other camp, and yell at each other like schoolboys. It ought to delight me to see a Dreyfus-style circling of the wagons by scientists whose bogus theories caused millions to die.....

    Maybe I really don't hate science after all. Maybe I only hate it when it masquerades as truth, and scientists pose as bearers of the truth.

    At least when politicians do that, people laugh.

    UPDATE: Is my problem maybe that I'm expecting too much of science? After all, students nowadays (at least at the Julian Thomas school) are taught that it's OK to be wrong in science:

    Nearly 90 students at Julian Thomas are participating, many for the first time.

    "It's amazing how enthusiastic they are," said Ruth Navis, school science specialist.

    Fifth-grader Shaquanda Hollins, 12, tested whether Kool-Aid or water froze faster. Her hypothesis, that water would freeze faster, proved wrong, but she was still excited to show off her handiwork at the fair.

    "It's cool," she said. "You put all your work into it and stuff, and then lots of people get to see it."

    Completing the projects was a lesson in responsibility and time management, Navis said. Some students also had to cope with experiments that didn't turn out quite the way they expected.

    "In science, you can be wrong, and that's OK," Navis told her students. "But what did you learn from that?"

    I learned, um, that it's OK to be wrong, even when millions of people die as a result.

    It's probably a total coincidence that just today at the same school, an 8 year old beat the principal with a stick:

    Apmann approached the student when she saw him carrying a large pole - about 28 inches long and 1½ inches in diameter - on school grounds, Macemon said. When she went to take away the pole, the boy started swinging it at her. The boy struck Apmann several times before he was subdued by other staff members.

    The pole, recovered by police, was broken into three pieces.

    The boy was being held Thursday at the Racine County Juvenile Detention Center. He told police he brought the pole from home as protection from other students, but did not explain why he attacked Apmann, Macemon said.

    Precautions were taken at the Julian Thomas on Thursday, said Linda Flashinski, Unified's director of communication and public affairs.

    Outside doors were locked and students remained in their classrooms, except for specialty classes, Flashinski said. There were no recesses and students ate lunch in classrooms. A crisis counselor was available for students and staff.

    "Dr. Ann Laing, assistant superintendent for elementary education, spent the day at Julian Thomas to oversee and assist staff and students through the day," Flashinski said.

    And, um, from that I learned not only that "arithmetic" rhymes with "stick," but that scientists can dispatch crisis counselers to help the relatives of the people who died because they were wrong.

    Hey, it's OK!

    posted by Eric at 11:46 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (2)



    Let's end the "cycles of balance"

    Does anyone remember when public broadcasting featured "balanced" programs like Bill Moyers? When both libertarian and conservative critics routinely demanded an end to government funding of public broadcasting? (Well, some still do.)

    Unless the WaPo is wrong, it appears that this balance may be shifting in the other direction:

    Liberal commentator Bill Moyers is out on PBS stations. Buster the animated rabbit is under a cloud of suspicion. And right-wing yakkers from the Wall Street Journal editorial page have been handed their own public-television chat show.

    Some observers, including people inside the Public Broadcasting Service, see these recent developments as troubling. PBS, they say, is being forced to toe a more conservative line in its programming by the Republican-dominated agency that provides about $30 million in federal funds to the Alexandria-based service.

    Officials at the agency, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, say they are merely seeking to ensure balance and fairness in the network's presentation of political news and ideas.

    Under its mandate from Congress, which created the agency in 1967, CPB is required to act as an independent buffer between lawmakers and public broadcasters, although it can set broad programming goals. Appointees of President Bush currently control the majority of seats on CPB's eight-member board. Each board member serves a six-year term.

    How did such a thing happen? How on earth did President Bush get to appoint members of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

    While it might have something to do with his election, others are calling this a right wing coup.

    A senior FCC official, who would not speak for attribution because he must rule on issues affecting public broadcasting, went further, saying CPB "is engaged in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but to impose a right-wing agenda on PBS. It's almost like a right-wing coup. It appears to be orchestrated."
    I expect that the next thing we'll be hearing is a big hue and cry to take away government funding of PBS -- coming from the left!

    posted by Eric at 11:08 AM



    Unsafe at any speed!

    Here's more evidence that SUVs are more dangerous than we realized:

    A tractor-trailer carrying new Mercury Mariners struck an overpass on the Atlantic City Expressway yesterday morning in Camden County, totaling two of the SUVs and damaging two more, police said.

    No injuries were reported.

    Eastbound lanes of the highway in Winslow Township were closed for about an hour after the 8 a.m. accident as the SUVs were towed away and engineers inspected the overpass.

    Traffic backed up 41/2 miles to Route 42, said Sgt. Stephen Jones, a state police spokesman.

    The rig, driven by Frank C. Cinicola Jr., 63, was taking a full load of Mariners to dealers at the Shore, Jones said. The highest SUV struck the overpass at milepost 38.4, flipped off the carrier, and crashed onto the road, Jones said.

    A second Mariner was knocked off and dragged several dozen yards before the truck could pull over, Jones said.

    Trooper Sean McKinney, who investigated, described one of the SUVs as being "completely obliterated," Jones said.

    Other than a few chips in the concrete, damage to the overpass was minimal, Jones said.

    Clearly, this means that SUVs are so dangerous that they can kill people without even having to be started! Had that tractor trailer rig been loaded with normal cars, there would have been plenty of clearance, and the blasted thing wouldn't have hit the overpass!

    Vehicles which kill without having to be started remind me of an episode in my life when I was involved in mass shipping of medicinal supplements to people with AIDS. While one question was whether the supplements were effective as treatment, the other was whether they might be harmful, and if so, at what dose. The stuff came in heavy boxes, and they had to be carried up several flights of stairs. After careful calculation, the fatal dosage was determined.

    Two boxes at three stories.

    There was also my Volkswagen Rabbit diesel -- the slowest car I ever had.

    Almost. No. Power. Or. Acceleration. What. So. Ever.

    Wouldn't you think of such a car as being seemingly harmless to other drivers or pedestrians? Wrong! I am here to tell you that it was capable of developing very, very fast speeds. This occurred routinely whenever the car was going downhill!

    Couldn't blogs be fatal too? I think they could -- especially if they were used in a drive-by blogging!

    How much more senseless destruction and loss of human life will it take?

    posted by Eric at 09:20 AM | Comments (3)



    The Times they are a changin' . . .

    Whose free speech is it when the speech is not yours, but that of a commenter?

    As more and more mainstream media outfits resort to the Internet, we'll see more and more stories like this one, asking more and more questions:

    Was it ethical, then, for NYTimes.com to publish a text accusing pope Benedict XVI of being a Nazi?

    Toby Usnik, the Times' director of public relations seems to think so. "We choose not to censor such posts unless they are abusive, defamatory or obscene. While we believe that this post stretches the truth of the pope's youth, we do not believe it violates our policies," he informed UPI.

    "This calls for another insulin shot," fumed Baroni. "It would clearly be abusive if you labeled a black man with the 'N word,'" he said.

    "But in the Times' mindset there's evidently nothing defamatory about calling a German pope a Nazi -- in other words a member of a species guilty of a genocide."

    As the Times is discovering, having an online forum is not like the old days of deciding which letters to the editor to print. Anyone, no matter how crazed or foul-mouthed, can post anything, and this places the onus of censorship on the web site's author or publisher.

    I think I'm more vehemently opposed to censorship than most people, but even I have felt obliged to delete comments occasionally. (Spam is another issue; I get thousands of spam comments, but I don't consider them to be genuine speech, as they're automated and impersonal and have nothing to do with my blog's content.) Typically, I'll delete the kind of comments which:

  • offer no substantive argument
  • ; AND

  • would get my blog censored by the content filter I've complained of.
  • Comments I've deleted have included gratuitous use of the "n" word, insulting sexual references of no persuasive value, or mindless ad hominem invective. If (for example) I am told crudely to go and perform sexual relations with myself in an anatomically impossible manner, I don't see how this assists anyone in understanding or debating the merits of any argument, so I'll delete it. (If it's particularly memorable, as in it was when someone called me on the phone with an anatomically impossible request, I'll comment on it myself.)

    It bothers me to have to delete comments, though, and I don't like being ordered around by robotic software like SONICWall, but this is a tradeoff. I'd rather have ordinary readers get through than have the whole blog blocked because of something I never said which adds nothing.

    While a comment about the "Nazi Pope" is as irresponsible as it is wrong, I am not at all sure that I blame the New York Times. However, if there were a lot of similar comments posted with few to the contrary (like this Atrios thread*), I think it would be fair to engage in speculation about whether the rest of the Times' readership felt the same way.

    The Times is not obligated to provide them with a forum any more than I am. And much as I am against censoring even my own commenters, I try to make it clear what I think.

    What I find odious about this incident is not that the comment was left or that the Times refused to delete it, but that they'd characterize it merely as "stretch[ing] the truth of the pope's youth." The heading "Nazi pope a clear and present danger to the civilized world" does a lot more than that.

    Perhaps the Times could take a lesson from Daily Kos, which said this about the "Nazi Pope" smear:

    Calling him a Nazi, however, is unfounded and unfair, and only serves to demean us.
    When the left wing of the blogosphere is behaving in a more civilized manner than the New York Times, well....

    * The comments -- in fact the entire thread -- has been eliminated, but my previous post gives a general idea of what was there.

    posted by Eric at 08:54 AM



    When eternity is no longer a leap of faith away . . .

    In the past 24 hours, there has been a ton of incoming traffic directed to Justin's brilliant post about Leon Kass ("Leon and Me"), but a Technorati search revealed no immediate incoming links, so I couldn't ascertain the source. I thought to examine the referrer statistics, and I was delighted to discover the traffic was coming from Rand Simberg -- whose blog is Terrestrial Musings, but who had linked Justin's post in a wonderfully ironic Tech Central Station essay called "Habemus Papam... Ad Perpetuitatem?"

    The conventional wisdom is that a 78 year old pope will have a short-lived papacy -- a sort of holding pattern, meant only to continue the policies of the previous pope. (In political terms, a rough analogy might be Konstantin Chernenko's short-lived continuation of Leonid Brezhnev's doctrine.)

    Mr. Simberg turns the conventional wisdom around with some tough "what if" questions, and asks us to imagine that "a decade or less from now, a breakthrough occurs that cures some underlying, wasting disease from which the new pope might suffer, such as arteriosclerosis, thus buying him an additional decade of life that he might have been denied in its absence....."

    But what if they [popes] do [live almost forever]? What are the implications of this for the future of the Church? Or of dictators (who are usually the first in their own nations to take advantage of new medical techniques)? Or the Supreme Court? Or indeed, any position which, in our current finite-lived reality, is defined as a term for life? And what will be the response of the Church in particular, which like most churches, partly grew in response to the innate human fear of death, in a world in which death was commonplace, to a world in which it becomes a rarity, only resulting from severe injuries occurring too far from medical facilities?

    Which of its traditions will have to give way to the new technological reality? The Church hierarchy is very learned, but this may be a technological change to which they've given little thought, because since the dawn of humanity it's been unthinkable (and to many, mortality with a life span of a few decades is a defining feature of humanity). If they do somehow draw a line, and declare certain life-extending, life-enhancing therapies to be un-Catholic, how many more will flee a Church that now seemingly wants to not only control their sex lives, but how long they live in good health?

    If, as many think, this pope was selected to provide at least a temporary bulwark against modernity, how ironic that one of the features of modern life that he might be having to fight could also be one that could allow his own obstruction to it to be permanent?

    While I can't speak for Pope Benedict (whose position on life extension I have not read), it's tough to imagine opponents of life extension not utilizing new technology -- at least for themselves. (Chernenko sure as hell would have.)

    But what will happen when the choice becomes actual eternity now, or a faith-based eternity after death?

    Such tests of faith don't come often.

    Why not play devil's advocate here and now? Should leaps of technology be allowed to postpone leaps of faith?

    posted by Eric at 08:11 AM | Comments (2)




    The morality of harm

    As the debate between libertarian and moral conservatives shows no signs of abating, I thought I'd take another look at the drug issue, which is a frequent area of contention. I'll start with my remark yesterday in discussing Pope Benedict:

    If there's one thing worse than a conservative, it's a conservative who used to be a liberal.
    Might this apply equally to moral conservatives who used to be libertarians? Depends on your perspective, I guess. I try to free myself from being influenced by what people used to think. But I did enjoy the following essay by Edward Feser, and I thought it might a fruitful starting point in revisiting my own views of drugs.
    It is often said that libertarians can consistently favor legalizing certain “victimless” crimes while leaving it open that such things might really be immoral. A reader of my earlier post on libertarianism commented: “Libertarianism does not say whether gambling, prostitution, drug use, etc. are good or bad but whether they ought to be legal or illegal. I personally thinking (sic) smoking crack is bad, but I have no right to use the force of law to stop someone from doing it.” I used to buy this sort of argument. I don't anymore. Here's what’s wrong with it.

    Suppose you're a contractarian libertarian. Then you think that all moral rules derive, roughly, from what all rational agents would agree to. But not everyone would agree to redistribution, so that can't be morally required. And not all people would agree either to rules against prostitution, smoking crack, etc. – which means these things can't be considered wrong either. So, not only should there be no law against them, but they can't be regarded even as immoral. This sort of libertarianism is therefore strictly incompatible with moral conservatism. And some libertarians who take the contractarian approach (e.g. Jan Narveson) explicitly acknowledge this.

    Now suppose your libertarianism is grounded instead in some sort of Aristotelian or natural law moral theory. Then our rights derive from the role they play in helping us to flourish as rational social animals, fulfill our natural end, or something of that sort. But in that case it is very hard to see how there could, strictly speaking, be a right to do what is contrary to moral virtue. If we grant, for example, that smoking crack is contrary to virtue, and that rights only exist insofar as they facilitate our ability to master the virtues, then there can be no such thing as a right to smoke crack. There may, of course, nevertheless be all sorts of prudential reasons why we might wonder whether it is a good idea to have government forbid or regulate drug use. But what we can’t say in this case is what libertarians usually want to say – that a government that forbade you to smoke crack would be violating your rights. And this is, indeed, why many libertarians don’t like Aristotelian and natural law approaches to arguing for rights – they fear that such attempts, if followed out consistently, will end up denying that we can really have a right to many things libertarians want to claim we have a right to.

    Now this raises all sorts of questions, but it will suffice to make the point. I would argue that any attempt to give a moral foundation to libertarianism (e.g. utilitarian, Lockean) will inevitably end up either favoring moral conservatism to such an extent that it fails to count as genuinely “libertarian” at all (since it will end up denying that we can, strictly speaking, have a “right” to do many of the things libertarians want to claim we have a right to), or it will succeed in being genuinely libertarian, but in a way that rules out the possibility of moral conservatism. In short, there is no coherent way to be both morally conservative and strictly libertarian. “Fusionism,” the attempt to fuse libertarianism and conservatism, is incoherent – whatever my younger self might have said to the contrary. You can still be a conservative who strongly favors the free market and severe limitations on government power. And you can, as a conservative, doubt for pragmatic reasons whether paternalistic regulations are a good idea. But no conservative can hold that it is strictly an injustice to outlaw what is immoral, that there is “a right to do what is wrong.” You cannot be both a conservative and a libertarian.

    First of all, there's an assumption that drug use is immoral. Nowhere has anyone been able to point out to me why the ingestion of a substance is rendered immoral simply because that particular substance was made the subject of a law. Drug laws in this country date from the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914; laws against marijuana came later.

    Illegal does not mean immoral. Malum prohibitum is not malum in se.

    Now, obviously some drug use is so utterly egregious that the individual user is placing his life and health in danger. Whether self harm is immoral is of course debatable. Should I be free to amputate my own fingers? Scorch myself with hot irons? If I inject heroin to the point of becoming an addict, there is no question that I am harming myself. But unless I get in my car and plow into someone (or commit crimes to pay for the heroin), what is the harm to anyone else? Mr. Feser seems to take it for granted that: a) self harm is immoral; and b) society is therefore justified in prohibiting self harm.

    It goes without saying that this same argument justifies prohibition of alcohol, or any other substance, including unknown future substances, and, I suppose, anything which the government might deem harmful to the individual.

    Note further that in the case of drugs, we're talking necessarily about possessory offenses. There need not be any showing whatsoever that the individual ever used the substances prohibited, much less harmed himself. Thus from a moral perspective, it is not merely harm to self which is being prohibited, but potential harm to self. If possession of potentially harmful things can be prohibited, then why not guns? Because the latter can be used for good as well as for ill? Can't that be said about many drugs? And what about food?

    Or, (dare I ask it?) having too much money?

    While I happen to think drug use is stupid, I speak for myself only, and from personal experience. I haven't used a single illegal drug since 1992 and I don't intend to. That does not grant me any moral authority, and I cannot speak for other people, each of whose situations is personal. Some people might be able to use drugs as others use alcohol. Others destroy themselves.

    I think a legitimate moral argument can be made about punishment, though. I think that prison is harmful. It is a horrible, dangerous, often deadly punishment which should be reserved for horrible, dangerous people. I think it is patently immoral (even grotesquely so), to lock an individual in prison because he harmed himself. That is like saying that if you are demented enough to cut off some of your own fingers, why, we'll show you by cutting off the rest of them!

    I see Mr. Feser's point about drug use not being a "right," and I don't argue that this is a formal right, any more than there's a formal "right" for me to go out and get wasted on sugar by eating ten cream filled donuts. I guess that makes me a rather sloppy libertarian. Still, I see no right of society to punish self harm by brutal means.

    Nor does anything in the Constitution grant the federal government such power. (That's why prohibition of alcohol required the 18th Amendment....)

    I guess I failed to come up with "a coherent way to be both morally conservative and strictly libertarian." I think of myself as someone who is morally conservative in my personal life, and loosely libertarian in my political views.

    As I say, my standards are lower than most people's. But drug laws which do harm to an individual on the theory that he has done harm to himself -- well, they offend my low standards very deeply.

    MORE: John at Locusts and Honey thinks that Edward Feser is "confusing libertarianism and libertinism":

    I agree that prostitution and smoking crack are wrong. I also think that gorging on Twinkies all day and engaging in pre-marital sex are wrong. Furthermore, I think that worshipping gods other than the one true God revealed in Scripture is morally wrong, since it contradicts God's commandments.

    However, it does not directly harm me if another person sells his body for sex, smokes crack, eats a horrendous diet of junk food, or bows down before false gods. Since he, as an individual, has absolute soverignty over his own life, it is his right to engage in immoral behavior.

    I agree. Morally (and logically), the person who harms himself and no one else is behaving in a less immoral manner than those who harm him.

    posted by Eric at 05:57 PM | Comments (1)



    Cross species contamination?

    Here's Fox News chief Roger Ailes on bloggers:

    "Bloggers are not only checking the accuracy of CBS, they're checking the accuracy of each other," he said. "We know which bloggers -- within a very short period of time -- are generally credible and which ones are not."
    It's nice to see talk like that coming from an MSM executive, and it makes me wonder about something that's been on my mind for some time: might bloggers be causing a decrease in media arrogance?

    One of the major complaints about big mainstream media is that they refuse to admit it when they are wrong. Refusing to admit error is one of the hallmarks of power. I think it might be a part of human nature. If so, are bloggers unnatural? I can think of no other group which engages in self-correction so frequently. It is one of the blogosphere's greatest strengths, although it might sometimes present problems. That is because if you're always facing criticism for what you write, and if you must as a matter of routine admit it when you are wrong, you might tend to hold in contempt those who won't. Likewise, those unable to take criticism might feel very threatened by those who face it daily as part of their stock in trade.

    Fortunately, there's a permeable membrane between bloggers and the MSM.

    Much contamination occurs.

    I admit that my standards are low, but I think that kind of contamination is good for the human soul.

    posted by Eric at 11:33 AM



    All is fair at this week's Carnival!

    I am delighted to report that that last week's Carnival (which provoked a humorous schism) hasn't hurt the Carnival of the Vanities one bit.

    The 135th Carnival is now posted at Nick Marinelli's Conservative Dialysis. Nick has done a great job, and none of the bloggers seems to have been unfairly maligned. Says Nick:

    Even though there are a few posts with which I strongly disagree, or think that the author is completely off their rocker, I have withheld any editorial comment on the content of any of the posts. After all, it is you the reader who is supposed to judge them; not the host.
    Well done!

    posted by Eric at 10:02 AM



    Biocolonialists, Biopiracy, and Big Money
    Our creation stories and languages carry information about our genealogy and ancestors. We don’t need genetic testing to tell us where we come from.

    We will not stand by while our ancestors are desecrated in the name of scientific discovery.

    -- Marla Big Boy

    I'm not sure I needed to stumble onto crackpot racial theories after last night's film. But this is my blog, and I must write it no matter what direction it takes me.

    Anyway, both opponents of genetic research and of human evolution may have found new allies! There's a movement dedicated to opposing a thing called "Biocolonialism," and the organizers are hopping mad about plans by some people (racists, of course) to analyze the genes of others (described as "indigenous"):

    (Nixon, NV) The Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB) is alarmed at the launching of new global genetic research project that will focus on the collection of Indigenous peoples DNA. The National Geographic Society and the IBM Corporation announced the launch of the Genographic Project today that purports to “help people better understand their ancient history.” The project, funded by the Waitt Family Foundation, expects to collect 100,000 DNA samples from Indigenous peoples around the world. The taking of samples will be coordinated by ten worldwide regional research centers. With centers in Australia, Brazil, North America and Southeast Asia, Sub-Sahara and South Africa, this project is certain to affect many Indigenous peoples around the world.
    Got that? Taking DNA to analyze study early patterns of human migration is a form of, well, piracy. And if these crackpots get their way, it will be stopped:
    The IPCB is calling on all Indigenous peoples, and our friends and colleagues to join in an international boycott of IBM, Gateway Computers (the source of the Waitt family fortune), and National Geographic until it’s demand that this project be abandoned are met. Harry said, “We are prepared to stop projects that treat us as scientific curiosities. We must act to protect our most vulnerable communities from this unwanted intrusion. We resisted the HGDP, and we will defeat this proposal as well.”
    According to Wired, National Geographic isn't particularly fazed.
    Groups and individuals can choose to participate in the project or not. It's a collaborative process. Consent has to be given at an individual level and a group level. We're not going to wander into a village and start poking people in the arm and collect samples. We will explain what will be done with samples and what the information could be when it comes back from the lab. I think if those involved in (the Indigenous Peoples Council) really understood what we're trying to do, they would not object to it, even if they might choose not to participate.
    But should people be allowed to consent to having scientists get hold of their DNA? The Indigeneous Peoples Council thinks not:
    Noting the project’s goal to map the migratory history of humankind through DNA, Marla Big Boy, a Lakota attorney on IPCB’s board, says, “Our creation stories and languages carry information about our genealogy and ancestors. We don’t need genetic testing to tell us where we come from.” Big Boy notes with concern that the project proposes to do studies on ancient DNA. “We will not stand by while our ancestors are desecrated in the name of scientific discovery.”
    Ms. Big Boy, it should be noted, was one of the attorneys seeking to prevent the study of the 9200 year old Kennewick Man fossil -- leading to charges of a racist coverup.

    Obviously, it's in the interest of a lot of political hacks to cover up any evidence of human migration or the common origins of people. Because next thing you know, the genetics scholars will be followed by philosophical hair splitters asking basic questions. They might even ask what the word "indigenous" means if at Some Point, we've all migrated from Somewhere to Somewhere Else.

    That would be bad. Someone might lose Big Funding. From Someone Else.

    Personally, I think Biopiracy reparations should be paid for corn! And potatoes.

    (Without any setoff for damage caused by tobacco!)

    UPDATE: Aztlan.net (a longtime favorite of this blog) claims that recent DNA testing shows that Ward Churchill is definitely an Indian!

    The laboratory that performed the tests on Professor Churchill's genetic material specializes on American Indian "Gene Genealogy" and has one of the most extensive Native American mtDNA and y-chromosome databases. The human race consists of approximately 30 major maternal lineages (haplogroups) and Native Americans belong to one of five major maternal lineages (haplogroups). Also, the human population consists of approximately 18 major paternal lineages (haplogroups) and Native Americans belong to one of two major paternal lineages (haplogroups).

    The genetic test results of Professor Ward Churchill show that he is a descendant of Creeks through his father and of Cherokees through his mother. A copy of the test results was forwarded to La Voz de Aztlan under conditions of confidentiality. Because of credible death threats to an east coast college where Professor Churchill was scheduled to speak, it was requested that the name of the genetic laboratory not be released.

    No word yet on whether Churchill approves of such uses of Biocolonialist technology.

    posted by Eric at 08:56 AM | TrackBacks (1)




    Falling down on the job
    "....one of the greatest films addressing World War II—and its personalities—ever made."

    -- Rex Reed

    Speaking of moral relativism, I don't see why on earth I have to wait till I see Downfall to write a review of it. Besides, it's already been reviewed by people of impeccable taste and judgment, and whose writing talents surpass mine:

    Ninety percent of critics surveyed gave ”Downfall” high marks. Four out of five from The Arizona Republic. “Painstaking and sometimes painful, said The New York Times. Four out of four from Roger Ebert. B from Entertainment Weekly. And Rex Reed called it an intense, incredibly exciting drama. I say 3 1/2 out of 4.
    What on earth is to be gained by waiting till I see it to write my review?

    Besides, it just so happens that today is Adolf Hitler's 116th birthday. Now, how would it look if on Hitler's birthday I went to see a film about his last days which was almost banned in Germany, then wrote a review about it after I'd already seen it? Better to write the review beforehand, so I can maintain complete objectivity and strict neutrality.

    Now onto the film that I have not seen. It's quite a long film, in German with subtitles. Normally, I hate all foreign films, not only because of the subtitles (which I have to move too close to the screen to see), but because foreign films appeal to a certain type of person. A film snob. These types seems to think that their attendance at a foreign film makes them automatically superior. They have a sneering air of sophistication about them, and they do things like clap at the end of the film, then sit there and read every last credit while glaring at the morons who get up and leave before the credits have finished rolling. Then on their way out they try to impress people who are trying not to hear them with their knowledge of film, of foreign films, of foreign countries, and of what they read in Vanity Fair.

    "Did you read James Wolcott's pithy comparison of Downfall to the Passion?" No and I don't care to! But I'll hear about it anyway. And nothing makes me madder than having to write about nonexistent film reviews I refuse to read about films I refuse to write about after I've seen them! (Oddly enough, Christianity Today compares Downfall to The Passion in its review.)

    In another review, it is pointed out that Hitler had a single testicle -- and the reviewer suggests googling for it. (Sorry, not into that today. No time! But it's an accurate fact that the guy didn't have balls.)

    Furthermore, I've been accused of criticizing (satirizing?) Michael Moore without seeing -- what was it? -- oh, yes, Fahrenheit 9/11. And if I can stand up to the loyal minions of a fatty pipsqueak, certainly I'd be a hypocrite not to freely criticize Hitler without fear. Even on his goddamned birthday!

    While I don't know whether Michael Moore has himself penned a review of this film, here's a review by some fellow socialists who did. (Sure enough, the film is about Bush!)

    Despite these weaknesses, Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich is a complex and impressive piece of work. The film shows the final days and hours of a clique that had plunged the world into a murderous war and now attempts to thrust aside any responsibility for the collapse and catastrophe that ensues. As the disastrous consequences of their actions becomes increasingly evident, the reaction of Hitler and Goebbels is to pursue even more doggedly and brutally their policies—along the lines of the motto “Who cares what happens when I am gone!” In their legacies, which they dictate to Traudl Junge before their deaths, both men refer to their “love” of the people, whom they had served. In reality, they are consumed with contempt for the masses and visions of their own importance.

    The catastrophic consequences and end of this regime also have such ominous reverberations under circumstances where similar tendencies can be identified in contemporary politics.

    One example is the Bush government in the US. The more the situation in Iraq spirals out of their control, the more the government and military respond by lining up their next victim—potentially Iran. At the same time, the methods used in Iraq against the civilian population become ever more brutal. Torture is carried out in the prisons as a matter of course, and the most vicious bombardment undertaken to crush any resistance. As popular opposition grows to the occupation, the brutality of the US army increases. As its policies transform increasingly into a debacle the government presses ahead with exactly the same course—but with renewed ruthlessness.

    This is also a foretaste of what the population of the US can expect when the ruling elite no longer see the possibility of being able to suppress by traditional measures the enormous social conflicts surging under the surface. The ruling class then requires figures at the head of state who are prepared to employ the same level of brutality and unscrupulousness that characterised the leadership of the Nazis.

    If the above gray flannel Stalinesque drivel put you to sleep, why, here's the very hip Straight.com:

    How do you handle an archetype of infamy? In the case of Adolf Hitler and his crazed neocons—excuse me, I mean protocons—20 metres of dirt and concrete, topped off by a few cans of precious petrol, seems about right. And yet there are moments in history when it pays to unearth what was supposed to be long-buried.

    ....as an act of expiation, the film is important to a German audience. For the rest of us, well, we can weigh the falling plaster and 11th-hour howls against other murderous schemes dressed up as romantic idealism. Today there are more bunkers than ever, and every Abu Ghraib is simply another pit stop for Democracy on the March.

    Based on what I know about the film from reading reviews, I'm willing to stick my neck out here and venture a guess that it really isn't about Bush.

    Beyond that, I don't know. Rush Limbaugh and many others have complained that it humanizes Hitler, although I doubt that the film is genuine pro-Nazi propaganda. (For starters, it's being released in Israel. More here.) From a political perspective, it may in fact be wrong to show Hitler as a human being (even if he arguably was). To the extent Downfall does that, it might justly be condemned. On the other hand, I think it is too often forgotten that Nazi Germany was in fact run by human beings. To deny the humanity of evil may be as much of a mistake as its opposite.

    Consider the following:

    In the movie re-make of Nuremberg the psychologist who examined and counseled the criminals on trial made an interesting and frightening discovery. He stated that all of these men had one similar characteristic, “an inability to identify with the suffering of their fellow human beings.” They had no empathy. He went on and summarized, “Evil then is the absence of empathy.”
    I have never been able to empathize with Hitler. I don't know if I consider that a paradox or not. If Downfall makes me empathize with Hitler, would I be more evil or less evil?

    Does moral relativism go in circles?

    Maybe I'll have more later.

    UPDATE: Just back from seeing the film. Not a shred of empathy for Hitler, whose pathetic ravings and tantrums were entirely his own fault. But then, I always knew how mundane evil can be. (Under the right circumstances, it can appear the epitome of innocence.)

    Fantastic acting; probably the best portrayal of Hitler by any actor to date.

    posted by Eric at 03:21 PM



    Relatively recent developments . . .

    Reviewing the life story of Pope Benedict XVI, a couple of things stand out. First, there are his views on relativism and dictatorship:

    As cardinal dean, Benedict was the principal celebrant and homilist at both John Paul's funeral and at the special Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on the opening day of the conclave.

    It was at the latter that he warned his brother cardinals against the "dictatorship of relativism" and urged them to "resist the trends and novelties" sweeping the increasingly secularized West.

    His choice of the word dictatorship is revealing: As a young man growing up in Nazi Germany, he has said he was profoundly repelled by Hitler's ruinous corruptions of truth and morality.

    According to his autobiography, Milestone: Memoirs: 1927-1977, he served in the Hitler Youth, a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party, during World War II when membership was compulsory. But he was never a member of the Nazi Party and his family opposed Adolf Hitler's regime, biographers have said.

    "Neither Ratzinger nor any member of his family was a National Socialist," John Allen, a Vatican expert, wrote in the biography Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith.

    In his autobiography, Ratzinger described the Nazis as "fanatical ideologues who tyrannized us without respite." He came to view the Catholic Church as the institution uniquely equipped to counter what he saw as forces that mocked or distorted traditional morals.

    "Having seen fascism in action, Ratzinger today believes the best antidote to political totalitarianism is ecclesial totalitarianism," Allen has written.

    Does Pope Benedict really think that "the best antidote to political totalitarianism is ecclesial totalitarianism?" We have the word of a biographer of unknown origin, but I'd rather wait and see. Many of the Pope's opponents are advocates of that odd mix of Catholicism and Marxism called "liberation theology" (which appears more Marxist than Catholic), and I for one enjoyed seeing Pope John Paul II scolding liberation theologists. But what I'd really like to see is more libertarian theology. Why is that such a rare species? This wonderful book on the subject makes an excellent case for Jesus as libertarian ("render unto Caesar" borders on being advocacy of separation of church and state), but they're few and far between.

    As to relativism, it's one of those words like "liberal" and "conservative" which obfuscate more than they illuminate. It's difficult to debate with someone who calls you a "relativist" when the very definition of the term is impossible without resort to, well, relativism! The way some people use it, it's hurled as a borderline ad hominem label indicating the futility of debate. Like being called "Satanistic", "Paganistic", or "nihilistic." These and other such words cut off rather than invite debate, because, in the absence of specific arguments, they substitute ad hominem labels for logic. It's one thing to point out the fact that someone is a Republican or a Democrat (or a "Bush supporter" or "Kerry supporter"), but how is it helpful in assessing the validity of an argument for government health care?

    What is a relativist? What is relativism? According to dictionaries (at least, this dictionary history), these are modern, philosophical terms:

    The word relativism is defined as "any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environments" (2). It is thought that this philosophy officially entered American dictionaries and/or texts around 1860-65(2). Indeed, Noah Webster's first American Dictionary of the English language, published in 1828, provided a definition only for "relative" and did not contain a definition for relativity or relativism (3). However, more recent versions of Webster's dictionary define both relative and relativity.

    Interestingly enough, although the words "relative", "relativity" and "relativism" are nearly identical, they have entirely different meanings with no perceivable relationship to each other. "Relative" is defined as "related to, referring to, having connection with; relevant, pertinent," and "resulting from, dependent on, existing in relation to, connection with something else; proportionate, comparative; not absolute" (4). It is intriguing to note that the definitions of relativity and relativism ignore the precise context of the definition of "relative" and focus only on the "not absolute" component of the definition. In philosophy, relativity is defined as "the doctrine that knowledge is not absolute or positive, but depends on the relations in which things stand to each other, that it can be concerned only with such relations, and is limited by the changing conditions in of our perceptual faculties" (4). Relativism is defined as the "doctrine of those who maintain the relativity of knowledge"

    That sounds like a mess. To think it started over a word having to do with "related."

    Here's one organization's view:

    'Relativism' is a philosophical theory asserting that there is no absolute truth, only truth relative to the individual, or to a particular time or culture, or both. To put it another way, relativism may be defined as the radical denial of objectivity.
    OK, I disagree with radical denial of objectivity. I believe to a moral certainty that there is such a thing as objective truth. (E.g. it is not raining outside right now.) Does this mean I am not a relativist? Not so fast. Relativism as the word is commonly used in politics (and religion) refers not to scientific relativism (such as Einsteinian Relativity), but moral relativism. But even there, there are problems. For it is not moral relativism to observe that, say, under Catholicism polygamy is forbidden as sinful, while under Islam it is permissible. Nor is it relativism to remark the obvious fact that these are moral judgments about the propriety of polygamy.

    Philosophically, the confusion is not over the existence of the moral judgments, but over the appropriateness of judging the moral judgments. What's most frequently referred to as "moral relativism" is the approach of saying, "Well polygamy is fine for Muslims, but not for Catholics."

    The fact is, that's not an emotionally satisfying result for many people. They want answers, damn it. And who can blame them? What the hell is wrong with saying it's wrong to have more than one wife? Why should that be impermissible? (And who gets to be permitted to be the tyrants of what is considered to be permissible and impermissible? The relativists?) Might that mindset be the "dictatorship" of which the new Pope complains? Well, I have no problem with saying and believing polygamy is wrong. There is an absolute right to hold and maintain one's beliefs, and I think there's something weak and wimpy about not doing so. What I do have a problem with (and where I draw the line) is resorting to force to impose that view on others who have done nothing to harm me. Does that make me a moral relativist? I don't see how, but others do.

    Tough to debate these things. I have touched on the subject earlier in my discussion of whether being conservative morally makes one a "moral conservative," and concluded that it often does not!

    Amazingly, one can be very conservative morally (even a total prude), yet not be considered a moral conservative. By today's standards, "moral conservatism" has little to do with personal morality. Unless one wishes the government to dictate moral standards (including, if necessary, by the use of force), it is unlikely that the dominant moral conservative ideologists will allow one to make a claim of being a "moral conservative." (You can be, for example, personally opposed to pornography, and even hate it, but unless you believe that the government should imprison people for it, you'll be called "pro-pornography" and a "moral relativist." On the other hand, you can be a drug-taking hedonist, and as long as you insist that these activities be criminalized, you're a moral conservative. You're judged not by what you do, but by what you'd force others to do.)
    I'm afraid I'm with Thomas Jefferson on this one. If it doesn't break my leg or pick my pocket, I'll hold my nose and tolerate it even if I don't like it. It remains to be seen what Pope Benedict will be willing to tolerate, although I hardly think he's forcing anyone to join his church.

    More remarkably, according to the Inquirer, the new pope has a fascinating history of "heresy".

    In 1951, Ratzinger and his brother Georg were ordained priests, and in 1953 he earned his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich.

    In 1959, he became a full professor of theology at the University of Bonn. He served from 1962 to 1965 as the chief theological adviser to Cologne Cardinal Josef Frings at the Second Vatican Council, where he was regarded as one of the council's more progressive thinkers.

    In 1966, he was hired at the University of Tubingen at the encouragement of the liberal Hans Kung - whose theology he would later attack from his Vatican post.

    Ratzinger's turn to conservatism was fueled in large part by the violent student protests that swept much of Europe, including Germany, in 1968. He later left Tubingen, became a theological adviser to the German bishops' conference, and in 1972 founded the magazine Communio, which offered a more traditional interpretation of the Second Vatican Council.

    He was made archbishop of Munich by Pope Paul VI in 1977, and was elevated to cardinal the same year.

    This past liberalism, I think, will earn him more enemies than his present conservatism. If there's one thing worse than a conservative, it's a conservative who used to be a liberal.

    And if this New York Times analysis is correct, Ratzinger's about-face was precipitated by his horror over what he considered a "neo-Marxist power grab." As someone who was also horrified by Marxist tactics, I can't help feeling some sympathy here. But the doctrinal differences still beg the question of what is relativism.

    If Ratzinger can change his mind so dramatically, all is not absolute -- even within the Catholic Church. His old mentor Hans Kung (whose History of the Catholic Church I highly recommend) was never excommunicated as he would have been in the old days.... To this day there remains substantial disagreement over his legacy within the Church heirarchy.

    Relativism is relative, I suppose. . .

    DEFINITIONAL NOTE: My Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition (1957), which I consider the Rolls Royce of dictionaries, is not terribly helpful in defining relativism:

    relativism n. a doctrine of relationism or of relativity, esp. relativity of knowledge. Cf. RELATIVITY OF KNOWLEDGE.
    "Relativity of knowledge" is defined thusly:
    The doctrine that knowledge is relative to the limited nature of the mind and the condition of knowing and hence not true to the nature of independent reality. The doctrine has three forms which distinguish the schools of philosophy which accept it: (1) absolutely true knowledge is impossible because of the limitation and variability of sense perceptions; (2) reality as it is cannot be known by mind whose modes of thinking is and perception are essentially subjective; (3) thinking and perception seize relations (of one thing to another) only, and not the intrinsic nature of an object, and hence, are merely symbolic.
    This is the sort of stuff with which Socrates and others spent lifetimes grappling and debating. I don't see how one could form a dictatorship around any of it -- at least not in the formal sense of the word "dictatorship."

    Now unless "dictatorship" is relative..... (I think that's a good place to end this relatively useless debate with my relatively irrelevant self.)

    posted by Eric at 08:51 AM | Comments (7)




    And the story still has legs!

    Today is the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, and considering that there are so many unanswered questions, it's worth giving this whole matter another look. I've posted about this (repeatedly), and the most comprehensive post I've seen recently in the blogosphere is this one by Bizblogger (which includes a review of Jayna Davis's book.)

    You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to agree with a former CIA Director (James Woolsey), and a former CIA and FBI director (William Webster) that something stinks. For starters, they still haven't listed the correct number of victims.

    Glenn Reynolds (who was kind enough to link my missing leg post) offers an excellent retrospective on Oklahoma City, featuring his observations on the country's mood at the time. His closing words are just as true now (if for different reasons):

    This country's political establishment should think about what it has done to inspire such distrust--and what it can do to regain the trust and loyalty of many Americans who no longer grant it either.
    The distrust is still there, but it's far more cynical, and I think it's the type of cynicism which comes from coverup after coverup after coverup.

    Coverups inspire distrust.

    The problem is, once coverups get started, they cannot be undone because of the Dreyfus principle -- fear of public exposure of the fact of a coverup. So even if we assume for the sake of argument that foreign involvement in the Oklahoma City attack is being covered up, it must and will continue to be covered up.

    Regardless of the soundness of their arguments, those who suspect coverups are condescendingly dismissed as "conspiracy theorists," and lumped in with genuine nuts.

    That's why the best allies of coverups are always wackos like these. I'm not easily excited by wacko theories and I try to practice what I described last year:

    While I am very skeptical of conspiracy theories, the fact is that occasionally, there are unexplained conspiracies. By definition, unexplained conspiracies (until they are explained) logically demand the utilization of (for lack of a better phrase) conspiracy theories as a tool of examination. There is no question that terrorism -- whether domestic or international -- always involves a conspiracy. In attempting to analyze unsettled and vexing stories, I try to avoid the following common pitfalls:

  • the temptation of believing what I want to believe
  • the temptation of disbelieving (denying) what I don't want to believe
  • the temptation of clinging too tenaciously to my own conclusions (if any)
  • the temptation of being adversely influenced by emotions instead of logic (loud and ugly tones, or harsh rhetoric make me distrustful; reasonable tones engender trust and can create illusions of truth)
  • Frankly, I just wish the Oklahoma City discrepancies could be cleared up, and I'm tempted to acquiesce to what I think is a coverup, because it would be easier than writing another post about this out of a sense of "obligation" I don't have.

    I'd rather not think about it at all.

    (Couldn't they have just buried that leg? I'm tired to death of digging this stuff up....)

    MORE: Rand Simberg proposes calling today "National Self Defense Day" as he reminds us that it's also the anniversary of Lexington Concord, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the massacre at Waco. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    posted by Eric at 04:07 PM



    Habemus papam!

    I just heard there's a new pope, but no word yet about the details. Nothing on Drudge.

    UPDATE: Drudge now has his siren up. No white smoke yet.

    UPDATE: They just announced that Josef Cardinal Ratzinger was selected, and he has chosen as his papal name Benedict XVI.

    MORE (1:00 p.m): Last week I had another post titled "Habemus Papam!" -- currently the subject of much traffic. That was satire; this is real! (Odd that I'd feature an earlier Pope Benedict (XIII); hope I don't have the gift of prophecy.)

    AND MORE: Andrew Sullivan is clearly unhappy with the new pope, who yesterday as Ratzinger condemned what he called a "dictatorship of relativism":

    Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching', looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    If relativism is defined as the belief that there is no such thing as truth, or of right or wrong, then it strikes me that a dictatorship would have no basis for justifying itself and would thus be self canceling. But the relativism cited above strikes me as a half-baked mix of nihilism and Objectivism. A "dictatorship" of numerous egos and desires might not be a great idea. But it sounds more like chaos than dictatorship. I'm not Catholic, but that does not make me a relativist, nor does it make me wrong.

    Perhaps the new pope will recognize that the existence of right and wrong does not always mean that in every argument, one side is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong. I guess we'll see. I do hope Pope Benedict doesn't turn out to be the "Grand Inquisitor" Sullivan seems to be anticipating.

    Considering that I believe in right and wrong, I hardly qualify as a relativist, but I nonetheless think relativism is healthier than Inquisitions. (The devil is always in the definitions.....)

    MORE: It is one thing to discuss relativism in the context of the Inquisition. More recently, the debate within the Catholic Church has focused on relativism vis a vis Islam:

    John Paul II's charisma was such that few dared challenge his strategy. Now that he is no longer there, however, his strategy will be subjected to scrutiny within the Catholic Church.

    One critic is Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, a leading candidate for papacy. Ratzinger believes that John Paul II's strategy of alliance with Islam has put the Vatican not on the side of the Muslim peoples but on the side of despotic regimes that dominate the Muslim world. Ratzinger sees relations between Islam and Catholicism as one of competition over the truth.

    Ratzinger suggests an alternative strategy under which the Catholic Church would focus on the consolidation of its position in its traditional strongholds in Europe and the American Continent. In that context Ratzinger has publicly opposed the admission of Turkey into the European Union.

    Ratzinger regards a formal dialogue with Islam as a handicap for the Catholic Church because it would assume a measure of equality between the two faiths, signaling to people, especially in Europe, that they can shop around for religion. Ratzinger's strategy enjoys much support in the College of Cardinals. But it also has critics.

    Cardinal Angel Scola, the archbishop of Venice and another contender for John Paul II's succession, regards Ratzinger's strategy as "defensive" and based on the West's traditional fears about Islam. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the archbishop of Westminster, goes further and described dialogue with Islam as "an urgent need".

    "We must find interlocutors in all Muslim countries," he says. "Christianity and Islam have a shared responsibility in defending world peace."

    Both Scola and O'Connor believe that John Paul II's public opposition to the war in Iraq helped prevent a "clash of civilizations".

    An even more ardent advocate of dialogue with Islam is Cardinal Francis Arinze, also a leading candidate for John Paul II's succession. A Nigerian, Arinze has direct experience of Islam because more than half of his native country's population is Muslim.

    At a meeting in Rabat, Morocco, several years ago, Arinze told us that he believed Christians had much to learn from "the sincere ardor of Muslims" while Muslims could benefit from the West's openness to new scientific and political ideas.

    Like John Paul II, Arinze believes both Islam and Christianity need a united "anti-secularism" front to protect further erosion in their faith.

    "Many Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of faith having its say on all issues," he said. "In Islam, however, religion is still regarded as a legitimate participant in the public debate. We must work together to make this case in the global arena."

    In the next few days we shall know who has won the argument in the Vatican.

    I guess we know now.

    And I'll say something I've said before:

    the fact remains, no matter how they have tried to spin it over the centuries, "Christian war" will always have an oxymoronic ring to it. "Islamic war," on the other hand, goes by the name "Jihad."

    posted by Eric at 12:14 PM | Comments (5)



    More off base thoughts from ex DINO neo RINO

    Via Roger L. Simon's link to BoiFromTroy, I am sorry to see evidence that Howard Stern and Jeff Jarvis (who's not PTC approved) were apparently right about this administration's plans to expand the role of the FCC. (Not a new issue for me.)

    BoiFromTroy also links to Brendan Loy:

    This attempt to expand the power of the federal government is yet another example of the Republican Party abandoning its core principles of federalism in service of the "moral values" side of its agenda. It's politics over principle, again. True conservatives should be disgusted.

    Even more importantly, the idea of expanding the government's anti-"indecency" jurisdiction to non-broadcast entities is a blatant affront to the First Amendment. The only justifiction for the FCC's existence is the notion that over-the-air broadcasters use the airwaves -- the electromagnetic spectrum, a publicly owned and inherently limited commodity -- and, as a result, content-based regulation that would not otherwise pass constitutional muster is necessary because of the public's interest in its airwaves. None of those justifications exist if we're talking about regulation of cable or satellite broadcasters. (Remember, we're not talking about obscenity, which has no constitutional protection; we're talking about the much broader category of indecency.)

    Seems to me, if the government can regulate the content of non-broadcast TV, there is no reason why it can't also regulate, say, blogs or newspapers. Argh. It's a slippery slope to Hell, people.

    Damn right.

    I complained about the same thing just last month, because it worried me to see two of the president's congressional allies displaying a crass misunderstanding of federal jurisdiction:

    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.
    Now that see that I see this is conventional Republican, er, wisdom, my worries have turned to utter disgust. What do they think they are doing?

    And why the hell is it that if you disagree with the Big Government Republicans on issues of "morality" regulation, you're said to be a "RINO," whereas if you disagree with them on something like immigration, you're the "base?"

    As I say this, I recognize that many Democrats (as Glenn Reynolds has reminded) are equally in favor of an expanded government role in policing private morality. Unfortunately, that makes it only more likely to happen. As I keep saying, when you're forced to choose between two bad "sides," it's really not an either/or choice.

    You get both!

    But alas! How I wish the Republicans would let the Democrats be the party of the unconstitutional expansion of government regulatory power! At this rate, they'll lose the South Park Republicans, and with that, their creative spirit. (By default this will leave Democrats with a sort of tired, Hollywoodish, cultural hegemony.)

    I'll close by quoting Ace, who posted the best warning to Republicans I've seen thus far:

    Any party that tries to take away the titty-channels from a red-blooded American man is a party that's looking to go the way of the Whigs.
    Ace is just getting started. There's more:
    Careful, guys. Tread lightly. This is how coalitions fall apart.

    Even over something as trivial-seeming as a television show about the uglier side of the Wild West.

    A lot of conservatives are not part of the religious right, but we agree to help you pass parts of your agenda anyway. Not because we are strong believers in your agenda, necessarily -- sometimes we believe in the agenda, but weakly; other times we go along just to get along.

    We help you because we're in this coaltion together, and we respect you.

    But do us a favor-- respect us, too, huh?

    You're not going to get everything you want. That's life-- we South Park Republicans, we Kid Rock Conservatives, don't get everything we want, either.

    And if you push it -- if you actually try to force your values on us -- you may find you suddenly aren't part of a winning coalition passing the most-widely-accepted parts of its agenda, but rather part of a losing coaltion, and watching another coalition -- this one liberal-leaning -- passing much of its own.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    You'd think they'd have learned.

    Sheesh. At this rate, pretty soon the Constitution will be in exile.

    MORE: My frustration over these fake political choices has been expressed in innumerable posts like these.

    Hell, at least blogging provides an outlet which can't be found in either major party, nor in the MSM. (And they all want to keep it that way.)

    posted by Eric at 08:54 AM




    Let's not dwell on the past . . .
    We have a lot of moms who are concerned about everything from the deficit to air quality, particularly in North Texas.
    -- Melody Townsel, of Mothers Opposing Bush, last summer.
    John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.
    -- Melody Townsel, last week.

    Who is Melody Townsel? Did she retreat from politics to raise her children as she was quoted in the New York Sun?

    When asked why she did not make this matter public in 2001, when Mr. Bolton's nomination for his current post as undersecretary of state was being considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she said that at the time she had retreated from politics and was raising young children.

    (Link from Power Line, via InstaPundit.)

    At the time, she would have been working for a Dallas PR firm named Alexander Ogilvy:
    Five Executives Gain Senior Vice President Position At Alexander Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.
    ....

    Melody Townsel, Dallas

    Since joining Alexander Ogilvy in the summer of 1999, Melody Townsel has made significant contributions to clients including Netpliance, ManagedStorage International, Ineto and eCertain, and to the growth of the Dallas office. Her 12 years of international experience in Eastern Europe, South America and Asia gives her a keen global perspective and an ability to provide counsel on media relations, business models and financing events.

    She's also listed as doing PR work (involving "whistleblower" issues) for this legal public relations firm, and runs her own firm, whose website describes her as "generating more than 1.5 billion financial and consumer impressions." (I guess "impressions" is insider language for advertising.) Her PR work is described going back as far as 1998, but nothing is said about politics -- least of all leaving politics to take care of children. So I'm puzzled over the claim. I do know that for some people, there's no inconsistency at all between politics and raising children. And eventually, Ms. Townsel found her "return" to politics when (according to the Sun) she "helped organize the Dallas chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush."

    And the Mothers Opposing Bush certainly has no problem mixing child-raising with politics. Here's a comment by "the woman" (whoever she may be) who "started" Mothers Opposing Bush in Dallas:

    I'm the woman who started it all here in Dallas - you would not believe the press and death threats we've received here because a two-year-old girl took a swipe at a Bush punching bag. Tell your friends to join the MOB. As for the Richardson mom, please tell her to email mobdallas@hotmail.com and come join us!
    Posted by: MOB Dallas on June 17, 2004 03:18 PM
    A two year old takes a swing at Bush?

    Now that's what I call raising 'em right! Teach your child early to stand up to the prezzident!

    Why, that's absolutely precious, and I'm glad the Internet is here to preserve such moments. Here's the photo itself (taken from a link at this post):

    punchingbag.jpg

    For her part, Ms. Townsel stated that her daughter never punched the Bush bag, and condemned the punching bag stunt in this letter to the Dallas Morning News.

    Mothers Opposing Bush member responds

    Re: "Respecting Fundamentals-Punching bag stunt oversteps partisan bounds," yesterday's Editorials.

    I'm one of the Mothers Opposing Bush, and my daughter attended Sunday's event in Reverchon Park. While there, she made a new friend. She ate a red, white and blue cupcake. She bounced with the other kids in the Bounce House.

    What she did not do-and all but two or three of the 30-plus kids who attended did not do-was play with the punching bag that one mother brought on her own initiative to the event.

    Should the bag have been there? No. Were our children encouraged to punch it? No, as your own reporter can attest.

    I'm dismayed by the photo you've published twice. It is grossly unrepresentative of the spirit of the play date that we attended.

    You use the word "obnoxious" in your editorial, and decried strident partisanship. I couldn't agree more. Why? Because, as of yesterday morning, I'd received more than 250 hate calls. They used the "f" word, death threats, threatened visits to my home-and one threatened my child.

    I joined the Mothers Opposing Bush because I want to protect my daughter from a future defined by an administration that has waged war and hampered health care and environmental concerns. I'm a sadder, wiser Mother Opposing Bush today-and, thanks to death threats, more committed than ever.

    Melody A. Townsel, Dallas

    Yeah, I agree that the punching bag stunt overstepped partisan bounds. Maybe even parental bounds.

    I hope it was unrepresentative of the event, because I don't think it's right to drag children into stuff like that at an early age. You'd think a parent sensitive enough to leave politics to take care of children might think twice before organizing an event where this took place, much less taking her child along, but hey. At least the organizer denounced it after it happened!

    And none of this matters now anyway. The election is over.

    The real issue now is whether Mr. Bolton yelled and threw papers in 1994.

    (So where do these hypocritical bloggers get off digging up the past?)

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Assuming the above letter to the editor is accurate, I think it's worth asking whether or not Melody Townsel was in fact the principal organizer of Moms Opposing Bush in Dallas. Otherwise, how would she have become the recipient of: "250 hate calls", "death threats", and even a threat to the very child she says she gave up politics to care for?

    MORE: Regardless of how accurate the charges turn out to be, the Townsel letter certainly seems to be effective! From this DailyKos thread, some strong sentiments are being voiced about Bolton:

    "The man's a thug."

    "I hate these fuckers with every fiber of my being. I hope that in the grand scheme, these jack-asses that have hijacked our country get their due..."

    ...in hell.

    "mentally ill"

    "evil"

    "belligerent, violent, mendacious. Happy to terrorize anyone who stands in his way.

    Oh, yes, and a misogynist."

    "the leadership of the Nazi party. Mostly thugs and criminals. Need I say more?

    9/11 was the Neocons' Reichstag fire."

    "Unregistered Sex Offender

    "Would you want this guy anywhere near your children?"

    Hmmm....

    Does this mean they don't want him to be the UN ambassador?

    UPDATE: Roger L. Simon is skeptical, and he has more -- including (via a comment) this letter from Melody Townsel's employer.

    And Captain Ed accuses Republican leaders of "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory," by ignoring the evidence about Ms. Townsel. He's so tweaked by their handling of this that he's refusing to give them anything: "Not. One. Dime."

    UPDATE (04/21/05): My thanks to the National Review's Eric Pfeiffer, for citing this post in today's excellent Beltway Buzz column. Mr. Pfeiffer has more on the Bolton affair here -- as it turns out, Bolton supporter Jayant Kalotra (who wrote the letter cited earlier) is a generous Democratic contributor.

    I suspect there will be more.

    MORE (04/26/05): I guess I got that last prediction right.... To all who enjoyed reading about Melody Townsel, I have a new post about the latest Bolton accuser, one Lynne Finney. (She's an old hand at raising Hell....)

    AND MORE (04/26/05): More dirt has been dug up against Melody Townsel. She stands accused of plagiarism twenty years ago, except unless I am wrong, she's the one who has accused herself, while trying to blame "Republican" dirt diggers.

    posted by Eric at 03:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)



    Social Darwinist elitism?

    Are environmentalists, by opposing new food technologies and life saving pesticides, actually harming people in Third World countries, and preventing their economic advancement?

    I just ordered Eco-Imperialism, by Paul Driessen which claims this is the case, and offers detailed documentation. Here's Amazon's Product Description:

    Reveals a dark secret of the ideological environmental movement. The movement imposes the views of mostly wealthy, comfortable Americans and Europeans on mostly poor, desperate Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. It violates these people's most basic human rights, denying them economic opportunities, the chance for better lives, the right to rid their countries of diseases that were vanquished long ago in Europe and the United States.
    I haven't read the book, but I note that it's endorsed by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, who states:
    This book is the first one I've seen that tells the truth and lays it on the line.

    Here's a review by Gary Griffiths, who liked it:

    The premise of Paul Driessen's sobering 'Eco-Imperialism' is as straightforward as it is chilling: the increasingly radical agenda of the so-called green movement is stifling economic development in the third world and, worst, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of millions. Is argument is presented with clarity and fact - as well fed affluent bureaucrats of the EU, the UN, the US, and any number of environmental protection groups force their unfounded radical views on developing nations, the basic steps in economic evolution to these nations are being denied, virtually eliminating any hope for improvement. Issues ranging from alternative energy source, genetically modified food, sweatshop labor, global warming and others are reviewed in enough detail to make the points, sparing the reader of the often endless graphs, charts, and minutia that often accompany books of this type. In an interesting twist, Driessen does not limit this criticism to the political bureaucrats and radical activists, but also points a finger at global corporations. On one hand, rather than standing up to the junk science and extreme positions of the radical green movement, most large corporations are simply rolling over, acquiescing to these economically dangerous demands. On the other hand, a number of corporations - most notably BP, to which Driessen delivers some well-deserved body blows - are allowing the Greens to play into their hands, duping the public into believing their pro-environmental purity, while in fact simply spinning clever PR smoke. BP, for example, would profit greatly from acceptance of the Kyoto accord through their natural gas business, while continuing to grow oil revenues and profit.

    Drinker of the Green Kool Aid will undoubtedly dismiss 'Eco-Imperialism' out-of-hand, falling back on their tired and tiresome accusations of Driessen as simply another 'corporate pawn.' However, as Driessen so forcefully articulates, it is in fact the fat cat bureaucrat environmentalists and politicians who are profiting at the expense of struggling third world nations. This is a proactive and chilling expose - should be required reading in all US Public Schools, if for no other reason as balance to the steady diet green pabulum our students are fed today.

    As I said, I haven't read it, but the above reviewer was certainly right about one thing: Driessen was dutifully attacked by another reviewer (anonymously, of course) -- not as a corporate prawn, but as a "Corporate Attack Dog":
    Corporate Attack Dogs Target Environmental Activists, March 4, 2004
    Reviewer: A reader
    Driessen is obviously doing the bidding of corporate interests that want access to the world's markets without any accountability for environmental risks or concern for sustainability. The world does not need monoculture and genetically-engineered crops to eliminate hunger. It needs the political and moral will to share. Current food production is enough to feed a population 50% greater than the world's current population. Greedy corporations, dictators hoarding wealth, and international agencies that favor export crops over sustenance crops are to blame for hunger, not environmentalists. Don't let this mouthpiece for Monsanto and Dow fool you.
    If it's so "obvious," why not give a single example? And why doesn't the reviewer say who he or she is? Is it possible that "A reader" didn't bother to read the book? (Obviously not; that would be against Amazon's rules!)

    At the author's website, Mr. Driessen has more reviews (positive and negative), and addresses the Monsanto/Dow "mouthpiece" allegations:

    has never received any funding from either Monsanto or Dow – though both companies, and many other corporations, ought to be supporting the life-saving efforts promoted by his book, website and other projects, and by the organizations with which Driessen works.

    And here's Steven Milloy's review of the book. (He gives examples which indicate that he's read it, too!)

    Frankly, I've long suspected that these environmentalists are radical social Darwinists whether they admit it or not. Their NIMBY policies favor the already-developed First World and there seems to be at the very least insensitivity to the plight of the less developed (if not outright hostility to their continued existence).

    Even domestically, environmental regulations give the large companies a major advantage, leading this writer to call environmentalism a form of Social Darwinism.

    I think they'll probably lose against the forces of economic creationism. . .

    posted by Eric at 12:39 PM



    Renascent Renaissance

    Thanks to a tip from Robot Guy, Eric pointed me toward the latest article on the Oxyrhynchus papyri, promising a 20% increase in the body of classical texts. I'd seen an earlier, shorter version of the story but this one made it seem much more significant.

    For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

    Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

    I doubt they'll be able to produce much of any real significance (i.e. more or less complete works accessible to the public or even the mass of general scholars) for a number of years, having first to photograph the fragments, read them individually, and painstakingly reconstruct texts over time.

    Individual scholars will find many tenure-seeking articles in the process and there will doubtless be much speculation and challenges to traditional thought ('For centuries scholars have believed X, but three lines attributed to Hesiod suggest rather that ...').

    More importantly, though, scholars like Dirk Obbink (we're lucky to have him at the head) will ensure that the work is done properly and pays out as promised.

    It will be a fertile period. And they laughed when I said I wanted to be a classicist. 'It's a dead language,' they'd always say.

    But frankly I question the timing. This is a great boon to an Oxford classics program that is currently in a bit of turmoil, suffering criticism of lagging standards and finding itself in a quandary over funding.

    Oxyrhynchus to the rescue!

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




    "Do you sodomize your wife?"

    Was that (asked recently of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) a political question?

    At the risk of being politically and sexually redundant, I keep saying that when the political becomes sexual, then the sexual is political.

    Well, I'm glad to see that on this point at least, left and right are increasingly finding agreement.

    Here's Professor Bainbridge discussing a remark from Brian Leiter:

    Why is incivility, for purposes of making a political statement, especially inapposite in this case as against any other guest of the Law School?
    The idea that Supreme Court justices or any other judges should be immune from political criticism - or even political retribution - is absurd given the extent to which those same judges have intruded themselves into the political domain by Constitutionalizing the culture wars.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds)

    I agree. (I hate the politicization of the personal, and this is exactly what we can expect as a result of it.)

    And I can think of lots of political questions we can start asking a lot of people.

    But just because I'll defend to the death your right to make me vomit, I don't see why anyone has to pretend any of this is dialogue......

    exorblood.jpg

    What does your mother suck in hell, anyway?

    And the hell with the questions! Let's just make a "political statement!"

    exorbarf.jpg

    Why is incivility, for purposes of making a political statement, especially inapposite in this case as against any other guest of the Law School?

    Why indeed?

    Good intelligent questions, and I am sure we can expect lots of intelligent dialogue!

    UPDATE: Here's a Drudge tidbit:

    coultertime.jpg

    Ann Coulter epitomizes the way politics is now discussed on the airwaves, where opinions must come violently fast and cause as much friction as possible, TIME’s John Cloud claims in this week’s cover story.
    Yeah, why discuss anything in a civil manner?

    Surely, there's a way to cut down on politeness and niceness in the blogosphere?

    MORE: Or is the blogosphere already the way Drudge apparently wants it to be?

    ....loud, ugly and boring with a thousand voices screaming for attention.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I can't speak for Drudge, but I turned to the blogosphere because it's generally quieter than television, often much prettier, and usually far more fascinating.

    AND MORE: There's an important distinction often lost in the din of these debates, and that's the difference between the First Amendment right to be loud, obnoxious, insulting, and illogical -- and whether or not that's a desirable method of discussion or debate. Sure, it goes without saying that there are a lot of obnoxious blogs. But there's a continuous, constantly evolving process of civilized, ongoing debate in the blogosphere -- and it cannot be silenced or stopped by anyone. Which is why I think the blogosphere represents civilization (at least civilized discourse) at it's finest.

    (I'll leave such hyperbole as calling it "the salvation of civilization" to others....)

    MORE (04/18/05): Roger L. Simon has more on Drudge's apparent blogophobia:

    A few weeks ago, I was linked on the Drudge Report (in red, no less), concerning some original reporting I was doing on Oil-for-Food. No, my server didn't crash but the link, which had gone up in the evening, was gone by morning. Reason: it was put up by Andrew Breitbart in California and removed by Drudge himself in Florida the next day. Breitbart, who is very blog-friendly and was then doing half the Drudge Report, had made the citation and Drudge took it off. No matter that the story proved to be accurate. Our Matt evidently can't stand on line competition. No real surprise there.
    "Loud, ugly" bloggers like Roger L. Simon and Glenn Reynolds need not apply for a Drudge link. Because unlike Ann Coulter, they're mean and nasty!

    posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (3)




    April 15 can be fun and educational!

    Considering that yesterday was official Buy A Gun Day, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and actually buy a gun of some sort.

    Being somewhat of a cheapskate, I poked around on the Internet, and finally found a local dealer who was having a special on "Bulgarian" Makarovs. I bought one for $139.00 -- which is dirt cheap for one of these fine pistols. The Makarov is a simplified, idiot-proofed, Russian copy of the legendary German Walther PP (big brother of the PPK made famous in the James Bond movies).

    A bit of historical background:

    The Makarov pistol is one of those legends in firearm history- not so much for its glorious history, but rather for its steady, reliable presence for nearly half a century. Nikolai Fedorovich Makarov was 31 at the end of World War II when the Soviet Union called for the design of a new combat service pistol. The requirements were that the new pistol be chambered for the standard 7.62 or 9mm. Rather than using the .380ACP or 9mmParabellum, Makarov designed a new round, the 9x18mmMakarov. This round is cylindrical like the .380ACP but has the same head diameter as the tapered 9mmParabellum, necessitating a larger 9.25mm bullet with a standard weight of 6 grams (92.5gr). The resulting 9x18 "Pistolet Makarova" was a stout, small, soldier-proof gun that has certainly earned its reputation as an all-time classic. Being the silent partner of WARPAC troops and KGB Agents for the bulk of the Cold War, the little "Mak" was at one time a rare sight. But now the Mak is becoming ever more popular here in the States, so much so that 3 major ammunition manufacturers are now producing 9x18 rounds!

    I first encountered the Makarov in the history books. Later in my reading, it was the sidearm most mentioned in the spy thrillers and mystery novels of the Cold War. Many a shady character toted a Makarov along the darkened streets of Prague. It wasn't until 1999 that I actually went out and looked for one. I had used several of the smaller, medium sized semi-autos in 9mm, .380, .32, etc., but I was really drawn to the homely little Mak just for its historical value. I was at the time really unaware of its reputation as an indestructible gun. I found only one negative article about the Mak, and according to most, the Mak in the article was a really odd freak. You will be very hard pressed to find a Mak owner who doesn't have quite a liking for this little gun.

    Hey, I've developed quite a liking in the thirteen hours I've had it, and I haven't even fired it yet.

    As to its performance on the range, last March, Kevin of A Smallest Minority bought a Bulgarian Makarov, and gave it a glowing review.

    Until this morning, I assumed that I bought what I paid for -- a Bulgarian Makarov. But it now appears that I got more than I paid for. While it was sold to me as Bulgarian, and it has the word "BULGARIAN" stamped crudely on the right side of the frame, closer examination revealed that on the other side it has the original bifurcated-triangle-within-the-circle Russian hallmark. Also, it has the fixed rear site, and that means it is one of those Russian military Makarovs which occasionally found their way into Bulgarian stockpiles, with the end result being that they were stamped "BULGARIA," and exported to the United States as "Bulgarian." Authentic Russian military Makarovs are not only highly collectible, but they can be legally sold as "Curios and Relics" to licensed collectors (who can bypass much of the usual bureaucracy). It's value? More than twice as much as I paid for it, at least.

    Here's a nice closeup picture of the real deal:

    Russian_military_Makarov_small.jpg

    (It's identical to mine, including the 1975 date; the only difference is that the serial numbers are a couple of hundred apart.) The caption describes the above as:

    A Russian military Makarov...something you don't see very often. These are C&R eligible. Note the Russian bifurcated triangle with circle marking.
    Nothing like getting "something you don't see very often."

    Especially when you weren't looking for it.

    Good omen, I'd say!

    UPDATE: More happy April 15 purchases discussed at the Carnival of Cordite. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    MORE: I don't know how I managed to miss it, but Kim du Toit also gave the Makarov a great review:

    In a word: fun. Using the Wolf ammo as pictured, the little Mak was astoundingly accurate, and the teeny 9mm Mak bullets sent those evil pins spinning.

    In fact, of all the guns we fired, the Makarov was a hands-down winner in the “Most Pleasant Surprise” category. (When you shoot a Colt SAA or Wilson 1911, you’re going to get pleasure—that’s a given—but who’d a thunk a damn Commie weeniepistol would be so much fun?)

    And who'd a thunk I'd be in for such a pleasant surprise on April the Fifteenth?

    Perfect day for fun and games with a Commie weeniepistol!

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




    New fissures in the annals of science!

    As regular readers know, I try to keep my non-blog life out of this blog to the extent possible. But considering the scientific posts which keep cropping up on this blog lately, I thought interested readers might enjoy knowing that I have myself co-authored an important research paper: Decoupling Journaling File Systems from Interrupts in the Producer- Consumer Problem. Because of the complicated nature of the subject, and the interrelatedness of economics and computer modeling in the red hot area of P2P technology, I really can't do myself (and particularly the other distinguished authors) justice by encapsulating in lay terms what took many years of hard work -- to say nothing of many dollars in grants.

    However, I don't think see what harm could come from letting my readers have a sneak peek at the abstract:

    Abstract
    The implications of peer-to-peer technology have been far-reaching and pervasive. In fact, few leading analysts would disagree with the synthesis of gigabit switches, which embodies the unfortunate principles of exhaustive complexity theory. In order to accomplish this intent, we disconfirm not only that the UNIVAC computer can be made highly-available, replicated, and electronic, but that the same is true for write-back caches.
    As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

    I'd like to thank my co-authors for making this possible. But the lion's share of thanks goes to Joanne Jacobs for being the catalyst who inspired the original idea.

    Science has to start somewhere.

    UPDATE: How does two papers in the same day sound as a scientific accomplishment? Believe it or not, what started out as a seemingly unremarkable offshoot of the original Joanne Jacobs' original kernel (a phenomenon we've described as the emulation of redundancy) an entirely new paper -- On the Synthesis of Kernels -- is ready to rock the foundations of science.

    Abstract
    Many electrical engineers would agree that, had it not been for sensor networks, the emulation of the Turing machine might never have occurred. In this position paper, we show the emulation of redundancy. We propose a novel application for the exploration of model checking, which we call NAY.

    Justin Case, please take note: When science reigns, it pores!

    posted by Eric at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)



    Unpacking the choir

    Whether in politics or life, inconsistencies and contradictions both intrigue and frustrate me, but fortunately I have this blog to help me see them more clearly.
    I guess I could use the politically loaded term "double standards" instead of "inconsistencies" but that seems more argumentative, and I really dislike arguments because I do far too much of it with myself!

    Anyway, I thought I'd start with some recent thoughts from Alan Keyes on limiting jurisdiction of the Supreme Court:

    Keyes said that if the Supreme Court steps out of its constitutional jurisdiction, the Congress has constitutional authority to curtail that breach of constitutional boundaries. Congress has authority to regulate the appellate jurisdiction of the Court--as Keyes mentioned in his speech--an authority I was unaware of. But there I find it obscurely tucked away in Article III: "...the Supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both to law and fact, with such restrictions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make."

    Does this mean that Congress may pass a law that the federal courts may not take a case on appeal from the states concerning prayer in schools, abortion, sodomy, the Ten Commandments, and the Pledge of Allegiance? Yes it does!!! Keyes told me that many congressmen and judges are ignorant of this constitutional power. "Many do not read the Constitution any more," Keyes remarked to me.

    Keyes warned the crowd that our timid Congress is too politically opportunistic and too intimidated by the Court to curtail judicial power on their own. Only a popular uprising from their constituents will awaken a slumbering legislature to do battle with a court that is seizing arbitrary powers, drunken with its life tenure and its arrogated god-like powers to create law by fiat.

    The Senate has impeachment powers of the judiciary. Article I, Section 3: "When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation." I assume the oath of the senators pertains to upholding the Constitution. If this be so, I assume that the purview of the Senate impeachment hearings of a judge may include whether he went outside the constitutional jurisdiction of his office--which is against the law. Remember, the constitutional restrictictions on judicial power are law. Breaking the law can be an impeachable offense.

    This argument is very much in vogue right now, and I've addressed it before. While I've speculated that the real goal might be something else, I do concede that the Constitution appears to allow Congress to limit the court's jurisdiction.

    Hell, there's really nothing new about this. FDR's notorious "court packing plan" is an excellent example:

    In his 1993 book FDR: Into the Storm, 1937-1940, Roosevelt biographer Kenneth S. Davis said commentators of the 1930s described the battle between Roosevelt and the Supreme Court as "the gravest constitutional crisis since the Civil War." A confrontation of some sort seemed inevitable, but few people, even among those closest to Roosevelt, expected what came next.

    On Jan. 30, 1937, Roosevelt's 55th birthday, the president disclosed to his closest aides a draft bill to reorganize the federal judiciary. The measure -- mischievously linked to a long-ago proposal by 75-year-old Justice James C. McReynolds -- called for all federal judges to retire by age 70. If they failed to do so, the president could appoint another judge to serve in tandem with each one older than 70.

    The practical effect of the proposal: Roosevelt could have appointed six more Supreme Court justices immediately, increasing the size of the court to 15 members. A Congress dominated by Democrats undoubtedly would have appointed judges friendly to Roosevelt and his New Deal agenda.

    While the court packing plan never made it through Congress, it nevertheless worked as a form of intimidation:
    Roosevelt's biographers generally agree that his court-packing scheme robbed him of much of the political capital he had won in two landslide elections. It also hindered his all-out war on poverty. But to some extent, the president won his war with the Supreme Court.

    First, the court's philosophy began to change even as Congress debated the merits of judicial reform. Owen J. Roberts, the youngest jurist, began to vote Roosevelt's way in close decisions, giving FDR 5-4 wins rather than losses by the same margin. Then before long, the "Nine Old Men" began to retire of their own volition, enabling the president to appoint a "Roosevelt court."

    FDR got what he wanted without having to pack the court, and VOILA! Unconstitutional legislation was suddenly ruled constitutional. So why aren't Alan Keyes and the people now championing the right of Congress to control the Supreme Court also rediscovering (or at least rehabilitating) FDR, the unsung hero of their cause?

    Beats me!

    I'm glad I don't subscribe to the views of Michel Foucault. Otherwise I'd just say this is all about power, and the laws, the courts and the Constitution don't mean a damned thing.

    I also wouldn't be foolish enough to be frustrated by inconsistencies.

    It isn't just court packing that's bugging me. I'm seeing more and more anti-gay bigotry on the left. The more subtle variety (discussed infra here and here) is the ongoing accusation that gay conservatives are guilty of "self-loathing." This attempted diagnosis of a mental disorder is condescending at best, and I think the fact that it is so easily lobbed at homosexuals by leftists belies the claim that only the left is free of antigay prejudice. Over the years, I have seen that unacknowledged bigotry can be more rabid than the deliberate, conscious variety. Support for "gay marriage" among such people strikes me as a contrivance, as Official Certification: Anyone Who Supports Gay Marriage Simply Cannot Be A Bigot. Period.

    A bit like 1960s rich white liberals who wanted inner city black children bused into white neighborhood but not theirs. We Are For Busing To Achieve Integration So We Are Not Bigots! (The meme has since been upgraded to offer affirmative action or reparations as recent plugins.)

    Yet when a member of a patronized minority group gives political offense, the reaction is an old-fashioned smear.

    How dare this uppity faggot disagree with we are Officially Certified as non-bigots? Might it be time to remind them that much as we pity them, there are certain things which will not be tolerated? Ahem. "It is well known, Mr. Finkelstein, that all homosexuals hate themselves, and while we normally are very tolerant and willing to look the other way, you have pushed us too far." What would otherwise have been garden variety antigay rhetoric takes on a veneer of political correctness, as it's always right on to condemn "hypocrisy!"

    And of course, not only is any open homosexual who dissents from the left subject to gay bashing as a self-loathing homosexual hypocrite, but the smear is so beautifully righteous, so pure, that even dissenters who aren't known to be homosexual may now be targeted with impunity. I'm not just talking about the grotesque practice called "outing," either.

    It is my thesis that these "self-loathing" and "hypocrisy" memes supply a perfect cover for a vintage form of antigay bigotry: simply calling someone a homosexual or imputing homosexuality to him because you disagree with him. I remember that such nonsense was a standard form of argument (left and right) in the 1960s, and one of the things I liked about Huey Newton was that he was one of the first to condemn it on the left.

    While it is a logical error (of the ad hominem variety) to assert that an opponent is gay in order to discredit his argument, I think another purpose is simple intimidation grounded in manifest antigay bigotry. That is because the person accused either is gay (or bisexual) or else he is not. If he is gay, then why accuse him of being what he is unless the common assumption is that it's a terrible, discrediting thing to be accused of? And if he is not gay, then once again, unless being gay is a bad thing, trying to turn that into a smear makes about as much sense as accusing someone who isn't Jewish or black of being Jewish or black.

    While much of this "left wing homophobia" is motivated by simple, garden variety anti-gay bigotry, some of it is actually coming from gay sources, like this comment left at Atrios:

    One Thumb (I won't ask where your other one is, though I have my theories), you are offbase. The humorous play on "L-G-F" was not at all demeaning to gays like me. What on earth is homophobic about joking that LGF stands for Loving Gay Friends??? Now, maybe if you'd take your thumb....well, never mind.
    Richard | Email | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 12:02 am | #
    The problem with that argument is that the other comments are loaded with statements which show the clear context is to impute homosexuality not as praise, but as antigay criticism -- something this comment pointed out in reply:
    Richard: The humorous play on "L-G-F" was not at all demeaning to gays like me.

    Fair enough. How 'bout any of these posts?

    That's so gay.
    Smitty Werbenmanjensen 04.13.05 - 5:03 pm

    He looks FAB-ulous!
    Holden Caulfield 04.13.05 - 5:10 pm

    I didn't realize LGFers are gay bikers? Is Gannon/Guckert part of this group?

    Seriously. No snark.
    Yoshimi 04.13.05 - 5:18 pm

    little green fabulous
    focus 04.13.05 - 5:24 pm

    No...what would be better would be to catch them at their favorite gay leather bar and take photographic evidence of their hypocrisy.
    mothra 04.13.05 - 5:30 pm

    No he is a fascionist. A big gay fascionist.
    Yoshimi 04.13.05 - 5:50 pm

    All of these posts came before the little "humorous play on L-G-F." I think it's a bit of a stretch to NOT find any of these demeaning to gays.

    There's a lot of intolerance of pan-Islamic terrorists at LGF. But I guarantee you, there's no way in hell you'll ever find as much insinuation-of-homosexuality-used-as-insult on any thread at LGF as I've seen here.

    Some people need to look in the mirror before slinging accusations of intolerance.
    Lewis | Email | Homepage | 04.14.05 - 12:56 am | #

    Nothing like having the best of both worlds.

    That's the nature of inconsistency. None of it matters, of course, if the goal is power and the audience is the choir.

    posted by Eric at 09:44 AM | Comments (3)




    The search for villains!

    I said it before, I said it repeatedly, and I'll say it again: UNSCAM has been and remains a multinational bipartisan coverup involving both parties, big oil and more.

    Right now the fuss in the press revolves around a sleazy American oil company, a notorious, 1970s-vintage Korean influence peddler, and a Bulgarian.

    Anything to avoid looking at the people at the top. (Nice link roundup via InstaPundit.)

    Like every massive coverup, this one's involved MASSIVE SHREDDING:

    At the United Nations, the senior administrator under Kofi Annan has willfully and deliberately shredded documents that pertained to the greatest rip off in history and Annan lets him retire the same day that he notified Volcker of the documents destruction. The records were so voluminous that it took seven months to shred them all and Annan professes he knows nothing about it, can there be anyone that would believe such a lie. The responsibility stopped with Annan and for this if nothing else he should be forced to resign.
    Only the most cynical of minds could imagine that an investigation might be utilized to shift the blame downhill to the less savory ranks. The kind of people we all love to hate?

    Find the right villain, and you've got half the battle won!

    posted by Eric at 10:31 PM



    Meet the beetles! (A taxing argument for traditional values?)

    An email from a friend directed me to some vital science news. It appears that two scientists have named slime mold beetles for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld!

    The following comes from the text forwarded to me without a link:

    Slime-Mold Beetles Named for Politicians

    Grumps and cynics often compare politicians to worms, bugs and other creepy-crawly creatures. Now, some bugs have been named after three of the world's most powerful politicians. Two American entomologists have named three newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles after President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Lest anyone think that Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and Agathidium rumsfeldi were named out of spite for Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, their nomenclators insist it's a sign of respect. "We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular," said former Cornell entomologist Quentin Wheeler, now the head of entomology at the Natural History Museum in London. Think of that next time you see the Agathidium bushi feasting on mold in its stomping grounds in southern Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia (all red states, in the last election).

    Intrigued by this, my immediate reaction was to put up a blog post, but I like to verify facts before I run around repeating possible Internet rumors and urban legends. Sure enough, I found a scientific abstract listing the above species!

    A dirty left wing trick, you say?

    Not so fast. Here's the BBC:

    Two US scientists have paid tribute to their favourite politicians by naming three species of beetle after them.

    President George Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were all honoured.

    One of the entomologists said he admired all three men for "having the courage of their convictions" and standing up for freedom and democracy.

    The three beetles who now bear their names are among 65 newly discovered species which feed on mould.

    The scientists, Quentin Wheeler and Kelly Miller, discovered the insects after collecting thousands of specimens for study and classification, according to a press release from Cornell University where Mr Wheeler used to work.

    'Prominent teeth'

    They named them Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and Agathidium rumsfeldi.

    Others were named after the scientists' wives, the Star Wars villain Darth Vader and the Greek words for "ugly" and "having prominent teeth".

    But Mr Wheeler, who is now head of entomology at London's Natural History Museum, said the decision to name three beetles after politicians had nothing to do with physical features.

    "One has to be creative with names," he told the BBC news website.

    "We are two of the only politically conservative scientists around, and we decided to stick our necks out." (Emphasis added.)

    The contention that these men were "conservative scientists" intrigued me even more, as I'm used to seeing creative uses of political terminology, and I've been known to do so myself.

    According to science-oriented blogger John Daly, Quentin Wheeler has (along with the controversial E.O. Wilson) in fact co-authored an important argument for "traditional taxonomy":

    ... traditional taxonomy has been downsized in favor of molecular techniques, and as a result we are running out of knowledge with which to properly interpret the DNA data. They call for a new synthesis of traditional, molecular and ICT based approaches.
    Mr. Daly thinks that President Bush should be paying more attention to traditional taxonomy, which he argues is more important than the space program.

    Certainly, insect naming is one way to direct the Bush administration's attention to long-neglected traditional taxonomic values.

    Sure sounds conservative to me!

    (But then, I've been fooled before....)

    As to Dr. Wheeler's beetles, I have to admit, they all look the same. Didn't Spiro Agnew say something like, "When you've seen one, you've seen 'em all?"

    posted by Eric at 01:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)



    A grand is nice, but niceness is grander

    Bloggers have made it to the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer, which features a story headlined "Bloggers count on cybertips":

    The tip jar, which took hold in the early 1990s with the explosion of coffee bars, has long since extended its guilt grip to the dry cleaner, doughnut shop, and ice-cream drive-through.

    So it was probably inevitable that it would migrate to cyberspace, where virtual tip jars have been sparking debates about greed, overreaching and taxes.

    With the tax deadline tomorrow, there has been chatter about whether cybertips are income, an issue the IRS has yet to address.

    But for bloggers with high traffic, devoted followings, or persuasive begging skills, tip jars can mean big bucks, with some A-list bloggers pulling in thousands of dollars a year.

    Susie Madrak's tip jar yielded a car.

    "My readers sent me $1,500 when my car died," said Madrak, of Bensalem, whose feisty Suburban Guerrilla is at www.suburbanguerrilla.blogspot.com.

    Madrak, a fraud investigator and former newspaper journalist, is tooling around in a used Infiniti after sharing her car woes. She begged, hectored, and put up a photo of a cat, warning: "Hit the PayPal or I kill the kitten."

    Also quoted was this expansive (and expensive) view from Atrios:
    On his blog, which he says averages 120,000 page views a day, Atrios said all should give to their favorite bloggers, and wealthy readers should pony up "a grand or two." He no longer solicits tips - although he doesn't turn them down - and relies instead on blog ads.
    And finally (way down at the end of the piece), the Inky quoted the affable (and affordable) Glenn Reynolds:
    "Thanks to all the folks who've sent donations lately. They do a fine job of offsetting the hate mail," University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds wrote recently on Instapundit (www.instapundit.com).

    Reynolds, who says he averages 175,500 page views daily, has told readers he prefers tips to ad revenue because "there's something about someone paying you when they don't have to that makes it nice."

    I'll say this for the "nice" approach: it beats having to pony up a grand or two.

    At prices like Glenn Reynolds', who can't afford to be nice?

    DISCLAIMER: This post was neither solicited nor paid for by Glenn Reynolds, who would probably silently frown on solicitation. (So I won't remind my readers that I don't have a tipjar, nor will I advise them to hit Glenn's instead.)

    UPDATE: If you think Atrios is nice, read the comments to this post, located here. It's one thing to disagree with people, but the venomous hatred directed at Little Green Footballs is something to behold. It doesn't speak well for leftist readers of Atrios that a favorite form of attack is to impute homosexuality to Charles Johnson -- or anyone else. Not long ago, such tactics would have been called "homophobic."

    MORE: Those decrying LGF as a "hate site" should read Brian Tiemann's thoughtful post on the subject. (Via Charles Johnson.)

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Hey, isn't tomorrow April 15?

    I question the timing!

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM



    Illiberal arts?

    Evan Coyne Maloney supplies graphic proof that targets depicting the president riddled with bullet holes are popular on Manhattan's Upper East Side. (Via InstaPundit.)

    Not surprising at all. And while I don't say this in defense of Manhattanites, I suppose the argument could be made that they're a tad kinder and gentler than San Franciscans, who go for stuff like this:

    SFMural.jpg

    UPDATE: More on Bush assassination trendiness here.

    posted by Eric at 09:52 AM | Comments (1)



    Moore's Minutemen strike again

    Another American civilian has been taken hostage in Iraq.

    A US hostage in Iraq has appeared on a video tape urging his government to "open a dialogue with the Iraqi resistance" to save his life.

    The hostage is believed to be Jeffrey Ake, a subcontractor who went missing on Monday, say US officials.

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said they were working "very, very hard" to secure his release but they would not negotiate with his captors.

    No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

    Unlike in previous videos of hostages, there was no banner giving the name of the kidnappers.

    In the video, shown on al-Jazeera satellite television, the hostage sits behind a desk with three armed and masked men standing beside him.

    He is holding up his passport and driver's licence.

    I hope and pray that this guy isn't executed, but I will say this: if he is beheaded and another beheading video is released, it won't help the captors' "cause" at all. Rather, it will only remind us of why we're there, and what the stakes are.

    (An old, old issue for this blog, and despite the attention and notoriety it brought here, I didn't shy away from it then, nor [as I explained] would I in the future.)

    Dr. Rusty Shackleford and James Joyner have much more. Observes the former:

    The demand is standard for these types of videos. However, what is new is the demand for dialogue between the U.S. and insurgents.

    Could this be a further sign of the weakening of the insurgency?

    Since there was no money demand mentioned, it also is very unlikely that those responsible for this kidnapping are financial opportunists. However, part of the deleted audio may have made a ransom demand.

    Further, this is not the M.O. of the usual terrorist suspects. While I cannot say for certain, the video does not appear to show the banners of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq, The Army of Ansar al-Sunna, or The Islamic Army of Iraq.

    Let's hope this is not a repeat of what's happened before.

    posted by Eric at 09:05 AM



    HABEMUS PAPAM!

    A miraculous blogospheric event has taken place!

    The Anti-Carnival has arrived!

    To share in the joyous festivities, go and read the Cardinal of the Vanities #134 - Avignon Edition! This week's Carnival so irritated His Eminence Laurence Cardinal Simon (history's only formerly Amish Cardinal), that invoking his divine authority, he has declared the godless Dr Zen a "Blogheretic", made himself the anti-Pope, and nailed the 95 feces (including my execrable post on Walter Cronkite) to the wall.

    BRAVO!

    Says the new Pope modestly,

    Will the Carnival survive this disruption? Will it wobble on for a bit and right itself?

    Probably. In fact, most certainty. The great thing about the Carnival of the Vanities is that it never stays anywhere too long, and it eventually gets itself back on track. It is greater than any one stop... any one host... any one blog...

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to be sized for a hat and a ring.

    I've already got the robes.

    There's but one ancient phrase appropriate for this occasion:

    Nuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus papam!
    benoit13.jpg

    I love the smell of schisms in the morning!

    UPDATE (04/19/05): This post's title was intended as satire, OK? It was generated in reaction to a Carnival of the Vanities controversy. The reference to (and picture of) an earlier Pope Benedict (XIII) is, I'm sure, purely coincidental!

    Today's post titled "Habemus Papam!" is not satire.

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




    Puff the Protector?

    It looks like Eric's valiant old friend isn't the only pitbull worthy of that title (Link from the Right Coast):

    Two dogs whose breed has a reputation for being mean played the roles of rescuers for a woman who was being attacked by another dog.

    A red chow was on top of Angie Pecoraro, 22, in her yard on Monday when two pit bulls jumped over a fence and fought off the chow, Nebraska Humane Society spokeswoman Pam Wiese said.

    Witnesses said the chow had bitten Pecoraro several times on her hands, arms and stomach, Wiese said.

    An ambulance took Pecoraro to a hospital, where she was treated and released, Wiese said.

    The Humane Society impounded the chow, and its owner was ticketed for not having the dog restrained and for harboring a dangerous animal. It will be quarantined to make sure it doesn't have rabies, Wiese said.

    posted by Dennis at 07:21 PM | Comments (2)



    Sister what?

    I took a test which automatically tells you your Unitarian Jihad Name.

    My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Hand Grenade of Patience.

    Get yours.

    ( Via Brother Howitzer of Moderation.)

    Did I really need to know I was patiently waiting to blow up?

    posted by Eric at 02:20 PM | Comments (2)



    RSVP?

    According to Newsmax, the Arizona Minutemen are poised to invite "Artillery Hillary" Clinton to see their border operation up close.

    "We're thinking of inviting Hillary Clinton," Minuteman founder James Gilchrist told ABC Radio host Sean Hannity, adding that he'd already looked into flight arrangements to Arizona for the former first lady and could provide appropriate security.

    Gilchrist's decision to invite Clinton was likely prompted by her tough comments on border security - remarks that place her sharply to the right of the Bush administration on the issue.

    "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants," she announced in Feb. 2003 radio interview, adding that "people have to stop employing illegal immigrants."

    "I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties," Clinton railed. "Stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx; you're going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work."

    "Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a country," the top Democrat urged.

    In comments last November, the likely 2008 presidential nominee blasted the Bush administration for turning a blind eye to the problems at the border.

    "I don't think that we have protected our borders or our ports or provided our first responders with the resources they need, so we can do more and we can do better," Clinton told the Fox News Channel. "There's technology now available," she noted. "There are some advanced radar systems. There are biometric and other kinds of identification systems that we've been very slow to deploy and unwilling to spend money on."

    Time for tough decisions?

    I'd say.

    Assuming the Minutemen decide to invite her, the toughest decision will be left to Hillary and her staff -- in deciding whether to accept. And even if she decides to decline, penning her regrets will be a job for the pros....

    posted by Eric at 01:31 PM



    Fight Blogotry -- by any means necessary!

    Via Charles Johnson, I see that Heather Mac Donald has expanded upon Steven Levy's contention that blogosphere lacks "diversity."

    If the top blogs link to other top blogs, Levy assumes that they are doing so out of race and gender solidarity. Levy is suggesting that if an Alpha blogger comes across a dazzling blog, he will link to it once he confirms that a white male writes it but pass it up if he discovers, for instance, that a Latino woman is behind its sharp and clever observations on current events.
    Wow. As usual, I'm lagging behind the Blogospheric Bell Curve. I knew I wasn't a certified Alpha Male Blogger, but until now I never suspected that this accounted for a simple fact: there are a number of top bloggers who do not blogroll Classical Values.

    It's blog bigotry -- blogotry for lack of a better word (and I suspect blatant beta blogophobia by alpha blogs might be involved) that's keeping me from achieving the diversity which is mine by right!

    I knew it.

    I just knew it!

    Obviously, the next step is to set up some sort of process headed by the victims ourselves! We should be allowed to elect an ombudsperson ("omblogsman" sounds sexist and New Ageist), so that aggrieved beta bloggers can file official complaints. I for one am sick and tired of hearing the usual suspects prattle on about the blogospere being a "meritocracy" which cannot be policed. Of course it can -- as even Ms. Mac Donald tacitly admits:

    The gatekeepers in the mainstream media — supposedly bigots who deny opportunity to members of various groups unless shamed or bullied into overcoming their prejudice — are not the problem, they are the solution! Far from being bigots, they are, in fact, obsessed with diversity. As Levy puts it, they have "found the will and the means to administer [the] extra care . . . required to make sure public discussion reflects the actual population."
    Might there be a way to police diversity among commenters as well?

    posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (3)



    If I hate myself, I must be wrong?

    A comment from Sean Kinsell to yesterday's post about "self-loathing" made me think some more about what I said yesterday:

    ....[A]s for "self-loathing," you could just as easily accuse people who push their gay-gay-gayness in your face all the time (and build their entire worldview around it) of over-compensating. It's not as if there were any shortage of psychoanalytical cheap shots to go around.
    The fascinating thing about self-loathing is that if we assume that there is such a thing (and obviously there is) why would it be restricted to gay conservatives? Is it not possible that gay leftists might also suffer from self loathing?

    And how about heterosexuals? Liberal, conservative, moderate, libertarian... What's to stop any of these individuals from hating themselves?

    It strikes me as more than a little arrogant to single out and diagnose someone as "self-loathing" without really knowing that person. In the case of Arthur Finkelstein, an assumption is being made that because he is a gay man who supports "the right wing," he must hate himself. Never mind that he has repeatedly criticized the things he disagrees with on the right; all that matters is that he is not on the left. Well, what about gays who are on the left but who feel like political pawns? If they are treated that way and accept it, why aren't they accused of "self loathing?" What about gays who are uncomfortable with supporting certain religious leaders who believe homosexuals are sinners mandated by God to be put to death? If they don't speak out and condemn antigay bigotry (and often they do not), why shouldn't they too be accused of self loathing?

    I don't know why not, but in any event, I don't think "self loathing" is restricted to conservative gays. Nor is it restricted to gays in general.

    Self loathing is a personal issue which ought to be between an individual and a qualified therapist (assuming he needs one).

    Why apply it to politics?

    And why does it seem to be applied more to gays than anyone else? (I'd hate to accuse anyone of "Neohomophobia.")

    posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (4)




    Fun at the Carnival?

    This week's Carnival of the Vanities is written by a European blogger named Dr. Zen who seems to dislike conservatives and libertarians, and who doesn't have a terribly high opinion of Americans in general. He's entitled to his opinion, of course, but he spends most of his time, well, fisking the posts. Odd, because he says this:

    I've never been a great fan of "fisking" because I'm a great fan of Robert Fisk, whose intellect and acuity dwarf those of most, if not all, of his detractors.
    I think he's being modest. He does a great job of fisking. Just because I disagree with him doesn't mean he shouldn't have his fun.

    And fun it is! Dr. Zen thinks this 64 year old man should spend his life in prison for defending himself against a brutal attack. Har!

    Despite this slapstick sense of humor, Dr. Zen seems to have inexplicably missed the tongue in cheek satire inherent in this blog since its inception. Why else would he go out of his way to say he's "guessing" that Classical Values "doesn't include a frank enjoyment of pederasty." Golly Gee....

    Why the need to guess about things like that? As I've said before, I'm actually, resolutely, opposed to adults having sex with minors!

    How shockingly modern of me!

    But why did he stop with child sex? Why not speculate over whether I might be against slavery? Or torture? (Might I have been serious when I suggested crucifixion for spammers?)

    Lots of fun if you don't look too hard.

    MORE: This same "Dr. Zen" was rude enough to call Carnival founder Silflay Hraka a racist at his own blog! And even after that, Bigwig let him do the Carnival. (Another example of how Americans cleverly conceal their bigotry and selfishness....)

    AND MORE: The same (I think) Dr Zen seems to have been involved in some sort of dispute with Wikipedia over the removal of pictures here:

    Dr Zen is an intractable edit warrior who's sense of consensus appears to be that he is right and everybody else is wrong. This manifests most clearly at Clitoris, where he has persistantly waged an edit war to remove an illustrative picture of a clitoris from the page. He has made it clear that he has no intention of listening to consensus, and that he will revert until the cows come home. The page quieted down late January when he left for a while. Upon his return two days ago, the page has been the subject of an edit war once again. He has also attacked admins who have suggested that this act might be vandalism as "bullyboys" as in [1], where he also declares his intention to keep reverting. Needless to say, this sterile edit warring and aggression towards anyone who dares disagree is problematic.
    In fairness to Dr Zen, here's his view of Wikipedia:
    I need a new forum. I'm tired of the uselessnet, which is for knobheads. I'm tired of wikipedia, which is a c*nt magnet with its own c*nt gestapo, with more fuckheads than my pantry has moths. I need a solution for moths in the pantry. I have become willing to exterminate them, so long as I don't have to see it or remove the carcasses.
    Sheesh! There I go censoring words -- despite the fact that I don't believe in censorship!

    At this rate my blog will be content filtered again..... I had to delete a comment last night for its graphic language describing sex acts performed upon Jesse Helms -- and yet I claim to be against censorship! Next I'll be deleting pictures!

    Does my hypocrisy know no bounds?


    UPDATE:

    HABEMUS PAPAM!

    The Anti-Carnival has arrived! Read the Cardinal of the Vanities #134 - Avignon Edition! This week's Carnival so irritated Laurence Simon, that he's declared Dr Zen a "blogheretic", made himself the anti-Pope, and nailed the 95 feces (including my execrable post on Walter Cronkite) to the wall.

    BRAVO!

    Plus, there's some interesting dialogue at the Carnival comments. A gem from Dr Zen:

    We were smart enough to find America, fuckhead.
    I'd say "watch your pronoun...."

    More details on the new Pope here.

    posted by Eric at 10:59 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (1)



    Hey, was that me? On CNN?

    I really should watch more TV. Especially today because Classical Values was mentioned on CNN.

    I would probably have never known about this had Graham Lester not been kind enough to leave a comment to my earlier post (asking whether it's self-loathing for gays to oppose Hillary Clinton):

    Eric, you are a star! This post just got a mention on Inside the Blogs on CNN (part of Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics program).
    I tracked down the transcript, and here's the discussion:
    WOODRUFF: Former president Bill Clinton is causing a lot of buzz today in cyberspace with his comments about A political opponent of his wife, Hillary. So what are the bloggers saying? We check in now with our blog reporters, Jacki Schechner and Cal Chamberlain.

    Hi, Jacki.

    JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Yeah, President Bill Clinton's comments regarding GOP operative Arthur Finkelstein getting some attention on the blogs today. Clinton found out that Finkelstein was the strategist behind the "Stop Hillary Now" campaign, and he wasn't happy. And because Finkelstein is gay and a Republican, Clinton wondering out loud if Finkelstein wasn't going through some self-loathing.

    We start at the Republic of T -- that it "T", not tea. That other one will take you to a beverage site, as we've learned. He says over there -- his name is Terrence, and he's actually a gay father in D.C. He says he's not a huge fan of Hillary's "shuffle to the right routine of late" but thinks her husband has a point. Down at the bottom of the post, it says, "Doesn't working for or supporting a party run by people who despise you and for candidates who don't think you deserve equal citizenship automatically entail a certain degree of self-loathing?"

    CAL CHAMBERLAIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Then we have Eric over at Classical Values' blog, classicalvalues.com, who's got a couple of comments and questions for Bill Clinton, and his question is, "While Bill Clinton's loyalty to his wife is admirable, I've got questions about self-loathing. One, is self-loathing for a gay person to oppose Hillary Rodham Clinton? Two, or is it the self-loathing to be a gay Republican who disagrees with his party?" And then he goes on the comment: "I could see Bill Clinton's point if Arthur Finklestein actively opposed that, which he has now done. But from what I've read, this simply isn't the case. According to the 'New York Times,' Finkelstein is on record as a staunch opponent of the moral conservative wing of the Republican party."

    SCHECHNER: Michael Ball over at Merion (ph), Massachusetts, that's massmerrier.blospot.com (ph), wondering if Finkelstein is not another Roy Cowen -- that of course a reference to Joseph McCarthy's right-hand man, who happened to be homosexual -- saying that Finkelstein "has earned his living for decades advising the worst of the hate mongers. And while he was outed as gay in '96, he persisted in working for homophobic Republican right," -- also mentioning that Finkelstein was married in Massachusetts to his lover of 40 years, benefiting from those advantages that his party is so violently against.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Wish I'd seen it.

    I'm really grateful not just for the mention, but for CNN and Judy Woodruff's professionalism in presenting both sides.

    As to my questions for Bill Clinton, I guess I'll just have to be patient.

    (I'm used to waiting . . .)

    posted by Eric at 07:07 PM



    Whack A Mole
    Don't you wonder why practically every house built in America after World War Two is a design abortion? The answer is actually simple but a little abstruse: ugliness is entropy made visible. When you live in a high entropy society, as we do, the entropy manifests in many ways...

    Until yesterday I had never heard of James Kunstler. This I know for a fact. And yet, reading an excerpt from his latest book in “Rolling Stone”, I got the feeling that I knew him of old, that he and I had a history of sorts, twice removed. It was quite uncanny really, as though some bizarre matter-transmitter tragedy had created a new author by fusing the molecules of Jeremy Rifkin with those of Paul Ehrlich, generating a monstrous, yet all too familiar hybrid. Forget about the Brundlefly, we’ve got the Kunstleria Riflichus. Or would that be the Rifkinia Kunstlich?

    It saddens me that I actually agree with the man, to a point. America is not as beautiful as I might wish it to be. Thankfully however, our responses to that simple fact differ crucially. Mine is to shrug and avert my eyes. Within fairly broad limits, it’s none of my business how other folks choose to live. His is to write book after book detailing our esthetic crimes, all the while hoping that some horrific (though well deserved) social or environmental calamity will steer us back toward craftsman style bungalows.


    Include me out. Arch social critic James “Hurricane” Wolcott may think the man is insightful, but from where I’m standing, he’s just another doom-monger.

    What you're about to read may challenge your assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and especially the kind of world into which events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory.

    Here’s a little bit of recycled Ehrlich. Compare and contrast.

    What are the prospects for the future? We are facing within the next three decades, the disintegration of an unstable world of nation-states infected with growthmania....This is what underlies the sudden, seemingly mysterious shortages and the widespread inflation that have plagued the world.

    Here's Mr. Kunstler again.

    It has been very hard for Americans…to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society…

    Mr. Kunstler, on the other hand, has it all figured out.

    Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life…
    The few Americans who are even aware that there is a gathering global-energy predicament usually misunderstand the core of the argument…

    That's because we’re idiots. But luckily, there are really smart guys like James Kunstler to explain it all to us.

    The term "global oil-production peak" means that a turning point will come when the world produces the most oil it will ever produce in a given year and, after that, yearly production will inexorably decline.

    Man, that is lucid.

    It is usually represented graphically in a bell curve. The peak is the top of the curve, the halfway point of the world's all-time total endowment, meaning half the world's oil will be left…It's the half that is much more difficult to extract, far more costly to get, of much poorer quality and located mostly in places where the people hate us…

    Oh. Well then we’re going to have to spend more for a full tank, right? Wrong. It's much worse than that.

    The best estimates of when this will actually happen have been somewhere between now and 2010. In 2004, however…the most knowledgeable experts revised their predictions and now concur that 2005 is apt to be the year of all-time global peak production.

    Our doom, long foretold, is now upon us.

    It will change everything about how we live.

    Seems like it always does.

    Some other things about the global energy predicament are poorly understood by the public and even our leaders. This is going to be a permanent energy crisis, and these energy problems will synergize with the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease and population overshoot to produce higher orders of trouble.

    Permanent, huh? So, we won’t be able to invent our way out of it this time. Oh no, THIS time escape is impossible.

    We will have to accommodate ourselves to fundamentally changed conditions.

    Maybe the three of them roomed together at college.

    No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders of steady technological progress achieved through the reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome…

    “No combination.” All he’s trying to say here is that we’re doomed, no matter what shabby little technological fix is proposed. We’ve definitely got no hope unless we follow the Prescriptions of the Prophet. It’s just that simple. Why don’t you people ever listen? We need comprehensive social change!

    The widely touted "hydrogen economy" is a particularly cruel hoax. We are not going to replace the U.S. automobile and truck fleet with vehicles run on fuel cells. For one thing, the current generation of fuel cells is largely designed to run on hydrogen obtained from natural gas.

    Actually, Rifkin was bullish on hydrogen just a couple of years ago. Does this make him guilty of perpetrating a “cruel hoax”? Nah. Kunstler is probably referring to Bush’s state of the union address…

    The other way to get hydrogen in the quantities wished for would be electrolysis of water using power from hundreds of nuclear plants. Apart from the dim prospect of our building that many nuclear plants soon enough, there are also numerous severe problems with hydrogen's nature as an element that present forbidding obstacles to its use as a replacement for oil and gas, especially in storage and transport.

    God knows we wouldn’t want to emulate French power generation. We’re probably not smart enough. However, alternative-energy wonk Amory Lovins says he is wrong about the hydrogen transport (interesting rebuttal here). And he has his own Institute. So there.

    Wishful notions about rescuing our way of life with "renewables" are also unrealistic. Solar-electric systems and wind turbines face not only the enormous problem of scale but the fact that the components require substantial amounts of energy to manufacture and the probability that they can't be manufactured at all without the underlying support platform of a fossil-fuel economy…

    Didn’t I read this back in 1980? Yeah, more than once. I think Rifkin said it, then changed his mind.

    Virtually all "biomass" schemes for using plants to create liquid fuels cannot be scaled up to even a fraction of the level at which things are currently run. What's more, these schemes are predicated on using oil and gas "inputs"…

    Do you sense the pattern, brothers and sisters?
    Proposals to distill trash and waste into oil by means of thermal depolymerization depend on the huge waste stream produced by a cheap oil and gas economy in the first place.

    Nothing we do will work…
    Coal is far less versatile than oil and gas, extant in less abundant supplies than many people assume and fraught with huge ecological drawbacks…You can make synthetic oil from coal, but the only time this was tried on a large scale was by the Nazis under wartime conditions, using impressive amounts of slave labor.

    No matter what we try…
    If we wish to keep the lights on in America after 2020, we may indeed have to resort to nuclear power, with all its practical problems and eco-conundrums. Under optimal conditions, it could take ten years to get a new generation of nuclear power plants into operation, and the price may be beyond our means

    Um, if we can’t afford it, nobody can.
    The upshot of all this is that we are entering a historical period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship. Obviously, geopolitical maneuvering around the world's richest energy regions has already led to war…

    Well, damn me to hell, now I have to go and agree with him again.
    If China wanted to, it could easily walk into some of these places -- the Middle East, former Soviet republics in central Asia -- and extend its hegemony by force. Is America prepared to contest for this oil in an Asian land war with the Chinese army? I doubt it…

    The interesting thing about the observation above, particularly when it hasn’t been ripped screaming from its surrounding context, is that he allows China a much more effective use of their military. They can extend their hegemony by force with no problems, but we will inevitably bog down and have to withdraw to our own hemisphere, like whipped curs. Hmm.
    …the Long Emergency will require us to make other arrangements for the way we live in the United States. America is in a special predicament due to a set of unfortunate choices we made as a society in the twentieth century. Perhaps the worst was to let our towns and cities rot away and to replace them with suburbia, which had the additional side effect of trashing a lot of the best farmland in America.

    According to Fishman’s excellent book, suburbs predate the automobile by a comfortable margin. Their roots can be traced back to eighteenth century England.
    Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world…

    That seems a bit harsh. I’m pretty sure that somebody, somewhere, has done something worse. Try the Ukraine under Stalin for starters. Then ask the survivors of Mao’s famines. And if things really do go to hell here, couldn’t we plant victory gardens or something? That will be a lot easier if we have yards to plant them in. In the suburbs.
    The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work.

    Whoah. Guess you didn’t see that one coming, did you? Why do they always want to reshape everything we do? Here’s a gobbet of Rifkin from 1980.
    There is no doubt that we are in for a massive institutional realignment….But before we can even begin to broadly outline the nature of agriculture, industry, and commerce in a low-entropy society, we must turn our attention to first principles….the Big Questions of the past are destined to re-emerge in the low-entropy world that awaits us…

    And, a little Kunstler from 2005…

    Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are. Anything organized on the large scale…will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away…
    As industrial agriculture fails…we will certainly have to grow more of our food closer to where we live, and do it on a smaller scale. The American economy of the mid-twenty-first century may actually center on agriculture…This is no doubt a startling, radical idea, and it raises extremely difficult questions about the reallocation of land and the nature of work…Food production will necessarily be much more labor-intensive than it has been for decades.

    And a little Rifkin…

    Agriculture, which will no longer be able to continue its mechanized farming techniques, will also become far more labor intensive….
    And they both just love the idea.
    We can anticipate the re-formation of a native-born American farm-laboring class. It will be composed largely of the aforementioned economic losers…These masses of disentitled people may enter into quasi-feudal social relations with those who own land in exchange for food and physical security…
    Peasants again. Always with the peasants. Here’s more Rifkin, from twenty-five years ago…

    In a low-entropy culture the individual is expected to live a much more frugal or Spartan life-style….In the new age, the less production and consumption necessary to maintain a healthy, decent life, the better….

    Aaand, back to the future…

    The way that commerce is currently organized in America will not survive far into the Long Emergency. Wal-Mart's "warehouse on wheels" won't be such a bargain in a non-cheap-oil economy…

    Perhaps so. But if the price of oil goes sky high and stays there, I see a different response in the offing. Kunstler sees us abandoning the mega-industrial paradigm. I see us mucking through an unpleasant decade or two, then coming back strong. The Great Depression didn’t sour people on the Roaring Twenties did it? People will want to regain what they lost, and then some. Wouldn't you?
    As these things occur, America will have to make other arrangements for the manufacture, distribution and sale of ordinary goods. They will probably be made on a "cottage industry" basis rather than the factory system we once had, since the scale of available energy will be much lower…

    Peasants in cottages, hoarding their scant energy, handweaving by rushlight and singing the weaving songs. Perhaps that’s unfair, but it does seem to accord with the spirit of his proposals.
    Tens of thousands of the common products we enjoy today, from paints to pharmaceuticals, are made out of oil. They will become increasingly scarce or unavailable. The selling of things will have to be reorganized at the local scale…

    This strikes me as totally unrealistic. The amount of oil converted to plastics, paints, and drugs is just a small fraction of what we burn for fuel. Is the guy innumerate? And about that local scale reorganization. If we weren’t forced to such measures in, just as a for instance, 1876, then why would we abandon the advantages of national scale markets and global trade today? After the cattle got to Abilene, they rode a train to Chicago. After the cotton left America, it sailed to France.
    …society is deluged by a plethora of material effluence—microwave ovens, hair dryers, automobiles that poison the air, and prescription drugs that poison the body….

    That was Rifkin again, presaging the future. Here’s Kunstler, today.

    The automobile will be a diminished presence in our lives, to say the least. With gasoline in short supply, not to mention tax revenue, our roads will surely suffer. The interstate highway system is more delicate than the public realizes…

    Back to Rifkin, in 1980.
    Along with the scaling down of cities, transportation systems are also going to be vastly reoriented in the years to come. The high cost of energy is going to force a fundamental shift in the pattern of travel away from automobiles and trucks and toward greater mass transit and long-distance rail use…

    Next they’ll be going after the planes…
    …if we don't refurbish our rail system, then there may be no long-range travel or transport of goods at all a few decades from now. The commercial aviation industry, already on its knees financially, is likely to vanish…

    Could be true. What’s Paul Ehrlich saying, back in 1974?
    Heavy industry...may undergo very little further increase. Some types of manufacturing indeed may even collapse abruptly, depending on the availability of raw materials and energy and on the course of events. The most unnecessary, wasteful, and antisocial activities-such as the packaging and bottling industries, some kinds of weapons, aircraft, cheap plastic products, etc.-are likely to be eliminated either in a conventional depression or the real energy crunch.

    Four years later, Jeremy Rifkin added his two cents.

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

    “This has all happened before. This will all happen again.”

    The successful regions in the twenty-first century will be the ones surrounded by viable farming hinterlands…Small towns and smaller cities have better prospects than the big cities…New York and Chicago face extraordinary difficulties…They will be encysted in a surrounding fabric of necrotic suburbia…

    Necrotic suburbia. Cysts. Nice imagery, I have to admit. But again, surely all those lawns could be put into production? Is there really no hope?
    The Long Emergency is going to be a tremendous trauma for the human race…If there is any positive side to stark changes coming our way, it may be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically) with our neighbors…

    Sounds repellant. For this, I give up my industrial civilization? Oh right, I won’t have a choice.
    Years from now, when we hear singing at all, we will hear ourselves, and we will sing with our whole hearts.

    Singing the old harvest songs no doubt, because our iPods have all died. Hmm. Maybe you could power them with a crank, like those little flashlights and emergency radios.

    I’m sorry I can’t take all this gloom and doom seriously. But then, I’ve seen it before. And thinking about it, I see that there’s more doom than gloom, if you take my meaning. Mister K. actually seems pretty chipper about the situation, considering. You might think he’s, you know, looking forward to it. Turns out he has been, for quite some time. Get a load of this

    Writing this in April of ‘99, I believe that we are in for a serious event. Systems will fail, crash, seize up, cease to function. Not all systems, maybe only a fraction, but enough, and enough interdependent systems to affect many other systems. Y2K is real. Y2K is going to rock our world.

    Now we’re talking, baby. Y2K. The end is nigh.

    People will consequently suffer. I don’t know how much. Some people may lose their lives - but more likely at the hands of a disabled medical establishment than because of civil disorder, loss of power, starvation, bad water, or other projected horrors (though these, too, are possible). Some will suffer the loss of fortunes, some of any income whatsoever, and many of something in between…

    There is a situation looming in our future that will be genuinely, shockingly dangerous. We don’t know what it is yet, but early detection and fast action may well prove critical to our survival. And we’re not listening as well as we once did. There are distractions.

    We have been barraged with pieces of falling sky that never hit. Mischievous boys have talked up pack after pack of wolves that never bit. Lake Erie didn’t die. The whales were saved. Y2K did nothing to anyone. A body could be forgiven for tiring of this incessant crisis mongering.

    Someday we’ll wish we had listened better. I think of it as the Jor-El syndrome. If the Kyptonian ruling council had listened to Jor-El, the entire planet could have been saved from the impending cataclysm. They were warned. But they didn’t listen, did they? Perhaps they too had been inundated with false alarms that didn’t pan out. Perhaps one partisan lobbyist too many had come through their doors that week. Boom. Planet gone.

    So is this Kunstler fellow another Jor-El (Cassandra, if you prefer), or is he just a noisy crank? Well, we already know he’s a crank, so the categories aren’t mutually exclusive. But is he correct? Perhaps, but only in part. His diagnosis may be correct. His prognosis is almost certainly wrong, and I would strenuously advise against swallowing his prescribed remedies.

    The foregoing may seem to be little more than unsupported generality. I will be more specific below. I won't knock myself out trying to empirically demonstrate the "truth" of these assertions. It seems to me that the Y2K problem is so broad, systemic, and unprecedented that imagining its repercussions calls for something beside conventional thinking…

    By all means, he shouldn’t knock himself out. And we won’t mind unconventional thinking, oh no, no, no.
    Since the effects of Y2K are apt to follow fractal pathways of self-organization - with strange, surprising twists - understanding them may be better served by a mind in free flight. These scenarios therefore should be taken for what they are: an exercise in human imagining.

    Well, that’s okay then. We won’t hold him to anything. And don’t say fractal.
    I assume that anyone reading this already knows enough about underlying problem. I am more interested in the social, economic, cultural, and political ramifications. Personally, I have moved from an emotional state of surprise, to alarm, to despair, and now to hopeful anticipation of Y2K in the months since I first heard my wake-up call.

    Wait a minute, he’s looking forward to it?
    It was a lovely July day, 1998. I was driving to Schroon Lake on the Adirondack Northway (I-87) when Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah) came on a noontime NPR broadcast and told the audience that Y2K was a global problem that had to be taken very very seriously. He explained why. It was all new to me…

    But it sounded so great!
    I was stunned and fascinated by the implications. In the months that followed, I read whatever I could find about Y2K. Coverage in the regular media turned out to be rather sparse and shallow…The poor quality of their coverage may be more a reflection of the public’s ridiculously short attention span these days…

    In truth, I do have a rather short attention span. Thanks for reminding me, genius boy.
    Two of my books, The Geography of Nowhere and Home From Nowhere, are about the mess we’ve made of the American landscape and the degradation of our towns and cities. Even before I ever heard of Y2K, I concluded that our practices and habits in placemaking the past half century have resulted in a human habitat that is ecologically catastrophic, economically insane, socially toxic, spiritually degrading, and fundamentally unsustainable.

    So then, his worldview has always sort of leaned toward the doom side…
    To plagiarize myself: we have built a land of scary places and become a nation of scary people.

    And with his latest book he is trying to be an even scarier person. All in a good cause, of course.
    For five years, I had been flying around the country telling college lecture audiences and conference-goers that our fucked up everyday environment…was liable to put us out of business as a civilization. I asserted that the culture growing in this foul medium had gotten so bloated and diseased that it would succumb sooner rather than later to its own idiot inertia.

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

    That last was Jeremy Rifkin again. If I hadn’t told you, would you have guessed? Back to Kunstler.

    I still believe that today. It is both a conviction and a wish, because to go on in our current mode would be culturally suicidal.

    And he knows this because of his hyper-acute esthetic sensitivity. Ours is a nation of ugliness rampant.
    During this period I became active in the Congress for the New Urbanism…While I wholeheartedly support its goals, I have doubted that this reform process would occur without a painful and disorderly period of transition. Our investment in the status quo is too enormous.

    So perhaps stronger measures are called for. As always.
    The strip mall developers, the highway builders, the trucking interests, the realtors, the auto-makers, the jet-ski manufacturers, the hamburger franchisers, the theme park owners - all those contributing to the cancerous process that politicians call "growth" - will not quit what they’re doing, and find something less destructive to do, without a crisis in the cultural medium that supports their activities…

    So a crisis would be a really, really good thing to have. The sooner the better.
    …I now see Y2K as the mechanism that will force events to a tipping point much more quickly and surely. Over the next year, many elements of "normal" American life are going to hit a wall of dysfunction…There will be a lot of economic losers, including people who thought they had it made…It’s going to be a hairy time. Y2K is a bitch-slap upside the head of American culture. With a two-by-four.

    Time out while our guest speaker smacks his lips approvingly. Mmm. Big disaster.
    Y2K will converge with and amplify other forces already in motion around the world…I believe it will deeply affect the economies-of-scale of virtually all activities in the United States, essentially requiring us to downsize and localize everything from government to retail merchandising to farming.

    If you can’t downsize and localize today, hold on. Stand fast. A new crisis should be along any time now.

    If nothing else, I expect Y2K to destabilize world petroleum markets. These disruptions will be at least as bad as those produced by the 1973 OPEC oil embargo (so-called). The aftershocks of that event thundered through the American economy for the rest of the decade…

    The important thing is to restructure all of society. The crisis itself is just an enabling tool.
    At every stage of the supply line, oil is vulnerable to disruption. The supply infrastructure of the oil industry is among the most computer and embedded chip dependent of all industries…Without oil, there are no other industries, in the modern sense of the word. If somewhere between five and 30 percent of our imported oil fails to get here, I think you can be sure that we are in for an economic kick in the ass far more severe than the 1973 OPEC embargo.

    And don’t we all just deserve it?
    Such an oil shortfall would put at hazard such "normal" American activities as national chain retail and industrialized agriculture. I doubt that the WalMarts and K-Marts of the land will survive Y2K…They will not be able to adapt to even modest changes, and especially fluctuations, in their business equation.

    Cretinous poltroons, all of them. Extinction’s too good for that lot.
    …we are going to need local agriculture again, practiced on a smaller and more organic scale. We are going to regret turning some of our best farmland proximate to towns and cities into shopping malls and suburban housing tracts.

    Do the math, draw your own conclusions. Australian beef fed England, one hundred years ago.
    The more intractably car-dependent a place is, the more people will suffer in it. In an oil crunch as bad or worse than 1973, places like Long Island, Northern New Jersey, the San Fernando Valley, Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami, Las Vegas…are apt to become uninhabitable…I believe that we will see astonishing losses in the value of suburban real estate of all types…The sheer equity losses emanating out of Y2K will make the Savings and Loan disaster look like a small-time re-po job.

    Said with such an air of authority. Good thing he told us it was all just imaginary.
    We have been living in a nation where local economies and local cultures have been practically exterminated by large scale national corporate enterprise…The small farm was put out of business. Local commerce was effectively exterminated…Local manufacturing was superseded first by industrial giantism and centralization, and then shifted altogether out of the country to places where foreign peasants worked for peanuts…American communities imploded. With no merchant class, many small towns across America lost the caretakers of their local civic institutions. With damaged community institutions, and no useful honorable work, social norms disintegrated and, even in the lily-white small town backwaters, we got an underclass culture of criminality, teen parenthood, domestic violence, illiteracy.

    I was wondering what had caused all that. I used to think it was entropy.
    Each day we awake to a world that appears more confused and disordered than the one we left the night before. Nothing seems to work anymore…Our leaders are forever lamenting and apologizing…The powers that be continue to address the problems at hand with solutions that create even greater problems than the ones they were meant to solve...

    That was Rifkin again.

    The aftermath of Y2K will require us to do things differently. We are going to have to live more locally, and more self-dependently. All our activities will have to be conducted on a finer scale…There will be less room in our lives for junk of all kinds…We are going to have to re-invent smaller-scaled farms (with value-adding activities), and we’re going to have to localize, or at least regionalize, commerce.

    Amen, brother Kunstler! We’re all going to love it. Well, most of us anyway…
    Surely a sizable fraction of the American people are going to be very pissed off by the need to change. They will view these events as a swindle cooked up by imagined "enemies" and they will look for scapegoats. As a nominal Jew, the prospect of this naturally makes me nervous, but not enough to deny the possibility of it happening.

    Hmmm.
    Y2K will not "strike" at the midnight hour on 1/1/00. It will unfold fractally as a series of events over the next several years, with accelerating disruptions across the remainder of 1999, a "spike" of failures around New Year 2000, and a ripple of consequences accumulating, amplifying, and reverberating for months and even years afterward. I expect problems with business and government to be evident by the middle of 1999. A lot of failures will not be announced to the public until well after the fact…

    Why start hedging now? I say go for broke. And don't say fractally.

    I believe the aggregate economic effect of these failures will be a worldwide deflationary depression. I will not be surprised if it is as bad in terms of unemployment and hardship as the 1930s. I expect that it will be attended by international political and military mischief…in such a climate there are good reasons to anticipate domestic political trouble, too - America may turn to some charismatic political maniac…

    That’s the spirit! Half the country thinks you were right!
    If we are fortunate and intelligent, Y2K will prompt us to reduce the scale of our cities, reduce the role of the private automobile in our lives generally, and humanize our surroundings with purposeful design and deliberate attempts to create beauty. This is perhaps wishful and idealistic, but isn’t in the nature of human aspiration to hope for better things [like a global depression] and undertake to make them happen? Besides, what is the alternative? Obviously, I believe that a continuation of the status quo will not be possible under any circumstances…

    But he’s already told us that we’re neither intelligent nor fortunate. Huh. Now what do we do?
    The most deeply humanistic of Y2K writers, Wheatley and Charmichael, have the right idea, I think, when they say we should regard Y2K as a "teacher," that we should learn from this set of potential tribulations, and use the harsh lessons it offers as an opportunity to make a better world, starting with our own communities
    .
    Well, that sounds eminently sensible. I guess we should all start making lemonade.
    History is merciless. History is not shedding any tears for the Pharoanic Egyptians, for the Hittites, the Minoans, the Romans, the Maya, the Soviet Leninists, or any other culture that has poured itself down a rathole. History is merciless, but the human race is resilient. Personally, I’m confident that life will go on, that civilization will pick itself up, slog forward, and eventually advance one way or another. Cycles are endemic to the human condition. We may cycle into a period of cultural darkness as a result of Y2K. If that is our destiny, tough noogies for us. We should have known better. We had some good things going for us: democracy, the movies, space travel, indoor plumbing, painless dentistry, jazz, great restaurants, a beautiful country. . . . We became a fat, complacent, and slovenly culture. I hope that our grandchildren do better.

    I think he’s got anger issues.
    Gird your loins and God bless us all.

    Consider me girded.

    posted by Justin at 05:59 PM | Comments (5)



    Finally, news reaches the little people . . .

    I am happy to report that the Canadian government scandal (which my local paper previously and repeatedly failed to report) has finally made it into the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    OTTAWA, Canada - Prime Minister Paul Martin scrambled yesterday to prevent the fall of his government amid a kickback scandal in his Liberal Party, as a new poll showed the opposition Conservatives would easily win elections if held today.

    Martin reiterated that he had nothing to do with the ethics case, in which party members are accused of having taken kickbacks from ad agencies hired to promote federalism in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

    "Not only do I have the moral authority, I have the moral responsibility" to keep the government afloat until the full inquiry concludes in the fall, Martin said. "Canadians are entitled to ask someone to step forward, and I'm the prime minister of this country. I can assure you that anyone who has been implicated is going to be punished."

    How long Martin could maintain his post was uncertain, and the halls of Parliament were rife with speculation on whether elections were around the corner.

    The separatist Bloc Quebecois could introduce a confidence motion by Thursday, though the more powerful Conservative Party was hedging, knowing most Canadians are not keen for new elections.

    "There is a depth of anger there. The Liberal Party is in deep, deep trouble," said Richard Simeon, professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

    A poll published yesterday by the Toronto Star indicated that only 25 percent of those questioned last week would vote for the Liberals if elections were held today. The Conservatives were backed by 36 percent, up 10 points from a survey in February.

    Better late than never!

    I'm delighted, of course. News is news, and it should be reported when it is known. Otherwise, we have two classes of people: elitists who know, and the ordinary uninformed who don't. It strikes me as bordering on fraud when those entrusted to do the reporting fail to do so even when they know what's going on.

    That said, I recognize that there are two sides to the Canadian publication ban. Nick Packwood warns against blanket condemnation of the ban by people who don't understand the facts:

    Unless and until you would prefer another standard of guilt I suggest you give that thought some consideration before pointing fingers about the imminent collapse of democracy in this country. Justice Gomery is no fan of the Liberal government or its last incarnation under Jean Chretien. He is doing his job and in so doing he is defending our democracy.
    This may well be true, and while I'm hesitant to lecture other countries without all the facts, my primary gripe is with the American news media. They are under no duty to follow foreign bans on publication, and in my opinion they should not.

    UPDATE: Canadian blogger Colby Cosh has lots more (on the steering of public money into a "swamp of federo-separatist crooks, or separo-federalist ones"), and concludes by asking,

    Do the French have a word for the situation in which a monstrous excuse for criminal conduct doesn't even turn out to be factually correct? I'm pretty sure English doesn't.
    We Americans don't need no stinking words!

    posted by Eric at 05:40 PM | Comments (3)



    A definition worth a Hill of Beans!
    You have been tried by twelve good men and true who are as high above you as heaven is of hell. Time will pass and seasons will come and go. Spring will come with its wavin' green grass and heaps of sweet-smellin' flowers on every hill. Then sultry Summer with her shimmerin' heat waves and Fall with her yeller harvest moon and the hills a-growin' brown and golden under a sinkin' sun. And finally Winter with all the land mantled with snow. But you won't be here to see any of 'em; not by a damned sight because it's the order of this court that you be took to the nearest tree and hanged by the neck until you're dead, dead, dead, you olive-colored, chili-eatin', sheep-stealin' son of a bitch.

    -- Judge Roy Bean (on sentencing a convicted sheep thief)

    Judge Bean (picture here) was known as "the Law West of the Pecos" and according to most accounts, he did whatever he wanted.

    Was he a judicial activist who should have been reined in by Congress? This begs the question of what constitutes judicial activism. I’ve been searching for an easy definition, and I’m more confused than ever before.

    The definition of "judicial activism" depends on who’s asking the question. And who's being asked.

    Here's Hillary Clinton's definition:

    . . . [E]vidence of judicial supremacy is not hard to find. In addition to installing a President, the Supreme Court has invalidated acts of Congress at the most astounding rate ever in our Nation's history. In the eight decades between the Founding and Reconstruction, the Court struck down a federal statute on only two occasions. By the mid-1920s, the Court had struck down about 50 acts of Congress over a 130-year period, far less than one per year. The Warren Court, widely regarded as an "activist" Court, invalidated federal laws in about 20 cases over a 16-year period, slightly more than one a year. In contrast, the Rehnquist Court in the last eight Terms alone has struck down acts of Congress in no fewer than 32 cases-a rate of four cases a year. By any measure, the current Court is one of the most activist, if not the most activist, Supreme Court, ever in American history.

    It is possible, of course, that this trendline simply reflects the growth of federal power over the last century and, along with it, an increased need to safeguard personal liberty. We expect the Supreme Court to protect individual rights from what Tocqueville famously called "the tyranny of the majority." In cases where free speech or due process is at stake, that is arguably what the Court is doing.

    But that explains only part of the data, not all. In 11 of the 32 cases where the current Court has struck down a federal law, the Court did so not to protect individual rights, but to protect States' rights-in many cases, to protect States from the enforcement of civil rights guaranteed by federal law.

    Now, apart from their sheer number, the 11 cases are nothing short of stunning when understood in historical context. The line-up includes the first cases in 60 years where the Court has imposed a substantive limit on what Congress can and cannot do under the Commerce Clause; the first cases since Reconstruction where the Court has limited Congress's power to combat discrimination; and, this past Term, the first case ever to shield States from private complaints before federal agencies authorized by Congress to adjudicate such complaints.

    Whew! I had no idea that Hillary Clinton was so staunchly opposed to judicial activism.

    But meanwhile, here’s Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, quoted in the National Review:

    Earlier this month, Alabama state attorney general and filibustered judicial nominee William Pryor arrived at Harvard Law School, an institution that The Economist once deemed "the command center of American liberalism." Pryor came to speak on "Christian Duty and the Rule of Law," and in doing so he issued a compelling reminder: The judicial activism preached by countless legal scholars is not the province of only one political party. The activism of the liberal Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is no different from the activism of the conservative Alabama judge Roy Moore. And in neither case is it justified.
    Roy Moore is no different from the homo-lovin' Massachusetts Supreme Court? (Hey. I'm only reporting what I found in the National Review....)

    Judicial activists, of course, supply fuel for each other. Echoing Roy Moore, Alabama judge Ashley McKathan took the Decalogue a step further -- wearing the Ten Commandments on his judicial robe:

    McKathan told The Associated Press that he believes the Ten Commandments represent the truth "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. ... The Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong."
    I guess that must be judicial activism, but is all religious judicial activism equal?

    Or is some religious judicial activism more equal than others?

    Certainly not! Via Glenn Reynolds, I found my dark side irresistibly drawn to an alternate view of moral restoration:

    Consider, for example, the Adams County, Ohio, saga. In 1997 four new high school buildings in Adams County were completed, and a granite monument of the Ten Commandments was placed in each of the four schoolyards next to the flagpole. This project was initiated by the Adams County Ministerial Association and permitted by the Adams County School Board. About a year later a local man wrote several letters to the superintendent of the district proposing the placement of monuments alongside the Ten Commandments that he said represented his religious group, the Center for Phallic Worship. You can imagine what kind of monuments he was hoping to place. The request was ignored. Six months later the ACLU filed a suit demanding the removal of the Ten Commandments monument. The suit named the entire school board as well as the superintendent, by name, as defendants. The plaintiff was Barry Baker, the interim director for the Center for Phallic Worship.
    Assuming Barry Barker became a judge, would it be judicial activism if he displayed phalluses on his robe? (Phallic cults are, as I have pointed out, nothing new.)

    What about the judge who disciplined an errant attorney with a dildo?

    Is there a bottom line?

    I don't have one. For the life of me, I cannot find a consistent working definition of judicial activism. Perhaps the best one would be along the lines of Potter Stewart's working definition of pornography:

    I know it when I see it.
    Perhaps it's appropriate to close with a few quotes.

    Sam Ervin:

    A judicial activist is a judge who interprets the Constitution to mean what it would have said if he, instead of the Founding Fathers, had written it.
    Roy Moore:
    God's law will be publicly acknowledged in our court. [It is my duty] not only to maintain the honor and integrity of the court system and the judicial branch, but to restore and preserve the moral foundation of our law.
    Hillary Clinton:
    By any measure, the current Court is one of the most activist, if not the most activist, Supreme Court, ever in American history.
    Oddly enough Phyllis Schlafly seems to echo Hillary's sentiment:
    Our American institutions and culture are being undermined today by judicial supremacists…..The assault by Judicial Supremacists against the Constitution and the rule of law is the most serious issue facing our political system. If unchecked, judicial supremacy will continue to grow like a cancer and destroy our republic.
    Can this cancer be cut out? Perhaps.
    Here is the constitution that overrides the law.
    So opined Judge Robert McAlpin Williamson, as he laid his Colt revolver across his Bowie knife.

    I think it would be better to refer to all judicial activism simply as "hacktivism" -- and condemn it wherever we find it.

    That ought to make everyone happy.

    posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (1)



    Love her or hate yourself!

    Former president Bill Clinton thinks it is an act of self-loathing for a gay man to oppose his wife's political candidacy on the one hand, while at the same time marrying his partner:

    Former President Bill Clinton wasn't about to let just anybody attack his wife - especially a gay Republican operative.

    Clinton fired back yesterday, suggesting that political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, who has launched a "Stop Her Now" campaign, is suffering from "self-loathing."

    Finkelstein married his male partner in a civil ceremony in Massachusetts in December, with a few of his conservative clients at the nuptial.

    "... He went to Massachusetts and married his longtime male partner and then he comes back here and announces this," Clinton said at a Harlem news conference.

    "I thought, one of two things. Either this guy believes his party is not serious, and is totally Machiavellian in his position, or there's some sort of self-loathing there. I was more sad for him."

    While Bill Clinton's loyalty to his wife is admirable, I've got two questions about self-loathing:

  • 1. Is it self loathing for a gay person to oppose Hillary Rodham Clinton?
  • 2. Or is it self loathing to be a gay Republican who disagrees with his party?
  • Unless Hillary Clinton is running on a platform of gay identity politics (which she is not) I think the first question is ridiculous on its face. Still, I have to pose it, because if Bill Clinton thinks the tie-in is obvious ("he married his longtime male partner and then he comes back here and announces this"), others must too. Perhaps Hillary is so closely identified with the gay marriage issue that opposition to her constitutes opposition to gay marriage. Is that it? According to Andrew Sullivan (who ought to know), here's Hillary's position on gay marriage:

    "Marriage," she said, when pressed to take a position, "has got historic, religious, and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been: between a man and a woman."
    Sullivan devotes a great deal of time disagreeing with Hillary's position.

    Does that mean that Andrew Sullivan would also be a self-loathing hypocrite were he to oppose Hillary Clinton? Somehow, I doubt it.

    There's also the issue of gay Republicans. There is much ferocious opposition to the very idea of such a thing, and while some of it comes from moral conservatives in the Republican Party, they're not as shrill as the Democrats. Bill Clinton is hardly from the Democratic Party fringe, either. There is a general consensus that any homosexual in the Republican Party is the equivalent of a gay Uncle Tom, and guilty of self hatred, because since all Republicans hate homosexuals, any Republican who is a homosexual must hate himself.

    Of course, black Republicans are also considered Uncle Toms, so this may come down to identity politics more than anything else. Certainly, it's more than single issue politics, because no one would call a Democrat against abortion or gun control an "Uncle Tom," nor would they refer to a pro-choice or anti-gun Republican that way. "RINO" or "DINO" perhaps, but not a "self-loathing" hypocrite. The reason is because if you're in favor of the right to keep and bear arms, that is not considered your identity in the same way it is if you favor sexual freedom. Don't ask me why; I consider gun control and penis control equally offensive, and if self-loathing is defined as belonging to a party which opposes something you believe in, then I'd be guilty of self loathing in either party. The problem with me is that I can't see my entire self through the lens of any single issue.

    I could see Bill Clinton's point if Arthur Finkelstein actively opposed that which he has now done. But from what I've read, that simply isn't the case. According to the New York Times, Finkelstein is on record as a staunch opponent of the moral conservative wing of the Republican Party:

    One of Mr. Finkelstein's associates, who declined to speak on the record, citing Mr. Finkelstein's desire for privacy, said Mr. Finkelstein did not view his marriage as a political statement and had specifically decided to have a civil ceremony rather than a religious one. This associate argued that over the past 20 years, Mr. Finkelstein had identified himself as a libertarian and an opponent of big government, distancing himself from social conservatives as they have gained political muscle and dominance in the party.

    ....Mr. Finkelstein has regularly described himself as a libertarian who supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights while opposing big government. In an interview with Maariv, an Israeli newspaper, after the American elections last year, he criticized the Republican Party as growing too close to evangelical Christians, warning it could cause long-term damage to the party.

    What this means is that Finkelstein is simply one among many Republicans who are opposed to their party being controlled by the religious right.

    Democrats might argue that they'd be happier if they joined the Democratic Party, but then, so would the religious right!

    Since when is fighting for your beliefs hypocrisy?

    Sheesh!

    (But I guess if it's hypocrisy for gays to oppose Hillary, it must also be hypocrisy for gays to oppose socialism!)

    UPDATE (04/13/05): I've written another post on whether self-loathing is unique to gay conservatives, or even gays in general. I don't think it is, and I'm wondering whether it's another stereotype grounded in unconscious prejudice.

    posted by Eric at 08:29 AM | Comments (4)




    Ugliness is snobbery made visible

    As I was sitting alone for a couple of hours enjoying the tranquility of a Spring evening, Justin told me about his latest find: an anti-"sprawl" Chicken Little writer named James Howard Kunstler, interviewed in the current Rolling Stone. (Among other things, he hates L.A. and especially Disneyland.)

    I'll leave it to Justin to fisk Mr. Kunstler's ideas, as this is his area of interest. But I did want to comment on one item I found which didn't especially enamor me to the guy, who I think is more than just anti-sprawl and anti-automobile.

    The following, from his web site, is an example of his regular "Eyesore of the Month" feature. This one's from June of 2003:

    Don't you wonder why practically every house built in America after World War Two is a design abortion? The answer is actually simple but a little abstruse: ugliness is entropy made visible.

    When you live in a high entropy society, as we do, the entropy manifests in many ways: toxic waste, poor air quality, social alienation, epidemic obesity, odious popular culture, AND immersive ugliness.

    Everything that could have gone wrong with this house did go wrong. Garage facing street, monkeyshit brown and beige paint job, horrible window proportioning, screw-on shutters, pitiful canopies, service cables and pipes visible, stunted fake cupola, roof pitch sandwich on right, yard 50 percent asphalt and filled with automobiles, chain-link fence. . . .

    And let's not forget the eagle right between the eyes. Perfect.

    I read this to Justin over the phone, and he steered me to James Lileks' magnificent Olive Garden piece.

    I wish I had Lileks' talent for writing about these things, but I can't have everything, and I'll just have to say what I think and leave it at that.

    I think it's incredibly mean and smallminded to pick out a stranger's home and publicly ridicule it like this on the Internet. Kunstler may justify this by imagining that he's making a statement against evil America, or working class people whose taste in decor strikes him as patriotic kitsch. But I don't think that's a defense to such spiteful arrogance. And ugliness.

    It is ugly to attack the unsophisticated to score points with the sophisticated. I've been around snobs all my life, and they don't come any worse than this.

    There's more than one way to be an ugly American, and I think James Howard Kunstler has a lot of nerve complaining about ugliness.

    posted by Eric at 08:54 PM | Comments (8)



    Principal can be almost as embarrassing as principle . . .

    When Michael Barone's piece about the trustfunder left caught my attention, I focused on the issue of guilt -- arguing that unless wealth is inherently evil, those who inherit it should not feel any guiltier than those who earned it. (I realize those who believe property is theft would place "earned" in quotes, but I don't!) Anyway, my point was unless money is evil, inheriting money carries no moral culpability.

    I now see that although Barone supplied no numbers as to how many trustfunders there are, blogger Brad DeLong has gone out of his way to "do the math," claiming that his numbers prove that Barone has not only way overstated his case, but that he "embarrasses himself":

    Let's do the math. People with "enough money not to have to work for a living, or not to have to work very hard." How much money is that for an upper middle class lifestyle (have to go to all those restaurants and art galleries: organic produce is expensive)? Figure $70,000 (pretax) per year in property income (and even at that you still have to work pretty hard). If you spend 4% of your capital each year, that's a wealth level of $1.7 million.

    Emmanuel Saez tells me that there are roughly 600,000 people living in households with $1.7 million or more of wealth--and that's including the value of their house. Only a fraction have that much income-producing wealth. More than half of that fraction are over 60. More than half of the ones who are left are Republican. And at least half of the remainder have earned all their money--not inherited any of it.

    So we are down to less than 75,000 "trustfunder lefties" in America. And they--those of them who live outside the major cities--are supposed to be responsible for the worries about sprawl and environmental degradation that make Sun Valley and Jackson Hole lean Democratic? For the Bay Area's 1.2 million vote edge for John Kerry? Michael Barone embarrasses himself.

    OK, I am not an economist, nor am I a mathematician. (In fact, I hate math!) This means that I ought to be free to examine "the math" performed above without fear of embarrassment, right?

    Did Barone in fact embarrass himself? When I read the piece, his definition of "trustfunders" seemed reasonably clear:

    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.
    I have known many people exactly like that. They get regular infusions of cash from their parents, or else have trust funds left to them by their grandparents or other family members which furnish income from time to time (either to them or to their parents to "sprinkle" for them). They are not rich, they don't live high on the hog, and they often work. However, the money in their backgrounds provides a sort of safety net which prevents them from being able to really achieve failure in the true sense of the word. If major troubles befall them, family money will be found somehow to bail them out. "Nomadic affluent" describes them perfectly, as their inability to realize true failure often (and tragically) carries with it a corresponding inability to achieve true success. They are ridden with guilt, often concealing even from good friends the unearned aspects of their money. The San Francisco Bay Area is full of them (they numbered among the hordes of people who used to do things like follow the Grateful Dead around to every show, domestically and internationally, seemingly without having to work), and I think Barone's argument is very well taken.

    With all due respect to Mr. DeLong, I must take issue with his definition of "trustfunder left":

    Figure $70,000 (pretax) per year in property income (and even at that you still have to work pretty hard).
    Where does he get the idea that Barone was talking about $70,000 a year? That's a lot of money. Twice the starting salary of many white collar jobs. Anyone getting that much in unearned income is way beyond not having to "work that hard." With $70,000 a year, you could (dependent on location) live from a comfortable to a luxurious existence anywhere in the United States -- or retire in Mexico with a house full of servants and live like a prince.

    I've known plenty of people who get around $20,000 a year (often in the form of tax free gifts). Such money can go a long way, and can make the difference between having to buckle down and work hard, and being able to coast. If you're a vegetarian, $20,000 can buy a lot of beans and rice. If you live in rent-controlled Berkeley or Santa Monica, it can pay your $250.00 a month rent for quite some time -- leaving plenty of cash to go dining at the many fine restaurants in Berkeley's "gourmet ghetto." (Hell, twenty grand can buy a lot of airfare too -- especially if you scour for specials....) I remember growing up on the East Coast, there used to be an expression called "coupon clipper" which referred to the people who scrimped and saved so they could get by on what remnants remained of past family wealth. (It was a bit of a pun, as they'd not only clip the interest coupons, they'd also clip store coupons, leave small tips, and squeeze pennies to get by without working. Believe me, there is such a thing as the "non-working non-rich." It happens!)

    I think Barone's point -- with which I thoroughly agree -- is that even $20,000 can bring on a lot of guilt -- some of which translates into political contributions.

    So, I completely take issue with the unreasonably high $70,000 threshold DeLong has created. But he doesn't stop there. Instead, he uses this high income straw figure to create an artificially small, hypothetical population of independent millionaires:

    .... 4% of your capital each year, that's a wealth level of $1.7 million.

    Emmanuel Saez tells me that there are roughly 600,000 people living in households with $1.7 million or more of wealth--and that's including the value of their house. Only a fraction have that much income-producing wealth. More than half of that fraction are over 60. More than half of the ones who are left are Republican. And at least half of the remainder have earned all their money--not inherited any of it.

    So we are down to less than 75,000 "trustfunder lefties" in America.

    Again, I am not a mathematician, so I'll leave his math alone. But I do have a question based on logic.

    These "trustfunder" people (left, right, Republican, Democrat, whatever) -- even the ones actually getting $70,000 a year, what does the word "trustfunder" mean?

    That they're being paid from a trust, right?

    This means that they -- the trustfunders -- are beneficiaries of trusts! Sorry to bore my readers, but I want to make sure that common sense is not lost in an unrelated mathematical projection based on a hypothesis at odds with facts.

    At the risk of sounding pedantic, I'd like to remind readers that by definition, a trust consists of principal which is not owned by the beneficiary, but which has its own life. There are different kinds of trusts; some are eventually turned over to the beneficiaries, some revert to charities, some are known as "spendthrift trusts" (intended to protect ne'er-do-well beneficiaries by being untouchable), and some can "sprinkle" according to the sole discretion of the trustees.

    Obviously, this is superficial; I am not an expert on trusts. But in any event, trust principal is not owned by the beneficiary! This means that the "rough" figure of "600,000 people living in households with $1.7 million or more of wealth" is incredibly irrelevant to any discussion of trust beneficiaries. The latter will simply not show up in any list of millionaires, for the simple reason that they aren't millionaires. They don't own the money. They are mere beneficiaries who are paid whatever interest income the trustees pay them.

    I must be missing something here.

    Am I having a disagreement over principal?

    Or a disagreement over principle?


    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: Beyond the scope of this post is the extent to which some of the trustfunder guilt may be fostered by conservatives who also deem unearned wealth "immoral." (I don't know how many of them there are in the Republican Party, perhaps enough to kill estate tax reform?)

    MORE: According to CNN Money (hardly a right wing source), there are 2.3 million millionaires in the United States. Can we be sure that the Saez projections DeLong cites are correct?

    AND MORE: What I didn't know when I called Mr. DeLong a "blogger" was that he is a major figure in the field of Economics -- a leading professor at U.C. Berkeley, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy in the Clinton administration, an author, and (last but not least), a blogger with whom I happened to disagree.

    (I guess I really was "missing something," wasn't I?)

    posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (2)



    Libertarians for Social Constructs!

    In light of Eric's comments on gay marriage, specifically regarding the legal side of the question, I thought I should link to this piece by Jennifer Roback Morse at Policy Journal Online, "Marriage and the Limits of Contract."

    It strikes me that the author has an agenda (she has published two books on love) and makes the same mistake as many Marxists, viz. reducing issues to pale economic analogies. Oddly, also like a Marxist, she treats Smith's Inquiry as the capitalist equivalent of the Communist Manifesto, suggesting that free market systems are 'built on the ideas in the Wealth of Nations.' That sort of illogic leaves me on the alert.

    That's secondary, but gives a glimpse into the author's muddled argument.

    What about sex?:

    There are analogous truths about human sexuality. I claim the sexual urge is a natural engine of sociability, which solidifies the relationship between spouses and brings children into being. Others claim that human sexuality is a private recreational good, with neither moral nor social significance.

    The claim rests on the assumption that things have predetermined purposes which man must not contravene. It also presupposes the importance of moral and social 'significance,' whatever that wavering shadow of speech is meant to convey. Whether sexuality as a biological phenomenon is a 'natural engine of sociability' or not, humans are infinitely capable of transcending their biology and as sentient beings with every manner of desire, dream, and intellectual capacity deserve the right to live privately and without subjection to social mores. There's too much of the authoritarian in Morse's subtext which belies her libertarian claims.

    Throughout she flashes her distaste at the modern culture of promiscuity, implicitly hearkening back to the good old days, a fallacy engaged in since Hesiod's races of the metals. Like many academics she includes a long quote by a recognizable name, here Rousseau, only to apply it (cleverly, she thinks) to some unconnected modern foible:

    Rousseau could be describing the modern hook-up culture, down to and including the reluctance of hook-up partners to even talk to each other.

    By now I'm bored with her and find all of her unsupported claims, fanciful examples ('A man and a woman have a child. ...'), and constant reference to her position and the sole opposing view (binary oppositions are an insult to intelligent people) annoying. So what's the crux of her biscuit?

    Having constructed as the only alternative to her own position a straw man ('the deconstruction of marriage into a series of temporary couplings with unspecified numbers and genders of people' using 'the language of choice and individual rights') she deftly delivers the Coup de Jarnac:

    It is simply not possible to have a minimum government in a society with no social or legal norms about family structure, sexual behavior, and childrearing. The state will have to provide support for people with loose or nonexistent ties to their families. The state will have to sanction truly destructive behavior, as always. But destructive behavior will be more common because the culture of impartiality destroys the informal system of enforcing social norms.

    That's it? All in all a weak argument in an unnecessarily lengthy exercise in sophistic dissimulation.

    So why is she so adamant about the sanctity of the family, and why does she hide it behind false economic analogies?

    Surely it's her Catholic faith.

    posted by Dennis at 09:29 AM | Comments (3)




    On criminalizing "access"

    A college professor named Elijah Anderson has identified what he calls "the code of the street," which he identifies closely with urban crime:

    The factors that give rise to inner-city street crime and violence are many and complex, but spring mainly from the circumstances of life among the ghetto poor. Among them are the lack of jobs that pay a living wage and the stigma of race; an ad hoc financial system borne of the lack of economic resources, combined with the fallout of drug trafficking and rampant drug use; lack of faith in police "protection" or fair treatment by the criminal justice system; and the resulting alienation and lack of hope for the future. Essentially, many community residents believe there are two different systems of law, one for black people and one for whites.

    In this environment lacking so many elements found in civil society elsewhere, an oppositional culture, that of "the street," whose norms are often consciously opposed to those of mainstream society, has filled the vacuum. Compounding the situation is the ready access to guns.

    The code of the street means involvement in crime at an early age (this is called "the criminalization of inner city childhood"), being very quick to take offense at the slightest perceived act of disrespect, and always getting even:
    Large numbers of African Americans live in racialized poverty and second-class citizenship. The extent to which this is true in some objective sense is less important than that it is what so many black people believe. Black people live in areas of concentrated urban poverty to which the wider system has abdicated its responsibility, or so many residents believe. Even if this is not objectively true, there is enough evidence for many of them to be convinced.

    Many black males, by the time they reach post-adolescence, have had some contact with the criminal justice system, through "misbehavior" in school or assault or petty crime, and they have acquired some kind of record, the result being, in effect, the criminalization of inner city childhood. Moreover, the inner-city youth culture strongly encourages drug experimentation. By the time they apply for a job, young men are often disqualified from low-income service jobs by background checks that include a police check and a urine test. Rejected for employment, they are left without money or resources and have even more limited possibilities. Too often, they resort to the underground economy of hustling, drugs and street crime.

    Despite a real scarcity of economic resources in the inner-city poor community, to make ends meet, people engage in numerous everyday exchanges - bartering, lending, as well as illegal enterprises such as the drug trade. These are performed without the benefit of civil law.

    Strikingly, there is a profound lack of faith in the police and the criminal justice system. The policing mechanism that thus most often matters is street justice, essentially an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If someone takes advantage of you, you must get even. Not to be even is to be vulnerable to further advances. When debts are made, they must be repaid. No one must be allowed to get away with anything.

    Whenever I see expressions like "large numbers" my antennae go up. But let's take the author at his word and assume for the sake of argument that there is a large criminal culture in the inner cities. Does it follow from this premise that the problem -- "as of 7 p.m. yesterday, 95 people had been killed in Philadelphia in 2005, a large proportion of them in impoverished neighborhoods" -- results from "easy access to guns"?

    First of all, what is "easy access"? The author defines it this way:

    On Saturdays, the gun sellers roam the inner-city neighborhoods, selling guns out of the trunks of their cars to anyone with the money. At night, in some of the most disenfranchised neighborhoods, random gunshots are heard as children try out their guns.
    OK, he's already defined these neighborhoods as high-crime, and dominated by a culture of complete lack of respect for the law. Drugs are sold openly despite their being highly illegal. A plethora of federal, state and local laws prohibit selling guns "out of the trunks of cars" to "anyone with the money." (I don't know how many laws there are, but trust me, it's a huge number.)

    So, what the author is saying is that illegal gun sales are occurring in high crime neighborhoods. Is it helpful to define the problem as "easy access"? What, precisely, does that mean? Somehow, I don't think he's advocating a crackdown on illegal gun sales from trunks of cars. Nor is he advocating making it illegal for criminals to get guns, as there have been severe laws for years doing precisely that. Rather, in defining the problem as "easy access," he's using code language for prohibiting access to guns to the law abiding.

    I'll spell out the logic of Professor Anderson's argument:

  • Some people are criminals.
  • The criminal culture wants guns.
  • Guns are sold legally to law abiding citizens.
  • Criminals get hold of them by breaking the law, no matter how many laws are passed.
  • Therefore, the law abiding must be disarmed to stop criminals from getting guns.
  • I can think of no other way to interpret the phrase "easy access." Even more chillingly, the author might even be equating "access" with the number of guns available to be stolen.

    As Dave Kopel has pointed out, however, Americans used to have much easier legal access to guns, with fewer problems:

    Although legal controls on firearms for adults and juveniles have increased significantly in the last thirty-five years, so has the number of guns. Gun density could be said to make guns more available to juveniles, in that more guns owned means more guns available to be stolen. Yet more guns available to be stolen surreptitiously by juveniles does not seem like a net increase in "easy access" compared with the pre-1968 ability of juveniles in most states to buy guns in gun stores.

    Youths in the year 1950 had "easy access" to guns, but they committed virtually no gun crimes. Youths in 2000 face vastly more legal restrictions, and commit vastly more armed crimes. Fixating on today's imaginary "easy access" to guns is a deadly distraction from serious thought about genuine social changes that have resulted in so many more young criminals than half a century ago.

    We can't even begin to answer the challenging questions about social decay over the last 50 years if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the dystopian fantasies of the gun prohibition lobby.

    Clearly, guns are a target of criminals, because the laws have made it harder for criminals to get guns through legal means.

    Obviously, guns are a more frequent target of crime than ever before. But does it make sense to criminalize the things that are attractive targets for criminals?

    I'm sure there's a serious problem with the fencing of stolen goods. We might as well criminalize all attractive property so that it can't be stolen and sold by criminals "out of trunks of their cars to anyone with the money." (And what if the trunks themselves are located in stolen cars? Shouldn't "access" to stealable cars be cut off?)

    I'm not even sure that "access" is the right word here because it isn't defined.

    Hmmm.....

    Might that be the whole idea?

    NOTE: Professor Anderson has written a book called The Code of the Street, which David Adesnik reviewed here.

    MORE: If "access" to crime turns you on, by all means check out this econo-criminal analysis of iPod theft:

    It would be hard to conceive of a better criminal target than the iPod. Those white cords snaking down from listeners' ears into the recesses of their jackets signify an instant status symbol, hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise and a mark who may be blissfully unaware of his or her surroundings.

    But despite various theft-deterrent strategies that people use religiously to protect their wallets, purses and backpacks, their iPods do not seem a major concern.

    "I definitely notice where I put my wallet," said Brian Kneafsey, 34, who was walking through the Times Square subway station listening to Radiohead. "I have less options with the iPod. It has to go in my ears."

    But a recent spike in subway felonies, reported Tuesday by the New York Daily News, has been driven by an increase in iPod thefts, police said. As of April 27, there had been 304 robberies in the transit system citywide this year, up 24 percent from the same period last year, the police said. Grand larcenies are up 10 percent, with 462 so far this year. Overall, transit crimes are up 16 percent.

    It is impossible to say how many of those robberies were iPod thefts, but they were a major factor, the police said.

    I think it's high time we limited easy access to iPods!

    [According to Geek News, iPods are a growing security risk anyway. Clearly, there are too many of these evil things floating around.....]

    UPDATE (04/11/05): According to Howard Dean, Philadelphia gun control is not an issue:


    "Guns aren't an issue," he said. "If Philadelphia wants gun control, fine. If Alabama doesn't, also fine."
    Is that considered a stand on the issues?

    posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (2)




    HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY DEAN ESMAY!

    It's Dean Esmay's Third Blogiversary! Dean's World was one of the first blogs I found and has remained one of my favorites ever since. He's a real inspiration to me and others.

    There are very few people who are consistently (literally -- Dean stands by his first post) able to put out intelligent, provocative posts every day, on a wide variety of subjects. Dean is a true Renaissance Man, and if there's anyone here who doesn't read him, you should be. Trust me, you don't know what you're missing. Dean's style just sort of gets inside you, as he's a truly original thinker and never, ever boring! Trying to emulate him while remaining original myself, in a world of mindless conformists, there is only one Dean Esmay.

    HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY, DEAN!

    UPDATE: I've been waiting for Steven Malcolm Anderson to return from his long sabbatical, and I would have thought that this occasion would do it. Steven has been a frequent commenter over at Dean's World, and I used to suspect that he and the Queen Of All Evil were one and the same, but now I know better.

    OK Steven, now's the time to pop out of the cake!

    posted by Eric at 12:17 AM




    Tooth or consequences . . .

    If you've been worried about the Loch Ness Monster, there's reason to worry some more.

    An man describing himself as a college student from the Midwest claims he has solved the puzzle. "Nessie," it turns out, is no water-bound plesiosaur, but an amphibian creature that comes ashore to prey on deer! During a trip to the Loch Ness area, the student claims he discovered a mutilated deer carcass with a tooth embedded in one of its ribs. He pried out the tooth, only to have it confiscated by a "water bailiff" who (for some sinister reason or another) now refuses to give it back. So now he has posted a $5000.00 reward:

    I’m a college student in the Midwest U.S. In March (2005) my roommate and I went to the U.K and spent our last two days at Loch Ness. The boat rental season hadn’t started so we hired a local who took us on a private boat tour.

    After a few hours we came across the remains of a dead deer. The animal had literally been ripped in half - hind quarters gone, its spine was broken and severed. There were huge bloody gashes, teeth marks and a bizarre bony protrusion sticking out of an exposed rib. Using a screwdriver, we cracked open the ribcage and pried it loose. It was a tooth - about 4 inches long, barbed and very sharp!

    I'm about the biggest skeptic you'll ever meet, but this tooth was real, and whatever ate that deer had to have been huge. Our Scottish local told us there are no bears in the area. Excited, we signaled a passing boat to join us. Big mistake! The man told us he was the water bailiff, flashed credentials, then confiscated the tooth and the video tape that was in my camera, claiming we could get everything back from the Highland Authorities as long as we cooperated. Fortunately, he didn’t find the earlier footage in my backpack.

    We wasted our last day trying to get the tooth back. Most thought we were nuts, one guy who knew the water bailiff threatened to "take our passports if we made trouble." Now we're angry and want the tooth back. I tracked down a Loch Ness expert through some blogs who discovered fresh animal tracks last December. (http://loch-movie.tripod.com) Mr. McDonald says the tooth will prove his own theories apparently - developed for some author. He swears he knows what the creature is and has investors ready to buy the tooth from us.

    (Via G. Gordon Liddy.)

    And here's a picture of the tooth:

    lochtooth.jpg

    The problem I have is that morphologically, it doesn't look like a tooth -- of an amphibian or anything else. It looks like one pincer from a crab claw! Notice that there are several little points, and they're perpendicular to the shaft. One downward bite, and they'd break off. It makes sense for a grasping pincer, but not for a tooth. Snakes' teeth curve backwards, but they aren't very long and they're only meant for holding the prey while swallowing. This tooth is too long (and too inflexible) for that. And how on earth would it become embedded in a deer?

    Is this really a tooth?

    The whole tooth?

    I don't know whether to bite on the story, but I'm hedging my bets. If anyone can identify the specimen above or shed further light on the story, go right ahead!

    MORE: If the story is true, it appears that the "water bailiff" may have exceeded his statutory authority.

    posted by Eric at 03:21 PM | Comments (8)



    scolding winds?

    In response to my post about the Republican "Tent," a blogger named Dignan directed my attention to his very thoughtful post on the subject. Dignan believes that libertarians (which he prefers to call "classical liberals") are in the same tent as conservative Christians and need each other. He makes the following very cogent points:

  • ....whatever you may think of conservative evangelicals, they often act upon their convictions when it comes to caring for the poor. This type of action gives much creedance to the conservative movement particularly on economic issues. In fact, Christian charities often prove libertarians' point that private groups rather than the government are the best means to care for the poor.
  • If social conservatives were left to their own devices to push the "oxymoron of big government conservatism", they would fail. As much as I want to shelter my two kids from a lot of the vulgar media out there, the only real way to do that is good parenting. Not only is the government unable to do this, but there would be too many unintended consequences as a result.

  • While there is the perception that evangelicals don't compromise, my experience tells me that libertarians can be just as stubborn. One of the issues that hurts libertarians is the legalization of drugs. The reality is that most people in this country are opposed to drug legalization. Unfortunately, the Libertarian Party allows this issue to be used against them as an albatross. Libertarians need to focus more on those battles that are more realistic to win now.

    While many old-school Republicans are often too pragmatic, both libertarians and socials conseravatives could use a little pragmatism rather than always making the perfect the enemy of the good.

  • I agree with Dignan, and this was my reaction to the post at the time:
    Excellent piece. I think if people would stop shouting and scolding, they might be able to remember what they have in common -- and what brought them together in the first place.

    It tries my patience to go out of my way to be polite, to always be willing to compromise, and to be insulted anyway. (To be told what my father fought for goes too far.) I had my fill of ideologues on the left, and now I'm getting my fill of ideologues on the right.

    Mutual disrespect is the problem. Telling people they are disordered, perverted, or evil is seen as disrespectful. Telling people what their parents (complete strangers) fought for is seen as disrespectful. (Lecturing others about their personal sex lives is the most personal form of disrespect I can think of.) Yet others see homosexuality and birth control as intrinsically disrespectful.

    The First Amendment fully recognizes and countenances the right to say all these things, and to be disrespectful to others, and I recognize that the people who say these things are doing so out of a sense of duty.

    The problem is that it's unreasonable to expect those who disrespect each other to join together in any cause. Especially when such disrespect is defined as a cause for which our ancestors died.

    Is it possible to respect each other in spite of the fact that we so obviously disrespect each other?

    Limited respect, perhaps?

    Dignan mentions the drug issue as causing problems for libertarians. I don't think it's nearly as bad as sexuality, because it's just not as personal. That's because a disagreement over criminalization of substances comes down more to economic and public policy arguments, and there isn't much disagreement over the moral one. For example, I think heroin should be legal, but that does not mean I advocate using heroin, or that I think it's good. And even if I were a heroin user, that would be considered by both sides to be an unfortunate personal problem, but it's just not as emotionally driven. Rush Limbaugh took a lot of flak for his drug use, but if he'd been busted for soliciting sex we'd have never heard the end of it. That's because sexuality is seen as the essence of morality, whereas drug use, though bad for you, is more analogous to junk food or cigarettes.

    Parenthetically, one of the problems I have with people on both sides of the sexual morality debate is that I can't see a whole lot of logical difference between sexual tastes per se, and tastes in food. If gluttony is hedonism, OK, but so what? Love is another matter, and while it is one thing to condemn "sexual hedonism," I start to get a little hot under the collar when people see love as that. (My emotional detachment about sexual issues has been both a blessing and a curse, for reasons beyond the scope of this essay.)

    LEGAL ASIDE: This debate is further complicated by the distinction between malum prohibitum and malum in se. Not long ago, certain types of sex were both malum prohibitum and malum in se, while drug use was neither. I don't see either as malum in se, (and I see drug laws as a classic example of malum prohibitum) although the modern trend may be otherwise.

    The debate between libertarians and moral conservatives is frequently seen as involving the role of the state. Certainly there is disagreement there. But is the debate over the role of the state really the driving emotional force? I wonder. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, the debate was more over alleged "hypocrisy" and quasi moralistic outrage. Libertarians completely opposed to all drug laws were demanding prison time for the guy. (I was not one of them, by the way....) And had the scandal involved sex, many of the champions of sexual freedom (while they wouldn't have called for jail time) would nonetheless have howled, screamed, and gloated in triumph. As if the fact that a champion of morality had an "immoral" side renders all his moral arguments bogus.

    Is it hypocrisy for a heroin addict to be against heroin? For the life of me, I can't see why it would be, any more than it would be for a fat person to be in favor of healthier eating.

    I think what fuels this fire is not the debate over laws and the proper role of the state, but scolding. Many libertarians have an aversion to scolding, while many moral conservatives seem to have a need (perhaps grounded in religious views) to scold. So, when one of the scolders is unfortunate enough to get caught with his pants down, it is the libertarians' turn to do the scolding, and they can't wait to get "even."

    I admit, I don't like being morally scolded. Even less do I like hearing other people scolded. But what really fries me is to be scolded in turn for the moral failings of people I have never met, and to be told I am either like them, or somehow responsible for them. This, I think, goes to the core of the disagreement between libertarians and social conservatives. I think what saved Bill Clinton from impeachment was not that he was being scolded (for the majority of Americans thought he deserved a sound scolding), but that they were being scolded and blamed for the conduct of their president. It is intolerable to be blamed for situations beyond your control.

    Ditto Columbine, 9/11, and countless other things. We are all said to be guilty. Libertarians tend to hate collective guilt, while it often seems the moral conservatives' stock in trade to impose it. This collective guilt is often referred to as a "climate" for which others (typically liberals and libertarians) are responsible. I do wish moral conservatives would not lump libertarians in with liberals in this respect, and I wish they would remember a key distinction: liberals do not believe the focus should be on individual guilt, while libertarians do.

    Let's take a typical crime. If some thug shoots up a convenience store, libertarians will see him as having sole responsibility, while 60s-style liberals will see him as a victim. Oddly, the view of moral conservatives is a mixed bag, for while they want the criminal punished, they nonetheless see him as a product of his culture -- and while this shouldn't allow him to escape punishment, they tend to see a "climate" as sharing at least partially responsibility for the criminal behavior.

    What is often forgotten is that there's no real policy disagreement between libertarians and moral conservatives here. Both agree that the criminal should be severely punished. So what's the point of arguing over climates and collective responsibility?

    Might it be that moral conservatives are more in touch with people's emotional needs? Let's face it, when some horrific crime occurs, the dry, mechanistic approach of simply blaming the criminal is emotionally unsatisfying. People are outraged! And when they are outraged, they need more. Blaming the criminal is not "more." The liberal approach of blaming "society" and the moral conservative approach of blaming "cultural rot" are infinitely more appealing, because people feel involved personally in something which would otherwise be devoid of meaning. (Might that be why the subject of "retributive justice" has been recently the subject of discussion by libertarians? People need an outlet, and one of the shortcomings of libertarianism is that it offers no emotional release. Politically, that sucks. Voters are emotional.)

    In any case, libertarians and moral conservatives have now created a climate which is taking on a life of its own. They're scolding each other. It is emotional.

    A bit out of character for libertarians, who like to think of themselves as the thoughtful ones in the equation.

    Emotions are very powerful, and I'm afraid I've greatly oversimplified things, and left a lot out. I barely touched on the human need for vengeance -- even blood. This may make the libertarian approach seem deadly dull and emotionally unsatisfying. Are there lessons in history? (Even the more "enlightened" rulers of ancient Rome found that no matter how they tried, they couldn't wean the public from its appetite for bloody gladiatorial events.) Beyond that, is there a human need to be scolded? I'm not just talking about the genuine religious variety; I've long thought environmentalists behaved like angry Puritan preachers, and that their "converts" enjoyed a good scolding over human greed and evil.

    And to the extent that any of these things (whether emotional or otherwise) are matters of human tastes, well, there's an old Latin saying.....

    posted by Eric at 09:17 AM | Comments (3)




    Sharpening the debate the old fashioned way . . .

    If I remember correctly, Glenn Reynolds' lawnmower culture war started with a discussion of razors. The cutting edge debate over electric versus blade razors somehow led to the virtues of power versus rotary lawnmowers. Eventually all perspective was lost and some of the moralest of the moral conservatives accused Reynolds of avoiding the Terri Schiavo case entirely with these distractions, (or worse, sugar-coating the death culture with superciliousness.) Not to be undone, Reynolds revved up the debate, and his Razor/Mower Rotary Club has now moved on to robots -- thus reducing low techies like me to scraping with my Gillette.

    I hate to butt in, but something important has been missed in this searching and fearless debate over the morality of honest Luddism versus the demonic contrivances of the modern world.

    The fact is, before anyone had even thought of the lawnmower (much less Norelco razors, power mowers, or robots), our ancestors used these:

    Scythe.jpg

    It might look a bit, er, grim. But it gets the job done, and you'll never be accused of avoiding the Culture of Death!

    UPDATE (04/12/05): Glenn Reynolds describes push-mowers as "much safer than a power-mower, and less intimidating to a kid." (Well, I guess he couldn't be expected to endorse scythes for children.)

    posted by Eric at 10:59 PM



    Never mind the child; beware of parents!

    A couple of weeks ago I saw a story in my local paper about assaults on teachers by parents:

    Lamberton School principal Marla Travis Jones was assaulted on the job this month.

    Her alleged assailants were not students, but, rather, a student's mother and older brother - each of whom she estimates was five inches taller than she is and outweighed her by more than 100 pounds.

    "It was the first time in my life anybody ever put their hands on me. I just couldn't believe it," said the 5-foot, 105-pound Travis Jones, who suffered a swollen eye, scratches and soreness after the attack March 9 at the school in the Overbrook Park section of Philadelphia.

    As of Feb. 28, 57 such assaults by parents or other adults were reported in the 185,000-student Philadelphia School District this school year, about the same number as last year, officials said.

    In addition, there were nearly 200 cases in which adults - mostly family members - were accused of threatening staff and students, verbally abusing them, vandalizing property, or causing other disruptions in and near schools. These events are detailed in a summary of school police reports by the state's Safe Schools Advocate.

    I didn't really think it worth my time writing a post about it. Not sure why, probably thought other things were more important. Nor did it seem to be a "national" issue. (Well, I do remember seeing a schoolbus driver dragged out of his bus and beaten by the mother of a boy he'd thrown off the bus, but that was in Berkeley.) I have never taught school, and I guess I grew up in a sheltered atmosphere where parents didn't attack teachers. In fact, when I was a kid, if I got in trouble with a teacher, my biggest fear was that it might get back to my parents, and I'd be the one attacked.

    I recalled the Inquirer article when I saw today's story of a man who went on a rampage because he was unhappy with his son's football coach.

    CANTON, Texas (AP) - The father of a high school football player shot and wounded the team's coach with an assault rifle Thursday and fled in a pickup loaded with weapons, claiming to have a hit list, state officials said.

    Schools in the district were locked down while police searched for the shooter. Officers had weapons drawn near a truck that was found about two hours after the shooting and apparently belonged to suspect Jeffrey Doyle Robertson.

    Police were investigating a possible motive for Robertson, 45, in the shooting of Canton High School football coach Gary Joe Kinne. The coach was shot while on campus.

    Police Chief Mike Echols said Robertson had been banned from campus and told not to attend school functions. Authorities had reports that the two had an "altercation" after Kinne took over the football program in 2003, said state Department of Public Safety officer Jasmine Andresen.

    (More local details and photos here.)

    It appears there'd been taunts directed against the shooter's son on the athletic field.

    Interestingly, the coach's son was a star quarterback (subject of many disappearing Google-cached stories), who'd had to prove himself against other teammates (most likely including the son of the guy who shot his dad):

    Things were tough for G.J. Kinne when he arrived at Canton just before two-a-days last season and took over as quarterback as a 14-year-old freshman.

    He had to learn a new system while getting to know an entire team, most of which had played together since grade school. The season ended with Kinne racking up 1,650 yards passing and leading Class 3A Canton to the playoffs for the first time in 39 years.

    The family made the move from Mesquite when his father Gary Kinne came to the East Texas school for his first head coaching job.

    G.J. Kinne's performance was good last season. But now that he's gained the confidence of the team and the maturity that comes from starting 12 games, Kinne has blossomed.

    In just five games he's almost surpassed his passing total for last season in leading Canton to a 5-0 record. In Friday's 47-21 win over Class 4A Athens, he threw for 465 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 57 yards and another score.
    "It was real tough last year," he said. "I think it was hard for them to accept me. They didn't know anything about me. At such a small school, when you know everyone, anything new is scary.

    "Every week I had prove myself. It was like a game within a game.”

    Yet the kids apparently worked this stuff out among themselves. Till one dad blew up.

    I find myself wondering how many kids are more mature than their parents.

    I never like to see people being blamed for the actions of others -- and the idea of kids being blamed for their parents' actions is particularly atrocious. (I sure wouldn't want to be Jeffrey Doyal Robertson's son right now.)

    There are bad people in this world, and I don't think they exist because some political faction or another created a "climate." When things like this happen, liberals tend to blame conservatives, and conservatives tend to blame liberals. Libertarians generally blame neither of these two "sides" but agree with conservatives on the need to punish the guilty.

    (While it's a bit off the immediate subject, I think libertarians get a little tired of being blamed by both sides for on the one hand "coldness and insensitivity," and alternatively, for an "anything goes" philosophy . . . But that's the price one pays for being a "conservative" to a liberal and a "liberal" to a conservative. Lots of blame to go around, and it has to land somewhere!)

    posted by Eric at 04:35 PM | Comments (2)



    Gravity is moving down Hill

    Someone's come up with a new political Rube Goldberg-style contraption, and I want one!

    It's a Hill-O-Meter!

    April 7, 2005 -- WASHINGTON — One of the nation's top pollsters has created a new "Hillary Meter" to measure Sen. Clinton's move to the political center for a 2008 White House run - it shows she's made progress but has a long way to go.

    "Right now, she's too far away from the center to win unless Republicans nominate someone who is even further away," said independent pollster Scott Rasmussen.

    His meter calculates that Clinton is now 52 points to the left of the political center — a bit closer to center than in January, when she was 59 points to the left.

    Rasmussen said he created the meter because of his "fascination" with Clinton as "the only defining actor" for 2008. Deborah Orin

    Intrigued by this, I went to the Rasmussen Center in hope of finding the Hill-O-Meter itself. Instead I found reams of statistics. Like these:
    While moderating her image, Mrs. Clinton remains a polarizing figure--32% say that if she is the Democratic nominee, they will definitely vote FOR her. A slightly larger number, 37% will definitely vote AGAINST. Twenty-six percent (26%) say it depends upon who she runs against.

    Among women, 33% would definitely vote FOR Senator Clinton while 34% would definitely vote AGAINST her.

    Forty-four percent (44%) of Americans have a favorable opinion of Senator Clinton while 40% have an unfavorable view. That's little changed over the past month.

    In January, Hillary Clinton had a 47% to 40% lead over Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a hypothetical match-up.

    More recently, we found that Senator Clinton holds a wide lead over Vice President Dick Cheney, 49% to 30%.

    Blah blah blah. Et cetera and so forth.

    Where's my Hill-O-Meter, dammit? The Rasmussen Center insists that I pay $95.00 to join for more detail. But I see no guarantee that I'll receive the type of meter I want.

    Do I have to do everything myself?

    Sheesh!

    UPDATE: Well, there's this lame attempt, but I don't think Hillary would like it:

    HILL-O-Meter.JPG

    Obviously, the needle isn't pointing in the right direction.

    (Must be time to feed the meter.... For enough money, I think could make it move!)

    posted by Eric at 11:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)




    This is the canine equivalent for "personal" . . .

    I took Puff to a veterinary neurologist today, and confirmed my suspicions that his inability to walk is of neurological rather than arthritic origin.

    Here's the what the neurologist said:

    At examination today Puff seems to be in good general health except for the marked weakness and loss of position sense in the rear limbs. Spinal reflexes and muscle tone are decreased in the rear limbs. Anal sphincter reflexes are diminished. Signs are consistent with dysfunction of the spinal cord in the lower back (the mid-lumbar spine). Most likely diagnostic candidates include tumor or type II intervertebral disc protrusion. Additional diagnostic pursuit by means of MRI is recommended for a firm diagnosis.

    In lieu of a firm diagnosis an ongoing course of medical management is recommended. This course includes a prednisone trial as outlined above. Please call in 5-6 days to discuss Puff's response to the treatment. The medication may or may not bring improvement in the condition. If improvement is seen the medication may continue indefinitely. If no improvement is seen, we will suggest a decreasing course over time.

    The bladder should be emptied 2-4 times daily by catheterization. This should help to keep Puff at least clean and dry. Please call if you see any sign of pain or any sign of increasing weakness. In that instance further evaluation is more strongly recommended.

    Please call if you have any problems or questions.

    They showed me how to catheterize Puff, which isn't as big a deal as it sounds. Puff wasn't exactly thrilled, but then, he didn't seem to be in pain. Dogs don't have the typical human heebie-jeebies type of reaction to such things. It either hurts or it doesn't when and if it happens. The way most of us are, the anticipation of having a catheter threaded into the urethra causes severe psychological pain far worse than the physical reality. (A bit the way a child will act when he knows he is going to get a shot.)

    Interestingly enough, I've used this type of catheter once before. A day or so after giving birth, a female dog I had bred managed to find and eat some toxin or another which was lying around an adjoining construction site. It didn't kill her, but it made her severely ill, causing her to lose her milk -- along with any semblance of maternal instinct. She turned on her own pups, killing two and was intent on killing the rest of them when I realized what was happening, yanked her away and put her in the kennel for the next six weeks. I had to raise the pups by hand, and it would have been impossible without catheters like this one:

    frenchfeedingtubee.jpg

    That's called a "Feeding tube and Urethral Catheter." Whether they're putting stuff in or taking stuff out, it's the same item. It's hollow inside with a hole on the side of the tube near the end (which is a rounded tip), and the larger end fits on a syringe coupling. When I was raising the litter, I mixed a formula of eggs, milk and yogurt, which I loaded into 100cc syringes. The wide end of the catheter went onto the end of the syringe, and each blind, helpless puppy in turn had his meal delivered through the catheter, which I coated with butter and gently threaded down the throat until it stopped in the stomach. The mixture was slowly injected directly into the tiny tummy -- much the same way you'd fill an empty print cartridge with ink. The puppies would make instinctive sucking movements with their lips while this was going on, and they'd twitch with satisfaction. Finally, when the belly was full, I removed the tube, then rub the anus and genitalia with a warm wet Q-tip to stimulate excretion the way the mom would with her tongue. Just as they are unable to eat normally, neonate puppies are unable to relieve themselves without help. They'd oblige, of course. And it was on to the next puppy, until all six were fed and "relieved." Starting when the pups were a couple of days old, I went through this routine every four hours until finally I was able to start weaning them at around four weeks. (To them I was "mom," of course...) I'm proud to say I didn't lose a single pup out of the six.

    Anyway, Puff now has a very similar catheter. I don't plan to use it all the time, but it ought to help if I have to go out at night, or for long periods. His "signal" mechanism isn't the same anymore, and if I don't drag him out every couple of hours he can lose control (which seems to embarrass him greatly; glad he can't read the blog!)

    I sure hope Puff gets a boost from the change in meds. We'll see. He's still loaded with life, and the vets agree that at this point there's no reason to consider putting him down. Besides, Coco keeps him plenty busy....

    PuffCocoKong.jpg
    posted by Eric at 08:19 PM | Comments (4)



    Who gets to laugh last?

    Here's Dick Morris on the reaction of Bill and Hillary Clinton to the Sandy Berger bust:

    The Clintons' reaction when Berger was caught? The former president's comments sound just too scripted to believe: He laughed and said that it was typical of Sandy to be disorganized and forget how he handled documents. Quite a comment about the man he appointed to superintend the nation's secrets.

    Then Hillary announced, without being asked, that Sandy had just helped brief her for a February speech at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy — sending the adviser a signal that he was still part of the family, even though the grand jury was investigating him.

    (Via InstaPundit.)

    How to explain this apparent inconsistency? I don't know. Unless they knew in advance that nothing would really happen to him.....

    The whole thing reeks. It is natural and a thing to be expected that Berger would (as Morris says he did) cover for the Clintons.

    But why would Bush's Justice Department?

    (For what it's worth, I previously voiced some gloomier suspicions. Perhaps my fears are wrong, and this is all just another example of the old boy network in action. Does that mean everything's OK?)

    MORE: It's fascinating to note how this story has changed over time.

    UPDATE (04/08/05): It now appears that the allegation of hand-written notations on the copies is an urban legend:

    But that's simply an "urban myth," prosecutor Hillman tells us, based on a leak last July that was "so inaccurate as to be laughable." In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror "after-action" report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.

    "Those documents, emphatically, without doubt--I reviewed them myself--don't have notations on them," Mr. Hillman tells us. Further, "there is no evidence after comprehensive investigation to suggest he took anything other than the five documents at issue and they didn't have notes."

    (Via InstaPundit.)

    If that is true (and I have no reason to believe it isn't), then it looks like Virginia Postrel's "bumbling Berger" theory was right all along.

    (Not sure how to interpret the Journal's "conservatives don't do themselves any credit when they are as impervious to facts as the loony left" statement. . . Until Hillman furnished his explanation, just where were these "facts?")

    MORE: Power Line's John Hinderaker is not completely satisfied -- either with Hillman's explanation or the WSJ's scolding.

    posted by Eric at 06:57 PM



    If sex is political, and if spam is sexual, then spam is political!

    Speaking of agents provocateur, is it fair to ask precisely who the spammers might be working for?

    I've been thinking along completely paranoid crackpot conspiracy theory lines.

    Consider the following (slightly sanitized) trackback spam I just received:

    A new TrackBack ping has been sent to your weblog, on the entry XX (Xxx Xxxx).

    IP Address: XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX
    URL: http://www.male-cum-shots.nyet
    Title: male cum shots
    Weblog: male cum shots

    Excerpt:
    Check out the hottest male cum shots online today! Want quick access to gay porn online? Click the link and find out how! Curious how the other side lives? Hot <...

    That one is quite typical, and there are innumerable varieties along similar lines. I don't have time to read most of them, as I consider them complete garbage -- to be deleted with MT-Blacklist sofware and then forgotten. But what happens is that each comment I delete with the software creates another entry in my permanent blacklist record, and the words themselves become blacklisted. For example, I have received many thousands of spam comments involving variations of "Texas Holdem Poker" to the point where if commenters try to use the words "Texas Holdem Poker" (or combinations thereof) in a comment, they'll get the following message:
    Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

    Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content: Poker

    Please correct the error in the form below, then press Post to post your comment.

    You see?

    Questionable content is what is being blocked here at Classical Values -- regardless of my ferociously uncompromising stance against censorship.

    What this means, of course, is that politically motivated spammers could easily coax my spam blocking machinery into banning any discussion of things they'd rather not see discussed!

    Consider the following points:

  • 1. Most bloggers allow comments
  • 2. Most bloggers get spammed constantly
  • 3. Most bloggers have installed one varieity of content blocking software or another
  • So, if you think about it, I see no reason why one of those pro-censorship groups -- Citizens for Decency on the Internet or whatever they might be called -- couldn't simply utilize spam as a weapon of mass sex destruction.

    Hell, it might eventually happen anyway, even without their help.

    Who wouldn't be willing to give up a little "sexual liberty" in order to have a lot less spam?

    All it takes is just saying "NO" to questionable content!

    UPDATE (03/08/05): Believe it or not, blogger spamming software is being sold openly.

    posted by Eric at 02:35 PM



    Blood and honor

    Via Little Green Footballs, the latest news from Ward Churchill is that he's accusing the University of Colorado of acting like Nazis.

    DENVER (AP) — A lawyer for the professor whose remarks about Sept. 11 victims touched off a firestorm wants officials to clarify how they intend to prove he is an American Indian, asking if they plan to use "the Nazi standard for racial purity."

    A University of Colorado faculty committee is investigating whether professor Ward Churchill should be fired over allegations he plagiarized others’ work, and that he falsely claimed to be an American Indian to give his work more credibility.

    "Do you wish to employ the Nazi standard for racial purity? Do you wish to employ the standard adopted by the United States government for determining Japanese ancestry in order to qualify for internment?” attorney David Lane asked in a letter dated Monday to acting chancellor Philip DiStefano.

    (Original tip from M. Simon.)

    Excuse me?

    As far as setting up racial definitions is concerned, of course the University of Colorado bureaucrats are acting like Nazis. There is nothing new about the use of race to determine entitlement for programs like Affirmative Action (and in employment). The University of Colorado and virtually all federally funded universities do it as a matter of official, federally-mandated policy.

    Here's the Nazi Federal, er, standard itself:

    1. Definitions

    The basic racial and ethnic categories for Federal statistics and program administrative reporting are defined as follows:

    * a. American Indian or Alaskan Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

    I thought things like the idea that race matters (and should be defined) were among the fundamental cornerstones of things like affirmative action and Ethnic Studies.

    And Churchill now disagrees with the idea that race matters?

    I have to say I'm amazed. Will he be the new darling of anti-affirmative action forces?

    Who knows? Maybe there's a vacant spot for Ward on the University of California's Board of Regents.

    The ironies are rich. (The only way this could get better would be if he directly accused university race bureaucrats of being "little Eichmanns". . .)

    HISTORICAL NOTE: It just so happens that the real Adolf Eichmann, in his official capacity at the Wansee Conference, helped write the working definition of who was Jewish for purposes of the Final Solution. It's oddly reassuring to know that Ward Churchill is (apparently) broadening his analogy.

    posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (7)



    Huffing, Puffing, and yawning?

    Or is it time to get down to serious business?

    If you're confounded by the interminable ability of Arianna Huffington to annoy people and remain a celebrity, get ready: she's starting a "group blog":

    The Observer has learned that Warren Beatty, the 68-year-old actor and director, will likely join a lineup of liberal all-stars who will "group blog" on a Web site to be launched next month by columnist Arianna Huffington.

    "I probably will," Mr. Beatty said, on the phone from his production office in Los Angeles.

    The "Huffington Report," as Ms. Huffington has dubbed it, will also feature such boldface bloggers as Senator Jon Corzine, David Geffen, Viacom co-chief Tom Freston, Barry Diller, Tina Brown and Gwyneth Paltrow. If the name seems to echo that of the Drudge Report—the mega-site operated by the rightward-tilting unofficial editorial director of America’s news cycle, Matt Drudge—well, it’s supposed to. And Mr. Beatty approved of that.

    This is not especially new. Huffington promoted a Beatty presidency in 2000. The problem was, neither Beatty nor his ideas were able to capture the public imagination:
    Though he's supposed to be a liberal icon, Beatty lacks the crystallizing vision of a Reagan. His politics are a muddle. It's not happenstance that he is backed by such an odd assortment of people, ranging from Republican populist Huffington to earnest liberal Bill Moyers. Beatty is not cynical: He desperately believes the political system is broken and needs fixing. He just seems unable to explain how it's broken and how it should be fixed.

    In interviews, Beatty repeatedly chokes when asked for specific political ideas. He seems vaguely to believe that there is too much money in politics, corporations are too powerful, welfare reform was wrong, and race is a big problem. He says he wants to conjure up the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy and 1968. Bulworth, the closest thing to a Beatty political platform, is a mess as political science--an incoherent, condescending slop about the evils of lobbyists and the innate decency of black folk.

    If you're interested in Beatty -- a big "if" I admit -- the whole thing is probably worth a read.

    And a yawn.

    Really now, am I supposed to take this seriously? Let us suppose for the sake of argument that I break with my habit, and take, um, Arianna Huffington, and, er, Warren Beatty, seriously. I remember when Arianna Huffington was a Republican. At least, she married a Republican who ran against Dianne Feinstein and lost and she divorced him and he "came out" or something. She didn't seem to have much to offer by way of principles then.

    And she doesn't now.

    But then, would it not be less than serious for me to expect principles? In politics? Isn't it like tar and water? Actually, that's either/or thinking -- a sort of moral absolutist position. Which is why I'm hesitant to take politics of any kind too seriously. (Good way to make a complete fool of yourself....)

    Still, I think there are degrees of lack of integrity. A smell test, if you will. And the Huffington kind of opportunism just doesn't pass mine. Even assuming all politicians are opportunists, there's something about changing political positions the way an actor might a wardrobe, calculating them for maximum flash and public attention, which turns me off completely.

    Sanctimonious moral posing is another thing which I'd rather ridicule than take seriously. I looked for Huffingtonreport.com and while the web site isn't up yet, here's the ownership information:

    Registrant:
    Jonah Peretti
    Jonah Peretti
    301 Elizabeth St #5k
    New York, New York 10012
    United States

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com
    Domain Name: HUFFINGTONREPORT.COM
    Created on: 17-Jan-05
    Expires on: 17-Jan-07
    Last Updated on: 28-Feb-05

    Administrative Contact:
    Peretti, Jonah jonah@eyebeam.org
    Jonah Peretti
    301 Elizabeth St #5k
    New York, New York 10012
    United States
    6462624442
    Peretti, it turns out, is famous!
    Jonah Peretti has already had his 15 minutes of fame. Last year, he ordered a pair of customizable Nikes online. He asked Nike to stitch the word "sweatshop" into them. Nike refused. Peretti and Nike exchanged a series of emails, which ended with Peretti's message: "I have decided to order the shoes with a different iD, but I would like to make one small request. Could you please send me a color snapshot of the 10-year-old Vietnamese girl who makes my shoes?"

    The series of emails between Peretti and Nike became an overnight email sensation. Peretti had sent the text of the exchange to a only few close friends. Through the power of the Internet, he became a minor celebrity.

    Gee, it never occurred to me that a "10-year-old Vietnamese girl" made my shoes. Can he be so sure? What about the poor lamb that got fleeced for my sweater? That's funny too!

    But perhaps Arianna is shaking down Nike by playing good cop/bad cop. Here she is, praising Nike for having

    moved to the cutting edge of environmentally conscious production techniques....
    Why, considering that they've mended their ways, might she even allow Nike to advertise on her group blog?

    Hey, being annoying isn't funny at all.

    It's serious business!

    posted by Eric at 07:24 AM | Comments (6)



    Florida, here I come.

    Not really, but maybe I should think about it.

    The Florida House of Representatives, citing the need to allow people to "stand their ground," voted 94-20 to codify and expand court rulings that already allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves in their homes without first trying to escape.

    The new bill goes further by allowing citizens to use deadly force in a public place if they have a reasonable belief they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. It applies to all means of force that may result in death, although the legislative debate focused on guns.

    . . . . .

    Like many states, Florida courts have ruled that people have a right to defend themselves in their homes. Florida courts have expanded that "Castle Doctrine" to include employees in their workplaces and drivers who are attacked in their automobiles.

    Outside the home, however, courts have ruled that most victims must at least attempt to escape before using deadly force, a provision gun advocates say puts victims at greater risk. The proposal removes that requirement if a person has a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.

    Critics fear that this bill 'gives gun owners a license to kill.'

    I do not own a gun (not that there's anything wrong with that). But with or without a gun my instinct will be fight over flight. If someone tries to kill you, turning your back makes the task all the easier.

    Laws that require victims to flee (or even *only* to subdue) their assailants are inane, and wherever I am -- in Florida or elsewhere -- I will never cede my safety to the unfounded fears of politicians.

    posted by Dennis at 02:19 AM | Comments (1)




    April Fools Afterburner

    This week's Bonfire of the Vanities is hosted by Will Franklin, who has a nifty blog and was nice enough to warn people about my "I will defend to the death your right to make me vomit!" post. (Definitely not an image you want popping up on the company computer!)

    Very very funny collection of blog outages and outrages (plus a damned serious must-read here) although I was taken aback to see Glenn Reynolds' TCS column linked there. What's wrong with a space program which focuses on important things, anyway?

    Read 'em all!

    posted by Eric at 06:54 PM



    Dirty names on Patriot jerseys?

    Has the word "gay" become a dirty word?

    Apparently -- at least if "Gay" happens to be a football player's name.

    Spurred by a case of "Gay" pride, Leigh Clemons tried to order a New England Patriots jersey on her computer last month. Clemons, an assistant professor in Louisiana State University's theater department, watched one of her former pupils, Patriots defensive back Randall Gay, play a key role in New England's 24-21 win against Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX and wanted to show her support for the former LSU standout.

    But the NFL intercepted her attempts to buy a jersey personalized with Gay's name on the back from NFLshop.com, the league's official online merchandise center.

    When Clemons tried to enter the last name of the Patriots cornerback, her request was rejected. The Web site accompanied the rejection with a message that read, "This field should not contain a naughty word."

    "I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,' " Clemons said. "When the message came up, I just sat and stared at it for 30 seconds with my mouth open. I know there are issues with homophobia in the NFL, but it never occurred to me the thing would come to this."

    Eventually, Clemons received her jersey. But it took phone conversations with three different NFLshop.com representatives before her request was granted.

    Dan Masonson, NFL corporate communications manager, said the NFL was recently made aware of the issue and is working to rectify the problem. He said the league does not consider the name "Gay" objectionable and pointed out that former NFL players William Gay and Ben Gay had personalized jerseys for sale.

    Ben Gay?

    I'm surprised to see the NFL bend over for such crass commercialism.

    (No puns please.)

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



    Walter Cronkite: right wingnut!

    Via the Conservative Voice, I see that Walter Cronkite has dared to join with an alliance between religious groups and (gasp) "agnostics and atheists" in criticizing that Blame-America-for-9/11 duo of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson:

    www.newsmax.comWalter Cronkite long projected the image of the respected, objective newsman who didn't allow his personal views to enter the public square.

    No more, says the retired CBS anchorman in a direct mail letter he has sent out across the nation.

    The Cronkite letter comes from "The Interfaith Alliance" -- a liberal New York-based coalition of religious groups that oddly includes "agnostics and atheists."

    The group's letter bears Cronkite's photo on its envelope, identifying him as the "Honorary Chairman" -- with this blunt quote: "For years I kept my opinions to myself. But now I must speak out."

    In his letter, Cronkite lashes out at America's leading conservative religious leaders, notably Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

    Cronkite said he decided to write his letter "because I am deeply disturbed by the dangerous and growing influence of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on our nation's political leaders."

    "... I have watched with increasing alarm as the Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups manipulate religion to further their intolerant, political agendas," Cronkite continues.

    Cronkite claims his ire against Falwell and Robertson rose when "both shamefully blamed America's courts and the highest levels of our government for the horrific September 11 attacks on our nation. They said it happened because we 'insulted God.' Falwell went on to blame feminists, pro choice Americans and other groups he despises."

    I knew Walter Cronkite was a pinko, but I have to ask: does the above statement really prove it?

    I mean, unless you think Barry Goldwater was a pinko, Cronkite's latest remarks pale in comparison with this rhetorical call to violence:

    What Jerry Falwell needs is a good swift kick in the ass.
    -- Barry Goldwater.

    (Gee. I wonder what Dave Neiwert would say about such eliminationist rhetoric?)

    To be fair to Goldwater, here's the full text of his remarks:

    When Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981, some Religious Right leaders suspected she might be too moderate on abortion and other social concerns. Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell told the news media that "every good Christian should be concerned." Replied Goldwater, "Every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell's ass."

    The five-term U.S. senator from Arizona was equally unimpressed with TV preacher Pat Robertson. When Robertson sought the GOP nomination for president in 1988, Goldwater wasn't about to say amen. "I believe in separation of church and state," observed Goldwater. "Now, he doesn't believe that . . . I just don't think he should be running."

    A few years later he told The Advocate, "I don't have any respect for the Religious Right. There is no place in this country for practicing religion in politics. That goes for Falwell, Robertson and all the rest of these political preachers. They are a detriment to the country."

    While some Americans might find Goldwater's stand against all interaction between religion and politics too sweeping, many would agree with his strong commitment to individual freedom of conscience on issues as diverse as religion in schools, gay rights or abortion. In 1994 he told The Los Angeles Times, "A lot of so-called conservatives don't know what the word means. They think I've turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That's a decision that's up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right."

    At least Cronkite didn't go that far.

    Wouldn't want him to sound like a left wing nut!

    posted by Eric at 12:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)



    Feeling left out of the Revival tent?

    Here's a guy whose so upset at those who don't see things his way (especially libertarians) that he's clearly beyond talking to them. And he's beyond preaching to his choir; instead he's resorting to scolding them. And nearly everyone:

    .....[T]he [Supreme] Court has defined freedom as the freedom of the solitary individual from any and all community standards and responsibilities that he personally deems offensive, especially when it comes to sex. This is not the freedom for which our fathers fought the Revolutionary War, or the Civil War, or World War I, or World War II, or the Korean War, or the Cold War, or (we hope) for which we are fighting the Iraq War today.

    To pervert liberty in the name of a new sexual ethic that has shown itself to be destructive of the very marital and familial bonds that produced the Greatest Generation, bonds they sought to defend with their blood, dishonors our fathers and mothers who bore the burdens and sacrifices of war.

    It is time for Christians to work even harder on every front to overturn—to heal—the effects of this tyranny. We can do something in the political world to reverse the rulings of these justices, but we can do more in the culture to reverse the damage their decisions have aided. (For the Supreme Court did not invent sexual disorder.)

    But it is difficult to defend marriage and morality in the public square when many of the churches themselves compromise on these matters. Some soul-searching is in order, for we face two hard realities: a backlog of monumental failures and sins still with us, and a seeming paralysis in repenting and doing what is necessary to clean up our own act across the board, on every front.

    Are Christians truly pro-life? How many have had or have facilitated abortions? How many have embraced technology (in vitro fertilization) that freezes or discards “excess” human embryos? How many favor embryonic stem-cell research because it might cure them of a disease?

    How many use methods of birth control that are abortifacient? How many embrace contraception as a way of life? Is it in any way pro-life to desire to have no children? How many married Christians, under the promise of “birth-free” sexual indulgence, now view sex as simply another recreation to be indulged in? Is there any meaningful difference between their use of sex and that of their unbelieving neighbors, including the person who acts on homosexual inclinations?

    Do Christians really support traditional marriage? As a life-long union, till “death do you part”? Haven’t churches slowly redefined marriage already themselves? Why is the divorce rate among Christians the same as that in the rest of society? What message does the widespread acceptance of divorced and remarried clergy (not to mention divorced and remarried bishops) send?

    Haven’t Christians readily availed themselves of easy, no-fault divorce? How many Christian children are taught that marriage is a lifelong commitment while they watch their parents move from marriage to marriage? Churches need to take a long, hard look at their marital disciplines as they are practiced, for they seem to assume divorce and remarriage as routine.

    Do Christians uphold the dignity of sex itself? How many Christians view pornography on their computers? Watch movies that sexually arouse? Allow their children to watch portrayals of fornication and adultery, all the while assuming their children can “handle it” and will not be affected?

    What provisions have been made for dealing with all such past, present, and future sins in a disciplined and ultimately healing way, restoring integrity to the spiritual life of the churches? Are they effective and sufficient?

    Of course, the struggle will not be on the field of battle, for our enemies are not flesh and blood, but spirits and principalities that would see men devoured by the ravages of sin. There is no greater tyrant than sin, and the death that comes thereby, that would separate man from the God who made him. The sexual revolution has sucked many poor souls down into the abyss of perdition, sometimes with the churches standing idly or silently by.

    There is no renewal or salvation without repentance. Only by cleaning our own houses and healing our members of sexual abuses and disorders can we even hope to see the flourishing of true virtue. Even so, we do not so much aim to save our nation as to save our souls from death.

    What bothers me the most about the above is that the author purports to speak for my father, who served in World War II, and who most definitely did not share the author's views.

    Is the situation as hopeless as it appears, or is the above essay an aberration?

    I mean, with moral conservatives scolding each other for not being "Christian" enough, I think it's fair to ask whether libertarians are even in the same tent.

    posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (3)



    Meanwhile south of the border . . .

    While Canada prepares (apparently) to tilt rightward, is Mexico preparing to head leftward?

    While I can't vouch for its accuracy, the following comes from a Venezuelan news site proclaiming its devotion to "fair and balanced reporting":

    • The inauguration of Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay shows that Latin America’s democratic march to the left continues, and could be a forerunner to Mexico’s 2006 presidential election.

    • The Bush administration, already uncomfortable with Latin America’s new left, would become apoplectic if this movement reached the U.S.-Mexican border. A López Obrador victory in the Mexican election would signal the ultimate domino falling.

    • Bush’s Latin America team fails to understand that the model of the new left in Latin America today is less Che Guevara than FDR and Tony Blair’s British Labor Party.

    • The growing center-left ideological tilt among Latin American states is symptomatic of a growing movement towards a continental alliance and a political stance markedly different from that being fielded by the U.S.

    It's probably worth noting that this same "fair and balanced" outfit isn't especially enamored with the United States:
    That the USA has planned long ago to intervene in Venezuela and Latin America, with military power, should it be necessary for its own economic, imperialist survival and struggle to retain world hegemony, is scientifically sure, there should not be any doubts about this issue. Within the very Bolivarian movement, it is counter-revolutionary to use this threat as an instrument to brake the deepening of the revolutionary process.

    As Simon Bolivar had warned already, this Yankee plague is simply there, it is our daily bread; as long as the Bolivarian Revolution exists, and is advancing towards global emancipation, so long the Damocles Sword of North American Fascism will hover over our revolutionary heads. (Emphasis in original.)

    Whew! Heady stuff!

    Is any of that in our favor?

    It occurred to me that perhaps a smidgen more fairness and balance might be needed, so I looked elsewhere. Here's another take -- from someone I don't think is quite as far to the left:

    If Lopez Obrador becomes President of Mexico

    By Kenneth Emmond

    What might happen if the worst fears of President Vicente Fox, Santiago Creel, Roberto Madrazo, and others are realized, and Mexico City’s mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is elected president of Mexico?

    The short answer is no one knows. Still, plenty of apocalyptic doomsayers are willing to share their thoughts.

    Last week Claudio X. Gonzalez, a high-profile leader of the business community, said, “All indications are that the person who will compete (in the 2006 presidential elections) is a political leftist who is retrograde and dinosaur-like, and will leave Mexico in bankruptcy.”

    Gonzalez worries about polarization of the nation, the possible compromising of the rule of law, and the danger of a flight of capital.

    The specter of a Lopez Obrador presidency also strikes fear in the hearts of Mexico’s bankers. One bank, eyeing the debt Mexico City has accumulated since 2000, predicts that a Lopez Obrador government would usher in an era of 20 percent inflation.

    Some political scientists even aver that Lopez Obrador is “not a leftist,” that he is a populist opportunist whose political big chance happened to develop in the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

    This article on the clash between Obrador and Vincente Fox appeared in the New York Times, but it's for pay only, so I don't know whether the piece shares the tone of exultation displayed by reliable old Al Jazeera:
    Latin America is turning left. With Tabare Ramon Vazquez Rosas becoming the first ever left leader in Uruguay on 1 March, more than three quarters of the continent's 355 million people are living under leftist governments.

    Vazquez's presidential ceremony in the capital Montevideo was a roll call of those who have turned the politics of this hemisphere upside down in six short years:

    Hugo Chavez, who won in Venezuela in 1999, Ecuador's Lucio Gutierrez and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who
    won in 2002 and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina who came to power in 2004.

    Vazquez's symbolic first action was the full restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba. Fidel Castro failed to appear, citing health reasons but promised a visit soon.

    His foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque was welcomed with open arms.

    On the horizon are potential victories for Evo Morales in Bolivia, Michelle Bachellet in Chile's December vote and Manual Lopez Obrador, the mayor of Mexico city and presidential candidate. (Emphasis in original.)

    Long term, it might just work out for everybody....

    Because unless I am wrong, all signs on the horizon point to a (more than) potential victory for our own American Evita.

    posted by Eric at 11:24 AM



    The news that's not!

    As any blogger knows, there's huge news in Canada involving a major government scandal. In the words of Nick Packwood.

    It is beginning to look to me that the Liberal Party of Canada has more to worry about than remaining in power. If comprehensive, wide-ranging criminal charges are not laid soon and all the way to the top of this thing we may be looking at the collapse of the federal party for a generation. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    InstaPundit also links to the Montreal Gazette, which observes:

    Then, during the weekend, the veil over testimony was ripped open by at least one blogger outside Canada, where Internauts are safe from Gomery's powers to punish. This recalled the bad old days of the Paul Bernardo circus, when Buffalo-area media outlets flooded Canada with information that Canadian media were ordered to suppress.

    Trying to forbid Internet dissemination of news is like trying to stop the tide. And it is offensive to have a two-tier information system in which the political elite, and many in the media, know more than the very public that the pols and press are theoretically serving.

    This has gone on for days now. Bloggers are doing the job which was once done by the MSM. (And Captain Ed has been inundated with traffic because of posts like this one.)

    What's truly as scandalous as the scandal itself (at least from our pro-First Amendment point of view down here in the South....) is that in Canada, the news reports are censored -- apparently to the point that it might constitute a jailable offense for Canadians to read the very post I am writing.

    Colby Cosh reflects on the implications:

    Any action taken against a webmaster who posted the content of Brault's testimony, or linked to it, or linked to a page that linked to it, would presumably be subject to a later judicial review with an unforeseeable outcome. I believe that this entry complies with the ban--but does it? On Saturday Instapundit linked to "Captain" Ed Morrissey's posting (which is the top hit returned by a Google search for "brault liberal") about the Brault testimony. Is it legal for me to tell you that if I don't link to Morrissey's site itself? What about my three-year-old link to Instapundit.com--am I now obliged by the ban to remove it from my sidebar? If so, for how long? Must I monitor every site on the sidebar for content whose publication by me would constitute contempt of court? I don't believe any legally solid answer is available to these questions; the nature of a hyperlink as a "publication" just hasn't been nailed down.
    Concludes Colby,
    With due respect to the ban, which I consider myself to have observed herein, it would actively help free the hands of Canadian webloggers and reporters if our foreign cousins were to be aggressive about "publishing" the substance of the Brault testimony outside the reach of Canadian law.
    This is all BIG news, by any standard, right wing, left wing, libertarian wing, or no wing at all.

    I have been more than patient with my local newspaper (the Philadelphia Inquirer), and I was all set to do this post last night but I thought I'd give the Inquirer the benefit of the doubt, and allow one more day.

    Still nothing. Nada. Zip.

    Does this means Canada is less important than Zimbabwe? Or does it mean the Inquirer is under the jurisdiction of Canadian courts?

    What do I know? I'm just not a journalist, I guess.....

    (Hell, I don't even know whether this post was about the Inquirer, or Canada.... Should I be thinking globally? Or locally?)

    MORE: Via InstaPundit, here's an incredible collection of links, from

    a Canadian blogger who for some odd reason is uncomfortable publishing in his or her own country
    Uncomfortable publishing? I'd have expected that in places like Iran, Zimbabwe.... or the Ukraine before the election. I'm so used to thinking of Canadians as cut from the same cloth as Americans that I've taken their freedom a little for granted. (Wouldn't want to let that happen here.....)

    UPDATE (04/06/05): No news about the scandal in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Nothing about Canada. Well, there's this story about Peter Jennings illness. But does that really count as a story about Canada?

    UPDATE (04/07/05): Ditto for today. Not a word on AdScam in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The only word about Canada is that you now need a passport to go there. (I'm reminded of the way the Inky studiously ignored AnnanScam.) Canadians have to read Captain Ed to find out what's going on in Canada, and so do Americans!

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (3)



    Read the Carnival right now!

    John at Incite has done a great job with this week's Carnival of the Vanities. I'm especially intrigued by John's analysis of the ferocious debate about the formation of the Neolibertarian Network. I'm not much of a joiner, but I joined it not only because it seems to fit my politics, but because I'm tired of being bludgeoned with label and definitions. I think people should be allowed to think what they think, and to my mind, accusing them of not living up to a label (especially a vague one like "small 'l' libertarian") is a poor excuse for rational argument.

    John has managed to organize and make sense out of a mountain of posts despite being on a business trip, so the Carnival is early. You'd never know he was in a time crunch, as they're grouped for easy reading, accompanied by wonderful graphics, and analyzed with John's usual wit.

    This Carnival should be read early -- and often!

    posted by Eric at 08:20 AM




    Fast food is for slower plebians . . .

    This post about fast food reminded me of the supreme arrogance of so many people I've come to tolerate and even love.

    This sort of trade-off between short-term pleasure and long-term welfare is not irrational. It is necessary for living a good life. And it helps explain why people do things like smoke, have extra-marital affairs and vote for Howard Dean. Yet instead of acknowledging that such a rational trade-off is taking place, Spurlock & Co. are genuinely disgusted by the thought of liking McDonalds. Rather, they live in a world where basic choices about personal consumption must reflect profound ethical commitments.

    This is classic Bobo thinking. One might even say that it is Bobo religion. Everything must be organic. Instead of instant coffee, there is cappucino made from fair-trade Colombian beans. Instead of low-priced mega-stores, over-priced boutiques. Instead of SUVs, gas-electric hybrids. (NB: Brooks identifies the SUV as the ultimate Bobo vehicle because of its pseudo-ruggedness, but I think he'd now agree that the smart set has come to regard SUV's as a guilty pleasure. Someday, it will loath them as it does McDonald's.)

    What prevents the Bobos' condescension from exploding into utter loathing and contempt is the sense that America's primitive majority is not responsible for its crude and ignorant behavior. Instead of contempt, there is a certain pity. If you watch Super Size Me, I think you'll agree that Spurlock betrays a definite affection for all of the misguided McDonalds' lovers he interviews. He wants them to live better and healthier lives, but he would hate himself if he ever became like them.

    What this mentality loves the most is the art of condescending to their inferiors without seeming to do that at all. Why, they're downright concerned. And this "concern" often takes on a sanctimonious air which reminds me of religious activists who claim they want to "help" the less virtuous achieve new lives, new sex-free sex lives, etc.

    A typical example is to be found in the so-called "slow food" movement. (Closely linked to the "sustainable development" folks.)

    Slow food may not be for everybody, but then, hey, not everyone is superior enough to care about the little people. Besides, not everyone can afford to:

    Slow Food's aim is to promote food and wine appreciation. One doesn't imagine soft-middled Barolo-sniffing gourmands as being manifesto-thumping radicals, but they are. The SF manifesto states, at www.slowfood.com, "We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods."

    Certainly, North American urban infrastructure thwarts the average eater from revelling in lovingly selected local produce and leisurely prepared meals eaten at a sun-dappled pace. Highways and megaplexes and job stresses turn victual pleasures into vital pressures.

    There's that blasted infrastructure at work again! What's an ordinary hard-working family (the kind with neither the time nor the money for gourmet shopping) to do?
    As Slow Food fan and chef Marco Canora of Hearth, New York City, writes in a Q&A on egullet.com, "The movement encourages people to stop eating at fast-food restaurants where the food has little or no nutritional value and to cook at home instead... I think it is unrealistic to expect people who have been working long hours to keep clothes on their children's backs to come home with raw ingredients and spend an hour preparing a meal for their entire family. When faced with the option of going to the store and buying a tomato, onion, lettuce, and ground meat so you can go home and make tacos, or taking your kids to Taco Bell where the tacos cost 59 cents each, I think most people are going to choose the latter."

    Canora says slow foodies are idealists. Eating conscientiously takes time, and time - the suspicions are true - takes money.

    A recent Slow Food Québec tea tasting cost $45 for non-members - out of reach for many (though the Scots in me balked at the price, I was sorry to miss it). Marc-André Cyr, whiz baker for Olive & Gourmando, catered the event. He said the crowd was mostly women, generally 45-50 years old.

    "We can see where they need to do their canvassing," Cyr said. "I think the younger they start, the better - in Italy they're all about the kids." Cyr told me that in Italy, SF sponsors inexpensive tables d'hôte for under-25s, and collaborates with schoolteachers to convey the importance of food. He'd love to see similar youth outreach programs here.

    Though SF is perceived as a club for gourmets, it also fights for food heritage. Carlo Petrini said in an interview with wine authority Jancis Robinson, "The relationship between gastronomy and ecology is very close. A gourmet who eats and eats and eats but does not appreciate where his food comes from is a fool."

    The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity was created to help protect global gastronomic resources through - among other ways - seed banks, education on the risks of big agribusiness, and documenting and promoting artisanal food production knowledge. An alarming 75 per cent of European food product diversity has been lost since 1900, as has 93 per cent of America's.

    Immortal gods! We've lost 93 percent of our food product diversity? No wonder the little people have turned to McDonalds! And I don't doubt the statistics are accurate; I remember food products which are no longer on the shelves.

    Speaking of such extinct food products, whatever happened to Kellogg's Concentrate© cereal? Where's the EPA now that we really need them?

    As an effete champion of Classical Values, I feel a special duty to remind readers of the old days. And the fact is, the Romans knew how to do slow food!

    Here is a sample ancient Roman menu:

    Dormouse stuffed with asafoetida and fish purée
    Dolphin balls with rue berries
    Boiled ostrich on the bone
    Jellyfish omelette
    Wild boar poached in seawater
    Stuffed pig’s womb and crunchy sow’s nipples
    Rabbit-flavoured cheese
    Yum! Or how about "parrot livers, peacock brains, flamingo tongues and the spleens of moray eels?"

    Hell, the Romans practically invented slow food!

    the Romans were remarkable, inventive cooks who would surely have looked upon the mass-produced, tasteless slop we eat today with deep disdain. Everything the Romans ate was organic, fresh, without additives or colourings, and usually home-produced and home-cooked.
    Et tu much at McDonalds, plebians?

    I say, let them eat peacock brains!

    posted by Eric at 08:42 PM | Comments (3)



    Spare me from the culture of death!

    I've talked about death being a personal thing, and meanwhile others carry on about the "Culture of Death."

    As it happens, I'm dealing with a culture of death right now, as I agonize over what to do about Puff. In addition to being unable to walk, he's now incontinent, and the canine Alzheimers has worsened -- to the point where his nighttime barking (for no reason) is making it increasingly impossible to sleep.

    I can't expect much sympathy from anyone, because the solution is simple: put the poor dog to sleep. I wrote about this not long ago, and at the time I said that Puff would let me know "when it's time."

    The time draws nearer and nearer. Yet Puff is still Puff, he still has some quality of life -- and above all he is still "there."

    Yet this canine culture of death lurks constantly in the background, always reminding me of my "responsibility" to "end the animal's suffering."

    I realize how absurd it must sound, referring to this as a culture of death. It's between me and my vet and my dog. Besides, as the cultural scolds would remind me, animals are not human, and should not be treated that way. Humans must be allowed, forced even, to experience endless suffering as part of the experience we call "human" -- even though we freely recognize that to allow an animal to experience the full, slow agony of a protracted death would be "cruel."

    We know this, of course, because we just know it. So we are told.

    Double standards abound. I've never fully understood the "need" to cut off the balls of "man's best friend" any more than I'd understand the need to do the same to a human best friend. People [usually this type] tell me that my dog isn't "fixed" (as if I didn't know he had balls) -- with a sanctimonious look which suggests I'm insufficiently respectful of authority or something. Hey my dog isn't broken in that sense. I don't let him wander, and he won't tie up with any of the nonexistent bitches in heat that aren't running around, so spare me the pompous moral lectures.

    The last thing I need is a moral lecture on the culture of death. I'm in the middle of it, and it hurts to be reminded.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I could go on about the need moral assholes seem to have to hassle people when they're at their wits' end dealing with life and death issues, (or when they're depressed, lost or under pressure -- the way cultists proselytize college students during exams) but I don't wish to appear provocative. For what it's worth, I can remember a time when this country largely consisted of people who minded their own business. The Republican Party used to be full of them. Even the Democrats used to not mess with personal issues. (Nice memories, at least....)

    UPDATE: Link fixed above.

    UPDATE (04/12/05): Glenn Reynolds is on record as having no desire to be "fixed."

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



    God's time is dog's time!

    The sudden switch to daylight savings has been unpleasant, as no one explained it to Puff. I had to get up at six, but Puff (after being cruelly dragged outside to do his business) went back to bed.

    ZZzzz2.jpg

    His clock is the same, so why has mine changed?

    I can't explain it to a dog, which is why I have a blog.

    But first, I should correct myself. It's Daylight Saving, not "savings," Time. Here's a historical overview:

    Contrary to popular belief, the correct use of "Daylight Saving Time" is without an "s" on the end of "Saving." Grammatists assert that the word "Saving" is a participle in this particular phrase, as it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. However, "Daylight Savings Time" is still commonly used and is also found in some dictionaries.

    In the United States, the changeover time of 2 a.m. was chosen because it is when most people are at home, and, originally, it was when the fewest trains were running. It is late enough to minimally affect bars and restaurants and prevent the day from switching to yesterday, which would be very confusing. The time is also early enough that the entire continental United States has switched by daybreak, and the changeover occurs before most early shift workers and churchgoers, especially on Easter Sunday, are out and about.

    Some areas of the United States, however, do not observe Daylight Saving Time. It is not observed in Hawaii, the Eastern Time Zone portion of Indiana, and the State of Arizona, except on the Navajo Indian Reservation which does observe it.

    Daylight Saving Time has been used in the United States and in many European countries since World War I. After the war ended, the law proved to be unpopular and it was later repealed in 1919.

    During World War II, President Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time, called "War Time," from February 2, 1945 to September 30, 1945. From 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law mandating the observance of Daylight Saving Time, so states and localities were free to choose whether to observe it and when it began and ended. This, however, caused much confusion. Throughout the following years, many changes were made to federal and state laws regulating Daylight Saving Time. Finally, in 1986, a federal law was passed designating the first day of Daylight Saving Time beginning on the first Sunday in April and ending on the last Sunday of October. Only those states in which the legislatures voted to keep the entire state on standard time are exempt.

    There was an elderly woman I once knew who hated FDR, and complained every year, that "THEY'RE PLAYING WITH GOD'S TIME!"

    Does that mean the godless secular atheists won?

    posted by Eric at 11:40 AM | Comments (2)




    Leaving people alone (for the umpteenth time . . .)
    What do you do after you've won one of the most important Supreme Court cases in decades and shoved the state, kicking and screaming, out of your bedroom? Apparently, you beg the government to walk right back in. "The Marriage Revolution" has arrived, and homosexuals are the unlikely heroes of the quest to revive a fading institution.

    -- Reason Magazine

    A controversial essay by Megan McArdle (linked by Glenn Reynolds) has to be the most thorough and dispassionate exploration of the possible pitfalls of same sex marriage I've seen to date. It's well worth spending time to read the whole thing, along with all the comments. (Especially those from Sean Kinsell.)

    I have to admit that I'm more than a little burned out on the subject, and over the years I've had so many pointless arguments that I just don't enjoy talking about it anymore. Megan McArdle is right: ideologues on both sides have long since made up their generally narrow minds.

    All I can say is I'm just glad gay marriage wasn't there when I was young and having fun. As I have said many times in this blog, the gay lifestyle, while it isn't always a bohemian one, it often is. Certainly in my case, I loved the fact that if I was in a gay relationship, no one could tell me what to do. And culturally, who would? Certainly not the families of lovers. (Whether you call them "virtual in laws" or whatever.) All I ever asked was tolerance of the "leave me alone" variety.

    The idea of being hauled into "Family Court" is outrageous in itself to anyone who wants to live his life outside the radar. And make no mistake about it: once there is gay marriage, there will be gay alimony, gay palimony and above all, legal jurisdiction of family courts over the lives of many people who didn't want that and don't need it. Blackmail could take on new dimensions.

    There really isn't anything I could add to this essay, which pretty well covers my thinking on the subject. Excerpt:

    How could I -- a libertarian, someone who believes in maximizing human freedom -- possibly object to gay marriage? Wouldn't this simply allow homosexuals the same rights allowed everybody else?

    First of all, from where derives the assumption that I want to be like everybody else? Rights are one thing, but is it really fair to see marriage as a "right?" It is an entire institution -- one which I have rejected for almost my entire life. Who the hell has the right to impose it on me with the threat of governmental coercion?

    If you don't think there is governmental coercion involved in marriage, then I ask you, right now, to leave your house, get in your car, or walk -- down to the nearest post office. Look around the place, and somewhere on the wall you will see posters offering rewards for people known as "deadbeat dads." I am not defending them, because I think most of them are either con artists or abysmal failures in life, but how many of them do you think see marriage as a "right?"

    What do you think alimony is? Community property? These are rights, but they are also onerous burdens, because they can mean having to give up large sums of money (perhaps half or more of what you own) or else GO TO JAIL.

    Rights? The "right" to be jailed if I don't pay up to someone I no longer love? How is that a right? How is it a right to be placed by new laws in a position where I can be compelled to do something to which I never consented, under threat of imprisonment?

    What if I do not want such a right? May I simply opt out? Suppose I take pity on an unwashed, down-on-his-luck, young homeless person who'd otherwise be engaged in prostitution or other ruinous pursuits, and I take him in. Suppose I have more money than he does -- a lot more. Suppose further that we work a deal: in exchange for food and rent he takes care of the place and helps out generally. Suppose a mutual sexual relationship occurs. Suppose further that both of us benefit, that he gets a job and improves his life, but that after about two or three years I get tired of his sullen, studied ignorance and ask him to leave. No one has been harmed or taken advantage of.

    What would stop him from marching off in a rage to the nearest lawyer? In a state with legal gay marriage why couldn't he simply demand his "share" of so-called "community assets"? Moral conservatives can complain all they want about the immoral lifestyle and how it degrades the courts to be cluttering up their calendars with such litigation, but what about me? What "right" would I have gained? The way I see it, I would have lost, big time, and I would have government in my private life in ways never imaginable before.

    I saw too much family law, and I know how evil the system can be. I also know how vindictive an angry ex can be. There is nothing pretty about two people breaking up, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Until now the difference was that homosexuals were simply two free men (or two free women) and if they wanted economic benefits they would have to actually do things such as creating trusts, drafting wills, entering into adoption agreements, signing powers of attorney, and the like. If they didn't want to do those things, then they should legally remain two strangers.

    In a word, before gay marriage, they were free. This is a freedom which I do not want to surrender, certainly not because a large and vocal group of people are demanding something they think is a "right."

    You'd think people would have learned that government-granted "rights" often carry with them onerous obligations.

    No one wants to hear from those who seek neither.

    posted by Eric at 08:59 PM | Comments (3)



    Are bloggers dogging the art world too?

    Does the power of blogs know no bounds?

    I mean, are there limits?

    Apparently not. Earlier today I opined that bloggers were taking over investigative journalism, and linked to an article speculating that they're filling the void between intellectuals and the citizenry.

    And now I see clear evidence that bloggers are having a major impact upon art.

    Paddles were wagging at Doyle New York's annual Dogs in Art auction on February 15, 2005. Coinciding each year with the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the auction offers two centuries of canine paintings, paintings, prints, bronzes and other objects.

    Highlighting this year's sale were two rare paintings from Cassius Marcellus Coolidge's 1903 series of dogs playing poker. The pair were estimated to fetch $30,000-50,000 at the auction. After intense bidding from several determined bidders on the telephones and in the salesroom, the pair sold to a private collector from New York City for a staggering $590,400, setting a new world auction record for the artist.

    Cassius Marcellus Coolidge was born in upstate New York in 1844 to abolitionist Quaker farmers who named him after statesman Henry Clay's brother, Cassius Marcellus Clay. An accomplished cartoonist, he is also credited with creating the familiar life-size Boardwalk cutouts, which he called Comic Foregrounds, into which one's head was placed so as to be photographed as an amusing character.

    In 1903, Coolidge contracted with the advertising firm of Brown & Bigelow of St. Paul, Minnesota to create sixteen paintings of dogs in various human-like situations. Nine of these paintings depicted dogs around a card table, two of which were offered at the auction.

    Estimated to fetch $30,000-50,000, huh?

    I wonder when that estimate was done. I just wonder. . .

    A little "background" is in order -- and I do mean background.

    Because, a scant six weeks before the auction, Glenn Reynolds was kind enough to link this post, featuring a photo of myself, Tom Brennan, and Sean Kinsell, sitting in front of an underdecorated background.

    tastefulDogBloggers.jpg

    As you can see, there's nothing on the wall, and I wasn't in the mood for decorating. As I said at the time,

    ....there should be something in that niche on the wall, but the spirit is there, and I am not about to Photoshop tasteful wall decorations into an informal luncheon snapshot
    "THERE HAVE TO BE SOME LIMITS, DAMMIT," agreed the InstaPundit.

    Little did I know what was coming next.

    This barest of bare backgrounds in turn inspired Jessica's Well to decorate the wall with -- you guessed it! -- one of the Cassius Marcellus Coolidge paintings from the same series mentioned above.

    tastefulDogBloggers.jpg

    And so, a scant six weeks after the Coolidge dog art became the subject of an InstaLanche, this previously underrated artist's paintings skyrocketed in value -- from $40,000 to well over half a million. (By any standard, that's art appreciation.)

    Coincidence?

    I should say not!

    (Doggone right there ought to be limits . . .)

    posted by Eric at 05:19 PM



    Trickling and shuddering . . .

    Is blogging the new investigative journalism? I've thought so for some time. It's much-needed, because the "old, original" 60 Minutes-style investigative journalism -- once touted as a guardian of democracy -- eventually became so one-sided and elitist that coverups became its stock in trade. Whereas investigative journalists once exposed coverups, this complete role reversal created a need for a brand-new breed -- not investigative journalists, but investigators of journalists.

    The new breed has a name, of course.

    And it has sent many shudders through the ranks of the once-vaunted investigative journalists.

    Bloggers.

    Who else is shuddering?

    When I was a kid (way back in the days before Michel Foucault and the deconstructionists) there used to be people known as intellectuals, who believed that there existed a thing called Truth. In the search for the latter, the former used to engage in things like open discussion, they encouraged intellectual diversity, and they were often willing to question their most basic premises. But eventually, the intellectual class succumbed (in much the same way as the investigative journalist counterparts) to a decadence grounded in the abandonment of truth itself. While there's always been a gap between the intelligentsia and the citizenry, in my view this abandonment of truth (often accompanied by uncompromising politicization) created another serious credibility gulf.

    A gulf that once again, bloggers are stepping in to span.

    A guy named Tim Dunlop is convinced that, by stepping into this intellectual vacuum, bloggers are obliterating the increasingly anachronistic distinction between intellectuals and the citizenry.

    ....[T]he distinction between "the" intellectuals and the citizens is often overstated and tends to be anti-democratic, assigning the vast mass to the passive role of spectator in most societal debates.

    And here's where blogging comes in. Blogging changes all that to an extent that wasn't imaginable even a year ago. By giving an increasingly legitimate forum to anyone who can hold the attention of an audience, blogging has provided at least one of the technical means of dissolving the division between intellectual and citizen.

    So rather than being in decline, as it is fashionable to suggest, the category of "public intellectual" in this sense is exploding.

    This is one hell of an interesting piece and I don't know how I managed to miss it.

    That's one of the biggest problems for me.... How the hell am I supposed to filter information?

    Trickle down or percolation?

    Anyway, the Dunlop piece is a must read -- especially on the mechanics of how blogging makes people think:

    Blogging does not (and should not) try and emulate the sophistication of, say, an academic presentation or paper. It shouldn't even try and emulate the precision of a news report, though paradoxically, as I've said, one its best functions is to fact-check such news reports. The attraction and strength of blogging is that it is informal, first draftish, and more than a little breathless.

    For the individual blogger, or even for the reader who decides to leave a comment, there is a real blowtorch-to-the-belly aspect to blogging in that, by engaging in political debate in such a public way, people often move beyond their own knowledge horizon, or come up against people who are simply better informed than they are, or who have thought about the topic more deeply. Under such circumstances bloggers can be forced to do their growing up on a subject in public, which can be a difficult thing. But it is also good thing, and it gets us back to the idea, espoused most fully by conservative thinker Christopher Lasch, that argument precedes understanding and is central to democratic opinion formation.

    Lasch says that democracy requires argument and that public argument involving ordinary citizens has been usurped by an elite, a group of insiders who either because of political connections, expertise or other institutional reasons have easier access to the media and are therefore able to dominate public discourse. Such debate then tends to happen within pre-defined parameters that reflect the education, specialisation and norms of that elite. Thus, not only do they dominate public argument by virtue of their elite access and knowledge, they also tend to define the topics, terms and presentation of such debate and are liable to judge any lay contribution as illegitimate.

    The net affect is not only anti-democratic, in that democracy relies on public argument between all sectors of society, not just its elites, but the very idea of debate-as-learning gets turned on its head. Instead of seeing arguments as a source of knowledge, they become seen as a sign of lack of knowledge. This criticism is misplaced because as Lasch says, "our search for reliable information is itself guided by the questions that arise during arguments about a given course of action. It is only by subjecting our preferences and projects to the test of debate that we come to understand what we know and what we still need to learn. Until we have to defend our opinions in public, they remain opinions in Lippmann's pejorative sense - half-formed convictions based on random impressions and unexamined assumptions. It is the act of articulating and defending our views that lifts them out of the category of 'opinions,' gives them shape and definition, and makes it possible for others to recognize them as a description of their own experience as well. In short, we come to know our own minds only by explaining ourselves to others."

    Lasch's ideal was that arguments aren't won by shouting down your opponent but by changing their minds.

    Imagine. Free and open inquiry. Intellectual freedom.

    More trickling, more shuddering!

    posted by Eric at 01:05 PM | Comments (3)




    Pope John Paul II, R.I.P.

    I see that the Pope died, a little over an hour ago. This was a great man, who did at least as much to end Communism as Ronald Reagan. I doubt they'll be able to find anyone of his stature to replace him.

    Rest in peace.

    MORE: Blogosphere reacts: Glenn Reynolds, Kevin Aylward, Ann Althouse, The Anchoress.

    MORE (04:05 p.m.): I just heard President Bush remember the Pope as "a humble, wise, and fearless priest." Pretty fair description. And there's a good picture of Karol Józef Wojtyla as a young man here.

    AND MORE: Aside from his important role in ending communism, the Pope will always be a towering figure in history for his complete overhaul of Catholic Church policy towards the Jews:

    Another of the Pope's major achievements was to bring the Catholic Church to an historic rapprochement with Jews after 2,000 years of hostility when the Vatican formally recognized the state of Israel in 1993.

    That led to the realization of a third dream in March 2000 when he made a long-desired trip to the Holy Land, visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories and calling for peace at every stop along the way.

    In a momentous gesture that brought tears to many eyes, he left a personal note in the cracks of Judaism's sacred Western Wall in Jerusalem asking for forgiveness for the past sins of Christians against Jews.

    posted by Eric at 03:57 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)



    Stop all this colturned digging!

    Now that the uproar over the Sandy Berger case has died down, an interesting detail is coming to light. The reason for Berger's slap on the wrist "punishment," it turns out, is that Berger has agreed to become a government rat:

    "Guilty, your honor," Berger responded when asked how he pleaded.

    Berger did not say why he cut up the materials and threw them away at the Washington office of his Stonebridge International consulting firm. Accompanied by his wife, Susan, he offered no explanation when he addressed reporters outside the federal courthouse after the hearing.

    "It was a mistake and it was wrong," he said, refusing to answer questions.

    Noel Hillman, chief of the Justice Department's public integrity section, would not discuss Berger's motivation but said the former national security adviser understood the rules governing the handling of classified materials.

    Berger had only copies of documents; all the originals remain in the government's possession, Hillman said.

    The charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.

    Under a plea agreement that still must be approved by Robinson, Berger would serve no jail time but would pay a $10,000 fine, surrender his security clearance for three years, and cooperate with investigators. Security clearance allows access to classified government materials. [Emphasis added.]

    Remember, there was speculation about what it was Berger was really hiding. Not that we'll ever know precisely what it was.... Or who might have been behind the sock-stuffing caper. It always struck me as odd that a man at Berger's level would be willing to put his head on the chopping block like that.

    Y2K? I wonder......

    In (ahem) unrelated news (on a different page in today's Inquirer), there's this:

    WASHINGTON - Pursuing information that they missed evidence a decade ago, FBI agents searched the former home of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and found blasting caps and other explosive materials apparently related to the 1995 attack, officials said yesterday.

    FBI officials said the material at the house in Herington, Kan., was buried in a crawl space that was not checked by agents in numerous searches of the property during the original investigation of Nichols and Timothy McVeigh.

    "The information so far indicates the items have been there since prior to the Oklahoma City bombing," Agent Gary Johnson said in a telephone interview from Oklahoma City.

    The extraordinary discovery, just three weeks from the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, is likely to prove a new embarrassment to an FBI already burned by missteps in this case and in the pre-Sept. 11 period.

    Nichols, who is serving multiple life prison sentences on federal and state charges, has not lived at the property for years, and FBI officials said the information that led to the discovery indicated that Nichols buried the evidence before the April 19, 1995, attack.

    Um, excuse me, but the FBI -- investigating the crime of the century -- didn't search the crawl space?

    That, coupled with Nichols' connection to Ramzi Youssef, bothers me. Who is Ramzi Youssef, you ask? Not much -- just the Iraqi-connected guy behind the first World Trade Center bombing:

    Nichols, who had been married to a Filipino, traveled on many occasions to the Philippines, a nation known to harbor elements of Islamic fanaticism. Based on the testimony of a variety of witnesses, it’s believed that Nichols allied himself with a group of Islamic militants located in Cebu City in the Philippines, where he was instructed in the art of bomb-making by Ramzi Youssef, an Iraqi agent. Nichols, in turn, passed on this know-how to his buddy and crime partner, Timothy McVeigh. Moreover, Ramzi Youssef is the same individual who was subsequently convicted of participation in the 1993 Twin Towers bombing. In the referenced Insight magazine piece, Stephen Jones stated, "We went to the Philippines four times to investigate Terry Nichols’ meetings with Ramzi Youssef and other known terrorists". And Jones believes that there is a "prima facie" case for Iraqi involvement in the terrorist assault upon the Murrah Building. There are also reports that McVeigh had Iraqi telephone numbers on his person when he was arrested.
    Let's not dig too deeply, now....

    Leave that crawl space alone!

    This lingering aroma stench has long bothered former Clinton CIA Director James Woolsey:

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

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

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

    I know I've kvetched about these things before, and I'm sure I'll kvetch about them again.

    Fortunately, I am not alone in my suspicions. Here's Rand Simberg:

    we've never really found all of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing, for the same reason, with an additional one. Not only would proof of a Middle East connection have required undesired action on the part of the Clinton administration, but it would have diluted the politically-useful message that this was the sole act of "angry white men," the same ones who'd been stirred up by Rush Limbaugh into giving the Republicans control of Congress the previous fall.
    But outside the blogosphere, why is it that the only outfit daring even to ask questions about what shows every sign of being a coverup is WorldNetDaily?
    The woman who wrote the definitive book on a Middle Eastern connection to the Oklahoma City bombing says the classified terror-threat report at the center of a criminal investigation of former Clinton aide Sandy Berger might include information about a high-level al-Qaida operative having visited OKC ahead of the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building.

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

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

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

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

    Good question then.

    And a better question now.

    UPDATE: Here's more about how the MSM has been covering up the nature of Sandy Berger's crimes. (Obviously, we are not supposed to know what was in the documents which were destroyed.)

    MORE: What I think is probably going here is another bipartisan coverup (a phenomenon at least as old as Hadrian.)

    UPDATE (04/04/05): Noting that these were not identical copies and that there remain many unanswered questions, Rand Simberg asks rhetorically:

    ....does anyone think that this reporting would have been the same if it were a Bush administration official accused of the same thing? (Via InstaPundit.)
    (Especially a Bush administration official accused of shredding mutiple copies of classified documents prepared for the Bush adminstration, each of which so-called "orginal" had different notes from different Bush officials....)

    Hey, let's get our priorities straight! As we all know, the Berger scandal pales in comparison with giving a press pass to a conservative gay reporter and then letting him ask the president friendly questions.

    MORE (04/04/05 -- 6:57 p.m.): I just happened to catch a Fox News discussion of the Berger affair with a panel including Brit Hume and the Washington Times' Bill Sammon. No mention is made of the unique notations on these documents; instead, they're referred to as identical copies.

    If there's one thing worse than a coverup, it's a bipartisan coverup.

    They're the most successful kind!

    AND MORE (04/05/05): I think it should be remembered that it was Richard Clarke -- the author of the much-copied-and-stolen classified report -- who alluded to the Terry Nichols/Ramzi Yousef connection in his own book:

    On Page 127 [of his new "Against All Enemies"], Clarke notes that it's possible that al-Qaida operatives in the Philippines "taught Terry Nichols how to blow up the Oklahoma Federal Building." Intelligence places Nichols there on the same days as Ramzi Yousef, and "we do know that Nichols's bombs did not work before his Philippines stay and were deadly when he returned."

    This ties in to the theory that Clinton quashed investigations into a foreign connection to Terry Nichols. The objective - blame Oklahoma City on right-wing wackos for political purposes.

    There's been speculation about Jamie Gorelick, and at the risk of repeating a question others have already asked, were Jamie Gorelick's notes on the still-missing (now shredded) documents? (Link via InstaPundit, who opines that "perhaps" Berger's "secretly cooperating in an ongoing investigation." That's what the agreement says.

    But we all know that "investigation" is a political synonym for "coverup."

    CORRECTION: Technically, what Berger has agreed to do is "cooperate with investigators." "Cooperation," obviously, means doing whatever the investigators say. While the word "secretly" is not used, I would be willing to bet that the nature of the cooperation is as secret as the "investigation."

    What I'd like to know is why the Berger prosecution (and onging "investigation") is being handled by Noel Hillman, Chief of the DOJ's Public Integrity Section. His background seems to be in election law and campaign finance.

    Surely there's nothing political about this?

    UPDATE: Noel Hillman is allegedly investigating the trail of money involving Peter Paul and Hillary Clinton.* Sure hope there's nothing political about that! (Michelle Malkin has a nice photo of the pair.)

    *For those who distrust Newsmax, there's more here and here.

    BOTTOM LINE: I think it's obvious that:

  • 1. Berger was trying to cover something up; and
  • 2. Whatever it was, there's now agreement by both "sides" that it should continue to be covered up.
  • I can't think of any other explanation for the complete obfuscation of the nature of what was deliberately shredded by Berger. To ignore the notations and dismiss the documents (as Noel Hillman has) as "multiple copies of the same document" requires suspending disbelief. It's disingenuous at least, and hardly serves the interests of "public integrity." I think they know exactly what happened, but have decided that mutual silence is in everyone's interest.

    But is their interest synonymous with the national interest?

    Why?

    ONE LAST ITEM: Via InstaPundit, I see that Dick Morris believes Berger was taking the fall to protect the Clintons. While I agree generally with Morris's analysis, this doesn't explain why Bush's DOJ would be so willing to go along with it.

    What does? I know I can't prove a Mideast connection to the Oklahoma City bombing, but if Dick Morris is right, it appears that President Bush's Justice Department is (whether knowingly or unknowingly) "covering for the Clintons."

    Am I the only person wondering why?

    AND MORE (04/08/05): An anonymous reader emailed me as follows:
    To: escheie@yahoo.com
    Subject: Cover up reporters
    Date: Mon, 4 Apr 2005 00:20:14 +0200 (CEST)

    But outside the blogosphere, why is it that the only outfit daring even to ask questions about what shows every sign of being a coverup is WorldNetDaily?

    Wrong:

    http://www.radioliberty.com
    http://www.soundwaves2000.com/radio_liberty/index.asp?how=1
    http://www.worldaffairsbrief.com
    http://www.newswithviews.com
    http://www.4acloserlook.com
    http://www.4acloserlook.com/2004archives.html
    http://www.4acloserlook.com/2005archives.html
    http://www.infowars.com
    http://www.prisonplanet.tv
    http://www.m2ktalk.com/power.htm
    http://www.bushrevealed.com
    http://www.riflewarrior.com
    http://www.bogritz.com
    http://www.expendableelite.com
    http://www.rense.com/general58/demand.htm
    http://www.karlschwarz.com
    http://www.rense.com/general44/gikdeb.htm
    http://www.threeworldwars.com
    http://www.rense.com/Datapages/chamish.html Hmmm..... I guess I stand corrected, although I think some of the above web sites might make WorldNetDaily look cautious and circumspect.

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)



    Serious Victory

    Well, they tried to take my blog away, but the foolishness has come to an end.

    Time to get back to the serious business of this blog!

    I took a screenshot of what happened yesterday -- in case anyone missed out on the fun:

    TVCFool.jpg

    Sheesh!

    Glad that's over.

    posted by Eric at 09:23 AM




    A turd for a turd?

    It's hard to stay with the April Fool's meme, but I'm trying.

    And thanks to a regular reader with a fine blog named Elemenohpee, I got a wonderful, um, scoop. No seriously; this is the straight, well, poop!

    Thief Steals Poop From Woman Walking Dog

    Thu Mar 31,11:32 AM ET

    SAN DIEGO - This mugger was left holding a bag he didn't really want.

    Police said they were searching for a gunman who ran up to a woman while she was walking her dog Monday night and grabbed the bag she was holding. It contained poop.

    When the gunman discovered what was in it, he threw it down in disgust, pointed his gun at the 32-year-old woman and demanded money, San Diego police detective Gary Hassen said.

    He then aimed his .22-caliber semiautomatic at the dog, named Misty, and pulled the trigger twice but the gun didn't fire, Hassen said. The robber, who was believed to be in his 20s, ran to a waiting small, silver car and fled, police said.

    I'm glad the story had a happy ending, and the dog wasn't killed. Anyone who'd shoot a dog like that belongs in one of the lowest circles of Hell. The son of a bitch is lucky he was dealing with an apparently friendly dog named Misty. Out in rural California, I knew a pit bull named "Mitzi" who wouldn't have been so kind. She developed a taste for human innards after finding a dead man who'd been struck by a train and dragged for 100 or so yards, and.... well, the details aren't in good taste. (The cops didn't arrest Mitzi or her owner, though, as they couldn't think of any charges.)

    But it's just too damned bad it wasn't Mitzi this idiot tried to shoot, because canine justice would have been swift and certain. (The .22 caliber pistol would only have annoyed Mitzi, and made things worse for the gunman -- working or not!)

    If I were the judge, I'd make him eat what he stole.

    I guess that's retributive justice . . .

    posted by Eric at 10:20 PM | Comments (3)



    New focus for old Locust?

    A plague of locusts has descended on me today!

    First the religious conservatives took my blog away (effectively delinking me from my own blog), and now a religious fanatic with a biblical name has declared War on Classical Values!

    Moreover, in a most un-Christian and un-Pagan manner, he has dared to delink me!

    My heart bleeds for Eric. Therefore, I hereby declare a blog war against Classical Values! Although I had not linked to him before, I pulled up Blogger, linked to Eric, and then delinked him immediately. I command my legion of slavishly loyal blog readers to do likewise. Destroy Classical Values!
    This smacks of religious intolerance -- nay, religious persecution, and betokens greater plagues to come.

    I don't know how long I can hold out.

    Under the circumstances, all I can do is make resort of an old pagan expression: "turn the other cheek!" Like Easter, Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Groundhog Day, and many other Pagan traditions, Other Cheekiness was long ago misappropriated by Christians. But I still believe in turning the other cheek, so I am linking to Locusts and Honey while I still have what little remains of this blog.

    I feel obligated to point out that the Biblical "locusts and honey" reference may be code language for hallucinogenic mushrooms:

    Baptism, of course, was central to the Essene rite of initiation. The Hebrew word translated as 'Baptist' is Tabbal, 'dipper' or 'dyer.' As Allegro shows, this is cognate with Akkadian tabarru, 'red dye' and Latin tablion, 'purple fringe,' all derived from the Sumerian TAB-BALI, 'mushroom,' literally 'twin cone.' The only red mushroom that has, historically, caused religious excitement in the Near East, is Soma, Amanita muscaria. The Bible is indicating just what kind of 'baptism' John gave Jesus. The play on guba, 'edible locust,' John's food and gab'a, 'mushroom,' is just one of many word-plays in the John story typical of the mystery religions.
    You see? Isn't it obvious?

    locusfocus.gif

    Locusts were once peace-loving mushrooms!

    And what have they done to this joyously cosmic symbology? Why, they've turned locusts into plagues and mushrooms into symbols of war!

    Christian Pagan/Pagan Christian Apostates unite!

    posted by Eric at 05:09 PM



    War is Hill!

    The Hillary Clinton campaign is fighting mad about "Swift Boat" tactics, and they're not going to take it!

    In a fund-raising e-mail message sent out on Thursday, Mrs. Clinton's campaign also said her critics were preparing an advertising campaign against her similar to the one orchestrated by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that attacked Senator John Kerry's Vietnam service during the presidential election.

    "The right wing is already getting ready, naming Hillary as their 'No. 1 target' and boasting about their 'Swift Boat' style ads," said the e-mail message, which was sent by Ann F. Lewis, the director of communications for Mrs. Clinton's campaign committee, Friends of Hillary. "Help us show the right wing that we will be ready and able to fight back."

    In many respects, the fund-raising letter is a fairly standard piece of campaign literature, employing the kind of scare tactics that Republican and Democratic politicians routinely use to mobilize their supporters.

    That said, the fund-raising solicitation exposes a side of Mrs. Clinton - fiery partisan - that she has rarely displayed in the four years since she arrived in the Senate, where she has won over many Republican colleagues with a nonconfrontational and even cordial style.

    In an interview, Ms. Lewis said the e-mail message was largely sent in response to published reports that Republicans are creating a political action committee seeking to raise $10 million to run a campaign against Mrs. Clinton in 2006. The committee is reportedly going to model its campaign after the one that the Swift Boat veterans used in 2004 to attack Mr. Kerry's war record, Ms. Lewis said.

    Fiery partisan?

    I'll say.

    They're fighting back -- biker style - and they even have a logo:

    hillsangels-logo.gif
    Hill's Angels?

    Is this some kind of April Fool's Joke?

    No, seriously.

    posted by Eric at 11:19 AM | Comments (4)



    Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

    I don't know whether it's me or whether there's something in the water, but isn't it April Fool's Day?

    So how come no one is laughing or joking?

    Things are too serious, and I'm not all that convinced it's because events are any more or any less serious than usual. Rather, I think people are succumbing to a disease called Taking Themselves Too Seriously.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm just not seeing much April Fools humor anywhere.

    And if you've read this far today, you'll see that even my blog has been (to borrow from Ryan Sager via InstaPundit) cuckholded!

    And once that happens, it's always feeding time!

    Ryan Sager's piece reminded me of what Neal Boortz (hardly a flaming liberal) said recently:

    Definition needed. Just how do you define a religious extremist? I define a religious extremist as anyone who wants to use the power of law -- and that means deadly force -- to force their religious principals on someone else. Someone who openly calls for a theocracy in America, as Randall Terry has done, is an extremist. Randall Terry is at the center of the Florida controversy. Bush's actions were seen by some as pandering to Randall Terry. These Florida hospice protestors who wandered down the street about 10 days ago to harass an auto shop owner for daring to work on a Sunday would be examples of religious extremists. Bush's actions were seen as pandering to these zealots. This frightens people. Many Americans become a little concerned when they see their president going out of the way to meet the demands of people who openly call for a theocracy and who hammer someone who is working on Sunday to make ends meet while raising his two sons alone.

    Now ... I can assure you that what I have written thus far here in Nealz Nuze will bring more hate mail with more of those childish "I'm never going to listen to you again" closes. To many it is absolutely forbidden to say anything that can be construed as negative about anyone who expresses a strong Christian belief. To do so means that you don't love Jesus. If you say that you don't want to live under Randall Terry's idea of a Christian theocracy, you don't love Jesus. If you say that a man working hard to support his family shouldn't be harassed because he works on Sunday, you don't love Jesus. If you say that while you admire the religious devotion shown by some devout Christians, but that you don't want them telling you how to live your life, you don't love Jesus.

    I saw a similar phenomenon at work for years in Berkeley -- practiced by the far left. (The latter once cuckholded liberals till they grew bigger....)

    I'll never forget a particular reaction to a new joke I heard and repeated back in the late 1970s. You've probably heard it but here's the joke:


    Q. How many Berkeley lesbian feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A. That's not funny!

    Well, I made the mistake of telling this joke to a Berkeley lesbian feminist.

    She repeated the punchline. Louder, angrier, with heavy emphasis on the word "NOT."

    Nothing funny about jokes or humor these days.

    It's all work and no play!

    FeedCuckoo.jpg

    We all have responsibilities to attend . . .

    posted by Eric at 08:26 AM | Comments (2)




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