Definitions impossible, dialogue impenetrable, forget logic!
Any Muslim that denies that terror is a part of Islam is kafir [an unbeliever]
So claims the militant Islamic organization al-Ghurabaa.

On his talk radio show the other day, a frustrated Michael Graham made the following statement:

Sadly, as it is constituted today, Islam IS a terrorist organization, but the good news is that the major of Muslims--who don't support terror--can change that and take back their religion.
Following that remark, a major campaign was launched by CAIR, resulting in Graham's suspension.

Now CAIR wants Graham fired.

Little Green Footballs and Mens News Daily have more, and Graham elaborates in a column here.

From Tim Blair, there's this bit of unfriendly logic -- that if a non-Muslim is friends with a Muslim, then the Muslim isn't a Muslim:

There’s no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend, so a non-Muslim could be your associate but they can’t be a friend. They’re not your friend because they don’t understand your religious principles and they cannot because they don’t understand your faith. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Trying to analyze this thing is like walking a tightrope. There's so little room for anything resembling even dialogue, much less compromise -- even over the most basic definitions.

Islam, it seems, cannot be called anything -- whether moderate, radical, religion of war, or religion of peace -- without offending lots of Muslims (and plenty of non-Muslims). It isn't so much a question of what the right answer is. There may be no right answer, but being right isn't the point.


IranHizbollah.jpg

I mean, what's really to discuss?

If moderate Muslims aren't Muslims and aren't allowed to be friends, what's to do?

posted by Eric at 07:27 PM | Comments (11)



Another IQ test -- GRADE YOURSELF HERE!

The Inquirer's Tom Ferrick (a staunch supporter of mandatory African American history for all Philadelphia school children -- a subject I posted about here) is asking his readers to test their black history IQ.

Intrigued by this, I took the test, and received a perfect score of 100% correct. I'm not sure how to interpret these results. Does it mean that my education was sufficient? I never took an African American history course, and I have not read the proposed text -- "The African-American Odyssey, by Darlene Clark Hine, William C. Hine and Stanley Harrold."

In the interest of fairness, I thought I should share the test with my readers. (I'm wondering.... if I know this stuff without having taken any special courses, I'm wondering whether it might be treated part of American history, as opposed to a special, separate-but-equal, diversity-style history.)

Here's the test:

1. True or false: Most blacks who ended up in slavery were captured by European traders who raided the African coast.

2. It is estimated that between 1451 and 1870, nearly 9.3 million Africans were brought to the New World as slaves. Which area got the greatest number?

a) The 13 British colonies

b) Caribbean nations.

c) Brazil.

d) Spanish colonies.

3. True or false: One-third of the captured slaves died in passage to the New World.

4. True or false: After the Revolutionary War, while the South maintained slavery, it quickly disappeared in most northern states.

5. In 1860, there were nine million whites living in the Southern states. What percentage of them owned slaves?

a) 62

b) 32

c) 16

d) 4

6. True or false: Blacks enlisted and fought for the Union cause from the beginning of the Civil War.

7. Under the "separate but equal policy" condoned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896, schools in the South became segregated after Reconstruction ended.

In 1915, in the 23 largest cities of the South, there were a total of 36 whites-only high schools. How many black high schools were there?

a) 36

b) 22

c) 8

d) 0

8. He ridiculed the NAACP as "the National Association for Certain People" and called W.E.B. DuBois a "lazy, dependent mulatto." Name this political leader of the 1920s.

9. True or false: After Pearl Harbor, African Americans volunteered for the armed services in such record numbers that the Pentagon ended its long-standing policy of segregating black and white troops.

10. True or false: The U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965 was very effective in empowering blacks to exercise their right to vote.


OK kids! If you took the test without peeking, you may then click below to score your answers.

(BTW, I sure hope they're going to grade the students who take the course; grades are going out of style these days.)

Continue reading "Another IQ test -- GRADE YOURSELF HERE!"

posted by Eric at 07:06 PM | Comments (5)




Carnal corruption of Coco's canine companion

Coco has a small friend -- a full-grown Shih-Tzu named "Tristan" -- who's known her since she was four months old. Tristan is a neutered adult male (and less than one-third Coco's size), which is why I am surprised and shocked to see that his once-meek habits have clearly turned from friendly to blatantly amorous.

This afternoon's events started out as a lazy afternoon visit to a delightful older estate. Here sit Coco and Tristan, luxuriating in the shade, a stately mansion behind them:

cocotrist1.jpg


Tristan had other things in mind, though, and soon the older dog's thoughts turned from innocent puppy play to genuine lust. Despite his substantial disadvantage in size, he did his best to mount Coco:


cocotrist2aa.jpg

(Penetration, of course, would have been almost impossible.)


But lest anyone doubt the little dog's determination, here's a closeup of his face:


cocotrist2a.jpg

Almost impossible? Not if Coco keeps doing stuff like this:


cocotrist3.jpg


It's probably fortunate for both of them that Tristan lacks the necessary equipment to procreate. Because if something did happen, not only would the progeny look a bit ridiculous, but what would I call them?

A Pit-Tzu?

A Shiht-Bull?

A Bull-Shiht?

(Damned if I'm not being dogged by definitions again.)

UPDATE: If you are considering linking to this post, BEWARE! Horny ewoks can get you fired!

posted by Eric at 08:00 PM | Comments (7)



Definition to die for?

One of the young men charged with murdering male-to-female teenager Gwen Araujo (with whom he'd had sexual relations) explained to the court what was on his mind:

"Your whole life you think you're a heterosexual. Then you get pleasure from a homosexual. It disgusted me," he said.

"I thought it was impossible to derive pleasure from a man unless you were gay ... I was having serious questions about my sexuality."

If these statements are true, then the young man was more upset by how he might be defined than anything else. Obviously, he attached enormous value to the definition -- and theory -- of heterosexuality. It seems he attached more value to this theory than to human life. In the process, he also allowed a definition written by others to define and eclipse his own view of himself -- in a strange process of self-brainwashing. (That's the scariest aspect of this case, and what prompted me to write this post.)

I'm at a bit of a loss to understand this kind of massive insecurity. Such insane weakness masquerading as masculine strength. I mean, even accepting the defense argument that he was "tricked" by the trans teen into thinking "he" was a "she," why would such a trick cause someone to question his sexuality, unless there was already some underlying question? (And what sort of insanity dictates that all people must have a "sexuality" which is open to "question"?)

No one likes being fooled, but by definition, when you are fooled, it does not reflect on the real you -- unless you want it to. I notice that there were several young men involved in this murder, and they probably goaded each other on by peer pressure.

In cases like this, I'm always tempted to play devil's advocate, and ask whether anything remotely like this would happen if a homosexual man were "tricked" into heterosexual sex. (Obviously, the idea of a murder occasioned by "straight panic" is laughable.)

Quite some time ago, in the context of reality show trickery leading to murder, I asked,

Is it worse for heterosexual men to be "humiliated and mocked" for suspicion of homosexuality than it is for homosexuals themselves? If so, why?

I am not trying to be facetious here, but I think it is fair to denounce both forms of prejudice. This is not to advocate sleazy reality shows like this in any way, but I don't see why the anger should be limited solely to the producers of the show. Suppose a Christian man on a reality show were falsely portrayed as a Muslim, and this caused him to be humiliated and mocked by friends and co-workers. It might have been sleazy to make such a false claim, but wouldn't the bigotry be at least as sleazy? What crucial distinction am I missing here?

Not that any of this provides a valid defense to murder, but I am constantly astounded that people take unstable, unscientific definitions -- of comparatively recent origin -- deadly seriously.

posted by Eric at 09:17 AM | Comments (6)




QUOTE OF THE DAY

Samizdata's Guy Herbert made such a brilliant remark that (despite the fact that I'm out for dinner and shouldn't even be using this computer right now) I can't resist sharing it. Otherwise I might forget.

It's about freedom versus so-called "rights."

Freedom has no natural place in a "hierarchy of rights". Freedom used to be what was left over when other people's rights to their choices were taken into account. But the priesthood seems keen to ensure that there are "rights" everywhere, with no space for anything else, and that "rights" are not options, they are compulsions. Lenin would be proud.
Yes he would.

I'm not saying there aren't such things as rights. (After all, this country was founded on the Bill of Rights.) But we should be proud of freedom, and stop fetishizing newly invented "rights" which seem more and more antithetical to freedom.

posted by Eric at 06:41 PM | Comments (5)



Recycle books! And turn libraries into cyber playgrounds!

Virginia Postrel's reporting (via Glenn Reynolds) of this shocking display of anti-book triumphalism reminded me of what I saw done to the San Francisco Public Library: a drastic reduction in the number of books, with the former stacks of books replaced by huge uncluttered spaces with Internet terminals here and there. (Plenty of space now for the homeless who live in the place, and for loud undisciplined kids to play there without fear of being shushed so people can read.)

As to the books, they were turned into landfill. When the public noticed, the librarian who did it was fired, but the damage was done:

Dowlin was fired as a result of the scandal involving landfill dumping of books to cover up the botched design of the New Main library, among other failings.
(Call me a cynic, but I just don't think books are turned into landfill by accident.)

The meme that's going around is that "The Internet has made traditional libraries obsolete."

Has it?

If so, then what's the purpose of all the tax dollars going to libraries?

posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (18)



Assimilation is the enemy of terrorism

Charles Krauthammer, noting that one-quarter of all British Muslims sympathize with the recent bombings (and one-fifth have little or no loyalty to Britain), observes that these trends are worse among younger British Muslims. For this he blames a "massive failure of assimilation."

Massive failure of assimilation?

Excuse me, but isn't that the whole idea of multiculturalism?

Or is it just an unintended consequence?

Krauthammer maintains that the British situation is not analogous to the United States, because of our long history of assimilation.

However, the clear modern trend is to move away from assimilation -- in the name of multiculturalism.

From the 1880’s to the 1940’s when millions of immigrants arrived in the United States, Assimilation was the accepted norm in our culture and society. Assimilation can be defined as the process by which groups adapt or change to the dominant culture. When the 1960’s brought with it the Civil Rights Movement, Cultural Pluralism or Multiculturalism replaced assimilation.
I don't care whether it's called "diversity," "multiculturalism," "identity politics," or the old fashioned word "segregation," it's become increasingly clear that this stuff is leading the country in the wrong direction.

The British bombings ought to be seen as an early warning.

posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (2)



Attention readers, especially on the East and West Coasts!

For all my Inquirer-based criticism (much of which is over what happened, not the way it was reported), I wish the other MSM outlets showed the Inquirer's foresight where it comes to blogs. Not only does the Inquirer feature a regular column about blogs, they have their own blog called Blinq. It's liberal, (and honest enough to admit it), and it is intelligently written by a seasoned reporter Daniel Rubin.

And in today's front page story titled Blogger Heightens Interest, the Inquirer heaped praise on a blogger who came to the aid of a young woman missing for more than a week:

Thanks largely to the efforts of a local Internet blogger, the Figueroa case is receiving plenty of national coverage, particularly from cable news.

"These missing-persons stories happen every day," said the blogger, Richard Blair, who operates a progressive political Web site at www.allspinzone.com. "But which become newsworthy? A lot of it has to do with skin color and economics, but more important, I think, is what catches somebody's eye. If you get the word out, news organizations will respond. That's what we did."

Late last week, Philadelphia police briefed reporters about the missing woman. But little coverage ensued.

So on Tuesday, Blair, thinking the case deserved more attention, dispatched a pointed e-mail to Nancy Grace, host of a nightly show on CNN Headline News.

(More here.)

I was particularly impressed by a quote the Inquirer ran from a journalism professor who actually likes blogs:

What has happened also highlights the role of bloggers vis-a-vis the mainstream media.

"Blogs can act as a stimulus to traditional journalism," said Richard Craig, who teaches journalism at San Jose State University. "That's what happened in this case. It's a good thing."

This is a positive development, not only for blogs, but for traditional journalists.

It is only fair to point out that Richard Blair is not the only blogger to be assisting a missing person's case.

Glenn Reynolds has pointed his readers to the search for 17-year-old Cheryl Ann Magner, who has been missing since June. (More here.) While I am not sure how important the number of Google hits are to locating a missing person, I notice that Latoyia Figueroa's case has received more attention than Cheryl Ann Magner's, which is why I am mentioning it here. (That plus the fact that I also live in California and have regular West Coast readers.) Even though this blog doesn't normally devote itself to missing person issues, the subject came up, I'm writing this post, and I can only imagine how awful the suffering of both families must be.

Richard Blair and Glenn Reynolds have different political perspectives, but there's nothing partisan about missing person issues, nor should there be.

It's refreshing to see bloggers and the MSM working together for a change.

Because I live on both coasts and have friends both in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Philadelphia area, I figured the least I could do would be to upload photographs of both young women, because I know that not everyone is going to click on the above links.

Here's a picture of Latoyia Figueroa, missing in the Philadelphia area since July 18:

latoyia.jpg

The following information is from the Inquirer:

Whom to Call

Anyone with information about Latoyia Figueroa is asked to contact the Southwest Detective Division at 215-686-3183 or the Citizens Crime Commission at 215-546-8477. For more on Latoyia Figueroa's case, go to http://go.philly.com/latoyia.

And here's Cheryl Ann Magner, missing in San Rafael (Marin County), California, since early in June:

cheryl.jpg

The following information comes from this website (with more here):

She has been missing since the beginning of June. She was last seen in Marin County, CA.

Please ,anyone who has seen this 17 year old girl please call the San Rafael police dept. @ 415-485-3000 or www.srpd.org

Any information or help would be greatly appreciated by the family.

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




Troll Plans to Put Self Out of My Mysery

This just in from Drudge: Helen Thomas will kill herself if Dick Cheney runs for president:

Veteran wire reporter Helen Thomas is vowing to 'kill herself' if Dick Cheney announces he is running for president.

The newspaper HILL first reported the startling claim on Thursday.

MORE

"The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself," she told the HILL. "All we need is one more liar."

Thomas added, "I think he'd like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does."

She sounds not unlike the Larouche looney I saw outside the post office today with a little makeshift booth and signs reading, 'Fire Bush and Jail Cheney.'

But then again the so-called 'First Lady of the Press' (an odd designation as you'd be hard-pressed to find a mate for Darth Sidious in drag) is responsible for such damnably sad exchanges as this one with Ari Fleischer, who did an admirable job resisting the temtpation to laugh:

Q My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --

Q They're not attacking you.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --

Q Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?

MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein's aggression then.

Q Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President's position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.

Q Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.

Q And he thinks they are a threat to us?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.

Q The Iraqi people?

MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi --

Q So they will be vulnerable?

MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has not dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --

Q That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.

Q I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.

That sounds like every poetry writing radical I knew in college.

But right now there are dozens of moderate Democrats saying, 'you tell 'em, Helen!' Because politics is a team sport and your man is always safe no matter how far he ran outside the basepath.

posted by Dennis at 05:29 PM | Comments (5)



More lies from lying liars who lie!

According to a headline in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, Air America Radio's ratings are down -- to the point where the network is "stuck in the cellar":

Air America's overall ratings, which rose initially after all the free publicity, faded before the November election and haven't recovered.

Still, it isn't yet time to call the coroner for Air America Radio, even though some conservative pundits are gloating that AAR is DOA.

Let these so-called "conservative pundits" gloat. And let them "call the coroner."

What Air America's chief spokesman said last year continues to be the truth this year, because all the words spoken by conservative pundits continue to be lying lies!

It is official. They are now all condemned!


MORE: Notwithstanding the words of truth from Baghdad Bob, the chattering away of impudent conservative pundits like Michelle Malkin and the Llama Butchers (butcherers and consumers of unclean animals, no doubt) continues unabated.

They too are condemned!

MORE: It seems that these professional liar/pundits are everywhere in the blasphemous blog-o-spere!

  • NRA big shot liar Cam Edwards (who dares ask, in his unbearable insolence, "Where's My Money?") Baghdad Bob hereby condemns you!
  • And Captain Ed, whose utterance that "Air America Dodges Responsibility" damns him forever as an unredeemable infidel heretic, you too are condemned!
  • MORE: All lies have to start somewhere, and interested readers might want to know that this entire series of lying lies about Air America started with the InstaLiar himself. Baghdad Bob countered by speaking the original truth here.

    UPDATE: Despite clear warnings, Captain Ed thinks Baghdad Bob is a joke!

    (Well, he was warned.)

    MORE LIES: Kevin Aylward, and Ace, by circulating the lies, have also proven themselves worthy of condemnation! And they are both condemned! Shame on all who have linked them!

    EDITORIAL FROM HELL: The Washington Times shows itself to be the mother of all lies!

    Do not read it!

    MORE: The InstaLiar dares to speak again! In a sneaky claim that "there may be more to this than I had thought," fork-tongued serpent Glenn Reynolds links the impudent (and already twice condemned) Captain Ed, thus damning himself for many more future eternities.

    They are all condemned again! Tortures of the damned await them!

    How many condemnations will it take before these infidels learn?

    posted by Eric at 01:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)



    Music takes a bath?

    I'm unable to resist these fascinating remarks by Beatles producer George Martin (a guy who once was young and hip):

    Legendary BEATLES producer GEORGE MARTIN disapproves of modern technology because now anyone can make a record in the comfort of their own home.

    Martin sealed his place in history by piecing together a string of classic albums including REVOLVER and SGT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND - but he fears the advent of mp3 players will dumb down the music industry.

    He says, "With iPods, mini-recorders and all the new technology, people can lie in their bath and make a rock record."

    Dumb down the music industry from the comfort of your bathtub?

    And I was just getting used to the dumbing down of the media being blamed on bloggers who conduct bloodbaths in the comfort of their pajamas. . .

    posted by Eric at 12:49 PM | Comments (2)



    Mere anti-Semitism?

    Speaking of intimidation, this post from Joe's Dart Blog has so upset the Guardian that they've not only condemned the New Jersey blogger, but the whole blogosphere for "obsessively personal attacks":

    Rightwing bloggers from the US, where the Guardian has a large online following, were behind the targeting last week of a trainee Guardian journalist who wrote a comment piece which they did not care for about the London bombings.

    The story is a demonstration of the way the 'blogosphere' can be used to mount obsessively personalised attacks at high speed.

    Within hours, Dilpazier Aslam was being accused on the internet of "violence" and belonging to a "terrorist organisation" - both completely untrue charges.

    There's much quibbling about the difference between "anti-Semitism" and overt violence, and while I agree that there is such a distinction, I'm afraid that history is being forgotten.

    As Joe reminds us, the ferocious anti-Semitism of groups like Hizb ut Tahrir cannot be seen in a vacuum:

    Contrary to the assertions of the anonymous Guardian defender, Aslam did not belong merely to an "anti-Semetic" political group. Although it would be politically correct to call all Islamic Fundamentalist groups that, it is a deadly misnomer. In these times, eastern Islamic Fundamentalist groups which preach anti-Jewish sentiment and call for the deaths of all Jews are actively pursuing that goal. The Guardian seems content to whisper to itself, "It's just talk... just politics," but anyone who had one eye open on 7/7 knows otherwise.
    Is it "all talk"? And "all politics"?

    That was the defense of Julius Streicher, but he still ended up on the gallows, because his words were seen by the Nuremburg Tribunal as a crime against humanity:

    Streicher's incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and racial grounds in connection with war crimes, as defined by the Charter, and constitutes a crime against humanity.
    Even though he was the editor of a popular newspaper called "Der Sturmer," I'd be most hesitant to call Julius Streicher a "media executive" or even a "media figure," because this was all so long ago.

    However, consider the much more recent case of media executives in Rwanda:

    The United Nations tribunal in Arusha has convicted three former media executives of being key figures in the media campaign to incite ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.

    It is widely believed that so-called hate media had a significant part to play in the genocide, during which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.

    There is also little doubt that its legacy continues to exert a strong influence on the country.

    The most prominent hate media outlet was the private radio station, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines.

    Cockroaches

    It was established in 1993 and opposed peace talks between the government of President Juvenal Habyarimana and the Tutsi-led rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which now forms the government.

    After President Habyarimana's plane was shot down, the radio called for a "final war" to "exterminate the cockroaches."

    While I am not certain of the precise point where anti-Semitism becomes the (illegal) advocacy of genocide, I don't see why the intervention of 60 years since the hanging of Julius Streicher would create a modern exemption for those calling for "Death to the Jews!" It must be noted that Hizb Ut Tahrir -- the organization that the Guardian reporter belongs -- has (according to the BBC) crossed the line from opinion to such calls for violence:
    [Hizb Ut Tahrir] promotes racism and anti-Semitic hatred, calls suicide bombers martyrs, and urges Muslims to kill Jewish people.
    It's tough to dismiss such rhetoric as "mere" anti-Semitism.

    And it isn't as if Jews aren't being killed right now.


    MORE: Roger L. Simon calls the Guardian's attacks on Joe's Dartblog a "sign of our media times." Unfortunately, he's right. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    posted by Eric at 10:11 AM | Comments (2)



    Cycles of intimidation . . .

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Daily Pundit's Lastango is encouraging citizens to get involved with self-help terrorist awareness training, and he's citing such programs as the "Highway Watch" and "Eagle Eyes."

    Concludes Lastango,

    We may one day decide we need to approximate Israel’s level of awareness, where even school children are given terror awareness training.
    I agree.

    But many do not. Instead, they resolutely condemn these programs as racist, xenophobic, Orwellian and, yes, even fascistic.

    The Eagle Eyes program has been ridiculed as moronically racist, and as downright totalitarian in nature.

    As to the Highway Watch Program, here's top anti-fascist Dave Neiwert:

    the purpose of the program is not to do anything serious about terrorism: It's to enable these truck drivers in harassing "non-American" minorities.

    In the end, it is not significantly different than government law-enforcement actions that encouraged citizens to "crack down" on their neighboring Japanese Americans on the Pacific Coast during World War II.

    In other words, if you support the Highway Watch program (much less get involved in it), why, you're a concentration-camp-supporting bigot. (Predictably, supporters of such self-help measures have also been labeled "wingnuts.")

    Aside from ridiculing and condemning citizen involvement, there are bolder means of intimidating those who might be inclined towards self-help. One of them is to make people fearful of becoming embroiled in litigation if they get involved. Recalling my own post-9/11 experience, I speculated about litigation as a possible motivation, and I concluded:

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

    Even if we get dragged into lawsuits!

    I thought that bore repeating, because one of the reasons people don't get involved is out of fear of intimidation.

    I am not saying that fear of intimidation is not a legitimate fear. But I do think that the more terrorism there is, the more likely people are to lose their fear of intimidation. That's because while terrorism is also intimidation, the ultimate fear created by terrorism is the fear of death. The fear of intimidation promoted by political criticism (or by such threats as lawsuits) is grounded largely in social embarrassment (or at worst losing your job). It boils down to the shame and guilt cycle, but I think life-and-death tends to trump shame-and-guilt.

    posted by Eric at 09:35 AM | Comments (1)



    Marketplace of ideas

    Driving around I saw an improvised sort of bumpersticker, consisting of two slogans on a rear windshield sign:


    novakbumper2.jpg


    NOTE: The car and sign are real. The customized license plate was designed by Dennis.

    I must say, it's a rarity, as these two slogans in juxtaposition are not available as a bumpersticker for sale anywhere that I can find.

    However, the first slogan -- FREE JUDITH MILLER" -- it's doing pretty well at 13,600 hits. There are of course bumperstickers, T-shirts, and even totebags (the latter sold alongside Hillary coffee mugs.)

    As to "JAIL BOB NOVAK," I could only find two Google hits for that phrase.

    One was from this "Bush the Destroyer website (which demands that Novak be jailed for "treason"); the other from a commenter here who wants to jail him for "sedition."

    Treason is spelled out in the Constitution, and the days of sedition laws are long gone. I don't think the "JAIL BOB NOVAK" meme is much of a winner (no tees yet, folks!), but I do like originality.

    Speaking of which, that "Bush the Destroyer" site had an amusing Fox News graphic which is also worth sharing:

    foxnews.jpg

    Now there's a T-shirt idea!


    UPDATE: While searching diligently for the dominant paradigm earlier today (at a nearby shopping center) my search was disrupted by this truly loathsome attack on all that I hold dear!

    DomPerignon.jpg

    The horror! The horror!

    Today must be one of those days. . .

    posted by Eric at 07:58 AM | Comments (3)




    Some people like drills; others find them boring!

    I should be more careful when I complain about things like pulling teeth, putting teeth in laws, etc.

    An important liberal blogger (I guess he's liberal) named Billmon likened Dick Cheney to the sadistic Nazi dentist played by Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man, and he supplied a gruesome picture showing the ghastly tortures beginning as the dentist starts to pry open poor Dustin Hoffman's jaws.

    Opines Billmon,

    Cheney's face has that same dull, soulless aura about it -- the "banality of evil" look. It's way too easy to imagine Dick leaning over Dustin Hoffman with that electric drill in his hand, patiently asking the same question over and over:

    "Is it safe?"

    Well, he's right that evil can be banal, but there's nothing banal about drilling into someone's teeth without anesthesia. One of the memorable lines in Marathon Man was,
    Don't worry, I'm not going into that cavity again, a freshly cut nerve is infinitely more painful.
    I mean, that's a real serious "Ouch!"

    I don't feel very safe speculating about this, but I have some serious problems -- both with Billmon's opinions and with his picture, so I'm shooting my own copy all the way up to blog etherland.

    Here's the problem: Billmon thinks the Nazi dentist looks just like Dick Cheney, but I'm more than a little concerned with who the patient looks like:


    I_Dentist3.jpg


    Who the hell is that, anyway?

    Is it safe to hazard a guess? I'm almost sure I was reading something about dental work recently performed on one of the big bloggers, but my mind is starting to go, and even if he said something about dental issues, I can't remember whether he said anything about any connection between his dentist and the evil Halliburton company.

    It unfair to speculate about the patient's identity here (and I hate to invade people's medical privacy), but if it's who I think it is, then I suspect Billmon might begin to see the dentist in at least a slightly more favorable light (regardless of whether he's Cheney or the Nazi).


    UPDATE (08/01/05): Is it safe to send dentists to the front? Glenn Reynolds ponders putting teeth in civil defense. (Yes, as long as it's no drill.)

    posted by Eric at 08:49 PM | Comments (1)



    But Americans don't drink children's blood!

    I finally saw War of the Worlds, and despite my concerns that it was about the war in Iraq, I think I can safely state that it was not.

    At least, I don't think the Americans yet have anything quite as nasty as these.....

    Daytime view:

    JerseyAlien.jpg

    And the same critters at night:

    JerseyAlienNight.jpg


    They're really mean, and they frighten children and put people in cages and stuff. They drink people's blood, and cover the earth with ugly red thready material, which probably violates EPA regulations.

    Anyway, the film had fine special effects, and solid acting. I'm not even into science fiction, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you think about it, it invites a sequel, because the premise of how the aliens came to be destroyed might very well apply in reverse....

    posted by Eric at 06:01 PM | Comments (3)



    Carnival 149 (and the politics of poetry)

    The 149th Carnival of the Vanities has been posted at Pratie Place. Host Melinama does an admirable job with innumerable posts, many of which are political in nature -- this despite the fact that she doesn't like political blogging:

    I don't enjoy political blogging, but that's the majority of what was sent to me, so that's what you get. Needless to say I am not in alignment with many of the sentiments expressed.
    Well, I sent her my post about "evaporated cane juice" -- which was for me about as non-political as I get. (Ironically, I also dislike politics. Which is why I blog about politics -- and hence probably belong in a mental hospital.)

    Anyway, my hat's off to Melinama for hanging in there despite all the politics. She also poses an interesting question:

    Question: Do YOU, personally, actually look at any of these entries? Or are these Carnivals like the poetry readings where everybody leaves after submitting their own poem? Please comment.
    The last link leads to an additional explanation:
    Editors of poetry journals and literary magazines regularly complain that they receive submissions from far more people than subscribe to their periodicals. They point out there are far more people writing poetry than reading it.

    OK, more people would read more poetry if poetry were, in general, less drekky. The same goes for blogs. But new bloggers should be less self-focused. Experienced bloggers understand that they need each other, for encouragement, for ideas, for readers. Sure, it can get recursive (a different problem). But it's less lonely.

    I think Melinama is right in one sense: no one has the time to read everything. Certainly, there are too many blogs for any human to keep track of. But when I see a post which either looks intriguing because of the subject material or because I know and like the blogger, I do try to click on it, and if I like what I see, I'll even read it.

    Here are a few examples of posts that stood out for me this week:

  • Via Dissecting Leftism, I see that a gun club has been sued for "lead pollution". (And where do they think the lead comes from?)
  • Palmetto Pundit reports that in a remarkable turnaround from his previous position John Kerry now supports full disclosure!
  • Mister Snitch makes a good case that the future of Ipods is in podcasting.
  • WILLisms.com shows that public opinion polls have metastasized geometrically.
  • Rick Moran has an excellent post about the death of James "Scotty" Doohan and his inspiration. (Something I say as a non-Star Trek fan who only watched one episode it its entirety -- and only because my boss starred in it.)
  • I'd already read and linked Searchlight Crusade's long and thoughtful piece on Islam, Historial Christianity and Reform, but it's good enough to link again.
  • Anyway, I'm not about to rewrite the whole Carnival, but yes, I do look at the entries, and I usually try to link and comment on them.

    (I can't claim I'd fare so well with poetry.)

    posted by Eric at 11:29 AM



    Beware! Cheap lawnmowers from the South cause crime!

    There's a big fuss being created right now over Senate Bill 397, which would exempt gun manufacturers from lawsuits based on the "criminal or unlawful misuse" of firearms.

    I'm getting a bit tired of opponents of this bill saying that it would protect manufacturers and gun dealers against ordinary negligence actions. Here's today's Philadelphia Inquirer editorial:

    ....the focus of Majority Leader Bill Frist (R., Tenn.) and other Senate leaders wasn't on gun victims yesterday. Instead, they made yet another outrageous attempt to shield gun-makers and dealers from negligence lawsuits.

    What's needed are real steps that keep illegal guns off the streets. Too many manufacturers are lax in policing the networks that market guns to dealers. Too many dealers sell to buyers they should suspect are reselling guns illegally.

    The answer isn't the gun-immunity measure authored by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R., Idaho), and co-sponsored by both Pennsylvania Republicans, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. It would effectively scuttle most legal efforts to force industry reform.

    Not only would this hardy perennial on the NRA wish-list bar citizens from pursuing any future claims against manufacturers and sellers over the careless distribution of weapons. It would quash existing lawsuits, too. (One such legal claim was filed in Philadelphia last week on behalf of Anthony Oliver.)

    Why would gun-makers deserve legal immunity and not the manufacturers, say, of lawn mowers? Answer: the NRA's political clout. The irony is that the Senate postponed work on a defense bill to consider gun legislation that will assure America's streets remain unsafe.

    Ordinary negligence? Manufacturers of lawnmowers? Nonsense! When was the last time someone sued a lawnmower manufacturer or dealer for the criminal misuse of a lawnmower?

    The bill specifically states that it is intended to protect against actions:

    ....resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party, but shall not include--

    (ii) an action brought against a seller
    for negligent entrustment or negligence per se;

    More here.

    Like the previous Inquirer article regurgitated by the Kansas City Star and other Knight-Ridder outlets, the Inquirer's editorial also focuses on the price of the gun, calling it a "cheap Saturday-night special."

    What is a Saturday night special?

    The term "Saturday night special" is of racist origin, and while the "N" word has been dropped, it is loaded language not grounded in logic, but in emotion. Why object to the low price of any item for sale, unless that objection is grounded in a dislike of the technology itself? Safety is not the issue; no one is saying the gun failed to work or that it blew up in someone's face. The sole criteria is price.

    In other words, "these guns are so cheap that poor people in the inner cities are able to buy them."

    Would anyone say this about low cost computers?

    Almost all of the recent torrent of editorials (and "news releases" like this) cite the case of Anthony Oliver, so I think it's worth a look at the allegations. Here's the Philadelphia Daily News:

    Anthony's parents, Anthony Oliver Sr. and Sheree Goode, filed suit this week in Common Pleas Court against the gun shop and Phoenix Arms, the Ontario, Calif., manufacturer of the .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

    The Saturday-night special used to shoot and kill Anthony was sold by Lou's on Dec., 18, 2003, to a gun trafficker who sold the gun to someone else, said Elizabeth Haile, staff attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Haile, along with Center City attorney Mark J. LeWinter, is representing Anthony's parents.

    It's unclear how many times the gun was resold before it got into the hands of Anthony's close friend, Quamere Durham, then 13.

    Quamere has told police he bought the pistol for $50 with his allowance near his Wynnefield home, because he was intimidated by a group of kids who had jumped his friend and threatened to return and shoot one of them.

    Thinking the gun could not go off, Quamere allegedly picked it up and pulled the trigger, unintentionally shooting Anthony in the abdomen. Quamere and his friends called 911 and tried to stop the blood gushing from Anthony's midsection with paper towels and toilet paper. Anthony died that night.

    Quamere faces third-degree murder charges, and he is under electronically monitored house arrest.

    Anthony's mother believes Quamere didn't mean to do it. "He didn't know anything about guns. He's a child," she has said.

    He didn't know anything about guns, but he knew enough to go out and spend $50.00 for a gun, because someone had threatened to shoot him? According to his own statements, he also knew enough to tell another friend to hide the gun, and enough to lie to the police:
    "I jumped up to see if Anthony was all right... he was moaning, saying, 'Call the cops,' " Scott testified.

    He said Durham dropped the gun and called police to the house on the 2200 block of North 51st Street.

    "He asked me to hide the gun, so I hid it under the china closet," Scott said.

    Police said Durham initially told them he shot Oliver with a BB gun. Then he said Oliver brought the handgun into the house, police said.

    Later, according to investigators, Durham admitted in a statement that he bought the gun on the street about a week before the shooting.

    Durham said the $50 purchase price came from his allowance.

    "I was scared. I didn't want my grandmother to know I bought the gun and had it in the house," Durham told investigators.

    There was apparently a string of illegal transfers of the gun before Durham purchased it with his allowance. Yet (we are told) every single one of those transfers should have been anticipated by the manufacturer.

    And the dealer.

    Let's look at the dealer Stanton Myerson, now defendant in this lawsuit. Here's what he told the Philadelphia Daily News:

    ....Stanton Myerson, owner of Lou's Jewelry and Pawn, said he follows the law and is a responsible gun seller.

    "The bottom line is we've been in business since 1921," he said yesterday afternoon. "We've sold guns for more than 83 years, and we abide by the laws at the time.

    "The public has to understand we don't approve or not approve anyone to purchase a gun. The state police approves or denies a person through a background check," he said.

    "It's the state of Pennsylvania doing the approving, not Lou's. What more can we do?"

    Myerson said there was nothing wrong with selling multiple guns to one person.

    "There's nothing illegal about a person buying multiple guns," he said.

    "The responsibility comes down to the people who buy and own guns and use them," he added.

    Philadelphia is plagued by gun violence because some people "lack respect for human life. If they had more respect, there would be less tragedies in the world," he said.

    The lawsuit filed this week also alleges that Phoenix Arms, one of the largest producers of Saturday-night specials, should have known Lou's had hundreds of crime gun traces and not supplied guns to this store.

    From personal experience, I can attest that Myerson is right. When I bought a gun in April, I had to go through the same bureaucratic check. What happens is all dictated by law. I filled out a couple of lengthy forms, and following that the clerk called some special line, entered the information, and was on hold while the bureaucracy's computer performed its check. After a few minutes he was given an approval code to write on the form.

    Now, I had to pay a fee for all of this, and I had to wait while the guy was on hold. For the sake of argument, let's assume that I'd bought five guns in the same store previously, and the guy did what the Brady people would apparently have him do, and refused to sell me the gun. He had just run the legally-mandated background check which the state required him to run and which I'd had to pay for, and which I'd passed. I think I'd have an excellent lawsuit against him for refusing to sell me the gun, and I don't think he'd be in business very long. (Perhaps that's what the Brady people want?)

    These lawsuits are absolute nonsense, and they are frivolous in the extreme. If I buy dozens of guns, it is my business. The dealer has no control over whether I hang them on the wall, coat them with grease and bury them in my yard, shoot someone, or resell them to others on the street illegally. If I do the latter things they're crimes. I've known people who've collected hundreds of guns; should they have been refused purchase? What duty would they impose on this dealer beyond the considerable paperwork already imposed? And why stop at requiring him to check the number of guns I might have purchased previously at his store? Shouldn't he also attempt to discover whether I've purchased other guns at other stores? I mean, if you're illegally reselling guns, why make it obvious? And if there's to be a legal precedent holding the dealer liable for what I do with the gun, why not require him to ask whether I plan any holdups? Or whether I'm considering suicide? If this sounds laughable, it's no more laughable than the idea that the dealer should check to see how many guns I am purchasing, or whether the gun is "too cheap."

    Individuals should be held responsible for their own conduct, not that of others. Blaming dealers and the manufacturers for what ultimate purchasers do with the guns makes no sense at all.

    Might as well blame a region.

    Oh yes.

    There's a notorious "Iron Highway" which brings guns up from the dangerous, evil South.


    SouthernGuns.jpg


    Interestingly, the above chart does not blame the South for Philadelphia's "gun violence."

    The South is only responsible for what goes on in New York and Camden.

    Something must be done!


    UPDATE: Be sure to read my blogfather Jeff Soyer's continuing updates on S.B. 397. (They keep trying to add amendments like bans on "cop killer" bullets -- as if some bullets kill only cops -- and other such nonsense, like exceptions "for children.") Gun owners need to watch this stuff closely.

    posted by Eric at 10:05 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (1)




    A clean start?

    I have been busy configuring my new toy, and it's a time consuming process, because I bought it used. (Such a deal!) Anyway, I'm not given to following trends, so after my last MP3 player conked out for the last time, instead of buying a new Apple Ipod, I decided to buy a Creative Nomad Zen. A close friend has one, and I've played around with it enough to know that it's an excellent, versatile, light-weight machine. (Well, light-weight enough for me! Some of these things are too light, and they make me nervous.)

    More than one reviewer has rated the sound quality higher than the Ipod, but considering that most of what I listen to was originally recorded in the late 1950s, even if I had the original fidelity of the masters, it wouldn't come close to what's recorded today.

    What's taken a lot of time is that this used player has a 30 gigabyte hard drive which arrived two-thirds full (that's 3,756 songs, to be exact), and all I wanted to do was put all my music in there and organize it into three or four groups, so there'd be nothing else to distract me. That way, if I hit the wrong button, I wouldn't be listening to stuff like this.

    Remarkably, much as I hate "felon rap," I'm now wondering whether I've become some sort of felon by having it in my possession!

    Seriously, the way they write laws these days, it wouldn't surprise me if I committed 3,756 crimes simply by my act of buying a used MP3 player.

    (Another reason I hate lawyers.)

    Without getting into too much detail, the hypothetical law school exam question for the day is: how do I "do the right thing?"

    Should I wipe the hard drive clean and fill it with my legal (mostly obscure, and not for sale anywhere) Doowop collection? Would I be committing a crime if I left the previous owner's music inside the player? Or only if I listened to it? Or would I have to share it with someone else in order to commit the crime of copyright infringement? Am I allowed to "dump" the files onto my computer hard drive, or must I electronically delete them? Need the transfer be electronic, or was this accomplished when the MP3 player was sent to me in the mail? What about intent?

    Will any of my readers be willing to pay my bail?

    I promise to be good and never buy any used electronic equipment again!

    UPDATE: Techdirt links to this New York Times piece in which writer John Schwartz confesses to similar multiple felonies:

    Kenneth Chang is a colleague who recently sold me his iPod. After just a few months, he needed one with more storage.

    The beauty of the thing is that it lets you carry all of your music with you, thousands of songs. It's like having a radio station that plays the music of my life: WJHN.

    After buying the slightly scuffed block of plastic and metal, I was ready to load my songs. But then I stopped. Ken had left more than 3,000 songs on the iPod, and a quick scroll through them showed that there were a lot I didn't own, and many artists I'd never listened to, like a band called "The The," with a wonderfully brutal song, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)."

    And so I listened.

    Whoa! This is serious crime we're talking about here.

    And it gets worse. Although the writer admits to a certain amount of moral squeamishness, he clearly doesn't understand the profoundly heinous nature of his slide into a life of crime:

    ...eavesdropping on Ken's iPod worried me. I have read about people randomly plugging in to each others' iPods to figure out what songs are in their friends' heads, or even in the heads of strangers. (They call it "podjacking.") But this was a mind meld.

    What if I hated Ken's taste? Would I lose respect for him? I'm not talking about the Paula Abdul songs; we're all entitled to our guilty pleasures. But what if it was all bubblegum, or deeply dull? It would be like opening his closet and finding Star Trek uniforms. I fretted.

    A five year stretch in the federal pen ought to give him something to fret about!

    Imagine. Prison time for possessing music you never wanted and don't even like!

    The world is getting crazier and crazier.

    posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (2)



    Any plaid pants in your closet?

    Here's Garrison Keillor, in 1997, on plaid pants:

    TR: Get into the mood of spring with a pair of bright, festive plaid pants - the fashion exclamation - plaid pants, one way of saying, "This is me, it couldn't be anyone else."

    GK: In primitive aboriginal tribes, the male who wore the brighest colors was the most virile and agressive, and it's the same in this country too.

    TR: That's right. If you get yourself the right pair of pants, people will remember you for years afterward.

    GK: With bright plaid pants, you'll get faster service in restaurants, and you'll never be struck by a moving vehicle.

    TR: Plaid pants keep bugs off and distract opponents in golf matches, and they revitalize your marriage or whatever else is going on in your life.

    GK: So - get happy. Get a load of pants at Gary's Plaid Pants Warehouse, where the giant pants on the flagpole show you the way to big pants savings. Available only where sold, should not be used when operating heavey machinery.

    Ten years later, I'd like to ask a very simple question.

    Since when is PLAID gay?

    No, seriously. While I can't believe this has become a matter of public debate, it has. And as a longtime critic of the "fashionista" approach to ad hominem politics, I feel obligated to speak up. What's called a "whispering" campaign of gay innuendo boils down to a picture of John Roberts wearing 1970s-style plaid pants. This, we are supposed to believe, makes the man's sexuality questionable.

    Not that I'd care whether he was photographed in drag, mind you. But plaid? Where I grew up, plaid pants were a standard variety of preppie, country club attire, and there was nothing gay about them then. (I've always associated them more with drunken, golf-playing, heterosexuals than anything else.) Nor do I think there's anything gay about them now. Back in the 70s (and 80s, and even into the 90s) the gay scene to the extent I've been familiar with it was best known for a Levis and T-shirts look.

    Plaid pants in a gay bar?

    I can't remember ever seeing such a thing. It wouldn't have, um, worked.

    Yet the meme for today is that paid pants are gay. I'm sorry, but I think they've cooked this up exclusively for John Roberts.

    The larger issue, of course, is the outright paranoid anti-gay McCarthyism underlying this attempted smear. (Remember, this comes on the heels of an attempted smear against the man's four-year-old child.)

    What I think might be going on is that because most Americans (including conservatives) are less and less interested in personal issues, these smears have to be ratcheted up accordingly to get anyone's attention:

    ....it is the height of hypocrisy for the (allegedly) pro-tolerance crowd to start questioning someone's sexual preference. It's a strange and twisted tactic for those who are allied with the gay rights movement to try to make an issue out of someone supposedly being gay.

    Who cares?

    Well, that's just the point: they think we do. They think that they can undermine support for someone among conservatives if they can dredge up some sort of homosexual connection -- or, in this case, just the manufactured whiff of a question.

    (Via Power Line, Law Dork, Ann Althouse and InstaPundit.)

    The discussion, I note, is replete with links to America's most ferocious "fashionista," the famed Jodi Wilgoren (whose skills I have noted and admired repeatedly).

    Fashionism is getting downright creepy.

    UPDATE: Via Michelle Malkin, I see that Justice Roberts' entire family is being attacked for being -- what is it? -- overdressed?

    The nominee was in a sober suit with the expected white shirt and red tie. His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues -- like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers...
    I suppose if he'd worn blue jeans and his wife and daughter wore flipflops, Bush would have been accused of appointing a "badly dressed" (white trash) nominee to the court.

    You think I'm kidding? When I was in Nashville, here's what was said about the attire of bloggers:

    If the attendees at BlogNashville are any indication, bloggers are very white, very male and very bad at dressing themselves.

    (Via Sean Hackbarth.)

    Sigh.

    I was wearing a suit, so I suppose I could have been attacked for neatness.

    Fashionism is a no-win.

    posted by Eric at 08:57 AM | Comments (10)




    The more Raging RINOs, the better!

    This week's RINO Roundup has been posted by Countertop, who begins with a look at one of history's greatest RINOs.

    I don't want to spoil it, so go read it. Otherwise, you'll miss it, and you'll also be missing out on posts like these:

  • ATTENTION: If you don't read anything else, if you really want to know why RINOs are raging, please READ THIS POST! (And weep.) Republican James Sensenbrenner would make it a federal five-year felony NOT to rat on young drug offenders, would make add three years to the sentence of anyone who owned a gun when committing non-violent crimes like bankruptcy fraud, and would treat possession of drugs as sales. I wrote a post about this back in April, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see that freedom has been losing ground since then. How does one discuss such menaces without engaging in hyperbole, anyway?


  • If there's one thing RINOS are against, it's idiotic legislation, and Tinkerty Tonk has a whole list of them. Read 'em and weep some more.
  • SayUncle reports that ammo sales are up, and offers some reasons why.
  • Very interesting historical post at Searchlight Crusade, who concludes with a simple request of believers in Islam:
    All we ask is that you forswear the idea of conquest in the name of your religion. This is something that every other major religion has managed. It is now your turn.
    Should I hold my breath?
  • Mark at Decision08 reflects on why the MSM hates us, and warns,
    get your facts straight...or there will be a Krempasky somewhere to correct you, and if he's wrong, someone else will let him know. How is that not a good thing? If what we're ultimately after is truth, the more seekers, the better...

    Agreed. And the RINO Carnival has more.

  • posted by Eric at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)



    Apologies and more apologies . . .

    According to Variety, Steven Spielberg's upcoming film -- now to be (re)named Munich -- is generating controversy over whether it is based on a book many consider inaccurate (if not apologetic to terrorism):

    The Tony Kushner script is under such a lockdown that a Mossad agent would be hard-pressed to infiltrate its cover page.

    But Variety can at least reveal what that cover page starts with: "Munich." That's the official title of the film.

    Though not very descriptive, Spielberg's inner circle can only hope the title might defuse the notion that the movie is based on "Vengeance," a book based on input from a purported member of the hit team. Its veracity has been widely questioned.

    Once it became known that book was among the resources used by screenwriters Eric Roth and Kushner, a chorus of detractors surfaced in press stories. Before he shot a frame, Spielberg had a controversy that rivaled the one surrounding "The Passion of the Christ."

    Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer and author of "The Mossad and its Myth," echoed the sentiments of several Israeli intelligence experts contacted by Variety correspondent Marc Daugherty.

    "I know the 'Vengeance' book. It's nonsense, totally baseless," Shimron says. "This sexy plot of an epic squad composed of a German, a Frenchman, an American, a Brit sounds like a bunch of clowns playing partisans behind enemy lines. It never happened that way."

    The Spielberg camp maintains "Vengeance" was just one of the resources that went into telling a story they feel sticks close to the truth while taking enough dramatic license to make a compelling film.

    "While people think this is based on 'Vengeance,' I'm telling you that there were also memoirs from involved parties from both sides," says Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy. "They did tremendous research on this."

    People only think this was based on Vengeance?

    Where on earth might they have gotten such an idea?

    The film's name, perhaps?

    Why would an otherwise ho-hum web site devoted to tracking films have spent nearly a year calling the film Vengeance?

    Wednesday 15th February 2005: Vengeance
    Steven Spielberg plans a summer start for his postponed movie about the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Universal/DreamWorks project had been scheduled to film last year. Casting had begun when Spielberg decided to have "Angels in America" playwright Tony Kushner do a rewrite on the project, on which writers Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and Charles Randolph (The Interpreter) also had worked. Universal Pictures will release the film in the USA on December 23.

    Wednesday 11th August 2004: Vengeance Update:
    Tony Kushner, writer of Angels in America, has been brought in to rewrite the script to Steven Spielberg's olympic drama Vengenace which has been pushed back.

    Wednesday 4th August 2004: Vengeance Update:
    Director Steven Spielberg has postponed his movie Vengeance which covers the successful hunt for the 17 Palestinians who attacked the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich games becuase of fears of an attack from the terrorist who was never found. Eric Bana is still set to star but the delay has meant Ben Kingsley has dropped out.

    Any idea how such an idea would plop into their heads?

    Might there be some kind of backtracking going on?

    Here's Captain Ed:

    It appears that Spielberg has decided to simply work from rumor and innuendo -- much more in the Oliver Stone mode than in the cinema verité of Schindler's List.

    Why would Spielberg decide to focus so heavily on Israel's response instead of the terrorist attacks that initiated their actions? Exactly for the reasons given by Craig, only Spielberg doesn't intend on passing judgment merely on Israel for going after the terrorists that targeted its civilians. If these reports are accurate, he intends on passing judgment on America for going after the terrorists that targeted our civilians on 9/11. Spielberg has long opposed the Iraq War and the Bush administration for its efforts to eliminate the threat of Islamofascist terror and tyranny.

    Make no mistake -- if Ross and Craig are correct, then Spielberg wants to use the murders of eleven Israeli athletes to issue an anti-Bush polemic. The film will be used as an argument for inaction and introspection instead of fighting the bloodthirsty lunatics that deliberately target and kill civilians. It will provide the ultimate in moral-relativist thinking and terrorist apologetics.

    Considering the involvement of Tony Kushner (whose beatification of Ethel Rosenberg was unforgettable), terrorist apologetics would be the least we could expect.

    Here's IsraPundit:

    Earlier I had expressed some reservations (and linked to others) about Steven Spielberg's planned movie of the Black September atrocity committed against Israel's Olympic team in Munich, 1972. As Backspin had noted the source for the movie is a discredited book. (More on this from Yossi Melman in Ha'aretz.)

    Spielberg's compounded his irresponsibility by hiring Tony Kushner as his screenwriter. Crossing the Rubicon2 has gotten some disturbing sources on the ideology that Kushner is likely to write into the film.

    So the movie will the result of lies colored by an extreme leftwing ideology. Not promising at all.

    While it might not look promising, it's only fair too point out that the apologizers have a ferocious defender in James Wolcott, who (after pausing to share inside knowledge of Tennessee faculty lounges) comes out swinging:

    The right blogosphere is a-throb over disturbing rumors concocted from the far reaches of thin air regarding Spielberg's upcoming movie about the trackdown and elimination of the terrorists who committed the massacre of Jewish athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. What has the hotheads cross-eyed with preemptive indignation?

    One patriot, poring over the parchment maps in the Captain's Quarters, finds damning evidence in the words of a castmember named Daniel Craig that Spielberg intends to demonstrate that "Vengeance doesn't work." According to the Captain Crunch, working from a top-secret report in the Daily Telegraph, a consultant on the film--former Mideast envoy Dennis Ross--was so incensed by Craig's comment that he warned the Israelis what Spielberg is up to.

    Predictably, Wolcott concludes by attributing a censorship motive to criticism of the film:
    Yes, it's awfully arrogant of movie studios not to grant script approval to Mickey Kaus, Captain Courageous, and Little Green Footstool before they begin casting and location scouting--their creative input could be just what Hollywood needs to be saved from itself and restored to the towering glory of the Blacklist era.
    Restore the Blacklist?

    Yes, that's the ultimate goal of bloggers who criticize films.

    How did Wolcott know?

    (Well, now that the cat's out of the bag, if others can apologize for the terrorists, maybe I should consider putting in an apology for the Blacklist Era....)

    MORE: Rosemary Esmay has some thoughts about the accuracy of James Wolcott's caricature, and offers him some advice I doubt he'd take to heart.

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



    Strength and power in numbers?

    As if we needed another reminder right now that police make mistakes, the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer features yet another article (this one written by three authors) about the bumbling police in Camden, New Jersey.

    How could 150 law enforcement officers, armed with search dogs, all-terrain vehicles, mounted equestrian units and thermal-imaging equipment, not find the children in the very yard where they were last seen playing? How could no one - not police, parents, or even the dozens of neighbors who helped search - have thought to check that trunk?
    I'm afraid I've already done more than my share of slamming the police for this incredible conspiracy of incompetence, and it isn't the point of this post to do so again.

    The thing is, I make plenty of mistakes myself. We all do. When, as in the case of three dead boys, mistakes are made which cannot be corrected, it is part of the natural human condition for the blaming to start. And, because 150 officers were involved in this 3-day search, many officers can be blamed. Still, there's anonymity and bureaucracy in numbers, and one cop among 150 doesn't really stand out.

    Rather than blame any particular officer, I'm wondering what happened to the old expression, "Too many cooks spoil the broth!" It may sound simplistic, but I think one, two, maybe three officers could have done a better job than 150. I think that it's far more likely that the trunk would have been searched. Early, and maybe more than once. I think the presence of 150 officers is probably why the trunk was never searched. (That plus the fact that they weren't looking for marijuana, which always motivates police to open trunks.) They got in each other's way, made assumptions, and created a crowded situation not conducive to individual initiative, and in all probability, clueless officers were looking at each other for cues on what to do next. This ought to be common sense, really; I can write a blog post like this in an hour, but if someone told me to work with 150 bloggers to come up with a "collaborative" post on this same subject, I doubt it would be finished even by Friday. However, the 150 of us would have 150 different excuses why we couldn't get it done, which illustrates -- sadly -- that there's strength in numbers! (A principle I hope is taken into account in the war on terrorism.)

    It goes without saying that a committee is investigating this matter, and they're going to submit a report. Naturally, the report is already being attacked -- before it's been issued:

    Even the investigative report expected next week has come under fire from police unions and local politicians because two of the three members of the panel helped lead the search. "Who is going to indict themselves?" asked Wilson, a former city police officer who has been collecting information informally. Another group led by former mayoral candidate Keith Walker is investigating on its own.

    The offices of Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi - who appointed the three-member panel - and of Camden Police Chief Edwin Figueroa have declined to comment on the case until after the panel's report is released.

    Sigh. I guess they can always appoint a larger committee to review the findings of the smaller committee, and issue a longer report.

    It's all so typical.

    Fortunately, mistakes by Camden police are local enough issues that I doubt Bush will be blamed.

    Bush is lucky that no one thought to summon Homeland Security for assistance. (And that Camden is nowhere near London.)

    UPDATE: Eric Berlin (who also comments below) takes the view that this is a case of parental negligence. True; it certainly does. But incompetence of A is never a defense to incompetence of B. Police routinely deal with idiots, insane people, drug addicts and the like, and I don't think it exonerates them that in this case the parents behaved as absolute idiots. As Eric Berlin notes, the parents are guilty of:

    letting a mentally retarded 11-year-old play with two kindergarteners, around the wide-open car that has attracted them before, without adult supervision, and then waiting three hours to call the police when they go missing.
    That presents a good argument for taking their kids away from them. But the police were called when the kids were still alive, and the earlier idiocy by parents does not exonerate them in my opinion. (It might, however, reduce their liability under a contributory negligence theory.)

    In previous posts on the subject, I argued against Toyota being liable, but I still think that under the most basic standards -- whether based on law or just common sense -- the police were under a duty to open that trunk.

    posted by Eric at 08:35 AM | Comments (2)




    Uncommonly yellow

    Here are three photos taken in desolate places, without much by way of a common theme, I'm afraid.


    I don't know what this tiny building was ever for, or why it was painted as it is:

    SegregDel.jpg


    Pollen production in full bore here:

    Bee1.jpg


    And an unlabeled church which looked awfully vacant for a Sunday:

    ChurchCh.jpg


    I'm afraid the only common denominator is yellow.

    (Hardly a "theme.")

    posted by Eric at 05:09 PM | Comments (4)



    New development liquidates communication?

    I've been called a lot of things in my life, but I never thought I'd be called "anti-development."

    But I woke up this morning and there it was.

    I am now counted among the ranks of the (usually leftist) NIMBY folks who oppose private property rights in favor of vague concepts like "OPEN SPACE."

    How did such a thing happen? I have never been against private development, as I have always believed passionately in the right of developers to develop their own land. I still do.

    What's changed is not me or my beliefs or opinions, but a word.

    In an article by the Philadelphia Inquirer's Diane Mastrull (who should know what the word means, considering that she specializes in writing about development issues), the word "development" now means Kelo-style takings of private property for private use:

    Gloves are off over L. Merion development

    The new lawn ornament is a protest sign - guarded by fox urine.

    By Diane Mastrull

    Inquirer Staff Writer

    Through the suburban sprawl wars of the last 30 years, Lower Merion Township had stayed as serene as a dowager nipping cream sherry.

    Other communities could boil with animosities as cement mixers rolled in and traffic backed up. But in the placid heart of the Main Line, public dust-ups over development were so rare that the last big row anyone recalled was in the 1930s, when the township built a trash incinerator, so angering steel magnate Percival Roberts that he leveled his 75-room mansion.

    Now, Lower Merion seems to be making up for lost time.

    More than a half-dozen major projects - including two new high schools, two hospital expansions, and a radical main-street makeover - are converging on a space of 24 square miles and a populace of 60,000. Every blueprint has become a battleground for residents steamed at local officials and, increasingly, at each other.

    What a crazy bunch of oddball kooks, right? I'll skip over a few paragraphs speculating about things like the "average education level" being "bumped up by an abundance of law school graduates," (ouch!) or "how to hold on to that Main Line quintessence," (huh?) and get to the meat:
    On Linwood Avenue in Ardmore, Harry Althouse and Wally McLean share a property line, but not the same opinion of the project that is the most bitterly contentious of all: a $160 million revitalization of the village's commercial district.

    Through the township's use of eminent domain, 10 historic buildings along Lancaster Avenue could be demolished, possibly to be replaced by six-story complexes of shops, apartments, and a parking garage.

    Althouse considers the project a necessary "boost" for a downtown struggling with storefront vacancies, sparse foot traffic, and inadequate parking. He has owned an antiques shop there for 10 years, and business has been off 25 percent in the last four.

    So he planted a sign in front of his house: "$160 Million Downtown Investment. Ardmore Deserves It."

    McLean, begging to differ, posted his sentiments not six feet away: "No Destruction. Ardmore Deserves Better."

    "Ardmore needs some revitalization, but it doesn't need to be destroyed," said McLean, a Conrail retiree who has lived in the township since 1940 and tends the flowers at the Ardmore train station.

    "Lower Merion has more on its table now than it ever had in its history," he added. "I'm glad I'm not a commissioner."

    To hear current occupants of the $4,000-a-year office describe it, a commissioner's lot these days is akin to a clay pigeon's at a skeet range.

    The 14-member board has borne the brunt of the anger for backing development as a much-needed shot of economic adrenaline and for relaxing ordinances - more height, more paving - to accommodate it. (This on top of the heat it has taken from residents for not doing more to keep Albert Barnes' art trove from slipping away to Philadelphia.)

    The commissioners' public meetings, aired on must-see cable TV, grew so testy that they adopted a code of conduct banning profanity.

    The nadir, though, wasn't a four-letter word. That came when an opponent of the Ardmore project pitched coins at the commissioners and asked how many were "Judases" selling the township to developers.

    "Who the hell wants to sit there at 11:30 at night and have people treat you like that?" said Joseph M. Manko Sr., ranking the incident the worst of his 26 years as a commissioner.

    Cheryl B. Gelber ran for the board less than two years ago "to give back to the community," she said, "but didn't anticipate it was going to be as intense as it is."

    Lower Merion has "an awful lot of people used to being in charge," she said. "You've got one of everybody who thinks they know more than the ones making the decisions."

    Six of them already have entered the race to try to unseat four incumbents in the November election.

    "This has easily been the hardest year" for the township, said Weilbacher, executive director of the nonprofit preservation group, Lower Merion Conservancy.

    He added, drolly, "The gods are having fun with us."

    Well, I'm glad the gods are having fun; this blog isn't.

    Before I say anything else, let me stop and express sympathy for Commissioner Manko. I know how it is to face abuse by bullies, and the throwing of pennies and use of the term "Judas" is more than beyond the pale. It's not only a form of assault, but it smacks of implied if not overt anti-Semitism. As regular readers know, when I sat on the Berkeley Police Review Commission I was threatened by mobs so hell-bent on violence that the police themselves (officers we were there to judge) were ordered to leave for "reasons of officer safety." Anyway, the conduct directed against Commissioner Manko is more than lamentable; it's inexcusable and possibly criminal.

    (That, however, does not make Mr. Manko right.)

    What appears nowhere in this article about whining, overeducated cranks is that the Ardmore proposal (discussed here previously) involves government confiscation of small, older, privately owned commercial buildings with thriving businesses and giving the land to new owners who have been favored by the government. Nor does the key word "blight" appear anywhere, despite the fact that the very condemnation at issue depends on that word's misuse and abuse by legal professionals.

    I can't help but notice that Commissioner Manko, a distinguished environmental lawyer (and obviously an ingenious legal thinker) has pioneered a new legislative scheme to allow the conversion -- via relaxation of environmental laws -- of formerly toxic land sites ("brownfields") into modern shopping centers. (i.e., "attain identifiable remediation standards in exchange for a release of liability for future cleanups at uncertain costs" -- a win-win situation for all.) The magic of this is that it encourages development in literally blighted areas, thus preventing "sprawl." (Note that elsewhere, Mr. Manko has spoken of the "intertwined social problems of urban blight and suburban sprawl.")

    While there's nothing wrong with transforming a blight into a benefit, that does not mean that all older buildings are blighted, nor does it mean that the absence of upscale occupants ("national tenants" seems to be the new code language) is a bad thing. But merely calling something "blighted" does not make it so, James Howard Kunstler notwithstanding.

    I love freedom and I'd never stand in the way of development, but I'm a bit suspicious of people who consider "planning" as a green light for anything or as an excuse for confiscatory government practices. Such good intentions can lead to Five Year Plan thinking.

    Just as I never thought government confiscation was "development," I never thought opposing government land seizures was "anti-development." But changing the meaning of words isn't going to change what I think; it will only make communication more difficult.

    Might that be the whole idea?


    FINAL THOUGHT: Rather than rant about these things, it's probably best to stick to the bottom line: If you oppose government takings of private land for private use, you are now anti-development!

    Better get used to it!

    posted by Eric at 08:46 AM | Comments (9)




    The story changes, but psychotic Mullahs remain the same.

    I was completely appalled yesterday when I heard (via Glenn Reynolds, GayPatriot, and Michael Demmons) about the execution of two teenagers for homosexuality. I reacted with anger I still consider appropriate had the facts been as I read them. (Nick Packwood was similarly outraged.)

    But as I noted in an update, the story kept changing. First it was a story about "theft and inciting public disorder," then it was homosexuality, and then (the latest) homosexual rape.

    After an earlier post, I sent an email to an Iranian writer and activist who (quite understandably) has requested anonymity:

    I am sorry to bother you, but I keep seeing these same pictures in a number of articles stating that the
    youths were executed for homosexuality.

    http://gayorbit.net/index.php?p=2459

    The story keeps changing and it is very frustrating.
    Is there any way to determine what really happened?

    Any help greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Eric Scheie

    I received a reply but I was requested to delete the email. So I have.

    My apologies to all.

    (It's my fault for not asking for advance permission to post the email.)

    However, without quoting the email, I think I do come closer to understanding this issue than many Westerners. I have heard about Muslim mullahs raping young men they've sentenced to death for "sodomy." And clearly Iran today is a country run largely by such sociopaths.

    As to sexuality, we in the West have a different way of processing these things, and as I have said many times, it my opinion we have come up with unnecessary divisions based on "sexualities" which are as varied as the individuals. But the bottom line here should not whether anyone is homosexual or heterosexual, or should be labeled "gay" as we do in this country. It's the human freedom to be left alone in matters of one's bedroom.

    I don't think the right to be left alone is all that radical of an idea. It doesn't require bridging any gap between the ancient and modern worlds on matters of sexuality -- and I say this as someone who often tries to do exactly that. We can all have different opinions about these things. But killing other people over them -- that goes beyond civilized behavior, and I am glad to see that there are at least some Muslims who are against Islamo-Fascist killing mentality. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who says "if these people had blown something up, they'd be getting more press.")

    The latter is the problem. For all the kvetching in the West about the absence of "moderate Muslims," why is such a deaf ear turned when a few brave souls do try to speak up?

    When the West enables terrorist governments, it can expect more terrorism.

    UPDATE: In a typically thoughtful post, Sean Kinsell shares his insights into gay Iranians, which he bases on personal experience.

    posted by Eric at 01:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)



    Classical Values' affordable mystery

    Last night, at an undisclosed location, two thirds (debatably, maybe three quarters) of the Classical Values staff met for beer and dinner. I took my camera along, and the camera took a few pictures of Dennis. I am not quite sure how to interpret these pictures, and in order to maintain utmost confidentiality I'll just have to let them speak for themselves in the order the camera took them.


    In the first photo, Dennis (every bit the classical scholar) seems to have made a significant discovery:

    DennisSymbol.jpg


    But this was soon overshadowed by the interpretation of a mysterious inscription on a metal box:

    DennisT.jpg


    Finally, a payment of some sort was made:

    DennisPaid.jpg


    Would it be reading too much into the picture to characterize Dennis's expression as Sphinx-like?

    posted by Eric at 09:45 AM | Comments (12)



    ΕΤΕΡΟΚΑΚΟΣ

    The Independent online has an interview with Roger Scruton (with a corny journalistic ending) that I find most interesting for Roger's own assessment of the rift between the left and the right:

    "One of the great distinctions between the left and the right in the intellectual world," says Scruton, who has held chairs in aesthetics at Birkbeck and philosophy at Boston as well as a fellowship at Peterhouse, "is that left-wing people find it very hard to get on with right-wing people, because they believe that they are evil. Whereas I have no problem getting on with left-wing people, because I simply believe that they are mistaken. After a while, if I can persuade them that I'm not evil, I find it a very useful thing. I know that my views on many things are open to correction. But if you can't discuss with your opponents, how can you correct your views?"

    Hence the coinage which heads this post (heterokakos: 'evil by virtue of its difference'). I've never quite understood it myself, but I've had my share of withering looks at parties and have learned to keep my mouth shut around other academics. It's not that I'm avoiding debate but rather that I'm avoiding a shunning. There never is any debate, but rather exasperation, disbelief, and disgust. By staying silent I can figure out who might be more open to having a genuine conversation or debate, and those people are decidedly rare. And by rarely making my political leanings known I can make a point to which most of my leftist friends are willing to concede, but only because they fail to see me as ONE OF THEM.

    so you can keep your mouth shut or you, like Roger Scruton, can become a pariah ever facing the executioner's blade without the courtesy of a trial:

    "There's a great distinction between legitimate criticism and assassination," a rather less jolly Roger explains as we settle down to talk after lunch. "I get the assassination all the time and not the criticism. Criticism is a compliment; you don't necessarily expect people to agree with you. But the response to my books has in the past been really quite horrendous - dismissive, trying to make out that it's not just that they are badly argued but that there is nothing there. You do get distressed by that."

    You nailed it, Roger.

    posted by Dennis at 09:00 AM | Comments (8)



    Where's the Constitutional "outings" clause?

    This story about ex-CIA agents alleging a constitutional crisis is busy making the rounds:

    In a hearing held by Senate and House Democrats examining the implications of exposing Valerie Plame's identity, the former intelligence officers said Bush's silence has hampered efforts to recruit informants to help the United States fight the war on terror. Federal law forbids government officials from revealing the identity of an undercover intelligence officer.

    "I wouldn't be here this morning if President Bush had done the one thing required of him as commander in chief _ protect and defend the Constitution," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst. "The minute that Valerie Plame's identity was outed, he should have delivered a strict and strong message to his employees."

    The Constitution? I thought this debate involved the meaning of a 1982 law so ambiguously worded that in all the time it's existed, there's been only one successful prosecution.

    As to the Constitution, while I don't know it verbatim, I think I can pretty confidently state that there's nothing in it about presidential duties towards employees who've been "outed" (regardless of what they've been outed for). Nor is there anything in there about the CIA, secrecy in government, how to handle confidentiality, how to deal with leaks.

    Which isn't to say that I'm pleased with the Bush record on protecting and defending the Constitution. On that account, by signing the horrendous McCain-Feingold act (an act which will live in infamy) the president violated his oath of office, as did the members of Congress who voted for it.

    But the outing of employees -- no matter who does it or under what circumstances -- was simply not on the mind of the framers. How can this ex-CIA employee sit there with a straight face and maintain otherwise? As to what should be done about this, I'm wondering whether maybe the federal government should consider requiring CIA analysts to take an elementary course in civics. Should we go so far as making them read the Constitution itself? Or is that asking too much?

    But despite Mr. Johnson's apparent ignorance, in the interest of fairness I think it's worth looking at the merits of his demand that "the minute that Valerie Plame's identity was outed, [President Bush] should have delivered a strict and strong message to his employees."

    This "strict and strong message" standard on outings might not be in the Constitution, but how did Bush measure up to it at the time of the outing?

    Via the Reynolds and Maguire Wayback Machine, it is now possible to return in time to what Bush actually said in September of 2003 (with this quote from the New York Times):

    White House statements on this issue, dating back over the two years of the Wilson case, have varied. On Sept. 30, 2003, Mr. Bush used language akin of what he said on Monday. "If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," he said then. "And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

    At other moments, though, Mr. Bush's language has been less precise. In Sea Island, Ga. in June 2004, Mr. Bush was asked whether he would fire anyone who was involved in leaking Ms. Wilson's name - which might or might not violate the law, depending on the circumstances. Without hesitation, Mr. Bush said yes.

    If you don't think "taken care of" has an ominous enough ring to it, here's a contemporaneous CBS report:
    "I don't know of anyone in my administration who has leaked," Mr. Bush told reporters in Chicago. But, he added, "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing."

    The president added, "There's too much leaking in Washington. That's just the way it is. We've had leaks from the executive branch and leaks from the legislative branch. I want to know who the leakers are."

    I don't know whether Bush's 2003 words are to be considered enough of a "strict and strong message" by ex-CIA agents, but what standard they proposing? There's an ongoing investigation, and whether the complicated 1982 law was in fact violated remains to be determined. What would these disgruntled ex-CIA employees have Bush do? Appoint a new team of plumbers to ferret out the leakers? That's exactly what happened when Richard Nixon went ballistic over leaks within his administration. (Nothing in the Constitution about plumbers, either....)

    With analysts like Johnson, no wonder there are problems with the CIA. I'm wondering whether Mark Steyn might be onto the real issue:

    "But in the real world there's only one scandal in this whole wretched business -- that the CIA, as part of its institutional obstruction of the administration, set up a pathetic 'fact-finding mission' that would be considered a joke by any serious intelligence agency and compounded it by sending, at the behest of his wife, a shrill politically motivated poseur who, for the sake of 15 minutes' celebrity on the cable gabfest circuit, misled the nation about what he found. . . . What we have here is, in effect, the old standby plot of lame Hollywood conspiracy thrillers: rogue elements within the CIA attempting to destabilize the elected government."

    (Via InstaPundit.)

    Puffing up a scandal is one thing.

    But blow as they might, I just don't see how they'll ever be able inflate this thing into a "constitutional crisis."

    posted by Eric at 08:22 AM | TrackBacks (1)




    Choose your weapons!

    Via Glenn Reynolds, GayPatriot, and Michael Demmons comes word of more sickening Islamic atrocities: the hanging of two gay teenagers for the "crime" of having sex. They were also tortured by their savage captors (who have no respect for the most basic laws of civilization):


    LONDON, July 21 – Two gay teenagers were publicly executed in Iran on 19 July 2005 for the ‘crime’ of homosexuality. The youths were hanged in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad, in north east Iran. They were sentenced to death by Court No. 19.

    Iran enforces Islamic Sharia law, which dictates the death penalty for gay sex.

    One youth was aged 18 and the other was a minor under the age of 18. They were only identified by their initials, M.A. and A.M.

    They admitted – probably under torture, London-based gay human rights group Outrage! suggests – to having gay sex but claimed in their defence that most young boys had sex with each other and that they were not aware that homosexuality was punishable by death.

    Prior to their execution, the teenagers were held in prison for 14 months and severely beaten with 228 lashes.

    Their length of detention suggests that they committed the so-called offences more than a year earlier, when they were possibly around the age of 16.

    Ruhollah Rezazadeh, the lawyer of the youngest boy (under 18), had appealed that he was too young to be executed and that the court should take into account his young age (believed to be 16 or 17). But the Supreme Court in Tehran ordered him to be hanged.

    Under the Iranian penal code, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be hanged.

    What a wonderful way of life.

    Gay Patriot asks some damned good questions:

    Now wait just a minute.... the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have drilled it into my head that the biggest immediate threat to my safety and security is President Bush, Dick Cheney, Rick Santorum and the lack of gay marriage in the USA!!!

    You mean they don't know that the Islamist terrorists are waging war against Western society? Why haven't they told me that Islamists hate gay people? What is their position on the War on Terror aside from marching with anti-American, anti-Western, anti-war groups like A.N.S.W.E.R.?

    And more:
    Someone explain to me why the international gay community has, by their silence and opposition to the efforts to combat the War on Terror, joined in partnership with the Islamists in at least the public relations side of the War?

    Will it take a Muslim attack on a gay bar to wake up our so-called leaders? Log Cabin Republicans needs to take some leadership here, step up to the plate and publicly discuss the fact that gay people are targets for the Islamist terrorists whose even 'moderate' leaders conduct the hanging of gay people.

    We're often told that atrocities committed by Muslims should not be blamed on Islam. Well, where are the voices of the so-called "moderate" Muslims? Are there any?

    I've complained about this before, (as have Charles Johnson and Roger L. Simon) and I think what I said bears repeating:

    Hmmmm.....

    Whatever happened to the slogan "SILENCE = DEATH"?

    At least I can trust that gay gun nuts like my blogfather will refuse to live under this deadly veil of silence.

    Lastly, I have an idea. An old idea, really. But I think it's right for the times. I don't want the Islamic bigots and their supporters to imagine that the Pink Triangle can ever be used the way the Nazis used it.

    So I offer a modest revision.

    This led to a bit of a reader contest, with these winning designs from Sol of Solomonia:

    First, the all-American colt version:

    coltpink.gif

    And next, the Israeli Galil:

    galilpink.gif

    The cowardliness and spinelessness of the so-called "gay movement" in refusing to condemn Islamic anti-gay bigotry never ceases to amaze me, and I wish I had more time to devote to this post. But I'll say this: especially right now, whichever swinish professional gay cowards refuse to condemn these latest Iranian atrocities, they will have shown themselves to be morally bankrupt and unworthy of leading anyone.

    There's a war going on against civilization, and it's clearly also a war against gays.

    How on earth could anyone considering himself a gay leader not be on his own side?

    UPDATE: Nick Packwood is none too happy about this either:

    The next time anyone tries to defend the Iranian "revolution" around me I am going to punch them in the nose. I could care less what your "tradition", "religion" or "culture" has to say. If you are going to imprison, torture and execute people for being gay you are a monster and your tradition, religion and culture must be ruthlessly suppressed.
    Nick also links to this shocker about Islamic "judges" ordering the pre-execution rape of women (to prevent their entry into heaven, naturally). In a sadistic twist, a playful mullah upheld morality by producing a marriage certificate -- with the rapist supplying candy for the parents:
    According to a "religious" decree, virgin women prisoners must as a rule be raped before their execution, "lest they go to Paradise." Therefore, the night before execution, a Guard rapes the condemned woman. After her execution, the religious judge at the prison writes out a marriage certificate and sends it to the victim's family, along with a box of sweets. In a written confession in January 1990, Sarmast Akhlaq Tabandeh, a senior Guards Corps interrogator, recounted one such case in Shiraz prison: "Flora Owrangi, an acquaintance of one of my friends was one such victim. The night before her execution, the resident mullah in the prison conducted a lottery among the members of the firing squads and prison officials to determine who would rape her. She was then forcibly injected with anesthesia ampoules, after which she was raped. The next day, after she was executed, the mullah in charge wrote a marriage certificate and the Guard who raped her took that along with a box of sweets to her parents."
    As I said, this goes beyond the issue of tolerance for gays, and it ought to shock the entire civilized world.

    UPDATE: There are now conflicting reports emerging about this story, and apparently the Iranians are saying this case involved homosexual rape. If that is true (I don't know how to find out whether it is, as there are also allegations that the two were tortured into confessing) then it becomes a very different matter than consensual gay sex.

    According to the last link from Sed, the official story from Iran has been changed:

    A later news story by Iran In Focus, allegedly based on this original ISNA report, claimed the youths were executed for sexually assaulting a 13 year old boy. But the ISNA report does not mention any sexual assault.

    A report of the executions on the website of the respected democratic opposition movement, The National Council of Resistance Of Iran, also makes no reference to a sexual assault.

    The allegation of sexual assault may either be a trumped up charge to undermine public sympathy for the youths, a frequent tactic by the Islamist regime in Iran.

    In other words, there's no way to know whether the Iranian government is lying.

    All that can be said with certainty is that:

  • two gay teens were executed
  • the original story was that it was for homosexuality
  • now that the case has received attention from the West, the story is being changed to homosexual rape
  • Not enough to pass my smell test.

    MORE: In yet another account sent to me via an email from an Iranian activist, the same two youths were said to have been executed for "theft and inciting public disorder":

    The bloodthirsty regime of the Islamic Republic, yesterday public executed two young men in the city of Mash'had. They were charged with theft and inciting public disorder!

    In the top photo, taken minutes before their execution, the two innocent youths are seen sobbing in fear. One of them lamented that their environment was always unsuitable; corruption and deception was rampant and this laid the grounds for our present situation.
    Where is "truth" to be found?

    UPDATE: More discussion here.

    posted by Eric at 06:17 PM | Comments (2)



    My sweetest post yet

    The other day, I was offered some of the best tasting lemon/limeade I can ever remember drinking, although it seemed to me that it was loaded with sugar. While I consume quite a bit of sugar and have no particular prejudice against it, I recognize that it has unnecessary calories so I'll do things like opt for a Diet Coke instead of the Real Thing.

    Anyway, this addictively delicious drink was called Odwalla Summertime Lime®. While it would normally be beneath my "dignity" (if such words can be applied to blogging) to write a blog post about such a silly thing, I was quite taken to learn that this substance -- one of the sweetest things I can ever remember consuming, had absolutely no sugar!

    Instead, as was pointed out to me, the label reads,

    Organic Evaporated Cane Juice
    Given my fascination with euphemistic language, can I really be expected to ignore a thing like that?

    Or is Organic Evaporated Cane Juice really something other than sugar? Here's one manufacturer's scientific-sounding description:

    Evaporated Cane Juice
    ECJ is a fine granulated, easy soluble, free flowing general purpose sugar. It retains a slight golden tan color and subtle taste profile from the original cane juice that will enhance any application. The single crystallization process gives ECJ its attractive flavor, color and nutritional profile. It is the ideal alternative to refined white sugar. Substitute one for one in any application.
    And they were nice enough to provide a picture, which looks for the world like a small pile of, well, sugar.

    So excuse me, but how come it isn't called "sugar cane juice"?

    The difference between "cane juice" and the dread "S" word seems to be in the degree of processing:

    Evaporated cane juice is a healthy alternative to refined sugar. While both sweeteners are made from sugar cane, evaporated cane juice does not undergo the same degree of processing that refined sugar does. Therefore, unlike refined sugar, it retains more of the nutrients found in sugar cane. Cane juice is available throughout the year. (Emphasis added.)
    This only aroused my curiosity further. What are the "degrees" in the processing of regular sugar which are harmful to human health? And what "nutrients" does the evaporated cane juice have that regular sugar lacks?

    The last site also ticks off some health related claims:

    Studies have shown that the use of this over-processed food product is associated with such debilitating conditions as adult-onset diabetes and colon cancer. Avoiding foods with white sugar is probably a good idea. So what are the options – artificial sweeteners? Well, the problem there is that certain artificial sweeteners may be even worse for your health than white sugar. Some people attribute negative side effects such as headaches, poor concentration, and even conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder and auto-immune diseases to some of these products. Others have been shown in some animal studies to increase risk of illnesses like cancer.

    So it seems like you have to deny your need for sweets or choose between the frying pan and the fire, right? Well, fortunately, there is another option. Certain sweeteners are more natural and less refined than the standard white table sugar crystals. One of those sweeteners is natural dried cane juice. The use of this substance (in moderation of course) has not been associated with any negative side effects or dangerous medical conditions.

    That "Attention Deficit Disorder" got my attention, as I'm not convinced that there is such a "disease" -- much less that it would be caused by steps in the sugar refining process, and which (unless I am reading this wrong) are now omitted in the name of mental health.

    Before I go any further, let me back up and acknowledge that sugar has been blamed for a whole host of health problems, and it is not my purpose to debunk any of those claims in a blog post. I am not an expert on sugar-related diseases, and as I said, I try not to over-consume the product. What I want to know is, what health-related dangers are created by the processing which can be eliminated by reverting to a more primitive style of sugar refining? Reading along with the same site ("The World's Healthiest Foods"), I am treated to some sugar history:

    History

    The history of evaporated cane juice runs mostly parallel to the history of sugar since it only recently that refinement technology was developed that created methods of processing sugarcane so as to create white, refined sugar. For much of history, what we call evaporated cane juice was the sweetener of choice by all of the different cultures that used sugarcanes.

    The domestication of sugarcane is ancient, originating in New Guinea about 10,000 years ago. This plant spread westward throughout the globe, being widely grown in India. Yet, it was not until the Moors (who had learnt from the Indians the secrets of how to process sugarcane into sugar) began traversing other countries during the Crusades of the 7th century that sugar began its expansion, starting in North Africa and Spain. The type of sugar produced varied in color, size, form and molasses content depending upon the exact processing techniques used and the preference of the region in which it was produced. Christopher Columbus is credited with introducing sugar into the New World and the European countries quickly introduced sugarcane cultivation into their colonies in South America and the Caribbean Islands.

    In the last few centuries, sugar refineries were built and there was a move towards the creation of refined sugar, often referred to as “white gold”. It has only been recently, in the United States, that there has been a renewed interest in these more natural and less processed form of sugar cane, owing to an increased focus on whole foods and nutrition.

    Interesting history, and while I'm as fascinated by the Crusades as I am by colonialism, I'd still like to know at what point the evil bastards contaminated the refining process to transform a previously natural product into the toxin known as "processed sugar."

    Sigh. That website would not tell me, so I had to look elsewhere.

    Why do simple questions have to get so damned complicated, anyway? (You'd almost think this was politics or something. . . If I didn't know that food is apolitical I'd almost be getting upset. . .)

    Anyway, while I don't want to go overboard, here's a fairly simple explanation in lay terms:

    [A]ll sugar is refined. It's just a matter of how much refining has been done that determines the color of the end product. All sugar begins as the liquid juices of some plant, usually sugarcane or sugar beets as we have already seen, complete with a small but nonetheless disgusting amount of dirt, insect parts, plant matter, and a veritable plethora of bacteria and yeasts. This mixture is then clarified by the addition of lime, boiled, and reduced until the sugar becomes so concentrated that it forms solid crystals. This sludge is then spun in a centrifuge to remove the liquid (think of your washing machine during the spin cycle) and the result is known as raw sugar. Remember, it still has all the nasty stuff in it at this point, and the US FDA classifies raw sugar as unfit for human consumption, so the next time someone recommends eating raw sugar, be sure to add them to your "People Who Don't Know What They're Talking About" list.

    The sugar is further refined and purified with two more cycles of washing, boiling, reducing, and spinning, until the final result is almost 100 percent pure sucrose crystals - sugar. By the way, the liquid that is removed is molasses, and we'll talk more about that later.

    So (obviously) the refining process does in fact remove vitamins, plant particles, bacteria, insect fragments, and results in a nearly pure product -- granular sucrose -- that white powder commonly known as table sugar. Probably, it would be better not to remove all the vitamins and plant particles. But whether their absence makes the preexisting sucrose more dangerous than it would have been in their presence is certainly debatable. Whatever the dangers posed by sucrose, I don't see why leaving the vitamins in would make it any safer than taking them out (assuming one gets the necessary vitamins from somewhere).

    I suspect that this is little more than a feel-good gimmick hoping to capitalize on the health-food faddism. Interestingly, the Big Guys like Domino (and their competition) are delighted to get in on what's doubtless a sweet deal for them.

    After all, they already own the same cane fields and the refineries; if they can make more money by omitting steps in the refining process -- and make more money for doing less -- that's what anyone would call a win-win.

    As for those who think evaporated cane juice is not sugar (or that it won't cause or aggravate diabetes), it's probably better to keep them away from sausage and politics.

    posted by Eric at 10:33 AM | Comments (13)



    Too much religion and politics in today's entertainment!

    Recently brought to light were some rather odd political views expressed by War of the Worlds screenplay author David Koepp (highlighted by Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus):

    ....the Martians in the movie represent "American military forces," while Tom Cruise and the embattled Earthlings represent Iraqi civilians...
    Uhhh, OK! But I'll still see the film, because if I'm supporting a Martian invasion I damned well want to know the details!

    And right now I'm wondering about whether religion might have been a possible influence (or, possibly, an inspiration) in the making of the film.

    In particular, my attention was drawn to this, um "religious" view:

    Summary of the Xenu story

    The story of Xenu is covered in OT III, part of Scientology's secret "Advanced Technology" doctrines taught only to advanced members. It is described in more detail in the accompanying confidential "Assists" lecture of 3 October 1968. Direct quotes in this section are from these sources. (See also Scientology beliefs and practices)

    75 million years ago, Xenu was the ruler of a Galactic Confederacy which consisted of 26 stars and 76 planets including Earth, which was then known as Teegeeack. The planets were overpopulated, each having on average 178 billion people. The Galactic Confederacy's civilization was comparable to our own, with people "walking around in clothes which looked very remarkably like the clothes they wear this very minute" and using cars, trains and boats looking exactly the same as those "circa 1950, 1960" on Earth.

    Xenu was about to be deposed from power, so he devised a plot to eliminate the excess population from his dominions. With the assistance of "renegades", he defeated the populace and the "Loyal Officers", a force for good that was opposed to Xenu. Then, with the assistance of psychiatrists, he summoned billions of people to paralyse them with injections of alcohol and glycol, under the pretense that they were being called for "income tax inspections." The kidnapped populace was loaded into space planes for transport to the site of extermination, the planet of Teegeeack (Earth). The space planes were exact copies of Douglas DC-8s, "except the DC-8 had fans, propellers on it and the space plane didn't." DC-8s have jet engines, not propellers, although Hubbard may have meant the turbine fans.

    When the space planes had reached Teegeeack, the paralysed people were unloaded and stacked around the bases of volcanoes across the planet. Hydrogen bombs were lowered into the volcanoes, and all were detonated simultaneously. Only a few people's physical bodies survived.

    The now-disembodied victims' souls, which Hubbard called thetans, were blown into the air by the blast. They were captured by Xenu's forces using an "electronic ribbon" ("which also was a type of standing wave") and sucked into "vacuum zones" around the world. The hundreds of billions of captured thetans were taken to a type of cinema, where they were forced to watch a "three-D, super colossal motion picture" for 36 days. This implanted what Hubbard termed "various misleading data" (collectively termed the R6 implant) into the memories of the hapless thetans, "which has to do with God, the Devil, space opera, etcetera". This included all world religions, with Hubbard specifically attributing Roman Catholicism and the image of the Crucifixion to the influence of Xenu. The interior decoration of "all modern theaters" is also said by Hubbard to be due to an unconscious recollection of Xenu's implants.

    In addition to implanting new beliefs in the thetans, the images deprived them of their sense of identity. When the thetans left the projection areas, they started to cluster together in groups of a few thousand, having lost the ability to differentiate between each other. Each cluster of thetans gathered into one of the few remaining bodies that survived the explosion. These became what are known as body thetans, which are said to be still clinging to and adversely affecting everyone except those Scientologists who have performed the necessary steps to remove them.

    Wait a second right there! I now stand accused not only of being a thetan, but of being a bad person based solely upon my thetan status!

    I must object, because I see this as just another form of ad hominem attack, precisely the type of thing this blog routinely condemns. Furthermore, it's Nazi-like to condemn all thetans simply because of their ancestry, and it is precisely this type of thinking which led to the rise of fascism!

    But alas! There's more:

    The Loyal Officers finally overthrew Xenu and locked him away in a mountain, where he was imprisoned forever by a force field powered by an eternal battery. (Some have suggested that Xenu is imprisoned on Earth in the Pyrenees, but Hubbard merely refers to "one of these planets" [of the Galactic Confederacy]; he does, however, refer to the Pyrenees as being the site of the last operating "Martian report station", which is probably the source of this particular confusion.[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenu#endnote_1)) Teegeeack/Earth was subsequently abandoned by the Galactic Confederacy and remains a pariah "prison planet" to this day, although it has suffered repeatedly from incursions by alien "Invader Forces" since then.
    You mean, WOTW might not be about Bush at all, but about religion?

    (Well, I suppose Bush is a thetan, but then, aren't we all?)

    Justin, where are you? I need help with religious interpretation.

    For his part, Tom Cruise indignantly denies any connection between his religious views (well, it is a religion, isn't it?) and War of the Worlds:

    June 24, 2005 —An angry Tom Cruise took on a reporter who asked if "War of the Worlds" resonated with him because Scientologists believe in extraterrestrials.

    "That's not true," Cruise told the reporter Wednesday at a press conference with director Steven Spielberg to promote the new film. "It has no resonance whatsoever. There's absolutely no relation to that whatsoever."

    Cruise, who is a devoted member of the Church of Scientology, was so stunned that he questioned the reporter's credentials. When told that the reporter worked for the Boston Phoenix, he asked, "Is that a good paper? Really?"

    While only Cruise himself can explain what motivated him to star in the film, religious experts say that space creatures do play a role in the Scientology belief system.

    Phew!

    How reassuring to know that religion played no part in this film.

    I was all set to grill Karl Rove about Xenu.

    And the Pyrenees.

    posted by Eric at 09:33 AM | Comments (12)



    Special privileges for MSM only!

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Tom Maguire has some good questions for the "Meet The Pravda" crowd relating to the Plame matter:

    ...what did these reporters say, and when did they say it. Did they cooperate but promise their silence? Why? Or, was their contact so tame that Fitzgerald was not interested - tell us.

    Or did they refuse to cooperate? If they refused in the name of press freedom on behalf of the public's right to know, would they mind informing their public of the good work they are undertaking on our behalf?

    Right now Congress is debating a reporters shield law, while reporters are shielding us from some basic facts about this important case. What about my right to know?

    Whose "right" to know?

    (How I love rhetorical questions!)

    Obviously the only rights that count are the rights of the specially privileged.

    In an unrelated story, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted in passing that it has special privileges:

    WASHINGTON - Contending that Saudi Arabia remains a center of financing and recruitment for extremists, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) says it is time for the United States to consider ending military cooperation with the Saudis unless they crack down more forcefully on radical Islamic groups.

    Lautenberg and his staff have prepared a 12-page report detailing links between extremist groups and Saudi financiers in an effort to persuade Congress and the White House to reexamine the relationship. The Inquirer was given a copy of the report, which has not yet been released.

    Damn right only they get a copy! And only they can be trusted with leaks! That's because what goes on is not for us to know until they think it is. I think this all boils down to maintaining the business-as-usual, us-versus-them mentality.

    The other day I asked rhetorically, "Whose news is this?"

    Events are making it obvious that news belongs to (or should properly belong to) only the government and the mainstream media.

    More legislation is needed to strengthen this relationship.

    Ahem.

    (For my part, I'll try to keep asking rhetorical questions. What? I should stop being cynical and write to my congressman instead?)

    For the umpteenth time, I should remind my readers to beware of the fallacy that "coverups don't work." As I have said time and time again, bipartisan coverups do indeed work.

    Especially when the two parties are government and media.

    MORE: My apologies for screwing up the spelling Tom Maguire's name! (I corrected the error.)

    posted by Eric at 08:43 AM | Comments (4)




    Fun is Hell! (And war is for the birds!)

    Blogging is supposed to be fun, right?

    Bloggers are supposed to quit when it no longer is, right?

    I hope these are not absolute rules, because blogging is no fun at all when I am subjected to a relentless barrage of media bullshit. Why? Because, much as I'm glad to have this blog as a remedy for what Glenn recently called "preening, point-scoring irresponsibility," there's so much of it that it tends to overwhelm me. Surely, it can't be any more fun for readers to read my complaints about bias for the 1427th time than it is for me to write them?

    Am I alone in thinking that it's a real drag to have to sit down and write another blog post every time I'm bothered by media bias?

    It isn't fun. (Nor is seeing people blown up on subways.)

    But does that mean I should quit?

    There has to be some other remedy.

    I'm not even thinking of quitting blogging, mind you. But I wrote this post because I just turned my television off after seeing some CNN expert pontificate about the usual need to "understand" the terrorists' anger. This made me very angry, and made me want to ask as politely as I can a question along the lines of, "Understand their anger? What about understanding my anger?"*

    But the more I felt a creeping, probably misplaced sense of obligation (is "duty" a better word?) to address such questions, the more I was reminded of that little nagging phrase in which I try to believe: blogging is supposed to be fun.

    How then, are war, terrorism, and the unending stream of media bias to be made fun?

    I don't know, but I do know that I had fun turning off the damned TV.

    The flow of preening, point-scoring irresponsibility immediately stopped.

    And right now the birds are chirping outside!

    (Preening, no doubt. But they're at war every bit as much as we all are.)


    *ANOTHER QUESTION THAT'S NO FUN: If this is in fact a war, why should we keep asking questions like "Why do they hate us?"

    I mean, shouldn't the enemies be the ones asking that question?

    posted by Eric at 02:16 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBacks (2)



    This Carnival has many emanations from its penumbra!

    The format of this week's Carnival of the Vanities is one of the wittiest I've seen. Host Matt Barr has ingeniously managed to enliste the help of the Supreme Court, by dividing the vast carnival into nine categories, each one presided over one of the justices. I so much enjoyed Matt's characterizations of the justices that I can't resist linking and quoting Matt's description of each one.

    So here come de judges!


  • Anthony M. Kennedy:
    Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is first up. The result of President Reagan pointing blindfolded at the Martindale-Hubbell directory after Robert Bork was borked and Douglas Ginsburg withdrew, AMK has delighted liberty-lovers and folks on the left with his opinions bolstering gay rights in Colorado, striking down a Texas law against sodomy, and voting for the death penalty for offenders who committed their crimes while 17 years old before he voted against it.

  • David Hackett Souter:
    Associate Justice David Hackett Souter, most famous for lending his name to the popular conservative expression "Alberto Gonzalez would be another Souter!", wrote the majority opinion in the recent Ten Commandments case that said you can't display them at the courthouse. No, not the one that said you can display them outside the courthouse, the other one. In response to Justice Souter's vote in the Kelo eminent domain case, a developer wanted the New Hampshire town where he lives to seize his house so the developer could build the "Lost Liberty Hotel." As with many libertarian ideas in America, nobody ever really followed through.
    (A crying shame, if you ask me.)

  • Stephen G. Breyer:
    Stephen G. Breyer will be the most junior member of the Court until Justice O'Connor's replacement is confirmed, sometime in 2007. As a Senate aide, Breyer helped draft the federal sentencing guidelines, which he then voted as a Justice to make advisory instead of mandatory. After all that work! He is distinguished recently by being the only Justice in both 5-4 majorities in the Ten Commandments cases -- one ok, one not ok -- and crafting what is expected to become the new four-pronged test for determining if religious displays on public property square with the Constitution. As Justice Breyer put it in a concurring opinion:
    My mother told me to pick the very best one, and you are not it.
    Hmmmm.... Never knew a judge was allowed to cite his mother. But I'm not complaining! Because, after all, Justice Breyer was kind enough to cite my apology for misusing loaded language.

  • John Paul Stevens:
    John Paul Stevens is the most senior Associate Justice (thanks, Parableman!) of the Court. It follows he's done the most damage! Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion in Kelo v. New London, the eminent domain case, and Raich v. Gonzalez, the medical marijuana case, and co-authored one of the majority opinions (the philosophy of this Court is that if you can settle something in one opinion, you're not trying hard enough!) in McConnell v. F.E.C., the campaign finance reform case. But he'll be most fondly remembered for settling the thorny question of whether prohibiting carts on golf courses violates the Constitution of the United States. It does. Wouldn't you know!

  • Chief Justice Rehnquist:
    Chief Justice Rehnquist. Still here! As a Justice, legal history will remember WHR for reining in Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, beefing up state sovereign immunity, and protecting First Amendment freedom of association from the threat of dudes kissing. He also opposes mandatory retirement. Obviously! As a Chief, the Chief will be remembered as an efficient, consensus building administrator, a fastidious tradition follower, a wise and respected overseer of a presidential impeachment, and general in the federalist revolution. (What federalist revolution? That's a whole separate post!) Justice Blackmun famously wrote, "I cannot remain on this Court forever." Rehnquist is going to try!
    Perhaps life extension will be safe?

  • Clarence Thomas:
    Associate Justice Clarence Thomas is not yet exactly known for his majority opinions. (But what about... the Excessive Fines clause case? You see what I'm saying!) But he is becoming a darling of libertarians for his thoughtful dissents in cases like Kelo v. New London and concurring opinions like the one urging wholesale review of the Court's Commerce Clause jurisprudence in U.S. v. Lopez. Not to mention the Coke can thing! Many people (like these two, by way of example) would like to see CT elevated to Chief. Over Rehnquist's dead body!

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
    Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- International Jurist of Mystery -- can wear a hat, don't you think! Former general counsel for the ACLU, Justice Ginsburg is the main character in a silly story making the rounds that she was personally recommended for the job by conservative Senator Orrin Hatch. Major opinions: Well, she wrote one in Bush v. Gore, but who didn't?

  • Antonin Scalia:
    Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has authored important majority opinions boosting our rights under the First Amendment (like R.A.V. v. St. Paul and Republican Party of Minnesota v. White), Fourth Amendment (such as Kyllo v. U.S.) and Sixth Amendment (like Blakely v. Washington), but more importantly, is a theocratic tyrant who wants to kill pregnant women and turn the rest of the country over to Pope Nazi McHitlerburton for reprogramming. Whichever! In terms of opinion authorship, Justice Scalia is still best known for his dissents, wherein he does things like accuse a majority of his brethren of having "a character of almost czarist arrogance." What does he really think? Who knows! He's inscrutable.

  • Sandra Day O'Connor:
    Impending Former Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor arrived at her decision to retire after thoughtful, careful consideration of the particular facts of her case, applying a six-pronged retirement test and noting that if you ask her again in 25 years, she will probably unretire.

  • Remember, those are just the descriptions of the justices. You really have to read each justice's posts to understand the inner workings of the system.

    Well done!

    I think Matt Barr (who has a law degree and works in the real estate appraisal and mortgage industry) has done so much work that he deserves a place on the court himself.

    posted by Eric at 12:06 PM | Comments (2)



    More terrorist mayhem?

    More bombings in London?

    Bombers have again targeted London's transport system - with up to four explosions reported.

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said the bombs appeared to be smaller than used in the attacks two weeks ago but advised people to "stay where you are".

    Passengers reported one blast at Warren Street station off Tottenham Court Road in central London.

    There has also been an incident on a bus in Hackney, East London.

    Stations at Warren Street, Oval and Shepherd's Bush have been closed.

    Scotland Yard have confirmed there is an incident involving armed police officers at University College Hospital in Bloomsbury close to Warren Street station.

    A man was also arrested by armed police at the gates of Downing Street.

    I don't know whether something big is happening again or whether this is wannabe activity which has been thwarted. I'm hearing different reports (most recently that at least one person has been killed), but I guess I'll have to stay tuned along with everyone else.

    UPDATE: According to the San Jose Mercury News, one person was wounded. Apparently no one was killed, which is a relief.

    UPDATE: More from London's Daily Mail, which reports that it may have been only the detonators which went off, but that there also may have been "a shooting":

    Earlier, Police sources have said that the explosions may have been detonators rather than bombs themselves.

    An initial examination carried out by police in protective clothing at Oval station has shown "no trace of chemical agents", a spokesman for Scotland Yard said.

    A British Transport Police spokesman said: "One person has received an injury at Warren Street.

    "We cannot confirm what the injury is, how it was received or who serious it is. We are still waiting for more information."

    There was also a report of a "shooting" at a station.

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair told Londoners to "stay where you are" and advised against commuters rushing to rail stations.

    MORE: The Daily Mail also has this report that a man "tried to flee after rucksack exploded" at Oval:

    An eyewitness who was on the train at Oval station described seeing a man flee after his rucksack exploded, with other passengers trying to stop him.

    She told Sky News: "There was a woman with a baby and there was a man standing beside her with a rucksack.

    "There was a little explosion. As soon as the door opened the man ran away and people were trying to run after him. There were three men struggling with him but he ran off and they couldn't catch him."

    MORE: In the course of research, I saw that Charles Johnson beat the LA Times to the story. (And the LA Times is a prestigious Google news site!)

    posted by Eric at 10:52 AM | Comments (1)



    Evolution, anyone?

    The wonderful pictures from the Scopes "Monkey Trial" era (linked by Glenn Reynolds) triggered an outburst of pit bull nostalgia.

    Perhaps out of fear of boring readers, I don't indulge myself in such antics as often as I might like, but I just think these dogs are an incredibly cool part of forgotten American history. I say "forgotten" because Americans today tend to see pit bulls not as a part of history, but as a modern problem associated with drugs and urban crime.

    It wasn't always that way. . .

    armitageskager.jpg
    TudorsSpike.jpg
    HistoricPitPics.jpg

    Of course, it goes without saying that such things as drugs (legal before World War I) and urban crime did exist in those days.

    I'm not saying it was a better world, but still, this was a country where people mostly took care of their own business.

    And in the days before the evolution of bureaucratic rule, few would have blamed crime and drugs on guns or dogs.

    Definitely nostalgia.

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)



    The stupidity of brazen feelings

    I've been having a tough time making sense of an account of an apparently senseless murder:

    Police have arrested a 16-year-old in Johnson's murder. As to motive, homicide Capt. Richard Ross said, "It appears that this was just some stupid little encounter... brought on by the fact that an individual was armed with a weapon... and as a result felt a lot more brazen that he would have otherwise."

    That burns those who loved Johnson. So senseless, such a waste, they say.

    Surely, Captain Ross is not asking us to believe that the mere state of being armed is a motive. I'm armed, and it doesn't motivate me to do anything, because a gun is an inanimate object. A gun is no more of a motivation than a computer. Would people who didn't like this blog say that it was "brought on" by the fact that I'm "armed with a computer"? I doubt it. If I hacked into a commercial website or sent threatening emails, would the computer be the cause? Surely, Captain Ross cannot think that.

    So, let's stick with the "stupid little encounter" meme. Can stupidity ever supply a motive?

    Low IQ equals violent crime? Is such a thing possible? I seriously doubt that too. There are so many stupid people in this world that if stupidity really caused crime, no one would ever be able to venture out of the door. Plus, based on my experience in life and with the legal system, I can assure readers that many, many criminals are highly intelligent people. Stupid criminals might be easier to catch, but I think it stretches credulity to say that stupidity actually causes crime.

    However, from all accounts, the murdered kid was no slouch. Richard Johnson was an "A" student at prestigious St. Joseph's Preparatory School, yet he seems to have deliberately hidden the blazer-wearing, preppie side of his life:

    "Who knew Rick was a collar-, blazer-wearing fella?" said Chenel Watson, 16, who grew up with Johnson, as she looked at the formally dressed boys around her.

    Johnson, "Rick" or "Rich" to his friends and family, lived in a tough South Philadelphia area but attended the elite North Philadelphia prep school. In the classroom, he excelled in Latin, Spanish and Greek. At home he talked the talk, hanging out with friends and chilling out and being the super-cool guy, leaving the smart talk temporarily behind.

    He moved between his two worlds with ease, his friends said, as much a part of one as the other. He was loved equally in both.

    "He was smart, as smart as a whip, but he had everybody fooled on the street," Watson said. "It's a shame to see someone doing so good, and then someone goes and pulls him back."

    Johnson, who graduated from St. Joe's last month, was headed for St. Joseph's University on a full academic scholarship. He planned to become a lawyer and had taken a summer job in a Center City law firm.

    Moreover, even though I was on vacation when the initial story came out, I now see that at the time of the murder, the young man's grandmother believed that jealousy over academic success was the motive:
    "Smart kid. He had real strong areas of interest," said the Rev. Thomas F. Clifford, Johnson's high school principal. Clifford said Johnson spent four years in the study of Spanish, three years of Greek and two years of Latin.

    "I think language was a real gift for him," Clifford said in an interview yesterday in his office at the high school at 17th and Stiles Streets. "His English teacher thought he was a great writer."

    Johnson was cited in a school honors convocation program last fall for his academic achievements.

    "He had a lot of potential," Clifford said. "You'll just never know how good it could have been."

    Police yesterday said they had not zeroed in on a motive for the shootings. Johnson's grandmother said she believes the teen was killed by a neighborhood youth jealous over the academic success her grandson had earned. (Emphasis added.)

    Jealousy. Isn't that a better motive than stupidity? I'm not saying the shooter was (or wasn't) stupid, mind you. Just that stupidity isn't a motive.

    Or, is jealousy a stupid motive?

    The more I looked into this story, the less sense it made. Fortunately, Philadelphia has another daily newspaper, the Philadelphia Daily News, and finally, I was able to decode the mystery. It seems there was a family feud of some sort:

    Sometime ago, a female relative of Manigault's argued with a female relative of Johnson's.

    The small dispute upset Manigault so much that he picked a fight with Johnson, a peace-loving aspiring lawyer, earlier that day.

    "He tried to initiate some type of physical encounter with Mr. Johnson," said homicide Capt. Richard Ross.

    But Johnson was "wise enough to try to brush that aside," Ross said at a press conference yesterday morning announcing that police arrested Manigault in Kensington Monday night. He was charged with murder, attempted murder, illegally carrying a firearm and other crimes.

    After the earlier encounter with Manigault, Johnson continued his plans for that Saturday night.

    He watched his beloved girlfriend of two years, Tee, board the 29 bus on Tasker Street and was looking forward to some Chips Ahoy cookies his mother just bought, his family said.

    He was also hanging out with his favorite cousin Christopher Little, who had traveled from Media to spend time with him.

    As Johnson and Little walked down Capitol Street near Tasker at about 11 p.m., Manigault rode up on the boys from behind, police say.

    He allegedly pulled out a gun and fired numerous times, hitting Johnson in the back of the head and abdomen. Little was hit in the legs, hip and buttocks.

    Manigault rode off. As the two boys lay bleeding another person stole Johnson's cell phone, police said. The thief was later arrested.

    Johnson died the morning after the shooting. His cousin is back home in Media and undergoing rehabilitation.

    For the past week, Ross said, detectives knew whom to look for.

    "It was never a great mystery to us," Ross said.

    "We were successful for getting witnesses to come forward, which is very difficult nowadays," he said.

    Manigault's arrest was a slight relief for Johnson's mother, Catherine Young, who was finishing last-minute details of her son's funeral when the Daily News called her to report the news yesterday.

    "I am burying my son tomorrow, and now he can rest in peace," she said.

    Johnson's funeral will be held at St. Joseph's Preparatory School today. The viewing is at 9:30 a.m. with a service beginning at 11:30 a.m.

    But her relief was short-lived when she realized that it is her neighbor's son whom police said had killed her boy.

    "I grew up with the dad," Young said about Manigault's father, who lived with his son in a gray rowhouse on Dorrance Street near Dickinson.

    And "it makes me angry. People don't control their children."

    Manigault's father declined to talk about his son yesterday afternoon.

    "Our attorney told us to say no comment," he said before quickly shutting his front door.

    So, the grandmother at the time of the shooting blamed jealousy, and the mother of the victim grew up with the father of the shooter. Why, then, are we told that the gun "brought on" the killing? Why was this inter family dispute (most likely involving jealousy of some sort) referred to as "urban warfare"?

    Finally, why are we told by a high police official that "as a result" of the gun, the shooter "felt a lot more brazen that he would have otherwise"?

    Can he he be so sure of the shooter's feelings? What about the earlier encounter in which he tried to initiate a fight with the victim? If you think about it, doesn't an unarmed physical confrontation require a more heightened "feeling" of brazenness than hiding behind the safety of a gun? I think a good argument can be made that it requires more bravery to walk up to someone and start a fight than it does to walk up and shoot him. The word "brazen" denotes impudently and shamelessly. I don't mean to be facetious, but how is a gun supposed to make a violent, angry person less ashamed of his conduct? Certainly, using a gun lends a certain finality to the dispute, and in this case the shooter will always be able to claim that he "won," but I just don't see how the gun could have made him less ashamed than he was when he picked an unarmed fight. (I know I'd be more ashamed to shoot than strike an unarmed person.) If anything, the fact that he upped the ante and returned to his victim later with a gun indicates premeditation and deliberation. While it's possible that he was unable to cool off and eventually his extreme anger culminated in murder, he might also have been coolly vindictive. But either way, I don't see how this deliberate escalation of a family dispute -- from physical violence to gunfire -- can be said to have been grounded in any loss of shame (brazen feelings) "brought on" by the gun.

    A couple of days ago, another Philadelphia street fight escalated to murder. [Murder is, of course, only alleged.] In an argument over "a girl," 20 year old Jason Sannasardo [it is alleged] drew a knife and stabbed 19 year old Michael Franzone to death. I have a question: why is there no discussion by police officials of the knife as a cause? Why no brazen feelings? Might it be that knives just don't fit in with the local marches against "gun violence"?

    If there's something missing in my logic, someone please tell me. Meanwhile, I'm marveling over how I had to pull teeth to get the details.

    Whose news is this, anyway?

    UPDATE: In these and other posts, I should remind readers that I used the word "murder" in the allegation sense only, and I note that Sannasardo is only charged with the murder of Franzone. There is technically no murder absent a conviction. Likewise the details ("a fight over a girl sparked the July 19 confrontation") are recited from news and police accounts.

    posted by Eric at 08:23 AM | Comments (2)




    Avoidable deaths

    Here's an update on the tragic deaths of the three small boys who died of asphyxiation after being trapped in a car trunk in Camden, New Jersey.

    It turns out they were alive for quite some time, while police searched everywhere except the car in the yard where they'd last been seen playing.

    The Camden police search for three boys who died in a car trunk last month came under renewed scrutiny yesterday after a disclosure by the county Prosecutor's Office that the children lived for an estimated 13 - and possibly even 33 - hours after they disappeared.

    More than 150 law enforcement officers scoured Camden's Cramer Hill neighborhood by land, water and air, but overlooked the trunk of a broken-down car in the backyard where the boys had been playing.

    As I pointed out in previous posts, 150 police officers conducted a huge search for those kids.

    Worse, the police not only told the families that the car had been searched, but forbid them to go near it!

    Villari said that police had methodically searched the Cruz house, and after each area they would say "clear."

    "They said: 'Car clear.' The mother remembers that word as if it's burned into her memory," Villari said.

    He said Elba Cruz had no idea that the trunk could be entered from the backseat. The trunk was locked, with its keys kept inside her house, Villari said.

    "She also remembers being told: 'Do not go near the car, stay out of the yard. It's a potential crime scene.' At that point, the whole neighborhood focused their attention on spreading the [search] grid away from the house."

    As I remarked cynically to a friend, if I decided to opt for a life of crime, Camden would be the place.

    Pitiful. It's worse than I previously thought, and I'm sorry for the families.

    posted by Eric at 08:51 PM | Comments (1)



    No time to lose!

    I don't know whether it's my responsibility to blog about such things, but I've noticed that a split seems to be developing between Atrios and Bill Clinton. Things have reached the point where the latter has been called a "wanker" by the former.

    Where's the wank?

    It seems Bill Clinton has been telling the Democrats what they need to do to win, and Atrios and others don't like it:

    The great triangulator’s point was that Democrats can’t win the presidency if they don’t campaign earnestly among churchgoing Christians—he noted that he got 75 percent more Evangelical votes in 1996 than John Kerry did in 2004. He suggested that Roe v. Wade was the unfortunate beginning of the end of civility between left and right. He said the Democrats are wrong to deny that malpractice suits don’t drive up medical costs. And about the current war he said, “This is not Vietnam. I wouldn’t set a deadline [for the withdrawal of troops]. I agree with the president.” If anyone but him had said the same thing about Iraq, there would have been boos and hisses, as there had been the night Evan Thomas said he thought the administration had sincerely believed Saddam had WMD stockpiles.
    If Karl Rove has any sense, he'd better get behind Atrios as fast as he can.

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



    Scotty Beamed Up

    James Doohan, who will forever be known as Scotty, has died:

    The publicist for James Doohan says the actor who played Scotty on "Star Trek" has died at his home in Redmond, Wash. He was 85. The cause of his death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.

    In Doohan's biography on the official Star Trek Web site, Doohan is described as once being the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces."

    Doohan's "Star Trek" character often played a central role in the series and movies, troubleshooting problems on the Starship Enterprise to save the day.

    Doohan was born March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and left home at age 19 to join the Canadian Forces, fighting with the Allies in World War II. He then became a captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery and led troops into battle on D-Day, the Web site said.

    A war hero and a beloved actor whose character taught us time and again that there's always hope as long we're 'givin' 'er all that she's got.'

    Classical values if ever I've seen 'em.

    Here's one geek that'll miss him.

    posted by Dennis at 05:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)



    Witch hunting on the brain

    Does this sick phenomenon called "outing" know no bounds? I mean, it's bad enough to go after a politician for "hypocrisy" when his personal life runs afoul of his stated political views. But to go after a family member? This was the kneejerk reaction of certain Daily Kos regulars, who wasted no time in calling for an investigation to determine whether John Roberts' son is gay.

    This is now being dismissed as absurd because, of course, the son happens to be four years old.

    But can such a thing be called a simple mistake? I don't think so. The fact that such an allegation was raised against a kid only four years old shows a degree of obsessive paranoia beyond belief.

    To call it homophobic McCarthyism would be understatement.

    posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (3)



    Twain between work and blogging?

    I'm sorry to report that in spite of my best efforts to encourage her, my dog Coco doesn't think blogging beats being inactive.

    CocoSnores.jpg

    At least not right now.

    As someone who believes in rugged individualism, I refuse to blame outside influences for Coco's mental state. Even when leading bloggers give up blogging entirely (Say Uncle via InstaPundit), I don't think they have any duty to set an example for lesser creatures.

    However, when an activity becomes (as SKB suggests) "too much like work and not so much fun," I think it's time for moderate application of Mark Twain's rule of work:

    The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man's work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great.
    In an ideal world sphere, Mark Twain's rules would be blogger rules.

    But I think I may be asking too much, at least of Coco, who is not a blogger but only a lowly pit bull. As Twain recognized, even the best of the latter are capable of giving up if they lose sight of their goals (or if the goals disappear)....

    posted by Eric at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)



    Small steps and giant leaps are both activities

    Just yesterday, I was worried about the ineffectiveness of blogging as a way to accomplish anything. But I thought it over, and then this morning I saw a post by Say Uncle titled "Is Blogging Activism?:

    Gunner, in a must read post, figures he spends more time uncovering piles of dog shit than actually cleaning up the dog shit.

    Does blogging lead to less activism?

    I think that blogging is activism, and I think it can lead directly to more, not less, activism. I think it's a mistake to see blogging as a different activity than "getting involved." Activists do things like write letters to the editor, hold up signs, call their legislators, push for legislation, and activists get generally pissed off when these approaches fail.

    Done properly, blogging can improve and streamline all of these activities, and can reach far more people. The people reached may be precisely the right people too; if a blogger complains about, say, a "pile of dog shit," and an activist reads about it and goes out and cleans it up, that blogger has accomplished something possibly more important than if he'd cleaned up the pile himself.

    As I was writing this in a comment to Say Uncle's post, it occurred to me that it might be important enought to be a post in itself, so, with thanks to him for helping me think my way out of yesterday's temporary despair, here it is.

    There's another advantage blogging has over conventional activism alone: activists get generally (often hysterically) pissed off when their conventional approaches fail. A feeling of gloom sets in -- characterized by an all-consuming feeling that "no one is listening," "the system" is rigged, etc. Blogging's unique ability to allow interaction with similarly-situated thinkers all over the United States -- indeed, all over the world -- has a way of lifting this gloom in a way that nothing else can. This is especially true in situations where activists are outgunned and outnumbered. I cannot count the number of times I've been ignored and discounted, dismissed as a crank or an activist -- you name it. Try, for example, fighting gun control in San Francisco; I was called a "lobbyist" simply for belonging to the NRA (as if membership in an organization discredits what I believe in). My one-man "lobbying" effort to get a presidential pardon for the hated G. Gordon Liddy was a perfect example, and I developed thicker calluses than most people could dream of having (no small accomplishment for a highly sensitive, anxiety-prone person, I assure you). There was no blogging back in those days, and I wish there had been.

    On top of all that, blogging forces activists to be honest, which is good for everyone. People are free to dismiss me as a "lobbyist for the NRA," and I am free to respond. Instead of sending letters to the editor and waiting and hoping they'll be published, I can say what I think right here and now. Or, I can both send the letter to the editor and put it in my blog, following which I can question the motives of the paper which refused to print it.

    Blogging also provides a way for people who hate activists (and who'd never want to be activists) to, well, be activists! Many people are either shy or agoraphobic, and would never attend a demonstration, wave a sign, or even write letters to the editor. Some of them may fear retaliation for making their views known. Far from decreasing activism, blogging allows non-activists to actually become activists -- minus the pain that "traditional activism" often causes.

    Furthermore, at the risk sounding contradictory, blogging allows people who hate activists to strike back against them. When I was on Berkeley's Police Review Commission I was beseiged by often-violent activists who demanded I do their bidding, and I felt like a cornered animal. Had there been such a thing as blogging back then, I could have told the world. (Of course, telling the world would have been just another form of activism.)

    So, no; I do not think blogging decreases activism. It increases it, in many ways, both subtle and not so subtle.

    As Gunner says,

    Start small. Perform miracles.
    Sometimes, a small start is all that is needed.

    It sure beats being inactive!

    posted by Eric at 08:29 AM | Comments (7)




    When safety becomes evil

    Via The Llama Butchers' link to Michael Graham, I found something so vile, so ominous, that the seemingly innocuous nature of its "good intentions" made my head spin with rage. It shouldn't have, really, because it's just one more of many examples of bureaucracy run amok.

    Just a report that in the name of safety, playgrounds are removing swings and teeter-totters, and promulgating a new rule: No running on the playground!

    "It's too tight around the equipment to be running," said Safety Director Jerry Graziose, the Broward County official who ordered the signs. "Our job was to try to control it."

    How about swings or those hand-pulled merry-go-rounds?

    "Nope. They've got moving parts. Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."

    Teeter-totters?

    "Nope. That's moving too."

    I'm afraid this is too much for me. A simple phrase -- "No running on the playground" -- is making me lose my customary cool which I do try so hard to maintain.

    Why?

    Because this mentality is ruining the country, that's why. And I know it all too well, as I used to make my living (an expression I use advisedly) as a plantiff's personal injury attorney. I did appellate work too, which means that I did my part to help assist this monster that threatens to strangle American freedom and independence in the name of safety. I feel very ashamed of my past. Ashamed that I was one of those lawyers who "makes a living" by making the world a much worse place. (Don't get me started; homeless people contribute more to society than PI lawyers, as they drain less!)

    "To say `no running' on the playground seems crazy," said Bartleman, who agreed to be interviewed on a recent outing at Everglades. "But your feelings change when you're in a closed-door meeting with lawyers."
    Hmmmm.....

    My feelings changed after too much time in the same room with the lawyer that was my self.

    The problem is, I can do nothing about it except complain in another blog post which will spend a week on this page, then fade into cyber obscurity.

    No running on the playground.

    Some things are so safe that they're evil.


    MORE: Lawyer haters and other interested readers might enjoy my previous posts on the destruction of swimming holes and the exaggeration of the dangers posed by lead.

    Thanks for the comments! (I'm glad I've struck a couple of nerves, for that makes this worthwhile.)

    AND MORE: Be sure to read the sickening "zero tolerance" cases Sean Hackbarth cites in his InstaLanched post about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

    Please don't misinterpret this as an argument against Roberts because he upheld a child's arrest for eating French Fries on a subway. Judges being mere functionaries, they become somewhat analogous to apparatchiks when freedom is taken away by bad laws, because it really isn't their job to second-guess the legislators. (This is one reason I could never be a judge; imagine having to sentence someone to 25-years-to-life for marijuana under "mandatory sentencing" provisions!)

    If a judge refused to go along, he'd never get a shot at a higher court. It stinks. I don't like it. (So I blog.)

    posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (23)



    My Terrorist Muslim Bomber CORRECTION

    I notice that in my haste, I have used the word "terrorist" repeatedly -- even to the point where it appears in the title of my last post!

    I am chagrined, and at a loss for words. The BBC (and other like-minded progressive forces of the world) have decided that words like "terrorist" are judgmental, and get in the way of understanding:

    The BBC has re-edited some of its coverage of the London Underground and bus bombings to avoid labelling the perpetrators as "terrorists", it was disclosed yesterday.

    Early reporting of the attacks on the BBC's website spoke of terrorists but the same coverage was changed to describe the attackers simply as "bombers".

    The BBC's guidelines state that its credibility is undermined by the "careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgments".

    Consequently, "the word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding" and its use should be "avoided", the guidelines say.

    Likewise, if people the bigots might call "terrorists" commit crimes and cite their Muslim status as a rationale, they may not be called Muslims!

    This complete inability to acknowledge reality has gotten so ridiculous that numerous bloggers are resorting to satire.

    Jeff Goldstein (the source of the link about not using the "M" word) hits the nail on the head:

    I’ve been arguing for years now that a pervasive cultural fear of plain spokenness (as witnessed by the growing appeal, among those whose greatest fear is giving offense, of “tolerance” statutes and “free speech zones”—both feeble attempts to control speech, either by diluting it to the point of semiotic uselessness or by making it contingent on arbitrary logistics) is one of the greatest dangers facing liberal democracies, something now being thrown into sharp relief as British community leaders and politicians schooled on the kind of innate cultural relativism that multiculturalist dogma inevitably encourages struggle to frame the recent London terror bombings in a way that manages to negotiate both the semantic demands of their cultural philosophy and the facts on the ground.

    Ironically, such problems cease to exist outside the balkinizing paradigm of multiculturalism, which, by empowering identity groups and ethnicities at the expense of individualism and nationalism, actually promotes factional disputes and leads, predictably and inexorably, to the very kind of scenario where a few individuals become representative of the cultural group that “produced” them—and where, in order to avoid tainting the whole group with the actions of a handful of its members, advocates of multiculturalism are forced, retroactively and unconvincingly, to sever ties to those individuals rather than surrender the fiction of a unified group identity.

    Which is why identity-based cultural philosophies that encourage or coerce one identity group to speak of another only on its own terms, leads to the kind of PC nonsense that prevents us from clearly identifying and articulating a specific problem, should it happen that that problem falls within the protected space of the Other.

    Anyway, Goldstein doesn't share the BBC's non-terrorist, non-Muslim "bombers" approach. He's not only calling them terrorists, he offers a solution:
    Having completed the first two steps—identifying the causes and understanding them—the third step in our four-step process for getting at “root causes” and using that information to defeat terror becomes quite obvious: KILL THE TERRORISTS WHO BLOW SHIT UP BEFORE THEY ARE ABLE TO BLOW SHIT UP.¹ This seems disarmingly simple, I realize, but sometimes the most complicated problems are best met with the most common sense solutions.
    Does he mean kill the enemy? In war? Isn't that a bit harsh? Unfair, perhaps?

    Not to Stephen Green, who cites America's longstanding Jacksonian tradition:

    millions of Americans - probably a wartime majority - do hold by Jackson's traditions. We try to play fair, and mostly we succeed. But we will not play fair with those who refuse to honor the rules of the game.
    While I didn't call it Jacksonianism, I've remarked repeatedly on this American tendency toward unfairness -- in the context of snuff films, and in post in which I all but called it "Shermanism."

    Anyway, whatever you might want to call it, it's there, it's part of the American spirit, it can be mean and ugly when activated, and it ain't going away anytime soon.

    And the debate over what Glenn Reynolds calls "terror bombing euphemisms" highlights the absurd, elephant-in-the-room nature of politically correct semanticism when people are faced with a choice of killing the enemy, or being killed by the enemy. Here's Bill Hobbs:

    [E]ven after Muslim terrorists bombed London's transit system, the BBC can't quite bring itself to calling them terrorists. Miller and his clever readers have some alternate euphemisms. My favorite is "mobile self-demolition specialists.".
    I'm feeling obligated to weigh in, and I hope my choice isn't taken.

    Anyway, the people who we can't call "terrorists" or "Muslims" but have to call "bombers". . .

    Wait! The "bombing" charge is only an unproven allegation! So we can't even call any actual people "bombers." I should have said alleged bombers....

    What, then, should we call them? I have agonized over this to the extent that I can, and I find myself drawn inexorably to what their co-religionists (and major newspapers like the Philadelphia Inquirer) portray as their motivation:

    "What happens now depends on how the British government responds," said Luton resident Sadaqat Hussein, 18. "They need to stop blaming all Muslims for it. And they need to wake up and realize we are in a democracy, and we need to stop this illegal war in Iraq."

    Therein lies another quandary: In interviews over the last week, young Muslim men repeatedly have made it clear that while they disagree with the methods of the suicide bombers, they are sympathetic to the presumed cause - a passionate opposition to Britain's role in what they see as deeply immoral wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Many British Muslims view as equally reprehensible, for example, the attacks on the World Trade Center and this year's U.S. invasion of Fallujah, which killed about 1,500 Iraqis.

    Have I found a consensus we can all live with? A common demoninator no one denies?

    I don't see much dispute that the bombings were committed by people who were:

  • NOT terrorists; and
  • NOT Muslims!
  • Instead, they were committed by:
  • anti-war activists!
  • With apologies to all terrorists and Muslims who might fear guilt by association, I will try to use the proper terminology in the future.


    ANOTHER CORRECTION: Or is it? After hastily using the term "Shermanism," I began to wonder about a linguistic inconsistency with "Jacksonianism." Might the correct word be "Shermanianism"? I don't know. Somehow, calling someone's thinking "Shermanian," or calling that person a "Shermanianist" seems strained to me. But there is the problematic distinction between "Marxism" and "Marxianism" (the former being support for Marx, with the latter being analytical terminology), and so I am confused. Shouldn't true believers in Andrew Jackson's philosophy properly be called "Jacksonists"?

    (But really! Would any of this hair-splitting matter to a Jacksonian?)

    posted by Eric at 08:21 AM | Comments (3)




    Why "make it easy" for terrorists?

    In a perfect example of how the fear of terrorism combines with anti-technology prejudice, some "experts" have been calling for restrictions on cell phone technology:

    mobile telephones have a lot of features that make them attractive to would-be bombers. Making them unable to send or receive calls helps, but it doesn't disable the precise timers, or make the batteries themselves less explosive.

    Melamed admits if they couldn't use cell phones, "Terrorists would find some way to attack us."

    But he adds: "Let's not make it so easy."

    Cell phone service was later restored in the Brooklyn-Battery and Queens-Midtown tunnels after the original move by authorities to pull the plug on cell phone service in the four tunnels into and out of Manhattan in response to terrorist bombings in London.

    The transmitters that provide wireless service in the Holland and Lincoln tunnels are still off.

    Cell phones have been fashioned into detonation devices in bombings in Madrid and elsewhere. But when cell service is cut in tunnels, drivers can't dial 911.

    Great. Maybe if we return to stone age technology, we'll all be safer.

    Fortunately, this "expert" has been fisked by another cellphone expert possessed of some common sense:

    Well, the media love to confuse cause and effect and blame technology for all our woes. Despite the fact that potential terrorists could indeed use other tools (like alarm clocks) to set off bombs, we have an attempted lynching of the mobile phone.

    When Richard Reid aka The Shoe Bomber tried unsuccessfully to smuggle explosives onto a plane in his shoe, no one called for shoes to be banned.

    When Timothy McVeigh planted a truck bomb in Oklahoma City, no one called for the banning of trucks.

    But on the basis that a mobile phone could set off a bomb, we should ban the alarm functions on mobile phones?

    It's like blaming the internet. And there's a lot of that going around too. Not only are simple electronic timers already available in the form of tiny alarm clocks, but ready-to-wire delay timer eproms are freely available at Radio Shack. Never mind; the goal here is to "make it harder" for terrorists by making it harder for everyone else.

    But I'll go one further than this expert. Rather than blaming the cell phones which can be used as timers, I blame the targets themselves for being there!

    CLOSE THE SUBWAYS! STOP ALL TRAINS! CLOSE ALL AIRPORTS!

    Why not?

    After all, architectural experts like James Howard Kunstler (and his friends at the New York Times) blame tall buildings for being there, and propose eliminating them or making them smaller. Isn't the same logic equally applicable to trains and subways?

    So why stop short with feel-good, band-aid approaches like banning cell phones?

    There are a lot of things we could do to make things harder if not impossible for terrorists. As pointed out above, after Timothy McVeigh used a rented truck, nothing was done to prevent such a disgraceful incident from happening again.

    All truck and car bombing could easily be stopped -- right now -- by banning all cars and trucks. Didn't our ancestors get along for thousands of years without the colturned things? I say it's a small price to pay to make the world safe.

    I realize that this wouldn't stop pedestrian terrorists from blowing themselves up in crowds, but again, that's just another problem with another simple solution:

  • Make it illegal for people to congregate in groups of more than three.
  • Close all shopping centers and prohibit all public gatherings and events.
  • Establish 24 hour curfews on all streets.
  • Close all churches and schools.
  • Really, it doesn't take much imagination to stop terrorists. It requires only that we get over this American obsession with the freedom thing.

    It's about time we start asking the hard questions, such as what good is freedom if it merely supplies targets for terrorists?

    If we eliminate the targets by making these and other necessary sacrifices, only then can we be truly safe.

    I don't see how the terrorists could win.

    posted by Eric at 09:21 AM | Comments (4)



    Striking a scientific pose . . .

    As if I needed another reason to dislike those who would define people by their penises, today's Philadelphia Inquirer features a "scientific" study which is undermined by a basic inability to define terminology, and which I suspect is grounded in opposition to true sexual freedom.

    Research on bisexuality is sparse, but a few intrepid scientists have tried to get data by wiring up a group of gay, bisexual and straight men to a machine that monitored their arousal when exposed to erotic images of men and women. The researchers found that, while some of their subjects called themselves bisexual, their male anatomy showed a notable preference for one sex or the other. That led to headlines proclaiming that bisexual men don't exist.

    But such a proclamation would seem to depend on how you define bisexual. Does a person have to be absolutely equally attracted to both sexes? If you like both but prefer one, do you qualify? Scientists don't know.

    OK, wait a second.

    Are we talking about science here? Or lexicography? What, if any, are the reasons for bestowing labels on people, and why are there only three? Are there not more than three people in the world? And how can one be said to be "equally attracted to both sexes"? Does that mean all people belonging to both sexes? Haven't these researchers ever heard of a thing called a "type"? (Like "Is he your type"? "Is she your type"? and so on.)

    As it happens, most people aren't my type; does that make me atypical?

    Or am I maybe bitypical?

    I suspect the latter. What baffles me is how it becomes the business of science to decide who or what someone is attracted to, and then engage in massive generalizations and projections onto others based solely upon the reactions of people who had their dicks outfitted with mercury-filled rings and were shown pornography. At best, this study measures the responsiveness of those individuals to the limited amount of pornography shown.

    To be fair to the authors, concerns have been raised by the fact that despite the headlines proclaiming the absence of "bisexuality," there are men who obviously haven't gotten word yet -- and who continue to have sex with members of both sexes:

    What they do know from tracking the spread of HIV is that a number of men who have sex with men also have sex with women. A report from the Centers for Disease Control notes that 13 percent of white men who reported sex with other men also had sex with women. Among black men it was 34 percent, and among Hispanic men, 26 percent. Men can and do go both ways.
    Does this mean white men are less inclined towards a "bisexual" orientation than black or hispanic men? Or that they're less likely to express themselves sexually with members of both sexes? (Or only that they're less likely to admit such things to the federal government?) The Inquirer doesn't say, and no racial breakdown of the study participants is offered, much less a reason for the apparent discrepancy. I guess the authors should consider themselves fortunate that they never had to study the sexual tastes of ancient Romans or Greeks, but at least they admit that they don't understand:
    "This is something we don't quite understand," says Gerulf Rieger, a psychology graduate student at Northwestern University and lead author of the study. Rieger, who told me he's gay, said he, too, is a bit baffled by the way other gay men manage to marry women.
    Manage to marry? Hey, whether a man can manage to marry a woman doesn't necessarily depend on sex; it depends on whether there's consent to the marriage. Anyone seen the ads for women seeking to marry men? Has anyone asked how many of them care how their prospective husbands might "perform" with mercury cock rings and porn?
    In his study, he didn't see evidence for "bisexual arousal" among the 101 paid volunteers, recruited using alternative weeklies and gay publications. Of those, 38 identified themselves as gay, 33 as bisexual and 30 as straight. The researchers showed the men short films: one with two women having sex, one with two men having sex. They used lesbian sex because previous research showed it is more exciting to heterosexual men than male-female pornography.
    How scientific was this "research"? Yeah, I've heard the stereotype since I was a kid, and as a longtime listener to Howard Stern I've spent many hours immersed in it, but I'm not so sure I'd about the scientific reliablility of using lesbian porn as the sole barometer for heterosexual "arousal."

    Would these scientists test female sexual arousal by attaching arousal meters to women's clitorises and making them watch two men screwing each other? If they did, I bet they'd be surprised how few women turned out to be totally "straight."

    We now, um, come to the "arousal meter":

    Before the viewing, Rieger and his colleagues hooked their test subjects to an arousal-meter of sorts. "It's quite simple - we put a rubber band around the penis," says Rieger. "It's filled with mercury and that's wired to hardware that goes into a computer."

    Nearly a third of the volunteers were rejected from the study because they had no reaction. "It makes them very nervous," says Rieger. You don't have to be male to imagine how this apparatus might cause performance anxiety.

    That is an interesting definition of performance anxiety. I'd always thought the latter involved anxiety over not being able to please one's partner. Viewing porn strikes me as more on the level of masturbation, and while I may have lived a sheltered life, I haven't yet heard of a phenomenon called "masturbation performance anxiety."

    Wouldn't "pornography anxiety" be a better label?

    Even there, they'd be missing the point. And while I'm really not into exhibitionism (and I think discussion of sexual desires with strangers verges on that), I fear that nevertheless it's true confession time here.

    Let me admit to the world that I am not turned on by pornography of any variety that I know of that's available for sale. I'm very sorry to have to make such a damning admission, but there it is. As a porn fan, I am a failure. I would have been among the one-third of those rejected as participants. In my defense I would say that I'd really need to see and speak with potential sex partners before I could have any idea whether they were potentially attractive to me. And even there, how could I be sure? There are too many ifs.

    According to the authors, my failure to be aroused by lesbian porn or gay male porn means I couldn't "handle it":

    For the two-thirds who could handle it, the overwhelming response was always to one sex or the other, even for the bisexuals. And yet, the penis meter did register a small amount of expansion when the straight men watched the other men, and when gays watch the women.
    I think I know why ordinary heterosexual porn was not shown. It might turn on more of the participants, and then the authors would be faced with accusations that the participants were only turned on by one of the males -- or one of the females.

    But does such an omission lead to accuracy? Why would this study avoid the possible existence of men more turned on by watching a heterosexual couple than by watching a same-sex couple? (Or just as turned on.)

    Sorry, but it doesn't strike me as scientific at all.

    But what really surprised Rieger was that some of those who identified as bisexual liked the women much more than the men. In that sense they reacted like the straight men. Why would a heterosexual man pose as bisexual?

    "Maybe they're very open," Rieger says. "I'm not a straight guy, so I don't know."

    "Pose" as a bisexual? Let's look at that. When the language that we use combines with the political system which categorizes people by their penises and offers them only three labels, is it any surprise that three labels for hundreds of millions of people come short? As to these "heterosexual" men who are accused of "posing" as bisexuals, I'd like to ask the authors what they should "pose" as. Because if they called themselves heterosexual, wouldn't they also be accused of posing? If they called themselves "gay," would that too be a pose?

    More and more, I'm coming to see the whole labeling system as little more than a politicized demand for a pose. All this study found is that some men who call themselves bisexuals preferred watching lesbian couples perform. There could be many, many reasons for that, each one as varied and as complex as that individual. I know that whenever I look at pornography, I tend to wonder what the individual might be like as a person, and I try to get a "reading" of what that person might be all about. Lots of times, I see telltale expressions which tell me that they're not really into it, but they're going through the motions (most likely with an eye for getting money). I'll wonder where they're from, and I'll think, "Aha! Most likely Slovakian!" and stuff like that. This all takes place in seconds, with the end result being that sex is the last thing on my mind.

    I've known women who could turn on "gay" men who'd never normally be attracted to women, and men who could turn on "straight" men who'd never normally be attracted to men. I'm not claiming that these people are bisexual, because frankly I don't care. But I think if the researchers used attractive androgynous models, they might be very surprised by the results.

    "Science" aside, I still prefer sexual freedom.

    posted by Eric at 08:24 AM | Comments (9)




    "Research" is so predictable!

    These days, crackpot conspiracy theories don't take long to spread!

    Try googling the phrase "Tony Blair Ordered The London Bombings". Right now I get 3,570 hits, although by tomorrow it will probably be more.

    What are they saying? Oh, here's some typical tripe:

    Former MI6 operative: The mainstream media
    ignores vital evidence of an inside job
    .
    Commentary
    By Michael James in Frankfurt, Germany
    7-10-5

    Rested after a good night's sleep in the Gleneagles Hotel, Tony Blair glanced nervously at his watch and wondered if the bombing of the London transport system would take place on schedule. London's Chief of Police, Sir Ian Blair, and MI5 boss, Eliza Manningham-Buller, had promised to keep him firmly in the loop; and Jack Straw had advised him that the Israelis had been placated.

    Blair caught a glimpse of himself in the dresser and checked his profile. Carole, his personal image advisor, had told him to soften the pronounced jaw when seated next to Bush. "You're overdoing the Winston thing," she had said pointedly. "Killing people was yesterday; starving Africans and rainforests is now the thing." She was wrong about the killing, of course. The good Miz Caplin would never understand his rites of passage, at least not in the Brethren's sense of the term. And yet something was still bothering him.

    The intelligence services had been caught off balance by Mossad's unwelcome intrusion into matters they considered a strictly British affair. Having the headline "Israel Warned Blair Two Days Before Attack" splashed across the front pages of an otherwise complicit print media was something to be avoided at all costs. Binyamin Netanyahu would go ahead with preparations for his press conference and allow himself to be "advised" by Scotland Yard shortly after the first blast. If MI5 were to dally in their attacks on commuters, he would have no choice but to claim that Scotland Yard had warned him prior to the event, and the Blair government would have to hope that the British people would not notice the obvious irregularity.

    Back in London, Netanyahu dropped security protocol and looked cautiously out of his hotel window. Reflecting on his long years of experience....

    And so on.

    Really, this gets tired.

    Besides, we all know it was Karl Rove.

    posted by Eric at 10:16 PM | Comments (1)



    Tiptoeing tolerantly around Torquemada?

    Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Jeff Jarvis with some excellent questions about tiptoeing tolerantly around murder:

    Tolerance is good and necessary and civilized. Multiculturism is good; I'm so multi-culti I don't know how mult-culti I am. But tolerance for criminals is always dangerous and wrong-headed. See the post below on the angry young men. We would not tolerate and understand and whisper about KKK killers or Nazis or serial killers. Why should we tiptoe tolerantly around the murderers of 7/7 or 9/11 or any day in Iraq today just because they are multi to our culti? We should not.
    Jeff links to Leon De Winter's piece explaining why the Dutch (long considered the most tolerant culture on earth) have decided to stop tiptoeing around things like murder.

    The reaction of Dutch people I spoke to was that things are way out of hand. While there's no rejection of tolerance, there's now a growing, common sense recognition that tolerance ought to be a two way street, and that it is time to end toleration of intolerance.

    With the Dutch in mind, take a look at the reporting in today's Philadelphia Inquirer on the London murders:

    LUTON, England - The bearded imam at the central mosque here didn't mince words as he condemned last week's suicide bombings in London.

    "This was an attack against all humanity," Masood Akhtar Hazarui said. "The people who were killed, most of them were probably against the war in Iraq. So that is not a rationalization."

    But down the street, a young taxi driver in wraparound sunglasses had a different take.

    "What they did was wrong, full stop," said Kamran Khan, 26. "But you have to ask why they done it. The main reason was to make a point. To be heard, in a sense. I don't agree with what they done, but I understand what drove them to do it."

    Sorry, but why do we have to ask why they did it?

    Does it matter whether we "agreed" with what Charles Manson or John Wayne Gacy (or, for that matter, Tomas de Torquemada) did? Should we understand what "drove them to do it?"

    Author Ken Dilanian goes on to quote a young man who wants to be a police officer:

    "What happens now depends on how the British government responds," said Luton resident Sadaqat Hussein, 18. "They need to stop blaming all Muslims for it. And they need to wake up and realize we are in a democracy, and we need to stop this illegal war in Iraq."

    Therein lies another quandary: In interviews over the last week, young Muslim men repeatedly have made it clear that while they disagree with the methods of the suicide bombers, they are sympathetic to the presumed cause - a passionate opposition to Britain's role in what they see as deeply immoral wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Many British Muslims view as equally reprehensible, for example, the attacks on the World Trade Center and this year's U.S. invasion of Fallujah, which killed about 1,500 Iraqis.

    "George Galloway said it best - Tony Blair's got blood on his hands," said Razaran Khan, 18, referring to a left-wing member of Parliament who suggested that Britain's role in the Iraq war had provoked the London terror attack. "He put Britain in the firing line."

    Hussein, who says he wants to be a police officer, and Khan, who intends to study medicine, do not come off as extremists. Polite and well-informed, they live and go to school here in a community of Muslims who hail largely from the Kashmir region of Pakistan.

    They said they were shocked that British-born Muslims, some their age, would mount a suicide attack.

    "They obviously were brainwashed," Hussein said.

    They also said they enjoy living in Britain and consider themselves British. But, they said, they cannot understand or accept that the British government embarked on what they consider an illegal war in Iraq after millions marched on the streets of Europe to protest it.

    They feel so strongly, in fact, that they said they would find it acceptable for a British Muslim to go to Iraq and fight against the British soldiers stationed there.

    For these young men, the brotherhood of Islam trumps national identity.

    Hmmmm....

    Looking at this as carefully as I can, I can only conclude that finding the killing of one's fellow countrymen "acceptable" does not strike the Inquirer as an extremist position.

    At least, not for someone who wants to be a police officer.

    I don't know whether this is what Jeff Jarvis would call tolerant tiptoeing, but it strikes me as more along the level of kowtowing to intolerance (the logical opposite of tolerance).

    Certainly, another stereotype has been smashed.

    Unless the Inquirer's view is a bizarre Philadelphia aberration, I'd say the Dutch have moved ahead of us. By saying no to the forces of intolerance, they've now got a better handle on tolerance than champions of intolerance like Ken Dilanian.

    Should I have stayed there maybe?

    posted by Eric at 08:58 PM | Comments (2)



    Hating the hatred of art

    Just as I've seen a lot of it here, I saw a lot of graffiti in Europe. Some of it is ugly, and some of it is beautiful. While I've touched on this before, naturally, this subject always makes me wonder about the definition of art.

    According to this expert, it comes down to consent:

    The legal distinction between graffiti and art is permission. With permission, it’s considered art on a legal wall. Those who paint without permission commit vandalism, she said, whether it’s public or private property.

    Permitted or not, the argument is often made that grafitti is art.

    And what about grafitti on murals?

    Or murals and signs as commercial speech? Murals are protected by federal legislation restricting the rights of the property owner to remove them, while commercial art is considered undeserving of protection. Owners who deface or remove murals on their own buildings have repeatedly been held liable.

    Sheesh!

    Suppose I own a building, and someone paints on it. Some painting that we would call "grafitti" is attractive. Some is not.

    Some might be considered art:

    Grafart.jpg

    Other forms of painting, which many people would consider art, might be considered to be something else by others who disliked the message.

    Example:


    rachelchemural300.jpg


    A good case could be made that the above (featuring Che Guevara, Rachel Corrie, and Mumia abu Jamal) could be found offensive. I'd find it offensive if I owned a building and someone painted it there.

    But would that give me the right to paint over it? According to Indymedia, vandalizing a mural of Rachel Corrie is a hate crime. But what's hate? If Che, Rachel and Mumia are hateful people in the first place, that might make the mural just as much of a "hate crime" as its deliberate defacement.

    How is anyone supposed to judge art? If pictures of communist heroes are art, then why not pictures of Hitler? Is the swastika hateful, but not the hammer and sickle? Are esthetic considerations to be dictated by the morality of politics, and if so, whose?

    I hate it when nothing is clear.

    (Must be the jet lag.)

    posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)




    Defense against insanity

    Justin's post on the complexities and difficulties of life extension (who ever thought such a thing would be simple?) reminds me of a related issue: those who have made it their job not to extend lives, but to shorten the lives of ordinary people selected wholly at random.

    It has been all too easy and all too comforting to dismiss the work of Islamic radicals as being waged by outside forces (or at least by discontented Muslims). But this latest report ought to give pause. Not only were the suicide bombers not from the Mideast, one of them, Germaine Lindsay, was a Jamaican who wasn't even Muslim-born:

    Stocky 5ft 8in Lindsay converted to Islam several years ago and is thought to have been a regular at Brixton Mosque, where shoe bomber Richard Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacharias Moussaoui attended study circles.

    Reid, 29, from South London, turned to Islam in prison and tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami in December2001.

    He was a disciple of self-styled Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal — another Jamaican, convicted of soliciting murder in February2003 after urging followers to kill non-Muslims.

    Jamaica? That's not even in Europe, much less the Mideast. Jamaica is in America.

    Not only that, but the same Germaine Lindsay is reported to have traveled to Cleveland, Ohio in 2000.

    Cleveland is also in America.

    Sheesh. Much as I'd prefer fighting terrorists in Iraq, if things keep going this way, the war on terrorism will take on the trappings of civil war right here.

    Charles Krauthammer looks at the British bombers along with their Dutch counterpart Mohammed Bouyeri, (assassin of Theo van Gogh), and reflects on the nature of this war.

    One of the reasons Westerners were so unprepared for this wave of Islamist terrorism, not just militarily but psychologically, is sheer disbelief. It shockingly contradicts Western notions of progress. The savagery of Bouyeri's act, mirroring the ritual human slaughter by Zarqawi or Daniel Pearl's beheaders, is a return to a primitiveness that we in the West had assumed a progressive history had left behind.

    Our first response was, therefore, to simply sweep this contradiction under the rug. Put the first World Trade Center bombers on trial and think it will solve the problem. Even today, there are many Americans and even more Europeans who believe that after 9/11 the United States should just have done Afghanistan — depose the Taliban and destroy al-Qaida's sanctuary — and gone no further, thinking that would solve the problem.

    But the problem is far deeper. It is essentially a civil war within a rival civilization in which the most primitive elements are seeking to gain the upper hand.

    Juxtaposing such horrendous primitivism with the complexities of life extension technology strikes me as more than ironic non sequitur.

    But juxtaposed they must be, for they are both going on in the same society. Insanity better describes the contrast than irony.

    But such insanity is what results from the negation of civilization. Concludes Krauthammer,

    Decadence is defined not by a civilization's art or music, but ultimately by its willingness to simply defend itself.
    Decadence is too mild a word for these murderers. Insanity is not a word I'd apply to them, either, as brutal primitivism cannot really be called insane. What is more properly called insane is the conduct of their defenders, who seem to be against their own self defense.

    Consider the honors bestowed upon these malignant assassins by their defenders:

    ...[T]he problem today is not immigration per se; it is the fact that a pernicious ideology has been allowed to infiltrate Europe's immigrant communities. And that has happened because we have blindly allowed our country to be a haven for fanatics.

    "The whole Arab world was dangerous for me," the Egyptian Islamist, Yasser El-Sirri, was recently quoted as saying. In Egypt, he has been convicted and sentenced in absentia three times over: to 25 years of hard labour for smuggling armed terrorists into the country; to 15 years for aiding Islamic dissidents; and to death for plotting to assassinate the prime minister. Where does he now reside? In London, where he is Director of the Islamic Observation Centre.

    "If al-Qaeda indeed carried out this act, it is a great victory for it," declared Dr Hani al-Siba'i in an interview on the al Jazeera satellite television channel the day after the London bombings. "It rubbed the noses of the world's eight most powerful countries in the mud." He went on to say that it was legitimate for al-Qaeda to target civilians because "the term 'civilians' does not exist in Islamic religious law in the modern Western sense. People are either of Dar al-Harb [the domain of war, meaning territory ruled by non-Muslims] or not."

    And where are you most likely to bump into Dr al-Siba'i? Why, in London, where he is the Director of the al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies.

    The fact is that a campaign has for some time been underway to convert young European Muslims - and non-Muslims like the Jamaican-born Germaine Lindsay - to the ideology of extreme Islamism. And it is being conducted in euphemistically named "centres" all over Europe - like the government-funded Hamara Youth Access Point in Beeston in Leeds where, it seems, Shehzad Tanweer came under the influence of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the oldest of the London bombers.

    The same thing has been happening here, if at a slightly slower pace. (Anyone remember Hasan Akbar?)

    Fortunately, self defense is still legal in the United States, and many Americans are armed. This means home grown terrorists could have a tougher time here than in Europe.

    Self defense might not be life extension, but I'm afraid it's a necessary precursor.


    MORE: A deconstructionist named Stan Goff condemned Hasan Akbar's trial as a "lie." Worth reading for those who have the stomach for that sort of thing. (Mr. Goff and his ilk would probably call self defense a form of genocide . . .)

    posted by Eric at 11:35 PM | Comments (4)



    GONE FISHING

    I’ve got to wonder how Eric does it.

    Blogs on a daily basis, that is.

    Considering that he produces about 99.5 percent of the output here at Classical Values, and seemingly without effort, you would think that I could pick up the slack for just a couple of weeks without burning out.

    Sadly, you would be wrong.

    Being that most pathetic of creatures, a two fingered typist, it takes me hours to produce a post of quite modest length. Hours spent in a Starbucks, listening to (seemingly) endless Alanis Morissette loops. I need a vacation.

    So, now that the Dark Overlord has re-ensconced himself at his Philadelphia lair, I can take off with a clear conscience. When it stops being fun, it’s time to take a break.

    I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

    posted by Justin at 10:21 PM | Comments (3)



    THE MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON

    Or wanted to...

    On June 24, 2005, space-related industry leaders invited non-space industry executives to a dialogue exploring how lunar commerce could help achieve the economic growth foreseen by the national Vision for Space Exploration...

    To keep the event small and informal enough for genuine dialogue to begin, the invitation-only executive roundtable was held to under 100 participants and was closed to the press.

    The agenda was comprehensive...Industry sponsors included five established space industry contractors (The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Honeywell International, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and the Raytheon Company), one entrepreneurial space company (Transformational Space Corporation – “tSpace”), and one company outside the traditional space sector (Bechtel Corporation).

    To emphasize the necessity of involving the business community outside the traditional space sector, the event was hosted by The Maguire Energy Institute, affiliated with the Cox Business School of Southern Methodist University...the Texas Governor’s Office also participated.

    Recognizing that deployment of satellites in Earth orbit has already created a multi-billion dollar telecommunications industry, roundtable participants learned that extending economic activity somewhat further into space might enable even greater economic growth. The spectacularly successful Apollo program clearly demonstrated both that the Moon is accessible and that lunar materials have potential commercial uses.

    Subsequent technical advances...have made development of this nearby “eighth continent” even more practical today. Potential commercial markets include energy, transportation, mining, construction, manufacturing, entertainment, advertising, branding, and sponsorship...

    Branding and sponsorship. How far we've come. Me, I’m happy as a clam just reading about this stuff. "Eighth Continent" has kind of a ring to it, don't you think?

    It makes me feel optimistic, somewhat. Plus, they have the customary cool art work.

    And you have to love these presentation titles…

    Space Communications Infrastructure

    Centennial Challenges MoonROx Challenge

    Commercial Opportunities Involving Lunar Resource Development

    Propellant Market Potential

    Lunar Exploration, Development and the Challenge of Space Solar Power

    Lunar Resource Utilization

    Maybe it's not poetry, but it's music to my ears.

    I’m not sure if today’s wave of private sector space entrepreneurs is the third or the forth. Whatever. Each wave gets us a little closer to the goal. Let the third time be the charm.

    We’re going to need the private sector. Just consider what NASA wants to waste your money on these days.

    Silly looking, toxic, shuttle-derived abominations. Here’s a critical perspective.

    The next major issue I have with The Stick is the bait-and-switch that appears to be going on. In making their claim that The Stick would be Simple and Soon, ATK made their original case using a standard, 4-segment SRM like what is used on the Shuttle, with no real modifications, and then stack a modern version of the S1C stage on top of it. Supposedly that means that almost everything is right off-the-shelf, and would be quick and easy to put together. The problem is that in NASA's attempts to grow the CEV big enough to justify the solution they want to push, they've outgrown the capacity of that setup. Now they're talking about a 5-segment SRM with an SSME driven upper stage. I think I've even heard from someone that the SSME used would have a nozzle extension. While the 5-segment SRM has been ground fired I think, it hasn't to my knowledge been ever flown on the shuttle. I could be wrong on that, but I don't know. I also don't know if the SSME has ever been tested with a nozzle extension like that. Not to mention that throwing away an SSME with every crew launch is likely to get spendy.

    And here’s a man with a better idea

    It would have been called Sea Dragon.

    posted by Justin at 09:40 PM



    Take Two!

    Word from the complaints department has it that my recent post “What Bioethicists Don’t Do” was so long and turgid (ahem) that it was well-nigh unreadable. The problem was duly noted, and is being addressed, right here and now.

    I’m going to run it past you again in an even more severely whittled down form (with some helpful interpolations), followed by my own humble and halting summary translation. If you want to skip the block quotes and jump ahead to the end, I may not respect you in the morning. But I’ll understand.

    Mitochondria are intracellular organelles found in almost all eukaryotes, derived from ¦Á-proteobacteria and possessing their own genome...They are involved in many biochemical processes…

    Mitochondria are vital working parts in most of the cells in your body. If they stop working correctly, you die…

    In each cell there are usually between 1,000 and 100,000 copies of mtDNA [mitochondrial DNA], on average 4,900 mtDNA genomes per nuclear genome…

    A nuclear genome is what most of us think of when we hear the word DNA. That is, the coiled helix of DNA which resides all comfy and protected inside a cell’s nucleus, the primary determinant of our heredity. But a cell has more than one genome. Many more, in fact. Each little mitochondrion in your body packs its own little genetic blueprint, inherited from your mother.

    Therefore, there are many more mitochondrial genomes (thousands) in any given cell than there are nuclear genomes (one). And since there are so many of them, riding around all exposed and vulnerable outside the cellular nucleus, they have many more chances to get screwed up.

    The presence of a mutation in 100% of the genomes is termed homoplasmy, while heteroplasmy is a mixture of mutated and wild-type sequences for a given locus.

    Here, the authors simply point out that there are two kinds of mitochondrial mutation; those that are found in every mitochondrion (the homos), and those that aren’t (the heteros). This will be important later.

    Since uncorrected accumulation of mutations would within a very small number of generations become incompatible with survival, there are mechanisms for selection against mtDNA mutations… there are many conditions where this cleansing mechanism fails...

    Too many mutations, alterations in the DNA, and your mitochondria will stop working. Then you die. Natural repair mechanisms exist, to stave off this unfortunate event. But they’re not perfect.

    We implicate…mitochondrial microheteroplasmy, as a candidate for the principal component of aging.

    Which is a main point of this paper.

    Microheteroplasmy is the presence of hundreds of independent mutations in one organism, with each mutation usually found in 1 - 2% of all mitochondrial genomes.

    They already defined heteroplasmy, but now we’re talking about microheteroplasmy, heteroplasmy on a very small scale.

    Despite the low abundance of single mutations, the vast majority of mitochondrial genomes in all adults are mutated…

    Which is not good news.

    A molecular substrate of aging…would have to persist for decades and accumulate change over this time. The nuclear and mitochondrial DNA appear to have the requisite characteristics...

    They appear to, but there are problems, which we shall address either lightly or not at all. The primary cause of aging is still unknown, though many theories have been advanced to date.

    Oversimplifying, we could divide those theories into two main camps, “Wear and Tear” versus “Planned Obsolescence”. Compromises and combinations are possible. Our authors think that they’re onto a new causative agent which may put an older wear and tear theory back in the running.

    ...while there may be other molecular mechanisms for long-term accumulation of change important in some contexts...DNA appears to be the most likely candidate for the substrate of aging.

    Which only makes sense. Different species age at different rates. A chimp is old at fifty, a rat at two. Meadowlarks. Mayflies. You get my drift. Why are they different species? Because their DNA has changed over time. Different DNA equals different life expectancy. Supporting this supposition is the following fact. When scientists alter the DNA of laboratory animals in certain specific ways, they can alter that animal’s life expectancy, both positively and negatively.

    …aging should be conceptualized primarily as a disease of our somatic cell DNA, where mutations accumulate with time, and lead to cellular dysfunction. Thus, aging is an integral of information loss over time...

    Again, like so many new theories, this sounds plausible. As mutations accumulate over time, your DNA becomes ever less able to do its job, i.e. provide necessary instructions to the cellular machinery. Eventually, the program becomes so bug-ridden that it can no longer provide the needed information. For want of uncorrupted data, the elegant mechanisms of the cell grind to a halt. Or worse.

    The rate of accumulation of mutations in mtDNA will determine the timing of onset...thus acting as the principal component of the molecular clock of aging.

    Except that, until now, there was no easily observable correlation between discernable mitochondrial changes and the external signs of aging.

    Usually, mitochondrial DNA is used as a template for PCR [polymerase chain replication, a technique for taking a small sample of genetic material and turning it into a large sample], and the amplified DNA is directly sequenced.

    This method allows only the reliable detection of mutations present in no less than 30% of mitochondrial genomes…it is possible to increase sensitivity to about 10% heteroplasmy but…this is still well below the sensitivity needed to detect the class of mutations which are the focus of this article.

    Another technique used to analyze mutations is denaturing HPLC…but even there the sensitivity is usually not better than 3%...

    Here’s where the distinction between the two kinds of mutation mentioned earlier becomes important. Homoplasmic mutations are relatively easy to detect, which shouldn’t be surprising, as there are so many more of the little buggers. Finding the much less frequent heteroplasmic mutations is a real chore, both tricky…

    The other form of mtDNA mutational load, low-level heteroplasmic mutations (microheteroplasmy), is more difficult to detect.

    …and expensive.

    With cloning…the percentage of mutation can be calculated from the ratio of wild-type vs. mutated clones. This procedure is more than a hundred times more expensive than direct PCR sequencing.

    Until recently, it couldn’t be done at all.

    Consequently, there is much less data on microheteroplasmy. Available studies indicate that microheteroplasmy is present in all tissues, at all ages examined, and in all subjects...

    With hundreds of different mutations in each patient their total burden adds up to a level comparable with the mutation loads present in classical mitochondrial disorders.

    Like the Land Unknown emerging out of the mists, we see a sweeping vista opening before us. Can you hear the dinosaurs?

    …in stark contrast to the frequently quoted estimate of 0.1% mutated mitochondrial genomes the true mutational load is orders of magnitude higher.

    Not good news. Where once we saw sturdy cellular timbers propping up the foundations of our lives, we now see rotted, vermin-infested punkwood. Still, it’s better to know than to not know.

    As alluded to in the introduction, this finding has important methodological implications [since] the, literally, thousands of studies looking at mtDNA with direct sequencing of PCR products were for technical reasons alone incapable of detecting the majority of mutations.

    We’ve been flying blind. Just like always.

    To summarize the data on the mitochondrial genome: It has the characteristics necessary for the molecular clock of aging, accumulates mutations both through inheritance and during aging in all humans, at levels sufficient to explain phenotypic [bodily] change, and in some cases the acquired mutations already have been shown to correlate with, or explain age-related disease.

    Which was not clear before due to technical shortcomings.

    The primary obstacle in the acceptance of the mitochondrial theory of aging and age-related diseases was heretofore the lack of a set of mutations which would be detectable in all aged adults at levels sufficient to explain the physiological derangements.

    But that may be changing.

    …microheteroplasmy affects the vast majority of genomes in adults, with at least 90% of genomes in every aged adult predicted to have at least one amino-acid changing mutation per genome.

    Even if some fraction of these mutations is innocuous, the total level is on par with levels of deleterious mutations sufficient to cause severe phenotypes in classical mitochondrial conditions.

    Oops. Our foundation has lots of termites.

    The mutations are present in all tissues examined so far and in every individual, making them the suitable substrate for a ubiquitous clock. Mutations levels are lowest in the neonate, and smoothly increase with age, exactly as would be expected from a time-measuring quantity (or perhaps more precisely, an integrator of damage over time)...
    The dearth of mutations in previous studies of mtDNA is due to the methodology used for their detection, which lead to erroneous conclusions, much like reliance on the light microscope might lead one to deny the existence of viruses.

    We postulate that microheteroplasmy accumulation in tissue-specific stem cells is the primary cause of the exhaustion of the tissue renewal capacity in advanced age…

    Okay, to summarize…

    Most of the cells in your body (seventy trillion or so, by some counts) contain thousands of organelles called mitochondria, the “power plants of the cell”. Each of these mitochondria, in turn, has its own onboard complement of DNA, doing important DNA-type work, keeping that mitochondrion alive and working. When the mitochondria stop working, so do the cells.

    One theory (out of many) implicates mitochondrial failure (brought on by mtDNA mutations) as a primary cause of aging. Evidence to date has not supported this theory. Nobody saw enough mutations to account for the observable symptoms. This situation may be changing.

    New observational techniques are now capable of detecting mitochondrial DNA mutations that were heretofore unsuspected. There are a lot of them. Individually they don’t look like much. But add them all together and these mutations look like they may be sufficient in number to account for the degeneration that we can see at the macro level.

    They may supply a unifying story with enough explanatory power to fit all the facts. So far that hasn’t been done yet.

    So far, so good. Knowledge is power. Better to know than to not know, and all that.

    On the other hand, there’s not a lot we can do about it, right? Tiny little bits of us get sick and die, dragging the rest of us down with them. It’s not like we can do anything about it. Hell, we can barely even see them. But let’s not be unduly pessimistic.

    Today our team confirmed our previous preliminary data showing that we can achieve robust mitochondrial transfection and protein expression in mitochondria of live rats, after an injection of genetically engineered mitochondrial DNA complexed with our protofection transfection agent. A significant fraction of cells in the brain is transfected with this single injection even though we so far did not optimize the dose.

    These guys have just demonstrated the successful genetic manipulation of mitochondria in living animals. That’s a hopeful thing, a very hopeful thing.

    This achievement has important implications for medicine: protofection technology works in vivo, and should be capable of replacing damaged mitochondrial genomes.

    We can do more than just see them now. We can reach our grubby little paws down and mess with them, maybe even fix them. Most folks would call that good news.

    posted by Justin at 09:01 PM | Comments (6)



    gates are always opening and closing

    I see that I attempted to write a blog post while sitting on a Baltimore runway yesterday, so I probably should start by getting that out of the way. Here's yesterday's no-longer alive post:

    While I know that traveling is supposed to be fun, there's something very un-fun about air delays -- especially the one I'm experiencing right now. My USAIR flight from Amsterdam to Philadelphia was first delayed two hours in Amsterdam, which was bad enough.

    But now I'm sitting here on a runway in Baltimore, after an hour spent circling Philadelphia to no avail. They wouldn't let the poor plane land, and it was running out of fuel and had to be "diverted" to BWI airport.

    No one is allowed to exit the plane, which is not at any gate, so here we sit.

    Yuck.

    I finally got back to Philadelphia, and went to sleep in a jetlagged stupor. The only thing I'd add to what I wrote yesterday is that I had to go through five lines (one of which was over an hour long) just in order to board the plane. One "entry" line, then a counter line, a long passport check line, then a security search, then another passport check line, then another security search. I'm glad to have security, but they don't do double passport checks and searches in the U.S., so I'm wondering whether this is a case of the airline not trusting the airport.....

    In any case, the net result is a decline in tourism; I spoke with a good friend in Amsterdam who owns a hotel catering to American tourists, and he says business is down everywhere. I can see why. Add long lines and airport stress to terrorist attacks and (perceived) anti-American sentiment, and you can't expect hotels to be filled with Americans.

    It's sad, really, because most Europeans are very polite and hospitable. And it's ironic, because on any given day, you can perceive more anti-American sentiment in any large American city than you can perceive in say, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin or Oslo. (Certainly, there seem to be more people telling Americans they're hated back here than there are over there.)

    Anyway, now that I'm back to the land where so many seem so in love with self hatred, I'm catching up with vital news items such as these:

  • 1. Seattle man has sex with horse (apparently, people are meeting them over the internet).
  • 2. Blind man has sex with his seeing eye dog.
  • 3. Svengali Karl Rove (a man who owes Classical Values a small fortune by now) somehow seems to be surviving his worst scandal yet, in which he's accused of "leaking" something previously leaked. That's almost as evil as giving White House press passes to pseudonymous gay reporters. (I wonder when the Rove critics will learn that Rove has come up with a newer, almost magical form of Teflon. The old, unimproved, Teflon merely protected against scandals, while Rove's brand of Teflon turns scandals into strength.)
  • While I have not yet begun to catch up with the blogosphere, it occurred to me that there might be more on this alchemy. As usual, Glenn Reynolds did not disappoint:

    I have to say that I've been skeptical of theories that this was yet another Karl Rove "rope-a-dope" operation designed to sucker Administration opponents into discrediting themselves. But now I'm not so sure.
    I don't know whether I'd call such theories rope-a-dope (yes, rove-a-dope works too) or give-em-enough-rope, but I think it's pretty clear that these tar-babyish Rove "scandals" come with the magic NeoTeflon® already built in.

    Part of the magic is that there's something for everybody, which makes it self perpetuating:

  • Rove's enemies get to play gotcha to their hearts' content, while imagining they're opening up new Watergates.
  • Rove not only isn't damaged, but actually gains strength from the gotcha games.
  • Each time, the result is that Rove appears more demonic than ever before, and his enemies angrier than ever before. Naturally, they'll try even harder for the Next Biggest Rove Scandal, which starts the cycle again.
  • And so on.

    Speaking of scandals, I have so many photos from the trip that I really don't know what to do with them all, nor do I know where to start. I guess Amsterdam is as good a place as any.

    Here are a couple of views of the red light district:

    Redlight1.jpg


    The red light district is no big deal; just girls displaying their wares in the windows of their "stores." And a few businesses like this:


    PeepAmst.jpg


    Many of Amsterdam's buildings like those above are built on canals, as in Venice. But there are also plenty of crooked medieval streets like this charmer:


    CrookStAmsterdam.jpg


    Most of the country is below sea level, so canals, dikes, drawbridges, and various locks are everywhere, even out in the countryside.

    Like this "water gate," which always takes its toll....


    Tollgate.jpg


    To get it to open, you have to pay!


    Anyway, I don't mean to make light of serious news, and I'm sure there's plenty I missed.

    Or is it all just water under the bridge?

    MORE: A pro-America rally! In Denmark. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) I wasn't in Denmark that day, but it confirms what I was told by two Danes -- but which would otherwise go unreported. Not all Danes are opposed to George W. Bush.

    (I realize this will come as a shock to many here in the United States, but I heard it with my own ears while I was over there.)

    posted by Eric at 05:34 PM | Comments (1)




    "The Return Of The Native"

    Or perhaps "The Philadelphian" would be more appropriate? Wish I could work in some Tolkien.

    Anyway, I have it on the best authority that Eric is nearly back from his extensive travels. Huzza! Mere hours from now, you can all sink your incisors into the rich, creamy goodness (yet also tart, so very tart) of a genuine Scheie opining.

    Everybody say huzza! Or else I'll feel really stupid.

    posted by Justin at 01:24 PM | Comments (3)



    One From The Vaults

    Just so you know where he's coming from. Naturally, all italicization is mine. I rather like the effect.

    Testimony Before United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime on “The Ethics of Cloning”

    June 7, 2001

    Testimony of Leon R. Kass, M.D., Ph.D.*

    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. My name is Leon Kass, and I am the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago.

    Originally trained both as a physician and a biochemist, I have for more than thirty years been professionally concerned with the social and ethical implications of biomedical advance. In fact, my first writing in this area, in 1967, was on the moral dangers of human cloning.

    I am therefore very grateful for the opportunity to testify before this Committee on the ethics of human cloning and in support of HR 1644, the “Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001.”...

    I argue that we stand now at a major fork in the road, compelled to decide whether we wish to travel down the path to the Brave New World...I heartily endorse HR 1644....

    ...human cloning is unethical in itself and dangerous in its likely consequences.... the overwhelming majority of our fellow Americans remain firmly opposed to cloning human beings.

    ....What should we do about it?....What we should do is work to prevent human cloning by making it illegal.

    We should aim for a global legal ban, if possible, and for a unilateral national ban at a minimum...

    ...renegade scientists may secretly undertake to violate such a law, but we can deter them by both criminal sanctions and monetary penalties....

    Michigan, for example, has made it a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years or a fine of not more than $10 million, or both, to “intentionally engage in or attempt to engage in human cloning,” where human cloning means “the use of human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology to produce a human embryo.” ....

    ...all halfway measures will prove to be morally, legally, and strategically flawed....Anyone truly serious about preventing human reproductive cloning must seek to stop the process from the beginning...

    ...some scientists favor embryo cloning as a way of obtaining embryos for research or as sources of cells and tissues for the possible benefit of others...

    The prospect of creating new human life solely to be exploited in this way has been condemned on moral grounds by many people...

    ...the only practically effective and legally sound approach is to block human cloning at the start, at the production of the embryo clone...

    Some...may balk at such a comprehensive restriction. They want to get their hands on those embryos, especially for their stem cells...

    It is the promise of rejection-free tissues for transplantation that so far has been the most successful argument in favor of experimental cloning.

    Yet new discoveries have shown that we can probably obtain the same benefits without embryo cloning...

    Numerous recent studies have shown that it is possible to obtain highly potent stem cells from the bodies of children and adults...

    Beyond all expectations, these non-embryonic stem cells have been shown to have the capacity to turn into a wide variety of specialized cells and tissues. (At the same time, early human therapeutic efforts with stem cells derived from embryos have produced some horrible results...

    Since cells derived from our own bodies are more easily and cheaply available than cells harvested from specially manufactured clones, we will almost surely be able to obtain from ourselves any needed homologous transplantable cells and tissues...

    By pouring our resources into adult stem cell research....we can also avoid the morally and legally vexing issues in embryo research...

    Scientists and doctors.... are today working to clone human beings...They are prepared to gamble with the well-being of any live-born clones...all for the glory of being the first to replicate a human being...

    I appreciate that a federal legislative ban on human cloning is without American precedent...

    Perhaps such a ban will prove ineffective; perhaps it will eventually be shown to have been a mistake. (If so, it could later be reversed)...

    ...we can strike a blow for the human control of the technological project...The prospect of human cloning, so repulsive to contemplate, is the occasion for deciding whether we shall be slaves of unregulated innovation, and ultimately its artifacts...The humanity of the human future is now in our hands.

    Unhand my humanity, sir!

    Note that in 2001 he's already talking up the virtues of adult stem cells, casting about for an alternative, any alternative to cloning. Damn you, Aldous Huxley! Why did you have to go and frighten the young Leon?

    As Dr. Gearhart told the PCB the following year, both avenues of research are necessary. They complement one another. Also, it is impossible to predict which one will will ultimately be more valuable. It's simply too early to tell.


    posted by Justin at 12:23 PM



    A new kind of blog spam?

    Someone has hit 25 posts here at Classical Values with comments seemingly advertising Google:

    i come from best search engine http://www.google.com

    I deleted one comment that was attached to a recent post of mine, and as I wondered why someone would flood a site with comments like these it hit me: could it be to fool bloggers into adding google to the Blacklist, which filters spam content?

    Tricky business. A google search turns up more than 400 comments by this pest.

    Anyone think I'm right about the motive, or care to correct my thesis?

    posted by Dennis at 12:01 AM | Comments (6)




    Terrorists do not commit terror attacks!

    Glenn Reynolds has more on the reluctance of the press to use the word terrorist, specifically the BBC which has infamously whitewashed its reporting on the recent terrorist bombings.

    Confused by my title? Read Glenn's excerpt from the telegraph.

    posted by Dennis at 12:12 PM | Comments (1)




    Stembryonics

    Over at Bioethics Blog there's a longish post addressing some longstanding peeves of mine. The entire thing is well worth your time, but I would never ever do that to you. No, no, never that. I'll just give you most of it. Say, around ninety percent. Let's start with the obligatory bona fides.

    My name is George Daley. I am here today representing the American Society for Cell Biology, a professional society of nearly 12,000 basic biomedical researchers in the United States and 50 nations around the world.

    I am Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Biological Chemistry at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the Associate Director of the Stem Cell Program at Children’s Hospital, a member of the Executive Committee of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and Board Member and President-elect of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (term to begin June 2007). My research is focused on using embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells to study blood development, and to develop new treatments for leukemia, and genetic diseases like immune deficiency, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and Fanconi’s anemia.

    So, is this better than being the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought? Speaking for utilitarians everywhere, I'd have to say yes.

    I am also clinically active as a hematologist at Children’s Hospital, where I see first-hand the pain and suffering inflicted by these diseases on children and their families. My career is dedicated to making a difference in their lives through research and patient care.

    Better and better. First hand experience on the front lines, as it were. Oh, and let me say right now that any emphases you see in this post were added by me.

    I am here today to state my strong support for Senate passage of HR 810, which has already passed the House of Representatives by an impressive and bipartisan margin. HR 810 would ensure that scientists can use Federal grant funds to study the wide range of valuable human embryonic stem cell lines that have been created since August 9, 2001, the date that President Bush announced his restrictive stem cell research policy.

    HR 810 would expand research opportunities and accelerate progress towards newer and better therapies for the many children I currently cannot treat successfully.

    And high time, too.

    I am also here to give scientific perspective on the several additional strategies proposed for deriving human pluripotent stem cells...which are the subject of this hearing today.

    I want to state at the outset that I support efforts to derive pluripotent stem cells by methods that would be ethically acceptable to all, but I do not support delaying the pursuit of medical research on existing human embryonic stem cell lines while these more speculative methods are tested. I believe that Senate passage of HR 810 is the surest means of supporting stem cell research at this juncture.

    First let me emphasize why research on human embryonic stem cells is so vitally important, and why alternative forms of adult stem cell research cannot substitute for the study of embryonic stem cells.

    Critics of embryonic stem cell research are fond of saying that adult stem cells have been used to cure dozens of diseases while embryonic stem cells have helped no one.

    To put it mildly. They do it all the damn time, seems like. Why, no less an eminence than Big Windy himself has been known to say it, and he should know better.

    Back in the Bioethics Council's salad days they solicited the opinions of some researchers in the field. This would have been April 25, 2002.

    PROF. SANDEL: I would like to go back to the adult stem cell versus embryonic stem cell question, and ask it in a slightly different, and maybe more pointed, form.

    As you know, there are some people who regard embryonic stem cell research as morally objectionable...I would like to know your view on the following scientific question.

    If adult stem cell research in the best case scenario redeems its promise, what would we lose medically and scientifically if we ban embryonic stem cell research, or imposed a moratorium on it for a period of time, until we could assess what adult stem cell research could achieve?

    DR. GEARHART: I personally think it would be a tragedy...I think the length of time that it is going to take to assess whether the adult stem cell avenue is going to provide the potential therapies that we are thinking about, is going to be years.

    And I think for us to deny at this point any avenue that has the potential of the embryonic stem cell story is a tragedy to those people who need or who will need these cures.

    And I think that it is a time element. If this could be done in a year, I would maybe listen to that argument. But it is going to take years to really assess any of these approaches.

    And I really think they should move forward together. I think we are going to learn in both directions how to utilize information coming out of these studies that would benefit, for example, or enable us to understand more about the adult sources if this is going to be the emphasis, and to really make them effective in their use.

    So I think that it wouldn't be wise to put a ban on the embryonic source at this point, and wait until another avenue is assessed. The length of time is going to be too long...

    The President's Council is under no obligation to agree with the expert testimony they have requested. Lucky them. Back to Dr. Daley...

    Even after many decades of clinical experience, bone marrow [i.e. adult stem cell] transplant remains an aggressive and toxic therapy that carries the highest mortality rate of any medical procedure that is routinely performed.

    For patients whose only bone marrow match is from unrelated donors outside the family, the treatment itself claims the lives of ~30% of patients in the first year. Indeed, I have cared for many patients who have died during treatment. All of us working in hematology today agree that additional research is needed.

    My laboratory is studying embryonic stem cells in hopes of making blood stem cell transplants safer and more widely applicable. A critical part of the strategy is using somatic cell nuclear transfer to generate stem cells that are customized to the specific patients I mentioned earlier, kids with leukemia, immune deficiency, and sickle cell anemia.

    We hope to correct the genetic defects in these patient-specific cells, direct their differentiation into blood, and transplant kids with these genetically matched autologous cells.

    This strategy is already working in mice, and we are eager to translate this work into humans. The current Federal funding policies have held us back.

    Although it is true that no one has to date been treated with cellular therapies based on human embryonic stem cells, I can assure you that mouse embryonic stem cells have had a major impact on medical research. Over the past 25 years, mouse embryonic stem cells have been used to create models for scores of human diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s...

    As for the criticism that no one has been cured with embryonic stem cells, the field of human embryonic stem cell research is a mere 7 years old, so it is premature to expect successful cell therapies to have already been delivered to patients.

    I believe it is only a matter of time before human embryonic stem cells are used in drug development research and become the basis for important new cell therapies.

    As further evidence of how human embryonic stem cells enable unique opportunities to study disease, consider research on Fanconi’s anemia. Kids with Fanconi’s anemia suffer bone marrow failure, and often develop leukemia. Scientists have tried to model this disease in mice, but the mice do not develop bone marrow failure, and the adult blood stem cells from Fanconi’s patients cannot be maintained in culture.

    Recently, a team from the Reproductive Genetics Institute of Chicago isolated a human embryonic stem cell line that carries a Fanconi’s gene mutation. This cell line could enable us to study the uniquely human aspects of Fanconi’s anemia.

    However, because of the current Presidential policy, we cannot study these cells with our Federal grant dollars. Thus my lab has been left to attempt to generate a Fanconi’s model in one of our Presidential stem cell lines, which has proven to be far more cumbersome than simply obtaining the cells from Chicago.

    To date, we have not succeeded. By this direct example, the President’s policy is hindering our research on this terrible childhood disease. Senate passage of HR 810 would make available Federal funds to perform this important medical research...

    Let me now turn to the several proposed new methods for making pluripotent human stem cells that are designed to avoid the destruction of a human embryo. These so-called “alternatives” are not TRUE alternatives, as they currently represent only speculative proposals for research that might yield new stem cell lines, and are fraught with their own ethical problems.

    In most of these cases, the experiments needed to establish feasibility of these proposals would require research on human embryos, and thus would be prohibited under current Federal law by the Dickey amendment.

    Far preferable to spending limited research dollars on these speculative proposals, in my opinion, is support for research on additional embryonic stem cell lines that are available today—lines that are similar to those already approved under the Bush policy. Senate passage of HR 810 would advance research that we know works, research where the ethical dilemmas have been understood and accepted by most.

    Among the speculative methods under discussion, the first involves extracting stem cells from embryos that could be considered “dead”, because they have stopped dividing and will not develop further. If individual cells remain alive (and hopefully normal), they might be used to initiate lines of stem cells. The President’s Council found this strategy ethically sound and scientifically feasible and so endorsed it. However, I anticipate that attempts to generate pluripotent cells from these defective embryos will be far less effective...

    The second speculative method derives from pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, in which one or two cells are removed from an early embryo and analyzed to diagnose serious inherited diseases...

    The suggestion has been made that biopsied cells might be used to produce pluripotent stem cell lines, and this would be ethically acceptable if the embryo remained unharmed.

    Dr. Lanza is here to represent his as yet unpublished success in using this strategy to produce pluripotent stem cell lines from mouse embryos.

    However, the biopsy procedure raises all sorts of ethical concerns and indeed has been dismissed as unacceptable during the initial inquiries of the President’s Council. Those who equate the zygote to a human being would reject the use of embryo biopsy because it removes cells at a stage when they might be considered developmentally equivalent to the zygote...

    Removing a totipotent blastomere is then the moral equivalent of producing a twin, which, in the view of opponents of embryonic stem cell research could not then be sacrificed for research. Embryo biopsy for stem cell research entails risks to embryos that are wanted for making a baby, rather than destined to be discarded as medical waste.

    If my wife and I carried a genetic disease we would accept the risk of the embryo biopsy procedure to insure we could have the healthiest child possible, but if we were simply infertile and using IVF to assist us in reproduction, we would not consent to having our healthy embryos biopsied...

    ...the more cells one biopsies to accommodate both PGD and stem cell derivations, the greater the risk for embryo loss...

    The third speculative method involves deriving pluripotent stem cells from something the President’s Council has termed “biological artifacts”. The best described of this procedure is called “Altered Nuclear Transfer”, which entails introducing a genetic defect into a somatic donor cell prior to nuclear transfer, so that a disordered embryo results that can be a source of pluripotent stem cells but cannot develop into a human.

    According to Dr. Hurlbut, the method’s chief proponent, what is produced would “lack the essential attributes and capacities of a human embryo”, a biological artifact whose destruction to produce pluripotent stem cells would be ethically justified.

    ...my colleagues and I have rejected this concept as flawed. In reasoning echoed by the President’s Council, we questioned whether the planned creation of what amounts to a defective embryo would silence ethical objections.

    A more recent proposal put forth by Markus Grompe is a variation on Altered Nuclear Transfer called Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming...Grompe also suggests altering the input somatic cell so as to preclude formation of a viable human embryo.

    He proposes using a gene like nanog, which might promote reprogramming of the donor somatic cell directly to something that resembles an embryonic stem cell, which is pluripotent, and avoids generating a cell like a zygote, which is totipotent...

    ...even if this strategy works in mice, there is no guarantee it will work in humans, and verification would then require the creation and destruction of many manipulated human embryos, which might or might not have the altered characteristics that would make this method ethically “acceptable”.

    If it works, I am concerned that in order to use Federal dollars for research US Scientists will be relegated to less-efficient processes like Altered Nuclear Transfer, while Korean scientists employ superior techniques.

    The fourth speculative approach is to derive pluripotent cells via direct de-differentiation of somatic cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state using chemical treatments or cell culture manipulation alone.

    The President’s Council found merit in this fourth proposal, but also raised the technically thorny issue of how to rule out whether a totipotent and therefore morally significant cell might be created by this procedure.

    In my view, these last two proposals raise a curious and challenging question: can we distinguish the moral value of a human cell based on its particular gene expression pattern? Can humanity really be diagnosed at the level of a single cell?

    ...this last approach has scientific merit. We know cellular de-differentiation is possible; indeed, that is precisely what we do when we perform somatic cell nuclear transfer and reprogram a somatic cell back to a zygote.

    The Federal Government is already funding research into such cellular reprogramming. Indeed, last year I was one of nine recipients of the inaugural Pioneer Award from the Director of the National Institutes of Health to support highly innovative (that is, speculative) research of exactly this type. Although this strategy is worth pursuing, it is extremely high-risk, and may take years to perfect, and may never work as well as nuclear transfer, which we know we can practice today.

    Research on each of these proposed strategies is at present untested in human cells, but if judged to be meritorious by the peer review process, should be funded. However, the already proven routes to obtaining embryonic stem cells from excess IVF embryos or through the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer should not be put on hold pending the outcomes of the more speculative methods.

    Finally, let me emphasize that research on embryonic stem cells and embryo research in general is not solely about making tissues for transplantation to treat disease. Although the promise of new therapies is perhaps the most compelling reason to support expanded access to embryonic stem cells for research, I stress that it is equally important to pursue research that addresses fundamental questions about the earliest stages of human development.

    We know that a variety of birth defects can be traced to abnormal cell divisions during the first few days of life, and that infertility and miscarriage can also be traced to defects in the early embryo. We cannot learn everything there is to learn about these human disease conditions from studying animals.

    We must study the unique aspects of human embryo biology directly, and the Federal government should support this vitally important basic research.

    Science certainly cannot define when in the gradual course of human development we deserve individual and autonomous rights.

    I do not agree with the premise that the single celled zygote should be given the same considerations as living persons and I do not view the embryo as a human being, particularly when it is frozen in a freezer.

    As a physician and as a scientist and as a father I live in a practical world of choices, and a world in which disease is a grim reality. Unless we want to turn back the clock, and outlaw in vitro fertilization, then we as a society have already accepted that many more embryos are created than will ever become children.

    I feel it is morally justified to derive benefit from these embryos through medical research instead of relegating them to medical waste.

    And unless we are willing to argue the biological absurdity that our humanity can be defined by a particular signature of gene expression that exists in the totipotent cells of the early human embryo, then we must support the vitally important applications of embryonic stem cells to medical research.

    Bonus points for readers who made it this far. As a special reward, I've also imported the comments section. Just keep going and you can read a comment from Wesley J. Smith himself, one of those NRO "culture of death" warriors. Take it away, Wes!

    This whole thing is mainly a diversion. It isn't going to happen until 2009, if then. It's as simple as that.

    In my experience, when they tell you how simple it all is, they're hoping you'll just shut up and believe them.

    Moreover, if this is so important, there are plenty of billionaires who could sink a cool 500 million into the research...

    A fundamentally dishonest argument. Can there ever be enough billionaires? And what billionaire in his right mind is going to fund a line of research that may well be declared felonious? Specious argument? Why, yes!

    ...not to mention the states that are beginning to fund it (as their emergency rooms close for lack of funds).

    Cry me a river. They wouldn't need to if Washington was doing its job.

    The real issue is whether to permit human SCNT. The Bush policy is irrelevant to this issue...

    Oh really? From today's Instapundit...

    Specter has introduced a bill that would overthrow President Bush's executive order, which limits federal funding to a small number of human embryonic stem-cell lines. Specter's bill would open up funding to unused embryos donated by couples after in vitro fertilization. The House has already passed the bill, and the Senate was expected to do the same.

    BUT THE PRESIDENT HAS PROMISED TO VETO IT.

    Sounds pretty irrelevant to me...we now return to Wesley J. Smith...

    ...as it deals with leftover embryos and their use in creating embryonic stem cell lines. Yet, I often hear advocates try to connect this policy with the S. Korean cloning successes, when they have nothing to do with each other...

    Only if you squint your eyes really, really hard. Which is easy to do when your pants are on fire...

    But this is good politics. Make people think Bush is holding back the science...

    He is.

    ...and confuse people about the rational distinctions to be made between "therapeutic cloning," which creates human life to be destroyed, and embryonic stem cell research using leftover IVF embryos.

    Oh, and before someone starts yapping about how an SCNT embryo isn't really an embryo...

    I believe the argument may be more nuanced than that, straw man killer...

    ...James Thomson took care of that little bit of obfuscation. Good for him. Science is corrupted by, shall we say, less than candid, advocacy.

    Wesley J. Smith

    Huh. Civil discourse is corrupted by, shall we say, snide and self-righteous shading of the truth. Reason enough to dislike him, but beyond that, metaphorically speaking, he's been giving Leon Kass sweet culture warrior loving for years.

    On to our next commenter...

    The whole discussion is, as WJS says, a diversion. The goal is either the cloning for stem cells or stimulation of stem cells and/or stem cell stimulationg factors (just as we currently do with erythopoietin and other blood stem cell factors).

    The experiments should stick with animal models. The controversy - the intensity of the "yuk factor" - should be a clue.

    History shows how strong the backlash can be when science acts outside of ethical boundaries and out of hubris.

    Could we have a couple of examples that aren't Nazis, please? Actually, history is fairly equivocal on the subject...

    We're supposed to be so smart - let's learn from the mistakes of those who went before us rather than make our own by experimenting on our own offspring.

    Beverly

    It's hard to know what to say. Your offspring are quite safe? No one will forcefully harvest your precious eggs?

    Go to a hospital Beverly. Take a good look at all the sick kids. Just go as you are, you won't need a freaking microscope to see them. They're really big.

    Try and harvest a precious clue.



    posted by Justin at 10:28 AM | Comments (7)



    Later than never

    Now that I’m on the way back and headed in a southerly direction, the dysfunctional satellite internet connection (on this ship) is starting to work. Places like Finland, Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Norway are, they say, just too far north for a reliable connection. I tend to believe that, because Clarke’s Belt hovers over the Equator and the satellite dishes in the northern parts are all pointed so close to 90 degrees as be at the limit of their ability to bend. Here’s a typical example (bandwidth allowing):

    Densat.JPG


    How nice it would have been to be able to check in daily and post a picture now and then! At the Hermitage in Leningrad St. Petersburg I ran into one of the longtime sponsors of this blog:

    AntinousHermitage.JPG

    And I saw souvenirs like these Matrushka dolls:

    souvenirs.JPG

    Sheesh!


    But I couldn’t even check, email, much less log into the blog. The spammers have of course been having a field day.

    Thursday’s horrific events reminded me that terror continues to be a powerful political tool, and unfortunately one which works. Flags were at half mast in Germany, although not in Sweden (a country with an, um, attitude to put it politely.) In Denmark I spoke to several people about the recent Bush visit. They said that despite the fact that two-thirds of the people disagree with Bush and are against the Iraq war), he was politely received, and they seemed pleasantly surprised that their tiny country would receive such attention from a United States president. (Apparently it does not happen often.)

    If you ask me, Bush couldn’t have timed it better.


    I’ll be traveling the next couple of days and hope to be back by Saturday. Meanwhile, a late night sunset from the land of the midnight sun:

    sunsetTallinn.JPG

    MORE: Until today I hadn't had a chance to even read this blog, and I'm delighted Justin and Dennis (despite the hurricane) have done such a great job.

    Thanks! I hadn't gotten away with relaxing in a long time.

    posted by Eric at 05:23 AM | Comments (2)




    City Of Love, City Of Lights

    I hope you've enjoyed "Rose Wilder Lane Week" these past few days. Her refreshingly direct love of country struck me as being perfectly suited, thematically, to the Fourth of July holiday. Nevertheless, "all good things," eh?

    I have to say, it was harder for me than I expected, moderating the amount of her work that I posted here. The temptation to overindulge was ever present, let me assure you. I must have reluctantly discarded more than half the wordage that I originally transcribed, all of it seeming worthy of your attention.

    What with her being a popular novelist, journalist, ghost-writer, etc., she knew how to get and keep the reader's attention, all the while making it look easy. I imagine she would have been a wonderful blogger.

    I had thought I'd conclude with something light-hearted. The saga of purchasing a car (Zenobia, perhaps?) in post-war Paris looked like a winner, but I had a last minute change of heart. Instead, we're going to wrap up with thread. Perhaps not so humorously, but a little more on topic...

    Suppose that during the Armistice you bought a spool of thread in a French department store. Not that it is a spool; the thread is wound on a scrap of paper, for the thrifty French do not waste wood.

    It takes a few seconds to say, “A reel of cotton thread, please; white, size sixty.” With leisurely grace, the clerk takes the thread in her hand, comes from behind the counter, and courteously asks you to accompany her.

    She escorts you across the store, perhaps half a block, and indicates your place at the end of a waiting line. In twenty minutes or so, you reach the cashiers grating. He sits behind the bars on a high stool, a wide ledger open before him, ink bottle uncorked, and pen in hand.

    He asks you, and he writes in the ledger, your name, your address, and—to your dictation—one reel of thread, cotton, white, size sixty. Will you take it, madame, or have it delivered? You will take it. He writes that. And the price? Forty centimes. You offer in payment, madame? One franc. He writes these amounts, and the date, hour, and minute.

    You give the franc to the clerk, who gives it to the cashier, who gives you the change, looks at the thread, and asks if you are satisfied. You are. A stroke of the pen checks that fact.

    The clerk then wraps the thread, beautifully, at a near-by wrapping counter, and gives you the package. You have spent thirty minutes; so has she; the cashier has spent perhaps five. An hour and five minutes, to buy a reel of thread.

    French department stores were as good as the best in the world. The French are expert merchandisers. They knew pneumatic-tube systems; the Paris government owned one that carried special-delivery notes more quickly than anyone could get a telephone number. Department store owners admired the cash-systems in American stores. But if they had installed them, they would still have been obliged to keep the cashier, his ledger, and his pen and ink.

    Why? Because in the markets of Napoleon’s time, sellers cheated buyers. Napoleon protected the buyers. He decreed that the details of every sale must be written in a book, with pen and ink, in the presence of both seller and buyer, by a third person who must see the article and the transfer of money; the buyer must declare himself satisfied, and the record must be kept , permanently, to verify the facts if there were any future complaint.

    During this past century, French merchandising had grown enormously. It had completely changed; but not this method of protecting buyers.

    I asked an owner of the largest French department store why Napoleon’s decree was not repealed. He said, But, madame, it has been in operation for more than a hundred years! It cannot be repealed; think of the sales girls, the cashiers, the filing clerks,the watchmen who guard the warehouses of ledgers. They would lose their jobs. He was shocked. He saw me as the materialist American, thinking only of profit, caring nothing for all those human beings.

    I thought they were unemployed. They did not appear as unemployed on any record, but the actual unemployment in France and throughout Europe, was enormous. For every purchase in a French department store, something like an hour’s time was unemployed; millions of hours a day. And the cashiers, the filing clerks, the watchers of those records, never did a stroke of productive work.

    Amazing. The past really is a foreign country.

    Mrs. Lane was of the firm opinion that government regulation was much more adept at smothering and impeding economic development than it was at increasing it. Many corroborating anecdotes might occur to the modern reader, but back in 1943 such sentiments ran against the popular wisdom.

    All this enforced unemployment made it impossible to do anything quickly. European life was leisurely; it had to be. This charmed the Americans gaily passing by, all the tedious waiting for them, all the red tape untied, all the police stamps got onto their papers by Cook’s or Amexco or their bankers or hotel porters. How serene, how cultured was European life, they said. No one hurrying, everyone with time for meditation and enjoyment, walking through the parks, sitting at café tables under the plane trees. How harassed, how hurried and rude and crude was American life in comparison, they said.

    Being as it's still Fourth of July (in spirit), the following display of unabashed pride in America strikes me as fitting and appropriate.

    You recognized an American as far as you could see him, by the way he walked. Chin up, head high, briskly going somewhere, with an unconscious mastery of the earth he trod. No European moved like that. Europeans walked prudently, slowly. Their every gesture consumed time in merely letting time pass. That made their lives and their countries seem so restful, to Americans. And you can see precisely that same way of walking, that same sense of useless time, in the prisoners in any American prison-yard.
    posted by Justin at 10:04 PM | Comments (1)




    One Day Left

    It's an old chestnut, but still worth hauling out and dusting off...now and then.

    Actually, I never tire of it. Truly great writing is timeless, don't you think?

    I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke.

    Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own.

    Sure, a hearty volcano can be enjoyable. Burning rivers of lava: so picturesque. But a volcano is stationary, like Dennis Hastert after a big lunch. It doesn't offer the same dramatic suspense.

    Hurricanes are in unpredictable flux. They move, change direction, strengthen, weaken, lose an eyewall, repair an eyewall; they seem to have volition and opera-diva personalities.

    So there's something disappointing when a hurricane doesn't make landfall, or peters out into a puny Category One...

    That's by James Wolcott, a probable ascot wearer who speaks on behalf of nature, and I'll bet he was just kidding! Okay? Get over it already!

    It's still "Rose Wilder Lane Week" here at C.V. (only one day left!) so I'll just get out of the way and let her offer an observation...

    The energy of heat, cold, storms, floods, drought, is the deadly enemy of every human being. His second enemy is the living energy of other creatures, the animals, the plants, that kill him and that he kills for his food and other uses.

    Everyone must constantly be defended against these enemies. Farmers and sailors and doctors always know this. Linemen know it, and engineers, chemists, truck drivers and railroad men and oil drillers and sand-hogs and construction workers and airplane pilots and weather forecasters—all the fighters who protect human lives in modern civilization, and keep this civilization in existence.

    These men, who know the human situation on this earth and stand the brunt of it, enable others to forget it.

    The thinkers—scholars, teachers, writers, politicians—fed and warmed and lulled like babies, can forget their real situation. But their acts recognize it...

    Tomorrow, we go shopping in Paris. Perhaps to a charcuterie?

    Au revoir!

    posted by Justin at 05:31 PM | Comments (2)



    What Bioethicists Don't Do...

    Probably because C.S. Lewis and Star Trek are so much easier...

    Via the invaluable and tireless Reason at Fight Aging, comes this interesting news from Dr. Rafal Smigrodski...

    Today our team confirmed our previous preliminary data showing that we can achieve robust mitochondrial transfection and protein expression in mitochondria of live rats, after an injection of genetically engineered mitochondrial DNA complexed with our protofection transfection agent. A significant fraction of cells in the brain is transfected with this single injection even though we so far did not optimize the dose. This achievement has important implications for medicine: protofection technology works in vivo, and should be capable of replacing damaged mitochondrial genomes.

    Now why exactly is this interesting? Should you even give a damn?

    Well for starters, it's beginning to look as though mitochondrial failure is implicated in a number of our unpleasant biological failure modes. Yet, as with so many other of our systemic breakdowns, there hasn't been a great deal we could do about it. That may be changing.

    Here's Dr. Smigrodski...

    A few months ago I promised to post an article on mitochondria and aging which I was writing with Shaharyar Khan, and finally I can keep my promise. "Mitochondrial microheteroplasmy and a theory of aging and age-related disease" will be published in Rejuvenation Research in August. Here is the text (without figures) and I can send the pdf to anyone interested.

    Here is an extremely pared-down version of the above paper...

    We implicate a recently described form of mitochondrial mutation, mitochondrial microheteroplasmy, as a candidate for the principal component of aging. Microheteroplasmy is the presence of hundreds of independent mutations in one organism, with each mutation usually found in 1 - 2% of all mitochondrial genomes. Despite the low abundance of single mutations, the vast majority of mitochondrial genomes in all adults are mutated...We postulate that microheteroplasmy is sufficient to explain the pathomechanism of several age-associated diseases, especially in conditions with known mitochondrial involvement...

    The genetic properties of microheteroplasmy reconcile the results of disease...with the relatively low levels of maternal inheritance in the aforementioned diseases, and provide an explanation of their delayed, progressive course.

    Aging, broadly defined, is the decline and failure of biological
    processes to maintain the complexity and contiguity of an organism
    over time. Maintaining this complexity and contiguity in the face of
    entropic forces requires continuous energy appropriation and
    dissipation. Another element crucial to maintenance of complexity is
    integrity of genetic information...

    Interestingly, many progerias primarily affect stem cells and their generation of oxidative stress, preventing the repopulation of tissues damaged with age. These diseases provide significant insights into the relevance of maintaining genomic integrity against the ravages of time.

    In contrast to considering aging from the perspective of fundamental
    physical and systems-theory principles, practical approaches to the
    pathophysiology of most aging-related diseases focus on specific
    biochemical changes that accompany aging...a number of biochemical processes are believed to be involved in the sporadic, age-related forms of these diseases, although no causative nuclear gene mutations have been identified in the vast majority of cases.

    This observation is significant: absence of mutations should exclude a gene from consideration as a cause, relegating it and the relevant processes to a secondary role in pathomechanism...

    A molecular substrate of aging and the permissive factor for
    age-related disease would have to persist for decades and accumulate
    change over this time. The nuclear and mitochondrial DNA appear to
    have the requisite characteristics...

    ...while there may be other molecular mechanisms for long-term accumulation of change important in some contexts, such as prions, protein glycation and other chemical reactions...DNA appears to be the most likely candidate for the substrate of aging.

    Based on the above considerations, aging should be conceptualized
    primarily as a disease of our somatic cell DNA, where mutations
    accumulate with time, and lead to cellular dysfunction. Thus, aging is
    an integral of information loss over time...

    The accumulation of mutations in somatic DNA is not a new concept... According to the mitochondrial theory of aging, first proposed by Harman in 1972, mitochondrial genomes accumulate mutations as a result of damage from reactive oxygen species...informational loss
    in mitochondrial genomes would predict an exponential decline due to
    entropic forces...No other theory so closely accounts for both the energetic/metabolic and informational decline that occurs with age.

    However, this theory does not explain why specific age-related diseases appear only in a fraction of the population, even though the mutations would accumulate in all adults, and it fails to account for the wide range of ages of onset.

    We propose that the recently described form of DNA damage, mitochondrial microheteroplasmy...and the individual differences in its accumulation confer a proclivity to develop specific age-related conditions...as well as determine to a great extent the rate at which we age.

    The rate of accumulation of mutations in mtDNA will determine the timing of onset...thus acting as the principal component of the molecular clock of aging.

    Mitochondria are intracellular organelles found in almost all
    eukaryotes, derived from ¦Á-proteobacteria and possessing their own
    genome...They are involved in many biochemical processes, most
    notably oxidative phosphorylation, and in apoptosis, or programmed
    cell death...

    In each cell there are usually between 1,000 and 100,000 copies of mtDNA, on average 4,900 mtDNA genomes per nuclear genome. Since each copy may be independently replicated, mutations can accumulate in various proportions of the genomes.

    The presence of a mutation in 100% of the genomes is termed homoplasmy, while heteroplasmy is a mixture of mutated and wild-type
    sequences for a given locus.

    Since uncorrected accumulation of mutations would within a very small
    number of generations become incompatible with survival, there are
    mechanisms for selection against mtDNA mutations.

    However, as noted above, there are many conditions where this
    cleansing mechanism fails...

    Heteroplasmy, the presence of varying fractions of mutated mtDNA in
    tissues, has been extensively studied in many paradigms. Usually,
    mitochondrial DNA is used as a template for PCR, and the amplified DNA
    is directly sequenced. This method allows only the reliable detection
    of mutations present in no less than 30% of mitochondrial genomes.

    With additional refinements it is possible to increase sensitivity to about 10% heteroplasmy but as alluded to before, this is still well below the sensitivity needed to detect the class of mutations which are the focus of this article.

    Another technique used to analyze mutations is denaturing HPLC (DHPLC) but even there the sensitivity is usually not better than 3%...

    The state of the field is much akin to being forced to study protein structure using a conventional light microscope - simply put, we would be forced to postulate that proteins do not exist.

    The other form of mtDNA mutational load, low-level heteroplasmic
    mutations (microheteroplasmy), is more difficult to detect. To detect
    an unknown mtDNA mutation present in 1 to 2 % of genomes it is
    currently necessary to clone the amplified mtDNA PCR fragment and
    sequence hundreds of clones.

    With cloning, the signal from minor mutated species can be observed separately and the percentage of mutation can be calculated from the ratio of wild-type vs. mutated clones. This procedure is more than a hundred times more expensive than direct PCR sequencing.

    Consequently, there is much less data on microheteroplasmy. Available studies indicate that microheteroplasmy is present in all tissues, at all ages examined, and in all subjects...

    With hundreds of different mutations in each patient their total
    burden adds up to a level comparable with the mutation loads present
    in classical mitochondrial disorders.

    There appears to be a roughly smooth distribution of mutations along the genome, except for the mitochondrial control region, or the D-loop, where the mutation frequency is approximately ten times higher than in the coding parts of the genome...

    Thus, in stark contrast to the frequently quoted estimate of 0.1%
    mutated mitochondrial genomes the true mutational load is orders of magnitude higher.

    As alluded to in the introduction, this finding has important
    methodological implications [since] the, literally, thousands of studies looking at mtDNA with direct sequencing of PCR products were for technical reasons alone incapable of detecting the majority of
    mutations.

    To summarize the data on mitochondrial genome: It has the
    characteristics necessary for the molecular clock of aging,
    accumulates mutations both through inheritance and during aging in all
    humans, at levels sufficient to explain phenotypic change, and in some
    cases the acquired mutations already have been shown to correlate
    with, or explain age-related disease.

    When Otto Warburg originally observed that cancer cells utilize
    glycolysis almost to the exclusion of oxidative metabolism for energy
    production, he could not have anticipated that mtDNA is mutated in the
    vast majority of tumor masses studied to date. While nuclear
    mutations are clearly indispensable for the evolution of a neoplasm
    and are the focus of most oncological research, mtDNA is now starting
    to be seen as more than just an epiphenomenon ...

    The biochemical side of the equation is demonstrated by reliance of
    tumor cells on glycolytic metabolism...Since mtDNA codes for enzyme subunits indispensable for oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), mutations damaging it will leave the cell dependent on glycolysis...

    It would be thus expected that depriving mammalian cells of their
    ability to use OXPHOS will shift them to a low-cooperativity, less
    differentiated state with a higher mitotic potential. Indeed, this is
    what is observed: cells devoid of their mtDNA have higher propensity
    to metastasis than their mtDNA-possessing cohorts...

    The primary obstacle in the acceptance of the mitochondrial theory of
    aging and age-related diseases was heretofore the lack of a set of
    mutations which would be detectable in all aged adults at levels
    sufficient to explain the physiological derangements.

    The disease-correlated homoplasmic mtDNA mutations in AD and PD are
    found in a very small percentage of patients. Similarly, mtDNA
    mutations in diabetes and hypertension are present in a minority of
    patients.

    Thus, while this particular type of mtDNA mutation could
    explain some features of aging in a few families, it would not be
    widely applicable...

    These major deficiencies of the mitochondrial theory of aging are
    addressed by the recent discovery of mitochondrial microheteroplasmy.

    As indicated in section 2.4, microheteroplasmy affects the vast
    majority of genomes in adults, with at least 90% of genomes in every
    aged adult predicted to have at least one amino-acid changing mutation
    per genome.

    Even if some fraction of these mutations is innocuous, the total level is on par with levels of deleterious mutations sufficient
    to cause severe phenotypes in classical mitochondrial conditions.

    It is no longer necessary to postulate the existence of "amplification" of the impact of rare age-related mutations by hypothetical mechanisms...

    The mutations are present in all tissues examined so far and in every
    individual, making them the suitable substrate for a ubiquitous clock.

    Mutations levels are lowest in the neonate, and smoothly increase with
    age, exactly as would be expected from a time-measuring quantity (or
    perhaps more precisely, an integrator of damage over time)...


    The above observations begin to address the major objection to the
    mitochondrial theory of aging: the lack of evidence for the presence
    of a sufficiently high load of potentially deleterious mutations...

    The dearth of mutations in previous studies of mtDNA is due to the methodology used for their detection which lead to erroneous conclusions, much like reliance on the light microscope might lead one to deny the existence of viruses.

    The basic claims of our hypothesis can be encapsulated in the following summary:

    1) Mitochondrial microheteroplasmy, that is, the presence of multiple mtDNA mutations each present at a low level (usually affecting less than 2% of mtDNA copies in a tissue but adding to a total mutational burden of >90%) is a major contributing factor in age-related pathology...

    2) Mechanistically, microheteroplasmy acts through the accumulation of dysfunctional copies of mitochondrially-encoded ETC subunits, which leads to increased production of ROS...lowered peak ATP production...impaired oxidative phosphorylation, and in turn, to
    apoptosis or impairment of cellular function...

    3) Mitochondrial microheteroplasmy consists primarily of a combination of mutations arising in the germline prior to the formation of the zygote, and mutations accumulating throughout the lifespan of the individual. There is also a contribution of mutations inherited from mother, sufficient to explain the existing matrilineal inheritance levels in age-related disease.

    4) Differences in the location and quantity of germline mutations
    (focal microheteroplasmy) are at least in part responsible for the
    variation in age-related phenotypes...

    5) Age-acquired microheteroplasmy and the drift in germline mutation load are the factors responsible for the delayed onset of age-related disorders...

    Increased ROS production, which we propose as the most important link
    between microheteroplasmy and aging, leads to extensive antioxidant
    responses...When ROS production becomes chronic, the very ability to remove damage becomes compromised.

    Precisely because microheteroplasmy compromises mitochondrial
    function, the machinery required to repair and remove damage fails to
    import into mitochondria, further exacerbating ROS damage...

    The concept of ROS involvement in aging recently received support from
    a study showing lifespan extension in mice expressing catalase, an
    antioxidant enzyme, in their mitochondria.

    Interestingly, expression of catalase outside mitochondria (e.g. in the nucleus) did not result in significant slowing of aging, indicating that mitochondrial damage may be more important, at least as far as ROS-related mechanisms are considered.

    We postulate that microheteroplasmy accumulation in tissue-specific
    stem cells is the primary cause of the exhaustion of the tissue
    renewal capacity in advanced age and that there is a dynamic
    equilibrium between cell loss and renewal from stem cells...

    The fraction of dysfunctional differentiated cells in a tissue would be then determined by the relative abundance of functional stem cells, and the longevity of their differentiated progeny...

    Our hypothesis helps reconcile a large body of observations regarding
    the inheritance and pathophysiology of age-related diseases which is
    not adequately explained by other hypotheses...

    ...a molecular clock mechanism must be postulated to
    explain this phenomenon. Of all known molecular properties of the
    constituents of the human body, microheteroplasmy is the one which
    fits the bill most appropriately and in the largest number of
    conditions...

    Regarding disease-specific theories, such as the amyloid hypothesis of
    AD, and the insulin resistance hypothesis of DM, the microheteroplasmy
    hypothesis aims to incorporate them as descriptions of secondary
    events in aging.

    Neither amyloid accumulation nor insulin resistance are explained at a causal level by previous hypotheses...The microheteroplasmy hypothesis describes the ultimate, physical mechanisms of mtDNA mutations in all aging humans, and a path from these primary events to the eventual outcomes...

    So after all that you have a better idea why the following news is so very encouraging.

    ...protofection technology works in vivo, and should be capable of replacing damaged mitochondrial genomes...

    To my mind, this is the sort of thing that doctors should be doing with their time. You know, healing the sick, discovering cures?

    Leave Plato and Montaigne to the Bioethical Mandarins.

    posted by Justin at 01:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)



    Why do they hate us?

    Why not ask instead, 'why don't the rest of them hate us?'

    Anne Applebaum seeks out Pro-Americanism in Foreign Policy:

    Even the most damning evidence, such as the BBC poll quoted above, also reveals that some percentage of the population of even the most anti–American countries in Europe and Latin America remains pro–American. Some 38 percent of the French, 27 percent of Germans, 40 percent of Chinese, and 42 percent of Brazilians remain convinced that the United States exerts a “positive influence on the world.” Who are they?

    Her answer is, shall we say, nuanced, but much of it boils down to economic competition. There are those who share the ideals of liberal democracy, those who are old enough to remember America's aid to their own people, and then the 'aspirational' (a term borrowed from ad execs):

    They’re getting richer—like Americans—but aren’t yet so rich as to feel directly competitive.

    I don't know that I buy that kind of psychological profiling, but the real argument of the piece isn't a bad one:

    Before the United States brushes away Europe as hopelessly anti–American, Americans should therefore remember that not all Europeans dislike them. Before Americans brush off the opinion of “foreigners” as unworthy of cultivation either, they should remember that whole chunks of the world have a natural affinity for them and, if they are diligent, always will.
    posted by Dennis at 08:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)



    What did I do?

    The following photo from weather.com does not, as some readers might hope, have anything to do with me:

    go-away.jpg

    Still, I can't say it didn't feel a bit personal.

    posted by Dennis at 01:44 AM | Comments (5)



    Elusys

    An article by Ron Bailey at Reason brought Elusys to my attention a few years back. They were a biotech research company with a novel idea.

    On a whim, I checked out their website the other day to see how they were progressing. Huh. Things are just perking along. This news release was from late 2003. There's more if you care to look.

    Elusys Therapeutics, Inc., today released data showing that its anthrax antibody, ETI-204, provided complete protection in animals that were exposed to aerosolized anthrax, the form most likely to be used in a terrorist attack. None of the animals given the affinity-enhanced antibody died in the 28-day study, which ended today, while all of the control animals died within 5 days.

    The Elusys study was a placebo-controlled trial conducted by a specialized, independent laboratory in the Midwest to determine whether a single dose of ETI-204 would prevent death in rabbits in a model of inhalational anthrax, which is its most deadly form.

    In the study group, ETI-204 was given intravenously to the animals immediately before exposure to a lethal dose of aerosolized anthrax. The control group received no drug. The study was initially planned for 14 days but the results were so encouraging that the study was extended to 28 days...

    “What is particularly interesting is that the small dose we gave to the rabbits provided complete protection against the lethal spore challenge,” noted Leslie Casey, PhD, senior director of research at Elusys. “This tells us that ETI-204 seems to be particularly potent and effective.”

    A previous 14-day study in mice found that ETI-204 prevented death from anthrax in all of the treated animals. All of the animals in the control group, which received no drug, died. Elusys also has evidence that the anthrax bacteria did not escape from the lung, the site of infection.

    ETI-204 is an affinity enhanced, de-immunized antibody, which means that the ability of the antibody to bind to its target has been strengthened and that elements of the antibody that might cause an immune response have been removed. ETI-204 targets and binds to protective antigen, a central component of the anthrax toxins. By binding to protective antigen, ETI-204 prevents the toxins from binding to and entering the cells in the body, thereby preventing death.

    Nice work.

    posted by Justin at 01:42 AM




    The View From 1943
    New tyrants, defending the ancient tyranny, intend to destroy utterly this new idea that men are free. They do not believe it. As firmly as Lycurgus or Nebuchadnezzar, they believe that all men are naturally subject to Authority (all but themselves.) Government, they believe is Authority; they are Government. They accept that responsibility. They believe that they should, and that they do, control the inferior masses. And by the use of the real power, force (permitted by the false beliefs of their wretched subjects) they intend to make their imaginary static world orderly, as it was before the Revolution began.

    Mussolini will bring back the grandeur that was ancient Rome. Hitler will resurrect the Holy Roman Empire of the 16th century and establish it with pagan gods older than Rome, to endure for a thousand years. The Japanese will have all Asia for the Asiatics, as it was before Mohammed was born.

    Fanatic reactionaries, counter-revolutionists, defenders of a tyranny older than history, they imagine that they can go back to the past before America was discovered. And they dare to claim that they are creating a new world!

    And now they are armed. The Revolution has armed them as tyrants never were armed before…

    Blind, ignorant, bestially unable to understand this New World, these counter-revolutionists use free men’s discoveries, their inventions, their techniques and their tools, to tear this earth-encircling network of dynamic, productive energies to pieces and to destroy the freedom that creates it. Idiots who would kill the living thing they want, by clutching it…

    Americans are fighting a World War now because the Revolution is World Revolution. Freedom creates this new world, that cannot exist half slave and half free. It will be free.

    by Rose Wilder Lane


    posted by Justin at 01:14 AM | Comments (2)



    Not Yet Clear On The Concept
    Peace

    Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
    And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
    With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
    To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
    Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
    Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
    And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
    And all the little emptiness of love!

    Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
    Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
    Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
    Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
    But only agony, and that has ending;
    And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

    By Rupert Brooke

    Some critics doubt that he would have written the sonnets later in the war had he lived. They show an enthusiasm that most soldiers and poets eventually lost...Charles Sorley, said of Brooke's poetry, "He has clothed his attitudes in fine words: but he has taken the sentimental attitude."...Sorley was killed in 1915...

    My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that war is an ugly, unpleasant chore. Even when vitally necessary.

    Into cleanness leaping?


    posted by Justin at 12:57 AM | Comments (1)




    the Hume-nist Manifesto

    via ALDaily, Julian Baggini makes an urgent plea at BBC Radio 4 that David Hume be crowned the greatest philosopher of all time:

    The lessons he taught are desperately relevant today, when certainty is only found in religious fundamentalism, yet uncertainty risks a descent into postmodern relativism and intellectual anarchy. In this climate, how do we resolve ethical disputes such as those that rage over stem-cell research, euthanasia and civil liberties versus civic security? How can we trust science when it gets so many things wrong? How do we resolve the great ideological clashes of East and West when there are no unquestionable fundamentals upon which to build agreement? What we need is a Humean approach to provide the intellectual ballast necessary to stay afloat in a sea of uncertainty.

    A quick and interesting (if not scholarly) read. But I'm struck by the subtle undercurrent which appears to be that Hume's philosophy might actually be implemented to solve major moral conflicts (e.g., radical Islam vs. the West, Christian tradition vs. gay marriage). Those who would seem to benefit from Hume's principles would never adopt them. They're contrary to the same belief systems which give rise to moral conflict.

    It's much like the pacifist calling for an end to militarization without realizing that nothing will ever stop the other guys.

    posted by Dennis at 03:33 PM | Comments (1)




    More Wretched Murders

    I've never been to London. It's been on my to do list for a while . Seeing it on TV just now reminded me what a fragile treasure a city is. The people who did this thing aren't really human in my book. Not where it counts. They may think they are, but they're really not. They're former humans, pretending that God loves them, and them alone...

    For the people who had this done to them, my deepest sympathies.

    posted by Justin at 09:30 AM | Comments (6)



    this morning

    After a night of drinking with an old friend I awaken to read something truly sobering: terrorism in the city of London.

    There really isn't much a guy like me can say right now.

    I am puzzled by the refusal of several in the media to call anything terrorism any more. Even now many resort to scare quotes or otherwise assign the claim of terrorism to Prime Minister Blair, as though there were any doubt.

    The practice is unconscionable. Are they cowards or something worse?

    posted by Dennis at 07:51 AM | Comments (3)



    Supreme Court Balkanizes The Nation

    I usually leave the political and topical stuff to Eric. He enjoys it, I don't, and the resulting complementarity seems to work well for both of us.

    That being said, sometimes a political event takes place that cries out for attention, an event so shockingly conspicuous that even a confirmed politics-ducker like myself can't help noticing.

    I refer of course to the supreme court (they no longer deserve capitalization), and their recent Kelo ruling.

    To put it tactfully, it's a freaking outrage. Speaking more forthrightly, it rips the body politic a new one and then defecates in the wound. I have yet to speak with a fellow citizen, any fellow citizen, who approves of this judicial travesty.

    "WTF were they thinking?" doesn't quite do my feelings justice.

    "Rose Wilder Lane Week" continues here at Classical Values, and I thought that perhaps I could tie it in with my own personal dismay at the ongoing evolution (lethal mutation?) of our oh-so-modern takings doctrine.

    Luckily, Mrs. Lane has provided me with a colorful and trenchant anecdote. She had good instincts. I wish I could read her reaction to this latest betrayal of the little guy. I'm sure it would be forceful and direct.

    Here then is another excerpt from "The Discovery of Freedom"...

    Twenty years ago the Dukhagini in the Dinaric Alps were living in the same obedience to their Law of Lek. I tried for hours to convince some of them that a man can own a house.

    A dangerously radical woman of the village was demanding a house. She had helped her husband build it; now she was a childless widow, but she wanted to keep that house. It was an ordinary house; a small, stone-roofed hovel, without floor, window, or chimney.

    Obstinately anti-social, she doggedly repeated, “With these hands, my hands, I built up the walls. I laid the roof-stones with my hands. It is my house. I want my house.”

    The villagers said, “It is a madness. A spirit of the rocks, not human, has entered into her.”

    They were intelligent. My plea for the woman astounded them, but upon reflection they produced most of the sound arguments for communism: economic equality, economic security, social order.

    I said that in America a man owns a house. They could not believe it; they admired America. They had heard of its marvels; during the recent world war they had seen with their eyes the airplanes from that fabulous land.

    They questioned me shrewdly. I staggered myself by mentioning taxes; I had to admit that an American pays the tribe for possession of a house. This seemed to concede that the American tribe does own the house. I was routed; their high opinion of my country was restored.

    Well, there you have it. A sad story, but an instructive one. The highest court in the land has affirmed our right to live like impoverished Balkan peasants. Impoverished peasants of the 1920's, no less.

    What a piece of work. I yield the floor to Mrs. Lane, with a little added emphasis...

    Free thought, free speech, free action, and freehold property are the source of the modern world. It cannot exist without them.


    posted by Justin at 07:10 AM | Comments (2)




    Wilder Days

    It's still "Rose Wilder Lane Week" here at Classical Values. I hope you're as pleased reading these selections as I am presenting them. One thing I've noticed about "The Discovery of Freedom" is that no matter how many inaccuracies I find in it, none detract from the central argument. I hope the rest of you feel the same way.

    One thing that puzzled Mrs. Lane was the enduring obstinacy with which people cling to hurtful ways. Much that is hard in this life could be made easy, if only people acted less like themselves and more like saints.

    Her eventual conclusion was that people value certainty over results. They want to have explanations, not questions, and they will submit willingly to various types of Authority, and its discontents, to remain in that mental comfort-zone. Essentially, they put their faith in myths, some of which are more effective than others.

    Looking around today, I don't see much change. People believe what they believe, and won't thank you over-much for challenging their beautiful theories with ugly little facts. The simple notion that people are free, or ought to be, is still bitterly contested.

    Here's Mrs. Lane's once-over-lightly explanation of a popular superstition of her day...

    Spengler returns to the intangible Authority. He says the Authority is Civilization. He explains that a Civilization springs (is born? Or hatched?) from a changeless, formless,
    Human protoplasm which clings to the surface of the earth, and plows and sows and reaps; this mass is The Eternal Peasant.

    Each Civilization grows up, from infancy to youth to maturity. As an adult , it is Greece, or Rome, or England. Then it grows old and has cancer. The cancer appears as a small, unnoticed city; it grows, it becomes a large city, then a Metropolis. At this stage it is too far advanced for surgery; swiftly it swells into a Megapolis, and kills the civilization.

    The helpless human cells in the dying Civilization grow weak, and weaker, losing energy and courage and even desires. The Civilization dies, and they decay into the formless mass, The Eternal Peasant. From this mass another Civilization will spring, to grow up, to grow old, and to die of Megapolis…

    Never having read Spengler, I cannot vouch for how closely Mrs. Lane's sketch portrays his work. He may or may not have redeeming subtleties that she doesn't touch upon. I have read Toynbee however, who was allegedly influenced by Spengler, and the idea of civilizations as quasi-organic entities permeates his historical analysis. I think she's got their number.

    Certainly, I agree with almost all of the following...

    Of course, any American who is not an intellectual knows that this world is not inhabited by gigantic, invisible creatures called Civilizations. He knows that ordinary men and women, using their energies, make a civilization and keep on making it, every day, every hour, and that nothing but their constant, individual efforts can make a civilization and keep it existing.

    Here's a more personal, and poignant, illustration of how people can get it wrong. I'll take my leave here and let Mrs. Lane have the last word. The following anecdote takes place in 1928...

    When I was living in Albania I had a friend who was one of the finest persons I ever knew. He was an Italian of English ancestry. His mother and his maternal ancestors for many generations had been English. He was fourteen and his brother was nine, when their parents were drowned at sea. The boys had no other near relatives and from that time they were inseparable. They stayed together in schools and universities; they got from the King himself a special permission to do their military service together. They went together to Argentine, and in 1915 returned to join their regiment.

    They were both wounded at Caporetto, and abandoned on the field. My friend reached his brother but was too weak to do anything for him. The brother died during the third night. My friend's wounds still required him to return to hospitals at intervals.

    For weeks I tried to explain to him the American attitude toward war. He could not understand it.

    I was confused, myself, for like most Americans I had taken it for granted that no one wants war. My friend had the best European schooling, Italian, German, and English. He was widely and accurately informed; he was intelligent, open-minded, and eager to understand my puzzling country. The clue, he said, was in our attitude toward war. It baffled him.

    He laughed at the superficial European belief that Americans are mere dollar-chasers. He knew several Americans intimately. He did not find them mercenary, nor cowardly, nor weak, nor—exactly—unpatriotic. American patriotism is peculiar, he said. Americans never say “my fatherland,” “my motherland.” What a peculiar attitude toward your country, to call it Uncle Sam. And notice, he said, the tone in which you say “Uncle Sam,” or, “The States.” It is affectionate; it has a sound of—what should he say? Equality? Tolerance?—as if a confident young man were speaking of a good old uncle. That is not the way in which a man speaks of his country, the fatherland, the motherland, the parent whose child he is.

    And then, the curious American talk about war. He did not believe it was entirely hypocritical. But would I explain the facts?

    ....

    One morning his servant brought a note, asking if he might see me at once, for only a moment. He came in, excited, apologizing for calling at that hour, “but I could not wait to tell you! It came to me in a flash, suddenly, just now. It is materialism! As you have said Signora: Americans hate war because it kills men and destroys property. Suddenly it comes to me. What are lives and property? Material things. All men die, time destroys all property. Lives and property have no value. The immortal value is the soul of a nation, and war regenerates the nation’s soul. Americans can not see spiritual values. That is it, Signora; yes, yes, that is the truth. Deep down, at base, au fond, your countrymen are pure materialists. You see only the material world; you cannot see what war is, because it is spiritual.”

    He had seen his brother die at Caporetto, and he died in Ethiopia, a fine, brave, honorable man, who believed with his whole mind that an individual is a cell in the body of The State, that Authority controls all human beings, and that his own life had no value whatever but service to Immortal Italy.

    posted by Justin at 12:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)



    Name That Critic!

    You might be surprised...

    Michael Moore's Farenheit 9-11 was doing a brisk business for the 10p.m. show at the local cineplex Sunday night, which tells me that the public is hungry for someone to make sense of the events of recent years. It's too bad that Moore has been annointed the Great Explainer because he has only an attitude without a coherent point of view. That attitude mostly consists of paranoia, and it actually explains (and foretells) a lot.

    It accounts for the American public's complicity in its own problems. The grossly obese and slovenly Moore is a poster child for WalMart shoppers everywhere, for their childish addiction to cheap goodies and lack of impulse control. Like the public he represents, Moore has no cognizance of the larger problems behind the churn of recent events, for instance the public's own surrender of its allegience and personal sovereignty to giant corporations and the cheap blandishments they offer in return for slavish loyalty. All you get from Moore is shopper's remorse. He's never gotten over the fact that his hometown of Flint, Michigan, sold its soul to General Motors, and eventually got fucked for doing it.

    The Flint that Moore revisits is a slum partly self-made, full of people too busy watching $50-a-month cable television to paint their houses or even clean up their yards. Moore is angry that the great paternalistic institutions of American life have stopped being good Daddies, and so his ire and paranoia eventually fasten on the chief big daddy of all, the President. The fact that George W. Bush is a pure product of the Daddy class and its agencies feeds Moore's sense of betrayal -- but doesn't lead to any more understanding of the public's predicament. For instance, Moore dwells on the attempt to run an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Does he suppose the oil would only benefit a few fat cats driving Hummers around Houston?

    I say Farenheit 9-11 foretells a lot because as conditions grow more desperate in post-peak-oil America we will see politics grow more delusional -- especially grass roots politics. The poor shlubs who Michael Moore represents will demonize politicians who fail to keep up deliveries of cheap gasoline and bargain merchandise, and in their wrath they'll eventually elect maniacs who will make George W. Bush look like a paragon of prudence. Like the flag-waving angry mother of a dead soldier Moore portrays blundering in rage around Lafayette Park in Washington (a pitiful Moore set-up), the American public will choke on its inchoate grievance as reality withdraws all the presumed entitlements to the world's highest standard of living.
    Michael Moore gives me the chills and the creeps. I see America's future in his ponderous, slovenly, lurching figure, stalking congressmen with his video camera and his childish rhetorical questions. I see a nation of feckless, clueless overfed crybabies building up to tantrum. It will be a long, destructive tantrum with no times-out and it will prevent the nation from getting on with life under the new realities of the 21st century.

    Wow.

    If you've ever been tempted by the siren song of conspiracy theory, here's a bracing antidote. One of the more dismaying traits I've noted in my fellow humans is their love of the broad brush.

    So often I've seen people assume that because person A advocates cause X, they must be in perfectly harmonious agreement with with all those other wicked X-ers. I should know, I've done it myself.

    We would all do well to remember that the "other side" is not a monolithic tissue of evil. "They" are no more capable of unity than "We" are. Which gives me hope. It's like that old saw about having friends you don't know about, in places you never imagined.

    On the other hand, the enemy of my enemy isn't necessarily my friend. Or a good speller.

    Behold our mystery critic, unmasked.

    posted by Justin at 12:07 PM | Comments (3)



    Dependence Days

    der Spiegel's English site has a piece on aid for Africa which flies in the face of the 'common sense' approach, i.e., throw money, problem gone. The piece opens in Rumbek in the south of Sudan where the 'aid workers are thirsty and the beer is flowing,' a place which

    threatens to become a bitter example of how development aid doesn't really help. Again and again finance is hurriedly provided for one project after another, without any evidence of a convincing overall concept. The money is just thrown at projects as quickly as possible. In this case, Norway has made $500,000 available for just 500 refugees in the camps. The windfall immediately sparked off further need and a second camp, this time home to 345 people, has sprung up. It is the Italians who are footing the bill for the new camp.

    Money is, for the Europeans, the solution to all of Africa's problems. But despite yearly payments of, at last count, some $26 billion, the majority of the continent resembles something approaching one big emergency military hospital.

    Aid is fine, of course, but dependency breeds dependency and indiscriminate aid feeds corruption.

    This is a concern for President Bush, and the chorus is large.

    posted by Dennis at 09:07 AM | Comments (1)




    The Day After

    Independence Day plus one and I'm still feeling a warm love-of-country glow. I thought it would be appropriate to let today's selection from Mrs. Lane reflect that.

    What follows is a consideration of American exceptionalism, written in 1943. Mrs. Lane was of the opinion that too much government can be harmful to freedom and the work that free people wish to do. Given its own way, the dead hand of bureaucracy will try to smother innovation in the name of stability (and bribe money). Innovation complicates things.It's difficult enough riding herd on known quantities, so the frugal bureaucrat strives to minimize perturbations. Don't rock the boat.

    At the same time that she railed against this seemingly universal cultural trait, she recognized the necessity of coordinated action, especially when confronting a powerful and unified foe. Survival sometimes calls for sacrifices. Still, it would be entirely too possible to lose vital freedoms by using shortsighted means to save them. Sixty two years of hindsight would seem to support the notion.

    Here it is: the New World.

    No one expected anything like this. No one could imagine it. A hundred years ago, fifty years ago, thirty years ago, no one could imagine a world such as this.

    For six thousand years men and women lived and died young in hunger, filth, and disease. Believing that Authority controlled them, in six thousand years they contrived to build pig-sty shelters (and pyramids, and marble palaces) and to sow grain and cook meat, to saddle horses and yoke oxen and chain slaves to mills and oars…

    Americans at this moment are suspending their exercise of individual freedom; and what is happening to their transportation, their shopping, their normal building, their housekeeping?

    This submission to Authority has always been permanent in the Old World. Americans will turn their terrific energy, the energy of free men, temporarily into war, as Spaniards turned their energy into the conquest of the American hemisphere and all of Europe. Nothing on earth can stand against this American energy in war. But if ever Americans believe that the effectiveness of human energy comes from submission to Authority, they will win this war and lose the New World.

    Inch by inch, it comes. Some recent supreme court decisions (are they merely insane, or are they bought and paid for?) could depress the perkiest optimist. That'd be me.

    The free exercise of natural human rights creates this New World. Stop this exercise of human rights, shed individual responsibility and individual freedom, submit to “control” of ordinary human affairs, and this whole new world of economic abundance, this unprecedented wealth of food, shelter, health, knowledge, comforts, luxuries, pleasures, this young world of swift transportation, swift communication, this dynamic complex of productive human energies encircling the whole planet, can no longer be improved, then no longer be created, then no longer exist.

    In Mrs. Lane's estimation, the American propensity for productive anarchy-within-bounds was what led to the explosion of American creativity she witnessed during her lifetime (1886-1968). Growing up with sod huts and covered wagons, she lived to see the early years of Project Apollo. In 1965, she went to Vietnam as a war correspondent.

    Recognizing the fragility of the enabling conditions of progress, she could only hope for the best and try to remind us of how far it's taken us. The next passages, probably based on personal experience, serve that purpose both admirably and (to my mind) charmingly.

    Forty years ago nobody imagined this America. (There was a $40-a-month mechanic, working ten hours a day, six days a week at his job, and tinkering nights and Sundays in the woodshed behind his little rented house—no bathtub, no running water, no light but a kerosene lamp—in a far, cheap suburb of Detroit; even he did not imagine this America.)

    There were no cars, no highways, no radios or planes, no movies, no tall buildings, no electric lights, no toothpaste, not many toothbrushes, no soda fountains, no bottled soft drinks, no hot-dog stands, no High Schools, no low shoes, no safety razors or shaving cream, no green vegetables in the wintertime and none in cans, no bakers breads or cakes or doughnuts, no dime stores, no super-markets. An orange was a Christmas treat, in prosperous families.

    There was no central heating, and only the very prosperous had bathtubs. They were tin or zinc, encased in mahogany in the homes of the very rich. The rich, too, had gas-lights. Some streets in the largest cities were lighted, with gas-lamps.

    Spring came to American children when mama let them go barefoot. No moderately prosperous parents thought of letting children wear out good shoe-leather in the summertime. Stockings were cotton. Sheets were made at home, of muslin seamed down the center, for looms had never made muslin as wide as a bed. Mother made all the families clothes, except Father’s best suit, and sometimes she still made that.

    Forty years ago, a journey of ten miles to the next town (by buggy or mail-hack or train) was planned and prepared for, at least some weeks in advance. America has been made over. Making America over is a continuous process, now almost a hundred years old.

    When Americans began the Revolution, no one expected this. Thomas Paine and the other revolutionists of his time were not thinking of changing living conditions. They were thinking of moral values.

    What actually occurred, when men could act freely, was a terrific outburst of human energy, changing all life-values, and utterly transforming the material world.

    We've come a far piece, no doubt, but there's plenty left to do. This is no time to say "Enough."

    posted by Justin at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)




    Bookmark For Future Reference

    Just in case the "chickenhawk" argument should twitch, or even draw a tremulous breath in your presence, you'll be wanting a handy refuting reference. The following, from One Hand Clapping, should fill the bill nicely...

    Here are my questions for Duncan Black:


    My son is a lance corporal in the US Marine Corps. He will deploy to Iraq in two months. I myself am a retired US Army artillery officer.

    Do you, Mr. Black, agree that you are kept free and safe only because my son and others like him are risking their lives on your behalf?

    Why have you never served in the armed forces?

    What gives you the justification to speak against the war?

    What are your credentials that make you someone I or our nation’s leaders should listen to regarding national security?

    Why should non-serving supporters be silent while non-serving critics be heard?

    Do you agree that no one except veterans and presently-serving military members should ever decide when the nation shall go to war, and why?

    There's plenty more, so click on over and read it. I particularly liked his closing question.

    Finally, on what basis can you persuade me that you, personally, are not simply a coward of the most craven kind who hides behind anti-war cliches merely to keep intact your own precious skin?

    Well, Duncan? The ball's in your court. Care to share your thoughts?

    posted by Justin at 10:40 PM | Comments (10)



    Happy Fourth, Mrs. Lane

    I've been observing Independence Day this year by re-reading "The Discovery of Freedom" by Rose Wilder Lane. And eating too much barbeque.

    It's an interesting little book, full of hits and misses. Lane herself was not entirely satisfied with it. As she grew older she became aware of certain factual errors in the text, errors that she would just as soon have let lapse into obscurity.

    No such luck for Mrs. Lane. Her work, even when flawed, deserves a wider audience. In fact, I think I'm going to declare "Rose Wilder Lane Week" here at Classical Values.

    We'll start small and see how things go. If I play my cards right, I can stretch this out for days without having an original thought. Without further ado, here's a brief meditation on creative destruction and the American city, coming to us from 1943.

    Where are the sailing ships now?

    Where are the fortunes invested in them? Where are the jobs of the sailmakers and rope-makers, the ships’ carpenters, the brass workers, the sailors and captains and pilots? Where are the fields of flax and hemp that used to blossom blue in New England, and the farmers markets for hemp and flax?

    They were older than history. These investments for money, these markets, these jobs, existed before the Trojan wars. Where are they now?

    They are in the Old World. Full-rigged four masters still beat down the Black Sea to harbor by Istanbul, and the round-eyed Chinese junks sail like schools of fishes over the Sulu Sea to Borneo. Lateen sails still move traffic on the Nile, and fleets of fishermen (how picturesque!) go out under colored sails from every port of the Mediterranean.

    Only on one ocean, between these States and England, the sailing ships have vanished, utterly wiped out in half a century.

    The industrial revolution destroys. It is a stream of living human energy as ruthless as Nature itself, destroying to create and creating to destroy. It makes all forms of wealth as impermanent as life. Rome, Paris, Vienna, Nuremburg, are solid rock; decade after decade, century after century those buildings stand. Every American city is a fountain of energy.

    How they rise, (and fall) the incredible sky-reaching buildings, more tremendous, more beautiful, loftier and more living than any Acropolis, pyramid or castle ever imagined.

    Happy Fourth of July.


    posted by Justin at 09:23 PM | Comments (2)



    Return of the Prodigal Blogger

    Before I begin, happy Independence Day! We sure gave those Brits hell, didn't we boys?

    Wouldn't you know that just when Eric goes on vacation and we're loosed from the task master's shackles I have to drive to Michigan for a wedding, and spend the weeked in Indiana getting fattened up on good old-fashioned heartland cuisine without any reliable internet access?

    Better late than never. And now that Classical Values is all mine (and Justin's) I ... am tired from the trip and honestly haven't paid much attention to the outside world. I read a big chunk of the Iliad between naps in the car, and have been engrossed with the history of classical scholarship and the transmission of texts.

    Blogworthy material all.

    And one of the most noteworthy events of my weekend was spotting a dedicatory brick on a walkway at a certain midwestern college which read 'A POX ON BIG GOVERNMENT.'

    But until I get settled in here again I'd like to point you toward the Onion A.V. Club's review of George Romero's Land of the Dead. (Be sure to read the caption under the photo.)

    I'll be seeing the film sometime this week with an old friend who just flew into town, and we're both sure it's an instant classic.

    Now where's Justin been?

    posted by Dennis at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)




    Vacation at last!

    Can it be?

    Starting this afternoon I'm taking a two week vacation (a much-needed one, too).

    Justin and Dennis will be left in charge of all official Classical Values blogging.

    My official return will be July 15, so until then, don't expect any regular activity from me. Irregular or intermittent -- if that -- will be the best I can do from place to place (or port to port) . . .

    MORE: As I announce my vacation I am informed (by Urthshu) that Sandra Day O'Conner has announced her retirement.

    A shame, since she's one of the four justices with some degree of respect for American freedom (at least the right to own your house).

    But politics never takes a vacation.

    Thanks everyone; see you soon!

    posted by Eric at 10:41 AM | Comments (4)



    A new protected category for bloggers?

    As I was painfully laboring over stuff I've written in the past about whether the First Amendment is influenced by such things as importance or monetary value, I remembered an always important, always valuable consideration, which is now emerging as a major factor in blogging:

    Sex appeal!

    That's right; according to a headline in the June 27 Philadelphia Metro,

    Bloggers are the new sexy

    The pdf is slow as hell (and the story is on page 13), so here's a sexy screenshot, uploaded with lots of love!

    Newsexy.JPG

    If bloggers are in fact sexy, then it follows that because all sex is political (and therefore politically protected), bloggers' new status as sex symbols must make them politically inviolate.

    Even the FEC can't maintain that McCain-Feingold was intended to regulate the sexy.

    Not with a straight face.

    posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (4)



    Holding hostages and influencing people

    Speculation over whether the newly "elected" Iranian president might be the same Iranian student hostage taker (photographed repeatedly during the 444 day seige) made it into yesterday's and today's Philadelphia Inquirer, and is raging its way through the blogosphere. (See InstaPundit, Gateway Pundit, Little Green Footballs, Rusty Shackleford, Captain Ed for starters.)

    The evidence presented by Gateway Pundit looks damningly impressive to me.

    Former OSU officials involved in the takeover of the U.S. embassy said Ahmadinejad was in charge of security during the occupation, a key role that put him in direct contact with the nascent security organizations of the clerical regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which he later joined.

    Defectors from the clerical regime’s security forces have revealed that Ahmadinejad led the firing squads that carried out many of the executions. He personally fired coup de grace shots at the heads of prisoners after their execution and became known as “Tir Khalas Zan” (literally, the Terminator).

    Surely whoever this man was, the government must know where he is now.

    Ahmadinejad, for his part, denies being the same man, although he admits he would have liked to have been there. (Another student is quoted as saying Ahmadinejad played no role, although he "had wanted to." So what stopped him?)

    There is a very simple solution. Iran being a totalitarian-style government which keeps track of people, considering that the "student leader" is a hero (as well as former hostage-taker security chief), why don't they simply produce the real guy?

    That could clear the whole thing up, although either way, Ahmadinejad remains a committed, nuke-seeking enemy of the United States.

    He's more dangerous now than in 1979.

    posted by Eric at 08:44 AM | Comments (3)



    Free speech is expensive!

    What McCain-Feingold hasn't regulated, the copyright laws soon will.

    What happened to Google last year has just happened to Amazon. It seems search engines are now being routinely sued for copyright infringement.

    The plaintiff (which I will not name, lest I too get sued for infringement) has been described as "an unsuccessful California pornography business that has branched out into the litigation business with the same results."

    Let's hope they're unsuccessful this time.

    Sheesh.

    I mean, search engines? These things are bots, for crying out loud.

    At this rate, political critics will find themselves sued for copyright infringement of the things or people they criticize.

    (Er, but hasn't that happened already?)

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



    "No law" means no law to respect

    I get really discouraged sometimes, and it's almost always over intractable human stupidity.

    McCain Feingold is the worst disaster that ever befell the First Amendment, and yet the damned fools who passed it illegally sit idly by while the mischief grows.

    The idea of assigning a monetary value to speech so that it can be regulated as a "contribution" is so utterly repugnant to our tradition that it's just mind boggling.

    Just wait till the bureaucrats, lawyers, and various meddlers sink their teeth into this labyrinth.

    Once it begins to sink in that employers become campaign contributors for words their employees issued at work, then daytime blogging as we know it will be all but abolished for everyone except the self employed. Bloggers will be fired, government scrutiny of business and Internet records will be invited as never before, and why? Because Congress failed to understand the meaning of four simple words: "shall make no law."

    If these provisions are not repealed, the only remedies will be impeachment (impossible, because the bastards have safety in numbers), or massive civil disobedience.

    It never should have come to this.

    As I said before, when Congress is without power to make a law, any law which purports to issue is by definition a nullity. The restrictions on free speech are as valid as Gavin Newsom's same sex marriage licenses.

    Even the issue of "respect for law" is premature without a valid law to respect.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds earlier pointed to some good questions about the so-called "media exemption":

    Why is somebody who prints up and mails out weekly vanity newsletter entitled to the media exemption but not me?

    Why is Michael Savage entitled to the media exemption but not me?

    Why is Salon.com entitled to the media exemption but not me?

    To which I'd add, why would "Classical" Values be less entitled to the "media exemption" than "Traditional" ones?

    There's no rational answer that I can find. Unless the country has been magically transformed from "Congress shall make no law" to "free speech for me(dia) but not for thee."

    Anyway, I'm glad to see all sides of the blogosphere agree on something this important. Here's Daily Kos's AC Bonin:

    ...as you probably know, it is generally illegal to devote any resources of a corporation towards political activity. They've established a "safe harbor", however, which states that if it's not more than one hour a week, or four hours a month, then it's not significant enough to regulate -- and they want to extend this to the use of a corporation's computers and internet access as well. Clearly, that's not enough for the users here who work at corporations, but can you think of a better way to allow you to do what you do here -- while protecting us from Wal-Mart establishing "Blog On Behalf Of Your Favorite Republican Day" for their officials?
    More at RedState.

    And here's Feingold himself:

    at this point, I don't see any reason why the FEC shouldn't include legitimate online journalists and bloggers in the "media exemption" rule.
    Well isn't that charitable of him to offer bloggers "inclusion" in the First Amendment! What outrages me is to see such arrogance passed off as conciliation. Where did Russ Feingold get the right to decide whose First Amendment rights are worth protecting and whose are not?

    What does he think he is? Commissar of Speech?

    MORE: Does my blog non-partisan effort need to obtain 501(c) status in order to escape the long arm of the FEC? And do I also have to stop calling it a blog?

    (Before anyone laughs too hard, why isn't "END THE CULTURE WAR BY RESTORING CLASSICAL VALUES" a charitable purpose?)

    posted by Eric at 12:03 AM | Comments (7)




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