What to do when there's not much you can do . . .

I spent most of the afternoon in New Jersey, but I got back in time to contemplate the utter devastation in New Orleans. There's not much I can do except give money, and fortunately, Glenn Reynolds made it easier by providing lots of links to the various charities. I decided to give to Catholic Charities, because I worked with them years ago in San Francisco (at the peak of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s), and they were great. I'm not Catholic, but I was impressed because they didn't proselytize, and they didn't judge anyone. On top of that, they didn't have the lavish offices and big salaries which some of the other, more media-savvy charities have. New Orleans is a heavily Catholic city, so I figured my money would go farther if I gave through Catholic Charities.

Not that I'm trying to convince anyone to use Catholic Charities, mind you.

Just GIVE.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, FEMA has a comprehensive list of charities here.

posted by Eric at 11:58 PM | Comments (11)

Taking demonization seriously

I'm taking a bit of time not thinking about the Hurricane to address this delinking campaign against Glenn Reynolds. While I hate having to take something like this seriously (especially at such a time), I can't ignore it -- especially because one of my posts might have helped start the fire.

It's tough to know just how to analyze something like this, so I'll start by being as serious as I can under ths circumstances.

Glenn Reynolds dared to voice a couple of slightly sympathetic sentiments about the ACLU (even though he also criticized them). And he dared to actually side with them about the criminalization of glow sticks, and even had the gall to assist with a brief defending electronic music alleged to be drug related!

For these offenses, he's being subjected to a delinking campaign. For daring to deviate however slightly from someone's agenda.

I'm sorry but this is so silly it sounds like he's being...


For failure to demonize -- a crime almost as bad as not buying a particular brand of politically correct, shade-grown coffee.

Or even wearing a politically incorrect T-shirt!

The man behind the delinking campaign appears to be Jay Stephenson -- the primary author of the blog Stop the ACLU:

Glenn sends his readers here telling them we are delinking because he said that “demonizing the ACLU is silly.” We don’t think it is silly at all. And Glenn is entitled to his opinion. We just no longer wish to link to someone that supports an anti-American organization.
Wait. They don't think demonizing the ACLU is silly? So, that means demonizing the ACLU is serious? Is that all this is about? Glenn thought demonizing the ACLU was silly and Stephenson (or whoever's behind him) didn't? And what's with the anti-American business? I mean, if the ACLU is anti-American, and if Glenn Reynolds said he's willing to work with them, why, that must mean Glenn Reynolds is anti-American, right?

That's almost as bad as calling me a liberal! Or a conservative! Or accusing Glenn Reynolds of being behind the "RADICAL RIGHT-WING AGENDA." (No really; check it out.)

Not long ago, Eugene Volokh reviewed a letter he received from these same people, which he demonstrated to be misleading. His conclusion:

...stop calling them "criminal" for exercising their constitutional rights. Stop calling their lawsuits "frivolous" when the lawsuits bother you precisely because they may well prevail. Stop calling them "pro-terrorist" when there's absolutely no reason to think that they indeed favor terrorism, and lots of reason to think that they favor (whether soundly or misguidedly) legal rules -- such as limits on government power to search -- that unfortunately sometimes protect terrorists while at the same time protecting law-abiding citizens. (It's far from clear to me that random searches are going to do much good at stopping suicide bombers, or that bans on random searches will help terrorists; but I acknowledge that some constitutional rules that the ACLU defends do at times protect terrorists as well as protecting law-abiding citizens.)

What is in question here, indeed, is "the definition of freedom." There is lots of room for good faith disagreement about the scope of our freedoms. But that some people have a broader view than you do -- whether it relates to the right to bear arms, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to counsel, the right to spend one's money for political causes -- doesn't make them criminals, doesn't make them pro-criminal or pro-terrorist, and doesn't make their arguments frivolous.

(More on this outfit at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

Let me admit my biases here. I don't trust the ACLU, but even less do I trust the people who'd like to knock the ACLU out so they can crackdown on sexual freedom. That's a primary, stated goal of Alan Sears and the Alliance Defense Fund -- principal leaders of this charge.

I worry about the Second Amendment freedoms as much as my First Amendment freedoms, and my biggest single problem with the ACLU is their near total lack of support for gun owners' rights. (I'm also very worried about what seems excessive support for dangerous terrorists.) Nevertheless if Glenn (or someone like him) gets gun lovers and libertarians to infiltrate the ACLU and turn the place around, I think that would that be a good thing. For the country and for our freedom.

Not these delinking guys. They are unable to tolerate the slightest deviation from their singleminded campaign against the ACLU.

They promise links and more to all who delink the evil Glenn Reynolds:

If you agree, and delink Glenn let us know and we will add you to the list. If you have never linked to Glenn for whatever reason, we will add you to the list as well. If you have a post about this, send us a trackback and it will appear as a link below. If it gets big enough I’ll start a blogroll.
(Whoa, delink Glenn and we might give you a little traffic! Such a deal for the newer bloggers. Take on the Big Bad InstaPundit and get a leg up on the sphere! Show off your supreme, posturing, coolness!) I don't mean to suggest that all the delinking blogs are small blogs; one of them, Junkyard Blog once threatened Glenn with confiscation of his LEGOs. But I suspect this delinking has an strong appeal to bloggers who think they deserve more attention.

I can't help noticing that links to Alan Sears' book and his organization are prominently displayed by both Stop the ACLU.org (the parent site) and Stop the ACLU.com (the blog). Because I devoted most of a long post to Sears, and because the post was linked by Glenn not long before the delinking began, it has crossed my mind that the people supporting the book might have seen my post.

And not liked it.

Let me say right now that if anything I said in any way entered into their delinking thinking, I humbly offer my blog Classical Values to be officially delinked instead! (Yes, I'm willing to be the sacrificial lamb....) All those who delinked Glenn can blogroll him again, and then link me in order to delink me! (Don't laugh; it's happened before!)

But who, I must ask, are these people? There's a site (described as the parent organization) called Stop The ACLU.org, which features a link to Alan Sears' book's web site with a picture of the book prominently displayed, and both that site and the Stop the ACLU.com blog link Sears's organization, the Alliance Defense Fund, prominently.

The parent organization's director, Nedd Kareiva, is a member of the Constitution Party who has devoted himself singlemindedly to stopping the ACLU:

The Stop the ACLU Coalition has one goal: to end the ACLU's tangible existence. We will achieve this by every lawful means possible, including but not limited to:

1. boycotting all companes, corporations, foundations, lawyers, politicians and others who benefit financially from the ACLU or who donate to them

2. recruiting current ACLU supporters and members by sharing with them the ACLU's agenda for to America and urging them to join the Stop the ACLU Coalition

3. gathering millions of petitions to send to the ACLU to let them know the outrage across America against their agenda

4. marching unitedly across all ACLU offices across America and publicly showing massive opposition to the ACLU's harm of America; sharing and educating churches, synagogues and patriots all across our land, regardless of political party, the need to stand up to the ACLU

5. showing both moral and tangible support to people and groups who are plaintiffs or defendants in lawsuits with the ACLU

6. urging state and federal lawmakers to defund ACLU lawsuits and enact legislation preventing frivolous lawsuits such as litigation based on an individual or individuals claiming to be offended by prayers, religious symbols or other forms of Constitutionally permitted expressions.

I think number 6 might be code language referring to the Constitution Restoration Act, especially considering Stop the ACLU Coalition Director Nedd Kareiva's remarks in a letter to supporters:
To do so, visit the home page www.stoptheaclu.org and scroll about a fifth of the way down to where the image of the 10 Commandments is in the left margin. Follow the instructions on the page and ask your Congressmen to support Congressman John Hostettler's bills HR 2679 & HR 1100.

You can also go to Court Zero's web site (one of our supporters) to take action as well.

The second course of action is to demand your Congressmen and senators introduce and work to pass legislation to prevent the likes of the ACLU from bringing lawsuits from people who claim to simply be offended. Ask them to modify the ability to bring such litigation under the 1st Amendment's Establishment clause. Inserting a clause that would mandate the ACLU paying the opposing party's legal fees in the event of an adverse ruling would also be very helpful and stem the abuse that is going on in courts around the country. (Emphasis added.)

This is misleading, as there's no right not to be offended, and it isn't a sound basis for a lawsuit. But the Constitution Restoration Act (of which I'm not much of a fan) would do far more that protect from lawsuits against "being offended."

Speaking of being offended, in the Stop the ACLU newsletter, Director Kareiva seems pretty offended by the sex life of the ACLU's director:

....the ACLU's Anthony Romero, an avowed and practicing homosexual, as its director for the past 4 years
What's with "avowed" and "practicing"? When was the last time anyone "avowed" or "practiced" heterosexuality? I mean, what's to practice? If you're into something, you're into it. You don't need to "avow" it either. The words seem calculated for effect. For whose and how, I don't know.

Jay Stephenson (blogmaster and post writer at Stop the ACLU.com), also promotes his blog in his capacity as a FreePer named "Jay777." In one robust thread of his, he attacks the ACLU for supporting gay inmates who'd complained of being abused in prison, and he posted the original story:

LOS ANGELES The Los Angeles sheriff's department is investigating claims by the American Civil Liberties Union that gay inmates have been mistreated at a county jail.

The A-C-L-U claims about 20 gay inmates were forced to remove their clothes in a busy hallway July 19th at the Men's Central Jail while being called names and taunted with vulgar sexual language by some deputies.

The A-C-L-U wants anti-discrimination training for all deputies.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said jail supervisors launched an investigation two weeks ago. He said the department's Equity Oversight Panel, which investigates discrimination allegations against sheriff's employees, is also reviewing the claims.

Following that, he plugs his blog (complete with the logo), as well as Alan Sears' Alliance Defense Fund. In the comment thread which followed, Jay is slick enough not to specifically endorse the abuse of gay prisoners, but nonetheless attacks the ACLU for daring to defend them:
To: Jay777

Those poor felons.

4 posted on 08/07/2005 1:47:17 PM PDT by SteveMcKing
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies ]
To: SteveMcKing

gay ones at that.

I just want to make it clear that I don’t condone what these guards are doing. The main reason I posted this was to prove a point. I hear the argument all the time about robust freedom of speech. I hear from the left that ALL speech must be protected or it all goes down the drain. I hear this in defending and sympathizing with our enemy, sex offenders, pedophiles, and burning the flag. But when it comes to gays, pro-lifers, and those of other races besides white people then it doesn’t apply.

It's clearly agenda driven.

5 posted on 08/07/2005 1:48:20 PM PDT by Jay777 (My personal blog: www.stoptheaclu.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies ]
To: Jay777

Abuse? These guys pay to stand around naked in bath houses. They should be charging the gay inmates for the experience.

Needless to say, the gay prisoners are relentlessly ridiculed. Some of the juicier comments:
I condone bad things that happen to bad people, and good things that happen to good folks. Details don't concern me in the least.

OH the horror, don't these guys stand around naked in bath houses or rest stops? What's the difference? ACLU disgusts me, if these were just regular white guys no mention of this would be made. Damn the ACLU to hell!
There's more of that stuff, if you like it. I suspect without supporters like these, Jay777 wouldn't be getting as much attention. Frankly, I'd be honored to be delinked by him. But it's an honor I'll never get, because I don't think he's ever going to link me.

As to Glenn, there's that old saying that a man is judged by his enemies. . . Were I he, I'd consider it an honor.

As to actual demonization, I was quite taken by comment Jay Stephenson left at Rapture Ready:

....I see prophecy unfold daily. We fight evil in our own ways. My focus is on the ACLU.

By the way, I like all the references to the ACLU in this post. The HQ of the anti-Christ spirit in America.

The Headquarters of the anti-Christ spirit in America?

And to think that Glenn said demonization was silly! There's nothing silly about this, because if the ACLU is the anti-Christ HQ, and Glenn Reynolds is an avowed, practicing minion of the ACLU, how far up the chain of beasts might this go?

Could it be, Glenn Reynolds, Anti-Christ?

In the past, I've carefully considered his status as an apocalyptic advocate of one party rule, but this? I mean, this is the real thing! It's, like, totally APOCALYPTIC!


Who said demonization was silly?

UPDATE (09/01/05): Perhaps I failed to make it clear that I think this delinking-for-failure-to-demonize campaign is silly. (I think it's pretty obvious what I think, and why, but it may not be as clear to others.)

Let me stress an important point I don't think should be missed -- and that is the manifest unfairness of spinning Glenn Reynolds as some sort of pro-ACLU hack.

Far from it! Here are some examples of remarks which I'd venture would be enough to get Glenn placed on some sort of ACLU "enemies list" (if such a thing exists):

  • Sarcastically ridiculed the ACLU;
  • Criticized the ACLU's stance on federalism;
  • Slammed the ACLU for Second Amendment hypocrisy, while wondering aloud how much media attention the burning of ACLU membership cards would get;
  • Hey wait a minute! What kind of person would crack jokes about a serious thing like burning ACLU membership cards, anyway? (Did we really need more evidence of Reynolds' close ties to the RADICAL RIGHT-WING AGENDA?)

  • Sarcastically wondered whether the ACLU would get involved in defending conservative speech;
  • Called the ACLU "more and more a subsidiary of the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party";
  • Linked to Stop the ACLU -- and in a positive manner!
  • The above list is not intended to be exhaustive; they're just what I could find easily, and no doubt a left wing dirt digger could come up with more.

    But (as if the genocidal T shirt wasn't enough) haven't I just proved to the world the true reality of Glenn Reynolds? Why is he allowed to masquerade as a liberal when the record shows he is little more than a bigot and a cracker?

    What we ought to be asking is whether it's time for a left-wing delinking campaign.

    UPDATE: Eugene Volokh weighs in (in his customary fearless and articulate manner):

    Given {the delinking campaign against Glenn Reynolds], I think that people ought to know that (1) I am working with the ACLU now on a free speech case in Michigan, (2) I've worked with them on opposing the anti-flagburning amendment and the victims' rights amendment, (3) I have defended them from what struck me as unwarranted attacks here, here, and (4) I have praised their positions here, here, and, I'm sure, elsewhere as well.

    I have also criticized the ACLU's positions on other matters in places too numerous to mention (do a search for ACLU on this site and you'll find quite a few), as have my cobloggers. I think demonizing the ACLU, like lots of other over-the-top rhetoric, is indeed a bit silly and counterproductive, and tends to lead the demonizer into factual and logical errors. If you think this puts me in league with the demons, why, you know what to do.

    While that might have been phrased in the language of full disclosure, the way things are going in the blogosphere, why, it's tantamount to a full-blown admission of heresy!

    MORE: And now for a little self disclosure. By way of explanation (if not apology), I must state for the record that I'm just not in the mood for PhotoShopping more law professors into Anti-Christs.

    (Or Communists.)

    AND MORE: A lingering, disturbing question in my mind is more along the lines of psychology than the merits of either the ACLU or the propriety of a delinking campaign. And that is:

    why now?

    The nation is in the middle of the worst horror since September 11, 2001. Might something about this horror have sparked a conflict between the rightist and libertarian elements of the blogosphere?

    Or is it a coincidence?

    posted by Eric at 11:30 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (2)

    I'm not an atheist, but I can't see this as an act of God

    Paul at Wizbang reports that there are an estimated 100,000 people trapped in New Orleans (which is of course in imminent danger of destruction by flooding). "Biblical," opines Paul. The 100,000 figure is confirmed here as well as in the Shreveport Times.

    I don't know whether I'd use the expression "Biblical" (because of the emotional connotations and misinterpretation it carries), but I hate seeing people engaged in denial, and like everyone else I just want to know the truth. If it's true that "eighty percent" of a city of half a million were evacuated, then there are going to be serious problems getting the rest out.

    Ominously, I just heard on the radio that "the body count is alleged to be in the thousands," and that "the news media are asleep."

    (I hope this is not true, but what do I know?)

    What else is there to do than hope and pray?

    Again send money is the only thing I can think of.

    UPDATE (08/31/05 -- 2:20 pm): Via Fox News, I just saw a report that the Mayor of New Orleans now says New Orleans casualties may number "in the hundreds, if not thousands."

    MORE: As of 2:53 pm, the Mayor's statement is now reported as "probably thousands dead."

    MORE (03:19 p.m.): Right now I am watching (on Fox News) the sad spectacle of people pouring onto freeways from flooded housing projects with nowhere to go (there's no place for them), without food or water, or protection from the sun in 90 degree heat, with police cars driving by saying nothing. (They tried to stop a police car with a human chain to no avail, and I just saw an officer ignore repeated pleading questions from reporter Fox's Shepherd Smith. It's disturbing to say the least.)

    It makes me very angry that they can't even drop some food and water from a helicopter to these people.

    I now see a military truck coming through with water.

    People are simply helping each other ("thousands of people coming for two days" as Smith said). Smith keeps asking what's happening, but he's not getting answers.

    Says Smith: "Someone needs to come to Interstate 10, Exit 235, the Orleans exit! There are thousands of people here!"

    I hope bureaucracy isn't standing in the way of common sense, and I'm glad it's on national TV.

    MORE: I have no training in engineering, but I don't understand why dropping sand bags would fix the breached levee on Lake Pontchartrain. Earlier someone or another mentioned barges. The break is three blocks long, and I think they'd need to float in a series of barges to whatever length is needed, tie them together with cables, then cement them together to make a patch. I note that Lake Pontchartrain is only 12-14 feet deep, so the barges could simply be sunk into place once they're secured together, and if need be, a second "layer" floated in and sunk on top. (Tie them together, punch holes in them, sink them, and fill them in.)

    I think any kid who'd played with a LEGO set would understand.

    But what do I know?

    UPDATE: I got Paul's name wrong and I now see that I also misread his use of the term "Biblical":

    There'll be plenty of time to show off your 20/20 hindsight next week. For now, accept this for what it is... a natural disaster of biblical proportions.
    My apologies.

    Paul (who lives in the area) also has some solid advice on what to do:

    If you want to do something, quit yer whining and do what blogs and bloggers do best... Use information to change the world.

    99% of us have no idea how our neighborhoods did. Somebody try to find and compile (reliable) damage reports from specific neighborhoods. Sure it takes some local knowledge, but google maps will fill in the blanks. [Update: The levee broke and the whole damn town flooded so I guess we can check this one off the list.]

    We don't know how FEMA works. Somebody read the news reports on what FEMA is doing and what it is not... Somebody read their site and distill it for those of us who don't have time for red tape.

    Flood insurance? I know the feds handle it. Who do I need to talk to? What do they pay?

    Every natural disaster I send the Red Cross my standard $100 donation. I have no idea how to get money from them. It is a grant or a loan?

    If I don't actually cancel my phones and my bill is auto-debit do they still bill me?

    If I shut off my phone will I lose my number?

    Heck- Somebody make an "Evacuee survival guide" with laser precision information on how to get help without clicking 50 links or waiting on hold 2 hours. If you can save 25,000 people 5 hours of looking up the same information, think of the power in that!

    Think of the simple things- Thousands of people lost their glasses. Somebody set up a website where they can coordinate donations of (known) prescription glasses from people who no longer need them. Get a freight company to donate the freight. I bet FedEx will give you an account number that will route all the glasses to some agency in New Orleans.

    If you do something to help the victims, ping this post... If there is a lot of people helping out, Kevin will set up a post with the links. (I just volunteered him ;)

    Think about it for a second from my chair... (I'm not whining but) I'm almost 40 years old.... Here is the sum total of all my worldly possessions: 4 pairs of shorts, 5 shirts, 2 pairs of shoes, 4 pairs of underwear, 1 pair of blue jeans, a box of family pictures, 2 flashlights, a piece of trench art my grandfather brought back from WWI and my father's hammer. (Hey, it means a lot to me!) That's it. Everything else is gone. And BTW, I'm unemployed.

    I tell you that not to whine but to let you see the tree thru the forest. Multiply my situation by about a million. Stop and think about that... A million people homeless and unemployed.

    If you're a blogger then (by near definition) you're a self proclaimed talented person. Prove it. They'll be plenty of time for punditry and pontification next month... In the mean time there is work to be done. Figure out how to help the victims.

    Please (for the sake of all of us who actually understand the situation) please stop whining about the evacuation. It was a stunning success. Please stop saying that the levee at 17th street and Canal St. broke... There's no such place. (and no, FOXNews, even if there was such a place, I assure you, it would be on the south side of the lake and not the north side of the lake where you showed it on your map)

    So here it is in a nutshell... Let's get some work done and play Monday morning quarterback sometime in early 2006. There's about million or so of us who would prefer it that way.

    It's tough to talk about stuff you care about and know nothing about except what you hear on TV and radio, and read in the blogosphere.

    It's the same reason I try not to do too much war blogging. The thing is, if you say nothing, people assume you don't care.

    But if you say something, people will say you don't know!

    posted by Eric at 11:22 AM | Comments (2)

    Brewing an Inciteful Carnival

    I'm a little embarrassed.

    That's because John Beck (who's hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities at his super blog Incite) ranked my post way too highly -- giving me second billing only to Laurence Simon's Carnival of the Cats! (This week's Carnival of the Cats is hosted by the charmingly named Annoying Little Twerp -- The Annoying Little Psycho Girl Next Door. I note that her picture looks disturbingly like Coco's boyfriend Tristan.)

    Here's the justification John gave for assigning me such an undeservedly high ranking:

    ...unlike any other blogger featured here today, I know for a fact that Eric has good taste in German Brewhauses. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is an ideal criterion by which to judge a blogger.
    I'm flattered by the honor, but I think it's fair to point out that John also has equally good taste in German Brews.

    And good taste in Carnivals! After seeming to regret that the Carnival contains "fewer than 50 posts," he methodically, humorously goes through 48 -- without so much as a burp!

    (Which is fewer than the number of German brews he went through the other night, so I think John could have handled more!)

    Anyway, I don't have the responsibility to review all 48, but the following stood out as particularly flavorful:

  • According to Brian J. Noggle, Norman Mineta dislikes the law of supply and demand, so he's imposing government solutions.
  • Mister Snitch notes the historical irony of Bush being hated almost as much as... Lincoln!
  • Funny Business relates an automotive horror story with a happy ending: a simple problem had been complicated by the standard (and expensive) industry practice of "remove and replace" -- without regard to common sense.
  • What do you do after graduation if you spent your time as a student of Journalism writing "inaccurate, virulently anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic" screeds? According to Solomonia (who has incredible graphics, BTW) you find work with a National Public Radio affiliate! (Why am I not surprised?)
  • Did you know that the S&P500 average annual rate of return from 1900 through 2004 is 7.78%? I didn't, but Political Calculations proves it.
  • I realize that tastes in blog posts, like tastes in brews, will vary according to the individual drinker/reader, and so I seriously suggest you go directly to Incite, and drink to your heart's content!

    posted by Eric at 08:01 AM | Comments (3)

    Opportunistic homeland insecurity

    In an Editor & Pubisher article titled "Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?" a series of Times Picayune editorials are cited for the proposition that the devastation caused by the Hurricane should be blamed on ("Bush's") war in Iraq:

    after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

    Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming....Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

    In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

    On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.”

    Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:

    "The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them."

    The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

    The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.

    There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

    “That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.”

    The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.

    One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.

    The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House....In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

    Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

    I think we can expect more along the lines of "we can no longer afford the adventure in Iraq when our country is falling apart here!"

    It's a golden opportunity.

    For political opportunists.

    posted by Eric at 06:26 AM

    Fever Dreams

    When I was twelve, I had a fever dream.

    I saw a few things that couldn’t be real, and they frightened me.

    Some background may be in order. What nobody knew when I first felt ill was that I was suffering from an infection of the meninges, the membranes that wrap around the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis...it’s not necessarily a death sentence, but for a while there it was definitely touch and go.

    It happened much like this. I had gone home from school one Thursday afternoon with the worst headache of my life. Going straight to bed seemed like just the ticket. Aspirin proved totally useless, as did hot water bottles. All I could do was lie in bed and moan.

    Friday morning, I felt no better. I pled illness to my parents and was allowed to stay home for the day. Unbeknownst to my parents, my mild 99 degree fever would eventually burgeon and grow strong, achieving a respectable 104 plus. Time passed.

    Now, when your brain commences toasting itself, many interesting symptoms can manifest. For me, they would eventually include severe disorientation, vivid hallucinations, uncontrollable mood swings (mostly between despair and terror), intermittent memory loss, and of course, unconsciousness.

    It was my great good fortune that the infection was bacterial, not viral, and that it was caught in time. After a diagnostic spinal tap, a course of intravenous antibiotics was promptly administered, and it worked beautifully. Within a couple of (for me, quite long) days, I was my old self again. Sort of. The kindly doctors had saved my life.

    Naturally, I was weak as a kitten. I missed a couple of weeks of school and then spent most of spring break flat on my back. Much bed rest was prescribed. Normal life resumed when vacation ended, but I went back to school a different boy. My bout with delirium had left quite an impression on me. I thought about it at great length.

    One thing about a fever dream is that it’s not like sleeping dreams. In sleeping dreams you often are aware in the back of your mind that you are, in fact, having a dream. Bad, scary things may happen but the logic of dreams is such that you often know there’s no real danger.

    But a fever dream can crawl right out of your head and into the real world, where it will sit, bold as brass, looking at you. And you needn’t be asleep to have one.

    I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it, even at this late date, but one of the things I saw was little men. Well, they weren’t exactly men. But they were most certainly little, and they were looking at me. They were sitting on the foot of my hospital bed, looking at me, and they were as real as real can be.

    But, I get ahead of myself.

    As I recall, my dad was the one who drove me to the hospital. I remember sprawling bonelessly across the back seat of his sedan, barely able to place one coherent thought on top of another. I remember him picking me up and carrying me into the building. It was the first time that he had lifted me off the ground in several years and I still remember the feel of it. I remember being put down on one of those examining room tables, the kind where a roll of crackly white paper extrudes to cover the table's surface. And then, with the exception of a singular occurrence, which I’ll touch on later, I don’t remember anything at all, for the next thirty odd hours.

    When I finally came back to reality, it wasn’t all at once. There were a few stutters in the reboot process, leaving gaps in my memory of a few hours each. My first clear memory was past midnight, early Sunday morning. Or was it late Saturday? I wasn’t tracking too well.

    I had no idea where I was or how I had gotten there. I was alone in a hospital room in the middle of the night, having temporarily misplaced the memories of my arrival. I was also tied to the bedstead, with minimal freedom of movement. All I could do was lie there and wonder what was going on.

    Though I have no memory of my first day and a half of treatment, I was apparently thrashing about and hollering with a fair degree of vigor. It would seem that I was “fit to be tied”. So that was exactly what they did. Anyway, I was blacked out for most of that time, so I had no recollection of it at all. How had I arrived in this place? Where were my parents? Where was anybody?

    After what seemed an eternity of miserable introspection, I began to notice something peculiar about my room. The ceiling kept expanding downward toward me. This struck me as bizarre and sinister. Ceilings should not thrust bulging paraboloidal extensions toward the occupants of their rooms. It was a bit like watching a gigantic amoeba. I tried reaching up toward it. I was certain I could have touched it if I hadn’t been tied down. It was that close.

    Eventually, I noticed that threads of shiny green fiber were floating around in midair. They reminded me of spider silk, or thistledown, drifting here and there in the air currents. These threads slowly and subtly adhered to one another, forming bodies of greater and greater solidity. Eventually I realized that they were fish, silky green fish with ornate diaphanous fins, swimming about in the air above my bed.

    Now, this troubled me deeply. The bulging ceiling, on the other hand, had ceased to be a problem. Close inspection had shown that it was a gigantic flexible lattice of construction paper, no doubt assembled as a decorative project by the schoolchildren whose treble voices were wafting into my room through the transom window. A window thoughtlessly left wide open, generating a draft, which in turn caused the lattice to undulate...

    Of course, there was no transom. No breeze, either. No children. No bizarre construction paper project draped overhead. It was all just a little story my brain told itself, trying not to be afraid. I actually find that rather touching, today. In the midst of chaos, tumult, and unreason, there’s a little part of our brains that bravely soldiers on, trying its best to make sense of things. The flying fish however, proved an insuperable challenge for it.

    Watching the fish, it occurred to me that I was probably hallucinating, which meant that I was probably very sick indeed, perhaps even dying. These thoughts preyed on my mind for quite some time. John M. Ford once observed that there are places where the night goes on forever, and boy was he right.

    Eventually the morning did come, and with it, a measure of relief. I felt cooler. My head stopped hurting. Time began to flow normally again. In some mysterious, unfathomable way my parents showed up, not just then but also in retrospect (one of them had been close by me or in an adjacent room the entire time). And of course there were doctors, nurses, orderlies, the entire panoply of hospital humanity.

    Explanations were made and I understood them. I had been very sick, out of my head sick, but I was getting better. I would be okay. This gave me a tremendous sense of relief. I would be okay!

    However, as if to tweak me for unfounded optimism, my delirium managed to crank out a parting shot, those little not-men I mentioned earlier. They were the final vivid hallucination of my illness, so naturally I remember them best. Thinking that I was on the mend, I found their appearance especially disturbing. They were present in broad daylight, while I was awake.

    The first one was an animated tiki carving, perhaps a foot and a half tall. It looked like it was made of palm wood, carved and stained red, with some ivory inlay work. And even though it had no real eyes, only carvings, it looked at me. I could feel that it had a mind, that it knew I was there, and it was perching on the end of my bed, staring at me.

    In a way that wasn’t clear to me, this tiki-thing changed into something else. It became a wizened, leathery monkey-demon dressed in a blue-gray leather greatcoat (with ornamental ermine crescents, no less). Though it pretended to look the other way, I could see that it was watching me from the corners of its eyes.

    Again, this was very distressing to me, and on more than one level. First, no one likes to be eyeballed by a monkey-demon, even under the best of circumstances. Second, and more importantly, I had thought that I was getting better. If this was true, then why was I still seeing things that couldn’t possibly be there? These creatures may sound utterly ridiculous as I describe them to you, but the sense of immediacy they projected was undeniable at the time. They looked so solid, so real in every detail. They didn’t seem at all dreamlike. They terrified me. So you can imagine with what a sense of relief I observed the monkey-demon transforming into my blue and white diamond-patterned pajama sleeve.

    What an idiot I had been. I was staring at my own forearm! I had mistaken my own pajama-sleeved forearm for a Tibetan monkey-demon! And by the way, the creature really did give off a Tibetan vibe. It was unmistakable. Luckily, it wasn’t real. It was just an optical illusion, magnified by my illness. Just a bad dream after all. Here were my good old familiar pajamas, and I could safely go back to sleep, which after some consideration, I proceeded to do. When I awoke again, some hours later, I realized that I wasn’t wearing pajamas and never had been.

    It was just that good, brave little brain part, still soldiering on. Well done, thou good and faithful cortex.

    So what did I take away from all this, that hadn’t been there before? First and foremost, it made a skeptic of me regarding the validity of religious revelation. Not too surprising, I suppose, as I was already inclined that way. Though I had been brought up as a Christian, and was a devout believer till I was six or so, I had long since lapsed. Dinosaurs killed my faith. Galileo and Giordano Bruno helped them out a little. My hallucinations were the final coffin nail.

    I'm not dogmatic about it. Perhaps there really is more to this world than what we perceive. In fact, taking the pedant's perspective, there most certainly is. But the fact that we can't see x-rays or infrared isn't what I'm talking about here. Rather, I'm talking about my distrust of, or disbelief in, what for lack of a better term I'll call the spirit world. My hallucinations helped make a materialist of me.

    Sometimes, when people of faith have tried to explain their lives and choices to me, they have made an argument from personal experience. They've said they had a feeling. They sensed a presence. No, they didn’t actually hear the words of thunder or see the angel's wings unfolding in molten glory, but they had a very strong impression of presence and communication.


    They had an impression.

    It hardly seems fair, does it? The Israelites got Burning Bushes...Parted Seas...Pillars of Fire. When God spoke, he shouted, and there was no room for misunderstanding. As a child, I longed for that kind of certainty. I wanted my own Pillar of Fire. Not the Salt though. Please, not the Salt.

    In place of that simple certainty, we moderns have had to settle for subtle inner voices, and our faith has evolved from received wisdom about "what everybody knows" into a kind of test of character. How well can we hold on to our faith, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence? Faith, we are now told, is belief without evidence.

    So we are reduced to grasping after feelings. I'm afraid that's just not enough for me.

    I mean, I saw flying fish, and it wasn’t on the bloody Road to Mandalay, either. Does anyone believe those fish were really there?

    I saw little man-things at the foot of my bed, and they looked just as real as my day nurse. Does anyone seriously entertain the notion that those creatures were really there? A week later, I realized I'd seen the tiki thing a year and a half earlier, at Disneyland. I don't know where the hell the monkey-demon came from.

    If a few mites in the meninges can cause such spectacular apparitions, how then can we be be certain of other, equally improbable perceptions? Do our brains always have to run hot before we generate (tactfully, now) dubious inputs? I'll bet they don't.

    That singular occurrence I mentioned earlier? I dreamt that I was floating in air, looking down at my own body. This was shortly after my dad brought me into the hospital. So, I guess I’ve had an out of body experience. I'm sorry to report that there was no white light, no tunnel, no welcoming presences. Nor did I feel any great sense of comfort or easeful rest. I was just hanging near the ceiling, looking down at myself. Then I lost myself, and the world, for the next day and a half.

    Should I trust the evidence of my own senses and believe that my soul temporarily left my body? I think not. When I had recovered a bit in the following days, I recalled that peculiar vision and concluded that it was just a dream, my first major hallucination. A harbinger of the many more to come, most of which, mercifully, I will never recall. Reliable observers have assured me that I was not having a good time. They also inform me that I was intermittently lucid and capable of brief conversations. I don’t remember that at all. But if I accept the disembodied soul hypothesis as real, what then am I to make of the flying fish, the transom, and the little men? Nobody else saw them.

    This puts me in a peculiar position. I have actually experienced one of the defining, gold-standard mystical experiences, and I just didn't believe it. There's no pleasing some people.

    My tentative conclusion, then and now, is that we are our brains. When our brains stop working properly, so do we. Pneumococci invaded my brain-lining and the world went crazy. Reality went away, then came back twisted. In the following years, I've seen nothing that changes my mind about that.

    We are our brains. Which has led me to certain other conclusions, some of which you know.

    posted by Justin at 11:57 PM | Comments (3)

    "And Now For Something Completely Different"

    An opposing point of view...

    I am a huge Leon Kass fan. He is a gentle, humble, kind and wise man. Knowing the he is a man of influence and significance is good for our human future. I sleep better knowing people like Dr. Kass are in this great debate of what it means to be human...

    More here.

    posted by Justin at 09:27 PM | Comments (1)

    How dare I agree with you?

    The ACLU seems to be one of those hot button issues about which it's riskier and riskier to speak one's mind freely. The email sent to Glenn Reynolds, while civil in tone, reminded me of the far less civil criticism accorded Eugene Volokh, because they're both evidence of an inability to disagree in a thinking manner. Instead of explaining what they disagree with, people are resort to labels, insulting characterizations, and (as with the email to Glenn) the equivalent of a boycott. (I think that "you lost another reader. Just now disappeared from my Bookmarks" is the equivalent of delinking a blog, and the gratuitous use of "another" is as presumptuous as it is insulting.) It's as if both Reynolds and Volokh committed thought unpardonable thought crimes; the former for daring to speak a kind word about the ACLU, and the latter for even speculating that some homosexuals might quite naturally want to encourage sexual "conversion" of gay-curious bi or heterosexuals.

    It makes no difference what I think of the ACLU or converting people to homosexuality. What bothers me is this intellectually stultifying idea that you have to be careful lest you offend someone's sense of ideological purity, and you have to expect that they will not merely disagree with you, but they will call you names, do the equivalent of hang up on you (and other unfriendlier things), without even bothering to seriously address your argument.

    There's a lack of serious thinking displayed by people who get roped into positions based on considerations like who holds them, whether the holder can be labeled "liberal" or "conservative," and whether they're in alignment with ideological laundry lists.

    Over the years, expressing simultaneous support for gays and guns has often proved ideologically challenging for me, because these issues are (irrationally, in my view) seen as coming from different "sides" of the political "spectrum." (If you think it's bad now, you should have seen what it was like in the early 1980s....) While there's no logical reason why it isn't perfectly consistent to be just as opposed to gun control as penis control, the emotion-driven "bases" of the two major political camps don't see it that way. Only recently has the label of "gay gun nut" emerged, but even that makes light of a more serious problem: the constantly increasing ideological rigidity which attempts to hound people into compliance by means of exclusionary threats. Typically, these threats take the form of conservatives calling people "liberal" if they don't toe the line, and liberals calling people "conservative." Ordinary people don't want to lose their "friends," and they defend themselves by (lamely and ineffectively, in my opinion) explaining "Hey, I'm no liberal! I support the war!" or "I'm no conservative! I support gay rights!"

    Eventually, I hope, people will realize that there is no need to defend against these labels, because there is a right to think what you want to think on each and every issue. When someone refuses to address your argument and instead resorts to labeling, that ought to be a clue that he is threatened by it, or is unable to address it on the merits. The resort to labeling is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate, to bully, and it indicates either a small mind, or massive insecurity. In any event, the problem is in the minds of the bullies, and not in the minds of those attempting to think freely.

    As an example of how easy it can be to agree with the "wrong side," Atrios (someone I agree with maybe 10% of the time) voiced a sentiment today I agreed with wholeheartedly: that FCC regulation of cable is terribly wrong:

    Yes, this is an awful idea. And, yes, sadly, the Democrats will likely end up being on the wrong side of it.

    Please, just spend a few hundred billion on the biggest ad campaign in the history of the universe to tell parents how to use their goddamn v-chips.

    The Atrios link goes to Pandagon, with whom I agree that allowing the FCC to regulate cable is a terrible idea, but with whose ad hominem analysis I disagree:
    this isn't just about not being offended. This is about using the power of the state to silence political views. "Good taste" is synonymous with Republicanism (which as we all know from watching how delegates dressed at the GOP convention is about as wrongheaded as you can get), and all other views must be excised from the public sphere lest they cause disagreement, which is tantamount to recrucifying Jesus just so you can stare at his peepee. Remember, folks - the most destructive and corrosive element in our republic are the people who think that the First Amendment applies to speech, rather than established facts like the Christian nature of the United States and abortion as the modern-day Holocaust.
    Pandagon forgets that many Republicans (including, I suspect, some of those who want to censor graphic sex) would vehemently oppose using the FCC to impose social views, religious views, and even standards of attire (not sure what attire that might be), on Americans. He also forgets (unlike Atrios) that this attempt at regulation will likely include both Republicans and Democrats. (And why wasn't there any discussion of the unconstitutionality of the powers the FCC seeks?) I don't think Pandagon's ad hominem style is persuasive (although it's nothing new for me).

    Still, I agree with Atrios and Pandagon on their basic point about the FCC. (Not a new topic for this blog, either.) I've learned from experience that when you agree with someone who is in a definite ideological camp, such a point of agreement can serve as an entry point for ideological examination -- and by both sides!

    Ideological leftists will naturally tend to see any agreement on any point as an invitation to agree with them on other points, while ideological rightists will see any agreement with the left as a sign of deviation, or weakness. ("Going wobbly" will do.) In this game of point scoring and laundry list checking, what tends to be forgotten is that there might be a person who thinks what he thinks independently, who isn't being herded or told to think by one side or another, and who might not want to be herded. Or graded.

    Or excoriated as guilty.

    (As if anything I've said absolves me for "vigorously championing an immoral war based on lies, supervised by a leadership class corrupted by ideological cowards and incompetents.")

    UPDATE: Funny thing that I'd mention delinking, as there's now a conservative movement to do just that to Glenn (who, mouthful though it is) actually linked the delinking movement.

    It strikes me as a very rude way to express disagreement. But as someone who's never delinked anyone, I guess I wouldn't understand.

    posted by Eric at 02:14 PM | Comments (6)

    Glad to be back

    Hey, the blog is back, and I'm really delighted! My blog's server seemed to be down for most of the morning, but whatever it is, I'm glad they fixed it.

    Considering the horrible news like this (more here via Glenn Reynolds), I shouldn't complain about anything so trifling as a slowdown in blog service. The important thing is that it's fixed, and many other bloggers are back on line.

    I hope this will help assist with the ability to communicate in the wake of hurricane devastation.

    posted by Eric at 02:07 PM

    "Why did you destroy my city?"

    As Hurricane Katrina rages through the Gulf Coast, the usual top scientists and assorted experts are in a rush to blame global warming:

    Warm ocean temperatures are a key ingredient for monster hurricanes, prompting some scientists to believe that global warming is exacerbating our storm troubles


    Posted Monday, Aug. 29, 2005
    The people of New Orleans are surely not thinking about wind vortices, the coriolis effect or the dampness of the troposphere as they hunker down during hurricane Katrina this morning. They’re mostly thinking about the savage rains and 140 mph winds that have driven them from their homes. But it’s that meteorological arcana that’s made such a mess of the bayou, and to hear a lot of people tell it, we have only ourselves—and our global-warming ways—to blame.


    It's all so predictable.

    Almost scientific (from a political perspective that is).

    The experts agree. And we know who is responsible, don't we?

    It's all Bush's fault!

    First he went after Iraqi cities . . .

    UPDATE (06:45 p.m.): The global warming/blame-Bush meme is not limited to leftist blogs or Time magazine. It's already major enough for Fox News, where I just saw Brit Hume discussing it with Fred Barnes.

    Sooner or later, you'd think people would get tired of it.

    FWIW, I don't like the timing.

    UPDATE (08/31/05): James K. Glassman exposes the opportunistic demagoguery which would blame this tragedy on "Global Warming":

    ....the response of environmental extremists fills me with what only can be called disgust. They have decided to exploit the death and devastation to win support for the failed Kyoto Protocol, which requires massive cutbacks in energy use to reduce, by a few tenths of a degree, surface warming projected 100 years from now.

    Katrina has nothing to do with global warming. Nothing. It has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before and the inability of humans, even the most brilliant engineers, to tame these forces.

    Giant hurricanes are rare, but they are not new. And they are not increasing. To the contrary. Just go to the website of the National Hurricane Center and check out a table that lists hurricanes by category and decade.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I've been looking at television footage of looters, and while it's always horrible to see exploitation of tragedy for personal gain, people like Robert Kennedy Jr. ought to know better than to make comments like this:

    "Now we are all learning what it's like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and - now -- Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children."
    That's pretty low. (Whether it's lower than looting depends on your moral perspective, I guess.)

    posted by Eric at 06:00 PM | Comments (3)

    ACLU selects its enemies?

    While I think a good case can be made for the proposition that there are many problems with the ACLU, couldn't their opponents have found a better author to write this book (The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values) than Alan Sears?

    The latter is a leading crusader against what he believes are the two most ruinous evils to face America -- pornography and the evil homos -- and he (along with co-author Craig Osten) also wrote The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today -- a tract purporting to document such things as the "connection" between homosexuality and pedophilia (illogical on it's face, except for homosexual pedophiles), and a supposedly monolithic "gay agenda" -- the goals of which are shared by "homosexual activists." The agenda? According to the authors, it's a six point platform articulated by two little-known activists back in the 1980s. While I probably should have read through it by now, it somehow escaped my full attention until today, but I now feel duty-bound to report this agenda to my readers.

    So here it is at last; the long awaited Official Homosexual Agenda:

    1. Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and often as possible. (Through sheer perseverance the opposition will be worn down)
    2. Portray gays as victims, not aggressive challengers.
    3. Give homosexual protectors a “just” cause.
    4. Make gays look good. (Notice that the media always makes the “gay” character the hero)
    5. Make the victimizers look bad.
    6. Solicit funds: the buck stops here (i.e., get corporate America and major foundations to financially support the homosexual cause). (p. 18)
    Imagine! After all these years, I've finally been given my marching orders -- and from a devout moral conservative. The problem here is that I feel a bit the same way I do when I find myself being accused of being a liberal or a conservative. I don't like the labels. And I don't share the above "agenda." Yet Sears and his ilk would label me as a "promoter" of this "homosexual agenda."

    Here's Alan Sears on censorship:

    Enforcement of state and federal laws prohibiting the distribution of proscribed forms of pornography is not censorship.

    I submit that the largest censorship organization in America is the ACLU and its allies with their long and ongoing effort of fear, intimidation and disinformation against religious liberty. Some radical groups even believe libel and slander should not be "censored." As I often say, "One man's censorship is another man's survival."

    Q: How can the Church best combat pornography in the culture through the efforts of both clergy and laity?

    Sears: First, as laity, let's first get on our knees and ask God to forgive us for our silence, to forgive us for our sin of omission and to forgive those who exploit others through this evil -- sins of commission.

    Then we must get educated, get organized and demand that our state and community have laws as broad as the Constitution permits, and that those laws be promptly and vigorously enforced.

    As to non-prosecutable forms of pornography, such as so-called men's magazines -- as if there is something manly about making women and their sacred bodies and gifts into disposable commodities for profit -- demand that your local merchants quit selling them. And be persistent until we make a difference.

    Second, the Church itself must first be willing to confront and talk about this devastating issue because it is occurring within its own walls.

    We need to ask our leaders to provide leadership and guidance as to God's beautiful plan for men, women and their sexual unity in marriage as well as instruction on the sin of other behaviors and the subject of the use and sale of pornography.

    Individual clergy need to clearly present, without compromise, what God has to say on these matters involving personal purity and how, as individuals of faith, the laity can overcome pornography -- or, if needed, how to seek assistance in recovering from such devastating addictions.

    Third, Church leaders need to implement focused and responsive small group ministries -- in concert with effective counseling ministries -- in which healthy accountability and confidential, personal care can spring forth, like life-giving water for the souls of each individual that chooses to become an intimate part of a group of people whose goals include moral, spiritual and personal purity.

    The time to get involved is now -- before your family is affected, before your children are victimized by the pornographer who has no regard whatsoever for their God-given life or sexuality.

    While I do not doubt that Sears really and truly believes that Americans are victims, I don't think most Americans see themselves that way. His goal of imprisoning people for this form of entertainment is anything but mainstream. In fact, I'd be willing to bet he loathes the mainstream. I also think that if he started getting his way and prosecutions of establishments like these (link via InstaPundit) went into full swing, the ACLU would start getting a lot more mainstream money.

    Here's more from Sears on pornographic temptations:

    In multiple prosecutions of people involved in every level of the pornography trafficking industry, I learned firsthand, many times from hours of conversations with defendants and their counsel, of these individuals' real view of the First Amendment. It was a joke and a smoke screen.

    I learned what the profiteering pornographers thought of the homosexual persons who were plied with every manner of video, magazine and appliance. To be blunt, the pornographers had nothing but disgust and ridicule for those who paid them hard cash.

    In years of public speaking since that time, I have repeatedly referred to pornography as the "true hate literature" of our age, because of its hatred and exploitation of the human person, regardless of size, shape, color or gender.

    It reduces human beings to valueless commodities to be ogled at and disposed of like used tissue. Sadly, many of the individuals whom the pornographers dispose of are vulnerable young men and women who engage in homosexual behavior.

    I've met young homosexual men and women who were struggling with the issue of pornography and the various forms of sex trade outlets. These included the so-called gay bars, many of which we learned were often owned or controlled by exploitive heterosexuals and even criminal enterprises. These manipulative individuals and organizations just wanted to "make a buck" off the weaknesses of others.

    I had the opportunity to talk with these men and women in depth about their pain, their heart needs and the role that this material played in their formation and their sexual behavior. Based on these years of experience with those trapped in homosexual behavior, I must continue to express real outrage at the merciless exploitation of those with homosexual urges and temptations.

    This Alan Sears makes me want to send in a check to the ACLU today. (I say this, of course, as the former owner of a "so-called gay bar" -- a "criminal enterprise" which I, in my capacity as a "manipulative individual," ran for the sole purpose of "making a buck off the weaknesses of others.")

    I haven't sent the ACLU money for a while -- mainly because I abhor the ACLU's inconsistent failure to support the Second Amendment (as fundamental a liberty as those they do support), as well as their tendency to support radical Islamists. They're a bit shrill where it comes to certain leftist causes ("overly partisan in recent years" as Glenn put it).

    But I think they may be getting some inadvertent help from Alan Sears. If the ACLU wanted to play Karl Rove for a day and select an enemy most likely to produce a pro-ACLU backlash, they'd have been hard pressed to do better.

    (Well, there's always Fred Phelps. But I'm not sure he's literate enough or credible enough. Politics remains the art of the possible.)

    UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post. Welcome all!

    MORE: A commenter below drew my attention to some highly critical, insulting comments directed at Eugene Volokh (left at these posts) accusing him of anti-gay bigotry. That kind of thing is at least as appalling as the nonsense spouted by Sears. I had written two posts attempting to grapple with the conversion issues Professor Volokh raised, but I think calling him "homophobic" for his honest speculations is beyond the pale.

    Am I alone in thinking that it's getting harder and harder to just think whatever it is you think -- without being slammed by various thought police for ideological errors?

    (I still try to think of the blogosphere as a place where reasoned disagreement is possible.)

    UPDATE (08/30/05): Follow up post here.

    posted by Eric at 02:30 PM | Comments (10)

    "Damn near everything"

    This week's RINO Sightings Carnival is posted at Big Cat Chronicles. Host Roaring Tiger begins with the results of his research into RINOs -- and rhinos:

    we RINOs get our moderate reputation because our animal counterpart is a gentle giant, despite his aggressive reputation. Don’t let his size fool you into thinking he’s slow, though, because rhinos are agile blokes and are quite the chargers when needed — just like their human counterparts. And because of their size, adult rhinos have no natural predators, although babies are at risk from tigers, lions, or hyenas — and you can expect RINOs to be equally protective of the young and underdogs.

    I also delved into the totemic meaning of rhinos and discovered they carry the spiritual medicine of connecting to ancient wisdom and of its proper use, as well as knowledge of the self. As you can clearly see, that means everyone should pay particular attention to what we RINOs say because we know about... well... damn near everything.

    How true!

    And so, if you want to know damn near everything about everything, I suggest you go and read damn near every post!

    Here are a few:

  • Don Surber argues that Americans continue to not take the terrorist threat seriously.
  • Decision '08 discusses what President Bush actually said about "Intelligent Design," and maintains it has been mischaracterized by media hype. (Media hype? Imagine!)
  • The Commissar has a fascinating post about Intelligent Design and falsifying evolution.
  • SayUncle has a good post on women and gun control. Among other interesting facts, he reports that "when a woman was armed with a gun or knife, only 3% of rape attacks are completed, compared to 32% when unarmed."
  • I can't link to damn near everything, so go read the rest!

    posted by Eric at 11:11 AM | Comments (1)

    Intentionally not listening? (To history?)

    Si vis pacem para bellum. (If you want peace, prepare for war.)

    - Roman Maxim.

    Wars are caused by undefended wealth.
    - Ernest Hemingway,
    - Douglas MacArthur

    Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity.

    -- Leon Trotsky

    In an earlier post, I was bothered by hidden implications I saw in the phrase "willingness to learn." The idea that "learning" should be redefined to mean not so much learning, but actually agreeing with people strikes me as such a distortion of the definition of learning, that I thought I should, er, learn more! (I mean, there were -- and still are -- places where people are sent to learn how to agree called "reeducation camps.")

    These concerns were on my mind as I stumbled onto an entirely new method of learning which is based on Intentional Communication (IC):

    Intentional Communication is a dimensional tool for self-reflection, offering training support for effective conflict transformation across the divides of perception. It is dimensional in the sense that it includes the complexity of human development in its assessments. When we communicate with each other, we take into consideration our ability to be present to the exchange based on a combination of identity factors on the personal, social and cultural levels.

    IC is used in Opening of the Heart workshops and communities in focused settings for interfaith, business and dialogue trainings, and in communication curriculum for the classroom. The intention of these programs is to enable adults and children to recognize the interconnected nature of our world and understand that personal responsibility and global responsibility are inseparable.

    Hmmmm.... Does that mean if you don't subscribe to the above communitarian jargon, you're not communicating "intentionally"?

    More probably, they'd say it means I'm intentionally not listening. Because, of course, we cannot intentionally communicate unless we intentionally listen. Here's the definition of Intentional Listening.

    Intentional Listening offers training to explore the intention of our listening to one another and to self, leading to enhanced awareness about responsible choice and action.We develop the skill to stay present and examine supportive conditions for good listening in the physical, emotional and mental realms.

    Beyond the gift of listening we can take steps toward a fuller life by examining the place where we are meeting challenge and conflict. We discover that sustainable reconciliation is strengthened through the inclusion of marginalized voices, mutual support and right action at a place where perspectives come together.

    Opening ourselves to humanizing the other is one step in the full listening process. Intentional Listening brings in additional steps introducing us to listening that includes accountability and the potential to respond to what we learn. This approach opens a door to listening through which we embrace mutual values and ethics, leading to support for all parties who may be caught in cycles of violence.

    Through this we cultivate insight and skills that enable us to be more effective communicators, change-makers and healers. And most of all, we learn that the giving of listening with fullness to others offers an opportunity of unique significance for each of us.

    "Intentional Listening skills practice supports the full expression of others, and beyond the listening as witness teaches us to how to take a clear and powerful stand for ourselves, without increasing polarization."

    OK, folks, is that clear?

    Remember, in order to intentionally listen, you can't just open your ears; you must open your heart, and listen to another person's heart:

    Letting Youth Have a Voice in a Silencing World

    The concept of voice and all of its dimensions will be explored. The workshop will focus on the necessary principles and skills needed for the creation of safe voice space for youth. Examples of the primary themes to be addressed include the following:

    Definitions of voice and voice space, i.e. verbal, non-verbal voice;

    Seeing, feeling, and hearing what words can not express;

    the role of art in giving voice;

    Communication styles that hinder safe voice space;

    Communication styles that allow for safe voice space;

    Skills needed to hear what youth are really saying;

    Skills needed to empower the voice of youth;Translating metaphor into the voice of the heart;

    Skills for giving youth the gift of awareness of their own voice.

    The above concepts will be thoroughly addressed within the context of a safe, trusting, engaging and respectful learning community.

    Had enough yet?

    The organization which has devoted itself to intentional communication is fanning out all over the country in a campaign to get teachers to show a documentary move called "Voices in Wartime."

    The film -- which purports to be an "educational effort" replete with seminars and teacher training -- actually originated with a group of anti-war activists who considered themselves snubbed by Laura Bush. (I suspect that the First Lady failed to intentionally communicate, failed to intentionally listen, and worst of all, failed to open her heart to provide the requisite "safe voice space.")

    What bothers me about all of this is that they're marketing this antiwar film as unbiased. Of course, if you disagree with them, I'm sure they'd think it means you're not listening.

    I watched the film, and it failed utterly to convince me that war is always wrong, that war is never the answer, or that problems can be solved by "intentionally communicating."

    Query: didn't Neville Chamberlain try intentionally communicating with Hitler? Didn't he listen with his heart?

    I think their fundamental mistake is in forgetting that most wars start not because of the mere presence of an aggressor, but because of a lack of preparedness for war. (As MacArthur said, "undefended wealth.") Which means that if you aren't capable of self defense, you're a likely target for attack. (Hitler, of course, thought he could get away with it.)

    As I say the above, I realize that this is my opinion, and even if it is shared by such modern figures as MacArthur as well as the ancients, that does not make it right.

    Opinion is not fact, and I don't offer my opinion as fact -- no matter how much I might believe in it, or how much support it finds in history.

    But the promoters of "Voices in Wartime" don't seem to understand the difference between fact and opinion. Instead, they behave as if their view of war is some sort of inherent truth.

    Perhaps they should try a little intentional listening to the other side, because a good argument can be made that they're actually encouraging the very thing they claim to oppose.

  • Assume the intentional listeners persuade enough people to lay down their arms;
  • Assume further that the observations of MacArthur (and the ancients, and common sense) are right.
  • The bad guys -- the aggressors -- would then attack. Which means war would have been triggered by naive attempts to prevent it.

    posted by Eric at 09:25 AM | Comments (3)

    Disaster in New Orleans

    New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and I am shocked to see the scope of the disaster which is rapidly descending on it.

    A monstrous Hurricane Katrina barreled toward New Orleans on Sunday with 160-mph wind and a threat of a 28-foot storm surge, forcing a mandatory evacuation of the below-sea-level city and prayers for those who remained to face a doomsday scenario.

    "Have God on your side, definitely have God on your side," Nancy Noble said as she sat with her puppy and three friends in six lanes of one- way traffic on gridlocked Interstate 10. "It's very frightening."

    Katrina intensified into a Category 5 giant over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 175 mph before weakening slightly on a path to hit New Orleans around sunrise Monday. That would make it the city's first direct hit in 40 years and the most powerful storm ever to slam the city.

    The article describes "perfect conditions" for creating a monster.

    It doesn't seem as if enough is being done, and I agree with Glenn Reynolds that this might be a result of overhyping previous hurricanes.

    Glenn has collected some of the best links, so go there for information.

    I was going to relax and enjoy HBO's new "Rome" series, but this is very disturbing. Can't do much more than hope and pray.

    (I notice that even James Wolcott has retracted his previous post.)

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds points out that Wolcott's supposedly pulled pro-Hurricane post is still there.

    Normally, I'd be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt (because sometimes a deleted post remains on the server until the blog's "rebuild" goes through). Except there's a troubling addition -- in the form of this introduction:




    Considering the characterization of the post as a "gift" (along with the kisses and the twinkling thoughts) I'm worried that Wolcott might consider himself duty-bound by that time honored principle of etiquette that it is rude to take back a gift.

    (Could it be that he's doing this for the attention?)

    posted by Eric at 09:15 PM | Comments (9)

    Human interest items

    After discussing the hoopla over the "new ruralism" and such things as the "fluffy mountain lion syndrome," spoilsport Glenn Reynolds made the following insensitive remark:

    Nobody's going to want to settle in a place where they're worried about kids being eaten.
    Oh, come on, Glenn. Get with the program!

    Not only are we going to reintroduce predators, but there's a new movement: people belong in zoos:

    LONDON - At the London Zoo, you can talk to the animals - and now some of them talk back.

    Held within a rocky enclosure and barely clothed, eight British men and women monkeyed around yesterday for an amused, bemused crowd behind a sign reading "Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment."

    The captives in the Human Zoo exhibit sunned themselves on a rock ledge, clad in bathing suits and pinned-on fig leaves. Some played with hula hoops, and some waved. A signboard informed visitors about the species' habitat, worldwide distribution and threats.

    Visitors stopped to point and laugh, and several children could be heard asking, "Why are there people in there?"

    London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills said that was exactly the question the zoo wanted to answer.

    "Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate," Wills said. It also, she conceded, lets them "have a gawk at people."

    Omitted from what the Inquirer passed off as a mere cutesy human interest story was a vital detail of the London exhibit. Human beings are billed as the "plague species":
    LONDON (AFP) - London Zoo unveiled a new exhibition -- eight humans prowling around wearing little more than fig leaves to cover their modesty.

    The "Human Zoo" is intended to show the basic nature of human beings as they frolick throughout the August bank holiday weekend.

    "We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem," London Zoo said.

    The scantily-clad volunteers will be treated as animals and kept amused at the central London zoo with games and music.

    For a more local view, here's London's "Independent":
    The spectacle of five of the planet's most advanced great ape species hanging about in swimwear on Bear Mountain, the 91-year-old Grade II-listed terraces that once housed polar bears and grizzlies, is the opening salvo in a campaign by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which runs the zoo, to highlight humanity's status as a "plague species". Nearly 15,600 separate species are believed to be threatened with extinction caused by human activity.

    To underline the point, displays outside the enclosure comparing humans with chimpanzees and gorillas note that more humans are born every hour than the existing population of the two other apes.

    Managers were unapologetic about their selection of eight largely trim and shapely specimens, including an international kick-boxer and a professional dancer, to ensure maximum publicity by cavorting around the enclosure during open hours over the bank holiday weekend.

    Simon Rayner, ZSL's communications manager, who dreamt up the idea, said: "The point is to jolt people into recognising the impact of human beings on their environment and that of other animals. We are saying, 'Look, here are humans stripped down and treated exactly the same way as other animals'. We are the same and the way we treat all animals has consequences."

    Well, what do we do with disease carrying animals?

    As I said in my discussion of "predator" salesmanship tactics, new ideas take time!

    UPDATE: Here's the picture of our future:


    Personally, I think the Eloi were cuter. But these things are all a matter of, um, taste.

    MORE: This "see the bad humans at the zoo" meme fits quite well into the current theme of children teaching parents -- breathlessly explored in today's Inquirer:

    ....in addition to teaching their parents how to deal with new technologies, kids today also are teaching them profound ethical lessons about protecting the natural world and respecting themselves and others. Here are some of the examples I have heard from schoolchildren that go beyond technology or popular culture: A girl: "I taught my mom to recycle." A boy: "I taught my dad to enjoy rap." A boy: "I taught my mom to be independent." A girl: "I taught my dad not to interrupt me." A boy: "I taught my dad not to make cracks about gays."
    There's more, for those who want to learn!

    Regarding willingness to learn, the author offers a new definition slogan:

    The slogan I use is, "You are not what you know but what you are willing to learn." Willingness to learn demands respect for others across difference. Puzzling and even disturbing ideas are invitations to curiosity, and the greater the difference the more there may be to be learned. The world is a rain forest of variety full of promise that is at risk of being lost. If one teenager could give his father an appreciation of rap, another may be interestingly articulate about body piercing and baggy clothes. I have argued that the willingness to learn is a form of spirituality. It is a stance of humility, because there is so much to be learned.
    I think willingness to learn is being confused with willingness to agree.

    And, of course, this discussion begs the question of who taught the children what "they" are teaching their parents.

    In fact, I'd love to learn more!

    MORE: I just, um, learned that the Mary Catherine Bateson, the author of the above, is the daughter of Margaret Mead. (Some of her famous quotes are assembled here.)

    UPDATE: Similar "education" here.

    UPDATE: Thank you Glenn Reynolds for the InstaLanche! Welcome all.

    BTW, I agree with Glenn's final observation about armed property owners. What's being forgotten by the people promoting this sentimentalized view of nature is that self defense itself is natural. For humans, of course, it takes the form of being armed.

    UPDATE (08/29/05): Readers might enjoy my latest post, which further explores "willingness to learn."

    posted by Eric at 11:12 AM | Comments (8)

    Can't get no f---ing respect!

    Tom Lasseter's reports from Iraq are frequently spiced with Vietnam references, and he really can't be accused of making this stuff up -- because he uses direct quotes from the soldiers themselves. From today's Inquirer:

    "I don't think of this in terms of winning," said Col. Stephen Davis, who commands a task force of about 5,000 Marines in an area of 24,000 square miles in the western portion of Anbar.

    Americans following the war from home are frustrated, he acknowledged.

    "They want finality," Davis added. "They want a fight for the town and in the end the guy with the white hat wins."

    That's unlikely in Anbar, Davis said. He expects the insurgency to last for years, hitting U.S. and Iraqi forces with quick ambushes, bombs and mines. Roadside bombs have hit vehicles Davis was riding in three times this year already.

    "We understand counterinsurgency... . We paid for these lessons in blood in Vietnam," Davis said. "You'll get killed on a nice day when everything is quiet."

    Later, he quotes Marine Major Nicholas Visconti:
    "If it were just killing people that would win this, it'd be easy," said Marine Maj. Nicholas Visconti, 35, of Brookfield, Conn., who served in southern Iraq in 2003. "It's just like in Vietnam. They won a long, protracted fight that the American public did not have the stomach for... . Killing people is not the answer; rebuilding the cities is."
    They (I assume "they" means the Communists) won? Yes, but that was only after they'd lost the "long, protracted" part of the fight. America had beaten them into signing the Paris Peace accord, and only years after America had pulled out (and Congress refused to support the government of South Vietnam) did the enemy win. At that point it wasn't a long protracted fight; the Communists went in virtually unopposed. Assuming Major Visconti is quoted correctly (something I have no way of knowing), I'd wonder where he's getting his history lessons.

    Major Visconti is quoted again along with Marine Captain James Haunty in an accompanying piece titled "Inability to pin down foe severely stresses troops":

    "I tell the guys not to lose their humanity over here, because it's easy to do," said Marine Capt. James Haunty, 27, of Columbus, Ohio. "I tell them not to turn into Col. Kurtz."

    Haunty was referring to a character in the Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now, in which Kurtz has a mental breakdown and raises a private army to fight the war as he sees fit. That character was loosely based on one in Joseph Conrad's novella set in colonial Africa, Heart of Darkness.

    Asked for an example of the kind of pressure that could cause Marines to crack, Haunty talked about the results of a car bomb: "I've picked up pieces of a friend, a Marine. I don't ever want to see that... again."

    Sitting with his men at a morning meeting in the town of Hit, Marine Maj. Nicholas Visconti said he had gotten a call the night before from a patrol requesting permission to shoot an Iraqi. The man, the patrol leader said, was out past curfew and appeared to be talking on a cell phone. Visconti intervened and told the patrol leader not to shoot.

    Looking at his young lieutenants and sergeants, Visconti said, "If he's a bad guy, if he's running the [car bomb] factory, I'll put the gun in his mouth and kill him myself... but first let's get a... security check."

    With a worried look, Visconti, 35, of Brookfield, Conn., continued: "There's killing bad guys and there's murdering civilians. Let's do the first and not the second. Murderers we're not, OK?"

    Wow. Apocalypse Now?

    (As I pointed out previously, Tom Lasseter's last piece seemed to be itching for that "love the smell of Napalm in the morning" quote.)

    Still, as apocalyptic war quotes go, the above isn't bad:

    I'll put the gun in his mouth and kill him myself.

    Hey, the whole world is watching!

    It might be, but what I want to know is why the whole world doesn't get to see the same Lasseter piece in its entirety. (At least, not if the whole world consists of Philadelphia.) The Yahoo version of the above story is except for the title, word for word the same, but the following additional paragraphs (in bold text) are added:

    "It's a lot like it was in Vietnam, when the VC's (Viet Cong) would come out and pretend to be your friends," said Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Vidler, 23, of Syracuse, N.Y. "You're fighting an enemy on his home ground and you don't know who's who."

    After a recent meeting with local tribal sheiks in Fallujah, Marine Lt. Col. Jim Haldeman walked to the back of the room and pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.

    The gathering was supposed to be an exercise in civic empowerment but quickly degenerated into the Iraqis demanding that they get identification cards designating them as sheiks, which would bar local security forces from arresting them on the streets.

    "All of these guys are f------ muj," Haldeman said, using the Arabic term for "holy warriors," mujahedeen, which American troops frequently use to describe the insurgents.

    Haldeman took a deep drag from his cigarette.

    "I've never been so nervous around a group of men," he said. Haldeman, 50, of West Kingston, R.I., later added that he was sure that a lot of the men in the crowd would have slit his throat if they'd had the opportunity.

    Walking down an alley in Hit a few days earlier, stepping over pools of sewage, Lance Cpl. Greg Allen had watched the Marines around him. They were picking through garbage, tugging on wires and kicking boxes, looking for bombs and mines and hoping that if they found one it wouldn't go off.

    Here's the heavily redacted Inquirer version:

    Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Vidler, 23, of Syracuse, N.Y., said: "It's a lot like it was in Vietnam, when the VCs [Viet Cong] would come out and pretend to be your friends. You're fighting an enemy on his home ground, and you don't know who's who."

    Walking down an alley in Hit recently, stepping over pools of sewage, Lance Cpl. Greg Allen watched the Marines around him. They were picking through garbage, tugging on wires and kicking boxes, looking for bombs and mines and hoping that if they found one it wouldn't go off.

    The only explanation for this editorial censorship is that the story might have been seen as inconsistent with the accompanying front page piece, which uses the term "mujahedeen" in a much more respectful manner:
    Instead of referring to the enemy derisively as "terrorists" - as they used to - Marines and soldiers now give the insurgents a measure of respect by calling them "mujahideen," an Arabic term meaning "holy warrior" that became popular during the Afghan guerrilla campaign against the Soviet Union.
    Why, that's so respectful-sounding it's almost PC!

    I can see why the "f---ing muj" reference was omitted from the other story.

    I wonder what else is being omitted.

    Certainly, nothing about Vietnam. Lasseter clinches both versions of his story with an artfully quoted rhetorical question drawn from another soldier:

    "There's been reports of a .50 [caliber] sniper rifle out there. Maybe they called this in just to get us out here and take a shot. A .50-cal would go straight through our [body armor] plates," Coffey said, looking at the buildings across the river. "Why do I feel like I'm in a... Vietnam movie?"
    Considering the attention the antiwar people are getting, I should ask the same question.

    MORE: Michael Yon, also on the ground with U.S. forces, calls terrorists "terrorists," and explains why.

    MORE: Charles Johnson looks at this Lasseter story (which is the same as today's front page Inquirer Story), and the Vietnam meme, and characterizes Lasseter thusly:

    the courageous “guerilla fighters” have a staunch ally in Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder
    Was I being too kind?

    Thanks to LGF, once again I see that the Inky is redacting the Lasseter story (or else Lasseter is issuing different versions):

    Here's the Wichita Eagle version:

    "If it were just killing people that would win this, it'd be easy," said Marine Maj. Nicholas Visconti, 35, of Brookfield, Conn., who served in southern Iraq in 2003. "It's just like in Vietnam. They won a long, protracted fight that the American public did not have the stomach for... . Killing people is not the answer; rebuilding the cities is."

    And here's the Inquirer again:

    "If it were just killing people that would win this, it'd be easy," said Marine Maj. Nicholas Visconti, 35, of Brookfield, Conn., who served in southern Iraq in 2003. "But look at Vietnam. We killed millions, and they kept coming. It's a war of attrition. They're not trying to win. It's just like in Vietnam. They won a long, protracted fight that the American public did not have the stomach for. ... Killing people is not the answer; rebuilding the cities is."
    "They" does mean the Communists; it wasn't clear until now.

    Might it be worth asking Nicholas Visconti exactly what he meant?

    MORE: Billmon at Whiskey Bar praises Lasseter for (among other things) avoiding "homoerotic envy":

    Lasseter also doesn't paint the troops as the kind of heroic, larger-than-life action figures that make the fighting keyboarders drool with barely suppressed homoerotic envy. (Via James Wolcott.)
    What I'd like to know is what, precisely, does "homoerotic envy" have to do with war? Does he mean to suggest that "fighting keyboarders" (presumably this means war supporters who blog) are envious of the warriors because of unfulfilled homosexual attractions? If so, then what has envy to do with it? I mean, it might be possible for a male blogger to be in an envious homosexual rage because someone he's attracted to is in combat, but I think it's a bit of a stretch. If the assertion is that there's a "barely suppressed" attraction to the soldiers, how does Billmon know that?

    How is Lasseter avoiding an appeal to "homoerotic" elements? And who is writing these homoerotic war pieces? (Believe me, I know homoeroticism when I see it -- barely suppressed or not -- and I haven't seen it in war coverage anywhere.) If there's something homoerotic about combat, it's not spelled out just what that would be, either. (I'm barely able to suppress my suspicions that someone is projecting.)

    All in all, homoeroticism avoidance seems like a very odd thing to praise Lasseter for.

    posted by Eric at 08:20 AM | Comments (5)

    Why did Curt Weldon use the word "sinister"?

    I don't know what the hell is going on with the Able Danger matter, but posts like these (via Glenn Reynolds and Tom Maguire) make me very suspicious.

    Someone needs to take a close look at these tin foil sites, and see whether any of their allegations pan out.

    There are allegation that Michael Chertoff represented Magdy Elamir, a doctor with substantial al Qaida ties, who even worked with nuclear materials. He has a brother named Mohamad Elamir (which was Mohamad Atta's name and his father's name), although as AJ Strata (of Strata-Sphere) suggests, it's probably a name as common as John Smith.

    What bothers me is that professional politicians like Curt Weldon do not normally use words like "sinister" to describe simple government negligence. But Weldon did.

    You can read the stuff I copied by clicking below. It ought to be possible to verify independently the Bergen New Jersy newspaper stuff, as well as whether or not the NBC "Dateline" show ever aired.

    This stuff goes on and on, and unfortunately most of the links are to paranoid conspiracy sites (like David Duke, reporting for Indymedia).

    I wish reporting by nutjobs made the reports automatically wrong.

    There's more at the All Spin Zone, at Mad Cow Morning News, and at the University Star.

    Strata-sphere has done a great job bringing this to light, and his posts are collected here.

    Dr. Elamir certainly exists, and the problems he created are still generating controversy in the medical comunity.

    Enough tin foil for one day.

    I'm very skeptical about this, and there's probably a reasonable explanation for most of the allegations -- especially about Chertoff (who is, after all, a lawyer).

    But the bottom line is that Fox News has confirmed through a third source the presence of Atta in the United States at least year before 9/11, and verified this by examining connections to Omar Abdul Rahman. And it does appear that this was covered up. Why?

    I don't know, but in any case, my spirits are much lifted by Mickey Kaus's optimistic skepticism:

    Why do I feel that through the power of the blogosphere we are asymptotically approaching the truth? ...
    First there were two Attas; now four Elamirs. Why do people have to have names that shift with the sands?

    Once again, thank God for the blogosphere.

    MORE: I'm inclined to agree with Captain Ed about Iran, too. Iranian involvement with al Qaida is substantial and ongoing, as I've complained repeatedly, and I sometimes wonder whether Iran might have been a better target than Iraq, although I'm not privy to the inside information which forms the bases of these decisions.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Hillary Clinton was the sole dissenting vote against confirming Michael Chertoff. If -- and I do mean if because I'm skeptical -- a major scandal is brewing implicating him, she'd be sitting pretty. The only thing which might save the Republicans then would be be to capture bin Laden.

    In Iran!

    Continue reading "Why did Curt Weldon use the word "sinister"?"

    posted by Eric at 07:11 PM | Comments (2)

    InstaBirthday Multi Kultur Kampfire celebration

    I thought I would write a simple little post in remembrance of Glenn's birthday, but that proved quite impossible, because he has too many competing fans -- in too many surprising places. Much as I try to be democratic and forward-thinking, I couldn't hope to keep track of all the progressive forces round the world who are thinking of Glenn right now (especially all the world wide, um, InstaWatchers).

    There is no way a to impart to Comrade Glenn's birthday celebration the full Internationalist fervor with which the restless masses are clamoring everywhere around the world. That is because we American bloggers are forced to live in the United States, a fascist minded police state, a place of much misinformation and slander orchestrated by lies spread by the Imperialist Press, The Fascist Minded Bush Clique and other Imperialist Bourgeoisie human scum, which all conspire to slander the noble and beautiful progessive forces of the world. We must denounce these lies boldly, and declare our willingness to stand side by side in solemn and profound celebration of Glenn Reynolds' birthday -- by any means necessary. Nothing, not even our very blood, will move us and our beloved comrades from celebrating the historic occasion set before us.

    I have humbly designed the following card as a way of showing the International solidarity in support of the wondrous occasion that is Glenn Reynolds' birthday:


    I can't keep track of well wishers and InstaWatchers I found, because they're all over the world and all over the Internet, but here are some of the most important voices to weigh in:










    What a distinguished group! To see so many great leaders display such emotion on this occasion is a very touching and moving thing by any standard -- be it Collective Liberation, Insurgent Patriotism, or Proletarian Internationalism!

    I'll let the Glorious Chairman of the Glenn Reynolds InstaBirthday Internationalist Brigade, Comrade Kim Jong Il, close with a toast:


    Happy Birthday Glenn!

    UPDATE: Just found this:


    Can't please everyone, I guess....

    MORE: One of our anonymous but intrepid reporters managed to track down Ward Churchill (who was on the college lecture circuit), and asked him whether he cared to comment on Glenn Reynolds' birthday. He responded with a baffling remark which has been faithfully transcribed:


    Really! Is that what you'd really call "being in the Party spirit?"

    posted by Eric at 12:18 PM | Comments (2)

    Disarming silence

    Anyone remember Janet Reno, the infamous Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and their pliant allies in the MSM? I had thought that stuff like harassing gun shows and shaking down people who'd broken no laws was mostly behind us, but this incident evokes memories:

    Annette Gelles, owner of gun show sponsor Showmasters.us, told Cybercast News Service that at least 30 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with nearly 500 Virginia State Police, Henrico County Police and Richmond City Police officers were assigned to the ATF operation targeting her gun show on Aug. 13 and 14 at the Richmond International Raceway and Fairground Complex, outside Richmond, Va.

    Gelles said four marked police cars were stationed at the main entrance to the raceway parking lot and more than 50 marked and unlabeled but obvious law enforcement vehicles were positioned just outside the public entrance to the building. The officers' presence, Gelles said, was intended to intimidate her customers.

    Remember, this was a perfectly legal event. On top of the above, the ATF engaged in heavyhanded police state tactics against legal gun buyers:
    Gelles explained that, when gun dealers took the paperwork to the Virginia State Police on-site office to complete the background checks on prospective buyers, ATF agents copied the names, home addresses and telephone numbers of the applicants.

    Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told Cybercast News Service that he has received numerous complaints alleging that as handgun buyers were waiting for their National Instant Check System (NICS) background investigations to be completed, ATF was secretly conducting the so-called "residency checks."

    According to the complaints he received, Van Cleave said officers were dispatched to the homes of the prospective gun buyers to speak with family members, asking for example: "Gee, did you know your husband was going to a gun show today? Do you have his cell phone number? Did you know he was buying a gun?

    "If people weren't home they, in some cases, went to neighbors" to ask the same questions, Van Cleave said.

    "I'm not an attorney but, I'll tell you what, in my opinion that would be a violation of federal law," Van Cleave said. "To go off on a fishing trip with that information, much less sharing information like that with neighbors, there's no way that's legal."

    Title 18 Section 923 of the U.S. Code concerns the licensing of gun dealers and appears to support Van Cleave's position.

    (Above link via InstaPundit, although I first heard about this on the G. Gordon Liddy Show.)

    Jeff Soyer has more. So does RedState.org, and, doubtlessly, other blogs.

    But so far, the MSM has a big fat nothing.

    A news blackout, perhaps? Brings back more memories.

    (In the old days, of course, there'd have been faxes and emails sent from gun nut to gun nut.)

    It would be redundant to ask why this is happening under a Republican administration, but I'm beginning to think that things like this have little or nothing to do with who's president. After all, if President Bush lacks the power to fire the bureaucrats who handed visas to Mohammad Atta and company, what could he possibly do to discipline a government agency which has been fraught with problems for many years?

    I don't think Bush is fully in charge, and I can't think of a better argument against the Patriot Act (especially the attitude in law enforcement it tends to encourage) than the conduct which occurred here. It really doesn't matter what you think about guns, either. The law enforcement agents behaved illegally, exceeded their authority, and without obtaining warrants, harassed innocent citizens who were never accused of committing any crime.

    All it would take, I'm afraid, would be one dirty nuke, and our freedom would topple. That's because agencies like the BATF couldn't care less about the Constitution, and the Patriot Act has given them powers with which they cannot be trusted -- and a green light to use it. Fortunately, the courts still function, and that plus the theory that the new laws are intended only to fight terrorism have tended to restrain the use of the Patriot Act (and its accompanying Homeland Security apparatus).

    I've tried to support expanded powers to fight terrorism, because we are at war, and they are needed. But when I see innocent Americans being treated like this, I'm worried about the long term.

    Because, if this country's enemies manage to trigger a dirty nuke -- even a small one -- all bets are off. The psychological aftershocks will be so profound that it will mean a crackdown on freedom everywhere and in every sphere.

    Funny thing I'd say sphere. As things stood after 9/11, the bad guys almost could have done it. Almost everything was in place for what might have been a new power grab involving a government partnership with Big Media. Had there been more 9/11 type attacks, terrified citizens would have been left with the television and their daily newspapers as their main sources of information. A one-way stream of whatever the newly restructured powers that be might have deemed fit to broadcast.

    The blogosphere as we know it today sprang into being just in the nick of time. By a hair. I really believe it was that close. That's one of the reasons the blogosphere is so feared. The government cannot team up with big media and monopolize the information/communication game all to themselves.

    They are being monitored and supplemented by the citizenry.

    Wait! I almost left out talk radio. In many ways, talk radio anticipated the blogosphere, because it was two way communication and allowed not only the dissemination of information from alternative sources, but direct participation from the citizenry.

    But talk radio is subject to control, even what borders on censorship -- not only by government (via the FCC) but by organized political groups who can succesfully silence alternative voices in ways the government could not do directly. Talk radio host Michael Graham -- whether you agree with him or not -- was yanked permanently off the air by his company, even though his listeners liked his show and it was commercially viable. His company caved to pressure from the Islamist advocacy group, CAIR. (More from James Joyner.) But -- CAIR or not -- private companies can do anything for any reason (including making sweetheart deals with the government).

    Michael Graham was silenced in ways bloggers cannot be.


    They might try, but I'd say the blogosphere is ready.

    UPDATE (08/31/05): When I said "the blogosphere is ready," I wasn't engaged in hyperbole. Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Michael Silence and Ravenwood have already produced the goods on the BATF. (See this FOIA pdf document.) Say Uncle has been on this story for a while, and Blake Wylie asks, after his analysis,

    what do you do when a Federal agency breaks the law?
    (SayUncle says he has feathers. . .)

    The BATF (which long operated under the Treasury Department) is supposed to be a revenue agency, not a SWAT team. Their charged with making sure that cigarettes and alcohol (and certain firearms) are taxed, and since 1968, with making firearms licensees pay their taxes. They were never intended to be a SWAT team, and they've been out of control for far too long. In 1982, the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution excoriated the ATF for engaging in:

    conduct which borders on the criminal... Enforcement tactics made possible by current firearms laws are constitutionally, legally and practically reprehensible... Approximately 75 percent of BATF gun prosecutions were aimed at ordinary citizens who had neither criminal intent nor knowledge, but were enticed by agents into unknowing technical violations.
    This has gone on for far too long. As a result of post-9/11 fallout, the Homeland Security administration moved this rogue agency from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department.

    Considering that their previously poor track record hasn't changed, I'd say a good case can be been made that the BATF has utterly failed to earn the new power with which they've been entrusted. They're a liability to the Justice Department, and a disgrace to Homeland Security. I'd vote for sending them back to Treasury, taking away their guns, and putting them back to work collecting taxes.

    posted by Eric at 04:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)

    "A boring, tedious part of my day that I can dread, or even put off..."

    Coco is very confused by a web site called Pitbull Clothing. There are no canine fashions whatsoever (much less attire designed for or about pit bulls) -- just run-of-the-mill humanwear.

    She's thinking of filing a complaint like this.

    While the complaint above was based on alleged plagiarism of a phrase -- "Often exercising can be a boring, tedious part of your day that you can dread, or even put off" -- Coco is more concerned about the misappropriation of her breed name to sell human attire.

    Coco is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that there is no pit bull-oriented attire for sale at the aforesaid web site, and is further concerned about the modern human trend of attempting to copyright -- even trademark -- ordinary words and phrases. She believes that there may be a conspiracy by various members -- known and unknown to her at this time -- of the species Homo sapiens, to misappropriate the word "pit bull" to the point where it might no longer be available or allowed to describe her breed.

    She is therefore faxing her DMCA complaint to the appropriate authorities:


    The thing is, Coco hates bureaucratic paperwork, and I don't think she's too fond of lawyers.

    (Fortunately, she makes an exception in my case, but I'm still on probation.)

    What I cannot put off is my long drive to New Jersey today, and I doubt I'll be back at a reasonable time.

    But I'm sure I'll be back at an unreasonable time, hopefully with more unreasonable observations.

    posted by Eric at 07:10 AM | Comments (3)

    Smuggling in a former American birthright

    Somewhat related to the question of consensual sex between adults is the idea of consensual financial transactions between adults. What I'm unable to fully understand (in the philosophical sense) is why the former should be freely legal, but the latter is subject to government regulation.

    I'm not talking solely about direct exchange of money for sex. Prostitution is only one form of criminal financial transactions. There are many others.

    The so-called "underground economy" is growing by leaps and bounds. As to why, an article in Barron's provides a few clues:

    Growth of the underground economy is partly a result of corporate downsizing, which has forced many former employees to go out on their own.

    "We have had an 85% taxpayer compliance rate," says Nina Olson, the IRS's taxpayer advocate. "I expect the number to decline," because the portion of employees subject to withholding is on the wane. Such employees are 99% compliant with tax laws, she says, but in the 21st-century economy, "More and more people are being treated as independent contractors. We are losing people from the withholding environment."

    Entrepreneurs often are stymied by the complexity of estimating their
    taxes and making quarterly payments, which leads to mistakes or out- and-out avoidance. The growth of online commerce may be exacerbating the situation. There were over 40 million regular users of eBay alone in 2003, up from 23 million in 2002. The sellers are responsible for paying taxes. Some of them set up a business and get a taxpayer ID number; others don't. (An eBay spokesman says the company isn't a tax adviser -- it's up to members to report their taxes.)

    Most unsettling to IRS bureaucrats, taxpayers as a group appear to have become less honest. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik is the latest poster boy for the phenomenon. He had to drop his bid to become secretary of homeland security because he failed to pay Social Security taxes for his children's illegal-immigrant nanny.

    Kerik is hardly alone: Any homeowner who has been offered two prices by a handyman or a gardener -- a higher one for a payment by check, a lower one for all cash -- knows how quickly the savings can add up. In one twist on off-the-books business, the New York Times recently reported on a rise in mechanics who repair cars at curbside for untraceable cash payments. They are not in want of customers. In some cities, including Boston, owners of battered cars get similar offers from itinerant body-repair "experts."

    I'm wondering whether the rapid growth of this burgeoning underground economy might be directly correlated directly with the rise in completely insane government regulations with which normal Americans are unable to comply. Am I alone in considering it absurd that the federal government -- while it might let me have sex with my gardener in my bedroom -- nonetheless wants to force me to verify his identity if I pay him to cut my grass, become a revenue agent for the federal government, and send me to prison if I don't?

    Lest anyone think I'm engaged in hyperbole, take a look at an ordinary accountant's description of what I must do if I pay the guy for gardening:

    If you do hire someone who will receive more than $1,100 this year, and you insist on doing the paperwork yourself, here are a few things you should do:

  • A. Start with IRS form W4 and the Labor Department's form I-9. Form I-9 requires that you take a look at official documents to insure that the employee is allowed to work in the US. Passports, drivers licenses, birth certificates, and social security cards are the types of documents you must review. I like to exercise extreme caution and keep a photocopy of these important records in my payroll files.
  • B. Request an employer identification number from IRS by filing form SS-4.
  • C. Check your state tax filing requirements. This presents yet another complication. We may already be confused by the 2 different filing requirements at IRS, or $1,100 per year for the purpose of Social Security and Medicare taxes, but $1,000 per quarter for federal unemployment taxes. In addition, you may face different filing limits for state income taxes, state unemployment taxes, and required state disability and workers compensation insurance policies. Thankfully, NY State has recently consolidated unemployment and income tax reporting. However, one of my best clients recently forwarded me a notice from the "Workers Compensation Board" stating there were different requirements depending upon the number of hours worked by his domestic employee.
  • D. After checking your state requirements the next step is to arrange for the appropriate insurance. In most cases, NY State requires both disability and Workers Compensation policies.
  • E. Withhold the proper amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The combined rate is 15.3%. You can split this with your employee or you can pay it all. You are not required to withhold federal or NY State income tax, but you can if you and your employee want to.
  • F. Adjust your estimated taxes or withholding tax to reflect the additional payroll taxes you now will owe to Uncle Sam. Unless you are self-employed and have other employees, the social security and Medicare taxes will become part of your income tax liability for this year. You can be penalized if you don't pay enough estimated tax before each quarterly due date.
  • G. File the appropriate returns with your state or local tax departments. NY State requires quarterly reports.
  • H. File form W-2 to report the employees’ wages for the year. The employee copies are due by January 31 and the government copies are due by the end of February.
  • I. File Schedule H with your income tax return. Unless you are self-employed, you must report household employment taxes with your 1040.
  • A final word of advice for anyone who chooses not to follow these guidelines: I suggest that you should not run for political office in the future.

    And don't expect to get a job as head of Homeland Security, either. Furthermore, as the accountant also points out, the requirements aren't limited to nannies:
    The so called "nanny tax" does not only apply to babysitters. It applies to any household or domestic employee. To quote the IRS Regulations Section 31.3306(c)(2)-1(a)(2),

    "In general, services of a household nature in or about a private home include services performed by cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers, governesses, maids, valets, baby sitters, janitors, laundresses, furnace men, caretakers, handymen, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs of automobile for family use."

    Since that list is not inclusive enough for me I will add bookkeepers, cleaning services, private nurses, and the kid who mows your lawn. By the way, can anyone tell me what a "footman" is? And, do I need one?

    This stuff is so crazy that few people (except anally retentive nuts and people running for office) comply with it, but the point is, Americans are no longer free to engage in arms-length employment transactions. I don't think they like it, and I think it is an unacknowledged reason for the popularity of -- what should I call them? -- undocumented workers? illegal aliens?

    While the standard argument is that illegals work for less money, or perform the sort of work Americans don't want to do, I think there's more to it than that. I was thinking this over the other day as I contemplated two things: my own yard work, and a lawsuit a friend is facing because he made the mistake of hiring an American with a strange psychiatric disability of which the employer was unaware (and which causes the employee to deliberately make mistakes on the job). This same friend also employs aliens (supposedly legal) through a "temporary" agency, and of course he's never had any trouble with them. The psychiatrically challenged American, though, not only "knows her rights," she feels a sense of extravagant entitlement, which in her mind, gives her the right to be incompetent and the right not to be fired for being incompetent. The legal system, of course, works with her to enforce these "rights."

    In Mexico, if you're walking down the sidewalk and (as happened to me once) a six-foot-deep ditch appears in front of you without any warning signs or guardrails, and you fall in, the attitude will be "you should have looked where you're going." You won't be able to sue anyone, as you'll get nothing. Nada.

    Who wouldn't prefer to hire a person who comes from such a culture?

    Anyway, as I contemplated yard work, I realized that the hourly wages had nothing to do with it. Let's assume that the going wage for hacking out brambles and pulling up weeds is $15.00 per hour. If you hire an American, it's not an arms-length transaction. You have special duties to take care of his taxes and all that other fussy legal stuff. And what if he gets hurt and sues you? It isn't worth the risk, and the potential hassles are endless. The hourly rate is in my view a secondary, not a primary, factor.

    Seen this way, I think that illegal aliens represent something much more important and compelling than a source of "cheap labor." They're a glimpse of that American freedom which was once our birthright.

    In this country, there was a time when you could just agree with someone that in return for doing a certain thing, you'd pay him. And if he did the work, you could pay him, and that was that.

    That's the way it was when I was a kid, and with aliens, it's still that way.

    Under the present system, of course, they're considered to be "stealing jobs from U.S. citizens."

    But has anyone stopped to ask why there wasn't an "underground economy" in the days of American freedom?

    (It used to be a term generally reserved to describe private transactions in the Soviet Union.)

    NOTE: Lest readers misunderstand me, I do not advocate open borders. Not by a long shot. I think the border should be closed ASAP, because illegal immigration is out of control. My point is that I think over-regulation is fueling the demand for these aliens, and I'm not sure that more draconian penalties against ordinary Americans will be the best way to help the economy.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I think it should be remembered that years ago, people like nannies, gardeners and the like didn't used to be part of the "underground economy." They were paid cash legally in the old days -- just as they are paid cash illegally now.

    It doesn't take a degree in economics to see that the more things become criminalized, the more "crime" there will be!

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

    What turns you on might tee me off

    More on conversion. I realized that I barely scratched the surface of the "conversion" issue, as the dynamics of the phenomenon are everywhere.

    Responding to Eugene Volokh's post (about whether straight-to-gay conversion is a myth), Orin Kerr brings up that exquisite perversion known as "golf":

    If I understand Eugene's response, his argument boils down to the belief that people will try to convert others to do whatever they themselves really enjoy doing. For example, if I get a great deal of pleasure from golf, then I will encourage others to try it. If I meet someone who mentions that he is thinking of picking up golf, then I will try to "convert" him to be a golfer. (It's human psychology, the argument would run: if golfing makes me happy, then why wouldn't I attempt to get others to try it?)

    If my understanding of Eugene's argument is right, then whether gays and lesbians are trying to convert others seems like a somewhat odd question to consider. If the claim is true, then at most it's just a recognition that gays and lesbians enjoy same-sex conduct and are human beings. They're trying to convert people just like golfers are trying to convert people, bloggers are trying to convert people, and Harry Potter fans are trying to convert people. This may be what Eugene had in mind, but it seems like a signifcantly narrower claim than what I understood from his initial post.

    There are a lot of other analogies which could be made, and I already discussed religion. How about drug addiction? Many people would argue that drug addicts "convert" each other, but again, if someone is "looking to be converted" (how most drug addicts get started, in my experience) is this not an attempt to blame Person A for the conduct of Person B? Is the drug "pusher" responsible for the addiction of his customer? If so, is the bartender then responsible for the alcoholism of his?

    Many years ago, Art Linkletter's daughter committed suicide by jumping out a sixth story window. Alleging she had taken LSD before her death, Art Linkletter blamed the Beatles as the "leading missionaries" of an LSD culture which had made her want to take LSD. Assuming that the Beatles glorified the drug as psychedelic "missionaries," can they be said to have "converted" her? Are missionaries responsible for the subsequent conduct of their "followers"? Even people they never met?

    I don't think so. To maintain otherwise would negate free will. If the Beatles promoted an unhealthy lifestyle and others followed it, so be it. That is no more the Beatles' fault than obesity is the fault of McDonalds and Burger King. Even assuming direct, one-on-one proselytizing, I still don't think people are really converted by others, barring duress. They convert themselves. (With homosexuality, there's arguably less of a conversion issue -- at least if we assume sexual desire is more deeply rooted than an attraction to fatty foods.)

    Interestingly enough, last year, I related my own experience with a "pusher" of golf, and I think it bears repeating:

    Well after my adolescent crisis had passed (but before my midlife crisis had been fully developed), a well-meaning relative honestly believed that I should play golf even though I hated it. He thought that it was socially the right thing to do, that it would advance one's career, and all that morally righteous stuff. But the bottom line for him was that he loved golf! So, he could carry on all he wanted about how golf was good and even virtuous, but the fact remained that it was fun for him, and torture for me. The odd thing is, when I was a kid I noticed that many of the harder working men used to criticize men who enjoyed playing golf as shirkers of their responsibilities. (Like the doctor out whacking a golfball while his patient dies from complications.)

    Where does that leave someone like me who, if I played golf, would absolutely hate it? Shouldn't I get some moral "credit" if I force myself to do something that I hate? Is it fair that others would have a good time doing it? How do we know that many of the people who lecture us about what we "should" do aren't secretly enjoying themselves while doing what they want and scolding the rest of us for not wanting what they want?

    The golf analogy is far from perfect, though, because sexuality is far more personal, but there's still the basic question of likes and dislikes, and who is in charge of them.

    It is my decision what I like, not anyone else's. Someone can show me something, urge me to try it, but whether I try it and like it is up to me, and should not be blamed on someone else.

    This is not to suggest that Eugene Volokh ever maintained that proselytizers are responsible for the subsequent conduct of those they influence. I think he's just remarking the obvious about a common enough phenomenon. Here's Eugene Volokh's reply to Orin Kerr:

    The phenomenon that I was describing was not supposed to be shocking or unusual. It's just human nature, which is why I think it's such a plausible hypothesis. What strikes me as being implausible is the claim -- against which I was arguing -- that it's somehow a "myth" that gay and lesbians (not every such person, but many) are interested in converting some people to gay or lesbian behavior. As I pointed out, it's highly unlikely that they're trying to convert heterosexuals generally. But, as I argued, it does seem likely that they're trying to convert the orientationally bisexual but behaviorally heterosexual into at least exploring their homosexual sides: "[T]he [gay rights] movement . . . necessarily, and I suspect intentionally, also helps people who are attracted to both sexes be more willing to explore the homosexual facets of that attraction."

    That is exactly the claim I was making in my original post. It is not a claim of unusual human behavior; rather, it is a claim of quite normal human behavior. And whether or not it's "a somewhat odd question to consider" if one is coming to it from a blank slate, I'm considering this question simply because it's a question that others have raised.

    Common sense and personal experience suggest to me that what Professor Volokh is talking about here is the phenomenon of gay guys hitting on straight guys. (Or on bisexually inclined men whose homosexuality is still unexplored.) It happens all the time. In fact, there are plenty of gay men who would much rather have sex with straight men than with other gay men (Ah, but the catch is that once they "get" it, they lose what they get, because their partners cease to be "straight.")

    Hence the word "conversion." But how about the "straight" men? If they were interested in reciprocating, could they truly be said to be "straight" at that point? Then how can they truly be said to have been "converted"?

    I admit these words are silly, and they fail me. Which means that I cannot make a coherent argument because of an inability to define the undefinable. (As I keep saying, I disagree with the labels.)

    Would the word "conversion" be used if a straight man hit on a uninterested woman? Even if she was a virgin? How about a lesbian being hit on by a straight man? Would that be an attempted conversion? A "fag hag" hitting on a gay man? I've never heard the word applied in these cases, and I have my doubts about whether it applies anywhere.

    I am, I admit, resolutely opposed to the notion that Person A can convert Person B in the absence of force or duress, because of free will.

    Indeed, the word "convert" was first used in the religious sense, and it clearly implies action by someone other than Person B -- and (unless I am mistaken) a lack of fully free choice, because of this external, converting, action:

    convert (v.)

    c.1300, from O.Fr. convertir, from L. convertere "turn around, transform," from com- "together" + vertere "to turn" (see versus). Originally in the religious sense. Convertible is from 1385; of cars, 1916, Amer.Eng.

    Since we seem to stuck with having to use religious terminology to analyze sexual matters, I guess religious examples are as good as any. Again, my problem with that is that any discussion of religious conversion (and thus, I fear, conversion in general) is hopelessly mired in communitarian notions of Person A being responsible for Person B.

    Typically, one who converts someone else in the religious sense, not only admits to having responsibility, he wants responsibility!

    It's communitarian thinking, and I fear it's at the root of the problem -- because it's at the root of the word. I don't think that way, and I know I can't change the minds of people who do.

    Nor would I want to change their minds, because I'd then be guilty of conversion, and I don't want the responsibility.

    If you agree with me, it's not my fault.

    (Interestingly, Augustine blurred the distinction between force and free will with the doctrine of "compel them to come in" -- but that's another, more heretical topic.)

    posted by Eric at 08:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    Converted to death?

    As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, it was "gay day" at the Volokh Conspiracy the other day, and I was quite fascinated to read about the idea of conversion. (Eugene Volokh takes issue with the idea that gays converting straights is a myth. Well, sort of.)

    But I'm -- really and truly -- too damned tired to post about it now. I don't know what the hell is wrong with my energy levels lately. I think I'll drink some Korean voodoo juice and go running. Maybe that'll convert my energy levels.

    40 minutes later, and back from running, I'll give it a try. Perhaps writing will restore my lost impotent rage. . . Yes, I think if I try hard enough to offend myself, I might be able to coax out a little more adrenaline. (The problem involves a hopeless conflict between my need for sleep and my inability to meet my need.)

    Anyway, there's a lot of misunderstanding about what the word "conversion" means, so I should probably begin by trying to define it in the sexual sense. Maybe begin and end -- as I don't know if I can.

    I'll start with what Eugene Volokh said:

    I know that if I were a heterosexual in some hypothetical future overwhelmingly homosexual society, and I were asked similar questions about "converting" people who were open to heterosexuality but had so far had only engaged in homosexual behavior into practicing bisexuals or heterosexuals, I'd say "yes." If you think some behavior can be proper and, for some group, very rewarding, you would naturally want people who aren't sure whether they fall into that group to try it out.

    And if that's true, then gays and lesbians (though not necessarily each gay and lesbian) are trying to get others who have been behaviorally heterosexual, but who might be open to homosexual behavior, to try homosexual behavior. They almost certainly don't see all heterosexuals as likely converts. But they probably do think (with good reason) that some fraction — a substantial fraction compared to the number of pure homosexuals — might well be willing to change behaviors, especially if they are made to feel right and welcome in doing so. And, yes, that would include teenagers as well as fully grown adults. If most people think the age of sexual consent should be around 16 (the legal norm in the country), then I doubt that most gays and lesbians would think that it's wrong to encourage 16-year-old boys and girls who have some same-sex attraction to experiment with that attraction.

    Now, as I've suggested, I don't think there's anything inherently immoral about such attempt to convert people away from purely heterosexual behavior, if they are interested in homosexual behavior, and of course if the "conversion" is done without force, imposition on those who are genuinely too young to decide, and so on. If it weren't for the disproportionate and grave health danger from male homosexual activity, I'd think such encouragement to explore which relationships give people the most happiness would be positively quite good.

    Responding to an email in an update, Professor Volokh elaborates on the word "conversion":
    A bunch of commenters think I shouldn't use the word "convert," for various reasons. The reason I'm using it is that I'm responding to an alleged "myth": People claim that it's a "myth" that gays and lesbians try to convert or recruit others, and I am arguing that this "myth" claim is "likely itself something of a myth, or at least quite incomplete." If you prefer to describe this not as "converting," but as something else (e.g., "influencing the person to change his practices"), that's fine. But if my analysis above is right, then one still shouldn't deride claims of conversion as "myth," even if one thinks that the word is slightly imprecise or has a bad connotation.
    My problem with the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy is well known to regular readers. I don't talk about my own sexuality as much as I possibly should, perhaps because I dislike debating these things, perhaps because it strikes me as exhibitionistic. But I think I should make an exception to my usual pattern and state that:

  • no one ever converted me to anything -- heterosexual or homosexual.
  • I never intentionally converted anyone to anything -- heterosexual or homosexual.
  • I say this because I don't think truly consensual sex can be said to be a conversion. If you do something for the first time with another person, and you do it voluntarily, how can that person be said to have "converted" you unless influence or pressure was applied?

    I am in no way arguing that there are not people who have converted (or attempted to convert) the sexuality of others, either for political or for personal reasons. Nor do I mind the analogy to religious conversion, because a number of people have attempted to convert me to their view of religion, and I am sure that were I sexually naive, people would attempt to convert me to new things that I had never done before. (In this sense, experimenting with things like S&M at the urging of the more sophisticated must also be said to be a form of conversion.) There are degrees of this, and my analysis is further complicated by my strong belief in free will. I think that if someone does something absent force or duress, that he should not be heard to complain. I have previously touched upon the issue of sexually "tricking" someone into sex under false pretenses (a man pretending to be a woman to score with another man), but that is a very different issue, and even there, it's neither voluntary, nor a "conversion" to anything.

    I'm not saying that no one ever attempted to convert me. In my youth I was approached by older males a number of times without my reciprocating, and I have no doubt that "conversion" may have been the intent of these individuals. But as to my first sexual experiences -- with teens my age, male and female -- I can honestly say that there never was any conversion, as I tried to keep an open mind about what I was doing, and I think -- I hope -- that others did too. This was a long time ago, and it was the age of Free Love -- when sex and drugs ruled.

    I can state more confidently that I was never converted to anything than I can state that I never converted anyone else, because as to the latter I can only say it was never my goal.

    I hope it never happened, and I'll explain what I mean.

    A major problem with me is that I cannot handle having responsibility for the actions of other people, because I can't control them, and it just isn't a fair thing to expect of me. If I thought I had "converted" anyone, it would be a bit like having a child. I would always feel responsible. And I run like hell from such responsibilities.

    But there's a real world out there, and when you're young, hot and horny, and there are other people running around, there are naturally going to be occasions when one of them is naive, yet willing.

    Looking to be converted -- to put it in Volokhian terms.

    Such types -- apparently heterosexual, but what you might call "bi-curious" -- used to regularly come on to me, and they'd scare the hell out of me, because I could not have handled the responsibility. Fortunately, I had a house full of openly gay men which I used to use as a "dumping ground" for the wannabe converts. All I needed to do was get them into the house, sneak out the back door, and drive away. The rest was not up to me.

    Am I guilty? If so, what am I guilty of? Putting person A in contact with person B has always been one of my specialties, and I don't see how I bear any blame. Especially considering my rejection of the gay straight dichotomy. The problem was that I felt guilty anyway, because my flippant attitude was often what had activated the "bi-curious" phenomenon. I felt even guiltier to see some of the people I had unloaded contract AIDS (they'd run amok in orgies with the people I had introduced them to), but if I never had sex with them and never had the virus, was it my "fault"? Anyway, I've been plagued with guilt for years, but that's just a feeling. A feeling that never quite goes away. (Imagine, if you can, feeling responsible for the deaths of others, and being told -- as I was -- that you were.)

    My fierce belief in libertarianism, in individualism, helped get me through some of this guilt, but when you watch people die, the rational side is not enough to stanch the emotional bleeding.

    No matter how I look at it, the word "conversion" evokes responsibility of the communitarian sort. The type that the rational side of me must reject resolutely.

    If I am to live with myself.

    As a defense to the arguments which others might raise, what is wrong with allowing individuals to make up their own minds about what they do, without moralists accusing them of converting each other? At some point in the life of most human beings, a time will come when they will want to have sex. With someone. If that someone is a member of the opposite sex, why would that be a conversion any more than if the someone were of the same sex?

    Why does the argument only seem to be about "straight to gay" conversions? What about gay to straight? Couldn't that be a conversion too? Seen this way, not only would the Exodus people be seen as trying to "convert" homosexuals to heterosexuality, but the first heterosexual experience of any virgin individual would have to be every bit as much of a conversion as it would were his first experience a homosexual one. I see no way to limit the word "conversion" to homosexuality alone.

    But what this would means of course, is that all people who have had sex were at some point converted.

    If that's the case, then the word "conversion" has no meaning -- which is why I tried to stick to the Volokh definition of the word as meaning heterosexual to homosexual only.

    This discussion is, I admit, very frustrating, as it touches on my abhorrence and avoidance of responsibility, and it is very personal. I mean, here I am, saying I don't believe in "conversion," yet I admit to have gone out of my way trying to avoid converting people because I didn't want the responsibility that rationally speaking I wouldn't have had anyway.

    It's a hopeless contradiction, I know. I wish I could find an easier example.

    Hey, how about conversion to Islam? Unlike the cowardly homos (who deny that they'd ever convert anyone), Muslims really know how to convert a guy! Why, it's even stated in their holy book to be a religious obligation. Unlike the craven homosexuals, Muslims need not feel any guilt over the fate of the converted. They are converts for life. If they try to go back the other way, there's this thing called the death penalty. For apostasy. I know of no homosexual equivalant. Gays who join Exodus can freely return to the joys of penile-vaginal intercourse, and no one will kill them for it.

    Which lifestyle is more dangerous?

    Hell, don't ask me. I never converted anyone to Islam either.

    (But suppose I meet someone who's Islam-curious. And suppose there's a mosque right around the corner . . .)

    posted by Eric at 01:43 PM | Comments (8)

    Horn and hide

    I almost missed this week's RINO Sightings Carnival, hosted by Nicholas Schweitzer at The World According to Nick.

    This is rapidly becoming my favorite carnival, because RINOs pull no punches (probably because they're best known for refusing to follow party lines.)

    A few examples:

  • Dean Esmay (who has an amazing knack for melding passion with compelling reason), takes on the foolish notion that all of Islam is at war with America, and that America is (or should be) at war with all Muslims. It's Dean at his best, and a must-read!
  • This remarkable post (by Ken Wheaton) about the frustrations of dating is one of the best rants about heterosexual problems I have read in a long time -- and while I'm reminded of Aunt Ida's famous utterance ("The world of a heterosexual is a sick and boring life!"), I'm as guilty as any violator of either sex. Well done Ken!
  • Bill at INDC Journal examines RU-486 statistics, and blasts those who distorted them:
    when it comes to shoehorning science and medicine in order to fit an ideological agenda, misrepresenting risk and utilizing hyperbole, you're doing the public debate a serious disservice, doing your readers a disservice and emulating the worst flaws of the mainstream media: combining a distorted ideological narrative with superficial analysis of complex issues.
    The post generated a huge debate; be sure to check the comments.
  • DO NOT MISS SayUncle's state-by-state roundup of post-Kelo battles. For once, there's good news!
  • All the rest are good too; so do yourself a favor and go read them.

    Long may the RINOS rage!

    posted by Eric at 12:43 PM | Comments (3)

    "Generate harmony in style and elegance." (No ifs, ands, or buts!)

    Sean Hackbarth discovered a wonderful all-purpose gift idea -- a genuine seventy nine cent vibrator personal massager. Hard as it is to believe at that price, it's apparently the real thing. Here's Amazon's description:

  • The personal massager provides you with a discreet quiet intimate massager and multiple speeds to pleasure any mood.

  • Sensational design control unit and body unite in flowing grandeur. Rounded forms dominate the appearance and generate harmony in style and elegance.

  • The control unit is optimally adapts to fit the palm of your hand.

  • Doctors and therapists worldwide recommend massagers as a tool for becoming more in tune with your own body's sensitivity and receptiveness.

  • The 6 inch personal massager also provides you with a discreet quiet vibrator and multiple speeds to pleasure any mood.
  • I can't think of a better gift idea -- especially for people in need. Order a dozen or more and save on shipping. Still plenty of time before Christmas!


    Are batteries included? Or don't they come that way?

    MORE: It turns out that Sean (in the comments to his post) is denying responsibility, and blaming Glenn Reynolds. (But the latter is mainly warning about workplace safety issues.)

    posted by Eric at 11:47 AM | Comments (2)

    What's an idiotic remark got to do with the price of oil?

    What the hell am I to make of Pat Robertson's latest outburst?

    In all honesty, I don't know. For starters, I don't even know what to call him. Is the man labelable, and should he be labeled?

    Glenn Reynolds and James Lileks both seem comfortable with the term "idiotarian," and I much enjoyed the latter's take on popular labels:

    The term “wingnut” is not as harsh and cutting as you might expect. Personally, I don’t like any of these terms – moonbats, repugs, democraps, etc. (Except for “idiotarian.” I like it because it’s ecumenical.)
    As Lileks goes on to note, the nuts have two wings -- which is a hell of a lot better than a wing with two nuts. (As the queen of "Grade B Wingnuttia," I'm feeling almost ready to bolt.)

    Anyway, Idiotarian Robertson is staring me in the face as the pressing issue of the day (right there on the top of the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer), and I'm wondering what's on his mind. What is the man really thinking when he calls for the assassination of Hugo Chavez?

    Here's the Yahoo version of current events:

    Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

    "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club."

    "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
    Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

    "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

    The Inquirer mentions Robertson's "history of startling statements," including linking the 9/11 attacks to homosexuality, and the utterance that "liberal judges" are a bigger threat than "a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," but, oddly, Robertson's last notable attempt to inject himself into U.S. foreign policy was left out.

    I can't stand Hugo Chavez, and I'm sure a good argument could be made for taking him out. But this isn't about the merits of Robertson's idea. Besides, such things are done covertly. (As the Wicked Witch of the West would say, "handled delicately....") Especially discussions of them. By sounding off like this, Robertson has probably helped guarantee Chavez's continued tenure, because the latter will use the threat as a sympathy ploy, boost his internal security apparatus, crack down on dissidents -- the whole nine yards.

    Hell, the first thing he did was to fly to Cuba to get some victim love and hugs from another dictator who has never stopped kvetching about U.S. attempts to kill him.

    Here's the lovely sight:


    Is Robertson such an idiot that he's unaware of his own fame? His ability to make headlines and affect world news?

    How many men have the power to make tyrants embrace?

    Back to his previous attempt to intervene in U.S. foreign policy. Liberia was suffering under the rule of a brutal dictator named Charles Taylor, and far from advocating his assassination, Robertson did his level best to protect the Taylor regime -- and (coincidentally?) his own investments in it!

    Pat Robertson Hammered for Stance Toward Liberia
    By David Fein
    CNSNews.com Correspondent
    July 10, 2003

    (CNSNews.com) - At odds with President Bush over the political situation in Liberia, Christian evangelist Pat Robertson is also under attack from the Left. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has accused Robertson of failing to disclose all of his business interests in civil-war torn Liberia at the same time he was blaming the U.S. State Department for trying to "destabilize" that African country.

    During a stop in Senegal Tuesday as part of a five-day, five-country African trip, Bush affirmed his desire for Liberian President Charles Taylor to quickly relinquish power. He echoed those sentiments Wednesday while speaking with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

    However, Robertson has used his nationally broadcast television program, The 700 Club , to criticize the Bush administration's handling of the Liberian crisis. Robertson is founder of the Christian Coalition and CEO of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), one of the world's largest television ministries. In 1999, a Robertson-owned company, Freedom Gold, reportedly entered into an arrangement with Taylor's government to look for gold in southern Liberia.

    In the case of Liberia and Taylor, of course, Roberston made trouble for Bush by supporting a brutal dictator, whereas in the instant case, he's making trouble for Bush by opposing a brutal dictator.

    If the motive was money in Liberia, might there be more to this than the idiotarian political philosophy? I think the well-educated, (and politically well-briefed) Robertson is smart enough to know the consequences of his meddling. He's been around a long time, and these things are very predictable.

    If you've finished digesting the touching photo of love and hugs from the geriatric tyrant, consider the following facts about Venezuela:

  • Venezuela is the fifth largest oil producing country in the world (ranking just ahead of Kuwait in terms of exports)
  • In 1990, Venezuela was ranked third, but it's still a major supplier of oil to the oil-hungry United States.
  • How major?

    Here's Venezuelanalysis:

    Over the past few weeks there have been some signs that Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez has backed down from his earlier confrontational posture towards Washington. According to the Venezuelan foreign minister, Chavez has no intention of reducing oil exports to the United States. The economic importance of oil in terms of Venezuelan-U.S. relations cannot be overstated. Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world and the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States after Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Last year, Venezuela’s state owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) accounted for 11.8% (1.52-million barrels a day) of U.S. imports. (Emphasis added.)
    That was written in March.

    Is this a good time to buy stock in companies that import Venezuelan oil? Or would it be better to buy stock in Mideast importers?

    Or maybe sell short?

    What do I know? In my case, it matters not at all how much of an idiotarian I might be, because nothing I say can affect the price of oil.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Robertson aside, it occurs to me that if the voicing of opinions can affect world events, anyone with a large audience might be considered an "insider" for SEC purposes. (Fortunately, that's an irrelevant consideration in blogging.)

    MORE: Speaking of oil-induced idiotarianism, here are some clever bumpersticker suggestions:

    send me your best ideas for anti-SUV bumper stickers. One reader already suggested: "How many soldiers-per-gallon does your SUV get?" Another ofering: "Osama Loves Your SUV." Got a better one?
    (via Michael Demmons)

    How many soldiers-per-gallon? Har! I get it now!

    But why do we have to get cute when the old "NO BLOOD FOR OIL" will do just fine? (As regular readers know, I've long advocated banning SUVs. . .)

    I'm almost tempted to ask whether Hugo Chavez might love SUVs at least as much as Osama, but I don't want to confuse the issue.

    UPDATE: Robertson now says he's being "misinterpreted.":

    Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping.
    Sure. And "assassinate" might mean character assassination -- by means of ad hominem attacks.

    ("Misinterpreted" also might be what I'm doing by attributing to intelligence something more easily explained by simple stupidity.)

    posted by Eric at 09:24 AM | Comments (3)

    ... parry ... thrust!
    A review of medical evidence by a group of researchers in California concludes that fetuses likely don't feel pain until the final months of pregnancy, a powerful challenge to abortion opponents who hope that discussions about fetal pain will make women think twice about ending pregnancies.

    And just now a mass of fascistic christers busily judging their neighbors and legislating morality stand slack-jawed in disbelief at this masterful refutation of everything they believe.

    Well, maybe not.

    But following the logic of the counter-argument I'm not a murderer if I anesthetize you first.

    Neither side aims to or can resolve the fundamental issue. Fetal pain is a desparate attempt by the anti-abortion crowd to 'win the hearts and minds' of those who have been brainwashed into believing that abortion is a rights and not a moral issue. The thing is that people are much more responsive to pain than to philosophical questions.

    Even a godless atheist like me recognizes that morality is the real issue.

    posted by Dennis at 07:19 AM | Comments (5)

    Food for thought . . .

    Well, I guess after the Baghdad Bob business, I was asking for something like this. My dog Coco has been dragged into the Air America war.


    I hope this won't be considered a form of dog abuse, but after all, she's only reached the still young and tender age of nine months, and I really haven't had time to sit down and discuss either the nuances of the Air America scandal or the psychological impact that celebrity status might have on her.

    Come to think of it, she's never listened to Air America, although she has heard Al Franken interviewed on another show.

    Then there's the issue of the Kool-Aid product placement.

    I'll have to chew on this for a while.

    posted by Eric at 04:23 PM | Comments (4)

    WARNING: this post carries fairness beyond the call of duty!

    Recently, a friend tried to interest me in the Green Party, and urged me to attend an upcoming convention in Washington. This startled me a bit, as I make no secret of my political views, which I think are not especially compatible with either the Green Party, nor with the views of most members of that party.

    But I do try to keep an open mind about everything, so I decided to do a little research. After all, I regularly test my libertarian compatibility; why not find out just how much of a match there is between Eric Scheie and the Green Party?

    The first factoid to hit me in the face was that as of August 2005, there are at least 224 Greens holding elected office in the United States: in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

    Geez. How do you suppose that compares to the Libertarian Party? Here's a Wikipedia entry:

    Following the 2002 elections, more than 300 Libertarians held elected state and local offices; following the 2004 elections, at least 221 Greens hold elected office. Though twelve Libertarians have previously been elected to state legislatures, none hold that office currently, unlike the Greens (one in Maine), the Independence Party (one in Minnesota), the Progressive Party (six in Vermont), the Republican Moderate Party (one in Alaska), and the Working Families Party (one in New York). Some Libertarian candidates for state office have performed relatively strongly in statewide races.
    The Greens dispute this, claiming they are a bigger political party.

    Interestingly enough, the two parties teamed up to demand a recount of Ohio votes in the last presidential election. (I suspect that the Greens have caused more headaches for Democrats than the Libertarian Party for Republicans.)

    But I'm not a formal member of the Libertarian Party as I'm not much of a joiner and I don't agree with them on everything. I suspect I agree with the Greens on less.

    Believe it or not, there has actually been a debate between these two philosophies, (in which Libertarian Mike Kole debated Green Natalie Davis) which is posted at BlogCritics.org. There was a surprising amount of agreement (on things like drug legalization and the Iraq War, although Kole supported the Afghanistan War), but the disagreement over economics ran head-on into profoundly, insurmountably, different philosophies:

    Natalie Davis: Which takes us back to the point discussed earlier -- too many people are unwilling to do (what some consider to be) the right thing. Greed is the prevailing American ideal.

    Mike Kole: Greed is not defined by the desire to preserve an income one has earned. Greed is defined by the desire to take an unearned income from one who has earned it.

    Moderator: perhaps a new question - maybe something we all can agree on - any more to add on this?

    Natalie Davis: Depends on who is doing the defining, Mike.

    Mike Kole: back to that sticky 'common good' fallacy

    Moderator: I know there is more, but we have to stop somewhere - consensus anyone?

    Mike Kole: sure- move on

    Natalie Davis: We agree to disagree.

    I suspect that the Green Party's economic philosophy is hopelessly and irreconcilably different from mine, too. As to the Iraq War, I have a major problem with the failure of the Libertarian Party to support a war I consider to be ultimately grounded in self defense. (Bush's attempt to transform the war against elusive, free roaming terrorists into a conventional ground war by simultaneously renewing a fight against a long-neglected but sworn enemy is a theory acceptable to my standards of national self defense -- even if it doesn't go far enough towards ultimately destroying all sources of support for the radical Islamist enemy.) But even that depends on how national self defense is defined, and I suspect the Greens are more unalterably opposed to self defense than the Libertarians. (For starters, there's gun control....)

    Conspicuously absent in the interview was an airing of the differences between these two parties on environmentalism. (A difference I suspect would be major and irreconcilable.)

    So what the hell is the Green Party platform, anyway?

    The best encapsulation I could find was -- guess what? -- the official Green Party USA Platform. I'll start with part of the Preamble:

    Green politics is an ecological approach to politics that links social and ecological problems. Ecology studies the relationships among organisms and their environment. Political ecology brings human institutions and ideologies into this holistic perspective.

    We find that the same institutions and ideas that cause the exploitation and oppression of humans also cause the degradation and destruction of the environment. Both are rooted in a hierarchical, exploitative, and alienated social system that systematically produces human oppression and ecological destruction.

    For the Greens, therefore, the fights against racism, sexism, class exploitation, bureaucratic domination, war, and all other forms of social domination and violence are central to the movement for an ecologically sustainable society. In order to harmonize society with nature, we must harmonize human with human.

    The Greens carry forward the traditional values of the Left: freedom, equality, and solidarity. We want to create a truly democratic society without class exploitation or social domination. But Greens expand this notion of a classless, nonhierarchical society that is harmonized with itself to include an ecological society that is harmonized with nature as well.

    Frankly, that looks ominous. It seems loaded with the type of leftist jargon and code language which would translate into confiscation of property. Theft from Person A to give to Person B.

    EDITORIAL NOTE: For ease of reading this long, laborious post, all Green Party platform titles are colored green (as they are at the Party web site), and are addressed in the same order they appear -- with the exception of "Human Rights and Social Justice" -- left out because I am too callused to care, and so detest the phrase "social justice" that I deem it unworthy of serious discussion.)


    The Green Party's official economic platform -- the Economic Bill Of Rights -- strikes me as little more than a call for a socialist welfare state:

    An Economic Bill of Rights

    * Universal Social Security: Taxable Basic Income Grants for all, structured into the progressive income tax, that guarantee an adequate income sufficient to maintain a modest standard of living. Start at $500/week ($26,000/year) for a family of four, with $62.50/week ($3,250/year) adjustments for more or fewer household members in 2000 and index to the cost of living.
    * Jobs for All: A guaranteed right to job. Full employment through community-based public works and community service jobs programs, federally financed and community controlled.
    * Living Wages: A family-supporting minimum wage. Start at $12.50 per hour in 2000 and index to the cost of living.
    * 30-Hour Work Week: A 6-hour day with no cut in pay for the bottom 80% of the pay scale.
    * Social Dividends: A "second paycheck" for workers enabling them to receive 40 hours pay for 30 hours work. Paid by the government out of progressive taxes so that social productivity gains are shared equitably.
    * Universal Health Care: A single-payer National Health Program to provide free medical and dental care for all, with freedom of choice for consumers among both conventional and alternative health care providers, federally financed and controlled by democratically elected local boards.
    * Free Child Care: Available voluntarily and free for all who need it, modeled after Head Start, federally financed, and community controlled.
    * Lifelong Public Education: Free, quality public education from pre-school through graduate school at public institutions.
    * Affordable Housing: Expand rental and home ownership assistance, fair housing enforcement, public housing, and capital grants to non-profit developers of affordable housing until all people can obtain decent housing at no more than 25% of their income. Democratic community control of publicly funded housing programs.

    And who pays for all this? The government. From where do they suppose "the government" gets its money?

    They have to take it from people who own it. That's unacceptable, and confiscatory -- unless you make the erroneous assumption that property is itself a form of theft. Which I don't.

    It doesn't look like I'm ready to join. But I'll read on. Their proposal for "Grassroots Democracy" would appear to abolish the United States Constitution:

    * Community Assemblies: Ground political representation in a foundation of participatory, direct democracy: a Community Assembly in every neighborhood, open to all of its residents, acting as a grassroots legislative body, with its own budget for local administration, and the power (in concert with other Citizens Assemblies who share a representative) to monitor, instruct, and recall representatives elected to municipal, state, and federal office.
    * A Proportional, Single-Chamber US Congress: Abolish the disproportional, aristocratic US Senate. Create a single-chamber US Congress, elected by a system of mixed-member proportional representation that combines district representatives elected by preference voting and party representatives seated in proportion to each party's vote.
    That's interesting, but it would destroy a vital aspect of the checks and balances the founders of this country intended to create, by replacing it with a "single chamber." I prefer the existing inefficiency, as it slows down hare-brained government schemes which might be whisked through under a single chamber.

    Similarly, the "Fair Elections" proposals (including Proportional Representation and dictating equal media access time) would require more messing with the Constitution, and I see no evidence that Proportional Representation would improve on what we have.

    I'm not enamored with the Greens' "Ecological Conversion" plank either. A few examples:

  • "phase out and ban the production and release of synthetic chemicals"
  • "Shut down waste incinerators, phase out landfills, and phase in full recycling."
  • Shut down nuclear power plants.
  • Phase out fossil fuels and phase in clean renewable energy sources.
  • Reduce auto-based transportation and expand pedestrian, bicycle, and rail transportation.
  • Ban patents on life forms in order to preserve genetic diversity and common access to our common inheritance of nature, including farmers' access to seeds and breeds.
  • Ban the release into the environment and the use in food production of genetically modified organisms that result from splicing the genes of one species into another.
  • That type of antipathy to technology borders on outright Luddism, and I could never being myself to vote for a candidate who took such positions. Now I'm even more afraid to join the Greens, lest my money be used to fund the sort of crackpots who devote their time to fighting technologies which could end Third World starvation.

    But there's more. Under "Sustainable Agriculture," is listed a proposal evocative of Maoist "land reform":

  • Create family farms and farm worker cooperatives through a homesteading program and land reform based on acreage limitations and residency requirements.
  • Break Up Corporate Agribusiness: Create family farms and farmworker cooperatives through a homesteading program and land reform based on acreage limitations and residency requirements.
  • What business is it of the government how many acres someone owns, or whether they live there? Either your property is your property, or it is not. Apparently the Green philosophy is that it is not.

    Even more evocative of Communism (listed under "Economic Democracy")are the proposals to effectively expropriate large and small businesses in favor of "the people":

  • Democratic Conversion of Big Business: Mandatory break-up and conversion to democratic worker, consumer, and/or public ownership on a human scale of the largest 500 US industrial and commercial corporations that account for about 10% of employees, 50% of profits, 70% of sales, and 90% of manufacturing assets.

  • Democratic Conversion of Small and Medium Business: Financial and technical incentives and assistance for voluntary conversion of the 22.5 million small and medium non-farm businesses in the US to worker or consumer cooperatives or democratic public enterprises. Mandate that workers and the community have the first option to buy on preferential terms in cases of plant closures, the sale or merger of significant assets, or the revocation of corporate charters.
  • Any idea what that would do to the U.S. economy?

    We'd be on the fast track to the Stone Age. (How the hell did I manage to get myself so mired in reading through -- much less analyzing -- this mess, anyway? I tried to start this day being fair minded, and I feel that I'm up to my neck in Communist quicksand.)

    Well, as the saying goes, the only way out of a hole is to keep digging, right?

    So it's onward and downward to Taxation (called "Progressive and Ecological Taxes"):

  • Enact a no-loopholes, graduated personal income tax with equal taxation of all income, regardless of source.
  • Fund Social Security, Health Care, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers Compensation out of progressive income and wealth taxes.
  • Build taxable Basic Income Grants into the progressive income tax structure to create a Universal Social Security system that ensures everyone has income for at least a modest standard of living above the poverty line.
  • Build into the progressive income tax a 100% tax on all income over ten times the minimum wage.
  • Enact a steeply progressive tax on net wealth over $2.5 million (the top 5% of households).
  • Replace the loophole-ridden estate tax with a no-loopholes, progressive inheritance tax on inheritances over $1 million.
  • Well, at least they're being honest. Their stated goal is simply the confiscation of all wealth, and the creation of a socialist welfare state.

    I'm beginning to wonder whether my friend who asked me to come to the Green Convention was playing some sort of practical joke on me. (It's been known to happen, and I probably deserve it.) But there's nothing wrong with learning something, and today, I feel that I'm starting to know the Greens.

    But I might as well finish what I started. Under "Criminal and Civil Justice Reforms" the Greens propose refocusing crime prevention efforts on rehabilitation, freeing "prisoners of racial injustice" (not defined) and political favorites:

  • Freedom for all political prisoners and prisoners of racial injustice. Clemency for Leonard Peltier. New trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
  • Restorative Justice: Establish a humane criminal sanction system based on prevention, restitution, rehabilitation, and reconciliation rather than vengeance, forced labor, and profits for the Prison-Industrial Complex. Restore full funding for college degree granting programs in state and federal prisons. Jobs and justice, not more police and prisons.
  • Fight Corporate Crime: Strengthen laws and enforcement against corporate crime with penalties that include incarceration of executives and revocation of corporate charters.
  • No explanation of why "corporate criminals" are singled out as more worthy of punishment than, say, Ted Bundy, but I'll continue my increasingly difficult attempt to be fair.

    The party's "Labor Law Reforms" would restructure labor laws, and establish a "right to freedom from discharge at will," thus completely transforming the voluntary nature of the employment contract into a state-mandated entitlement system, under which employers would be caretakers of all employees for life. (The idea must be to prevent private employment, for that would be the result.)

    The "Revitalize Public Education" plank would abolish school vouchers and give far more money to the existing educational bureucracy, and would require:

  • "Federal financing of all public education" (this would include food and medical care for all children, at state expense)
  • "Federal legislation and financing for tuition free education at public universities and technical schools for everyone who wants it."
  • I like free higher education, and free food and medical care for all children, but again, with what money, and at whose expense? Obviously, at the expense of everyone, by means of confiscatory taxes extracted by government force.

    The goal of "Free, Diverse and Uncensored Media" looks appealing, but again, the Greens propose to accomplish that by applying state power:

  • "Create a vital, democratic, diverse media system, delinked from corporate profit objectives and able to present a wide range of issues and ideas in their full complexity, free from censorship by government or by private corporate power."
  • If media are not allowed to pursue profit, that's a form of censorship at least as onerous as McCain-Feingold. For without profit (also known as money), how are they to fund whatever it is that goes out over the air? If funds come from the government (or, as is said elsewhere, "funding to exceed existing support for for-profit media"), how can it be said that no strings would be attached? (I'm a bit too cynical to believe such a thing would be possible.) If enough people want to hear, see, or read something, doesn't that tend to be reflected in that thing's profitability? I see this antipathy towards the free market as fatally flawed for its failure to recognize the inseparability of the free market ideas and the free market. So I don't think it's suprising that the Greens call for complete government regulation of the airwaves:
    Regulate Public Airwaves in the Public Interest: Reassert the public's right as owners of the electromagnetic spectrum used as broadcast airwaves to regulate their use in the public interest. Re-appropriate 6 prime-time hours a day of commercial broadcast time on each station for real public service broadcasting: ad-free children's and news/public affairs programming. Fund this liberated time by charging commercial broadcasters rents for the bandwidths they use, a tax on sales of commercial stations, and a tax on advertising. Program this ad-free time under the control of artists' and educators for the children's programs and journalists for the news and public affairs programs. Restore the Fairness Doctrine. Free time for all candidates for public office. Prohibit paid political ads or require free ads of equal time for opponents. Redistribute substantial bandwidth concessions to public, nonprofit, and locally owned commercial stations, including low-power stations. Increase stakeholder representation on and public accountability of the Federal Communications Commission.
    I'm sorry but these are little more than calls for massive restrictions on free speech, dwarfing anything in McCain Feingold.

    What about the First Amendment? Have they read it? Do they care?

    Last but not least is "International Solidarity." Among other things, the Greens would make national self defense as we know it impossible. Near total disarmament, a 75% cut in the military budget, and a complete restructuring of United States foreign policy:

    We call for a fundamental shift in US foreign policy, from supporting repressive regimes in the interests global corporations to supporting the pro-democracy labor, social, and environmental movements of the people.

    * Support International, Multilateral Peacekeeping to Stop Aggression and Genocide
    * No Unilateral US Intervention in the Internal Affairs of Other Countries
    * Close All Overseas US Military Bases
    * Disband NATO and All Aggressive Military Alliances
    * Ban US Arms Exports
    * Abolish the CIA, NSA, US Army School of the Americas, and All US Agencies of Covert Warfare
    * End the Economic Blockades of Cuba, Iraq, and Yugoslavia
    * Cut Off US Military Aid to Counter-Insurgency Wars in Colombia and Mexico
    * Freedom for Lori Berenson and All Political Prisoners
    * Require a National Referendum to Declare War

    I can't believe I got to the end, but there it is. The end.

    Of the United States as we know it. If the Greens get power.

    Where do I not join?

    UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments below, there's more than one Green Party. The newer one is called the Green Party of the United States, and it's platform is here. This is typical of far left factionalism, and I don't know when I'll have the time to get around to yet another platform.


    Wikipedia has an entry on the split here.

    MORE: The Platform of the Green Party of the United States is over 34,000 words long, and is divided into innumerable topics.

    I'm sure it's well worth fisking whenever I can spare a month or two. . .

    It's also worth noting that the ten values are substantially the same in both "parties."

    MORE: While it's too large to address in its entirety, I've read through the platform of the Green Party of the United States. In general, it's more watered down, less strident in tone, and much, much longer. And it gets into details about things the Green Party USA neglects entirely, such as nanotechnology, which the Green Party of the United States wants to ban:

    Nanotechnology - the science of manipulating matter at the molecular level - is poised to provide a new industrial revolution with vast social and environmental consequences. Like nuclear science and biotechnology, nanotechnology is being pursued largely outside of public debate, risking great harm and abuse in its use and application.

    The Green Party calls for a halt to nanotechnology development until the following conditions are met:

    11. Development of full and open public debate about the implications of nanotechnology and the fusion of nanotech with biological, materials and information sciences.

    12. Development of democratic public control mechanisms which would regulate the direction of nanotechnology research and development.

    13. Expanded research into the environmental and health consequences of exposure to nano-scale materials.

    14. Development of technology to contain and monitor nano-scale materials, and.

    15. Development of precautionary safety measures for the containment and control over nano-scale materials.

    Again, there's too much stuff in this 76 page document to analyze in a blog post.

    Will I join either party?

    The answer isn't no; it's HELL NO!

    And as Raging Bee reminded me, no one should forget that there's another, possibly even more important Green Party!

    Seniority counts!

    Platform here! You will read it!

    posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (14)

    Partisan political war?

    Unless I am reading him wrong, Professor Bainbridge seems to think that success in the Iraq war should be measured by whether it benefits partisan (in this case conservative) politics:

    The conservative agenda has advanced hardly at all since the Iraq War began. Worse yet, the growing unpopularity of the war threatens to undo all the electoral gains we conservatives have achieved in this decade. Stalwarts like me are not going to vote for Birkenstock wearers no matter how bad things get in Iraq, but what about the proverbial soccer moms? Gerrymandering probably will save the House for us at least through the 2010 redistricting, but what about the Senate and the White House?

    In sum, I am not a happy camper. I'm very afraid that 100 years from now historians will look back at W's term and ask "what might have been?"

    I'm sorry, but I think this is fundamentally the wrong way to look at any war. The country is supposed to be at war, and ideally, all citizens should be in support of it. The war is not being waged for the benefit of the "conservative" cause -- or any other cause other than the cause of freedom.

    I must be missing something. Is Professor Bainbridge suggesting that this is a war for conservatism?

    I hope he isn't, and I hope it isn't.

    UPDATE: Rick Moran has a very thorough refutation of Professor Bainbridge's post. (Much more thorough than mine.)

    posted by Eric at 11:26 PM | Comments (2)

    The callused applause of "little Himmlers"?

    Via Bill Hobbs, a post by Bob Krumm led me to Peggy Noonan's recent piece on abortion (in this case, reactions by a modern audience to an older play):

    An important moment in the plot is when a character announces she is pregnant, and considering having an abortion. In fact, she tells her mother-in-law, she's already put $5 down with the local abortionist. It is a dramatic moment. And you know as you watch it that when this play came out in 1960 it was received by the audience as a painful moment--a cry of pain from a woman who's tired of hoping that life will turn out well.

    But this is the thing: Our audience didn't know that. They didn't understand it was tragic. They heard the young woman say she was about to end the life of her child, and they applauded. Some of them cheered. It was stunning. The reaction seemed to startle the actors on stage, and shake their concentration. I was startled. I turned to my friend. "We have just witnessed a terrible cultural moment," I said. "Don't I know it," he responded.

    And I can't tell you how much that moment hurt. To know that the members of our audience didn't know that the taking of a baby's life is tragic--that the taking of your own baby's life is beyond tragic, is almost operatic in its wailing woe.

    But our audience didn't know. They reacted as if abortion were a political question. They thought that the fact that the young woman was considering abortion was a sign of liberation. They thought this cry of pain was in fact a moment of self-actualizing growth.

    Afterwards, thinking about it, I said to my friend, "When that play opened that plot point was understood--they knew it was tragic. And that was only what, 40 years ago." He said, "They would have known it was tragic even 25 years ago."

    And it gave me a shiver because I knew it was true.

    Peggy Noonan is right about abortion being a tragedy. Whether that is an argument for imprisoning the mother is of course highly debatable. Still more debatable is whether taking the "morning after pill" like RU-486 is a tragedy, and if so, whether the tragedy rises to the same level.

    Yes, matters of personal tragedies have now become highly political, with grandstanding and cheerleading on one side, and moral scolding on the other. The result has been a near-deafening chorus of political hyperbole on both sides. The idea of publicly applauding a decision to have an abortion is sickening. As Bill Krumm says, it's a callous change.

    Yet calluses take time to develop, and I'm not altogether sure that these calluses were produced solely by shrill groups of angry feminists waving coat hangers. I've previously posted about an incident in which local college-age girls went into their student lounge to be confronted with huge placards of mutilated fetuses. This is intended to have "shock value" and it takes an emotional toll (at least it did on the girls there at the time).

    "Desensitization" is, I believe, the expression which is used. If you stick enough gruesome images into people's faces, it is only natural that they will no longer have the desired effect. The effect can backfire, and "desensitization" can morph into backlash. (At the time, it seemed more likely that the offended girls would be motivated to drive to Washington to fight the sign wavers than support them. And I wouldn't be surprised if such "calluses" helped them do things like cheer at inappropriate times.)

    When RU-486 is likened to Zyklon-B, and the drug companies and doctors involved are compared to Himmler, is it any wonder that the people who are not persuaded (or who feel maligned) by these comparisons might become more cynical? More callused?

    Few people liked Ward Churchill's "little Eichmanns" remark, but I'm now looking back at some of the callused things I wrote. I cracked insensitive jokes -- directly as a reaction to his ridiculous hyperbole.

    At the risk of asking a callused question, am I not supposed to laugh at my own calluses?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I think that what's being lost in the debate hyperbole is the ability to recognize that making abortion legal does not make it a good thing -- any more than legalizing heroin (which I support) would make heroin use a good thing.

    I wouldn't even applaud aborting tiny dog fetuses. I'd actually feel sorry for the canine mother. (That's probably just an example of misplaced anthropomorphism -- something for psychoanalysts to ponder. I'm too callused.)

    posted by Eric at 09:38 AM | Comments (8)

    How to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain . . .

    I'm wondering whether sexism is raising its ugly head in New York's Senate race:

    ALBANY, N.Y. - Is this a Senate race or country music?

    Cheating husbands. An out-of-wedlock child. Prison bars. Strong, independent women standing by their wayward men.

    The stuff of late nights, neon-lit jukeboxes and smoky roadhouses? Not quite.

    These women are Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeanine Pirro, both lawyers and both with homes in a tony suburb north of New York City, and they're on a possible political collision course.

    Clinton is the former first lady seeking a second term as New York's junior Democratic senator, and just possibly eyeing a run for the White House in 2008. Pirro, a district attorney known for her cable television crime-case commentary, wants to be the Republican to challenge Clinton's 2006 re-election bid.

    GOP boosters encouraged Pirro to run, reasoning in part that any liability presented by Albert Pirro, the disbarred lawyer-lobbyist who served 11 months in federal prison for tax fraud, would be canceled out by Bill Clinton's better-known White House affair with Monica Lewinsky.

    "Hillary didn't seem to get hurt by whatever her husband did, so I think they would negate each other, and it would be, hopefully, Hillary versus Jeanine," Saratoga County GOP Chairman Jasper Nolan said in May when Pirro first said she might run for the Senate.

    Maybe not.

    "The difference between Jeanine Pirro and Hillary Clinton is Jeanine Pirro's husband served time and Hillary's didn't," said Republican strategist Nelson Warfield. "Generally, you like your candidates to talk about convictions, but not their husband's convictions."

    This puts Hillary in a bit of a dilemma, because she has far greater name recognition, but she's also vulnerable to the charge that she's been coat-tailing on her husband's name. So, if she maligns Jeanine Pirro's husband, that gives Pirro an opening to make the election about Bill Clinton. Yet if she ignores Mr. Pirro's felon status, she might miss a valuable campaign opportunity, and avoiding "the husband issue" might be seen as grounded in a desire to avoid talking about her own husband. A possible no-win for Hillary -- unless she has others do her dirty work for her. (The Cindy Sheehan crowd has helped Hillary too, by making her look moderate, even hawkish.)

    What fascinates me about this is that wives are rarely the subject of inquiry in a race between two male candidates. Going after an opponent's wife (even when there's dirt) is seen as dirty politics -- if not "unmanly" behavior.

    There's always the ancient technique called praeteritio -- bringing up something by saying you won't bring it up -- but voters are sophisticated enough to catch it, which means it should be used sparingly. And subtly. Hillary could object that she won't allow "them" (that's the VRWC) to "smear" her husband, that she's running on her own issues, and that husbands and families should not be a proper focus of a campaign. This would remind voters that "the husband issue" is there, but that Hillary doesn't think it's right to dwell on it. (Specifically refusing to dwell on her own husband, of course, evokes her opponent's husband without mentioning him at all.)

    For extra effect, she could add that she's "paid no attention" to whatever is being paid attention to, and that no one else should either!

    Gotta keep this race clean, and focused on the real issues.

    MORE: Whoops, almost forgot about something not to bring up. If Jeanine Pirro's husband is maligned, she can always specifically refuse to make any wisecracks about whether the Pirro family could have afforded to buy him a pardon. Keep it clean!

    posted by Eric at 09:03 AM | Comments (2)

    The gravest possible threats

    Pandagon has responded to my last post:

    If you're going for grade-B wingnuttia, Classical Values shows off the humorless, clueless, mildly dishonest weaseldom that conservatives do so well.

    As a hint to Eric: the issue is not that "trackbacks are a right". I have no right to comment on a blog, I have no right, as such, to even read it if the author doesn't want me to. It's that someone like LaShawn, who's obviously so sensitive to criticism that she has literally made her blog unreadable to anyone except those who agree with her, hates discourse and dialogue.

    If you're going to be on a forum for mass communication and shut down all forms of communication...it makes you open to criticism. It also goes back to the general approach towards criticism on the right that LaShawn embodies, which is to throw out threats of lawsuits and grave bloggish vengeance to prevent anyone from making any comment more negative than "busted link". If Barber wants to be a public figure who restricts any discussion of what she writes or says to people she disagrees with, so be it. But her insecure closed-mindedness only makes her more ridiculous and more of a target.

    Bets on which parts of this get entirely misread?

    I'll start by misreading the humorless clueless weasel stuff. Pandagon is hereby banished to Teletubby Trackbackland for saying such things. As to "conservative," well, lots of other people probably would call me a liberal (and this test calls me a libertarian), but liberal and conservative are just labels -- of less and less value to anyone except those who believe in them. It's name calling and it speaks for itself, and I don't think it's any more persuasive than it would be if I replied the same way. For what it's worth, I think it was extremely rude to call La Shawn a "dumbass," and I think it speaks highly of her that she has maintained a sense of humor. (At least I think Teletubbies falls into the humor category, even for those who imagine a "serious" gay theme.)

    So who spilled the Tubby Custard on me, anyway?


    Was it that mean Pandagon man?

    As to the contention that La Shawn "has literally made her blog unreadable to anyone except those who agree with her," that simply isn't true. She may be playing a game with someone who insulted her, but even if she redirects links from a particular site, anyone can read her blog by entering the URLs directly because it's on the Internet.

    Or am I misreading "literally unreadable"?

    I'm still trying to misread the part about the "general approach towards criticism on the right that LaShawn embodies, which is to throw out threats of lawsuits and grave bloggish vengeance."

    Yes, the general approach is very grave:


    And threatening:


    Better get used to it.

    UPDATE: I'm being throttled again, and I'll take Pandagon at his word that he didn't do it. However, this is what my Activity Log says:

    2005.08.22 03:30:20 xxx.xxx.xxx.xx Ping 'http://www.pandagon.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1153' failed: HTTP error: 403 Throttled
    2005.08.22 03:30:20 xxx.xxx.xxx.xx Ping 'http://www.pandagon.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1162' failed: HTTP error: 403 Throttled
    If there's one thing worse than being called names, it's being throttled.

    Can anyone help?

    UPDATE (08/27/05): As La Shawn Barber notes, allowing comments can get you sued. (Via InstaPundit.)

    Another reason why the criticism of La Shawn's comment and trackback policies is unreasonable.

    posted by Eric at 10:25 PM | Comments (8)

    Right wing stifles another cherished American right!

    La Shawn Barber has had it with annoying trackbacks, and I don't blame her. I don't like them either, but I'm sure she gets far more than I do because of her status as an outspoken black conservative. Lots of bloggers don't allow trackbacks, but if you do, prepare for annoyances. Anything from spam trackbacks, trackbacks from abusive posts, parasitic trackbacks that link to posts not mentioning the post they've tracked back -- and all of these take up space at your blog.

    Whether to have trackbacks at all is a personal decision. How La Shawn might deal with them should be no one's business but hers. Anyway, her policy is simply not to allow (in addition to spam and non-referring links) libelous or insulting linkings to be appear as trackbacks on her blog:

    4) Trackbacks leading to offensive, ad hominem-laced, and/or libelous posts where I’m the subject will be deleted. Habitual offenders will be permanently banned.

    5) If a trackback leads to a non-offensive post, but you allow commenters to libel me, the trackback will be deleted and habitual offenders permanently banned.

    For most bloggers, the idea that anyone should have the right to put a trackback on someone else's blog would be absurd.

    Not to La Shawn's critics (Pandagon and Atrios). They seem to think they have a right not only to savage her and libel her, but to require her to help facilitate the insults and the libels.


    Let me try to make sense of this if I can. Here's Pandagon:

    Permanent banning from having LaShawn Barber readers attack other blogs for her being wrong? Glory be, what's this world coming to?
    I'll let you know when I find out. But right now I'm having a lot of trouble understanding know what is meant by "readers attack[ing] other blogs for her [La Shawn] being wrong." What the? La Shawn never said anything about that, nor would she, as it makes no sense. Suppose I thought La Shawn was wrong. I might disagree with her (for example, on whether the Iraq War should be analyzed in terms of whether it harms conservatism), but why on earth would I "attack" another blog for anything La Shawn said? (If I did, it would be clear evidence that I'd developed full-blown Alzheimers.)

    Anyway, Pandagon continues:

    I tell you - back when I started blogging, we had to deal with real trolls - people who sat around posting upwards of a hundred comments a day on every post you wrote, almost never doing anything other than attacking you personally. As it is, the standard on the conservative side of the blogosphere for "attacking" seems to have devolved to "disagreement".
    It has? I suggest that disagreeing with Cindy Sheehan, however rationally, is one of the best ways to be accused of "attacking" -- a phenomenon I saw similarly at work with the uproar over Jamie Gorelick. I think most fair minded people can see the difference between disagreement and personal attacks, but I also think politics invites the blurring of this distinction. What I do not see is any evidence that La Shawn's trackback policy in any way defines disagreements as "attacks." Insulting language, ad hominem attacks, and libels are not mere disagreements, and libel goes way beyond ordinary political attack, even of the ad hominem variety.

    I've been deleted and/or banned from several conservative blogs for simply disagreeing, not because I was "vulgar" or "profane", but simply because I showed up, had a different opinion, and dared to actually put it on their site.

    You've also got to love the fact that a site owner, in Barber's eyes, is now responsible for other people not hurting her feelings in their comments. (And yes, that's ultimately what this is all about - preventing conservative bloggers from ever having to hear anything about their positions other than the degree of agreement between you and the linker.)

    While I don't know the details of how Pandagon got "banned from several conservative blogs for simply disagreeing," what does it have to do with La Shawn's trackback policy? And where are La Shawn's "hurt feelings" to be found? How did La Shawn say that she would tolerate nothing "other than degrees of agreement"?

    There are certain sites that I hold responsible for their commenters - LGF, for example, which despite Chuck J.'s implorations to the contrary, does everything in its power to promote rabid and violent hatred as a matter of course.
    Isn't there a contradiction in holding LGF responsible for commenters, while slamming La Shawn for wanting to do the same thing? I'm also wondering precisely how anyone would go about doing everything in his power to promote what he implores people not to do, and I'd like to know, but it's getting off topic. As is any discussion of LGF commenters, really -- for what have they to do with La Shawn's trackback policy?
    Most other sites, though, I just don't care. Pandagon is hard enough to enforce, and we're not a comment machine like other sites. Trying to enact Barber's policy on a site like Atrios or the Washington Monthly, for example, would be a headache of the utmost degree, particularly given the definition of libel that includes a lot of shit that's in no way libelous.
    That's an interesting definition, but it's contradictory, as libel is a legal definition. I looked at the definition La Shawn cited (rather straightforward as legal definitions go), but "a lot of shit that's in no way libelous" just didn't stare me in the face.
    I guess the big question now is how offensive do we need to be before no liberal blog is allowed to trackback to LaShawn Barber again? And when can we start?
    At the risk of sounding like a Nazi, since when did anyone -- liberal, conservative, moderate, libertarian, anarchist, atheist, Muslim, or Pagan -- have even the slightest entitlement to trackback to La Shawn Barber?

    This "if you don't allow trackbacks you're stifling dissent" approach is almost comical, but the reason I'm taking it seriously is that it touches on the old idea of forcing blogs to allow so called "fair comment." It's a terrible, unconstitutional idea that won't go away, and I have zero tolerance for it.

    Why, I wouldn't even impose the rule on the link-avoiding James Wolcott, whose penchant for refusing to link even to the very words he criticizes I've complained about before. (And who, much like the stiflers of dissent on the far right, allows neither comments nor trackbacks.) But Wolcott is the opposite extreme. Most bloggers -- left, right, or center, at least link to stuff they criticize. Interestingly enough, I've been criticized for linking to to stuff I disagree with, which only demonstrates the huge spread of opinion on the mechanics of criticizing blog posts.

    The bottom line here is that La Shawn is perfectly free to treat trackbacks any way she wants. Deleting trackbacks she deems insulting or libelous is in my view a moderate, reasonable approach to what I am sure is a major pain in the ass. There's no right to freely advertise your insults on my blog.

    People who feel shut off or censored can criticize her the old fashioned way.

    In their own blogs.

    If they don't allow me to trackback, I won't feel censored.

    IMPORTANT AND URGENT UPDATE: The dark and ugly forces of tyrannical trackbackicide have struck again. Just look at what happened when I published this post:

    2005.08.21 19:38:55 ###.###.##.## Ping 'http://www.pandagon.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1153' failed: HTTP error: 403 Throttled
    2005.08.21 19:38:55 ###.###.##.## Ping 'http://lashawnbarber.com/archives/2005/08/20/trackback/trackback/' failed: Sorry, trackbacks are closed for this item.
    You see? The left and the right are already working in collusion to stifle dissent at Classical Values!

    I'm feeling, like, way censored.

    (As the activity log says, throttled!)

    MORE: Anyone who still thinks La Shawn's rules are too severe should read the The Classical Values Eleven Rules of Etiquette for Commenters.

    Oh what the hell. I'll reprint them again, as a public service:

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

    ADDITIONAL RULE (with special exemption): No man may discuss abortion or the abortion issue unless he has had one. (Sorry folks, but I'm afraid this means only Glenn Reynolds.)

    (With rules like that, little wonder I get so few comments.)

    posted by Eric at 01:55 PM | Comments (13)

    I hate lawyers for making me stay on this planet!

    Moments after writing the last post about San Francisco's political rejection of a historic U.S.S. Iowa, my attention was drawn to Glenn's link about the feasibility of constructing a space elevator. Technologically, it's a solid, practical idea, but my concern is that it might be more politically impractical than it initially seems. Bradley Karl Edwards recognizes that building such a thing -- a giant cable, literally piercing the heavens -- will carry political costs:

    Costs associated with legal, regulatory, and political aspects could easily add another $4 billion, but these expenses are much harder to estimate.
    Here on the East Coast, politics prevents building or widening roads. When environmentalists team up with wealthy NIMBYs, the most simple things simply don't happen.

    Pennsylvania's Blue Route is a good example. It took nearly forty years of legal wrangling to build it, and that took place mostly before the rise of environmentalism.

    I can only imagine the outcry over a giant cable. Assorted Luddites, socialists, religious nuts, greenie weenies, anti-globalists, a public fearful of terrorist threats, and a whole bunch of people who like to cite "all the problems we have on earth" as a reason not to do things space related -- all of these will coalesce. A dramatic thing like a cable to heaven would be seen as a symbol of All That Is Wrong With Man. Symbols drive emotion and ignorance, which in turn drive politics.

    I have serious doubts as to whether this could ever happen, and if it proved politically impossible, I'd blame lawyers more than any single group.

    My admitted hatred of lawyers is probably a form of self hatred -- something probably confirmable after a few years of analysis.... The odd thing is I don't hate lawyers as individuals; I only hate what they do as a group. (I could say the same thing about the tyranny of rule by emotion, I guess. Too many lawyers seem to use human emotion as economic fuel.)

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

    U.S. out of San Francisco!

    In a brazen display of Michael Moore style triumphalism (and a slap in the face of all World War II veterans), the San Francisco City Council has refused to allow the historic U.S.S. Iowa a home in San Francisco's maritime museum:

    The USS Iowa joined in battles from World War II to Korea to the Persian Gulf. It carried President Franklin Roosevelt home from the Teheran conference of allied leaders, and four decades later, suffered one of the nation’s most deadly military accidents.

    Veterans groups and history buffs had hoped tourists in San Francisco could walk the same teak decks where sailors dodged Japanese machine-gun fire and fired 16-inch guns that helped win battles across the South Pacific.

    Instead, it appears the retired battleship is headed about 80 miles inland, to Stockton, a gritty agricultural port town on the San Joaquin River and home of California’s annual asparagus festival.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a former San Francisco mayor, helped secure $3 million to tow the Iowa from Rhode Island to the Bay Area in 2001 in hopes of making touristy Fisherman’s Wharf its new home.

    But city supervisors voted 8-3 last month to oppose taking in the ship, citing local opposition to the Iraq war and the military’s stance on gays, among other things.

    "If I was going to commit any kind of money in recognition of war, then it should be toward peace, given what our war is in Iraq right now," Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said.

    Feinstein called it a "very petty decision."

    "This isn’t the San Francisco that I’ve known and loved and grew up in and was born in," Feinstein said.

    San Francisco’s maritime museum already has one military vessel - the USS Pampanito, an attack submarine that sank six Japanese ships during World War II and has about 110,000 visitors a year.

    There's nothing surprising about it. What is surprising to me is to see San Francisco continue to allow the presence of an attack submarine guilty of racist war crimes against the valiant forces which opposed white supremacy and imperialism. (Amazon link here.)

    MORE: Ross Mirkarimi, the supervisor quoted above, is a gun-toting gun-grabber (yes, there are such things) who takes his lessons in Constitutional Law from Michael Moore films:

    “Supervisor-elect Ross Mirkarimi, who himself owns two handguns because of his job as an investigator in the district attorney's office, said he supported the ordinance.

    "How many more Michael Moore films does it take to tell us that the Second Amendment is absolutely archaic, and other nations do it better than we do?" said Mirkarimi, who plans to donate or sell his own guns. "We should absolutely go forward with it despite the constitutional challenges."

    MORE: Considering the title of this post, it occurred to me that the polite thing to do would be to at least provide a link to San Francisco's secessionist movement.

    UPDATE (08/23/05): August 20, 2005 seems destined go be a date which will live in political infamy, as many Republicans are on record as agreeing with Dianne Feinstein. Writing for GOP Bloggers, Jason Smith (in a piece called "Mark this date: I Agree With Diane Feinstein!") supplies this list of how San Francisco supervisors voted:

    Tell them what you think:

    Supported the Permanent Berthing of the U.S.S. Iowa as a Museum at the Port of San Francisco:

    DID NOT SUPPORT the Permanent Berthing of the U.S.S. Iowa as a Museum at the Port of San Francisco:

    MORE: Eugene Volokh correctly describes the supervisors' action as appalling:

    Just appalling. This ship helped protect America and the Free World from the Japanese and the Nazis. It helped protect the South Koreans from being overrun by the North. Yet somehow that's all outweighed in the Supervisors' minds by the Iraq war and of the military's policy on homosexuality. What a shocking lack of perspective and lack of respect for the institution that has helped (and continues to help) to protect San Franciscans -- and, I should mention, gay and lesbian San Franciscans, who would have suffered far worse than exclusion from the military in the hands of our WWII-era enemies, or of our modern enemies -- alongside all other Americans. (For more on a similar lack of perspective on the part of law schools that refuse to let the military interview on campus, see here.)
    It's political correctness carried to a monstrous extreme. What I find most appalling is that these attitudes now typify smug San Francisco, and are considered trendy. The facial expressions of the attendees at this exhibition of "vintage" Black Panther art -- reviewed by S.F. Supervisor Mirkarimi -- in my view typify the trendy smugness.

    Maybe I'm wrong; should I have said "smug trendiness"?

    posted by Eric at 10:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    Now On Loan To The AEI Collection: King Tut

    My fishing expedition is far from over, but this item was so good I just had to come back and tell you about it. I've been remiss in letting so much time elapse, but better late than never, eh?

    The following is an eye witness account of a Kass sighting at the American Enterprise Institute. I believe it to be genuine.

    Apparently, the parched mummy of the once brilliant ethicist was wheeled out on stage, where it proceeded to champ its wizened jaws and expel what was variously described as a "fell miasma", or "dessicated wisdom granules" liberally mixed with finely ground sacred tanna leaves. No, really.

    I wouldn't lie to you.

    Last night I went to the annual intern dinner at the American Enterprise Institute. Leon Kass...delivered the keynote speech.

    Our intrepid reporter Anastasia hails from Liberty Belles, a Catallarchy affiliate. Her observations are a telling little gem regarding the Former-Boy Philosopher-King.

    He didn’t say anything contentious for most of the speech, probably because he wasn’t there to deliver a policy lecture but to be agreeable and interesting. Besides, he was preaching to his choir anyway.

    He kept talking about the need to politicize bioethics...

    Yeah, that's just what we need...

    ...in order to engage the public in a debate, and he framed his research in terms of “human dignity.” He referred to Huxley’s Brave New World at least seven times...I think he relied more on that book than on solid science to support his vision of the future...

    He closed by talking about how certain advances in medicine would undermine human dignity– among them, saving human embryos by implanting them in the womb of a pig. Finally, he asked for questions– in his own words, “the tougher, the better”.

    I asked the first question, which was, “How do you reconcile your belief in the fetus’ ‘right to life’ with your belief that human dignity belies being saved by a pig?”

    I wasn’t coming down on the issue one way or the other; I only wanted to know if he recognizes the inconsistency and whether he has a logical answer.

    He was quiet for a good 30 seconds, then started talking again about the meaning of human dignity. I kept waiting for him to address my question specifically, but he never did. After one more Brave New World reference, he concluded, “…and basically, if you can’t see what’s wrong with having a pig for a mother, I can’t help you”.

    This is actually datapoint two in a series. Time out for testimony from a different witness at a different event, a Kass Q&A at Harvard...

    Markus Meister...brought up a good example of a technology that has completely changed our lives: telecommunications. A hundred years ago one could have argued that it would be highly unnatural for us to be able to talk to people out of earshot, much less across the globe.

    Language is one of the real features that makes us human, so given that telephones have changed the way we speak to each other and even changed the way we think about speaking to each other, where did Kass stand on the issue of phones....were they dehumanizing?

    Kass' answer: Well, phones have been around for 100 years but the quality of discussion hasn't improved at Harvard.

    Hey, one more and I can plot a curve! And now, back to Anastasia...

    A few of the AEI interns came up to me later and expressed their concern that Kass’ answer was rude. I suppose it was, but I wasn’t insulted. I just wanted an actual answer.

    If the life of a human being depends on being placed in a pig’s womb, I don’t understand why the place of gestation outweighs the result of saving a life. I especially don’t see how one can oppose emergency gestation anyplace besides the human womb and at the same time support the “right to life” on moral grounds.

    Nor do I.

    Loyal commenter Clara, a fellow witness to the Philosophe, had this to add...

    Anastasia is too modest to describe Dr. Kass’s immediate reaction for you: For the better part of a minute, he just opened and closed his mouth, unable to form a single word in response to her question.

    The man was stumped. Clearly.

    It's difficult to reconcile your embarassingly contradictory moral imperatives in a public venue, especially on the fly, especially as you near your dotage. Had it been me up on that stage, I might have tried to pass over the moment with a lame witticism, or perhaps a wee, wee dram of measured bluster.

    Oh, right. He did.

    posted by Justin at 12:27 AM | Comments (4)

    Repentance comes again

    Here's a local event which is becoming national. Talented anti-gay activist and former Clinton White House intern Michael Marcavage is now claiming that "Christians" defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, by making them lose:

    A Philadelphia-based Christian group is claiming victory over the Phillies after displaying an anti-gay banner at the team's annual Gay Day game.

    Thursday night was the third annual Gay Day at Citizens Bank Park -- and the third time that members of Repent America showed up to protest the event, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Saturday.

    Larry Felzer, the Philadelphia attorney who began organizing the annual Gay Day in 2003, told the newspaper he wasn't sure the Phillies were following their own policy by allowing members of RA to display a banner that read: "Homosexuality Is Sin. Christ Can Set You Free."

    RA founder Michael Marcavage, one of the men holding that banner Thursday, faulted the Phillies for holding an event condoning homosexuality. He told the newspaper the protest meant the team "had a political agenda shoved in their face."

    Michael Stiles, Phillies vice president of operations, said he found the RA message offensive, but he believes the group has a constitutional right to express its opinion at Citizens Bank Park, which is taxpayer-funded.

    Repent America's Web site reported on the event with a headline that read: "Phillies Lose, Christians Win.

    It's a little hard to follow the logic here, but then, the only thing which seems logical about Marcavage is his ability to get headlines. I've repeatedly predicted he'd go far, and he seems to be doing just that.

    Not to be left out of the fun, Atrios is generously supporting an effort to send Marcavage to Iraq. No word from Mikey on whether he's going, but considering the way he talks about President Bush, and the way he sounds in this interview I think it's a safe bet that he's at least as much against the Iraq War as Atrios.

    Politics loves strange bedfellows, and this has all the makings of an orgy.

    posted by Eric at 08:53 PM | Comments (1)

    Search ended for LaToyia Figueroa

    Bad news. The search for pregnant mother LaToyia Figueroa (a search which activated the blogosphere) is over, as police have found her body. Boyfriend Stephen Poaches is being charged with murder:

    PHILADELPHIA - A former boyfriend of LaToyia Figueroa, a pregnant woman whose month-long disappearance attracted national attention, will be charged with her death, authorities said Saturday.

    Stephen Poaches, 25, of West Philadelphia, the father of her unborn baby, was to be charged with two counts of murder and related offenses for the deaths of the 24-year-old woman and her fetus, District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said Saturday. Abraham said the charges were still being prepared and she did not know exactly what the other charges would be.

    At a news conference Saturday in Philadelphia, held just hours after the discovery of the body before dawn in nearby Chester, authorities did not say what led them to conclude that Poaches was responsible.

    "We don't want to try the case today," Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said. "It's a very complex investigation and it's just really starting. We just don't want to have the arrest; we want to have the conviction. And I'm sure with the district attorney's office and everybody else who's involved that we will get the conviction."

    When Poaches was arrested in Chester, about 13 miles southwest of Philadelphia, police said he was wearing a bulletproof vest and was carrying a .45 caliber automatic pistol.

    Poaches' lawyer, Michael Coard, has repeatedly spoken to journalists on behalf of Poaches, including national television appearances in which he noted that Poaches has spoken to investigators voluntarily and that he has consented to have his home and his vehicle searched. Johnson said Saturday that Coard's public relations moves would not hold up.

    "He has an attorney who has basically tried this case in the news media and has depicted him to be innocent. We are saying today that he is not innocent and we are going to convict him and he will go to whatever he deserves to get," Johnson said.

    It was a horrible crime, and I hope they have a solid case against him.

    My sympathy goes out to the family.

    posted by Eric at 03:57 PM | Comments (7)

    Categories of smear

    I have repeatedly questioned the fitness of Jamie Gorelick to sit on the 9/11 Commission because of what I see as a conflict of interest. I now see (via InstaPundit) that Ann Althouse has gotten into trouble with an angry left wing chorus accusing her (and Glenn) of engaging in a "smear."

    What I want to know is: precisely what is a smear?

    Is it a smear to raise questions about a possible conflict of interest? Even when they turn out to be well founded?

    If that's a smear, then what should we call hurling accusations of murder or fascism, or making repeated comparisons to Adolf Hitler?

    What's the proper term for accusing libertarians of promoting the far right agenda?

    I can't help noticing that the posts accusing Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse of smearing are placed in a category called "RADICAL RIGHT-WING AGENDA."

    Why are there no similar categories appearing at the blogs of either Smearmeister Reynolds or Smearmistress Althouse? Where's the "RADICAL LEFT-WING AGENDA" category?

    I hate to say it, but I think Glenn is "dropping the ball in the 'continual smear' department."

    (Either that or he's a predatory hawk who likes to smear his prey before eating it.)

    UPDATE: Thanks Glenn for linking this post! (BTW, to liberally smear is to enjoy life!)

    A warm welcome to InstaPundit readers.

    UPDATE: Readers who are interested in the distinction between disagreement and attacks (and the mischaracterizations of one as the other for political gain) might enjoy my latest post.

    posted by Eric at 12:20 PM | Comments (1)

    A tough sell?

    Glenn Reynolds (who has repeatedly complained that he doesn't want to be prey), has today linked to Ann Althouse (also a spoilsport where it comes to "re-wilding" America by introducing predatory animals). Here's the "huge issue":

    "Obviously, gaining public acceptance is going to be a huge issue, especially when you talk about reintroducing predators," said lead author Josh Donlan, of Cornell University. "There are going to have to be some major attitude shifts. That includes realising predation is a natural role, and that people are going to have to take precautions."
    Like lock your doors, don't leave the house, and never keep a gun handy because you might be tempted to use it illegally against a protected animal?

    The "attitide shifts" involve more than merely taking precautions. Donlan, the scientist who's proposing this, has obviously done a little market research into this delicate matter:

    Donlan concedes that lions would be a tough sell to Americans.

    "Lions eat people," he said. "There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators."

    I'm not sure that I'd characterize the sticking point as being along the lines of how we view the predators, because it's uncontested that predators are predators -- a fact Donlan does not deny.

    Rather, I think he's talking about how we view ourselves. Most Americans aren't accustomed to seeing themselves as prey -- as being part of the food chain. I think that's the tough sell.

    Some sort of educational campaign is needed.

    "Join the food chain!" might sound a bit insensitive at first, but if the benefits are explained carefully, people might get used to the idea. There's already an environmentally friendly death movement, and people are warming to the idea of being naturally eaten after death. As one future thinker opined:

    To me, the idea that I could become worm food is an honor.
    Worm food, lion food, when you're dead, you're dead!

    New ideas take time.

    posted by Eric at 11:04 AM | Comments (3)

    "the children of the privileged should be doing some of the dying"

    So says Bob Herbert -- who is particularly upset that President Bush has been spotted riding a bicycle:

    Mr. Bush is the commander in chief who launched a savage war in Iraq and now spends his days happily riding his bicycle in Texas.

    This is eerie. Scary. Surreal.

    Well, the president is a known physical fitness buff. I'm wondering whether Bob Herbert's objection is to the president's regular exercise, or whether it's to his choice of a bicycle as an inappropriate form of exercise. If Bush took Mr. Herbert's advice and lost the bike (or used an indoor stationary bike), would that make everything OK?

    I don't think so, because he seems to see the bike riding as a symptom of a national disease. We're all guilty of enabling this frolicking, fun-loving president, because we don't care:

    If the nation really cared, the president would not be frolicking at his ranch for the entire month of August. He'd be back in Washington burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to get the troops out of the terrible fix he put them in.

    Instead, Mr. Bush is bicycling as soldiers and marines are dying. Dozens have been killed since he went off on his vacation.

    As for the rest of the nation, it's not doing much for the troops, either. There was a time, long ago, when war required sacrifices that were shared by most of the population. That's over.

    I was in Jacksonville, Fla., a few days ago and watched in amusement as a young woman emerged from a restaurant into 95-degree heat and gleefully exclaimed, "All right, let's go shopping!" The war was the furthest thing from her mind.

    Well, shame on her! And shame on me for going out last night!

    I'd love to ask Bob Herbert whether he indulges himself in such decadent exercises as bicycle riding, swimming or running, or has any kind of personal physical fitness program. Has he, or has anyone in his family acting on his behalf, been shopping in any stores recently? If he has or they have, then I have more questions, because I demand answers!

    I don't think I'm any more likely to get answers from Mr. Herbert than Cindy Sheehan is from Bush.

    That's the way it is when you're dealing with rich, powerful elites.


    Anyway, speaking of privilege -- and bicycles -- what about Manhattan's Upper West Side, where Bob Herbert lives? There are plenty of bicycles there, and the Upper West Side's City Council representative wants more of them!

    “I love bikes and I don’t love cars,” Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, told the crowd. “I look forward to working with you to make sure there are fewer cars and more bicycles.”

    Upper West Siders ride?

    While others died?

    posted by Eric at 09:42 AM | Comments (2)

    Classically Inciteful evening

    Just made it back from an evening of dinner and drinking with John Beck of Incite and yours truly of Classical Values.

    After hooking up at Philadelphia's 30th Street train station, John and I went to "Ludwig's" -- and old German bar with mounted animal heads on the wall. It's a charming place with great food and beer, but the lighting was absolutely terrible for photos. I thought I'd try to photograph John next to the moose head, but the neon light from a jukebox overpowered half of John's head, and I think the moose was trying to overpower the other half.

    The best I could do was half of a blogger and half of a moose:


    Fortunately, the lighting outside was better, which allowed a full facial view of John:


    As it happened, John was drinking more liberally than I was. Not to get political about it, but I had to drive, so I was drinking more conservatively. This wasn't a drinking contest, of course. Just having a good time.

    To take the last outdoor photo, I had to balance my camera on a utility box, set the shutter timer and hop into the picture just in time for the camera to photograph both of us:


    Notice John is taller than I am now. But twenty years ago, I was probably taller than he was. (Probably could drink more too -- at least I hope so, considering the age difference!)

    While I can't say two bloggers constitute a "blog swarm," it was a very fun evening. Stuff like this should happen more often.

    MORE: Here's John's recollection of the evening:

    I only had three beers, but they were roughly 2 pints each, and German beer is about twice the alcohol content of American beer.
    But that's not the same story he gave the police!

    posted by Eric at 12:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    the path to impurity?

    Every once in a while I like to check my political litmus -- stuff like whether I'm still a libertarian, or how much of a libertarian I am, or how I score in tests purporting to tell me that. So once again, I took Bryan Caplan's Libertarian Purity Test (which I found via Incite).

    My all time high on this test was a score of 105 on March 11, 2004. I don't know wy I was so high that day, but this time I only scored 100 -- out of a possible perfect score of 160.

    91-130 points: You have entered the heady realm of hard-core libertarianism. Now doesn't that make you feel worse that you didn't get a perfect score?
    Not really. I find myself more and more inclined to resist such external judgments.

    I suspect I'd find the type of person who'd score 160 to be a bit on the impractical side. The kind who like to argue late into the night over things like whether handguns should be sold to children in elementary school vending machines, who'd open the borders to the entire world, and who'd eliminate national self defense. While I have no objection per se to libertarian purity, and I think it's good that there are such people, that kind of libertarianism would be a national suicide pact if implemented.

    Most of my friends -- whether liberal, moderate or conservative -- would probably fall into the 50 through 80 range.

    Which means I'm still a bit of a kook from the standpoint of most of my friends, as well as a less-than-pure sellout from the standpoint of libertarian purists.

    Can't please 'em, can't join 'em.

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

    A fake war against authenticity?

    If there's one thing I hate, it's writing an authentic film review (that's why I prefer to write film reviews about films I've never seen). But if there's one thing I hate more than writing a film review, it's when I have to write about a film I hate. Unfortunately, that's the case with Me and You and Everyone We Know. It must be the fact that I'm an old crank, but when a film gets glowing reviews by leading critics like Roger Ebert, when it wins at both the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals, I sort of expect that it might be at least entertaining; maybe even good.

    I didn't get what I expected. Instead, the film reminded me of some of the regrettable 1970s drivel I had to sit through thirty years ago. Poor writing and rank amateurism, syruped over with long musical interludes no doubt intended to be "artsy" -- in the hope you either won't notice there's nothing there, or (better yet) you might be distracted into thinking it's great art. Before I was even twenty minutes into the film, I began to ask myself who on earth could possibly have written such insipidly boring, profoundly uninspiring dialogue.

    In the interest of fairness, I should point out that I don't share the stated philosophy of the director/writer/star, Miranda July:

    The movie is the product of someone brought up in a household that revered authenticity ­— to a fault, she implies — and who has since devoted her life’s work to questioning its value. “I was raised with this fear of fakeness,” says July over lunch on the patio of a Beverly Hills hotel, “this fear that I might become fake. But what is fake? Like the bird picture in the tree at the end, does fake really matter if we’re really able to connect? That’s the human condition.”
    And, sure enough, the film is authentic. Um, unique, even.

    More about the Miranda July here. (In addition to her new career as a director, she's a musician and blogger.)

    Again, I'm sorry to be displaying hostility, and I know my geriatric jadedness is showing. But years ago I lived with a performance artist, and I knew some of San Francisco's legends before their notoriety. Not that they weren't often very talented, very nice people. (How I'd love to drop a few names and tell a few stories, but natural caution and legal training forbids.)

    The problem is, I never liked their art, but I didn't want to hurt their feelings, so I engaged in my usual self-censorship. (An excellent way to hurt the feelings of yourself and others, by the way. Of course had I said what I thought that would have been hurtful too. Which would not have been OK. OK?)

    Anyway, had I taken the time to check out the author's performance art, I might have saved the time and money spent on the film. Well, I did this morning, and here's her description of Love Diamond:

    Love Diamond In this full-length performance piece, Miranda July, with the accompaniment of composer Zac Love, fully utilizes the complex circuit of language that she has built over the course of her performing, moviemaking, recording career -- a circuit defined by its charged transmissions and sharp dialogues. These dialogues take place not only between characters (performed simultaneously by July), but between mediums. Machines and humans speak: video talks to audio talks to slides talk to audience members talk to each other.

    One such technical dialogue begins with a weapons training video. July takes the stage as both the voice of the instructor (embodied on video) and the voice and body of the pupil. This scene continually morphs between live performance and video, a movement that echoes the transitions of a woman who ultimately chooses her disguise/weapon in favor of her true identity. The scene closes with a piece of video that imitates the classic "end of a movie" sentimentality, as if everything has been resolved. In fact, the integrity of life has been called into question, and all answers are supplied by lethal weapons.

    Though cyclical, Love Diamond is never predictable. July's language is casual and mundane in one moment and calculated in the next. Zac Love's audio landscapes and effects heighten the performance's cinematic quality and situate Love Diamond in the present or near future. In some scenes Love defines territories for July to enter, in other moments she adds meanings that are in opposition to her character. Their polishedaudio/visual/literal language, combined with July's subtle and mesmerizing rendering of her cast of "women who will be alone forever"potentizes and sustains all anxieties.

    Throughout the piece there is only one pure cause for hope: the Love Diamond. July carefully weaves in the concept of a glowing, glittering structure that just may be attainable and might even make everything ok.The Love Diamond is described to us not in July's own voice but by members of the audience As a result, July's characters are removed from the promise of the Love Diamond. It is a hope for connection that lies just outside the periphery of the stage. We can only deduce that the glowing, perfect structure is the evening itself-- a connection built by performer, composer, technology and audience.

    No. No! NO!


    Give me even a shlock war movie over this any day, OK?

    Look, I realize these are matters of taste, and in matters of taste there can be no disagreement. It's just not my taste, that's all.

    Save your money, unless you want to think the country is falling apart and want to understand why.

    There's not a hero or a villain, nor anyone with whom I could identify. Instead (except for an especially brilliant little boy who fakes being an online pervert), the characters are mediocre in the extreme. Socialist realism, the glorification of the mundane (sure to make elitist audiences feel "in touch with the common man"), and copies of copies of Diego Rivera murals all come to mind. If you want heroes, villains, handsome lead males, beautiful lead women, or real action look elsewhere. (As to "action," even the scene in which the lead male character sets himself on fire manages to be about as exciting as a documentary I saw on tongue splitting. I mean, how is it a great revelation to know we've been increasingly out of touch with pain since the invention of anesthesia?)

    I am not OK, and you are not OK. If you want to see the film, well, that's OK with me. I'm just too paranoid about the beautification of mediocrity, as it threatens my optimistic gloom.

    The film aside, I enjoyed reading the director's views on blogging:

    You yourself have a blog now, and then in the film itself there's a hilarious running story around computers and instant messaging. I was wondering if you had a particular interest in the way technology affects society?

    It's funny because I'm actually pretty non-technologically inclined, and in fact when I started the blog recently I asked my web designer, "What are all these ...'comments'? What are these people...?" And she said, "Uh, Miranda, that's what a blog is - people write back." "Oh!" I had no idea that was part of the deal. [laughs] So I hadn't actually read blogs. I'm just starting to realize what the form is, and that everyone talks about themselves, pretty much. It's hard to do that and already be a bit of a public figure. When does it become too much? I'm trying to figure out a way to do it.

    There's no way to do it. It's already too much for me, even though I'm not a public figure and I find talking about myself tedious.

    So here's a truly tedious tidbit about myself: I blew my big chance as a performance artist when I turned down a role I was offered as a "fishy." I was asked if I would dress as a fish and lay on the floor while sticking my head through a draping of fake water, while being fed by the artist who would later "net" me.

    No. No! NO!

    A career-ending mistake.

    (I've been an anti-performance art bigot ever since.)

    posted by Eric at 12:34 PM | Comments (4)

    The Hitler-Churchill axis

    While I'm on the subject of apologizing for crimes committed in the past, here's another meme making the rounds: the United States as the inspiration for Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.

    As God commanded in Deuteronomy, Americans destroyed sacred Indian poles and shrines and Germans destroyed sacred Jewish books and temples. If Aryan Americans had conquered a continent, Hitler would use the same techniques to conquer a world.
    Exactly the same as the Holocaust.

    Wounded Knee = Auschwitz.

    When you've seen one Holocaust, you've seen 'em all. Naturally, these historians link liberally to each other, and drag in as many respected authors as possible:

    David Stannard eloquently summed up the Holocaust's origins in his book American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World:
    Elie Wiesel is right: the road to Auschwitz was being paved in the earliest days of Christendom. But another conclusion now is equally evident: on the way to Auschwitz the road's pathway led straight through the heart of the Indies and of North and South America.

    Nowadays, our genocidal policies are a bit more covert and closety, but the "little Eichmanns" are everywhere at work -- even at your local shopping mall:

    Since the extremes of the American and German holocausts, Western civilization has pulled back some. Our leaders have decided physical conquest is bad—disposing bodies requires too much paperwork, perhaps—but economic conquest is another matter. To build our factories and shopping malls, we exploit the world's poor people, suck up their natural resources, and demolish the earth's environment.

    We do this in the name of the god Progress, our golden idol. We must have our luxury houses, well-manicured lawns, and SUVs, and our leaders must have profits to satisfy their shareholders or campaign contributors. They give us what we want and vice versa.

    Jeez. I'm feeling so overwhelmed by guilt right now that I just don't know what to do. We more than deserve the severest possible punishment. 9/11 was a mere trifle considering the magnitude of our crimes against humanity.

    If only a righteously indignant oppressed group could really do something to get our attention!

    At any rate, Hitler might as well still be in charge of the evil Amerikkka that inspired him (and vice versa).

    The meta-message of this Euro-American drive should be obvious by now. Hitler wasn't an aberration. He was the ultimate product of Western civilization, the über-American. We have met the enemy, and he was us.
    And we must therefore wage war against the enemy -- which of course is us!

    There's more there, and at other similar web sites, and not surprisingly, Ward Churchill is quoted liberally.

    A leftist scholar at Columbia University shares his insights:

    Scholars estimate the North American Indian population at 15 million at the time of Columbus's arrival. In 1900, the US census found that there were 237,000 Indians in North America. This dwarves anything that Hitler ever did. What is interesting about the American architects of genocide is that they don't even feel the need to use euphemisms. They openly called for the "extermination" of the Indian, while nobody can find a single statement by Hitler that is so blunt.

    During the discussion period, someone asked what the policy toward the American Indian tells us about American civilization, especially its foreign policy. Ward Churchill was very succinct. He stated that the best analogy is to think of the Axis as victors in WWII and Hitler, or his successors, ruling over a worldwide empire. Taking advantage of my prerogatives as chairman, I added that imagine what Jews would feel like if they were living in such a Europe under Axis rule, in which they were still in ghettoes. Furthermore, they were poverty-stricken, addicted to drugs or alcohol, and were committing suicide out of despair in numbers all out of proportion to the rest of the population. To add insult to injury, a number of the leading soccer teams were called the "Hebrews" or "Jewboys" and had mascots with big noses. That is what American represents to the indigenous peoples.

    I suspect that Ward Churchill does not view his talks as a way to advance his career, but as part of a crusade to defend the survival of his people. If 1/10th of the intensity that moves him were disseminated across the left, we would be much more effective, I'm sure. From the brief experience I have had with them, the intellectuals of American Indian radical movement appear to be the most motivated and most uncompromising people involved in struggle today. The reason for this is that they, like African-Americans, have fewer reasons to have illusions about the true nature of this country. For the European descendants, it is possible to be seduced by notions that this country is democratic and civilized. In reality, it is a country that is based on conquest and genocide.

    One of the unfortunate features of the American socialist movement is that it has ceded entirely too much to the notion of the United States as a beacon on the hill, or as James Axtell puts it, "a huge nation of law and order and increasingly refined sensibility." On the contrary, the United States has come into existence by breaking sacred laws and by betraying a sensibility on a par with the SS or Attila the Hun. All the rest is sheer cosmetics.

    Yes, the United States is incredibly guilty. Not only did we inspire Hitler, but we've claimed his mantle forever into the future.

    E Pluribus Fuhrer!

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

    Dead to rights?

    Here's a gutsy report from the New York Times:

    Despite the objections of Florida's Anatomical Board, an exhibition of 20 cadavers and 260 body parts, stripped of their skin to show their muscles, organs and blood vessels, opened a scheduled six-month run at the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry yesterday, The Associated Press reported. Premier Exhibitions of Atlanta, the promoter of "Bodies, the Exhibition," said the state board, which supervises the use of cadavers in medical schools, had no jurisdiction over the museum. Similar exhibitions have attracted millions of viewers around the world despite the criticism of religious officials and medical ethicists. Premier said that the corpses were those of Chinese people whose bodies were unclaimed or unidentified before they were sent to Dalian Medical University in China, and that the university had certified that they had died of natural causes and had not been prisoners. The board, in voting 4 to 2 against the exhibition, took the position that neither the dead nor their families had given formal permission for their use in a museum. In a letter to the board, Brian Wainger, a lawyer for Premier, said the bodies had been "obtained legally and handled properly." A spokeswoman for Florida's attorney general, Charlie Crist, said, "It is up to the board to seek enforcement through the courts, or the museum to seek permission through the courts." The bodies in the exhibition are preserved by a process that replaces human tissue with silicone rubber. Arnie Geller, the president and chief executive of Premier, said their display was no different from an exhibition of mummies.
    I'm dying of lack of sleep right now, so this issue will have to await further dissection.

    In an earlier post, I discussed an attempt in San Francisco to block this same type of exhibit, by means of a logically questionable emotional appeal (along racial or ethnic grounds), which similarly failed.

    posted by Eric at 10:21 PM | Comments (3)

    If at first you don't secede . . .

    I've posted before on secession, but that involved a small minority of fringe type people moving to a state in the hope of making it secede. (In reality they stand little chance of seeing it happen.) Today I see a new idea: secession by means of multiculturalism. That link is very tough to open, so here are some excerpts (it's an NPR interview by reporter Martin Kaste discussing Senator Akaka's "independence" bill, SB 147):

    KASTE: Earlier this month, thousands came out to protest a recent appeals court decision striking down the Hawaiians-only admissions policy at a prominent private school. Illegal racial bias, the judges said. The problem is favoring natives is the whole point of the Kamehameha Schools, which are funded by the estate of a 19th-century princess who wanted to help her fellow natives.

    And she wasn't the only one. After the overthrow, the old Hawaiian royalty often used its lands to set up institutions to benefit natives, but in 21st century America, this ethnic exclusivity has come under attack in the courts. Natives, who are now only about 20 percent of the state population, worry that their special institutions are in danger of being swallowed up, and that's where the Akaka Bill comes in.

    Senator DANIEL AKAKA (Democrat, Hawaii): It creates a government-to-government relationship with the United States. KASTE: Democratic Senator Dan Akaka, himself a native, wants Congress to let Hawaiians re-establish their national identity. He says his bill would give them a kind of legal parity with tribal governments on the mainland, but he says this sovereignty could eventually go further, perhaps even leading to outright independence.

    Sen. AKAKA: That could be. As far as what's going to happen at the other end, I'm leaving it up to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    KASTE: The native Hawaiian bill leaves many important details unresolved. Once established, the new governing entity is supposed to negotiate with the U.S. to settle major issues such as legal jurisdiction and land ownership. It even puts off defining who would qualify as a citizen of the native nation. The bill's vagueness alarms some non-natives such as Dick Roland.

    Mr. DICK ROWLAND (The Grassroot Institute): It's empty, and it's got an enormous sucking machine in it that is going to suck in there all these people and all this land and so forth.

    KASTE: Rowland, who moved to Hawaii three decades ago, is the president of a local public policy group called The Grassroot Institute which has opposed the bill. One of his collaborators is attorney Bill Burgess, who's argued in court against the preferences for natives.

    Mr. BILL BURGESS (Attorney): Creating a new nation and giving the citizens of that nation political privilege that other citizens don't have, not to mention assets and all kinds of other privileges, that's all about inequality.

    Needless to say, some of the activists think the proposal doesn't go far enough:
    KASTE: But for some native Hawaiians, the Akaka Bill doesn't go far enough.

    Mr. BUMPY KANAHELE (Native Hawaiian): My Hawaiian name is U'u Koanoa(ph). Of course, the American name I've got, it's Bumpy Kanahele.

    KASTE: Kanahele is a burly man who calls himself the head of the Nation of Hawaii. At the moment, his domain consists of a small village nestled in the shadow of green mountains on Oahu. The village also flies the flag of Hawaii, but it flies upside down as a sign of distress over what residents see as the illegal occupation by the United States. Kanahele is a prominent figure in the independence movement, which received a boost in 1993 when Congress formally apologized for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Kanahele says that apology opened what he calls a can of worms for the United States.

    Mr. KANAHELE: They never thought that Hawaiians would take the road to restoring their independence. Well, what do you expect? You just admitted to a crime -- Right? -- the crime of the overthrow. KASTE: After the congressional apology, Kanahele says, native Hawaiians started to think seriously about independence, and he says the Akaka Bill is an attempt to divert natives toward more tribal-style sovereignty.

    In Washington, the bill's prospects are unclear. The House passed a version back in 2000, but in the Senate, the bill has been stuck in an open-ended debate. Leaders say they'll try to get a vote on the legislation in September. The Justice Department has recommended a few changes, such as a safeguard for the U.S. military presence on the island, something the bill's supporters see as a positive step. They believe it means the White House is willing to accept some version of native Hawaiian self-government.

    Hawaiian self government?

    Whatever the hell that means. (There's more here.)

    Next, I suppose it'll be native Pennsylvania self government? The first step, of course is to apologize for William Penn's sons swindle of the Indians.

    Then there's the long-overdue apology for the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, to be followed by an apology for the fascistic Gadsden Purchase.)

    One step at a time.

    posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBacks (1)

    Lost nuts, angry eunuchs, and "heat crimes"

    While I'm on the subject of "activism," I thought I'd try to make sense out of modern trend which is loaded with communitarian emotion, and that is the castration of dogs. In the past twenty years, times have changed so dramatically that what were once normal and commonplace -- dogs who still have their nuts -- are a rarity. They're so rare that my luscious female Coco has just finished her entire cycle of being "in heat" without being bothered by a single male dog. Considering that the pheromonal odor of a bitch in heat can be detected up to three miles away, that's saying something.

    In the days of Coco the First (Puff's grandmother, born in the mid 1970s), being in heat presented logistical problems. Dogs would surround the house and camp out all night, sometimes howling in the wee hours of the morning. Taking the dog out to pee was like taking a stroll in the occupied West Bank; I'd have to leash her, carry something to ward off potential suitors, and be ready at all times to physically pick her up and make a dash back inside. That was part of owning dogs in those days, and it was why most people who owned females would spay them sooner or later. Perhaps the old system was overly sexist, but for whatever reason, castration of male dogs (something once considered a cruel and unnecessary thing to do) wasn't much done. Over the years, it became more and more of a trend, though, until today it's not only the "in" thing to do, if you don't do it, some puritanical nut-checker will come up to you and give you a stern lecture about your "responsibilities" as a dog owner. (Why did I just type "god owner"?)

    This may sound controversial, but I think that if I own a dog, my responsibility is to see that the dog is well cared for, has as good a life as I can provide for it, and does not bother other people or other animals. If I walk the dog, I should obey leash laws, and if the dog wants to roam, I should not allow it, because I am responsible for what the dog might do. This includes tying up with a bitch in heat! If my male dog did that, I should be held to answer in damages, and I think a reasonable case could be made that my uncontrolled dog should be neutered. But if I am minding my business and controlling my dog, from where derives this notion that my "responsibilities" include doing something to him that would be considered an atrocity if done to any human being?

    The arguments are threefold, and I'll start with argument number one.

    There are too many dogs.

    There may very well be too many dogs. This argument is often advanced by professional animal control people, and we all accept without argument that it is true. Where these dogs are, I don't know. I'm assuming that most of them must be in the animal shelters, because I don't see them running around in the streets (and my recent experience shows that not even a bitch in heat drew a single dog from this vast overpopulation). While I don't know how many of the dogs in animal shelters are turned in by owners as opposed to being "arrested" for running around in an unwanted state, this web site makes a very damning if true claim:

    The bread and butter of animal activism is fomenting a perception of crisis. To promote their current interest in breeding control ordinances, activists seek to create an impression that the pet population is exploding and the death toll at shelters is escalating out of control. But, in July 1992, the Animal Agenda, published by the Animal Rights Network, reported that there had been a drop from 20 million to less than 6 million shelter kills in the last 10 years. The American Humane Association presents similar statistics confirming this report. The Animal Agenda notes that many activists feel it is better not to mention this dramatic reduction to the public.
    I have no idea where to obtain these statistics, but I think there's a conflict of interest in that the people who advocate castration are the ones charged with the statistics they cite to justify it.

    What's more, dog and cat statistics are typically lumped together like this recital of a figure of 70 million "stray dogs and cats." This is highly misleading, and it's improper because of the well-documented problem of a large free-roaming cat population. Regardless of what should be done about these feral and semi-feral cats, there simply is no canine equivalent, and the arguments that might apply to cats are largely inapplicable for many reasons. (Google "stray dog population" and you'll see it's chiefly a problem in underdeveloped countries.)

    In a book titled How We Can End Pet Overpopulation and Stop Killing Healthy Cats and Dogs, author Bob Christiansen suggests that canine overpopulation may be exaggerated:

    For the past decade and more, national and local animal organizations have blamed puppy producers for euthanasias in shelters and promoted sterilization as the only way to decrease shelter deaths. Slowly, over the past five or six years, university studies have put forth a different picture: it’s not the puppies, they say, it’s the adult dogs that are picked up as strays or surrendered by owners that populate shelters and die for lack of a home. With few exceptions, however, the news has not translated into innovative strategies to educate potential dog owners before they buy or fail to train.
    Among his conclusions,
    “The overwhelming majority of the dogs killed are not puppies (as would be the case if there were true dog overpopulation) but young adults that were once owned.”
    I have no idea of how to obtain the detailed statistics I'd need to decide whether there is a major canine overpopulation problem in this country (although there sure doesn't seem to be one in my neighborhood), but even assuming that all statistics cited by castration advocates are true, what does this have to do with me? I should "fix" a totally normal dog because other people are unwilling to control theirs? To put it in purely personal terms, isn't that the same as telling me that I should be castrated because there are too many people in the world?

    And I'd like to know how this can logically be squared with the philosophy that animals have rights with which no man has the right to interfere. In that regard, many of the same organizations clamoring for castration also maintain that cropping of dog's ears (such as Boxers and Doberman pinschers)should be prohibited by law. Why? Because it's cruel. (Anyone bother to ask the dog whether he'd rather have floppy ears or hanging testicles?) The same organizations demanding the castration of dogs routinely seek to abolish declawing of cats, horse racing, and dog racing on the grounds of cruelty. But castration is seen as kindness.

    Another reason frequently given for castrating dogs is behavioral control. Unneutered male dogs are said to be more aggressive than neutered male dogs, as well as more prone to territorial marking (the lifting of the leg). While this is undoubtedly true, it boils down to another hopelessly communitarian argument, based on the notion that society should make decisions about how individuals should run their lives. People who want less aggressive dogs might be better off getting a female, because females are less aggressive than males, but shouldn't it be up to them? If people want a male and they want it intact, of what business is it of others to decide that because of some statistic about canine aggression? A decision like that is personal, and again, unless the dog messes with other people, it should be up to the owner.

    Fascinatingly, there's more and more evidence (not being given the attention it deserves, IMHO) that neutered dogs are more aggressive to unneutered dogs than are unneutered dogs to neutered dogs. In a Salon.com interview, castration authority Gary Taylor (author of "Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood") makes this observation about a more and more frequent phenomenon:

    I feel like every day of my life I'm involved in castration culture because my dog still has his balls. There's a big dog myth that intact dogs are aggressive, but my dog is incredibly cooled out. It's castrated dogs that get enraged and attack him because of canine rage and jealousy.
    Mr. Taylor is not alone. His view finds confirmation by a commenter at this discussion group, who hypothesizes a possible explanation:
    Yes, males can be aggressive towards one another, but it is often neutered males that attack unneutered males because of lack of tolerance over mistaken identity, or 2 unneutered males attacking each other over dominance issues.

    I found further confirmation among the many comments on this long (often-irrationally-communitarian) discussion, was another dog owner who noted the same thing:

    we just neutered finley two weeks ago.

    here's a point not yet discussed: finley LOVES socializing with other dogs. but he couldn't get near the neighborhood dog park without being attacked -- castrated males smelled his testosterone and immediately went after him.

    it was ugly. i was there once with one other dog whose owner said, "oh, he's VERY gentle, there won't be a problem." so i put finley down and BOOM the other dog was attacking him, growling and biting and lunging. "that's weird, that's never happened before," the owner said.

    Oddly, the commenter blames the dogs which haven't had their nuts cut off:
    if you're in a city and will be encountering other dogs -- most of whom are neutered -- PLEASE neuter yours.
    Does that mean the eunuchs are in charge?

    (I mean the canine eunuchs, of course....)

    This explains an incident in Berkeley last winter with Puff. Another dog came charging up to him, and the owner immediately expressed irritation that Puff wasn't "fixed," as she explained that her neutered male dog would only attack male dogs with testicles. (I didn't engage her in any discussion because I just wanted to get Puff out of there, as I never allowed him to defend himself. That's because I long ago learned that if you own a pit bull, you are in the wrong if anything happens. Period.)

    But I wonder how many vets are warning their clients about this "angry eunuch" phenomenon.

    Castration advocates also enjoy touting the "health" benefits of not having balls -- primarily the avoidance of testicular cancer. While that's certainly true enough, canine testicular cancer is usually slow growing, and any dog that develops it can be castrated at that point. (Puff developed it at fourteen, but it was not what killed him, and I was advised against the surgery.) Again, that is a decision for the owner. And for those who believe in animal rights, maybe the dog should have a say in it too.

    While I've read they're only rarely performed, I'm fascinated by this web site, which advocates vasectomy instead of castration:

    Why is neutering unethical?

    Just as it would be considered unethical to cut off the testicles of a boy or man to sterilize him and control his masculinity and sexual behavior for convenience, we believe that it is unethical to perform this procedure on a pet. Vasectomy, on the other hand, is a procedure that millions of men undergo voluntarily to sterilize themselves. The same cannot be said of castration (the human equivalent of vasectomy).

    I'd like to give the animal rights advocates their due for caring about animals, but as usual I'm having problems with the logic involved. I'd like to ask a simple question.

    If it is true that man should not have dominion over animals, how does it follow that only certain people -- namely those who subscribe to this philosophy that man should not have dominion over animals -- should therefore be given dominion over animals? Further, how does it follow that they should be given dominion over other people? Even if we assume that my dog is my companion animal and not my property, the fact is that my dog lives with me. Assuming that we are living together in harmony with each other and not harming others, what gives a total stranger any right to dominion over my companion?

    Why shouldn't I (or my dog) be the ones to decide?

    posted by Eric at 03:43 PM | Comments (11)

    Rated V for Vanities

    The 152nd Carnival of the Vanities has been posted by Will Franklin at WILLisms.com. Will has an original idea (at least I don't think I've seen it before) of actually rating each post. They're rated 0 through 10 -- something sure to displease bloggers who rated lower than a 10. Will explains the system:

    0 = One of the most awful posts I have ever read.
    1 = Don't waste your time on this post.
    2 = Awful post.
    3 = A very poor post.
    4 = A poor post.
    5 = Average post.
    6 = A good post.
    7 = Recommended post.
    8 = Strongly recommended post.
    9 = A must-read post.
    10 = One of the best posts I have ever read.
    No one got a 10, although this post got a 0, which means it will probably be much read out of curiosity. (I agree that it was a poor post, but at least "Hypnyx" linked to this U.S. Army website. And in other posts, the same blogger praises Benjamin Netanyahu, and accuses Daily Kos of "mimicing the leaders of freeperville," so I think "Hypnyx's" brain has to rate higher than the Carnival post submitted.)

    There are three posts Will considers to be must-reads:

  • A blogger new to me ("Kid Various" at The Idiom) has written a compelling articulation of the reasons why we should be at war right now called "Why Casey Sheehan Died", which I'd have to give a 10 because it's one of the best posts I've read.
  • Boxing Alcibiades has a brilliant post called "Huntington Vindicated," which correctly (in my view) identifies a four way world struggle between "The Strongmen, the Anglosphere, The Statist West, and The Islamists." A definite must-read!
  • Mark Nicodemo's "Jeb on the PC-NCAA" -- the easiest must-read of them all, as the graphics speak for themselves.
  • I suggest that everyone check out the rest of the posts and the ratings. Any further analysis (such as whether the grades conformed to any "curve"), I'll have to leave to the experts.

    posted by Eric at 12:36 PM | Comments (4)

    No way!

    I hate it when I have to repeat myself but here we go again.

    9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, about whose conflict of interest I've complained for years, is once again being criticized -- by others who had also warned about her conflict of interest.

    The real story here folks is that when "Able Danger" passed the information about Atta and al-Shehhi to the FBI in 2000, with a recommendation to shut the cell down, the Defense Department and FBI turned them down.


    Because of the infamous "Gorelick Wall", which prevented the sharing of information between the intelligence and law enforcement communities. In case you forgot, Jamie Gorelick was the former Clinton Administration official who devised and wrote the policy, and also served on the 9/11 commission.

    Because Atta and al-Shehhi had green cards, they were considered "US persons" and were free to operate behind Gorelick's wall. Not surprising The New York Times makes no mention of Gorelick in describing this policy in its story on "Able Danger".

    It is exactly this type of mentality that led us to post in April, 2004, that Gorelick would have been a perfect VP for John "Crushed" Kerry. We also produced a video when we were crushkerry.com about her, which hopefully Pat can find and put up on the site later.

    There will be much made in the coming weeks about the 9/11 Commission staff purposely ignoring the "Able Danger" information to protect the Clinton Administration or Jamie Gorelick.

    The "Able Danger" story has generated such great blogosphere interest that via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Austin Bay is now saying the president must address it. More links here, and "MAKES YOU WONDER WHAT ELSE THEY TOSSED OUT" makes me wonder too.

    The 9/11 Commission spokesman's official explanation is looking incredibly lame:

    There was no way that Atta could have been in the United States at that time, which is why the staff didn't give this tremendous weight when they were writing the report. This information was not meshing with the other information that we had.
    No way? Except it turns Atta was in the United States at the time. I think it's more likely that "no way" means that there's no way the investigators wanted anyone to believe (or know) this.

    I'm especially wondering whether this will lead back to that other stuff about Atta. Like the "discredited" story that William Safire was talking about.

    No way?

    Or other stuff described as previously discredited:

    NEW intelligence reports suggesting that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta arrived in the US in late 1999 or early 2000 - six months earlier than previously thought - are likely to spark a reassessment of public servant Johnelle Bryant's incredible story of a face-to-face meeting with the terrorist.

    In an extraordinary 2002 interview later branded a hoax by some media -- including the ABC's Media Watch -- Ms Bryant claimed to have met Atta in late April or early May of 2000 when she worked as a loan officer with the US Department of Agriculture's farm services agency in Florida.

    No way?

    Redstate.org speculates about whether there's an Iraqi elephant in the corner:

    The elephant in the corner of the 9-11 Commission’s report has always been the perfunctory way in which they dismiss the allegation that Atta met with the intelligence chief at Iraq’s Prague embassy, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, on April 8-9, 2001. This meeting was discounted on the strength of Atta’s cell phone being used on April 6, 9, 10, and 11 and an ATM photo on April 11… and the fact that they can’t find a record that Atta bought plane tickets with presumably any of the 63 drivers licenses the hijackers possessed.

    The Prague story would not fit the preconception that the operation was carried out strictly by al-Qaeda without assistance of any other government. The dismissal of the Able Danger information is inexplicable without assuming that the Commission had decided in advance who was to blame.

    No way?

    I think "MAKES YOU WONDER WHAT ELSE THEY TOSSED OUT" is a kind way of putting it, and I'm inclined to agree with the conclusions of Mark Steyn:

    Maybe we need a September 11 Commission Commission to investigate the September 11 Commission. A body intended to reassure Americans that the lessons of that terrible day had been learned instead engaged in at best transparent politicking and collusion in posterior-covering and at worst something a much darker and more disturbing.

    The problem pre-September 11 was always political -- that's to say, no matter how savvy individual operatives in various agencies may have been, the political culture then meant nothing would happen except a memo would get typed and shoved into a filing cabinet. Together with other never fully explained episodes -- like Sandy Berger's pants-stuffing at the national archives -- the Able Danger story makes one thing plain: The problem is still political.


    No way!

    posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (1)

    Restraint is activism, and activism is restraint!

    Before the Supreme Court issued the notorious Kelo decision, Institute for Justice's Chip Mellor warned of an unholy alliance between "judicial activism" and "judicial restraint" (in which freedom is the loser):

    Without realizing it, liberals and conservatives are working from opposite ends of the political spectrum, under opposing rationales, to reach the same end: expanded government power. As a result of the political push and pull between those advocating judicial activism and those favoring judicial restraint, two fundamental American rights—the right to earn an honest living and the right to own private property—have been stripped of vital constitutional protection, leaving entrepreneurs and small property owners especially vulnerable to backroom deals and majoritarian whims.
    How tragically prescient of Mr. Mellor! (Readers are reminded that he and his Institute for Justice shepherded the Kelo case into the Supreme Court, and fought hard for an opposite result.)

    The result of this unholy alliance is ever more encroachment of freedom, with ordinary citizens getting it from both ends.

    In effect, we now have a federal appeals court giving a green light to the rankest form of cronyism and favoritism. Despite the starkness of the 10th Circuit’s unanimous ruling, in March the Supreme Court declined to review the case.

    As long as the Court shows such extraordinary deference to legislatures and maintains a two-tier approach to constitutional rights, the ratchet operates in one direction—to increase government power. When government growth is proceeding exponentially, setting reasonable outer boundaries might be a good place to start. The problem, however, is that for economic liberty and property rights, the boundaries are set at such an outer extreme that, for all practical purposes, courts cede virtually unchecked authority to government. Bureaucrats become adroit at maximizing their power just short of the boundary. The result is a flourishing regulatory regime that too often leaves abused property owners and entrepreneurs without recourse.

    If economic liberty and property rights are to be restored to their rightful place in the constitutional constellation, the courts must go beyond merely setting these outer limits; they must truly revive constitutional protections. Judicial activism and abdication have read these rights out of the Constitution; it is essential that consistent and principled judicial engagement rehabilitate them. Respect for stare decisis must not mean refusal to reexamine wrongly decided cases; it must mean a respect for order that makes transitions as smooth as possible, while at the same time fulfilling the courts’ responsibility to recognize constitutional constraints on government authority.

    We've departed so far from the doctrine of "a man's home is his castle" that not only has the government expropriated personal and family life behind the breached castle walls, but citizens who don't like that can find the battered remnants seized and given to someone else. (Move aside, Magna Carta!)

    Courts are not to interfere with this process, lest they be accused of "judicial activism."

    But wait a minute! In Kelo the court didn't interfere, and now it's being accused of judicial activism! Yet in reality (and in logic) the holding was based on judicial restraint! An anomaly so odd that today's Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Ann Althouse on the subject:

    We all want judges to do some things and not others. One of the things the speakers complained about was the Kelo case, but that was an example of restraint, not activism. The Court declined to enforce a right. And these speakers don't like too much Establishment Clause enforcement, but I'll bet they moan about not enough Free Exercise protection.
    I'm sorry, but "we all want judges to do some things and not others" is not the standard the founders had in mind.

    Calling things judicial activism which aren't judicial activism is not helpful. Nor is calling them judicial restraint. If a state or local government adoption agency decided (or refused) to place babies with gay couples, I am sure that activists would demand that the Supreme Court put a stop to the government action they hated. Regardless of how you might come down on the merits, demanding that a court intervene to stop something is activism.

    I suspect misuse of language arises from conservatives being annoyed by professional "activists," and this makes them use the term to describe all judicial results they don't like with the catchphrase "judicial activism."

    At the rate I'm going (with my incessant demands that political activists be logical), I'll need to be actively restrained.

    Much more here, including an intrguing quote from Randy Barnett:

    Is discovering and enforcing the original meaning of the Ninth Amendment activism? Or is it activism to characterize this inconvenient piece of text as an "ink blot" on the Constitution, as Robert Bork did in his infamous confirmation testimony?

    Is discovering and enforcing the original meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment activist? Or is it activist to characterize this inconvenient piece of text as an "ink blot" on the Constitution, as Robert Bork did in the Tempting of America?

    Is insisting on the original meaning of the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause activism? Or is it activist to ignore the limitations imposed on Congress by these provisions, as Robert Bork all but did in The Tempting of America?

    Is it activism to construct a doctrine to define the wholly unenumerated "police power" of states in a manner that is consistent with the limits on state power enumerated in the Fourteenth Amendment? Or is it activism to give states unchecked power, notwithstanding the Fourteenth Amendment?

    What's with this "original meaning" stuff? Sounds passé by what passes for today's standards. (Must be a new doctrine of "legal passivism" or something.)

    Perhaps someone like Mr. Barnett could consider writing a "Freedom Restoration Act." The problem is, what one person defines as freedom, another person defines as taking away freedom.

    The freedom to take away freedom sounds as oxymoronic as the tolerance of intolerance.

    I know that it's no fun to conclude that nothing makes any sense, and I apologize. I'll try to make less of more sense in the future.

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

    Can it be love?

    I think so.

    Although James Wolcott doesn't seem terribly in love with John McCain. Not if this venom-dripping screed is any indicator:

    I'm watching "maverick" John McCain on Fox News Sunday.

    I hereby declare Operation Reach-Out over. There's no reasoning with these madmen. Certainly not this insatiable warrior.

    At the time I thought my friend Camille Paglia might have been a wee tad hyperbolic when she wrote for Salon during the 2000 campaign:

    "The TV camera does not lie: Just as it showed from the get-go that ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was a nervous, shifty, sweaty, petulant mental adolescent, so has it exposed McCain over time as a seething nest of proto-fascist impulses. Despite his recent flurry of radiant, P.R.-coached grins, McCain has the weirdly wary and over-intense eyes of Howard Hughes and the clenched, humorless jaw line of Nurse Diesel (from Mel Brooks' Hitchcock parody, 'High Anxiety')."

    In another Salon column, Camille described McCain as a "choleric hawk," "a manipulative waffler with a mediocre legislative record."

    On Fox, his eyes are less lasering, his jawline more relaxed, but a choleric hawk he remains, so fanatically hawkish that he opposes a drawdown of US troops in Iraq: "We don't need to withdraw--we need more troops there," and should reinforcements be unavailable, we should maintain current troop levels so that the newly trained Iraqi units aren't replacements for departing US troops but a "supplement" to them.

    Chris Wallace pointed out that the leaks and hints coming from the military brass and the Def Dept are signaling withdrawal at the same time the President is refusing to set deadlines and timetables--why is that?

    "I have no idea."

    There's more such lovey dovey sweetness:
    McCain will hear none of this defeatist talk. "We can't afford to fail," he emptily intoned, and then cleaved to Bush, claiming that Bush is no cold-hearted monster with no time for a Cindy Sheehan, no:
    "He cares, and he grieves."

    Message: He cares. Bring 'em on. Watch this shot.

    It was also clear from the tone of McCain's remarks that he favors military action against Iran. It's difficult to think of any military action he wouldn't favor.

    This man is too dangerous to let anywhere near the presidency. He's simply Dick Cheney with a better backstory.

    I've been more disappointed in McCain than in any politician ever before (McCain-Feingold came close to high treason), but Wolcott's making him look downright attractive. He's making me like McCain against my better judgment.

    No question about it; Nightingale Wolcott really can write! But is this any way to help Hillary?

    Such blind devotion is so touching that I'm almost touched.

    posted by Eric at 10:39 PM | Comments (3)

    Major discount riot

    I like the convenience of having a laptop computer, and mine was a good deal at $400.00. But even if it had been a total steal I don't think I would have been willing to die for it.

    Much less wet my pants.

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far as to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.

    ``This is total, total chaos,'' said Latoya Jones, 19, who lost one of her flip-flops in the ordeal and later limped around on the sizzling blacktop with one foot bare.

    An estimated 5,500 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents. New iBooks cost between $999 and $1,299.

    Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting since 1:30 a.m. When the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene.

    People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.

    Seventeen people suffered minor injuries, with four requiring hospitantation and fly back because of another commitment.

    I'm not sure what "hospitantation and fly back" is, but I'll let you know if I find out.

    Anyway, here's a picture of the "riot":


    Doesn't look unlike the restive Mideast "street." Back in the old days, I remember the word "riot" being used to advertise super discount sales. (Well, I see that occasionally, it still is.)

    Considering that prices start at $249.00 for iBooks of the vintage described, the $200.00 saved would be more than offset by lost sleep, the cost of medical care, torn clothes, dry cleaning, Post Traumatic Stress, etc.

    To say nothing of "hospitantation and fly back."


    posted by Eric at 04:55 PM

    murderous meme

    Iraq War blogger Michael Yon makes a very good point about the misuse of words like "martyr":

    In an effort to be culturally sensitive and almost compulsively polite, we've mangled the meanings of words like: "martyr," and "suicide" to such a degree that we're using them to label mass murderers. While American and foreign media collectively increase the suffering of babes through their current fashion of cynicism, others seem to have a case of "parents' guilt." Unable to give the Iraqi suffering the undivided and ameliorative attention it requires, reporters instead rush at any sign of distress and hyper-focus on the negative. In the process, they create more problems than originally existed, shoveling out body counts and masquerading them as reports.
    I think he's right. He goes on to explain further how this empowers terrorists:
    Calling homicide bombers martyrs is a language offense; words are every bit as powerful as bombs, often more so. Calling murderers “martyrs” is like calling a man "customer" because he stood in line before gunning down a store clerk. There's no need to whisper. I hear the bombs every single day. Not some days, but every day. We're talking about criminals who actually volunteer and plan to deliberately murder and maim innocent people. What reservoir of feelings or sensibilities do we fear to assault by simply calling it so? When murderers describe themselves as "martyrs" it should sound to sensible ears like a rapist saying, “she was asking for it.” In other words, like the empty rationalizations of a depraved criminal.

    The word martyr is derived from the word "to witness." It is used to describe a person who is killed because of a belief or principle. Given the choice to recant, martyrs chose instead to face their murderers and stand in witness to their beliefs. True martyrs do not kill themselves, but stand their ground and fight in the face of death to demonstrate the power of their convictions, sometimes dying as a result, but preferably surviving.

    The only martyrs I know about in Iraq are the fathers and brothers who see a better future coming, and so they act on their beliefs and assemble outside police stations whenever recruitment notices are posted. They line up in ever increasing numbers, knowing that insurgents can also read these notices. The men stand in longer and longer lines, making ever bigger targets of themselves. Some volunteer to to earn a living. This, too, is honorable. But others take these risks because they believe that a better future is possible only if Iraqi men of principle stand up for their own values, for their country, for their families. Theses are the true martyrs, the true heroes of Iraq and of Islam. I meet these martyrs frequently. They are brave men, worthy of respect.

    A typical example of the murderer-as-martyr meme can be found in a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle -- here describing as a "martyr" a young man's ongoing attempts to murder Jews:
    Fifteen-year-old Abdel Kareem Mohammed Abu Habel sits in an Israeli prison after he tried and failed to martyr himself last year. Would he do it again? Without a doubt, he says.

    Abdel Kareem Mohammed Abu Habel agrees with Israeli critics who say that next week's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank will do nothing to stop Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel.

    Sitting in his jail cell in the Sharon Detention Center in central Israel, he also said he would never accept peace with the Jewish state, even if Israel eventually pulled back to its pre-1967 borders, behind the so-called Green Line. He doesn't even know what the Green Line is.

    The only peace he wants "is to get back all our lands," meaning the entire state of Israel.

    "We don't want the Jews on this world," he said.

    On to a description of his "matrydom" plan:
    A week after he was released, Abdel made plans for martyrdom. He purchased the components -- explosives, belt, detonator -- to make a suicide belt, using money he had earned by making gold bracelets for sale. It cost about 1,000 Israeli shekels -- approximately $250.

    Three friends helped him make a video of himself holding an M-16, with the Hamas flag behind him and saying some final words that he has since forgotten. Then, he donned the belt and went to a checkpoint manned by Israeli soldiers not far from his home.

    (Via LGF.)

    "Jabiliya," the refugee camp from which young Abdul hails (a place portrayed as part of the overall picture of his despair) has a long history as a wannabe "sister city" of Berkeley, California. City officials sought the sister city designation, but opted for a ballot measure, which -- fortunately -- was defeated at the polls. A similar attempt by activists in Madison, Wisconsin, to designate Rafah as a "sister city" is ongoing.

    Here's a picture of the place (Jabiliya):


    Berkeley hasn't looked that way for a while... (Well, a number of the graying Jabiliya activists did turn out to demonstrate against the public display of a terror-bombed Israeli bus, and displayed signs of "martyrs" but that's another story. I guess.)

    I'm a bit cynical, but I wonder about the connection between the morphing of "murderer" into "martyr" and these sorts of ongoing propaganda campaigns. I mean, why would make a "sister city" out of a place which is governed by Hamas? (Via Stefan Sharkansky.)

    Here's how the Al Mezan Human Rights Center (responsible for coordinating the Madison-Rafah sister-city deal) uses the word "martyr":

    Rafah largely depends on relief organizations, such as the Al Mezan Human Rights Center, which would be responsible for coordinating the sister-city arrangement if passed by the Madison City Council.

    But opponents of the arrangement argue that money given to Al Mezan might end up in the hands of terrorists.

    "As long as Al-Mezan is part of this project, there is no way to ensure that funds raised in Madison will not be used to support terror," said Steven Morrison, executive director of the Madison Jewish Council.

    This claim, spearheaded by Madison's Jewish community, stems from Al Mezan's refusal to sign President Bush's Executive Order 12334, which certifies that no funds they receive from U.S. nonprofit organizations have ever been used or ever will be used to support terrorism.

    Issam Younis, director of Al Mezan, responded to opponents' accusations by criticizing the U.S. Agency for International Development's anti-terror resolution. However, he welcomed all other donations from the United States.

    A recent Palestinian Non-governmental Organizations (PNGO) news release says: "We call upon non-governmental organizations in Palestine to refuse to accept assistance and funds provided directly or indirectly by the U.S. government."

    It continues, "The PNGO General Assembly regards that the position taken by the administration of the United States constitutes a severe prejudice in favor of Israeli aggression and harms American credibility to serve as a peace process sponsor."

    The release concludes, "Eternal glory to our martyrs -- Freedom for our prisoners and detainees!"

    Despite the organization's praise of martyrdom -- frequently associated with suicide bombers -- Younis insists that "Al Mezan dedicates its work for the respect of human rights in the occupied territories on the basis of the internationally accepted standards."

    Moreover, he hopes the sister-city arrangement will help foster a closer bond between Rafah and Madison.

    "The Madison committee and Al Mezan are entirely committed to the development of deeper understanding between the two communities and the accomplishment of humanitarian betterment," Younis said. "We are non-political and non-partisan, endorsing no political movements or formulas, and are committed to non-violence."

    The partnership will raise awareness of the city's struggle "with poverty and occupation," said Deputy Mayor Sha'at. "This will help people of Madison understand our culture and standard of living in Rafah -- the most deprived city in Palestine."

    This is not surprising, considering the perspective of the sister city project's founder:
    Israel is an offshore US military base and weapons testing ground. It is a westernized colony for white supremacists seeking ways to discreetly dispose of its nigger population. It is an American franchise for the new global economy, a consumer outlet, an ad for Disney-World-gone-native, a terrorist training camp for Jewish fundamentalists, the most well-funded terrorist organization outside the mainland United States, a strategic foothold in the Middle East for oil-thirsty, power-hungry neo-cons.

    It is suicide's most willing accomplice.

    (Wow. Wouldn't want to "mess" with her. She can write.)

    I suppose that once the leap is made from terrorist murderers to "martyrs," it's a small step to calling them (and their supporters) "peace activists." (Maybe even "antiwar activists.")

    Language can be almost as depressing as politics.

    posted by Eric at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

    And that's the way it was ... honest!
    The couple's eldest son, Casey, was killed in April 2004 in Iraq while serving in the U.S. Army. His mother has emerged as a leading critic of the war in Iraq by pitching a tent near the Bush ranch and refusing to leave until he speaks to her.

    Quoth a nameless Reuters writer.

    Pardon me. I'm just setting up camp by a copy of the Iliad. A few nights of this and I'm tenure-bound. A Sather Lecture awaits.

    The latest meme, that of one grieving and noble woman's rise against heartless tyranny, is kept alive in a piece assuring us that Cindy Sheehan's impending divorce has nothing to do with her lunacy heroism but rather stems from the grief which 'pulls families apart': implicitly the murder of her son by George W. Hallibush and his thievish cronies.

    The ancien régime is fond of narrating the present [1] and is loath to footnote or hyperlink, and this constant barrage of undocumented factoids masquerades as experience and truth in much the same way that mimesis allows us to experience any range of false realities in art.

    This is the way you—or at the very least everyone but you—felt. And this is the story of Cindy Sheehan, updated daily without all the filler!

    [1] Near-contemporary history is also a favorite: consider how often we read about the nation's reaction to the fall of the towers or the last election, or the tidy binary oppositions created for any number of issues. And all the while we feel left out of the narrative which in time can be overwhelming.
    posted by Dennis at 11:21 PM | Comments (6)

    Blog aids justice

    I don't know if this is a first or not, but according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a local blog is being used to solve a hit and run case:

    For almost a month, dozens of people protested outside the East Falls home of Susanna Goihman, a restaurateur and owner of the 2002 white Lexus that police say struck and killed 15-year-old Kayla Peter on June 19.

    Angry that Goihman was not willing to make a statement to police, the group called for cars to sound their horns and for people to shout so Goihman would know of their displeasure. They called their mission "Honk for Kayla."

    That vigil ended Aug. 4, when it was learned a Philadelphia grand jury was examining the accident.

    Now the group is going after Goihman's Queen Village restaurant, Azafran. Their goal, they say, is "the end of Azafran," which may be only weeks away if a sign posted in the restaurant's window last week is reliable.

    "I want every piece of this woman's life interrupted," said protest organizer Donna Persico, a mother of four from Andorra. "We are in Philadelphia and we're going to do it our way."

    Every night since Tuesday, a few people have stood on the sidewalk near Azafran's front door on South Third Street near South Street. There's no shouting and little honking this time. They let their flyers and signs - like the one that shows Peter's face and the words "This restaurant owner's car killed me" - speak for them.

    On Friday, Persico said, an employee posted a handwritten sign in the restaurant's front window that was addressed "To the family and friends of Kayla Peter" and signed "The Service and Kitchen Staff of Azafran." Persico took a photo of the missive, which can be seen on http://kaylapeter.blogspot.com/.

    The posting said the business had been sold and would close Aug. 28. It asked the protesters to reconsider their nightly vigil.

    It's interesting, and I share the grief of the victim's family. The legal problem, of course, is that no one has been charged with the crime yet. Even though the car was implicated, the owner isn't talking.

    It looks mighty suspicious, and I wouldn't be surprised if the blog -- by building pressure and facilitating communication between activists who support the victim's family -- contributes to solving the crime.

    There's been some discussion about whether the demonstrations will (by decreasing customer revenue) hurt the people working in the restaurant, but I don't see that as a reason not to do it. The owner of the car is the same as the owner of the restaurant, and if it is determined that she committed the crime, then the restaurant would probably be sold anyway. The employees will either stay or go, and there is such a thing as unemployment insurance. Also, the restaurant is now for sale, and if the demonstrations interfere with the sale, such a disruption in the status quo might cause the owner to cooperate. The goal is to get her to cooperate with the investigation.

    I notice there's now a grand jury investigation, and the car owner is expected to be subpoenaed. If she's covering up for someone else, she'll be forced to talk. If instead she invokes her Fifth Amendment rights, the police will work to build a case against her.

    The fact that a blog has been started will probably keep up the focus on the District Attorney to see this through, and to ensure justice is done.

    UPDATE (08/18/05): According to today's Philadelphia Inquirer, restaurant (and car) owner Susanna Goihman is not only selling the restaurant, she's now in Florida:

    The restaurant, Azafran, is being sold to former Le Bec-Fin executive chef Daniel Stern, who signed an agreement of sale on April 1 - 21/2 months before the death of Peter, who was crossing Ridge Avenue in East Falls when she was struck and killed. The restaurant, on South Third Street near South Street, and Goihman's home in East Falls have been the scenes of vigils - silent and noisy - for more than a month.

    Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Stern, 34, said he planned to renovate the space and open an upscale American restaurant there by the end of the year. Stern yesterday would not disclose the new name.

    The June 19 accident apparently had no bearing on the sale. In February, Goihman decided she wanted to move back to Florida and contracted with a business broker, Ron Feldman of Siegel Financial Group, to find a buyer for the 40-seat restaurant.

    In a telephone interview yesterday, Goihman, 42, said she was staying near her parents, who live near Miami, and did not know if she would attend the Aug. 31 settlement.

    "I'm not in a good place," she said. "I'm under a lot of stress due to the circumstances and had to get away."

    Police say Goihman's 2002 white Lexus was responsible for the hit-and-run death of Peter, who would have been a junior at John W. Hallahan Catholic High School. Peter had just stepped off a bus and was crossing the street to her home when she was struck.

    This makes any case against her more difficult, because if the Grand Jury wants to question her, she'd have to be designated as a "material witness" -- which (according to the Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses From Without a State in Criminal Proceedings) would seem to mean hearings in Florida:
    All fifty states have adopted the Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses From Without a State in Criminal Proceedings,(208) which enables their courts to obtain live testimony of out-of-state witnesses in criminal cases.(209) This statute permits a court of record to certify under seal that a criminal prosecution is pending in the court or that a grand jury investigation has commenced or is about to commence,(210) and that a person outside the state is a material witness whose presence is required for a specified number of days.(211) The trial state court presents the certificate to any judge of the court of record in the county in the state where the witness is found.(212)

    Upon receipt of the certificate, the judge in the witness's home state sets a time and place for a hearing, and orders the prospective witness to attend. If, after the hearing, the home state judge concludes that the witness is material, necessary, will not suffer undue hardship if required to attend and testify in the criminal proceeding in the trial state,(213) and will be protected by the trial state from arrest and service of process,(214) the home state judge may issue a subpoena directing the witness to attend and testify in the trial state.(215) The statute requires the trial state to pay the witness's travel expenses and a daily attendance fee.(216) If the witness fails to honor the subpoena, the home state court may impose punishment.(217) If after entering the trial state, the witness fails to attend and testify as directed by the home state subpoena, the trial state may impose punishment.(218)

    The Uniform Act to Secure Attendance is of great relevance for several reasons. First, in adopting the statute, the states have proceeded on the assumption that they lack the authority to compel unilaterally the appearance of a necessary out-of-state witness; they must turn to other states for aid.(219) Thus, even the states' boldest efforts belie their timidity in exercising subpoena power. Second, notwithstanding their assumption that they cannot assert extraterritorial subpoena power, the state legislatures and courts have been willing, in the criminal context at least, to require witnesses to travel thousands of miles to testify in another state. Hence, concern for the inconvenience of non-party witnesses cannot be the sole impediment to assertions of extraterritorial subpoena power.(220) Third, several state courts and the United States Supreme Court have upheld the Uniform Act to Secure Attendance in the face of state and federal constitutional challenges.(221) Thus, as the following section of this Article will demonstrate, the argument that the Constitution prohibits the states from requiring a witness in one state to appear and to testify in another state must be rejected.(222)

    This means more legwork, and (in my view) it decreases the odds of a Grand Jury indictment. At this point, while I haven't researched any of the statutes (and I do not offer legal advice), I don't see anything to stop the owner of the car from leaving the country.

    UPDATE (08/19/05): An arrest warrant is being prepared against Susanna Goihman:

    PHILADELPHIA -- An arrest warrant is being prepared for an East Falls chef and restaurant owner at the center of an investigation into a deadly hit-and-run.

    Charges against Susanna Goihman could be approved by the Philadelphia district attorney as early as Friday morning, related to the death of 15-year-old Kayla Peter.

    A grand jury was recently meeting about the case, but the charges in the warrant are unknown.

    Goihman is believed to be currently visiting South Florida.

    Goihman is the owner of a car that police said hit and killed Peter as she got off a SEPTA bus.

    The accident occurred June 19 as the teenager was crossing a street near her home.

    Goihman's battered car was found in her driveway not far from the deadly accident earlier this summer, but police have not been able to say for sure who was behind the wheel.

    Police said Goihman has not cooperated with the investigation.

    (HT Mrs. P.) I think the public attention that's been brought to bear in this case has to have been a factor.

    However, the Philadelphia Inquirer's website notes that the DA's office says no charges were filed as of last night:

    Authorities are preparing an arrest warrant for restaurateur Susanna Goihman, charging her in the June 19 hit-and-run death of 16-year-old Kayla Peter.

    The warrant could be ready to be served today, a law-enforcement source said last night.

    "I hope it's true," said Kayla's stepdad, Jimmy Rosciolo.

    Cathie Abookire, spokeswoman for the district attorney, said no charges had been filed with her office as of last night.

    It was not clear what the charges would be.

    "The D.A.'s priority is justice for Kayla Peter," Abookire said. "And we are involved in an extensive investigation."

    Police had determined that Kayla was killed by Goihman's 2002 white Lexus coupe two months ago today.

    The John W. Hallahan High School student had gotten off a SEPTA bus and was crossing Ridge Avenue in East Falls just before midnight to go to her nearby home when she was struck. She had just completed her sophomore year.

    The Lexus was seized from the driveway of Goihman's home three days after the accident.

    The case was turned over to a Philadelphia grand jury earlier this month.

    Law-enforcement sources said the case had been slowed by their efforts to determine whether Goihman, who had a previous DUI arrest, had been drinking the night of Peter's death. A conviction for leaving the scene of an accident while under the influence carries a heavier penalty than the same charge without the DUI. The grand jury was called in part to force bar workers to answer questions, sources said.

    Goihman, 42, owner of the restaurant, Azafran, on 3rd Street near South, in Queen Village, has reportedly gone to the Miami area, where her parents live. The Venezuela native has infuriated friends of the dead girl's family by refusing to talk with police.

    The matter takes on additional urgency in light of this Inquirer report that Goihman might flee the country from Florida:
    The law-enforcement official said it was a concern that the East Falls resident might try and flee the country from there, possibly to her native Venezuela.

    Brian McMonagle, Goihman's lawyer, also could not be reached for comment.

    UPDATE (08/20/05): As of today, the warrant still has not been issued:

    No warrant was issued yesterday for the arrest of the woman whose Lexus killed a teenager in June, but a spokeswoman for District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham called the case "a very aggressive investigation."

    "The D.A.'s priority is to get justice for Kayla Peter," spokeswoman Cathie Abookire said yesterday. "Sometimes, people wonder why it takes so long: The point is the D.A. is committed to a very aggressive, thorough and solid investigation. We want to build a strong case, and it's very important that we have a strong case."

    The Inquirer reported yesterday that a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Homicide Unit detectives were preparing a warrant to be approved by the District Attorney's Office.

    Abookire declined to comment yesterday on when a warrant might be approved.

    Susanna Goihman, owner of the Queen Village restaurant Azafran, has been the focus of that investigation and a grand-jury inquiry after police determined that her white 2002 Lexus was responsible for the hit-and-run death of Peter.

    Goihman, 40, of the 3600 block of Henry Avenue, has recently been staying near her parents in South Florida.

    Court records from a January DUI arrest indicate that she is a native of Venezuela and that she has lived in Philadelphia for about eight years.

    Abookire declined to comment on whether Goihman is considered a flight risk.

    UPDATE (08/23/05): The warrant was issued and Susanna Goihman has turned herself in:

    Susanna Goihman, a Philadelphia restaurant owner whose white 2002 Lexus struck and killed 15-year-old Kayla Peter in a hit-and-run accident on June 19, turned herself in to police today after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

    Goihman, 42, of East Falls, had refused to speak with police for two months after her car was identified as the vehicle that struck Peter in the 4800 block of Ridge Avenue. Peter had stepped off a bus on Ridge Avenue and was crossing the street to her home in the same block when she was hit by Goihman's Lexus which left the scene.

    Goihman, a native of Venezuela, had been the target of protests by family and friends of Peter, who would have been a junior at John W. Hallahan Catholic High School for Girls this fall, at her home on Henry Avenue and at Azafran, a restaurant she owned in Queen Village. Goihman recently sold the restaurant.

    Goihmann, grim faced and flanked by attornies Brian J. McMonagle and Louis A. Bove, passed through a crowd of reporters without comment and surrendered to a Homicide unit detective at 11:08 a.m.at Police Headquarters.

    McMonagle said at an impromptu press conference outside the building minutes later that he was "advised" this morning that a warrant had been obtained for her. "I brought her to Philadelphia within hours of knowing that her arrest was imminent and we wanted to surrender today to authorities to let the system begin its work," said McMonagle. "It's a very difficult day for her and her family and despite this her thoughts and her prayers are obviously with this child's family."

    McMonagle said Goihman would be charged with leaving the scene of an accident in which there was a fatality. He said he had turned over Goihman's passport to authorities "so there can be no confusion about her thoughts and intentions."

    It's too early to say the case is closed, but it's getting closer.

    posted by Eric at 02:12 PM | Comments (8)

    Creatively sighted RINOs

    This week's RINO Sightings Carnival has been posted by super blogger John Cole.

    John says he doesn't have creative bone in his body, but that didn't stop him from posting a couple of RINO pictures, which are not only artistic, but which might be considered, well, sexy. (I mean, to another, er, RINO... But is that second RINO wearing white lace panties, or I am seeing a mirage? RINOs are supposed to have bad eyesight, of course. Is John being more creative than he admits, or am I a blind RINO seeing things that aren't there?)

    All the posts are excellent, and here are a few favorites:

  • Michael Demmons looks at the distinction between public and private spaces, and the asininity of calling private spaces "public" by the anti-smoking movement. (I don't think they'll rest until all fields, houses, and cars are declared public places.)
  • SayUncle discusses that political football and red herring often referred to as the "right to privacy" which the founders reserved to the people.
  • Taking issue with a strategy of defeat, Dr. Rusty Shackleford discusses the shameless promotion of Daily Kos as an election strategist by MSMer Eleanor Clift. (Is it a good idea to let her know? Ah, that's right! Ms. Clift probably does not read The Jawa Report, or the RINO Carnival!)
  • Dean Esmay has a very thoughtful post about war crimes and war criminals. (Personally, I'd rather see war criminals summarily shot while the wars are still hot, but it's not up to me.)
  • If you're a RINO, or thinking about becoming a RINO (or if you're merely RINO curious), be sure to check the rest out!

    posted by Eric at 12:58 PM | Comments (1)

    Not all chirping is beautiful
    "let readers decide who sings most like a nightingale."

    -- James Wolcott

    In a comment recently, blogger "Slartibartfast" left a friendly warning (which reminded me of the probationary nature of my blogging):

    I wouldn't mess with Wolcott if I were you. I mean, that guy can write.
    How true. I replied that Barbra Streisand is a much better singer than I am, that John Lennon was a better writer AND singer, and while I might be musically and verbally unable to counter, say, the nonsense in the song "Imagine," that does not make "Imagine" right. Nor does Wolcott's writing ability breathe truth into his thoughts. It's not my goal to "mess" with Wolcott, whose abilities as a superior writer I respect. However, when I disagree with something strongly enough, well, I ought to say something, or else why blog at all? If I think something is ridiculous, should I not say so? Should the fact that a superior writer said it deter me from disagreeing with it? I don't see why.

    I say this with full awareness of my limitations. I know I'm not all that great of a writer, and my style (notwithstanding Steven's compliments), well, it just doesn't hold a candle to the New Yorker/Vanity Fair/James Wolcott style, and I know it. I do think I have stuff to say, and I do try to make it interesting, but I'll never be published in any showcase for superior writing talent. Hell, that's why I'm writing in this blog, and I suspect others blog for the same reason.

    Because this came up in the context of Wolcott's repeated attacks on Michael Totten, let me also say that I don't think my writing is as good as Michael Totten's. (Which means Wolcott will and should ignore me and would probably consider my readers lower on the evolutionary scale than Michael Totten's readers, whom he labels "tottentots." Har!)

    But the statement -- "I'll let Michael Totten play with his nuances" -- shows what a gracious gentleman Wolcott is.

    Should I be thankful that he's allowing me to play with my nuances?

    As the blogosphere's reigning (and unchallengeable) nightingale aspirant, Wolcott shouldn't feel the slightest threat from me, because I'm an admitted loser. I don't plan to enter the nightingale contest, and it never occurred to me that anyone would blog for such a reason. I'm more like a lowly cricket, chirping away annoyingly. Much as I hate to compare the thoughts of Russell Kirk to the thoughts of James Wolcott, I reserve my right to chirp, as often as I want, as long as I continue blogging.

    (Until somebody fumigates, I guess....)

    I'll close with a few interesting facts about nightingales (humbly presented here as a public service):

  • From a historical as well as classical perspective, nightingales are not as attractive as peacocks, nor as strong as eagles.
  • Singing like nightingales may be beautiful, but unless you are looking for a female nightingale, it doesn't seem to attract female members of your own species.
  • Research suggests that nightingales living near urban areas have been forced to sing louder -- causing "hoarseness and coughing."
  • The singing of nightingales carries with it a high cost -- both in metabolism and mortality.
  • Hmmm.... That probably explains the last factoid.

  • The heaviest nightingales sing the most.
  • All things considered, I don't think I'd want to be a nightingale.

    And where's the rule that says I should try to sound like one?

    posted by Eric at 10:20 AM | Comments (4)

    Is there a Moore's law for propaganda?

    John Beck links to a brilliant post by Done with Mirrors* contrasting Hollywood propaganda of World War II to that of our present war in Iraq. Here's what he said about Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11:

    How ironic is it that the most significant piece of Hollywood propaganda produced in this current war is lauded by the people who would burn Hollywood to ash and sow its soil with salt if they had the chance? The religious authorities in Iran scrapped the scheduled program at the Farabi Cinema complex in Tehran to put Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" on display. "This film unmasks the Great Satan America," a spokesman said. "It tells Muslim people why they are right in hating America. It is the duty of every believer to see [this film] and learn the truth."
    He also praises Americans for avoiding crude caricatures of our enemies, and while I think he's right, I'm still in no mood to apologize.

    * Never sure whether to call this blogger "Vernon Dent" or "Callimachus." (The former a classical Three Stooges character; the latter's a classical librarian....)

    posted by Eric at 06:57 PM | Comments (5)

    Making idiocy turnkey ready . . .

    Colby Cosh has penned the ultimate "primer on Drug War panic for morons in journalism." The list is quite comprehensive, and just about every known and unknown feature of every known or unknown drug is covered. All you need to do is identify one of the drug's features, and viola! The spin's ready to go. Here's the formula:


  • is expensive: you can frighten people about it by arguing that the crippling costs of addiction ruin human lives.
  • is cheap: you can frighten people about it by emphasizing its "availability" to the young and the impoverished.
  • is physiologically addictive: you can frighten people about it by describing in detail the Goya-ish horrors of detox.
  • isn't physiologically addictive: you can frighten people about it by warning of the nerve-shattering psychological "crash" that invariably follows heavy use.
  • Etc. The list is quite long, and very funny.

    I love it, and I am reminded of the way a true believer in the Drug "War" will always view the statistics as justifying his position, no matter what.

  • If drug use goes down, that means we need tougher drug laws, and this is no time to let down our guard; we should redouble our efforts because by God we've got to win this thing!
  • On the other hand....

  • If drug use goes up, that means we need tougher drug laws, and this is no time to let down our guard; we should redouble our efforts because by God we've got to win this thing!
  • Which reminds me of that old Russian joke about Communism.

    Boy to babushka: "Grandma, what is the difference between Capitalism and Communism?"

    Babushka: "Under Capitalism, man exploits man! Under Communism, it's the other way around!"

    I love it when life is easy.

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

    "Nothing to start a civil war over"

    Yeah, that's what I keep saying -- not only about same sex marriage (or "gay marriage" for those who demand inexactitude), but about the whole issue of tolerance for homosexuals.

    Ridiculous as it may be to consider starting a civil war over these things, at the rate things are going with certain scholars on the left and the right, the "gay issue" will be a dagger aimed at the very heart of any and all future discussions of the American Civil War. That's because the simmering debate over whether Abraham Lincoln was homosexual is becoming a raging debate. For both "sides," it matters greatly.

    I think it matters too much. Way too much.

    At the outset, let me admit my bias. I think the private sex life of Abraham Lincoln -- regardless of what it might have been -- was and is wholly irrelevant to the much greater questions of the Civil War, of slavery, and his place in history.

    I realize that this puts me at odds with the sexually obsessive nature of this country. It's inescapable that once a meme like this gets going in the collective mind of an ignorant, media-programmed, sexually preoccupied public, why, they might not ever look at a five dollar bill the same way again!

    (Whew! Such a thing might even have a devastating impact on petty civilian economic activities.... Ah, yes, I can hear it now! In fact, I see it now, in the form of a Google phrase, "Queer as a five dollar bill?" And to think I imagined I'd come up with an original phrase.)

    Anyway, the book itself, C.A. Tripp's The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, has generated a firestorm of controversy. Leading critics assembled by the Claremont Institute make a reasonable case that the book's central premise is hokum, but the story is everywhere with countless textual tidbits like this poem by Lincoln fed up for public consumption:

    I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary

    It is neither a Joke nor a Story

    For Rubin and Charles has married two girls

    But Billy has married a boy

    The girlies he had tried on every Side

    But none could he get to agree

    All was in vain he went home again

    And since that is married to Natty

    So Billy and Natty agreed very well

    And mama’s well pleased at the match

    The egg it is laid but Natty’s afraid

    The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch

    But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head

    My Suitor you never Can be

    Beside your low crotch proclaims you a botch

    And that never Can serve for me

    That might appear damning, but according to this New York Daily News article, there's evidence that Lincoln wrote the poem to insult two brothers he didn't like. (The Daily News summarizes a lot of pro and con arguments.)

    Much, for example, is made of Lincoln's unhappy marriage -- but considering his wife's documented mental illness (and the fact that very few people liked her), I think that provides pitifully poor evidence of his sexual tastes one way or another.

    There's also plenty of apparently incriminating evidence to titillate modern readers:

    It also includes a diary excerpt by one upper-class Washington woman who wrote of Derickson: 'There is a Bucktail soldier here devoted to the President, drives with him, and when Mrs L is not home, sleeps with him. What stuff!'

    Scholars have long debated Lincoln's sexuality, and as early as the 1920s were making veiled references to his relationship with Speed. However, critics say that in the pioneer days men sleeping together in rough circumstances was not uncommon.

    Now Tripp has discovered letters between Lincoln and Speed which supposedly betray a deep intimacy.

    I don't want to lose myself in the intricacies of modernistic interpretation, but what I've seen satisfies me that these letters can be read both ways. I've seen nothing I'd consider to be overt declarations of sexual lust by Lincoln towards any of the men he slept with. The problem with this whole "debate" is that it forces people to take sides on something which can never be conclusively known barring the appearance of graphic and specific admissions to specific sex acts by Lincoln himself, or by a reliable person actually claiming to have had sex with him.

    And it would be surprising to find any such evidence -- regardless of whether or not Lincoln had been a secret criminal "sodomite." (Yes, in Lincoln's time, illogical and vague terms like "sodomite" and "the unspeakable crime against nature" were standard legal lexicon for homosexual sex acts -- whether per os or per anum). I don't think it requires much imagination to grasp that Lincoln -- a shrewd lawyer -- would have been well aware of the elements of these criminal offenses, and would have had the common sense (if not political acumen) to avoid admitting to them in any writing. Especially if he did them!

    Now, putting aside all communitarian considerations of whether the sex life of this one man would wreck the republic (a tough sell for some, I know), let us assume for the sake of argument that Lincoln did have some sexual relations with men. We already know that he had sexual relations with women, as he sired a number of children (and artificial insemination wasn't available in those days). So assuming he had sex with men too, how would that make him gay? Gore Vidal, long a theoretician of Lincoln's sexual non-conformity, sees him as bisexual (although along with Tripp he debunks his much-touted heterosexual affair with Ann Rutledge).

    Scholar Allen C. Guelzo feels differently:

    ....as Richard Taruskin once remarked (in a review of several books on Tchaikovsky), in the 19th century, homosexuality did not "essentialize" a person, "did not typecast, or stereotype, or render one's nature darkly and irrevocably Other." Homosexuality was regarded as a vice, and particularly an upper-class one, but it was no more revealing about one's behavior or emotional life than any other form of libertinage. That makes it even more unlikely that a strait-laced, teetotaling, bourgeois male like Lincoln would have found anything even passably interesting in 19th-century homosexuality. And it underscores how completely the idea that sexuality is the key to Lincoln's "intimate world" is a product of Tripp's culture, not to mention Tripp's own personal and professional inclinations, rather than Lincoln's.
    I'm not sure of the logic there, as Lincoln doesn't strike me as someone whose innermost interests would have been dictated by other people's views on what it was that constituted "vice." While a teetotaler (not unexpected for a man whose father appears to have been a drunk) Lincoln was nonetheless a sharp critic of proposals to prohibit alcohol.
    [Prohibition] goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.
    Just had to figure out a way to squeeze in that quote, folks! Not only do I like it, but it's solid evidence of Lincoln's libertarianism, and little wonder why it isn't much reported by those Steven calls "moral collectivists."

    His "strait-laced" libertarianism aside, so far as I know, Lincoln was never quoted one way or another on "sodomy" -- but again, he probably had enough common sense to recognize that some things went on which you just didn't (or couldn't) discuss. I realize this sheds little light on his sexual tastes, but I don't think any more of a solid case can be made about what he may not have done than about what he may have done.

    It should be noted parenthetically that the Claremont Institute has been accused of being highly emotional about Lincoln -- to the point of resorting to ad hominem attacks on dissenting historians. Now, while I'm not about to embroil myself in a defense of DiLorenzo (or his Lincoln book), if his characterizations of the animus are true, I think the emotions might be grounded in an irreconcilable disconnect arising out of Lincoln's undisputed greatness. (It may boil down to this position: if Lincoln was in any way tainted by the slightest sign of homosexuality or bisexuality, then because homosexuality is an inherent evil, Lincoln cannot have been a great man. I suspect that any imputation of homosexuality to any proven great man would be considered a Christopher Hitchens-style "denigration of political greatness" which is "an essential aspect of radical ideology." This makes Lincoln's homosexuality impossible by definition. Otherwise, in the eyes of those who define greatness and homosexuality as mutually exclusive, American civilization -- and the entire West -- must fall. Much as I consider this absurd, there's no escaping the fact that there are people who think this way -- but it's a reason why I started this blog. There are too many great men in history to allow such petty, medieval-minded smears to go unchallenged, I reasoned.)

    This is all so contentious and pointless that I wonder what prompts me to write posts like this. But the fact is, the Claremont piece came to me in the mail, and one of my weaknesses is that it's tough to ignore things that are physically in front of me.

    Which is not to say that I'm at all impressed by the evidence. At best, the case for Lincoln's homosexuality is a circumstantial one. And even that circumstantial evidence is being taken out of context. Hard as it might be for contemporary Americans to understand, in the 19th century, men routinely slept together without having sex. (When I toured Andrew Jackson's Hermitage residence, I was suprised to learn that in his lonely old age, he'd put up dozens of houseguests at a time -- with as many as seven men being forced to share a single bed. Something retired presidents other than possibly Bill Clinton simply would not do today.)

    Lincoln (who had a known mischievous streak), had a penchant for flowery language, and it is not surprising at all that such references in his letters might lend themselves to a sexual interpretation today.

    The bottom line is that this is unknowable and unprovable, and I am wondering why it matters. One thing is clear: sexual relations were not discussed, and the taboo on homosexuality during Lincoln's time was so strong that its occurrence would have been unsuspected and unmentioned. Remember, this was long before even Oscar Wilde described homosexuality as "the love that dare not speak its name." If it happened, it happened, but no one was the wiser, and I can easily imagine that sexual encounters took place which would be shrouded with complete denial -- never to be acknowledged by either partner. (Something very tough to understand today, unless we look at the Mideast, where homosexuality is not considered homosexuality unless it is admitted.) In any case, there's nothing "gay" about it by modern standards.

    So why the need to out a dead man without genuine, uncontestable evidence? Is there a self esteem movement by gay activists along lines similar to the "Africanizing" of ancient culture? If so, I think it's dishonest and only likely to create insecurity. Because, at best, what they have done (in the case of Lincoln and other great historical figures similarly "outed") is to create as "gay role models" people who were not known to be homosexual, who never said they were homosexual, and whose homosexuality is debatable.

    What kind of role model is that? A role model for staying in the closet, if anything. So why would gay activists promote it?

    Anyway, I don't think the Lincoln-was-gay case has been proven at all, although the intriguing details which have been uncovered certainly assist with our knowledge of the man's complexities. Of course, Lincoln's status as one of history's great men remains unchanged by any reasonable standard. Still, I wonder whether the human tendency to enjoy salacious gossip, coupled with the usual American adolescent focus on things like homosexuality, might cause people to put largely irrelevant historical details ahead of what's important.

    But alas! Political activists always seem to set the ground rules for what is considered important.

    But that's the Culture War.

    It's always lots of no fun.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: It must be remembered that the laissez faire position on private sexual matters (that a thing like homosexuality should not matter) is actually a greater threat to the moral collectivist philosophy than that of the gay activists. That is because the latter at least agree with their sworn enemies on one thing: homosexuality does matter.

    The gay activists (especially the more unsavory of them) are thus seen as America's last and best hope for preserving some sort of stigma.

    posted by Eric at 09:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    So don't absolve me then!

    Notwithstanding his claim to be a peacemaker, James Wolcott has been repeatedly insistent that he's onto some new form of NeoCon evil, which strikes him as a form of dishonesty:

    Totten and compadres seem to think that I consider anyone who simply voted for Bush as morally culpable for everything Bush has done since on the foreign and domestic fronts. But I made it clear that I was referring specifically to bloggers who support Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq, bloggers who slant conservative Republican in the overwhelming of majority of their posts and--

    --and then at irregular intervals rhetorically wag their hands to say, Hey, don't pin a label on me, I support a woman's right to choose, or gay marriage, or decriminalization of drugs, etc.

    As if that absolves you for vigorously championing an immoral war based on lies, supervised by a leadership class corrupted by ideological cowards and incompetents.

    As if that absolves you? What is this? Who was asking to be "absolved?" Absolved of what? I think what I think about drugs and the war, and I am not looking for absolution from anyone. The use of that religious term makes no sense unless Wolcott believes that:

  • the war is evil;
  • the people he accuses of seeking absolution know the war is wrong, and feel guilty about it; and
  • their guilt forces them to take phony liberal positions they really don't hold, in the hope of being "absolved" from their war guilt.
  • It would be one thing if I had carefully staked out some sort of political potpourri in order to raise funds or run for office, but this idea that I owe a duty to follow a party line makes no sense. Additionally, Wolcott is saying that I might as well favor sodomy laws, laws against anti-stem cell research, or drug laws, because some of the people who support war do. I think he'd like to say that and more (i.e., that only the antiwar crowd should be allowed take such positions) but I think he realizes how foolish that would be, so he must resort to the charge of opportunistic political insincerity. Somehow, the accusation is that I (and people who might think like me) only pretend to favor legalizing drugs in order to pose as Democrats and build up support for the war or something. (But even that wouldn't hold up unless the Democrats favor legalizing drugs.)

    I admit, Wolcott's argument might induce shame among those who either feel guilty about supporting the war (and thus have some insecure need to be given liberal credentials on credit) or who live in constant, deathly fear of being called "conservative," or "Republican." Well, I couldn't care less. I know that a lot of liberals who abhor my philosophy, and I also know there are a lot of conservatives who do likewise (the latter are right wing equivalents of Wolcott who'd accuse me of being as evil as "liberals" for working in "common cause" with them -- and who'd maintain I'm not "absolved" by supporting the war).

    What's the threat? That I'll be (gasp!) "exposed"? I'm not hiding my political philosophy. So go ahead, say I'm in bed with Falwell. (I'll laugh as hard as I would if some right winger said I was in bed with Michael Moore.)

    Besides, I've admitted repeatedly to being on Karl Rove's payroll.

    Hail Satan!

    posted by Eric at 03:18 PM | Comments (3)

    There is no authority but Bob!

    (...but I'm afraid Classical Values is stuck with being his prophet...)

    Well, I am glad to see it's finally official. Via a link at LGF, I see that Baghdad Bob has been officially designated as the spokesman for Air America!


    The fellow who recognized Bob's authority was also kind enough to stick pretty closely to the text of his words of last April:

    "There is no scandal in Air America. No, never! Be assured. It is safe, protected. I can assure you that those infidels will recognize, will discover in appropriate time in the future how stupid they are and how they are pretending things which have never taken place."
    Yes, the words are true. Then and now. For poor Bob been issuing such utterances tirelessly in his job as chief Air America spokesman -- a position he's held since April 15, 2004. On that date, the famed InstaLiar Reynolds was forced to recognize him as Air America's true spokesman (although Captain Ed was also beaten into submission more recently).

    It's been a long time coming but I join Bob in expressing relief that others have finally acknowledged his true authority.

    It's official!

    All must bow before him!

    UPDATE (08/14/05): I now see that iHillary has cloned my dog Coco -- and has additionally assigned human features to a known unclean animal. As punishment for such effrontery, Bob insists that I sentence him to the Classical Values blogroll. I have no choice but to comply.)

    posted by Eric at 08:39 AM | Comments (2)

    Driving away rumors

    During the usual course of things, August is one of those months in which not much happens. (Last year was decidedly different, because of the frenzy over the upcoming election.) However via InstaPundit (Michael Totten, guest blogging), I did find an interesting new Iraqi blog, where I found this post explaining a mystery I posted about in June of the girl allegedly turned into a dog for disrespecting the Koran.

    As it turns out, the rumors were triggered by this Italian sculpture of a monstrosity which looks like a cross between a dog and a girl.


    I have to say I am relieved.

    I was starting to worry about Coco:


    Girls that young really shouldn't be driving. . .

    posted by Eric at 09:31 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    special rights?

    Via Megan McArdle (guest blogging at InstaPundit), I see evidence of a disturbing new trend: an apparent claim -- by gay activists, no less -- that marriage should be restricted on the basis of sexual preference.

    This tired issue (same sex heterosexual marriage) is by no means new to this blog. As I said previously:

    I hate to inject logic into something so emotional, but homosexuals are already allowed to marry. They are allowed to marry either heterosexuals or other homosexuals. The only restriction is that the partner must be of a different sex. That does not mean that the marriage is necessarily heterosexual, or between heterosexuals. Thus, it is not logically accurate to say that only heterosexuals are allowed to marry.

    In an earlier post, I complained facetiously that by not being allowed to marry myself, I was being discriminated against as a single person. Why should not a single person be allowed to marry himself and derive the same "benefits" of marriage that two people derive? Why are two persons more worthy of protection than one? What is the magic of coupling, anyway?

    Just as homosexuals are not barred from marriage, nor are they barred from becoming pregnant. That does not guarantee that they will be able to become pregnant, though. But the fact is that men cannot get pregnant. Does this biological fact discriminate against men? Does pregnancy (with its concomitant tendency to render women vulnerable and in need of some contractual legal protection) offer a reason for marriage? Is there something about the different biological natures of men and women which makes them uniquely predisposed to enter into marriage? If there is, then is it necessarily discrimination for the law to treat such couples differently than couples of the same sex?

    What about same sex heterosexual marriage? As a practical matter, I recognize that there will not immediately be long lines at the county clerks' offices in the event that marriage is opened up to same sex couples, but is anyone seriously suggesting that there be proof of homosexuality in order to marry a spouse of the same sex? Why shouldn't two women living together who want a tax break or insurance benefits simply marry? How about two criminals who want to prevent each other from being forced to talk to the authorities and marry so they can invoke the marital privilege? Or two men who simply want a tax break, or company insurance benefits? Why the hell not? Should prisoners be allowed to marry each other?

    Seen this way, same sex marriage would do more than merely extend to homosexuals rights currently held only by heterosexuals.

    It would allow any person to marry any other person. (Well, I suppose there would still have to be two people -- but is that any more fair than saying they have to be of the opposite sex? I guess they would both spouses would have to be alive, and above the age of consent.)

    True, it would be a new right. But it would not be a new right solely available for homosexual consumption.

    It would be a new right for everybody.

    In the incident cited by Megan McArdle, gay activists areapparently claiming that two heterosexuals should not be allowed to marry each other if they are of the same sex. Yet nowhere have I heard "heterosexual activists" making a similar argument (that homosexuals should not be allowed to marry each other if they are of the opposite sex).

    Clearly, there's a lot of misunderstanding -- both about existing marriage laws, as well as laws which would legalize same sex marriage.

    What gives?

    Via a Joe's Dart Blog link recently, I found an argument against gay marriage which seems to highlight this misunderstanding:

    Where the special rights come in is in the fact that gays want the exception to be given to them and only them. They want marriage to be tweaked in their favor, and to create special circumstances for them. What about other unions that also desire to be included in the marriage definition? What about people who fall in love with their siblings, should they be allowed to marry also? What about polygamists, should we now include marriage to include multiple wives? What about multiple husbands? Do these other groups not get ‘equal rights’ too? No, of course not, only gays get them, and not these other groups.

    So what gays want are not equal rights, they want special rights.

    Not quite. Same sex marriage, if allowed, would be allowed for everyone, not just gays.

    As I've pointed out before, under the "Opposite Sex Marriage" system, any man -- hetero or homosexual -- can marry any woman -- heterosexual or homosexual, or vice versa. No proof or test of heterosexual orientation is required. Similarly, were same sex marriage allowed, no proof or test of homosexuality could or should be required. Any man could marry any man, and any woman could marry any woman.

    I think that any official inquiry into the sexual preferences of marriage license applicants would be illegal, and I'm sorry to see gay rights advocates even raising this issue.

    Megan McArdle's characterization is right. The gay activist in question is:

    Trying to restrict marriage to his tired, outworn definition!

    This is yet another reason why I'm unsympathetic to the argument that marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual preference, unless they specifically say so. They might discriminate on the basis of sex, but then, that seems to be bound up with the whole marriage idea.

    While I don't think same sex marriage would destroy the fabric of society (or the "institution" of marriage) and I remain vehemently opposed to criminalizing "incidents of marriage", I still don't see why a "right" to a piece of paper (a marriage license) is so obsessively defined as a fundamental right of citizenship. As I've warned many times, such government "rights" can carry onerous responsibilities, and I'll summarize my views again:

    I have discussed the backlash issue regarding gay rights, and the win-or-lose nature of these "Culture War" arguments many times. I have expressed reservations that same sex marriage might become involuntary. The issue is certainly a contentious one, but no matter what happens I don't think any of it is worth another civil war.
    (The idea of a "gay test" for same sex marriage only highlights my previous concerns.)

    UPDATE: Do not miss Sean Kinsell's wickedly brilliant insights on this matter.

    posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (2)

    Indymedia offers better coverage than MSM!

    I don't like to dwell on stuff like this unless I can't help it. So I tried to ignore the pathetic picture in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer of one Cindy Sheehan, who believes that she can end the Iraq War by meeting with President Bush. I looked at her picture (another one at Drudge) and found myself suspecting that her purpose might not be to reason with Bush and present logical arguments against the war (as is claimed), but, rather, to scold him. While the newspapers and the MSM have portrayed her as a grieving mother with legitimate questions for the president, the new reports have been rather long on descriptions of the mother and her plight, but short on the specific details of her questions.

    To find these details, I had to look in places other than the Inquirer and the New York Times.

    According to Indymedia, as of August 7 (the date national media attention was drawn to her visit to Crawford), Ms. Sheehan lists the following questions for President Bush:

    Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, is holding vigil in Crawford, Texas until she gets a meeting with George Bush. She has some simple questions to ask him: “Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for? If the cause is so noble, why don’t you send your twins?” She also has a clear demand: “Honor our sacrifices by bringing our nation's sons and daughters home from a war based on lies and deceptions.”

    On Saturday, as Cindy marched towards the ranch where Bush is vacationing for 33 days, she and her supporters, including CODEPINK cofounder Diane Wilson, were stopped by local sheriffs, who pushed them into a ditch with fire ants in 100 degree heat. Cindy was undeterred: “I am not leaving until I meet with George Bush and he answers my questions about the death of my son. This is the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq,” she said. (Emphasis added.)

    I agree. These are simple questions. And the leading question, once again, is Why did you kill my son?

    Regardless of whether Bush should be forced to answer these questions (or submit to a Nuremburg-style tribunal), what I'd like to know is why weren't all three, very simple questions listed in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer? The primary question (why Bush killed her son) was dropped entirely along with the second question, leaving only her third question about whether the Bush daughters have been encouraged to enlist:

    Sheehan has spent several days talking to reporters, hugging fellow protesters, and taking brief breaks to eat sandwiches and fruit from supporters.

    Although she does not expect Bush to meet with her in Crawford, she says that if he did, she would ask him whether he has encouraged his twin daughters to enlist.

    "I want him to quit using my son's death to justify more killing," she said. "The only way he can honor my son's death is to bring the troops home."

    I'd say things are getting pretty pathetic when I have to get the full story from Indymedia.

    This New York Times piece on Sheehan is more than twice as long as the Inquirer's, and, although it calls her case "compelling," also inexplicably fails to mention Ms. Sheehan's most pressing questions.

    What is going on here? Why is the MSM editing the most important questions which this latest anti-war celebrity wanted to ask? And why is it that only Drudge seems to be reporting this statement from the rest of the Sheehan family?

    The Sheehan Family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the the expense of her son's good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan Family supports the troops, our country, and our President, silently, with prayer and respect.


    Casey Sheehan's grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins.


    Drudge might be "developing," but is anyone else? Considering the disappearance of the story from Ms. Sheehan's local (Vacaville) newspaper's website, I'd swear the rest of the family's story is being suppressed.

    Intrigued by all of this intrigue, I began to wonder whether Ms. Sheehan has previously had other questions for Bush, which might also not be getting the attention they deserve.

    Sure enough, her campaign goes back to at least November of 2004. If you Google the name "Sheehan" along with the phrase "AN OPEN LETTER TO GEORGE BUSH," and you'll get links to the following widely circulated letter (which turns up at web sites like these):

    November 4, 2004

    Dear George,

    You don’t mind if I call you George do you?

    When you sent me a letter offering your condolences on the death of my son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, in the illegal and unjust war on Iraq, you called me Cindy, so I naturally assume we are on a first name basis.

    George, it has been seven months today since your reckless and wanton foreign policies killed my son, my big boy, my hero, my best-friend: Casey. It has been seven months since your ignorant and arrogant lack of planning for the peace murdered my oldest child.

    It has been two days since your dishonest campaign stole another election…but you all were way more subtle this time than in 2000, weren’t you? You hardly had to get the Supreme Court of the United States involved at all this week.

    You feel so proud of yourself for betraying the country again, don’t you? You think you are very clever because you pulled the wool over the eyes of some of the people again. You think that you have some mandate from God…that you can “spend your political capital” any way that you want.

    George you don’t care or even realize that 56,000,000 plus citizens of this country voted against you and your agenda. Still, you are going to continue your ruthless work of being a divider and not a uniter. George, in 2000 when you stole that election and the Democrats gave up, I gave up too.

    I had the most ironic thought of my life then: "Oh well, how much damage can he do in four years?" Well, now I know how much you have damaged my family, this country, and this world.

    If you think I am going to allow you another four years to do even more damage, then you truly are mistaken. I will fight for a true vote count and if that fails, your impeachment. Also, the impeachment of your Vice President. The only thing is, I'm not politically savvy, and I don't have a Karl Rove to plan my strategy, but I do have a big mouth and a righteous cause, which still mean something in this country, I hope.

    All of this lying, fooling, and betraying must be “hard work” George. You really think you know what hard work is?

    George, let me tell you what “hard work” really is.

    Hard work is seeing your oldest son, your brave and honorable man-child go off to a war that had, and still has, no basis in reality. Hard work is worrying yourself gray and not being able to sleep for 2 weeks because you don’t know if your child is safe.

    Hard work is seeing your son’s murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you’re enjoying the last supper you’ll ever truly enjoy again.

    Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son…your first born…your kind and gentle sweet baby.

    Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big “baba” into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both.

    But, Dear George, do you know what the hardest work of all is? Trying to digest the fact that the leader of the country that your family has fought for and died for, for generations, lied to you and betrayed your dear boy’s sense of honor and exploited his courage and exploited his loyalty to his buddies.

    Hard work is having your country abandon you after they killed your son. Hard work is coming to the realization that your son had his future robbed from him and that you have had your son's future and future grand-children stolen from you. Hard work is knowing that there are so many people in this world that have prospered handsomely from your son's death.

    George, I must confess that I and my family worked very HARD to re-defeat you this time, but you refuse to stay defeated. Well, we are watching you very carefully. We are going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people into a disastrous war and for mis-using and abusing your power as Commander-in-Chief.

    We are going to scream until our last breath to bring the rest of our babies home from this quagmire of a war that you have gotten our country in to: before too many more families learn the true meaning of Hard Work. We know it is going to be an uphill battle, knowing how Republican Congress is, but thanks to you, we know the meaning of Hard Work and we’re not afraid of hard work at all.

    The 56,000,000 plus citizens who voted against you and your agenda have given me a mandate to move forward with my agenda. Also, thanks to you and your careless domestic policies, I am unemployed, so this will be my full-time job. Being your political downfall will be the most noble accomplishment of my life and it will bring justice for my son and 1125 (so far) other brave Americans and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis your lies have killed.

    By the way, George, how many more innocent Iraqis are your policies going to kill before you convince them that you are better than Saddam?

    How many more of their cities are you going to level before you consider that they are liberated? If you really had any moral values, or if you were an honorable man at all you would resign.

    My son was a man who had high moral values and true courage.

    Humanity lost a bright light on April 04, 2004.

    I will live the rest of my life missing Casey desperately.

    Thank you for that, George.

    Have a nice day.

    God Bless America!! We surely need it!

    Cindy Sheehan

    Broken hearted mother of a True American Hero:

    Spc Casey Austin Sheehan,

    KIA 04/04/04 Sadr City, Baghdad

    I understand that this woman feels very strongly about this, but I think most people would characterize her tone as accusatory, argumentative and scolding. (I don't think I need to dwell on the lack of logic in her many assertions, either.)

    But is it reasonable to expect that by forcing the president to meet with this woman, anything would be accomplished?

    I know I wouldn't want to meet with her, and if she was my mom, I'd probably want to get as far away from her as humanly possible.

    But I can't speculate about unknowable matters. What I do know is that once again, the full story is not being reported by the mainstream media.

    (Am I allowed to thank Indymedia and the various left wing news sites? Or would that be in bad form?)

    UPDATE: Notes of a Nervous Harpist has much more (including some very inflammatory remarks by Ms. Sheehan) as well as a factual account of his death, and offers an opinion:

    I think this is something that was bound to happen when the son or daughter of a leftwing Bush-hater volunteered to go to war (and I think we can draw some conclusions about whether or not Casey agreed with his mother's agenda from this) and then did not make it back home.
    Researching the above further, I found this site which offers a lengthy account of the mission leading to Casey Sheehan's death:
    First Sgt. Carson reported that “word got around (at Camp War Eagle) fast that the patrol was in trouble.” He said that their public affairs officer, Captain O'Malley, said this:
    "They had guys who normally don't fight who volunteered to help their buddies. There were guys fighting to get on that convoy."
    This is substantiated by the mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan. She has said that:
    “And the sergeant said, 'Sheehan, you don't have to go,' because my son was a mechanic.' And Casey said, 'Where my chief goes, I go.' "
    It doesn't appear to me that Casey Sheehan was tricked into going on that mission (or tricked into serving in Iraq) as his mother maintains. If she is mischaracterizing her son's service to his country, I don't see how that honors what he apparently stood for.

    MORE: And here's Instapunk:

    This is perversion. And it's time somebody said it out loud. Cindy Sheehan, your son died a hero. Go home now and find some meaning in it that isn't just about you and the politics of those who hate their country.

    AND MORE: Joe Gandelman thinks that vicious criticism of Cindy Sheehan will create a backlash (which may well be the case). I try to be respectful of everyone, but I think I've shown that the MSM has not presented the full story. At minimum, from what I've seen they've edited out her number one, highly argumentative question about whether Bush "killed" her son. I think her questions to George W. Bush (as well as her November letter) constitute unreasonable scolding, and I do not think it is vicious to say so.

    UPDATE: Commenter Sigivald provides this link to the family statement in question.

    And in another story, Mrs. Sheehan has made it clear that she wants more than a meeting with the President; she's demanding that he answer her "questions."

    "I don't want his compassion or his sympathy, because I know it's not real," Sheehan said. "What I want is answers to my questions."
    An answer to "Why did you kill my son?"

    Is it possible for anyone to imagine the public reaction to a question like that had it been asked of FDR during World War II?

    Were I in President Bush's position, I'd meet with her. (But I don't think she'd like my answers....)

    MORE: Here's Jon Henke (with whom I'm inclined to agree):

    Nor should the President entertain every grieving mother or agitated activist demanding an audience with the President. Imagine the downward spiral that would create, with every activist group in the country camping on the White House/Crawford lawn until 2009, at which point they'd be replaced by different activists camping on the White House/(somewhere else) lawns.

    Ultimately, it's a tragedy that Casey Sheehan died; it's a shame that the President can't meet with Cindy Sheehan without provoking a political PR fight, and a downward spiral of activists demanding audience; but mostly, it's terribly sad that Cindy Sheehan's grief has been turned into a political opportunity for both Republicans and Democrats to take shots at each other.

    The politics of this one have been brewing for some time. I just wish the MSM would give us the full story. And how about all the versions of the story?

    AND MORE: Be sure to check out Darleen Click's posts on Cindy Sheehan. Darleen thinks Sheehan is a "classic cult victim." And Jeff Goldstein has the goods on the so-called "Crawford Peace House." (Frankly, I'm surprised no one's thought to blame HumVee for Casey Sheehan's death; after all Caterpillar has been blamed for the death of "peace" activist Rachel Corrie. Connect the dots, people!)

    UPDATE (08/14/05): The Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin, in a Sunday editorial, has not only written President Bush's answer to Cindy Sheehan, she has rewritten Sheehan's question:

    [Sheehan] would want to know why 140,000 U.S. soldiers are stuck in Iraq more than two years after the fall of Baghdad. She would demand answers that go beyond "Freedom is on the march."
    Huh? What ever happened to question number one -- "Why did you kill my son?" By making up new questions from Ms. Sheehan, and writing new answers for President Bush, Ms. Rubin has relegated the original story to the realm of complete irrelevance.

    Who needs news, anyway?

    MORE: Connie du Toit reminded me of something I think most of us tend to forget as we obsess over facts: a lot of other mothers are being forgotten.

    .... for all the fuss over this one mother, I think we might need to remember the other mothers. Focus away from the mad one and give our time and attention to the others. You know the ones. The ones who say nothing. The ones who, after losing their boys, continue to work with the other families they know—continuing to support the war effort and the families who are shouldering its burdens.

    We don’t hear about them. These mothers (and fathers) don’t appear with posters, placards, or slogans. You’ve got to know they cry constantly, but not the tears of crocodiles to gain pity for themselves. They cry in private moments, when they’re alone, when it is dark, when they have a flashing memory of their lost son, and when their tears and grief will not burden others or wear at their resolve.

    We can argue about the facts, and over the accuracy of media coverage, but grief is real -- for Cindy Sheehan and for many others.

    UPDATE (08/14/05): Via Ann Althouse at InstaPundit, Joe Gandelman now has a much longer post with many links, pro and con. Fair and thorough.

    (I particularly liked Dean Esmay sharing an Iraqi mother's perspective on this. But my main objection is not to Cindy Sheehan, but to the MSM's increasingly common omission of important facts.)

    In this case, emotion may be at war with facts.

    MORE: Speaking of emotional facts, here's Cindy Sheehan, quoted at a speech in Dallas last week by Counterpunch:

    “And the other thing I want him to tell me is ‘just what was the noble cause Casey died for?’ Was it freedom and democracy? Bullshit! He died for oil. He died to make your friends richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East. We’re not freer here, thanks to your PATRIOT Act. Iraq is not free. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you’ll stop the terrorism,” she exclaimed.

    “There, I used the ‘I’ word – imperialism,” the 48 year-old mother quipped. “And now I’m going to use another ‘I’ word – impeachment – because we cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail.”

    As the veterans in Dallas rose to their feet, Sheehan said defiantly, “My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George Bush, and I don’t owe you a penny...you give my son back and I’ll pay my taxes. Come after me (for back taxes) and we’ll put this war on trial.”

    Once again, thank God for the left-wing press! But seriously, if she keeps saying stuff like this, people are going to start wondering whether this is all another Karl Rove operation....

    UPDATE (08/16/05): I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one to be thinking about FDR ("Is it possible for anyone to imagine the public reaction to a question like that had it been asked of FDR during World War II?").

    Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Michael Barone:

    Question: How much coverage would the press have given a World War II-era Cindy Sheehan who camped outside Hyde Park or Warm Springs demanding to meet with President Roosevelt?
    Hey, wasn't there a war on?

    UPDATE (08/18/05): I'm sorry but these remarks by Cindy Sheehan constitute total lunacy -- and it isn't a "vicious right wing attack" to point it out:

    "We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush!"

    So declared Cindy Sheehan earlier this year during a rally at San Francisco State University.

    Sheehan, who is demanding a second meeting with Bush, stated: "We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now."

    Sheehan unleashed a foul-mouth tirade on April 27, 2005:

    "They’re a bunch of fucking hypocrites! And we need to, we just need to rise up..." Sheehan said of the Bush administration.

    "If George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bullshit, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free?"

    "The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it’s so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go to this war."

    And they've made this woman a media heroine?

    Somewhere Karl Rove must be smiling.

    As is so often the case, James Lileks ought to get the last word:

    Some people think that any time you argue back, you're Stifling Dissent. For them, merely discussing Ms. Sheehan's views is the rhetorical equivalent of sending her to Abu Ghraib.

    ....The more the fervent anti-war base embraces these ideas, the more they ensure that no one will trust the left with national security. Ever.

    Will they learn the lesson? Even money says Sheehan will be sitting in the Michael Moore seat next to Jimmy Carter at the '08 Democratic convention.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I want to conclude this much-too-long post by asking a very simple question.

    How can I be "stifling dissent" by wanting to see it reported?

    MORE: Dave Kopel sees the Sheehan affair as involving a failure of the MSM to engage in simple reporting. Instead, they did their best to sanitize Sheehan.

    (And now that she's faded from the screen, her full message will remain unreported, in the hope that she'll be remembered as just another ordinary mom who lost a son in Iraq.)

    posted by Eric at 09:20 AM | Comments (5)

    Forgotten quagmire?

    Analysts opposed to the Iraq War love to speak of a quagmire, and they cite the Vietnam War in support of their theories. Two-plus years into this war, American deaths number some 1800, and there will be many more. Whether they'll approach the Vietnam level of 58,000 killed is highly debatable. (And, I think, highly unlikely.)

    You'd think that if experts were looking for historic quagmires, a better place to search than Southeast Asia might be, well, Iraq. While we hear a lot about the Vietnam "Quagmire" (the one war we're said to have "lost"), we don't hear much about the most recent war we won -- not in Vietnam, but in Iraq itself: Gulf War I. The actual ground war started on February 24, ended on February 28th, 1991, and a total 148 Americans were killed.

    Not that there's much of a parallel between a four day, in-and-out war and a protracted campaign like the present one, but isn't the recent military history of wars in Iraq at least as relevant as an older one in Vietnam?

    What I find more remarkable is that we're hearing so little right now about another Iraq War, the 1980-1988 Iran Iraq War, which really was a quagmire by most objective standards. Here's a pretty good summary of how it started:

    Iran-Iraq War, an armed conflict that began when Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 and ended in August 1988, with an estimated total of 1.7 million wounded and 1 million dead. The underlying cause of the war lay in the long-standing regional rivalry between Persian Iran and Arab Iraq.

    The immediate cause, however, was a border dispute that had its origins in the mid-1970s. In 1974 Iran had begun supplying weapons to Kurdish nationalists in northern Iraq, enabling them to stage a revolt against the Iraqi government. In order to halt the rebellion, Iraq in 1975 compromised on a dispute with Iran regarding the border on the Shatt al Arab estuary. In exchange, Iran stopped supplying arms to the Kurds.

    In 1980 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Iran hoping to reverse the 1975 border settlement and perhaps to gain control of the rich, oil-producing Iranian province of Khûzestân. Hussein also wanted to put an end to religious propaganda directed against Iraq's secular regime by the Islamic government of Iran, which had come to power in 1979 under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

    Khomeini and most Iranian Muslims belonged to the Shiite sect of Islam. Hussein feared that the propaganda would undermine the loyalty of Iraqi Shiites, who comprised about 60 percent of his country's population.

    Most of the same factors are present today -- a notable exception being Saddam Hussein and his arms race (which of course we're told never happened).

    The war solved little:

    At the end, virtually none of the issues which are usually blamed for the war had been resolved. When it was over, the conditions which existed at the beginning of the war remained virtually unchanged. The UN-arranged cease-fire merely put an end to the fighting, leaving two isolated states to pursue an arms race with each other, and with the other countries in the region.
    Both articles are worth reading, and appear largely accurate.

    With things heating up vis-a-vis Iran, I have no idea why this older, truly Iraqi quagmire has escaped the attention of so many MSM analysts. (Might there be an assumption that "Vietnam" is the only quagmire we understand?)

    I'm not arguing that the current war in Iraq is headed for anything like the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. With U.S. forces there and Saddam Hussein out, how can it? Such things might be preventable, if we can at least remember that they've happened before. And if we remember that many of the same tensions still exist.

    While it's indisputable that history repeats itself, it strikes me that those who make that claim (or love to quote Santayana on Vietnam and Iraq) might take into account the history that most bears repeating.

    What's going on in Iraq right now is often called a "civil war," and that may very well be the correct label. I do not claim any expertise at all, and the reason I dislike war blogging is because I am not in possession of more than a small fraction of the relevant facts in Iraq.

    But if history is to be a guide in analyzing the Iraq War, and if it is a civil war, how can we be so sure that Vietnam (or the American Civil War) are better starting places than the Iran Iraq War?

    MORE: Lest anyone get the idea that Saddam Hussein was the greater villain for starting the Iran Iraq War (or that we're facing tactics that are especially new), it should be remembered that "suicide" missions were commonplace during the Iran Iraq War:

    Lacking the equipment to open secure passages through Iraqi minefields, and having too few tanks, the Iranian command again resorted to the human-wave tactic. In March 1984, an East European journalist claimed that he "saw tens of thousands of young boys, roped together in groups of about twenty to prevent the faint-hearted from deserting, make such an attack." The Iranians made little progress despite these sacrifices.
    The boys were given little plastic keys stating that the Ayatollah had given them permission to enter heaven:
    Their mission is to detonate mines and draw fire in preparation for full-scale attacks Iraqi lines. The boys carry plastic keys to heaven. They have been assured by their leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that if they are killed on the battlefield they will go directly to paradise. "The purest joy in Islam," Khomeini has explained, "is to kill and be killed for Allah."
    (While it's a bit off-topic, for the sake of argument, if there is a god who rewards such behavior, I'd be proud to go straight to Hell.)

    AND MORE: I think it is significant to note the the "Badr Brigades" (which are creating many problems in Iraq right now) date back to the Iran Iraq War, when the organization was formed by Iraqi "defectors" loyal to Iran.

    UPDATE (08/13/05): James Wolcott, of all people, is making the case for war with Iran. (Whether he knows it or not.)

    I just knew there had to be a reason why Drudge links Wolcott....

    UPDATE (08/13/05): Henry Kissinger weighs in on the Vietnam analogy:

    Vietnam was a battle of the Cold War; Iraq is an episode in the struggle against radical Islam. The stake in the Cold War was perceived to be the political survival of independent nation-states allied with the United States around the Soviet periphery. The war in Iraq is less about geopolitics than about the clash of ideologies, cultures and religious beliefs. Because of the long reach of the Islamist challenge, the outcome in Iraq will have an even deeper significance than that in Vietnam. If a Taliban-type government or a fundamentalist radical state were to emerge in Baghdad or any part of Iraq, shock waves would ripple through the Islamic world. Radical forces in Islamic countries or Islamic minorities in non-Islamic states would be emboldened in their attacks on existing governments. The safety and internal stability of all societies within reach of militant Islam would be imperiled.

    This is why many opponents of the decision to start the war agree with the proposition that a catastrophic outcome would have grave global consequences -- a fundamental difference from the Vietnam debate. On the other hand, the military challenge in Iraq is more elusive. Local Iraqi forces are being trained for a form of combat entirely different from the traditional land battles of the last phase of the Vietnam War. There are no front lines; the battlefield is everywhere.

    (Via Stephen Green.)

    While the battlefield is everywhere (and the U.S. experience in Vietnam provides a valuable lesson on avoiding psychological defeat), I think the Iran Iraq War can provide invaluable assistance towards understanding the dynamics facing the U.S. now.

    posted by Eric at 02:53 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBacks (1)

    Something nice.

    My mom always tried to say nice things about people, as she believed in that old fashioned saying that "if you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say it."

    This same rule applies all the more to the recently deceased. I offer this by way of explanation for my silence about Peter Jennings death, but I've finally thought of something nice to say about him.

    In his own way, I think he did a lot for the blogosphere. (Maybe not as much as Dan Rather, but then, no one is perfect.)

    That was nice, wasn't it?

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

    Forgotten war?

    Did you complacent people out there know that there's a war on?

    That people are being killed?

    And how could I have forgotten that there's a war going on? Well, I'm being scolded for precisely that -- and today's Inquirer woke me up to the hard reality I've been avoiding:


    Has the war finally hit home? While the headline certainly did, the problem is that I didn't want this war to start. I can't say I was doing just fine, but up until September 11, 2001, the war really hadn't hit home, and I really didn't want it to. Sure, over the years I'd watched the emergence of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the American hostage crisis in Tehran, the emergence of Hezbollah and Hamas, the assassination of peacemaker Anwar Sadat, the Beirut barracks bombing, the killing of American peacekeepers in Somalia, the first World Trade Center bombing, al-Qaida's declaration of war on America, the Khobar Towers bombing, the African embassy bombings, the U.S.S. Cole, but until the planes struck the towers on September 11, it just didn't quite feel as if the war had really hit home.

    On that day, the long, cruel war finally hit home for me. I'll never forget it.

    So what exactly was the purpose of today's newspaper headline?

    To tell me what I already knew?

    If I didn't know any better, I'd almost swear that today's headline was more along the lines of "antiwar movement hits home."

    I'm probably being hypersensitive, though, because the stuff I read on the Internet doesn't hit home with as much of an impact. (I guess that's because it doesn't hit my driveway with a thud.)

    UPDATE: Watching CBS's "Tribute to Fallen Heroes" (the premise of which was that "another soldier had died in an ambush and that he was too young to die") blogger C.R. Mountjoy found Bob Schieffer's presentation to be "over-sentimentalized," "overly melodramatic," and "lugubrious."

    Is there a war between facts and emotions?

    Anyone know who's winning?

    posted by Eric at 08:49 AM | Comments (6)

    Mushrooming generation gap?

    Via Daniel Rubin, I got quite a chuckle out of Instapunk's reappraisal of the 60th Hiroshima reappraisal by the new 60-something generation:

    The history may not be so important anymore, because nobody cares about history since the baby boomers reduced it to a pulpy list of crimes against political correctness. What is important is what happens now that the most narcissistic and self-indulgent generation in American history embarks on the great adventure of aging. It's not going to be pretty. The same folks who demanded that the world be remade in their image when they got to college in the '60s will insist -- just as they have in every other tedious phase and fad of the past 40 years -- that meeting their needs is all that matters. Look for the country to be transformed into some kind of senior citizen's amusement park, a 50-state implementation of St. Petersburg, Florida, with a wheelchair ramp at every strip club and free bus transportation to every reunion of septuagenarian Deadheads.
    Instapunk has more, and he predicts that this self-absorbed, heavily-medicated generation will be an expensive one:
    As for the rest of you, get ready to pay some real taxes in years to come. The baby boomers' appetite for drugs has always been legendary, and they're going to need pills for blood pressure, and body aches, and the pain of post-cosmetic surgery, and erections, and depression, and all the new syndromes that will be invented by a population of sissies who are growing old without ever having grown up. And they're going to want it all for free.

    This is also a special day for the brat kids the baby boomers brought into being without actually raising them. The long cushy ride is over as of now. Your job is to drop whatever you're doing and make sure that mom and dad get the attention they've always always wanted and just can't get anymore from shopping, and showing off, and chasing the coolest new trends. They won't have the energy for all that. So they'll sit there, and complain, and demand something, anything, from you to divert them one more time from the emptiness inside.

    If I could add anything, it would be that my parents were proud members of the World War II generation. They didn't complain much, and they didn't grow old without growing up. I can easily understand the rage that anyone might feel at having to pay for parents who never did much for them and who now demand everything in return, but none of it applies in my case, as both of my parents are dead.

    I feel even less responsibility to subsidize that portion of the 1960s generation Instapunk describes -- people I remember mostly for having a holier than thou attitude, and an ability to deliver endless moralistic scoldings because they were "at the front lines" in the demonstrations against the Vietnam War. But whether I want to pay anything doesn't change the fact that there's this ugly thing called an entitlement. And they're more entitled than their kids, simply because they're hitting that phony "age of retirement."

    No wonder so many of them like socialism. Look what's in it for them.

    As I say this, I realize that I am guilty of bashing an entire generation for the mindset not exhibited by all.

    The people who bragged of being on the front lines against the war, for example, often overlook the fact that others in their generation not only supported the war, but were in the actual front lines of that war. This latter group was not treated as well by their fellow Americans who brag they "ended" the war. Yet all share the same public entitlement. Neither group is more "deserving" -- even if the ones who fought against the war are more prone to brag about their self sacrificing behavior (despite evidence that their behavior prolonged the war) than the ones who fought in it.

    Who ever said socialism was fair?

    posted by Eric at 08:02 AM | Comments (3)

    The Neo-Con Deal?

    The government is creating jobs and aiding industry! Social! I mean capital!

    "Highways just don't happen," Mr. Bush went on. "People have got to show up and do the work to refit a highway or build a bridge, and they need new equipment to do so. So the bill I'm signing is going to help give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs."

    Something tells me the President has never read Hazlitt. It's an easy read: George, click the link already.

    Nothing like public works to please the people.

    posted by Dennis at 10:20 PM | Comments (6)

    150th Anniversary of the First Carnival of the Vanities

    Yes, that's what this week's Carnival of the Vanities is called, and it has it all. Host Greg at Generic Confusion does a great job with a staggeringly large number of posts which he divides into six categories: Politics, Business and Advice, Current Events, Culture and Life, Blogging, and Humor.

    All in all, a crisp, clean, clear, and concise Carnival!

    There's no better and easier way to familiarize yourself with the blogosphere, so go do it.

    posted by Eric at 05:55 PM

    Every tired corpuscle makes me laugh -- till it hurts!

    Via Michael Totten (guest blogging at InstaPundit), I found another gem from James Wolcott:

    The fact is that by subscribing to Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride.
    Michael Totten replies that replies that politics is not binary, and while I agree, I'm glad Wolcott has once again provided some much needed humor.

    Now I get to play reverse-Wolcott, and rephrase what he said:

    The fact is that by opposing Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with the Revolutionary Communist Party, Hezbollah, al Qaida, and assorted Islamic fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of freedom on which you stake your tiny claims to be an American.
    But let me confess -- I really don't think that. It's pitifully bad logic. If "making common cause" in supporting a war is to be so interpreted, then every free market Republican who supported World War II favored New Deal socialism, and every Democrat who supported the Vietnam War was in cahoots with the Watergate burglars. And so on.

    It's fun to lump people together though, and I think it's become a trend. Increasingly, moderates are being lumped in with people who aren't moderate, while radicals are being repackaged as moderates, and lumped together.

    It all makes sense, in an odd sort of way.

    In my long response yesterday to Wayne Pacelle's anti-cloning editorial, my point was not so much to dispute what I consider an absurd idea, but to highlight the fact that Pacelle is a radical who is being repackaged as mainstream, as moderate. Looking back at the piece, I don't think it was funny enough.

    Whether it's humorous or not, a similar case can be made about the constant attempts to portray Islamic radicals as moderates. How to make it funny is similarly challenging, I'm afraid.

    With his "common cause" argument, Wolcott at least identified the core argument: that support for the War in Iraq really ought to put all war supporters into the same category as right wing nuts. From there it's not all that great of a leap to simply declare that they are right wing nuts. An example of that was the recent ad hominem lumping of Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh, Dean Esmay, and Jeff Jarvis (moderates by any normal American standard) in with the Nazis (and Volkischer Beobachter) via favorite leftist targets Charles Johnson and Michelle Malkin. The whole group was of course either stupid, evil, had tits, or perhaps questionable sexuality. While half the bloggers would fall into the conservative category, none of the group are actually radicals (not if their views are compared to the voting public at large). I can't dismiss this as the work of a single anonymous blogger, because the post was linked with approval by the big guys on the left.

    The problem is, now I can't use that example, because the author has since apologized, explaining that the post was intended as humor, which means I am not allowed to take it seriously.

    But James Wolcott still takes himself seriously, even if the business of making moderates into radicals is considered a joke by others.

    Remember, as Beautiful Atrocities observed, some day we'll all get to be Hitler. (Not Glenn Reynolds, though, whose Mussolini ties have been exposed for all the world to see.)

    Not that I'm one to mind playful Nazi comparisons, but I also see that the anonymous jokester who had fun turning moderate bloggers into Nazis is upset about the lack of humor in the right wing of the blogosphere:

    Is there a genetic link between humor and political outlook? Is there just some birth defect that prevents right-wingers from being funny?
    I should ask Frank J.. Or perhaps Jeff Goldstein. Or maybe even Jeff Percifield.

    But, seriously, let's get serious. The anonymous humorist goes on to seriously argue that there's a connection between a lack of humor and, um, a lack of humor, and that all humor is liberalism (and if I am reading this right, that all that which is not liberal, while it may be funny, is not humor):

    In my apology yesterday, I sarcastically asserted there was such a connection, but now I think I may have been right at that. Perhaps people who are born with a natural disposition to see the humor in life, and to be able to laugh at themselves, may develop a sense of empathy and compassion that leads them to liberalism. The key to successful humor, after all, is to be able to see things from other people's perspectives - a liberal trait that conservatives deride variously as "relativism" or "objectively pro-terrorist".
    I don't know. I'm an admitted relativist, and I just hate to think that my attempts to understand the thinking of some of the various terrorists, socialists, people who hate gay gun nuts, and assorted moral conservatives who perplex me -- I sometimes call them the "religious right" while Steven Malcolm Anderson calls them "moral collectivists" -- that all of this might make me "objectively pro-terrorist."

    Well then, I guess I'm feeling objectively guilty!

    It must all be in the genes:

    So conservatives may have a genetic makeup that makes them less able to appreciate what's funny, and consequently take themselves very seriously and see the world as a dour, threatening place, with all these other people having a good time and laughing - sometimes at them. This explains a lot, I think, and deserves further research.
    (Actually, I think there's already been some research in that area.)

    I plead guilty to seeing the world as a dour, threatening place, but sometimes that makes me laugh at it. (Or vomit while laughing at it.)

    I mean, can't we all see the humor in this?


    Maybe I should question my premise that the world is a dour and threatening place. Because after all, if these guys can have such a good time slicing their heads open in front of a portrait of that funny old bearded man, well, I shouldn't be such a stick in the mud!

    UPDATE: While he is one of the blogosphere's great humorists, Nick Packwood is as eclectic politically as he is culturally, so I'd be most hesitant to characterize him as an example of right wing humor. Still, he stands as a stark rebuttal to the selective definition of which I complain above, and I am delighted to see that he finds humor in James Wolcott.

    posted by Eric at 05:02 PM | Comments (13)

    Lists that make me pissed!

    I'm not up to snuff on the intricacies of Geek Law, which is obviously a still emerging field. But I have a legal question which is also a philosophical and ethical question, and I don't know where to go with it, so I thought I'd start with this blog. Hopefully, there are readers better versed in cyber law than I am.

    For reasons which are not entirely clear to me, people with whom I disagree have placed me on email lists which send me barrages of email which is sent simultaneously to many other people on the lists. I have asked to be removed from one of these lists, not because I'm more offended by the nonsense it proffers than I am by any other nonsense, but because the HUGE graphics take up a lot of bandwidth, and threaten to fill up the limited storage capabilities my service provider gives me. My polite request was ignored, and I continue getting gigantically large emails (along with everyone else on this list).

    Anyway, this morning, a thought struck me as I struggled through another one of this man's logically incomprehensible diatribes. As it happens, I also get annoying emails from someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum, and I have had my struggles with them too, because a couple of the people on the list are friends, and I've occasionally been stupid enough to answer particularly egregious charges. (My answer greatly disturbed one of the list readers I DON'T know -- who demanded I take his name off the list -- a list I never started!)

    Anyway, I'm tired of all this "list" business, and my idea is this: am I allowed to forward each list to the other list, thereby starting an email list war?

    Everyone on both lists would be incredibly pissed off, but my questions are: Would this be ethical?

    Would it be legal?

    Would it invade anyone's "privacy"?

    Indeed, do people who find themselves on these long lists have any anticipation of privacy?

    posted by Eric at 09:29 AM | Comments (6)

    Fearing the fear of fear?

    The Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin is blaming the Iranian nuclear program on the war in Iraq (the latter is a "quagmire" of course):

    President Bush's gross miscalculations about Iraq have emboldened Iran's mullahs. The cost of these mistakes was in full view this week.

    Iranian leaders defied U.S. and European warnings and restarted early stages of producing nuclear fuel that can be diverted to make atomic weapons. They believe the Iraq quagmire has deprived the United States of the option of bombing their nuclear facilities.

    They are right.

    I'm curious about a couple of assumptions there. First, is there a quagmire? While I've discussed the "quagmire" topic previously, I'm still curious about these assumptions. First, is there a quagmire? Second, if there is, precisely how has it "deprived" U.S. forces of their ability to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.

    I guess I'll have to read on.

    There is good reason to be worried about Tehran's nuclear program, despite Iranian claims it is only for peaceful energy purposes.

    No expert I've talked to doubts Iran wants to develop at least the capacity to manufacture weapons. Iran's ruling clerics hid key parts of their nuclear program for years. Add to that the fact that Iran helps groups that commit terrorist acts, such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

    This is not a country that the world should want to see in possession of nuclear bombs.

    Agreed. I'm glad to see such apparently unanimous agreement on such a crucial point, and I'm hoping to see Ms. Rubin on the roof of the Inquirer building rejoicing (ululating would be a bit much to expect, I suppose) as soon as the first reactor is bombed!

    Will it happen now? Or do we need a female president with the balls do do it?

    But the U.S. presence in Iraq has made it more, not less, likely that Iran would go all out to develop weapons. Hawkish U.S. pundits boasted that Iran was the next regime that would topple after Saddam fell. Iraq was seen as a perfect base for overt or covert pressure on Tehran. Iraqi democracy was supposed to inspire Iran's restless Shiite population to topple the mullahs.

    Given such predictions, and 140,000 U.S. troops next door, it's little wonder Iran is determined to produce fuel that could be used for nuclear weapons - and has so far rejected offers by the European Union to trade economic goodies for an agreement to stop producing that fuel.

    Wait a second. Is the Iraq War really the motivation for Iranian development of nuclear weapons? Even assuming that Iran feels threatened by U.S. troops, of what tactical use are are nuclear missiles against conventional forces in the field? I think it's far more likely that the weapons would be intended as a blackmail device vis-a-vis Israelis nukes -- or to be diverted to terrorists for use in the United States. More likely, the Iranian goal is along psywar lines. They claim it's unfair that the Israelis have nukes, and they could use their leverage in an attempt to force "nuclear disarmament in the Mideast." Whether the mullahs are insane enough to supply nukes to terrorists or actually deploy them against Israel is of course unknown. But neither of these scenarios strike me as connected to the Iraq War. Considering that the current Iranian nuclear program dates back to the 1980s, I think they'd be doing exactly what they are doing now, even if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

    With Saddam still in power, the mullahs might be working even harder. As the last article points out, Saddam Hussein's forces destroyed Iran's nuclear reactors in the 1980-1988 war. While his capabilities were substantially impaired by the United States after Gulf War I, there's no question that he was still in power, and a growing threat, with a documented history of aggression towards Iraq.

    Now, I know it's tough to know exactly what is going on in the minds of the mullahs. But I think it's a mistake to see everything in the context of this war without considering the not-so-distant past. It could just as easily be argued that leaving Saddam Hussein in power might have provided a stronger impetus for nuclear development than the current scenario. In any case, it would be logically impossible to look at Iran's decades-old, ongoing nuclear program, and lay blame on the current situation in Iraq.

    Ms. Rubin (obviously a competent analyst) must realize this, so she offers more:

    But there are additional reasons why the Iran theocracy feels it can take this gamble. For one thing, flawed elections just returned a conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian public has shown no interest in an uprising; they fear Iraq-style chaos.
    No interest? There are some 75,000 Iranian bloggers now, along with countless activists agitating tirelessly against the mullahcracy. While one can debate the precise meaning of demonstrations like this, to maintain that there is "no interest" in an uprising, and to blame this on "fear" of "Iraq-style chaos" only seems to reinforce the mullah view that the demonstrators are "anarchists." But regardless of the strength of the mullahcracy's opponents, where's the tie-in between that and the nukes? The goal is toppling the mullahs, and I don't see Iranian anti-nuclear activism as being much of a cause there. The people who are agitated want freedom and democracy. If they get it, I'm sure they'd be just as amenable to having nuclear power as any other country. Whether they'd want nuclear weapons is probably about as relevant to them now as cloning sheep. Somehow, I just can't see the mullahs' covert nuclear development decisions being influenced in any way by worries about reactions in the Iranian "street."

    Another reason for nuclear development is said to be Iran's ability to harm U.S. troops in Iraqi (and other) battlefields:

    For another, Iran's regime has thousands of agents inside Iraq who could cause havoc for U.S. troops there if they chose to. They could do the same in Afghanistan.
    Sorry, but they (working in alliance with al Qaida) are already causing havoc for U.S. troops in Iraq. Ms. Rubin has just made a good case for invading Iran (much less taking out the nukes), whether she admits it or not. Far from being a deterrent, Iranian activity in Iraq should in theory make a U.S. strike more, not less, likely.

    Unless, of course, the Iranians are defeating us with psywar tactics. Again.

    Which leads to one of Ms. Rubin's best points:

    And then there is the fact that Iraq's government has developed the closest of ties with Tehran. Iraq's Shiite leaders know they'll need Iranian support if U.S. troops leave - to prevent a return of Sunni Baathists.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who stood beside President Bush in the White House, recently visited Tehran and signed a raft of economic and military agreements. Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi told me in Baghdad last month: "Iran is very important for us. Any negotiations between Iran and the United States affect us, because both are our partners."

    In other words, Iraq's Shiite majority would vehemently oppose any U.S. strikes against Iran. Nor would the United States win international support for bombing Iranian installations, especially since the bomb threat doesn't appear urgent.

    American intelligence agencies - burned by their Iraq experience - just issued a cautious assessment on when Iran will have weapons, saying it probably won't get nukes until early in - or the middle of - the next decade. Previous U.S. estimates - and those of Israel - had placed the likely date sooner.

    Vice President Cheney has suggested that Israel might "decide to act first" against Iranian sites. Israeli sources tell me that is unlikely.

    At best, international pressure may get Iran to restore a temporary freeze on producing nuclear fuel. But the chance of halting the Iranian program probably ended with the Iraq invasion. Another unintended casualty of miscalculations about Iraq.

    Much as I see the point (and much as I think it's a good one), I don't think any of this United States paralysis was caused by the Iraq War.

    Rather, the United States is pathologically afraid of Iran, and I think it comes down not to real strengths and capabilities, but to the success of the Iranian psychological warfare machine. If the United States is in fact unable to do anything about the nukes, about Iran's involvement in Iraq, it is because time and time again we have allowed ourselves to be beaten by a system based on medieval but magical superstitious nonsense dating back to the arrival on a plane of that psychotically religious man, (quite possibly half British, as Stephen Green notes), the Ayatollah Khomeini.

    Our world hasn't been the same since.

    Too bad the Iranians didn't laugh the son of a bitch out of their country.

    His rotten corpse lives on.

    Magic works that way.

    (And I'm afraid it may take a female president to have the balls it takes to go after a dead white man.)

    MORE: Via Michael Totten, guest blogging at InstaPundit, I see that Iranian proxies are growing bolder by the day, and this time they've seized Baghdad's municipal government. Via Drudge, I see that Iranian proxies are terrorizing merchants by means of "militant vice squads."

    I'm not surprised by any of this. It is to be hoped that U.S. forces will at least fight the mullahs' proxies in Iraq? (After all, didn't they really start this whole thing nearly 26 years ago?)

    posted by Eric at 08:43 AM | Comments (3)

    Has Jagger attacked Bush yet?

    Well, now that I've messed up one post today, let's see if I can get this one, uh, straight. The Rolling Stones (one of my favorite bands) are accused of bashing Bush and Rice in a new song, "My Sweet Neo-Con." According to Drudge, here's the story and the lyrics:


    "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/ You call yourself a patriot. Well, I think your are full of sh*t!... How come you're so wrong, my sweet neo-con."

    Ready to drop in the coming weeks, a new Bush-bashing tune from the ROLLING STONES: "Sweet Neo Con."

    "It is direct," Mick Jagger says with a laugh to fresh editions of NEWSWEEK.

    "Keith [Richards] said, 'It's not really metaphorical.' I think he's a bit worried because he lives in the U.S." Jagger explains. "But I don't."

    The full lyric also mocks National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

    OK, first of all, since when has it become mandatory to bash the Secretary of State along with the president? Wasn't the big bad Cheney big enough and bad enough?

    Our last Secretary of State (Madeleine Albright) didn't merit all this attention. Nor did Haig, Shultz, Baker, Eagleburger, or Christopher. So why the fuss about Condoleeza Rice? And Bush was reelected less than a year ago, so it's not as if there's a presidential race or something.

    Anyway, I can't find the exact reference to Condoleeza Rice in the song. Perhaps someone can clue me in.

    For the Stones' part, their publicist denied that the song is about Bush:

    Britain's New Musical Express publication, which calls itself "the world's biggest-selling rock weekly," reported last week that Sweet Neo-Con "is believed to be an attack on the politics of George Bush and the Republican administration." Various other publications have made similar reports, and the Rolling Stones Fan Club of Europe says Virgin Records has been telling people the song has "a political message about moralism in the White House."

    Not so, says Stones publicist Fran Curtis. The song "is not about nor does it mention Bush or his administration." Curtis did not say what it is about, but no matter: It's Only Rock 'n Roll.

    Not sure what they're saying now.

    Several recent British accounts (and this Australian account) repeat essentially the same story as Drudge, but without any reference to Condoleeza Rice. Reading through the stories as carefully as I can, other than in the headline texts, I am at a loss to find any actual references to Bush at all by the Stones or the lyric. For the sake of argument, is it possible that the word "Neo-Con" might refer to a particular person other than Bush? Is Bush supposed to be the "sweet Neo-Con"? Is Rice? Or is it someone else?

    The only specific Bush reference I could find was here, and I don't know how reliable it is:

    The Rolling Stones are getting political on their new album, A Bigger Bang. Mick Jagger tells Newsweek that the new tune "Sweet Neo Con" is a dig at George W. Bush. With lyrics like "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of s—t," Jagger says it is a direct attack on U.S. politics. He tells Newsweek, "Keith [Richards] said, 'It's not really metaphorical.' I think he's a bit worried because he lives in the U.S., but I don't."
    Without confirmation from Newsweek, how are we to know?

    I find it hard to believe it's just a coincidence that the Stones' upcoming tour starts August 21, and I know Mick Jagger is a pretty shrewd businessman. If I were him, I might backpedal a bit. Claim to have been "misunderstood" while basking in the publicity this is already generating.

    (After all, his publicist has already laid the groundwork for him....)

    UPDATE: Here at last is Newsweek (August 15) -- supposedly the source of the stories:

    The Stones' new music sounds more spontaneous than most of their recent efforts, and Jagger sounds angrier than he has in years. Since the band's last studio album, Jagger has ended his 23-year relationship with wife Jerry Hall, and was taken to court over an illegitimate child he fathered with a Brazilian model, which may explain such lyrics as "Oh no! Not you again, f—-ing up my life/It was bad the first time around/Better take my own advice." But the most searing moment, on a song called "Sweet Neo Con," isn't personal but political. "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of s—t." "It is direct," Jagger says with a laugh. "Keith said [he breaks into a dead-on Keith imitation], 'It's not really metaphorical.' I think he's a bit worried because he lives in the U.S." Jagger smiles. "But I don't."

    The tension between Jagger and Richards—primarily, but not exclusively, creative—has always been at the heart of the Stones. Jagger the arty, natty cosmopolitan, Richards the scruffy blues purist and regular guy; Jagger dancing and prancing, Richards standing there with a cigarette dangling. Over the years, they've quarreled and reconciled, recorded solo albums and reunited, and neither has really thrived without the other. "Many times we wanted to kill each other," Richards says now, "or at least cause some serious damage.


    What, no Bush? No Rice?

    Is this soon to be a major misunderstanding?

    MORE: Looking at the lyric again, it occurs to me that there are people I could honestly say that about who aren't George W. Bush, or Condoleeza Rice, or anyone in the Bush administration and who don't even support Bush. (I don't think I have to name names.)

    AND MORE: Newsweek also notes that the concert is not yet sold out:

    Want a ticket for this year's tour, which kicks off in Boston on Aug. 21? Hurry, it's almost sold out.

    (I'm tempted to ask whether this is any way to promote a tour, but I've already made enough mistakes for one day, so I'll leave the temptation alone.)

    UPDATE (08/10/05): My assessment of the situation seems to have been largely vindicated-- and by Mr. Jagger himself:

    NEW YORK -- The Rolling Stones' upcoming album contains a song seemingly critical of President Bush, but Mick Jagger denies it's directed at him, according to the syndicated TV show "Extra."

    "It is not really aimed at anyone," Jagger said on the entertainment-news show's Wednesday edition. "It's not aimed, personally aimed, at President Bush. It wouldn't be called 'Sweet Neo Con' if it was."

    Sigh. Might it be about me?

    (Many people think I'm sweet.)

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Has Mick Jagger betrayed his apparent former disdain for politics? Actually, considering that he long ago confessed to harboring a secret desire to become a Member of Parliament, an interest in politics at this stage of his life might not be as far fetched as it would seem. Add to that the fact that the much younger Tony Blair was called a "Mick Jagger wannabe" (by the Times, no less) and the intrigue grows.

    posted by Eric at 03:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (2)

    Bullets or ballots?

    I had to delete a previous post written in haste, in which I accused Greg Palast of advocating the assassination of Bill Frist. He did not do that, and I thought it would be irresponsible for me to leave it up.

    What I thought I saw (via a link from my blogfather Jeff Soyer) was columnist Greg Palast apparently wishing for the assassination of Bill Frist:

    It's not nice to say, but there's only one way to stop Doctor Death. In 2008, I hope to see the headline, "Senator Frist Slain in a Hail of Ballots."

    Ballots are not bullets.

    Accordingly, my post was deleted in a deliberate, intentional coverup. (Rather than cover up my coverup, I thought I should write this post.)

    My apologies for any confusion created by my mistake.

    posted by Eric at 03:28 PM | Comments (4)

    Hitler hired Jews, claims respected Stalinist!

    Here's Harry Belafonte on Adolf Hitler:

    Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value.
    (Via the G. Gordon Liddy Show)

    Belafonte's statement is an outrageous lie, but it was intended as an attack on black conservatives, so I don't expect to see it mentioned in my local newspaper -- or anywhere else in the Mainstream Media.

    NOTE: If it appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I promise to correct myself.

    Anyway, Belafonte's remark drew an immediate protest from Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies:

    "Some entertainers simply don't know much about history," said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, a research and education institute focusing on America's response to the Holocaust. "The fact is that there were no Jews in Hitler's hierarchy, the policies of America and Israel are not similar to those of Hitler, and African-American conservatives are not comparable to Nazis."

    The Wyman Institute is urging the three entertainers to publicly retract their "inaccurate and hurtful" remarks about Hitler and the Holocaust. Dr. Medoff said: "Such analogies pollute public discourse, by trivializing the brutal horrors committed by the Nazis. Hitler was a maniacal dictator whose regime systematically annihilated six million Jews, and launched a world war that caused the deaths of more than forty million people. How can any reasonable person put Hitler and the Nazis in the same sentence as American or Israeli leaders, or black conservatives?"

    In another interview, Dick Gregory allowed that black conservatives have the "right to exist," but analogized them to Nazis:
    "They (black conservatives) have a right to exist, but why would I want to walk around with a swastika on my shirt after the way Hitler done messed it (the swastika symbol) up?"
    I realize that Belafonte and Gregory are supposed to be entertainers, but I don't find such appalling ignorance entertaining in the least.

    Considering allegations that Belafonte is an unreconstructed Stalinist, though, so I can't say I'm surprised.

    I'd be surprised to see him apologize.

    posted by Eric at 11:14 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBacks (1)

    Latest mainstream meme?

    If you thought the debate over human cloning was bad, read on....

    Today's Philadelphia Inquirer features an Op Ed by Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States. In a piece called "Cloning is cruelty to animals and people" Pacelle comes out swinging against animal cloning:

    [W]ith millions of healthy and adoptable cats and dogs being killed each year for lack of suitable homes, it is a little frivolous to be cloning departed pets.

    Behind the cloned puppy and kitten are far grander schemes to clone animals for use in agriculture and research. Before such projects become the norm, we should all pause and think carefully about where it is leading - for animals and for humanity.

    If it's frivolous to clone because there are unwanted animals, isn't it just as frivolous to breed? (Yes, I'm coming to that.)

    And where is this leading?

    Agriculture and research? Heaven forefend!

    If that wasn't Kass-like enough for you, Pacelle has more:

    Behind every heralded success are hundreds of monstrous failures.
    Hmmm.... Couldn't that be said about almost any human innovation? Repeated failure followed by success? How is that an argument against trying? Pacelle doesn't say.

    Instead, sounding like a moralizing Kass/Rifkin hybrid, he calls for more laws:

    As all of this has unfolded, policymakers have stood idly by, placing almost no legal restraints on corporations and scientists tinkering with the most fundamental elements of biology.

    Biotech companies and their allies in agribusiness also have won approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell commercial clones as food. Like pet cloning, the cloning of farm animals is monumentally unnecessary.

    Is there any serious debate that meat is meat? That a clone is a twin? What logic underlies the argument that the government should allow me to eat a hamburger made from Cow A, but not from a twin of Cow A? Unless there is something intrinsically evil about eating meat, it just doesn't follow.

    But it does follow if you read on, for in the next sentence, Pacelle makes it clear that what he seeks is a meat moratorium:

    Farmers already produce so much meat that they must find export markets to turn a profit. As for the animals in our factory farms, cloning is the final assault on their well-being and dignity.
    Obviously, he thinks there is too much meat on the market, and he fears that cloning techniques will allow the evil farmers to produce more.

    Now, I'm a thinking person, and I do love animals. I understand that there are many valid arguments against the way factory farms raise animals. What I cannot understand here is how cloning would have any effect on things like overcrowding on feed lots or poultry farms. Cloning is a method of reproduction, and unless we attribute human thoughts and emotions to them, the animals that are cloned have no idea how they got here. And the techniques which produced them have nothing to do with how they are ultimately treated on farms.

    Quite ironically, Mr. Pacelle forgets that the technologies which could evolve from cloning could lead ultimately to huge meat factories in which edible meat could be grown without the need for any animals:

    In a paper in the June 29 issue of Tissue Engineering, a team of scientists, including University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny, propose two new techniques of tissue engineering that may one day lead to affordable production of in vitro - lab grown -- meat for human consumption. It is the first peer-reviewed discussion of the prospects for industrial production of cultured meat.

    "There would be a lot of benefits from cultured meat," says Matheny, who studies agricultural economics and public health. "For one thing, you could control the nutrients. For example, most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems. With in vitro meat, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is a healthy fat.

    "Cultured meat could also reduce the pollution that results from raising livestock, and you wouldn't need the drugs that are used on animals raised for meat."


    No slaughtering, no suffering, no breeding!

    After all, Pacelle is on record as being against killing chickens for food. Why, if we consider the future of the technological developments he opposes, there'd be no need for humane policing of slaughterhouses -- because there wouldn't be any slaughterhouses! Mr. Pacelle could retire.

    (Might that be what he's against?)

    In any event, he doesn't seem ready to retire, as he's busy working full time for all the federal legislation and regulations it is humanly possible to pass. Back to the Inquirer:

    When the FDA held a public consultation on animal cloning in November 2003, researchers reported a graphic list of problems for clones and their surrogate mothers in cattle, pigs, sheep and goats - a string of developmental abnormalities and a host of deaths before, during and after birth.

    Congress and regulatory bodies must weigh in; many of the ethical concerns raised by human cloning apply here, too. Such questions should not be left entirely to scientists and corporations, with their intellectual and commercial stakes in these projects.

    Humanity's progress is not always defined by scientific innovation alone. Cloning - human and animal - is one of those cases in which progress is defined by the exercise of wisdom and of self-restraint.

    Progress has been defined -- and in truly Kassian language.

    But I'm wondering.... Does Dr. Kass's moral philosophy about cloning really apply to animals? Many of the ethical concerns raised by human cloning apply here? Forgive me, but I thought the ethical concerns (expressed by Leon Kass and many others) about human cloning were grounded in the very distinction between man and animal (i.e. that man is not an animal, and that human life is sacrosanct).

    The morality of human cloning is of course fiercely debated, and without getting into the human aspects of cloning in this essay, claiming that the ethical concerns are the same with animals as with humans makes little sense -- unless of course there is no moral distinction between humans and animals.

    I suspect that this lofty language is intended to persuade the ordinary meat-eating American that there's something evil, something hidden and lurking, something being done by pointy-headed mad scientists, to the very food we eat, and which only the government can keep pure. But what neither Pacelle nor the Inquirer disclose is that Pacelle's agenda is far more radical than preserving the integrity of the public's supplies of meat.

    As John Hawkins points out, if Pacelle had his way, there wouldn't be any domestic animals at all:

    We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. ...One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding...Wayne Pacelle - Former National Director of Fund for Animals.
    Wayne Pacelle is one of those vegans I've criticized as not being content to merely eat what they eat, but who want to force others to adopt their lifestyle. (Indeed, he claims that "nothing is more important than promoting veganism" and is placing self proclaimed "abolitionists" in top positions at HSUS. He's also hired J.P. Goodwin -- a former ALF activist with a history of picketing executives' homes, and publicly advocating the torching of processing barns. (These people all have a right to their opinion, but do contributors to the HSUS know what causes their money is funding?)

    NOTE: In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out that Pacelle seems to have helped ALF radical Goodwin clean up his act. In an article they co-wrote, Pacelle and Goodwin weigh in on the murder of Pim Fortuyn by an animal rights activist. (While they characterize Fortuyn as "the leader of a marginal right-wing political organization that had been outspoken in its sympathy for fur ranching," they admit that the murder was a bad tactic because it "prompted a wave of sympathy" and "caused average citizens to associate animal activists with extremism and violence." I guess it's relieving to know that they're thinking about these things, but I should also note that it is by no means settled that Fortuyn's assassin was motivated by animal rights.)

    In this interview with Vegan.com, Mr. Pacelle describes his background:

    Out of college I became an Assistant Editor and later Associate Editor of The Animals' Agenda, the national magazine of the animal rights movement. And I also started a group in Connecticut called the Animal Rights Alliance. I ran under the green party for city council, and raised issues of animal rights during the campaign. Then I joined the Fund for Animals as National Director, and served there for five and a half years. We did a lot of work on wildlife issues,particularly against sport hunting, and we were also in the mix on a broad range of animal issues. We did a lot of field protests against hunting where we would walk with hunters and talk with them about hunting. And in the process they were seldom able to make a kill (the distraction and six people tromping with a hunter scared away the animals). We also challenged the constitutionality of state hunter harassment laws, and there are some close parallels there with the food disparagement laws that are emerging in agricultural states.

    Then I moved on to Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in order to focus on national political organizing for animals.

    This man is no longer a college animal rights activist; he's president of an old, respected, mainstream organization.

    Are his views mainstream?

    I guess that depends on how we define mainstream. Considering that the Humane Society of the United States is the largest animal rights organization in the country, if mainstream is defined by size, then veganism and opposition to hunting and fishing must now be considered mainstream. Pacelle's opponents disagree.

    From an article in the Washington Post (appropriately titled "Vegan in the Hen House"):

    Pacelle took charge promising to use those deep pockets to take the HSUS into the new era of animal protection advocacy. "I think they wanted the aggressive approach," he says. "They wanted someone who was going to think things up. And they got him."

    Not Buying It

    The things Pacelle thinks up worry his enemies. They say he's against: hunting and fishing, eating meat and cheese and eggs, lifesaving drugs from animal research, even keeping pets.

    "The thing about Wayne is he is a very competent spin doctor. He's very good at disguising the true agenda with a message that the public would accept," says NAIA's Strand, who with husband Rod authored a 1993 book arguing that the humane movement had become radical. The book is being updated for publication in November under the title "The Bambi Conspiracy: The Hijacking of the Humane Movement."

    She says Pacelle is a key figure in that "hijacking" and that HSUS is a Trojan horse rolled into mainstream America by the extremist animal-rights movement. "It is the fundamentalist wing, a take-no-prisoners point of view," she says. "They equate all animal use with animal abuse."

    David Martosko, research director for the District-based Center for Consumer Freedom, whose mission is promoting consumer choices, says: "His game plan is the same as that of the larger animal-rights movement -- demonize meat and dairy, throw up legal obstacles to farms, increase artificially the price of animal protein and try to convince Americans they would do better without it."

    Other opponents of animal rights worry about the logical conclusion of Pacelle's supposed agenda were it to succeed.

    "How will a successful animal-rights ideologue change America? Read George Orwell. Then look at your lunch and whether or not you wear leather shoes. Then you do the math," says John Aquilino, director of publications at the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, which describes its goal as "human involvement in the management and scrupulous use of natural resources."

    For some reason, the article spent more time discussing Pacelle's handsome, John F. Kennedy Jr. appearance than asking him about statements like these:
    "If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would."-- Associated Press, Dec. 30, 1991.
    "We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States… We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state." – Wayne Pacelle, quoted in an interview published in the magazine Full Cry, October 1990.
    I believe him.

    However, I don't think Pacelle would be considered mainstream by most people, and I thought a little fuller disclosure would be in order.

    Otherwise, his calls for a ban on animal cloning might seem mainstream.

    Even reasonable.

    MORE: I've posted twice before about attempts to stop animal cloning, and I'm sorry to see that this absurd, illogical idea is gaining ground.

    Can tyranny of the ridiculous be stopped by logical scrutiny and serious criticism?

    Or is ridicule the best weapon against the ridiculous?

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

    The latest rage

    The (Raging) RINO Sightings Carnival has been posted at Searchlight Crusade. (A blog which champions the value of being able to disagree without being disagreeable.) So much insolence and heresy is displayed by outraged RINOs that I couldn't begin to link to them all, but a few stood out:

  • Louisiana Libertarian looks at James Dobson's comparison of stem cell advocates to Nazis, which he thinks makes Dobson look like a right wing version of Daily Kos. (Hey, maybe the two can work in plausibly deniable collusion to help get Hillary elected.)
  • Nicholas Schweitzer, no fan of the ACLU, found himself more disgusted with Bill O'Reilly than the ACLU.
  • Phin doesn't think God hates the Boy Scouts -- or others he's supposed to be hating. (An offense for which many would call Phin a "heretic.")
  • The Art of the Blog argues that the Supreme Court consists of human beings who are not infallible. More heresy!
  • Mark at Decision '08 wonders how it can be that 77% of Americans hold an opinion about something that 75% of them don't know about. Never ask good questions, Mark!
  • Plenty to rage about; read 'em all!

    posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (1)

    Making cruelty humane

    Next time you mumble "it can't happen here," take a look at the situation in Denver, Colorado, where I'd be a criminal for owning Coco:

    Zena the buff, brindle-colored pit bull had been living the outlaw life, her fate haunted for nearly a month by the possibility of a death sentence.

    She had been confined to her southwest Denver home, sleeping in her master's bed, playing in the backyard and gnawing on her chew toys.

    They were all punishable acts as of May 9, when the city of Denver started enforcing its pit bull ban after a year's court-enforced hiatus.

    Finally, her owners called the Pit Bull Underground Railroad - a network dedicated to secretly ferrying the dogs out of Denver before animal control officers confiscate them.

    By Sunday, Zena was safely romping with a posse of other dogs at Mariah's Promise, a 43-acre animal sanctuary in Divide. It's one of the few remaining Colorado shelters willing to take in, and not euthanize, the dogs.

    The sanctuary holds dogs indefinitely or puts them up for adoption for $100. Many owners have placed their pets there in hopes the Denver ban will be overturned.

    (For this incredible "underground railroad" story, I am indebted to blogger Alan Kellogg.)

    There's not much to say, other than to express my profound disgust that something like this could happen in a still free country. That these nameless, faceless, armed dog-grabbers would take my puppy and kill her, and imprison me for owning her -- all because of some crackpot canine racial theories and the idea that I should be punished for the deeds of others -- does not set well with me, especially because I am still grieving the loss of Puff.

    I guess that makes me particularly emotional about this issue.

    Perhaps I should be.

    Anyway, I'm glad there's an underground railroad. It beats the killing rooms for the damned operated by -- well I don't know who's operating them in Denver, but I hope it's not like the Canadian situation, where the Humane Society is apparently killing the same dogs they'd adopted out:

    Just last month we had a lab-boxer cross that was going to be euthanized because someone thought she looked a little like a pit bull. The couple who had adopted the dog from the same Humane Society that was now prepared to kill her had to scrounge up money for a lawyer to point out things like webbed toes.
    (It appears that Denver's killing facility is owned and operated by the city itself.) As to what to do if you're in Denver, well, there are still animal rights activists who don't spend their time killing animals. Instead, they're offering legal advice:
    From a handful of members who met, in part, after calling the Seattle-based American Canine Foundation, the e-mail list has grown to more than 200, says Dias, a 30-something mortgage banker who lives in Denver.

    Dias figures about half are pit bull owners, including Dias herself.

    Five core organizers have divided the duties. There is a petition-gathering front, which Dias says has so far resulted in more than 2,000 signatures asking city officials to change the law.

    Rita Anderson, Dias' aunt and a Boulder-based animal-rights activist, was asked by her niece to head the railroad efforts.

    The railroad gives advice on what to do should animal control show up at the door to take away your pit bull.

    "Do not let them in without a warrant," Dias says. "I want to make it (the process) as expensive and ridiculous and stupid as this law is."

    Instead, she recommends calling the railroad.

    From a legal standpoint, the railroad, of course, is engaged in a criminal conspiracy to interfere with law enforcement efforts (a crime in itself). Denver's finest are tasked with preventing crimes like this:
    ...Quintana dotes on Zena. He says the neighbors like her, but he worries that a passer-by will report her during one of her backyard romps. She has not been on a walk since the ban kicked in.

    "We don't want her to be put down, because she's not a vicious dog," he says, as Animal Planet plays on the television in the background. "She's just like a big baby."

    Can't have that going on, can we?

    For readers who might be in the Denver area, here are the contact numbers:


    • Mariah's Promise: Contact director Toni Phillips, 719-687-4568; log on to mariahspromise@msn.com; or write to P.O. Box 1017, Divide, CO 80814.

    • Pit Bull Underground Railroad: Contact Rita Anderson, 303-618-3227; or log on to guardianship@aol.com.

    kassj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2406

    As to legal specifics, while I haven't located the text of the law, this article describes it as appearance-based:
    But Denver's ban applies to any dog that looks like a pit bull.
    As SayUncle pointed out, so many breeds "look like pit bulls" that even trained experts would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

    If you don't believe me, try to spot the "pit bull" in this test.

    I hope that there are enough motivated dog owners who will organize to get this thing thrown out as unconstitutional, following which aggrieved owners of seized and killed dogs might be able to sue for damages. (Lawsuits seem to be the only language anyone understands anymore.)

    posted by Eric at 09:26 AM | Comments (5)

    "Doing big things."

    Today's Inquirer has a piece on an issue I've covered before -- an attempt in Ardmore, Pennsylvania to condemn private property (in this case, charming older commercial buildings), and hand it to private developers. It's now looming large as an election issue -- without respect to ordinary party politics:

    Eminent domain is about as popular these days as taxes and jackhammers.

    The unpopularity of a government's right to take private land for economic development is fueling passions among voters heading into the fall election for seven of the 14 Lower Merion Township commissioners, who have voted to use that device in a controversial $160 million redevelopment project in Ardmore.

    "It's a very big issue," said Commissioner James Ettelson, who is running for reelection. "A large group of people want to know if you're for or against."

    An informal canvass of the 14 candidates in the seven races indicates that enough anti-eminent-domain commissioners could be elected to tip the balance against the plan.

    In March, the board of commissioners voted, 10-3, for the so-called Option B, which would authorize using eminent domain to demolish 10 buildings that house nine businesses on Lancaster Avenue, in Ardmore's historic district. In their place would go new buildings for retail use, apartments and parking.

    While misuse of eminent domain alone is grounds to vote against those who did it, there's more to it than that.

    I think that what really has the voting public ticked off is the way they went about doing it. Instead of honestly admitting that they wanted more tax dollars and could get it by taking property from Owner A and giving it to Owner B (bad enough it itself), they claimed Ardmore was "blighted." This doesn't set well with voters, for two reasons. One is that people don't like being tricked and lied to. There's nothing "blighted" about Ardmore. It's one of the wealthiest areas in the Philadelphia suburbs, and yes, the commercial buildings are older, but they have irreplaceable charm that people like, thriving businesses that have been there a long time, and few to no vacancies. The idea of calling it "blighted" is comical, and people who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their homes have been having fun telling people they live in a "blighted" area. (Such comic relief, however, does not translate into votes for those whose rhetorical manipulations provided amusement...)

    Of course, there's another group of voters who aren't quite as cynical. Maybe they lack a sense of humor, but they just don't like the idea of being told they're living in a "blighted" area in which they've gone into debt to live.

    Add to that cranks like me who read the daily newspaper. I didn't especially like the characterization of those opposing the misuse of eminent domain (and misuse of the word "blight") as "anti-development," as I've never thought of myself as opposing development. I just don't like Big Brother style central planning or misuse of power and language.

    I'm glad there's an election and eminent domain has become a question. I'm also glad it doesn't involve party politics. Public sentiment is running 9-1 against misuse of eminent domain -- a situation which frightens both Democrats and Republicans:

    But if the candidates who oppose the use of eminent domain in Ardmore win in the wards representing Rosemont/Villanova, South Wynnewood/East Ardmore, Bryn Mawr/Haverford, and Penn Wynne/Wynnewood, Option B might not survive.

    That prospect is disturbing to departing commissioner Ken Davis, also chairman of the county Republican Committee. "I'm pretty pessimistic about what the next board looks like, not Democrat or Republican, but from the standpoint of doing big things," he said.

    I don't think the issue is "doing big things," so much as who does them. I'm not saying that all things big are necessarily bad.

    But big business is one thing; Big Brother is another.

    When the two get in bed together, it's not just that they do "big things" that's the problem.

    They do big bad things.

    (I'm glad so many of the "little people" seem to agree.)

    posted by Eric at 09:01 AM | Comments (5)

    Who's making them hate us?

    Here's Tom Lasseter writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer over the weekend:

    Talking to a truckload of troops, sitting in the predawn darkness in a desert staging area yesterday, Sgt. Marcio Vargas Estrada made the point in plain language to the men of his squad from the 3-2.

    "If somebody shoots at you, you waste" him, said Estrada, 32, of Kearny, N.J. "When you go back to Camp Lejeune [in North Carolina], these will be the good old days, when you brought... death and destruction to - what... is this place called?"

    A Marine answered in the darkness: "Haqlaniyah."

    Estrada continued: "Haqlaniyah, yeah, that. And then we will take death and destruction to Haditha. Hopefully, we'll stay until December so we can bring death and destruction to half of... Iraq."

    The flatbed truck erupted in "Hoo-ahs."

    This, of course, has been picked up by a variety of outraged bloggers:
  • A post in Daily Kos titled "Military sociopaths"
  • Arthur Silber's post -- “THE GOOD OLD DAYS”: BRINGING DEATH AND DESTRUCTION TO…WHEREVER -- which asks "is anyone still wondering “why they hate us”? (Just ask Tom Lasseter!)
  • Another blogger makes the Lasseter writeup the heart of a post called "Hearts and minds are just body parts."
  • Combat is ugly and violent, and I don't doubt that things are said in the heat of battle in other than carefully chosen words. Still, whether this Marcio Vargas Estrada would have wanted millions of Americans to read what Tom Lasseter quotes him as saying is at least open to question -- even assuming Lasseter got the quote right. But I guess this is an adversary game, so soldiers ought to be more careful what they say in combat, right?

    Are we to assume that mainstream media journalists wouldn't make mistakes in the heat of battle? That they'd never suffer from selective hearing any more than the rest of us?

    It always bothers me to see someone being indicted without having an opportunity to speak up in his defense, so I Googled "Marcio Vargas Estrada" to see whether there's been anything written in his defense (or, for that matter, whether there's any information or any other quotes from him or about him). All I could find were the Lasseter piece, and reactions to it like the above.

    While one blogger wonders aloud whether Vargas will be disciplined for talking like that, the consensus seems to be that he's guilty as charged, but that he's only speaking the truth about the Marine Corps and U.S. policy of "death and destruction to half of f*cking Iraq."

    As the saying goes, if this Vargas didn't exist, you'd have to invent him. (Along with his words.)

    Hey, it could have been worse. At least he wasn't quoted as saying that he loved the smell of Napalm in the morning!

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

    AGREED: the religious right is crucial!

    Via an email from Newsmax.com, I found myself drawn to an interesting argument that Hillary Clinton will win the election by splitting the Republican Party:

    “We’re not making a flat prediction, but a plausible case can be made that she will become president on Jan. 20, 2009,” writes Greg Valliere, chief political strategist with the Stanford Group Company, a research group.

    Here’s Valliere’s year-by-year scenario.

    Her 2005 plan: Keep moving toward the center on national security and social issues. A litmus test will be the senator’s vote on the John Roberts nomination – if she votes to confirm the Supreme Court nominee, it would be a sure sign that she plans to run.

    Her 2006 plan: Pull out all the stops for a landslide win in her Senate re-election bid. “Will any Republican of note be suicidal enough to take her on? We doubt it,” the report states.

    Her 2007 plan: Raise tons of money. Clinton and her husband have access to tens of millions of dollars in campaign funding from a range of party activists. “She’ll probably set a record for the most money raised by any candidate for a nomination – and in the process will scare off most serious challengers.”

    Her 2008 plan: Wrap up the nomination by early March, then watch a furious fight between mainstream Republicans and the religious right. If Sen. John McCain’s campaign gains steam, it could send “horrified” religious conservatives to the sidelines.

    “Therein lies the heart of our analysis that Sen. Clinton could win the presidency: If McCain or another mainstream Republican wins the nomination, the religious right – so crucial in providing votes for George W. Bush – may sit at home,” Valliere writes.

    The problem with this argument is that it ignores the inverse: if the religious right wins the nomination, "the mainstream" might do more than sit at home; they -- along with the "swing voters" -- might vote for a woman who's already got a head start in packaging and selling herself as a moderate (and who by then will have established such solid moderate credentials that those who cite her far-left past will look like right wing cranks).

    As to the religious right votes which are called so "crucial" to Bush, where were they in California during the Schwarzenegger phenomenon? They had voted for McClintock, and if it had been up to them (as it normally would have been in a conventional primary), McClintock would have had every single one of these "crucial votes."

    And McClintock would have lost another crucial election, just as the Republicans did before him.

    How are we to define "crucial?" Sure, it's desirable for any candidate to get as many votes as he can. But it seems to me that crucial means the difference between getting elected and losing.

    It worries me that the religious right see themselves as crucial, AND Hillary also sees them as crucial. She wants to have a Republican opponent from the religious right just as much as they do. This agreement is, I think, crucial for her victory.

    I'm also worried that many on the religious right would prefer to see Hillary Clinton as president than a "mainstream Republican."

    As I've said before, when enough people want something to happen, it will happen.

    The reasons are less crucial than the reality.

    MORE (08/08/05): In a lengthy political analysis today, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman portrays Senator Santorum as the be-all and end-all of the future of the Republican party:

    Republican pollster David Winston, who works with Santorum and the Senate GOP on policy issues, said the other day: "This is the race of 2006, with huge long-term national implications. If Santorum, for the third time, can win as a conservative in a blue state, if he can demonstrate that his brand of 'compassionate conservatism' can play well, that clearly would tell us that Pennsylvania will be in play for us" in the next presidential campaign.
    Oh yeah?

    Well who is us?

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

    That breath of fresh air can be misleading

    Donald Sensing (and, no doubt, many other bloggers) linked to Michael Crichton's observations about environmentalism as religion. Excerpt:

    certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

    Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

    There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

    Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

    And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

    And so on. (If you haven't read it, it's a classic.)

    While there's nothing new about this discussion, every time I drive out to the country I am reminded of what it is that causes these religious urges to spring forth in the minds of people who otherwise could care less about religion (or actively hate it). I think most of us who live in noisy urban and suburban environments tune out the cacophony of noise so that it becomes inaudible "white noise." This noise is still there, however, constantly bombarding us. Naturally (if I may use that word), when we take a long drive out to the countryside, take a long walk in the woods, we tend to experience surprise and relief when we notice the total absence of "white noise." Instead, there's an unbelievable silence. The slightest sound -- a bird chirping, an animal walking, a dog barking, will sound magically clear and unfiltered.

    Yet there's nothing magic about it. Nor is it "better." It's just different, and we don't get it as often as our ancestors did. Those of us who live in spiritual voids might tend to sentimentalize these things, and that, in my view, is how the forces of environmentalism-as-religion get a toehold.

    "Man is evil!"

    "Look how he has despoiled the world!"

    People are then ready to jump on bandwagons to "save" the things they've sentimentalized, and it doesn't take much of a spiritual leap to start seeing the felling of a tree not as merely a bad idea (or an inadvisable thing to do to this particular forest right now) but as a profoundly evil thing. This is a logical mistake, because it replaces a rational view of the world with the projection of one's emotional reactions, and feelings. Someone who spends 60 hours a week in an office, plus ten hours a week in traffic jams to get to and from the office, might very well be expected to have intense reactions on those few occasions he visits "nature" -- that it is virginal, it is superior, and above all, that it is threatened. Most likely, the "threats" take the form of an anonmymous "them," and he can fill in predictable blanks about who "they" are. Nameless corporate bosses loom large, of course. But anything urban or suburban can eventually become a convenient scapegoat for those forces that keep him toiling the 60 hours a week -- and stuck in horrible traffic to get there!

    How nice it would be to see such people actually quit their urban jobs and move to rural locations! That way, the "magic" could wear off, the sun's rays, the mosquitoes, the wasps and the ticks could have a go at their skin, and they could see firsthand how much work it is to keep the pristine growth from swallowing up the roads they still need to have to get in and out with the food that has to be obtained somewhere (and brought in by evil truck from somewhere else). The magic might wear off, and they'd have a little perspective.

    Instead, all too often, the emotions cause an unconscious, unacknowledged religion to find root in the frustrated, discontented areas of the brain.

    Activists who specialize in cultivating and nurturing this emotional overgrowth dare not admit that what they are pushing is religion. A mistake frequently made by certain religious analysts who refer to environmentalism as "paganism" is that while there might be paganistic elements, environmentalism cannot be called true paganism because of the fact that it is not acknowledged as religion! Environmentalists dare not do so, for they tend to be atheists who indignantly deny any religious connection. This gives their quasi-religion far more power, making environmentalism the ideal religion for atheists, and in my experience there's no better way to infuriate an atheist than to accuse him of holding spiritual views.

    What I think is going on is that the people who are vulnerable to this are so self absorbed (and so lacking in appropriate boundaries) that they cannot separate their own views of what is desirable from an absolutist belief that their own desires are grounded in the difference between right and wrong, and of course that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. (It helps to be told by some well-funded chorus of politically motivated "scientists" that their desires are based on "facts.")

    It's a little like a vegan who has discovered the virtues of a meat and milk-free diet, and believes he is not only "healthier" but morally superior. It is not enough merely to practice these dietary habits; they must be imposed on other people -- by force if necessary.

    I'd never restrict anyone's right to be a vegan, any more than I'd restrict the right of a woman to cover herself from head to toe with a veil. (I've heard these women make oddly similar claims about veiling too; safety against lechery means healthier, happier, better adjusted lives.) The problem is, there are certain types of people who do not see these things as "rights" but as duties to be imposed ultimately on others.

    And what better way to do that than by invocation of superstition? ("Not only is the veil good for you, but God commands it!" "Scientists and leading astronauts have proven that we're running out of air!" "Because bicycles are healthier, we must get rid of cars!")

    So, while there's nothing wrong with liking nature (or liking anything, or just thinking something is good for you) if you like -- or dislike -- anything too much it can lead to erroneous thinking.

    None of this is to argue that religion is right or wrong, or that one form of religion is better than another. But I prefer freedom of choice in matters of religion, and there's nothing free about covert, unacknowledged spirituality. Whether this is "paganism" or not is a red herring; just as a good an argument can be made for environmentalism as Christian puritanism as for paganism. My complaint is with it's covert nature.

    Religion in camouflage only looks natural.

    posted by Eric at 09:18 AM | Comments (1)

    late night flow away post

    Long drive way up river.


    Coco had a great time, and she's getting pretty good at the famous "pit bull grin."


    Coco slept through the long drive back; this is how the road looked at sunset....


    MORE: Oh what the hell! Here's Coco's real time reaction to this post, as I sit here feeding up the pictures.


    (Precisely what I should be doing.)

    posted by Eric at 11:26 PM | Comments (5)

    Time off from Hiroshima shame game

    Long drive North (and NO I am not running away from the dirty bomb attack predicted in certain quarters), so no posting till much later, if at all today.

    Meanwhile, I thought this Brookings Iraq survey (via Glenn Reynolds) is well worth a look. Because I know people don't like to click on links, here's an interesting paragraph:


    I don't expect to see this widely reported amidst the scolding which generally passes for news.

    OK, I'm running late -- it's blast off time!

    posted by Eric at 09:17 AM | Comments (1)

    Maybe this time, denial can be made to work

    I don't know whether it's tougher to close an open mind or open a closed mind, but I want to re-examine a premise I tend to take for granted, and which I expressed this way:

    ....if there's one thing I can confidently predict, it's that -- nukes or no nukes -- eventually we'll all die.

    So, may the countdown begin.

    Countdown to eternity? My problem may be that I'm too old and too cynical and have seen too many things which made me cynical. I plead guilty to being more cynical about life and death than most people.

    And "life extension" is one of those things which touches my cynical button. I "came of age" in (lived through is more like it) the 1970s, and I considered it to be a rather tedious period, full of a lot of people who were quite full of themselves living quite full (to the point of self-indulgent) lives. My intellectual libertarian friends of that period were gaga over "life extension," yet all they had to show for it were a bunch of hypotheses about the future (which they quite shrilly insisted were absolutely inevitable), and (in the early 80s) a silly-looking book loaded with inflated claims (the book's rear cover totalled the combined ages of the two authors and claimed they were that old).

    I had no argument with life extension then, nor do I have now. What I have an aversion to is denial. Most of these same friends contracted AIDS, and I watched them die. The borderline-obsessive interest in life extension "life extension" seemed to collide -- and actually reached a crescendo -- with the ugly, malevolent birth (in 1983) of AIDS. I remember it well -- and what a cruel mockery it was seeing fanatic advocates of life extension suddenly sentenced to die while only in their late twenties and early thirties.

    (None of this was their fault, I hasten to add; those infected with AIDS before the disease was known to exist cannot in fairness be accused of "asking for it." Not that the people who accused them of "asking for it" had fairness in mind -- but that's a whole different rant....)

    Little comfort were the "life extension" books, insistence on organic or vegan diets, or crackpot ideas like taking Niacin till you feel like you're on fire -- or beta-carotene till you turn orange. Short of watching my friends die, the most horrible aspect of the process was to throw myself into denial along with them, while we all grasped for one miracle cure after another. I worked at an "underground" AIDS drugstore ("buyers clubs" they were called), and made countless trips to other countries bringing back drugs which the FDA wouldn't allow AIDS patients to buy here. We defied the blasted FDA, and We All Believed.

    Believers or not, those with AIDS all died. Nothing worked. Not even the denial.

    The founder of the particular AIDS buyers club with which I was associated was a charming, high-energy man with AIDS but with a desire and zest to fight for life (his own and others) which I'd have to characterize as infectiously maniacal. He used to go on television and debate FDA officials and local physicians, and fought like a tiger for patients' right to have access to medically unapproved treatments. Finally, the disease caught up with him, in the form of repeated KS lesions in his lungs, which finally proved unresponsive to treatment. I'll never forget the last time I saw him. (It was to say goodbye, and we both knew it.) I told him how much I admired him, how we'd work to carry on what he'd started, how we'd redouble our efforts -- and he cut me short with a firm, gentle, smile. That kind of serenity which comes from knowing you are truly letting go....

    "It was all denial!" he said.

    Denial. All his work. All our work. DENIAL! (It was pretty tough to take at the time.)

    He was right. Yet I'd have done the same thing again. In situations like that, you have no choice.

    And believe me, nothing motivates like the fear of death. I'll never forget my horror at hearing a leading national AIDS specialist tell a largely gay audience, "A diagnosis of AIDS is a death sentence." I was furious, as were most of the people I knew. I hated the guy, and considered him to be some kind of sinister pig agent working for the anti-sexual Forces of Control. (He was just a gay physician, saying what he thought needed to be said. And you know what? He was right. It was a death sentence. All of the people I knew with AIDS in that period died. When you're facing death, denial kicks in big time, in much the same way that when you hit 40, suddenly "health" is a big deal. I am acutely sensitive to the type of denial activated by the fear of death, and I can almost smell it.

    Sorry to voice these darker, innermost thoughts, but I can't help them. (Might even be a form of Post Traumatic Stress for all I know, much as I hate to sound like a whiner.)

    Anyway, my denial detecter tends to go off when people carry on about life extension. It has the same ring as did the belief in experimental drugs which weren't there, and I wonder how many True Believers will die anyway, waiting for the Big Cure.

    This was all much on my mind when (thanks to a video link from Glenn Reynolds and Fight Aging) I watched Charlie Rose's interview with Ray Kurzweil. Kurzweil was so persuasive (and his enthusiasm so sincere) that I decided to buy his book. Yet I had this same creepy feeling that I was just being dragged into more of that same old 1980s denial.

    I just can't shake the feeling. It's there, and I have to acknowledge it.

    However, now we come to my steadfast refusal to close my open mind. It occurs to me that logically speaking, the following things are all possible:

  • fear of death is not necessarily the same thing as "denial";
  • even assuming that people are in fact motivated by "denial" of a thing, that does not render them, their conclusions, or their hypotheses wrong.
  • Denial is a powerful motivating factor, and even assuming that someone is in denial, that person might still be able to accomplish a great deal. AIDS, after all, is now a treatable disorder. It's still fatal in many cases, but the lifespan has been greatly prolonged to the point that it's like having treatable cancer. (In my childhood, "cancer" was "the 'c' word" -- a topic which caused people to lower their voices and look around before discussing in public.)

    It's frustrating to see that there's really no available life extension technique which actually works now, though.

    Patience is challenging when you feel like you're watching a replay.

    I'm struggling to keep my mind open (because after all it would be nice to live forever).

    Hell, I'd even settle for fifty more years.

    Ray Kurzweil speaks of a 15 year wait, and says that if we can stay alive for fifteen years, there's a real chance of workable, real, life extension.

    Might it just be true?

    This time?

    The fact is, despite my talk of replaying 1980s denial, at the time of all the useless remedies and experimental drugs, genuine workable AIDS treatments were only fifteen years away. The tragedy was that in those days, none of my friends had the fifteen years to stay healthy and wait. Their denial had at most only a couple of years before it (and they) died. They were young and did not "go gently into the good night" the way older people are supposed to. (Many a young man with AIDS died an angry, raging death.)

    But despite my cynicism, and my hypersensitivity to denial of death, considering the stakes, fifteen years of denial doesn't strike me as unreasonable, or even illogical.

    It might even work!

    (Besides, there are plenty of enemies who want us to die....)

    posted by Eric at 06:31 PM | Comments (13)

    Seemingly strange surprise

    Yesterday when I commented on evidence that Iran was winning the Iraq war, I hadn't seen this NBC report on "the number one killer of American troops in Iraq: roadside bombs."

    Military officials say there’s only one use for shaped charges — to kill American forces — and insurgents started using them in Iraq with deadly effectiveness three months ago.

    Intelligence officials believe the high-explosives were shipped into Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary guard or the terrorist group Hezbollah, but are convinced it could not have happened without the full consent of the Iranian government.

    And Thursday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld accused Iran of attempting to derail the democratic process in Iraq.

    Iran’s Shiite government has also struck up a seemingly strange alliance with Sunni insurgents to try to drive the American military out of Iraq.

    "They are desperate to get us out of Iraq” says Michael Ledeen, author of "The War Against the Terror Masters" and resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. “If we succeed in Iraq they will be surrounded by elected governments.”

    Military officials acknowledge that these explosives are only the tip of the iceberg... and predict the deadly bombings in Iraq are far from over.

    (Link via LGF)

    Regarding the "seemingly strange alliance with Sunni insurgents," I see nothing strange about it. Why is it being forgotten that al Qaida is an umbrella group which has always included Iran (and Iranian Hezbollah)? Osama bin Laden and Imad Mughniyeh have had a working relationship for many years now, and there's nothing mysterious or surprising about it. The religious differences are nothing compared to the larger goals.

    This report (already a year old) documented Mughniyeh's ongoing role in Iraq:

    During our delegation's one day in Basra, we spotted a building that openly advertised the offices of Hezbollah. Members of this organization insisted that their Hezbollah was not tied to Tehran, and that the name, which means "Party of God," is a common one. According to one report in the Arabic paper al-Hayat, Iran sent some 90 Hezbollah fighters into Iraq shortly after Saddam's Iraq fell. The group now receives financing, training and weapons from Iran, and has a rapidly growing presence in the Shi'a south. Western intelligence officials also allege that the man who planned the recent suicide attacks in Basra is Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah operative responsible for bombing the U.S. embassy in Beirut in the early 1980s.
    Another report (via Winds of Change) documented Mughniyeh's role in training Muktada al Sadr's militia:
    Western intelligence officials have uncovered evidence that the attacks are being co-ordinated by Imad Mugniyeh, a leading figure in Lebanon's extremist Hizbollah Shia Muslim terror organisation.

    Washington has accused Mugniyeh of blowing up the American embassy and the United States marine compound in Beirut in the 1980s, killing more than 300 US officials and troops.

    Mugniyeh, who is now in his fifties and has a close relationship with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, has been based in Teheran since the end of the Lebanese civil war, and is also known to have close links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terrorist network.

    Intelligence officials in Iraq have uncovered evidence that Mugniyeh has been helping to train the self-styled al-Mahdi army set up by Moqtada al-Sadr, the dissident Iraqi Shia leader.

    Mugniyeh, the head of Hizbollah's external security apparatus, has deployed scores of Lebanese Hizbollah fighters in Iraq, and set up secret training camps along the southern part of the border with Iran.

    The Hizbollah fighters are working closely with members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, with whom they developed a close relationship during the 1980s when their terror tactics forced the Reagan administration to withdraw US forces from Beirut.

    "This is all part of a strategy devised by hardliners in Iran to repeat their success in Lebanon and drive coalition troops out of Iraq," said a senior intelligence official.

    "Their main aim is to create an Iranian-style Islamic republic in Iraq."

    It looks like they're on the road to success. I'm not so much trying to overstate the importance of Mughniyeh (even though he's an especially vicious man, who enjoys killing and torturing with his own hands, he is, after all, only individual) as I am trying to show that there's no reason for anyone to be surprised -- least of all NBC News Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.

    As I've pointed out many times, the Iranian al Qaida connection is an unbroken, longstanding one. Any skeptics wanting more depth should read Wretchard's "The Wider War."

    What this means, I suppose, is that choruses of "experts" will now have to busy themselves trying to deny the obvious (and what's been known for years).

    At the rate things are going, I wouldn't be surprised by a common (bipartisan) effort to "declare victory and get out."

    MORE: Of course, what if Iran is winning the war in Iraq while losing the war in Iran? Stranger things have happened. (Via InstaPundit, who doesn't seem surprised by the Iranian claim that "anarchists" are responsible for the unrest.)

    posted by Eric at 08:05 AM | Comments (4)

    Keeping New Jersey unsafe

    Charles Hill has the goods on an appalling story from New Jersey. One of that state's appeals courts has decided to revoke a cruise ship captain's concealed carry permit, even though that had been previously issued on the grounds that the ship might be a target of terrorism.


    Other targets of terrorism might obtain permits!

    Ruled the court:

    If such were the test, then conceivably every airline flight attendant, every bus driver, every truck driver transporting hazardous materials, every person employed by or with access to potable water reservoirs or fuel storage facilities, would be legally entitled to carry concealed firearms.
    Ye gods! We can't have that, can we?

    Better thousands die than a single man be armed!

    Charles speculates that the court's "reasoning" might be grounded in the fear that "Trenton can't figure out how to extort the requisite amount of graft for something so simple as a concealed-carry permit." That may be. What I want to know is why this story wasn't in the Inquirer. From now on I'll have to read Oklahoma blogs to get my Jersey news.

    Not that I could blame anyone for not wanting to write about hideous legal developments in New Jersey. This is the same state which recently proposed a horrendous piece of unconstitutional legislation actually authorizing asset forfeiture of the homes and businesses of citizens who might want to possess firearms to defend them:

    This bill would authorized the forfeiture of any motor vehicle, building or premise in which a firearm was unlawfully possessed. Under current law, forfeiture actions are limited to contraband and property used to further unlawful activity or illegal acts. Under this bill, the motor vehicle, building or premise could be seized if an unlawfully possessed firearm was found within it, even if the firearm was not possessed by the owner of the motor vehicle, building or premise.
    Unlawful possession in New Jersey means almost any possession. (More at WorldNetDaily, which also does a better job than the Inquirer of reporting New Jersey hanky-panky.)

    The bill (A-3998) is moving right along. Yes, in New Jersey they're getting tough about keeping citizens unsafe.

    posted by Eric at 05:38 PM | Comments (4)

    New space mission: Save the air?
    "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have."
    So says astronaut Eileen Collins, Shuttle Discovery Commander, on her Fourth mission.
    "We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used," said Collins, who was standing with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in front of a Japanese flag and holding a colorful fan.

    Collins, flying her fourth shuttle mission, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected, too.

    I guess astronauts know more than the rest of us idiots down here on earth.

    Does this mean the space program is now tied to Kyoto or something?

    (Just asking.)

    posted by Eric at 03:15 PM | Comments (3)

    Does everything have to be a gay issue?

    "Norton is gayness."

    How could I have known?

    But that's what they say:

    THANK YOU!!!! YOU SAVED ME FROM A 190 gB video project that went bizerk because I was loosing gigs and gigs on my drive. Norton is Gayness!!! I wish I had known!! Someone should post this on a huge FAQ

    On Thursday, December 18, 2003 at 3:11 pm, Andrew Ironside wrote:
    >Whoever discovered that this was Norton is a FREAKING GENIUS.
    >Thank you, thank you, thank you. I was losing gigabytes a DAY - mostly because I'm
    >into video developement and I was deleting/creating multi-gig files on a regular
    >Once again, thank you.

    (Emphasis added.)

    But for that posting I don't think I ever would have known about this. All I knew was that a mysterious problem was making my hard drive appear to have way less free space than it should have had. No matter what I deleted, it didn't seem to affect anything, and the hard drive's free space kept shrinking. I kept moving huge amounts of material to the other machine, with absolutely no reduction in the amount of used space. I forgot that I had Norton Utilities, though, and the above web site clued me into the fact that what Norton does is simply protect all deleted files by putting them into a "Protected" Recycle Bin, where they'll stay forever, taking up space on your hard drive unless and until you delete them manually.

    It was very annoying, and I am glad to be free from the feature.


    And I'm trying to be logical about this.

    But will someone please tell me what's gay about a cluttered hard drive?

    posted by Eric at 01:56 PM | Comments (4)

    "One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day."

    So says Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily fame, recently interviewed by Front Page Mag's Jamie Glazov. In the interview, Farah warns that Al Qaida plans to use its "existing nuclear arsenal" on major American cities -- and he highlights the critical importance of dates to Al Qaida:

    Dates are very important to al-Qaida, as we have come to know, and one of the dates mentioned in connection with this "American Hiroshima" plan is Aug. 6, the anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima in 1945. No year has been set, but it is worth noting that this Aug. 6th is the 60th anniversary of that attack.
    Obviously, he's not dumb enough to explicitly predict that the attack will happen this Saturday, but many will read it that way.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see a run on survivalist goodies.

    Of course, if Farah is right, it will be "I told you so!" time, and he says he hopes he's wrong. (Well, he's certainly been wrong before.)

    Stating that "reports indicate the nuclear devices came across the Mexican border" (reports I am unable to locate, but which a number of Freepers say consist of Farah citing Farah), Farah blames Bush, and "groups like the Council on Foreign Relations":

    FP: Why wouldn’t the Bush administration secure our borders? What are the advantages of leaving them unsecured? Is it too politically incorrect to secure them?

    Farah: I've asked this question myself over and over. It is the most frequently asked question I hear from my radio audience and from the thousands of emails I receive from readers. President Bush candidly said it was a matter of cheap labor a few months ago. I believe that is dead wrong. I don't believe there is anything cheap about this labor. It is bankrupting our health-care system. It is taking jobs away from law-abiding American citizens. It is raising crime rates and it is threatening our national security.

    No, I believe there is another more sinister reason. There is a master plan for global governance being plotted in meetings of groups like the Council on Foreign Relations. You can read its reports. And, I believe this open-borders policy is a direct result of those plans, which have been secretly adopted by our highest leaders, including President Bush.

    Is this report worthy of a blog post? If the reports are false, and this is hysteria generated by Farah in order to get hits, then I should feel almost as dirty as the bombs we're all afraid of for even mentioning it.

    But then, if I am not to mention bad things, if I am not to inquire, if I cannot even express skepticism about conspiracy claims, then why blog at all?

    If August 6 passes and no dirty bombs go off, will that debunk these claims? Not to a true believer. Doomsday scenarios are constantly revised to fit changing times, and I'm sure this one will be too.

    But if there's one thing I can confidently predict, it's that -- nukes or no nukes -- eventually we'll all die.

    So, may the countdown begin.

    posted by Eric at 08:36 AM | Comments (6)

    "War should never be political!"

    Steven Vincent's death (especially his fatal op-ed piece) has reminded me that what might make sense militarily (invading Iran now, or at least neutralizing them militarily by other means) is often impossible -- even unthinkable -- politically.

    General George S. Patton was thought insane for wanting to go after the Russians in the last days of World War II:

    Eisenhower had told the Russians that Prague was in "their" zone and that the Americans would halt on a pre-arranged line west of Berlin.

    Patton vigorously disagreed with Truman and Eisenhower’s policy, but he was helpless. Patton told the Secretary of State that, “We have had a victory over the Germans and disarmed them, but we have failed in the liberation of Europe; we have lost the war!

    Such statements, which would be proven true in a few short months, were guaranteed to make Patton unpopular with the High Command. Other generals warned Patton, but he didn't care. He became increasingly convinced that it was his duty to inform the American people of what was being done in Europe. His decision was a dangerous one.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Similarly, Douglas MacArthur was fired by Truman for wanting to expand the Korean War against China. Here's the U.S. State Department on the matter:
    MacArthur conceived of the Korean war as a holy war; he kept talking about "unleashing Chiang Kai-shek," then holed up in his island fortress on Formosa, and launching atomic strikes, all of which made Truman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other UN countries involved very nervous. For Harry Truman and the Joint Chiefs, Korea was an exercise in containment, but that made it a very frustrating war for many Americans. It meant that in this war the United States was not aiming for total victory, but for more limited, and more ambiguous, results.

    There is a tradition in American government that the military is subordinate to the civilian leaders. Generals do not make statements about policy without first clearing them with their superiors. But MacArthur, used to ruling in Japan, ignored the chain of command, and began writing letters about what the United States should do in Korea. He sent a letter to the Veterans of Foreign Wars saying that Formosa would be a fine place to launch an aggressive campaign against China. After the Chinese entered the war -- something MacArthur had assured Truman would never happen -- MacArthur wrote to Speaker of the House Joe Martin saying the United States could only win by an all-out war, and this meant bombing the Manchurian bases. So Harry Truman fired him, and evoked a firestorm of criticism from conservatives who believed Truman to be soft on communism. But there is no question that Truman was absolutely correct. Whether his overall policy was right or wrong, the American Constitution commits control of foreign policy to the president and not to the military. As Truman explained, avoidance of World War III while containing aggression was a difficult line to walk, but that was the policy the United States had decided upon. No soldier, not even a five-star general, could unilaterally challenge that policy without disturbing an essential element of democratic government.

    The idea, of course, is that war must be controlled by politicians (cf. the Clausewitz maxim that war is the continuation of politics by other means). There is always a delicate balance between winning a war and the political survival of those who conduct it.

    Anyway, I'm neither a politician, nor a warrior, nor a war blogger. But for some time, I've been seeing clear evidence Iran is winning the Iraq war.

    And the U.S. is letting them win.

    (I think the moribund Republicans may be poised to let Hillary have the presidency in 2008, but's that's off subject. And it has nothing to do with war, of course....)

    UPDATE: This interesting "news" item (from an extremely anti-Bush web site in New Zealand) claims that the United States will invade Iran before Christmas:

    US to invade Iran before 2005 Christmas

    9 June 2004: The reason for the US break-up with Ahmed Chalabi, the Shiite Iraqi politician, could be his leak of Pentagon plans to invade Iran before Christmas 2005, but the American government has not changed its objective, and the attack could happen earlier if president George W. Bush is re-elected, or later if John Kerry is sworn in.

    An invasion plan prepared by the Pentagon conceives of amphibious attacks on Iran from the Arabian Sea, with a provocative US naval blockade in the Gulf of Oman to choke its sea-lanes of communications, and the British navy is developing three islands taken on a ten-year lease from Oman to give up to America in case of a war.

    Besides these attacks from open waters, the US has also planned land assaults from Iraq, where its troops will be stationed for at least two years after the 30-June handover of sovereignty, and it will mount massive air reconnaissance and surveillance operations from its bases in Pakistan, whose leases will be extended when they expire in January 2005.

    Diplomats said Chalabi was alerted to the Pentagon plans and in the process of trying to learn more to tell the Iranians, he invited suspicions of US officials, who subsequently got the Iraqi police to raid the compound of his Iraqi National Congress on 20 May 2004, leading to a final break up of relations.

    While the US is uncertain how much of the attack plans were leaked to Iran, it could change some of the invasion tactics, but the broad parameters would be kept intact.

    This Indian news site takes the report seriously, and makes an intelligent case against invading Iran:
    The US burned its hands with Shah Pehlavi of Iran, and in a sense was responsible for the Khomeini revolution, and the late former US president, Ronald Reagan, had to put himself out in his first term in the early Eighties to restore American morale. If it intervenes again, it is absolutely certain it will not be able to improve the situation – Iraq shows America has not the depth or patience to create a new civil society – and will only make matters worse. You have the Sunni Bathists and Shias up in arms in Iraq, and to that will add the Shias of Iran, and anyone who joins the battle will be exposed to sectarian fighting, as for example, pitched battles between Shias and Sunnis in Pakistani streets if Pakistani bases are used by American warplanes. Like wildfire, the Middle East and Muslim Asia would be engulfed by holy wars, and they will explode on the world with Al-Qaeda terror. It is frightening, the unfolding consequences of attacking Iran after the mayhem in Iraq.

    There is a better way, as the constructive engagement of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has shown. Gaddafi’s own immediate family and a solid phalanx of world leaders, including Benazir Bhutto, convinced him to give up his weaponisation programme, and open up to the world. Iran is obviously a more complex case than Libya, because power resides in the clergy, and Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear programme, but the sensible way is to take it gently, and nudge it to moderation. Regime change will only worsen global Islamist terror, and in any case, Saudi Arabia is a fitter case for democratic intervention, if at all.

    Were Patton and MacArthur right? Or must war yield in the end to civilian politics?

    The lingering question for me (despite my appalling ignorance) is whether an Islamic regime which tilts towards Iran is an idea worth its cost in American lives.

    (I'm also worried that it might become a major election issue.... Such a thing could prove unendurable!)

    UPDATE: I don't know how much to make of this, but Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett (who just lost a close race in Ohio) was allegedly avoided by Hillary Clinton during the race:

    Hillary was in Columbus but she stayed away from Hackett. This is probably because Hillary is sooooo unpopular in OH2 even Hackett knows to keep his distance at least right here in Red State country.
    I don't know whether the report is reliable, or what it might mean.

    MORE: Lastango at Daily Pundit is a lot more upset than I am, and he's issued a blistering indictment. Excerpt:

    Preemptive war? If Saddam had disarmed he would still be in power in Iraq – only stronger, because UN sanctions would have been lifted. In view of the "out" the Administration offered the Iraqi regime, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the Administration had no commitment to remove Saddam or gain a strategic position on the borders of Syria and Iran.

    Observers all over the Right have spent years scratching their heads, asking How can the president leave Tenet and Mineta in office? Why is Powell allowed to undermine the president’s war on terror? Why is nothing being done to overthrow Iran’s regime? Fallujah???? Why are hundreds of soldiers of the world’s only military superpower being slaughtered year after year by terrorists supported by tiny Syria? How is it that Iran is free to back terror all over the world? We know the profile of Islamist terrorists – isn’t it insanity not to screen airline passengers that way? Why isn't the president's belief in a vigorous war against terror being translated into action?

    The Right has been engaged in a mind-boggling act of self-deception, because its premise - that the administration intended to fight a global preemptive war against terror - is a fraud. How did rank-and-file Republicans keep believing Washington was committed to a preemptive war when even a WMD-free Iraq under Saddam would pose a grave danger? Didn’t the Right notice there were no WMD’s used to destroy the World Trade Center or smash a plane into the Pentagon? Or to strike at the Cole? Bomb the Khobar Towers? How did the Right reach a broad understanding that a nuclear armed Iran would be the greatest threat to our ability to fight terror, yet accept the Administration’s absolute inaction with nary a protest?

    Back during the runup to the 2004 election, when Republicans were lashing out against every criticism of the Bush administration, a refusal to question the emperor's clothes was at least understandable. There was an election to win, and the Democrats would have misused any conservative disagreement with the Administration's policies, even though the Democrats themselves would have utterly failed in every part of the GWOT except attacking Afghanistan.

    The election is long over. The Right will share culpability for the terror disease and any resulting catastrophe if it doesn't summon the energy and courage to recognize the facts.

    (Via InstaPundit.)

    Hate to sound cynical, but I'm afraid the only "resulting catastrophe" which will get their attention will be not the loss of the war -- but the loss of the White House.

    UPDATE: Welcome InstaPundit readers! Thanks for coming, and many thanks to Glenn for the link.

    MORE: A more recent post here on Iran's strategy for winning the war.

    posted by Eric at 08:05 AM | Comments (4)

    Defending the indefensible?

    I've been joking about the Air America scandal -- in a post and in an Air America parody.

    Certainly, it's beyond dispute that things don't look good for Air America, either. While I agree that if this were a right-wing network there'd be a lot more coverage, whether this is really being "kept out of the major media" is at least debatable; after all, I first read that Air America was in trouble in the Philadelphia Inquirer (albeit in a highly sanitized writeup).

    I've had fun with the story, but right now something is bothering me about it, and that's the kneejerk assumption by so many people that Al Franken is somehow culpable. I haven't seen any evidence that he is. If the guy is working for (or employed by) Air America, even if Air America is a corrupt, cynical organization that swindles the poor, how does that make Franken guilty unless he's an executive of the company or on the Board of Directors?

    I understand that people dislike Al Franken's politics (I know I do), but at the risk of appearing moronic, I'd like to pose a question:

    Does anyone know what he's accused of actually doing?

    Might be payback, I suppose....

    "Frankengate" is funny (and just wait Mr. Snitch, you'll roast in Hell for coining the term!) -- but is it really up to the level of really serious scandals like "Gannongate"?

    Or "Nadagate"?

    posted by Eric at 06:11 PM | Comments (5)

    Hard core misrepresention

    If there's one thing I can't stand, it's when people mischaracterize what is said on this blog. The only thing worse than that is when such mischaracterizations are used to harm someone else.

    Which brings me to the topic of my latest rant. While the subject can be considered funny in a way (because it is funny) in another way it's not funny at all.

    This is sometimes a humor blog, and sometimes a serious blog. I engage in satire on a regular basis, and whenever possible I try not to take myself (or other bloggers) too deadly seriously. I try my damnedest to avoid insulting people or engaging in profanity or obscenity, although as I admit, I am not perfect.

    But when another blogger's job worthiness is being attacked (in the course of a threat to report him to the authorities!) because of "a picture of two dogs having sex," well, I must protest.

    It is obvious that the complainant (who claims to be a teacher named "Sandy Smith") did not read the post she is mischaracterizing, did not look at the pictures very carefully, and hasn't much understanding of the mechanics of canine sexual intercourse. The pictures show nothing more than ordinary "humping" behavior, which is not "dogs having sex" and which any dog owner will attest goes on all the time. If "humping" constitutes "having sex," what does that suggest about the many dogs that will hump human legs if they get the chance? Is that bestiality? If Sandy Smith's definition prevails, I guess so.

    While I may have done so in an overly cute manner, I made it quite clear that no penetration ever occurred. Indeed, it would not have occurred, for penetration can only occur if the following conditions are present:

  • an unneutered male dog;
  • an unneutered female dog; and then,
  • only during the receptive period of her heat cycle -- a window of opportunity of just a few days which arises only twice a year.
  • the two dogs must actually copulate during this period by "tying up" together -- an immobilizing condition for both animals which usually lasts for twenty to thirty minutes.
  • I made it very clear that sexual intercourse did not, and could not, have taken place between Coco and Tristan, and I don't think that any reasonable person could construe the pictures as depictions of canine sex -- much less pornography or obscenity.

    And even if I had featured pictures of dogs having actual intercourse (or "tied up"), would that have really been inappropriate for teenagers?

    MORE: I have to admit, stuff like this (the "Breasts not Bombs" demonstration which so offended "Sandy Smith"), is pretty tough to look at. As I've said before, disgusting displays like that make me want to vomit. But Darren was objecting to it, for God's sake. (It's no more pornographic than a medical textbook on pathology.)

    Adults only are encouraged but not required to read a standard definition of sexual intercourse which follows below.

    UPDATE: Via the Carnival of Education, I see that another teacher (in The Daily Grind) has weighed in on Darren's predicament. :

    Frankly, I am tired of living in a world where we cannot speak if it doesn't match-up with what others are looking for. It doesn't matter to me whether you are religious or not, politically to the right or to the left; we need to be able to have a voice of affirmation or dissent.

    As teachers, we should be a representation of the world around us. Our administrators and central offices should not expect mindless lemmings. Our students and parents should not expect us to be the same as them.

    If free thinking teachers are fired for speaking their thoughts in a blog, it does not bode well for teaching.

    (Or blogging.)

    Continue reading "Hard core misrepresention"

    posted by Eric at 12:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    Murderous ideology

    This blog is great.

    And the blogger -- Steven Vincent -- is dead. Murdered by Shiite gunman dressed as police (and driving a police vehicle), he's the first American journalist to be killed in Iraq. (Links via Glenn Reynolds.)

    He deserved to be more than an adorable little rodent in the Ecosystem (which is what his blog says he was). Reading through his blog, I was struck by his honesty, sincerity, and refusal to bow to political ideology:

    Adding hypocrisy to chauvenism, the religious parties take the opposite tact in public, policing female behavior with a vigor that makes the Puritans look like jitter-bugging zoot-suiters.  Yesterday, I interviewed a 22 year-old Psych grad from Basra University.  She told me how, as they entered the campus each morning, she and other female students had to pass through a gauntlet of religious militiamen "hired" by the administration for "protection."  The gunsels examined each woman's hejab--no showing of hair, ladies--and the length of their abiyas, staring into their faces for signs of make-up.  (I've also learned that similar guards at a college in Amarra, north of Basra, scrutinize women's feet to insure they are wearing black socks--it's an Iranian thing--inducing many students to paint their feet and ankles black.)  Anyone failing the Islamic Dignity test is sent home, with a stern rebuke to her parents for allowing their daughter to venture out in such a degraded state.

    A few months ago, the student continued, a young man and woman were ambling down a narrow path at the university when black-shirted militiamen accosted them, accusing the couple of "unIslamic behavior."  When they protested their innocence, the brave warriors of Allah began beating the woman; when the man tried to defend her, they knocked him to the ground, punching and kicking him into submission.  (Of course, those of us who follow the news remember how Moqtada al-Sadr's men last March attacked a student picnic, because the young men were brazenly intermingling with young women, many of whom were not wearing hejab!)

    I asked the student how this oppression made her feel, and she grimaced and curled her fingers into two trembling talons.  "It burns inside," she added.  "We are not free to dress or act as we like.  Meanwhile, the religious parties have banned from our lives music, social interaction, relaxation.  I am depressed all the time."  I then asked her if she ever had "fun" in Basra; her face took on a blank, faraway look.  "No," she whispered, looking at her hands folded in her lap.  "I see on television the lives people live in America.  And I feel my years are being wasted."  Lisa, this is a 22 year old woman in the very bloom of youth! 

    But this is what Basra has become in the aftermath of the elections.  These are the unwritten, unlegislated and unchallengeable "social" and "religious" norms that have an iron grip on the city.  And yet back home, you hardy find a public discussion or even acknowledgement of these shackles on human behavior--the Right is too busy congratulating itself on the progress of Iraqi democracy and the Left is obsessed with multimcultural relativism and discrediting Bush.

    Sickening. It's easy to see why he was killed. The primary reason seems pretty well explained by TigerHawk:
    He said he fully supported the Iraq war, believing it was part of a much larger campaign being waged by the United States against "Islamo-fascism." But Mr. Vincent said he was also disappointed by the failure of the United States and Great Britain to enforce their visions of democracy here in Iraq, instead allowing religious politicians to seize power across the south.
    TigerHawk asks us to honor him today.

    I'm trying. I wish I could do more.

    MORE: Jamie Glazov's interview with Steven Vincent is a must read. A central thesis of his well-thought-out philosophy is that Islam has been corrupted by tribalism. Excerpt:

    Why is even the thought of a woman’s right to do what she wants with her sexuality and body something that makes Islamists and Arab tribalists start acting like the possessed girl in the Exorcist after holy water is sprinkled on her?

    Vincent: Because Islam has been corrupted by tribalism, the tribal view of women predominates. Tribalism is an ethos suited for an agricultural society, where bloodlines, female fecundity and extended families are of supreme importance. It’s not surprising, then, that among many segments of Iraqi/Arab/Muslim society, men consider women as little more than delivery systems for male heirs. They see it as natural, and it suits their patriarchal mindset. As you put it, the mere thought of allowing women control of their sexuality raises for men the terrors of emasculation, confused bloodlines, raising children sired by other men, living perpetually in the dark about the true lineage of their offspring. Next come birth control and the unmentionable: abortion. To the psychology of the patriarch, women’s sexual freedom is an express lane to libertinism, the unraveling of the social fabric and ultimately, sterility and the extinction of the tribe--to say nothing of the loss of masculine privileges.

    And here are some insights into malignant narcissim:
    Malignant narcissists—or, the members of tyrannical death cults—are terrified of the feminine. The ecstasy of death mirrors the bliss of the womb, and the narcissistic warrior’s worst enemy is his secret desire to regress to infantile nonexistence. His moral rigidity, lack of imagination and obsession with physical and religious purity are attempts to suppress this Oedipal desire--think of Mohammad Atta’s burial instructions to wrap up his genitals and allow no women to approach his bier.

    The female spirit can dominate, fool or inspire men--many Iraqi women told me they wear hejab to protect men from their own weakness. The more repressive the man, the more he secretly fears the ability of the feminine to undermine his power. To put this in the context of Islam, the only way the religion will grapple with its fantasies of masculine omnipotence is to come to terms with the feminine. As any adolescent male knows—and Islam is an adolescent religion—once you settle into a relationship with a woman, you exchange the excitement of fantasy for the more limited, but more satisfying, realities of maturity and love. But of course, this acceptance of limitation is precisely what the Islamofascist fears and detests.

    I can't imagine any of this would have endeared Mr. Vincent to the homicidal Iranian government (or their proxies in Iraq.)

    I can only hope we chose the right enemy.

    MORE: Please DONATE HERE in Steven Vincent's memory.

    UPDATE (08/04/05): Here's the Philadelphia Inquirer on Steven Vincent's murder:

    BAGHDAD - An American journalist who had been examining the rise of Islamic extremism in southern Iraq was found shot to death in the port city of Basra, U.S. and Iraqi officials said yesterday.

    Steven Vincent, 49, a freelance reporter from New York whose work was published regularly on the Internet and in several U.S. publications, was shot several times and his body, bound by plastic ties, was dumped on a downtown street early yesterday, Basra Police Lt. Asaad Jassib said.

    It was unclear whether the killing was directly connected to Vincent's work, which was highly critical of the increasing Islamic influence in Basra.

    Later in the same piece:
    On Sunday, Vincent published an opinion piece in the New York Times in which he quoted others accusing Shiite police officers in Basra of revenge killings of members of Saddam Hussein's former Baath Party, which brutally oppressed Shiites for decades. Vincent also criticized the British military for allowing Islamists to control the city. He told other reporters in Basra that he was too frightened to name any of the Islamic militias - such as that of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - in his reports.

    Kinaan al-Musawi, a spokesman at Sadr's office in Basra, said the cleric's Mahdi Army militia played no role in Vincent's slaying. He said Sadr had made it clear to his followers that journalists were not to be considered targets, even if they wrote critically of his movement.

    Vincent told other reporters visiting Basra that he had lived in the city for two months and was writing a book about local history. Unlike most Western correspondents in Iraq, Vincent traveled without bodyguards, and he and his translator frequently took taxis to interviews.

    Mehdi Abdul Karim, a receptionist at the Mirbed Hotel, where Vincent lived, said the opinion piece last week imperiled the reporter.

    "He wrote an article about radicalism in Basra and how security has been left in the hands of the militias," said Karim, who had befriended Vincent. "This led to his death. He paid with his life for that article."

    That's unclear?

    I suppose it is -- to people who refer to right wing death squads as "insurgents" and "militia."

    MORE: Anyone who hasn't read Steven Vincent's New York Times Op-Ed should do so.

    And weep.

    ....one young Iraqi officer told me that "75 percent of the policemen I know are with Moktada al-Sadr - he is a great man." And unfortunately, the British seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

    The fact that the British are in effect strengthening the hand of Shiite organizations is not lost on Basra's residents.

    "No one trusts the police," one Iraqi journalist told me. "If our new ayatollahs snap their fingers, thousands of police will jump."

    Am I alone in wondering whether this newly arising Islamofascist state is what Americans fought and died to bring about?

    MORE: Michael Yon warned about Iraqi police with guns back in March.

    MORE: Glad to see (Via InstaPundit) that Iraq has sent a woman ambassador to Egypt. Plus, she's working for women's rights. That's a hopeful development; I hope it means the mullahs aren't as in charge as we're constantly being told.

    (I'm thinking also that maybe Steven Vincent's death should not render every pessimistic thought he had about Basra the one and only standard from which to judge all of Iraq.)

    AND MORE: I hope this report proves wrong (or at least exaggerated):

    As the deadline for a constitution approaches, the United States and the international community must redouble their efforts to ensure that an Iran-like theocratic state is not established in Iraq.

    Current drafts would limit Iraq's international human rights obligations to those that do not contradict Islam or Islamic law. They assert that an undefined version of Islamic law, or sharia , is the main source of law. They make no reference to freedom of religion or belief for every Iraqi, and they provide no guarantee of individual freedom of thought and conscience. One clause in the constitution would forbid any law contrary to sharia, leaving the door open for interpretations by unelected Islamic "experts" to be considered sacrosanct.

    How about letting Eugene Volokh supply the Iraqis with a draft?

    UPDATE: Roger L. Simon is also worried about shortcomings in the Iraqi Constitution, and links to The Middle Ground for information on how to help.

    posted by Eric at 09:51 AM | Comments (2)

    Busting up illegal unions?

    The fight against same sex marriage is heating up, with opponents now trying to do away with domestic partnerships in the guise of "protecting marriage." Here's the text from a leading California ballot initiative which would amend the state's constitution:

    SEC. 1.1. a) Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere.

    b) Neither the Legislature nor any court, government institution, government agency, initiative statute, local government or government official shall abolish the civil institution of marriage between one man and one woman, or bestow statutory rights or incidents of marriage on unmarried persons, or require private entities to offer or provide rights or incidents of marriage to unmarried persons. Any public act, record, or judicial proceeding, from within this state or another jurisdiction, that violates this section is void and unenforceable. (Emphasis added to inflame the proponents.)

    Note the phrase "rights or incidents of marriage." That's what this is really about, as there is no legal same sex marriage in California, and it's doubtful there will be any time soon. Nonetheless, the initiative's advocates are in a legal tussle with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer over the official ballot summary -- which the advocates claim should stick to the protection of marriage issue and not highlight the elimination of domestic partnerships. Most likely, this is because experience shows that most voters will only read the summary, if anything at all, so they're hoping that "protection of marriage" will be the only words on voters' radar.

    Here's the San Mateo Journal:

    The attorney general summarizes measures before they are added to the ballot, but one of the amendment’s official sponsors said Lockyer was “inaccurate and prejudicial” and vowed to challenge it in court.

    Lockyer’s changed the title from “The Voters’ Right to Protect Marriage Act” to “Marriage. Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights.” A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said Lockyer did not intend to take a position but to “tell voters the truth.”

    (More here from the initiative's sponsors.)

    Lockyer is accused of misleading voters by telling them too much about what the measure would eliminate:

    While noting that the amendment would "provide that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California," it goes on to state that the measure "voids and restricts registered domestic partner rights and obligations" in areas ranging from inheritance and adoption to insurance benefits and hospital visitation."

    "The attorney general's responsibility is to accurately describe what the measure does," said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Lockyer. "It's not up to us to wage the political campaign the proponents or opponents want to wage, just to tell the voters the truth."

    The amendment's official sponsors - Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families, former Assemblyman Larry Bowler and Sacramento activist Ed Hernandez - can ask a court to invalidate or amend the attorney general's proposed summary if they think it doesn't accurately reflect their intent. Representatives of their group, VoteMarriageYes.com, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

    The stripped-down language could prove a liability for the amendment's proponents as they seek to qualify it for the ballot and win voter approval.

    Although California voters approved a ballot initiative five years ago limiting marriage to a man and a woman, since then the state Legislature has granted gay and elderly couples who register as domestic partners nearly all the rights and responsibilities of married spouses. Polls have shown most voters support extending the rights of marriage, if not the institution itself, to same-sex couples.

    "California voters, even though they are relatively liberal, probably do not support gay marriage," said Elizabeth Garrett, a University of Southern California law professor. "But if it's very clear to voters it is not just a gay marriage amendment than it is less likely to pass. Opponents will capitalize on that and it gives them a chance to characterize this as an extreme initiative out of the California mainstream."

    Sigh. Like it or not, an ill-informed electorate seems to be a way of life in California. What ought to matter is not what the summary says, but what the initiative says, and this legal debate seems to be centered around the anticipated intellectual laziness of the voters.

    Anyway, this initiative is a perfect example of what's known as a backlash, and I think the gay activists (and Gavin Newsom) mostly brought it on themselves. Certainly, there's nothing fair about it; California has gotten along quite well with domestic partnerships. They're voluntary, and no one is obligated to enter into them. Making them illegal violates the individual right to enter into private contracts, and will open a can of worms I hope will come back to haunt those who are promoting this odious amendment.

    (My thoughts on prohibiting "incidents of marriage" here, here, and here.)

    Meanwhile, there's yet another competing ballot initiative which limits itself to a single sentence (to be added to the California Constitution):

    Sec. 7.5. A marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.
    The second initiative is supported by a wide coalition (including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Pacific Justice Institute, and Concerned Women For America). It's probably more likely to pass, because it's easier for voters to understand.

    But is the phrase "legal union" easy to understand? Googling the phrase gave me over 28,000 hits. What if you're in an "illegal union", or an unconstitutional common law marriage?

    Vagueness often masquerades as simplicity.

    posted by Eric at 08:53 AM | Comments (2)

    Inflammatory talk beats colorless totalitarianism

    There's much I'm missing these days. The 150th Carnival of the Vanities was posted at Riding Sun before I even thought to submit an entry. And it's a great carnival too, written by an American motorcyclist in Japan. So go read it.

    And while I'm busily documenting my own carelessness, there's something else I missed: an opportunity to submit names for a list John Hawkins has compiled of the "least favorite people on the right."

    A whole bunch of right-of-center blogs voted, and here's the list of the top vote-getters (number of blog votes are in parentheses):

    18) Tom Tancredo (4)
    18) Ralph Reed (4)
    18) Newt Gingrich (4)
    18) Lincoln Chafee (4)
    18) James Dobson (4)
    18) George Pataki (4)
    18) Arnold Schwarzenegger (4)
    14) Tom DeLay (5)
    14) Rush Limbaugh (5)
    14) George Voinovich (5)
    14) Chuck Hagel (5)
    13) Andrew Sullivan (6)
    11) Tucker Carlson (7)
    11) Bob Novak (7)
    9) Sean Hannity (8)
    9) Rick Santorum (8)
    8) Arlen Specter (10)
    7) Jerry Falwell (15.5)
    6) Bill O'Reilly (16)
    5) Michael Savage (17)
    4) Pat Robertson (19.5)
    3) Ann Coulter (20)
    2) John McCain (21)
    1) Pat Buchanan (28)
    Much to my surprise, James Sensenbrenner didn't make that list. Why not?

    I don't mean to sound like a scold, but I have to ask, are bad opinions uttered by people in the headlines the worst thing we face?

    For example, right now, a lot of people are worked up over whether Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools. As I've said before, I think that for the government to quantify what is in the mind of God probably violates the Establishment Clause:

    The bare assertion that evolutionary theory is an anti-religious value judgment against divine "intelligence" does not make it so -- any more than the failure of geology to teach that God made rocks is an assertion that he didn't. Intelligent design thus strikes me as a gratuitous -- and circular -- assertion that evolution denies intelligent design or is at war with it. (One might as well assert that teaching human reproduction negates "gay theory" or that teaching English negates Swahili.) To not assert something is not to deny something not denied, nor does it mean being at war with it.

    It is as unscientific as it is unnecessary, but I suspect the idea is to bootstrap into being the unstated assertion that "God" is "intelligent." The latter idea -- that God has human features such as intelligence -- is another unprovable theological assertion, and for it to be taught as fact would be another form of unconstitutional religious indoctrination (favoring one view of the divine over another).

    Calling a natural phenomenon intelligent is about as helpful as calling it stupid. (Might as well assert that evolution damages self esteem.)

    Nothing that President Bush said today has changed my opinion about the proper role of government. He voiced his opinion, but I don't think he proposed any legislation.

    Which is a far cry from the sort of thing James Sensenbrenner is doing, and I can't believe he isn't getting more attention.

    Is the man too boring?

    This is a man who's not merely spouting opinions with which we may disagree. He's actually working to do the following:

  • make it a federal five-year-felony for people witnessing teen drug crimes to fail to affirmatively become a government informant;
  • add three years to the sentence of anyone who owned a gun when committing non-violent crimes like bankruptcy fraud; and
  • treat possession of drugs as sales;
  • (There's more here.)

    Moreover, Sensenbrenner already helped make into law the statist REAL ID Act.

    A true believer in his own laws, Sensenbrenner recently wrote an ex parte letter to a judge demanding he increase the sentence of a drug defendant from eight years to ten.

    I would have assumed that he'd have at least made it to the top twenty on John Hawkins list, and I feel very guilty that I failed to participate.

    Sensenbrenner's mandatory informant law alone is an absolute disgrace to the American tradition of freedom. To threaten to imprison people for five years if they don't call the police on other citizens -- that is totalitarian stuff which is un-American, and Sensenbrenner makes me as ashamed to call myself a Republican. (Which is why I wrote this post.)

    Why more people aren't alarmed, I don't know. Probably, it's because unlike Ann Coulter, Congressman Sensenbrenner doesn't issue inflammatory statements, doesn't grab the headlines, and slips past everyone's radar as not being, well, "interesting."

    Yet what he does is far worse than what these others merely say. Much as I disagree with what the windbags on the list have to say, words are not deeds. If the government imprisons me for five years because I didn't inform on my neighbor, that's a deed, not a disagreement. If a group of citizens did that (threatened me with force unless I betrayed someone) that would be extortion, if not something worse. (Something which if I said it I'd run the risk of being accused of political hyperbole, and playing into the hands of the enemy.)

    In short, Sensenbrenner wants to use government force to make me talk.

    I only wish there were some way to get him to talk. Yes talk! Like Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson! Anything would be better than having him legislate.

    But for all I know, the man is boring, and wouldn't make it as an on-the-air media personality. He might even put his colleagues to sleep.


    Like while Congress slept, freedom wept?

    posted by Eric at 07:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

    Keeping Moderate Muslims in the closet?

    People keep talking about "moderate Muslims," but I haven't read much about who they are, where they are, or how to find them.

    Now I read about Israel's plans to talk to them:

    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli diplomats will court moderate Muslim leaders in Europe to counteract the sway of Islamists hostile to the Jewish state, a Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday.

    The initiative was announced as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a fence-mending visit to France, among European nations where Jews have complained of anti-Semitism among Muslims sympathetic to a 4 1/2-year-old Palestinian revolt.

    Israeli embassies in Europe have long kept track of local Islamists whose rhetoric is believed to have stoked anti-Jewish sentiment. Reda Mansour, a veteran diplomat from Israel's Druze Arab minority, said moderate Muslims would now also be sought.

    "We will continue to search out and identify the extremist entities who encourage anti-Semitism and are sometimes involved in inciting terrorism," Mansour told Israel's Army Radio.

    "But the novel element here is that we also want to find the silent voice -- to give it a means of speaking out so that it will condemn terror, condemn anti-Semitism, and connect with the local Jewish communities for the sake of joint civil actions."

    I like the idea.

    There are moderate Muslims, but when they dare to do things like demonstrate against terrorism, it isn't much reported by the MSM.

    Why not?

    Certainly, it's possible to read the words of moderate Muslims. A lot of them are speaking up. But for the most part, their words only get play at web sites like MEMRI.

    Why is that? I mean, you'd almost think they were out there demonstrating for Bush or something.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Is support for Israel's right to exist considered moderate? (I hope so.)

    MORE: Dean Esmay and Baldilocks have written posts about an organization of moderate Muslims called the Free Muslims Coalition. It looks great to me and I'm only too glad to encourage this effort in any way that I can.

    Dean said, "I wish more bloggers would write about these guys."

    (Thanks, Dean. This one just did.)

    UPDATE: It has occured to me that a principal reason moderate Muslims are ignored is because they are perceived as lacking in power. According to CNN, the first senior international leader to meet with Hezbollah terrorist chieftain Nasrallah Nasrallah was Kofi Annan, who met with him in Beirut. The BBC called the meeting a "de facto recognition" that Hezbollah was the main force in the area. While there might be plenty of moderate Muslims in the area too, meeting with them might get you killed by Nasrallah's forces. The MSM respects power, and after all, no reporter wants to incur the wrath of the strong by interviewing the weak.

    The result is all too predictable:


    I realize that this power formulation doesn't take into account possible political biases, but when they're factored in, well, the result becomes even more predictable.

    MORE: In a business context, Glenn Reynolds offers some thoughts about the big guy empowering the little guy. I think this approach might be very helpful in understanding how and why to advance the cause of moderate Muslims.

    UPDATE: This article by Cliff May (Islam doesn't prevent Muslims from joining Free World) is a must read. I think the problem with recognizing the existence of moderate Islam is that it might be seen as aiding democracy in Iraq. Which in turn is seen as aiding Bush. Thus, those who oppose Bush think they must oppose freedom.

    What a tragedy that Bush is on the side of freedom!

    posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (4)

    I'm into fighting in wars I'm against too! (But they won't let me!)

    A soon-to-be-an-Iraq-war-veteran, Specialist Leonard A. Clark, has been punished for violating operational security and for 11 counts of disobeying orders:

    Clark violated Article 92 by "releasing classified information regarding unit soldiers and convoys being attacked or hit by an improvised explosive devices on various dates, discussing troop movements on various dates," according to the statement.

    He also was found to have released tactics, techniques, procedures and rules of engagement, MCF-Iraq said.

    The two Article 134 specifications had to do with releasing specific sensitive information "that the enemy forces could foreseeably access . . . such that with that information it was likely that the enemy forces could cause death or serious bodily harm to U.S. forces engaged in the same or similar mission,"

    According to the article, Clark is a candidate for office. [True. Here's Clark's Legislative Candidate Questionnaire.]

    (Via Juan Cole, who complains that, "you're not allowed to blog about the Iraq War critically if you are an active duty serviceman over there.")

    Clark is campaigning for public office, which is apparently prohibited:

    Campaigning for public office without permission from the secretary of defense while on active duty in the Armed Forces is a violation of Defense Department regulations.
    Certainly, there's no question that Clark is against the war. In an audio statement here, he calls the war "morally and ethically wrong," while in an email reproduced at Daily Kos, he attacks his Commander in Chief:
    Well, happy days are here again! Our great Attorney General Gonzales flew into the Ultra Safe Green Zone and gave a speech at the embassy. You remember our Attorney General, the one who a chief counsel to the President, said it was quite alright to use certain torture methods that might get by the Geneva Convention, Washboarding, beating, etc. It's all there, folks, and our great maniac executive strongly supports him.
    Hey, the guy is as much entitled to his opinion as I am to mine. But should that allow him to broadcast details about troop movements, and about "tactics, techniques, procedures and rules of engagement"?

    Am I crazy, or does common sense suggest that he might in a bit of a conflict of interest vis-a-vis his job?

    For example, should someone who is unalterably opposed to what we call "the Drug War" (or to all drug laws) be working in the DEA?

    Take me as an example. I not only believe all federal drug laws are unconstitutional, I think they're immoral. (Yes, evil.) I also think the "Drug War" is a grotesque lie. If the bureaucrats in the Justice Department were dumb enough to hire me and put me in the DEA and I started a blog devoted to "ending the immoral Drug War," while supplying details of bungled or immoral anti-drug operations I'd gleaned from my position as an insider (in addition to campaigning for office), could I legitimately expect nothing to happen? (Bear in mind that military personnel have even fewer rights than government employees.)

    GreyHawk wonders out loud whether we've heard the last of this story.

    No we haven't. I don't think antiwar Iraq war veterans will fade away. They'll just run for office.

    posted by Eric at 09:16 AM | Comments (5)

    MORE SUV VIOLENCE -- when will it end?

    As if we needed any more proof that SUVs are dangerous, I see that one of the evil things wreaked havoc right at my local Berkeley Starbucks!

    An SUV driver battered his vehicle through the doors of the Starbucks at Solano and Colusa avenues Tuesday morning, scattering a dozen or more customers who leapt out of the way and jumped through open windows as he backed up and tried it again.

    “He appeared to be aiming for the counter,” said Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies.

    After the second try, the driver backed out and sped away northbound on Colusa Avenue, leaving parts of vehicle scattered inside and outside the coffee shop.

    Police quickly identified a suspect, in large part because the jeep’s front bumper cover was left behind in the wreckage, complete with license plate.

    Fortunately, no one was killed (and fortunately this took place at a place best known for oppressing Palestinians) but this is not the first time an SUV has behaved in a deliberately evil manner.

    Why, it was just in April that I demonstrated that SUV's can kill people without even having to be started!

    Doubtless, the SUV lobby will argue that the individual driver was responsible. I say that the carnage was caused by brazen feelings clearly brought on by the presence of the SUV.

    "Cars don't cause accidents; people cause accidents," claims the SUV death machine lobby.

    Would a human being without an SUV have been able to do this?

    Among the vehicle parts left behind were a front bumper cover, a lower front quarter panel covered in burgundy paint and the remains of a parking light.

    The floor of the shop was covered with shattered glass from the front door windows the driver broke as he made his attacks. Tables and chairs were upended, the remains of the blue doors lay across the entrance, and scattered bags of chips and boxes lay where they’d fallen.

    A support beam standing in front of the counter apparently saved those who were the targets of the driver’s wrath, and the force of the impact opened a crack in the stucco along the store’s Solano Avenue frontage.

    “It was a miracle that no one was hit,” said Okies as he surveyed the scene. “There were at least a dozen people in here when it happened.”

    Police quickly located the 40-year-old suspect and took him into custody, later releasing him to the custody of a mental health facility after it became apparent he was suffering from mental problems.

    Officer Okies said the man hadn’t been arrested, though the incident has been classified as an assault with a deadly weapon “because it seemed obvious that his action were intentional and there were at least a dozen people in line at the counter.”

    Yet maniacs like this are allowed to just walk into any auto dealership and buy one of these apocalyptic devices of doom.

    What will it take to restore some sanity?

    SayUncle has recognized the nature of the problem as well as the need for action, and he has called for an SUV ban.

    The answer is clear, we must ban them. For the children. These implements of death were only designed for one thing:

    To run down as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. Their high fuel capacity (some hold fifty gallons and are equipped with multiple fuel tanks!) only serve to let them run down more people for a longer period of time. These SUVs are often civilianized versions of military vehicles that have no place in civilized society.

    These machines of violence and death have absolutely no legitimate civilian purpose. But don't expect a ban to happen any time soon. The SUV lobby is too powerful, and they have Big Oil behind them. And Karl Rove.

    For now, I'm afraid the best we can hope for is a system of background checks, a limitation on the number of SUV purchases allowed, and a waiting period.

    I'm open to suggestions, of course.

    If we could save just one child....


    Two children were injured, one seriously, when they were hit by an SUV driven by a 13-year-old acquaintance in Doylestown Township yesterday.

    The 13-year-old boy from Doylestown Township, whose name was not released, was driving a Ford Expedition in the parking lot of an orthodontist's office where he was washing cars about 11:30 a.m., said Township Police Chief Stephen J. White. The boy lost control of the vehicle, one of the largest SUVs made, and struck an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl who were standing on the sidewalk, White said. White did not release the victims' names.

    See what I mean? Clearly SUVs are a direct threat to all children everywhere!

    posted by Eric at 03:54 PM | Comments (6)

    The day the RINOs refused to die!

    Everyone, please go check out the Raging RINO Carnival at All Things Jennifer.

    I've never seen anything quite like this. Jennifer has taken each post and folded them into an updated version of Don McLean's "Miss American Pie."

    Musical sample:

    Helter skelter in a summer swelter.
    Jimmy Carter's hiding in his fallout shelter,
    Chinese Yen is high and dollar falling fast.
    NASA's grounded on the grass
    Owners of android-women try for a forward pass
    With the Judge Posner on the sideline, talking fast.

    Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
    While the breast not bombs played a marching tune.
    Condi supporters got up to dance,
    Oh, but will she get a chance?
    The players tried to take the field;
    The Islamic Jihadists refused to yield.
    I *heart* Tony Blair* was revealed.
    Today the R.I.N.O.'s thrive.

    Truly impressive feat.

    Don't miss it!

    posted by Eric at 02:49 PM | Comments (3)

    Iraq war veterans activists against the war?

    I'm not much of a war blogger (because I don't think war should be a debate). But there's this one seemingly neutral, war-related phrase I've been seeing so often that it's now making my antennae go up every time I see it, because I'm suspicious of the sneaky way it's misuse is creeping into the lexicon.

    The phrase is "Iraq War veteran."

    Nothing political or manipulative about that, and on its face it doesn't seem as if it would be subject to political ownership by one "side" or another -- any more than, say, "World War II veteran."

    But remember "Vietnam War veteran"? For many years if not decades, that phrase was a catchword for a variety of social ills such as drug addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, post-traumatic stress, and even crime to the extent that crimes were committed by this gigantic, omnipresent population of untreated misfits. In reality, most Vietnam vets were and are surprisingly normal. But problems get the attention, and few people ever bothered to check whether there was a causal connection between a problem and service in Vietnam. Or even whether the problem person in fact served in Vietnam as alleged.

    Google the phrase "Iraq War veteran" and you'll get over 30,000 hits.

    While I know this is not scientifically conclusive, I tried adding more words to the phrase to to search for correlations with various topics of interest.

  • Almost 17,000 hit associations between "Iraq war veterans" and the word "election."
  • 8,600 with "protest."
  • A full 14,000 with the word suicide.
  • 11,800 with activist.
  • The latter association interested me, and I discovered that several Iraq War veterans have acheived quasi-celebrity status for anti-war activism:

  • 34,000 hits for Camilio Mejia (praised here by famed Vietnam era antiwar activist Daniel Ellsberg;Black Five has another view entirely....)
  • 29,000 hits for Kevin Benderman.
  • 10,000 links to Aidan Delgado (teller of wildly grotesque but unverified, highly questionable atrocity stories).
  • Before this morning, I had never heard of Delgado, Mejia, or Benderman, and I really didn't want to. I could be wrong, but the whole thing is striking me as a possible product of the old "Vietnam Veterans" antiwar machine -- as if graying activists are trying to find and fill a new ecological niche. (Indeed, Googling "Iraq War veterans" and Vietnam yields another 11,000-plus hits.)

    This is getting off track, and I think that's enough about celebrity activists I'd rather not have ever heard of.

    Back to "Iraq war veteran" Google associations. I also found:

  • 8,000 with drugs
  • 7,900 with anti-war.
  • A suprising 5,800 with Karl Rove.
  • Slightly less popular than Rove was poverty with 5,700 hits.
  • 4,000 hits relate to an anti-war Iraq War veteran named Hackett who's running for Congress.
  • 3,900 hits for atrocities.
  • 3,500 with homelessnessness.
  • 2,650 for alcohol.
  • And 2,180 for addiction.
  • Not wanting to limit my search with things which would be considered overly negative, I also tried Googling a couple of words many would associate with "positive" stereotypes (perhaps what many veterans might want associated with themselves) but came up a bit short:

  • 764 for Patriotism
  • 317 for "American flag"
  • I know. It's a bit silly, but my concerns relate to negative stereotyping, so why not at least make a stab at a search for the other side. (Hey, at least I'm not Googling for "Iraq war veterans" Mom "the flag" and "Apple pie." Oh, what the hell! I tried them together, and I got six.)

    Anyway, I know this isn't scientific, but if you searched only on the Internet, you'd think that anyone who fought in this war was either an activist against it, or someone needing professional care of some sort. This makes me wonder out loud (and rhetorically) whether the Internet reflects actual reality, or activists' reality. I mean, in the last election the troops -- and military veterans -- voted overwhelmingly for Bush (and, presumably, for the war). And that was despite the fact that Bush insulted them by serving up plastic Thanksgiving turkeys.

    Can a phrase like "Iraq War veteran" be owned by anyone? Is it a proprietary thing destined to occupy a niche like "Vietnam War Veteran"? Of might this be tied to the ultimate fate of the war itself?

    I don't know, but I hate it when ordinary words become insider code language.

    (I'm almost tempted to say that it goes against my values, but I won't dare....)

    posted by Eric at 09:39 AM | Comments (2)

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