Lost campaign opportunity!

I'm watching President Bush's State of the Union speech (no liveblogging here, just a comment), and I can't believe that Cindy Sheehan (just back from visiting Hugo Chavez) was so stupid as to lose a golden opportunity to mug for the camera.

WASHINGTON - Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq who reinvigorated the anti-war movement, was taken into custody by police in the House gallery Tuesday night just before President Bush's State of the Union address.

Police escorted Sheehan from the visitors' gallery above the House chamber after causing a disruption, said a Capitol Police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the incident were sketchy.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., had invited Sheehan to the address as her guest.

All the Democrats can do is simply refuse to applaud. Cindy, on the other hand, could have done a lot more than refuse to applaud. She could have grimaced, rolled her eyes, gnashed her teeth, and maybe even looked like she was going to yell and scream. Instead (according to Fox News), she blew it all by trying to unfurl a banner.

The cameras would have been trained on her. Money can't buy that kind of attention -- especially for someone who's running for Senate!

Who the hell is running her campaign, anyway?

MORE (9:56 p.m.): Cindy Sheehan's unfurling of the banner (a violation of House rules) was confirmed by reports at CNN and CBS.

AND MORE: What did the banner say?

I don't know, but take a close look at the document Hugo is holding as he hugs Cindy.

ChavezSheehan4.jpg

MORE: Reports are now saying that it wasn't a banner but a T-shirt.

Capitol Police said Sheehan wore a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan that was covered until she took her seat. Officers said they warned her the display was illegal but she allegedly ignored them. She's charged with unlawful conduct.
As to what the T-shirt said, here are some excerpts from Sheehan's speech account:
I am speechless with fury at what happened and with grief over what we have lost in our country.

There have been lies from the police and distortions by the press. (Shocker) So this is what really happened:

This afternoon at the People's State of the Union Address in DC where I was joined by Congresspersons Lynn Woolsey and John Conyers, Ann Wright, Malik Rahim and John Cavanagh, Lynn brought me a ticket to the State of the Union Address. At that time, I was wearing the shirt that said: 2245 Dead. How many more?

[]

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.

I wore the shirt to make a statement. The press knew I was going to be there and I thought every once in awhile they would show me and I would have the shirt on. I did not wear it to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George's speech. If I had any idea what happens to people who wear shirts that make the neocons uncomfortable that I would be arrested...maybe I would have, but I didn't.

[]

I have some lawyers looking into filing a First Amendment lawsuit against the government for what happened tonight. I will file it. It is time to take our freedoms and our country back.

I don't want to live in a country that prohibits any person, whether he/she has paid the ulitmate price for that country, from wearing, saying, writing, or telephoning any negative statements about the government. That's why I am going to take my freedoms and liberties back. That's why I am not going to let Bushco take anything else away from me...or you.

[]

Four hours and 2 jails after I was arrested, I was let out. Again, I am so upset and sore it is hard to think straight.

Keep up the struggle...I promise you I will too.

Love and peace soon,

Cindy

Speaking of T-shirt causes, I'm wondering whether Sheehan and her supporters would defend my right to wear one of these T-shirts?

MORE: Police have dropped all charges against Cindy Sheehan:

Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.

"The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol," Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.

"The policy and procedures were too vague," he added. "The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine."

The extraordinary statement came a day after police removed Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, R-Fla., from the visitors gallery Tuesday night. Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before Bush's arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor, while Young left the gallery and therefore was not arrested, Gainer said.

Does that mean I can wear my T-shirt too?

posted by Eric at 09:26 PM | Comments (1)



Leaving innocence behind

Is the phenomenon of pedestrians attacking vehicles becoming a fad? Not long ago, I wrote a post about a group of "at least 15" Milwaukee kids who dragged a man from his car and beat him nearly to death.

Today I find a similar story out of Illinois:

(CBS) BELLWOOD, Ill. A UPS driver was savagely beaten by middle school students while delivering packages in the western suburbs Friday.

The attack happened in Bellwood along the 3200 block of St. Charles. A teenager was arrested Monday after admitting he was involved in the incident. Another juvenile is expected to turn himself in Tuesday to appear in a line-up.

In a CBS 2 excusive, Joanie Lum talked to the man who was savagely beaten just trying to do his job.

UPS driver Thomas Murphy says he was beaten by a group of school kids on busy St. Charles Road in Bellwood, the route he has driven for 12 years.

He says a teenager walked out in front of his delivery truck Friday at about 3 p.m. When he stopped the truck, 15 to 20 youths surrounded him.

"Somebody clocked me with a pipe. I took kicks from my right. My eyes caked over. I tried to get up and defend myself as best I could," Murphy said.

He was beaten from his head to his ankles.

Police said the kids were from the Roosevelt Middle School, which means they were pretty young.

And, according to this site, the school isn't doing a very good job of educating them. In 2005, only 15% of Roosevelt Middle School's 8th grade students met or exceeded Illinois' Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) standards in Math.

Such poor academic performance may not be related to criminal attacks, but I think it indicates that either the schools aren't doing their job of teaching, or the kids have little interest in learning. If the latter is the case, does it really make sense to force them to attend school?

Said the driver,

"Somebody should be held accountable for these kids. They run wild like a pack of wolves, where's the parents?"
If the wolf pack analogy is valid (which I don't think it really is), then no one owns the kids, and no one is responsible except the people whose duty it is to control wolves. Unlike wolves, children are considered to be the legal responsibility of parents. The problem is, when children act like animals, parents are not held accountable in the way that they would be held responsible for the behavior of an animal. If an animal attacks someone, the animal's owner can be held responsible, but if his child attacks someone, the responsibility traditionally falls on the child. But because society abhors blaming evil children for their evil (and even indulges in the fiction that no child is evil) that all too frequently means that no one ends up being responsible.

Whether it's the school, the parents, or the children who are to blame, it's a shame these children are being left behind. But there's one thing I wouldn't leave behind if I had to drive past that Illinois holding facility they call a school, and that's a gun.

Easy for me to say. The problem is, incidents like these always seem to happen in states like Illinois and Wisconsin which don't allow concealed carry.

There's hope for Wisconsin, though. The Senate just overrode the governor's veto of the recently passed concealed carry law.

UPDATE: Jeff Soyer has more on the Wisconsin veto override.

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



Identity politics seek same!

A book called "The New Gay Teenager" is causing a fuss among North Carolina parents because it was used in a school seminar and is believed to be promoting the so-called "gay agenda."

It is one thing to maintain that kids shouldn't be exposed to any discussions of homosexuality.

But the gay agenda?

From what I can see about the book, it violates a central tenet of the "Gay Agenda" because it discards the all-important doctrine of sexual identity politics:

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The so-called "gay adolescent" soon will disappear, predicts a Cornell University expert on teenage sexuality in a new book. These adolescents will still have the same desires, fantasies and attractions, he writes, but they no longer will need or want to identify themselves as gay.

"The new gay teenager is in many respects the non-gay teenager," says Ritch Savin-Williams, professor and chair of human development in Cornell's College of Human Ecology in his new book, The New Gay Teenager (Harvard University Press, 2005). Savin-Williams is an expert on issues concerning gay, lesbian and bisexual youths and is a licensed clinical psychologist who works with gay youths and their families.

Savin-Williams argues that the majority of young people who engage in gay sex consider themselves heterosexual and that the majority of youths with same-sex attractions do not call themselves gay.

Such labels as "gay" no longer work when describing young people's sexuality, he says, because some teens have same-sex crushes but don't act on them or call them "gay love affairs." Some believe they are gay for a while and then not gay for a while. Still others might consider themselves gay only in certain situations.

"Most same-sex-attracted young people engage in sexual activities with both sexes. Some are homoerotic in some sexual domains and not in others. Similarly, one can be little or greatly same-sex attracted, in varying degrees and in varying ways," says Savin-Williams. In fact, he says, between 15 and 20 percent of adolescents have some degree of same-sex orientation, yet only 3 to 4 percent embrace a gay or bisexual identity or report same-sex activities. Most young people don't link their sexuality to their identity.

Young people don't link their sexuality to their identity?

What kind of people would object to that?

People who want sexuality linked to identity?

I am reminded of one of the first posts in this blog. I know I'm repeating myself but here's what I said in 2002 (before I really started blogging in earnest):

The Problem With Anti-Gay Bigots

...is that they want to find out what it is that other people do sexually, and then they want to claim them in some sort of brotherhood, or else disown them as unfit people to associate with. They demand the right to tell other people how to raise their children, particularly as to their definition of human sexuality. Once they identify a person as heterosexual, they encourage, even demand, a liturgy of constant self-affirmation of heterosexuality as the best measuring stick of a human being's worth. As if such peer pressure isn't bad enough in itself, one's sexual desires are now considered a litmus test of one's politics!

The Problem With Gay Bigots

...is that they want to find out what it is that other people do sexually, and then they want to claim them in some sort of brotherhood, or else disown them as unfit people to associate with. They demand the right to tell other people how to raise their children, particularly as to their definition of human sexuality. Once they identify a person as homosexual, they encourage, even demand, a liturgy of constant self-affirmation of homosexuality as the best measuring stick of a human being's worth. As if such peer pressure isn't bad enough in itself, one's sexual desires are now considered a litmus test of one's politics!

Sexual bigotry is the worst sort of identity politics, and identity politics sucks!

Nice to see my crackpot theories confirmed occasionally.

UPDATE: More on the North Carolina controversy surrounding "The New Gay Teenager" here. Excerpt:

Jim and Beverly Burrows say their son returned home from last year’s Governor’s School “confused” about homosexuality as a result of the seminar, and that they have had to seek family counseling.

“We feel that this was totally inappropriate for the students who were 15, 16, and 17 years old,” the Burrowses wrote to officials at the State Departament of Public Instruction. “We feel that our rights as parents have been violated by this program.”

In addition to complaining to DPI officials, the Burrowses wrote to editors at several newspapers in North Carolina. DPI officials have defended the seminar, saying it was optional for students to attend, as is the Governor’s School itself.

The seminar, “The New Gay Teenager,” was based on a book with the same name, written by homosexual Cornell University professor Ritch Savin-Williams. The book and the Governor’s School seminar discussed whether homosexual teen-agers benefit, or are harmed, by embracing labels based on their sexual orientation. The co-leaders of the seminar identified themselves as gay, Mrs. Burrows said — which is supported by documentation obtained by Carolina Journal.

The boy bought the book, and his parents returned it:

“At last I can hope that contemporary teenagers are bringing the sexual identity era to a close,” Savin-Williams wrote in the book’s preface. “I celebrate this development, because my lifetime professional dream — that homosexuality will be eliminated as a defining characteristic of adolescents, a way of cutting and isolating, of separating and discriminating — is within reach.”

The Governor’s School seminar inspired at least one of the students — the Burrowses’ son — to purchase the book, which his parents promptly returned.

The article does not say how old this kid was, and it's unclear to me whether this was in fact indoctrination, or whether he was simply exposed to ideas his parents disliked. I'm of course against indoctrination and I don't think people should be made to believe in ideas or concepts with which they don't agree. Certainly, if people like this kid's parents deem it best to keep and maintain the categories of gay and straight, that's their business. It doesn't mean I have to agree with them, though. I'm not quite understanding how it is that exposing high school seniors to this debate would be harmful as long as it is voluntary and not coerced.


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



SWAT Moros, not optometrists!

I don't know how many readers remember the history of SWAT Teams, but I can remember when they started. "SWAT" is an acronym for "Special Weapons And Tactics." They are to police as Special Forces are to regular army, and they were formed in response to the various urban insurrections and guerrilla movements of the 1960s:

The first significant deployment of LAPD's SWAT unit was on 9 December 1969, in a four-hour confrontation with members of the Black Panthers. The Panthers finally surrendered, with only three Panthers and three officers being injured. By 1974, there was a general acceptance of SWAT as a resource for the city and county of Los Angeles.

On the afternoon of 17 May 1974, elements of a group which called itself the "Symbionese Liberation Army" (SLA), a group of heavily-armed leftists, barricaded themselves in a residence on East 54th Street at Compton Avenue. Coverage of the siege was broadcast to millions via television and radio and featured in the world press for days after. Negotiations were opened with the barricaded suspects on 26 separate occasions, 18 prior to the introduction of tear gas, and 10 during the ensuing confrontation. Police units did not fire until the SLA had fired several volleys of semi-automatic and fully automatic gunfire at them. In spite of the 3,772 rounds fired by the SLA, no uninvolved citizens or police officers sustained injury from gunfire.

Laudable as it was to combat urban insurrection in the 1960s (or to combat terrorists and rescue hostages today), I am seeing more and more evidence that today's SWAT Teams are being used not against al Qaida cells or barricaded hostage situations, but for ordinary, routine police work (i.e. serving warrants).

Justin directed my attention to this Reason piece. The underlying story is a real eye-opener (if you'll forgive the pun) which ought to give pause to the growing misuse of SWAT Teams in this country.

An 37 year old optometrist (who hadn't taken hostages and who had, so far as I can tell, zero known connections to terrorism) was accused of taking money for sports bets. Yes, if he did that it's illegal; while you might be allowed to drive to Atlantic City to place bets, if you do it for someone else, that makes you a "bookie." I'm not sure how many optometrists do this sort of thing, and I don't know the man's personal story. If he did it, it might have been for the extra money; maybe for the thrill. But there's no evidence (or even allegation) that he was a violent criminal in any way. Nonetheless, the SWAT Team arrived at his home last Tuesday night, and an officer "accidentally" fired a .45 caliber Heckler & Koch into his chest.

Very, very few people live after having a .45 fired through their chests. That's because the .45 was developed to stop berserk Moro warriors during Philippine insurrections, and its "stopping power" is legendary:

During the same time frame that John Browning was working on many of his 128 patents, a tribe of warriors, the Moro, were giving the U.S. Army a very hard time in the Philippines. To prepare for battle, the Moro would bind their limbs with leather, take narcotics, and use religious ritual to gain an altered state of consciousness, this turned them into virtual Supermen. The .38 Long Colt pistol round the U.S. soldiers had simply would not stop the Moro. Of note is the fact that the Krag rifles the U.S. issued were also barely more than useless.

Remembering the experience with the Moros and after extensive testing on animals and human cadavers, Col. John T. Thompson (inventor of the Thompson sub-machine-gun) and Col. Louis A. La Garde, of the Army Ordnance Board, determined that the Army needed a .45 caliber cartridge to provide adequate stopping power.

Whether the .45 caliber round is needed to stop optometrists with gambling issues is at least debatable, but here's what happened according to the WaPo:
Though most Fairfax officers are issued 9mm handguns, tactical unit officers sometimes are issued more powerful weapons. Police confirmed yesterday that Culosi, who graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School and the University of Virginia, was shot with a .45-caliber pistol made by Heckler & Koch, a larger weapon that authorities said would not have a trigger that could be easily tripped.

"It's a very safe gun," said David Yates, a local firearms trainer and range safety officer. "Very high quality. Not a hair trigger. Very reliable. Very accurate."

Yates said there were two possible reasons why Culosi was shot: "Ignorance and carelessness." And because police said the officer was highly trained, he couldn't have been ignorant of gun-safety procedures, Yates said.

"We're looking at this with the benefit of hindsight," Yates said. "But it's not an accident."

Well, as the saying goes, "guns don't kill people...."

But are SWAT Teams really just "people" in the ordinary sense? Are they the same as ordinary police? There is something ruthless, warlike, and robotically impersonal about SWAT Teams. I think they are necessary, but their use in ordinary warrant situations like this invites tragedy.

In any event, the most the family of this optometrist can hope to do is get some money from the city, and maybe the latter will be persuaded to discipline the officer. But I seriously doubt that they'll examine whether it was proper to essentially "send in the special forces" against a healing arts practitioner accused of a victimless, nonviolent crime.

That won't stop it from happening again, because as Radley Balko points out, it's now "all-SWAT-all-the-time":

The phrase "police state" is often overused. It's almost a cliche. But if the Fairfax police department is serving every warrant with cops decked out in battle gear, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a more appropriate term.

And you'd be hard-pressed to argue against the fact that Fairfax's all-SWAT-all-the-time policy is the reason Culosi is dead. Had a couple of detectives served the search warrant, in the presence of a couple of troopers, he'd still be alive.

Let's also not lose sight of what precipitated this raid. Gambling. Fairfax cops sent a SWAT team after a bookie like Culosi (I'm not yet convinced he was a big-time bookie, but let's assume) out of some paternalistic notion that the government is obligated to protect its citizens from wagering away their rent money.

Meanwhile, in 2004 alone, the Virginia lottery spent $21 million on "advertising and marketing" aimed at persuading its citizens to gamble.

Odd form of paternalism, isn't it?

Odd, but not surprising.


AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurs to me that this might all come down to money. If the Fairfax SWAT Teams are a separate item in the city's police budget, then the Police Department might have an economic motivation to "use them or lose them," because bureaucracy tends to invite budget cuts whenever an entity fails to use its resources. Which might mean that the fewer incidents of hostage taking and terrorism there are in Fairfax County, the less money that's needed for the SWAT Team. . .

(If a few citizens have to die, why, that's a small price to pay.)

posted by Eric at 08:54 AM | Comments (1)




Cartoons your newspaper won't let you see

With all the fuss over the Danish cartoons, it occurred to me that readers of this blog might want to see them. And thanks to Right on the Left Coast, you can! Here's a web site which has all of them.

By American standards, they're quite mild.

Here's an example:

Muhammed_Jens_Julius_Hansen_Jyllands-Posten_Cartoons.jpeg

Hmmm....

I'm already feeling guilty.

I'm thinking that maybe the title of this post is a bit harsh.

Tell you what; I'll be sure to apologize as soon as that cartoon appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer!

UPDATE (1/31/06): While they don't appear in hard copy, today's Inquirer is directing readers interested in seeing the cartoons to this link.

Frankly, I'm stunned. Tongue-tied! Speechless!

But since the Inky has linked to the cartoons, I'm linking b-b-b-back in the most apologetic manner p-p-p-possible . . .

PorkyAllah.jpg

MORE: In an unrelated matter, AOL is being accused of "blasphemy" for using the expression "I AM."

Are you concerned?

Am I serious?

(Am I allowed to say "I AM"?)

MORE: Here's the image of the, er, blasphemy in question:

IAMscreenshot.jpg

Isn't it obvious that the above was meant to offend God?

AND MORE: The Commissar is reprinting the cartoons, and urging all bloggers to do the same.

MORE: The debate is heating up, and Denmark has picked up a few allies:

Newspapers across Europe have reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to show support for a Danish paper whose cartoons have sparked Muslim outrage.

Seven publications in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain all carried some of the drawings.

Their publication in Denmark led Arab nations to protest. Islamic tradition bans depictions of the Prophet.

The owner of one of the papers to reprint - France Soir - has now sacked its managing editor over the matter.

The cartoons have sparked diplomatic sanctions and death threats in some Arab nations, while media watchdogs have defended publication of the images in the name of press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders said the reaction in the Arab world "betrays a lack of understanding" of press freedom as "an essential accomplishment of democracy."

Not everyone likes freedom or democracy. But not liking something doesn't make it go away.

More here on growing European support for free speech. (Via InstaPundit.)

UPDATE: Postrel to Islam: grow up. (HT Justin.)

UPDATE (02/04/06): Notwithstanding claims about the MSM to the contrary, today's Philadelphia Inquirer ran the following as hard copy:

InkMohamet2.jpg

INTERNATIONAL UPDATE: My apologies for any margin problems in the text which follows. I did the best I could with the html from the Support Denmark website.

العربية
بتاريخ 30 أيلول 2005 قامت صحيفة يولاندس بوستون الدنمركية بنشر 12 رسم كرتوني يصور النبي محمد. قام المسلمون بعاصفة من الاحتجاجات و اضر رسامان للاختباء بعد تلقيهما تهديدات بالقتل.

المنظمات الإسلامية طابت باعتذار رسمي من الحكومة الدنمركية و تحول الموضوع إلى أزمة دبلوماسية دولية

قامت منظمة المؤتمر الإسلامي ، المجلس الأوروبي، و منظمة الأمم المتحدة بانتقاد حكومة الدانمارك لعدم اتخاذها أية إجراءات ضد صحيفة يولاندس بوستون

رئيس الوزراء الدنمركي اندرياس فوج راسموسن دافع عن حرية الصحافة والتعبير وقال إن أية إجراءات مناسبة لا يمكن أن تتخذ من قبل الحكومة بل من قبل المحكمة

في هذه الأثناء يتم إحراق أعلام الدانمارك في بعض الدول الإسلامية ويتم إزالة المنتجات الدنمركية من على رفوف المتاجر . بضعة دول قامت بسحب سفرائها من الدانمارك و قام بعض الرجال المسلحين بمهاجمه مكتب الاتحاد الأوروبي في قطاع غزة.

الدانمارك تحتاج لدعمكم و مساندتكم، أظهر دعمك و اهتمامك وضع أحد هذه الوصلات على موقعك.

بتاريخ 30 أيلول 2005 قامت صحيفة يولاندس بوستون الدنمركية بنشر 12 رسم كرتوني يصور النبي محمد. قام المسلمون بعاصفة من الاحتجاجات و اضر رسامان للاختباء بعد تلقيهما تهديدات بالقتل.

المنظمات الإسلامية طابت باعتذار رسمي من الحكومة الدنمركية و تحول الموضوع إلى أزمة دبلوماسية دولية

قامت منظمة المؤتمر الإسلامي ، المجلس الأوروبي، و منظمة الأمم المتحدة بانتقاد حكومة الدانمارك لعدم اتخاذها أية إجراءات ضد صحيفة يولاندس بوستون

رئيس الوزراء الدنمركي اندرياس فوج راسموسن دافع عن حرية الصحافة والتعبير وقال إن أية إجراءات مناسبة لا يمكن أن تتخذ من قبل الحكومة بل من قبل المحكمة

في هذه الأثناء يتم إحراق أعلام الدانمارك في بعض الدول الإسلامية ويتم إزالة المنتجات الدنمركية من على رفوف المتاجر . بضعة دول قامت بسحب سفرائها من الدانمارك و قام بعض الرجال المسلحين بمهاجمه مكتب الاتحاد الأوروبي في قطاع غزة.

الدانمارك تحتاج لدعمكم و مساندتكم، أظهر دعمك و اهتمامك وضع أحد هذه الوصلات على موقعك.


SupportDenmarkSmall1AR.png SupportDenmarkSmall2AR.png SupportDenmarkSmall3AR.png

MORE INTERNATIONAL NEWS: An Egyptian Newspaper published the cartoons in October with not a word of protest. (Via Pajamas Media and Solomonia.)

EgyptianCartoons.jpg

It's tough not to conclude that the current event is largely manufactured outrage.

UPDATE: On Saturday, February 11, the Philadelphia Inquirer was picketed for reprinting the above cartoon, in a nonviolent protest by hundreds of local Muslims:

Hundreds of Muslims chanted and carried banners and signs outside the Inquirer-Daily News Building yesterday, protesting The Inquirer's decision to reprint a caricature of the prophet Muhammad.

Many said they thought that the paper had defamed their religion by publishing an image that has angered Muslims across the world and resulted in mass protests and the burning of Western embassies. Many Muslims consider any depiction of Muhammad to be sacrilegious.

"We feel very strongly The Inquirer could have covered the news without printing this inflammatory cartoon," said Zia Haq, 43, of Collegeville.

The cartoon, one of several originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September, depicts Islam's chief prophet with a lit bomb stuck in his turban. It ran in The Inquirer on Feb. 4 with a story about the dilemma faced by the media over reprinting the cartoon. The image was accompanied by a note, which said, in part, "The Inquirer intends no disrespect to the religious beliefs of any of its readers."

Most U.S. newspapers have opted not to publish the images.

Inquirer editor Amanda Bennett, publisher Joe Natoli, and deputy managing editor Carl Lavin meandered through the crowd yesterday, introducing themselves and thanking people for coming. "I think this is really an opportunity to build some bridges," Bennett said.

Bennett has said that the cartoon was reprinted to provide readers with "a perspective of what the controversy's about."

That's the way to fight speech you don't like.

With more speech, not less.

It's a lesson in why speech needs to be kept free.

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer is running a poll asking the following question:

Do you think it was appropriate to publish one of the cartoons from the Danish newspaper?

posted by Eric at 11:01 AM | Comments (356)



Hamas honors women!

Philadelphians (especially feminists) can relax a little. Hamas is not so bad after all. Why, the Hamas victory can even be said to be the result of a gender gap:

JABALIYA, Gaza Strip - The girls and women who came to congratulate Hamas' top female candidate, Jamila Shanti, after her party's landslide victory in last week's Palestinian parliamentary election wore veils and robes in the tradition of fundamentalist Islam.

They brought Shanti a floral wreath. She gave them sweets wrapped in paper decorated with Koranic verses about how to lead a virtuous life.

Plastic chairs were arrayed under a leaky lean-to that barely kept out the rain as three dozen voices chanted: "God is great," sang the praises of Hamas leaders killed in Israeli airstrikes, and extolled the virtues of jihad, Hamas' holy war, which has included scores of suicide bombings in which hundreds of Israelis have been killed.

In this scene of sisterly radicalism, say the Hamas party faithful, lies one of the seeds of the group's sweeping electoral success: a targeted effort to get their women to the polls.

"Palestinian society is more than 52 percent women. It is said that women are going to draw the future map of Palestine," said Shanti, 48, a Gaza University professor of philosophy and psychology.

While just 46 percent of the overall vote was cast by women in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, it was disproportionately weighted in favor of Hamas, said Birzeit University pollster Nader Said, citing post-election analyses.

"Women tend to vote Hamas more than men," which is one of the factors behind the crushing defeat of the ruling Fatah party that had dominated Palestinian politics for decades, Said said.

I don't know whether women reading this piece will be "softened up" to Islamic radicalism or the veiling of women, but there's something about the uncritical presentation of the "feminist side" of Hamas which I find disturbing. Even the veiling (once viewed with universal scorn by feminists) is now soft-pedaled:
By Western standards, the enforced separation of men and women at Hamas rallies, the shrouding of women in head-to-toe abayas and the slitted veils that some women wear, revealing just their eyes, would seem to mitigate against sexual equality.

As a lawmaker-elect, Shanti said, she wants to "correct the misunderstanding" that Islamic women are second-class citizens behind their veils in a purely patriarchial society.

"It means they are respected," she said. "But as women, we have some special issues."

Special issues? What are these? The following arguments are offered:
Among the top issues she cited are helping the families of prisoners and deceased fighters she called martyrs; helping women university graduates to find work; helping women who are themselves in prison; helping people with disabilities; and helping women who live in the border areas, like herself, to rebuild homes destroyed in the fighting.
How do any of these "special issues" support enforced veiling? She does not say. Has American public opinion reached the point where the subjugation of women is uncritically accepted because of the bare recital by its advocates that women have "special issues"?

Ironically, women in hardline Islamic societies do have "special issues" -- brought on by the most brutal oppression imaginable directed at them. When I see radical Islam presented as the feminist choice, it makes me feel like presenting arguments from the other side.

While I don't consider it the normal responsibility of this blog to do this, I feel particularly obligated right now, because there's something downright creepy about this soft line towards religious oppression by a progressive, top ten, MSM newspaper in a major city.

Examples of religious oppression of Palestinian women are not limited to the veil. In recent months, there was a spate of so-called "honor killings" -- including the brutal murder by Hamas of an engaged woman whose only crime was riding with her husband:

During a particularly brutal spate of honor killings in early 2005, five Palestinian women were murdered in four separate incidences over a short period of time. Faten Habash spent six weeks in hospital after she threw herself from her family's fourth floor apartment window. Upon her return home, her father bludgeoned her to death with an iron bar.

Two days later, Maher Shakirat attacked his three sisters. The eldest, Rudaina, was eight months pregnant and had been admonished by her husband after he claimed she'd had an affair. Maher forced his sisters to drink bleach before strangling them. The youngest, Leila, escaped but had serious internal injuries from the effect of the bleach.

Rafayda Qaoud shared a bedroom in her Ramallah home with her two brothers. After they raped and impregnated her, she gave birth to a baby boy who was adopted by another family. Her mother then gave Rafayda a razor blade and ordered her to slash her own wrists. When she refused to commit suicide, her mother pulled a plastic bag tightly over her head, sliced open her daughter's wrists and beat her with a stick until she was dead.

Palestinian feminist Abu Dayyeh Shamas claims that: "Men feel they have lost their dignity and that they can somehow restore it by upholding the family's honour. We've noticed recent cases are much more violent in nature; attempts to kill, rape, incest. There is an incredible amount of incest." One women's group reported over 400 cases of incest in the West Bank alone in 2002.

Anthropologist James Emery explained in 2003, how "among Palestinians, all sexual encounters, including rape and incest, are blamed on the woman." Men are always presumed innocent and the responsibility falls on the woman or girl to protect her honor at all costs. When 17-year-old Afaf Younes ran away from her father after he allegedly sexually assaulted her, she was caught and sent home to him. He then shot and killed her to protect his honor.

And when a four-year-old toddler was raped by a 25 year-old man in 2002, her Palestinian family left her to bleed to death because her rape had dishonored the family.

Emery described a Palestinian merchant explaining this cultural view of femininity as "A woman shamed is like rotting flesh, if it is not cut away, it will consume the body. What I mean is the whole family will be tainted if she is not killed."

Recently in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas has defined a new role for itself in guarding the morality of young Muslim women. A group of men who identified itself as a Hamas "morality squad" attacked 19-year-old Yousra al-Azam after she had sat at the beach with her husband-to-be and another couple. She was shot in the head and died in the street as her murderers beat her with batons. The growing influence of Hamas with its fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law is concerning women's groups, which fear it will gain power and moral legitimacy in the coming elections.

A woman shamed is like rotting flesh?

It appears that Palestinian women do indeed have "special issues."

Another writer, in examining the growth of female suicide bombers, argues that sexual shame is a major driving force behind them:

A suicidal self-sacrifice for the cause, carried out by a lady, must also exercise a powerful appeal to emulation on the part of men who are still doubting whether to go through with it. And it fits in easily enough, says Mia Bloom, with the codes of conduct and honor that prevail in the societies concerned.

She recalls the case of Reem Riashi, the mother of two children and the first woman of Hamas to sacrifice herself, forced to this extreme by both her husband and her lover, as a definitive solution to the scandal of her adultery.

Bloom considers it likely that many suicidal women have undergone rape or some sort of humiliation in their childhood or adolescence: "Everywhere sexual violence against women, and the social stigma associated with rape in patriarchal societies, seems to be a common motive for women who put an end to their lives" (Mother, daughter, sister, bomber, in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, Nov-Dec. 2005).

In this way women may indeed be said to be playing a role in the style of politics that goes on in the societies they live in, but they do so in their own way, which is almost always strictly under the thumb of male domination.

Daily Pundit's Lastango links to a very disturbing Norwegian blog post arguing that unveiled Western women are considered "whores" by Islamic hardliners, who view them as inviting rape. (The latter, of course, is seen as justifiable.)

If being a victim of rape is dishonorable under hardline Islamic rule, it's easy to see why Islamic women would claim they have "special issues." Considering what it must be like to live under such cultural tyranny, it's hard not to feel very sorry for them.

But to those of us living in the "decadent" West, there's nothing dishonorable about having been the victim of a heinous crime like rape. Nor is there anything honorable about killing women for having been raped or for being unveiled.

Or do "decadent" "Western" concepts of honor no longer matter?

While there seems to be a disagreement over the meaning of the word, I think it's decadent if they don't.

posted by Eric at 09:01 AM




Is free speech a crusade too?

Probably aglow in contemplation of the recent election, the Palestinians now want the Danes out of their territory:


Dozens of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades members held a demonstration against Denmark Sunday at the main square in the West Bank town of Nablus, shouted anti-Danish slogans and threatened to harm Danish targets located in the West Bank and Gaza.

Sunday's demonstration is the last in a string of Muslim rallies to protest the recent publication of a series of caricatures mocking Muslim prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

The caricatures, including one that depicts Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, stirred outrage among the Muslim community in Denmark that soon crossed borders and spread to other countries as well.

During the demonstration in Nablus, participants threatened to harm Danish interests in the territories and called on all Danish representatives and activists operating in the area to leave immediately. Members of the organization also urged Danish citizens planning to enter the territories to refrain from doing so in order to avoid being hurt.

Protesters also demanded the Palestinian public to suspend all ties with Denmark, in light of what they described as a "serious insult to Muslim sentiments."

An al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades senior member told Ynet that "the Danish campaign against the prophet Muhammad constitutes part of the crusade the western world conducts against Islam."

The Danish Crusaders?

Not so fast, Mr. Al Aksa. Historically, the only crusades in which Denmark was known to have participated were the Northern Crusades. These Baltic conversion missions were not directed against Islam, but against Pagans in nearby Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. (And this interesting essay looks for evidence of Scandinavian involvement with the better known Crusades in the Mideast -- known as the Holy Land -- but finds none.)

Nevertheless, the evil, crusading Danes have to go, and the al-Aksa activists claim this has no relationship to the recent election:

The activist stressed the demonstration was not related to recent political developments in the territories and to Hamas' win in the elections.

"This is a demonstration for Islam and against the enemies of Islam. We are not interested in seeing Danish nationals here, and we are currently debating how to act against them within our borders," he added.

Meanwhile, the International Islamic Council on Saturday called on all Muslims to make sure their protest against Denmark takes only peaceful means.

"We ask all members of the Islamic nations to express their views in a calm and civilized manner, and to avoid getting carried away and make mistakes unbecoming of Muhammad's way," the organization said in a statement.

Notably, Saudi Arabia has already recalled its ambassador from Copenhagen last week, claiming Denmark has not done enough to appease offended worshippers.

Regarding the latter point, Glenn Reynolds decried the campaign against the Danes earlier, asking "Where's the anger?" and linking to this post which describes the remarkable (and unfortunately nearly unilateral) courage of the Danes in standing up to the Saudis:
The cultural editor of the Jyllands-Posen has remained unapologetic, saying he put out the call in response to a worrying trend he had observed in the Western media: self-censorship. The paper has received bomb threats and the editors and the cartoonists have received death threats from adherents of the Religion of Peace but all have stood their ground.

With great bravery, so has Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Rasmussen, who declined a requested meeting with the ambassadors from 11 Muslim countries, saying he has no control over Denmark’s press “and nor do I want such”.

This was last September and the Muslims aren’t letting this issue go away. They’ve already lodged a somewhat florid protest at the UN, where they got the sympathy of a tranzi ear or two. But their aim is an abject apology from Denmark for breaking an Islamic taboo - or else. They grow more threatening and the courageous Anders Rasmussen calmly declines to change his mind, saying publishing cartoons is not against Danish law, which is the law that applies in Denmark.

Why are our cowardly leaders letting the steadfast Mr Rasmussen and the newspaper’s editors take the heat alone? Why has not one American Congressman raised the issue in Congress? No one would expect an unequivocal response from the British prime minister, but is there not one British MP brave enough to support Mr Rasmussen and the Danish people who are, after all, defending the liberty of all of us? Is there not one newspaper editor – even a tabloid – with the strength of conviction to support the Danes? Now Danish livelihoods are being threatened for failing to condemn this infraction against Islamic law, with boycotts of their products.

Is there not one damn’ politician in the entire Anglosphere who will take a stand with Mr Rasmussen? What about John Howard, then? The newly elected Harper? God help us, where is Jesse Jackson?

So far, the sole support has come from Norway....

It's not every day that I read something that makes me proud of my Norwegian ancestry.

I'm glad Scandinavians have started a Crusade for free speech. The world could use more of it.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: While I don't know how closely the al-Aksa Brigade works with Hamas, I read here that "Hamas finances, trains and sends Fatah`s Al Aksa Martyrs and Popular Committee militants to attack." I also think it's worth remembering that Hamas is largely Saudi funded.

UPDATE: A commenter below notes that Norway is a mixed bag because they recognize the Hamas government. But actually, it's worse than I thought, as Norway's left-wing foreign minister has gone so far as to apologize for Norwegian newspaper cartoons which had expressed solidarity with Denmark's:

Let it be clear that the Norwegian government condemns every expression or act which expresses contempt for people on the basis of their religion or ethnic origin. Norway has always supported the fight of the UN against religious intolerance and racism, and believes that this fight is important in order to avoid suspicion and conflict. Tolerance, mutual respect and dialogue are the basis values of Norwegian society and of our foreign policy.

Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of Norwegian society. This includes tolerance for opinions that not everyone shares. At the same time our laws and our international obligations enforce restrictions for incitement to hatred or hateful expressions.

Opposition politicians reacted to this message with indignation. Jon Lilletun, the spokesman on foreign policy for the Christian-democrat Kristelig Folkeparti, points out that it is not the ministry’s task to express an opinion on the content of the cartoons. Carl I. Hagen, the leader of the Progress Party, fears that freedom of expression is being swept under the carpet.

Magazinet published the cartoons in support of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which after publishing the drawings last September has been threatened with revenge by Muslim extremists. According to Islam it is blasphemy to depict Muhammad. The Danish government has consistently refused to give in to demands from Islamic countries that it apologize for the publication of the cartoons and introduce censorship.

As we noted before it is striking to see how Norwegian politics differs from Danish politics. The Norwegian Foreign Minister’s e-mail was meant to be confidential and not to be disclosed to the Norwegian public, “because,” as the Foreign Ministry wrote, “that would look rather stupid in the Norwegian press.” Apparently Muslims abroad are more deserving of respect than one’s own citizens. (Italics in original.)

(Via Little Green Footballs.)

Definitely a mixed bag.

Sounds like the voters in Norway need to make some changes. (No wonder their government is keeping the apology secret.)

UPDATE: Don't miss this post by Daily Pundit's Lastango. The political situation in Norway is more appalling than I thought.

MORE: Protests over the cartoon have escalated to the point of beatings as well as gunmen seizing an EU office:

BEIRUT, Lebanon - The controversy over Danish caricatures of Prophet Muhammad escalated Monday as gunmen seized an EU office in Gaza and Muslims appealed for a trade boycott of Danish products. Denmark called for its citizens in the Middle East to exercise vigilance.

Denmark-based Arla Foods, which has been the target of a widespread boycott in the Middle East, reported that two of its employees in Saudi Arabia were beaten by angry customers. Aid groups, meanwhile, pulled workers out of Gaza, citing the threat of hostilities.

So far, the Danes have refused to budge. Good for them!

posted by Eric at 12:26 PM | Comments (9)



Bridge over troubled oil?

Sometimes, I am not cynical enough. When I wrote about Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's publicity stunt (supplying discount oil to "help America's poor") earlier, I wasn't quite getting the entire picture, and I overlooked a key player. Today's Inquirer, however, was nice enough to supply a clear picture -- showing five faces beaming in "celebration" of the Chavez propaganda coup. The caption:

Celebrating the heating oil shipment in West Oak Lane were (from left) home owner Geraldine Shields, Felix Rodriguez of Citgo, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d, and Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez.
Here's more from the story:
As a small crowd waved U.S. and Venezuelan flags, a clutch of politicians and officials gathered on Shields' lawn to celebrate the deal, brokered by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa) and a nonprofit energy cooperative.

Standing with Citgo chief executive officer Felix Rodriguez and Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, Fattah called the program "a humanitarian gesture of extraordinary magnitude."

As part of the event, an oil truck rumbled up to Shields' house, and out stepped former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d (D., Mass). He is now president of Citizens Energy Corp., the nonprofit group financing the shipment.

Huh? A Kennedy stepping out of an oil truck in Philadelphia and beaming for a publicity photograph?

What's going on?

If this report is correct (on a similar Chavez stunt in Massachusetts), former Congressman Kennedy has ample financial reason to celebrate:

The CEC [Citizens Energy Corp.] operates as a non-profit corporation but despite Kennedy’s personal wealth, which is reported to be in the millions of dollars, he receives compensation from his charitable endeavor of $400,000 a year based on CEC financial reports from 2003 (the last year upon which such reports were available).

The primary purpose of this deal is not to help the poor of Massachusetts but to create a much needed public relations coup for the tyrannical Chavez, thereby undermining public support for the Bush Administration’s efforts to, peacefully, bring about much needed reforms in Venezuela. Furthermore, it is clear that the executives of CEC, with their six- figure compensation packages, will benefit directly from the ability to purchase oil at below-market rates, from a nation that has directly supported terrorism and is presently working to destabilize democracy in South America.

Hugo Chavez has supported communist terrorists in Colombia, opposed free-trade agreements with neighboring countries, and referred to Saddam Hussein as "my brother". After the United States was attacked on September 11th, Chavez demonstrated his sympathy by stating, "The United States brought the attacks upon itself, for their arrogant imperialist foreign policy." Chavez has also been accused by a high ranking military defector from Venezuela, of transferring one million dollars to Osama bin Laden. As a direct result of this financial aid to Al Qaeda, the citizen’s action organization "Judicial Watch" has filed a $100 million dollar lawsuit against Hugo Chavez on behalf of the victims and survivors of September 11. The lawsuit alleges that Chavez provided material financial support and other assistance to the Al Qaeda terror network. In addition, Al Qaeda is reportedly to be presently operating a training camp on the Venezuelan island of Margarita.

Ironically, the vast financial power that Chavez welds, and uses, to support international terrorism abroad and political oppression within comes directly from his business dealings with United States oil traders such as Joe Kennedy. While Kennedy may be a small player in enriching Chavez and his anti-United States agenda, the people of the United States have become unwitting supporters of Chavez at the gas pumps.

Hey, I wouldn't mind being a small player at 400K a year! I mean, if you come from a millionaire family and you want to help the poor, every little bit helps.

I'll let Tim Worstall have the last word on the Kennedy-Chavez op:

A nice piece of political theatre for Chavez, of course. But that’s however many millions of $ that the poor Venezuelans are giving to the vastly richer Americans. Not really, on the face of it, a clever thing to do.

Joe Kennedy, the chairman of Citizens Energy, one of the organisations that will distribute the oil,

Ah, knew there had to be a Kennedy in something this stupid.

A Kennedy? But why Philadelphia? I hope none of this has to do with Chaka Fattah positioning himself to run for Mayor of Philadelphia.

How can I be so cynical? After all, aren't these dictators and millionaires only trying help the poor?

posted by Eric at 08:49 AM | TrackBacks (1)




Lie down and learn about suffering!

Aurelia Blake is a teacher who does more than merely teach.

A story in today's Inquirer features a photo (not available online) of middle school children lying next to each other head to head and shoulder to shoulder in a "reenactment" of a slave ship. Underneath the picture is the following caption:

Mario Cosey keeps eyes wide open as he and schoolmates reenact the confining conditions of a slave ship. About 320 students in grades 7 through 12 took part in the exercise at McKinney Middle School in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Aurelia Blake, the teacher who headed the project, taped down the dimensions of a slave ship on the gym floor and packed the students within the lines to help them understand how slaves were transported to the Americas.
Ms. Blake also seems to enjoy packing students in buses and taking them to Washington to protest the war.
In the massed crowd of more than 100,000 people — some observers estimated 150,000, even 200,000 — were 42 teenagers from Yellow Springs, students at Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Middle School. They ranged in age from 13 to 18.

They were awesome. Wearing bright yellow “no war” headbands and displaying bright yellow signs and banners, accompanied by giant walking puppets 15 feet tall, the Yellow Springs kids drew special attention — praise, applause and gratitude — for their vivid commitment to the cause of peace. “Yellow Springs High School, Ohio,” their signs and banners proclaimed. “STOP THE WAR.”

One of the signs offered a corrective lesson to President Bush: “Act Like It’s A Globe, Not An Empire!”

In a poignant reference to the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy, a black-edged sign declared: “Our Grief Is Not A Cry for War.”

I'd say this teacher has gone beyond the call of duty. Well, in fairness to her, she didn't really organize; her students did. Ms. Blake only helped conceive. And bring to fruition:
Ashlee Cooper and Matt Wallace, also a senior, organized the peace rally trip as their senior project at Yellow Springs High School. Aurelia Blake, Matt’s mother and a teacher at the school, helped conceive the project and bring it to fruition.

They chartered two busses, one for students and the other for adults from the community.

This teacher knows how to organize, that's for sure. Anyone who can turn students into activists knows how to inspire people. A skill probably acquired during her many years spent as an Air Force officer. It must have been boring having to answer questions about "little green men," and I don't blame her for deciding to teach instead. Well, she also serves as a local human rights commissioner, helped organize the Not one damn dime movement, and even guested on the Bill O'Reilly Show.

While I have to admire her leadership and organizational skills, my problem with Ms. Blake is that I think her teaching style is heavyhanded, and borders on out and out indoctrination. Were I a taxpaying parent in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I might not like the idea of my child being made to lie on the floor to reenact stuff that was done hundreds of years ago -- by and to people long dead.

What is the context? Is it merely to educate? How does making people lie down on the floor do that in any way? Slaves were whipped, sold at auction, and even castrated. Should these things also be reenacted? Why? To "teach" students that slavery was wrong?

There's something about making a kid do stuff like that which crosses a certain line, and I'm not sure why. It just strikes me as invasive of the students' personal dignity and going beyond education. It's as if they're deliberately playing with children's emotions.

I notice that one of Ms. Blake's courses teaches American Slavery and the Holocaust side by side, the central idea being that the two are moral equivalents:

....introduce students to the history of American Slavery and the Holocaust, two profound atrocities in the history of Western culture, through reading literary text.
I agree that slavery and the Holocaust were profound atrocities, but is it really fair to call them Western culture? And if they are moral equivalents, why shouldn't the Holocaust be reenacted too? There's no reason why the dimensions of gas chambers or killing pits couldn't also be taped on the gym floor, with students made to pretend to die like Hitler's victims, but I suspect that the school wouldn't have allowed that. Again, I'm not sure why.

Maybe I'm wrong.

But I suppose it would be too much to demand a reenactment of Stalin's or Mao's gulags. Or Cambodia's Killing Fields.

posted by Eric at 07:54 AM | Comments (11)




nuclear values coming soon?

According to both ABC News and WorldNetDaily, Hamas seeks to impose Sharia (Islamic Law) on territory held by the Palestinian Authority.

Here's what a Hamas spokesman told WND:

"We are holding emergency meetings to decide our next course of action," chief Palestinian negotiation minister Saeb Erekat told WND. "I don't think Fatah is going to join. This is not our way [to be in the minority]."

At least 13 people were injured in the clashes outside the Ramallah parliament, and light damage was done to the building, security sources in Ramallah said.

"The Hamas members were dancing with their flags, and they announced Sharia law will soon rule in the Palestinian territories," said a source.

Today's clashes were the latest in a series of reports indicating Hamas is seeking to impose Taliban-like Islamic rule on the Palestinians.

A Hamas-run council in the West Bank recently barred an open-air music and dance festival, declaring it was against Islam.

"This is not acceptable," festival head Eman Hamouri told reporters at the time, accusing Hamas of trying to force its values on others. "We condemn this and we have sought the help of the Palestinian parliament to discuss this serious issue."

In response to the incident, al-Zahar told WND: "I hardly understand the point of view of the West concerning these issues. The West brought all this freedom to its people but it is that freedom that has brought about the death of morality in the West. It's what led to phenomena like homosexuality, homeless and AIDS."

Does that mean before there was freedom, there was no homosexuality? No homelessness? Does it mean that the African countries most plagued by AIDS are those most guilty of having freedom? (Robert Mugabe, call your office....)

Perhaps I'm out of line trying to apply logic to statements by a spokesman for Hamas, but I hate to see democracy being used to destroy freedom.

There's more:

Israeli officials say Hamas in the Gaza Strip has established hard-line Islamic courts and created the Hamas Anti-Corruption Group, which is described as a kind of "morality police" operating within Hamas' organization.

Hamas has denied the existence of the anti-corruption group, but the group recently carried out a high-profile "honor killing" widely covered by the Palestinian media.

Last April, Yusra al-Azzami, a young female university student from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, was caught by Hamas, together with another female, riding in a vehicle with two men. The Hamas members, reportedly officers of the Anti-Corruption Group, suspected the vehicle occupants of "immoral behavior" and shot at the car, killing al-Azzami and wounding the other occupants.

I found confirmation of the "honor killing" story here; it turns out that the victim of Hamas's morality police was on a date with her fiance.

Considering the callused attitude of Hamas towards its own people, I don't doubt that they'd be more than willing to assist Iran in carrying out its promise to use nuclear weapons against Israel, and even if millions of Palestinians were killed in the process, that would be considered a good thing, because "the Jews" would be destroyed. That's because in the game of martyrdom, the innocent have nothing to fear, because they're headed for Paradise.

Is sitting around and waiting for it to happen the best way to preempt such stuff?

posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (2)



Evita "la loca" thinks globally, acts locally

I honestly don't know what to make of the decision by Venezuela's quasi dictator Hugo Chavez to intervene in Philadelphia's domestic affairs, but he has, under the auspices of "helping the poor":

Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez, who has been a persistent antagonist to President Bush, is providing relief to some poor families in the Philadelphia region squeezed by the high price of home-heating oil.

A subsidiary of the Venezuelan national oil company will ship five million gallons of heating oil for distribution at a steep discount to as many as 25,000 low-income families in the Philadelphia region next month under a deal brokered by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) and a nonprofit energy cooperative.

Citgo, the Houston arm of Petroleos de Venezuela, will mark down the per-gallon cost of the heating oil by 40 percent. Organizers said the cheap oil was intended for poor families who have exhausted their grants from the federal-state Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Earlier this month, 7,602 households that use oil in the city and in Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester Counties had run out of LIHEAP aid, according to state figures.

"We think we've captured all the families who will need assistance" with such a large shipment, Fattah said. He credited his relationships with U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (D., Mass.), who arranged a similar deal for Boston, and former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d (D., Mass.), who is president of Citizens Energy Corp., the nonprofit financing the shipment.

Citgo has also worked with Citizens Energy to supply cheap oil to New York City, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Indian reservations in Maine.

It started last fall as a public relations masterstroke by Chavez, who has led a leftist resurgence in South America. He has cast himself as David to the American Goliath, calling President Bush a "genocidal madman" and accusing the United States of plotting to assassinate him. The administration and various human-rights groups say Chavez has destabilized Latin America and abuses political dissidents.

Isn't it obvious that higher heating bills are a form of genocide? I mean, first Bush's Global Warming created Hurricane Katrina, and then the genocidal maniac forced the few surviving victims into colder cities where he could finish them off with higher heating bills.

For his part, Congressman Fattah denies that politics are involved:

"This is not a political matter - we have the ability to keep families in the Philadelphia area warm," Fattah said, dismissing the idea that the assistance was embarrassing to the United States. "I'm deeply appreciative of the humanitarian gesture."

Heating-oil prices have jumped by 30 percent to 50 percent this winter because of rising world prices for crude oil, putting poor families in a bind.

"It's ironic that a South American country is coming to the rescue of poor people in Philadelphia, but the issue is whether you freeze to death in winter," said Jonathan Stein, general counsel of Community Legal Services. "No one, Democrat or conservative Republican, should raise questions about where it comes from, but should applaud it."

Hey, considering that no one should raise questions, this would be a great time for Hamas to chip in a few bucks. Spread a little goodwill by helping the poor worldwide.

Despite the fact that they're supposed to be applauding, mean-spirited "political analysts" just won't stop accusing Chavez of playing politics.

Though political analysts have said Chavez is playing petrol politics, the infusion of cheap oil was warmly welcomed by the public and some political leaders in Boston, the first to get a shipment in November, and in other communities receiving the help.

The Energy Coordinating Agency, a Philadelphia nonprofit, will administer the program here. The oil will be delivered to customers by several dozen independent oil dealers, said Ron Goldwyn, a spokesman for Fattah. He said eligible families would be allowed to buy up to 200 gallons of heating oil for $288 - a saving of $194 over market rates, based on the current average price of $2.41 a gallon.

The agency will use information from the state Welfare Department to send letters to households that have exhausted their LIHEAP aid, authorizing them to buy subsidized oil, Goldwyn said. Participants will pay 60 percent of the cost to the oil dealer, and Citizens Energy will pay the remainder.

Isn't nice to know that the welfare department is cooperating? I mean, they should, because Chavez's move will will end up saving all taxpayers money, and not just the poor, because less of it will be needed for the low income heating oil subsidy programs.

Shouldn't we all get behind Chavez?

Meanwhile, there's a push for a statewide Chavez subsidy plan, as well as an opening ceremony in Philly:

Citgo officials and aides to Fattah plan to meet with Gov. Rendell's staff next week to discuss whether the program can be expanded to the rest of the state, according to Fattah.

He plans to formally announce the program tomorrow at the home of a family that will receive some of the oil, along with Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuelan ambassador to the United States; Citgo officials; and Kennedy.

I love it. Why not have Chavez make a special trip to Philadelphia where he could denounce Bush, and be proclaimed as a savior of the poor?

A resurrection of Evita, perhaps? I think he's looking more and more Evita-like every day.

ChavezConEsposo.jpg

(Well, maybe a little touching up needs to be done on the makeover...)


UPDATE: Anyone grossed out by the above should remember it's just someone's PhotoShop. Little Green Footballs has something much more grotesque, all the more so because it's the real thing.

posted by Eric at 07:59 AM




Hamas wins. (Quick, someone call the Nobel Prize Committee!)

It appears that the terrorist group Hamas has won the Palestian Authority election in a landslide:

Hamas won 76 seats in the 132-member parliament, while Fatah, which controlled Palestinian politics for four decades, won 43 seats, said Hanna Nasser, head of the Central Election commission. The 13 remaining seats went to several smaller parties and independents.

The result was based on a count of 95 percent of the vote and still could change slightly, Nasser said.

Hamas won 60.3 percent of the vote, said Ismail Haniyeh, one of the group's leaders.

In his first remarks since the election, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel won't negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas members.

"The state of Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian administration if even part of it is an armed terrorist organization calling for the destruction of the state of Israel," said Olmert's statement, issued after a three-hour emergency Cabinet meeting.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel will insist that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, popularly known as Abu Mazen, keep his commitments to disarm militants.

"Israel needs to act judiciously and responsibly," Mofaz said. "We will continue to demand of Abu Mazen to meet his commitments and to disarm the terror organizations."

Mofaz said that the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state, is the "only existing path."

Other Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum said there could be no relations with a group that has been responsible for scores of deadly attacks against Israelis and is listed as a terror organization by the United States and the European Union.

Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition Likud Party, condemned the vote. "Today Hamastan was formed," he said. Labor Party politician Ami Ayalon said Israel might have to change the route of its West Bank security barrier to take Hamas' victory into account.

I'd say that at this point Natanyahu's chances of heading the Israeli government are looking pretty good.

The United States of course lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, which it is. This makes it a crime for the U.S. government (or any American) to "provide funds or other material support" to Hamas, members of which are to be "denied visas or excluded from the United States." (Makes "peace talks" rather tough, I'd say.)

But I expect to soon see apologists for Hamas springing up all over the place, as leftist support for fascist fundamentalists has become a fact of modern life.

MORE: Glenn Reynolds has a roundup, and so does Pajamas Media.

posted by Eric at 04:50 PM | Comments (5)



The unbearable whiteness of being

Last night, I was put in an awful mood after being told about something being called an "academic discipline," but which makes very little sense.

That is a thing called "whiteness theory."

I guess the attachment of the word "theory" means it's no more proven than evolution or intelligent design, but the idea that there was an academic "theory" involving the "white race" just struck me as incredibly annoying after another long day wasted trying to make sense out of that despicable instrument of emotion-driven machinations we call the human brain.

Right away, I thought, "Well finally, they've done it!"

Racist Nazi crackpots, I assumed, had finally made it into academia with white multiculturalist, identity politics theories.

No, I was told. "Whiteness theory" is based on the premise that whiteness is not racial, but cultural, and premised on privilege and power -- an all-encompassing cultural meme so pervasive as to be said to swallow literally everything we (there I go being "white" -- because I'm assumed by the whiteness theorists to be assuming that everyone who reads this is white) take for granted. Even such things as science, art, logic itself. These are all part of whiteness. The privilege of being white.

"Such things cannot be!" I complained to my outraged white self. Why, this might mean that my very blog is contaminated by my whiteness.

How can I purge an evil so profound?

I tried to research this matter, and I found a number of websites, many of which cite a Harvard Law Review article titled "Whiteness as Property" as a foundation block of whiteness theory. In it, Cheryl Harris (now a UCLA law professor whose faculty web page describes the essay as "highly influential") contends that whiteness is, well, property:

It was a given to my grandmother that being white automatically ensured higher economic returns in the short term, as well as greater economic, political, and social security in the long run. Becoming white meant gaining access to a whole set of public and private privileges that materially and permanently guaranteed basic subsistence needs and, therefore, survival. Becoming white increased the possibility of controlling critical aspects of one's life rather than being the object of others' domination.

My grandmother's story illustrates the valorization of whiteness as treasured property in a society structured on racial caste. In ways so embedded that it is rarely apparent, the set of assumptions, privileges, and benefits that accompany the status of being white have become a valuable asset that whites sought to protect and that those who passed sought to attain - by fraud if necessary. Whites have come to expect and rely on these benefits, and over time these expectations have been affirmed, legitimated, and protected by the law. Even though the law is neither uniform nor explicit in all instances, in protecting settled expectations based on white privilege, American law has recognized a property interest in whiteness that, although unacknowledged, now forms the background against which legal disputes are framed, argued, and adjudicated. . . .

With all respect to Professor Harris (and what happened to her grandmother was dreadful), I don't think it's reasonable to build an entire academic discipline around the fact that certain black people once felt it was in their interests to try to "pass" as white. In other unfortunate times, Jews used to "pass" as Christian. Even today, closeted gay men often "pass" as "straight." Norah Vincent just wrote a book about her experience "passing" as a man. Lots of immigrants felt a need to "Anglicize" their names (often because they were unpronounceable in this country; my family name was once spelled "Skjeie").

So what?

But there I go, scoffing at a new idea just as it's ready to be fully, um, integrated within the cultural mainstream. Despite the fact that it's is still being scoffed at by racist inheritors of white privilege (doubtless I fall into this category anyway by my very act of breathing) "whiteness theory" is now widely recognized in academia, and rapidly gaining ground elsewhere:

That the so-called "white race" is not a scientific category but rather a historically constructed social formation, i.e., a kind of myth and indeed a life-threatening lie, is now widely recognized even in that bastion of white supremacy known as Academia. Not yet a decade old, the new abolitionist movement—the organized effort to abolish the white race as a social category, along with the whole miserabilist system that it does so much to sustain—reflects a widespread and growing grassroots ferment with its own characteristic forms of direct action (such as the "cop watch") and an ebullient periodical literature, exemplified by the lively journal, Race Traitor, whose motto, "Treason to Whiteness Is Loyality to Humanity," is perhaps the best short definition of the new movement.

Since belief in the white mystique has a demonstrably paralyzing effect on the collective solution of social problems, the current defection from whiteness must be seen as an authentically revolutionary sign of the times. Predictably, the powers-that-be have responded to the new abolitionism the way they always respond to emancipatory currents: with incomprehension and malice. An article in the New York Times Magazine (November, 1997) set the tone, deriding recent criticism of whiteness not only as an academic fad ("like porn studies a few years ago and queer theory before that"), but also as a trend established by and for whites.

It is important to note that whiteness is not a racial phenomenon, but an American one. Immigrants to this country who happen to be members of the Caucasian race do not start out white; they become white:

The critical examination of whiteness, academic and not, simply involves the effort to break through the illusion that whiteness is natural, biological, normal, and not crying out for explanation. Instead of accepting what James Baldwin called the "lie of whiteness," many people in lots of different fields and movement activities have tried to productively make it into a problem. When did (some) people come to define themselves as white? In what conditions? How does the lie of whiteness get reproduced? What are its costs politically, morally and culturally? Not surprisingly, thinkers from groups for whom whiteness was and is a problem have taken the lead in studying whiteness in this way. Such study began with slave folktales and American Indian stories of contact with whites. The work of such writers as Baldwin, Cheryl Harris, Ida B. Wells, Américo Paredes, W.E. B. Du Bois, Leslie Silko, and Toni Morrison has deepened such traditions. For radical white writers wishing to forge interracial movements of poor and working people, whiteness has also long been a problem, with Alexander Saxton and Ted Allen making especially full efforts to understand whiteness in order to disillusion whites unable to see past the value of their own skins.
I'm still having a tough time seeing past the value of my skin. If it is a form of property, can I sell it, and use the money to move to a country where my whiteness isn't property, or would I be stuck with its "value" there too? I'm not sure I like the idea of having valuable property which can't be sold or alienated, and I'm glad I didn't have to learn about this in my adolescence. I might hate myself more than I do now!

And since I just mentioned adolescents, I might as well report that some of them (at least the ones attending those schools normally thought to be tainted with high-priced whiteness) are having this "whiteness theory" drilled into their guilty little white brains:

Bobby Edwards, the amiable dean for Community and Multicultural Development at Phillips Academy (also known as Andover) in Massachusetts, the country’s oldest boarding school and among its most prestigious, is a case in point. “I do more work than I anticipated around the race issue,” he says ruefully. Edwards teaches a tenth-grade required course called “Life Issues,” which immerses students in the holy trinity of university multiculturalism: race, class, and gender. Many pupils tell Edwards that race is simply not a salient feature in their lives. It will be once Edwards gets through with them, though. He informs his class: “Unless we work to help you have an understanding of the history around this issue, you won’t have a clear understanding of how you really do have a race issue.”

Most troubling to a diversity professional: even some “students of color” are skeptical of racism talk. “They say: ‘I don’t think there’s an issue when I go into a store,’ ” notes Edwards, incredulously. Rather than accepting the students’ reported experience, Edwards chides them: “Are you looking at the people following you around in the store?”

Other prep-school diversity bureaucrats report the same resistance to their message of “all racism, all the time.” Hugo Mahabir, head of multicultural concerns at the Fieldston Academy in the North Bronx, admits: “Students today think, ‘Adults don’t get it: we’re post–civil rights; we’re moving on to something else.’ ” They see explicit discussions of race, gender, and class as “divisive,” confesses Mahabir. Russell Willis, dean of multicultural affairs at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Andover’s younger sibling and archrival, finds it “ironic” that some black students oppose affirmative action, since they benefit from it, he bitterly points out.

In a saner world, these little shoots of colorblindness would be encouraged to spread. A privileged independent school, especially a boarding school, is an ideal hothouse for nurturing them. With their arcadian campuses, rich endowments, and freedom to reject the pedagogical garbage peddled by government, ed schools, and teachers’ unions, private schools can create whatever sort of educational utopia they choose.

I can't begin to understand the thinking that goes on in the minds of parents who shell out huge sums of money to have their children indoctrinated with such poisonous drivel. I can't help wonder, though.... Aren't these boarding schools often used as dumping grounds for the children of rich parents who send the kids there because they don't have time to raise them? To the extent this is true, might it also be true that they don't have time to ascertain what's being tought there?

The idea that "whiteness theory" should be promoted and taught in every university or college as part of "ethnic studies" is not new (so I am embarrassed by my ignorance). Considering that neither are ethnic studies requirements in most schools new, I'd say this is the sort of thing which will soon be a required part of what we call "education" -- everywhere in the United States.

The following comes from a 1997 description of a conference held at the UC Berkeley Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies:

CONFERENCE DESCRIPTION:

As a recent articles in _American Quarterly_ and the _Chronicle of
Higher Education_ explain, there is a growing group of scholars who are working in a new field: the study of whiteness. This field has expanded over the past decade in part as a result of suggestions by intellectuals like Toni Morrison, who have long suggested that race studies must include a critical, self-reflexive body of work about whites which is both anti-racist and progressive. Thus, the study of whiteness is both comparative, in that whiteness is understood as one specific race among others, and critical, in that whiteness is generally viewed as a socially-constructed identity which has historically helped to perpetuate social inequalities. Scholars of whiteness represent a very diverse range of disciplines. Sociologists, historians, anthropologists, as well as practitioners of ethnic, legal, cultural, and literary studies, are bringing interdisciplinary methodologies and critical concerns to the study of whiteness. Additionally, many anti-racist activists have spoken to issues around whiteness as they appear in community organizing, coalition building, and other forms of political movement.

News of the conference made it into USA Today at the time, but for the most part it went underreported, as boring things usually are. Especially things from that boring town, Berkeley.

Ho hum.

It was in Berkeley long ago that I grew tired of being white. Too busy watching my friends die, I guess.

Little did I know how racist I was being.

Sigh.

At least it's all just theoretical.

Speaking of theory, Coco was staring at herself in the mirror for a long time this morning. (I think she's contemplating canine theory.)

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



Well, shift my tranny!

Speaking of news, damned if I'm not a Mazda RX-8. That's news to me.

Why am I always the last to know?

I'm a Mazda RX-8!

You're sporty, yet practical, and you have a style of your own. You like to have fun, and you like to bring friends along for the ride, but when it comes time for everyday chores, you're willing to do your part.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

(Via Dr. Helen, who's a Dodge Viper married to another RX-8. I don't think I've ever married a car.)

posted by Eric at 08:11 AM | Comments (1)



Weathering the news

Increasingly, there seem to be two different "news worlds" for lack of a better term. There's online news, and "regular" news.

Right there I'm realizing that I'm running out of terms, and resorting to improvising on-the-spot euphemisms of my own.

What, in the name of God, is "regular" news? The stuff that manages to find its way past whatever editorial board runs the New York Times, the news that makes it onto major network television, or the news that makes it into the hard copy of my daily, the Philadelphia Inquirer?

I don't know what regular news is.

For that matter, I don't know what "real" news is. If it doesn't get widely reported, is it news? If it gets reported, but barely, then is its relative importance to be determined by that?

I'll illustrate with a few recent examples.

While I would have thought a major change in government in the country to the immediate north of the United States would have been considered of the utmost importance, the news of the Canadian election results was buried in the interior pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Yet today's Inquirer deems Palestinian Authority exit polls (not even tangible election results) worthy of today's front page. Why?

The huge story of Google censorship is buried in the last paragraph of another article with a different headline on page eight -- this despite the fact that a congressman from New Jersey (that's the area of the Inquirer's distribution) is holding hearings on the matter. The Google story is of course huge news on the Internet and everywhere in the blogosphere.

But perhaps I'm overreacting. Perhaps what's big news on the Internet is not news in Philadelphia.

Then there's another story I've touched on before which is huge news on talk radio, and which would be newsworthy if it happened in any other country, and that is the regular cross border incursions (I won't yet call this an invasion) of Mexican troops into the United States.

Just yesterday, another incursion was reported:

Chief Deputy Mike Doyal of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department said that Mexican army personnel had several mounted machine guns on the ground more than 200 yards inside the U.S. border, the Daily Bulletin newspaper reported earlier.

"It's been so bred into everyone not to start an international incident with Mexico that it's been going on for years," Doyal said. "When you're up against mounted machine guns, what can you do? Who wants to pull the trigger first? Certainly not us."

Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West, whose officers were involved in a similar incident last year, said he is certain that Mexican authorities know who was involved.

Whether it should be called an invasion or not, I think this is major news, and the fact that it isn't being reported makes me wonder whether there isn't a serious attempt to relegate any serious discussion of it to paranoid conspiracy status. (Something often triggered precisely because of non-reporting!)

This all begs the question of what is news.

Don't ask me. It's freezing cold outside, and I was earlier told it was a "nice day." Relative to Russia, I suppose it is.

Weather is a relative thing -- something that I, a weather absolutist who believes weather is either good or evil, must admit.

If the truth were told, news would probably be as relative as the weather.

(I said "if" the truth were told....)

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




anatomy of an inhibition

The stuff people say is priceless to behold sometimes.

During a Washington Post panel discussion with Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis, Jane Hamsher (NOTE: Because there's some controversy over the proper location of Jane Hamsher's blog, I deferred to her celebrity URL), and Jay Rosen, an anonymous New York commenter leveled the following charge at Glenn Reynolds:

New York, N.Y.: Why does Professor Reynolds dislike comments on his site, when by linking to the Transit Workers Union Site, they got nearly a 1000 comments of truly vulgar and racially hostile nature, to the point where the union had to close down comments.

He felt free to inhibit the free speech of others, but seems to be afraid to allow that level of exchange on his own site.

Glenn Reynolds: I don't think I was the source of those comments -- they came from people who live in NYC and were inconvenienced by the strike, and the comments were overwhelmingly hostile before I ever linked. Of course, it was the Transit Union's choice whether or not to have comments on their blog. They chose poorly.

Glenn Reynolds: I should add that it's an odd concept of "limiting the free speech of others" that involves linking to someone's blog.

Not only do I agree with Glenn Reynolds, but I've been guilty of similar (albeit on a much smaller scale) conduct -- inhibiting people by linking to their blogs.

While until today I didn't realize that I had actually been a victim, the fact is that for better or for worse, I have been one of those bloggers Glenn saw fit to "inhibit" on a number of occasions. (I was absolutely thrilled and delighted each time, but little did I know.....)

Anyway, because it's happened to me, I think I'm qualified to describe what happens to those blogs that Glenn Reynolds inhibits by linking to them. First, you might notice that if you allow comments like me but don't get that many, you'll suddenly have a flurry of them all on one post. Strange comments from the type people you've never seen before and who you can tell are not regular readers. Then, if you check the counter, you'll first see that there are more people on the blog than the counter can display at once. Next, you'll see that you get something like 20,000 hits when you'd normally have a few hundred. In technical language, this whole process of inhibiting your free speech is called an InstaLanche, and it can be expected to last for days. Here's a colored graph showing the damage an InstaLanche can do as it runs roughshod over a blog's free speech:

InstaLanche.jpg

As you can see, eventually the symptoms die down, and your blog goes back to its previous state of being "uninhibited." Some of the new visitors, however, might like your blog, and if you're especially unlucky they'll keep stubbornly coming back to inhibit you all by themselves even after all other traces of Glenn's "inhibition" wear off.

It's very inhibitating -- to all except the uninhibitible.

MORE: Via Mister Snitch, a blog called Hullabaloo elaborates on Glenn Reynolds' censorship technique:

Glenn Reynolds knew exactly what he was doing when he linked to that blog and sent his massive readership over there to flame them. That's within the rules of engagement. But it's chickenshit when you don't have comments yourself. And it's dishonest in the extreme to pretend that you don't engage that way when you do.
He "sent his massive readership over there to flame them"?

I read through Glenn's post, but I couldn't find anything like that anywhere. No flaming instructions. Nothing. (Obviously, Glenn was too slick to leave any trail.) But as Mister Snitch points out, Digby's readers consider this a flame war, and the commenters advocate a massive retaliatory email attack against Glenn Reynolds. That's because he's guilty of something worse than inhibiting free speech by linking to blog posts, and that's a thing called "eliminationist rhetoric":

We are living in a political world formed by rightwing commentators who have made a fetish of harsh eliminationist rhetoric hammered over and over again into the ether until it sounds like normal discourse.
This is not a new topic for me.

And yes, I'm afraid it's true. I commented about this extensively in an earlier post. In that post, not only did I graphically demonstrate the linkage between Reynolds and eliminationist rhetoric, but I unearthed this very damning statement:

I'm not interested in being anything more than a tool for the right and an echo of their propaganda.
Glenn would probably deny saying that, but there it is! As I said then, "the inner workings of his eliminationist strategy!"

What more proof could anyone want?

Obviously, links from Glenn are goose steps towards eliminationism.


FINAL THOUGHTS ON LIBERTARIAN FASCISM: Stifling dissent by linking to it? Trampling free speech by quoting it? Doesn't this all sound familiar?

Once again,

Ein volk, Ayn Rand, Ein Fuhrer!
Is there any way to make the connection plainer?

posted by Eric at 02:27 PM | Comments (8)



A new "Dress" code?

In another ridiculous dress code dispute, a boy (apparently no transsexual), got the ACLU to help him win the "right" to wear a skirt to school:

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) - A male high school student can wear a skirt to school after the American Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement with school officials.

The ACLU announced the deal Tuesday. It will allow a Hasbrouck Heights School senior to wear a skirt to protest the school's no-shorts policy.

The district's dress code bans shorts between Oct. 1 and April 15, but allows skirts, a policy 17-year-old Michael Coviello believes is discriminatory.

"I'm happy to be able to wear skirts again to bring attention to the fact that the ban on shorts doesn't make sense," Coviello said in a statement.

I think he's happy to wear skirts just to get attention.

This whole flap is an argument in favor of school uniforms, even though it appears to undermine them. There's no reason why a school shouldn't be able to spell out what students wear, although public schools seem to constantly run into ridiculous problems whenever they attempt to do so.

Quite incidentally, when I was a kid, many schools -- private and Catholic parochial schools -- had dress codes far stricter than anything I see today. And ironically, the above boy's claim of "discrimination" could not have been made as easily under those rules, because shorts were allowed as part of the schools' uniforms. They weren't the sloppy, halfway between the knees and ankles variety you see today, though. Girls wore skirts of a certain length with knee socks, and boys wore shorts. But they were dress shorts worn with knee socks, and with school blazers -- the sort of thing today associated mainly with British preparatory schools. (Picture here.) Had the Hasbrouck Heights School in question above allowed boys to wear shorts in that style, the boy in question wouldn't have had a case of "discrimination."

Had the school made such a change in the dress code, would the ACLU would have had a case?

Sometimes, more strict is more fair.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I realize that by today's standards, the idea of boys wearing shorts with knee socks and blazers sounds ridiculous.

But in logic, why is it any more ridiculous than a boy wearing a skirt?

MORE: For more on the subject of dress codes, From the Grand Stand has written some very wise posts on the subject. Excerpt from a favorite:

One of the reasons that societies have dressed children in school uniforms and strictly controlled their behavior is the recognition that children will be resistant to developing their intellect and abilities if they are allowed to develop them outwardly, instead of inwardly. They become shells of human beings. It's so much easier to tattoo your body than it is to expand your mind. When children are forced to become interesting internally because there is no other option available to them to express themselves, they will do so. So, too, with behavior. If there is conformity in acceptable behavior then expressions must become mental hurdles.

Tearing down social conformity just enables outward conformity of a different variety. Western civilization left tribalism behind in the 16th century. Unfortunately, some people didn't get the memo or were incapable of reading it.

What they fail to realize today, however, is that we already know all this about them. Even without the experiment of similar attire and style. There is nothing unique about them at all. They are nothing more than drones (although colorful), trying to feel significant through the acceptance of others, rather than acceptance and development of themselves and their minds.


posted by Eric at 10:49 AM | Comments (6)



Toilets and other Windows of opportunity

An economist I am not. But my earlier toilet post caused me to stumble upon something that challenges my libertarian (Misian) view that government intervention is always a force of economic stagnation, and therefore never a force for economic growth.

On to my unsettling discovery. Initially, I found that, yes, the 1994 law mandating 1.6 gallon toilets did cause quite a commotion, and it did cause a black market in older style toilets that worked. The first 1.6 gallon toilets were terrible, because no thought went into making them work properly. All that happened was that the toilet manufacturers made the tank smaller, and left everything else the same. Thus, the typical ballcock flushing mechanism that worked fine with a 3.5 gallon toilet worked only half as well with a smaller volume of water, meaning that toilets often had to be flushed two or three times, or worse, plunged manually.

With a litany of complaints from consumers, innumerable anti-big-government toilet jokes on talk radio, a "keep the government out of my bathroom" movement was born, and a bill was introduced to deregulate toilets.

Guess whose opposition to the bill killed it?

The environmentalists? No way -- not in a Republican Congress.

It was the toilet manufacturers themselves. It turned out that they'd done pretty well under the new laws prohibiting the older toilets.

This led me to wonder about how many economic opportunities are direct and indirect result of government regulations. If you're a toilet manufacturer, you know that there are only so many toilets in this country, and that while the metal or plastic parts may need to be renewed from time to time, most toilets continue to stay bolted to the floor for many, many years.

Who the hell wants to tear out a toilet unless he really has to? But with the government creating a "has to," that changes everything. Suddenly, the industry woke up and realized that almost every home had an "outmoded" and now illegal toilet. That's many millions of toilets that need to be replaced, with much more expensive alternatives.

In short, such government regulation becomes a manufacturer's dream.

(Libertarians like me object of course. But we're living back in the pre-9/11 Reagan Era.)

Ditto for the window industry. Anyone in the construction business will tell you about the new double pane window requirements for new construction. But now the rules are changing to require even old windows to be upgraded to the double pane variety.

That's millions of windows. Who wouldn't want to be a window manufacturer?

I'm sure there are innumerable examples. Take the disabilty-related rules and regs. One Microsoft executive wrote a piece titled "FEDERAL REGULATION CREATES ECONOMIC INCENTIVES FOR COMPETITION, INNOVATION AMONG TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES" which argued that such regulations create innumerable business opportunities for the high tech community. (Especially for large established companies like Microsoft. Rules like this help insure that its Windows will never be in the toilet.)

I'm sure other examples abound.

How about SUVs? A major reason they're so popular is that child seat laws make it impossible to use a passenger car to transport more than two kids.

Is government regulation good for the economy? I'll always be a diehard libertarian in my thinking, but playing Devil's Advocate occasionally is a good way to flush my soul.

MORE: The comments to this post have reminded me of Bill Clinton's remarks in Canada that adopting the Kyoto regulations would create economic opportunities.

Montreal — Former President Clinton told a global audience of diplomats, environmentalists and others Friday that the Bush administration is “flat wrong” in claiming that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to fight global warming would damage the U.S. economy.

With a “serious disciplined effort” to develop energy-saving technology, he said, “we could meet and surpass the Kyoto targets in a way that would strengthen and not weaken our economies.”

Clinton, a champion of the Kyoto Protocol, the existing emissions-controls agreement opposed by the Bush administration, spoke in the final hours of a two-week U.N. climate conference at which Washington has come under criticism for its stand.

Here here!

And here's the picture of Bill Clinton at the conference, next to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin:

MARTINCLINTON.jpg

Considering the recent Canadian election results, doesn't that picture seem to cry out for a caption?

posted by Eric at 08:56 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (2)



A study in contrast

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, local citizen Kathy Stevenson (who I think it's fair to say is speaking for many women, and probably many men if the truth were told) writes very eloquently about fear:

Whereas one kind of fear wore the face of the bogeyman (Bundy, Charles Manson, various other psychos), suddenly the bad guy could be anyone. The grown man who still lived at home and was always quiet. The loner whom none of the neighbors knew. The boy down the street who always seemed like a nice kid. The loving father and husband who one day just snapped and went on a rampage.

As I sit double-bolted in my house, my motion-sensitive outside lights at the ready, I watch the day's carnage on television and breathe a guilty sigh of relief. All of my loved ones are accounted for today. There was a moment at the bank when a deranged-looking man who was muttering to himself made all of us in line more than a little nervous. And, waiting to cross Lancaster Avenue, the loud backfire of a bus caused several of us to jump and then laugh nervously. And, of course, the dash to the car at night.

We seem to accept as a fact of life that nowhere in the world is safe anymore. Those former sanctuaries, the suburbs and the workplace, have been laid open like a wound for all of us to wonder what happened.

Maybe what happened is that we've simply learned to live with fear. As long as we make it home every day in one piece, we can lock the door behind us with a satisfying click and dream sweet dreams. At least until the next day.

Reading this, I wanted to scream out loud, "It doesn't have to be this way!"

That's all too easy a thing for an armed man living with an overly alert pit bull to say, isn't it?

So normally, I wouldn't have said it.

Ms. Stevenson's thoughts on fear (articulate as they are) would have been just another thing in the paper that upset me, but which I'd have quickly decided was unworthy of a blog post. Who am I to even appear to be taking issue with the legitimate fears of a woman I have never met who is obviously speaking from the heart?

And I would have left the fear piece alone had it not reminded me of a different view -- from a different woman -- on how to handle these same all-encompassing fears.

That woman is "The Mrs." (I'm assuming that means Mrs. du Toit), and here are her thoughts about fear in her husband's blog:

NOTE: The whole post is a must-read; what follows is only a small excerpt.

I had a similar situation in my own life. I, too, had an ex who was menacing and threatening. In one of those “blame anyone but myself” communications with my kids he said, “I can’t come around anymore. Now your mother has guns.” It isn’t so easy and fun to threaten a woman when she has the means and the discipline to defend herself, is it?

I could go on and on with hundreds of examples, just like this. Many of our members tell us about their personal stories of helping someone choose their first gun, and helping them learn how to use it. We can’t even begin to count how many there are, but we’re sure it’s in the many thousands now. Those thousands will share that mentoring approach with their friends, and on and on it goes. “One citizen at a time” works.

It’s so simple. I think some people don’t realize just how simple it is. I know I never did. Gun ownership isn’t about so many of the things people think it is. It isn’t all the negative stereotypes of men with issues with their penis size or owning a gun to become a criminal. And, most importantly, it isn’t about being able to shoot someone for being rude or offensive. It’s about protecting your life. That decision to spend a few hundred dollars on a piece of metal is a really amazing thing. We all know that guns are inanimate objects, incapable of harming anyone or any thing on their own. But the decision to purchase a gun and learn to use one responsibility is a kind of right of passage. It’s all about growing up emotionally and recognizing that there are real dangers in the world. It also means that people value their own life and have accepted that they time they’ve spent on this earth, working hard and earning money to buy stuff that is worth protecting, too. “It is MINE and YOU can’t take it from me.” Such a powerful thought and so many of these new thoughts accompany that apparently simple purchase. But it isn’t a simple purchase, is it?

It’s a decision. It is a decision that will alter the way the new gun owner views the world and their place in it.

It means that the owner has made many important decisions about their life. But what it really comes down to, when you add up all those decisions, is this: I take control and responsibility for my life and I have the right, the courage, the discipline, and the expertise to stand my ground.

I know that many people will read the above and say "guns are never the answer!"

Never?

Might that not depend on whether fear becomes the question?

posted by Eric at 07:44 AM | Comments (2)




Swimming with RINOs

I'm running late today so I don't have time to review the posts, but everyone be sure to check out this week's RINO sightings Carnival, hosted at phin's blog!

Great blog, great graphics, and nice job, phin!

posted by Eric at 02:38 PM



The things nice people do!

I see that a sickening Philadelphia story involving the apparently random, near fatal beating of a Haitian immigrant has reached the attention of Drudge, who links to this Breitbart report. The facts are appalling enough simply because of the cavalier nature of what was done:

A Drexel University engineering graduate student told police he was attacked Friday afternoon by four young men who beat him and tried to throw him in front of a moving car, authorities said. The 30-year-old victim was treated for a dislocated jaw.

The suspects, walking around after a scheduled half-day of school, videotaped themselves before the attack as they discussed how they were going to assault a random victim, then took turns holding the camera during the beating, said police Lt. John Walker.

"They were talking about (how) it was an early day (from school), the weather was nice, and what they were going to do," Walker said. "In the beginning, it's almost like a documentary."

"Just pick somebody out, anybody out," one student said to another on the video, according to Walker. He said there were about two minutes of taping before the assault.

Police identified one of the suspects arrested Monday as Tyrez Osbourne, 18. The other, ages 17 and 16, were not identified because of their ages. After their arrests, all four were expelled from University City High School, district officials said.

The Inquirer version reads differently, adding details about the victim's Haitian identity, and a discussion of whether this attack (which the police describe as "mind boggling") was a hate crime:
Four University City High School students have been arrested on charges of randomly beating and nearly killing a Drexel University graduate student by shoving him into traffic in West Philadelphia - all the while videotaping the attack, police said yesterday.

"It's a very disturbing film," said Lt. John F. Walker of Southwest Detectives' Special Investigation Unit. "It's just mind-boggling."

The 30-year-old engineering student, a Haitian immigrant whose name was not released, was assaulted on 36th Street just south of Spring Garden Street at 1:10 p.m. Friday as he was walking northbound to his nearby apartment, Walker said at a news conference.

The victim wants to leave Philadelphia and return home to Haiti, Walker said. "He's very fearful of his life and of living in that area," he said.

The victim asked police not to release his name out of fear for his safety, said Capt. Benjamin Naish, a police spokesman. Police say they do not believe the attack was a hate crime.

If the facts are as stated and the victim was singled out at random, I don't see how could it legally be a hate crime. For starters, where's the hate? It would be as if a sniper just started shooting at whomever came along. (Well, no it wouldn't be. Because snipers use guns, and we all know that guns are the actual cause of shootings.)

What I find most appalling about this story is something that I keep seeing in reports involving horrendous crimes -- recitals that the accused criminals are actually good people. Breitbart quotes the mother of one of the accused:

Osbourne's mother said he was an innocent bystander who happened to be nearby and caught on tape.

"He ain't that kind of guy," she told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Yes, she did tell the Inquirer that, and I suppose it's something that a mother would be expected to say.

But the Inquirer also quotes teachers who say pretty much the same thing:

Jeffrey Rosenberg, a health and physical education teacher at University City High and the teachers' union representative in the building, said one of those arrested was a student in his class.

He said he was stunned by the news.

"You meet these kids. You have a good rapport with them in classes. It just makes you wonder: How much do we really know them?" he said. "It's very disturbing, very upsetting."

I don't know how to react to this. Should I take Mr. Rosenberg at his word that he had a "good rapport" with "these kids"? I mean, assume that he was scared to death of them. Would he tell the Inquirer that?

The football coach of these is quoted as being "stunned" by the fact that a "nice young man" would do something like this:

Ken Gritter, University City High's assistant basketball coach, said word of the arrests had already spread among basketball players yesterday when he heard about them from a reporter.

"I would not have expected that of him," Gritter said of the player he was told was involved. "He's a very nice young man. Stunned is the only word that comes to mind."

I'm wondering if we'll ever know why nice people behave like criminals.

Fortunately for law abiding firearms owners, there weren't any guns involved. (The word "children" seems to be reserved for occasions when a teenager gets shot.)

Still, there's the lingering question of what would make nice people go out and do something like this.

To make a video?

Video. That must be it.

I blame violent videos for video violence. Plus the easy availability and low cost of video equipment.

posted by Eric at 01:07 PM | Comments (2)



Global Warming linkage my ass . . .

Because of the near hysterical tone, my attention was drawn to this piece by an "educational consultant" (not quite sure what that means) named Alyssa Robins. She maintains that frogs will soon all be extinct because of a fungus caused by Global Warming:

it has now been determined that the chytrid fungus, which causes a potentially fatal disease in amphibians, has exploded over the entire region and has led to the near-extinction of this and other species of frog. But why the overgrowth of chytrids?

Global warming! You know, that nasty enemy we keep hearing about that "those alarmists in the media" blame for killer hurricanes such as Katrina. Well, now we know that global warming not only threatens our beachfront property, but also has changed weather patterns just enough to make it ideal for a certain fungus to grow.

This fungus likes it not too hot and not too cold. And global warming has proven very obliging. Warming has increased night-time temperatures (or length of time it's warm at night) as well as the amount of cloud cover, thereby increasing the number of days it's not too warm. VoilÀ! Very good for chytrids. Very bad for harlequin frogs.

Amphibian species all over the world are facing extinction for similar reasons - which suggests that the world we share with them is increasingly stressed and less and less capable of the rich diversity of life it has held for millions of years. Hold onto those children's books. Your children are less likely than you were to get to see frogs by any creek bed. Keep your memories alive, cause you'll want to tell your grandchildren what it was once like to be able to play around outside near a stream and actually catch a frog.

No more frogs because of Global Warming? Gee, that's awful, because I like frogs as much as some people hate Bush.

The only confirming source Ms. Robbins cites is a January 12 Nature Magazine article (cited in many many articles like this one) ascribing the outbreak of the chytrid disease in Costa Rica to Global Warming-induced cloud cover. This is said to cause lower daytime temperatures and higher nighttime temperatures -- conditions said to be ideal for fungal growth:

Warmer temperatures increased cloud cover over the tropical mountain which the scientists believe promoted conditions to spur the growth of the chytrid fungus that kills frogs.

“There is absolutely a linkage between global warming and this disease — they go hand-in-hand,” said Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, a University of Alberta scientist and a co-author of the research.

“With this increase in temperature, the bacteria has been able to increase its niche and wipe out large populations of amphibians in the Americas,” he added in a statement.

Absolutely?

That's starting to sound like absolutism, if you ask me.

The problem with this central hypothesis is that it might very well be absolutely wrong. That's because the cloud cover data appear to demonstrate a reverse correlation:

The authors cite a warming of nearby ocean waters as driving local warming, but they find that daytime temperatures are in decline while night temperatures are rising. What causes the warming to be preferentially divided into the night, with an actual daytime cooling? Pounds et al. suggest that this is a result of an increase in cloud cover related to global warming (and, in particular, oceanic warming). This is a testable hypothesis. It was not tested.

Figure 2 is global cloudiness as measured since satellite records began, taken from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) site (http://isccp.giss.nasa.gov). This is generally an era of planetary warming. Cloud cover increases from the beginning of the record in 1983, through 1987, falls from 1987 to 2000, and rises again slightly after 2000. The overall correlation between warming and cloudiness is negative. (Latter emphasis added.)

Huh? How can a negative correlation support the scientific, um, finding (?) that there is "absolutely a linkage"?

Isn't it more likely that this fungal frog disease was, like many diseases, introduced, and that the frogs have not adapted to it?

Not only does the World Climate Review blog cite sources to this effect, but the CDC published a study arguing the same thing:

The sudden appearance of chytridiomycosis, the cause of amphibian deaths and population declines in several continents, suggests that its etiologic agent, the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was introduced into the affected regions. However, the origin of this virulent pathogen is unknown. A survey was conducted of 697 archived specimens of 3 species of Xenopus collected from 1879 to 1999 in southern Africa in which the histologic features of the interdigital webbing were analyzed. The earliest case of chytridiomycosis found was in a Xenopus laevis frog in 1938, and overall prevalence was 2.7%. The prevalence showed no significant differences between species, regions, season, or time period. Chytridiomycosis was a stable endemic infection in southern Africa for 23 years before any positive specimen was found outside Africa. We propose that Africa is the origin of the amphibian chytrid and that the international trade in X. laevis that began in the mid-1930s was the means of dissemination.
An African fungus spreads from tropical Africa to tropical Costa Rica where it kills frogs, and that's because of Global Warming?

Next they'll be saying AIDS is caused by Global Warming. Surely a correlation can be found. Hasn't the rate of AIDS infection in humans increased at least as fast as the rate of chytrid infection in frogs? Sure, the Global Warming denialists will say that AIDS spread from Africa, but I think there's got to be "absolutely a linkage" to be found somewhere between AIDS and climate change. (What? I should change the title of this post? Never!)

Frogs and humans need to be saved now from Bush's Global Warming -- before we all croak!

In other important news, I see that President Bush and most of his cabinet have been indicted by the Bush Crimes Commission in New York (headed by such notables as Harry Belafonte and Scott Ritter), and a leading witness who testified against Bush was General Janis Karpinski, former abu Ghraib Commander.

The indictments are here, and include the following:

Indictment on War of Aggression
Indictment on Torture and Detention
Indictment on Global Climate
Indictment on Global Health
Indictment on Hurricane Katrina
Isn't it obvious that there's absolutely a linkage?

posted by Eric at 07:53 AM




Is gobbledygook beyond reform? Or does it invite reform?

In a report described as a "bombshell," Townhall.com's Diana West says that "Pope Benedict XVI is said to believe that Islam is incapable of reform":

This bombshell dropped out of an early January interview conducted by radio host Hugh Hewitt with the Rev. Joseph D. Fessio, SJ, a friend and former student of the pope. The Rev. Fessio recounted the pope's words on the key problem facing Islamic reform this way: "In the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Muhammad, but it's an eternal word. It's not Muhammad's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it." Fessio continued, elaborating not on how many ratings stars the pope thinks some biopic should get, but rather on the pope's theological assessment of a historically warring religion with a billion-plus followers, some notorious number of whom are now at war with the West. According to his friend, the pope believes there's no way to change Islam because there's no way to reinterpret the Koran -- i.e., change Koranic teachings on infidels, women, polygamy, penal codes and other markers of Islamic law -- in such a way as to propel Islam into happy coexistence with modernity.

As I said, a bombshell. But this is one bombshell that has yet to explode because no one wants to touch it. Hugh Hewitt posted the extraordinary interview online, a couple of blogs picked it up, and Middle East expert Daniel Pipes wrote a short piece taking exception to it, but, as the Asia Times Online columnist Spengler noted (in a column called "When even the pope has to whisper"), "not a single media outlet has taken notice." Posting the Spengler column at The Corner at National Review Online, Rod Dreher wrote: "Spengler is amazed by the silence from the Western media over this remarkable statement attributed to the current pope ... and he suggests that we shrink from acknowledging it because the consequences of the pope being right about this are too horrible to contemplate." Indeed, with one exception, NRO Corner regulars failed to comment on the pope's putative words -- noteworthy, given the magazine's tradition of a Catholic identity.

Is facing up to the pope's notion of unreformable Islam really too horrible to contemplate? Sounds to me like the fabled abyss. By coincidence, a senior officer in Iraq with whom I've been corresponding made a similar point in explaining why he hoped for Islamic reform: basically, because without the hope of such reform, there is no hope of such reform -- which, I assume, leads to those horrible consequences mentioned above, beginning, well, with hopelessness.

But despair masked in the wishful silence of studied neglect is the wrong response. That is, if the pope is right and Islam is not reformable along the lines of a Western model, it's not a Western problem -- meaning a problem the West is responsible for fixing. It is perhaps the ultimate Western chauvinism that even considering the failed overhaul of Islam, being beyond Muslim doctrine and beyond our own capabilities, should plunge us -- infidels, non-Muslims, Jeffersonian deists, whatever -- into the abyss. With apologies to Pygmalion via Lerner and Lowe, the question shouldn't be: "Why Can't Islam Be More Like the West?" It should be: "How can the West prevent itself from becoming more like Islam?"

Scary stuff to contemplate, and that last question reminded me of Clayton Cramer's review of Robert Ferrigno's new book, Prayers For The Assassin. (A future scenario of the "Islamic States of America.")

I don't know whether Ferrigno's view of Islam is the same as the Pope's (frankly, I'm not sure precisely what the Pope's view is), but I have noticed that those in the West who assert that Islam is inherently a fundamentalist religion not open to any interpretation are usually fundamentalists themselves.

For reasons I've never been fully able to understand, fundamentalists often maintain that words are not open to interpretation, yet (as can be seen in the debate over the relatively new concept of "The Rapture") fundamentalists themselves have tremendous disagreements based on interpretation.

With all respect to the Pope, to Christian fundamentalists, and to others who maintain the Koran isn't subject to interpretation, I would note that the Koran consists of words, of language. The assertion that words and language are not or cannot be subject to interpretation strikes me as unreasonable. Even the most simple words and phrases are often incapable of definition. As good an example of any is the phrase "graven image" in the Ten Commandments; if even fundamentalist Christians cannot agree on how to interpret that, imagine the problems with the Koran (which is loaded with similar phraseology, and which contradicts itself in many places. See this article on stoning, as another example.)

Daniel Pipes (someone I think it's fair to describe as no apologist for Islam) examined a simple phrase from the Koran -- "there is no compulsion in religion" -- and found a plethora of religious opinions. He concluded that it means whatever believers want it to mean:

Islam - like all religions - is whatever believers make of it. The choices for Muslims range from Taliban-style repression to Balkan-style liberality. There are few limits; and there is no "right" or "wrong" interpretation. Muslims have a nearly clean slate to resolve what "no compulsion" means in the 21st century.

Conversely, nonspecialists should be very cautious about asserting the meaning of the Koran, which is fluid and subjective. When Alan Reynolds wrote that the no-compulsion verse means the Koran "counsels religious tolerance," he intended well but in fact misled his readers.

Further, many other areas of Islam have parallels to this debate. Muslims can decide afresh what jihad signifies, what rights women have, what role government should play, what forms of interest on money should be banned, plus much else. How they resolve these great issues affects the whole world. Finally, although Muslims alone will make these decisions, Westerners can influence their direction. Repressive elements (such as the Saudi regime) can be set back by a reduced dependence on oil. More liberal Muslims (such as the Ataturkists) can be marginalized by letting an Islamist-led Turkey enter the European Union.

I'm worried also worried that in the haste to declare the Koran closed to all interpretation, the history of Islam -- especially Shia Islam -- is being forgotten.

According to many Sunnis (and this Sunni web site) Shia Islam believes the Koran is incomplete:

The QURAN is incomplete and distorted. The original QURAN had 17,000 verses. Hence 2/3 of the QURAN is missing. The original QURAN, compiled by Hadhrat Áli would be brought back by Imaam Mahdi.
(This charge is denied elsewhere, of course.)

I'm no religious scholar, but it's obvious to me that there's a lot of contentious interpretation of the Koran going on. For example, one (apparently fundamentalist) writer contends not only that Shia and Sunni Islam are both wrong, but that Sunni religious authorities use Hadiths to prevent people from following the Koran:

The ulema divided themselves into sunnis and shias, each satisfied with what they have. The sunni factions further divided into sub cults. The shias are no different with their 12 imams cult, 7 imams cult, jabariyyah and others. Each one thinking they are better than the other.

Because of this evil which they have committed the sunni and shia ulema have no part in the faith that was preached by our beloved Prophet.

Both being falsehoods the sunni and shia cults share many things in common. One striking similarity is that the ulema of both these inadvertently claim to be "jahil" or ignorant. The sunni ulema say they cannot understand the Quran. And they threaten violence (like cutting off your head or locking you up in special religious jails) to bulldoze their view that if you ONLY follow God's revealed message to mankind i.e. THE QURAN ALONE then you will stray from God's message to mankind! A clear-cut case of ulema gobbledygook.

To help them out of this "jahil" predicament their ulema have fabricated thousands of hadith.

Hadith shmadith.

Hey, as far as I'm concerned, it's all gobbledygook.

Such stuff cries out for interpretation.

posted by Eric at 12:40 PM | Comments (6)



Lending a hand in Canada?

Speaking of Michael Moore, I see that he's railing against a possible conservative victory in Canada:

"Oh, Canada -- you're not really going to elect a Conservative majority on Monday, are you? That's a joke, right? I know you have a great sense of humor, ... but this is no longer funny," Moore complained in a commentary on his website.

I just wonder....

Could Michael Moore be trying to influence the Canadian election the way he influenced the 2004 election in this country?


UPDATE (11:38 p.m.): The Conservatives in Canada appear to have won:

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada took a tentative step to the right in Monday's federal election, ousting the Liberals after 12 years in power and voting in a fragile minority Conservative government, television networks said.

Preliminary official figures at 11 p.m. (0400 GMT Tuesday) showed the Conservatives winning or ahead in 122 electoral districts compared to 103 for the Liberals of Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The result was a personal triumph for Conservative leader Stephen Harper, a 46-year-old economist who forced through the creation of the party in December 2003 by uniting two squabbling right-wing movements.

"It shows that Canadians were looking for change," deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay told CTV.

Support for the Liberals shrank amid voter fatigue and a major kickback scandal which brought down the minority government of Prime Minister Paul Martin in November.

How long Harper can stay in power is open to serious question, since he will have nowhere near the 155 seats he needs to hold a majority in the 308-seat House of Commons.

Maybe Michael Moore is working for Karl Rove after all....

posted by Eric at 10:02 AM | Comments (3)



Whose gun culture is this?

Much to the credit of his newspaper and his profession, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Robert Moran takes a hard look at the statistics behind Philadelphia's shooting victims, who turn out to be not quite as innocent as they're often portrayed. A full 70% have criminal records:

Coleman was one of Philadelphia's 380 homicide victims last year, when the rate of killing spiked. Coleman's death also reflects another trend that is sometimes overlooked while the city grapples with the jump in homicides: Increasing numbers of victims had criminal pasts.

More than 70 percent of those killed last year had been arrested at least once, according to police statistics, and some were hard-core street thugs. Two years earlier, the figure was 64 percent.

From Dec. 1 through Jan. 8, 12 of 46 victims - 26 percent - had 10 arrests or more, Homicide Capt. Michael Costello said. One had 23 arrests, and another had 31.

"The drug culture and the gun culture are just so prevalent, and the people who play in that culture are either the victims or shooters," said Chief Inspector Joseph Fox, head of detectives.

Of course, there were people with no criminal history who were killed in robberies, through domestic abuse, as bystanders in shootings, and in petty disputes.

The majority of the killings, however, were "bad guys on bad guys," Fox said.

No reasonable person would argue that society should turn its back on homicide victims who turn out to be "bad guys." The murder of even a convicted murderer is still a murder and it should be taken just as seriously as any other murder. Maybe even more seriously, because the types of murders resulting from criminal disputes are precisely the type leading to future retaliatory killings.

But I don't think it helps society to blame the guns they use (and advocate disarming law abiding people), especially considering the fact that any armed criminal is by his nature already violating countless gun laws. It might legitimately be asked what convicted criminals are doing running around with guns they're prohibited from having, but blaming the guns makes about as much sense as blaming stolen property for having been there to steal. (Many of the guns they use, of course, are stolen from law abiding citizens.)

But people who hate guns just hate guns. I think this hatred makes them see law abiding gun owners as a bigger stumbling block than armed criminals. If you believe passionately that all guns should be in the hands of either criminals or police, then naturally you'll tend to see all gun owners as criminals, or dangerously deluded psychos. Criminals with guns are a lesser threat, because it is universally acknowledged that they are criminals. It has something to do with the regulatory mindset, and maybe human nature. People who hate marijuana tend to regard legal users smoking dope in an Amsterdam cafe as far "worse" than furtive street users living in fear of stiff mandatory sentences. Seen this way, even a drug dealer is "better" because he is an acknowledged criminal. Thus, he's less of a moral threat. Anything which is done legally is a much direr threat to the moral authority of those who want it prohibited.

This is true even if the laws are not enforced, or are unenforceable. It never ceased to amaze me how supporters of "sodomy" laws often enjoyed pointing out that the laws were "rarely or never enforced" -- as if this was an argument in favor of keeping them on the books!

But the workings of the regulatory human mind are baffling. It's one of the reasons I so hate politics.

Sometimes I hate politics so much that I wish it could be made illegal. But it would take politics to get rid of politics, which is no solution at all. (As Mao said, "in order to get rid of the gun, it is necessary to take up the gun.")

But Philadelphia police authorities are not about to cite Mao. Instead (to return to Chief Inspector Joseph Fox's quote above), they blame the "gun culture."

I'd like to know just what is meant by the term "gun culture"? Inspector Fox straps on his holster every morning, and in all probability he is armed when he's at home. What is culture? Can a living with a particular object be said to be a cultural phenomenon? I own cars; am I part of the "car culture"? Does my ownership of a dog make me a member of the "dog culture"? Or, more particularly in the case of Coco, part of the "pit bull culture"? Is what I might do in my alleged bedroom also part of a "culture"?

I hate to sound like a nitpicker, but these terms are thrown around willy-nilly without definition, and then when I look for explanations I can't find them. So, just for today, I'll stick with "gun culture."

According to author John Ross (who has written a book on the subject), "gun culture" consists of those who own guns and practice shooting skills -- excluding police:

The gun culture is comprised of those people for whom shooting skills hold great importance. People in the gun culture do not necessarily own a lot of guns, however, they shoot whatever guns they do own quite a bit. They are voracious consumers of ammunition because they are serious about improving and maintaining their skills, just as serious musicians practice daily, and serious readers spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and many hours each year on books.

An estimated 100 million people in this country own at least one gun, but these are not all members of the gun culture. (Please note that though a few police officers are members of the gun culture, most are not. This should not surprise anyone who thinks about it for a few moments. Police have many responsibilities, but firing a gun in the line of duty is something many never need to do during decades of service.)

In my first novel Unintended Consequences, I described the term gun culture in this way, and it was a central part of the story. Since then, I have seen the term used ever more frequently in the mainstream media, usually to describe the same group of people that I am. I am very heartened by this.

Well, I just saw it in the mainstream media too, but I can hardly describe myself as heartened, because according to the Philadelphia police, it is "we" -- the members of the "gun culture" -- who are to blame for Philadelphia's high murder rate.

Yet what is the logical connection between law abiding gun owners and armed criminals? Inspector Fox does not spell this out, but others (notably Michael Moore) have. Whether he's making a communitarian, Michael Moore-style argument or whether he's saying that armed criminals constitute the "gun culture," I'm not sure. There's no way to know.

That's the magic of coded language. The same term can mean different things to different people.

But the argument can be made that Inspector Fox should watch his language. According to the United Nations types (and Amnesty International), in places like Haiti the term "gun culture" would include criminals, the law abiding, and even the police.

Haiti is awash with small arms which are fuelling violence and human rights abuses and threaten planned elections, according to Amnesty International.

The group says armed criminal gangs and police officers alike are able to act with impunity towards civilians.

It urges the US-appointed interim government and UN peacekeepers to carry out complete disarmament.

But why should the the "peacekeepers" get to be armed?

Do they live in a "gun culture" all their own?

(I don't know, and I wish I could do a better job of interpreting the news.)

posted by Eric at 07:27 AM




Any clown can get in a picture . . .

Leave it to Time Magazine to make a big deal out of photographs allegedly taken of the president with Jack Abramoff.

Frankly, I'd be surprised if there weren't any such "incriminating" photos. Any Washington hustler worth his salt will try to elbow his way into being photographed with the president.

Bill and Hillary Clinton were photographed with too many lowlifes to recite here, and the same could be said about almost any prominent politician.

I wish I could reproduce my favorite "incriminating" photo (which I saw years ago in Time or Newsweek), but I can't find it anywhere on the Internet.

It was Rosalyn Carter with John Wayne Gacy.

Highly incriminating, of course......


MORE: Whoa, just look what a mean dirt digger unearthed at some web site in Germany:

Cartergacy.jpg

Case closed!

posted by Eric at 10:17 AM




Vintage recycling project

I'm having a bit of a low tech problem.

My toilet is one of those tacky, early landlord special, low-flush models which ought to be called a "no-flush" toilet, because it often takes several flushes to get its job done, and many times a plunger is needed in addition to that. (Yechh!)

As Radley Balko pointed out, these notorious, bureaucratically-mandated toilets created a black market in the United States for Canadian toilets:

In 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, a big, honking piece of legislation that sought to codify into federal law the thousands of administrative laws put forth by the Department of Energy. It set crucial, national-security-affecting policies such as how cold refrigerators were permitted to be. Also included in that massive bill was a tiny, barely-noticed-at-the-time provision mandating that every toilet sold in the United States after the year 1994 use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That provision quickly became known in toilet industry circles (yes, there are toilet industry circles) as the flush twice rule, as patriotic, beef-eating Americans who bought domestic toilets after 1994 had no choice but to flush twice to be sure all their business washed away before houseguests arrived. It also created Im not kidding a black market for Canadian toilets toilets with big, glorious, gluttonous bowls, capable of holding 3, 3 , even four gallons of water.
Sigh.

I've long favored keeping the government out of our bedrooms. So how the hell did they get into the bathrooms? It doesn't stop with low flow toilets, either. "Potty parity" laws (see my angry post on the subject) are already a reality in many cities and in most new construction. The most visible result is fewer urinals -- which means men are wasting a bowl full of water to take a leak! (Fighting sexism, I guess, trumps water conservation....)

Anyway, after five years of living here, my piece of crap crapper has become loose at the base, not in the usual manner which can be solved by pulling and reseating the toilet with a new wax ring, but the whole mounting ring is loose in the floor (which means the flooring has rotted in the area around the toilet flange and will have to be replaced).

I don't feel like spending my time and money removing a toilet I hate and repairing the floor, only to reinstall the same God-awful Toilet from Hell. This house was built in 1911, and I'd like a toilet of a style similar to the one which was obviously once here originally. The problem is, they're not easy to find, as there are a whole host of laws prohibiting vintage toilets, nor are used toilets available for sale in this area. I'm thinking that I should try to find a wrecking contractor or wrecking yard, tell them I need an old toilet for a planter or an art project, and take my chances.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Thanks to the insightful comments below, my research led me to the startling discovery that used toilets which once belonged to Jerry Garcia have recently been offered for sale!

posted by Eric at 08:24 PM | Comments (8)



What if your best friend can't talk?

Via Nick Packwood, I learned that philanderers should think carefully about what animals they select as pets. A British parrot named "Ziggy" (named for David Bowie, of course) spilled the beans on his owner's girlfriend:

LONDON, England -- A computer programmer found out his girlfriend was having an affair when his pet parrot kept repeating her lover's name, British media reported Tuesday.

The African grey parrot kept squawking "I love you, Gary" as his owner, Chris Taylor, sat with girlfriend Suzy Collins on the sofa of their shared flat in Leeds, northern England.

But when Taylor saw Collins's embarrassed reaction, he realized she had been having an affair -- meeting her lover in the flat whilst Ziggy looked on, the UK's Press Association reported.

Mr. Taylor ended up dumping his girlfriend and poor Ziggy (the latter had to go because "the bird continued to call out Gary's name and refused to stop squawking the phrases in his ex-girlfriend's voice").

I understand his reasoning, but personally, I'd keep the parrot. These birds are adept attention grabbers, and they have an uncanny knack for discovering key phrases most likely to arouse emotional responses from humans. (Hence, parrots often learn embarrassing, foulmouthed, and downright pathological phrases -- anything to bring the master running.) Who knows? Ziggy may well have loved his owner and hated the girlfriend, who complains that Mr. Taylor "spent more time talking to [Ziggy] than he did to me."

Ziggy did his owner a favor, and I think if Taylor had kept the bird, he'd have developed emotional calluses which would have been better in the long run to help him over the trauma. Getting rid of Ziggy strikes me as a tad ungrateful.

An easy thing for me to say, because Coco can't talk.

(But if she could, I think what she'd have to say would be far less interesting than the fact that I had the world's first talking dog.)

posted by Eric at 04:19 PM | Comments (1)




Let's make homoerotic ardor perfectly clear!

Just when I wasn't sure whether I was really a bona fide RINO or just a RINO In Name Only, curveball thrower James Wolcott had to go and say this:

...it's clear that there's a homoerotic ardor for Bush by neonconservatives that bypasses reason and reduces them to hero-worshipping mush.
Sheesh.

Statements like that make me want to go find a closet and publicly lock myself in.

In other news, Wolcott discloses for the record that he:

  • is not gay; and
  • does not drink
  • Frankly, I was a bit sorry to see this, and not just because of my distaste for the type of ad hominem attacks that put Wolcott on the defensive. While I've tried to avoid speculating about James Wolcott's personal life, there's a side of me that would have liked him all the more if he was in fact a gay drunk. Much as his opinions disturb me, I like the way he expresses himself -- to the point where I once sort of tried to defend him against Justin's charge that he was overly fond of Vienna sausages.

    Some things should be kept in the closet where they belong.

    posted by Eric at 11:47 PM | Comments (4)



    A crime without a criminal?

    I think the following Philadelphia Inquirer story -- headlined "Kids, Guns and a Deadly Toll" -- is a remarkable piece of reporting, not for what it says, but for what it does not say:

    It's as if the minute Darnell Winn, 15, was shot and killed Saturday night, the streets started screaming his name: "Mook."

    The nickname is spray-painted on abandoned houses, freshly tattooed on friends' forearms, scrawled on teddy bears on the sidewalk at 20th and Mifflin Streets in South Philadelphia where he was killed.

    Mook's mother, Darcell Winn, says her son, a ninth grader at South Philadelphia High, wasn't good at reading and writing but loved art. "God takes one thing from you and he gives you another thing," she said. She paid $130 a month so Darnell could send drawings to a correspondence art school.

    In Mook's room, his brother Da'Shawn, 2, tries to open a box of paintbrushes Mook received for Christmas. His mother regards the boy she gave birth to at 40. "God takes one," she says, "and I guess he gave me the baby."

    A riveter, Darcell Winn was working when her mother called around midnight with confusing news. "I thought, 'Lord, it's not time for me to punch out.' "

    Earlier, she had reminded Mook and his brother Dawoyne, 16, who were staying the night at their grandmother's, that they needed nice clothes for her birthday the next day. The brothers were heading home to get them when shots rang out. Police are investigating.

    In a school composition last year, Mook wrote: "I believe that people shoud not be able to get a gun ... I believe that people shoud have to pay tax's. I believe in god because he is a powerful man. I believe in luck. I believe there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I will go to collage and get a great J.O.B."

    The death of anyone -- especially a young person -- is a serious matter, and I have no problem with reporting the human interest aspects of any such death.

    But in the case of a killing, aren't we entitled to more than a recital that "shots rang out," and "police are investigating"? In the context of the story, it's as if the details of the killing have become irrelevant.

    To illustrate my concern, imagine if this same boy had been killed by someone wielding a knife or a car. Would the report show a similar lack of detail?

    "a knife blade flashed. Police are investigating"

    or

    "a car slammed into him. Police are investigating"

    Considering the attention given to the details about the victim and his family (along with the inherently outrageous nature of the crime) why doesn't there seem to be any concern over the identity of the suspect?

    Have the identities, motivations, and whereabouts of child killers suddenly become a secondary consideration in the Inquirer's crime reporting?

    Or is it possible that because of editorial bias against guns, the Inquirer thinks that the gun is all that matters?

    Has the gun become the suspect?

    Had this same kid been the victim of a fatal hit-and-run accident, I don't think the headline would have read "Kids, Cars and a Deadly Toll." I think there would there have been a major focus on identifying of the driver, and if his identity was unknown, the Inquirer would have given readers a police hotline number to call with any tips. (Maybe the name of any investigating officer, too?) Instead, this story reads as if the case is closed, as if the murderer's identity is beside the point.

    This kid was a human being, and according to the Inquirer, the streets are screaming his name. If he'd been my friend, I'd want to know who did it. And even though I didn't know him, he was a fellow citizen, and I'd still like to see justice done. At a minimum, this means having the murderer identified, and punished.

    Not innocent gun owners!

    As it is, this whole blame-the-gun thing makes about as much sense as blaming penises for rape.

    UPDATE: Lest anyone doubt that guns are being singled out for blame, here's more from the Inquirer:

    Kids, Guns and Deadly Toll

    Starting today, Inquirer photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner April Saul will take you inside the homes and neighborhoods of area children killed by gunfire. Throughout the year, in words and pictures, she will attempt to show the impact of these losses. The first child to die in 2006 was Darnell Winn, 15, whose funeral is at 11 a.m. today at New Gethsemene Baptist Church in South Philadelphia. B8.

    You'd almost think "gunfire" was a phenomenon independent of criminals who fire the guns.

    UPDATE (01/24/06): Author April Saul has amended her complaint report, adding the following italicized sub-headline:

    With staccato-like regularity, guns are killing children. Epidemic. Public health crisis. Tragedy. By whatever name, these deaths bring profound loss to families and communities. This series attempts to capture the look, the sound, and the feel of this loss.
    By whatever name?

    Have words like "crime" and "murder" gone the way of "terrorism"?

    posted by Eric at 09:58 AM | Comments (6)



    Insanity is contagious

    I am at a loss to interpret lunatic ravings like these by a man whose logic I consider insane:

    What you hear about him and his suicide is a strong message to you, which he wrote with his blood and soul while pain and bitterness eat him up so that you would save what you can save from this hell. However, the solution is in your hand if you care about them.
    My only reaction to the Osama bin Laden "peace offer" is to wonder when we can we expect him to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Why not Osama?

    MORE: A professor at Duke University (described as an expert on bin Laden) is skeptical about the authenticity of the bin Laden tape:

    While the CIA confirms the voice on the tape is bin Laden?s, Lawrence questions when it was recorded. He says the timing of its release could be to divert attention from last week?s U.S. air strike in Pakistan. The strike targeted bin Laden?s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, and killed four leading al Qaeda figures along with civilians.

    Lawrence believes faulty Pakistani intelligence led to the strike and the civilian deaths, and the tape was leaked by Pakistani authorities to divert attention from their mistake.

    We'll have to stay tuned.

    posted by Eric at 09:19 AM




    New species of RINO?

    Among other things, that last essay reminded me that it really isn't reasonable for me to call myself a RINO (Republican In Name Only). Nor is it reasonable for anyone else to call himself a RINO.

    Because, if the ideas and beliefs of the Republican Party are not ideas and beliefs, but merely political tactics varying according to the political needs of particular times, then the term "Republican" does not have a sufficiently verifiable meaning for anyone to say accurately that he is that "in name only."

    I agreed with the Republicans in 1997 about things like smaller government, and at the time I was a registered Democrat. I knew fell well that the Democratic Party believed in larger government (notwithstanding Bill Clinton's meaningless claim that "the era of big government is over"). Thus, in 1997 I could fairly have been described as a "Democrat In Name Only." But not long after I changed my party registration to better reflect what I thought should be my true allegiances, the Republican Party moved rapidly to abandon its belief in small government, limits on spending, and abhorrence for bureaucracy.

    Did I then become a Republican In Name Only?

    Or did the Republican Party become Republican In Name Only?

    What if I'm not a real RINO?

    Can such things be?

    Is it possible to be a Republican In Name Only In Name Only?

    A RINO-INO?

    It's a mouthful, and it looks like a typo, but it might be more accurate.

    For now, I don't think I have to worry, because few RINOs are going to accuse other RINOs of being RINOs In Name Only.

    But these days, you can't be too careful....

    posted by Eric at 03:05 PM | Comments (3)



    Context contest

    One of the things I did while in the Bahamas was spend a day on the island of Eleuthera. A more serene and beautiful place would be hard to imagine, and it's tough to visit without wanting to move there.

    Inherently tough though it is to leave Nirvana, I bravely flew back to the land of cold winters, hardball politics, and rhetorical hyperbole. I get a bit tired of politics because I get tired of hearing arguments which I've heard before and which no one ever seems to win. When people already know what they think, ordinary persuasion usually fails to persuade them to change their minds. People who already know what they think and won't change their minds tend to engage in debates as if there is something to be "won" or points to be scored. The goal might be called "winning" a particular debate, but it is not persuasion -- any more than an athletic team intends to persuade its opponents of anything.

    While the goal in both cases is winning, the problem with political combatants (whether in Congress, at cocktail parties, or even on the Internet) is that game theory is incompatible with open discussion of ideas. The rightness of wrongness of something (I suppose the less cynical of us could use the term "truth") is not analogous to a football or a basketball.

    Thus my sports analogy fails.

    The problem is, I can't dismiss my failed analogy out of hand, because it's not my analogy! The way these folks act, it's as if they really think that determining the ultimate truth of something is a game to be played and won. Yet the very game of "political hardball" is not concerned with truth, only with winning. Ideas (supposedly based on truth) are advanced not to determine their rightness or wrongness, but as strategy, as tactics and weapons, the effectiveness of which are determined by how readily they are reduced to sound bytes, and ultimately, how long and how well they resonate with the voters. (Which means how long it takes the voters to distinguish between which ideas are real and which are advanced as tactics, before they even reach the question of whether or not they agree.)

    The more ideas are used as strategy, the more ideas become strategy, and the more the process of original thinking is destroyed.

    It might be a better analogy to see this process as litigation. Regardless of right or wrong, winning is what counts. In the legal world, if you worry too much about things like right and wrong, you could be doing your client a major disservice. When I represented a tenant against a landlord in a rent control dispute, my strong convictions that rent control was wrong were completely irrelevant. Similarly, when I represented a criminal defendant accused of stealing a woman's purse at knifepoint, I had to suspend my feelings about such conduct, and do my best to dispute the DA's version of facts in the most partisan manner possible.

    What has this to do with visiting lovely Eleuthera? Nothing except by way of contrast. I stumbled onto this example of how ideas and words are used ostensibly to illustrate, but really to win, and I'm using it as an example not because I disagree with the ideas in it, but because I agree with them. I agree with the author (one Jack Wheeler) that bureaucracy is out of control, and I'd even go so far as agreeing with his contention that it is what he calls "Fabian Fascism:"

    The result of both socialism and fascism is the same: the destruction of economic freedom, replace the individual's choice of how to make a peaceful, honest living with State edicts. Fascism accomplishes this, however, more insidiously. Instead of being a straightforward employee of the government, you and I are told our lives and businesses are still private, while any attempt to act as such is proscribed by some regulation -- until we are trapped and immobilized in Washington's web.

    We have become enmeshed in this web because it was spun around us so slowly. If the welter of government controls that Washington has enacted over the past sixty-six years (i.e., since the New Deal) had been attempted in one fell swoop -- say, in one Congressional term of two years instead of thirty- three terms -- the effort would, of course, have failed.

    Instead, it has been spun right before our eyes - yet so slowly, strand by strand over many years, that we have barely noticed. We could call this slow spinning of the fascist web "Fabian Fascism."

    It is Dr. Wheeler's contention that the only way to defeat bureaucracy is to tar it with the label of fascism. He blames LBJ, who stands accused of starting an orgy. An orgy of (gasp!) "eleuthericide":
    ....[T]he preservation of freedom requires that the expansion of governmental authority and financing necessary to deal with a crisis be granted only on an emergency basis and must be dissolved when the crisis is over. This is what the Washington Oligarchy always struggles to avoid.

    Nonetheless, after the initial advance of Fabian Fascism made possible by the Depression and the New Deal, government growth was held in check fairly well through the 1950s and early 60s. But after defeating Barry Goldwater in 1964, Lyndon Johnson began an orgy of eleuthericide that continues to this day.

    Look, I agree. But right after having returned from a visit to Eleuthera, I just wasn't ready for this. And I don't think most ordinary people are going to persuaded. Either by references to orgies of eleuthericide or Fabian Fascism.

    I get so exasperated by things that I could easily imagine myself yelling that our lives are being controlled by the "Fabian Fascists." But would anyone be persuaded?

    And what is persuasion? That depends on the audience. In this instance, the goal is not to persuade anyone that the bureaucracy is fascist, for that is a given. What Dr. Wheeler wants is to break the taboo on the use of the term:

    ....[H]ow do we, you and I, help America restore its freedom by helping it to kick the fascist drug of the dole?

    We must begin by breaking the great taboo, by using the forbidden word - fascism - in every public forum at our disposal. The left has always know that control of language was the key to political success - just look at the "political correctness" movement as a clear example. We must get the term of democratic fascism out into public discourse, widely debate, and ultimate accepted as an apt description of our current political system. That is requirement Number Uno.

    Second, we must challenge the Brezhnev Doctrine of the Democratic Part: that once any area of people's lives or businesses becomes subject to bureaucratic control, it must stay that way; that any elimination or reduction of government intrusion and control is "turning back the clock" and is thus a return to immoral primitivism.

    It should probably be pointed out that the above argument is a vintage Clinton-era Republican one. Many political naifs were led to believe that Republicans (at least "genuine conservatives") thought that way, and that their party offered the best hope of real change.

    Today, such ideas are no longer considered Republican.

    "Elimination or reduction of government intrusion and control"? Please. It's almost painful to read things with which I once agreed and still agree, but which were advanced more as tactics than ideas.

    Little wonder the piece was titled "None Dare Call It Fascism." The title seems ironic in retrospect. Would anyone be persuaded today? If so, of what?

    Reading it today makes me wonder about the line between winning and losing, and the context of truth.

    But is truth supposed to have context?

    (I guess I should pledge never to commit eleuthericide again.....)

    MORE: Here are a couple of pictures taken during my trip to Eleuthera:

    eleuthera.jpg


    eleuthera2.jpg

    (No context is necessary.)

    posted by Eric at 10:37 AM | Comments (4)




    Ho hum (the usual stuff....)

    This effort to hold Republicans accountable (to a standard higher than the Abramoff business as usual standard) seems eminently worthy of a link. I agree that the new leadership should be "thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals" as well as undue influence by K Street lobbyists.

    I also welcome the entry of Congressman Shadegg:

    ....we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.
    It's tough to hold unaccountable politicians accountable, though, because they are by definition unaccountable. So I suspect that the hard-core business-as-usual, Abramoff, K-street crowd will ignore all pleas and entreaties of bloggers, no matter how sincere or polite.

    I say this because I'm quite accustomed to being ignored. As matter of fact, I'm still waiting to hear from my congressman (Jim Gerlach) in response to my polite PorkBusters-related call. I'd simply like to know whether he favors cutting pork, and it's been months without so much as a courtesy form letter. I hope that's not business as usual, although reading stuff like this about him is hardly reassuring. Nor is the fact that his opponent in the upcoming election is doing her damnedest to tie him to the Abramoff crowd.

    It doesn't take a moralist or an ethicist to see that business as usual these days is an unwise strategy.

    posted by Eric at 04:57 PM | Comments (3)



    coco's war on nut bars

    I'm chagrined! No really.

    Via Glenn Reynolds and a whole host of others, I see that I missed out on a major Culture War outburst of Pat Robertson-style channeling by New Orleans Mayor Roy Nagin, who not only maintained that God sent Hurricane Katrina as punishment for various sins, but that God demands chocolate!

    "It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans _ the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."
    A chocolate New Orleans? Ordained by the same God said to hate shrimp?

    I'm so late to the chocolate war that there's little I can do one way or another -- either to assist, oppose, appease, remain neutral, and I fear it's too late for me to take a meaningful, um, bite.

    But not Coco! While the religious issues are a bit more than she can comprehend, she's drooling over the yummy elements in this story -- New Orleans, chocolate, and even the Culture War.

    Let people think I'm exaggerating, just this morning Coco -- in obvious contemplation of Mayor Nagin's outburst -- found herself unable to resist a Berkeley chocolate nut bar sent to me recently which appears to combine all of the important ingredients of the story:

    choconut.jpg

    As Coco realizes, nut bars come in all shapes, colors and sizes.

    (And they're all equally worth biting....)

    posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (3)



    Techno-Fix On The March

    If you're looking for a few hopeful signs in this sadly diminished world, you could do worse than to visit Green Car Congress.

    Interestingly, their name doesn't say it all. They don't limit themselves to cars. Far from it. It was at Green Car Congress that I first heard of the Green Goat hybrid switching locomotive.

    Hybrids. They're not just for itty-bitty cars anymore.

    Along with vehicles, they devote considerable time to motive power, be it batteries, fuel cells, synthetic hydrocarbons, or solar panels. It's what you might call a potpourri.

    Allow me to demonstrate their diversity with a few intro graphs from the last couple of days...

    Firefly Energy (earlier post) has received a US patent for a new carbon-foam lead-acid battery technology that it believes has the potential to revolutionize the existing global lead-acid battery market as well as serve applications such as hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

    FireFly contends it can deliver lead-acid battery performance comparable to NiMH, but at about one-fifth the cost, and with greatly reduced weight compared to traditional lead-acid batteries.

    ...

    Accelerated Composites, a San Diego, California-area startup, has designed a two-seat, three-wheel parallel hybrid—the Aptera—to achieve up to 330 MPG and sell for less than $20,000.

    The Aptera hybrid is to be built from lightweight composites, and designed to deliver its 330 mpg in normal city and highway driving and demonstrate acceleration and handling similar to that of a Honda Insight.

    ...

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that eight proposals for oil-shale research development and demonstration (RD&D) leases filed by six companies have been deemed eligible for continued consideration.

    ...

    Degussa AG, a global leader in the field of specialty chemicals, is starting additional electrode production for large-volume lithium-ion batteries at the Li-Tech GmbH (SK Group) site in Kamenz/Dresden.

    The Kamenz facility complements Degussa’s production capacities in China through the joint venture Degussa-ENAX (Anqiu) Power Lion Co. Ltd., Anqiu. (Earlier post.) The German site will target large-volume energy storage applications—such as batteries for hybrid vehicles.

    ...

    Rentech has signed a Master License Agreement (MLA) with DKRW Advanced Fuels, a wholly-owned subsidiary of DKRW Energy, for the use of Rentech’s Fischer-Tropsch (FT) coal-to-liquids (CTL) technology.

    Concurrent with the signing of the MLA, DKRW-AF’s wholly owned-subsidiary, Medicine Bow Fuel & Power LLC (MBF&P), signed an individual site license for its proposed integrated power and coal-to-liquids (CTL) project in Medicine Bow, Wyoming (earlier post).

    ...

    Safe Hydrogen, LLC. of Lexington, Mass has been awarded $308,000 from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust SEED Program (Sustainable Energy Economic Development), a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), to complete a three-year, $2.4-million DOE project designed to determine the functionality, cost and efficiency of Safe Hydrogen’s pumpable hydride slurry.

    Safe Hydrogen has developed a pumpable magnesium-hydride-based fuel that releases hydrogen as needed.

    A pumpable fuel rich in hydrogen would eliminate several key road blocks to wide spread adoption in transportation, including distribution infrastructure and storage safety and efficiency.

    The slurry, both before and after yielding the hydrogen, is not flammable, safe to handle, easy to store and can use current pumps and tanks used for diesel fuel, gasoline or water. The slurry is reacted with water to produce the hydrogen required. The metal hydroxide byproduct is captured and recycled.

    ...

    I don't know how they do it.

    Diving a little further back, last November they mentioned the Eliica, the eight wheeled electric car from Japan, that does zero to sixty in four seconds.

    That's very pleasant to think about.

    posted by Justin at 10:20 AM



    Undefended affluence?

    The things I miss while I'm away....

    If reports like this are correct, the United States is under invasion at the border -- not in the civilian sense by aliens from Mexico, but by the Mexican military. And the U.S. government is doing, well, basically nothing. Unless you consider warning the border patrol to stay out of the way to be doing something:

    The U.S. Border Patrol has warned agents in Arizona of incursions into the United States by Mexican soldiers "trained to escape, evade and counterambush" if detected -- a scenario Mexico denied yesterday.

    The warning to Border Patrol agents in Tucson, Ariz., comes after increased sightings of what authorities described as heavily armed Mexican military units on the U.S. side of the border. The warning asks the agents to report the size, activity, location, time and equipment of any units observed.

    It also cautions agents to keep "a low profile," to use "cover and concealment" in approaching the Mexican units, to employ "shadows and camouflage" to conceal themselves and to "stay as quiet as possible."

    Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora confirmed that a "military incursion" warning was given to Tucson agents, but said it was designed to inform them how to react to any sightings of military and foreign police in this country and how to properly document any incursion.

    This is getting out of hand. I'm a libertarian and I do not accept any restrictions on constitutional freedoms of United States citizens, but keeping the border secure against invasion is so basic a function of government as to not require extensive comment.

    What the hell is the problem?

    While historically uninformed people often say that Rome fell because of things like sodomy, a very compelling case can be made that a major cause of the actual collapse (and subsequent sacking) of Rome was undefended borders.

    Arguably, Rome was no longer capable of defending its borders, because by the time of the barbarian invasions their military was in tatters. This is not true of the United States.

    Perhaps the failure to do anything can be attributed to denial. Mexico certainly denies any connection with the soldiers involved, (claiming instead that they're rich drug dealers dressed up to look like military):

    Rafael Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, denied that Mexican military personnel are crossing into the United States.

    "I strongly deny any incursions by the Mexican military as inaccurate allegations," Mr. Laveaga said. "The Mexican military is a well-respected institution with strict rules on how to control Northern Mexico. It maintains a protocol of not going within a mile of the border, and those who would trespass would be severely punished."

    Mr. Laveaga said some drug smugglers headed "both north and south" wear uniforms and drive military-type vehicles, and might have "confused" U.S. authorities.

    Well, if the Mexican officials are right, then Mexico is not in control of its own border. Earlier in this century, border incursions by Mexican militia leader Pancho Villa (allegedly supported by Germany) were repelled by General Pershing, whose punitive campaign chased Villa's units back into Mexico.

    Because of political considerations, I seriously doubt the Bush administration will do anything like that, unless the Mexicans start shooting U.S. citizens.

    Interestingly enough, while I was in Nassau I was startled to discover (by reading, listening to talk radio and talking to locals) that the country has its own serious problem with illegal aliens. Mostly from impoverished Haiti, they come to the Bahamas do to the grunt work that affluent Bahamians no longer want to do. The prisons are full of Haitians; according to an account I read down there, Haitians make up a full 90% of the prison population. But for the Haitians, the Bahamas would be relatively free of crime. This stuff is not often disclosed to tourists (officially, it's a very sensitive issue), but anyone can turn on a radio or talk to ordinary citizens.

    Unlike the United States, where illegal aliens are recognizable, it's very difficult to tell who is Haitian unless you talk to them. Once I stopped to ask a man for directions, and he refused to answer, which is very uncharacteristic of Bahamians, who are invariably friendly to tourists, and who will go out of their way to help. I saw a look of fear flash across his face as he shook his head "No" and ran away from me, so I'm pretty sure he was an illegal Haitian.

    Illegal immigration is a mess all around. Miserable people love to leave their hellholes, and there's nothing more attractive than affluence.

    The ugly fact is that nobody wants to live in places like Haiti.

    Aside from a few cranks who believe in defending borders (often unfairly lumped in with ultra-nationalists, if not racists), I think affluent people tend not to care until their affluence itself is threatened.

    They forget history.

    posted by Eric at 07:52 AM | Comments (3)



    Doomed, I Tell You

    Via Worldchanging, an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor.

    Bolted onto the exhaust stacks of a brick-and-glass 20-megawatt power plant behind MIT's campus are rows of fat, clear tubes, each with green algae soup simmering inside.

    Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40 percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another bonus: 86 percent less nitrous oxide.

    After the CO2 is soaked up like a sponge, the algae is harvested daily. From that harvest, a combustible vegetable oil is squeezed out: biodiesel for automobiles.

    The Prophet Kunstler has assured us that such efforts are bound to fail. So a few guys are throwing a little money at the idea. It's just another misallocation of resources enabled by the "hallucinatory nature of our economy".

    GreenFuel has already garnered $11 million in venture capital funding and is conducting a field trial at a 1,000 megawatt power plant owned by a major southwestern power company. Next year, GreenFuel expects two to seven more such demo projects scaling up to a full production system by 2009.

    That's not going to be soon enough. Peak Oil is happening now.

    Greenfuel isn't alone in the algae-to-oil race.

    So what.

    Last month, Greenshift Corporation, a Mount Arlington, N.J., technology incubator company, licensed CO2-gobbling algae technology that uses a screen-like algal filter. It was developed by David Bayless, a researcher at Ohio University.
    A prototype is capable of handling 140 cubic meters of flue gas per minute, an amount equal to the exhaust from 50 cars or a 3-megawatt power plant, Greenshift said in a statement.

    So there are other guys throwing money away too. Proves nothing.
    They're just far gone in the madness.

    Peak is making us insane and passing peak will make us more insane. There may be no moment of clarity, only new kinds of delusion and disorder...James Howard Kunstler

    So who do you trust more? An aging and embittered architecture critic? Or some no account rocket scientist from MIT? Tough call.

    For his part, Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would require a 2,000-acre "farm" of algae-filled tubes near the power plant...

    Roughly eight square kilometers. It works out to 45,000 gallons of liquid fuels per acre per year. 112,000 per hectare. Eleven point two gallons per square meter. Per year. Hmmm.

    All kidding aside, I like the idea. It takes unwanted effluent and turns it into a money making commodity. I hope it pans out.

    Regarding Brother James and his travelling Revival Show, there's a not too bad review of his latest book cropping up in various places around the sphere. Now it's cropping up here, too.

    Samples follow...

    The deeper theme of The Long Emergency is not oil so much as human powerlessness...

    The most striking example of the sense of powerlessness is as it applies to Kunstler himself...In places it is perhaps possible to read The Long Emergency as a revenge fantasy.

    Embittered at his inability to convince others that they should change their ways, Kunstler takes refuge under the wing of Nature's avenging angel. He can be ignored (he attributes this to a psychological flaw in his detractors); the inhuman laws of nature cannot.

    Apparently, those who will suffer most terribly in the long emergency are the US Republican states...Neighbourhoods with spacious housing ('McMansions') and 'poor street detailing', a particular insult to Kunstler, are singled out for destruction...There is an uncanny alignment between the supposedly objective, inevitable laws of nature and Kunstler's prejudices...

    He claims that the entropy produced by a high-energy society was responsible for everything from the 'now mythic disillusionment with civilisation that followed the [First World] war...to Stalinism, the Holocaust and beyond. Only a low-energy, local economy in which we are in touch with the land, claims Kunstler, can avoid the destructive effects of entropy. The core of The Long Emergency is the anxiety that problems will outweigh solutions...Alienated from progress he has no answers himself and fears we are relying on a few techno-geeks to come up with a fix. He is haunted by the question, what if we fail?
    posted by Justin at 07:50 AM




    Who made me return to this cesspool?

    While I try not to go out of my way to look for such things (a major reason I avoid television), last night I was reminded that the type of thinking which annoys me does not go away simply because I take a vacation from it.

    In order to view a slideshow of pictures I took during the trip, I had to switch off the TV box and plug my camera into the monitor's video input jacks. But as my luck had it, just as I finished the slideshow, unplugged the camera while switching back to the TV box, I heard a loud voice (on Bill O'Reilly -- a show I don't watch for this very reason) angrily denouncing the "cesspoolization" of culture.

    I'm ashamed to admit that at that point I was unable to resist turning the TV back on! This was my big mistake, because I could have ignored O'Reilly, his guests, and the whole tired argument. But I would have then been in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation, because I was about to go to bed. If I hadn't monitored the show, then speculation about the contents of the "cesspool" would have kept me awake. But watching it pissed me off so much that I had to talk about it to calm myself down, and it was too late to write another blog post about a very tired topic -- which is the inability of self appointed leaders to give people credit for their own judgments, good or bad.

    O'Reilly's guest, one Clarence Jones, maintained that the "cesspool" consisted of the usual gangster rap style music which degraded women. If he'd stopped there I'd certainly have seen his point, and I have absolutely no problem with people who dislike the cultural tastes of others condemning either them or their tastes. But this guy was not acknowledging that the rap music fans' taste was their own. Instead, he maintained that "industry executives" were responsible.

    Fatcat executives at SONY, Warner Brothers, MGM.

    Life would be so simple if this were true. Because after all, the same executives who control the contents of our vast national cesspool also have control and custody over wonderful, non-culturally-polluting music like Mozart and Bach. (I think they also have racier stuff like Guy Lombardo, Lawrence Welk, and maybe even Liberace, although I worry about the latter, as it might tend to promote sodomy....)

    Obviously, all that needs to happen is to persuade this powerful clique of rich white men to offer Mozart and Bach to the people who consume gangster rap, and all will be well. They'll line up to buy it in the same stores that now sell the gangster rap, and we'll have the civil society everyone wants.

    Likewise, I think the powerful executives who sell liquor could be persuaded to switch to health drinks instead. Like the fans of rap music who only imagine they're fans, alcohol purchasor are simply doing what they are told, and have all been brainwashed by a vast conspiracy of distilleries, breweries, and liquor distributors -- right down to the evil bartender who pours the drink.

    Reminds me of Hollywood's plot to turn us all into sodomites or homo-lovers by releasing "Brokeback Mountain." (This sinister plot -- aka the "Homosexual Agenda" -- has tentacles reaching into every community with a theater or beauty salon!)

    Our thoughts and our tastes are not our own, because someone else is always responsible.

    And there's no shortage of "leaders" on both "sides" to tell us who.

    My problem is that I don't blame leaders; I blame "followers." The latter I strongly suspect of gravitating towards what they like, and avoiding what they dislike, and I think they're doing what they want, and not being involuntarily led. By blaming them, I'm merely giving them credit as human beings for liking what they like -- whether I like it or not.

    No wonder I have trouble sleeping.

    posted by Eric at 07:27 AM | Comments (6)



    Barry White Refutes Leon Kass

    I've heard people say that
    Too much of anything is not good for you, baby...

    The finitude of life is a blessing for every individual, whether he knows it or not.

    Oh no...

    I wish to make the case for the virtues of mortality.

    But I don't know about that...

    If the life span were increased-say by twenty years-would the pleasures of life increase proportionately?

    There's many times that we've loved

    How deeply could one deathless “human” being love another?

    We've shared love and made love

    Would the Don Juans of our world feel better for having seduced 1,250 women rather than 1,000?

    It doesn't seem to me like it's enough...

    There are very few people who've been around a long time who see anything with fresh eyes.

    There's just not enough of it...

    Mortality makes life matter.

    There's just not enough...

    posted by Justin at 07:20 AM | Comments (1)




    No time for misinterpretation!

    I'm back but not in full swing, and still too caught up with other things to get completely caught up with blogging right now.

    I think I had too much fun. Thus, not only do I have a lot of non-blog-related stuff to do, blogging feels stiff and achy -- like using tired muscles.

    Speaking of stiffness, here's a cute photo of an American tourist couple doing a doubletake while interpreting local Nassau vernacular:

    protectus.jpg


    Well, at least they can't say they weren't warned. (About what? Marital AIDS?) I suppose they should be glad they missed this one:


    noknow.jpg

    posted by Eric at 05:39 PM | Comments (2)




    Will I Be Pretty? Will I Be Rich?

    Oh yeah, and will civilization as we know it come to a screeching, agonized halt anytime soon?

    No, no and no. Well, regarding that last one, certainly not because of Peak Oil.

    But, mightn't there be hard times ahead? Well, yeah. Always and ever. But their exact nature is sometimes difficult to ascertain. As Doris reminds us, the future's not ours to see.

    Still, we can't not try to see, it's simply not in our nature. We long for certainty and security, and so, though always mindful of the difficulties involved, we persist in giving it our best shot. Here's mine.

    If "Peak Oil" and its aftermath cause societal disruption, it may be a painful and prolonged time, but it won't be forever. Civilization will not be destroyed and we won't all have to live like Wendell Berry, for which I am duly grateful.

    Matter of fact, I'm downright optimistic. I see lots of countervailing developments that look very promising indeed. I thought it might be pleasant to check out a few of them today.

    First up, inexhaustible supplies of fresh water. If Aubrey de Grey is successful, there may someday be a great many more of us cluttering up the planet and we'll all be wanting the odd drink of water now and again. It would be nice if we didn't have to go to war to get it. The best way to ensure that is to develop cheap, clean, widely distributed desalination technology.

    Currently, desalination is (relatively speaking) neither cheap nor clean. Reverse osmosis filters require pressurized water to work. Typically, that pressure is delivered by electric pumps, which in turn are powered by fossil fuel burning generators. So your desalinated water not only dings your wallet but smogs up your local atmosphere (disregard if you're using atomic or renewable power, which you probably aren't). It would be nice to do better, and I believe we will.

    I stumbled across this project over at World Changing. To be honest, it caught my eye because it's Australian. Has anyone else noticed that Australia seems to be undergoing an encouraging outburst of technical innovation? Desalination seems like a natural for them, as do those solar energy spheres I mentioned last year. But what about that souped up new ion drive with ten times the fuel economy? It was built by Europeans, but designed in Oz. It seems as though the stodgy but loveable Australia I thought I knew is beginning to mutate into something unpredictably wonderful. Fun things are happening down there. Ion drives? In Australia?

    The Energetech device struck me as being hopelessly nifty...

    Two Australian companies are claiming they can turn ocean waves into drinking water at very little cost, thanks to a combination of their technologies.

    Energetech's initial aim was to generate cheap electricity using wave power but it realised that in teaming up with desalination specialist H2AU it could use the same power to produce potable water at a low cost...

    Most desalination installations use electricity to create the pressure needed...but the two Sydney-based, privately owned companies' combined technologies use wave pressure directly to power a reverse osmosis desalination plant.

    This unusual project avoids the multiple energy losses in converting wave energy to electricity before using the electricity to drive pressure pump...

    The prototype is being tested offshore at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, and indications are that it will deliver electricity at a price competitive with coal-fired power...

    Well, that was just the beginning for me. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was learning more than I ever wanted to about the wonderful world of marine hydrokinetic power. Now, I'm passing that learning on to you the customer.

    What surprised me initially was the sheer number of these projects. When I think alternative energy, I think sun and wind. But waves? Never heard of it.

    Advocates point out that waves are simply a naturally concentrated form of wind power, which is in turn a product of the sun. They also point out that waves keep crashing, even on overcast days. You don't necessarily need a windy day either. Some swells are generated far, far away but keep on rolling till they reach our shores, regardless of local weather.

    At any rate, the last few decades have seen a multiplicity of projects attempt to tap this energy in an economical manner.

    Japan's Mighty Whale.

    Scotland's Pelamis.

    The Danish Wave Dragon. Note its resemblance to a Son'a battleship.

    Its collector blade is similar to the Energetech device's, but instead of feeding an oscillating water column, the focused and concentrated wave climbs a curving ramp, overtops the device and fills a low head reservoir. That makes Wave Dragon a form of floating TAPCHAN. From the reservoir the water is released vertically back to the sea, through several sturdy and durable turbines. End result? Electricity, cabled ashore.

    End of part I. Part II will be along real soon now.

    posted by Justin at 10:33 PM




    wind and elevation

    I've never thought much about the noise made by wind, probably because I tuned it out as being uninteresting. But right now I'm surrounded by the sounds of 50 mile-an-hour tropical winds, and I'm just captivated by their contrast to what I'm used to hearing, and by my inability to describe the difference. We just think of the sound of wind being the sound of wind, but there's a lot more to it than that. Think of cold winds and you'll think of more of a nasal, higher-pitched sound. Warmer winds seem to have a "fuller body" if that makes sense. That might be because trees differ with the weather. Typically, cold winds blow when trees are devoid of leaves, which forces the wind to "whistle" more than when the leaves act as dampeners. (Obviously, things like a lack of trees or the presence of ice make for very different wind sounds too, but I'm damned if I can spell them out.)

    My Nassau hotel is surrounded by tall palm trees which bend dramatically in the wind, and appear quite used to taking a beating. The sound they make is, now that I think about it, very "characteristic." Yet as I say that I realize that I cannot define what I mean by "characteristic"; only that I've been listening long anough that I now know the sound, which is very different from the sound trees make in the Philadelphia area -- even in summer. The long, tapering blades of the palm fronds make a very distinctive whooshing noise as they bend in the wind's path.

    But what the hell is so "characteristic" about this "whooshing noise," and how is it different from the sound the trees make where I come from? I cannot put it in words, and more than I can put into words other things I can clearly sense. Once I was in an elevator going up, and a group of people got on, with looks on their faces which suggested that they intended to go down. So sure was I that they wanted to go down (and were making a mistake) that I thought I should warn them, but I stopped myself, for I had no way to be sure that they wanted to go down and it wasn't my job to anticipate the needs of total strangers. Sure enough, as soon as the door closed and the elevator started going up, they groaned! So I was right, but I still can't describe precisely how people look when they get on an elevator expecting to go down. It was just something I could read on their faces, but I can't tell you how it looked.

    Obviously noises made by wind in palm trees are as elusive as the facial expressions of people going the wrong way in an elevator.

    And obviously (like so many of life's simplest things) I can't explain why.

    Here's a view of the palms:

    palms.JPG

    (I didn't photograph the people getting into the elevator.)

    posted by Eric at 11:00 PM | Comments (4)



    Traditionally, newer has always been better....

    Greetings from Nassau! This is the first chance I've had to get on the Internet, and I am just tickled pink to see all these really good posts here. The plan is to return on Sunday afternoon, but this having fun doing nothing in particular is addictive.

    I was last here in the early 1960s, and things have changed. To give just one teensy example, they used to sell little handmade ceramic figurines called "chickcharnies." A local legend, these mischievous imps were part frog, part bird, part man, part rabbit, and they came in all sizes. They are not only nowhere to be found, but most local people (who are young) don't even know about them. Only the older people know the word "chickcharnie" and they only have the vaguest memories of the little figurines that used to be sold. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that they don't want to remember.

    Plus, the old Straw Market has been moved (and the new one sells a lot of Asian imported straw products instead of the native handmade variety), the Civil War-era Royal Victoria Hotel is gone, and gigantic casinos have moved in.

    Nassau is still lovely, but change always makes me feel old.

    Resistance to change must be a childish thing.

    posted by Eric at 09:57 PM | Comments (2)



    Prepare to have your mind blown.

    Not so fast.

    I'm no cartographer, and I don't study the history of Chinese exploration, but I'm not buying this map that purports to be a 1763 copy of a map drawn in the year 1418. It's believed by some to substantiate the claims made in Gavin Menzies' 1421: The Year China Discovered America.

    Why am I skeptical?

    1418.jpg

    Who in 1418 could have sailed the seas so extensively as to map the coast lines of every major land mass on the globe, including dozens of major islands, and even antarctica?

    But aside from the manner of representing water, which any forger would imitate, it looks nothing at all like any Chinese maps I've been able to track down. (Cf. these, found online at the Honk Kong Baptist University.)

    Here's a pretty good example from 1602, which shows that chinese cartographers knew the world well enough by then.

    One might object that in the '1418' map California appears to be a large island, but this should be the entire west coast from the peninsula of Baja California in Mexico to Vancouver Island in Canada. In all the time it would have taken to travel that coast line, who could imagine that Alert Bay was connected to the Gulf of California? This seems like the kind of thing a forger would do, to give the impression that something was seen but not explored.

    But then again, what does it matter? Do you really care if an Italian didn't see America before a muslim sailor from China? How exactly does that radically alter history? Unless he yelled 'dibs.'

    posted by Dennis at 08:19 AM | Comments (4)




    Pleasant News

    Back in March of last year I noted a hopeful milestone. The Methuselah Mouse Prize had passed the million dollar mark. Ten months later I'm happy to report that the prize fund now stands at 3.23 million.

    Also, they've spiffed up their website, adding some attractive new features. If you're so inclined, I would urge you to click on over and check it out.

    Aubrey de Grey's place has also had a makeover, to good effect.

    While I'm on the subject of longer and healthier lives, let me point you toward this thoughtful essay by Jay Fox. He articulates a number of thoughts which I've had myself, though my own version is considerably less well organized.

    Here are just a few of his points that I agree with wholeheartedly...

    Perhaps it's a weak imagination that thinks that talk of 1,000-year lifespans, or even one million year lifespans, is somehow treading into God's territory. God has the monopoly on Eternal Life, and nothing Man could ever attempt to do will obviate this. You see, there is a very fundamental difference between immortality and Eternal Life...

    Immortality literally means something along the lines of "without physical death". An immortal is unable to die a physical death, and perhaps we should clarify what Aubrey de Grey's research aims for: an end to aging.

    Aubrey de Grey is not talking about making us both unaging and completely indestructible. A nuclear bomb, a bullet, or even just a speeding car can all still kill an unaging person...

    Immortality is frequently confused with spiritual eternal life, but we must make the distinction: Eternal Life is a spiritual blessing. Eternal life is to the spirit or soul as immortality is to the body...

    The point is, no matter how big of a number you can think of, it's no closer to infinity than the number one...for every whole number N, there are infinitely many whole numbers larger than N. This rule implies that 2, 17, and the number of possible human life experiences are all equally distant from infinity.

    No period of mortal time, whether it be a second, a day, a year, a century, a millenium, a million years, a trillion years, or a googolplex of years, would be any closer to Eternity than any other period of time.

    In this sense, attempts to live longer are definitely not attempts to attain Eternal Life. To reach that route, one must take the spiritual path, or transcend this universe entirely. Attempts to live longer are merely that: attempts to live longer...

    In that sense, seeking immortality is not even in the same ballpark as seeking eternal life. They are two very different goals...

    posted by Justin at 01:47 PM | Comments (1)



    Coping Strategies

    Beck is right. The market will not be denied. But that doesn't mean that we have to meekly submit to its abuse. We can step up and take a more active role. We can all be part of the market. Maybe the smarter part, if we're lucky.

    A case in point would be rising fuel prices. Over at Futurepundit, Randall Parker has a fine post about the rapid rise in demand for cheaper sources of home heat. Apparently, wood burning stoves are experiencing quite the renaissance these days.

    Who'd have thought that a nation of "mall hounds, bargain shoppers, happy motorists, Nascar fans, Red State war hawks, and born-again Krispy Kremers" could exercise intelligent foresight? Well, not all of them do. But it's early days yet.

    Check it out, and don't skip the links. A mix-master of teaser quotes follows...

    Pellet stoves cost $1,500 to $3,500, depending on the model...It takes 3 to 5 tons of pellets, on average, to heat a home over the typical Southern Tier heating season. Usually, one 40-pound bag is enough to heat a home for the day...

    A ton of pellets, which cost between $150 to $180 this summer, is now going for $220 — if you can get it.

    Eiklor said smart stove owners bought their supplies well in advance of this heating season...

    ...

    Convinced that natural gas and heating oil prices would skyrocket and the supply of pellets would be short, many pellet stove owners stocked up on the seasonal supply all at once in the early fall.

    Now, like squirrels with cheeks full of nuts, these owners are sitting on their tons of pellets - while others scour area suppliers for what's left.

    "After the hurricanes hit, everybody went berserk," Backyard Billy's manager Audrey Solomon said. "They were anticipating their heating oil bills and turning to alternative methods."

    ...

    Even when consumers find bags of pellets, they're often hit by sticker shock. Last year, bags sold for as little as $3, or $150 for a ton. But the additional cost of truck fuel for delivery of the pellets to the stores is being passed on to consumers...

    But a $5 bag of pellets can keep the home fires burning for 24 hours. That would translate to a monthly bill of $150.

    ...

    Chimney sweep Jeremy Biswell...says a wood stove is always a better choice for heating than an open hearth...

    "Typically in an open fireplace, you're losing 90 percent of the heat up the flue,"...That translates to 10 percent efficiency. By comparison, he said, older wood stoves are 50 percent to 60 percent efficient, and new ones are 71 percent to 78 percent efficient...

    Wheeler said customers who are interested in convenience tend to choose pellet stoves, which use compressed wood pellets made from sawdust. Because pellet stoves require electricity, a battery backup is an important feature to look for...

    With demand for cordwood and pellet stoves up locally as much as four times over last year, many retailers say both types of stoves are on backorder, with delays ranging from two to four months. If you're interested in buying a stove for next winter, don't wait until fall to order...

    ...

    Steve Hund...has been restoring vintage wood stoves and bringing them up to working condition for 32 years. He got into the business when the energy crisis of the 1970s caused people to look for alternative heat sources.

    Recently he has noticed a change in the type of customers who come to his store...

    "Before, customers wanted stoves that were attractive and rare," Hund said. "Now they want to know how much space they will heat."

    When the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency calls a burn ban because of stagnant air, it's illegal to use a fireplace or uncertified wood stove unless it's your only adequate heat source. The agency called 17 burn-ban days in 2005 — the highest number since 1989.

    ...

    Pellet stoves...are the cleanest of all wood-burning stoves — so clean, the EPA does not regulate them, and they are exempt from Puget Sound-area Stage 1 burn bans.

    ...

    Uncertified stoves (sold before 1992) and fireplaces may release 40 to 60 grams of smoke per hour, compared with 2 to 5 grams per hour from a newer EPA-certified stove...

    Click here for a list of fine purveyors of wood burning stoves. Some of them have live links. Here are just a few of them...

    Aladdin Hearth Products

    Biofire, Inc.

    Country Flame Technologies

    Navigator Stove Works (I like their halibut).

    Who'd have thought wood stoves would go high tech?

    Kind of makes me want one.

    posted by Justin at 12:16 PM | Comments (3)




    The market will not be denied--some random ramblings on economics

    There's a good article in Tech Central Station today which traces the decline and fall of the German biotech industry. The pattern is a common one: first the government regulates, imposes controls, and tramples markets. Then the industry withers and relocates.

    In all things, the Market will not be denied. It can't be.

    This is a concept that has long fascinated me. All transactions between human beings take place on a value consideration basis determined by a host of intangible factors, modified by the constraints of supply and demand. People perceive the Market as harsh, or heartless, or fueled by greed, or [insert your pejorative of choice].

    Some have attempted to invent alternate systems. In all cases, they have failed to realize that even if you alter the mechanism of exchange, people still ultimately seek to acquire things most valuable to them at the least cost. This holds true even in communes. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," sounds nice, but the fallacy of that statement is contained in the wording.

    How do you determine need? Why, by assignment of value of course. When a person works like a slave (and indeed, communism makes the most sense when understood as a form of state-mandated universal slavery), he does so out of fear that failure to do so will result in a denial of needs. Thus, he exchanges his labor for what few goods can be obtained from others (embodied by the state, community, or what have you).

    In other words, within the framework allowed by regulations governing commerce, exchange will always happen according to Market principles. The less arbitrary interference (i.e. government intervention), the more efficiently the Market operates, and the more value is created. Government interference in any way, shape, or form by definition destroys value.

    It is no coincidence that over the period from 1950 - 1995, the countries which experienced the highest rate of GDP growth were the countries whose laws most respected & protected property rights (specifically: Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan). When governments step in, you get effects like those from the article linked above.

    German firms once dominated the biopharmaceutical field. Known as the “medicine chest of Europe,” German drug makers spawned U.S. divisions that are now multinationals in their own right. But today, as The Philadelphia Inquirer detailed in a recent series, there is not one German company among the top ten drug-makers.

    [...] A range of shortsighted government policies did much of the damage: Reference-pricing policies, in which the government will pay only for a certain amount of low-cost medicines in a class of drugs, have become one more disincentive to develop improvements in any category of drugs. Price and access controls make private R&D too expensive, even forcing some labs to shut down.

    [...] The transatlantic shift is the result of a friendlier environment to competition and consumer choice in America. Unhobbled by price controls, companies in the U.S. have a greater incentive to invest on the front end of drug development, because risk is matched with potential rewards. And risk-taking and innovation go hand in hand, as innovative firms attract the talented individuals who are the real fuel of future progress.

    It is a simple lesson with simple, straight forward, common sense causes and effects. Unfortunately, the vast majority of politicians & bureaucrat decision makers aren't sufficiently smart to understand that lesson. Of course, you could argue that the vast majority of politicians couldn't be morons. If I grant that argument, however, then the only other possible explanation is that the vast majority of politicians are corrupt and/or dishonest.

    So I've decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and just chalk it up to stupidity.

    posted by Beck at 12:17 PM | Comments (4)



    Inconstant Loon

    As you may remember, back in September James Kunstler had this to say...

    Take a good look at America around you now, because when we emerge from the winter of 2005 - 6, we're going to be another country. The reality-oblivious nation of mall hounds, bargain shoppers, happy motorists, Nascar fans, Red State war hawks, and born-again Krispy Kremers is headed into a werewolf-like transformation that will reveal to all the tragic monster we have become...

    There are two things that the newspapers and TV Cable News outfits are not covering very well. One is that the Port of New Orleans is not functioning, with poor prospects for a quick recovery, and with it will go much of the Midwestern grain harvest. Another thing that has fallen off the radar screen is the damage done to the oil and gas infrastructure around the Gulf Coast, especially the onshore facilities for storing and transporting stuff, and for marshaling the crews and equipment to fix stuff. The US is going to run short of its customary supplies for a long time. The idea that these things will not affect an economy of ceaseless mobility is not realistic...

    By October, the hurricane season will be ending and the stock market crash season will be underway. It is hard to imagine that companies like WalMart really believe they will keep their profits up when their customers are paying twice as much as they did a year ago to heat their houses and fill their gas tanks.

    Oddly enough, I can't find these passages on his website. His archives for September, October, and November seem to have gone missing. It's all very peculiar. Luckily for my credibility, the piece was so memorable that many other bloggers quoted from it. Plus, it's cached in Google!

    It's interesting to compare what's still showing up live with what's fallen into the memory hole, isn't it? I sure hope it wasn't an intentional accident (whistles tunelessly, shoves hands in pockets). Why, that would be like Nostradamus burning his own books...

    [Update: As of 2/8/06 the archive is repaired. Huzza!]

    Let's see what the Peak Oil Prophet has been up to lately...

    January 9, 2006

    I helped burn a few thousand gallons of aviation fuel flying out to San Francisco over the weekend to attend a meeting of people concerned about the injustices of globalism...My job...was to introduce the idea that this baneful globalism is not a permanent condition but a set of transient relations made possible by the fabulous inputs of cheap energy we continue to get.

    I had the local news on the boob tube up in my hotel room before the kickoff cocktail schmooze. There was some kind of grotesque traffic accident on the Nimitz Freeway across the bay and the TV station had aerial shots from their helicopter showing a vast ribbon of frozen headlights snaking clear down from Alameda to Fremont in the violet crepuscular rush hour gloaming.

    The news clones were treating this like an everyday event, ho-hum, and I had to suppose it was. But it was easy to imagine the despair of someone stuck down there in a Toyota Highlander with a bladder near bursting and not a hope in the world of being able to do anything about it. How many people pee all over their car seats every night, I wondered. Must be a few at least...

    Me, I prefer strolling over to the shoulder...

    Now, I was also moved to wonder: why do the good people of the Bay Area willingly endure this insanity? They built a subway about thirty years ago called Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), but it barely goes anywhere except back and forth under the bay.

    Not strictly true, as you can see if you look at this map. Oh hell, it's not true at all. Notice the airport connection? And at Embarcadero Station, you can catch a surface light rail connection to the Caltrain station, where the big boy trains depart for parts south with some regularity.

    It would cost less to put in surface light rail lines down both sides of the bay than to fix two freeway overpasses -- but they'd rather pee on their car seats because at least they'd be able to choose their own tunes while doing so.

    I'm sure there's more to it than that. We have iPods now. I hear they're a little bit like a Walkman, but they hold lots and lots more songs, and they don't have tapes that break. So there must be some other reason they're driving...

    Also, the peninsula already has light rail service. I have proof. Look, there are pictures! And here's their map. It's not especially apparent, but you can transfer to their system from the Caltrain station in Mountain View.

    Many of my readers, I sense, wonder why things aren't falling apart across America right now, given the hallucinatory nature of our economy.

    Tempting opportunity, but just too easy.

    The answer is that Peak Oil is not the end of anything, it's the peak of everything. We're getting more oil now than ever before or ever again, and it is making us crazy...

    Now let's not be blaming the Peak Oil for every little thing.

    Peak is making us insane and passing peak will make us more insane. There may be no moment of clarity, only new kinds of delusion and disorder. We'll keep behaving the way we do until we can't, and then we won't.

    Um, okay. I really think he's on to something with that last bit. Very concise. Quite irrefutable.

    posted by Justin at 11:00 AM | Comments (6)




    Not An Ad Hominem Attack.

    Virginia Postrel March 8, 2005

    I've long argued that there are two completely distinct worldviews here: one (the traditional zygotes-are-persons view) that supports the end (longer, healthier lives) but not the means (embryo research) and another (the Kass view) that opposes the end and, only incidentally, the means (embryo research). If there's one thing Leon Kass isn't, it's pro-life.

    Reason March 10, 2005

    Virginia Postrel hits the nail on the head with her assessment of Leon Kass, an unfortunately influential fellow who is strongly opposed to healthy life extension in any form.

    Justin Case March 9, 2005

    It's the thing itself, the lengthened lifespan, that chafes him so. The cellular indignity angle is just a sideshow, a preliminary skirmish. To him, extended life is a tragic societal mistake, no matter how it's achieved. That's why I think he's a moral monster.

    Nick Gillespie June 6, 2005

    ...leading opponents to embryonic stem cells are not simply worried about the embryo issue--they fundamentally question whether we should be intervening to prolong and improve human lifespans and ameliorate human suffering.

    Glenn Reynolds June 6, 2005

    Kathryn Jean Lopez doesn't like my Kass reference above. But the reference, which could have been clearer, was to Kass's generally negative view of "the relief of man's estate" by science, and in particular to his argument (discussed here) that another 20 years of healthy life would probably be a waste.

    Leon Kass Jan. 7, 2006

    As for embryos, stem cells, cloning and the uses and abuses thereof, they are "not the most profound of subjects," he told me over a pot of tea in the kitchen of his Washington apartment. "The embryo question is really about the means. The real question has to do with the ends to which we put this."...

    "There are very few people who've been around a long time who see anything with fresh eyes," says Dr. Kass. "We need to put our weight with the young."

    A Student at the University of Chicago, Sept. 12, 2005

    Perhaps these people have their reasons to hate him, but my personal conclusion from this summer was that I really wanted to take a class from him.

    Just one of some Dissenting Opinions November 14, 2005

    As a recently matriculated PhD. student at the U of Chicago, I am officially embarassed for my school.

    But why should this be? Perhaps we'll find answers in the Classical Values archives.

    Here's a quote from Dr. Kass on November 13, 2005.

    Indeed, a woman's earning power can become her own worst enemy when the children are born. Many professional women who would like to stay home with their new babies nonetheless work full-time.

    Tragically, some cling to their economic independence because they worry that their husbands will leave them for another woman before the children are grown...

    And here's another on October 22, 2005.

    Once female modesty became a first casualty of the sexual revolution, even women eager for marriage lost their greatest power to hold and to discipline their prospective mates. For it is a woman's refusal of sexual importunings, coupled with hints or promises of later gratification, that is generally a necessary condition of transforming a man's lust into love.

    Optional Bible Studies link. For extra credit! Teaser quote follows...

    ...institution of stable domestic arrangements for rearing the young depends on some form of man's rule over woman.

    Proof positive that thinking should be left to professionals.


    posted by Justin at 12:26 PM | Comments (3)



    A brief post in which I recall the verses sung by my mother while a passenger in the car my first time driving on the open road

    And it's one, two, three,
    What are we fightin' for?
    Don't ask me I don't give a damn.
    Next stop is Vietnam.

    And it's five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates.
    Well, there ain't no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! We're all gonna die.

    Actually, she mostly just stuck to the last two lines.


    A spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office called today's news "a very negative development that will seriously jeopardize the negotiating process," according to Agence France-Presse.

    France's President, Jacques Chirac, spoke of the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea in a speech to diplomats today, Reuters reported. "The international community must imperatively ensure that commitments made for the security of all are respected," he said.

    Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, which has been reluctant to consider sanctions, called the resumption of research "cause for concern," according to Reuters.

    posted by Beck at 08:19 AM | Comments (2)




    Fill in the blanks

    As those of you who have been paying attention around here are already aware, Eric has asked me to do some guest blogging for him while he is on vacation. So, in the hallowed spirit of substitute teachers everywhere, I've decided to kick things off by assigning some homework.

    Assignment: Fill in the blanks.

    [BLANK] is a religion of [BLANK].

    No, this is not another of those dried out, overwrought swipes at the old "Islam is a religion of peace," canard. Just pick a religion and a noun. Here, I'll provide you with a few sample potential answers:

    • Christianity is a religion of contradictions

    • Judaism is a religion of guilt

    • Jainism is a religion of obsessive-compulsives

    • Baha'i is a religion of stoners

    • Zoroastrianism is a religion of re-invigoration

    • Sikhism is a religion of high fashion

    • Islam is a religion of cauliflower

    • Shintoism is a religion of alcoholics

    • Budhism is a religion of suicide-worship

    • Taoism is a religion of peace, justice, and the American Way
    And you know what the best part is? There are no wrong answers!

    Extra credit: discuss the implications of the above assignment in the comments, with special attention devoted to asking what in hell I'm getting at. Bonus points awarded for suggesting that I am, in fact, a cretin.

    posted by Beck at 09:45 AM | Comments (4)




    U.N.'t gonna believe it!

    Hm ... I've got to work on my titles.

    It's hard to believe I've been blogging here for so long, but almost a year and a half ago I wrote a couple of posts about the outcry (in the form of an e-mail petition) over the U.S. refusing to contribute to the U.N.'s population fund and about the reasons why: forced abortion, sterilization and infanticide in China (I was wary from the start, but Eric tipped me off to the last bit in a comment to the first post).

    Journalists never seem to make the connections, but here's a story reminiscent of one I linked to back then about a family who was fined and whose house had been sealed up for having one too many children.

    In the present case a blind activist and his family have been confined to their home by a group of hired thugs who watch the house around the clock and who have beaten the man several times for trying to leave. The reason? He exposed the practice of forced abortions which led to the firing of several local officials:

    Club-wielding goons believed to be hired by local authorities have been posted outside Chen Guangcheng's one-storey brick home in Dongshigu, a farming village in Shandong province, since September 6 to prevent him, his wife and 71-year-old mother from leaving, Chen said.

    "China is lawless," the 34-year-old activist told Reuters by telephone. "They're worried I will expose more of their crimes."

    "Do (President) Hu Jintao and (Premier) Wen Jiabao know? If they know, why have they not done anything?" Chen asked.

    Authorities have jammed signals to and from Chen's mobile phone but they could not block calls on Friday due to a power failure. His home phone has also been cut.
    . . . . . . . . . .
    His freedom was restricted with officials accusing him of providing "intelligence" to foreigners about forced abortions and sterilization's as part of strict family planning rules.

    Several civil rights campaigners have been either beaten or jailed in the past year.

    The U.N.'s money at work.

    posted by Dennis at 08:25 AM




    Alito Capped?

    I've got the flu and loads of research and writing to do, but I came across the stories circulating about Alito and the Princeton alumni group he joined back in the 70's, CAP (Concerned Alumni of Princeton).

    After a cursory glance there are two easy conclusions: (1) Alito is a racist, and (2) Alito is sexist.

    I haven't put any time into researching the specifics because, like I said, I have work to do. But from what I've read people either ignore or downplay the fact that Princeton was a single-sex institution until 1969.

    I've worked at women's institutions (secondary and post-secondary) and seen my share of literature that extols the virtues of single-sex education for women. These institutions always trumpet their history as a virtue, and I can only imagine how their supporters would feel if their traditions were changed and men were admitted.

    It's a long-standing double-standard that men's institutions are sexist and exclusionary while women's institutions are empowering.

    Which leads to something else: affirmative action.

    It seems that CAP was formed in opposition to co-education at a traditionally men's college, and affirmative action. The former is not in itself demonstrably sexist and the latter is not demonstrably racist, though individuals supporting either position may do so out of bigotry. I would reserve judgment.

    Drudge is reporting that Democrats in congress will use the words of other CAP members against Alito.

    I think that's a weak play.

    They could always use the words of Bill Bradley.

    posted by Dennis at 10:34 PM



    Last minute announcements -- SO LISTEN UP!

    I'm leaving town first thing in the morning for an eight day trip, and I am out of time for any more posting, but I have a couple of anouncements.

    One is that the talented John Beck of Incite will be guest blogging! I think John is one of the most talented writers and best intellects in the blogosphere, but he hasn't been posting much at his blog lately, and I'm hoping that a little babysitting here might offer him a change of pace. Besides, he gets free beer, so it's a sort of bribe. He might write about anything, and I warn readers that I have no responsibility for his contents! Anyway, I thank John for honoring Classical Values with his presence and I hope you'll all enjoy his posts.

    And by the way, Justin and Dennis are not going on vacation, so they may continue to appear without warning at any time. Who knows? Maybe the blog can run itself better without me, and then I'll get back all jealous and bothered!

    The other announcement is that all readers should check out the new and improved Carnival of the Vanities hosted by "Zeuswood" at Harshly Mellow. I like his new approach, which is to challenge entrants to submit only their best. (I try to do that, but I've learned that what I might think is "best" is not necessarily what readers think is the best.)

    I'll try to check in if I can, and I'll miss this blog, my regular readers, and my valued commenters!

    Thanks everyone!

    See you all on or about January 15th!

    posted by Eric at 10:28 PM | Comments (3)



    The film review that changed my mind

    "Brokeback Mountain" was not my favorite movie. Although it was a good (if artsy) film, I thought it a bit slow for my tastes, and as I complained in an earlier post, I saw it as being unfair to the so-called "Red States."

    But a man named David Kupelian who writes for WorldNetDaily seems to think "Brokeback Mountain" is the very epitome of evil. His long, no-holds-barred attack on the film is one of the most obsessive movie reviews I have ever read. I don't want to bore readers with extensive quoting, but I think people who want to understand what's inside the minds of anti-gay thinking (I don't want to use the overwrought term "bigotry" lest I offend people who agree with Kupelian) should read it.

    He calls the film an example of "the marketing of evil" and his central thesis is that "Brokeback Mountain" is doing for homosexuality what the Marlboro Man did for Marlboro cigarettes (and presumably what Ronald McDonald did for evil foods). Except worse, for he obviously considers homosexuality as striking at the heart of all he holds dear.

    Argumentum ad Hitlerum is of course invoked, and various analogies are made about what "Hollywood" could have done:

    Do we understand that Hollywood could easily produce a similar movie to "Brokeback Mountain," only this time glorifying an incest relationship, or even an adult-child sexual relationship? Like "Brokeback," it too would serve to desensitize us to the immoral and destructive reality of what we're seeing, while fervently coaxing us into embracing that which we once rightly shunned.

    All the filmmakers would need to do is skillfully make viewers experience the actors' powerful emotions of loneliness and emptiness – juxtaposed with feelings of joy and fulfillment when the two "lovers" are together – to bring us to a new level of "understanding" for any forbidden "love." Alongside this, of course, they would necessarily portray those opposed to this unorthodox "love" as Nazis or thugs. Thus, many of us would let go of our "old-fashioned" biblical ideas of morality in light of what seems like the more imminent and undeniable reality of human love in all its diverse forms.

    A "Brokeback"-type movie could easily be made, for instance, to portray a female school teacher's affair with a 14-year-old student as "a magnificent love story." And I'm not talking about the 2000 made-for-TV potboiler, "All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story," about the Seattle school teacher who seduced a sixth-grade student, went to prison for statutory rape, and later married the boy having had two children by him. I'm talking about a big-budget, big-name Hollywood masterpiece aimed at transforming America through film, just as Hitler relied on master filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to make propaganda films to manipulate the emotions of an entire nation.

    In place of "Brokeback Mountain's" scene with the castrated homosexual, the "adult-child love story" could have a similar scene in which, as a young girl, the future teacher's mother took her to see the body of a woman who had fallen in consensual "love" with a 14-year-old boy, only to be brutalized, her breasts cut off, and bludgeoned to death – all by Nazi-like bigoted neighbors. (So that's why she couldn't be honest and open about her later relationship with her student.)

    Inevitably, such a film would make us doubt our former condemnation of adult-child sex, or at least reduce our outrage as we gained more "understanding" and sympathy for the participants. It would cause us to ask the same question one reviewer asked after seeing "Brokeback Mountain": "In an age when the fight over gay marriage still rages, 'Brokeback Mountain,' the tale of two men who are scarcely even allowed to imagine being together, asks, through the very purity with which it touches us: When it comes to love, what sort of world do we really want?"

    OK, I'll bite. Let's talk about love. The critics call "Brokeback Mountain" a "pure" and "magnificent" love story. Do we really want to call such an obsession – especially one that destroys marriages and is based on constant lies, deceit and neglect of one's children – "love"?

    What if I were a heroin addict and told you I loved my drug dealer? What if I told you he always makes me feel good, and that I have a hard time living without him, and that I think about him all the time with warm feelings of anticipation and inner completion? And that whenever we get together, it's the only time I feel truly happy and at peace with myself?

    Oh, you don't approve of my "love"? You dare to criticize it, telling me my relationship with my drug dealer is not real love, but just an unhealthy addiction? What if I respond to you by saying, "Oh shut up, you hater. How dare you impose your sick, narrow-minded, oppressive values on me? Who are you, you pinch-faced, moralistic hypocrite, to define for me what real love is?"

    Don't laugh. I guarantee Hollywood could make a movie about a man and his drug dealer, or an adult-child sexual relationship, that would pull on our emotions and create some level of sympathy for the characters. Furthermore, in at least some cases, it would make us doubt our conscience – a gift directly from God, the perception of right and wrong that he puts in each one of us – our inner knowing that this was a totally unhealthy and self-destructive relationship.

    Yeah, I guess they could have glorified pedophiles or heroin dealers. They also could have made a movies glorifying Charles Manson, Richard Speck, or John Wayne Gacy. But those things and people are not what this film is about.

    Occasionally, I need a reminder of the fact that there are people in this world who don't merely oppose gay marriage, they don't just think that two men screwing is gross; they think homosexuality is one of the greatest evils of which man is capable, that acceptance of it is even more evil, and that this threatens all of Western Civilization.

    Suprisingly, Kupelian left out homosexuality causing the fall of Rome. I don't know why. But in his conclusion, he makes it clear that dire consequences await all of us, if we allow "Brokeback Mountain" to change our views:

    As I said at the outset, Hollywood has now raped the Marlboro Man. It has taken a revered symbol of America – the cowboy – with all the powerful emotions and associations that are rooted deep down in the pioneering American soul, and grafted onto it a self-destructive lifestyle it wants to force down Americans' throats. The result is a brazen propaganda vehicle designed to replace the reservations most Americans still have toward homosexuality with powerful feelings of sympathy, guilt over past "homophobia" – and ultimately the complete and utter acceptance of homosexuality as equivalent in every way to heterosexuality.

    If and when that day comes, America will have totally abandoned its core biblical principles – as well as the Author of those principles. The radical secularists will have gotten their wish, and this nation – like the traditional cowboy characters corrupted in "Brokeback Mountain" – will have stumbled down a sad, self-destructive and ultimately disastrous road.

    There are so many mouthfuls in the review that I'm sorry I can't do it the justice it deserves. For starters I'm getting ready to go on a trip, and I'm already spent valuable time I just don't have...

    But let's just take three assumptions from a fragment of a single sentence ("America will have totally abandoned its core biblical principles – as well as the Author of those principles"). While homosexuality is listed in Leviticus as a sin amongst a variety of other sins (including cursing one's parents), does that make it the core of the Bible? And from there to the core of America's principles? How and when did that happen? And from there to abandoning the Author?

    From a marketing standpoint, that's even more of a stretch than using cowboys to sell evil.

    While I don't think I was changed much by seeing "Brokeback Mountain," Kupelian thinks I was:

    Changed indeed. And that's the goal. Film is, by its very nature, highly propagandistic. That is, when you read a book, if you detect you're being lied to or manipulated, you can always stop reading, close the book momentarily and say, "Wait just a minute, there's something wrong here!" You can't do that in a film: You're bombarded with sound and images, all expertly crafted to give you selected information and to stimulate certain feelings, and you can't stop the barrage, not in a theater anyway. The visuals and sound and music – and along with them, the underlying agenda of the filmmakers – pursue you relentlessly, overwhelming your emotions and senses.

    And when you leave the theater, unless you're really objective to what you've experienced, you've been changed – even if just a little bit.

    I honestly didn't feel changed until I read the entirety of Mr. Kupelian's review.

    I've now changed my mind. Not what I think about the general quality of the film, mind you. What's changed is that the Kupelian review makes me now want to support the film any way I can, simply to oppose mindsets like his. While I'm too cynical to engages in such antics, I almost feel like sending a donation to Hollywood.

    For me, that's a change.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: This might be totally irrelevant, but I knew one of the Marlboro Men, and he was no virgin. In fact the guy was gay.

    Hmmmm....

    Maybe Kupelian is onto something about the marketing of evil. Cigarettes are called "fags" in England, aren't they?

    MORE: If David Kupelian hated "Brokeback Mountain," I doubt he'll like the upcoming Hollywood film about a professional football player named Dave Kopay:

    Kopay, who at 6-feet and 213 pounds is seven pounds below his playing weight, is working with a screenwriter on a film treatment of the “David Kopay Story.” It will center on his relationship with tight end Jerry Smith while both played for the Washington Redskins in 1969 and 1970. Smith died of AIDS in 1987 while never publicly admitting his homosexuality. To honor Smith’s desire for privacy, Kopay never mentioned him by name in the book, though he was a catalyst in Kopay’s coming out.

    Smith “was my first major [gay] experience and the first person I thought I could love,” Kopay said.

    His love for Smith and his love for football are evident, and Kopay realizes his sport gave him opportunities and experiences he could have gotten in no other profession.

    “There’s nothing like running out on a Saturday afternoon before 72,000 in Husky Stadium. There’s nothing that will ever fill that void. There’s nothing like the rush of playing on Monday Night Football.

    “I would do it again.”

    Sounds unrepentant as hell.

    But alas! I never really enjoyed football. So I doubt I'd like that film either.

    (I guess I'm becoming a rather obnoxious old poop.)

    posted by Eric at 03:49 PM | Comments (5)



    Sharon dies (at least, so it is reported)

    According to the World Tribune, Ariel Sharon has been declared dead:

    Sharon was declared dead by physicians at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital before 1 p.m. Israeli time [6 a.m. EST], Middle East Newsline reported. Authorities have already been notified of the death, and a government announcement was expected to be issued over the next hour.
    Israel is proud and resilient, and I hope that whoever replaces Sharon proves worthy to the task of leading such a great people.


    UPDATE: According to an AP report cited by Breitbart, the hospital says Sharon is alive:

    JERUSALEM

    A hospital official says Ariel Sharon is in "stable but serious" condition after five hours of brain surgery.

    MORE: And this later report says he is improving:

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon showed "significant improvement" after five hours of emergency brain surgery Friday, and his intracranial pressure returned to normal, hospital officials said.

    Sharon remains in serious condition, said Hadassah Hospital director Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef. He said Sharon was returned to intensive care after the surgery and a brain scan.

    It's getting to the point where all a blogger can do is find stories and report them.

    The facts will just have to wait.

    MORE: The World Tribune has revised its earlier report:

    JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the most powerful Israeli leader in 50 years, has died, Middle East Newsline reported. He was 77. However other reports are presenting conflcting information.

    Sharon was declared dead by physicians at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital before 1 p.m. Israeli time [6 a.m. EST]. Authorities have already been notified of the death, and a government announcement was expected to be issued over the next hour, the report stated.

    [While it's the same link, the words I quoted earlier are gone.]

    I'm reminded of the coal miners.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I find this sort of blogging extremely annoying, but the event is important enough that it warrants attention. Because I only want to know what happened, I don't like changing or conflicting reports. I mean, if you can't ascertain what's happening, what's the point of discussing it?

    MORE: Conflicting reports notwithstanding, from this Yahoo report, it's obvious that things look very bad for Ariel Sharon:

    Friday's surgery followed a seven-hour operation Thursday morning after Sharon suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Doctors had put him in a medically induced coma to give his body time to heal, but most outside experts said his chances for recovery were slim.

    Sharon's sons, Omri and Gilad, were camped out in a room next door to their father's at the neurological intensive care unit.

    Dr. Yonathan Halevy, a senior doctor at Jerusalem's Shaarei Zedek Hospital who is not treating Sharon, said he was also worried about the Israeli leader's condition.

    "The fact that the bleeding has resumed is a sign of a significant deterioration," he told Israel TV.

    Outside medical experts said bleeding from the stroke may have led to interference of the drainage of the cerebral spinal fluid that bathes the brain, or he may have developed inflammation and fluid leakage within the substance of the brain.

    I have seen no evidence that the man's brain is capable of electrical activity. For all we know, he may already be brain dead.

    posted by Eric at 10:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)



    We don't need no stinkin' reason!

    The last two posts stand out as examples of topics which are beyond debate, because of a near total failure of logic.

    Just as there is no way to debate with an anarchist about things like property, technology, crime, or punishment, there is no way to debate someone like Pat Robertson over what he deems to be God's "decision" to target an overweight 77 year-old with a stroke. You can offer logical arguments till you're blue in the face, but it means absolutely nothing. Same thing with anarchists. I remember seeing one beaming young thing who'd not only managed to get himself arrested for throwing a brick through a small storeowner's window, but did it all in front of a TV camera and a news crew!

    When asked why he did it, his smile spread, until it was from ear to ear.

    "NO REASON!" he said triumphantly.

    I'm sure this young man was an atheist, but the way he said it, it was clear to me that in his mind there was something magical about not having a reason. He didn't need a reason, and in his view, the people who wanted to know the reason, why, they were all part of the problem! And he was enlightening them. To him, it was a self evident truth that not only is no reason needed to throw a brick through a window, but the act itself supplies the reason.

    Reason is wrong.

    Declaring that God gave someone a stroke is about as logical. No reason is needed. No debate is possible. (Something in the Bible, of course, can be found and then interpreted as supporting almost any proposition imaginable.)

    Is there any way to debate things that are undebatable with people who deliberately keep themselves beyond reason?

    I hate to reduce myself to their level. But if someone offers an argument which is not logical, how does that impose a duty to answer with a logical argument?

    I think Scrapple Face does a better job in his interpretation of Robertson's remarks:

    "God disciplines American Christians for their willful ignorance of the Scriptures by having me embarrass them every 60 days or so with another ridiculous remark."
    God's discipline is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

    When will he get around to disciplining the anarchists?

    posted by Eric at 08:31 AM | Comments (5)




    What will they say when the leading idiotarian dies?

    According to Pat Robertson, the 77 year-old Ariel Sharon's massive stroke was "God's Punishment."

    That's right. God also punished a thousand Americans in New Orleans by drowning them. Robertson speculated why:

    We have killed over 40 million unborn babies in America.
    Obviously, God's in no hurry with his fatal punishments.

    He gets around to everyone sooner or later.

    (Even horse's asses.)

    MORE: Israel's Ambassador to the United States echoes Dennis's comment below:

    "Such things are very outrageous. I would expect this only from people like (President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad in Iran ... I wouldn't expect it from any of our friends," ambassador Danny Ayalon told CNN.

    AND MORE: I'm truly sorry to see that the great Lou Rawls died from lung cancer at the age of 72.

    No word from Robertson about why God would do that.

    (And I am not trying to be funny here. I'm actually quite annoyed by Robertson, and were I a member of Ariel Sharon's family, I might be more than a little offfended.)

    posted by Eric at 04:25 PM | Comments (5)



    radical nostalgia?
    To remember is to choose sides.

    -- Dan Berger

    I stumbled onto the above while searching in vain for confirmation of this harrowing account by a woman now living in an Israeli kibbutz, who claims that former Weather Underground leader Billy Ayers (now a respected professor) forced her to be gang raped to somehow "prove" she wasn't racist.

    I kept right on stumbling, into a variety of cool far left, Weather-Underground nostalgia sites, like the Plowshares Project. This led to a couple of sites about imprisoned anarchists like Rob Thaxton and Jeffrey Luers (more here), some zine pages like this, and I even discovered blogs I'd never heard of at the Progressive Blog Alliance.

    For the most part, the modern Weather Underground counterparts are not ordinary leftists. They're the Ward Churchill variety, and share views quite similar to those of the people who drove me to distraction when I was on the Berkeley Police Review Commission. They viewed Berkeley's rather kind and gentle police as an occupying army of oppressors, no different from Bull Connor's KKK cops in Birmingham. (They said so repeatedly.) There was, of course, no reasoning with them, just as there is almost never reasoning with true ideologues.

    Sigh.

    I'm feeling nostalgic, that's all. Nostalgia is not always a pleasant experience.

    Still, this is the sort of nostalgia which can't be fully experienced merely be recalling memories of how stressful it was to sit on a public commission and be insulted and threatened. I think I should explain why this experience shocked me to the core, and why it continues as a motivational force in my life.

    By naively acquiescing in my appointment to the Police Review Commission, I had no idea of the forces I was to encounter. I did not fully realize that because Berkeley was a laboratory and a training ground for the fringes of the far left, that sitting on this commission would mean more than merely hearing complaints brought against the police. It would pit me against fanatical advocates of a philosophy which considered me to be the enemy no matter what I might think or do.

    I realize that conventional terminology is already failing me, and perhaps I shouldn't even be using words like "left" or "leftist" to describe what went on. Like most political bodies, the Commission was divided along Berkeley's "leftist" (Marxist) and "rightist" (McGovern Democrat) lines, and even then I had my usual naive illusions about being "independent" and thinking for myself. (A situation which itself caused me to be subjected to much more pressure than if I had simply stuck to one "side.")

    But the hard core of the professional anti-police activists were something again. The Commission's Communist faction liked to think that these activists could be harnessed, controlled, manipulated to the benefit of their side, and while this tended to happen in general, it meant very little when the chips were down.

    When were the chips down? Whenever any of the professional activists had been arrested for acts of violence. Any and all police actions, and any and all administrative activity on behalf of the City of Berkeley, were considered equally culpable. Thus, even leftists who sat there ostensibly to give the police a hard time were "the enemy."

    Which means that it's lame for me to call the professional activists "leftists," for they are so much more.

    While it's always tough to generalize about people who steadfastly refuse to be labeled, this article in Salon identifies certain trends:

  • The writings of John Zerzan (closely associated with the imprisoned Rob Thaxton);
  • The Ward Churchill connection, via an influential essay called "Pacifism as Pathology" (which Rob Thaxton reviews here)
  • Anarcho-primitivism -- a radical Luddite/anarchist/environmentalist philosophy which refuses to characterize itself but makes an attempt anyway:
    Individuals associated with this current do not wish to be adherents of an ideology, merely people who seek to become free individuals in free communities in harmony with one another and with the biosphere, and may therefore refuse to be limited by the term 'anarcho-primitivist' or any other ideological tagging. At best, then, anarcho-primitivism is a convenient label used to characterise diverse individuals with a common project: the abolition of all power relations - e.g., structures of control, coercion, domination, and exploitation - and the creation of a form of community that excludes all such relations.
  • Such "power relations" of course encompass anyone naive enough to serve on a city commission like ours, which wasn't really seen as an entity to be petitioned for the ostensible purpose it was formed, but as part of the evil Leviathan which must be destroyed. A leading WTO "Reclaim the Streets" activist offers a glimpse into the pathology of this dualistic thinking:
    With a friend and comrade in a situation like Rob's, of course, basic support work is necessary--building a defense, getting to gether funds for a lawyer, all the banalities that come up in such a situation. But, from an anarchist perspective, revolutionary solidarity is equally or even more essential.

    Revolutionary Solidarity is expressed through the continuation of the struggle against this society, the continuation of the attack against the institutions which judge and imprison ourselves and our comrades. So, although we will certainly not deny Rob all the tools he can use to defend himself, we will not let our struggle be deflected into petitions to the authorities. Rather we will battle the authorities with all means that can be used in an anarchist way.

    As anarchists, we have no interest in the justice system. Rob says he did not commit the crimes of which he was accused, and we will certainly do what we can to prove this. But from an anarchist perspective, the guilt or innocence of a comrade is not important in determining our solidarity with him or her. This concept of guilt and innocence is just another aspect of the democratic system of justice and law which we reject.

    The justice system, justice as it exists in the present society, is a system of judgement, a system which allows certain people to determine that others--whom these judges have never met and know nothing about--should be locked up, forced to give up certain free doms, even killed. Such a system is beyond any sort of reform that could be acceptable to an anarchist, because at its heart it is authoritarian. Thus, an expression of revolutionary solidarity with an imprisoned comrade would be a struggle aimed at the destruction of the justice system.

    This requires an understanding of the justice system. It is courts, judges, prosecutors, the entire trial process; but it is also prisons, police, and laws. There is no use in pursuing prison reforms. No matter how gentle and homely a prison becomes. it remains a prison, a place for locking up one who offends the law. Nor are better behaved police of interest to us. No matter how well behaved the cop is, he or she remains the armed protector of state power and private property, both of which the anarchist seeks to destroy. And better laws only reinforce state power. Their purpose is to protect the present social order, to maintain social peace. And social peace is based in the violence of domination and exploitation, the violence of power.

    So our struggles in solidarity with specific prisoners such as Rob base themselves in our struggle against the social order. They use the anarchist methods of attack against that social order, not the democratic methods of accommodation and negation.

    According to this mindset, the very idea behind Berkeley's Police Review Commission -- citizen review, a remedy against police abuse, etc. -- was bogus, and we were (and were seen as) stooges legitimizing violent state power and private property.

    No one warned me in advance, so it was quite a shock to encounter these people on a regular basis. I was called a "traitor" and a murderer, and my home address (along with those of other commissioners) was printed and distributed on leaflets telling people to "take whatever action" was necessary.

    As to the two opposing "sides" (the Marxists and the McGovern Democrats), we were all on the same side when the crowds grew violent, because we were all "the enemy."

    I think an example is needed here, lest crucial irony of this situation be lost. Bear in mind that our primary function was to sit in judgment on the conduct of the police. The Chief of Police, the officer who headed Internal Affairs, and their legal representatives were normally present at out meetings, and of course the individual officers who were the subject of complaints had to attend individual board hearings with their legal reps. On several of these riotous occasions (where the demonstrators were out in force because the BPD had dared to arrest some of the activists for violent activities), things grew so dangerous that the Chief had to order all officers to leave (along with himself) -- "for reasons of officer safety."

    One such evening wasn't long after a "demonstrator" had thrown a brick which broke the jaw of an officer who was in the hospital. I vividly remember one of the professional activists (a leader of an anarchist group called "Copwatch") coming up to the Chief, and saying (in a tone affecting much sincerity), "I am sorry about the officer whose jaw was broken." A bit surprised, the Chief began to thank him sincerely, but was immediately interrupted by the activist screaming, "SORRY HE DIDN'T DIE!"

    Har har. Quite a sense of humor these anarcho-whatever-they-are have.

    Anyway, that was one of the nights when the officers were ordered to leave, and they really had to, because their cars were being vandalized in the parking lot and the mob was ready to attack them if they stayed. Certainly, it wouldn't have been good politics to call for "reinforcements" now would it? That would only have confirmed that the police and the people who were supposed to be judging them were all in cahoots as enforcers of the power structure!

    Which means the police were very wise in leaving. Quite incidentally, one of the heroes (is "heroine" still OK?) of the activists was a woman named "Rosebud" Abigail DeNovo who broke into the home of the UC Berkeley Chancellor and hid in the shower with a machete. When the officer entered, she came out swinging the blade and the officer shot her in self defense. I say this only because they enjoyed spraying "ROSEBUD LIVES!" all over the officers' cars.

    Har har.

    (All this nostalgic humor is making me lose my point about irony.)

    There we were. The police we were supposed to judge had gone. The mob was angry and violent. (Who you gonna call?) It wasn't until I saw that the Commies were ready to wet their pants that I began to feel as if I was in a horror movie. As irony goes, this was as supreme a moment as I had ever experienced. Yet I just wasn't enjoying the irony at the time.

    Now I can enjoy it as nostalgia, in my very own blog.

    Maybe irony is a dish best sampled cold.

    (That's what Stalin said about revenge too....)


    MORE: Saying that leftist anarchists like the ones I describe above "oppose authority" is an exercise in extreme understatement. However, I think this post by Dr. Helen may be helpful, because I think they epitomize what she calls inverse authoritarians:

    there is no difference in the rigidity between fighting against outsiders or outgroups and fighting against the establishment---both are a form of rebellion that is based not on what is right, but on how one chooses to rebel.
    As their politics mutate (especially as they grow older), it isn't too difficult to anticipate a certain 360 degree "crossing over" -- from extreme left to extreme right where the two ends meet.

    This "graying of the black" almost invites a revival of the Ezra Pound variety of fascism (which saw origins in "anarchist writings that informed.... Ezra Pound's poetry") about which which I've previously expressed concern). Fascism has a long and ugly history of being cool. As does Pound. (And today's anarchists already despise Israel -- with a particularly remarkable passion....)

    Huh? What am I saying?

    That an anarchist personality might actually evolve into a fascist one? God, what a crazy idea.

    (Hope I'm wrong about this, of course.)

    AND MORE: "Anarchists make the best fascists." (Yes, it's been said twice.)

    And who could forget Ernst Roehm, "anarchist"?

    BTW, I'm not making an argumentum ad Hitlerum, because this is theoretical, and to date there is no serious crossover movement from anarchism to fascism. It simply hasn't happened. Even if it did, I very much doubt that any of its adherents would verbalize support for Hitler. More likely (because Hitler's name is synonymous with evil) they'd continue to accuse their opponents of being like Hitler.

    posted by Eric at 09:46 AM | Comments (4)




    Bang the what slowly?

    I guess I'm not paying as much attention to these things as I should. But when I heard G. Gordon Liddy say something about an angry manicurist being at the heart of the Abramoff scandal, I was intrigued.

    And Wonkette did not disappoint:

    We only have Abramoff on the hook today because his partner, Michael Scanlon, rolled on him. And, as Raw Story reported today, we may only know about Michael Scanlon because of a jilted former lover, Emily Miller, who avenged herself after Scanlon took up with a manicurist by going to the FBI and dropping the proverbial dime. You may remember Miller from the time she famously attempted to prematurely end a Meet The Press interview with ColinPowell.
    The Raw Story piece is here:
    ....Miller was upset because her fiancee, Michael Scanlon, had broken off their engagement, two of Miller’s former State Department co-workers said. While still engaged to Miller, Scanlon had started an affair with a manicurist and broke up with Miller because he planned to marry the other woman, three of Scanlon’s former associates at DeLay’s office said. They added that the two had numerous public arguments.

    But Miller had something on Scanlon. He confided in her all of his dealings with Abramoff, former colleagues said. She saw his emails and knew the intimate details of his lobbying work—work which is now the center of a criminal fraud investigation. After the breakup, Miller went to the FBI and told them everything about Scanlon’s dealings with Abramoff, her coworkers added.

    In turning him in, she became the agency’s star witness against her former lover.

    It's juicy.

    Moral of the story? It's probably not a good idea to confide in people you're going to betray.

    posted by Eric at 05:17 PM | Comments (3)



    If it's Sunday it must be Spain

    Dave Kopel recently asked his readers about the ominous Islamist slogan, "First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people."

    In a January 1976 article in Commentary, titled "The Return of Islam," Bernard Lewis wrote, "In the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, an ominous phrase was sometimes heard, 'First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.'"

    Today, on many pro-Israel websites and blogs, there are claims that the phrase is common in Arab grafitti, or as a placard in street demonstrations.

    While I don't know how widespread that slogan is, if the words of Hamas are any indication, Islamists have no intention of being content with only "taking back" Israel.

    As the Spain Herald says, they want Spain:

    The children's website Al Fateh, property of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, demands in its most recent issue the return of the Spanish city of Seville to the "lost paradise" of Al Andalus, as the Muslim part of Spain was called during its existence between 711 and 1492. The web magazine, whose name means "conqueror," says it is for "the young builders of the future."

    The web magazine, whose name means "conqueror," includes an article in which the city of Seville itself is the narrator, saying, "I beg you, my loved ones, to call me to return along with the other cities of the lost paradise to Muslim hands so that happiness may reign in my lands. Dress me, for I am the bride of the land of Al Andalus."

    Hamas's geographical claim continues, but I think that's enough of their nonsense for one day.

    Retaking Spain is not nonsense for Hamas, of course. Neither is retaking Palestine or killing Jews.

    Spain and Christians will have to wait for another day. That's the Hamas idea of compromise, and it follows time-honored tactics of many ideological fanatics. While they are endless and escalate constantly, demands must never be presented all at once, because the idea is divide and conquer. Let the Christians (or the Spanish) think that by handing over "Palestine" (and the Jews), all will be well with them.

    Churchill described how the tactic works with his definition of an appeaser:

    one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
    It's amazing that people still fall for it.

    But hey, anything that works.

    (Me, I guess I don't have to worry about being a Saturday person or a Sunday person, becase I don't go to church! So nothing will ever happen to me, right?)

    posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (5)



    (Following my internal anarchy, wherever it leads)

    From the Grand Stand has an excellent, thoughtful post on groupthink versus true individuality:

    once you remove all the external cosmetics, the adornments and affectations, what you're left with is what's inside—what they think, what the know, how they express themselves, and how they persuade. Most of these folks are empty vessels, soulless individuals finding camaraderie in being ostentatious, with really bizarre and outrageous packaging.

    I think most of them would go mad and never recover from it, finding that their ideas of expressions and uniqueness were actually a fad, a façade and a farce. They're nothing more than clowns and were it not for the group-think acceptance of others in their soulless cliques, they'd never get a date.

    Sean Kinsell linked the above, and has additional thoughts:
    In a classical-liberal society, we can't stop people from trying to impose their estimation of our dignity and worth on us--sometimes loudly and publicly--but we're not obliged to go along with it. Are there really people who don't think that's worth the compromise?

    Don't answer that.

    OK, I'll try not to answer that, but I want to return to Grand Stand's comment about "ideas of expressions and uniqueness" being "actually a fad, a façade and a farce." This is one of the reasons I'm appalled by group attack mentalities -- especially those which condemn people because it's the cool thing to do. A lynch mob mentality develops, and before you know it, "leaders" emerge, who are often little more than insecure followers of the mob. (In politics they are "finger to the wind" types....)

    While I would never suggest that all leaders think, I have to admit a certain grudging respect for those leaders who have come up with and articulated original thoughts, even if I disagree with them profoundly. In an earlier post in which I asked whether ideas have consequences, commenter Jan Bear brought up Jacques Derrida:

    In a film about Jacque Derrida, someone asked the great professor why, given his views about morality, didn't he steal his students' wallets. He was quite offended.

    In this context, he chose not to implement his deconstructionist ethics. Many of his students, however -- or more accurately, students of students who capture deconstructionist ideas not from advanced philosophers but from the air -- don't just think about the idea that ethics are divorced from tradition, but implement it with knives and baseball bats.

    Much as I loathe the ideas of Derrida, I loathe his followers more, but I do not blame his thoughts for theirs. I realize this sounds like a contradiction, so I should illustrate by way of example.

    Suppose I propound an idea that later turns out to be wrong, but which I thought was right. If I wasn't bright enough, perceptive enough, wise enough, or emotionally stable enough to see the errors in my thinking, is it reasonable to expect that the people unoriginal enough to follow my thinking uncritically would be? Further, what kind of thinker is a follower? Not much, as commenter Joe Peden opined:

    if you only adopt an idea, you have not thought it, in my way of thinking
    Exactly.

    Is it fair or logical to hold a thinker responsible for the "thoughts" of someone who doesn't think, but merely adopts? In a military setting, where men are ordered into battle as a result of the thoughts generated by superiors, it certainly is. In American politics, it is, because the people trusted with government are at least in theory held accountable by voters.

    But in an educational setting, students are not supposed to be ordered into battle or told what to think. Certainly not at the university level, where professors like Derrida are granted the podium. When I attended UC Berkeley I had all kinds of professors, many of whom were Marxists. I had been a Marxist in high school, but it was in Berkeley that I began to think for myself and I saw the errors in their thinking. If others did not, was that the professors' fault? In a free country, no one has to think anything. I also went to Grateful Dead concerts and had great, um "experiences" in which I reflected upon the cosmos; if others did the same thing and ended up becoming homeless and living in the streets, how was that the fault of the band? People said that it was. If it was their fault, then why wasn't it also my fault? (Similarly, if gay men screwed and got AIDS, was it my fault for believing in and stating that they had a right to screw?)

    There's Shakespeare's old saying, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." One of mine is "Neither a follower nor a leader be." I realize that this poses problems, but I can't stand the idea of accepting responsibility for things I cannot control, and I certainly cannot control the thoughts of other people. (The idea that anyone might "follow" my chaotic and spontaneous thinking fills me with terror, and I'd sooner be a recluse than allow something like that to take place.) Leading often strikes me as a form of following anyway, and leaders are often former followers who've waited until it's their "turn." Much as I instinctively abhor those who would lead, I more abhor those who would follow. While this makes me sound like an anarchist, I recognize that leadership is a necessary evil, especially in war. And the founders of this country saw it as a necessary evil in government too. They tried to compromise with it.

    I think that subsequent leaders have paid too much attention to their followers, and this resulted in the compromise being compromised -- to the point where if you believe in the original compromise (with the evil of leadership), why, you're an anarchist.

    But anarchists don't believe in compromising with evil, so that can't be right. . .

    I like to think that those who agree are really agreeing with themselves, but what if I'm wrong?

    Would that mean the communitarians are right and humans are like sheep?

    Again, I hope not.


    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: In logic, the leaders and followers of incorrect schools of thought are both wrong. But mindless followers are in my view more worthy of contempt than leaders, because, assuming a thought is wrong, one who is unable to defend a thought he claims to think is worse than the one who came up with it but who nonetheless defends it. At the risk of sounding elitist, I think that people who cannot defend adopted thoughts are almost beneath contempt, and far inferior to those who had the thoughts originally.

    posted by Eric at 08:58 AM | Comments (2)



    My rumored headline was merely a "miscommunication"

    If I relied on this front page headline on today's Philadelphia Inquirer -- "Joy at mine: 12 are alive" -- I might think it was true.

    InkyMine.jpg

    But the story -- written by Tina Moore and Jeff Shields -- is nowhere to be found at the Inquirer's web site. Instead, it has been replaced with a new one by Jennifer Yates of the Associated Press headlined "12 confirmed dead in W.Va. mine blast."

    CNN and Fox News are interviewing families and the confusion is being hotly debated.

    This is all being chalked up to a "miscommunication."

    (Hey don't ask me. I just want to know how it became a front page headline on the paper which was thrown in my driveway earlier.)

    Naturally, the families are outraged, as they'd been celebrating the widely reported "fact" that the miners were alive.

    As to the Inquirer and it's vanished story and headline, the new version mentions nothing about the old one. Instead, visitors to the web site are instructed that there had been a "rumor" that the miners were alive:

    TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. - In a stunning and heartbreaking reversal, family members were told early Wednesday that 11 of the 12 trapped coal miners found were dead - three hours after they began celebrating news that they were alive.

    The devastating new information shocked and angered family members, who had rejoiced with Gov. Joe Manchin hours earlier when a rumor began to spread that the miners were alive. Rescue crews found the first victim earlier Tuesday evening.

    "About the confusion, I can't tell you of anything more heart-wrenching than I've ever gone through in my life. Nothing," Manchin said.

    The sole survivor of the disaster, identified by mining officials as 27-year-old Randal McCloy, was hospitalized in critical condition early Wednesday, a doctor said. When he arrived, he was unconscious but moaning, the hospital said.

    Hmmmm.....

    Does this mean the headline was just a rumor?

    Here's the Inquirer's current version of how the "miscommunication" occurred:

    Families gathered at the Sago Baptist Church began running out of the church and crying just before midnight, yelling "They're alive!" After two days of keeping vigil, they celebrated joyfully as church bells rang in jubilation.

    As an ambulance drove away from the mine carrying what families believed was the first survivor, they applauded, not yet knowing there were no others.

    The governor later indicated he was uncertain about the news at first. When word of survivors began circulating through the church, he hadn't heard it, he said.

    "All of a sudden we heard the families in a euphoric state, and all the shouting and screaming and joyfulness, and I asked my detachments, I said, 'Do you know what's happening?' Because we were wired in and we didn't know," Manchin said.

    Hatfield blamed the wrong information on a "miscommunication." The news spread after people overheard cell phone calls, he said. In reality, rescuers had only confirmed finding 12 miners and were checking their vital signs. At least two family members in the church said they received cell phone calls from a mine foreman.

    It's easy to see how the grief-stricken families could misinterpret what they overheard about vital signs being checked.

    But what about the news media? Did they just report rumors? And did company executives rely on misinterpreted reports of overheard cell phone conversations too? Apparently so.

    "That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center," he said.

    Three hours later, Hatfield told the families that "there had been a lack of communication, that what we were told was wrong and that only one survived," said John Groves, whose brother Jerry Groves was one of the trapped miners.

    "There was no apology. There was no nothing. It was immediately out the door," said Nick Helms, son of miner Terry Helms.

    Chaos broke out in the church and a fight started. About a dozen state troopers and a SWAT team were positioned along the road near the church because police were concerned about violence. A Red Cross volunteer, Tamila Swiger, told CNN people were breaking down and suffering panic attacks.

    A SWAT team?

    Because of a media-fed feeding frenzy?

    If the media can't even get a story like this right, no wonder there was so much trouble in New Orleans.

    If I hadn't turned on the TV this morning in order to watch the rest of the "rescue," I might never have known the front page headline was just a rumor. Had I written a blog post expressing relief that the miners were safe, I'd have had to write another one admitting my mistake. And I would have left my previous post, relying on the rumor.

    So how come the Inquirer doesn't do the same?

    UPDATE: Googling the phrase "Joy at mine: 12 are alive", I found the actual story here. It appears to be archived as a file, so it really can't be said to have "disappeared," although it is not on the front page where it should be, accompanied by a correction. Nor is there anything to indicate the story is based on a rumor.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I've never seen a story disappear from the Inquirer web site's front page before, and I don't think it's right, because the front page web site is supposed to reflect what is on the front page of today's Inquirer.

    If it's disconcerting for me to read the paper and find out a headline is just a rumor, I can only imagine the pain of the families.

    UPDATE: Pajamas Media has an excellent collection of posts on this fiasco. I especially liked Swanky Conservative's take:

    This is Katrina coverage redux. Emoting the news instead of reporting it, but pretending to be unbiased and honest.

    What I’m reading in the press reports is that no source was given for the story that 12 survived.

    Was there in fact an actual source? I'm expecting a full and complete coverup explanation at any time.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds weighs in:

    If bloggers had made these kinds of mistakes, Big-Media folks would be pointing them out as evidence that the blogosphere can't be trusted. But where were all those editors, filters, and fact-checkers?
    That's similar to my complaint. We're all human and we all make mistakes. But bloggers were excoriated by the MSM for "spreading hysteria" simply because they speculated about what might have happened in the Hinrichs Oklahoma University bombing case, while here, an unconfirmed rumor was actually reported as fact. It looks like a double standard to me.

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




    Meanwhile, back in Redmond . . .
    What does the head-geek-in-charge think he’s doing? Censoring Chinese bloggers just like communist China does? What goes on here?
    So asks La Shawn Barber.

    Both La Shawn and Glenn Reynolds link to Rebecca MacKinnon, who's got the damning goods on Gates.

    While I'd like to echo the sentiments condemning Microsoft, I'd also like to pose an additional question.

    Why is it that Microsoft isn't too busy to censor Chinese bloggers, but still can't find the time to fix Windows' worst security horror yet, affecting all Windows operating systems? (The flaw allows computers to be infected by merely viewing a web site, and the only patch available had to be written by a Russian programmer.)

    Is the company too busy compromising human rights abroad to take care of its own compromised operating systems?

    The whole thing stinks, and even though I've been loyal to Microsoft for many years, I'm glad to see that Google may soon be offering an alternative operating system.

    (Might be time to get back to basics, Bill.)


    UPDATE: Because of overload, Russian programmer Ilsak Guilfanov's site is down (readers may have noticed the above link does not work), but the patch can be downloaded here.

    MORE: Guilfanov now has a streamlined site with patches here.

    posted by Eric at 04:47 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBacks (6)



    Not "true Muslims," say "true conservatives" . . .

    As I think I made clear in the last post, not everyone supports moderate Muslims. Radical Islamists (and assorted left-wing ideologues) consider them Uncle Toms and sellouts.

    Perhaps it's because they dislike moderation in anything, but not everyone on the right likes the idea of moderate Muslims either. In a column calling moderate Muslims "a people without a religion," one Jen Shroder (writing at Alan Keyes's Renew America site) would seem to agree with Osama bin Laden that moderate Muslims are not "true Muslims":

    ....[T]he plight of the moderate Muslim is grave. As America slowly admits the enemy is true Islam, every effort must be made to embrace the moderate Muslim, not persecute them. The answer is not to blind our eyes and try to convince ourselves that moderate Muslims represent true Islam. They don't. Islam is defined by its holy books, and the holy books proclaim death to all who oppose it, even moderate Muslims. The answer is to live in reality, recognize the violence of true Islam as it rears its head, and ask moderate Muslims to reconsider. True Islam pronounces moderate Muslims as apostate, they are the "near enemies" in the Sira and without true conversion, they will be slaughtered right along with Christians and Jews. American Muslims need to take a hard look at what their Koran, in its entirety and true context, demands. They can no more denounce the method of Muhammad than Christians can denounce the sacrifice and love of God. I know, because as I battle with public educators for my children's religious freedom, I get angry, and God continually rebukes me for my anger. He reminds me of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for them as well, and I am constantly humbled.
    I think that's a very condescending view of moderate Islam, and I hope it stays on the fringes. Not only does this view grant moral authority to Osama bin Laden and his ilk, it ignores the fact of moderate Muslim countries like Turkey which have peacefully coexisted alongside non-Muslims for many years.

    Also forgotten is the fact that religions evolve over time, and that radical Islam -- a modern reversion to brutal medieval primitivism -- is increasingly being seen as an aberration by many Muslims, who are not religious ideologues but who only want to live their lives in peace and prosperity. I can't think of a better way to betray them than to declare that their "true" religion is the same as that of Osama bin Laden.

    I wonder how those few brave Islamic clerics who've denounced terror must feel to be told by American "conservatives" that they're not being true to their religion.

    Hmmmm.....

    I should add that don't like the over-use of quotation marks. But if I hadn't placed the word in quotes, people might say it wasn't fair to conservatives to call the Keyes organization conservative.

    But what does that suggest about "true" conservatism?

    Does anyone know what's true these days?

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



    Hope for moderate Islam?

    I was delighted to see The Philadelphia Inquirer feature a front page article (titled "A call for moderation sparks tension") on moderate Muslims in the United States.

    However, despite the fact that I am quite accustomed to the CAIR/Islamist false claim that they are moderates, I am especially bothered by their vicious view that moderate Muslims living the American dream are akin to "Uncle Toms":

    [Ibrahim] Hooper [CAIR's spokesman] said criticism from Muslims such as [American Islamic Forum for Democracy Founder] Jasser was "providing others with an opportunity to advance an agenda that is hostile to the American Muslim community."
    I suggest reading the above again. According to CAIR, moderate Muslims are helping an "agenda" which is "hostile" to American Muslims!

    Marwan Ahmad, publisher of the Muslim Voice newspaper in Phoenix, said Jasser was putting his allegiance to the dominant culture ahead of his faith. Last month, his newspaper printed a cartoon depicting Jasser as the Arizona Republic's attack dog, mauling other Muslims.

    "Jasser is saying what they want to hear, and they publish it," he said.

    "I can tell you from history in this country, with African Americans and Japanese, that there are always small groups that want to associate with the dominant group and stand against their own," Ahmad said. "Eventually, the people who stand for their own will win, and the small group doesn't have any respect in the end."

    Marwan Ahmad's despicable cartoon is here, and I'm sorry to see that he has to be be taken so seriously as a spokesman for American Muslims.

    I'd also love to know what Ahmad means by Japanese groups that "stand against their own." Who and where are these anti-Japanese Japanese Americans? And what gives Ahmad the moral authority to speak for other American minorities, anyway?

    Consider this: when Marwan Ahmad published a "Multicultural Yellow Pages," he specifically refused advertising or references to Israel or Jews.

    Is that "multiculturalism"?

    Here's more on the "Multicultural Yellow Pages" controversy:

    Ahmad's words - rationalizing the exclusion of a people's nation, language and culture - reveal the MYP as much polemic as publication.

    This should not be a surprise. Ahmad - who publishes the monthly Arizona Muslim Voice - is also a local point person for Friends of Palestine, a group that organizes counter-demonstrations at pro-Israel events on the Arizona State University campus. Last spring, Friends of Palestine demonstrators paraded in front of a Scottsdale hotel during a local American Israel Public Affairs Committee forum, carrying signs equating Ariel Sharon with Adolf Hitler and the Israeli flag with the flag of Nazi Germany.

    Great Muslim American spokesman, this Marwan Ahmad.

    Returning to the Inquirer, it's unfortunate to see Uncle Tomist style attacks like Ahmad's are effective, because their targets feel obligated to answer them. In any case, Jasser is presented as being clearly on the defensive:

    Jasser bristles at the suggestion that he is pandering. "So is their point that I'm contriving this, that I'm lying about my religious beliefs?" he said. "These are beliefs I've held since I was a youth."

    Jasser acknowledges that he is living an American dream inaccessible to many more recent Muslim immigrants, who are more likely to be impoverished and resentful.

    I'd love to know whether he really said that the American dream is "inaccessible" to "impoverished and resentful" Muslim immigrants. And I'd like to know, since when do successful immigrants to this country have to be placed on the defensive, and be held accountable to an activist charge that their successes are "inaccessible" to alleged masses of the impoverished and resentful?

    What follows clearly implies that only those with "skills to flourish in the United States" are able to do so:

    Jasser's parents had the skills to flourish in the United States; his mother is a pharmacist, and his father is a cardiologist. The Navy put him through medical school, and his last assignment was to provide medical care to members of Congress and U.S. Supreme Court justices. His Navy uniform still hangs on his office door, beneath a lab coat.

    "I have more freedom to practice my faith here in America than anywhere else in the world," he said. "I didn't bring with me baggage from the Middle East."

    Personally, I think it's wonderful that Jasser didn't bring baggage from the Middle East. And I may be wrong, but I get the distinct impression that if Jasser had brought the baggage along and talked the Islamist talk, he wouldn't be held to answer to the ranks of the impoverished and resentful.

    This guy is an example of the American dream. He came here for the right reasons, and he loves this country. Instead of being praised for it, he's viewed with suspicion.

    Finally, there's the issue of his religion. In the current era of identity politics, I suspect that his moderate views on the proper role of religion will cause him to be scorned by most religious ideologues:

    Growing up in the United States, Jasser became a "Jeffersonian Muslim," a believer in a clear separation of religion and state. His belief in secularism - that the mosque should devote less time to politics and more to spiritual discussions about relationships with God - causes perhaps the greatest disagreement with the established Muslim groups.

    "These individuals want to convert Muslims in general to secularism," said Ahmad, the Muslim Voice publisher. "Islam is not a secular society. They want us to separate religion from daily life and politics. They want to take everything but religion out of the mosque. That's not something Muslims stand for."

    Jasser said he did not want Muslims to separate religion from their daily lives. He said his faith governed everything he did - his treatment of patients, his respect for people of other faiths, his diet, his prayer schedule. But he does not believe his is a faith that can be imposed upon others.

    His view of his faith is admirable, and I wish more American Muslims felt the same way. I also wish that certain Christians would set a better example (because what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander), and while it's another topic, I fear that identity politics is not limited to the left.

    M. Zuhdi Jasser and his organization need the support of all Americans who care about freedom. I'm glad to see that he's getting press coverage, but the organizations opposing him are slick, well-funded, and know how to snooker the left, so it's an uphill struggle.

    posted by Eric at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)




    Public Service Announcement

    There's a new computer virus threat described as "huge":

    ....the potential for damaging attacks increased dramatically at the weekend after a group of computer hackers published the source code they used to exploit it. Unlike most attacks, which require victims to download or execute a suspect file, the new vulnerability makes it possible for users to infect their computers with spyware or a virus simply by viewing a web page, e-mail or instant message that contains a contaminated image.

    “We haven’t seen anything that bad yet, but multiple individuals and groups are exploiting this vulnerability,” Mr Hyppönen said. He said that every Windows system shipped since 1990 contained the flaw.

    As Microsoft admits, the "Vulnerability in Graphics Rendering Engine Could Allow Remote Code Execution," although they haven't released a fix for it.

    A most helpful programmer, Ilfak Guilfanov has written a patch which is available here and here, along with instructions on how to unregister the dangerous .dll file which is vulnerable to being exploited.

    I don't normally bore readers with stuff like this, but I thought I should just let everyone know that I downloaded and installed the patch, and unregistered the DLL, and everything is fine.

    I don't especially like the idea of being infected merely by viewing web pages, and the more I read about how the exploit worked, the more I saw the wisdom in protecting myself against it.

    It's peace of mind which costs nothing.

    UPDATE: Because of traffic overload, Russian programmer Ilsak Guilfanov's site is down (readers may have noticed the above links do not work), but the patch can be downloaded here, or at Guilfanov's temporary new streamlined site.

    posted by Eric at 11:34 PM | Comments (1)



    Stampeding in the new year

    There's no better way to start the New Year than to check out the New Year's Edition of the RINO Sightings Carnival at Kevin Boyd's Louisiana Libertarian.

    He does a fine job with all the posts, and here are a few of my favorites:

  • If you want the lowdown on the Munich massacre (and "Munich" the movie), do not miss this post by Judith at Kesher Talk.
  • Dan Melson at Searchlight Crusade offers a long and thoughtful essay explaining why America is worth defending.
  • Don Surber highlights a case in which the ACLU is attacking a law they helped write!
  • Dean Esmay has a wonderful post about robots, which he shows are not "geeky sci-fi stuff anymore. These are real-world phenomena that we are watching evolve in real life." Today's robots are also self aware (which is something I can't say about everyone.) Hmmmm.... Maybe I can have myself replaced.
  • Read 'em all!

    posted by Eric at 12:52 PM



    In defense of the right to defend La Shawn Barber

    La Shawn Barber is an excellent blogger as well as a friend. While I don't agree with her all the time, that is completely irrelevant to considerations of friendship. (For starters, I don't know anyone with whom I agree all the time.)

    But I'm starting to see a regular pattern of attacks on La Shawn which go beyond merely disagreeing with her, and which instead take on what strikes me as a mob mentality. An example can be found in the comment thread at this post, in which commenters attack not just La Shawn Barber, but the post's author for the crime of linking to her. And then they go on to attack Sean Kinsell, for daring to defend her. (Among other things, Sean was told that if he were a black man in the 1950s, he'd "be celebrating the fact that you got your own doorway, water fountain, and seats in the cinema.")

    One of the reasons I started blogging was because I detest any hint of a mob mentality, and the blogosphere struck me as being for the most part above that sort of thing. While I tire of having to repeat myself, whenever I see mob thinking it makes me want to do whatever the mob opposes.

    While it really shouldn't be necessary, in this case, I guess I should link to La Shawn Barber, simply because people don't want me to do that. Here's a post about Kwanzaa, and another one about Larry Elder.

    Furthermore, because the best way to defend anything (including defending the right to defend La Shawn Barber) is a good offense, I'll do something worse than linking to these posts. I'll even agree with them. I think Larry Elder asks a good question ("When can we blacks get to the point where you and I can have a disagreement — about racism, affirmative action, the War in Iraq, whatever — without someone who thinks like me being a sell-out or an Uncle Tom? Is that at all possible?"), and I think that Kwanzaa is socialism disguised as religion that in my view gives Paganism a bad name.

    (Sheesh. I don't see why I have to get so defensive about my right to be offensive.)

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)



    Inconsequential considerations . . .

    Do ideas have consequences?

    For many years, I have wanted to know, but I've been unable to find a simple answer to this stubborn question.

    It has always seemed to me that ideas, like mathematical formulas, are neither good nor bad in themselves because they are intellectual products. Whether they are right or wrong does not become a moral question unless and until they are implemented by human beings in one form or another. People often speak about the horrors of such things as Communism or Nazism, and, because these things were "ideas," there's a rush to blame the idea itself as opposed to the implementation of it. My objection to this is that if, say, Mao killed 73 million people implementing Communism, blaming the idea not only tends to let him off the hook, it also lessens the personal responsibility of the millions who carried out the killings. Same thing with Hitler. Anti-Semitism is a very old idea, but it took Hitler and modern technology to implement it in a modern, murderous scale.

    Was Auschwitz necessarily a "consequence" of the "idea" of anti-Semitism?

    Slavery is something nearly everyone today considers morally wrong in the extreme. But for reasons which escape me, the "idea" of slavery is not blamed for the horrible things which occurred. Yet it wasn't that long ago that abolition of slavery was considered to be a terrible idea -- an idea so bad that people who merely advocated it were censored, imprisoned, even killed. Is the spread of that idea (that slavery was morally wrong) responsible for the Civil War?

    Suppose I were to maintain the following:

    1. There is no moral duty nor legal obligation to pay income taxes;

    2. Taking LSD is not only perfectly safe, but will lead to direct communion with God, as well as great personal enlightenment;

    3. All disagreements should be settled by duelling contests; and

    4. Suicide is the only morally correct option when faced with personal bankruptcy.

    People are free to believe the above statements, or not believe them. But if they believe them, and then implement them in their personal lives, are the ideas themselves responsible? If so, why doesn't that make me responsible for unpaid taxes, ruined lives, and deaths?

    I'm inclined towards the view that ideas of Person A are not themselves responsible for the conduct of Person B.

    But if that view is right, does that necessarily mean that the ideas have no consequences? Further, how can there be any moral difference between an inconsequential idea and an idea with consequences? Suppose Hitler's and Marx's ideas had been ridiculed and never implemented? Would the fact that they'd be obscure tomes sitting on dusty shelves make them any more or less immoral? I don't see how.

    Which means that even if we grant that "ideas have consequences" in some circumstances, it's also quite clear that other ideas (or the same ideas in different circumstances) have no consequences.

    So what's the consequence of the idea that ideas have consequences?

    I may never know.

    posted by Eric at 09:41 AM | Comments (8)



    What? No Bush Genocide?

    While it took them awhile to perform the requisite statistical analyses, it now turns out that there were no racial disaparities among the Katrina flood victims:

    Study finds death toll in proportion

    Contrary to perceptions, poor and black residents didn't suffer inordinately compared with others.

    By John Simerman, Dwight Ott and Ted Mellnik
    Inquirer National Staff

    NEW ORLEANS - Four months after Hurricane Katrina, analyses suggest that some widely reported assumptions about the storm's victims were incorrect.

    For example, a comparison of the locations where 874 bodies were recovered with U.S. Census tract data indicates that the victims were not disproportionately poor. Another database, compiled by Knight Ridder of 486 Katrina victims from Orleans Parish and neighboring St. Bernard Parish, suggests they also were not disproportionately African American.

    Well, I'm glad that's out of the way.

    Is it reasonable to expect apologies from the people who claimed that the deaths were a form of "genocide" caused by Bush racism?

    UPDATE (01/06/06): My thanks to Cathy Young for linking this post! I couldn't agree more her conclusion:

    No wonder a lot of people think there really is a "liberal media."

    Rather surprisingly, the blogosphere has also paid little attention to this debunking of Katrina myths. Yet this is an important story which says a great deal about the knee-jerk acceptance of claims that support conventional wisdom about America's social ills. It should be reported more widely, and there should be more apologies.

    There should be, but I'm not holding my breath. (I suspect this will be thrown into the journalistic deep freeze along with other dead bodies....)

    posted by Eric at 09:33 AM | Comments (1)




    Happy New Year Part II

    Late last night, Coco and I were caught watching "The Godfather Part II" on television (not something either of us do a whole lot of, but it's a favorite I can watch till kingdom come):

    EGSCocoTV.jpg

    While I love the film, until I saw the photo I had no idea that Coco enjoyed it so much. (She's very impressionable and I do hope she's not getting bad ideas, or I'll have to censor what she sees....)


    And today, it was Happy New Year time again.

    Some pictures from the Philadelphia Mummers' Parade.


    mummersa.jpg


    outhouses.jpg


    cowind.jpg


    Earlier today, this strange classical motif caught my eye:


    ULFIgs.jpg

    Too much fun to allow for much blogging, and I have no time for detailed analysis, or psychoanalysis.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

    UPDATE: Commenter Joe Peden asked about the Mummers. They're an annual tradition in Philadelphia (a quasi Pagan one in my view), dating back to at least the 1700s.

    John Fischer has excellent photos of the Mummers, and I posted about them in 2004 and 2005.

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




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