More Philadelphia gun violence!

Bear in mind that the statistics you read about include incidents like this:

A burglar who kicked his way into a locked store early yesterday found himself facing the shop's owner - who was armed and fired his gun, police said.

Damon Jones, 32, of the 400 block of West Wellens Street, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, authorities said.

The incident began at 5 a.m. in the 5400 block of North Fifth Street, where the owner - who lives in the building that houses his store - heard the burglar breaking in, said Capt. Benjamin Naish of the police Public Affairs Unit.

"The burglar had kicked in the front door and encounters the store owner inside," Naish said. The owner "has been cooperative, and no charges are pending at this time."

Naish said a preliminary investigation was done by homicide detectives, who have sent the case to the District Attorney's Office for review.

Authorities did not identify the store owner because he has not been charged.

Good for the store owner! Imagine for a moment how much money he has saved society. At 32, I think it's reasonable to assume that if the dead man was a career burglar, he's probably been breaking into stores and houses for over a decade, with untold economic consequences (to say nothing of the additional costs occasioned if he's been arrested, tried, convicted, imprisoned, paroled, supervised, etc.)

Unfortunately, the story was buried on page B-8 of today's Inquirer. I can't state with confidence that this is because of any bias against defensive or justifiable shootings, but for whatever reason, the Inquirer apparently doesn't think these stories are as newsworthy as shooting incidents which occur for reasons unknown. When criminals shoot each other (a common occurrence), it's often front page news. As a matter of routine, the numbers are added to the "death toll" from "gun violence."

Few will notice today's buried story, which is why I'm linking it.

However, what most irritates me about this story is that the criminal's death will be added to this statistical tally of "gun deaths." And "homicides." (Which of course it is.) What that means is that eventually, it will plausibly be spun as "gun violence" and the suspect even turned into a "victim."

More attention needs to be paid to tallying these justifiable killings by private citizens.

I'm wondering . . .

Is there any way to prevent them from being used to buttress the anti-gun position?

Or has it been decided that it is not in our best interest to be able to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable killings?

LEGAL NOTE: "Justifiable homicide" is a tricky concept, and I am not entirely sure about the nuances, and whether an official ruling is required to declare that a death was that. Obviously, a failure by a district attorney to charge someone with a crime is not the same thing as a ruling of justifiable homicide. The law does not appear to be uniform, and in some instances, a coroner's inquest results in such a finding. How many "unsolved" homicides still on the books might be found (if brought to trial) to have involved self-defense? How carefully are killings of felons by felons investigated when (as is often the case) no witnesses come forward? Contrary to popular belief (and de facto police practice), felons do not forfeit the right to self defense. As a practical matter, though, they are far more likely to be charged in the event that they kill in self defense. If Felon A breaks into the home or a car of Felon B and is killed by Felon B, it is unlikely that Felon B will stick around and answer questions. More likely, Felon A's family will insist that the dead man was a victim who had done "nothing wrong" -- and the death will be listed on the books (probably forever) as an "unsolved homicide" -- or even an "unsolved murder."

Any analysis is further complicated by the fact that "justifiable homicide" is not a synonym for "self defense." The former often involves a legal finding by the authorities before a trial, while the latter is a criminal defense raised during trial.

I don't have easy answers. All I know is that I have grown weary of questionable statistics.

(And the pacifist meme that all violence is bad.)

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

Not a bright idea . . .

I think we should be glad that this didn't happen at Guantanamo:

MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Fateh Mohammad, a prison inmate in Pakistan, says he woke up last weekend with a glass lightbulb in his anus.

Wednesday night, doctors brought Mohammad's misery to an end after a one-and-a-half hour operation to remove the object.

"Thanks Allah, now I feel comfort. Today, I had my breakfast. I was just drinking water, nothing else," Mohammad, a grey-beared man in his mid-40s, told Reuters from a hospital bed in the southern central city of Multan.

"We had to take it out intact," said Dr. Farrukh Aftab at Nishtar Hospital. "Had it been broken inside, it would be a very very complicated situation."


Um, I mean, I'm glad he's feeling better, as the whole thing must have been quite an ordeal.

Especially because the man had absolutely no idea how the light bulb got there:

"I don't know who did this to me. Police or other prisoners."

The doctor treating Mohammad said he'd never encountered anything like it before, and doubted the felon's story that someone had drugged him and inserted the bulb while he was comatose.

Drugged penetration while comatose? Isn't that what the feminists call "date rape"? Never mind politics. The man is a felon and not a jihadist, which means his credibility can be fairly doubted and his motives freely impugned.

How different might the spin have been had the same thing happened at Gitmo . . .

Fortunately, it didn't. So the angries of the left won't be carrying on about "suppressed homoeroticism" and cracking jokes like "How many U.S. soldiers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

Defending the indefensible

While I'm not particularly into journalistic hype, it's hard to resist digging into a piece that starts like this:

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is sitting on his back porch in Berkeley, Calif., listening to the hummingbirds and explaining his plans to seize control of the Democratic Party.
I don't care what you think of Kos, there's just something very Michael Mooreish about this pairing of hummingbirds /within-10/ Berkeley /within-10/ seizing control of the Democratic Party.

Need more details?

It seems as though the rock-thrower is growing up. Inside, a handyman is remodeling the Moulitsases' suburban living room, where soon the futon will be replaced by a daybed, and the big, boxy television by a sleek new flat-panel.
The rock-thrower? I thought only guys like Edward Said threw rocks -- and then only at Israelis. And how does someone only seem to be growing up? By letting a Newsweek reporter catch a glimpse of what might be described as petit-bourgeois hankerings? (I can just hear the chorus of fake leftists screaming "Oh the hypocrisy!")

I've never been a fan of Kos, and I'm still not. But when I see deliberate attempts to influence me by cluttering my mind with irrelevant details, I tend to resist instinctively. And right now, I feel like defending someone I've tended to regard the way one might regard an angry weasel. I never liked Kos (and said so), and I never thought of Daily Kos as a true blog. It's been accurately described as a hive, as it's a huge labyrinth of activity with more writers than probably even Kos can count at any moment in time. Fine for what it is, and I know people like it, but I just can't think of it as a real blog.

Whatever anyone might call the site, Kos has been hugely successful. Still, this was news to me:

. . .in 2003, [] he rose to prominence filling Howard Dean's Internet piggy bank. . .
I'm sorry, but I thought he was prominent for reasons other than filling Dean's piggy bank.

But never mind. He's now gone from piggy banks to body snatching. So says one nameless Democrat:

By 2006, Daily Kos was drawing some 600,000 hits a day, and Moulitsas's anger over the war—and the Dems' failure to hold Bush accountable—had reached a fever pitch. Yet some Dems fear that Moulitsas's popularity will pull the party so far to the left that it won't be able to win the general election in 2008. "It's a little bit like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' with these guys," said an aide to a Democratic presidential candidate who asked not to be identified while the boss was angling for Moulitsas's support. "You like what they're saying when they're coming in, but you don't know what they're going to do once you let them into your house."
Wow, this guy's scarier than I thought!

You'd think that anyone who'd risen from rockthrowing piggy-bank-filler to body-snatcher of the Democratic Party might warrant, um, a background check, possibly? An investigation, maybe? You know, by the people whose bodies are about to be snatched? They can afford a couple of hundred dollars for the same private investigators who do that sort of thing for humdrum things like divorce proceedings and searches for deadbeat dads.

I think it's reasonable to assume that Kos knows enough about the way the world works to anticipate something like that.

Ah, but no. For even having such thoughts, it's call-the-shrink time. Kos is clearly suffering from "belligerence." And "paranoia":

. . .the strain of the spotlight is beginning to show in his growing belligerence and paranoia. When Kosola broke, Moulitsas e-mailed fellow progressive activists, wondering who might be shopping the story. "I've gotten reliable tips that Hillary's operation has been digging around my past (something I confronted them about, btw, and never got a denial), and you know the Lieberman/DLC/TNR camp is digging as well," he wrote, referring to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and The New Republic. (Aides to Senators Clinton and Lieberman deny the allegations in the e-mails.)
Well, if they deny it, we can rest assured that it never happened. Perish the thought! No one working for or affiliated with any Democratic Party official or candidate has ever investigated Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.

Newsweek leaves the now paranoid body-snatcher-with-grandiose-plans "back on the porch." (why, that's exactly where he was when the piece started) mouthing strange utterances about Jon Stewart, and radar:

Back on the porch in Berkeley, Moulitsas shows he's learned at least one key trick of being an insider: setting low expectations. "We're going to lose a lot of races this year and a lot of races in '08," he says. "The goals of this movement are long term." Still, he knows that superstardom comes with a time limit. "I'm the flavor of the month; it could be someone else in five months or a year." To avoid an early flameout, he's "going dark" for two to three months so he can focus on his "real work, which is talking about these races and issues." He pauses for a moment, thinking over the implications of what he's just said. "Well, there are always exceptions ... I'd make an exception for Jon Stewart." He pauses again so as not to talk over the handyman's high-powered vacuum. "The reality is I can't go under the radar. There's a point of no return."
I'm reminded of the "coverage" of Howard Dean's wife, and I'm expecting more of this sort of journalism directed at Kos. Not only can the MSM be expected to be part of the Hillary machine, but hell, Kos is considered a troublemaking blogger, so it's payback.

(Never imagined I'd defend him, though.)

posted by Eric at 07:44 AM | Comments (1)



It's been awhile since I've drawn anything, and this was more or less an exercise to brush up, but I was impatient and didn't put in much effort. The concept was my girfriend's ... and she's a Democrat!

What do you think? For awhile I've been toying with the idea of drawing cartoons for this site. I reckon Eric will have the final say. If we go ahead with it we'll need a clever title.

posted by Dennis at 05:52 PM | Comments (4)

Building a better world -- where only dictators have guns!
"To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."

-- George Mason, quoted in today's New York Sun editorial.

Last night I discovered that Jeff Soyer was written up in the UK's Guardian -- although hardly in a manner which could be called respectful. Aside from quoting Jeff without linking him (a definite blog faux pas -- of the Wolcottian variety when done deliberately), they also paid him a sort of lefthanded compliment by calling him part of "the lunatic fringe of the US right." I quickly emailed Jeff to make sure he knew about this compliment, and this morning he thanked the Guardian for honoring him.

As Jeff noted, though, the Guardian neither linked the post they were quoting, nor was it quoted in context. In his post (about Kalashnikov rifles) Jeff said:

Is the AK-47 being used by bad people? Yes. It's also being used by good people. The firearm is neutral.

If some third-world governments are using the AK's to "trample human rights" then rather than banning the sale and export of them, the UN and other so-called "human rights" groups ought to be making sure that AK's are also available and used to fight for human rights and be provided to those who are being "trampled upon".

Instead, they follow the faulty (and proven wrong) logic that banning guns will stop bad people from having them and using them for evil. Cities such as DC and Chicago prove this everyday when they prevent the law-abiding from handgun ownership, thereby empowering the criminals and thugs to prey on them.

As the saying goes, "God created man... Sam Colt made them equal." (Actually, I suspect the original went, "Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.")

According to our tradition, governments (of the people, by the people, for the people, and all that jazz) are supposed to derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. When guns are owned only by the government, that changes the equation to one of inherent inequality.

To me, this is basic ABCs-of-freedom stuff. To the Guardian, an elementary principle of freedom is apparently "lunatic fringe."

Ditto the United Nations and its gun grabbing venture - which wants to use "International Law" as a cover for preservation of the rights of dictators at the expense of people living in places like Syria, Cuba, Rwanda, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone. Or China, Iran, Belarus, and Egypt.

Jeff links Cam Edwards, who reports from the United Nations:

The Cambodian genocide took place just a generation ago. Yet already the Cambodian government is disarming its citizens, with the approval and help of the United Nations and its disarmament program. In a perfect world, the United Nations would be holding an armament program for the people of Cambodia. It would understand the right of self-protection. It would understand that the State isn’t always the good guy.
I understand that the State isn't always the good guy, and so did the founders of this country. Hence we have the Second Amendment.

Human history shows that tyrannical governments are an inherent threat to freedom. When people are disarmed, tyranny and totalitarianism flourish. When they are armed, tyranny and totalitarianism hesitate.

Nobody put it better than Jefferson:

When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
The Guardian (and the U.N.) disagree. By calling Jeff part of the lunatic fringe, they do more than honor him. They also honor the founders of this country.

If arming citizens against tyrants is a lunatic fringe idea, then by all means count me as part of the fringe.

I'll close with more from the New York Sun editorial:

A ban on arms ensures that these oppressive regimes have a complete monopoly on force. Those struggling for freedom in their totalitarian states will have no means to realize their dreams. The Chinese regime wants to defend its ability to conduct a massacre in Tiananmen Square without people being able to fight back.

The Founding Fathers saw the Second Amendment as a way to ensure Americans never faced the same tyranny that dominates the United Nations. A Second Amendment in other countries would be a gift to freedom seekers. As Madison noted in the same Federalist paper quoted above, if a people have arms and local governments "it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it." This conference instead seeks to solidify the thrones of today's tyrants.

To oppose today's tyrants, why, you'd have to be crazy.

You'd have to be a member of the lunatic fringe.

posted by Eric at 02:05 PM | Comments (1)

Flip-flopping on equal rights

Here's an in-depth look at a vexing question: Are flip-flops damaging your career? While I'm self employed (and thus don't face such workplace pressures), I'm always intrigued by such cultural phenomena, but to my dismay, the article revealed a distinctly sexist bias:

An online survey conducted for retailers Old Navy and Gap found flip-flops topped the list of wardrobe items that college and high school students planned to wear to work this summer.

More than 31 percent of women said flip-flops were the single "must have" item for work this summer.

But many companies disagree.

"The dress code says no beach wear and flip-flops are considered beach wear," said a spokeswoman for BNP Paribas.

What about men? I mean, we're not talking about stiletto heels here. Lots of men wear flip-flops (at the beach or just "wherever"), and thus it would seem that any ban on beach wear would apply just as equally to men as it would to women.

Is there something I'm not getting? Surely there isn't a double standard for flip-flops?

Or is there?

Intrigued as I was clueless, I thought I'd visit the blogosphere's leading expert on the subject. Sure enough, the Manolo, he did not disappoint:

The Manolo’s internet friend the Miss Meghan she is, as usual, exactly correct. Unless you are working as the waitress at the beach cafe, or are the Jimmy Buffet, you should not be wearing the flip-flops to your place of professional employment.
I'm inclined to agree, but I'm still wondering whether there's a double standard.

Not that it matters to me personally (as I have no boss who can fire me), but I never wear flip-flops, and I don't even own them. But if I worked for a law firm and wore flip-flops to work with a suit, I'm just wondering . . . If they fired me but didn't fire women for wearing them, couldn't I claim discrimination? Better yet, suppose I walked into court that way. I distinctly remember a California lawyer who was threatened with contempt by a judge for wearing tennis shoes into court. But flip-flops? That might mean an immediate contempt citation -- for a male lawyer, that is. That's because such things are seen as inherently disrespectful when worn by men.

Not, apparently, when worn by women.

And not according to the Seattle school board, when worn by children:

The board voted Tuesday to drop a proposed flip-flop ban on grounds that it would be impossible to enforce.
Impossible to enforce? (Maybe for a school that thinks "future time orientation" is racism. . .)

Two anti-flip-flop board members changed their minds after hearing appeals from parents and students. The panel had taken a preliminary vote on flip-flops two weeks ago.

"I don't see myself how flip-flops are disrespectful," Board President Evelyn Castellar said.

I doubt she'd feel the same way if a male school board lawyer showed up wearing them, and that's because context still matters. It varies according to age, and according to sex, whether anyone likes it or not.

I've struggled with school dress codes and double standards before, and while they aren't the same (legally or practically) as workplace dress codes, the uproar over flip-flops worn by women is a tacit admission of a similar double standard. Inherently, I think there just is a double standard, and there's no getting rid of it. Hence the flip-flop division. On men, they're slovenly; on women, they're stylish. The difference lies not in the footwear, but in the difference between the sexes.

Of course, whether flip-flops are allowed and whether they're a good career move are two different issues.

I'm wondering whether it would be more "discriminatory" to not allow them at all, or to allow them, but engage in subtle discrimination against women who wear them as opposed to women who don't.

(Bad career moves lead to such subtle forms of discrimination.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurs to me that my hypothetical example of a man wearing flip-flops with a suit might be overkill. Even in a less formal -- or informal -- workplace, a guy showing up in flip-flops is going to look like a slob or a jerk, while a woman wearing the same shoes won't. (Similarly, a waitress wearing flip-flops would be seen as "casual" and maybe "cute," while a waiter in flip-flops could very well cause patrons to lose their appetites -- even call the Health Department.)

There is nothing fair about it, and I don't want to spend time worrying about whether this is rational or logical. Please! Even if I wrote another essay, I doubt I could fully explain the intricacies of sex-based perceptions and judgments.

posted by Eric at 01:13 PM | Comments (8)

driven to drunken sex?

Just as tobacco has all but been declared a poison (leaving smokers open to indictment for murder), via Ann Althouse I see that Wisconsin has declared alcohol to be a date rape drug:

"Alcohol is the No. 1 date-rape drug, and we've felt strongly that our statutes should reflect that reality," said Jill Groblewski, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The coalition started lobbying for the change in the mid-1990s, when language on intoxicants was added to the rape statutes in response to a surge in assaults aided by drugs.

"The change in legislation allows prosecutors to hold offenders accountable who use alcohol to facilitate a sexual assault," Groblewski said. "It gives prosecutors additional charging options."


Under state law, having sexual contact with a person incapable of consent because they are under the influence of an intoxicant is defined as second- degree sexual assault. The offense is a Class C felony punishable by a fine up to $100,000 and a prison sentence of up to 25 years.

25 years in prison for drunken sex? Is that what they're saying? Apparently.

Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard said the change was "long overdue" and is a good thing primarily for the message about alcohol that it sends - namely, that it can be just as dangerous as other drugs.

Blanchard also stressed that the somewhat lower bar on consent standards for victims does not extend to perpetrators, who can be charged for crimes whether they have been drinking or not.

"Alcohol is not an excuse," he said. "It's our job to help jurors understand that people who want to commit sexual assault many times are going to take unfair advantage to get what they want."

I've asked this question before, but what I'd like to know is what is a perpetrator? The feminists who define these things want, on the one hand, to declare that only men are capable of being perpetrators. But what is consent? And why can't a man be just as incapable of giving consent as a woman?

If (as the feminists insist) we are to be non-sexist in our analyses, why must we continue to be so, um, "heteronormative"? Anyone who thinks I am being overly disingenuous, try to imagine this law as applied to a gay couple, both of whom had too much to drink, and both of whom had sex. The next day, both are regretful. Who's the perpetrator? Who's the victim? The one who manages to get to the phone first to call the cops?

My question is why does the law presume that a drunken man can consent, while a drunken woman cannot? Might there be a constitutional issue here?

If you think this is ridiculous, don't look at me. I didn't write the law; I am only trying to analyze it.

I'm not sure who's behind this neoprohibitionist agenda, but drunken sex seems to be going the way of drunken driving.

However, I think there's a key difference, as revealed in this statement by the campus police chief:

[UW-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling] praised the change in the law, calling it "recognition that just because someone has used alcohol doesn't mean they are any less a victim/survivor."
She wouldn't have said that about a drunken driver who survived a crash, as such people are not allowed to be seen as victims.

Not even if they are women who decided to drive home rather than face becoming victims of drunken sex? Let's assume that someone is legally drunk -- and therefore legally incapable of consenting to sex. Assume the same person (too drunk to drive) drives anyway. Is it really fair to call her a "perpetrator" if she climbs behind a steering wheel, but a "victim" if she climbs in her boyfriend's bed?

What is consent?

posted by Eric at 08:25 AM | Comments (7)

Inconvenient troots?

Ann Althouse has come up with a great new term:

Peter Daou signs off over at Salon, as he leaves to serve Hillary Clinton as "a blog advisor to facilitate and expand her relationship with the netroots." Take note, bloggers! That's a new job description, and you qualify! Blog Advisor, facilitating and expanding relationships with the netroots.

Is it too late to complain about the word "netroots"? It should be two words. I'm seeing troots too much. Or could we just shorten it to troots, which is cute? Cute troots.


While I'm hesitant to call anyone I don't know "cute" (I mean, the word has a double meaning and sensitivities can run high), "troots" is certainly cute as a word, and I see nothing wrong with wishing the right kind of cuteness upon them.

But cute or not, I do hope they're not endangered. Pronouncements like "will reach fuller potential with the participation of Democratic leaders and responsible reporters" sound ominous.

But I don't want my concerns misinterpretated as paranoia. At this point it's too early to talk about slaughter of innocent trootsis. (Or would that be trootsies? I guess the latter term would apply only if they're stricken from the roll. . .)

posted by Eric at 08:04 AM

Facing dry facts dryly

(Aerial view of Pennsylvania flooding accompanying a story about Red Cross shelters set up nearby -- including one in this county.)

The flooding (which I discussed yesterday) appears headed from bad to worse:

The remarkable siege of rain that has left a deadly legacy of angry, chocolate-brown waters, submerged highways, and forced evacuations threatens the region with yet more flooding today and tomorrow.

The flooding, so far, has been stunningly widespread. Gov. Rendell declared a state of emergency for 46 counties, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia.

At least four deaths statewide were blamed on the storm, and residents were ordered or urged to leave their homes in at least 13 towns in Bucks, Chester and Montgomery Counties as rising waters posed life-threatening hazards.

"It is the worst water I've seen since I've been a cop," said West Norriton Police Chief Robert Adams as he surveyed the flooded Riverview Landing Apartments on the banks of the Schuylkill. "That's 33 years, all here."

It could actually get worse as the Delaware River and Schuylkill continue to rise after six days of pounding rains work their way downstream.

It was impossible to put the flooding into any historical context, said Justin Fleming of the Pennsylvania Emergency Agency, for a simple reason: "It's not over."

I don't know about historical contexts, but I do know that it's tougher and tougher to keep track of the nuances of the ongoing Pennsylvania "drought" -- which seems to still be on despite the wettest June I can remember.

It must be tough to be in the ranks of emergency officialdom.

As to context, far be it from me to advise those who know better about how to tell people in shelters that they're in a drought -- much less how to put the proper spin on this apparently divine aboutface.

Maybe they should declare it to be the wettest drought in Pennsylvania history.

posted by Eric at 07:26 AM

Legalize smoking -- or face a war crimes tribunal!

Can logic be carried too far?

Earlier, when I researched the question of landlord legal liability for tenants' secondhand cigarette smoke, I found an amazing web site, which goes much further than merely saying landlords are liable. According to the site, landlords and all others who allow cigarette smoking are murderers -- even part of a "Tobacco Holocaust."

Now, the guy who writes this site may be a nut (for starters he's trivializing the Holocaust), but I believe in giving the devil his due. And there's a certain perverse logic here which I find disturbing (at least if his numbers and research are correct).

While I haven't checked the accuracy of these numbers, the site makes the claim that legally speaking, smoke is a poison -- and full of heavily regulated toxins:

Cigarettes contain and emit large quantities of toxic chemical emissions including carbon monoxide. They are inherently dangerous. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress: a Report of the Surgeon General, Publication CDC 89-8411, Table 7, pp 86-87 (1989), lists examples of deleterious ingredients including but not limited to:

acetaldehyde (1.4+ mg)arsenic (500+ ng)benzo(a)pyrene (.1+ ng)
cadmium (1,300+ ng)crotonaldehyde (.2+ µg)chromium (1,000+ ng)
ethylcarbamate 310+ ng)formaldehyde (1.6+ µg)hydrazine (14+ ng)
lead (8+ µg)nickel (2,000+ ng)radioactive polonium (.2+ Pci)

Due to cigarettes' inherently deleterious nature and ingredients, they, when lit, emit deleterious emissions. The term is toxic tobacco smoke (TTS) or, erroneously, ETS. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW), Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, PHS Pub 1103, Table 4, p 60 (1964), lists examples of cigarettes' deleterious emissions compared to the chemicals' "speed limits" (official term, "threshold limit values" [TLV's] set in the toxic chemical regulation 29 CFR § 1910.1000, available at your local library). It is due to cigarettes excess quantities that deaths result. Notice the emissions vs the "speed limits" [TLV's]:

TTS Chemical
TTS Quantity
acetaldehyde 3,200 ppm 200.0 ppm
acrolein 150 ppm 0.5 ppm
ammonia 300 ppm 150.0 ppm
carbon monoxide 42,000 ppm 100.0 ppm
formaldehyde 30 ppm 5.0 ppm
hydrogen cyanide 1,600 ppm 10.0 ppm
hydrogen sulfide 40 ppm 20.0 ppm
methyl chloride 1,200 ppm 100.0 ppm
nitrogen dioxide 250 ppm 5.0 ppm

Obviously, cigarettes' toxic chemicals far exceed the "Threshold Limit Values." Wherefore TTS-caused injuries and deaths are common, foreseeable, "natural and probable consequences." TTS exposure causes Increased Risk of Death. There is a common law right to "fresh and pure air," a duty to not endanger people, and, when one does cause harm, to aid the victim. "Fresh and Pure Air" is already the law.
Having documented that poisonous regulated toxins are being emitted, the site then points out that it is illegal to poison people:
Laws already ban poisoning one's neighbors, in fact, anyone, neighbor or not. Casualties and deaths at apartments/condominiums due to smoking, are part of the overall tobacco holocaust. Such effects arise as toxic tobacco smoke (TTS) from neighbors seeps into apartments, condominiums, and causing disease, fires, deaths, not to mention the preceding annoyances, nuisance, and irritations.

Which means that you're in danger of being killed:

You are in danger. Toxic tobacco smoke (TTS) kills more people than motor vehicle accidents, all crimes, AIDS, illegal drugs, etc. In other words, you are statistically more likely to be killed by your neighbor's tobacco smoke than by his car, his gun, or his AIDS virus. Your landlord or management are aiding and abetting, accessory to this illegal killing, of which (as the body count is at the "holocaust" level) you may well be a future casualty.
In short, this is a Holocaust, every bit as much as that perpetrated by Nazis put on trial at Nuremburg:
Be aware that the sole reason why the issue of a nonsmoker being adversely impacted by tobacco smoke, presenting individualized evidence of harm—why that issue even comes up, is malice, corruption and similar unethical, immoral, and illegal reasons. The government enforces the law with respect to spewing toxic chemicals in all other aspects of life, including on these same exact chemicals (carbon monoxide, cyanide, etc.). Repeat, that government officials do not do so on this subject is due to personal corruption on a mass basis constituting the proximate cause of the ongoing tobacco holocaust at a level of casualties far exceeding that prosecuted in The Nurnberg Trial, 6 FRD 69 (1946).
In case you're not yet laughing, the site author claims that future prosecutions -- and executions -- for murder are possible.
They are knowingly aiding and abetting and accessory to potentially your death, for which they, like the Nazis at Nurnberg, may be executed in the future. The people they mass-exterminated had no legal obligation whatsoever to offer any suggestions to the would-be killers as to how to avoid doing the killings. You have the same human right. You can remain silent, all the legal responsibilities are on the perpetrator.
The problem with laughing it off is that let us suppose that logically, he is right that tobacco is an environmental toxin, like mercury or cyanide. If it is, and if (as he claims) the law recognizes it that way, then in logic why aren't cigarette smokers treated the same way someone would be treated who leached cyanide gas, mercury vapor, or gasoline fumes (all in quantities not large enough to be immediately fatal) into the halls of an apartment building? Because of numbers? Or a de facto (not legal) exception for cigarette smoking? That's small consolation.

I find this troubling, just as I found it troubling to discover that roof runoff is considered a toxic (because of the material leached from the composition of the shingles), but that the laws simply aren't enforced. Yet.

When laws exist but they aren't enforced only because "everyone does it," what are the longterm implications to freedom?

I'm not saying that cigarette smokers or landlords should be prosecuted, mind you. Precisely the opposite. Many of the laws make it a crime simply to move one substance that originated in the ground to another location somewhere in the ground. Where do oil, tobacco, and lead come from? What are the "toxics" in storm water runoff other than things which came from the ground and are returning to the ground in small quantities?

That these laws and regulations exist but are not being enforced means that most of us are committing felons. Considering that government regulations invariably become stricter over time (lest the bureaucrats lose their jobs for not rewriting them), I'd say smoking is just the tip of the iceberg. The existing laws many of us don't know about will be enforced. Things we take completely for granted will become criminal acts.

I don't see much difference between the two major parties on these issues. The current Surgeon General is as much of an anti-tobacco activist as it's possible to be, and I doubt the Democrats' choice would be any better.

Well, I guess we could go back to fighting over condoms on bananas.

(That's always the best thing to do when freedom is at stake.)

posted by Eric at 07:26 PM | Comments (6)

orders ignored in order

I hate it when T-shirts like these clash with reality:


Lest anyone think that the above is the company uniform Joey Vento issues to the employees of Geno's Steaks, it's actually associated with the rock group Clash. From the above website:

Our best seller! This one is for the Clash fans. A faithful reproduction of the enigmatic sticker Joe Strummer sported on his famous Telecaster guitar.
Sure enough, Joe Strummer's guitar did sport an "IGNORE ALIEN ORDERS" sticker. (Picture here.) But where did he get it?

The first use of the slogan that I remember was by the Grateful Dead during the band's early 70s "hypnocracy" era.

Perhaps because of braincell attrition, there doesn't seem to be much discussion so that I can pinpoint with accuracy the Grateful Dead origin of the slogan. After considerable diligence, I was able to find a small piece of archaeological evidence -- in the form of this "Wake of the Flood" matchbook cover.


Wake of the Flood was released in 1973, Joe Strummer chose his name in 1975, and formed the Clash in 1976.

But obviously, the big question today is whether it might constitute discrimination to wear the above T-shirt at all -- much less follow its message by actually ignoring alien orders.

Are there any implications as to intentionality?

(T-shirts, of course, can have a diversity of implications. . .)

posted by Eric at 02:30 PM | Comments (1)

Exegesis of reality-based values

It's not every day that I see one of my valued commenters getting bigtime attention, but it has happened.

(Um, "Lo Ping Wong" is not my most valued commenter, of course, but all commenters at this blog are by definition valued! That's because the values meme in this blog's name operates like a tar baby -- inextricably smearing with value all who dare touch! Beware . . .)

Anyway, here's the Protein Wisdom comment that many people are now reading:

Your son is going to grow up to be a cockslapping faggot just like you Jeff.

Posted by Lo Ping Wong

Who is Lo Ping Wong? I don't know, but when he visited Classical Values, his IP was in Gardena, and his "reality-based" goal was to insult other commenters and promote Dave Neiwert, (who had in my view done his best to insinuate fascism into Glenn Reynolds):
You lemmings should go to Neiwert's site and read his "Rush, Newspeak and the Rise of Fascism." It's pretty unequivocal, what the right is doing, and David's exegesis is really quite good. We in the reality-based community think highly of it. Your mileage may vary.
(By "lemmings," Lo Ping Wong meant those who don't think Glenn Reynolds is a fascist. Implicit in this logic is the assertion that those claiming membership in the "reality-based community" are not lemmings.)

Exe, exe, exewho?

In the very next comment, Justin, self-appointed spokesman for all lemmings, couldn't resist imitating my exclamatory, um, style! as well as exegesis itself:

Oooooh, he used exegesis in a sentence!

I'll bet he reads The Economist! I am so very impressed, let me tell you! He must be terribly, hugely intelligent! And Eric, didn't I warn you a year ago about exclamation mark abuse? When you said it was fun, and I should try it? I guess you were right! IT IS FUN!! Now I must march into the sea with my furry retarded brethren.

As Jeff Goldstein notes, the hurling of anti-gay insults has become standard fare, which makes Jeff wonder about the paucity of outrage:
Interesting how our self-proclaimed champions of civil rights go right to the gay jokes when they’re looking to denigrate someone, is it not? Even if it is a two-year-old? Which, I seem to remember a certain outrage coming from the nuanced arbiters of truthiness over such behavior in the not too recent past. Dr Andrew? You there? WHERE’S THE OUTRAGE?
I don't expect to see much outrage because those who set and enforce standards and rules of political correctness exempt themselves, in much the same way that government bureaucrats exempt themselves from their own regulations.

I've seen this so many times that it never surprises me. It's related to the way racial epithets are routinely hurled at Condi Rice, Colin Powell or Ward Connerly.

But the anti-gay epithet is a little different. I've noticed that in these political arguments, homoeroticism tends to imputed not to homosexuals (for that would not only be redundant, and might verge on actual bigotry), but to heterosexuals with whom the invective hurler disagrees. (I've discussed examples, such as James Wolcott's statement that "the fighting keyboarders drool with barely suppressed homoerotic envy" as well as "homoerotic ardor for Bush.")

I think the popularity of this sort of attack is grounded not only in the leftist exemption, but in the feeling that it's a magic sort of insult against which there's no defense. Only a right-wing bigot could possibly object to being called gay, because after all, why would anyone object unless he thought there was something wrong with being gay? And in the minds of the name-callers, because they are on the left (and because they've earned their Certificate of Non Bigotry by the simple act of saying they're for gay marriage), there is absolutely no possibility that they might harbor feelings of prejudice against homosexuals, is there? The burden all falls on the accused.

If they don't like being called "faggots," why, they're obviously bigots!

And anyone who doesn't agree with their logic is likewise a bigot. (And don't forget -- bigotry now includes not caring whether someone is gay.)

Lost in all of this is common sense. Common sense would suggest that calling someone a "faggot" is by definition bigotry.

I guess the lesson here is that if you're "reality-based," there's no need to worry about common sense. Members of that, um, "community" are free to insult those who disagree with them by calling them "faggots."

And, of course, it follows that those who don't like being called "faggots" are bigoted lemmings unable to suppress their homoerotic ardor -- an exegesis headed straight for the cliffs!

posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (4)

Managing unmanageable water resources

I don't know which crisis is worse: Pennsylvania's drought or Pennsylvania's flood. We're having both at the same time!

I'll start with the floods:

Heavy overnight rains, falling on an already saturated landscape, have led to the flooding of streets and neighborhoods around the region.

Although some streets have reopened, such as the Vine Street Expressway, conditions in some areas near rivers are expected to get worse, as they swell with water from tributaries.

Flood-stranded residents had to be rescued in Pottsville.

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer ordered residents of low-lying neighborhoods to evacuate by 10 a.m. today, because the Delaware River could crest at a level higher than the floods of September 2004 and April 2005.

A reverse 911 call was being sent to residents of Trenton's Island and Glen Afton neighborhoods. Police had set up a mobile command post and were spreading word of the evacuation door-to-door, said Ken Ashworth, a spokesman for Palmer.


But that hasn't stopped the drought:

The state issued the drought watch April 11 after a lack of winter snows combined with lower-than-expected spring precipitation. A voluntary 5 percent drop in water use is still urged.
Well, I can certainly use at least 5 percent less water than I have right now. I can't even walk in the yard without rubber boots, and Coco is having trouble going outside to do her business. Right now, we're having a few precious rays of sun, but it won't last. The whole area is soaked, and it couldn't possibly be any wetter.

My lawn is a swamp; and I'm urged not to water it? Who's writing the state's water policy? Rodney Dangerfield?

Being from California, I'm used to insane bureaucrats who declare a flood and a drought at the same time, but I never thought the idea would spread across the country.

But I want to give the bureaucrats a fair shake, and their argument is that considering the state as a whole, March was too dry:

DEP Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty put all 67 counties under the drought watch after rainfall averages across the state were below normal for more than 60 days.

"Two-thirds of our counties are 50 percent or more below their normal precipitation levels," Ms. McGinty said. "The remaining counties are reporting a deficit of at least 25 percent."

Western Pennsylvania is still in pretty good shape. After a January that was wetter than usual, Pittsburgh's rainfall averages in February (1.74 inches) and March (2.12 inches) amounted to about 73 percent of what we usually get.

Erie received about 94 percent.

But the central and eastern parts of the state have been parched, with most areas receiving less than half their usual rainfall. According to John Gresiak, a senior forecaster with AccuWeather in State College, the Philadelphia area had its driest March on record.

"The main culprit was March," Mr. Gresiak said.

Mr. Gresiak probably never read about the drought of March that "perced to the roote."

Instead of "smale fowles maken melodyes" now is the time for announcements like these:

"Although conservation is a year-round responsibility, now is the time for residents to manage water resources even more carefully to avoid serious problems if precipitation levels do not return to normal in the coming weeks," McGinty said.
I'm trying! I'm trying to manage my water resources! Honest!

But I'm worried that at the rate the rains are pouring water resources down on me, I may be at risk of drowning, and I won't be able to refrain from flushing the toilet.

What is to be done when floods and droughts occur simultaneously? Is there such a thing as a state of bureaucratic emergency?

posted by Eric at 08:09 AM | Comments (5)

Rob Smith, R.I.P

Via Pajamas Media, I'm sorry to read about the death of Rob Smith, aka ACIDMAN.

"A Real Life" is how PJM described Rob, and I think that's a fitting tribute. Despite innumerable and complex health problems, the guy kept blogging right up until his last day on the planet. (No indication in that post that he knew it was his last.)

I found the man inspiring. I wish I had his kind of raw honesty. To the extent that I do, my circumspection and lawyerly training sometimes gets in the way, but I think it was cool that he showed -- by personal example -- how to really let it rip.

You won't be forgotten, Rob!

Glenn won't forget him. Nor will La Shawn Barber, who has a roundup of other bloggers who won't, including Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, Baldilocks, Hog on Ice, The Other Side of Kim, Smoke on the Water, and John of Argghhh!.

I think Kim du Toit (who called Rob an "angry bastard with guns") put it quite well:

The world will definitely be a less-interesting place from now on . . .
(Now, if only my inner lawyer would allow me to remember Rob properly!)

posted by Eric at 10:49 AM | Comments (2)

Grabbing is silly!

Just as I failed to care about the sex life of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, I'm equally uncaring where it comes to the sex life of Rush Limbaugh. (At least, I'm assuming that's what Viagra is used for.)

Oddly enough, I find myself in agreement with Atrios:

Grabbing people in airports 'cause they have a bottle of Viagra is pretty silly, assuming that's all it was about.
As a matter of fact, grabbing people anywhere because they have a bottle of Viagra is a pretty silly thing to do.

(Especially if you don't know them, and they've recently popped a few pills.)

posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

Guns, Sudan, the Holocaust

I tend to be distrustful of propaganda packaged as education, so naturally my attention was aroused when I read (in a piece titled "After the trigger is pulled") a Philadelphia schoolteacher's comparison of street crime to the Holocaust:

Tuesday, March 14 - In a lecture room at Temple University Hospital, a color slide flashes on the screen: It's a close-up of a throat slashed open, the windpipe still visible in the bloody scene.

Cynthia Vega, 13, whose eighth-grade class is studying violence and writing about it in diaries, looks down and begins to cry and rock in her seat.

"You OK, baby?" asks Temple staffer Scott Charles.

Cynthia nods but does not look up. She is thinking of her 20-year-old cousin, shot in the neck two months earlier. He can barely speak now.

A classmate turns around in his seat and hands her a tissue.

Charles continues: "I don't care how many memorials you get, how many spray-painted murals they put in your name, this can't really be worth it, can it?"

Less than two weeks after sharing poignant diary entries about their absent fathers, the "Freedom Writers" of Grover Washington Jr. Middle School are seeing the blood-and-guts aftermath of violence.

"I wanted them to get a better perspective on the finality - or the desperate reality - that occurs when things turn from a little conflict into guns so quickly," explained their eighth-grade teacher, Michael Galbraith.

He also planned to have them meet a genocide survivor from Sudan and read about the Holocaust.

Something about this strikes me as manipulative. Lectures about guns, a trip to the morgue, then shift gears to Sudan and the Holocaust?

Not that a connection might not be made between guns and Sudan, or guns and the Holocaust. However I'm just a little too cynical to believe that Nazi gun control or the Warsaw Ghetto are going to be prominent topics. And while I could be wrong about this, I also doubt that the lessons on Sudan will point out that gun control was genocide's best friend, or that the right to bear arms could have saved the Darfur victims.

Galbraith's guns>Sudan>Holocaust technique reminds me of the Michael Moore Bush-plays-golf-Iraqi-children-die method.

No doubt it's "empowering" -- at least for somebody.

But is it teaching?

Considering that the apparent use of taxpayer's money, I'd like to see both sides presented to the kids.

posted by Eric at 08:28 AM | Comments (1)

Is cosmic accountability a dead issue?

John Steinberg thinks Ann Coulter is heaven-sent manna for the Democrats -- a Republican version of Michael Moore, and that the key to Democratic victory should involve asking every living Republican whether he agrees with her:

The question, "Are you an Ann Coulter Republican?" should confront every Republican running for every office in the land, from President to dog catcher. Every Democratic candidate should accuse his or her opponent of being in favor of poisoning Supreme Court Justices and killing Congressmen. At every opportunity, every Republican should be made to answer: "Do you agree with Ann Coulter that the 9/11 widows are witches and harpies?" And George W. Bush, Tony Snow, Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and Barney (the only lapdog with a good excuse) should be confronted with these questions as well.
If enough questions are asked, Mr. Steinberg feels that Ann Coulter will become the Republican "third rail":
Many lefties wonder why we give Coulter the prominence she so clearly craves. They think we lose by raising her profile. But I think she is exactly the hate-contorted face we want on the Republican Party. We need to make Ann Coulter the third rail of Republican politics, just as Michael Moore was for Democrats two years ago. (They can be equally significant as symbols; there is obviously no comparison in talent or accuracy.)
Well, as I said, I'd buy tickets to a Coulter-Moore debate. However, I'm not sure that as a political tactic, guilt by association works all by itself. The Democrats didn't lose simply because Michael Moore was in their party, but because he (and his followers) were perceived as within or close to the party mainstream. Ann Coulter has positioned herself far to the right of Bush, and I seriously doubt she'll be sitting next to any former president at the next Republican convention.

There's no denying, of course, that Ann Coulter is a Republican. But does this means that every other Republican can be held answerable for her?

As I've pointed out, in addition to being a Republican, Ann Coulter is also a Deadhead. This point was really hammered home recently when Pajamas Media linked James Hudnall's exploration of Ann's cosmic closet. The dancing skeletons were laid bare for the world to see in an exclusive interview by Taylor Hill (which was limited to the Grateful Dead, um, issue):

Oddly enough, I like the music. No one believes that I never took drugs at Dead shows (except for the massive clouds of passive marijuana smoke) but I went because I really liked the music. There are various groups I get enthusiastic about for awhile, but of all the music I've listened to over the years, the Grateful Dead is the one band I never grow tired of. Apparently, the same is true of me for ski-lift operators.

Moreover, I really like Deadheads and the whole Dead concert scene: the tailgating, the tie-dye uniforms, the camaraderie – it was like NASCAR for potheads. You always felt like you were with family at a Dead show – a rather odd, psychedelic family that sometimes lived in a VW bus and sold frightening looking “veggie burritos.” But whatever their myriad interests, clothing choices, and interest in illicit drugs, true Deadheads are what liberals claim to be but aren't: unique, free-thinking, open, kind, and interested in different ideas. Also, excellent dancers! Watching a Deadhead dance is truly something to behold.

Let's skip the evasive statement about drugs for now. I think this calls for some serious questions. Not for Ann, but for all Deadheads.

I'd like to ask every last one of them the following:

Are you an Ann Coulter Deadhead?

Don't we have a right to know whether the other Deadheads are in favor of "poisoning Supreme Court Justices and killing Congressmen"?

I for one am sick of the fact that the gutless media cowards allow them to duck the tough questions by hiding behind their tie-dyes. (Or their skulls wrapped in the American flag!)

I'll say this for Taylor Hill. He might not have been able to confront the "fetid, malodorous bog that is the Deadhead ecosystem" head on in his interview, but he was able to force the acid-tongued-head to name a few names which reveal the extent of the collaboration:

. . . to answer your question, Senator, I personally have loads and loads of friends who are right-wingers and Deadheads. I couldn't possibly name them all. For starters, obviously, there's Angela Lansbury. She gave me my first psychedelic tie-dyed tube top at a Dead show just outside Tucson. Just kidding. There are: Peter Flaherty, President, National Legal And Policy Center; John Harrison, top official in the Justice Department under Reagan and Bush and now a law professor at UVA; Jim Moody, MIT grad and libertarian attorney (and Linda Tripp's lawyer); Gary Lawson, former Scalia clerk and currently a law professor at Boston University Law School; Andrew McBride, partner at a DC law firm; DeRoy Murdoch, conservative columnist; Ben Hart, right-wing author of “Poisoned Ivy” out of Dartmouth. Oh, and the conservative talk radio host Gary Stone in Palm Springs is a Deadhead and kindly plays the Dead as my intro music. When I worked at the Justice Department during law school, I'd be leaving with a whole slew of Reagan or Bush political appointees to see the Dead at RFK. Finally, I believe the great New York subway vigilante Bernie Goetz was a Deadhead.
Jerry Garcia, I love you wherever you are, and I loved your music, which will always be a part of me.

But really Jerry!

Much as I used to hate it when the big media types used to blame you for Deadheads gone wrong, on this Ann Coulter thing, I think this time you have a lot of 'splainin' to do.


COSMIC UPDATE: While I don't like to dwell unnecessarily on cosmic matters, Glenn Reynolds (a Leo with Moon in Scorpio) has raised the astrology issue by linking a post by Ann Althouse (of undetermined astrological etiology) which argues that astrology is for lowbrow types. I fear that both may be missing a significant, possibly important, point: Ann Coulter is a quintuple Sagittarius!

Every one of her personal planets is in Sag and they all square Pluto, for her venomous sarcasm and unconscious hatred of everything good and right about democratic values, principles and ideals.

Sag is the sign of opinions but it also rules truth and when you lie about someone or something to the point that you become a mockery of journalistic integrity, a line needs to be drawn. She can't help but tear down that line with every word she utters.

She's an angry person because her Mars in right on her Sun and less than three degrees from the Moon, a conjunction that is known as combustion.

The ego, or personality is taken over by the nature of the combust planet, in this case, Mars, affecting her emotionally, as well as her personality, making her rather masculine.

Normally, I try to steer a middle course in matters cosmic, and I think I do a pretty good job, especially if you consider this blog's position vis-a-vis the ancients (who very much believed in such things).

However, because this was so extreme and so unusual, I thought Ann Coulter's planetary alignment should be reported to my readers. To be extra cautious and thorough, I checked the ephemeris. Sure enough, Ann's five major planets -- Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus -- they are all in Sagittarius!

(May the Other Ann forgive me. . .)

Sometimes I think I really should be more ashamed of myself.

posted by Eric at 02:45 PM | Comments (4)

The majority of the minority is the majority?

John Grogan's latest Inquirer column highlights the unrepresentative nature of what we often call "public opinion":

I caught a blistering earful from readers across the country after I criticized Michael Berg last week for denouncing the U.S. air strike that killed the terrorist who beheaded his son.

Two guided bombs dropped near Baghdad this month took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the man believed to have personally executed Nick Berg, 26, in Iraq in 2004.

Michael Berg, a vocal pacifist and Green Party candidate for Congress, believes any killing, even that of a remorseless mass murderer, is unjustified and only perpetuates the endless cycle of eye-for-an-eye violence.

He said George Bush was no less a terrorist than Osama bin Laden. He said he would have sentenced his son's killer to community service in a children's hospital.

I called the elder Berg, formerly of West Chester and now living in Delaware, a naive idealist and said some people, the most evil among us, will be stopped by only death.

Boy, did I hear about it.

Of the dozens of letters I received, most faulted me for being overly hard on a grief-stricken father and blind to the virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Many angrily voiced their disgust over the falsely justified and monumentally botched war.

Typical was Diane Vernon of Ambler, who wrote: "This time you have gone WAY, WAY too far. Can't you see that forgiveness is part of healing?"

It goes on and on.

Obviously, this Bush-is-worse-than-Zarqawi meme has some adherents, but in the real world they are in a small minority. That's why Michael Berg's candidacy is pretty much a joke. (Very much a joke, actually. Even Democrat challenger Dennis Spivack has little chance against a "seven-term incumbent who won the last election with 69 percent of the vote." Berg seems mainly to be helping the Green Party achieve greater visibility.)

I think the kind of people who would write letters to columnists are not representative of public opinion, so much as they represent vocal, hard-core activist opinion. Ordinary people (the kind who vote), most likely rolled their eyes when they read the railings of Michael Berg in John Grogan's first column. They wouldn't even think of wasting their time writing in. Even I -- opinionated though I am, and even though I wrote about Michael Berg in this blog -- never gave a thought to writing to Mr. Grogan.

People I have known who are familiar with the talk radio business have told me that actual callers represent a small percentage of actual listeners, and I think the same holds true for blog commenters. On a typical day, a small fraction of one percent of visitors here will leave a comment. Whether a commenter agrees with me or not, it would be a big mistake for me to think that a single comment spoke for most of my readers.

Considering the Philadelphia Inquirer's circulation (plus the fact that John Grogan is a popular columnist and best-selling author) I doubt a few dozen letters (or emails) are a fair representation of his readers.

Of course, this may beg the question of who represents anyone. I don't think I represent anyone except myself, and considering the arguments I have with myself, I'm not sure I do all that great a job with self representation.

I mean, what about that part of me which doesn't argue with me, but just goes along with my "flow"? My inner minority is the loud part, which clamors to be heard -- often over my great, silent, lazy majority, which would rather not be writing anything at all. So my blogger side may not be speaking fairly on behalf of the live-and-let-live side of myself. How do I fairly represent my unrepresented self?

(Silence might be misinterpreted as agreement.)

posted by Eric at 01:15 PM

Remember history with RINOs

I've been busy with out of town visitors, so I haven't had time for blogging today. But please read the George Santayana Edition of this week's RINO Sightings Carnival, where Searchlight Crusade's Dan Melson supplies historical context for each post.

If you want to know what the invasion of Sicily, the Battle of Midway, Solon, the Cross of Gold, the Battle of Bosworth Field, Sulla (and more) all have to do with what today's RINOs are thinking, why, don't condemn yourself to repeating history. Go there now and find out!

(Great job, Dan.)

posted by Eric at 11:29 AM

Who says who's a Muslim?

This is getting interesting.

According to CAIR, the seven men arrested last week for plotting to wage war against the United States (and blow up the Sears Tower) are not Muslims -- and we are not to refer to them as Muslims:

CAIRO — The Council on American-Islamic Relations, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has urged the media not to associate the seven suspects arrested on charges of plotting terrorist attacks in the US with the country's Muslim minority, insisting they were not Muslims.

"Given that the reported beliefs of this bizarre group have nothing to do with Islam, we ask members of the media to refrain from calling them Muslims," Ahmed Bedier, Director of CAIR Florida chapter, said in a statement e-mailed to

I guess whether someone is a Muslim is to be decided by CAIR.

If only there were an equivalent group for Christians! I get so tired of not knowing who's a Christian and who's not, as usually, I take people at their word.

CNN quotes the group's leader as wanting to wage Islamic war, and uses the term "jihad" quite freely, but I don't frankly care what these people believe, and I guess I should be glad they are not Muslims.

I'm glad CAIR has enlightened us.

But the problem is, there's a disagreement. Another Muslim organization, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, says they are Muslims:

In a statement issued on Friday, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago expressed “relief and concern” at the arrest of the accused men before they could carry out their plans.

“The fact that another attack on our country was in the works is something that concerns us deeply,” said Council chairman, Abdul Malik Mujahid. He appealed to Imams across the US to offer Friday sermons about “the sanctity of life in Islam and the heinousness of terrorism.”

Mr Mujahid urged journalists and editors to exercise caution in linking Islam to terrorism as this case develops, since those arrested are Muslim.

The indictment alleges that, beginning in November 2005 and continuing to the present, Bastiste recruited and supervised individuals to organise and train for a mission to wage war against the US including a plot to destroy the Sears Tower by explosives.

Well, are they or aren't they? If they're adherents to this cult (which it is claimed they are), a good case can be made that they are not Muslims.

It goes without saying, of course, that whether they are Muslims has nothing to do with whether they are terrorists.


It's getting harder and harder to know the rules.

I'd like to know who gets to officially decide.

posted by Eric at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

Global Warming is Real

And I have irrefutable proof. Behold what my Google start page presented to me when I got home this evening:

Ardmore, PA 72 degrees; Bryn Mawr PA 122 degrees

Ardmore, PA 74°F
Bryn Mawr, PA 122°F

A difference of forty-eight degrees in only three miles? This truly is an inconvenient truth, as I must brave those temperatures in the morning to pick up and cash a check.

Damn you all and your bloody SUVs!

UPDATE: As of 11PM Google says it's 140 degrees in Bryn Mawr -- nearly twice as hot as in Ardmore. I'm going to sleep with the air conditioner on and hope this problem doesn't spread.

posted by Dennis at 09:46 PM | Comments (3)

Defining degradation up? Or Upgrading degradation down?

There's nothing more degrading than debates over degrading definitions. And it's especially degrading when the definition degrading the debate involves the definition of "degraded."

Up here in the Blue State of Pennsylvania, the Phildelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin thinks the degrading debate is "shameful." That's because for her, "degraded" means things that can be kept under the kitchen sink:

I'm surprised [Santorum's] nose didn't grow a foot when he claimed a recent Army intelligence report proved Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. The report - released under Republican pressure in the midst of the debate - says that, since 2003, about 500 munitions have been recovered in Iraq that contain "degraded" mustard or sarin gas.

Mind you, these munitions were picked up in ones and twos and date back to Iraq's war against Iran in the 1980s. There was no operative Iraqi chemical weapons program after 1991.

Such weapons deteriorate over time. According to David Kay, the head of the U.S. team that hunted for WMD in 2003-04, these gases by now would be "less toxic than most things that Americans have under their kitchen sink." Their "poor condition" was affirmed by intelligence officials in a media briefing.

Hmmm. . . Safe enough for the kitchen sounds pretty safe to me.

But down in red state of Texas (a place most Philadelphians would consider the Wild West), they still think that even degraded Weapons of Mass Destruction are too dangerous to keep under the sink. At least, the Houston Chronicle's Kathleen Parker claims that degraded WMDs are still dangerous:

According to the document, coalition forces have recovered some 500 weapons munitions since 2003 that contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agents. Other key points are that these chemical agents could be used outside Iraq and that "most likely munitions remaining are sarin- and mustard-filled projectiles."

Which is to say, we don't know what other stores may remain, or where they are, or who else may know about them.

Most significant, perhaps, is the assertion that while agents degrade over time, "chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal," according to the released document.

In other words, the word "degraded" doesn't necessarily mean "nothing to worry about." Moreover, Wednesday's document is but a small piece of a much larger document that remains classified and that Republican insiders consider "very significant."

All of this leaves me very confused. I don't think the definition of degradation should be defined by politics. In logic, it strikes me that degraded WMDs are either dangerous or not. But politics always leads to these ridiculous litmus tests. What are the columnists supposed to do? Put the WMDs in the kitchen and let them stew, then report back after a few months that everything's fine?

How far does it go? I'm reminded of that guy who ate his daily DDT for all those years, just so he could announce to the world that DDT was perfectly safe. (Rachel Carson put him up to it with Silent Spring or something, but I don't think debate needs to be carried that far.)

So don't look at me. I'm staying out of this one. . .

But not because I'm scared, mind you! I'm not scared of any piddly-assed little degraded WMDs! What do you think I am, a degraded-WMD chickenhawk? Hell no! It's just that I'm afraid for my dog Coco. Despite her vast experience with all sorts of WMDs, she gets into everything, and dogs have very different disgestive systems than we do. What might be perfectly safe for us can have devastating consequences for a dog. For example, I take Tylenol as if it's candy, but Tylenol can kill a dog. And, you know, just because I can put some degraded Sarin in my coffee along with the half-and-half, Coco might be very Sarin-sensitive. I just don't want to expose her even to that slight risk. Likewise with that mustard stuff. Tom Ferrick can bravely put it on his hot dogs, but I just don't want it in my fridge, again because Coco goes in there when my back is turned, and she might be degraded-mustard-intolerant. (The blister stuff, I don't know much about it, and I'm sure it's perfectly safe, but same deal; I'm worried about the dog, and I don't want to bother the vet.)

I think it's fair that since Trudy Rubin and the Inquirer staff brought up the safety issue, I should just let them be the guinea pigs.

(As to my view of degradation, such things are my own affair.)

UPDATE (06/30/06): According to Raw Story, ISG Inspector David Kay says the 500 chemical weapons are WMDs, and while old, they're still dangerous.

Advantage, Houston.

posted by Eric at 02:45 PM | Comments (1)

Coco is the only Daily

I'll be busy most of the day, and I'm pressed for time and suffering from a thought shortage .

Coco, however, thinks. She plots. . .

Why Coco can't be more like Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, I don't know. I've tried to encourage her to blog. But what I'd really like would be for her to find a better role model than me. That way, she could really play online pit bull politics -- and command her minions in much the way David Brooks (via LGF) describes Kos (the ideal role model for Coco):

The Keyboard Queenpin, aka Coco B. Scheie, sits at her computer, fires up her Web site, the Daily Coco, and commands her followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid pit bulls, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way. And in this way the Queenpin has made herself a mighty force in her own mind, and every knee shall bow.

Very flattering, but how do I break it to Coco that every knee has not yet bowed?

To be sure, Coco's skills exceed mine. Her expertise with document shredders is unsurpassed. (A skill closely related to her documented ability to send faxes.)

And she is very proud of her investigative skills. Here she is -- just yesterday -- posing with a suspicious cylinder that I previously dismissed as a nitrous oxide tank, but which Coco is now absolutely certain might very well possibly contain WMDs!


Nice "point," no?

But is it an important discovery? I'd be very hesitant to disagree with Coco, but I don't think so. I think that even if the tank contains WMDs, that they're degraded, which means that they aren't really there. (But disagreeing over degradation is a degrading experience.)

On top of all that, Coco is a sex star. Plus, while she's into plenty of whiffs, there's never been a whiff of any scandal connected with her.

Can anyone say that about her role model?

Is it fair that the Daily Kos succeeds, while no one knows about the Daily Coco? (Well, the latter is a term, but it refers to a morning beverage, not a blog. But because of my background as a Berkeley student, Daily Coco and Daily Kos both sound imitative of the Daily Cal. I might enjoy a satirical knockoff -- but alas, even the Daily Kass seems to be taken. Sorry, Justin!)

None of this is fair.

posted by Eric at 08:19 AM | Comments (2)

The peril of ignoring the plight of the ignored

I hate to ruin a nice rainy day by straining Michael Corleone and the Sopranos' quotation again, but EVERY time I engage in satire, reality draaags me back in! In this case, maybe it's the other way around, but no matter. When satire and reality meet, there's no telling them apart.

Anyway, I have been satirizing the recent permutations of the Glenn Reynolds/Daily Kos, um, train of events. I didn't spend as much time as maybe I should have on the "Kosola" scandal, but that's because I just don't like the aroma. I don't especially care whether there's any fire behind the smoke, either. The whole thing reminds me too much of conventional politics -- something I tend to disdain in favor of the more enlightened (supposedly more civil) blogosphere. Naive though it may be, I cling to my denial, and it is my fervent hope that if I stay within the relative safety of my blog, I'll be able to just think what I think, and not have to worry too much about political consequences. After all (to quote William S. Burroughs), "I'm not running for office and I don't have to respect anyone's stupid opinion."

Political hyping of the blogosphere is of course inevitable, though, because elections never cease, and bloggers have opinions. A libertarian like Glenn Reynolds will make plenty of enemies on the left and the right, simply because he is popular, and this means he'll be attacked by the organized left as a "right wingnut" (and much worse things) and by the right for favoring gay rights, "immoral" technologies, and legal abortion. These attacks, while political in nature, increase in direct proportion to Reynolds' popularity. An ordinary libertarian blogger (assuming he had only a fraction of Glenn's traffic) is pretty much left alone to speak his mind freely.

If you fall into that "ordinary" category (as does this blog and a lot of others), it is a logical error to assume this means all is well. What we smaller, small "l" libertarian bloggers tend to forget is that an attack on Glenn Reynolds is an attack on all of us.

He's our proxy hell-catcher (the canary in the mine, if you will), and thus, I have to admit that one of the reasons I defend him is to defend myself.

But this post is about a lot more than libertarian bloggers, small or large. What I didn't realize until today was that some of the NeoLuddite attacks on Glenn Reynolds, while ostensibly coming from the "right," show every sign of being against not just libertarian bloggers, but against all bloggers, left, right, moderate, or libertarian. Those of us (myself included) who tend to see the blogosphere as divided into left and right camps should sit up and take notice of statements like this:

The blogosphere's radical left and right both share a hostility to tradition, established institutions and political, economic and cultural elites. The problem is that their incessant noise is drowning out mainstream opinion. Reynolds and Moulitsas are winning the debate by shouting louder and blogging more often than the rest of us.
Yes, the author was Andrew Keen, and yes, he's probably jealous that he doesn't get as much traffic as Glenn Reynolds or Kos. (And yes, I don't like Andrew Keen, because the pure malevolence of his open call for censorship exceeds that of the alleged wrongs his bitter imagination condemns.)

The reason I cannot ignore Keen's latest outburst (much as I'd like to) is that he's trying to forge an alliance with NeoLuddite blogbasher, Christine Rosen. See him lavish the praise:

It's always a treat to read New Atlantis senior editor Christine Rosen. Her recent review in the New Republic of Glenn Reynolds' book An Army of Davids is essential reading for two reasons. Firstly, she brings a historian's wit and wisdom to the current ahistorical debate about the cultural merits of technology. Secondly, Rosen suggests that the old left/right political divisions in America have been replaced by a split between anti establishment digital libertarians and those of us who still maintain a faith in our traditional representative institutions and meritocratic elites. (Emphasis added.)
Notice the recurrent theme: lumping together of everything cyber, everything digital, everything new. (I noticed similar gymnastics with the rather bizarre attempt to link Glenn Reynolds and Ann Coulter.) Frustration abounds, and I think it finds fertile ground in the minds of people who feel ignored. There is nothing more degrading than the feeling that you are right, but that others are ignoring you. Such festering resentment can ripen into what I'd call a disease (maybe syndrome) if I believed in the diseasification meme, and the blogosphere, by seeming to offer a cure, can actually make it worse. That's because there's no guarantee that blogging will cause anyone to pay attention to what you have to say -- no matter how good, how witty, how incisive, how brilliant, you might think it is. Whether people like Keen and Rosen suffer from this syndrome ("blog rage"?) is debatable, but I think it would be a mistake to ignore their appeal to the rank and file -- i.e. people who feel ignored, but who have aspirations to something higher. That higher something is, I believe, what Keen calls "traditional representative institutions and meritocratic elites."

Meritocratic elites?

Keen might have a point about the tension between the blogosphere and traditional elites, but I have to take issue with the notion that these elites are meritocratic in nature.

I think that they tend to be precisely the opposite.

Obviously, meritocracies are merit based. The best student gets an A, the best athletes make the cut, the best soldiers are the ones who get promoted. The more objective the criteria, the more meritocratic the system. While a resume can be padded, and a news story can be made up, there's no faking the four minute mile.

There are only a few "true" meritocracies. Sports has been called the "last true meritocracy" although Senator Wallop used the same term to describe the military.

In my view, Keen's misuse of the word is demagoguery -- designed to conceal the fact that the media elites are not meritocracies, but aristocracies and oligarchies. To the extent that there's competition, there are meritocratic elements. Thus, competition by Fox News against CNN tend to keep both on their toes. Call me an optimist, but my hope is that the blogosphere might -- by offering competition -- make the traditional elites more meritocratic.

It is my considered opinion that bloggers like Michael Yon, Michael Totten, and Bill Roggio are doing a better job as freelance reporters than effete MSM aristocrats who sit around and condemn bloggers for not reporting.

Yet Keen would say that Yon, Totten and Roggio are (what is it?) "flattening dialogue," and that we should be reading and relying on AP reports filed by the people whose very unaccountability is why bloggers have stepped in.

In meritocracies, the cream rises to the top. Both Reynolds and Kos offer their readers something that more of them like than like Andrew Keen. The painful thing for Keen is that he thinks -- nay, he knows -- that he is better than Glenn Reynolds and Markos Moulitsas.

But the hits that Keen thinks he deserves aren't likely to materialize, because this is a meritocracy. (I say this notwithstanding the scientific possibility that Keen may prove to be a future Van Gogh, discussed infra.) But that didn't stop him from turning to the elites (at CBS and The Weekly Standard) to get himself placed higher on the pedestal, and (in my view) geting a lot more attention than he deserved.

While it's bad enough to falsely label the MSM a meritocracy, I have to return to Keen's other major complaint, because I think that in terms of sheer chutzpah, it's unsurpassed:

. . .their incessant noise is drowning out mainstream opinion. Reynolds and Moulitsas are winning the debate by shouting louder and blogging more often than the rest of us.
There's something about an advocate of censorship complaining that he's being silenced -- in his blog, no less -- which should win some kind of prize. I've never seen anything quite like it, and I think Keen has earned his place in the squalid history of online self refutation.

(Keen's built-in populist appeal to smaller bloggers who feel left out is cute too -- but Frank J. did a better (and funnier) job with it.)

I know I don't need to defend Glenn here, but I will anyway, because it's just too irresistible. According to Keen, Reynolds' "noise" is "drowning out mainstream opinion."

First of all, where's the noise? Occasional podcasts that can only be downloaded after a ten minute wait, and in which Glenn "shouts" things like "Hmmm.. That's interesting" while allowing his guests to do most of the talking? Or is it the crashing impact of the word "Heh." as it crushes all dissent at the speed of light with a cloud of dust? (With all survivors immediately incinerated by a hearty "Indeed.") The crater left behind in the collective minds of the best and brightest members of the elite must be huge indeed.

Surely Keen is having a laugh at our expense. I hope he is.

(I'll therefore cling to my deep and dark suspicions that he's secretly working for the Coulter-Clinton-Reynolds-Kos, Marxist-Leninist axis! Normally, I wouldn't feed the troll, but if he's working for Glenn -- even in an Emmanuel Goldsteinish manner -- that means broadly speaking we're all in on this together. . .)

Har har!

The problem is, there are some things I can't ignore -- whether they're funny or not.

UPDATE: Frank Wilson (The Philadelphia Inquirer's Book Review Editor) looks at meritocracy, and finds it alive and well in the blogosphere:

Rosen doesn't seem to grasp - or else willfully ignores - that it is precisely "the old institutions," those"arbiters that vetted writing and thought" whose judgment is being called into question. As Glenn writes: "Millions of Americans who were once in awe of the punditocracy now realize that anyone can do this stuff--and that many unknowns can do it better than the lords of the profession." Rosen quotes this, but doesn't seem to get the point. The institutional superego has been found to filter out viewpoints, not because those viewpoints are ill-informed or poorly reasoned, but because they run counter to said superego's favored viewpoint. It is just possible that people will discern quality of thought and art when it is presented to them. It is just possible that when people regard something as true or beautiful they may be correct - even if the self-designated arbiters of thought and expression think otherwise.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Well put. Common sense would suggest that while popularity and success are not necessarily synonymous with quality, they certainly don't preclude it. While quality doesn't always lead to popularity, it has a better chance when the would-be gatekeepers (the "people will think what I tell them to think" crowd) don't control all the playing fields.

(BTW, the quote was from "Citizen Kane," not to be confused with Citizen Keen.)

MORE: Commenter "anticlassical" at Andrew Keen's blog asks good questions:

who is this classical values guy? He sounds like he resides in Arkansas or some other small state with lots of other poor, ignorant white libertarians. He must have a hugely fat wife and lives in a trailer park full of television sets. He listens to books on tape?
How they figger me out so easy?

Hey listen up, y'all! I fly my flag with pride!

posted by Eric at 12:01 PM

Coulteral Leninism?

Earlier, almost reflexively, before I had time to consider the political ramifications, I expressed agreement with Glenn Reynolds' view that what someone does sexually really doesn't matter:

. . .Glenn really doesn't care whether Kos is gay. Nor do I. It's about as relevant to me as what he eats with his morning coffee. . .
Now that I've had time to think it over, I'm realizing that this statement might very well be considered Leninistic!

For example, here's Ann Coulter (in her bestseller, Godless) specifically attributing this I-could-care-less-about-sex meme to Vladimir Lenin:

Sex . . .[i]s a natural function that should carry no more moral consequence than drinking a glass of water, as their demiurge Lenin said.
That's pretty scary, don't you think? For starters, it explains the thinking behind the fluoridation of water plot.

But what truly scares me is that while I've expressed similar not-caring-about-sex sentiments before, it now turns out that whether I knew it or not, such thoughts are Leninist in nature. And this time, I was agreeing with Glenn Reynolds when I failed to care about another blogger's sex life. I realize that there are people who might call such thinking immoral, but until today I had not known that it was a form of Communism!

The implications of this are disturbing indeed. Because, if Lenin thought sex was the moral equivalent of drinking a glass of water, and I said pretty much the same thing, then that must mean that I am a Leninist -- a Communist! And, if I spouted Leninism by way of expressing agreement with Glenn Reynolds, well, what does that suggest about him?

Might that mean that Glenn Reynolds is a Communist? Well, I suppose he might be a Cultural Leninist, like Tony Blair. But Cultural Leninist, Cultural Marxist, same difference.

All telltale signs point to Commies of one stripe or another.

But, lest anyone think I am venturing off into the never-never land of paranoid conspiracy theories, let me hasten to add that I have more proof.

All you need to do is simply read the following facts, and simply connect the dots:

  • Hillary Clinton is the quintessential Cultural Marxist.
  • By Glenn's own admission, the Kos scandal (in which Glenn now figures prominently) is a Hillary Clinton plot.
  • In all probability, Ann Coulter secretly wants Hillary Clinton to be elected president.
  • As documented recently, Ann Coulter and Glenn Reynolds are both author-members of a "new breed of right-wing wannabes."
  • What this means is that by the mere act of saying I didn't care about Kos's sex, I may have inadvertently assisted the Coulter-Clinton-Reynolds, Marxist-Leninist conspiracy.

    These days, you can't be too careful.

    UPDATE: A couple of very important points. While I thought I could rest up (and catch some Zs) after exposing this complex operation, via Justin, I now see that Glenn Reynolds has the audacity to not even hide his role!

    And on top of that Dean Esmay in the comments below has accused me and my thoughtful commenters of being "Trotskyist traitors!" (As opposed to "Trotskyite" traitors -- which is a very different deal.)

    Obviously, I'm on the right track!

    UPDATE (06/25/06): Thanks Pajamas Media for the link. Yes, we should be afraid, very afraid.

    But if only we could remember that we have nothing to fear but sex itself!

    UPDATE (06/30/06): Via Glenn Reynolds, Chris Hitchens discusses the history of an American thirst.

    This Coulteral Leninism stuff is harder than drinking water!

    (As always, the devil is in the details. . .)

    posted by Eric at 06:18 PM | Comments (11)

    Correcting my impatient and improper speculation

    Yesterday I speculated that the Inquirer was keeping recent WMD allegations under wraps, and Philadelphians in the dark.

    Well, a report on Santorum's press conference is on the front page of today's Inquirer.

    My apologies to the Inquirer. It's all too easy for me to forget that online news moves at a much faster speed than print journalism.

    Because the press conference took place at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, I assumed that there would be enough time to get it into the next day's edition. Obviously there wasn't.

    I shouldn't be so impatient.

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (2)

    Double reverse outing is so gay!

    I'm having some trouble understanding something. When I was a kid, it was a smear to say that someone was gay. That's because homosexuality tended to be frowned upon, and even if you didn't care about someone's sexuality, unless you were among close friends, making that assertion was inherently problematic. If made falsely, it could get you sued. (It probably still can, although it's debatable.)

    As social conventions changed over the years, it became more or less acceptable to acknowledge another person's homosexuality -- so long as this wasn't done in a bigoted manner. Like, "He's gay, but it doesn't bother me at all." Eventually, though, as identity politics took hold, what mattered was not the intent of the statement, but whether or not anyone might take offense. Thus, the individual's "coming out" was usually left up to him and no one else. (Again, I'm speaking generally, and I know there are exceptions.)

    Yet this was complicated by the phenomenon called "outing" (something I have long abhorred as invasive of privacy and destructive of sexual freedom). Outing these days has become a political tactic used to punish gay conservatives who are closeted, or who work for politicians who don't support gay marriage. It gets more complicated when the subject is already out (and thus unlikely to be fired), but he is considered a political non-conformist. When Andrew Sullivan was seen as not toeing the line, all sorts of sexual innuendo was directed towards him. Obviously, it wasn't enough to assert he was gay, so they had to make him look like as much of an out-of-control sexual reprobate as possible. The problem is complicated by the fact that a lot of people aren't especially interested in other people's sex lives, and they quickly see through these attacks. Which means that, when dealing with especially recalcitrant non-conforming gays, a secondary line of attack must be launched. They are to be "pitied" -- and called "self hating." (A topic I've discussed before.)

    This quick review of the history of outing is not meant to be comprehensive, but I thought it was in order in light of the amazing attack on Glenn Reynolds for criticizing right wing commenters who opined that Kos was gay. For this, Glenn was called a pig. And a "Nasty, Nasty Little Pig" at that!) Apparently, we have a new rule in American politics: when Glenn says someone is NOT gay, he really means that he is gay. Wink! Wink! What is this to be called? Double reverse outing, by means of carefully nuanced praeteritio?

    What I want to know is, why should Glenn Reynolds be so uniquely privileged? If I say that someone isn't gay, no one will accuse me of covertly outing that person. Will they? Let me try.





    Sorry, but even if I found some comments alleging that the above were gay, and then disagreed with them, I just don't think it works as an outing technique. Nor as a "double reverse" outing.

    What I find most disturbing about this is that I'm pretty sure Glenn really doesn't care whether Kos is gay. Nor do I. It's about as relevant to me as what he eats with his morning coffee. Which means that there's a completely new taboo. To not care whether someone is gay is a new form of slander.

    Um, only if you're Glenn Reynolds. The rest of us can glance through the latest tabloid headlines that this or that Hollywood star is rumored to be gay, and we can say, "Oh, I don't think he's gay. He has a wife and kids!" and no one will accuse us of engaging in double reverse innuendo -- much less of being nasty nasty little pigs.

    I think that there's an assumption that Glenn's readers are a bunch of right-wing, anti-gay bigots who actually do care very much whether people are gay. That Glenn is pandering to their prejudices, and fanning the flames. From where derives this assumption? Doesn't it matter at all that Glenn isn't that sort of person himself? That he chided the rumor-mongerers for acting like seventh graders?

    Suppose I asserted that I don't think Glenn Reynolds is gay. Let's see, what are the proper words? an aside, I see some blog-commenters are speculating that Reynolds is gay. Why that should matter, I don't know, but I remember -- back when the blogosphere was younger and people were nicer -- that Glenn had a daughter, and that his wife had miscarriages.
    Blah blah blah.

    No one would accuse me of engaging in a double reverse imputation. That's because my readers know I really don't care one way or another, and that I am free to infer that things like having a wife and children, while not conclusive of anything, tend to be evidence of a propensity to engage in at least occasional heterosexual conduct. To speculate beyond that would be to act like a seventh grader.

    However, the people who attack Glenn would say that my hypothetical fails because I am a fan of Glenn, and thus wish him no harm, and could be expected not to be engaged in double reverse outing tactics.

    They'd be right; I don't think Glenn is bigoted in the least, and I think this whole "double reverse outing" thing is about as absurd as it gets. It's a good example of why I'm rapidly losing patience with the blogosphere.

    Still, we're all human.

    And as I thought it over, I remembered that I did once reflect on the sexuality of a blogger with whom I couldn't disagree more: James Wolcott. Perhaps I shouldn't have, but it was late at night, so if ever I were to smear someone's sexuality, it would have been then. But all I said was that I was disappointed in Wolcott (who brought up the topic himself) for being straight (and for not drinking):

    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.
    There's no avoiding speculation, and thus, there's no way to win.

    Glenn is right. We're stuck in the 7th grade.

    (Probably has something to do with arrested sexual development, but I'd better not go there. . .)

    MORE: Not that it's any of my business, but I just checked Wolcott's latest post -- syruping praise on Digby for carrying on about George W. Bush's, um, "presidential bulge."

    I think attributing homoeroticism to people you disagree with belongs in the ashcan of 7th grade history.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: At the risk of being completely crazy (and completely serious, which in this context is the same thing), let's play reverse the roles and swap Glenn Reynolds for Kos in a game of "reverse the double reverse" psychology. This sounds complicated, but it isn't, really. Just assume that Kos had chided some leftie bloggers for suggesting Glenn was gay, said he didn't care, but noted Glenn's marriage and daughter.

    Would there have been a similar outcry against Kos? I don't think so.

    Or am I missing something? (Maybe I'm beyond caring; perhaps I've gotten too old for this sort of thing.)

    UPDATE: Thanks Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post!

    In the update, Glenn also links to Catallarchy's Jonathan Wilde, with whose thoughts about the dark side I concur:

    When someone vilifies another for something sincere and just, I can only conclude that he's no longer dealing with facts, but rather arguing from hatred. It comes from the dark side of human nature.
    This vilification of sincerity is, I think, a typical example of the phenomenon so amply documented by Jeff Goldstein -- the subordination of the intent of a speaker to the dynamics of identity politics. And collectivism.

    posted by Eric at 09:19 AM | Comments (5)

    Selective blog blocking?

    The New York Times reports an allegation that the State of Kentucky is selectively blocking liberal blogs:

    Jill Midkiff, spokeswoman for the agency that oversees Internet technology decisions for state government, denied any intention to limit free speech or to single out Mr. Nickolas or other bloggers of similar political leanings.

    "But using state computers to view some of these sites on state time is not an efficient use of state tax dollars or state resources," Ms. Midkiff told local reporters Wednesday in Frankfort, Kentucky's capital.

    Yet in addition to allowing state employees to read Web sites of newspapers and television stations, the administration has continued to allow access to at least some Republican sites. Ms. Midkiff did not return phone calls seeking an explanation yesterday.

    "My site and a number of other Democratic sites are blocked while conservative blogs belonging to Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge, not to mention the Republican National Committee's own blog, are still accessible," said Mr. Nickolas, who was the campaign manager for Mr. Fletcher's opponent in the 2003 race for governor. "It's a problem to try to separate blogs from mainstream news Web sites in the first place, but at least if you're going to do that you would think such a ban should be applied consistently across the board."

    NOTE: Clicking the links to Rush Limbaugh and the RNC does not take you to blogs; only to Times stories. What immediately drew my interest was was the phrase "conservative blogs belonging to Rush Limbaugh." I knew he had a web site where he publishes various opinions, didn't I know he owned any blogs. As a matter of fact, Limbaugh has been highly critical of blogs. (I suspect that what Mr. Nickolas meant was conservative blogs in general, and the thought was inartfully expressed.)

    I've complained many times about content filters, which block this blog and many others, and I think they may be one of the larger longterm threats to the blogosphere. However, while private individuals and entities can block whatever they want, once the government bureaucrats get into it, they have a responsibility to be fair. And if the allegations by Mark Nickolas are true, Kentucky bureaucrats have not been fair. According to Nickolas, despite the government's claim that political blogs are uniformly blocked, the conservative blogs still work, but only liberal blogs critical of the governor are inaccessible.

    UPDATE #7: From a source within state government:

    The only Kentucky-related blogs other than yours that appear to be blocked are at I think it's safe to say you have been singled out.


    NKY Politics (Pat Crowley)


    The Bluegrass Policy Blog (Bluegrass Institute)

    The Bridge (Dr. Ted)

    Conservative Edge (Brian Goettl)

    KYKurmudgeon (Larry Dale Keeling)

    The Rural Blog (Al Cross)



    The Compassionate eCommunity (Jonathan Miller)

    Kentucky Progress (David Adams)

    Kentucky Republican Voice

    The Kentucky Democrat (Daniel Solzman)

    As further evidence of selectivity, Nickolas lists the following sites (without links) as not blocked:
    So far this morning, the following conservative/Republican websites are still available for state employee viewing:

    * Drudge Report
    * The Republican National Committee's blog
    * Rush Limbaugh
    * Hugh Hewitt
    * Hot Air
    * Captains Quarters
    * Outside the Beltway

    What I don't know is whether the larger leftish blogs (and news sites such as Raw Story) are blocked. If they aren't, then this may be a case of selective retaliation against liberal Kentucky blogs which are critical of the governor. Either way, it's appalling.

    Unfortunately, I think there will be a lot more of this sort of thing. Among the ominous statements Nickolas attributes to the government was this mouthful by a man I've never heard of (described as the governor's "IT hack"):

    UPDATE #19: Fletcher IT hack, Mark Rutledge, is now scrambling to say this action was not directing at BGR, but to all "blogs". He offers the most absurd, unprincipled argument for limiting the ban to blogs but not mainstream news organizations:

    From TPMmuckraker:

    But, but... why blogs?

    He [Rutledge] didn't have a pat answer for that. State computers were for business use only, he said.

    But I pointed out that the state wasn't blocking news sites.

    Yes, he said, but the papers are more likely to have "some value, some relevance to somebody's job." Blogs are generally aligned with certain "interest groups."

    Before I could respond, he said "I don't want to get into a philosophical discussion about whether blogs are news or not." His office was trying to prevent "sharing information of things that are not relevant to work." And besides, he said, if an employee felt that a certain blocked blog would be relevant to work, he or she could just go to his orher supervisor to grant access.

    Look, I don't know much about the Kentucky governor, as Kentucky politics isn't my shtick. But unless Mark Nickolas is making all this up (which I doubt) the governor has not made a fan out of me, as it certainly appears that under his administration, there's the following:

  • 1. Deliberate government bias against bloggers in general (with censorship freely admitted); and
  • 2. A pattern of censoring political criticism of the Governor in particular.
  • Either of these should be resolutely condemned. The problem is that while the latter is indefensible by any standard, the meme that blogs should be treated as "inferior" to news sites -- and even to syndicated (read "official") opinion writers -- is spreading. Like a cancer.

    Even bloggers who disagree with each other philosophically ought to stick together on this one.

    (Whether Kentucky government employees will now have access to Classical Values remains to be seen.)

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

    Tinkering with Tinkerbell

    Thanks to Justin, I had the pleasure of reading "RAFTS" -- the introduction to Bill Whittle's upcoming book about American civilization. He's grappling with things that are as essential to understand as they are elusive, and he's honest enough and self deprecating enough to recognize that he might just be wrong. And so might we all. Yet we hate each other anyway:

    There was a time, an age ago, where the differences between what we call the Left and the Right seemed more or less academic; maybe the distance from one high-rise tower to its twin – close enough to see the coffee mugs and family photos on the other side’s desk.

    Then something happened.

    Now we peer across a divide so wide that we can no longer see the other side; where the residents of the opposing camps are not viewed as having a difference of opinion so much as being considered insane.

    Two worldviews this opposed cannot both be right (although they could both be wrong). I was about to write that one of them must be closer to the truth, but I stopped myself, for often people will define truth as conforming to their ideology, rather than the reverse. But surely one of these positions must conform better to reality, to the evidence, for anyone with an open mind to see?

    Which one? And how do we tell?

    I've written about civilization (and anti-civilization) from a number of perspectives, and one of the most frustrating realizations I've had was the creeping sense that our political spectrumology might need revision. Tragically, the one person who might have been able to help me with the complexities of realigning the spectrum is dead. I refer to Steven Malcolm Anderson, my favorite and most frequent commenter, whose unending joy and constant witticisms prevented me from getting burned out more times than I care to remember. Bill Whittle's image of bringing Tinkerbell back to life was almost painful to read, and I'm trying right now not to think about it in the context of Steven, or I'll start bawling like a baby with no one to see me.

    Anyway, back to the failed spectrums of our dysfunctional political divide. We're all used to thinking along the traditional spectrum of liberal/conservative -- an axis, really, of many axes to grind. Libertarians proposed a realignment, and instead of liberal versus conservative, they offered totalitarian versus anarchist.

    All good and fine. I can handle three dimensions. But the more I thought about neo-primitivism, and those I called "anti-civilizationists," the more I wondered . . .

    How do we chart those people? What about anarchist Luddites who support Islamic totalitarians in order to work their way back to the middle ages with a goal of helping to bring about the eventual downfall of human civilization? Certainly not "liberal." Definitely not "conservative." Not by a longshot "libertarian." And "anarchist" is far too simplistic a term to describe those who oppose civilization itself.

    So, does that mean we have a new spectrum consisting of primitivism on the one end and civilization at the other? Civilization versus anti-civilization?

    Well how the hell do you square that with totalitarian versus anarchist? Or liberal versus conservative?

    If we use liberal versus conservative as a starting point, we see that conservative tends to preserve the old, while liberal wants to usher in the new. But right there we're lost on today's liberalism and today's conservatism -- because it depends on what is new, and what is old. And what about totalitarianism? Is that not a modern phenomenon, made possible by technological developments, and promising a better world? I hate totalitarianism, but that doesn't mean I can determine with any confidence where it might belong along the civilization/primitivism scale. On the other hand, there's nothing modern about primitivism or anarchy. People once lived that way -- before we rose up out of the slime.

    I hate to think that returning to the slime is the ultimate form of conservatism, but if we see "conservative" as rolling back the clock (as opposed to preserving what we have), certainly moving 15,000 years backwards is a form of rolling back the clock. (How anyone could advocate such a thing is beyond me, but for now I'm just trying to look at spectrums.)

    So, my question. Is there always inherent tension between what we call "civilization" and the forces of government? Go too far towards either anarchy or totalitarianism, and civilization suffers accordingly? Back to animalistic primitivism with the anarchists, and "back to the year zero" with Khmer Rouge-style totalitarians?

    Juxtaposing the two scales of totalitarian/anarchy and civilization/primitivism doesn't quite work. That is because totalitarianism often includes such brutality and inhumanity that man reverts to his savage animal past, and civilization is degraded. And anarchy can be equally brutal, and equally degrading to civilization. Is it possible that the more we move in either direction (towards totalitarianism or towards anarchy), the more we move away from civilization, and towards primitivism? (Likewise, too far in the direction of civilization runs the dire risk of barbarians attacking the undefended wealth that tends to be an excess of civilization.) If my "math" is right, then these two scales influence each other. Too far in either direction, and you'll get pulled into one the pathways leading into the other scale. (Mutually intersecting Scyllas-and-Charybdises, perhaps?)

    I cannot state with confidence that I know, and I don't claim to have the answers. All I know right now is that Bill's thoughts about maps and charting ships have made me think.

    (And made me realize how little I know.)

    Once again, great job, Bill Whittle!

    posted by Eric at 06:53 PM

    Brokeback molehill from Krugman's mountain

    The stuff I read. Sheesh! I don't know where to begin with this gem from Paul Krugman:

    . . .in 2004, President Bush basically ran as America's defender against gay married terrorists.
    (Via Mickey Kaus.) I've been around for awhile, I spent decades in Berkeley and San Francisco, and in all my years, I have never known a single gay married terrorist. And now I'm told that Bush "basically" ran against them?

    Where is Krugman getting such specialized knowledge? I thought he was an economist.

    Anyway, as Krugman provides no definition, I had to look elsewhere.
    Googling the phrase brought slightly over 200 hits. I didn't have time to read each and every result, but my primary goal was to find a working definition of the phrase (which certainly was not invented by Paul Krugman).

    As to who they are, and what they want, a comment left at the Agitator provides a clue:

    Everybody watch out for the gay terrorists! The gay married terrorists, who won't come into the country to blow things up unless their spouse gets a green card, too!
    No wonder I haven't seen any of these people. Bush has kept them out by means of a clever bureaucratic subterfuge.

    A Crooked Timber comment refers to the agenda of these sneaks in the context of

    the family of an unborn embryonic soldier recently killed in Iraq whose stem cells were kidnapped by gay married terrorists to be used in the creation of an animal-human hybrid.

    In March, 2005, a scary headlined proclaimed "Gay married terrorists will eat your baby" but the piece is scant on details of sodomitic cannibalism.

    Nearly a year ago, Daily Kos commenter made the same point as Krugman, but without a definition:

    . . . gay married terrorists weren't running for President in 2004--but that didn't stop Bush from running against them.
    Did he really?

    Well, why weren't gay married terrorists listed in CNN's famous voter exit poll?

    Might it be that two separate issues -- terrorism and gay marriage -- were rhetorically ("basically") conflated by Krugman and company? What about Kerry's statement that he and Bush had "the same position, fundamentally" on gay marriage? Unless Krugman is seriously suggesting that Kerry was for gay married terrorists, I think his phraseology represents a mountain of B.S.

    So why does Krugman conclude by advising his "fellow pundits" to "face reality"?

    Must we?

    posted by Eric at 03:45 PM | Comments (3)

    Progress is evil -- because it undermines morality!

    Via Pajamas Media, I'm glad to see something that I've wished for for years is likely to become a reality.

    James Hudnall links this Wired piece about factory-grown meat, which wouldn't come from animals, but from live cell cultures:

    Edible, lab-grown ground chuck that smells and tastes just like the real thing might take a place next to Quorn at supermarkets in just a few years, thanks to some determined meat researchers. Scientists routinely grow small quantities of muscle cells in petri dishes for experiments, but now for the first time a concentrated effort is under way to mass-produce meat in this manner.

    Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences at Utrecht University, and his Dutch colleagues are working on growing artificial pork meat out of pig stem cells. They hope to grow a form of minced meat suitable for burgers, sausages and pizza toppings within the next few years.

    Currently involved in identifying the type of stem cells that will multiply the most to create larger quantities of meat within a bioreactor, the team hopes to have concrete results by 2009. The 2 million euro ($2.5 million) Dutch-government-funded project began in April 2005. The work is one arm of a worldwide research effort focused on growing meat from cell cultures on an industrial scale.

    “All of the technology exists today to make ground meat products in vitro,” says Paul Kosnik, vice president of engineering at Tissue Genesis in Hawaii. Kosnik is growing scaffold-free, self-assembled muscle. “We believe the goal of a processed meat product is attainable in the next five years if funding is available and the R&D is pursued aggressively.”

    That will be great for humanity, as well as for animals. No more slaughtering, no more suffering. But will it please the vegetarians? James Hudnall thinks not:
    Of course, vegetarians are going to read this story and say how horrible. Probably some meat eaters, too. But think about it. This is a way to provide meat without all the pollution from animal waste, all the grain that needs to be grown with pesticides and so on. The water consumption will probably be a lot less. There is also the good chance a high quality of meat can be produced, hygienically and safely. And no animals are caged or killed. None will suffer. It’s just mindless meat being grown. Pure protein.
    No one will make vegetarians eat it, and of course one of the common objections -- the moral one -- will disappear. I do see a problem, however, with out-of-work animal rights activists.

    A possibility I speculated about not long ago in my discussion of a leading animal rights activist who opposes animal cloning for purposes of meat production:


    No slaughtering, no suffering, no breeding!

    After all, Pacelle is on record as being against killing chickens for food. Why, if we consider the future of the technological developments he opposes, there'd be no need for humane policing of slaughterhouses -- because there wouldn't be any slaughterhouses! Mr. Pacelle could retire.

    (Might that be what he's against?)

    Let's face it, no well-funded activist wants to have his work disappear -- even if he cannot say so. Money aside, these folks are also morality police, who make their money by appealing to emotion.

    Even if genetic engineering could eventually bring back extinct species like the Dodo bird or the passenger pigeon, moralistic environmentalist scolds could be counted on to oppose that, as it would deflate the primary moral thrust of their argument: that man does irrreversible damage. Allowing the reversal of damage is therefore a dire threat to the these champions of fake morality.

    Large organizations thrive on the problems they're dedicated to fight. It is therefore not in their interest to eliminate the problems which are their lifeblood. So, if an organization is unfortunate enough to actually solve a problem it is dedicated to solving, it must find a new one or cease to exist. If some clever scientist came up with an inexpensive, readily available device that instantly sobered up drunks by neutralizing all alcohol in their systems, MADD could be counted on to oppose it. And so on.

    Thus, I don't expect the organized animal rights activists to smile upon factory grown meat. More likely, they'd join forces with the Rifkinist Luddites and pronounce it a "dehumanizing" threat to all humans -- and (somehow) to all animals.

    (Where's the beef? Oh the humanity!)

    posted by Eric at 01:03 PM | Comments (10)

    Ban dummies, not weapons of mass distraction!

    Much as I hate to drag my poor dog Coco into the debate over WMDs, I'm wondering whether the attempt to ban using cell phones while driving includes a ban on using copycat devices that look like cell phones but which really aren't.

    Like this ridiculous item:


    The reason Coco is in the background is that the picture would be boring without her, and I read somewhere that photographers should always strive to have something interesting in the background, and I think Coco is more interesting than a useless dummy phone. Well, the dummy phone rings very convincingly if you press the right button, and it also has voice samples saying things like "Operator, can I help you?" (As if it's possible to find an operator willing to make such a commitment these days. . .)

    If the Pennsylvania legislature passed a cell-phone ban and I really wanted to test its limits, if I drove around like a goofball and held the dummy phone to my ear, would they pull me over?

    And if they did, would the officer get a kick out of my gag? Frankly, I don't think he would, because there's nothing funny about a dummy cell phone -- especially the ones that resemble the real thing. The cop would probably be angry, arrest me for "distracted driving" or misleading the police or something. Who knows? They might even take me to a hospital for "observation."

    Not that the general public would care, though. I could walk around all day talking into that thing, and I could even argue with the fake operator, and everyone would think I was a normal person.

    Why? Because I'd be appearing to do what normal people do, and appearances count more than realities.

    Now, if I really wanted to get a rise out of both the law enforcement community and the general public, I'd ask Coco to let me borrow this:


    It's much larger and more colorful. Plus, the sounds it makes are much more playful. It almost seems to invite babytalk.

    If an officer saw me talking on something like that and pulled me over, surely he'd understand.

    Clearly, then, the problem isn't talking on cell phones; it's the appearance of talking on cell phones. The second cell phone would be considered less deceptive (as its an obvious dummy) and thus, no one would accuse me of trying to create a false appearance.

    (Of course, these days, you can get arrested even for having dummies in your car, so maybe the situation is hopeless.)

    posted by Eric at 09:33 AM

    WMDs in Pennsylvania?

    Figuring that yesterday's press conference announcing that a minimum of 500 chemical weapons had been found in Iraq might be considered newsworthy, I thought today's Inquirer would be worth a glance. Surely, I thought, there'd at least be some carefully dissembled skepticism (if not outrage) over the announcement. I expected to see experts debunking the claim, arguments that "old" WMDs don't count, etc.

    What I didn't realize was that the story didn't qualify as news, and I'm not quite sure why. Whether you (or the Inquirer) like Santorum or not, he's one of Pennsylvania's senators, he's up for reelection, and this was a major announcement. According to logic, his WMD announcement was either on the level or it was not. But let's suppose it was not. Let's suppose (as Atrios argues) that Senator Santorum is a "wanker." Is it not of interest to readers of the largest newspaper in his home state that their senator has made a bogus or misleading announcement?

    Or might there be a fear that some readers might believe Senator Santorum? I certainly hope that the Inquirer doesn't think that way, for it's a little condescending. I'd like to make up my own mind, but I guess if I wasn't online all the time, I wouldn't be able to evaluate my own senator's announcement, because I'd never have known about it.

    Anyway, I had to spend far more time than usual with the paper, because I had to search out every nook and cranny for any trace of WMDs. I even got online. I searched for chemical weapons. Santorum. Hoekstra. Finally (at the website) I found barest mention of the Santorum announcement -- buried deep in the text of an AP wire report titled "GOP, Democrats maneuver for advantage in Iraq debate":

    With some Democrats saying the decision to go to war was a mistake, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., tried to dispel arguments by Democratic lawmakers that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

    Santorum and Hoekstra released a newly declassified military intelligence report that said coalition forces have found 500 munitions in Iraq that contained degraded sarin or mustard nerve agents, produced before the 1991 Gulf War.

    But a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the weapons were not considered likely to be dangerous because of their age. Also, Democrats said a lengthy 2005 report from the top U.S. weapons inspector contemplated that such munitions would be found.

    Yes, they always contemplated that WMDs would be found. And they were found. Whether there are more remains to be seen. According to Michael Ledeen, "Santorum and Hoekstra were furious at the meager declassification" and "Negroponte only declassified a few fragments of a much bigger document." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    (Um, Can anyone tell me the definition of "a defense official"?)

    Anyway, it appears that Pennsylvania voters who rely on the daily newspaper will remain blissfully ignorant that there is any debate about WMDs in Iraq, much less their senator's role in it.

    And that's the way it is.

    However, I still like the Inquirer, and having to search for signs of WMDs makes me read it avidly.

    As my luck would have it, it was during my search for WMDs that I found the best analysis of Pennsylvania's proposed cell phone ban to date:

    A Montgomery County legislator wants Pennsylvania to make drivers hang up their phones.

    Unless the car has some sort of hands-free device.

    State Rep. Josh Shapiro is about to introduce legislation that brings Pennsylvania into line with an increasing number of communities across the country and at least 45 countries worldwide. He says cell phones distract drivers more than anything else on the road, leading to more accidents.

    Here's a confession: I am just what Shapiro's talking about.

    Clearly, the cell phone is a Weapon of Mass Distraction. Should Something be Done?

    Blinq's author Dan Rubin not only talks on his cell phone, he gets mad at distracted drivers who can't drive and talk at the same time -- something even more distracting than talking on his own cell phone:

    If really mad, I do this with the other hand at the same time, and shake these modified cuckold signs while yelling something like GET OFF THE PHONE, MORON!
    While I don't see myself as an elitist, I think that people who can't drive and talk on the phone probably aren't fit to drive in the first place. Like the proverbial guy who can't walk and chew gum at the same time, they're not coordinated enough. It's one thing to allow them to wander about from place to place, but there are some people who should not have driver's licenses, and IMHO, they're the ones who are generating the uproar supporting the cell phone ban. Let's face it, not everyone is coordinated enough to be a race car driver or helicopter pilot. So why do we pass moronic nanny-state--has-to-wipe-you-ass-for-you laws treating the most coordinated as if they are the least coordinated?

    Blinq points out that they've had these laws in Europe for years:

    When I lived in Europe, most countries had outlawed cells phones for drivers unless the devices were hands-free. I'd be talking to someone, and when passing a police car, would suddenly have to drop the phone onto the seat or risk fines worth hundreds of dollars. A dangerous law, I felt. Never got caught, but eventually almost every country I worked in had adopted the rule, concluding it made people safer.

    I remember interviewing a professor in Germany who doubted cell phone bans would make the roads safer. Many other things distract drivers, he said, like men staring at women's breasts. Now that guy made sense.

    Good point. A Berkeley police officer once told me that when he'd arrive at an accident, he could always tell when a male driver had been sexually distracted, because when he asked what happened, the distracted driver would just say he was "looking at something else" with an embarrassed look on his face. Usually, the "distraction" turned out to be some pedestrian's anatomy or attire, but the drivers just didn't want to provide details.

    There are plenty of things more distracting than cell phones. Try driving while eating an Egg McMuffin and drinking coffee; it's a lot harder than talking on the phone, yet people do it all the time. They also scratch their asses, rub their eyes, pick their noses, listen to distracting radio programs, and probably play with themselves. The cell phone seems to have three strikes against it: visibility, relative newness, and increasing frequency of use while driving. Why not ban disciplining the kids, playing video games, and Blackberry websurfing at the wheel? People certainly do these things -- especially when they're stuck in traffic. One reason is that we generally cannot see them doing it, so there's not as much public outrage. The other reason is that it comes down to legislating common sense. No sane person should read blogs or play tetris behind the wheel. Anyone insane enough to blog while driving (like this) should be taken out and shot. But do we need specific laws governing each and every possible distraction? From a legal standpoint, driver distraction for any reason constitutes negligence. That ought to be enough. But it isn't. Because thanks to ideas like "no-fault" the negligence of a driver no longer matters the way it once did. Therefore, people want to pass laws.

    It's almost a way of getting even with things you don't like.

    And if you think it will stop with a ban on hand-held cell phones, think again! Blinq also links to this USA Today report -- which cites a study "suggest[ing] that using a hands-free device instead of a handheld phone while behind the wheel will not necessarily improve safety. Interestingly, some see this as an argument against banning hand-helds, lest that lull drivers into a false sense of security:

    Jim Champagne, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the study reinforced the need for driver education. His organization urges state lawmakers to refrain from enacting handheld cell phone bans because they "incorrectly send the message to drivers that as long as they are hands-free, they are safe."
    Well, if they're not safe, then we'll have to make them safe. One law leads to another. I'm pretty sure that requiring helmets would make everyone safer. So would lowering the speed limit to 35, along with federal requirements that no car could go faster.

    The point here is that the cell phone issue is itself distracting.

    My search for WMDs was an exercise that drove me to distraction.

    However, the fact that I devoted more time to cell phones than chemical weapons would make me a hypocrite if I demanded a higher standard from the Inquirer, wouldn't it?

    Therefore, I find myself led inexorably to the conclusion that if Santorum really wants to get a write-up in the Inquirer, he should stick to the WMDs Pennsylvanians really care about.

    (Such is life in the reality-based world. . .)

    UPDATE: It appears that Santorum has known about the WMDs for more than ten weeks. As to why it took so long for citizens to have access even to this limited release of information (at least, in newspapers that think the existence of WMDs is news fit to print), Chester offers four interesting scenarios. Concludes Chester,

    Whatever the explanation, it'll get interesting. The key is: did the White House know about them? The answer to that question will go a long way toward figuring out which of the above scenarios might be correct.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The more convincing the evidence of WMDs becomes, the louder the cries of "BUSH KNEW, PART II!"

    UPDATE (06/23/06): A report on Santorum's press conference is on the front page of today's Inquirer.

    My apologies for suggesting that they were keeping the story under wraps.

    Online news moves at a much faster speed than print journalism, and because the press conference took place at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, I assumed that would be enough time to get it into the next day's edition.

    I shouldn't be so impatient.

    posted by Eric at 07:28 AM | Comments (4)


    In an earlier post today, I said this:

    Frankly, if incontrovertibly clear evidence of WMDs were discovered tomorrow, I think there'd be a huge outcry questioning the timing -- and a huge chorus along the lines of WHY NOW? Either Bush planted the evidence (BUSH KNEW, PART II?), or he knew all along but Karl Rove advised him to wait for election purposes, and if these arguments failed to gain sway, there'd always be the accusation of incompetence. (The WMDs were there all along, but because of Bush's bungling leadership and poor military strategy, they weren't found when they should have been.)

    Well, if such a thing did happen, at least the Democrats could claim (truthfully) "WE TOLD YOU SO!"

    Well, it appears that WMDs have been found, and the announcement was made today. That means I should have said something like this:
    Frankly, if incontrovertibly clear evidence of WMDs were discovered today, I think there'd be a huge outcry questioning the timing --

    Normally, I hate being wrong. But in a situation like this I really don't mind being off by a day.

    MORE: For more, read Austin Bay, Captain Ed, Michelle Malkin, CNS News, and Raw Story.

    DRUIDICAL AFTERTHOUGHT: I hate to sound like a damn Pagan or a Roman augur, but . . . (I mean, consider the tradition of this blog!)

    Am I the only one remembering that today is the longest day of the year?

    How come no one is questioning the timing?

    MORE: Atrios seems skeptical. (Um, maybe Senator Lieberman should have made the announcement?)

    AND MORE: I have to say, I couldn't agree more with Glenn Reynolds on this point:

    WMD wasn't the big issue for me, but it certainly has been turned into a keystone of the war debate, which may turn out to have been a mistake for war opponents.
    I didn't support the war in Iraq because I thought we needed to go in and get WMDs; I supported it to avenge 9/11 (for reasons I've explained) as well as to free the Iraqis from an evil maniac.

    Others have made this war about WMDs. I think that devalued the war, and turned it from a just war into a game of hide-and seek. Those with an emotional investment in that game should have considered that just as Bush and Tenet might have guessed wrong, there was also the possibility that they might have guessed wrong.

    MORE: Fox News report here.

    I suspect the primary objection to the Hoekstra-Santorum announcement will be that this is "nothing new." That these are "old" WMDs.

    OK. If they're old, then they were there, right? And just because they're old, so what? I have old guns too, but they still work.

    posted by Eric at 08:14 PM | Comments (2)

    Emotional relativism

    Reading about how some sick maniac got his jollies by screwing a four month old Argentine dogo puppy really pissed me off. I lived in Argentina for a summer when I was a teen, and I remember the dogo breed. They're in the Molosser group, and are closely related to the American Pit Bull Terrier. Appearance-wise, they're virtually indistinguishable from any large white pit bull.

    I feel terrible for the puppy, and I hope the guy is sent to the joint. If I were a cruel and vindictive bastard, I'd hope that whatever joint it was had guards known for sleeping on duty. But I guess that would make me no better than he, so I should just hope he gets whatever maximum prison time the law in Florida allows.

    Considering the horrendous nature of what happened to Privates Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker in Iraq, my concerns about the dog might seem awfully misplaced. I don't think they are misplaced, though, because the dynamics are different. (Hence this post.) In this country something can be done to people caught committing gruesome crimes. Retribution in Iraq, however, can take years. And it isn't made any easier by the people who make more noise about mishandled Korans than brutal, premeditated torture and deliberate mutilation.

    People are horrified to read about how the bodies of these men were mutilated, but what's the remedy? Win the damned war. People who don't like the war tend to see the remedy as withdrawal from Iraq, even though that's no remedy at all.

    When a sicko is caught torturing an animal, though, it's easy to get worked up and make pronouncements about what should be done to him. Unlike the sickos who tortured the two Americans, no one is going to defend a dog torturer. No one is going to suggest that the dog shouldn't have been there in the first place. That the dog torturer was provoked. That dogs of such a breed have been known to attack people. People are free to become universally, completely, outraged over what happened to that puppy.

    But try getting completely outraged over what happened to those two young Americans, and things might get a little more complicated.


    Sickening as it is to contemplate the torture of a puppy for pleasure, in logic it has to be remembered that this does not even begin to approach the premeditated evil of torturing human beings to death -- not to make them talk, but for no reason other than political retaliation. (A strategy accomplished by media manipulation, of course).

    So why is it that so many people would consider the dog torture more heinous? Is it emotion? Well, I'm emotional, and I was emotionally outraged especially when I saw the picture of the puppy. But I also have rational outrage. This allows me to recognize the emotions I feel over seeing the puppy's picture, but remember that there are greater evils which are more deserving of my outrage -- my feelings notwithstanding.

    If some asshole said "SCREW THE PUPPY!" most of us would be outraged. But when someone says the same thing about mutilated Americans, that's considered in many quarters to be little more than an emotional response by a leading netroots activist.

    Not that I expect a similar smear to be uttered against these two soldiers. But I do expect to hear more voices in support of their torturers than in support of the man who tortured a dog.

    That's probably because the former are not "terrorists"; instead they are "the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow – and they will win."

    (Who'd say that about the guy who tortured a dog?)

    MORE: Via Pajamas Media, Michael Yon expresses the hope that revulsion can lead to a redoubled commitment:

    Our soldiers apparently were horribly tortured, and bombs were emplaced to kill those who would find them. In the days ahead as we learn the details, I hope that Americans can muster the same incredible courage I have seen ordinary Iraqis rise to on countless occasions. If we do, then despite the reflexive pull back caused by the horror of these murders, our commitment to put down the terrorists who committed these murders will be redoubled.

    Let our brave men be remembered with dignity and great honor, for they died in hell while fighting the devil himself.

    I couldn't agree more.

    posted by Eric at 05:33 PM | Comments (3)

    My inner jury got run over by a paranoid conspiracy!

    As regular readers know, I love conspiracy theories, whether they're true or not. They reveal much about the dynamics of human thinking, not so much because they contaminate thought (which they do) but because they are manipulated in so many ways in order to contaminate thought. Or an idea. Or even a meme.

    A lot of this has to do with mob psychology. If you can get a person or an idea tarred with the "conspiracy theory" brush, then the substance and the merits matter very little. For example, once the dispute over the unaccounted-for leg in Oklahoma City (also known as the "169th victim") was labeled "conspiracy theory" it became politically unmentionable. As taboo as Vincent Foster (whose mere name can't be mentioned -- much less his hard drive). As taboo as Watergate Revisionism. Or Pardongate.

    As I've said several times, in analyzing these things, I try not to be influenced by emotion, whether mine or anyone else's:

    There is no question that terrorism -- whether domestic or international -- always involves a conspiracy. In attempting to analyze unsettled and vexing stories, I try to avoid the following common pitfalls:

  • the temptation of believing what I want to believe
  • the temptation of disbelieving (denying) what I don't want to believe
  • the temptation of clinging too tenaciously to my own conclusions (if any)
  • the temptation of being adversely influenced by emotions instead of logic (loud and ugly tones, or harsh rhetoric make me distrustful; reasonable tones engender trust and can create illusions of truth)
  • Whether an idea constitutes "paranoid conspiracy thinking" is not something to be decided according to popular prejudice.

    Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick, Jr. does not think much of Representative Curt Weldon's view that it is possible that Saddam Hussein had WMDs:

    Who is the last elected official in America to think there are still weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

    Delaware County's very own U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

    Weldon told the Delaware County Daily Times last week that the "jury is still out on WMD," and he knows of four sites in Basra and Nasiriyah, Iraq, that have not been searched.

    When criticized for those remarks, Weldon's office told the Associated Press that he had gotten his info from "a 21-year-old former special investigator who was a member of the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations."

    "The bottom line is that the jury is still out on WMD in Iraq, and Congressman Weldon continues to exercise proper congressional oversight in investigating this matter," the statement said.

    I can't wait for those hearings.

    Is Weldon the "the last elected official in America to think there are still weapons of mass destruction in Iraq"? That question is a bit like asking "When was the last time you beat your wife?" because according to Ferrick, Weldon said "the jury is still out."

    Or does it matter what Weldon said?

    Here's the full Weldon quote:

    While Sestak said Iraq was "not a clear nor a present danger" because no weapons of mass destruction have been found, Weldon said he knows of four sites in Basra and Nasiriyah that have yet to be searched for biological or chemical weapons.

    "I think the jury is still out on WMD," said Weldon, who also believes Saddam Hussein may have smuggled the weapons to Syria with Russian assistance prior to the March 2003 invasion.

    I'm not about to claim that WMDs were found (or will be found) in Iraq. However, saying the jury is out is another matter.

    Saying "the jury is still out," IMO, simply acknowledges the theoretical possibility that WMDs might be found. It is not an assertion that they have been.

    Is the jury still out?

    What about this report of the discovery of Sarin nerve agent. Does that count as evidence that might be considered by the jury?

    Captain Ed recently discussed a translated memo which "describes not only the disposal of chemical-weapon materials but also where Iraq buried them." Concludes Ed,

    These memos being translated by Joseph Shahda at Free Republic have the potential to completely recast the history of the Iraq War. Perhaps this find will allow the Pentagon to locate at least some of the WMD the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies insisted Saddam retained. They should also start working on getting the rest of these documents translated quickly while the information could still be useful.
    This has not been officially confirmed, but I'm inclined to agree with Strategy Page:
    So, basically Iraq took the step to bury containers of chemicals from its Military Industrial Commission while UN inspectors were in country 2002, and there appears to be concern that said UN inspectors might discover it.

    Sounds like a lot of f*ckin' trouble to go through without having WMD in the first place.

    Who's the jury, anyway?

    The Wall Street Journal?

    During last week's congressional debate over the war in Iraq, critics of the Bush administration's policy made three arguments: that President Bush more or less lied when claiming Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S., there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that no progress is being made in the war there.

    All three assumptions rest on shaky ground, so it is remarkable how much critics have seized on them with such fervor and certainty--the very vices of which they accuse the war's supporters. Indeed, one wonders how Democrats would react if real evidence of weapons of mass destruction, say the discovery of chemical weapon shells, surfaced. Would they step back and re-evaluate their assumptions, or would they accuse the Bush administration of planting the evidence as part of a Karl Rove-inspired pre-election dirty trick? Far from politics ending at the water's edge, today's partisan battles seem to take on added ferocity when they concern foreign policy.

    These are good questions. Frankly, if incontrovertibly clear evidence of WMDs were discovered tomorrow, I think there'd be a huge outcry questioning the timing -- and a huge chorus along the lines of WHY NOW? Either Bush planted the evidence (BUSH KNEW, PART II?), or he knew all along but Karl Rove advised him to wait for election purposes, and if these arguments failed to gain sway, there'd always be the accusation of incompetence. (The WMDs were there all along, but because of Bush's bungling leadership and poor military strategy, they weren't found when they should have been.)

    Well, if such a thing did happen, at least the Democrats could claim (truthfully) "WE TOLD YOU SO!"

    Here's more for the jury from the WSJ:

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada rose during last week's debate to declare, "There are two things that don't exist in Iraq: cutting and running, and weapons of mass destruction." Not everyone shares his certitude.

    The Iraq Survey Group, an investigative commission set up by President Bush to look at the WMD issue, released its last public report in October 2004. While it found no evidence of WMD inside Iraq, it reported that Saddam was preparing to reconstitute his WMD program "as resources became available and the constraints of sanctions decayed." According to the report, Saddam had the capability to start anthrax production within one week of making the decision to do so, and thereafter to produce more than 10 tons of weaponized anthrax a year. The congressional Office of Technology Assessment estimates that if even 200 pounds, or 1% of that amount, were released into the air over Washington, up to three million people would die.

    The Iraq Survey Group report also found that the CIA had "received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved." These reports "were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation"--especially "given the insular and compartmented nature of the [Saddam] regime." The CIA was unable to complete its probe due to instability in Iraq, but it held out the possibility that an "unofficial" transfer of WMD might have been secretly conducted, with WMD material either shipped out of Iraq into Syria or destroyed by another country after being flown there.

    Since then, the Iraq Survey Group has been inactive even though a continuing stream of credible sources have come forward with clues of where evidence of WMD material might be. Some administration officials now appear to be reluctant to investigate further, in part out of fear that any fresh discovery might lay the White House open to charges that lax U.S. security could have allowed the insurgents to get their hands on highly dangerous material. Some Pentagon officials have actively discouraged further investigations. But even with no official approval, some U.S. servicemen continue to explore promising leads about possible WMD sites or out-of-country transfers on their own. Many believe such tips will eventually bear fruit.

    Then there is a vast trove of untranslated documents, recordings, videotapes and photographs captured in Iraq that have not been examined--partly because of the sheer volume (36,000 boxes) and partly because of foot dragging by career bureaucrats. The few documents that have been examined have yielded some clues. ABC News has reported that 12 hours of captured recorded talks between Saddam and his cabinet officials include Saddam saying, "Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans a long time before [the 1991 Gulf War] and told the British as well . . . that in the future there will be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction." The Iraqi dictator then added that while he would not authorize such an attack, he speculated that someone else could launch a chemical, nuclear, or biological attack from a booby-trapped car.

    Other sources tell me that recently translated captured documents include target lists of U.S. facilities and frequent references to WMDs in Saddam's possession. "He was either being lied to by his own officials, lying to them or he had something," one intelligence analyst told me.

    As a practical matter, I'm not sure the discovery of WMDs is in the interest of either party. Such a thing would be politically disruptive.

    In February, Dr. Sanity linked to an intriguing report of an interview with former Saddam-loyalist General Ali Ibrahim Al-Tikriti -- who claims Saddam had WMDs and Russian Spetznatz operatives moved them to Syria. There's a lot more background here, and one of the researchers speculates about why it's so difficult to interest members of Congress:

    Gaubatz: My sources confirm much of the information that is stated by the individual who claims to be "General Al-Tikriti", but they are suspicious of anyone they can't see or can't hear in their natural voice. Arabic is such a distinctive language that native Arabic speakers can tell a lot about the person by the words, tone, and mannerisms displayed during the conversation. There is little doubt Saddam had WMDs and that the Russians were involved in hiding them and possibly also removing them.

    I feel Mr. Loftus, Mr. Mauro, myself, and many others realize WMDs were/are in Iraq, but to convince others is difficult. This silhouette will not do it (again I am not a disbeliever). During the last two months I have had conversations with Congressman Curt Weldon, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, their staff, and even arranged to have three of the original Iraqi sources brought to the Congressmen's office for debriefings (ref:) This still hasn't resulted in suspected WMD sites from being searched in Iraq.

    Based on my extensive conversations with the Congressmen and their staff, they are afraid that if they searched the suspected sites in Iraq that I identified, and the WMD has been removed by terrorists, it would destroy the upcoming elections for the Republican Party. If it was done three years ago (as I tried to get done), we would all know. Now politics is involved. We have a tough fight ahead.

    Especially when the mere admission that something might be theoretically possible has become politically impossible. (And, as Jeff Goldstein pointed out in February, evidence of theoretical possibilities need only be met by official skepticism to go unreported.)

    At this point there is no way for me to know what the evidence is, whether it's any good, or whether there will be more. I certainly can't claim that WMDs have been found. But under the circumstances, saying "the jury is still out" is hardly conspiracy thinking. To cling blindly to the idea that because something has never been found in a country like Iraq (a fairly large, labyrinth-laced country run for decades by treacherous sneaks with every motivation for concealment), that it absolutely never will be strikes me as only very risky strategy, but poor logic. I think the "NO-WMDs!" mantra has been repeated so long, and by so many people who agree with each other, that it's taken on an aura of untouchability -- to the point where even slight skepticism brings on a charge of paranoid conspiracy thinking.

    In terms of history, juries can be out for a long time.


    Tom Ferrick call your office!

    (Considering that Hoekstra and Santorum were in on the announcement, I don't think the answer to Tom Ferrick's question is Weldon.)


    I don't think this will put an end to paranoid conspiracy theories, though . . .

    UPDATE: Captain Ed has more, and he's staying on top of what appears to be bug news. Michelle Malkin, plus video.

    CNS News has another report, Drudge doesn't seem to have anything yet, and Raw Story is urging caution.

    Meanwhile, CNN is running an interview with Murtha, who's still calling for a pullout of some sort. (I guess that's news.)

    posted by Eric at 01:48 PM | Comments (1)

    From Playgrounds to Paygrounds

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Christine Rosen (whose anti-Reynolds hatchet job I earned the logical right not to read) also has major, um, issues where it comes to videogames.

    My advice is to skip Ms. Rosen's tendentious and pretentious essay, and instead read the Infocult review:

    "Playgrounds of the Self" is an odd essay, a sort of swirling, congealing swarm of complaints that skitter across the surface of evidence it can't be bothered to understand. It grumps and whines instead of assembling a coherent argument. Christine Rosen, author and one of the Atlantean senior editors, touches on an ambitious suite of historical and reflective sources, none of which actually connect with gaming, and all of which distract us from her total failure to complete a line of thought.

    I wish I could recommend it to the curious and concerned as a useful example of some types of gaming criticism. But the article isn't typical of anything. For instance, Rosen has actually looked at some games and even ventured into a gaming store, which some critics avoid doing. She has also heard of more than one game (although didn't identify playing any one, as far as I can make out).

    In general, I don't like to sit in judgment on things with which I'm not familiar, and things I don't do. Ms. Rosen has spent a huge amount of time doing that, and the piece suffers accordingly. (Frankly, her venture into the gaming store reminds me of anti-gun journalists venturing into gun stores to complain that it's possible to buy guns.)

    But because I believe in being fair, I will say that the video game piece is better than Ms. Reynolds's hatchet job against Glenn Reynolds. For starters, you don't have to log in and share personal information to read the lengthy judgment of videogames. Why, she even implicitly criticizes the invasiveness of such online strategms:

    We all, in some sense, have two forms of identity—one external, one internal. External identity is the way others see us, and internal identity is the way we see ourselves. External identity is also how the world categorizes us, and includes markers such as our credit report, Social Security number, health insurance, political affiliation, and even the history of our consumer purchases. It is this external identity—routinized, bureaucratized, entered into databases, largely unalterable and largely out of our control—that we talk about when we talk about identity theft, of which 9.3 million U.S. adults were the victims last year, according to a 2005 Better Business Bureau survey. Already we can avail ourselves of clean-up services that remove the traces of ourselves left on our technical devices. Unlike an old toaster, an old computer contains personal information, which means you cannot simply throw it away without also tossing out clues to who you are.

    The fact that we have to go to such lengths to defend and protect our identity suggests deeper questions about the meaning of identity itself. Identity, in our world, is both a commodity and a self-conception, something capable of being sold, misused, and misconstrued by strangers at the click of a mouse, and something we can alter ourselves through reinvention.

    That was last year. These days, of course, her essays require potential readers to bare our "routinized, bureaucratized, entered into databases, largely unalterable and largely out of our control" external identities.

    At least she warned us last year.

    MORE: My thanks to Glenn for linking the Kass ice cream post. Glenn says:

    Good thing I didn't have a chapter on eating ice cream cones in public!

    I can't speak for Dr. Kass or Ms. Rosen, but I would have been very forgiving . . .

    posted by Eric at 11:34 AM | Comments (3)

    A Public Service Announcement

    If you're a fan of William Whittle, essayist, you'll be pleased to hear that he's writing again. It certainly has been awhile.

    There was a time, an age ago, where the differences between what we call the Left and the Right seemed more or less academic; maybe the distance from one high-rise tower to its twin – close enough to see the coffee mugs and family photos on the other side’s desk.

    Then something happened.

    Now we peer across a divide so wide that we can no longer see the other side; where the residents of the opposing camps as not viewed as having a difference of opinion so much as being considered insane.

    I've been thinking much the same thing lately.

    posted by Justin at 10:13 AM

    By her own logic, Christine Rosen has almost nothing to say . . .

    Christine Rosen, it seems, does not like Glenn Reynolds.

    She also doesn't like cell phones, but she does like the Leon Kass Commission on Bioethics.

    I say these things by way of background, because I'm looking for a way to escape having to write a long essay defending Glenn Reynolds. Not that I have to do that, but in a previous long essay I did say this:

    ...if Glenn is attacked unjustly and I hear about it, I will speak up...
    Kinda puts me on the hook, long essay or not.

    But fortunately Dave Price made it easy for me to escape the long essay by catching Ms. Rosen in a self-refuting error! She claimed that Glenn Reynolds provided no explanation for a statement he made but she completely ignored a little thing called a "link" which in fact was the very explanation she accused Glenn of not providing.

    Well fair is fair, and I demand the right to uphold and apply to people who set standards (which Ms. Rosen clearly does) the very same standards they have set. And, according to Christine Rosen, it's perfectly acceptable to ignore what can be gleaned from clicking a link by not clicking that link, then later claiming nothing was there.

    This means that in fairness and in logic, at minimum I would be free to not click on her link, and then treat it as amounting to nothing, right?


    However, when I went to the NRO Online, I was shocked -- shocked, I say -- to discover that I was asked to do more than click a link.


    In order to read Ms. Rosen's piece, it was demanded of me that I create a thing called an ACCOUNT! In order to do this I would have had to fill out monstrously intrusive form -- a sort of personal questionaire asking for my full name, my email address, my home address, my zip code, a pass word (twice!), and under the euphemism of "preferences" even answer questions about whether I want things sent to me that I can state unequivocally that I absolutely do not want!

    And this woman is against cell phones? And technology?


    Again, fair is fair. Christine Rosen doesn't click links; I don't have to fill out her forms.

    And because I don't have to, that means I cannot read her hatchet job. Like, no way! So I'm off the hook, and according to her own rules I can conclude she's guilty of "vacuity" because her essay is so devoid of content. All I can read are four complete sentences, plus a fragment of a fifth, mainly belittling and understating Glenn's background. (He's "just" a law professor at UTenn, and he's written about the Second Amendment, etc...)

    As far as I'm concerned, these four and a half belittling sentences amount to little more than "terse, almost meaningless commentary." It's also obvious that by hiding behind the intrusive questionaire, she's loaded to the gills with lots of self contradictory "outre." Under Ms. Rosen's rule of logic, I think I've been more than fair.

    (A self-axing hatchet job, I'd say.)

    posted by Eric at 09:08 PM | Comments (2)

    Ill behaved aliens menace Main Line!

    Last night Coco and I had our domestic tranquility disturbed when a large, strange-looking wasp zoomed into the living room. I'm quite used to bees and yellow jackets, but I'd never seen anything quite like this, as it was too large, and instead of trying to get out of the house, it menaced me aggressively. (I had opened the door and it was clearly attracted in by the light.) Why it was flying around late at night I do not know; normally wasps and bees are quiet during nocturnal hours.

    I was left with little choice but to reach for my RAID Flying Insect Killer, aimed and sprayed, and hit it fair and square. But our invader didn't just lie down and die. It only seemed to fly around in a more aggressive manner. Finally it hit the floor near the wall and the buzzing got louder. I sprayed again and it went into convulsions. Damn, it looked like it must not have been much fun; fortunately insects don't have nervous systems.

    What bothered me the most is that I pride myself on knowing my critters, and I'd never seen a wasp that looked like this before.


    (Um, no, that's not my regular-sized coffee cup. I just stuck some wax in there so that it would provide a proper base for display purposes.)

    It wasn't until this afternoon that I finally got around to an online search. It wasn't easy, and after looking over and over again at pictures of every native wasp I could find, I was ready to give up. This looked vaguely like a yellow jacket but it was too big and the markings were different. Too much yellow on the abodomen, and in a different pattern. Wider frame, bigger, hairier head.

    I was about to give up when I saw the picture of a German wasp, which looked similar, but at the same site there was a picture of the European hornet (Vespa crabro) which was an exact match. This led to a University of Arkansas site, where it is explained that they're alien wasps which started in damned North, and are now invading the South:

    As its common name implies, the European hornet is native to central and western Europe, but it is never found north of the 63rd parallel. In North America, it was first found in New York State in the mid 1800s. During the following century, it spread slowly through southern New England and south through New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Virginia and North Carolina. By 1973, outlying populations were detected in scattered localities in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. It was found in Shelby County, Tennessee, just over the border from Crittenden County, Arkansas. In the late 1970’s and early 1980s it spread rapidly across Kentucky. By the early 1980s, isolated reports revealed that it covered the area from Maine and southeastern Canada south to North Carolina and west to Michigan and Tennessee, with only scattered occurrences in states south of Tennessee and North Carolina, and for Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and adjacent areas north of Missouri and west of the Mississippi River. By the late 1980s it was spreading through the Ozarks of southeastern Missouri.

    The European hornet was first detected in Arkansas in September 1999.

    I'm glad I didn't get stung, as the sting is reported to be a lot worse than our native species:
    "I have recently had an encounter with the European hornet and I'd like to notify you of the encounter and location. I drive a log truck and one morning while I was getting my truck ready for loading I was stung. It was a little before daylight, I had my work lights on and bugs were flying around and as I entered my truck one got up my pant leg. attempting to shake it out I must have put pressure on it because it stung me on the side of the knee cap. I quickly came out of my pants to release this varmint and discovered my knee was turning red, swelling and burning like no sting I have ever received. The sting burned and irritated me all day but the pain relieved and the redness and swelling went away by late evening. It lasted roughly around 10-12 hours. I was aware of some trees around the loading landing that contained some sort of bee so I quickly decided it was one of them. I medicated the sting with items in my first aid kit and applied cool water to the area, which helped some. When the forest ranger over the area came around later in the day after I had left, the foreman of the logging crew notified him of my sting. He was aware of what the bee was so he collected one out of one of the hives and took it with him. He found it to be what the Forestry Commission called an European wasp. I know of 4 trees that contain these hives and they are located in the Ozark National Forrest in the Mt. View, AR. area. The location is 12 miles north on Hwy. 341 off Hwy. 14 out of Big Flat, AR... We have since observed this hornet attacking red wasp and yellow jackets. . .
    Attacking our American wasps? Even the wasps living on Philadelphia's Main Line? Ye gods!

    I say, protect our WASP society from these alien immigrant invaders!

    Interestingly, Vespa crabro is protected in Germany, and had died out in England, but the populations are now returning. Instead of being grateful, the Brits are blaming "climate change."

    A University of Kentucky website claims that European hornets are active at night, and are attracted to lights, which they will attack! Nighttime aggression is further confirmed at a Penn State web site which states:

    These workers are unique among the yellowjackets for their ability (actually a propensity) to forage at night. It is not unusual for workers to bounce off of external lights or house windowpanes during summer nights.
    Well, that certainly explains the gratuitous show of force displayed in my living room last night (and the pre-dawn attack on the innocent Arkansas trucker.)

    You learn something every day. In this case, I learned something I didn't especially want to learn.

    And exactly what is Bush doing about this problem, I'd like to know?

    UPDATE: I should have said that insects don't have nervous systems like ours. Or "don't have much by way of nervous systems." Thanks to Alan Kellogg for the correction.

    posted by Eric at 02:14 PM | Comments (4)

    New hope for film cameras?


    ATLANTA, June 19 (UPI) -- Georgia Institute of Technology scientists say they've created a prototype device that can block digital video cameras from working in a specific area.

    The scientists say the prototype -- which could be used to stymie unwanted use of video or still cameras -- uses off-the-shelf equipment to scan for, find and neutralize digital cameras. The system works by looking for the reflectivity and shape of the image-producing sensors used in digital cameras.

    Associate GIT Professor Gregory Abowd, who led the study, says the camera-neutralizing technology shows commercial promise in two principal fields -- protecting areas against espionage photography and stopping video copying.

    Researchers explain a digital camera's image sensor -- called a CCD -- sends light back directly to its origin rather than scattering it, making it relatively easy to detect and identify video cameras.

    Old technology always finds new uses. And strategies to defeat new technologies invite newer technology.

    As long as they don't make these things illegal, it all fits within the rubric we call "progress."

    posted by Eric at 01:21 PM

    Thinking globally, acting locally

    In addition to braving gun-free New York over the weekend, I took the time and spent some money doing something I consider pretty much a patriotic duty. As I see it, if local journalists are going to buy guns in order to have them destroyed, someone has to remedy this imbalance of karma, right?

    So, anticipating next week's United Nations gun-grabber junket on banning small arms (discussed by the NRA-ILA here; dedicated web site here), I attended a local gun show over the weekend.

    While I was there I saw many a good deal on copycat semi-automatic versions of the weapon gun-grabbers find most annoying. (Extended discussion of the lookalike Kalashnikov copycats here.) I haven't been keeping up with the times as I should; hence I was suprised to see that there are now innumerable American manufactured Kalashnikov copies.

    Coincidentally, last week the Inquirer featured an article on the gun's designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov. But inexplicably, the full version of Henry Meyer's actual report, which ran in Sunday's Inquirer, never made it into the Inquirer's web site. A very odd omission, because the full version is the one that discusses next week's international gun grabbing conference, and hints that Kalashnikov is being pressured to support the U.N. plan:

    "Can I be blamed that they consider it the most reliable weapon?"

    The question is especially acute, as an 11-day United Nations' conference on curbing the small-arms trade is due to convene later this month in New York. Mr Kalashnikov may send the delegates a statement.

    Sturdy, simple and cheap, and firing 600 bullets a minute, the world's estimated 100 million Kalashnikovs account for up to 80 per cent of all assault rifles. In Africa's civil conflicts or in violence-ridden Latin American nations, they sell for as little as £8.

    The weapon's genesis dates back to 1941, when Mr Kalashnikov was in hospital with severe wounds from a German shell that hit his tank in the battle of Bryansk in western Russia. Thinking about the Soviet forces' inferiority due to their lack of an automatic weapon, he had a brainstorm one night and jotted down a rough design that he worked on for much of the next six months, assisted by Red Army colleagues.

    They worked, he says, "in a burst of enthusiasm, out of a huge desire to make a contribution to victory over the fascist invaders".

    Hey, they'll still work against fascist invaders. Or communist invaders. Or "insurgents" of any variety.

    Missing from both Inquirer versions of the story was Kalashnikov's pride in the gun's historic role:

    He is proud that US soldiers in Vietnam and Iraq have compared the Kalashnikov well with the M-16.
    The fact is, the Kalashnikov is now an established American military icon, and U.S. soldiers are still using it in battle. I like toughness and durability, and these things are legendary for being indestructible. They'll fire after being dropped or even left in the mud for prolonged periods.

    (They also make a distinctively loud clatter when you ratchet back the action, which is a good deterent even against the most "insane" invaders.)

    I'll never forget seeing television footage taken during the 1992 Los Angeles riots of a Korean shopkeeper who scared off a group of rioters intent on looting and burning simply by getting on the roof of his store and waving a Kalashnikov. Like it or not (and I can understand why perfectionists among gun lovers might not) the Kalashnikov is a recognizable icon feared by bad guys -- in Los Angeles or in any other trouble spot.

    In the U.S., rap artists reference AK-47s and moviemakers arm cinema terrorists, gang members (e.g. films like Boyz N The Hood), and "bad guys" in general with AK-47s. Numerous computer and video games feature AK-47s. Toy makers and the airsoft industry make millions of replica AK-47's. Combined, these factors add much to the weapon's cultural mystique.

    The sheer ubiquity of the AK-47, its iconography and the fact that it possesses easily the most distinguishable weapon outline ensures a significant and conspicuous impact on society.

    What that means, of course, is that for brandishing purposes, no weapon offers better deterrence without having to be fired. An unloaded Kalashnikov is probably more intimidating than a loaded .45 calilber pistol, conventional bolt-action hunting rifle, or 12 gauge shotgun -- even though the latter are capable of doing far more damage if fired. Arguably, the Kalashnikov is the safest weapon to have in case of emergencies. (Or to have in a survival kit.)

    I hope that the 86-year old Mikhail Kalashnikov hasn't been bullied into supporting United Nations gun grabbing (also known as the "Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects") because his gun -- like all guns -- is a tool which can be used for good or bad purposes.

    But guns are "more likely" to kill innocent people, right?

    Sorry, but I'm more likely to kill innocent people with my car than with my gun. (And I think the statistics, much as I abhor them, would bear me out.)


    I have to say, it takes a lot of chutzpah for the UN to sponsor a conference with a goal of eliminating a basic human right, and one of America's most cherished freedoms. Considering the human rights track record of the UN, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.


    If the black helicopter crowd was trying to communicate the idea that the UN is coming for your guns, they couldn't have done a better job of designing the poster (or the web site).

    Actually, considering the corruption in organizations like the International Whaling Commission, maybe this whole "Programme of Action" is just a way to shake down major arms merchants.

    In that respect, it's a pity that the elderly General Kalashnikov never received an international patent. (He'd be less likely to support the silly UN treaty if he was making a profit from sales.)

    I've been wondering whether the old guy has been misinformed about the nature of what the U.N. gun grabbers propose. Elsewhere, I've read that he's a member of the NRA, and that he opposes gun control:

    Meeting A Legend

    The door opened and he met us on his porch. Dressed in reed-pattern camouflage pants and a light shirt, the Hero of the Soviet Union Mikhail Kalashnikov warmly welcomed us into his home.

    Our hosts introduced us and we followed him inside. His summer home sits in the midst of well kept flowers, bushes and plants. The rustic cottage, constructed with pine slats, was the home of a man who loved the outdoors.

    We removed our shoes and Kalashnikov invited us into his living room. We settled around him and presented gifts. Kalashnikov is a serious knife collector, so we felt presentation-grade Ka-Bars would be appropriate.

    In Russian tradition, Kalashnikov reached into his pocket and removed a coin, which he gave to Mark Vorobiev. Along with the knives, we gave Kalashnikov letters from American firearms enthusiasts. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, this enthused Kalashnikov. He exhorted us to keep the anti-gunners at bay. (Emphasis added.)

    I don't know what the facts are about his recent statements (Jeff Soyer attributes them to old age) but the fact is, Mikhail Kalashnikov is a legend.

    I prefer to remember legends in the positive way.

    MORE: Whoops, forgot to ask a question. Why are all these recent Kalashnikov stories calling the gun the weapon of choice for "terrorists"?

    Weren't they trying to ban that word?

    MORE: A commenter at Samizdata also reports Kalashnikov's NRA membership.

    And in 2004, Kalashnikov complained about American infringement of his design:

    A Russian industry and product designer is accusing the United States of abetting intellectual-property pirates and directing knockoffs of the Kalashnikov assault rifle around the world, The New York Times reported.

    “We see a great number of products which are named after Kalashnikov, my name,’’ the newspaper quoted Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, the weapon’s original designer. ”They are buying Kalashnikovs from other countries,’’ he added.

    The United States has reportedly been purchasing or arranging the transfer of thousands of knockoffs of Kalashnikovs, commonly referred to as AK-47’s, to outfit new military and security forces in Kabul and Baghdad.

    Perhaps his statements result more from his annoyance than support for the UN plan.

    AND MORE: "Mikhail Kalashnikov is a Life Member of the NRA."

    So far, the only statement I can find from him in support of the treaty is this:

    "It is imperative to make a decision about introducing strict sanctions on those who violate the terms of such an international agreement."
    That doesn't sound like resounding support for gun control. (For all anyone knows, he might think an international agreement on gun trading will help him make a few bucks in his old age.)

    MORE: Best quote from Kalashnikov:

    "To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex."
    He's right.

    posted by Eric at 10:01 AM | Comments (6)

    Redrawing the lines

    Back in October, Ann Coulter was roundly criticized for this statement:

    Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the First Amendment.
    Considering the controversy that her own First Amendment exercises generate, it could be argued that the above was a bit reckless, and might even constitute biting the hand that feeds her, but then, controversy sells.

    What I'd like to know is whether the position of America's latest demon is all that different from that of the ACLU.

    Glenn Reynolds raised the question of whether free speech is in short supply at the ACLU, noting ACLU intolerance of dissent within the organization.

    Free speech does seem to be getting the proverbial heave-ho at the ACLU lately. Last week, a Philadelphia ACLU spokesperson announced a new exception to the First Amendment in the case of a sign asking people to order in English:

    Mary Catherine Roper, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the signs straddle a line between free speech and discrimination.

    Geno's "has a right to express its opinion, however offensive," she said. "But there are specific limitations on places of public accommodation, because they are supposed to be available to everyone."

    I used to be a card carrying member of the ACLU, but I have a serious problem with their selective definition of civil liberties, and selective treatment of the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights (which they read to mean whatever they want it to mean). I lost patience with them over their attititude towards the Second Amendment:
    The national ACLU is neutral on the issue of gun control. We believe that the Constitution contains no barriers to reasonable regulations of gun ownership. If we can license and register cars, we can license and register guns.

    Most opponents of gun control concede that the Second Amendment certainly does not guarantee an individual's right to own bazookas, missiles or nuclear warheads. Yet these, like rifles, pistols and even submachine guns, are arms.

    The question therefore is not whether to restrict arms ownership, but how much to restrict it. If that is a question left open by the Constitution, then it is a question for Congress to decide.

    This is not neutrality to the Second Amendment, but outright hostility -- barely concealed with specious rhetorical cleverness. "Keep and bear arms" by its nature implies arms which might be carried on one's person in a normal manner. While shoulder-fired rocket launchers could theoretically be lugged down the street, in the founders' day, so could a cannon. But that was not the normal meaning of "keep and bear" then -- nor is it now.

    And that "reasonable" sounding treat-guns-like-cars line. Please. It's never been a serious argument; in states which regulate guns witness the huge disparity between the issuance of gun permits and the issuance of a drivers licenses or car registrations. When was the last time anyone had a criminal background check performed to register a car? (Or any teen asked, "Uh, Dad, can I borrow the gun tonight?")

    Well, now that I think about it, maybe the ACLU isn't being as "unfair" to the Second Amendment as I thought. Maybe they can have their lawyers issue a "Statement of Free Speech Neutrality" to make their position consistent with their position on guns:

    The national ACLU is neutral on the issue of controls on hate speech and speech disseminated and published over the Internet. We believe that the Constitution contains no barriers to reasonable regulations of hateful speech or publicly accessible weblogs. If we can license and register cars, we can license and register such speech and blogs.

    Most opponents of controls on speech concede that the First Amendment certainly does not guarantee an individual's right to shout "FIRE" in a crowded theater, issue defamatory statements, or post discriminatory signs in the workplace. Yet all of these are forms of speech.

    The question therefore is not whether to restrict speech, but how much to restrict it. If that is a question left open by the Constitution, then it is a question for Congress to decide.

    You think they'll say that?

    Not a chance.

    At least Ann Coulter has the guts to say what she thinks. The satirist in me thinks the ACLU should hire her to work on First Amendment issues, and the political pragmatist in me thinks they should hire her to rework their gun policy position. If the ACLU could combine forces with the NRA, freedom might be salvageable.

    Before dismissing this as utopian thinking, remember the entertainment factor.

    It's good for business.

    posted by Eric at 06:33 PM | Comments (2)

    . . .[P]aleoconservatism is simply the faith of our fathers before we built that shelter for the neocon homeless booted out of their own house by the McGovernites, who appear, in retrospect, to have been more savvy than we thought.

    -- Pat Buchanan

    While a lot of people are quite legitimately worked up about the immigration issue, I have wondered from time to time who might be behind the right-wing anti-Bush movement, and where all of this might be headed.

    One possibility is that it's headed for a movement to run Tom Tancredo for president:

    Unless a person with charisma, money and convictions – someone like Mel Gibson – arose to the challenge of an independent bid for the presidency in 2008, like it or not, we will be faced with a choice between a Democrat and a Republican.

    Therefore, freedom-loving, security-conscious Americans need to rally behind a Republican candidate of principle and courage – someone who will speak to the core issues facing us all today.

    In my humble opinion, there is one man who fills that bill – Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

    He's a maverick. He marches to the beat of his own drummer. He's not afraid to criticize members of his own party – including his president. And that's what I love about him.

    There is no one else in Congress or in national public life who has provided better leadership on the No. 1 national-security issue confronting the United States – the border and immigration policy.

    Number one? I guess that means terrorism has moved to number two and no one told me. How did it happen so fast? Were the demonstrations this Spring the Reconquista's equivalent of the attack on the Twin Towers?

    I've believed for some time that border problem is a serious one, and it has been that way for a long time. There's just something suspicious about the way this issue has eclipsed the war on terror so suddenly. Might it have something to do with the fact that it's main progenitor, Pat Buchanan, has always been against the Iraq war? In a recent column he seems to be gloating with "I-told-you-so" right wing antiwar isolationism. (Not only did Pat Buchanan write the introduction to Tancredo's book, but his sister/three-time-campaign -chair Bay Buchanan now chairs the Tancredo Team America PAC.)

    Via Bill Quick, I see that Tom Tancredo won a GOP straw poll in Michigan. Here are the results:

    Candidate Votes Percent

    Tom Tancredo 60 18.5%

    Rudy Giuliani 45 13.8%

    Mitt Romney 40 12.3%

    Condi Rice 39 12.0%

    Newt Gingrich 38 11.7%

    John McCain 38 11.7%

    George Allen 21 6.5%

    Mike Pence 15 4.6%

    Ron Paul 14 4.3%

    Mike Huckabee 6 1.8%

    Bill Frist 4 1.2%

    Alan Keyes 2 0.6%

    Candice Miller 2 0.6%

    Sam Brownback 1 0.3%

    And according to Human Events' own straw poll, "Tancredo slightly edged out Condi Rice with 18.7% of the vote compared to her 18.3%. This is a huge boost from the month before when he placed third (12.4%) behind Rice (21.5%) and Sen. George Allen (18.6%)."

    As Bill Quick says, "It's starting..."

    And where will it end?

    "Tancredo for President" is certainly thriving on the Internet.

    Whether Congressman Tancredo is a single issue candidate is debatable. But a post by former supporter Art Rasputin at calls him a Buchananite who puts the immigration issue ahead of everything else -- to the point where he's sabotaging Chris Cannon for not toeing the Tancredo line:

    Chris Cannon is a "pro-life, pro-family, NRA-backed, limited government, less taxes" conservative. He also received a 100% rating in 2005 from the American Conservative Union. The smear campaign Tancredo has launched against his fellow conservatives, just because he doesn't like their version of border security and guest worker programs needs to be confronted.
    More here.

    In yesterday's New York Times, Tancredo was quoted as saying he might run, but couldn't win:

    TOM TANCREDO is not well known outside of Congress, a few C-Span junkies and the slab of Colorado he represents. But the four-term Republican representative says he might run for president anyway. Could he win? "No way," Mr. Tancredo says, neatly distilling the prevailing wisdom on his chances.

    But that's beside the point. As a general rule, the only thing a politician loves more than getting attention is getting free attention — if that free attention isn't too embarrassing. And saying you might run is a surefire way to get free attention. This partly explains why Mr. Tancredo sounds so giddy on the phone, as if he's just stumbled onto a broken slot machine.

    But does the specter of a Tom Tancredo candidacy strike fear into the heart of the other side?

    Back in March, Pam Spaulding seemed delighted with him. And MyDD gave the closest thing I could find to a left wing endorsement:

    Tom Tancredo is the Democratic dream candidate for the GOP to nominate.
    I don't know whether Tancredo is a serious candidate, but if he is, the extent to which his views are vintage Pat Buchanan isolationism will become highly relevant. That's because Americans take such a dim view of isolationism that Pat Buchanan has never been able to mount more than a Republican insurgency movement (or losing third party strategy).

    As to Buchanan isolationism and the rest of his agenda, Tancredo's book (In Mortal Danger -- which I have not read) might offer clues. Then again, it might not.

    The Buchanan introduction aside, if the WND writeup is any indication, the book appears to offer vintage Pat Buchanan culture war rhetoric -- in the politically appropriate code language:

    Tancredo says America is following in the tragic footsteps of Rome.
    I've said pretty much the same thing regarding immigration. But is he speaking solely about immigration? I don't think so. Read on:
    Living up to his reputation for candor, Tancredo explains how the economic success and historical military prowess of the United States has transformed a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles of right and wrong into an overindulgent, self-deprecating, immoral cesspool of depravity...
    What is meant by the phrase "Judeo-Christian principles of right and wrong?" He can't be talking about aliens from Mexico or the American hemisphere, because, being Catholic, they are at least as Judeo-Christian as Tancredo.

    So whose "cesspool" is he talking about? I don't know, as I haven't read the book. But I've been around long enough to recognize code language when I see it. And I might be paranoid, but the phrase "footsteps of Rome" within swimming distance of "Judeo-Christian principles of right and wrong" right into the "cesspool of depravity" usually evokes improper penis placement images.

    Hey, I'd love to be wrong. If I am, maybe I can be the first libertarian blogger to endorse Congressman Tancredo for Prezzy. If my suspicions are right, I'll just be a what Buchanan calls a homeless neocon -- rejected by both parties.

    I'm not sure whether the goal of the Tancredo campaign is really to build a coalition to close the border, though. I think this kind of approach is more likely to prevent it from happening, while helping insure the election of Hillary Clinton.

    I guess I shouldn't concern myself with such trifles for now.

    I'm more intrigued with the issue of whether Tancredo is a new form of hybrid. Pajamas Media links to the top ten animal hybrids via James Hudnall, but I saw no mention of any such breed as a "neopaleocon."

    Can such things be?

    UPDATE (06/20/06): Commenting on the firing of Metro Commissioner Robert J. Smith, Pat Buchanan claims his views of Aquinas are "Christian truths" and reissues his vintage remarks about homosexuality that (to my mind) would seem to resonate the "cesspool" meme:

    As for homosexuality, where it has been prevalent – in the late Roman Empire, Weimar Germany, San Francisco – it has been regarded as a mark of and a metaphor for moral decadence and societal decline.
    Homosexuality was prevalent in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and Germany before, during and after the Weimar period. Why characterize it as more prevalent during the "late Roman Empire" than earlier periods (which it was not) unless the goal is to breathe life into the canard that homosexuality led to Rome's decline? True, it was during the "late period" that homosexuality was outlawed, but that was only after the Christians gained power, and shortly before the fall of Rome.

    And why single out Weimar Germany when homosexuality has been called the "German vice" since Victorian times? To imply that homosexuality led to Nazism? As to San Francisco, exactly who considers homosexuality to be a "mark of and a metaphor for moral decadence and societal decline" in that city? Pat Buchanan and those who agree with him? Are they speaking for San Francisco? What about New York? Or Key West?

    Might as well declare that homosexuality was "prevalent" in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. Well, it was, wasn't it?

    Pat has more, of course:

    In 1983, when the AIDS epidemic first broke onto the national scene, this writer wrote in a column predicting scores of thousands could perish: "The poor homosexuals. They have declared war against nature, and nature is exacting an awful retribution."

    This sentence restated the Natural Law teaching of Thomas Aquinas.

    It did? Can I get the exact quote?
    Homosexuality is against nature, contra naturam. It also said what was, by then, obvious to all. Acts that cannot be described in this publication were transmitting a dread and deadly disease that was killing homosexuals in the hundreds, and would soon kill them in the scores of thousands.

    Indeed, a subsequent clamor by homosexuals for a mass government education program on the use of condoms suggested they knew exactly how and why the disease was spreading.

    But in a May 28 column, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times accused this writer, Ronald Reagan and the Rev. Jerry Falwell of "behaving more immorally" in the 1980s than the clientele of "the San Francisco bathhouses." It was our "indifference to the suffering of gays," said Kristof, that "allowed the epidemic to spread."

    Not a word of reproof – or even of recognition – may be found in Kristof's column against those who actually spread the disease that has now killed millions. Nick knows his readers.

    What does all of this tell us? Our society is being marinated in lies – the lie that homosexuality is a natural, normal and healthy lifestyle; the lie that those who think otherwise are all hateful bigots; the lie that the diseases that afflict the homosexual community are the fault of an uncaring society.

    Humankind cannot stand too much truth, said T.S. Eliot.

    In the matter of Robert Smith, there was indeed intolerance: a savage intolerance of one man with the courage to declare Christian truths in the face of the fabricated and fake faith that has become the established religion of America's secular elite.

    For what it's worth, I wouldn't have fired Robert Smith. He's just as entitled to his opinion as Pat Buchanan. But that does not mean Pat Buchanan's interpretations of Thomas Aquinas are "Christian truths," and I suspect a lot of Christians would not agree that they are. Consider also his remarks that AIDS -- the "disease that has now killed millions" was spread by homosexuals. Of these millions, a minority are homosexual. Is he implying that they spread this disease to millions of heterosexuals? Unless homosexuals have been having massive amounts of sex with heterosexuals, how did they spread the disease?

    T.S. Eliot may have said that humankind cannot stand too much truth, but I say humankind cannot stand too much polemics.

    No one has a monopoly on "fabricated and fake faith."

    posted by Eric at 03:16 PM | Comments (4)

    A Curious Intersection Of Mopery And Dopery

    First, let's look at this wonderful interview with Leon Kass, courtesy of The American Enterprise. Dr. Kass has been out of the limelight for some little while now, but he more than makes up for his absence with this morose Q&A session, some of which is unintentionally hilarious.

    TAE: Tell us about your parents. Did they have any influence on your interest in bioethics?

    KASS: My parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe, and ours was a Yiddish-speaking home. It was also a secular home; we were kept back from school on the Jewish holidays, out of respect, but my brother and I never set foot in a synagogue.

    I think the most important legacy of my upbringing was the moral seriousness of my parents, and their preoccupation with questions not only of social justice but of matters of character and issues of right and wrong. My parents did not have any formal schooling, so they came at these large questions in human terms.

    My father was a saintly man, and he loved this country. My mother, a socialist, was a harsh critic, a perfectionist, and she always laid great emphasis on matters of human decency and dignity. It is these last two concerns and qualities that I've tried to bring to bear in my studies of biotechnological advance.

    TAE: When did you first become interested in science and medicine?

    KASS: High school biology made a big impression on me, and I had a chemistry set I puttered around with as a youngster. At the age of 15, I entered the University of Chicago, and I had some notion of studying law and biology. But on the placement tests I did especially well in the sciences, so they gave me a pre-med adviser and suggested I take calculus and chemistry in my first year...

    I ended up going to medical school at the University of Chicago, and after that pursued a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Harvard. I had decided I wanted to become a professor, doing basic research but also studying some of the more philosophical questions in biology...Ethics then was a dead field. I'd try to start an ethics conversation and the people at the university would just laugh...

    I have to add that another reason I got my Ph.D. was to avoid being drafted into the Army--something I'm not at all proud of today. It wasn't so much the Vietnam War, it was just my dislike of wasting time and having to take orders...

    TAE: Lore has it you were involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

    KASS: In the summer of 1965 my wife Amy and I went to Mississippi to work for an organization called the Medical Committee for Human Rights. Ironically, that's when I began to doubt the liberal enlightenment view on which I had been raised. I started wondering about the relation between progress in the arts and sciences and the state of morality and character, for I found more honor and decency among Mississippi's unschooled African Americans than among my fellow graduate students at Harvard.

    Harvard's liberal students had all the right opinions, but they'd just as soon knock you over if you got in their way...

    TAE: Why has a Republican-controlled Congress for the most part not acted on any of the council's proposals?

    KASS: Well, we have an appropriations bill rider banning the patenting of human organisms. And we have a moderate funding policy for embryonic stem cell research--which will be overturned by the next Democratic President. But that's it.

    At present we have a President as friendly to the concerns of human dignity as we have had in a long time, or are likely to have for a long time to come. We have a Congress that is equally sympathetic. So it would be tragic if we came to the end of the second Bush administration and had nothing more to show for it in bioethics legislation. But the President has powerful opponents out there...

    Unlike every other major industrialized country that has biotechnological activities, we alone have virtually no official monitoring of these develop-ments from an ethical point of view.

    I would very much like to see some legislation, though I do not favor many outright prohibitions. I'm much more inclined to go the regulatory route.

    But I would like to see us take advantage of the current political situation to erect at least some barriers against the more egregious practices that are in the offing...

    TAE: Your disagreements with liberal bioethicists are well known, but could you tell us more about your disagreements with conservatives?

    KASS: First of all I want to say that although I think some pro-lifers' views are too narrow, they deserve credit for recognizing how easy it is to exploit and abuse the early stages of life for utilitarian benefits...

    However, I think they take too narrow a view of what's at issue with these bioethical decisions...

    I had one leading pro-life activist tell me in private that they were not sure they could support our proposed ban on transferring human embryos to the body of an animal because it might be the only way in which you could rescue a human embryo.

    I said, "Do you mean you would rescue an embryo by giving it a pig for a mother?" And this person said, "Yes, if necessary."

    This seems to me an unhealthy monomania.

    TAE: In terms of medical progress, was the twentieth century a golden age, where we found cures for many of the worst diseases, but hadn't yet reached the scary "Brave New World" that may arrive in the twenty-first century?

    KASS: Before the twentieth century millions of people lived in abject poverty, died in childbirth or infancy, and so forth. So I don't want to say that modernity went wrong--that would be hypocritical. But I'm worried about where technology is taking us now...

    Technology is more than machinery and acquired power to change the way things are. At its root, the technological disposition believes all aspects of life can be rationally mastered through technique. So now we have techniques for solving marital problems, grief, and almost everything else...Eventually the things that really matter--family life, worship, self-governance, education of the next generation--become threatened.

    TAE: So where do we turn for answers? Philosophy? Religion?

    KASS: Those things. And great literature too. It's remarkable how in an age that has a reasonable claim to being called decadent, young people still respond to fine works of literature with noble sensibilities and deep insights into enduring human matters...

    TAE: What about science itself as a source of wisdom?

    KASS: I think modern science is a religion for many of its practitioners, by which I mean they have utter faith in the sufficiency of their concepts to give a full account of life. But science cannot be a source of wisdom...

    If modernity went wrong, it was in taking the partial truths of science to be the whole truth about the world. One needs to recover a certain sense of the genuine mysteries of our existence on earth, which science doesn't explain but rather tries to explain away...

    We need to restore a more philosophical science.

    TAE: How do you respond to scientists who say they're just seeking to help us live healthier, better lives when they "play God" in the lab, say, by trying to conquer aging and doing battle with decline and death?

    KASS: They say that they are only trying to prevent degenerative arthritis, Parkinson's disease, or senility, to make old age less burdensome. But whether they know it or not, they are unlocking the process of senescence, and making us less inclined to make way for the young.

    No matter how long we live, most of us will not look upon the world with fresh eyes when we are old. There are exceptions...But most of us go to sleep before our time, and what you need are children and a new generation to see the world afresh.

    TAE: In thinking of your grandchildren's future, are you a pessimist or an optimist?

    KASS: I have to say that I'm pessimistic. I think growing up in the United States in the post-World War II era was as good a time as one could wish for--we got all those things that were in the 1939 World's Fair: washing machines, dishwashers, products to relieve the arduous toil of everyday life. Yet all those things haven't made anybody happier. We're not grateful for those devices.

    You could not today put on a World's Fair and arouse intense longings for a future we don't know...I myself have no desire or curiosity to see 2020, never mind later, except for the fact that I am deeply in love with my grandchildren, and I want to see how they will turn out and to be around to share as much of their life as I can.

    But I don't envy them their adolescence. I don't envy them the difficulty of finding husbands--they're all girls--or finding private happiness of the sort that I have been blessed to enjoy. I don't envy them the possibilities of getting the kind of liberal education that I've had. I don't envy them living in a post-9/11 world, or the "plugged in" culture. I hope that they will find pockets where they can enjoy what modernity has to offer without becoming its slave. But I wouldn't trade my life for theirs.

    Well. So much for the mopery. For some prime dopery we now turn to James Kunstler, peak oil doomer. Let's all be very quiet and respectful.

    He's having an insight.

    May 8, 2006

    Riding the van out of the airport Friday night to the Park-and-Fly lot, with the planes floating down in the distant violet gloaming, an eerie recognition came over me that life today is as much like science fiction as it will ever get -- at least as far ahead as I can see. Some of my friends' kids may never fly in airplanes. They may never own cars. At some point twenty, thirty years ahead, they may not take for granted throwing a light switch in a dark room.

    Our sense of normality will be coming up for review soon, and hardly anybody seems ready to face it. The now-consistently moronic New York Times played a story in the Sunday business section which said that "consumers" were just shrugging off three-dollar gasoline and spending like gangbusters in the super discount box stores. It seems not to have occurred to the editors that perhaps three dollars a gallon is not the final destination of our pump prices...

    I think our future perception of all this will be as a kind of reverse science fiction -- in the sense that sci fi has until now always been presumed to take place in the future. The science fiction of my friends' children will take place in the past. When some of them are old, the omnipresent electric power of this time, and all the wonders that ran on it, will seem like an unfathomable occult force that saturated the world like a spell. They will tell stories about it in the flickering firelight, and their grandchildren will blink in amazement.

    It's too bad they will never see a Harry Potter movie, with its utterly blase and incessant deployments of magic. These children of the future will be astonished when somebody manages to roast a parsnip.

    To be fair, I think he's just kidding about the parsnip. As for the rest, who can say?

    posted by Justin at 10:14 AM

    Don't you laugh, damn you!

    Ray Baumgardner is not only lazy, but he's making fun of the South Central Community Farm!

    I'm waiting for The Onion to write their fake news story about celebrity activists camping out in a Wal-Mart to prevent it from being torn down to make way for a community garden or solar-powered day care center for undocumented immigrants. I would write the article myself, but I am a very lazy man.
    What Ray doesn't seem to understand is that making fun of community gardens is not funny! Especially when the garden is a "farm" in South Central Los Angeles, and big Hollywood celebrities have shown great bravery -- almost putting their lives on the line -- trying to "save" it.

    (Well, not quite to the point of lying down in front of the bulldozers like Rachel Corrie. But think of their agents! And fans! America cannot allow things to go quite that far. . .)

    The LA Times' Steve Lopez, (not a right wing icon as far as I know) thought he was being funny when he suggested that celebrities offer their own land:

    Call me a cynic, but I've got to wonder why she, Baez, Laura Dern, Martin Sheen, Danny Glover and other Hollywood supporters couldn't help raise the dough to back up their principles.

    And if they believe poor folk ought to do their farming on private property, I'm wondering when they'll ask some of their Hollywood pals to open the security gates to their sprawling compounds. I'm just guessing, but there must be thousands of acres of fertile soil out there, ripe for planting.

    I think the idea that there is a "need" for the poor to grow crops on land that sells for nearly a million an acre is funny in and of itself!

    But for ridiculing celebrities, Steve Lopez was called a "right wing radio wacko" and compared to Rush Limbaugh by Indymedia. He also drew the wrath of the South Central community farm activists:

    Making fun of the South Central farm and its "celebrity advocates" doesn't seem the way to go in a discussion of this important community issue. Some of the facts of this issue you seem unaware the fact that millions of dollars have been raised by those in support of the farm. Over 10 million in fact. Horowitz bought the farm back for merely 5 million in a deal that was struck privately at city hall in a closed meeting. The farmers and the Food Bank who with permission were using the land were not given the opportunity to buy the land or told that the land was being offered for sale before the city began meeting with Horowitz. Wouldn't you see that as a problem? Like no bid contracts perhaps? Selling the land to the farmers to serve a community need you'd think would gain a government more points than selling it to a developer who wants the land for flipping for a profit.
    Land for profit? In Los Angeles? Imagine such a thing? The parcel is in an area where the highest and best use seems to be warehouse space, yet it's still worth millions. And the city should not sell it? It's interesting that the same people who don't think the city should sell it at all simultaneously express such outrage over whether the price was high enough.

    I don't know the details, but I'm just wondering. . . Would the activists be happy had the city gotten more money from Mr. Horowitz?

    Frankly, I think the idea that the best way to "feed the poor" is by providing them with free land worth millions of dollars, and never sell the land -- all so that a few privileged "poor" can grow some vegetables and thus avoid starvation in America -- sounds like satire in and of itself. Even if the Onion reported this as straight news, I think it would still be funny.

    But let's assume the celebrities raise enough money to make it worth the owner's while to sell and he does just that. What will have been accomplished? A multimillion dollar property will be dedicated to permanent use as a small farm? To save the poor? If we look at the economics, it's debatable whether a parcel of land that size is big enough to use even as a family subsistence farm.

    If the Hollywood celebrities were really concerned with feeding the poor, might there not be better ways to spend the ten million? I suspect so.

    But it wouldn't be nearly as funny as real life imitating satire, so I think Ray can rest up and be as lazy as he wants.

    As to the Onion, I don't think they're quite a match for, which sees the sale of the community farm as a sinister Jewish plot:

    This effective project which has provided economic self-sufficiency for marginalized people of color is today threaten by a greedy Jewish Mogul from the super-rich LA. community of Brentwood. The City of Los Angeles, unbeknown to the families that farm the collective, secretly sold the 14 acre parcel, from underneath the families, to a well known land developer by the name of Ralph Horowitz. Horowitz now wants and is demanding through court proceedings that the families that farm the land be evicted by the brutal Los Angeles County Sheriffs. "We have to throw them off," said Horowitz, who runs his own real estate investment company. "They're not going to walk off voluntarily. They have to be thrown off by the sheriffs." he added. These comments are no different than those made by the Jewish Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy of France that added fuel to the fire there. This may be a recipe for another major rebellion that may eclipse the one in 1992. The Los Angeles city government and its city council today, as is the Los Angeles School Board, take orders from extremely wealthy Jews that reside in the west side of the city.
    Ah, so that's it! The wealthy Jews!

    (Now I know why the Hollywood celebrities won't lie down in front of the bulldozers . . .)

    posted by Eric at 08:28 AM

    Discrimination is permitted only in politics

    Not surprisingly, the expert quoted in the last post (one James Alan Fox), is a gun control advocate. Elsewhere, when he was specifically asked whether or not armed citizens might help prevent criminal rampages, he ducked the question:

    Yazoo City, Mississippi: As Chief Medical Examiner/Investigator for Yazoo County, Mississippi I have investigated a work place homicide and know the child and family of the Pearl, Mississippi school shootings. The shooting I investigated was the result of 2 men in love with the same woman. The victim saw the shooter coming outside of the workplace and crawled under a vehicle, where he was shot. Even though it may not be politically correct, I believe that citizens carrying handguns could help prevent this as well as other crimes. What are your thoughts?

    James Alan Fox: There have been moves to arm teachers as a way of deterring school shooters. There have been communities that have enabled public workers to have concealed weapons also to deter violence.

    These are understandable but very illogical. Workplace avengers and school shooters are typically suicidal. The threat of counter-attack will not deter them.

    What are the negative consequences of having schools and workplaces filled with weapons? Surely not positive.

    Let's take a look at the professor's logical analysis. In the purest sense he is right. If an attacker is literally suicidal, the mere threat of counter-attack will not deter him.

    But isn't a citizen armed with a gun more than a threat? By its nature, can't a gun be used to do more than threaten? A gun can deter an attacker in three ways: it might function as a mere threat, which means the attack is stopped. It might stop the attacker by wounding him. Finally, it might kill him. In all three cases, the attacker has been successfully deterred. While it may be that truly suicidal attackers will not deterred by the mere display of a gun, how can anyone (much less a distinguished professor) maintain that wounding or killing will not act as a deterrent?

    In the same interview, Dr. Fox discusses the problems caused by mental illness in the workplace, although he does not discuss the role of the ADA -- which prohibits discrimination because of mental illness.

    What about the man accused of knifing people in the subway -- a guy who imagines that everyone is watching him? Would you hire him? If you were a landlord, would you rent to him?

    Stop laughing. If you didn't, you might be guilty of discrimination.

    Not only are they no longer allowed to consider the tenants' sources of income, California landlords may not reject applicants for being palpably (even frighteningly) insane. The following comes from a checklist for landlords titled "Six Tips to Avoid Discrimination" written by a Berkeley landlord:

    The fact that a landlord does not discriminate is no protection against being charged with discrimination and forced to spend a huge amount of time and money defending himself. In the end, even if the landlord is completely innocent, he may lose anyway. Although there is no way to completely protect yourself from being charged with discrimination, there are a number of thing you can do to greatly reduce your risk.

    When showing an apartment to prospective tenants:


    5. Let everyone apply. If some one asks, "Do you accept applications from...", say "Yes!" It doesn't matter what follows the words “accept applications from/" California law now prohibits housing bias due to source of income.

    6. If an applicant tells you he is disabled, you better assume that he is. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) does not define "disability." We are not really sure who is and isn't covered. The Supreme Court hears a lot of cases over what constitutes a "disability" and what is a "reasonable accommodation" required by a landlord. The mentally ill are protected by the ADA . This can be a big problem for landlords in Berkeley . It is sometimes hard for me to tell whether I am interviewing a seriously mentally ill person or a sane college student with a strange sense of humor.

    Which means that if a hallucinating, penniless psychotic comes in off the street and demands you rent him the apartment, you may not discriminate against him for being broke and insane. Not even if he is panhandling for a living and catching invisible fish with an invisible net. (I knew a Berkeley street person who used to do just that.)

    Well, maybe you could give as a reason for not renting to him that you don't want a tenant who catches invisible fish, because if he left them lying around, after three days the stench of the imaginary fish would be overpowering to the imagination . . .

    Seriously, though, common sense is gone. In the name of abolishing discrimination.

    Everything now constitutes discrimination. The inmates are literally running the asylum.

    My advice? Pray if you believe in God, and buy a gun whether you believe in God or not.

    (Little wonder the Democrats still can't be assured of winning elections, despite huge dissatisfaction with Republicans.)

    posted by Eric at 06:48 PM | Comments (2)

    protect us against discrimination!

    No matter where I go or what I do, there's just no escaping discrimination in America.

    I rode the subway in New York yesterday, and saw the following sign posted prominently in every car:


    I didn't have time to reflect much on the above (much less write a blog post) and was barely able to snap a photo just before I left the subway car. My very act of snapping the photo caused the people sitting under the sign to look up in alarm.

    "I wanted a photo of that sign," I commented in the general direction of the alarmed eyes, which immediately began to scrutinize the suddenly-interesting sign as I exited.

    Now that it's the next day, and I've returned home, I see that Time Magazine is reporting that Ayman al-Zawahiri nixed al Qaida's 2003 plan to release deadly cyanide gas in the New York subway.

    It goes without saying that cyanide gas does not discriminate between employees and mere passengers.

    Coincidentally, the felony assault law was passed the same year (2003) that the cyanide plan was jettisoned -- in response to incidents like this:

    Michael Cifu, a train conductor, was working the Harlem Line of New York's Metro-North Commuter Train on Jan. 19, 2001. It was almost 6:30 p.m. when the train pulled from the Mount Vernon West station, just north of the Bronx and the last stop on the line. But on the return to Manhattan, he was told that a passenger was asleep in the second car from the end.

    Cifu shook the man awake as he passed him on his way to the rear of the train. The man awoke agitated and possibly drunk. "I turn around and see the guy charging me with a hammer," Cifu, 47, recalls. The frightened conductor hid in the cab, but as he leaned out of the window to check on the man's whereabouts, the man struck him with the hammer. The blow opened a wound in his forehead that took 20 stitches to close. He still bears the scar.

    Of course, the man accused of multiple stabbings in the New York subway earlier this week seems to have avoided stabbing MTA employees. Instead, he directed most of his wrath against tourists:
    At 3:41 p.m., the authorities say, Mr. Alexis stabbed a 21-year-old tourist from Texas on a southbound C train in Harlem, saying later that the man was in his way.

    About 12 hours later, the police said, Mr. Alexis stabbed a 30-year-old Brooklyn man on a subway platform at Rockefeller Center after the victim refused to give up his cellphone.

    Then Mr. Alexis stabbed two students from Montreal, one 22 years old and the other 25, who were standing on a traffic island in Times Square, after he unsuccessfully tried to engage the two women in conversation, the police said.

    He was arrested after witnesses to the last attack followed the assailant to a McDonald's in Times Square and called the police.

    All four victims were recovering. "In all likelihood," Professor Levin said of the attacker, "he sought revenge for his miseries, not against any particular individual, but against an entire group of people — all New Yorkers, all Americans, all of humankind."

    Another criminologist at Northeastern, James Alan Fox, said that sometimes there was method to the madness. "Most people who go on crime sprees like this don't necessarily attack randomly," he said. "It may look random — they may not be targets they know — but certain kinds of targets. Those are people who 'just snap,' but who have a longstanding grudge.

    "The more random the event, the more likely it's a case of mental illness where the person is delusional in some way," Professor Fox said. "Alexis is a homeless man. There's a good possibility he is suffering from some undiagnosed mental disorders that play into his decision to attack and his decision whom to attack. Then, there's no pattern to victims except unfortunately for them being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

    Well, at least he doesn't seem to attack transit employees or public officials!

    Professor Fox's opinion that the man was homeless was contradicted in this earlier report. (More details about the suspect and his crimes here. It seems he listed a homeless shelter as his address, so he'd probably fit most people's definitions of "homeless" -- although I'm not sure that's the issue. His primary complaint is that people are watching him.)

    The point is that society, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that transit employees are a protected category. Attacks on them are more serious than attacks on you.

    You don't like it, who you gonna sue?

    MORE: Here's a true story from the distant past. Back in the 1980s, a psychotic, obviously intoxicated man with bloodshot eyes entered my yard in Berkeley, where there was a wooden door removed from its hinges, waiting to be refinished. The man picked up the door and started throwing it around repeatedly in a manner I can fairly describe as irritating, offensive, and dangerous. (Anyone in the yard could have been severely injured.) When we told him that this was private property and he had to get out, we were completely ignored, as he was having too much fun with his tantrum. At that point, we decided that brandishing a gun might be the best way to change his mind. I will never forget how quickly this "crazy man" showed clear evidence of sanity as soon as he heard the semiautomatic pistol slide being ratcheted back. Jolted into reality (I guess that's the right word for self preservation), he ran from the yard. The police were never called, as we feared that we might be considered the criminals.

    Ever since then, I have tended to believe that many of these so-called "mentally ill" and "homeless" people have a lot more common sense than the Harvard experts would have us believe.

    posted by Eric at 08:18 AM | Comments (7)

    The dreaded "D" word . . .

    In my damn-near all-white school in the 9th grade, during a vocabulary lesson, my English teacher (doubtless annoyed by the new emotional charge the word had taken on) singled out a black student by asking him the following question:

    The kid was really nervous, and I remember thinking that it was unfair to put him on the spot like this. It was, like, 1969 or 1970, and the country was steeped in debate over the evils of discrimination. It still is. No one then -- and no one now -- would ever plead guilty to the unspeakable, damnable crime of discrimination.

    The kid's answer, of course, was a very nervous "no."

    "Nonsense. Everybody discriminates!" the English teacher snapped.

    Which everyone did -- then and now. (Any time I decide which brand of peanut butter to buy, what to write in a post, how much coffee to drink, what time to leave the house, where to eat and who to talk to when I am out and about, I engage in discrimination.) My English teacher might have been cruel (just as he'd be fired today for doing the same thing), but it was a good moral lesson, and for that matter, a good English lesson.

    In a brilliant and fearless post (also a good moral English lesson), Grandstand takes a long and hard look at discrimination in the context of my previous post about Joey Vento's "Speak English" sign) and concludes that the First Amendment precludes the government from telling us that we cannot discriminate. Vento, concludes Grandstand, not only has the right to his sign, he has the right to refuse service to non-English speakers:

    Not only does the property owner have a right to the sign, he has a right to refuse to do business with anyone he chooses, based on whatever opinions he wishes to put in practice. That kind of policy and exercising of speech and action may cost him customers, but it cannot violate any laws. There can be no law, which is Constitutional, which prevents the man from discriminating against anyone. THAT is protected behavior.

    We have all sorts of unconstitutional laws on the books–laws which prohibit an individual or business from discriminating against someone or expressing "hate speech" against a person or group.

    I'm sorry, where in the First Amendment does it have an asterisk that says "except when we find it icky"? The PURPOSE of the First Amendment is to protect that which is distasteful, hateful, horrid, and disturbing. You have a right to express your opinions, no matter how vile they might be.

    Now I might boycott you for doing so, but that is in my right–that is the power that The People bring to bear to keep people in line-those are the consequences for exercising your rights. I'm choosing to discriminate against you because of the discrimination you've shown. Failing to recognize that boycotts (or even buycotts) are a form of discrimination is nuts.

    So I'd get applauded by some activist for boycotting a store that put up a sign that demanded customers speak English. I'd get similar praise for refusing to do business with a company who didn't hire minorities. THAT kind of discrimination is OK and I'd get applauded for it. If, however, I recognize a store owner's right to do the same thing, even when I disagree with him, I'd be attacked.

    Discriminating against people for their race, creed or religion is disturbing, but you have a right to do that. Failure to support discrimination when it makes you feel good to do so requires that you also support a person's right to discriminate when their opinions make you sick. Otherwise, you're attempting to enforce morality through the power of the government, an action not supported when it limits sexual behavior, but fully supported and applauded when it curtails the expression of bigotry. I don't have to do business with that person, but I cannot demand that the government get involved because the government is prohibited from getting involved... "Congress shall make no law..." Remember?

    To suggest otherwise is hypocrisy, plain and simple.

    Of course (as I said in a comment) speaking as a lawyer I can tell you that practicing your inherent right to discriminate (a right based on free association and freedom of assembly) will get you sued and probably shut down as a business owner, but we're talking about ideals here. Something in short supply, and which I tend to skip over as a pragmatist -- so I didn't devote any time to whether Mr. Vento should be allowed to discriminate (or even put up a sign saying "WHITES ONLY").

    The post is a must-read -- as is Grandstand's update, which is an even better lesson in Constitutional English. And, as I am going to spend all day driving back and forth through New Jersey again today, I highly recommend them both to readers because there won't be much from me today.

    It's a shame I don't have time for one of my long-winded posts here, as Grandstand's post makes me feel like examining the issue in all its permutations. But here are a couple of points I think are worth keeping in mind while reading Grandstand:

  • Senator Barry Goldwater (a libertarian who would be a liberal today) voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made a crime out of discrimination by public accommodations what that is for the wrong reasons. This legislation began the creation of a now-interminable laundry list of improper, disallowed reasons beginning with race, and the list has grown over the years.
  • Goldwater's reason for voting against the bill? "You can't legislate morality." (Who can't?)
  • In Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, the right of the BSA to discriminate against gays was upheld, barely, in a 5-4 decision. While the ruling was based on the theory that the Boy Scouts were not a "public accommodation" and thus free to discriminate, I've often wondered whether the Scouts would have been permitted to discriminate based on race. I suspect not. As to why, I think the reason is obvious. It's called discrimination. Some minorities have more rights than other minorities, and if you want your name on the damned list, better make noise and crash the line. Of course, it goes without saying that if the Boy Scouts have to take gays, then the Pride Festival has to take Fred Phelps and "God Hates Fags" signs.
  • Everyone discriminates. It's as true now as it was when I was in the 9th grade.

    And once we started making a list of people who cannot be discriminated against, what does that suggest about the people who didn't make it onto the list?

    (Dare I say that they're being discriminated against?)

    posted by Eric at 07:05 AM | Comments (1)

    individualism in name only

    What is the culture war?

    Considering the unbridled contempt in which I hold it, you'd think I'd be capable of defining the thing I claim to abhor. (I'm really not capable of such a thing, because I can't speak for what's inside the minds of other people, but I should make a stab at it for the benefit of this blog.)

    On the road just an hour ago, I saw a young man sporting tattoos.

    "Aha!" I thought! "That's a perfect example of the 'Culture War' we spend so much time sceaming about!"

    But not so fast. Right there, I felt myself being wrong.

    Because, when I was a kid, if you went to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, you'd see young kids sporting tattoos in order to be cool. And if you went there today, what would you see?

    I'd be willing to bet that you'd see young kids sporting tattoos. Why? In order to be cool.

    Right wing drunk writes autobiographical novel in which he vents his discontent. People like it, and eventually, those who really like it come to be called "beatniks" by smart-assed San Francisco columnist. Eventually, the man's work is considered to have been some sort of Declaration of Culture War. (All in favor please howl.)

    What is going on? The tattoos weren't the issue, any more than Jack Kerouac's discontentedness was the issue.

    What happened was that when the children of the American middle class imitated the children of the lower class and tattooed themselves, people saw (or were told to see) this cultural contamination as an attack -- as a form of "war." (Ditto their kids' reading and imitation of "On The Road.")

    If the Culture War is in fact a war on anything, I believe it is a very subtle war on American individuality, waged by communitarians of the left (and the right) as well as by their unwitting dupes on either "side."

    Those on the left side often disguise this war on the individual as precisely the opposite -- as a war for the individual, and his alleged "rights." What's being missed is that any campaign for the rights of individuals leads to the identification (and classification) of individuals as groups -- ultimately to the detriment of individuality.

    People on the right often are led to believe that they are defending some "culture" -- which they misconstrue as consisting of those things which are most important to them (their "values" if you can stand to see that word again). In the process, they forget that no one made their kids tattoo themselves, and that in reality they have themselves raised witless dupes. Naturally they want to blame anyone but themselves, so they blame an "assault" on their "culture." Similar processes occur on the left, and I admit that I am generalizing, but that's an inevitable pitfall of an attempt to define.

    Your kid smokes, it must be someone else's fault. Howard Stern made him talk that way and get a tattoo. The Left attacked our culture. Right wing nuts are forcing the militaristic "gun culture" on our kids, and video games are all a part of it.

    Thus, the Culture War depends on who defines it, and in whose name.

    So, I think that while it's tough to define precisely what the Culture War is, individualism is what it is not.

    But I don't want to tell anyone what to think or how to fight the blasted Culture War, which is here to stay.

    Why, the Culture War has been around so long now, it has to even be considered part of our "culture."

    (Can I just be allowed to say "not in my name," or is that too clichéd? Yeah, it might be another copyright violation. . .)

    posted by Eric at 12:01 PM

    Advancing socialism -- one butt at a time

    While I didn't think I needed another example to supplement yesterday's post, the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer provided one anyway -- another skirmish that is not over socialism per se, but which represents a tactic designed to keep people fighting each other over emotional issues -- this time how and where to light up a cigarette.

    After 18 months of sometimes-bitter legislative gridlock, City Council agreed yesterday by a narrow majority to ban smoking from almost all Philadelphia bars and restaurants by January.

    Mayor Street privately told Council members that he would sign the bill, meaning the city would join New York City, Washington, and all of New Jersey in the ranks of localities that have adopted smoking bans.

    Sidewalk cafes would be exempt. Private clubs and neighborhood taverns could seek exemptions.

    The far-reaching bill was directed mainly at bars and restaurants but prohibits smoking at all public places - most of which already are smoke-free. The bill even makes it illegal to smoke within 20 feet of an entrance to a building where a ban is in effect.

    The idea with this and other emotional personal issues is to get people to surrender power to some faceless, nameless group of bureaucrats who will be charged with enforcement. People thus lose the right to decide when and where to smoke, and instead of asking someone to put out a cigarette politely (as was done when I was a kid), they have the government bureaucrats behind them.

    Again, the point is not smoking. Prohibiting smoking no more leads to socialism than would legalizing smoking. The struggle simply wears people down, acclimatizes them to rule by others instead of rule by themselves, and distracts them from asking bigger questions.

    Is the war on cigarettes part of what we call the "culture war"? If cigarettes are not a cultural attribute, then what is? It's not only cultural, but it's inevitably personal -- one of those things that each person is traditionally allowed to decide for himself.

    As to "sides," the merits are completely irrelevant. Right now, the bureaucratic push happens to be against cigarettes. But if we assume they get their way (or let's say, smoking had been eliminated through legislation back in the 1920s) I could easily envision a heart-rending crusade in favor of "smokers' rights" -- led by pretty much the same people who lead the "struggle" for the "rights" of non-smokers today.

    Lest anyone miss the "lifestyle" implications, the Inquirer's front page offers a photo as a reminder:


    (Mind if I butt in? Tut tut!)

    To find other personal choices dressed up as war in today's Inky, I didn't have to look far. . .

    Woman battles her husband's right to sever a portion of their son's penis. (And if that didn't get your cultural juices flowing, elsewhere at the Inquirer web site, there's discussion of mandatory mouthwash requirements for ritual circumcisers.)

    This is one of those things that could go either way, depending on what might generate the greatest emotional reaction (and on how the so-called "feminist" movement might be seen as weighing in). What we might see as "mutilation" varies from time to time; circumcision was once unheard of in Euro-Christian cultures, Chinese footbinding was once conservative. These "body mod" issues can be spun any number of ways; suppose that the boy was older, and mom wanted to let him pierce his tongue and eyebrows, while dad wanted to stop that. Viola! Not a question of common sense or loony parents, but more "Culture War!" Any analysis is, of course, further clouded by attributing to deliberate design what can often be a result of the need to sell newspapers or books, or entertain TV viewers, but IMHO, people who focus singlemindedly and obsessively on the merits of a particular issue do more than merely miss the point -- they actually help enable the divide and conquer strategy. (This does not mean that I won't sound off about ridiculous things like attack toilets or "potty parity"; but I am not about to imagine that by doing so I will "save" anyone's "culture.")

    In the 1950s, integrating the segregated South, while the right thing to do, was nevertheless used by Communists as an wedge-issue tactic to cause Americans to surrender more of their personal freedom to bureaucratic power.

    Of course, only a lunatic would maintain today that segregation is a good thing, right?

    WRONG! Segregation alive and well, and this time the Commies are on its side. (I don't think I need to wear people down with examples.)

    Evolution. It's been around long enough that most Americans would consider it a traditional idea. Yet the mere fact that it's been introduced as a culture war meme means now the same old religious battle must be fought again. In some circles, whether or not one is tagged with the "politically correct" label depends on one's view of evolution. (A new meme I touched on last year, but which has resurfaced now that the left and the right have designated Ann Coulter as a sort of Culture War standard bearer.)

    Again, to wear ourselves out debating smoking, evolution, foreskins, segregated pools for Muslims, and the rest of it, is to ignore the larger threat: the systematic undermining and destruction of the American birthright.

    I often analogize to the way the bull is distracted by the red cape. Every once in a while, a smart bull figures out that the enemy is the guy who's waving it. Such bulls are quickly identified and taken out of the gene pool.

    But we're human beings, and I do not suggest humans act like bulls. People who see past these cultural diversions are not only smarter than the dumb bulls who charge the cape, they are smarter than the bulls who finally conclude that charging the matador is the only option. There's more than one way to play the game.

    And there's more than one way to not play the game.

    (Some games are rigged, you know . . . And not everyone is equally entertained by the same forms of, um "entertainment.")

    MORE: Sorry for the suggestive title. (Hey, at least we're not in Britain, because I think their slang word for cigarette should be used only in the most niggardly manner possible.)

    posted by Eric at 06:55 AM | Comments (2)

    Advancing socialism -- one penis at a time

    Damn, but this piece by David Warren is good:

    The division between what is loosely called Left and Right, or “liberal” and “conservative”, which emerged in the 18th century, is no longer a shallow one. ("Left/Right" was the Continental divide, "liberal/conservative" the equivalent in the Anglosphere, for the two factions of the Enlightenment party.) It used to be shallow, and the trench between sides could be hopped back and forth, as recently as the Edwardian era.

    It began widening and deepening after the first triumphs of Bolshevism, but there were old-fashioned-liberal "liberals" (and anti-communist social democrats) well into the latter half of the 20th century. It was as Bolshevism went into eclipse that the divide became something like a rift valley.

    I think there is a reason for this. The liberals lost the constriction of having to distinguish themselves from communists. So that, paradoxically enough, we might attribute their declining sanity to the decline of communism.

    Whereas their “socialism” remains alive and well, under various deceitful covers. The idea that the state should take and redistribute nearly half of our income is now received as unchallengeable. The issues we debate today are more civilizational than economic.

    (Via Pajamas Media.) The whole thing is a must-read.

    Being a socialist today means never having to admit you're a socialist, while at the same time being able to call anyone who disagrees with socialism a fascist or worse.

    Arguments over penises and sexual morality become quasi legalistic arguments over rights based on membership in identity groups. Ironically, the state is far more involved with matters of personal sexuality and privacy than ever before.

    Because people get caught up (hung up, really) in these personal debates (what we call the "culture war"), the real debate -- which should be over confiscation of wealth and loss of freedom -- is avoided.

    In schools, students are taught how to put condoms on bananas. As I have argued before, I don't think the goal is to "protect" them from AIDS, but as a diversion to inflame the sentiments of conservative parents -- who will then expend vast amounts of time and energy getting condoms out of the classrooms -- while the more horrendous reality that schools can't or won't teach (and prefer to indoctrinate instead) is ignored.

    (In a real war, this would be called "flypaper strategy" of course.)

    I think that some distractions are meant to be demoralizing, regardless of the result. A win-win. Think "Boy Scouts" and think homos -- regardless of which "side" you're on. Think "family" and think of impossible partisan harangues. Etc.

    Whoever gets to frame the issues is in charge of the frame-up.

    (Somebody like George Lakoff probably said that already, but I don't really care whether I'm being original or not. Whoever said it first can just tell me I plagiarized them, and I'll apologize. Originality has become redundant. And copyrighted.)

    MORE: Also via Pajamas Media, an excellent related essay at Gates of Vienna:

    The simple fact is that we never won the Cold War as decisively as we should have. Yes, the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union collapsed. This removed the military threat to the West, and the most hardcore, economic Marxism suffered a blow as a credible alternative. However, one of the really big mistakes we made after the Cold War ended was to declare that Socialism was now dead, and thus no longer anything to worry about. Here we are, nearly a generation later, discovering that Marxist rhetoric and thinking have penetrated every single stratum of our society, from the Universities to the media. Islamic terrorism is explained as caused by “poverty, oppression and marginalization,” a classic, Marxist interpretation.

    What happened is that while the “hard” Marxism of the Soviet Union may have collapsed, at least for now, the “soft” Marxism of the Western Left has actually grown stronger, in part because we deemed it to be less threatening.

    Political correctness is inextricably intertwined with the push towards socialism, and Marxism.

    However, as I explained in earlier posts, I have a problem with using the misuse of the term "Cultural Marxism" as a catchall for everything that might be found offensive.

    (But when personal issues are politicized, errors in logic are compounded. Instead of focusing on what is important, people are drawn into personal ad hominem, hall of mirrors debates.)

    MORE: How can I make this more obvious? The Culture War is not a war, but a tactic, and to a large extent a diversionary one. Time wasted battling over what people do with their penises is precisely what the tacticians hope to accomplish. If demoralization results as a byproduct, fine. But the beauty of cultural, personal strategies is that they are malleable, and change according to the styles of the times. If a cultural attribute that shocked one generation (say, long hair) fails in another, well, then politicize head-shaving in another, and so on.

    When tactics are cultural, fighting over them is as much a waste of time as it would be to police the sale of gasoline because people might use it to make Molotov cocktails. The phony Culture War thus insidiously subverts the real war (to protect freedom) into innumerable and constantly changing petty squabbles over personal behavior.

    By its nature, the "culture war" is a tactic -- a viral, mutable one, but a tactic nonetheless.

    (Plenty of unpleasant busywork for a blog like this...)

    UPDATE: In a comment below, Grandstand pointed out a serious error, which I have corrected. I said "put bananas on condoms," but I meant to say "put condoms on bananas." What on earth was I thinking?


    (I guess I just don't have the necessary skills to become a schoolteacher.)

    posted by Eric at 03:20 PM | Comments (4)

    I've been had ! ! !

    Thanks to Ed Cone, I've finally figured out why I keep getting inane comments like the one here (I haven't been counting, but there are many more like it) which always point to a completely unrelated Fox News story.

    Silly, unsuspecting me! For, I tend to give all commenters the benefit of the doubt, and I thought, why would any spammer leave a comment and a link to a Fox News story? More likely (so I thought) I just wasn't "getting the connection." In despair, I even tried putting on my tinfoil hat, and personally challenging the logic of one of them.

    (The latest one, however, -- trying to connect Hurricane Katrina fraud with militant Muslim multiculturalism -- challenged even my warped imagination.)

    Here's what Ed Cone says:

    What's up with the Fox News comment spam?

    I've been getting it for a while -- four of the five comments at this post, for example, are Fox News spam, that is, seemingly random comments that include links to stories at the Fox News website and urge readers to click on them.

    Ed has more, and I too have had comments from both sets of the IP numbers he lists, as well as several from the mysterious "Luther Jenson," whom I took for a real person whose superior brain managed to make diabolically cryptic connections I couldn't begin to understand.


    And to think I was starting to get jealous. . .

    But I do have a couple of lingering questions.



    Ed wants to know too, and he asks whether Fox is behind it, and "if not, why would anyone else do it?"

    Whatever the explanation, I am disappointed. I really didn't want this to be spam, as I prefer the mysterious to the mundane, the cosmic to the earthly.

    Perhaps whoever writes these spambots can come up with a more creative version, which leaves comments and links directly related to and targeting the blog post in question. Better yet, as AI improves, they might even offer some original (if robotic) thought. The next step would be the creation of spam blogs for the specific purpose of drawing spam comments.

    That way, the spambot blogs and spambot commenters could argue with each other, and leave the real people alone.


    I offer them a utopian dream, but I know they'll never do it.

    (Damned unthinking robots.)

    MORE: Ed Cone reports here that Fox has issued a denial:

    Fox News corporate communications honcho Brian Lewis tells me that comment spam at blogs is not part of a publicity campaign by the network, and that he was unaware that it was happening...
    But Ed also notes that this doesn't answer the question of the spammers' apparent use of Fox News' IP addresses.

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

    Where left and right meet

    This Bildergerger roundup is from a blog which collect writings in which right wing anti-globalism, left-wing anti-globalism, the North American Union, and opposition to the war on terror are all conflated. John Birch Society meets Indymedia?


    now that the Straussian neocons control the levers over at the Pentagon, with their man Rumsfeld at the top of the organizational pyramid, chances are Iran will be lined up in the cross hairs, and before the coming mid-term election. "Because of his chronic unpopularity, Bush is already in a complicated political predicament," writes Dr. Michael Carmichael, a public affairs consultant and broadcaster. "Bush is facing the loss of his American political hegemony in the midterm elections this November. If Bush loses even one house of Congress, he will face the immediate threat of official probes led by partisan special prosecutors and a rising demand for his impeachment. In his game of poker with Ahmadinejad, Bush has nothing to lose by upping the ante and wrapping himself in the American flag while dropping a massive bombardment onto the primary vortex of his Axis of Evil, Iran."

    Of course, official probes and impeachment are, at this point, little more than wishful thinking, as few Democrats have the guts to take down Bush. Nothing short of a clean sweep of the corporate and globalist whorehouse on the Potomac will squash the neocon agenda, now moving along at a steady clip. However, if the Democrats do indeed win come November — and this is less than assured, as the neocons are now seasoned at throwing elections — they may pitch a few speed bumps and slow down the rush to shock and awe Iran into submission, and thus, as Carmichael notes, the neocons may push hard for an attack before the election.

    clean sweep of the corporate and globalist whorehouse on the Potomac?

    Such rhetoric evokes images of a Bush Clinton partnership to screw the world.

    (Kinda cool, if you enjoy that sort of thing. . .)

    NOTE: In case readers are wondering . . .

    I stumbled onto the above after I discovered that the blog's author -- Steven Yates -- was writing about the "North American Union" before Jerome Corsi got all the attention.

    As Mr. Yates said last month (when the Corsi piece appeared),

    I've written on the same topic, but I'm an unknown and Corsi is not.
    Considering the importance of the allegations (especially if they are true), isn't it fair that credit be given where credit is due?

    (Mr. Yates has written extensively about what he calls "9-11 truths," but I don't have time for everything.)

    MORE: For the record, Steven Yates original piece (published in the John Birch Society's New American on May 1) is quite similar in its allegations to the Corsi piece in Human Events.

    Of course, the origin may date back earlier.

    posted by Eric at 11:27 AM

    Street smarts

    Poor Mayor Street can't get no respect.

    I say this notwithstanding the fact that he has gotten very little respect in this blog, but I do try to be fair, and that means not shying away from agreeing with someone I normally disagree with. Obviously, I cannot spend all of my time looking for such unlikely areas of agreement, but when it's relevant to something I've recently discussed, well, fair is fair.

    Especially now that a local issue (Joey Vento's "Speak English" sign) has become a national issue. Yesterday it occupied the top half of the Philadelphia Inquirer's front page, and today the Inquirer has devoted an entire editorial to it.

    Mayor Street's comments have been relegated to the back pages of the Local News section (on page B-6 in my copy). Perhaps the problem is that the Mayor sides with Joey Vento's First Amendment rights:

    "I speculate that [owner Joey Vento] has a right to that sign," Street said, "if he faithfully and without any kind of discrimination serves anyone who comes up to that window, no matter the language that person speaks, in spite of the fact that he has a sign."
    Well, good for Mayor Street!

    Why that isn't considered more newsworthy in his hometown paper, I don't know. Perhaps it'll play better nationally, but who knows . . .

    I don't know why the Inquirer isn't displaying more respect for the Mayor, but I suspect it's because his position contradicts that of the Inquirer. From today's editorial:

    Judging from the national avalanche of comments, and the lines outside the South Philadelphia landmark, Vento touched a nerve in the debate over immigration. The question posed by the complaint is whether Vento also crossed a line.

    If he's found to have denied service to customers due to their national origin, or turned them away just by virtue of posting the sign, then Vento may have run afoul of the law.

    It's one thing to mount a soapbox and gripe about people who speak little or no English. It's another thing to push that viewpoint while running an establishment supposedly open to all customers.

    Opposing bias isn't hyper-sensitive political correctness. Sure, Vento has free-speech rights. But sometimes one person's right bumps against another person's, and something has to give. Vento is running a public accommodation, just like those lunch counters in the segregated South where African Americans couldn't get a seat. Some of the arguments that some of Vento's defenders are offering sound awfully familiar from those days.

    To be fair, the analogy ends there. It's hard to link any actual harm to Vento's English-only grandstanding. He's not accused of actually refusing service to any customer.

    Well, if he isn't discriminating (which no one seriously claims he is), why even bring up the segregated lunch counters with the "whites only" signs? And why criticize the owner of a business for "grandstanding"? Doesn't that go to the heart of free speech? Joey Vento is a small business owner whose little sign has managed to capture the imagination of the country, for however brief a period of time. I cannot think of a more classic "hands-on" application of the First Amendment, and I'm a little disappointed that the Philadelphia Inquirer cannot perceive something that is so obvious that even the city's mayor (a politically partsan left winger if ever there was one) can't ignore it.

    What gives, anyway?

    If I were Joey Vento, and they told me to take down the sign, I'd probably take some red spray paint and alter the message.

    From this --


    To this --


    MORE: According to Wikipedia,

    Vento is a prominent supporter of the family of murdered police officer Daniel Faulkner. The family supports the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of Faulkner's murder, and is against Abu-Jamal being retried or exonerated. Geno's has sponsored several fund-raising events in support of Faulkner's family, including the 2000 First Annual Justice For Daniel Faulkner Block Party and an annual Daniel Faulkner Memorial Motorcycle Run.
    I suspect that more than one local activist might have it in for him.

    posted by Eric at 08:40 AM | Comments (3)

    Turning back progress in the name of progress?

    Anyone who thinks backlash against political correctness is limited to signs in cheese steak shops should read this:

    Muslim women in the USA have been asking the public to accommodate their religious beliefs about modesty, a trend that some Muslims worry will provoke a backlash.

    In some recent examples:

    • In Lincoln Park, Mich., Fitness USA relented when Muslim women demanded that the gym wall off a co-ed aerobic center from their women-only section because men could see them working out.

    • In Bridgeview, Ill., a Muslim school says it wants its girls' basketball team to play road games against non-Muslim schools provided the public schools ban men and teenage boys from the game.

    • In North Seattle, Wash., a public pool set up a swim time for Muslim women in which men, even male lifeguards, are banned.

    USA Today is hardly Jihad Watch. And they quote Professor Walid Phares's warning that this is an attempt by Wahhabism to tell Americans how to live:
    Walid Phares, a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University, sees it as an early sign in the USA of a global Islamic movement to pressure Western society into abiding by Islamic laws.

    "These demands exist because there is an ideology of a militant movement to slowly but surely demand more," Phares says. "They will be building on it."

    Phares says the conservative Saudi branch of Islam, known as Wahhabism, is trying to assert itself as representation all Muslims in the USA and makes demands most Muslims disagree with.

    I don't have to abide by other people's religious laws. The idea of the First Amendment is that the government not respect any particular religion. Thus Catholics may not enlist government help to make Baptists follow their rules, or vice versa.

    It is one thing to demand that a business comply with religious laws, but quite another for the government to do that. IMO, Seattle schools are violating the First Amendment.

    USA Today tries to end its story on a positive note (at least I guess that's what they think they're doing):

    . . .Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University, says the requests are attempts to integrate with U.S. culture. They show "that America can become their home," he says.
    Are they requests, or are they demands? And is the goal really to "integrate with U.S. culture" or is it something else? I think professor Moosa has it backwards, perhaps because he wants us to move backwards.

    Integration once meant assimilation. With the supremacy of multiculturalism, we increasingly end up with no assimilation, and no integration. (If Wahhabists win their demands for separate Muslim facilities, can racial resegregation be far behind?)

    Mark Steyn (link via LGF) calls this process "reverse globalization":

    The pathologies of the remotest backwaters now have franchise outlets in every Western city. You don't have to be a loser Ontario welfare recipient like Steven Chand, the 25-year-old Muslim convert named in the thwarted prime ministerial beheading. Omar Sheikh, the man behind the beheading of the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl, was an English "public" (i.e., private) schoolboy and graduate of the London School of Economics.
    Whatever you call it, it certainly isn't integration. Steyn sees multiculturalism as undercutting whatever success we might acheive:
    This week the jihad lost its top field general, but in Somalia it may have gained a nation -- a new state base after the loss of Afghanistan. And in Toronto and London the picture isn't so clear: The forensic and surveillance successes were almost instantly undercut by the usual multicultural dissembling of the authorities. If you think the idea of some kook beheading prime ministers on video is nutty, maybe you're looking at things back to front. What's nutty is that, half a decade on from Sept. 11, the Saudis are still allowed to bankroll schools and mosques and think tanks and fast-track imam chaplaincy programs in prisons and armed forces around the world. Oil isn't the principal Saudi export, ideology is; petroleum merely bankrolls it. In Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and elsewhere, second- and third-generation Muslims recognize the vapidity of the modern multicultural state for what it is -- a nullity, a national non-identity -- and so, for their own identity, they look elsewhere. To carry on letting Islamism fill it is to invite the re-primitivization of the world.
    Re-primitivism means moving backwards, and I've complained about it repeatedly.

    Not long ago, the idea of deliberately moving humanity backwards would have been funny. Now it's a serious political idea. Something that demands that it be considered worthy of respect.

    Well, I demand respect for Porky Pig!

    posted by Eric at 01:53 PM | Comments (6)

    A deafening turnoff?

    One of the annoyances that most plagues me in life is the telephone. That's because it has a way of ringing when I don't want it to ring. Not that I dislike the people who are calling me; it's just that when I am doing something which requires a lot of concentration, the phone has a way of interrupting my concentration.

    The end result is like Pavlovian conditioning, except unlike Pavlov's dogs, I don't associate the ring with a reward. No treat for me! Instead, more often than not I lose focus on whatever had depended upon my concentration. This gets worse over time, and I believe it has a cumulative effect on my sanity. Worse yet, the better computers become at "multitasking," the more inferior I feel because of my inability to do the same thing, and the more the ringing of the phone reminds me of this mental failure.

    It's as if the phone is -- by the act of ringing -- mocking my predicament.

    That is why I love the developments of newer and crazier ring tones by a younger generation that sees the phone on their terms. A few days ago, it was the Mosquito ringtone (developed out of a sound intended to repel only young people but be inaudible to adults):

    A high-pitched alarm which cannot be heard by adults has been hijacked by schoolchildren to create ringtones so they can get away with using phones in class.

    Techno-savvy pupils have adapted the Mosquito alarm, used to drive teenage gangs away from shopping centres.

    The alarm, which has been praised by police, is highly effective because its ultra-high sound can be heard only by youths but not by most people over 20.

    Schoolchildren have recorded the sound, which they named Teen Buzz, and spread it from phone to phone via text messages and Bluetooth technology.

    Now they can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on.

    I'm almost 52, and I downloaded the tone. I can hear it, and it reminds me of the annoying sound which old-fashioned black and white television sets used to emit when I was a kid.

    While there's plenty of irony in the use of a tone meant to annoy teenagers into a tool to annoy their teachers, I think there's more to it than that, and it involves asserting control over something which threatens to control you.

    Yesterday (via Drudge) I read about another tone, this one derived from an Israeli rocket alert siren:

    Yehuda Peretz, a Reuters photographer in the south, is the person behind the ringtone. He recorded the sound of the siren and managed to turn it into a ringtone on his mobile phone.

    "I didn't think it would become this popular. Now mainly teenagers are asking me for the ringtone and I decided to give them the opportunity to download it. Many have already downloaded it to their mobile phones," he said.

    Peretz said some parents are not happy with the new ringtone, as at times the sounds cause panic among residents. He said the use of the ringtone is increasing from day to day.

    "The more Qassams fired, the more teenagers use it. Maybe it's the opportunity to escape from the troublesome reality here," said Peretz.

    That may be the case there, but I think the development of newer, ever more "offensive" ring tones may also a way of escaping another troublesome reality -- being controlled (or simply harrassed) by technology.

    There's a bit of a generation gap here, as older people believe that if the phone rings, you must answer it. But is there any such duty? That depends on how the consequences of answering or not answering are weighed.

    There's something comically honest about an offensive ringtone.

    But what would Pavlov say?

    I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to know. Because that would force me to decide whether I care, and the problem is there's already too much to know, too much to care about.

    I'm often tempted to turn off my phone, but I understand the temptation to care less.

    posted by Eric at 09:52 AM | Comments (2)

    "the crazy political junkies that hang out in blogs"

    To follow up my post about the intra-party turmoil between leftist bloggers and mainstream Democrats (occasioned by Dick Polman's analysis in the Philadelphia Inquirer) I thought it might be worth a look inside the minds of the bloggers said to be causing the trouble.

    Despite my abhorrence of labels, it's tough to avoid them in this type of analysis, especially when so many people toss them around, including the labeled parties themselves.

    Right now, there's a very thoughtful series of posts at MyDD, including this fascinating debate over rude and over-the-top commenters:

    I just want to make one thing clear to some people who do not view MyDD as a place for thoughtful, strategic appreciation of the progressive movement: your days are numbered. Do not consider MyDD a place to work out your frustrations that you cannot work out elsewhere. Do not consider MyDD a place for random, open discussion of the latest news and current events. Do not consider MyDD to be a message board for total progressive purity. MyDD is, ultimately, a place for people who are serious about politics to congregate. It is a place where serious discussion and debate on how to fix the horrifically dysfunctional progressive movement. While grassroots, MyDD is the blog for political progressives serious about political, progressive change to find one another, and to discuss how to make progressive change take place.

    This is not a casual chat room. This is not another random political message board. When MyDD is fulfilling its mission, it is a place for serious people to make serious comments. I have always argued that bloggers should be taken seriously because they are serious people.

    The comments in response are well worth reading. Many of them sound depressed, and some commenters have threatened to leave.

    In all honesty, they have my sympathies, even though I don't share their political views. It's as if someone told me to "grow up!" -- and people have been telling me that all my life. One of the toughest things in life is to try to stay in touch with that side of you which does not want to grow up (because, let's face it, growing up sucks) and nothing feels more condescending and irritating than being scolded. Indeed, on the right, a form of this phenomenon fuels the calculated immaturity characterizing some of the backlash against political correctness.

    For some people, the whole rude-commenting thing is almost a netroots lifestyle feature. Vent freely and go ballistic at every opportunity. After all, Bush has been elected twice, no one on the right will listen to you anyway, so it's an outlet for people who view themselves as disenfranchised.

    As Chris Bowers explains, it's about lifestyles:

    the netroots does not organize around advocacy organizations design to influence public policy, but instead around lifestyles. This is an important difference between the political culture of the progressive netroots and the political culture of Washington, D.C.
    Bowers also expresses concerns over "overall impact" on the rank and file:
    . . .the $640,000,000 question is whether or not blog readers really are the influential, cutting edge of Democratic public opinion, or whether we are an isolated group that has little overall impact on the sentiment of the Democratic rank and file. Considering results from the recent Iowa poll, the recent Connecticut poll, and the Montana Senatorial primary (among other things), I am strongly inclined to believe that the opinions held by progressive, political blog readers eventually come to be shared by a wide percentage of the Democratic rank and file. If that is the case, given these results, the question is not whether or not Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2008, but whether or not she will have any serious impact on the primary season at all.
    Far be it from me to slam anyone's lifestyle, but if netroots activism revolves around lifetsyles, I think it's worth a closer look.

    Wikipedia notes MyDD's use of the term first, that Joe Trippi credits them for Howard Dean's successes, and offers Kos's definition:

    In a December 2005 interview with Newsweek magazine [1], Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of Daily Kos, described the netroots as, "the crazy political junkies that hang out in blogs."
    I'm no netroots activist (at least I don't think I am), but in the proper context, that would seem to encompass over-the-top commenters.

    Whether they're going to win or not (the recent James Webb victory is already being attributed to them), they are clearly a powerful force with which the Democratic Party mainstream must reckon. (Or be reckoned with by. . .)

    It is impossible to predict where any of this might lead politically, and that is because future projections based on present-day circumstances necessarily is a form of static (as opposed to dynamic) analysis. And what could be less static than lifestyles?

    What is, pray tell, this lifestyle? Hanging around at Drinking Liberally events? Living one's entire life online? Wearing baggy shorts and preferring peanut butter sandwiches to shrimps and martinis? Leaving hundreds of comments which look like they might have been written by Sean Gleeson's autorantic virtual moonbat?

    To argue that lifestyle attributes will all be the same in 2008 (and that mainstream perceptions of them will remain the same) is to engage in static analysis. What will happen is that over time the netroots activists will inevitably tend to engage in a process called "growing up." By this I don't mean putting on a suit and drinking martinis (although I suspect there will be more of that than any of the netrootistas would care to admit). There's a form of growing up that (as I think the rude-comments post indicates) simply means taking things into account that you might not have taken into account. It's called getting wiser, and it works with the young as well as the old. The netrootistas will inevitably grow up, and their "mainstream" opponents will inevitably grow older.

    Neither should forget that new activists will eventually come along with new labels. Newness never remains new.

    One astute MyDD commenter also recognized that the lifestyle war isn't just about age. It involves geography:

    Why does the Democratic party need to worry more about the northeast when its the only region where we win already and its the region that is losing population (and CDs/EVs) the fastest.

    We're fighting for our lives out in the midwest and have only recently once again shown signs of life in the interior west and southwest, can barely compete in much of the south -- and thats where the population is growing the fastest.

    And isn't the 50-state strategy supposed to be precisely about diverting our resources away from existing strongholds and into the areas I listed above, so we're competitive in the future?

    I'm not much of an expert on the geography of netroots activism, but if the phenomenon is primarily limited to the Northeast, I'd say this does not bode well for Democrats.

    In another post, Chris Bowers examined the demographics of the netroots activists. While the post doesn't say much about their location, they tend not to be the way they've been stereotyped. Not only are they older than commonly believed, they're well-educated, and financially well off:

    Active readers of Democratic political blogs are very highly educated, highly politically active, quite well-to-do, voracious consumers of media, not very young, and skew male. Apart from the male part, these indicators fly in the face of stereotypes about progressive bloggers, who are supposedly drooling, rabid, anti-social, uneducated, teenage extremists with no political value and out of touch with current events. Quite to the contrary, active blog readers have a tremendous amount of political capital to spend, and are in search of adventurous progressive politicians and organizations to spend it on. Is there any major progressive political group in the country that would not want to appeal to the demographics of this readership? High concentrations of wealthy, highly educated, highly active media junkies cannot be found in many areas in either this or any other country. Mischaracterize and misjudge them at your own peril.
    This finds support in a comment (by the leader of the "crazy political junkies" himself) about the YearlyKos demographics:
    "It’s actually a cross-section of the real Democratic Party. Maybe a little whiter, maybe with a bit more money than the typical party person. But generally speaking, we are the Democratic Party and all the efforts to marginalize us really are falling flat."
    I'm not trying to marginalize anyone, but my problem is that I don't know where they live (nor how representative they are of their respective areas), and the geographical data are rather slim.

    But I'm just wondering, this recent YearlyKos convention. . . It was held in Las Vegas, right? (As for next year, Kos is talking about Des Moines.)

    Might that indicate a concern with geography?

    Some things aren't changed by "growing up."

    (I may be wrong, but I don't think doing things like killing Lieberman is going to play well geographically.)

    posted by Eric at 08:40 AM | Comments (2)

    Good news for San Francisco

    Speaking of California, Jeff Soyer has some great news.

    The San Francisco gun ban is dead!

    A San Francisco judge struck it down. As Jeff points out, not all liberals want to disarm the public:

    My purpose in showing this thread is to point out that not all liberals or Democrats are anti-gun or gun ownership. As blogger Pro-Gun Progressive demonstrates, even such lefties as Josh Marshall and Kos seem to support, or at least aren't against gun ownership.

    I really think Democrats are missing the boat (and losing many elections) by beating their chests everytime one of our rights are threatened -- except when it's our right to bear arms. Trying to hide your real intentions behind labels such as "sensible gun control" and "narrow restrictions" and "common sense regulations" isn't going to cut it with gun owners anymore than trying to throttle the 1st Amendment cuts it with anyone in the media.

    He's right. While I know this is old-fashioned, I've never been able to understand what is "liberal" about taking away the ability of people to defend themselves. Guns are tools, and they should be as non-partisan as cameras.

    Be sure to read Jeff's entire post.

    posted by Eric at 12:06 PM | Comments (3)

    The right to make me vomit, Part II

    I'm sure most film and TV fans are familiar with Michael Corleone's "Every time I try to get out, they draaag me back in!" which was also echoed repeatedly in the Sopranos.

    As a transplanted naturalized Californian living on the East Coast, I spend a great deal of time wanting to return West, and scheming about possible ways to do it. But then I see stuff like these pictures from the 2006 World Bike Ride in San Francisco, and I'm thinking the inverse:

    "Every time I try to go back, they puuush me back out!"
    Not the first time, either. . .

    But this is worse, because they're on bicycles.


    I'm afraid that's The End.

    posted by Eric at 10:35 AM | Comments (8)

    Roveing Roundup (revised North American version)

    In what has to be considered huge news, Great Satan Karl Rove is not being indicted.

    Stephen Green says,

    It's really too bad this news didn't come out on Friday. The reactions from the wackos at the Kos Konvention would have been priceless.
    And Ann Althouse says "Oh, the pain..."

    Intrigued by this, I decided to poke around and see just what the left is saying.

    "Not a Happy Way to Start the Morning," says Atrios.

    (I can't say the news did much for me one way or the other.)

    FireDogLake's Christy Hardin Smith:

    You do not charge someone with a criminal indictment merely because they are scum. You have to have the evidence to back up any charges — not just that may indicate that something may have happened, but you must have evidence that criminal conduct occurred and that you can prove it. You charge the evidence you have, you try the case you can make, and you don’t go down a road that will ultimately be a waste of the public’s money and time once you have ascertained that the case is simply not there. It doesn’t mean that you don’t think the SOB that you can’t charge isn’t a weasel or guilty as hell, it just means that you can’t prove it. (And, fwiw, those times are the worst of your career, because you truly hate to let someone go when you know in your gut they’ve done something wrong.)
    While there wasn't a top shelf entry at Daily Kos when I looked, diarist nathanrudy voices similar thoughts:
    . . .it also doesn't mean that Rove is innocent of any involvement in outing an undercover CIA agent whose job it was to protect us from rogue states seeking unsecured nuclear material and bombs.

    Given the incredible secrecy that shrouds the White House -- secrecy largely brought on by Rove and his good friend Dick Cheney -- it was unlikely that Fitzgerald would be able to get to the bottom of the Plame case. Indictments for the crime that risked all our lives were never likely.

    This letter most likely means that they were unable to catch Rove in an obvious lie as they did Scooter Libby.

    Not that I expected cheering.

    Oddly enough, I'm not seeing much cheering among Republicans.

    Drudge offers documentation of a generally apathetic response on the left, but not from Howard Dean:

    'If Karl Rove had been indicted it would have been for perjury. That does not excuse his real sin which is leaking the name of an intelligence operative during the time of war. He doesn't belong in the White House. If the President valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove, then Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago. So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but its not very good news for America'...
    Yawn. . .

    While I agree with Stephen Green that the reaction (because of group dynamics) would have been much more ferocious at YearlyKos had the news come out on Friday, I'm not surprised by the subdued reaction today. I think that, despite the hatred of Karl Rove, the fact that this whole thing was so stretched out made it die with a whimper instead of a bang. So it's anticlimactic.

    It might also indicate that the left has learned from experience that Karl Rove is like a tar baby -- a subject best avoided.

    UPDATE: As I post this, I see that meanwhile, conservatives are claiming that Bush plans to dissolve the United States:

    President Bush intends to abrogate U.S. sovereignty to the North American Union, a new economic and political entity which the President is quietly forming, much as the European Union has formed.
    If the allegations are true, I don't expect conservatives to spend much time celebrating the Rove news.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds predicts that Bush will not be reelected. I agree.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: It's worth remembering that for years the far left claimed that Bush's goal was to destroy American democracy.

    Does the Human Events piece mean conservatives are coming around to a similar view?

    MORE: Daily Kos' Cyberotter has more on the North American Union:

    One comprised of the US, Canada and Mexico called the North American Union. This new country would require a new Constitution and a new Bill of Rights. The framework for this new country is already beginning to take shape. The genesis of this idea can be found in the document entitled, "Building a North American Community." Authored by a group called Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) with input from the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales.

    So what is the plan? Erase the borders. A meeting took place in March of this year where the leaders of the three countries discussed a plan called Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) President Bush described the significance of the SPP as putting forward a common commitment "to markets and democracy, freedom and trade, and mutual prosperity and security."

    It's interesting to see that the left and the right are both beginning to sound the alarm about this.

    Might there even be bilateral support for the continuation of the United States?

    Or is such an idea too fantastic to be true?

    Stay tuned.

    MORE: Tammy Bruce (whose opinion I respect) thinks this is not paranoia:

    This is not a paranoid theoretical musing. Jerome has the facts and the links. In a day when the president's actions regarding illegal aliens seem wholly inexplicable, this expose helps to make sense of it all. In other words, the president is a Globalist and means to erase North American borders. Of course, it also means we have to stop him.

    Was I wrong when I speculated that the left and the right would be unable to agree on specific articles of impeachment?

    AND MORE: I added to the title of this post, as these events are beginning to get beyond my grasp.

    MORE: James Joyner expressed skepticism last month.

    MORE: Done With Mirrors:

    Either someone is jumping the shark here, or there is something very cynical afoot.
    Could be both.

    FINAL THOUGHT: I'd like to think this "North American Union" deal is paranoia.

    (Of course, what I'd like plus two dollars might get me a cup of coffee....)

    Any thoughts anyone?

    UPDATE (06/15/06): Wikipedia entry on the "North American Union" here.

    posted by Eric at 09:28 AM | Comments (7)

    To the dungeons with Gay divorcees?

    Interesting comment left at Dr. Helen's divorce podcast post:

    My view is that gay marriage will sink fatherhood even lower, if that is possible. You will have divorced mothers collecting child support, alimony, divorce settlements, tax benefits, and possibly welfare like now. But heterosexual divorced mothers will marry each other for additional cash incentives, including tax breaks and lower insurance costs.

    They will just have a revolving door of boyfriends coming and going, and nobody is going to make sure the two mothers are having sex with each other. Heterosexual divorced fathers will have to marry each other to get the financial breaks in order to meet all of their support burdens and stay out of Uncle Sam's gay dungeon debtor's prisons.

    What is does to children won't matter any more than now, because its the Bar Associations and the feminists that matter most. Gay marriage will help them both. Lawyers will make more money because fewer women will be able to resist the incentives to divorce, brining in more business than ever. Feminists will love it because women will live like queens without doing anything while men slave away just to stay out of prison. It will be a feminist utopia.

    With no incentive to stay married and a financial windfall bonanza awaiting mothers as a reward for making fatherless children, a child being raised by his/her biological parents will be reserved for the fortunate few who have a mother unwilling cash them in just because the government rewards them for doing so, and turning dear old dad into a peon.

    Food for thought, and I have discussed the idea of heterosexual same sex marriage in a number of posts.

    But I'd like to know more about "Uncle Sam's gay dungeon debtor's prisons."

    (Someone might be able to turn such a thing into a profit-making venture.)

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

    It helps to remind myself that none of this is personal

    The picture of the dead pigs in that last post reminded me of the confusion that can be created when human emotions get in the way of our better judgment. A number of people who grew up on farms, including my father, have told me that children should never be allowed to make friends with animals raised as food.

    "You may look at the pigs, but you may never name them!" is a rule often implemented, because it is well known that once kids are on a first name basis with an animal, slaughtering time becomes an emotionally draining ordeal instead of a merely unpleasant chore.

    I've seen variations on this theme in politics for years -- most recently in blogging. For many bloggers, it's very easy to stick a rhetorical knife into someone you don't know, especially if you disagree so heartily with his views that you're certain he's a despicable idiot. The more distance there is, and the more notorious the target, the easier it is to attack him. A total stranger in a distant place who spouts the things you consider the most evil is the easiest sort of target, and the more the anonymity, the better. Thus, anonymous bloggers tend to be the most vicious attackers, and anonymous targets draw the most vicious attacks. Anonymous comments left on anonymous blogs tend to display the least evidence of humility or humanity.

    Once you meet a blogger, however, that blogger becomes much more of a real person -- a person you know. It's always much tougher to disagree with (much less attack) someone you know than someone you don't know, as I noted yesterday when I disagreed with the Philadelphia Inquirer's Tom Ferrick, Jr.:

    Most of the time, I don't agree with Tom Ferrick, and I don't even know the guy. The problem is, I hate to disagree with people (whether I know them or not), and I don't know which is worse; my disagreeing with them or their disagreeing with me. Fortunately, it's generally easier for me to disagree with someone I don't know than someone I know, but that still doesn't mean I like disagreements. Let's face it; disagreements tend to be, well, disagreeable.
    Today it's worse.

    That's because I really don't feel like disagreeing with the New Jersey Star Ledger's Paul Mulshine -- one of the few journalists who was nice enough to contact me about a post I'd written, and whose piece I linked in another post.

    He seems like a nice enough guy, and I enjoyed the piece I linked, so naturally I find myself a little flabbergasted by his recent broadside. To put it bluntly, it's unfair to Glenn Reynolds, to bloggers in general, and especially to bloggers unfortunate enough to have had their minds poisoned by legal training. (As was mine, and I freely admit it. Ouch!)

    Let me start by admitting my bias. I am a blogger who has had legal training, and I am very loyal to Glenn Reynolds. (He was an inspiration to this blog from the start, he has been very generous to me with links, plus I have met him and like him. So you can expect that if Glenn is attacked unjustly and I hear about it, I will speak up.)

    Reynolds' specific offense, says Mulshine, is that he slammed the MSM's "insufficiently obsequious coverage of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." I don't think I need to spend much time defending Glenn for for this; other bloggers (including a Phildelphia Inquirer editor) have. Plus, all Glenn needed to do to defend himself was to cite his own post (which Mulshine never cites -- and which makes clear that Glenn was citing another story as a supplemental correction to a Howard Kurtz report to show which reporters were clapping).

    Had that been all there was to the flap between Paul Mulshine and Glenn Reynolds, I wouldn't be going to all this trouble. The problem is that the Mulshine piece goes well beyond disagreement with Reynolds, and becomes a full-blown ad hominem attack on all lawyers said to share an especially odious characteristic which makes them members of the Reynolds-Coulter axis of right-wing wannabeism. That characteristic? They are lawyers who publicly write:

    I soon realized, however, that Coulter's career was evidence of a trend that has taken off in the Internet era: the lawyer as public intellectual. Lawyers are all over the place these days, holding forth on a number of topics far beyond the law.

    I am not a fan of this trend. I prefer the more traditional type of public intellectual -- the historian, economist, political scientist or writer who follows the evidence where it leads. The lawyer, on the other hand, tends to take one side of an issue and then make the evi dence fit the argument. Coulter was at her best when she employed this technique to argue that Bill Clinton should be removed from office in connection with the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

    First of all, what is meant by the term "public intellectual"? MIT's Alan Lightman elaborates here, and he sees it as meaning someone trained in a particular discipline who speaks outside his field of expertise:
    Such a person is often a trained in a particular discipline, such as linguistics, biology, history, economics, literary criticism, and who is on the faculty of a college or university. When such a person decides to write and speak to a larger audience than their professional colleagues, he or she becomes a "public intellectual."
    Does this mean that anyone trained in the law who speaks to people other than lawyers is a public intellectual? I don't see how. The vast majority of politicians were trained as lawyers, but few would call them public intellectuals. Nor would they call the many lawyer-novelists public intellectuals. So why would a lawyer-blogger be a public intellectual?

    And what is the purpose of calling a lawyer-writer a "public intellectual"? That public intellectuals are bad? Or that writer-lawyers shouldn't be public intellectuals? Well, let's suppose they shouldn't be public intellectuals, and that they never claimed they were. Let's just agree that they don't have such a title. So what? How would their lack of entitlement to this rather dubious title be of any assistance in determining whether they're right or wrong about a given issue?

    There are millions and millions of blogs, on as many topics as there are bloggers. Some of them are written by lawyers, some are not. So what does Mr. Mulshine mean when he criticizes lawyers for "holding forth on a number of topics far beyond the law"? Why should lawyers confine themselves to writing only about legal matters, while the rest of the blogosphere -- and a host of journalists -- vent freely about anything and everything?

    Is that fair?

    I'm afraid Mr. Mulshine has caused me to take a close look at my dark side, and it's true confession time. Yes, I was trained as a lawyer. I worked as a lawyer for years, and I really didn't like it. I went to law school and acquired my license to practice because I was a member of a closely-knit community (a network of interrelated quasi communal households) which had vulnerable members, and I acquired legal training the way some people might learn how to use a firearm. I never especially wanted to be a lawyer so much as I thought it was a peculiar sort of duty. I majored in Rhetoric at U.C. Berkeley, and one of my favorite professors warned me not to go to law school because my writing skills would likely be destroyed.

    "Law school destroys good writers!" That's what they kept telling me.

    I should have listened, but I insisted on arming myself with legal training, and then I went on to practice. As time went on, I found myself more and more repelled by what I was doing, because I did not like litigation. I hated waking up at 2:00 a.m. remembering that I'd forgotten to do stuff that was "important." Plus, I didn't like seeing what lawyers were doing to the country with endlessly expanded theories of liability, and I didn't like being part of it.

    Next thing I knew, AIDS hit, and my world came crashing down. Suddenly litigation went from being a major drag to being invasively, heinously, irrelevant. People were dying, and I was trying to help Trucking Company A put one over on Trucking Company B. Other lawyers might brag about such accomplishments, but I felt ashamed.

    I was lucky to get through that period in my life. Somehow, when things were at their worst, I imagined I might "make a difference" and I dabbled in Berkeley politics. An appointment to the Berkeley Police Review Commission put me on the firing line for professional activists, and I never forgot it.

    Anyway, I'm sure as hell not a "public intellectual," and I have never held myself out as such a creature. Nor is my legal background of much importance to this blog. I just say what I think, and I blog for the same reasons a lot of people blog: I have stuff I want to say, and blogging helps me think.

    I don't know what Paul Mulshine's background is, but another reason he doesn't like lawyers as writers is because they "tend[] to take one side of an issue and then make the evidence fit the argument." I agree that this is a common tendency of lawyers, and it's a tendency I don't like. But I don't think it means all lawyer-writers operate that way, nor does it mean that journalists don't.

    Ever heard of a thing called advocacy journalism? Media sensationalism?

    Let me confess more of my bias. Since the mid 1970s, I have owned pit bulls. For more than three decades now, I have seen one media campaign after another which has targeted and demonized this breed of dog in order to sell newspapers and keep people glued to their televisions. I know that there's a need to sell newspapers and attract viewers, just as I know Ann Coulter wants to sell her book, and bloggers all want hits and links. But to generate malignant prejudice and hysteria at the expense of a particular breed of dog by frightening the public so that they grab their children and run when they see a dog that looks like it might be a pit bull (yes, I've seen that, and I've had total strangers threaten to shoot my dog) -- all to sell newspapers -- that goes a bit far. It went too far for me for far too long. And it still goes too far. (The difference today is that writing another "letter to the editor" is not the only remedy. Another reason I thank the gods for the blogosphere.)

    I've owned generation after generation of these lovable dogs. My poor old dog Puff died last summer and young Coco is looking at me right now as I type this. She gets tired of my solitaire tappy-tappy games, and I don't blame her. I know this will sound crazy, and because Coco's a dog she can't understand it, but what was done (and continues to be done) to her breed is one of the reasons I blog, for it's one of the reasons I have held the MSM in bitter contempt. On this particular issue, my grudge against media bias is much older than the blogosphere. It's over thirty years old, it's personal with me, and it runs deep. You don't kick a man's dogs -- especially when he is down. I'm not naive, I understand the ways of the world, but the anti pit-bull hysteria is tough to forgive. The need to sell papers (because news is only entertainment after all) just never seemed to suffice.

    (Oh, Ann Coulter packages and sells hysteria too? So what? Does that make it right?)

    If only they could have picked on some rich spoiled Hollywood celebrities instead and left my dogs alone! I might never have developed such a longstanding grudge. I realize that the problem is also fueled by the fact that prejudiced humans want groups to hate, and dogs are a safer target but that's even less of an excuse to generate prejudice against a breed of dog.

    And of course, I know that not all reporters write biased or sensationalized stories about pit bulls, nor do all editors put these stories on the front pages with scary headlines. It's a small minority, but it's a damned persistent one.

    Obviously, my pit bull complaint does not apply specifically to Mr. Mulshine, and I'll omit another long harangue about the similar hysteria generated against guns (which also grab headlines and sell papers) as I suspect readers will be as tired of reading this as I am of writing it! My point is simply that "tak[ing] one side of an issue and then mak[ing] the evidence fit the argument" is not uniquely a legal attribute. In fact, I'm worried that Mulshine is doing what he complains lawyers do -- taking one side of the argument and making the evidence fit the argument.

    Let's return to Glenn Reynolds. Whether you're a lawyer or a journalist (or both), suppose your goal is to prove that he's a member of some despicable newly identified group. A "new breed of right-wing wannabes," perhaps? You could start by attacking someone everyone hates right now -- Ann Coulter -- the villain of the day in New Jersey. Again, Paul Mulshine:

    The further Bush sinks, the more histrionic Coulter becomes. This culminated with her tirade against those 9/11 widows who have been called "the Jersey Girls."

    "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis," said Coulter in a TV interview in support of her latest book. "I have never seen people enjoying their husbands' death so much."

    Yes, that was an eminently despicable statement. Never mind that Glenn and countless bloggers criticized Ann Coulter for making it.

    The shift from Coulter to Reynolds is accomplished by noting a "similar trend":

    I enjoy a good insult as much as the next guy, perhaps more, but why go so far afield in search of a target? Apparently because the lawyer can permit no argument against the client to stand. I've no ticed a similar trend among the lawyer-writers at the National Review and on the many Internet blogs generated by lawyers, such as the Instapundit site of lawyer Glenn Reynolds, which was one of the seminal blogs. These lawyers tend to portray any criticism of the Bush administration as just this side of "treason" -- the title of a re cent Coulter book, coincidentally enough. Among their most prominent targets are the mainstream media -- or "MSM" in bloggese.
    Um, "treason" is a fairly well-used word. I was called a traitor many times -- not by conservatives or libertarians, but by people on the left who didn't like the way I voted when I was on Berkeley's Police Review Commission. I don't think Glenn Reynolds has overused the word, but in any case I don't think it's code language indicating agreement with Ann Coulter.

    As to "any criticism of the Bush administration" as being "just this side of treason," by that standard Reynolds is himself guilty of treason. But that doesn't matter when the goal is to link Reynolds and Coulter.

    As it turns out, there's another amazing similarity between Reynolds and Coulter. They are both authors:

    Reynolds, like Coulter, is an author. In his recent book "An Army of Davids," he argues that the thousands of bloggers out there are supplanting the despised MSM. That may be so, though as a member of the MSM I certainly hope not. But I for one think the style of writing employed by Coulter and the many lawyer-writer-bloggers out there, though amusing, is limited.
    Both authors? Both have a style of writing that is limited? Coincidence? I think not. Obviously, Reynolds and Coulter are two peas in a pod.

    Who knew?

    Another common feature is that both Reynolds and Coulter are not as good as P.J. O'Rourke.

    Compare Coulter or Reynolds, for example, to the great political humorist P.J. O'Rourke, who made a career out of visiting and understanding places before writing about them. If O'Rourke wanted to take on the Jersey Girls, he would do so with a sentence so wittily constructed that even their supporters would laugh.

    This new breed of right-wing wannabes epitomized by Coulter is not up to that level. And all of their flailings at the mainstream media fail spectacularly in pointing out the true mistakes and biases of the journalistic establishment.

    Now that really worries me. Because not only do I love P.J. O'Rourke, I know I'll never be as good a writer. Thus, I, too, might belong to the "new breed of right-wing wannabes epitomized by Coulter."

    Regular readers may remember that Coco is also a blogger. Not to insult her, but I think it's fair to say that that her writing skills fall short of the P.J. O'Rourke standard too. And being a pit bull, Coco already has a major strike against her. How do I break the news to her that on top of that stigma, she might also be a member of the latest maligned breed?

    If only I could explain to her that it's nothing personal.

    Isn't it all just entertainment?

    UPDATE: The "public intellectual" question does not appear to break neatly along partisan lines. Here's Atrios:

    ...I don't think you have to be a credentialed expert in a particular subject to have smart things to say about it....
    I agree. (Atrios, aka Duncan Black, is a professor of Economics, and thus a "public intellectual" according to the Mulshine definition.)

    posted by Eric at 07:14 PM

    Passing thoughts on Friday pork

    On Friday I had lunch in Philadelphia's Chinatown area. Friday being delivery day around there, the streets were crowded with trucks, which were unloading restaurant supplies and piling them on the sidewalks. One delivery especially caught my attention, and while I didn't have my camera, I did have my cell phone, and I managed to take a photo which will give a general idea:


    It was a warm day, and the flies found the pigs irresistible. I wish the photo was of better quality, as the pig eyes seemed to be staring at me. The smell wasn't bad, and I almost found myself getting hungry.

    For some strange reason, as I was passing the pigs, I thought about Zarqawi's recent, um, passing. And about how Zarqawi's skin color was almost as pink as that of the dead piggies. (I hope that doesn't make me a psychopath.) This made me think that dead pigs piled in the street might -- how does it go? -- "offend the sensibilities" of radical Muslims, and how fortunate we are that we live in a free country that does not have to worry about things like that. Only other countries with less democratic traditions (like Brunei, or the United Kingdom) worry about the alleged "offensiveness" of pork.

    In this country, we even have free speech, which would give a store proprietor a right to put offensively sarcastic signs on the pigs.

    "Zarqawi special on pork!"

    "Sorry, we don't have Halal pork! Please do not ask!"

    Things like that.

    What I have never understood is why anyone would get upset simply because other people do things that they don't do. Plenty of us have different traditions, different religious laws. Jews share with Muslims a prohibition on eating pork, yet I am sure that innumerable Jewish Philadelphians regularly walk past the Chinatown pigs without giving them more than a passing thought.

    Before the suicidal Saudi Salafists struck on September 11, it wouldn't have occurred to me to even think these passing thoughts about pork. Now I think them.

    Not that I'm worried about pork, mind you. I'm worried about the people who are worried about the pork. People who would place the sensibilities of suicidal Saudi Salafists ahead of things like national defense, and people who think that the prison cell suicide of a suidical Saudi terrorist is more offensive than freeing him to kill himself and take others with him.

    (Almost makes me feel like taking counteroffensive measures with PhotoShop. . .)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Pajamas Media for linking this post.

    posted by Eric at 11:53 AM | Comments (2)

    Questions and Answers for RINOs and the RINO-curious

    Speaking of Republican dissent, this week's Carnival of the RINOs is being hosted by a very talented longtime favorite of mine: Rachel at Tinkerty Tonk.

    And this carnival is a good one, which Rachel handles in a very readable question-and-answer format.

    A few of my favorites:

  • MSM elitist Don Surber thinks that only the living should have the right to vote. This is really unfair, this Republican movement to turn all Americans into second class citizens. Let's face it. We will all eventually be victims of death. What gives the Republicans the right to take away our rights because of such an inevitable mishap? What next? Will he be claiming that necrophiles shouldn't be allowed to marry corpses? Sheesh. Well, what can we expect from someone who also wants to deprive illegal aliens from voting? Imagine making second class citizens out people just because they're aliens!


    What I'd like to know is whether there are more dead Democrat voters than dead Republican voters. If so, should dead Republicans continue to allow themselves to be disenfranchised?

  • This post from Bloodspite reminds me that Michael Yon's struggle with the stolen picture is far from over. I previously posted about the incident, and while it seemed to have been settled, according to Michael Yon's recent post it now looks as if the settlement was made in bad faith, and intended only to quiet the blogsophere in the hope the issue would be forgotten. It won't be.
  • The Commissar has a very informative post about Iraq's new prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. ("He speaks bluntly, acts decisively, and knows how to press an advantage.") It appears that they've finally got a guy who knows what he's doing, which makes me cautiously optimistic.

  • If you want to read the inside dirt about the misleading "net neutrality" movement and the Markey Amendment, this post by Richard is a must read.

    In fact, read Richard's whole blog. No one does a better job of explaining this complex stuff in lay terms.

  • When the RINOs rage, there's always a rumble.

    Read 'em all!

    posted by Eric at 09:29 AM | Comments (1)

    Who will let me pull a Lieberman out of my tent?

    In a must-read column today titled "Can liberal bloggers and Democrats get along?" Inquirer political analyst Dick Polman casts a disapproving look at the left wing blogosphere, and while he plays his cards pretty close to his chest, I get the impression he thinks the bloggers are childish and a bit out-of-control.

    The left-leaning bloggers are the most energized force in the party these days, a burgeoning grassroots phenomenon that ultimately threatens to rewrite the rules of Democratic politics. Even so, they are still widely dismissed - especially by the Democratic professionals in Washington - as ranting geeks who lack clout and don't deserve to get it.
    The picture Polman paints is grim. It's ranting geeks who don't know how to dress versus cowardly politicians who won't say what they think:
    Moulitsas doesn't look like your typical power broker; in his soccer jersey and baggy shorts, he looks more like the kid who might mow your lawn.

    But he's mighty ticked off: "The media elite have failed us, the political elite have failed us. Republicans have failed us because they can't govern. Democrats have failed us because they can't get elected."

    He warns that any Democrats who try to fight blogger power will "be relegated to the dustbin of history." Referring to the next round of presidential candidates, he declares that "it is their responsibility to come to us... . We are a force to be reckoned with." Yet in the next breath, here comes the insecurity: "We're not the far-left extremist wackos that everybody else seems to think we are."

    They feel empowered and aggrieved. And no wonder: measurements of their clout, potential or real, are quite elusive. The bloggers and their followers are an increasingly vocal faction within the Democratic base - people who are fed up with losing, and want cowering Democrats to stand up for progressive principles - and they can virtually create insurgent candidacies by raising fast money online. But they have yet to prove that their passion can be translated "offline" - as they call it - into real achievements at the ballot box.

    As I say, it's a must-read, and (among other things) Polman focuses on the blogger-inspired movement to take down Senator Joseph Lieberman -- and anyone who might sympathize or think like him:
    ...the drive to oust Lieberman is really the next big test of the bloggers' political clout. They detest Lieberman. Any politician perceived as siding with the GOP, or sucking up to President Bush, is described as "pulling a Lieberman." Any Democrat who defends Lieberman is denounced.
    One of the tragic aspects of being a RINO is that no matter what I do, there's just no way for me to "pull a Lieberman."

    I can't.

    I realize that bloggers are highly unpopular these days (witness the frantic rhetorical attempt in New Jersey to tar Glenn Reynolds and all bloggers with legal training with an Ann Coulter aroma), but Polman's piece highlights something else, and that is the inherently different vulnerabilities of the two major parties where it comes to internal dissent.

    This touches on why I became a Republican. (Er, why I went from being a DINO to a RINO.) Right of center bloggers -- whether ordinary conservatives, paleocons, neocons, big business Republicans, or libertarians -- are simply not seen by mainstream Republican Party operatives as anywhere near the same threat that the left of center blogs are by their Democrat counterparts.

    Polman does not say why. Instead, he focuses on things like Moulitsas' baggy shorts ("he looks like the kid who might mow your lawn"), and the leftie blogger preference for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches over shrimps and martinis. I think such superficial matters conceal something more important, and that something is a genuine fear of what the leftie bloggers say.

    They admit what Democrats are not allowed to admit. That they're socialists. That they are staunchly antiwar, and in general oppose a strong national defense. That the United States is a big, bad imperialistic power. That big business is bad.

    For the Democratic Party, such views are bad for business. However, the people who think that way are increasingly the rank and file. And every one of them can now start a weblog. The party leaders cannot afford to alienate them, but they wish they didn't exist, and that they could be stuffed into a closet somewhere.

    Dissent within the Republican Party is a lot more complicated. True, there are many right wing Republicans (as well as left-leaning and libertarian Republicans), but they don't all fit into a single camp. Even though libertarians and social conservatives agree that the mainstream has sold them out, if you ask why, they're almost on different planets. Let's face it, how do you compromise between not enough religion versus too much religion? Or "bring back sodomy laws" versus "bring on gay marriage"?

    I think that not only do right of center bloggers range across a broader political spectrum, but the Republican Party has been tolerant of a multiplicity of views for a longer time than have the Democrats.

    Some of this is because of the well-established Big Tent phenomenon. Anyone can join the Republican Party, but there's little expectation that by doing so, you're going to get your way. By their very nature, libertarians, religious conservatives, gay Log Cabin Republicans, and isolationist conservatives all know they aren't going to prevail, and they have been accustomed to not getting their way for a long time. In general, though, at election time they tend to traditionally realize that if you're a minority in a party that's out of power, you won't even have a chance at having influence.

    In contrast to the Big Tent, the Democrats have a lot of small tents consisting of loud and determined activists. They're quite used to getting their way, and they don't value compromise. "Party unity" consists in making promises and hoping they'll shut up and remain as invisible as possible. Above all, being a Democrat means never admitting that you're for socialism. It must be kept in the closet. Too many out-of-the-closet socialists behaving like spoiled brats means trouble at election time, because America has still not yet reached the point where a majority of voters will vote for admitted socialism.

    An admitted socialist Democrat cannot win. Yet on the Republican side someone like Ronald Reagan could still theoretically come along and openly admit opposition to socialism, and win. It is this inherently covert nature of Democratic Party politics that makes leftie blogs a much more serious threat. Let's face it, the Democrats are much more afraid of being seen as the party of Sheehan/Rall/Moore than the Republicans are of being seen as the party of Coulter/Falwell/Moore.*

    This is not to say that Republicans don't call each other names, or advocate extreme positions that might cause embarrassment to the party leadership. It happens all the time. It's just that it really doesn't really make the party look bad by exposing deep dark secrets. If anything, dissent is one of the Republican strengths.

    Thus, blogging -- something bad for the Democrats -- might actually be good for the Republicans. Republicans have thicker skins and not much of a closet to hide in, whereas socialism and antiwarism are now coming out of the Democratic closet, while Lieberman (if he is allowed to live) will be stuffed in.

    What about me? Don't I count? I know I'll never get my way, and I have long described myself as politically homeless. If I show up hungry and in need of a political party that will at least tolerate my views, where would I go? I have to say, I think a big tent full of people yelling at each other is more likely to tolerate me than a collection of small tents populated by people who have never learned to get along.

    *The dynamics of this are in themselves fascinating. I'm quite accustomed to being told that I belong to the party of Jerry Falwell (and of course these days it's the party of Ann Coulter, who they're trying to morph into Bush's spokesman in chief). The difference between me and my Democrat friends is that I never defend Jerry Falwell, yet they will defend Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan -- for the simple reason that they agree with Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan!

    This is why I'd feel less comfortable criticizing Cindy Sheehan at a gathering of Democratic activists than I would criticizing Ann Coulter at a gathering of Republican activists.

    In my experience, Democratic activists are more likely than Republican activists to behave like the foul-mouthed commenter here.

    (I suspect it has something to do with the extent to which individuals are accustomed to being told "no." Might involve childhood experiences or something, but I hate being judgmental about things beyond people's control.)

    UPDATE (06/13/06): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post, and to all who read it.

    (It's worth pointing out, though, that child rearing is something beyond my area of training and expertise, which means that according to some, I should keep my mouth shut about it.)

    UPDATE (06/14/06): Follow up post here.

    posted by Eric at 07:33 AM | Comments (14)

    Unimpeachable words

    I realize that this is in abominably execrable taste, but considering that U.S. troops are now "threatening Iraqis with magical capabilities that don't exist," it only seems fair to let Zarqawi have the last word on the ongoing inquiry over whether his killing was a stunt.

    From what I have been able to discern with my nonexistent magical capabilities, Zarqawi clearly does not think his death was a stunt.


    As further proof that the above might as well be true, I offer Jeff Goldstein's wide-ranging post-mortem interview, in which Zarqawi is quoted as saying absolutely nothing to indicate his death had been a stunt.

    Nor is there is anything anywhere else to contradict the statement I am attributing to Zarqawi here. So unless and until someone comes up with a specific statement to the contrary, I'm just going to consider the above to be fully content-verified, and accurate enough to be considered basically true.

    It's also nice to see Zarqawi agreeing with the Democrats as well as Republicans. Nothing like a show of unity.

    posted by Eric at 06:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    The "gun lobby" should thank Tom Ferrick!

    Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick, Jr. (a man so hostile to firearms that he spent hundreds of dollars buying handguns he doesn't want only to have them destroyed) has devoted today's column to lobbying the Pennsylvania legislature for stricter gun laws:

    While Bloomberg can go to his City Council to pass a law limiting handgun sales in the city, Street must go to the Pennsylvania legislature to get permission to do anything dealing with guns. Anything.

    And the legislature never grants that authority. Never.

    This has to change. The mayor says he is planning to ask the legislature to approve a series of measures aimed at helping Philadelphia stop the killings and shootings.

    One such measure, already introduced, is a statewide restriction on handgun sales to one a month.

    The conventional wisdom is that there is no support for this bill outside of Philadelphia. I don't buy that.

    If all city and suburban legislators in the state House combined to support the bill, it would have 60-plus "yes" votes - a sizeable bloc. It takes 102 votes to pass a bill in the House.

    There's only one way to find out if there is any support: Ask the legislators if they favor or oppose the bill.

    That's exactly what I have done, with faxes and e-mails to all state House members and state senators in the five-county area.

    Next week, I'll tell you where they stand.

    I've previously discussed the folly of the one-gun-a-month law, and I don't want to bore readers with another long discussion of the merits.

    However, I do believe in the democratic process, and I think it is eminently fair that we know how our elected officials intend to vote on matters of importance. I look forward to reading their replies to Tom Ferrick's faxes and emails, as it will let me know who to support and who to oppose in November.

    Normally, I would have to rely on the NRA for this information. But the more the merrier. Considering that Mr. Ferrick is performing a vital function by doing hard work well ahead of the elections, I think the NRA should be grateful to him for saving them time and money. (As someone who has been accused of being a member of the "gun lobby" because of my membership in the NRA, I can say honestly that it is not always easy to get answers from elected officials on firearms issues.)

    Most of the time, I don't agree with Tom Ferrick, and I don't even know the guy. The problem is, I hate to disagree with people (whether I know them or not), and I don't know which is worse; my disagreeing with them or their disagreeing with me. Fortunately, it's generally easier for me to disagree with someone I don't know than someone I know, but that still doesn't mean I like disagreements. Let's face it; disagreements tend to be, well, disagreeable.

    So it always brings me emotional satisfaction to find areas of common agreement, and this time I agree with Tom Ferrick that we should know where our legislators stand.

    I thank him in advance for finding out and letting us know, and I think the rest of the "gun lobby" should thank him too!

    posted by Eric at 10:49 AM | Comments (1)


    Joey Vento, the owner of Geno's Steak's in South Philadelphia, is receiving a considerable amount of ongoing national attention (interviewed on Good Morning America, etc.) -- all because of a protest sign in the window telling customers to order in English. Dennis posted about the controversy earlier, but the issue is now front page news in today's Inquirer, as city officials -- and the ACLU -- are contemplating legal action:

    Cheesesteak impresario Joey Vento is more than ready for his close-up.

    The brash owner of Geno's Steaks has sparked new controversy after two weeks of nearly nonstop national attention for signs posted near his take-out window that declare: "This is AMERICA. WHEN ORDERING, 'SPEAK ENGLISH.' "

    Vento, 66, grinned his way through a five-minute segment Friday on ABC's Good Morning America. Since The Inquirer first reported on his signs two weeks ago, he has appeared left and right - though, politically, always the latter - on the Web, TV and talk radio as a proud, tattooed advocate of English only for the nation's immigrants.

    Not everyone thinks he is a star, however.

    A city agency charged with investigating discrimination plans to file a complaint Monday that questions the legality of the signs, which Vento has said are directed at the Mexican immigrants in Geno's South Philadelphia neighborhood.

    "We're alleging that the sign itself is enough of an unwelcoming message that it may violate the Fair Practices Act," said Rachel Lawton, acting executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

    Mary Catherine Roper, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the signs straddle a line between free speech and discrimination.

    Geno's "has a right to express its opinion, however offensive," she said. "But there are specific limitations on places of public accommodation, because they are supposed to be available to everyone."

    A line between free speech and discrimination?

    I think it's time to take a closer look at the text of the sign, because the logical analyst in me wants to know whether it is in fact discriminatory, and if so, against whom.


    Let's start with the obvious. The sign is visible and in writing. This means that there are two possibly aggrieved groups of people who might be able to claim that they cannot read and understand the sign: the blind (or "visually impaired"), and the illiterate (who would not be able to read any sign in any language). But are the blind and the illiterate actually being discriminated against because they cannot read and understand the sign? No more than they are by a wall menu, and certainly no reasonable person would claim that a wall menu discriminates against blind and illiterate customers. In the normal course of affairs, such people would ask someone else for help. Discrimination would not occur unless the proprietor then refused to serve them for their status of being blind or illiterate.

    Parenthetically, illiteracy is not a protected class, so a proprietor might be allowed to legally refuse to serve illiterates, and thus, a sign saying, "WE REFUSE TO SERVE ILLITERATES" might not be discriminatory. But on the other hand a sign saying "IF YOU CANNOT READ THIS SIGN BECAUSE YOU ARE BLIND, WE REFUSE TO SERVE YOU" probably would be.

    Then there's the issue of whether the sign discriminates against deaf mute citizens, by asking them to order in a language other than International Sign Language. Are deaf mute activist groups enlisting help from the ACLU in their battle against Geno's? Why not?

    Mr. Vento's sign is also in English, which means that its message is by definition unreadable by people who cannot speak English. This makes them analogous to the illiterate.

    If the goal were really to discriminate, though, why doesn't Mr. Vento offer a translated version of the sign, asking them, say, in Spanish to order "EN INGLES"? (Or the Chinese or Vietnamese equivalent.) The problem there is that telling people to order in English is not discrimination, any more than it would be discriminatory for a Spanish-speaking restaurant owner to ask his customers to order in Spanish, Chinese-speaking restaurant owner to ask his customers to order in Chinese, or a deaf owner to ask them to order in sign language.

    Has anyone bothered to ask whether Joey Vento speaks any languages other than English? If he cannot, isn't he being stigmatized by the ACLU and the city bureaucrats for an inability which is not his fault? Doesn't that make him just as much a victim of discrimination as the people who implicitly claim he should speak languages other than English?

    Here's what he says:

    Vento told The Inquirer last month that he could not serve non-English speakers: "If you can't tell me what you want," he said, "I can't serve you."
    I think that statement makes it fair to conclude the man only speaks English. If there is such a thing as discrimination based on language, does it only work one way?

    What, exactly, do they want of this man? What languages should Vento be forced to learn, and why?

    The PC forces don't say. Instead, the focus is on making him take down his sign -- a sign which reflects his reality as he sees it. It seems to me that if they make him take down his sign, they'll not only be interfering with his First Amendment rights, they'll be forcing him into the closet.

    If there are any non-English speaking readers who are unable to read this post, I'd suggest they learn English or find another blog, because I have no duty to make myself understood to everyone.


    (I guess that statement makes me just as guilty of "discrimination" as Joey Vento.)

    UPDATE (06/13/06): Philadelphia's "Human Relations Commission" has served an official complaint against Geno's:

    According to the complaint, which was served on Geno's yesterday afternoon, the restaurant is in violation of two sections of the city's antidiscrimination laws: denying service to someone because of his or her national origin, and having printed material making certain groups of people feel their patronage is unwelcome.

    In two weeks in the media spotlight, Vento - who has done a whirlwind of local and national talk shows - has defended the sign and said he had no intention of removing it.

    He has said it is an immigrant's duty to learn the language and has acknowledged that his strong feelings were directed at Mexican immigrants, whose ranks are growing in South Philadelphia.

    Vento, 66, said that the sign had been up for six months without complaint until recently and that it simply spoke to the notion that people who choose to live in this country should endeavor to speak English. He has made a point of saying he had never denied anyone service regardless of language.

    But Allen said that didn't matter.

    "The issue is not whether anyone has been denied service, but that such a sign discourages people from coming asking for service," he said.

    Again, how is anyone who can read the sign being discouraged? I think the people who claim to be offended are all perfectly capable of reading English, and they've made it their business to be offended on behalf of others.

    What's interesting as a legal idea is that that asking people to speak English could be construed as "offensive."

    Where's the commission for people who find that offensive?

    posted by Eric at 10:18 AM | Comments (7)

    Fisking the growth of stunt?

    Eric Boehlert complains that the Washington Times (in this article) smeared Democrats by claiming that some of them saw the Zarqawi killing as a "stunt":

    Matt Drudge immediately posted the article up high on his site, while Power Line, Michelle Malkin and legions from the 101st Fighting Keyboarders touted the piece as proof Democrats can't even back Bush, let alone the U.S. military, when a ruthless terrorist is finally knocked out. That's how crazy conspiratorial Democrats are, they think the killing of Zarqawi was a stunt.

    Slight problem. The Washington Times completely manufactured the story. Meaning the Washington Times article does not quote a single Democrat who thinks the Zarqawi killing was a "stunt." The article, as far as I can tell, was a pure Democratic hit piece from the right-wing daily owned by the Rev. Sung Myung Moon, who fancies himself to be the son of God. I realize it's not exactly news when the Washington Times adopts unique journalism guidelines, but this instance really did seem to break new ground for the money-losing newspaper since the piece appeared at first glance, based on the whiplash speed with which it made the rounds online, to have been part of an orchestrated campaign to damage Congressional Democrats.

    This led Atrios (in a post titled "Lies and the Lying Liars") to counter the meme, and ratchet things up by accusing "the right" of having a "general love of authoritarian cultists":
    I do wonder why the right loves Reverend Moon so much.

    I guess it fits their general love of authoritarian cultists.

    Oh yeah! (I've long been down with Moon's dung-eating dogs. My reasonable side is almost tempted to ask, since when does linking an article indicate love of the author, much less the publisher, but why ask reasonable questions when that mainly bores friends and irritates adversaries?)

    Whether the Washington Times article was intended as a hit piece or not, I think it's fair to point out that not quite everyone sees the "stunt" allegation as a smear. In a piece headlined "Zarqawi Death Propaganda Victory for Bush," Islam Online cites the Times article with approval (along with quotes from the legendary Robert Fisk):

    CAIRO — The death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi in a US air strike was seen by analysts, Democrats and ordinary Americans as another "mission accomplished" and a golden opportunity for the Bush administration to say once again "ladies and gentlemen we got him" in yet another propaganda victory for President George W. Bush.

    They said the announcement on Thursday is a reminder of the US propaganda of the capture of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein just to divert public attention from an unpopular war and the latest American disgraces in Iraq: the killing of innocent civilians in cold blood.

    "So, it's another 'mission accomplished'," writes famed British columnist Robert Fisk in The Independent of Friday, June 9.

    "The man immortalized by the Americans as the most dangerous terrorist since the last most dangerous terrorist, is killed - by the Americans. A Jordanian corner-boy who could not even lock and load a machine gun is blown up by the US Air Force - and Messrs Bush and Blair see fit to boast of his demise," he said.

    To this have our leaders descended. And how short are our memories. They seek him here, they seek him there."

    Lay people in the United States believe that Zarqawi's death will have more value for Bush and his supporters that it will for anyone else.

    "A major propaganda victory on the home front, but, as with Saddam's capture, not much else," says one American in a discussion forum posted by The Houston Chronicle on Zarqawi's death.

    While Eric Boehlert claims that the only evidence for the stunt claim was "a cut-up quote from a single Democrat," Islam-Online offers more:
    Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, said Zarqawi was a small part of "a growing anti-American insurgency" and that it is time to get out.

    "We're there for all the wrong reasons," Kucinich said.

    "Where is Osama? Where are the battalions of trained Iraqis? Doesn't matter, we got this guy, right? We wrote a 25 million check as a reward, and get a new headline to bump off Haditha."

    "Just as the American public begins to look into Haditha, this happens. I'm going to be interested as to how Bush's approval rating changes, as well as how long we've known where this guy was," a Democrat told The American Inspectator newspaper.

    If I didn't know any better, I'd swear the stunt meme was already growing. Maybe not where and in the exact manner it's supposed to grow, but don't blame me. (I never linked the piece until I saw the Atrios tripe about authoritarian Moon love.)

    What is this Reverend Sun Myung Moonbat trying to do, anyway? Make the Democrats look good?

    MORE: The Zarqawi stunt meme spreads to Turkey.

    And Australia.

    Actually, unless I am reading this wrong, the Democrats right now seem united in making one thing abundantly clear: the Zarqawi killing was NOT A STUNT.

    I think that's good.

    posted by Eric at 02:24 PM | Comments (8)

    Dreyfus, Durham, and mob psychology

    The rape case against the Duke University LaCrosse players looks crazier by the day. If these defense claims are true, the prosecution has a huge problem:

    DURHAM -- The exotic dancer who has accused three Duke lacrosse players of gang-raping her was drinking while taking medication that night, and had sex with at least four men and a sexual device in the days immediately leading up to the off-campus party, according to court papers filed Thursday.

    And despite what Durham police have contended, a medical examination showed no signs of the sort of sexual or physical attack of which the dancer complained, according to the motion filed by defense attorneys for Reade Seligmann.

    Among other previously undisclosed details, the motion says the woman at one point accused her female dance partner of helping the lacrosse players rape her and of stealing her money.

    And she told one medical staffer she drank at least 44 ounces of beer, and told another she took a powerful muscle relaxant and drank beer before going to the party at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. on March 13.

    Lawyers Kirk Osborn and Ernest Conner contend in the motion that police Investigator Benjamin Himan and the Police Department illegally and deliberately withheld those and other details that were damaging to their investigation.

    For example, they say, Himan knew but did not mention in a probable-cause affidavit that two examining physicians said the dancer complained only of vaginal rape, even though some charges in the case are linked to allegations of oral and anal penetration.

    Himan also neglected to note that the accuser told one doctor she was not hit and did not complain of any pain, or that she told the sexual assault nurse examiner she was not choked, according to the documents.

    That conflicts with statements from police that the woman was kicked, strangled and beaten while being sexually assaulted.

    Police officials wouldn't respond Thursday to questions about the documents.

    There's a longstanding principle in criminal law (the lead case is Brady v. Maryland) that the prosecution must disclose to the defendant whatever they have -- all incriminating as well as exculpatory information or evidence. Failure to provide exculpatory information so taints the case that the remedy is to throw the case out -- or reverse for a new trial.

    On top of this, it now turns out that the second stripper had originally characterized the victim's rape allegations as "a crock":

    DURHAM, N.C. — A second stripper in a rape case that rocked the prestigious Duke University told police early in their investigation that the alleged victim's allegations seemed untrue, according to court papers.

    The statement by Kim Roberts about a March 13 lacrosse team party was cited in a filing Thursday by lawyers for Reade Seligmann, 20, one of three team members charged in the case. In the statement, Roberts said the accuser was out of her sight for only five minutes.

    According to a March 20 statement written by a police investigator, Roberts "stated that she heard that (the accuser) was sexually assaulted, which she stated is a 'crock' and she stated that she was with her the whole time until she left."

    The defense lawyers argue that prosecutors omitted that statement when they got court permission in March to obtain photographs and DNA samples from team members.

    District Attorney Mike Nifong's office declined to comment Thursday on the defense allegations.

    It's looking like a very poor case surrounded by an enormous amount of highly inflammatory hype, and presided over by a politically motivated district attorney.

    I am reminded of Dorothy Rabinowitz's famous book, No Crueler Tyrannies. From the Amazon review:

    Americans tend to put great faith in their justice system but, despite the legal doctrine of the presumption of innocence, they also tend to assume that persons accused of crimes are in fact guilty. This book deals with the power of accusations, in combination with dubious expert testimony, to undermine a person's right to a fair hearing and result in the incarceration of innocent individuals. It focuses on some of the most public sex abuse prosecutions during the 1980's and 1990's and shows how justice was subverted by a combination of overzealous "experts," unfair limitations on the defendants' ability to present exculpatory evidence, and the vagaries of the appeals process. These cases, and particularly the Wenatchee prosecutions, are about as close as American justice has come to the Kangaroo courts of the former Soviet Union.
    Whether the Kangaroo courts are still alive and well -- and living in Durham, North Carolina -- or whether this is more a case of a Kangaroo media fueled by a mob scene and a crooked district attorney remains to be seen.

    Much of the inflammatory hype seems to stem from the illogical but stubborn idea that there can be such a thing as inherited racial guilt, and from a related desire to get even with past lynchings by means of a proxy role reversal. However, I think that's only a partial explanation of what's going on in Durham.

    When egos -- and power -- are at stake, the Dreyfus phenomenon tends to kick in. In the Dreyfus case, French officials saw the innocence of Dreyfus (a Jewish officer convicted on phony evidence in a shrilly anti-Semitic climate) not as a legal issue but as a dire threat to their power. Thus, they systematically covered up the evidence which exculpated Dreyfus, and it was only because of the intervention of outsiders like Emile Zola that the fraud was finally exposed.

    Might prosecutors and others with careers at stake in Durham be similarly unconcerned with whether the Duke La Crosse players are actually innocent? Might their motivation be altogether different from seeking justice?

    Far be it from me to say "J' accuse!"

    Hell, I don't even speak French.

    (I'll just stay tuned.)

    UPDATE (06/11/06): "I can't begin to imagine how the DA hopes to skate past all this at trial," says Tom Maguire, who also links to a report that the DA has decided to postpone the trial for an entire year!. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)


    Be sure to read Darleen Click's comment below:

    If Nifong has one shred of obligation to his oath as a lawyer, he would have rejected the case from the moment of the blown photo-line up, or at worst, when the first DNA tests came back negative.

    Like the "one bad cop spoils it for all" scenario, Nifong is a huge embarrassment for the honest DDA's who are tasked with evaluating cases for filing on daily basis.

    (I think she's right.)

    posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Is James Webb a Fascist?

    Glenn Reynolds is tsk-tsking along with others, but how many people have seen the cartoon rather than read a lurid description?

    I think the spin is more than a little misleading, particularly because the drawings, while bad, are fairly accurate caricatures, and also because the anti-christ line is given in quotes and referenced to 'Information Week, 01/09/2006.' You can read the article which the ad refers to, written by Paul McDougall.

    You can see the flier archived at the blog Not Larry Sabato, which also features a side-by-side comparison of the cartoon and a photograph of Harris suggesting that the cartoon is a tracing. I don't think Gandelman's characterization is fair, i.e., that Webb depicted his opponenent 'with a big schnozz' in a manner consistent with Nazi propaganda. Considering its target audience, it's much more likely that the ad was inspired by traditional labor propaganda.

    Having said that, the ad is tasteless, poorly done, and highly unprofessional. The footnotes are actually damaging because they reveal inaccuracy in the quote from Information Week: the flier indicates that the article called Harris the 'anti-Christ of outsourcing' and that that it quoted him as saying that outsourcing 'is good for the American economy.'

    The use of quotes is dishonest, representing paraphrase as quotation. They took 'anti-Christ of outsourcing' from the following:

    Harris Miller, aka the Antichrist if you're an unemployed IT worker, is gearing up for a Senate run as--a Democrat? "I think businesspeople can be good Democrats," Miller told me last week. "I'm proud to be a businessman; my father was a small businessman."

    And as for Miller's quote about 'a good thing for the American economy?'

    As for outsourcing, another bogeyman that trade unions, some legislators, and Lou Dobbs say will have all of us flipping burgers at McDonald's, Miller thinks it's a good thing. "Global sourcing continues to be a net positive for American workers and the U.S. economy," he said in an October release.

    While some might defend this as 'accurate,' it's misleading, and as I said before dishonest, even if unintentional. That sort of thing would have serious repercussions in the academy.

    But why do I say the ad is tasteless? Well, aside from the obvious aesthetic reasons, because of something I think most people have missed: (1) it repeatedly calls Miller a Killer (a very bad play on his name that will pass over most people's heads, as in the quote by Webb-as-cartoon-hero: 'Shut your mouth Killer!'; (2) they open with Miller saying 'Let them eat cake!', and here comes our first footnote: 'Attributed to Marie Antoinette shortly before she was beheaded in 1793.'

    Now, any amount of research will tell you that the phrase pre-dates marie Antoinette by more than a century, that this was long a popular phrase to capture how out of touch the aristocracy was. It was a dark joke, and it still works. But the footnote reveals something ugly, especially when coupled with the repeated use of the word 'Killer,' and that is using tyrannicide as a metaphor for political victory.

    It's bad enough to portray your opponent as a heartless, greedy, elitist, but do you have to resort to that sort of rhetoric?

    So in conclusion, I don't think James Webb is an anti-semitic fascist, but he may be a little stupid.

    posted by Dennis at 01:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)

    High Stakes Cheese

    Joey Vento, propietor of Philadelphia's legendary Geno's Steaks and the son of Italian immigrants, is being labeled a racist for posting a sign asking customers to order in English:

    "I think what's coming out of his mouth is racist," said Santiago. "He is saying, 'I don't like these brown faces in my community and I will do everything I can to get them out of there.'"

    Is that really what he's saying, when Vento himself says no one has ever been denied service?

    'Brown,' as you may have noticed by now, is a favorite word among the warriors of identity politics. It's a nice, cozy word that can be stretched to include anything that isn't 'white.' I'm sure you've heard or read someone in the IP camp sarcastically sneer about the U.S. government bombing 'brown people,' probably to clear space for a new Walmart.

    But it takes a Herculean feat of extrapolation to turn 'order in English' into 'order in English if you have brown skin.' Do you suppose Vento has a nod-nod wink-wink policy with white foreigners?

    I suspect that many people out there outraged by Vento's 'racism' are the same people who sniff at their 'ugly American' brothers and sisters who travel abroad and insist on using English everywhere.

    Besides, how hard is it to learn how to say 'wiz wit,' which is hardly English?

    But let's return to Santiago's paranoid translation: he's doing everything in his power to see that 'brown' people do stay away from Vento's shop:

    Santiago said he has urged Latinos to boycott Geno's Steaks, a fixture in South Philadelphia's Little Italy neighborhood which has seen an influx of Hispanic immigrants in recent years.

    Way to give him what he supposedly secretly wants!

    posted by Dennis at 02:54 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (1)

    honest speech is not free

    Via Mark Tapscott, some words of wisdom from the Washington Examiner:

    the demands of political correctness too often make it impossible to speak honestly about reality.
    The piece is about Canadian bureaucrats who can't speak honestly about terrorists, but it's becoming impossible for anyone holding an official position of any consequence to speak honestly about anything.

    Evan Coyne Maloney (via Pajamas Media) recently brought to the blogosphere's attention the most insane definition of racism I've ever seen (and which I attempted to analyze logically). Among other things, "cultural racism" was defined as "having a future time orientation," and "emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology."

    Cornered as they were by Evan's exposure of their own drivel, Seattle educrats responded by taking down the web site, and issuing a condescendingly incomprehensible explanation from Peter Daniels, school district spokesman:

    "It did not have enough context for people not working on this issue, and it was poorly written," Daniels said. "... It's about institutional racism, particularly in an educational setting. There are particular structures and practices in place that disadvantage other students who are not of the Caucasian or white majority. It's really examining our own practices and education, but that wasn't very clear."
    In other words, they don't want Seattle teachers to place value on time or individuality, but when they're called on it they pretend to disavow it in educratese.

    Evan Coyne Maloney (who deserves the highest congratulations, BTW) is not satisfied with the "explanation" either. I'd say they're guilty as charged, and I think parents using Seattle public schools are morally guilty of child abuse.

    But if I were in a position of "responsibility," I'd be fired for saying that, wouldn't I?

    Because power belongs to those who can stand to spend hours in the same room listening to their dishonest bureaucratic jargon, people who speak honestly tend to be ruled by those who don't.

    Furthermore, those who don't speak plainly not only hide behind special language, they rule by committees, so that ultimately, no one can be blamed for actually having decided anything.

    The result -- a near-total lack of accountability -- used to go unchallenged until the blogosphere came along. It might not seem like much, but the fact that Seattle educrats removed words from their web site reveals that it's honesty they fear.

    If I were them I'd get to work trying to figure out ways to shut down -- or at least counter -- the blogosphere. Because if something isn't done, sooner or later bloggers will start showing up and start live-blogging their damned committee meetings!

    posted by Eric at 10:11 AM | Comments (7)

    gold at the end of the rainbow?

    I don't mean to make light of serious events, but an email quoted by Glenn Reynolds reminded me that there are other issues besides Ann Coulter's Godless business and Abu al-Zarqawi's now-headless routine.

    I refer of course to potty parody parity. It may have been neglected on Women's Confidence Day, but it's long been an issue of major concern at this blog.

    Yes, I've complained repeatedly about potty parity, and about toilets. American bureaucrats -- aided and abetted by an unseen, faceless network of feminazi andro-hygienists -- have taken over our public bathrooms. Considering that I was the victim of a bureaucratized attack toilet just weeks ago, I feel morally obligated to speak up.

    An anti-urinal movement is one thing. I'm no shrink, but if it's grounded in penis envy it's certainly understandable, and at least as old as Freud. But these people are not content merely fighting urinals. Old fashioned flush toilets are also under fire.

    Feminism and environmentalism seem to be combining forces -- as if in a vast pincer movement, the target of which involves encircling, controlling, and cutting off our most personal areas and activities. I don't know where this will lead, and I don't know how to stop it.

    A few months ago, in a last ditch attempt at a divide and conquer thinking, I resorted to satire. Hoping to drive a wedge between environmentalists and the feminists, I noted Philadelphia's recent struggle between city bureaucrats and the plumbers' union over the installation of waterless urinals in an environmentally "friendly" (aka "green") skyscraper, and, using gentle satire, I pointed out an obvious problem:

    Does this not send a clear message to society that men are more environmentally friendly than women? Doesn't that create and enable a brand new and totally unfair stereotype? Isn't it bad enough that women face discrimination everywhere without granting men another patriarchal advantage to hold over women? Rather than be seen as lagging behind New York, shouldn't Philadelphia be seen as leading the way towards environmental gender equality?

    Those who think this is an exercise in frivolity should bear in mind that some of the most invidious forms of sexist discrimination arise from unnoticed subtleties of precisely this sort. Every time men take a leak in the environmentally friendly urinals, they'll be likely to harbor hidden thoughts that they've done a better job of saving the environment than women. Pretty soon, they'll be emerging from the men's rooms with barely perceptible, knowing sneers. A nod here, a wink there.

    The old boys network is at it again.

    Fortunately, they didn't listen to me, so Philadelphia men are to be rendered more environmentally friendly than women. A similar struggle between plumbers' unions and environmentalists is also raging in California, which has yet to change it's building codes.

    But the problem highlights the inherent male advantage meme, which I'm afraid is more than just a meme, because it is rooted in the cruelest possible reality.

    It is a thing called anatomical advantage.

    Do waterless urinals represent the final feminist Waterloo?

    Let's take a look. Here's's Kalahari model:


    The site states that "high profile installations include Liberty Island, New York; Petronas Towers, Malaysia; The Jimmy Carter Library, Georgia."

    Hey, if it's good enough for Jimmy Carter, count me in the ranks of male chauvinist environmental pee nuts.

    No urinalysis would be complete without a mention of women's urinals. Yes, they've been manufactured over the years, but they never caught on in the United States. The Straight Dope explains the history in sufficient detail to satisfy the normal imagination, but another site points out that there are working models used in other countries, and concludes:

    There will be pressure on sanitaryware companies (those that make these things) to develop non-water using urinals that can be used by both men and women.
    The problem, IMHO, is that American women will not use urinals.

    My answer to that would be so effing what! If this is all about fairness (which I doubt) why not simply install urinals in women's rooms anyway, regardless of how many women use them?

    The bureaucrats have already forced the installation of diaper changing stations in men's rooms, and I have never seen a single man use one. Not that I'm against men changing babies' diapers in men's room, but I've just never witnessed such an event. (But then, I've never seen an American women use a urinal either.)

    I say fair is fair. But I'm afraid that where it comes to Anatomical Advantage, nothing is fair.

    I guess that means I'm wallowing in a waterless water loo. I'm afraid this blog is unable to be of much help in an unwanted area, as the problem involves a hopeless bureaucratic battle against an inherent male advantage.

    So why not just do as the Romans did, and solve the problem by taxation of waste?

    A city famous for its street urinals is Paris, France. Until the 1990s, street urinals were a common sight in the city, and in the 1930s more than 1200 were in service. Parisians referred to them as vespasiennes, the name being derived from that of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who imposed a tax on urine. Beginning in the 1990s, the vespasiennes (renowned for their smell and lack of hygiene) were gradually replaced by the far superior Sanisettes. Today only one vespasienne remains in the city (on the boulevard Arago), and it is still regularly used. A disadvantage of this kind of urinals is that there is no way to wash your hands.
    If a little thing like unclean hands didn't bother the French, I don't see why we couldn't do it here. Washing hands is not environmentally friendly, as it wastes water!

    Incidentally, Vespasian's tax on urine actually started with Nero. And when his son (and future emperor) Titus complained about the indignity, Vespasian replied that the money didn't stink:

    With the treasury depleted by Nero's greed and war, Vespasian raised taxes extensively. Probably his most infamous was his tax on public urinals. His son, Titus, declared that this was undignified, to which Vespasian offered him some gold coins to sniff, commenting: "See, my son, if these have any smell." When Titus assured him that they had no odor, he replied, "and yet, they come from urine!"
    Here here! If the Romans could turn urine into gold, why, we can too!

    (If that isn't a Classical Value then what is?)

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (3)


    Have you ever been laying within a stillness which compelled you to take inaction lest you be forced with an inferior action?

    I am the embodiment of waste. The government and the medium have never let you down before... why should "they" start now?

    I have, in the past, deliberately, consciously (if such it can be called) made things worse for your own betterment. And no, I do not expect your thanks. Your ignorance is bliss enough.

    Allow me to explain things another way. A highly literal, logical, straightforward way which makes far too much sense. Each and every individual brain (i.e. typical members of society behaving and assuming typically) represents a neural net independent of the relatively pedantic constraints which elementary human rationalism presupposes implicitly to define. The real trick to having fun, understanding yourself, and/or not being perpetually baffled remains a function of your ability to disconnect the elemental functions of your senses cum base layer interpretation.

    Natch, you haven't the faintest, so I, in my infinite wisdom, will elaborate. Or elaborately simplify. What I'm trying to say is that it's extremely difficult to connect the subconscious mind with the conscious mind. The ordinary human being attains this only in the midst of deep dreaming. Beyond the standard dreamscape, most people obtain it only via the imbibement of a substantial amount of drugs.

    And no, I am not, despite the rather libertarian bent of Classical Values, advocate drug use. Not in any way, shape, or form. In fact, I regard such consumption as a de-rendering of insight. Preposterously so.

    Tim Leary, R. A. Wilson, the beat poets, and countless pretenders have all attempted to emulate the peculiar links, establishments, reflections, personifications... of the realities which they artificially constructed. Those constructions being but a reflection of an extraordinarily simple complex: the jointure of conscious with unconscious in an attempt to attain understanding beyond the capacity of the "standard" life.

    You must seek to escape the constraints of such mundane bounds... not that I think you (and I mean YOU) are actually capable of such. But fortunately--for you--the jury is permanently out. What with how the jury has not yet been in.

    You poor bastards. You don’t realize how fortunate you are.

    Update: Sanity is a madness put to good use.
    - George Santayana

    posted by Cosmic Drunk at 11:11 PM | Comments (6)

    Text and Commentary

    I imagine readers of Classical Values are more on top of current events than I am because I spend so much of my time trying to get a handle on ancient texts (a consuming task made easier with the aid of commentaries), so you're probably already aware of John Bolton's anger over remarks made concerning 'middle America' by Mark Malloch Brown, a U.N. diplomat from the U.K. (Instapundit was my starting point.)

    Getting caught up, I read a piece on the affair in the Times Online, and found a classic case of something journalists tend to do poorly but that bloggers tend to do well, but before I continue let me acknowledge that journalism and blogging are fundamentally difference enterprises. It's not a question of blogging doing journalism better than journalists, but rather of journalists doing something which simply isn't journalism, or at least good journalism.

    And that 'something' might be filed under research or background, or better yet testimony. The nature of blogging, which is often a kind of commentary, requires accountability and transparency in the smallest detail. If a blogger doesn't offer links, sources, corroboration of some kind, there will be hell to pay in the form of further commentary -- on other blogs. It's a medium that by its nature tends toward full disclosure, and the players do not allow hearsay and generalization to go unchecked.

    Journalism doesn't have that luxury, and when it's done sloppily relies upon uncritical and lopsided summary to set the tone of a piece or to supply the audience with necessary background information. The journalist must make a choice about just what information is necessary, and must state it as concisely as possible, with no attempt to justify the statements made. Often, too, this information is subjective, as when a journalist writes about a dispute and summarizes allegations brought by one side, but the nature of the medium often makes it all look like fact.

    We often find passive constructions and stark generalizations which may be factually true as far as they go, but which give a false impression, and one not easily challenged. In the present case, this paragraph leapt out at me:

    America has a long tradition of isolationism, dating back to even before the US refused to join the League of Nations. The UN has been portrayed by far-right groups as a godless, communist and corrupt “nest of spies” ready to invade America.

    Fine. The UN may have been protrayed thus by far-right groups, but the paragraph implies that this is essentially the argument both for isolationism and against the UN, as though isolationism, opposition to the UN, and fundamentalism go hand-in-hand.

    This grates on a person like me, who opposes the UN on countless issues, is not an isolationist, and does not believe in god, thus having no objection to godlessness. I actually quite like it.

    But the paragraph also implies that John Bolton, whom the writers call 'a Republican right-winger' (to distinguish him from those Republican left-wingers?), challenges the UN from the supposedly traditional American isolationist position, namely because he views it as 'a godless, communist and corrupt “nest of spies” ready to invade America.'

    Intentional? I doubt it. Sloppy? As most journalism is. But that's the nature of the beast.

    But a little commentary never hurt any text.

    posted by Dennis at 08:28 PM | Comments (3)

    That's Entertainment, Part DCLXVI

    For the time being, Abu al-Zarqawi's death has eclipsed Ann Coulter in the news, which is as it should be. But I still don't think I have managed to pin down the distinctions between entertainment, morality, and political discourse.

    As this is a culture war blog (gad, what a thought!), and Ann Coulter positions herself on the "front lines" of that war, I wouldn't be doing my job as an anti-culture-war blogger (or is that anti-"Culture War" blogger?) if I didn't at least try to finish these difficult thoughts.

    Seriously, I have trouble writing this. I do not like the words I see.

    (On top of that, I'm now worried that the Culture War is little more than entertainment -- albeit of a reactive variety -- which is really disturbing, because that might make me an Entertainment war blogger, or an anti-Entertainment Warrior. Yeccch!)

    Anyway, I didn't touch on another form of entertainment which we call sports. Sports is different from politics, from religion, and from other forms of entertainment because it is a meritocracy in the true sense of the word. You might be able to succeed in politics or religion by P.T. Barnum hucksterism, but unless the sport is professional wrestling, merit is what its all about. There's no faking things like throwing faster, jumping higher, or hitting the ball further.

    Yet spectator sports are by definition entertainment. And even though it is that, society has much higher expectations of its athletes than of other entertainers. Thus, while we are not surprised when politicians take bribes, professional athletes who do the same things are seen as guilty of a much greater betrayal of the public trust. This is not logical, but it is because upholding the meritocracy in sports is paramount to its continued credibility, while in politics no such expectation exists. Even less is there any expectation of genuine meritocracy in politics.

    Anyone who doubts that there is such a distinction might ask why athletes are routinely tested for drugs, while politicians never are. (Testing the latter would seem undemocratic, even totalitarian.) Why, the very idea of drug testing for politicians seems absurd on its face. The idea of testing artists, musicians, and authors (including Ann Coulter, an admitted Deadhead) seems more absurd, even wildly so. We don't care whether a song or a book was written under the influence of narcotics, or whether a musician has to smoke pot in order to perform.

    Why is that? Don't ask me, for I don't make the rules. There's nothing fair about any of this. And if we return to the idea of sports as a meritocracy, if it's unfair to allow drugs to give an advantage to an athlete, why isn't it just as unfair to allow a musician or a writer such an advantage? Because the alleged public says so, that's why!

    TJ Marshman ("Harkonnendog") is working on another book, and he says nicotine helps empower his writing. This is something I understand quite well, as I used to fuel this blog with chewing tobacco. I'd be willing to bet that some bloggers use speed for fuel, and they can "crank" out ideas and posts much faster than some of their competition. Does that mean there should be drug testing for bloggers? (Don't count on it! At least, not yet.)

    Anyway, if some forms of entertainment are more morally pure than others, what are the implications?

    Or is the focus on Ann Coulter causing me to make a mistake in analyzing her political punditry as popular entertainment? She's not a politician in the sense of having to run for office, but she is certainly uttering political pronouncements on many subjects, and she influences the political thinking of many Americans. Yet she does so in the name of entertainment. She's a paid writer who sells books, makes television appearances, and for all I know she commands lecture fees at least in the range of fellow-entertainer Michael Moore. (I'll admit right now, I'd buy tickets to see the pair debate! That might sound amoral and undisgusting to some, but I think it's a far cry from the Roman games. . .)

    Maybe is unfair to compare politicians who hold elected office to rock stars. Is it? Why, then, do they act like rock star celebrities, with the limos and all the trappings? Why do they become just as addicted to their occupational lifestyles as would any Hollywood star or major athlete?

    I think the problem involves not the way things are, but the way things are supposed to be. While Howard Stern is supposed to be entertainment, Ann Coulter is not. Politicians are not supposed to be like athletes, and neither politicians nor athletes are supposed to be like rock stars.

    But when nothing is the way it's supposed to be, how am I supposed to answer the suppositions? With a cultural suppository?

    I'm afraid I haven't solved America's entertainment problem. But it sure seems impacted.


    Little wonder I find the culture war so emotionally unsatisfying, yet I keep coming back for more.

    Entertainment is supposed to work that way.

    MORE: In a great post linked by Pajamas Media, John Cole touches on the nature of Coulter's entertainment:

    it kind of goes without saying that Ann went over the top, and made statements that were rude, offensive, and obnoxious. But what did you expect? It is Ann Coulter- she makes her living doing just this sort of thing- throwing red meat to the lunatic fringe.
    As well as the rest of us rubberneckers.

    MORE: And here's La Shawn Barber:

    Whether you hate/like/love her, Ann Coulter knows how to play the game. Coulter-Shtick works. People can’t stop talking about her. She’s a bit more edgy in her writing and marketing than I am, but you better believe I’ll develop some kind of Barber-Shtick when I’m ready to sell books, set tongues wagging, and drive the blogosphere crazy.
    (Via Pajamas Media.)

    Seen as marketing, it boils down to simple common sense.

    (As someone whose traffic reached an all time high during the beheading video mania, I ought to know. But I didn't see the traffic coming until it was there.)

    posted by Eric at 04:14 PM | Comments (4)

    At what price moral victory?

    Let's see. This week Judge Roy Moore lost in Alabama. Earlier in Illinois, Judy Topinka defeated her Alan Keyes-style opponent whose supporters had screamed that Topinka was a homo-loving "anti-family interloper."

    While the Moore and Topinka elections involved Republicans, and Don was writing about Democrats, I'm intrigued by Don Surber's post (via Glenn Reynolds) about the nature of moral victories.

    Will these Republican Party "losses" be seen as moral victories by the people who lost?

    When I thought about this last night I found myself contemplating other famous moral victories in history but I was too damned tired to care. This morning I read the news of the death of Zarqawi -- whose supporters are now claiming moral victory, and I wondered again. As Don Surber suggests, moral victories seem to be a coping mechanism which offers consolation for losers.

    To be fair to those who sincerely believe that there can be a moral victory in defeat, history shows that some defeats, when recorded as moral victories, can ultimately result in real victories because of the propaganda value. The Alamo was a good example. So was the defeat of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. (Both are discussed here, along with other examples.)

    But in ordinary American politics, defeat is defeat. Few people care about whether the losers were right. One of Barry Goldwater's slogans was "In your heart, you know he's right." Yet Goldwater conservatism (a form of libertarianism which can today be called Goldwater liberalism) was dead, and never to rise again.

    Despite my tendency towards Goldwater liberalism, I just can't find consolation in calling Goldwater's defeat a moral victory. That's just another loser tactic.

    A somewhat related loser tactic is to label an opponent's victory a "Pyrrhic Victory." It's often wishful thinking, but it eases the pain of losing.

    Analysis, of course, is further complicated by the fact that some Pyrrhic (as well as moral) victories are in fact such things.

    What about those who think Roy Moore's defeat -- or a "principled" loss by Republicans this Fall -- constitutes a moral victory? Would they subordinate real victory to moral victory? If they would, should we blindly assume moral sincerity on their part? The reason I'm asking is because I think that some of the people who yell the loudest about these things know full well that they will not win. Ever. And further, they don't plan to win -- for the simple reason that they don't want to win. Being a loud minority within the opposition beats being a muzzled minority within the party of power. In politics, shrill minorities who find themselves within the winning coalition have to be coopted or muzzled. Thus, a defeat of the coalition can always be claimed as a moral victory for the unmuzzled.

    Easy for me to say.

    (Bloggers only muzzle themselves.)

    posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

    Bad grief?

    I see that Nick Berg's father Michael (who is running for Congress) has expressed sadness for Zarqawi's death and blames Bush for the murder of his son:

    "I don't think that Zarqawi is himself responsible for the killings of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq," Berg said in a combative television interview with the U.S. Fox News network. "I think George Bush is.

    "George Bush is the one that invaded this country, George Bush is the one that destabilized it so that Zarqawi could get in, so that Zarqawi had a need to get in, to defend his region of the country from American invaders."

    Berg said Bush was to blame for the torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

    "Yeah, like George Bush didn't OK the torture and death and rape of people in the Abu Ghraib prison for which my son was killed in retaliation?" he told his Fox interviewers.

    In a telephone interview with Reuters from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the father said: "I have no sense of relief, just sadness that another human being had to die."

    I don't mean to belittle anyone who is grieving, but this guy almost cries out for the full Ann Coulter treatment. That doesn't mean I'd say he was glad for his son's death, because no father ever is. But I saw a huge amount of transference and denial during the early AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. I was grieving myself then, and I have never stopped grieving.

    But grieving is not a license to spout nonsense. Back when most of my friends were dying, lots of people were grieving. I and many others were in the direst, most desperate mental states imaginable. Many became activists, and advanced the seemingly plausible claim that AIDS had been created by government scientists at a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland. It was largely a waste time arguing with them, because this belief was fueled by emotion. (And the need for emotional satisfaction.)

    I'm sure there are some people who still believe the Fort Detrick claim.

    [Yes there are. Typical claim here; debunked here.]

    So I know firsthand how the grieving process can cause people to go through strange and twisted convolutions in their thinking. To the extent that his thoughts are contaminated by misdirected grieving, Michael Berg has my sympathy.

    That doesn't mean I'd ever consider agreeing with him.

    (Much less voting for him.)

    MORE: In the latest story from, Michael Berg now says Bush is "more of a terrorist than Zarqawi," because Zarqawi looked his son in the eyes when beheading him, while Bush sits in an office:

    Berg said the blame for most deaths in Iraq should be placed on President Bush, who he said is "more of a terrorist than Zarqawi."

    "Zarqawi felt my son's breath on his hand as held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes when he did it," Berg added, pausing to collect himself. "George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist."

    By that logic, Bush is more of a terrorist than the 9/11 hijackers themselves. And FDR was a greater terrorist than Reinhard Heydrich.

    posted by Eric at 09:13 AM | Comments (7)

    Ann Coulter -- a Stern figure?

    At the risk of alienating myself from the blogosphere, I think some self reflection is in order here. This morning I was jolted into the sudden realization (a realization which grew stronger in direct proportion to the amount of coffee I consumed) that maybe I had been unfair to Ann Coulter last night. That in my haste to agree with the many moral pronouncements condemning her (and I do agree that she was way out of line in saying the 9/11 widows were happy over their husbands' deaths), I might have been applying my own standards unequally.

    In fact, by joining in the dogpile, I might be sliding down the slippery double-standard road which ends only in that lowest level of hell we call hypocrisy!

    Didn't I just a few days ago defend the rights of people who practice P.T. Barnum tactics, as well as their followers? Didn't I come perilously close to defending Hal Lindsey against a charge he was engaged in Barnum-style hucksterism?

    And, when bloggers were dogpiling on Howard Stern for various offenses, didn't I also defend him repeatedly?

    In numerous blog posts, the point has been made that Ann Coulter is little more than a political huckster and that this is her "shtick." If that is true, then under what theory would it be permissible for me (or anyone) to defend Howard Stern or P.T. Barnum while excoriating Ann Coulter? Merely because Ann Coulter's hucksterism is political in nature?

    Well then, what about Hal Lindsey, religious huckster? Isn't there a normal supposition that religious pronouncements are in the ordinary course of things more sincere and more principled than those of a circus showmaster or a "shock radio" host? In Lindsey's case, Dean Esmay made the point that the man had so discredited himself as to be a "complete phony lying fraud." Yet this is the land of opportunity -- a free country where people line up to see him and pay money for his books. Sounds a lot like Barnum to me. If Barnum billed one of his "freaks" as a "bearded lady," and it turned out to be a man in a dress, would anyone have been seriously surprised? Under the totality of the circumstances, would Barnum's claim really constitute fraud? Were his circus attendees really suckers, or were they simply people who wanted to be entertained? Why should Lindsey's suckers be seen differently? Don't they also seek entertainment?

    Isn't there such a thing as the doctrine of caveat emptor? If it applies to circuses, if it applies to Howard Stern, or Hal Lindsey, why shouldn't it apply to Ann Coulter?

    Do I sound sincere? (I wouldn't want to sound insincere about serious issues.)

    I think the moral objections to hucksterism (and yes, these are moral objections) arise from the sincerity issue. Barnum and Stern are seen as inherently insincere, and not serious, because they are entertainment.

    But aren't Lindsey and Coulter also entertainment? From any rational commercial standpoint, they are hot properties. The revenues they generate run into many millions. They are on TV, they titillate, they outrage. Sane and sober people debunk them, and angry cranks yell and scream at them. Just like Howard Stern and (probably in his day) P.T. Barnum.

    Someone help me here. I'm struggling once again to be rational in an irrational world.

    It's probably emotional escapism.

    (May the gods of entertainment forgive me.)

    posted by Eric at 08:36 AM | Comments (11)

    Long awaited joyous news !

    From the enemy comes "joyous news":

    Al-Qaida in Iraq confirmed al-Zarqawi's death and vowed to continue its "holy war," according to a statement posted on a Web site.

    "We want to give you the joyous news of the martyrdom of the mujahed sheik Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," said the statement, signed by "Abu Abdel-Rahman al-Iraqi," identified as the deputy "emir" or leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

    It isn't often I can agree with the enemy, but I join them in thanking God.

    Anyway martyr shmartyr! I love joyous news and I want more.

    MORE: Dean Esmay thinks the news is terrific if it's true and he has a roundup.

    AND MORE: Heads you lose, Zarqawi!


    MORE: Glenn Reynolds has a huge roundup. So does Pajamas Media.

    Glenn also touches on apparently conflicting reports that MSM reporters are applauding, and asks,

    Would it have been news if reporters had cheered the death of Heinrich Himmler in 1943? I doubt it.
    Had an American expressed sadness on the death of Himmler and blamed FDR for Himmler's activities, would an interview with him have been featured by big news networks? Would there have been worries that the death of Himmler might make FDR look good in the polls?

    MORE: Here's a picture I like better -- of Zarqawi before the cleanup:


    (Via Michelle Malkin, who has a photo roundup.)

    I hope his remains are cremated and disposed of at an undisclosed location -- like Eichmann's.

    posted by Eric at 07:49 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (2)

    Coulter war against conservative values?

    Via Pajamas Media, James Joyner has what I guess should be called an Ann Coulter roundup, and Ann doesn't seem to have too many friends right now in the right-of-center blogosphere.

    Whether it's just her shtick or a form of trolling, conservatives are complaining that it makes them look bad.

    Rick Moran, Don Surber, and The Political Pit Bull (now there's a name I can relate to) have all weighed in with excellent posts, and (via Glenn Reynolds) so have Captain Ed, Hugh Hewitt, and the Anchoress. I agree with Captain Ed that she's acting like Ted Rall by impugning the 9/11 families, and just as I condemned Rall for the same thing, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Sure, she has a First Amendment right to do these things. But she's enabling the left, every bit as much as Cindy Sheehan enables the right, whether she admits it or not.

    Regardless of her purpose, making conservatives look bad sure sells. Her book is portrayed very prominently at a local liberal bookstore where books by conservative authors (and even libertarian authors like Glenn Reynolds) are tough to find anywhere.

    According to Drudge, Ann has issued a broadside against Hillary:

    Nasty, eh? (The quote didn't last long at Drudge, but I copied and pasted it when it was still there.)

    I have to say that while I enjoy the comedic aspects of the bitchfight, I'm concerned that Hillary will be the ultimate beneficiary of it.

    This untimely outburst would seem to confirm my longtime suspicion that there are ideologues on the right who'd be happy to have Hillary Clinton in the White House.

    There's something else that's important to remember. Godless is not merely an attack on liberals; it's a major attack on evolution. That ought to be divisive enough to get conservatives fighting each other (even the ones who weren't already fighting), and in middle America, well, the anti-evolution meme goes over about as well as the Scopes monkey trial. Again, who benefits?

    All things considered, Glenn has good advice when he says "don't feed the trolls."

    (Somehow, though, I don't think Ann will deign to nibble on my measly crumbs, glad as I am to see her ad running here. I once had ads from Exodus, and I'm a strong believer in equal opportunism.)

    posted by Eric at 11:16 PM | Comments (5)

    Left behind? On the beach?

    Via Pajamas Media, Tim Blair is making fun of the people who are mad at people who made fun of the people who are mad at people for having fun warming the planet. (At least I hope I've got the factual scenario right.)

    There's nothing funny about college kids having beach parties when others are suffering from the warmth and need to go door to door to help return us to a cooler world.

    But the cooler world also throws parties. They might not be beach parties, but they're drafting beer instead of boys, and Jeff Goldstein is having a dilemma over whether to wear cool apparel:

    should I throw on a nice pair of kibbutz-crafted sandals and some knitted bracelets and try to convince everyone I’m the tambourinist for the Indigo Girls?
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I know that yesterday was a better day for apocalyptic doom, but I'm still thinking about a "left behind" issue.

    Why can't Atrios throw a beach party too instead of always having to be indoors at some cold bar in Chicago?

    Is it all about catastrophes like Global Warming? Or is he afraid someone might see a "left behind"?

    Or would that be a "moonbutt"?

    (I have deliberately failed to upload some highly relevant images, not because of any prudishness on my part, but because I don't believe in butting into anyone's privacy.)

    posted by Eric at 04:38 PM | Comments (2)

    Hey, Canada's a long way away!

    The Inquirer's Jennifer Moroz has a good writeup of the Canadian terror plot, noting that many Canadians behaved the same way their neighbors to the south are behaving -- with an "it can't happen here" attitude:

    Federal officials told them they were a target.

    So did Osama bin Laden.

    But Alicia Allison didn't really believe it. The 26-year-old hairstylist from Toronto still has trouble with the concept.

    "I can't understand why anyone would want to hurt us," she said.

    Let alone fellow countrymen.

    Like many other Canadians, Allison is trying to absorb the news that federal authorities this weekend arrested 17 people - mostly young men, all Canadian residents, and several born in Toronto - on charges of terrorism. They were allegedly plotting to storm Parliament, take hostages, behead the prime minister, and bomb undisclosed targets in Ontario, home to Toronto, the nation's largest city, and Ottawa, its capital.

    But -- but -- but -- Canadians are peaceful, right? Unlike the U.S., they're not mean to people and they don't run over sainted protesters with Caterpillar bulldozers!

    How could this happen? Why?

    It's not an easy thing to swallow for a country that has a reputation as a peaceful nation.

    This week, many of those citizens were taking a hard look at how their own way of life might have contributed to the threat.

    "There are a lot of Canadians who are a little disassociated from the crueler realities of the world," said John Thompson, president of the Mackenzie Institute, a Toronto think tank that studies terrorism and political instability. "They still have a view of us as a Boy Scout nation.

    "They think our army is an army of peacekeepers, the world loves us, thank God we're not with the Americans - inane thoughts. Those who do hold this opinion have just been hit with a bucket of cold water."

    Up until this weekend, many people believed that any extremists living in Canada were simply here to stage attacks on the United States, said Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

    Well, if they're simply there to stage attacks on the United States, I guess that's different. (I mean, it's not as if we were allies or anything.)

    Rudner continues:

    "A major lesson has been learned here," he said.
    Not by everyone -- especially those who think like so many of their counterparts in the United States.
    Others, including Canadian officials, think the nation's military role in Afghanistan has inspired hostility.

    Neil Sochasky is one of them.

    "I think Canada has been implicit in a lot of things the U.S. has done to cause animosity across the world," said the 26-year-old dancer, massage artist and Starbucks barista.

    "I'm surprised it's taken this long for something like this to arise in Canada."

    People who think like the massage artist will probably converge in a huddle of asking "Why do you behead us?" instead of asking why they've left themselves defenseless.

    Whatever happened to concerns over basic survival? Why would self-sufficient people here or in Canada exhibit such an obvious deer-caught-the-headlights mentality? Don't they know that such attitudes -- and denial -- are precisely the kind of thing that draws predators?

    Glenn Reynolds links to this citation of a Chicago Tribune editorial:

    The lack of any significant North American attack since Sept. 11, 2001, has lulled many Americans into thinking that preparedness, vigilance and resolve are yesterday's necessities. This Canadian case demonstrates the constant nature of the threat facing the U.S. and its allies--and the constant effort needed to preempt it.

    Ready as many of us are to condemn government agencies that fumble terror investigations, we tend to fall silent when investigators do foil deadly plots.

    If Canadian officials are correct, and if the FBI is right in saying two Georgia men met with some of the Canadians to assess bombing targets, then this takedown is a superb coup.

    The lesson in this case for Americans: Yes, it's tempting to yearn for the doe-eyed simplicity of Sept. 10, 2001. Provided we accept the fact that it isn't coming back.

    The Canadian variety of "it can't happen here" denial is a little easier to understand than ours, because after all, they never experienced 9/11 directly. And while it's tempting to criticize them for saying things like "thank God we're not with the Americans," attitudes here to the south right now seem to range from not knowing about the plot at all, to breathing a sigh of relief that it didn't happen here.


    (And that's not a sigh of relief!)

    posted by Eric at 03:36 PM | Comments (4)

    Chronic clucking of clueless cryptocratic copycats?

    University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos (who yesterday called Glenn Reynolds a "Bush dead-ender" and "jingoistic right-wing ideologue"), has an interesting idea about how to resurrect Bill Clinton which he shared recently. After complaining about the 22nd Amendment (which he claims "most people now agree... was a mistake") he offers an intriguing way to get around it:

    . . .[A]nyone who could devise some legal way to return Clinton to the presidency would be performing a service of such magnitude that he would deserve to have his statue adorn every public square of this great nation.

    I therefore submit the following proposal: When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., makes her long-expected announcement that she is running for president, she should also announce that her husband will be her running mate, and that, if elected, she will resign from office, effective Jan. 21, 2009.

    The meaning of the text of the 22nd Amendment could not be plainer. It reads, in relevant part, "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice." And, as legal scholars such as Justice Antonin Scalia have pointed out many times in recent years, when the meaning of a legal text is plain, it is both unnecessary and illegitimate to enforce anything other than that meaning.

    Thus, while Bill Clinton cannot be re-elected, nothing bars him from becoming president again. Indeed, one suspects that much of Hillary Clinton's status as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination is a product of the hope that, by electing her, the people would be re-electing her husband in all but name.

    Cute. But it's about as original as the Glenn Reynolds = right wing ideologue (even radical right wing agenda) meme.

    The idea of running a candidate's wife in order to reinstall a disqualified husband is at least as old as George Wallace -- who basically ran his wife Lurleen for governor when he couldn't run:

    In 1966, after failing to get the legislature to amend the constitution to allow governors to serve consecutive terms, George announced the candidacy of his wife Lurleen for governor. The couple admitted frankly that if Lurleen was elected, George would continue to make the administrative policies and decisions. Mrs. Wallace won the May Democratic primary with 54 percent of the vote which assured her election in November.
    Hillary running as a front for Bill was also a frequent topic on talk radio for many years.

    I don't think it's a winning platform -- especially for Hillary, who unless I am reading her wrong would very much want to be seen as earning the presidency on her own merits.

    In any case, I don't think it's fair to give Paul Campos credit for old ideas.

    In that respect, I agree with Glenn on another point:

    Hey, I should just be glad Campos didn't call me the Antichrist.
    I don't think Campos would have dared.

    If he had, he'd be the ultimate copycat. I'm only one copycat among many, but hell, at least I'm out of the closet about it, and I try to give credit to others. (Especially Frank J. who probably owns the copyright on the evil Glenn 666 meme if the full truth were told. . .)

    As to the copycat Glenn Reynolds Anti-Christ, here's my version from last year:


    Yes, dear friends, just as Hillary has long been considered a possible front candidate for Bill, Glenn has long been a right wing ideologue -- as well as a top contender for 666 anti-Christ Beast status.

    (So much for "ancient" issues.)

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM

    Understanding rage is a key issue

    There are a couple of interesting editorial pieces in today's Inquirer.

    Reacting to recent medical pronouncements about road rage, Claude Lewis weighs in against medicalization of bad behavior:

    There was a day when drug addiction, alcoholism and other pathologies were seen for what they were: human failures by individuals who had lost control of their lives. Today, however, is the day of Too Much Medicine.

    Today, all sorts of bad behavior is being reclassified - as one disease or another. The latest is something doctors are referring to as "intermittent explosive disorder" (IED). They're tying it to road rage, which erupts when one driver cuts off another and the battle begins.

    A new study by researchers from Harvard and the University of Chicago informs us that as many as 16 million people - mostly men - suffer from IED.

    Road rage is famously common. Sometimes the result is tragic; sometimes the rager dies, the rage-ee, or both. And innocent bystanders and passersby have been hurt or killed. Some ragers carry guns in the car and threaten drivers for only minor infractions.

    No doubt, this stuff is destructive and dangerous. And perhaps this new classification is true to the medical and scientific facts. But it shouldn't change this fact: If you give in to anger and hurt someone, you should be liable to punishment. Yes, even if you're a little less able to "help it" than someone else is. We should not let this study, and others like it, lend legitimacy to behavior that is more legitimately considered as... well, bad. And we should resist the trend toward "medicalizing" every human condition and behavior.

    Unless the person is so insane as to be incapable of understanding the difference between right and wrong, the extent to which he's unable to "help it" should not be a defense to to a criminal charge, although I think it's fair for judges to take these things into account at sentencing. Lewis is right that the labeling of bad behavior as "illness" creates confusion that leads inexorably towards allowing people to escape criminal liability. There's a growing chorus of "experts" who can be counted on to maintain that not only crime but virtually any bad behavior is caused by one "disease" or another. Children are medicated for not paying attention in class. Even bigotry has been proposed as a category of mental illness. (Does this mean that the psychiatric profession before 1973 suffered from mental illness?)

    Which leads to the other editorial by guest columnist Rae Theodore. Her car sports a Rainbow flag, which she displays as a symbol of gay pride. While the car was parked, someone came along and used a key to vandalize her flag -- an act she believes was a hate crime:

    The use of the rainbow flag as a symbol of gay pride started in 1978, when it first appeared in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Almost 30 years later, the flag still flies around the world as a symbol of gay pride and diversity. You'll see many of them in town this week as Philadelphia hosts its own gay pride parade and festival.

    Although this symbol might seem innocuous, I am currently experiencing a personal rainbow dilemma. You see, as a lesbian, I am a fan of the rainbow. I wear a rainbow silicone bracelet with imprints of the word PROUD and the Human Rights Commission's equality logo. When it comes to spending my money, I look for rainbow peace signs on the doors of business establishments. I smile when I see a rainbow bear sticker on a car parked next to mine at the local movie theater or a rainbow sticker on the back of a car caught in Shore traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway.

    I drive a car that has a skinny 14-inch-long rainbow bumper sticker on the back, right above my license plate. In the past, I've noticed scratches on my 10-year-old vehicle in the vicinity of the sticker. Being a positive thinker, I have refused to give in to the notion that anyone has ever keyed my car because it sports a symbol of gay pride. I've attributed the various scratches and blemishes around the sticker area to normal wear and tear, as well as the carelessness of my young son.

    However, a few days ago, my car was intentionally damaged for the sole reason, I believe, that it has a gay-pride symbol. The vandalism occurred when I was shopping with my son in the suburbs. When we returned to the car after shopping, I noticed that someone had taken an object, most likely a key, and gouged into the paint and metal of the automobile in several places right above my rainbow sticker. In addition, two slashes had been made through the indigo and violet sections of the sticker.

    Initially, I was angry and wanted to speak to a store manager and insist that security tapes of the parking lot be reviewed. I thought about calling the police and sparking a thorough hate-crimes investigation. Ultimately, I decided against taking any action as I had my son with me and he had declared this day the best one of his young life. (He had just purchased a Nintendo GameBoy system and two Star Wars games with his birthday money.)

    Soon after we returned home and I had put away our purchases, my anger faded to sadness. I was hurt that someone would damage my property simply because I am gay. I also experienced fear.

    While I never especially liked the Rainbow Flag, vandalism is vandalism, and Ms. Theodore has my sympathies. There is no more right to deface someone's rainbow flag sticker than there would be a right to deface a black pride sticker or a Jesus sticker. If a Jesus sticker (say, a fish logo) is similarly defaced, would that mean that the vandal committed a hate crime motivated by religious intolerance? Suppose it was an atheist sticker?

    Or, suppose it was a Bush sticker. Last year (after Dennis told me about it) I photographed a Bush sign which had been vandalized right on the wall of someone's home.

    Whether these acts mean that the vandal hated gays, Christians, or Republicans (I suppose these three groups are not mutually exclusive), or whether he hated the message on the sticker is always tough to determine without getting inside the mind of the vandal. But if bigotry is a disease (which words like "homophobia" and "Christophobia" clearly imply), then is it really fair to penalize the mental illness as an additional crime beyond the act of vandalism? If, on the other hand, bigotry is not a disease but a thought process, then should it become a separate thought crime?

    I don't think hatred is mental illness -- any more than "intermittent explosive disorder." If someone's hatred makes him so unable to control himself that he attacks someone or commits vandalism, he should not be allowed to escape punishment.

    Whether some hatred is more permissible than others is a much more complicated question. Are road ragers less morally culpable than car keying bigots? What if someone displays road rage against the driver of a car with a bumpersticker that infuriates him and makes him lose control? Has a Kerry driver ever cut off a Bush driver or vice versa? Has an aggressively-jacked-up 4 wheeler pickup with an NRA sticker ever tailgated a gentle Subaru with a Rainbow Flag? (I'd be willing to bet these things have happened, but would that make them hate crimes?)

    These things are traditionally left up to judges, not psychiatrists.

    I certainly wouldn't leave any of this up to activists. They have a tendency to take sides, and judge people based on their political preferences.

    What about my Confederate Rainbow Flag design? I meant it as satire, but if I printed one of these and put it on my car, might people take it the wrong way?


    Yeah, they might. It might cause confusion -- especially if viewed by the inattentive, or the color blind. Or it might be construed as "hate speech" by angry gay activists, or angry Confederate activists. I guess there aren't too many angry gay Confederate activists. (But if there were, they'd have plenty to be angry about, wouldn't they?)


    Can't we get along?

    Perhaps I should add a slogan like "THIS IS SATIRE. PLEASE DON'T HURT ME!"

    MORE: My thanks to Pajamas Media for linking this post!

    UPDATE (06/09/06): My thanks to Van at Kesher Talk for linking this post and for the very kind words. Van also posed an interesting question:

    What are the odds that Scheie and a hardy band of Dixie-whistling gay Confederate militants would be embraced and welcomed to the New York Gay Pride march on June 25, in the spirit of tolerance for diverse viewpoints?
    The registration form is here. I'm tempted, even though the June 2 deadline has passed. As a descendant of a Union veteran, I especially like the diversity idea, and I think these T-shirts would complement the flag.


    Appropriate accessorizing might present legal problems in New York City. . .

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

    Some words on translation

    People who can't write shouldn't. At least not for publication. Dialogue (or monologue, as the case may be) is notorious because idiom shifts and is never easy to capture even by those for whom the idiom is natural. That's why Mark Twain's achievement is so remarkable: his characters, particularly in Huck Finn, are detailed, dialectically distinct, and still believable so many years later. If you compare anything from that book with the scrapped episode on the raft, which Twain printed in Life on the Mississippi as a taste of the character and language of keelboatmen, you'll quickly see the difference between an immature effort and the real thing. Here's a sampling:

    "Whoo-oop! I 'm the old original iron-jawed, brass-mounted, copper-bellied corpse-maker from the wilds of Arkansas!--Look at me! I 'm the man they call Sudden Death and General Desolation! Sired by a hurricane, dam'd by an earthquake, half-brother to the cholera, nearly related to the small-pox on the mother's side! Look at me! I take nineteen alligators and a bar'l of whiskey for breakfast when I'm in robust health, and a bushel of rattlesnakes and a dead body when I'm ailing! I split the everlasting rocks with my glance, and I squench the thunder when I speak! Whoo-oop! Stand back and give me room according to my strength! Blood's my natural drink, and the wails of the dying is music to my ear! Cast your eye on me, gentlemen!--and lay low and hold your breath, for I'm bout to turn myself loose!"

    I defy you to find anything as awkward or unnatural in Huck Finn or any of Twain's later works. This should go some length to establish just how difficult it is, even for a good writer, to produce dialogue that feels real.

    And I say this because it has been a common practice for some time to insult successive generations with translations for the 'now generation.' I use that ridiculously dated phrase for a reason, and that is to point up the kinds of silly things translators of classical texts will do in a vain effort to 'speak to the kids.'

    One of the worst examples I can think of at the moment is Peter Green's oddly racist turn in a piece from the Roman satirist Juvenal. Green, by the way, was translating during a high point in the civil rights movment, publishing his translation in 1967. Satire II.23 reads 'loripedem rectus derideat, Aethiopem albus,' which says simply, 'the upright may laugh at the bowlegged, the white man at the Ethiopian.' Green rendered this 'It takes a hale man to mock a cripple and you can't bait niggers when you're tarred with the same brush.'

    The problems here should be clear. Aethiops didn't have the connotation that Green injected into the passage. This was clearly an effort to make the passage 'relevant,' but it's dishonest to suggest that Roman attitudes were the same or even that the passage suggests the open display of mockery. The word he chose is fraught with a very specific cultural history, and the metaphor employed seems unwarranted in light of the fact that the Latin had no metaphor. It was a simple statement of social reality, best translated by a simple statement.

    It's not that the racist sentiment is entirely lacking, but the translation is entirely misleading in its effort to be 'with it' and translate idiom far beyond the information given.

    This is especially troubling when we consider that the poem is essentially an indictment of Rome for taking a passive role on the world stage while putting up a false front, and this indictment comes by way of a lengthy mocking of the passive partner in homosexual sex, particularly men who pretend to be straight.

    (In the interest of full disclosure, Juvenal treats homosexuality as a sickness and has pity on those who are openly effeminate while feeling disgust at those who are not, as though being gay were incompatible with a 'manly' spirit. Also in the interest of full disclosure, it's still open for debate whether Juvenal personally held these views -- it is, afterall, satire.)

    Green's over-translation of Aethiops is contrasted with his 'under-translation' elsewhere.

    Witness the lines which precede that quoted. Juvenal expresses his distaste for people who put on shows of culture but lack any real learning, measuring their intellect by owning 'intellectual' things like busts of Aristotle or books by Cleanthes, an obscure Stoic. 'Frontis nulla fides,' he cries: 'the surface can't be trusted.' A modern professor might translate that line as 'don't believe the hype!,' instructing her students to imagine Public Enemy's Flavor Flav as the speaker, though students today won't know Public Enemy's music. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

    Juvenal asks if any area of town is lacking in such disgrace, then seems to turn on one imagined listener to say, 'You've got a problem with disgraceful things when you're one of the best known ditches among the Socratic catamites?' It was a greater reproach among the Romans to receive than to give, and Juvenal here uses a powerful metaphor in conjunction with a bare insult: cinaedus ('catamite,' 'pathic') is a derogatory term, but notissima fossa, 'best known ditch,' dehumanizes the target and says metaphorically that countless men have dug deep into him. That's the power of metaphor, and it needs to be retained with it's original power.

    What does Green do, Green who made the racism racier than it was? He softens Juvenal by writing 'the most notorious dyke among all our Socratic fairies.' What's dyke doing there, if not to be mildly clever, and why fairies, unless to be contemporary? A dike (for which dyke is an alternate spelling) is usually a raised embankment, though it may refer to a ditch. All the force is gone. I suspect he chose the word because with this spelling it can refer to gay women, but the image which Juvenal intends, that of frequent sexual penetration by several men upon one, is completely eroded and replaced by a banal English phrase that hardly amounts to insult.

    Further, why say 'nigger' for Ethiopian but render rectum as 'passage' and avoid rebuking those who clunem agitant, i.e., 'keep their asses busy,' by writing 'to cock his dish like a perfect lady'?:

    ... sed peiiores, qui talia uerbis
    Herculis inuadunt et de uirtute locuti 20
    clunem agitant. ...

    'But they're worse who rail against such things with Herculean speech and apart from their virtue in word (i.e., not in deed) keep their asses busy.'

    'To cock his dish?' Green's version is nonsensical, but in it we see one of the most grating effects of the tranlations of modern professors: the conversational conceit. 'Perfect' is a favorite word, especially of translators of Green's generation. It felt to them like something a person would actually say when mocking someone: 'well, isn't he the perfect. little. soldier! Ha HA!'

    The problem is that people who do talk like that are annoying, not funny. Good writers will only annoy when they want to.

    But this is another generation, and professors must keep publishing inaccurate adaptations that speak to no one because tenure demands that they publish or die. Funnily enough I had no intention of blogging about Peter Green or Juvenal, but that one example came to mind. My real target was very different, and much more contemporary, but the issues are essentially the same.

    There's a new translation of three plays by the early Roman comic poet Plautus, and this one is, again, aimed at the 'now generation.' It's been reviewed in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review receiving mixed marks by a Dutch scholar who admits to being puzzled by much of what he reads there but agrees in principle with the philosophy behind the edition.

    He quotes the translation, by USC classicist Amy Richlin, and actually calls it 'daring':

    "Bowman (to himself): 'The dude who first set out to go on the road of love without no dough, / this guy had to go through way more shit than all them Labors of Hercules. / Man, I'd rather duke it out with the lion, the snake, the deer, that A-rab mummy,/ the birds that swamp in ancient Greece, or even with the Incredible Hulk,/ than with Love; that's why I'm goin nuts and tryin to borrow some dough, / but folks I ask don't know how to say nothin to me but "ain't no way"'."

    This small sample immediately shows some of the major characteristics of Richlin's daring approach: Plautus' Latin is not neutrally rendered as if it were no different from classical prose of the highest standards. Instead it is radically transposed into fully modern forms, in this case a rap text, with all the stylisticelements and effects that go with the genre, even down to the level of orthography. There is nothing dull or purely academic in these lines, but the text is lively and entertaining: Plautus has unquestionably been freshened up.

    The 'dull' and 'purely academic' translation he's refering to is that of the Loeb Classical Library, which is overly wordy but easier to read because it doesn't insult the intelligence of the reader:

    "Enter Toxilus, in low spirits, from the forum. 'The lover that first set out on the highways of love with an empty purse went in for harder labours than Hercules. Why, I had rather wrestle with the lion, or the Hydra, or the stag, or the Aetolian boar, or the Stymphalian birds, or Antaeus, than with Love. Such a devil of a time as I'm having, just looking for a loan--and the people I ask, all they know how to answer is "Can't be done"'."

    I'll just quote the Latin for those who are wondering, with my own translation, which I think is both more faithful, more readable, and more lasting than Richlin's already passée pass at youth-speak:

    Qui amans egens ingressus est princeps in Amoris vias,
    superavit aerumnis suis aerumnas Herculi.
    nam cum leone, cum excetra, cum cervo, cum apro Aetolico,
    cum avibus Stymphalicis, cum Antaeo deluctari mavelim,
    quam cum Amore: ita fio miser quaerendo argento mutuo, 5
    nec quicquam nisi 'non est' sciunt mihi respondere quos rogo.

    Whoever, lovesick and destitute, first set out in search of love outdid the suffering of Hercules' through his own. The lion, the snake, the deer, the Aetolian boar, the Stymphalean birds, Antaeus -- I'd rather get mixed up with them than with love. I've got a hard enough time looking for money; no one I ask knows how to say anything but 'got none.'

    Is that boring? It's at least accurate and readable. I don't think anyone, teenager or not, would prefer Richlin's faithless and unaesthetic adaptation, which actually absolves college students of looking up mythological references by replacing them with comic book characters and -- what's this? An 'A-rab' mummy?

    That one isn't even in the Latin: it's substituted by the translator for the Aetolian boar. Are we seeing here a kind of injection of 'relevance' into the text? The dumb kid who, shucks, just don't know nothin' 'bout this crazy world, gettin' hist'ry and jography all mixed up 'cuz he's too busy eatin' Big Macs and playing video games, and bummin' change, dude? There may be something to that, because Richlin is interested in Roman conceptions of what she has called 'slave geography' in a paper related to the work that went into this translation, and has renamed the plays with titles like 'Iran Man' and 'Towelheads.' -- Shades of what Green did to Juvenal.

    Modern attitudes about modern attitudes about the Middle East seem to be injected into the opening lines of the play and confused, possibly in a bit of commentary about the ignorance of both Romans and Americans: afterall, 'the Other' is all others. Of course this is guesswork. But what else could the 'A-rab mummy' mean, written as though spoken in the 'redneck' dialect?

    Aside from oddities like this, the speech reads like so many comedy bits about yuppie parents trying their damnedest to speak the lingo of their kids (if you've seen Better Off Dead with John Cusack you know what I mean). The truth, professor? It's painful to read, and if your students think it's 'cool,' they're lying. Or they're unrepresentative.

    But let's return to the review. Did he say daring?

    What in the world is daring about schlocky tripe dressed up in artificial and outmoded idioms? We should be glad this particular translation wasn't attempted in the 80s when the translator's 'rap' style would have gone something like, [stage direction: Toxilus enters with ghetto blaster] 'Well my name's T-bone, and I'm here to say, that love is whack in e-ve-ry way!' The kids'll love it!

    That's got nothing in common with classical prose, but neither has it anything to do with Plautus. Richlin's version is little better, and it's far from daring. It's downright pedestrian.

    To be fair the reviewer has some reservations, and they're sensible:

    R.'s book seems intended for an educated, American, Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking audience of 2005 that is also thoroughly familiar with Hollywood movies and cartoons, TV and show business, and mass culture in general. But what will an audience make of this material ten years from now? Or how will it appeal to a non-American audience today?

    I'd take issue with the 'educated' part, but okay. As it turns out, the translator apparently does cite Public Enemy, as I jokingly suggested earlier. The problem? I'm 29 and thoroughly familiar with Public Enemy, but my friends in the lower to mid-20s have only the slightest familiarity with the group if they have any at all. What young audience will get it? She argues though, as translators often do, that the plays should be translated and adapted often. So maybe in ten years someone will adapt Richlin's translation with references to Eminem to make it 'relevent' to the next generation of 30somethings.

    The reviewer aptly asks, 'do we have to translate every play of Plautus in a thousand different versions for every possible audience in every country and age? That would be impractical, to say the least.'

    Now the question is, should we begin translating Shakespeare to keep him relevant?

    posted by Dennis at 11:01 PM | Comments (10)

    New perspective on D-Day

    While this piece of satire was written last year, it has a timeless sort of quality, so I think it's appropriate to share:

    The Americans came in killing like mad men, I never thought I would say this, but life was better with Adolf Hitler.

    June 6th, 1944 — Normandy

    Around three hundred French civilians were murdered yesterday and an undetermined number were injured during the first hours of the American invasion of continental Europe. Most of the French victims were due to artillery shots coming from the American fleet that was trying to hit German fortifications on the coast before thousands of soldiers proceeded to land on several of the beaches.

    According to sources in the improvised hospital in the town of Saint Mere Eglise, the slaughter was worse than French and Germans anticipated. “We are dropping like flies” said an eye witness who preferred to remain anonymous. “The Americans came in killing like mad men, I never thought I would say this, but life was better with Adolf Hitler.”

    According to information coming from the front, the American invasion caused serious environmental damage. The army brigade that landed on the beaches is equipped with tanks, trucks and war machinery that destroyed several kilometers of coastline and thousands of hectares of very ecologically interesting wetlands. It is believed that the lazy crab’s habitat, native to this part of France, has been totally devastated; biologists warned the species might disappear . . .

    There's more, of course, and it's a fun piece.

    As it happens, I've been reading a lot about the Holocaust lately, in numbing detail, and is definitely not fun. Babies thrown alive into the crematory ovens. Trains so crammed with Jews that when they arrived at the death camp all were suffocated. Jews herded into gas chambers which didn't work so that they had to wait for three hours while the Nazis got the gas working. Children and the elderly being simply buried alive to save Einsatzgruppen bullets. Country after country, death camp after death camp, killing pit after killing pit, ghetto after ghetto, town after town, and shtetl after shetl. Grim atrocity after grim atrocity. Seriously, it is not easy to read about it, but that's what I've been doing for the past week.

    By the way, you don't have to read books like these. Looking at pictures will do almost as well.

    Sixty two years ago today, Americans made an enormous sacrifice which eventually led to stopping these atrocities. I wasn't even born, so I'm in no position to deliver moral lectures.

    But I've read enough to know the difference between Nazism and incidents like a soldier who let his dog bark too closely at a prisoner. (And who was tried and convicted for his crimes.)

    Contemplating the full horror -- the scope and brutality -- of the Nazi Holocaust offers something in short supply lately.

    A thing called perspective.

    posted by Eric at 10:19 PM | Comments (2)

    Neither Promotion nor Prevention be!

    Time for a little international news.

    Never one to flee from a ghost (loud groan!), Nick Packwood (fresh from a little blasphemy-blogging) links a Guardian piece about the curse still haunting the Guildford Cathedral, site of the 1976 Omen film:

    ....the negative connotations of this scene from the 1976 horror film The Omen have overshadowed Guildford cathedral, where it is set, for 30 years. Now the cathedral's dean, Victor Stock, has used the release of a remake of the film to launch a scathing attack against all those concerned.

    Stock believes that The Omen should never have been produced and has urged audiences to stay away from director John Moore's new version, released this week, which stars Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Michael Gambon and Pete Postlethwaite. The film follows the assimilation of the 'son of the Devil', Damien, into an ordinary family, who are soon the centre of tragic and bizarre events. The story takes its inspiration from the Bible's Book of Revelation which purportedly predicts the rise of the Antichrist.

    Stock said: 'It was a disaster, it should never have been done. People who were a bit thick were frightened to come into the building. If I was dean then, I never would have allowed it. After that, the damage was done.

    Nick, who thinks the cathedral's dean protesteth too much, nevertheless agrees with him on one virtue:
    Dean Stock and I are at least in lock-step agreement about the virtue of stawing away from this remake. A remastered, rerelease of the original for today's auspicious 6/6/06 date would have been clever and respectful. Using Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles as grotesque meat-puppets in a scene-by-scene remake is just panto without the jolly hockey sticks and the warm glow of gin, tonic and good company. "Michael Gambon should know better." Quite right.
    Grotesque meat puppets? Sounds like the Six Hundred and Sixty Sixth Sick Sheikh's Six Hundred and Sixty Sixth Sheep's Sick to me!

    You never find me promoting such stuff! (I saw Brokeback Mountain and grew so tired of the sheep that I never bothered to count them.)

    But to promote and to prevent! That is the question for the Saudi religious police, who have announced a crackdown on magicians and sorcerers for (what else?) blasphemy:

    RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's powerful morality police is launching a witch hunt in the birthplace of Islam.

    The Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is setting up special centers in all cities to "register complaints on sorcerers and charlatans, track them and terminate them," the authority's chief Sheikh Ibrahim bin Abdallah al-Ghaith told al-Madinah newspaper.

    Islam forbids magic and practicing it is considered blasphemy.

    I'm thinking The Omen might not be ready for the Saudi market, but I could be wrong.

    I haven't seen the film, and I don't know whether I dare. For starters, I have a strange and unexplainable tattoo that appeared on my body during adolescence. And from Dean Esmay's discussion of Anti-Christ Big Business, I learned that God does not hear the prayers of a tattooed man:

    Supposedly Islamic Fundamentalists are now the forces of the anti-Christ. Which is kind of funny, because the Muslims believe Jesus is coming back too, and they hope to follow him. And, they aren't allowed to put any marks on their body, which would kind of ruin that whole "mark of the beast" schtick the forces of Satan are supposed to put on their bodies. Don't laugh, I've had Christians try to tell me that soon Muslims will accept "the mark of the beast" on their hands or foreheads. No lie. Thank you total fraud Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, and the rest of their den of thieves.
    This cursed apocalyptic doom magical blasphemy business sure gets complicated, doesn't it?

    I'm having lots of trouble with interpretation today.

    (I'd consult a classical augur, but I generally say "Baah" to magic!)

    UPDATE (6/6/6): Today just keeps getting more and more complicated. Now it's Glenn Reynolds the anti-Christ, exposed and damned forever with irrefutable numbers. Glenn avoids the issue by raising pay issues, which is not surprising in light of his 666 Satanic posts per day.

    (Actually, my suspicions were raised last year when Glenn was accused of helping the Anti-Christ Liberties Union.)

    MORE (6/6/6): Dean Esmay links this post, adding that it's "nice to see the Saudis have at least made it as far as the 17th century." (Might that be 1666?)

    posted by Eric at 03:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Can't get none?

    At the risk of sounding irrational, that last post wasn't emotionally satisfying enough!

    That's because I barely explored the underlying issue of why people don't mind spending more money on things that are not in their apparent rational interest, while refusing to buy things (or do things) that are.

    This begs the question of what is rational. In my haste to utilize logic and reason in analyzing these things, I often forget that what people seek is emotional satisfaction. The latter is such an important component of life that without it, people flounder around aimlessly. That is, until someone or something comes along and offers them emotional satisfaction.

    Let me return to the example of the intelligent cashier who dared to disclose his employer's deep dark secret (the knowledge that people don't check the unit prices). The man is intelligent and witty, and spices up his checkout line with all kinds of remarks. Flattery for some, sarcastic asides for others -- he's a natural entertainer who knows what his customers enjoy hearing. For that reason, his checkout lines are much longer. (Something which I am sure does not go unnoticed by management, so I'm not disclosing the store name or location.) People who are in a hurry or don't like him use another line, but as to the people who like him, well, I suspect that some of them come to the store just because he's there, and if he quit they might go to another supermarket. (There are a number of choices.) Is it in the rational interest of these customers to spend more time in line? That depends on what you consider rational. Far be it from me to declare that emotional satisfaction is irrational, because what we like and what we don't like are of paramount importance in deciding what to do.

    This principle can be carried too far. When I used to sell real estate in California, I prided myself in knowing what people wanted, and matching them with what I thought would be the perfect house. I found one couple a house in the Berkeley Hills which was underpriced because an elderly owner had died there, and no one had bothered to spiff the place up. No big deal; just minor cosmetic stuff. This house had everything they wanted -- the view, the right number of rooms, big kitchen, but there was a problem. The husband liked the house, but his wife could not stand the fact that the kitchen was painted green.

    "I HATE green kitchens!" she said. No amount of rational talk on my part (that it would cost less than $1000.00 to paint it, etc.) could get her past that.

    "Sorry, but my wife will not consider a green kitchen," was the husband's final answer.

    I thought they were crazy. But then, I'd bought and sold enough property, and been a landlord long enough that I was color blind about such things.

    You think that's crazy? Let's look at the shiny-car-door-handles-and-shiny-hubcaps principle. I will never forget as long as I live my experience as an auto mechanic at a used car dealer in Richmond, California. He extended credit to "high risk" buyers no other dealer would touch, and among other things, he'd occasionally press me into service doing repossessions, which went a long way towards instilling in me an appreciation for our Second Amendment. But what I learned above all from this guy was the P.T. Barnum principle that people are not rational. That they don't mind being swindled as long as they acheive emotional satisfaction in the process.

    I'll never forget a 1965 Dodge Polara which barely ran, for which my boss paid $25.00 and turned around sold for $799.95 (on credit of course). I'll spare most of the details, but the car was a rustbucket which a dying man had managed to drive all the way to California, where he promptly unloaded it to my boss. As the old man took the money and slowly walked away, I wondered how long he had left. Much like the old man, the car was literally falling apart; it leaked oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and probably embalming fluid. Plus, the engine ran on four or five out of its eight cylinders, and if you could get it to start it smoked and belched. Instead of euthanasia, I performed a down-and-dirty valve job (which consisted of pulling the heads, removing a couple of badly burnt valves, then pulling valves out of a couple of extra heads we had lying around and hand grinding the valves with lapping compound so they more or less fit). Considering the overall state of the car, this resulted in a miraculous resurrection. The car stop smoking, and actually sounded as if it had a real engine.

    But a functional engine, while of interest to me as a mechanic, was a secondary consideration to my boss. His (and his customers') primary concern involved shined hubcaps and sparkling door handles -- on the inside and out. Never mind the huge rust holes! I was forced to use SOS pads on the hubcaps and the door handles, and a missing door handle had to be replaced with a shiny Buick door handle from our scrap pile (the fit was incompatible, so it had to be drilled and screwed on in a manner offensive to my then-still-snobbish sense of what was right).

    As it turned out, the customer (a female convict recently released from prison) cared more about the door handles and hubcaps than anything else. She liked the shiny Buick one more than the existing Dodge Polara one on the other side and asked me to put another Buick one on so they'd match. Concerns with such trivia in the face of this wreck of a car struck me as insane at the time. But looking back, I see the same mechanism which I saw years later with the green kitchen.

    To most people, these apparently minor things are not rational. But to complain that they are not misses the issue of whether emotional satisfaction is rational. Considering that emotional satisfaction is a driving force in the economy, the question is probably worth asking.

    Years ago, I didn't find slide rules emotionally satisfying, but others did. Even today, there are a lot of things I don't find emotionally satisfying while others do.

    Might emotional satisfaction be one of those things where the irrational can become rational? Or are we talking about appearances of rationality? Do irrational people get emotional satisfaction from being told falsely that they're actually more rational than others? (Er, more reality based?)

    Gee. What if emotional satisfaction is a factor in people's political thinking? Can such things be?

    Actually, the process is probably more rational than is commonly believed. As I keep saying, I have no quarrel with emotional satisfaction as a motivational factor, and like nearly everyone I need emotional satisfaction, and I will spend more time and pay more money to get it -- even at the risk of being irrational. I just have this sneaking feeling that the pursuit of emotional satisfaction can either create or take advantage of a certain blind spot, and that a lot of people who think they are behaving in a rational manner (myself included) are actually seeking emotional satisfaction without realizing it.

    In short, I worry that emotional hucksters get away with more than they should, and that this can lead to emotional exhaustion -- especially when Huckster B tells his suckers that they're "victims" of Huckster A and vice versa.

    I hate to be emotional, but find the whole process emotionally unsatisfying in the extreme. While it's bad enough seeing victims line up to be swindled time and time again, what really galls me is when I have to hear them complain. I wouldn't mind so much if the complaining occurred because they've finally figured things out for themselves. But when another swindler comes along and tells them they're victims, I fear that the "new converts" are just repeating the same old emotional satisfaction cycle, and my dark side wishes they'd just smarten up.

    (Or at least stop yelling.)

    MORE: Via Pajamas Media, Dean Esmay explores a related version of the scam involving religious huckster Hal Lindsey, who's been rewriting and re-spinning his Apocalyptic interpretations almost too many times to count. As Dean says, the man has no shame. But since when did shame have anything to do with offering people the emotional satisfaction that they crave? I think it takes great talent to get people to keep coming back and lining up for more even after your original hoax has been discredited. Having shame would only get in the way.

    Lindsey reminds me of the people who claim that they are going to get socialism right this time. Interestingly enough, both groups share a common need to elevate emotional satisfaction above reason. Whether the leaders truly believe what they say or are shameless demagogues is tough to pin down in every case. The bottom line is that if enough people want something, someone will offer it.

    (Welcome to the marketplace of ideas, I guess . . .)

    posted by Eric at 10:09 AM | Comments (5)

    What I learned in the second grade was wrong!

    I never thought I'd write a post about such a mundane topic as peanut butter, but here I am, doing just that.

    Where it comes to buying peanut butter (a staple food for me), I'm one of those cheapskates who couldn't care less about brand loyalty; I buy whatever is on sale. Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan, the store brands -- they're all the same to me. I just buy the cheapest I see on sale, based on the lowest unit price per pound.

    While I hadn't paid too much attention to container sizes, I couldn't help noticing that I almost always buy the small (18 oz.) jars because they are cheaper per pound than the larger sizes. Robotic linear thinker that I am in these situations, I simply contented myself to buying lots of small jars. Sure, I go through them faster, but so what? On those rare occasions when the unit sale price is cheaper for a larger jar, I'm happier to have it, because it will last longer.

    What jolted me into writing this post was a conversation in which I was told emphatically (by someone with expertise about such things) that the smaller sizes "always" cost more per pound. Not being one to argue, I thought that maybe I'd been wrong, and perhaps I was being swindled without realizing it. (After all, I hadn't paid much attention.) The conversation triggered a childhood memory in which I distinctly recall being told (by a female second grade teacher, I think) that it is "always" cheaper to buy food in larger sizes, because the more quantity you buy, the lower the price per pound.

    Now I had to find out.

    So the next time I went to the store I did two things. First, I checked the prices very carefully, and sure enough, the cheapest unit price was $1.60 per pound for the 18 oz. size of the store brand. There was a larger (28 oz.) size also on sale, but it was a whopping $1.92 per pound! That's substantially more.

    One of the cashiers has worked at my local supermarket for a long time, and I consider him a friend. He is a highly intelligent, friendly, and no b.s. kind of guy, which means that he'd never be made the store manager even though he'd do a far better job than anyone else. I knew he'd give me the true scoop.

    I was pretty sure I'd already figured out what was going on: more people want the larger size, because it lasts longer, and because they think they're saving money. Sure enough, the cashier confirmed my suspicions.

    "They know that hardly anyone checks the unit price per pound," he said.

    He also told me that it was the same deal with cream cheese. People just assume the larger size is cheaper per pound.

    Is there anything dishonest about this?

    Frankly, I don't think there is. They are clearly displaying the unit price per pound, and I have been buying the smaller, cheaper sizes without giving it a second thought. That other people don't bother to read the prices isn't the store's fault. Besides, many of them would buy the larger size anyway, even if they knew it cost more, because it's more convenient.

    Parenthetically, and at the risk of sounding crazy, why am I thinking that many of these people (who apparently don't mind spending an extra 30 cents per pound for peanut butter when they don't have to) will go out of their way to save a nickel a gallon for gas? Are they crazy, or is it just me?

    Sheesh, I just found a consumer warning about this very issue:

    Be careful of the bulk size boondoggle. While buying a larger size is frequently cheaper it isn't always. In fact retailers sometimes charge a higher unit price for the economy size. Not only in grocery sections can this occur, but also in health and beauty aisles as well. Again, the unit cost price is your financial friend in revealing what you are really paying.
    All I can say is DUH! (Although I hope that they've revised the second grade curriculum since I was there!)

    For many years I lived in a crummy Berkeley neighborhood which had a lot of low income, Section 8 apartment buildings, drive-by shootings, that sort of thing. There was a Safeway a few blocks away and a local liquor store and "convenience" store which sold groceries at prices I thought laughable. It never ceased to amaze me how able bodied adults would prefer to spend a lot more money on groceries at ripoff prices rather than walk an extra two blocks to Safeway. They weren't being ripped off, though. They were paying more for the convenience. I never felt sorry for them at all, as I considered them fully capable of making choices.

    Others used to tell me that the corner store was "taking advantage" of "the poor." Were they? What advantage was being taken? If I were wiped out financially and had to get by on food stamps or something, I'd buy rice, beans, powdered milk and tortillas for whatever were the lowest prices I could find, and I'd have food for the month. If someone else wants to buy grape soda and cheese puffs at $4.95 a bag, why is he being taken advantage of any more than I am? Don't we both have the same ability to select which items to buy? Unless the person is mentally retarded or something, I've never understood the "taking advantage" argument. Sounds like "exploitation" (another meaningless word). Or insisting that "the poor" have a "right" to live in Manhattan at an "affordable rent."

    Then there's "economic apartheid." This ill-defined concept (dreamed up by Harvard Ph.Ds who specialize in undefined undefinables) involves things like "forcing" poor people to things like use check cashing centers instead of banks, and furniture rental stores instead of thrift stores. I mean, really, if you can't afford a new couch or a TV, there are plenty of used ones for sale cheap. Why would anyone pay more to rent a new item for one month than it costs to buy it used?

    Beats me. But then, I'd never buy a new car either. That's because if I did buy a new car, it would substantially decrease in value as soon as I drove it off the lot. Yet as I say this, I recognize that many people love to buy new cars. They have every right to pay more for what they like, and it's good for the economy.

    It's just that if I have to hear that they've been taken advantage of or something, I get worried that we're all being forced into a vast national kindergarten.

    That's a fate worse than repeating the second grade.

    MORE: My thanks to Charles Hill for the link, and his wise observation that you can't legislate thrift.

    And Arnold Kling (via Glenn Reynolds) has a must read article in TCS on libertarianism and poverty.

    posted by Eric at 07:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    A victory prayer (which I share)

    Via Pajamas Media, Jay Rosen has a thorough, link-filled analysis of the recent takeover of the Philadelphia Inquirer and what it might mean. His conclusion:

    I don’t have any advice for the people in Philly. Too early. Like Meyer, I’m excited to see what happens. My prayer for the Philly papers is simple. I pray for glorious victory over the people who already know.
    There has been a good deal of local grumbling and fear-mongering over the change, which I discussed earlier.

    So far, I haven't seen any change in editorial policies. Despite my disagreements (especially over gun issues), the Inquirer is a fine newspaper with a devoted staff, a well-established, blog-savvy online presence, and an editor (Amanda Bennett) whose courage is second to none. The common goal of the new owners and the existing staff is success, and I see no rational reason why differences in political philosophy should stand in the way.

    The idea that the new owners would actually do something like impose an ideological litmus test on editorial policies strikes me as too ridiculous for serious discussion. (For starters it would be bad for business.) Inevitably, I think that the new ownership will tend to create a public perception of heightened political diversity at the Inquirer, and I suppose that could create excitement. But since when does excitement hamper success?

    posted by Eric at 08:45 AM

    Watergate nostalgia

    Watergate prostitution involving the CIA?

    Please. This is getting old.

    (And I do mean old.)

    posted by Eric at 07:47 AM

    Running away from pet neutrality issues . . .

    Long drive today! (Which means no blogging, probably until tomorrow.)

    And while master's away, Coco must stay.

    I always feel guilty leaving Coco behind, because at her youthful and vibrant age, she has unbelievable amounts of energy.

    She's so fast that it's hard even to get a photo of her, but to give you an idea here's one taken the other day during one of her many daily exercise routines:


    The pattern is this: I dutifully throw her stick as far as I can, and she instantly catches it -- often before it hits the ground, then brings it back to me and demands more, more, more! Whether I've had any time to recover from the throw is as irrelevant as whether I want to stop.

    And it goes without saying that every time I try to stop, Coco draaags me back in!

    The interval involved in the Coco retrieval cycle is about as long as the interval between publishing a blog post, and the irrational nagging feeling that I should put up another one. The difference, of course, is that readers are more discerning than Coco, so I can't toss out the same post over and over again.

    (Well, I guess I can. But I shouldn't.)

    Geez, the above reads like an extreme form of moral relativism, of the type I should resolutely condemn! I hasten to point out that I am comparing the time interval only, and if I am making any judgment at all, it is upon my own neurosis only. In no way do I mean to compare Coco's demanding (possibly tyrannical) nature with the generally kindly and tolerant disposition of blog readers. I think it is fair to conclude that few if any of this blog's readers are natural born fighter athletes with brains the size of limes.

    (Of course, even if some of them were, I'd be a hypocrite to hold it against them.)

    posted by Eric at 01:37 PM | Comments (7)

    atrocities begin to fade (I hope!)

    In a thought-provoking post at Gay Patriot, Dan (GayPatriotWest) reviews a movie I haven't seen and wasn't planning to see (The Da Vinci Code), and the film made him think about the tension between our joint Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman heritage:

    Sir Leigh’s insistence on exposing how he believes the Catholic Church misrepresented its own history seems a bit nonsensical to me. He seems to want to expose the church for the atrocities it committed. To be sure, many of his accusations are historically accurate. But, they’re just that — history. The faithful did torture and execute many who did not accept the doctrines they espoused. But, this atrocities began to fade once Christianity began to reincorporate Græco-Roman elements during the Renaissance.

    Today, we rarely (if ever) hear of Christians committing such atrocities.

    (Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian tension is of course a longtime topic here.)

    Torturing and executing people for refusing to accept doctrines is generally considered uncivilized behavior, and seemed to be going the way of history's dustbins until Communism and Nazism gave birth to a new Renaissance of old evil.

    I don't know whether torture and extermination are part of human nature that civilization keeps under wraps, and I'd hesitate to make any sort of generalized pronouncement about the role of religion. Depending on the time and place (and the level of civilization achieved by a society), religion can be a force in mitigation of man's darker passions -- or (as we have seen in the past few years) a force in aggravation. There's a common stereotype of the ancients -- especially the people we call "Pagans" -- as being cruel, and the Roman thirst for blood is often cited as an example. Yet Christianization of the Empire did nothing to stop torture or cruelty; all that happened was that the official line changed, and Christians were no longer persecuted for being Christians. However, more Christians were persecuted and killed by Christians than had ever been persecuted by "Pagans."


    I hate to overuse the quotation marks, but I did so because thinking Roman officials tended to be Pagans In Name Only -- basically atheists who saw religion as symbolizing state power who saw true believers of any kind as crackpots. To quote Seneca:

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
    Ugh. These things are so damned complicated.

    One of the reasons the early Christians so horrified Roman officials was precisely for the reason that they were true believers. (And educated Romans knew religion was a big scam, with corrupt priests, phony rituals, etc. Something to be used.) With the capitulation of the corrupt Pagans In Name Only crowd, the true believers had control of the government. While they of course took down the Pagan statues and closed the temples, the Pagans were dying out, and were a small threat compared to Christian heretics. Stamping out heresy thus became imprinted on the Church when it was in its infancy.

    As to bloodthirstiness, torture wasn't any less torture when done in the name of a new God. Crucifixion was abolished, as were the bloody games, but whether people were killed and tortured for public entertainment or in the interests of stamping out heresy made little difference to the victims. A popular form of punishment for centuries was breaking on the wheel, a gruesome punishment which differed little from crucifixion (although the victim's limbs were broken in many places first, then braided into the spokes of the wheel). In Christian England, treason was punished by slow disembowelment. Here's how the much-loved Elizabeth I crushed dissent:

    Until 1870, the full punishment for the crime was to be "hanged, drawn, and quartered" in that the convict would be:
    1. Dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution.
    2. Hanged[1] by the neck, but removed before death (hanged).
    3. Disembowelled, and the genitalia and entrails burned before the victim's eyes; the heart was the last to be removed and was then shown to the victim before the entrails were burned (drawn).[2]
    4. Beheaded and the body divided into four parts (quartered).
    To be fair to Elizabeth (about whom it was said that "More Catholics were hanged, drawn and quartered in Elizabeth's reign for 'treason' than the number of Protestants who had been burnt at the stake by her predecessor Mary I for heresy"), her own mother was beheaded by her father Henry VIII, whose penchant for wife-killing rivaled any of the most bloodthirsty Roman emperors. So a taste for blood ran in the royal family, just as it has always run in the human family -- among all peoples and all times. I'd be most hesitant to state with any degree of confidence that religion always places a damper on cruelty.

    I do think that as civilization advances, religions age and become more mature and more civilized. As more time elapses, the more religious conflicts tend to be relegated to history and seen as regrettable.

    Back to Dan's Gay Patriot post:

    I believe that the greatness of Western Civilization has been its ability, since the Renaissance, to balance the strengths of the Judeo-Christian and Græco-Roman traditions. And to understand that greatness, we need to look at the traditions as they are — and not as they might have been.

    The image of a celibate Jesus is essential to that tradition. Acknowledging that, let’s accept Dan Brown’s theory as just that, a theory which, even if true, would not undermine the positive influence Christianity has had on our culture or the impact it has had on hundreds of millions of people — in our era and throughout history.

    I think that's fair enough. Western civilization is a product of religious conflict which led to religious tolerance. While I see little to be gained by undermining the positive influence of Christianity, I also see books and films like The Da Vinci Code as a reminder that we live in comparatively good times.

    Not so long ago in Western history, The Da Vinci Code would have been treated as blasphemy, and its author(s) subjected to precisely the type of punishments our founders prohibited under the Eighth Amendment. Today, it's standard entertainment fare. Personally, I think it's historical fantasy, but what I think is irrelevant to the larger considerations.

    Still, my dark side still always wonders about others' dark sides. Sometimes I feel morbid; other times it feels like an onerous moral duty to do such wondering. My dark side sees nothing courageous about The Da Vinci Code. What would be courageous would be to make a documentary film exploring the creation of Muhammad cartoons, and the religious warfare that erupted over then. But I don't think Hollywood is about to do that.

    Interestingly, some of the same groups which launched the campaign against the Muhammad cartoons have launched a compaign (in Pakistan, at least) against The Da Vinci Code:

    KARACHI - Pakistani religious parties Monday vowed to launch a protest campaign against controversial movie The Da Vinci Code, calling it an attempt to secularise world culture "in the garb of art".

    "We would hold demonstrations in different cities on the coming Friday to protest against the defamatory film," senior leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance, Liaqat Baloch, told AFP.

    The Da Vinci Code has stirred worldwide Christian protests.

    "This movie has hurt the sentiments of Muslims alike as we regard Hazrat Esa (Jesus) with the same reverence as the Christians do," he said.

    The film is based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown about a conspiracy by the Catholic Church to hide the supposed marriage of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

    The original novel has become a wild hit, with more than 60 million copies sold worldwide.

    "It has hurt both Christians and Muslims all around the world and we would continue to protest till the withdrawal of the movie," Baloch said.

    MMA, an alliance of six Islamic parties, launched its campaign against "blasphemous" cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which triggered an uproar in many Muslim countries.

    "This is yet another blasphemous attempt by those who are trying to secularise the world in the pretext of art and entertainment without heeding to religious sentiments," he said.

    "We see the film as a continuation of the caricatures, which hurt the Muslims of the world."

    Five people died in Pakistan during violent demonstrations against the cartoons in March.

    While it is ironic that Muslim groups are more upset about Christian blasphemy than Christians themselves, I think this is largely a token effort, and that demonstrations over The Da Vinci Code will not erupt in the Muslim "street."

    The Hollywood entertainment industry knows a "safe" target when they see one.

    Even when they're making a "courageous" film.

    (God, how I'd hate to think that the more things change, the more things stay the same, because I want to believe in the progress of Western civilization.)

    posted by Eric at 10:58 AM

    a wealth of guilt

    Is there such a thing as inherited guilt?

    Right there, I'm realizing that the question I posed makes no sense. For, obviously there is inherited guilt, because people believe in it. The concept is as old as original sin, and probably older. And psychologically, there is a tendency to inherit a sense of guilt.

    So it's not a sense of guilt that I'm talking about. I think a better way to phrase the question would be along the lines of whether it is fair or logical for anyone to inherit real guilt, in the moral or legal sense. Years ago, I got into an argument with a reparations advocate who said that if I inherited guilty wealth I inherited at least some of the guilt, because I derived the benefit of the wealth. That would mean that if inherited wealth came from slavery, the inheritors of it would be inheriting guilt.

    But what about descendants of people who lost money in the slave trade? Or descendants of people whose slaves were confiscated and fortunes ruined as a result of the Civil War? If they had no wealth to leave their descendants, isn't it a stretch to say that the descendants inherited their guilt?

    Does a financial benefit have to exist and then be transferred to future generations in order for guilt to be made hereditary?

    If an individual does not inherit guilt, then how about a society, a city, a country? Again, to base the argument on economics strikes me as unreasonable. Nazi Germany's Holocaust -- the guiltiest episode in human history -- was far from profitable. Germany was ruined economically and physically, yet it remained horribly guilty. Collectivization and slaughter under Communism also murdered millions -- without any discernible economic benefit. Once the experiments in socialism were over, the countries had to reinvent themselves from scratch. What did the children of the Nazis and the children of the Commissars inherit? Anything of value? Or do they have some type of guilt which is or should be independent of money?

    I'm not even sure I agree with the idea of inherited debt. Fair or not, death acts as the ultimate form of bankruptcy discharge. If there isn't enough money to pay whatever debts remain, the creditors are just plain out of luck.

    Corporations and countries, though, are treated differently, as they continue to live long after the people who created them have died. Until they are dissolved, as were Nazi Germany and the USSR.

    Despite this, there are people who argue that descendants of people who did bad things should be held accountable for the crimes of their ancestors. It's as if the guilt is derived by a sort of historical vendetta. Nor does this guilt even require actual descent from any guilty person. Mere presence in a country said to be guilty can be enough. Thus, a Danish immigrant to the United States is thought guilty enough that he should have to pay "reparations" for what long-dead, completely unrelated people did to long dead, completely unrelated victims, while a Nigerian immigrant would not be. Even more amazing is the notion that "white" Americans have inherited the guilt of a man who came to the New World in the 15th Century and conquered Indians in the name of Spain.

    There is nothing logical, rational, or fair about inherited guilt, because it need not even be inherited. It simply derives from whatever doctrines are manufactured from time to time based upon the whims of the people who deem themselves worthy of deciding questions of guilt.

    So I can't make any sense at all out of inherited guilt. It's one thing to say that if my father killed somebody, took his property, and left it to me, that I should have to give it back to the victim's heirs. But even that does not involve moral guilt. No reasonable person would say that I should inherit actual guilt for my father's crimes.

    So why do they?

    I think it's for the same reason a dog licks his you-know-what. Because they can. Most of us feel mysteriously guilty, often for poorly understood reasons forgotten during infancy. So, when someone comes along with a reason, it's emotionally satisfying for people who want shortcuts that obviate the need for geniunely introspective thought. Providing a way to atone for the guilt (whether by joining something, contributing money or adhering to a particular philosophy) makes it even more satisfying. The most marvelous aspect of this type of guilt-system is that it also offers a way to avoid acknowledging or atoning for real guilt. I have to admit, there's even a certain logic to it. By its nature, being sorry for someone else's crimes -- especially the crimes of dead people -- assumes that there is such a thing as collective inter-generational responsibility, and minimizes the guilt of any individual.

    A nice trick. Get rid of your own guilt by sharing! There's plenty to go around!

    Try it. You'll feel better.

    (Especially if you don't want to think.)

    posted by Eric at 04:05 PM | Comments (6)

    Creating a personal second class

    I found a couple of very thoughtful posts on the gay marriage issue which I think are well worth reading. I say "thoughtful," because both are sincere, and not hemmed in by ideological considerations.

    Sean Kinsell criticizes the implicit (maybe explicit) tyranny in the approach of demanding approval:

    Anyway, I know I've banged this gong plenty already, but I will never, ever get used to this stuff. When will people get it through their heads that you can't coerce people into approving of you? You can, possibly, coerce them into postures of approval, temporarily, through political machinations. But the current climate indicates that--and can you blame them?--they're not going to sit still for it for long.

    From my perspective as a resident of Japan, one of the saddest things about idiot gay-lefty rhetoric is the way its campus proponents manage to infect foreign students with it. Then they bring it back here and are thrown off balance when it doesn't square with reality, often on more basic levels than that of the SSM debate. A close American friend recently described how a rather clingy Japanese employee, having been essentially disowned by his father after coming out, asked him for advice about how to fix things. My friend is a patient, gentlemanly guy and responded on the order of, "Well, I can tell you what I would do, but I'm from a different culture, and the way I see my choices is different."

    I wish I were more patient and gentlemanly myself. When asked similar questions, I've generally responded along the lines of "Why didn't you think about this before coming out to him?" Western-style individualism doesn't, after all, guarantee that you'll get everything you want; it just allows you to prioritize things for yourself--as opposed to having them prioritized for you by the clan, village, or state--and go after what's at the top of your list without impediment. I can empathize with the belief that candidly coming out to your parents is preferable to a lifetime of question-dodging and waffling, but if you decide to do so without preparing mentally to deal with the worst-case scenario, you're asking for trouble. I'm not defending parents who disown their children for being gay, only making what should be the common-sense point that you can't control other people's behavior, let alone their feelings. Having the backbone to follow through on your beliefs even if you're despised for them is part of being a free citizen.

    And likewise with relationships themselves. Positions of the "if you don't respect us as mature, centered adults, we'll hold our breath until we turn blue" variety are incoherent. They're also counter-productive. In external terms, whininess is a PR disaster. In internal terms, signalling to young gay people just getting their lives in order that it's okay to blame all their problems on the failure of straight society to confer "dignity" on them stunts their growth. Adult resilience is attained by confronting obstacles and testing your own strength in the course of overcoming them. Until SSM advocates learn to focus on practical obstacles to keeping relationships together and learn to keep a lid on the self-pity, they're not helping anyone except anti-gays on the far right.

    I think the disconnect is further accelerated and inflamed by heterosexuals who stake out the politically correct position not out of sincere belief or personal considerations (after all, they're not interested in marrying others of the same sex), but in order to prove they are more cool, more sophisticated (in a similar manner to the process outlined by Ace of Spades).

    From the Grand Stand, who has gay friends and family members, finds that opposition to same sex marriage is agonizingly difficult, because it is personal:

    We want to dramatically alter the definition of the institution of marriage and change it, so that it no longer has the meaning and purpose it had before... so that a few people can be happy.

    I'm sure there are thousands of wonderful homosexual couples that would be happier and more stable as a result of the change in the marriage definition. It would make it easier for them to conduct their business and financial affairs, move from place to place, and immigrate to new countries, with all the rights and privileges of married couples.

    But at what cost?

    Ah, there's the rub. The cost to the millions of other couples, the effect it would have on our attitudes towards children, parentage, and family would be enormous. Its emotional and financial costs on stability, the further erosion of our attitudes about paternity and how and when it is established, and everything that goes with it, would have to be decided again, rethought, re-examined—decisions that enable other decisions, good ones and bad ones, but always more decisions that we should never set it motion to be asked. Every time we've asked these questions we've allowed the wrong decisions to be made at significant and perilous cost to innocents.

    It isn't about the people alive today either. These decisions change for all time, for all of recorded history, for generation and generation to come the further decay of the greatest institution, marriage. They set in motion a series of other changes that we cannot predict, although the ones nearest and closest to us, the ones we can see, are bad enough.

    When all is said and written, it is marriage that has lasted, despite our best attempts to tear it down, remodel it to our whim, or disregard its value and place in the peace and prosperity we all desire, and the state of being in which my dear friends find themselves. Everything that has come before enabled their existence, the stability and safety that the institution of marriage provided has sheltered them, given them opportunity, life, and sustenance, and now for their sakes, we should destroy it?

    Can I stand at this point in history, looking back at all that has been done and achieved, all the stability and peace that traditional marriage has brought and for the sake of a dear friend say, "Sure! Let's risk all of human history to this point, so that YOU might be happier and live easier"?

    What if some other person had made that decision long ago that made their existence moot? And they did do that. Countless times people have been asked to choose between what is right and what is easy. They made decisions that might have brought comfort and happiness to a few, but sacrificed the many in the process, and they chose us, generations and generations forward, never knowing with certainty if mankind would hold out as long as it has.

    I would happily and joyfully attend a private and unofficial ceremony and witness vows made to a partner, in the company of friends and family. I would stand at their sides as a steward of the rings or other tangible offerings exchanged, to remind the couple of the promises they have made. I would be comforted by their greater chance at happiness and the stability that a commitment to their partner might provide. In all ways I would respect the commitment made as valid and as important as any other oath or vow taken, but this commitment will be a private one, never recognized by society or the state, as a marriage. It is bond between two people who will never bear children, who will never offer to society the chance of replacement and steward for the next generation, that earns them the rights and privileges that marriage conveys.

    In every way I can give it they have my emotional support. In every other avenue, from supporting equal wages and opportunities to equal treatment under the law, they will have me as an ally, but in the one area where they are not the same, not equal, different rules will apply.

    I know I'm repeating myself, but I'm not much of a fan of family law or family courts, and I don't like the idea of putting gay couples under a government nanny state radar screen, as I think that once it starts, it will be tough to opt out.

    I also think it is very dishonest the way the gay marriage issue substitutes for sincere thinking. It has become a way for trendy people to achieve "fast-track" certification of non-bigoted status. Few take the time to grapple with the realities of people.

    I liked the old days when it was cool to be gay, but no one worried about aping mainstream society's institutions, much less claiming them as civil rights.

    From where derives the idea that marriage is an attribute of citizenship -- the status of which defines whether one is a first or second class citizen? I don't think legal inability to marry is any more of feature of citizenship than would be the social inability to marry. Heterosexual or homosexual; there is no "right" to marry anyone. A prerequisite is finding a partner who agrees with the idea of entering into a legal contract. Whether that contract is state-sanctioned depends on a variety of factors. Love alone is not enough. A married man falls in love with a married woman. They cannot marry. First cousins fall in love, but cannot marry. A lonely man or a lonely woman want to marry, but neither can find partners. Gay or straight, they cannot marry. I don't see any of them as second class citizens. A homosexual man can marry a consenting homosexual woman (or either or both parties can be heterosexual). The sexual preferences of the parties are not prerequisites, and are secondary to the sexes of the parties. Are married homosexuals first class citizens? I don't see why.

    And what about the heterosexuals who would obtain an entirely new "right" to marry others of the same sex? I'm not sure why they would do it, but let us suppose they have financial reasons. They are in love with each other's money and power and want to share it. To offer an absurd hypothetical, should Donald Trump be allowed to marry Bill Gates and combine their fortunes and futures? Right now, they can't. And while I abhor the idea of amending the Constitution to stop them, I don't think the question involves an attribute of citizenship.

    Yeah, I know, Bill and Don are straight. But does it really matter?

    (I thought the whole idea was that it shouldn't.)

    posted by Eric at 11:42 AM | Comments (7)

    Outrage on top of outrage

    Michael Yon has a full and disturbing account of how a French conglomerate called HFM put his photograph of a U.S. soldier cradling a mortally wounded Iraqi girl on the front page of a new trashy exploitation mag. Over the Memorial Day weekend they used his photo (of a soldier behaving in the most honorable way possible) in a manner which dishonors soldiers. And on top of that, they're now suing Michael Yon for defamation!

    Words fail me.

    Here's an excerpt from Michael Yon's post:

    Like most illegal usages, this only came to my attention after readers found it. Once I began trying to clear my name, several bloggers wrote about it and published contact information to the publisher, who began getting a flood of complaints. That’s when the publisher turned around and threatened me, in writing, with a defamation lawsuit. That’s no misprint: they took my property, used it a vulgar way, further dishonored our military and our country by timing their inaugural launch to Memorial Day weekend, and then, when some patriotic bloggers dared to call them to complain about it, they threatened me. People who go into business deliberately seeking to offend and insult others should probably get used to complaints.

    Granted, there is usually something shocking in most instances of bad taste, and in that sense the new magazine SHOCK is well titled. How else to describe a publication that promises its readers glimpses of rectal exams and decaying corpses? If SHOCK stuck to the gross-out material, it’s doubtful it would ever garner mention outside of a small circle of media watch groups and 12 year-old boys. But if the publication really is about pushing the visual image envelope, why then launch with a politically charged cover story that alleges “shocking proof” of similarities between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq but inside only pairs sets of photos from each war that are somewhat related in content or composition? The only thing shocking is its lameness, and the only thing it proves is how low a French mega-media publishing conglomerate, Hachette Filipacchi Media, will stoop in order to squeeze two bucks out of its sneering mockery of others.

    The whole thing is unbelievable. I'm hardly what you'd call a copyright fanatic (I believe in fair use and I think the DMCA is a legal abomination), but the blatant way in which this was done for profit by a major magazine is flabbergasting in itself. But to then threaten to sue the copyright owner they wronged?

    I hope Michael Yon ends up owning the company.

    UPDATE (06/07/06): Michael Yon has settled the case. (Via Pajamas Media.)

    posted by Eric at 03:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    News you won't get elsewhere

    Via Pajamas Media, I just listened to a very informative podcast interview with Bill Roggio by the Belmont Club's Richard Fernandez.

    Bill Roggio is in Afghanistan, which he describes as much more stable than Iraq. He discussed the recent riot in detail, and gives a very different story from the one I read in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Bill says the riot was more largely instigated by supporters of Ahmad Shah Massoud (assassinated a week before 911) who feel left out of the Karzai government despite the fact that they fought against the Taliban.

    If I hadn't listened to the podcast, I'd have only had the Inquirer story, and I think the blogosphere should be grateful to Bill Roggio for traveling to Afghanistan and doing some real reporting.

    It's well worth taking the time to listen.

    posted by Eric at 03:05 PM

    Googling for more video Gore!

    Via Pajamas Media, I found myself drawn to John Carroll's remarks about the so-called "net neutrality" issue:

    Where faster tiered access might affect things, however, is in Google's new video service, the revenue for which will mostly be paid by ads. If broadband providers are allowed to tier access, companies such as Google might have to pay a bit of that money to broadband providers to get themselves onto a faster tier…unless they want end users to pay for the privilege.

    That, to my mind, is the crux of the issue. Google and companies that support net neutrality rules (a group that may even include Microsoft, but I am John Carroll, not Microsoft, in case anybody was wondering) want to be able to continue as 18 wheelers who pay the same fees (if any) as standard automobiles, even though their traffic is responsible for most damage to the road. That's one model, and is largely the way things work now, but that doesn't mean it is a fair model.

    Fairness aside, the current Internet works for the most part according to de facto net neutrality rules. Why change things? Well, I've already suggested some pragmatic reasons to have different tiers. Video streaming will take up a lot more bandwidth than standard text and image transfer.

    Google? The same Google that fate may have destined to the source of Al Gore's 2008 campaign? The same Google that's accused of purging conservative news sites?

    Deja Gore?


    Yes, I'm afraid that too much Google and too much Gore have reminded me (all over again) of Gore's video remarks in a speech last fall:

    First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile" to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

    Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn't look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call "the establishing reflex." And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously - sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, "glue eyeballs to the screen," is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

    It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk.

    The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.

    In other words, he wants to be elected? Or does he just have Google Video Gore on the brain?

    Father of the Internet forgive me, but I'm too tired to Google for more. . . .

    MORE: Tired as I am, an evil contest held by John Hawkins gave me an idea for a hybrid.

    But is there any such creature as a Goregoyle?


    (Or do such things constitute parody infringement?)

    posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (4)

    Making an ass of u and alt?

    The stuff I read in the news these days. . .


    Anyway, there's an ongoing debate now over whether there's a double standard in the case of sexual predators. According to WorldNetDaily, there is, with females getting off scot-free. The article features a long list of incidents, with photographs displayed, and I couldn't help wondering whether my reaction (and others' reactions) would have been different had the faces of suspects been male.

    I suspect that had the faces been male, a lot of people would have wanted them imprisoned. Or even executed.

    Emotion aside, there's a reason for the different reaction, and, like it or not, that is grounded in the inherent difference between the sexes, and the nature of sexual penetration.

    Penetration is not passive. Thus, it is counterintuitive to see a boy who penetrates someone as a victim of the person he penetrates.

    Sexually functional males of any age can in theory rape females of any age. It doesn't quite work the other way around. (When was the last time anyone heard of an underaged girl raping a grown man?)

    But it's not politically correct to say this, because all victims are said to be equal. Thus, a boy having sex with a woman has to be just as much a victim as would a girl having sex with a man.

    I realize that terms like "boy" and "girl" have become so emotional as to border on the inflammatory, but I don't know what terms to use. I've known lots of grown men who behave as and call themselves "boys" -- for various reasons. The reasons are complicated, and I know a gay "boy" is not a "good old boy" -- but the point is that the term does not necessarily denote a minor. Analysis is further complicated by the varying ages of consent and adulthood. 17 year olds (the age of many of the WND victims above) are often called "men" and "women" and are in most states over the age of legal consent. Yet the newspapers use the word "teen" and "child" when guns are involved even if the perps are 19.

    Age matters. And so does sex. (I refuse to say "gender.")

    While I don't see reports like this every day, it does happen that grown men are victims of sexual assault in non-prison settings. Even (assuming the allegations are true) tow truck drivers:

    A Chester County towing operator accused of drugging and sexually assaulting three former employees faces more charges, this time filed in two states.

    Yesterday, Pennsylvania State Police charged Mark Ethan McFall, 41, of Coatesville, in connection with a fourth Chester County case. On Wednesday, Brigantine police filed similar charges in Atlantic County, bringing the number of alleged victims - all former male employees - to five.

    Police said the latest Chester County case involves the rape of a 19-year-old worker on Sept. 25, 2003. McFall, a former South Coatesville police officer who ran McFall's Towing in Valley Township, drugged the employee, handcuffed him to a weight bench, and forced him to perform sex acts, police said.

    The victim said McFall, who boasted of ties to the Mafia, told him that the "test of loyalty" would serve as the victim's initiation. The victim said McFall threatened him not to tell anyone, the criminal complaint said.

    Hmmm..... I never saw any "inititation" like that on the Sopranos.

    I suppose that a female tow truck company operator could have theoretically done the same thing that the male suspect is accused of doing. But a young girl sexually assaulting a grown man? It's a stretch. There's still such a difference between the sexes that a man (well a "real man" -- if such things exist anymore) would have a serious credibility problem bringing such a charge.

    Is this, um, "relativism"?

    I can offer a couple of murky examples from my personal knowledge. One homeless man I knew was being dogged for child support because he had fathered a child with an adult woman when he was underage. I thought there was an interesting legal issue (because he may have been "molested" and because normally society does not consider minors legally bound by contracts), but the homeless man insisted on living up to his responsibilities as "a man," even though he was incapable of paying a dime.

    In another instance, a group of teen thugs (purportedly heterosexual -- if that matters) were in the habit of routinely beating, robbing, and sexually abusing an older gay man. The gay man was a drug dealer who loved the abuse. But who were the abusers? Had the police raided the place and the thugs been dragged down to the police station, once the consequences of parental and legal involvement kicked in, I'm not so sure the law would favor the older gay drug dealer who loved the "abuse."

    I'm not trying to be obnoxious here; I just don't have answers.

    Nor, it seems, does the "system."

    (The problem is compounded by the fact that the older I get, the less I know.)

    posted by Eric at 08:09 AM | Comments (1)

    A choice of echoes

    Dismissing Peggy Noonan's third party idea as "pure piffle," John Hawkins argues (quite convincingly, IMO) that "moderates" are undefinable and unelectable because any position will alienate one block of voters or another so that "in the end all they'll end up accomplishing is draining off enough support to cost one party or the other the election." Concludes John:

    The idea that a third party is going to sweep into power is pure fantasy. In America, third parties are just viruses in the body politic that are capable, at best, of damaging the major party they have the most in common with.
    Of course, neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party today has much in common with either of the parties I once knew.

    I'll just remain a Goldwater liberal and keep holding my nose.

    I don't like it, but does anyone?

    posted by Eric at 09:29 PM

    Making the gay marriage debate seem civilized

    Other than to say it sucks, I don't know what to say about this attack on peaceful gay demonstrators in Russia, also described here:

    Orthodox Christians, Russian ultra-nationalists and skinheads attacked a handful of gays who showed up by the Kremlin to put flowers to the Unknown Soldier Memorial. Riot police detained up to 120 people that day, among them journalists and human rights activists, mony of whom now intend to file a complaint to protest their unlawful detention and harsh treatment.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who has more from Peter Tatchell, who says:
    When Moscow's mayor can abuse fundamental freedoms with impunity, it is doubtful that Russia is fit to hold the presidency of the Council of Europe - or even be a member.

    President Putin's silence is damning. He has said nothing in defence of the right to protest or of the human rights of Russia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

    I suspect that the people behind it are a bunch of bigoted anti-Semites.

    Worst of all, The Russian police were in on the attacks.

    I'm not sure it's entirely correct to label them all "right wing" though. As the Miami Herald points out, these attitudes are also vintage Stalinism:

    Russian society's intolerance for gay men and women is rooted in the Soviet era, when homosexuality carried a penalty of up to five years in prison. A poll conducted in 1989 found that a third of Russians favored extermination of the country's gay population, and 30 percent favored segregating them from the rest of society, according to Igor Kon's 1995 book, "The Sexual Revolution in Russia." Only 6 percent of the poll's respondents favored supporting the gay community.

    "During the Soviet period, women who were lesbians were locked up in psychiatric wards, treated as if they were insane and given medication normally given to schizophrenics," said Yevgenia Debryanskaya, a longtime gay activist and owner of Moscow's 12 Volts Club. "That same kind of homophobia that we had during Soviet times exists today."

    Not sure whether Muslim clerics should be called right wing either, but at least one has weighed in:
    One of those religious leaders, Talgat Tadzhuddin, a top Russian Muslim cleric, warned that Russian Muslims would take to the streets and flog gays if the parade were permitted.
    Bigotry doesn't restrict itself to any political or religious category.

    posted by Eric at 05:39 PM | Comments (1)

    Railroading our natural instincts

    Speaking of nanny state travel travails (and something worse than bureaucratized attack toilets), the New Jersey Star Ledger's Paul Mulshine devotes his column today to the bureaucratic detention of passengers during last week's power outage (discussed infra). Interviewing passenger Liz Anklow and Doug Bowen of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, Mr. Mulshine explores the issue of why so many people shy away from public transit:

    And then there is mass transit. It sounds nice in theory, but every time I ponder getting out of my car and onto an NJ Transit train, I think of incidents such as last week's power outage. The outage itself was the fault of Amtrak, not NJ Transit. But one incident that was reported by the Reuters news service was typical of the attitude that makes many people shy away from public transit.

    As for NJ Transit, this incident, trivial though it may be, encapsulates everything I dislike about public transit. Doug Bowen agrees with me.

    "Ah, don't you love customer service?" said Bowen, the head of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers. "One wonders why public transportation prompts that sort of thing. If people want to leave the train, they should be allowed to."

    NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel disagreed. Stessel said it was essential to keep passengers on the train, which was stranded a short distance from the Secaucus station.

    "I certainly can see where it would be frustrating to passengers seeing the station literally yards away," said Stessel. But there were a number of hazards, including the possible arrival of a rescue train and the threat of tripping over the tracks, Stessel said.

    Among the thousands of passengers trapped in stuck trains was Liz Anklow, a public relations executive. She boarded a train in South Orange for her daily commute to Manhattan. The train made it a short distance past the Secaucus station before the electricity went out. For the first hour or so, the cars got warmer and warmer in the absence of air conditioning. Then the authorities announced they were going to open the doors to let in some fresh air.

    Anklow was, coincidentally enough, talking on her cell phone with a Reuters reporter when, as she put it, "A very imposing New Jersey trooper just walked through the train and said if one person leaves the train you will be arrested and taken to jail."

    Though such a threat seems excessive to me, Anklow told me she was only mildly upset by it.

    "I appreciated that they opened the doors, but I was a little put off by the trooper," said Anklow. "I'm used to the subway, where you're stuck for hours and they don't give you any information at all."

    Anklow only recently escaped New York City for the suburban splendors of New Jersey. Part of her job is doing public relations for the Heartland brewpub in Midtown Manhattan. I just thought I'd throw that in as an example of a business that provides excellent customer service as well as first-rate ale, if my visits are any indication.

    I'm glad to see a local journalist devote so much time to what most of us would dismiss as trivial, because I think that shrugging these things off is precisely what enables bureaucratic tyranny. The more people roll over and take it, the worse it gets. People who complain (or who dare to be defiant) are seen as "troublemakers" who are interfering with everyone else by making problems. The situation is often compounded by a bureaucratic game of enforced adult kindergarten -- of threatening more delays if people don't "cooperate." Thus, when the bureaucracy creates a delay, instead of being angry at the bureaucrats for causing the problem, the herd mentality takes over and the anger and blame shifts against the people complaining. Displays of indignation by the latter are seen as childish, as obstreperous, even as criminal. Cooperation with tyranny becomes a virtue -- something to be suffered in Stoic silence. Whether the people who cooperate secretly hate themselves for sucking up their pride or whether there's something else involved, those who resist become convenient scapegoats.

    It would not surprise me in the least if many passengers on that train would have enjoyed seeing a defiant passenger arrested for leaving the train. (I paid the bully my lunch money; why shouldn't you?)

    What were these paying customers -- trapped for hours in full view of a station -- being protected from?

    From a "rescue train"?

    From "the threat of tripping over the tracks"????

    It would be funny if I didn't know they were serious.

    If a bus or a taxi broke down and the driver refused to allow passengers to leave because a tow truck might arrive, or they might trip over the curb, would people behave the same way? I don't think so -- and not because of any substantial difference in the danger, but because the herd mentality would not be activated. The natural tendency of individual self-reliance and self-sufficiency would prevail. While there's nothing logical about it, once people herd themselves onto trains this natural tendency seems to be deactivated. They simply resign themselves to following orders, no matter how unreasonable or unnatural -- (and they have little sympathy for those who don't.)


    Well, at least these are safety nannies, and their goal is only to help us!

    (But imagine what a malevolent bureaucracy might do if they controlled trains...)

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I do not mean to attack the many good people who want an orderly and civilized society, and I recognize that I may be coming off as anarchistic. In general, I do not fault the philosophy of "I PLAY BY THE RULES, AND I HATE PEOPLE WHO DON'T!" -- because it is grounded in fairness and common sense.

    But what happens when people make rules that are not right, and that they have no right to make? Doesn't authority have to be earned? How is the American notion of "consent of the governed" to be weighed against unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy?

    posted by Eric at 08:22 AM | Comments (5)

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