The Coulter gay standard

In one of her most fascinating interviews to date (dutifully transcribed by Riehl World View) Ann Coulter reveals Bill Clinton's deep dark gay secret. The proof? Why, it's his blatant heterosexuality, dummy!

DEUTSCH: Off the air, you were talking about Bill Clinton. Is there anything you want to say about Clinton? No?


DEUTSCH: OK. All right. Did you find him attractive? Was that what it was?


DEUTSCH: You don't find him attractive?

Ms. COULTER: No. OK, fine, I'll say it on air.

DEUTSCH: Most women find him attractive.


DEUTSCH: OK, say it on air.

Ms. COULTER: I think that sort of rampant promiscuity does show some level of latent homosexuality.

(Via Dean Esmay.)

Let's see. If rampant promiscuous heterosexual conduct reveals homosexuality, what does that suggest about rampant promiscuous homosexual conduct?

Obviously, the most elementary logic dictates that such people are latent heterosexuals.

What that means is that Exodus International and others interested in "reparative therapy" for gays should look no further then the nearest gay bath houses and sex clubs.

Who knew?

Never have I been fooled for so many years, by so many!

UPDATE: Many years ago, the National Lampoon spoofed the gay conversion theme with Anita Bryant's "Homo No-Mo" course:


Of course, what Ann Coulter proposes is the inverse, so maybe it should be reworked, and called "Ann Coulter's Hetero-Shmetero" or something.

I don't have time for photo-shopping today, but I'm open to any ideas that will benefit humanity.

posted by Eric at 01:21 PM | Comments (7)

The Village People meet Genghis Khan?

They might as well have!

Anyway, this dance video (which makes me want to resort to wisecracks about the "gay steppes") is quite funny:

(If it won't play here, try this link.)

Speaking of Genghis Khan, did you know that Mongolia recently renamed its airport the "Genghis Khan International Airport"? I didn't know that until today's dance routine.

That's Entertainment!

(We can all rape and pillage together, in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan.)

posted by Eric at 12:20 PM | Comments (2)

On this "war," I remain anti-war
There's a reason the federal government is dragging its feet on illegal immigration. It's a wildly expensive and complicated problem with the potential to erupt in a race war.
So said the Philadelphia Inquirer's Monica Yant Kinney in her column yesterday.

One of the things that always makes me sit up and take notice is when I see people on right and the left agreeing on something. In this case, it's agreement on the possibility of a domestic war over immigration. People on the right don't tend to use the term "race war" so much as "civil war." (Tacitus looked at this issue in April, but most conservatives are quite uncomfortable with it.)

I don't think the terminology is important so much as the idea that any such war might take place.

I'm generally pro-war where it comes to national defense, but where it comes to civil war, I am so vehemently against the idea that I'd do almost anything to stop it. Terrible harm came from the last Civil War. I disagree with people who say it was "worth it," as I think it stands as a warning. A second American Civil War is almost too awful to contemplate. That's why I've devoted so much time to opposing that thing we call a "Culture War" because the rhetoric gets so heated that it often strikes me as a sort of "cold" Civil War. (In 2003, cultural conservative Dennis Prager opined that the Culture War was already a de facto "Second Civil War" -- and he wasn't even considering immigration.)

I don't care what anyone thinks about immigration; it does not justify another American Civil War. (Or "race war" which is pretty much the same thing.)

Fortunately, right now it's still a war of rhetoric and hyperbole.

An unwinnable war of words.

(And fortunately, as long as people are talking, there's the unintended consequence of mutual appeasement.)

posted by Eric at 11:14 AM | Comments (5)

Entertaining heroism

Pit bulls are incredibly strong dogs, as anyone who's ever owned one can attest. Coco's ability to leap into the air is a constant source of amazement to me; if a tantalizing object is dangled before her, she can jump from a standing position to a height of over six feet. When I play fetch with her, she can catch the stick or frisbee before it hits the ground -- as far as I can throw it. Nothing particularly heroic about any of it, although I don't doubt that under the right circumstances, Coco would display what we'd anthropomorphically call heroism. That's because the strength of these dogs is matched only by their utter devotion and determination.

If you are a good person and have raised a good dog, knowing that you have a dog that would not hesitate to lay down its life for you is very touching. Humbling, even.

The problem, of course, is that bad people raise bad dogs, and the dogs don't realize they're bad, as they're just doing what dogs do based on centuries of tailoring their survival to living with man. If you're a dog, your identity is generally tied to that of your owner. Which is why it so horrifies me to see an otherwise good dog in the wrong hands. It's more irritating than reading about "gun violence," because in the case of a bad guy misusing a gun, the gun is not a victim, whereas a misused animal is. Frankly, if we consider the number of pit bulls owned by lowlife scum, what amazes me is that there are as few incidents as there are.

Quite ironically, the fact that there are so few attacks on people is an unintentional but logical byproduct of the dogs' historic background of being pitted against bulls, bears, and other dogs for sport. While the medieval brutes who bred these canine gladiators were anything but kind, they could not tolerate any dog with the slightest inclination to attack humans, for otherwise how could they have pitted them? Under the rules which evolved in dogfighting, the dogs had to be handled routinely, picked up, separated, then faced off to determine whether a dog was a coward, or whether it would walk across the "scratch" line to take hold of the other animal. Dogs that turned away, or tried to jump the pit were considered defective, as were dogs which displayed any tendency to turn and bite humans -- even in the heat of combat. The result over the centuries was a dog that was downright amiable, even clownish -- in many cases almost ridiculously so.

Now, this is not just my opinion -- many, many students of the breed have noticed this over and over again. (A fascinating New Yorker piece explores the phenomenon in detail.) It seems like a paradox to people, but it isn't. I've always suspected that the "natural born entertainers" were more likely to survive the sadism and cruelty which inhered to these blood sports -- perhaps out of pity, perhaps simply because people enjoy being entertained. Like it or not, the cruel spectacles were also circus performances, and people like circuses, and shows. (Shades of WWF, perhaps?)

There's a famous account of a huge pit bull with rippling muscles which was being judged in a dog show, and which had patiently stood at attention and put up with the usual poking, probing and gawking. This he bore with unflappable patience and dignity until suddenly a small and yappy Chihuahua (probably suffering from an inferiority complex) broke loose from somewhere and attacked the pit bull in a total frenzy. People were afraid the little dog would be killed with one bite, but the pit bull's owner/handler ordered him to be still. The Chihuahua was really aggressive, though, and although the bites weren't having any physical effect, the onslaught of this tyrannically impotent rage was nonetheless ruffling the pit bull's sense of pride, and he kept looking reproachfully at his master, as if pleading with him to do something. This was many years ago, when people still thought this sort of thing was great entertainment, and as neither dog was being hurt, the crowd was laughing uproariously (at both dogs' expense).

Finally the pit bull could take no more, and he devised a plan to put an end to the suffering. Firmly but gently, he took hold of the Chihuahua by the scruff of the neck, lifted him off the ground and quite deliberately, walked over to the nearest trash can, got up on his rear legs, and carefully placed the Chihuahua in the trash!

Something like that requires what we humans would call premeditation and deliberation.

While putting a Chihuahua in a trashcan might not be what most of us would call heroism, I think this pit bull confrontation with a bear would be:

An Ontario man who killed a 200-pound black bear with a hunting knife says his faithful dog saved his life -- twice.

Tom Tilley, 55, of Waterloo, Ont., had been portaging last Thursday in northern Ontario near Wawa with his five-year old American Staffordshire, Sam.

He said they were walking toward the beginning of the portage to retrieve the canoe when he heard Sam start to growl.

"And I turned behind me and 20 feet behind me there was this black bear coming up the trail, sneaking up behind me," he said.

"If Sam hadn't growled, I may not have known until it was too late."

Tilley's first instinct was to try and make lots of noise and make himself appear bigger. He also started to slowly walk backwards, but nothing seemed to be scaring off the bear.

Suddenly, the bear took off down the portage path, ran through the brush and came onto the portage trail behind Tilley -- cutting off his escape route.

"At that point I kind of realized I might be in a bit of trouble."

"The bear seemed to me to be acting aggressive. I'm not a big guy and I could very well easily be prey."

At that point, his dog Sam placed himself perpendicular to the bear, across the path. The bear dug its teeth into the dog's back, and Tilley said he became enraged.

"I love my dog very much, and my first thought was, 'You're not going to kill my dog'."

"The momentary distraction that Sam provided to take the bear's attention away from me gave me the opportunity to run behind the bear, straddle its back and begin to stab it.

"I kept stabbing until it was dead.

I'd like to hope I'd summon the courage to behave that way if a bear got hold of Coco, but I guess you never know what you'll do until it happens. I was delighted to read a good pit bull story for a change, although knowing what I know about these dogs, I can't say I was surprised.

There's more here about the dog's recovery:

WATERLOO - Since the swell of national attention highlighted the heroism of Tom Tilley and his dog Sam, offers have flooded in to pay for the dog's medical treatment.

Some callers want to nominate Sam for a canine hero award.


Sam was wounded when the bear clamped down on his back, tearing away skin and leaving several puncture wounds.

Since the incident last Thursday, Tilley and Sam have been inundated with media requests from across the country, as well as with calls and e-mails from well-wishers.

"Personally, I'll be glad when it dies down," the soft-spoken Tilley said Monday.

Sam is recovering well.

"We went to the vet today. We were hoping to get some of the tubes out from the surgery, but they're staying in for a little while longer."

An amazing, ironic phenomenon.

These remarkable dogs still provide mass entertainment, even though we call it "news."

posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (5)

Around the whirled

Last of the weekend photos.

Some contemplation:


And some action:


I like it when excitement appears out of nowhere!

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

The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world


Update: Explanation

Updatus Secundus: So what if Mel Gibson is not Tom Cruise?

Update Tertius: Bee double ee double are you in? Beerrun. That's the spirit!

Now bring me the wenches. This is how we schnell!

Update Yonban: This is madness. He's going to attack? Yes. He's defeated. He must accept his shame. Kill them. All of them. Now. My horse! [phantom elipses]. Fire! Ute! Ready! Aim! Fire! Fire at will!

Non-update Update: You have your honor again. Let me die with mine. [I will miss our conversations].

posted by Cosmic Drunk at 08:03 PM

Like father, like son?

According to police reports, a drunken Mel Gibson apparently stated that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."

Would alcohol make him say something like that? Possibly, but that does not mean the alcohol put the thoughts in his mind. From my experience with alcohol (and I've had a lot) alcohol doesn't work that way. It loosens inhibitions, and causes you to let slip things you might later regret. Alcohol can cause great embarrassment, but usually because it causes a loss of control. Loss of control means an inability to control impulses -- but the impulses are there.

On the other hand, we all say things we do not mean, whether drunk or sober. I've said all kinds of stupid things.

I think Gibson should own up to what he said, and discuss it. If he thinks the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world, I'd like to hear his explanation. If he doesn't think they are, I'd like to hear him say that. I'm still bothered by the fact that he failed to state whether or not he disagreed with the ravings of his anti-Semitic father, because under the circumstances (this was when "The Passion" was released), I think he had a responsibility. (So did David Bernstein.)

And under these circumstances, I don't think it's enough to simply say that he said "things" he doesn't believe:

“I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone I may have offended.”
He ought to explain, in specific terms, why he doesn't think the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. And not because one annoying blogger is demanding an apology, but because this is a nagging issue he brought to life once again by his actions, and he owes his fans and the movie-going public the whole truth. At this point I'd really like to know -- just what does he think? I mean, might the alcohol have only made him engage in hyperbole, and might he have really meant to say that the Jews are responsible not for all wars, but some wars? Which wars? Or no wars? He brought this stuff up, and I'm still irritated by his previous evasiveness.

I'd really like to know what the sane and sober Mel Gibson thinks about those he calls "the Jews" -- and not what a professional damage controller might have scripted for him. If he can't say what he really thinks, I'm afraid I'm going to have to doubt the sincerity of his apology.

Bear in mind that none of this has anything to do with the drunk driving charge, of which Gibson's guilt will depend on the evidence. And of course, there's nothing illegal about being an anti-Semite, blaming the Jews for all the wars in the world, or just blaming the Jews for some wars.

I'd like him to just tell the truth.

UPDATE: Power Line's Scott Johnson thinks Gibson's drunken remarks support the qualms he had about "The Passion":

If one is inclined, as I am, to the view that the personal beliefs of artists may be relevant to an interpretation of their works -- a view that the New Critics discounted as "the intentional fallacy" -- Mel Gibson's alleged drunken tirade provides some evidence to support my qualms regarding the film. Gibson's statement on his arrest seems to lend credence to the report of his drunken tirade.

MORE: When I wrote about "The Passion," had an article about the anti-Semitism of Hutton Gibson, Mel Gibson's father. The Snopes page has been pulled, and so has its archive (which the Wayback Machine gives as a "BLOCKED SITE ERROR.")

UPDATE: Via Dean Esmay, Doc Rampage offers a partial defense of Gibson:

obviously Gibson is special. Almost anyone else could yell anything and none of their friends, family, coworkers, or customers will ever know what they said. By contrast, now that it has become public, all of Gibson's friends, family, coworkers, and customers (moviegoers) are going to know what Mel Gibson said. The consequences for including that information in the report are likely to be far, far more damaging to Gibson than they would be to most other people.
True, Gibson is not an ordinary person. He is a celebrity. Which is why I think he has a greater duty to explain fully what he really thinks, or suffer the inevitable criticism.

He's still a great director, though. Drunken anti-Semitic remarks do not alter or undo his work.

And suppose he turns out to be a genuine anti-Semite. He would deserve the strongest criticism -- even condemnation -- for it.

But take Wagner's undisputed anti-Semitism. Isn't that a separate issue from the quality of his operas?

UPDATE: Kofi Annan look out! Mel Gibson may be after your job! (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 04:07 PM | Comments (7)

Same set of facts, completely different conclusions

I'm beginning to think that "gun violence" is the Philadelphia Inquirer's biggest issue. It's gotten to the point where nearly every Sunday's front page is devoted to this tedious topic, with nothing new to say. Yes, Philadelphia has a huge crime problem, and many people are shooting each other.

There is a criminal culture which believes in using guns to settle disputes, and to the Inquirer (as well as people who agree with them) this means guns are the problem.

In today's piece (part of a series titled "A Summer Under the Gun"), a local professor often said to be an expert in these matters makes a cultural observation which is hardly new, but which I think illustrates a serious problem posed by any attempt at analysis:

The main job on the Street is drug dealer.

"By selling drugs," wrote University of Pennsylvania professor Elijah Anderson, an authority on urban street life, young inner-city males "have a chance to put more money into their pockets than they could get by legal means, and they present themselves to peers as hip, in sharp contrast to the square image of those who work in places like McDonald's and wear silly uniforms."

True. People who sell drugs do so for the money, and to be cool. (My response is that relegalizing drugs takes away the profit, and probably some of the coolness.)

Another factor the Inquirer has pointed out time and time again is the inescapable fact that having a gun makes people (including criminals) more powerful than if they didn't have a gun:

In prison for armed robbery, Antwian comes across as a mild-mannered 19-year-old who doesn't talk hard-core street lingo. He said his home life was rough, with harsh physical discipline.

Antwian didn't fully embrace the Street. But when problems arose, guns were easy to get. A friend whose father had a gun collection got him a chrome 9mm Ruger to deal with some guys in his Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood who "kept trying to roll me."

Challenged to fight one day, Antwian pulled out his Ruger from his waistband and placed it on the ground for all to see.

"Nobody wanted to roll on me then," Antwian said.

He was emboldened. Following an altercation with some guys at a park, he returned with the Ruger and started firing to scare them.

"After that, everybody at the school whispered about it," he recalled. "A couple girls wanted to associate with me."

He now had a reputation.

I might even start to empathize a little bit there. No one should be picked on, and everyone has the right to self defense. But the decision to be armed in self defense is coupled with a responsibility. Firing shots to scare people "following an altercation" is not responsible. It is criminally irresponsible.

Or doesn't that matter? Anyway, if you read on, his criminal irresponsibility gets worse and worse. (And silly logical me, I don't even think it's the fault of the gun "availability"):

He did a little drug dealing in Germantown before moving to the Northeast, but "it wasn't really me. I just did it to get a quick couple dollars."

He did try to work. He cut grass in his neighborhood. He sold knickknacks out of a catalog. He stocked shelves at a Rite Aid, served as a cashier at a women's clothing store, cooked and waited tables at a rib joint in Manayunk. He worked at McDonald's for a month and got fired for showing up late. His last and best-paying job was in construction: $250 a week under the table.

"But I was smoking so much weed I'd be broke every day," he said.

He decided, "I need something right now, something I could do tonight."

Antwian, then 17, had given the Ruger to a friend who'd sold it. So, he paid $100 to a construction coworker who was a crack addict for a sawed-off shotgun. Then, with a friend, Antwian said, he committed three robberies that night.

Wearing a black flight jacket with five shells in an upper-arm pocket, Antwian approached his first victim, an older man, and pulled out the 12-gauge.

"You know what this is!" he announced. His friend patted the victim down and found $200. They told him to turn around and they ran off.

"We was like, ‘Damn, it was that easy?' " Antwian recalled.

For the next six weeks, Antwian committed five more stickups before his arrest and conviction on the last one.

"It was like my mind-frame shut down," he said. "If I wanted to do something, I just did it."

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the above factual scenario is absolutely correct. I have a question: Is it an argument for gun control, or against gun control?

That's the whole problem in a nutshell. For some people, it is self apparent that it is an argument for gun control, while for other people it is a reason to be armed.

To me, the fact that there are people who'd hold a gun to my head and demand money is a good reason to be armed.

Yet to others, the presence of people who behave that way is an argument against anyone having guns. Even law abiding people.

I don't see any way to bridge this hopeless gap.

It reminds me of the sad fact I discussed yesterday: some people would take Coco away from me because bad people own pit bulls.

posted by Eric at 12:32 PM | Comments (6)

Crowded and busy

I was gone all day yesterday and most of the night, which only caused me to neglect personal business around here, so now I have to get caught up with non-blog-related matters. (It's surprising -- even shocking -- how much time blogging can take.) Hopefully, I'll have some time later today.


(That looks almost unattainable, doesn't it?)

posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (1)

When appearances are outlawed, only outlaws will have appearances!

Dogs with a pit bull "appearance" are illegal in Kansas City, Kansas:

Under the city’s ordinances, it is illegal to have any dog with predominant characteristics or appearance of Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers or any combination of those breeds.
There's a huge uproar in Kansas right now because a[n alleged] thug was keeping some dogs with a pit pull appearance in an [allegedly] uninhabitable house where he apparently [allegedly] fed them from time to time -- and a dog he now claims was a stray attacked an elderly woman living next door.

From the looks of this story, it doesn't appear that pit bull ban is working very well:

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Charges were filed Friday in connection with a pit bull attack that killed a 71-year-old woman Thursday.

Police said Derrick D. Lee, 32, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. He is being held on $100,000 bond.

Officers said Lee owns the house next to Jimmie May McConnell. She was in her garden Thursday morning at 3100 Longwood Ave. when a dog jumped the fence and mauled her. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Officials said McConnell had a heart condition, and she couldn't recover from the stress of the dog attack.

There are a lot of news reports stating that the woman was mauled to death, but according to the medical evidence, the bites were not fatal:
Preliminary autopsy results indicated McConnell died of a cardiac arrhythmia brought on by the trauma of the attack, Wyandotte County coroner Alan Hancock said.

McConnell had extensive bites on her limbs and torso, "but not one of the bites were such that you could say one was responsible for her death," Hancock said.

The bite marks will be examined by an expert to determine if more than one dog attacked McConnell.

Animal-control officers tranquilized the dog in McConnell's back yard and took it away. A second dog was taken from the house next door.

Police would not confirm that the dogs were the ones responsible and were trying to determine the dogs' breed. But neighbors identified them as coming from a home next to McConnell's and believed they were pit bulls.

The problem with the pit bull ban legislation is that not only doesn't it matter whether your pit pit bull is the most loving animal in the world (or you the most careful and responsible owner), but your dog doesn't even have to be a pit bull! A Boxer/Dalmation cross would qualify under the "appearance" standard. In the haste to blame a breed, not much attention seems to be paid to the, um, "owner." In this case, the [alleged] thug claims he isn't the owner, and little attention seems to be paid to the obvious question of why the dogs in his care behaved this way; all that matters is the appearance of a breed:
Lee, on his way into court for a hearing in an unrelated case Friday afternoon, told The Kansas City Star he had nothing to do with the attack.

Lee said he had lived at the house where the dogs were found but hadn't been staying there for three months. He would return to the house to feed one of the dogs and another dog - the one involved in the attack - was a stray that would come up and steal food. He didn't know who the dog belonged to and thought it lived by a nearby creek, Lee said.

Oh, well obviously the creek was at fault then. I'm wondering how they would ever prove that he knowingly violated an ordinance prohibiting a dog with an appearance. To arrest the man was easy; he was already facing other criminal charges, and all they had to do was arrest him in court:
Police said Lee was arrested at the Wyandotte County Courthouse where he had appeared on unrelated charges of possession of crack cocaine and battery of an officer.
Any previous problems with the same house, same dogs? Of course!
"She was so scared of the dogs. This has gone on for over a year. Those dogs have acted like they want to come through that fence," Chris McConnell told KMBC. "She worked in the garden every day, and they would growl and bark aggressively at her. She said, 'One day, one of those dogs are going to get me.' They finally got her."

KMBC reported that this wasn't the first time that neighbors have had problems with this neighbor's dogs. According to a representative with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, animal control officers found two pit bulls at the neighbor's home in 2004.

Code enforcement officers deemed the neighbor's house uninhabitable because there are no utilities hooked up inside.

Pit bulls are banned in Wyandotte County, Kan., where the attack took place.

Police said they have not been able to contact the dog's owner. Officials said they are investigating the case as a homicide. (Emphasis added.)

What kind of dog owner keeps his dogs in an uninhabitable house and doesn't know what dogs are eating the food he occasionally feeds them? From what I can see, this man exercised little to no care at all, as these dogs had previously showed up at neighboring residences. (Probably looking for food.)

To recap, a dog neglected by a[n alleged] thug in a derelict house roams the streets and terrifies the neighbors, finally attacking one who later dies of heart failure.

And the focus is not on the [alleged] criminal, or on how he treated the animal he won't admit he owned. No. The focus is on a particular breed, so that dogs can be identified and taken away from law-abiding responsible people.

Based on their "appearances," of course.

I'm sorry, but the illogic and the insanity involved here defy analysis. My dark side wonders about the human psychology underlying the anti-pit bull hysteria coupled with breed specific legislation.

Might the lowly pit bull be a permissible scapegoat for something else?

I've spent enough time on this that I might as well upload pictures of the "suspects":


Yeah, yeah. Presumption of innocence and all that.

(But at least we know the pit bull is guilty! Reassuring, isn't it?)

UPDATE: My speculation about possible unconscious motivations was neither original, nor (it seems) unfounded. Not according to CHAKO Dog Blog:

Donald Butler, a member of the Public Safety Committee for Horicon, Wisconsin, believes that Horicon should ban Pit Bulls. His rationale for wanting Pit Bulls out of Horicon is simple, if shockingly discriminatory.

"Horicon is not a ghetto. This is one breed of dogs we do not need."

Many educated dog advocates, attorneys, and scholars have stated that breed discrimination is often a guise for classism. Never before, however, has a public official come right out and admitted such a thing!

We applaud Donald Butler for his bravery. It takes guts to admit that the sole motivation for wanting to get rid of Pit Bulls is because one believes that only "ghetto" people own Pit Bulls. Is it possible that Mr. Butler believes that, by banning Pit Bulls, all the people with darker skin will leave Horicon with their beloved Pit Bulls?

Mr. Butler, despite his bravery, made quite the ass of himself for such assumptions. Even if true, he has shown himself to be a racist, pure and simple. However, Mr. Butler's belief that Pit Bulls are "ghetto" is, of course, erroneous. People like Helen Keller, Michael J. Fox, and John Stewart own Pit Bulls.

One of these days I'll figure out in which "ghetto" I belong.

MORE: In my quest to be fair to both "sides," I should point out that Slate's Clara Jeffery has examined whether pit bulls themselves can be racist. Apparently so! And amazingly enough, so can other breeds.

Believe it or not, such things depend on training!

AND MORE: The pit bull racist symbology is older than I thought. From the New York Times, 1991:

At the core of the book is a strangely baroque dog story. Bandit, Ms. Hearne writes, "belonged to an old man in Stamford, Connecticut, an old black man, Mr. Lamon Redd." On July 9, 1987, Mr. Redd's tenant and next-door neighbor, "one Mr. Johnson," quarreled with his girlfriend. She went home to her mother, Effie Powell, who in turn came over to Mr. Redd's yard and clobbered Mr. Johnson with a broom, an attack "which Mr. Johnson seems to have deserved," Ms. Hearne asserts. "Bandit brought the assault on his friend to a screeching halt, with his teeth." For six weeks or so, he "did time in the pound." And when he came home he was "in a sorry state." He "wet on the porch, was whupped, and bit Mr. Redd. At this point a neighbor called the police, Bandit was seized again, and a disposal order was issued."

This is where Ms. Hearne enters the story. When Mr. Redd appeals the disposal order (he blames himself for Bandit's second attack, since the dog warned him repeatedly before biting), his lawyer calls Ms. Hearne as an expert witness. At the time, no one -- not Mr. Redd, not his lawyer, not the state's chief canine control officer and not Bandit -- knew what they were in for. Ms. Hearne's legal mission is to save Bandit's life. And this she does. But her mission as an unrepentant trainer of both dogs and people is far bigger. That is why "Bandit" is not only a dog story but also a deeply eccentric lesson in justice, linguistics, racism and teleology.

It is hard to tell at any given moment where Ms. Hearne's argument, or even one of her sentences, is going. Nonetheless you feel you are being led by her playful pedantry to a place where you will be shown to be wanting.

Ms. Hearne has a lesson for everyone. For the judge who handed down the disposal order, she has a linguistics lesson: "I do not think you can execute someone who does not know what an execution is." For those who testified in court against Bandit -- claiming that "pit bulls" like him have "vicious genes" and "the Jekyll-Hyde syndrome" -- she has a lesson about bigotry. "The pit bull 'hysteria,' " she writes, "is one of the cleverest pieces of racist propaganda." Today, people are invited "to make the leap from socially unacceptable inner city males to pit bulls." That much was clear, she writes, when Mr. Redd tried to defend his dog by saying "the white ladies like him, too."


My often narrow focus on matters of logic makes me miss things like racial symbology. I hate to think it was staring me in the face for so long.

Sometimes, logic can be a shortcoming I guess.

UPDATE: I forgot to link to the famous "FIND THE PIT BULL" test. There's only one pit bull there, and even I had trouble spotting it. But that doesn't matter to today's dog grabbers.

UPDATE: In breaking news story linked by Drudge, 68 pit bulls were found living in a dilapidated house -- with children:

WICHITA, Kan. -- Two Kansas children are in protective custody after authorities found 68 pit bulls living in their home.

Police said the children -- an 11-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl -- were found living in deplorable conditions.

The dogs were living inside and in the back yard. Many of the dogs have scars and were probably used for fighting, authorities said.

The children's father was arrested on various charges, including resisting arrest and child endangerment.

68 dogs kept for dog fighting in a single house under filthy conditions with children?

And the breed is at fault?

But of course!

(Will someone please tell me whose culture war Coco and I are supposed to be fighting?)

posted by Eric at 08:59 AM | Comments (2)

Why do they shoot us?

This looks like domestic terrorism to me:

SEATTLE – One person is dead and five others have been injured in a shooting at the Jewish Federation at 2031 Third Ave. in downtown Seattle. One suspect has been taken into custody.

Seattle police spokesman Rich Pruitt said police are confident that only one shooter was involved.

Sources told KING 5 the suspect is a 31-year-old Pakistani man with a criminal background. He is from the Pasco but his citizenship status or how long he has lived in the United States is unknown. Also unknown is what sort of criminal record he has. Officials are on the way to the Pasco to interview his family.

According to the Seattle Times, a man got through security at the Jewish Federation and told staff members, "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," then began shooting, according to Amy Wasser-Simpson, the vice president for planning and community services for the Jewish Federation.

FBI spokesman David Gomez said officials believe the suspect acted alone and is not affiliated with a foreign organization.

I just sat down at the computer and saw this, but it's been news around the blogosphere for at least a couple of hours. Via Glenn Reynolds, Pajamas Media has a big roundup with lots of pictures.

There will probably be a strained effort to say this was not terrorism because it was a lone individual. Well, Timothy McVeigh was a lone individual.

I live in a neighborhood that's about 50% Jewish, in which there is a Saudi madrassa. It worries a lot of people that someone from the madrassa might just lose it and flip out like this one of these days.

This reminds me of my post on Wednesday about eliminationist rhetoric. Here's a guy who put his into practice.

If only there were some way to require that immigrants to this country learn American civics and assimilate. I have no idea whether the gunman was a citizen, but if he was, I wonder whether he really believed in this country, or considered it an enemy to be defeated along with "the Jews." If he thought these people were Jews and not Americans, if he thought he was a Muslim and not an American, he had no business calling himself an American.

I'm sorry, but "Why do they hate us?" is not a question which we should have to ask of Americans -- or for that matter, people on the American street.

UPDATE (07/29/06): Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that there's quite a hurry to declare that the shooter suffered from "mental illness." Not that this would make him any less a terrorist than any other nutcase who believes in shooting Jews in the name of God, but aren't such issues normally raised by defense lawyers?

posted by Eric at 11:07 PM | Comments (9)

Please help Jeff Goldstein

Jeff Goldstein is one of the funniest people in the blogosphere, and the continued psychotic threats against his child have not only gone way too far, the whole thing makes me wonder what the goal is. To stop Jeff from being funny? To make him quit blogging? To make him turn off comments? Or to make "the blogosphere" (as if a psychotic troll were representative) look bad? Or all four?

Regardless of the reasons, going after someone's kid is just so low.

It's still hard to believe that a trained professional would act this way, but it appears to be the same person as last time. Patterico has more.

Words fail me.

Anyone who feels the same way that I do should go here and hit Jeff's tip jar (as I did) to help him pay for the legal expenses he'll likely incur having to defend and protect his child. It's unbelievable that any blogger should ever have to go through something like this.

I wish Jeff the best of luck.

posted by Eric at 04:30 PM | Comments (1)

One Puppet. Two Glenns. Some strings attached.

An end to sock puppetry? By all means.

Via Glenn Greenwald Reynolds, who doesn't make clear which "side" he's on.


This "Glenn" confusion is starting to bother me. Has anyone (outside of Brazil, that is) ever actually seen Glenn Greenwald? I mean, in person? Sure, there's been a talking image floating around on the Telescreen, but how can we be sure that there really is a Glenn Greenwald, much less that the talking image actually depicts a human being of that name?

Sorry, but I'm skeptical.


There are just way too many "coincidences."

UPDATE: A rare admission from the Glenn behind the strings.

Also via Glenn Reynolds, Don Surber shows that Greenwald is wrong about a number of things, while spinning the sock puppetry to make him look like the victim of personal attacks.

Food for thought.

But what about the cute lyrics?

posted by Eric at 02:40 PM | Comments (3)

Lock 'em up? But where?

In his latest Weekly Check on the Bias, Jeff Soyer discusses the current crime wave in Philadelphia and asks whether lenient judges are to blame:

More anti-gun laws don't stop crime. Locking up thugs for a good long time does. The City of Brotherly Love is experiencing a surge in gun violence. There's been an interesting set of letters appearing in the Philadelphia Daily News over the past few weeks. It started with one by Joseph Fox, Chief of Detectives of the Philadelphia Police Department here:
More than 70 percent of Philly's murder victims have criminal records, many of them extensive. In excess of 80 percent of those arrested for murder have criminal records, many of them for violent crime.

The number of people who are engaged in violent criminal activity is minuscule as a percentage of the overall population. Common sense dictates that if this limited number of violent criminals are locked away, the bloodshed would begin to abate.

Our judges have the power to do this.

Fox is right, but there's another aspect of the Philadelphia problem which cannot be solved even by the best judges in the world.

Prison overcrowding:

PHILADELPHIA -- As many as 25 to 30 men have been kept for days in a holding cell with a single toilet and no beds as detainees overwhelm Philadelphia's prison system, a lawsuit filed yesterday charged.

The suit comes just five years after state and federal courts ended 30 years of supervision prompted by earlier lawsuits over prison conditions.

The city -- whose prison population has more than doubled since 1987 to about 8,800 -- reopened a long-shuttered prison over the weekend to make room for the newest detainees.

Holmesburg Prison, which was closed a decade ago, is being used temporarily to hold prisoners during the intake process. Pretrial detainees have recently been held for days in police districts and the police administration building, sometimes without beds or access to lawyers or medical care, the lawsuit charged. Police holding cells are designed to hold people for just a few hours.

"It's intolerable to treat people that way, and there's something called the Constitution which says that you can't," said civil-rights lawyer David Rudovsky, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who filed yesterday's suit as well as an earlier suit in 1971.

City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. said the city has been aware of the problem, and working on it with judges, prosecutors and others, for more than a year. He expects that more money will be needed to hire staff and equipment and come up with alternative solutions, such as home-monitoring devices for low-level offenders.

The city currently spends $262 million a year on its prison system, up from $93 million in 1987 and $195 million in 2001.

I have to say, I don't like the idea of treating human beings that way -- especially those who have done nothing more harmful than harming themselves with drugs.

Rudofsky, btw, is a member of the Penn law school faculty, a prominent prison rights attorney, and former local counsel for the famed Mumia Abu Jamal, so he knows his turf. While I am leery of activists whose ultimate goal is to close all prisons, it strikes me that if prison conditions are so unconstitutional that inmates have to be released early, something is very, very wrong.

Professor Rudofsky mentions the war on drugs:

"With the war on drugs, you have an inexhaustible supply of possible prisoners, limited only by the number of police you have," Rudovsky said.

Alternatives to incarceration should be considered for people charged with minor crimes and those nearing parole, he said.

I don't know what he means by "minor crimes," but if this piece by Monica Yant Kinney is any indication, even killers are going free:
Riley's 20-year-old son died after a .22-caliber bullet went through his forehead and lodged in his brain. A neighbor, Anthony Byrd, confessed.

Byrd, also 20, told police that he had bought the gun "off someone in the street." What street, from whom and for how much, he didn't say.

Byrd called the shooting an accident, which is curious since he ran from the crime scene and waited a week to surrender.

"I was confused," he told investigators. As for the gun? "I don't really remember what happened to it."

Byrd admitted his guilt, and let the lawyers decide whether to call it murder or manslaughter. A few weeks ago, he was sentenced to 111/2 to 24 months behind bars, with credit for time served since his arrest last fall.

With the Philadelphia prison system so overcrowded the city is being sued, the odds are that Byrd will be free sooner rather than later.

Get a gun, take a life, and get yours back that fast? If it's that easy, no wonder everyone's doing it.

Is it any wonder that liberals talk about going after the guns?

Conservatives and many Second Amendment supporting libertarians (like myself) often argue that the solution is locking up people who commit crimes with guns, but if they cannot be locked up, doesn't that tend to reduce the lock-em-up argument to a form of mere debate rhetoric?

The fact is, violent criminals with long records are not being locked up. They can get guns illegally in numerous ways, and making guns harder for law abiding people to get only decreases the number of armed law abiding citizens. Considering the dysfunctional nature of the lock-em-up system, armed law-abiding citizens -- like this store owner, and this armed citizen -- are one of society's few last lines of defense.

I think this is another example of how the drug war is ruining the criminal justice system.

By artificially driving up the price of substances of little inherent worth, these laws create opportunities for instant wealth, torture traditional notions of crime and jurisprudence, manufacture false morality while criminalizing human suffering, and provide a gigantic, artificial playing field for opportunistic crime which otherwise would not be there.

The result is that ordinary police work is corrupted, and we see police overreacting to things like cell phone photography, as well as the use of deadly SWAT teams in routine law enforcement.

If drugs were legal, the streets would be safer, there'd be room in the prisons, and while addicts would continue to be victims, they'd no longer be punished for being victims, and they wouldn't have to prey on the rest of us.

Who knows? Some of them might be motivated to get help.

MORE: I forgot to mention that Jeff is taking a break from his weekly report on the bias. I hope it's only temporary, as I think Jeff is providing a real service to the Second Amendment.

posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (1)

Stiffing socialism

Thanks to an email from blogger and commenter James Rummel, I discovered (only after about a half an hour of trial and error experimentation) that MT Blacklist would not allow any comment which used the word "Socialism."

OK, I hate socialism, and I freely admit my bias. But never in my wildest dreams would I even think of banning the word, and I couldn't imagine what would possess my anti-spam software to do that either. It's not as if I've been getting spam from Trotskyites, or anything that would trigger automatic deletions of such words. Besides, James Rummel was making a point not about ordinary socialism, but "National Socialism." Even that wasn't allowed.

The words "socialist" and "socialism" simply would not go through -- either alone or in combination with other words. But "social" went through.

Finally, I saw the problem.

"Socialism" contains a very-banned, very-offensive word:


I deleted that from MT-Blacklist's banned words, and now anyone can comment about socialists, or socialism.

Googling around, I discovered that I am not alone.

Here's The Liberal Avenger, in a post titled "SoCIALISm":

Who knew?

The disappearing comments were due to the popular drug name CIALIS playing an integral role in every soCIALISt here.

In light of this I wonder what the reasoning was behind Lilly Pharmaceuticals’ decision to call their drug CIALIS.

Labor Day celebrations frequented by workers with raging hard-ons?

Workers of the World - frolic around my May Pole.

[Update: OK - lame joke. Who can write the best May Pole joke now?]

"¡CIALIS O MUERTE!" I'd say. . .

(I bet old Fidel could use a dose of the former while he awaits the latter . . . Stiff either way, coming or going!)

posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (13)

I hate being a Rhodes analyst!

I'm confused again.

Ed Cone (via Glenn Reynolds) linked to the official website of the Randi Rhodes Show, which yesterday had a comment about Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, directly followed by a comment about the Israel/Hezbollah war:

Bush puppet/Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spouts White House talking points sprinkled with Islam to a joint session of Congress.

Kofi Annan: UN observers were deliberately attacked and killed by Israel. WTF?!

I'll second the "WFT?!"

I'm glad I'm not a war blogger, but sometimes I feel guilty about neglecting my war coverage. I just don't have access to inside information of the sort which might enable me to comment even in a semi-coherent manner about battlefield decisions, troop movements, enemy strength, etc. (Of course if I did, I probably wouldn't comment at all, so there's a bit of a paradox in all this.)

But I can certainly make a stab at trying to make sense out of someone else's analysis. Or (as in this case) not.

I'll start with al-Maliki's "White House talking points." I'm assuming that the Randi Rhodes analyst is on the left, and that he or she therefore must have taken into account not only Prime Minister al-Maliki's actual remarks, but the widely-reported left-wing criticism of them:

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an "anti-Semite" for failing to denounce Hezbollah for its attacks against Israel.

Al-Maliki has condemned Israel's offensive, prompting several Democrats to boycott his address to a joint meeting of Congress and others to criticize him. Dean's comments were the strongest to date.

"The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite," the Democratic leader told a gathering of business leaders in Florida. "We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah."

OK, without reaching a final decision as to whether al-Maliki is an anti-Semite, can't we agree that tacit or overt support for Hezbollah cannot fairly be called a "White House talking point"? Or is this what the Rhodes analyst means by the phrase "sprinkled with Islam"? No, that can't be, because that would mean that support for Hezbollah equals "Islam" and it still wouldn't be accurate to dismiss the remarks as "White House talking points."

So I am still confused. Unless Howard Dean is covertly suggesting that anti-Semitism is a White House talking point, something does not make sense.

Fortunately, my job does not require me to make sense of the Randi Rhodes Show, or its analysts.

As to the assertion by Kofi Annan that "UN observers were deliberately attacked and killed by Israel," Belmont Club's Wretchard has devoted an extensive analysis to that, and it's pretty clear that the troop positions of UNIFIL (the UN group) and Hezbollah are very close together, and that Israel has had a very tough time avoiding accidentally hitting UNIFIL. Wretchard also quotes from this statement from a CBC radio interview with a Canadian general (which can be streamed at LGF):

We received emails from him a few days ago, and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position for tactical necessity, not being targeted. Now that’s veiled speech in the military. What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.
The Canadian general's view finds confirmation in this Yahoo background report about UNIFIL -- and its largely useless presence in Lebanon:
The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, was created and dispatched to that country after terrorists from Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization entered Israel and hijacked a bus and Israel responded. Thirty-six hostages died. Israel's response was to enter south Lebanon to destroy the terrorist base camps.

The U.N.'s response was to adopt Resolution 425, which, naturally, called for Israel to withdraw "immediately" and set up UNIFIL for the expressed purpose of "assisting the government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of effective authority to the area." It did such a good job of preventing the PLO from using south Lebanon to attack Israel that in June 1982, Israel felt compelled to launch a full-scale invasion to oust the PLO once and for all.

UNIFIL was there from the 1982 assassination of Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel through the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, both with the involvement of a Syrian government to whom the idea of a strong and truly independent Lebanon was anathema.

UNIFIL was there when Hezbollah, with full Syrian and Iranian complicity, rushed in to fill the political vacuum left by the PLO. When the Israelis withdrew totally from every square inch of Lebanon in 2000, UNIFIL stood by as Hezbollah established its "effective authority" over south Lebanon.

UNIFIL never has done much real peacekeeping; the U.N. reacts only if Israel attempts to defend itself. As former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Dore Gold notes: "Hezbollah would launch military attacks 50 meters from a U.N. outpost, Israel would shoot back and UNIFIL would protest against the Israeli response."

Might Hezbollah be using the UN?

I'm shocked.



Give peace a chance?

Anyone naive enough to imagine that Nasrallah and Hezbollah want peace -- or have ever wanted peace -- should watch this video.

Yeah, this war-blogging, Rhodes-analyst stuff is a real drag.

But what's the alternative?

Peace blogging?

MORE: The Jerusalem Post points out that Israel indignantly denies targeting UNAFIL deliberately, and demands an investigation of UNAFIL's apparent inseparability from Hezbollah:

Such an investigation must determine more than just how UNIFIL troops were located in such close proximity to Hizbullah terrorists that they ended up in the line of fire. More fundamentally, it would delve into how, in complete contravention of its objectives, UNIFIL stood by without a murmur as a terrorist organization amassed thousands upon thousands of rockets whose unprovoked use has killed and wounded dozens of Israelis and precipitated the current war.

The bitter irony is that Annan himself reported to the Security Council back in January 2001 that UNIFIL had completed implementation of the part of its mandate requiring it to help Lebanese authorities resume control of the area vacated by Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. If he was right, the IDF would not now be operating against Hizbullah, and absorbing mounting casualties. And four UNIFIL workers would not be dead today.

What do you call standing by without a murmur as a terrorist organization amasses thousands upon thousands of rockets?

Giving peace a chance!

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Captain Ed has an interesting post titled "The Nasrallah Blues." The Israelis have penetrated the sheikh's communications network, and he's being forced to acknowledge the serious shortcomings of his leadership. Says Ed:

Having a commander communicate an apology of this sort indicates a growing dissatisfaction with leadership in the ranks. Nasrallah so far has done nothing to convince anyone that he has a grasp of either strategy or tactics. He has proven that he has no understanding of his enemy, nor much of his putative allies in the region, almost all of whom have declined to rush to his side in this fight.
He should have stuck with producing videos and shmoozing with Kofi Annan.

If Nasrallah survives, I suspect he'll try to claim an Arafat-style "victory." And if this is then spun as a "victory" for peace, who knows? Might there even be a Nobel "Peace" Prize in his future?

UPDATE: THANK YOU GLENN REYNOLDS for linking this post, and welcome all!

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

Abajo con Bush! Y viva el Che!

I almost forgot that today is the 26 of July -- an important Communist holiday in Cuba which commemorates Castro's 1953 assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago.

They celebrated by (among other things) blasting Bush:

(AP) Fidel Castro led tens of thousands of Communist Party faithful in celebrating Cuba's Revolution Day on Wednesday, telling a large crowd that his revolution's social achievements exceed anything a U.S.-backed replacement could accomplish.

Returning to his roots in eastern Cuba, Castro also praised Granma province, named for the yacht that carried him back to Cuba in 1956 to launch the battles that led him to triumph three years later.

"Granma (province) doesn't need any Yankee transition plan to vaccinate and teach our people to read and write," Castro said, drawing loud applause from the crowd in this provincial capital. "They should tell Mr. Bush ... to come to Granma to see a development plan."

Here's how the geezer looked today:


What shouldn't be overlooked in any thorough report of this year's Rebellion Day festivities was a very special event held in Alta Gracia, Argentina just over the weekend -- in which Castro and his protege Hugo Chavez visited the boyhood home of Che Guevara:

ALTA GRACIA, Argentina— Fidel and Hugo went on a pilgrimage yesterday to Che’s house.

In an emotional journey, Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan ally Hugo Chavez toured the Argentine boyhood home of Castro’s fallen comrade and legendary guerrilla, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. It was a first visit for both.

“Fidel! Fidel!” and “Hugo! Hugo!” the crowd of 2,000 chanted as the 79-year-old Castro, wearing his trademark green military fatigues, got out of his limousine. Chavez was right by Castro’s side as they entered the house amid a crush of security agents.

While Castro made no public comment, he smiled broadly and shook hands with supporters in the crowd. Chavez told reporters the two were delighted by their tour: “Fidel invited me to come and get to know the house. For me, it’s a real honor being here.”

“We feel it! We feel it! Guevara is right with us!” the crowd shouted yesterday. .

Castro first visited Argentina in 1959 after the Cuban revolution and returned to attend a regional summit Friday that inducted Venezuela into the Mercosur trade bloc.

Guevara spent most of his childhood in central Argentina, where his family hoped a mild climate would ease his severe asthma. Guevara’s family later moved to Buenos Aires, where he enrolled in medical school before launching the famous motorcycle trip around South America that inspired him to give up medicine for leftist revolution.

That's the motorcycle trip that launched Robert Redford's Hollywood film, of course... (PR is so important!)

Here's the pair, posing with the little bronze Che:


And here's the entourage posing in front of the famous Korda "T-shirt" photograph that's so in with those who care -- who really care -- about "social justice":


And last but not least, a group hug!



Where it came to "eliminationist rhetoric," Guevara did more than just talk the talk.

He practiced what he preached.

posted by Eric at 08:43 PM | Comments (8)

All eliminationist rhetoric is not equal

I'd like to examine what I consider to be a textbook example of genuine eliminationist rhetoric. (As opposed to the highly questionable variety discussed by Rick Moran.)


I found the above picture at a post by Tammy Bruce titled "Hezbollah Among Us."

Calls for destruction of Israel and the Jews are nothing new, and had the same picture had been taken in any number of places in the Mideast, it wouldn't be all that newsworthy.

But -- it was taken at a demonstration in New York.

In this country, advocacy of genocide is normally thought of as a right wing phenomenon. Had the above people been wearing Nazi uniforms, they'd have almost certainly been greeted by huge and angry counterdemonstrations, like those which greeted the uniformed Nazis here. As it happens, I consider advocates of genocide against Jews to be on the right, but it really doesn't matter whether they're considered on the left or the right. They are engaged, quite literally, in eliminationist rhetoric.

So why is it that this literal eliminationist rhetoric -- advocacy, right here in the United States, of genocide against the Jews -- would not be called eliminationist rhetoric by the people who routinely use the term against the likes of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh? (Or would it? Please enlighten me if my suspicions are wrong.)

Is it because "eliminationist rhetoric" is some sort of leftist code language? Frankly, I think it would be more likely that Tammy Bruce would be accused of using "ER" simply for suggesting that the genocide advocates be deported:

This is one example where everyone at this rally carrying signs calling for Israel's destruction and are sympathetic to Hezbollah should be considered supporters of the enemy, arrested and interrogated. And then, of course, either jailed or deported. And if they have somehow managed to become citizens of the United States, they should be stripped of that honor and then deported back to the pit from whence they came.
Take another look at that picture. If the same people were from Germany and they were wearing Nazi uniforms, wouldn't there be an outcry to deport them?

I think there would be. Even though we're no longer at war with Germany, but we are at war with international terrorists.

Or am I missing something?

MORE: My confusion may touch on the definition of "genocide." As Glenn Reynolds observes, all genocide is not equal:

... in lefty newspeak, "genocide" is a code word meaning "self-defense" . . .
But - but - but. Exterminating Jews as self defense?

Well, yes. There was a film with precisely that theme.

(Um, wouldn't that be "oldspeak" then?)

UPDATE: My "extremest" thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post!

Welcome all.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Austin Bay on fascism:

Fascists organizations often have an imperial restorationist rhetorical pitch and political platform. Mussolini certainly did and Bin Laden does.

posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (18)

The psychology of sock puppetry

Get ready for some moral relativism, because that's exactly what's coming.

During the discussion of sock puppetry (in the most recent post about Doug Thompson and CHB), commenter Kip Watson asked about the origin of the term:

Did you just coin the term 'sock puppets' for this sort of dishonesty?

(I hadn't heard it before)

If so, nice one! Knowing the devils name is how you drive it out!

Posted by Kip Watson at July 25, 2006 08:06 PM

I replied:
No; I didn't first use the term -- not even to describe CHB (the credit for that goes to John Hawkins).

As to the online use of the term, according to Wikipedia its use goes back to the 1990s:

The term was perhaps first used on July 9, 1993 in a posting to bit.listserv.fnord-l, but was not in common usage in USENET groups until 1996.

(Links added to my comment.)

In another post about CHB "sock puppetry," I linked to Wuzzadem's very funny post ridiculing Glenn Greenwald's recent use of cyber sock puppets.

Now I'm thinking, did I make a mistake? Or are there different categories of sock puppets?

As the Wikipedia entry notes, sock puppetry is frowned on:

Sockpuppet (sometimes known also as a mule, or a glove puppet) is an additional account created by an existing member of an Internet community pretending to be a separate person. This is done so as to manufacture the illusion of support in a vote or argument or to act without social effect on one's "main" account stay away from the issue. This behaviour is often seen as dishonest by online communities and as a result these individuals are often labeled as trolls.
I'm not sure they're all trolls, as a troll is typically someone whose primary goal is engaging in disruptive behavior to gain attention. Creating a sock puppet merely to add support for one's own opinion is not trolling, and many trolls are not sock puppets at all, but well known commenters who always use the same name (usually fictitious, but sometimes real).

I have lower standards than most people, and while I post and comment under my own name, I have no problem with anonymous or pseudonymous posting or commenting. True, when push comes to shove, opinions from anonymous people are not taken as seriously as opinions from identified people, but that's just common sense, as well as collective blogospheric wisdom.

I do see a distinction between sock puppetry and genuine, fullscale fraud, and via Glenn Reynolds, I see that I am not alone. Allah ranks the various "scandals," and rates the Greenwald sock puppetry at the bottom -- below even the Hiltzik affair.

When he appeared on CNN's "Reliable Sources," Glenn Reynolds (hmmm... these days, I guess we need to be careful not to say "Glenn" without the last name, don't we?) didn't seem to think the Hiltzik sock puppetry was all that big a deal. I don't either. I think the only reason Allah ranks it above the Greenwald affair is because Hiltzik was an MSM journalist, and Greenwald is a blogger.

Because they're online where consequences are few and anyone can do pretty much anything, bloggers enjoy an inherent right to anonymity (including the right at their own risk to engage in sock puppetry) which isn't shared by mainstream journalists. They post often, and at all hours of the day and night, and it gets crazy sometimes. Bloggers always have the option of waking up in the morning, saying, "I said that?" and going back and retracting it, correcting it, modifying it. Unlike Hiltzik, there are no major consequences, and they won't lose their jobs. However, it goes without saying that absent some acceptable explanation for the behavior, bloggers face a loss of credibility for sock puppetry.

(Again, there is a difference between "honest" and "dishonest" sock puppetry; pretending to be "Karl Rove" is honest; perhaps it's not even sock puppetry.)

I don't especially like sock puppetry, but in blogging, it just goes with the turf. Many of my commenters are anonymous, and I don't mind. Some of them are pretending to be other than what they are, and sometimes I've seen obviously the same commenter return under a different name. If I learned who it was, and proclaimed that to the world, would that be a scandal? Not at all -- probably not even if I could establish it was Glenn Greenwald. However, if I could establish it was Dan Rather, that would be something else. (On the other hand, if "Glenn Greenwald" or "Dan Rather" left ridiculous comments, I'd instantly know these were honest, "friendly," sock puppets.)

My point is that mere sock puppetry in the blogosphere is not that big of a deal. This is why I am having second thoughts about calling CHB and Doug Thompson "sock puppets." (My chart may be more like it.) Not only is Capitol Hill Blue calling itself a news site, Google includes it as a news site. This is despite the fact that for years the site relied on a fictious "expert" named "George Harleigh" -- a professor of Political Science said to have worked for Nixon and Reagan, whose identity I questioned, and who, within a day of my InstaLanched post, was scrubbed from the site and admitted not to exist. (The fact that CHB tried to make this look retroactive raised many suspicions, and in comments it was pointed out that the "story" had been predated.)

Whether it's a mini-scandal or a big scandal, I don't know. (That depends on whether the term "Google News" is to be taken seriously, I guess.)

I soon noticed a 2003 mini-scandal involving this same site and another fictitious person -- one Terrance Wilkinson, said to have worked for the CIA and whose fake allegations managed to make their way onto CNN before he was unmasked.

Both times, CHB replied that it had been "had." I'm very skeptical about this claim, and I am particularly skeptical about the repeated disappearance and reappearance of Doug Thompson, and the way his multiple editors appear and disappear.

Most recently, I noticed that a "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield" (said to be a psychologist who treats patients for lying and prevarication) said exactly the same things about George Bush that she said about Bill Clinton.

Here's what CHB reported her saying about Clinton in 1999:

"The President exhibited all the classic symptoms of pathological prevarication," said Dr. Stephanie Crossfield, a psychologist who treats people who have trouble telling the truth. "His eye movements, gestures, and changes in voice tone all point to a consistent evasion of the truth."
And here's what she said in March of 2006, about George W. Bush:
"President Bush exhibited symptoms of pathological prevarication," says Dr. Stephanie Crossfield, a psychologist who treats people who have trouble telling the truth and who watched Bush's performances on Monday and Tuesday at my request. "His eye movements, gestures, and changes in voice tone all display traits of consistent evasion of the truth."
Let me stop right here, and point out that the last article has been pulled within the past two days. Here's what it says now:
"Article removed from our database"

"Because of sourcing problems we have removed this article from our database. We also learned that at least one passage was lifted by a researcher from another news source without attribution. Our apologies...."

Sourcing problems? Again?

This is unbelievable in the extreme. Every time I catch this guy, he simply pulls the articles!

What more can I say? Other than, here's the Google Cache. Again.

I have lost count of the number of times I have had to resort to Google caches with "Capitol Hill Blue." This is the second time with the same "article." On Sunday (July 23, 2006), language was inserted crediting the San Francisco Chronicle after I pointed out plagiarism.

In three years of blogging, I've never seen anything like this, and I hope I never do again. Considering that it comes from a long-established news site, I think it's massive, ongoing fraud, and I am sorry I called it mere "sock puppetry." Had I not asked questions, that March article would still be sitting there. So would the numerous articles quoting "George Harleigh."

Back to "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield." When "George Harleigh" was exposed here, a "Bill McTavish" (claiming to be the editor, but whose identity I also suspect is fictitious) blamed a previous "editor" named "Jack Sharp" (equally unverifiable).

Who is to be blamed now?

Bear in mind that "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield" is said (by Doug Thompson) to have been "hired" by CHB to "diagnose" President Clinton by watching a video. None of the links still go to CHB, but this archive site and Free Republic both preserve the original text, which reads as follows:

President Bill Clinton lied repeatedly during his Friday press conference, avoiding the truth when discussing the China spying scandal, his relationship with his wife and charges that he raped Juanita Broaddrick, an analysis by two experts shows.

Capitol Hill Blue hired a psychologist who treats chronic liars and a private investigator who uses voice stress analysis to catch liars. They analyzed the President's press conference live on television and again on videotape.

Their conclusion: The President lied more often than he told the truth. Even when he told the nation that he felt a "scorecard" would show he had been a good President who had told the truth more often than he had lied, he was, in fact, lying.

"The President exhibited all the classic symptoms of pathological prevarication," said Dr. Stephanie Crossfield, a psychologist who treats people who have trouble telling the truth. "His eye movements, gestures, and changes in voice tone all point to a consistent evasion of the truth."

Jonathan Rensley, a private investigator who used a voice stress analyzer to monitor the President's performance during the press conference, agrees.

"In spite of his demeanor, the President's voice patterns showed unusually high levels of stress, consistent with someone who is not telling the truth," Rensley said.

At Capitol Hill Blue's insistence, Dr. Crossfield and Rensley did not make their judgement based on one viewing of the President's performance or by consulting with each other. Both watched the press conference live, then rechecked their findings by viewing a full videotape of the press conference on both Saturday and Sunday to confirm their findings.

Calling Dr. Crossfield!

Dr. Crossfield where are you?

Can anyone help? I mean, isn't there a registry of psychologists anywhere? And if it turns out (as I'm 99.99% certain it will) that Dr. Crossfield doesn't exist -- and hasn't existed -- for the past seven years she's been quoted as an expert, who will be blamed? Thompson, McTavish, Sharp, Hampton, or Riley?

I'll say this in defense of the blogosphere's sock puppets. At least they aren't quoted as expert sources in news stories like "George Harleigh" and "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield." They weren't relied on for years by people on the right as well as the left.

And at least the blogosphere's sock puppets don't disappear when they're discovered. Nor are they blamed on other sock puppets. They remain part of the blogosphere's shared collective heritage.

Frankly, I hope "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield" does exist.

(Since she's an expert on the subject of deception, I'm sure she wouldn't mind sharing her views on sock puppetry. . .)

AFTERTHOUGHT: Considering that I had to go back and add "Reynolds" to the name "Glenn" above, I'm wondering about something. Can't the "Glenn" in "Glenn Greenwald" be changed or dropped to avoid further confusion? I know the Greenwald sock puppetry isn't a big deal, but it does reveal that his identity might not be all that important to him, so maybe just as a slap on the wrist he could just lose or change the first name (or have it lost or changed).

Or am I being too harsh?

MORE: As I've said before, exposing phony news sites is not my shtick, but I just stumbled onto this because the name "George Harleigh" did not ring true. People have said that because Capitol Hill Blue is not taken seriously, "exposing" anything there is a waste of time. Well, if CHB isn't taken seriously, then why is it listed as a Google News site when many other deserving sites are not? CHB, it should be remembered, lays claim to being "better" than the blogosphere:

Howard Kurtz, media writer for The Washington Post, once described the Internet as the place where “anybody with a modem and a mouth can be a publisher.” Blogs drive Kurtz’s point home. Even his newspaper has blogs written by reporters as well as freelancers hired to produce even more blogs written from a partisan point of view.

Which is my problem with blogs. Most, especially political blogs, exist solely to advance a narrow-focus point of view, an openly partisan agenda. The blog generating the most buzz these days is DailyKos, a “community blog” operated by a couple of Democratic activists who, among other things, use their blog to attract clients to one partner’s consulting business and then provide a quid-pro-quo of endorsements by Kos to those who pony up fat consulting fees.

Kos caters to “progressives,” the current buzzword for “liberal.” Somebody apparently focus-grouped the word “liberal” and found it has a bad rep so they came up a new name that means exactly the same thing.

“Progressives” have their litany of followers, usually mom-and-pop bloggers who churn out sermons to the party faithful and decry anything that smacks of right-wing, conservative or Republican.

The right-wingers, of course, have their blogs to counter anything posted by the left and this all leads to a shrill war of words that splatter all over the Internet as verbal diarrhea.

Shrill war of words? Verbal diarrhea? This from a guy who calls Bush "an international war criminal who should be arrested, shackled and led to the World Court to stand trial for his many crimes against humanity" and "a madman, a brain-damaged dry drunk whose insanity and megalomania threaten the very existence of America" and "a clear and present danger to the peace and security of this nation"????

I might be wrong about Kos, but since Thompson is using him as the example of all that's wrong with the blogosphere, I have to say that I don't remember seeing that kind of invective there (or at Atrios for that matter). Both are about as partisanly anti-Bush as it's possible to be.

Nonetheless, Thompson goes on to complain that "he" can't integrate "us":

In my three, aborted attempts to integrate the “blogosphere” into Capitol Hill Blue I found that those who want to read blogs and respond to articles posted thereon have no desire to participate in civil non-partisan discussions. Posts quickly turned into partisan diatribes with each side bashing the other.
Integrate the blogosphere into CHB?


I think CHB is beneath the dignity of our sock puppets!

UPDATE (07/27/06): The CHB post-pulling festival continues. A commenter emailed me about my previous post about "George Harleigh"

Your link to CHB on Bush killing kittens seems to be gone. The page is there, but whatever was on the page is gone.

Sure enough, the commenter is right. It's gone. So once again, here's the Google cache. And the relevant text:
Dr. Justin Frank, a prominent George Washington University psychiatrist and author of the book, Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, says Bush has a cruel, sadistic streak that goes back to his childhood when a young George gleefully bragged about dissecting cats, cutting them open while they were still alive.

The boy who tortured cats, Dr. Frank says, grew up into an alcohol-abusing bully who strikes out at anyone who opposes him.
All one has to do, Dr. Frank says, is confront the President and the bully emerges.

"To actually directly confront him in a clear way, to bring him out, so you would really see the bully, and you would also see the fear," he says.

AND AN AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurs to me that this is getting extremely redundant. The news stories keep getting pulled, "experts" keep disappearing, and various "editors" are blamed in a game of musical chairs.

I'm not in charge of the Internet, so beyond this, there's little I can do. CHB will doubtless carry on as long as there's someone there to keep it going.

The First Amendment right to free speech carries no requirement or guarantee of honesty.

posted by Eric at 07:00 AM | Comments (7)

Questioning authority (and other forms of "authoritarianism")

Sorry for the long post which is about to follow, but the time has come for me to return to the roots of my various political (doubtless infantile) disorders.

A better choice for the title of this post might be "Poli Psy 101" . . . (Ironically, by writing this post, I'm neglecting my search for one of the country's leading political psychologists -- Capitol Hill Blue's "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield"!)

The problem is, psychopolitical "disease" diagnoses are everywhere. A comment by Jon Thompson reminded me of an account I read recently about a doctoral student in psychology whose opinion that she was "not privileged" triggered a demand that she submit to psychological evaluation. She refused, and was expelled:

[Lorraine Land] started working on her doctorate in fall 2002 and had no major problems until October 2004, when she told psychology professor Cheryll Rothery-Jackson about an experience she had with clients of different socioeconomic backgrounds while doing a practicum at Friends Hospital in the Northeast.

"Really, what I said was not harmful," says Land, who has blond hair and wears a bubble-gum-pink outfit complete with a sparkly headband. "I acknowledged as a white woman, I'm sure I've had privileges; that doesn't mean I'm privileged. I'm not a Paris Hilton."

Rothery-Jackson, who is black, did not chastise Land for her remarks, but Land says, "From that point on, she went after me." (Rothery-Jackson did not respond to requests for comment.)

A few weeks later, Land received a letter from the psychology faculty saying she was argumentative, lacked insight and clinical experience and needed to control her tone. Then, the day before Thanksgiving, she received a review noting "serious concerns" in every aspect of her training. She submitted ways to improve, but the school was not satisfied.

During this time, Land says, Rothery-Jackson and another professor, Scott Browning, violated her trust by calling Friends Hospital to ask colleagues how she was progressing.

Finally, on Feb. 25, 2005, Browning told Land, who was already in therapy for anxiety, that she needed to undergo a psychological evaluation. Stress then led Land to request a break from her practicum. Friends Hospital agreed, but the college faculty never approved the change and failed Land in the course.

The school then dismissed her due to the failing grade and her reluctance to undergo an evaluation.

This is a private college, and I guess they can behave any way they want. And I suppose because the field is psychology, they have more leeway in getting inside the minds of their students than would, say a history or classics department. (At least I'd hope so.)

But there really is a growing tendency to label political opponents as mentally defective. It's not especially helpful to me, as I like to know what people think, and I am more concerned with whether they are right or wrong than in the mental processes underlying their thinking. My "rigid toilet training" post attempted to look at this in the context of "authoritarianism":

Dean, who's reinvented himself too many times to count, has now come up with a very popular meme that echoes the conservatism-as-mental-illness idea, but with a new twist -- the word "authoritarian" doesn't distinguish between conservatism and mental illness! It's a Marxist term which conflates the political and the personal into one grand evil.
"Authoritarian" (and other terms like it) are classic ad hominem attacks, because once a group is created and someone is associated with it, there's nothing to discuss. If an "authoritarian" wanted his municipality to devote more money to better streets and sewers, why, by so labeling him, his argument would be discredited. (Don't we all know fascists made the trains run on time?)

There's a term called "malignant narcissism" which I also hear from time to time. But anyone who thinks that "malignant narcissism" and "authoritarian" are in any way mutually exclusive should consider the case of North Korea's Kim Jong Il. He's both! I think psychoanalysis may be helpful in dealing with an unstable man like that, but it's of little value in ordinary political discussions, unless the goal is simply to yell and polarize. But the tendency of so many people to do it may indicate that hopeless polarization has set in -- to the point where all discussions are impossible, so ad hominem attacks (often launched by Choir A against Choir B) are the only thing left.

However, it's the "in" thing these days to do "Poli Psy," so I think it's high time that I check myself in for evaluation right here at this blog.

Back in the days when self-appointed political diagnostician John Dean was still a conservative, I was a Marxist in my thinking. Of course, I wasn't much of an authoritarian (my Marxism clashed with my anarchistic tendencies and lifestyle) and I'm still not much of an authoritarian. In fact, politically, every test I've taken shows me to be solidly in the libertarian camp.

People change their political opinions all the time. I've changed my mind countless times over the years. When I was in high school I was not just a Marxist, but a fiery radical. My radicalism didn't last long, as my political philosophy changed during the first couple of years I attended UC Berkeley. It turned me off to see what I perceived as uniformity of thought, and unquestioning acceptance of the virtues of socialism by so many. Many self-proclaimed "Marxists" didn't know the first thing about Marx; I soon learned that the most of the people who really knew Marxist theory were either:

a) opposed to Marxism as a result of studying it and seeing it in practice; or

b) dedicated, true-believing Marxists who could spout Marx almost line and verse.

Of this latter group, most were Trotskyists.

Members of the Communist Party, while Marxists, tended to keep their Marxism in the closet, because they were told to, and they did as they were told as a matter of party discipline. You had to get close to them to get them to really discuss Marxism, but what I soon learned was that their kind of Marxism was tempered by a constant political realism. Communist Party Marxism was Marxism met up with the political maxim that "politics is the art of the possible." The Communist Party worked very hard, but in the background. The focus was always on issues to which they tried to get as many people as possible to relate.

But the Trots and the Sparts -- they were the Marxists who'd really and unabashedly talk Marxism. And why wouldn't they? Trotskyism, after all, was always a deviation from traditional Communism as it had come to be defined by Soviet theoreticians, and if you think about it, if you want to deviate from something, it's a prerequisite that you first know the "ism" you are deviating from. The Trots knew their stuff, but it was hard carrying on conversations with them, because they were like broken records.

Looking back on this, I'm remembering that my revulsion towards Communism was based on what I perceived as Communist authoritarianism.

By 1976 I had become so disillusioned with the left that I had decided I was a Libertarian. Learning about Cuba from people who'd been there did not endear me to the place. Gay bars which had been joyously cheering the victory of Fidel were closed down as places of bourgeois decadence not long after. Not much to cheer about. In general, Communists struck me as control freaks. People who, the more you got to know them, the more they wanted to tell you what to think. Communism in practice, I realized, was a very controlling deal. The ideology had an answer for everything. All you had to do was look it up, and follow Marxist principles. The Trots were more like fundamentalists in the sense that they could at least look up the text for themselves. But then they'd get into these fractious, tedious arguments, in the most hair-splitting detail. Insufferable. The Communist Party types were even worse, as they took direction from above. It was authoritarianism at its worst. No dissent at all. Party discipline was a prerequisite to any responsibility. If you wanted to join the Communist Party, you'd be given tasks involving utter drudgery (like standing around gathering signatures on some petition), and you'd be watched. Graded, like a child in school. Original thinking? Forget it. That's only for those with years proven to be "politically reliable."

So, I didn't like real Marxists, and I didn't like the idea of Marxism in government. However, I liked the hordes of fake Marxists (political poseurs) even less. None of them seemed free. I liked the idea of simply being left alone, and politically I was more of an anarchist than a Marxist, so Libertarianism (with its emphasis on leaving people alone) had an early and enduring appeal.

Nonconformity doubtless played a role, as I've always tended to rebel against whatever the status quo might be at a given place and time, provided I can identify it. I had long hair until everyone had long hair, then I had short hair (and so forth), and then I was into the early punk scene until that too became conformist, but the process is as silly as it is exhausting, because rebellion leads to conformity, which leads to rebellion. . . So, while I've long since abandoned following these cycles of mindless contrarianism, I still refuse to do something (or, especially, to think something) simply because someone tells me to.

My voting record, I think, reflects my evolution. In 1972 I voted for George McGovern, and in 1976 I voted for Roger McBride. But by 1980, I had come to see Ronald Reagan as a great enough threat that I didn't want to waste my vote by voting for the Libertarian. (More here.)

This is not to say that I liked the socialism I considered part and parcel of Democratic Party politics, mind you. What turned me off to Reagan above all was the "culture war" rhetoric; I thought he was part of a simplistic mindset which regarded long hair and pot smoking and gays as unpatriotic. The fact that he courted people then known as "televangelists" filled me with disgust, and even rage. The mistake that I thought was being made was what today is called "conflation." Generalizing about people by invoking cultural stereotypes (like saying all hippies are leftists when many weren't, or wouldn't have been) is a way of keeping them out of your tent, pleasing your own kind. But it's a cheap shot, and long term, it does damage. Rather than bashing hippies, Reagan should have bashed Marxism -- preferably with a long-haired staffer by his side. But he couldn't do this, because it might have been misunderstood, and he'd have lost votes. The truth is, many members of his generation hated hippies because of their appearance, just like (let's face it) many of them hated gays. Wittingly or unwittingly, I think that Reagan (much to the delight of the left, which obliged by providing stereotypes every step of the way) did much to perpetuate the conflation of the personal and the political.

If only it hadn't happened. But it did.

I think it was Reagan's single greatest mistake.

It's why I'd like to continue to call myself a Goldwater liberal, and also why I am quite irritated that John Dean is not only advancing a Marxist psychopolitical meme (that political enemies are "authoritarians"), but he does so in the name of Barry Goldwater (a man who was himself a victim of these tactics).

I'm not about to buy the Dean book, but if the prologue is any indication, it's a masterpiece of prevarication -- and above all, conflation.

Let me admit my bias here. I do not buy into the conventional history of Watergate.

I did for years, but it never made sense to me why Nixon's people would want to burglarize the DNC or "bug Larry O'Brien's office." (Jim Hougan, btw, was the first to debunk this thoroughly, and he's neither an authoritarian nor a cultist, but someone who thought the CIA was out of control.)

The "bug O'Brien" theory didn't make sense to a lot of people -- least of all Richard Nixon, whose initial reaction that the burglary made no sense was absolutely right. A hard-bitten man (and certainly no moralist about such things), Nixon reacted along the lines of "WTF?"

"(expletive deleted) Of course, I am not dumb and I will never forget when I heard about this (adjective deleted) forced entry and bugging. I thought, what in the hell is this? What is the matter with these people? Are they crazy? I thought they were nuts! A prank! But it wasn't! It wasn't very funny." -- Richard Nixon, February 28, 1973
It wasn't the fact of the burglary that puzzled seasoned political analysts of the time so much as why. That was what led various freelance investigators to look more deeply at precisely what happened. While it is still not completely settled (and may never be) it's clear to me that the conventional Woodward and Bernstein/Washington Post theory (that the burglars targeted Larry O'Brien's office) was seriously flawed.

I realize that I certainly can't solve Watergate in a blog post. Even in a long blog post. The facts are laboriously complicated, but anyone who wants background about my skepticism can read my much-neglected Watergate blog. Again, Jim Hougan (a great writer BTW) was the first to really go back and explore the burglary details in his book Secret Agenda. (I recommend the Hougan book highly, along with Colodny and Gettlin's Silent Coup. People who don't want to buy out of print books can stream Barbara Newman's "The Key to Watergate" which was originally made for A&E's Investigative Reports series.)

Not that I'd expect Glenn Greenwald to actually sit down and ask serious questions about the burglary itself, but his recent endorsement of John Dean's book (in a post titled "John Dean and Authoritarian Cultism") speaks volumes about the diagnostic approach to demonization of people with dissenting (or even skeptical) views.

In 1991, as Dean recounts at length, he learned that 60 Minutes and Time Magazine were preparing to feature a new book, entitled Silent Coup, which claimed that Dean himself was the one who ordered the Watergate break-in. The book alleged that Dean's motive was that his wife, Maureen, had a connection to a Washington, DC call-girl operation and thus had knowledge of various sex scandals involving Democrats, and Dean sought to obtain documentation to use against them.

The very idea that Dean himself had ordered the Watergate break-in because of his wife's connection to a call-girl service, and that these secrets were somehow kept for 20 years, was completely absurd on its face.

(From Reihl World View via Glenn Reynolds.)

Sorry to interrupt, but there's nothing absurd about it. Unless, of course, you think its inherently "absurd" to raise questions about hotly disputed historical matters.

Greenwald does not mention that it was Jim Hougan who first discovered the connection to the call girl operation. Nor does he disclose that there are serious historians who also think Hougan, Colodny, and Gettlin were right.

One such historian is Joan Hoff:

Joan Hoff, professor of history at Indiana University and co-editor of the Journal of Women’s History, is a specialist in twentieth-century American foreign policy and politics and in the legal status of American women. She was executive secretary of the Organization of American Historians from 1981 to 1989. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, includig the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians’ Article Prize and the Stuart L. Bernath Prize for the best book on American diplomacy. She is the author of several books including Law, Gender, and Injustice: A Legal History of U.S. Women and Herbert Hoover: Forgotten Progressive.
When she delivered the 1993 Laurence F. Brewster Lecture, she explained why she thinks Hougan's and Colodny's hypothesis has merit. (For reasons of time and space, I'll spare readers from lengthy quotations.) My point is simply that the theory is not "absurd on its face."

Nor is it "right wing" -- despite Greenwald & Dean's continued protestations:

And once Dean vehemently denied these allegations, both 60 Minutes and Time investigated the claims and both decided not to run the story -- a noble decision which, in Time's case, led to the loss of the $50,000 it had paid for the rights to run an excerpt of the book.

But using right-wing smear techniques which, back then, were still new, but which are now a staple of the "conservative" movement, these patently false allegations against Dean were aggressively promoted by right-wing ideologues and then accepted and given great attention by the mainstream media.

Sorry to interrupt again, but I think it's worth noting again that the call girl connection was neither a smear nor was it first made by "the right." But this is ignored, as our focus is supposed to be on "right-wing groups and personalities" who liked the book. Obviously, that makes the book becomes a right-wing "smear":
The book's publishers enlisted both right-wing follower G. Gordon Liddy and by-then-born-again Christian activist Charles Colson -- both of whom still hated Dean for his blasphemy in testifying truthfully against the President -- to promote the book and push its allegations against Dean.

More and more right-wing groups and personalities jumped on board this smear campaign, until it received full-fledged support from mainstream right-wing media personalities. That, in turn, induced many mainstream media programs -- from Good Morning America to CNN's Larry King Live -- to invite the authors on to discuss the book. Out of this now all-too-familiar process, this defamatory book ended up on the New York Times' Best Seller List. As Dean recounts:

Despite most of the news media’s fitting dismissal of Silent Coup’s baseless claims, the protracted litigation provided time for the book to gather a following, including an almost cultlike collection of highprofile right-wingers. Among them, for example, is Monica Crowley, a former aide to Richard Nixon after his presidency, and now a conservative personality on MSNBC, cohosting Connected: Coast to Coast with Ron Reagan. Other prominent media-based conservatives who have joined the glee club are James Rosen and Brit Hume of Fox News. How these seemingly intelligent people embraced this false account mystified me, and I wanted to know. . . .

As for Colson, his reason for promotion of Silent Coup remained a complete mystery for me, as did the motives of people like Monica Crowley, James Rosen, Brit Hume, and all the other hard-core conservatives who embraced this spurious history and made it a best seller. The only thing I could see that these people had in common was their conservatism.

That is how the "conservative" movement works to this day, although its methods have become even more efficient and less scrupulous. Petty allegations and character attacks begin percolating in the smear sewers of the right wing -- through insinuations by talk-radio dirt-mongerers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, speculation by Matt Drudge, smear campaigns by shadowy groups and organizations, and now by attention-desperate and glory-seeking right-wing blogs. From there, the attacks are reported by the right-wing media and then fed into the mainstream media.

A lynch mob is created which seeks not the truth of what happened, but the destruction of the movement's enemies.

Yes, those "seemingly intelligent" people who dare ask questions about the Watergate burglary are not only authoritarian conservatives, but are part of a lynch mob seeking to destroy "enemies" of their "movement."

Colson is an authoritarian, and because he agreed with Colodny's theory, then anyone who agrees with Colodny's theory becomes a Colsonite authoritarian!

What sort of "movement" is this to which Watergate skeptics are said to belong? A right wing "authoritarian" movement compiling "enemies lists" as part of a plot to restore the deceased Richard Nixon? I'm tempted to ask just what is an "enemy," because I wonder whether the term is being used fairly, but that would require another essay on another topic. But I'm curious: does Glenn Greenwald have enemies of his own? Or does he think that the word "enemy" is a malevolent term used by people who disagree with him? I don't know. Hell, I don't even know right now whether I'm questioning the authority of Glenn Greenwald or John Dean. (Considering that the latter's disavowal of his famous Blind Ambition, I'd have to conclude -- however reluctantly -- that Glenn Greenwald is a better authority.)

What about the fact that Nixon was a centrist Republican, to the left of Goldwater? Does it matter that he ended the Vietnam War, started the EPA, and instituted wage and price controls? Or has Nixon morphed into a savior of the far right? Hardly. The far right didn't like him then, and they don't like him now.

Interestingly, Colodny (who, btw, writes for notorious right wing rags like Counterpunch) thinks that the call girl connection was part of a CIA coup orchestrated by General Al Haig and other right wingers. Jim Hougan thought so too -- and still thinks so:

In his June 2, 2005 article in the Post, outing his source, Woodward tells us that Felt regarded the Nixon White House as “corrupt…sinister…(a) cabal.” And, as the Post reporter makes clear, this was a view that Felt held prior to the Watergate break-in. Indeed, Woodward says, “Felt thought the Nixon team were Nazis.”

As it happens, this is exactly what I thought at the time, as did nearly every other liberal that I knew. Strange, then, to learn that this same point of view was shared by Mark Felt, a professional Red-hunter so highly placed in the FBI that only the Director, J. Edgar Hoover, outranked him.

Or maybe it’s not so strange.

A similar view of the Nixon Administration was held by James McCord, the rightwing evangelist and former CIA Security chief who led the break-in team at the Watergate. In a series of queer “newsletters” written after he had been arrested, McCord put forward a conspiracy theory suggesting that the Rockefeller family was lunging for control of the government’s critical national security functions, using the Council on Foreign Relations and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger as its means to an end.

At the Pentagon, then-Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, went even further. To Zumwalt, the Nixon Administration was “inimical to the security of the United States.”[1] Indeed, as the admiral later explained, he eventually left the Administration (this was in 1974) because “its own officials and experts reflected Henry Kissinger’s world view: that the dynamics of history are on the side of the Soviet Union; that before long the USSR will be the only superpower on earth and…that the duty of policy-makers, therefore, is at all costs to conceal from the people their probable fate…” [2]

Egad... they’ve sold us out!

You don't have to agree with Hougan to understand that skepticism over who did what (and why) in the Watergate affair is not a right wing lynch mob, but a genuine attempt to unravel a still-unexplained mystery. The fact that promoters of the Washington Post doctrine have to call all skeptics right wing nuts (especially the frantic conflation of Watergate skepticism and Holocaust denial), I think, evidences massive insecurity.

And while I still refuse to call it "projection," I hardly think it constitutes mental illness -- especially of the "authoritarian" variety -- to ask questions about things like the ongoing effort to hide a key to a particular desk.

Since when are we not supposed to question authority?

posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (5)

Even lazy RINOs will make you think!

This weeks RINOs carnival is hosted at Nick Schweitzer's blog, The World According to Nick. He calls it the The Lazy RINO Sightings Carnival, and while there's a picture of a RINO sleeping in the sun, there's nothing lazy about the posts.

  • The Commissar speculates about the intriguing possibility of Neanderthals breeding with humans. Yes, it's serious; go check it out.
  • Politechnical looks at the distinction between pacifism and being on the other side.
  • jd at evolution looks at the Pew blogger survey (about reasons bloggers give for blogging) and says this about himself:
    Since I am an actual, living, breathing human being, I need something other than politics to keep me going. For me that is the challenge of attempting to entertain you in whatever way I can. I don’t know how successful I’ve been at it, but there you go.
    He's right. Politics is not always entertaining. And attempts to make it so can be misunderstood.
  • I've never quite figured out all the reasons why I'm blogging, and if I had to reduce it to the biggest reason, it would probably be that because I am too easily distracted, getting my thoughts in writing helps me focus more clearly, in the hope that I might be able to approach real thought. Blogging is my attempt to cut through the distractions.

    But right there, I'm getting distracted from the purpose of this post, which is to urge the lazy among you to go read the Lazy Carnival!

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (1)

    Chapter One in "An American Civilization"

    Via Justin, I just learned that Bill Whittle has posted chapter one of his new book, AN AMERICAN CIVILIZATION.

    I like his take on ad hominem attacks:

    The entire concept of Civilization has been so deconstructed, and vilified, that by having the audacity to defend the ideals of Civilized behavior Your Author has been called a racist (nope – I happen to have African Ancestors!), a repressed homosexual (please – I have two pairs of shoes!) and even a potential cannibal! (What happens in Papua New Guinea, stays in Papua New Guinea.)

    Worse than all of this – I can barely bring myself to mention it – I have been called a nerd by some of these horrible, mean, spiteful people! Me! A Nerd! I suppose that by having a banner on my website where a nerd compares me to another nerd by using a Star Trek reference somehow makes me a nerd! Preposterous!

    Reading that made me so furious I just had to unwind and think. I removed my button-down triple-knit nylon print shirt (with all five Enterprises including kick-ass Enterprise E), and decided to just ‘go commando’ leaving only the black turtleneck underneath. I grabbed a Fresca, unzipped my boots and decided to pop in a cassette. (Man, that Dolby NR sure cuts the hiss!) Hanson or *NSYNC? ABBA or Partridge Family? I definitely felt like some old skool, so I broke out the trusty old party mix with Starland Vocal Band and Gary Wright, plus some MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice representin’ that mad hip-hop flava I’m so down with, then put on my Yoda jammies and my bunny slippers, leaned way back in my plaid recliner, and began to ponder. Deeply ponder. Cogitate, even.

    Why all the hatred? Why are so many people so ashamed of the most amazing Civilization that has ever existed on the face of this planet? What the hell have these people been taught to make them think such transparent nonsense?

    These are good questions, and Bill has taken a lot of time to think about the answers.

    A must read, I'd say.

    posted by Eric at 08:54 AM | Comments (5)

    Dog day afternoon photos

    I played tour guide for an out of town visitor this afternoon, and took a few photos.

    Some oddball architectural details I liked:


    I don't know whether this is on or off, peeling or unpeeling:


    A breakthrough at long last:


    And finally, my photograph of an unexplained photograph of a couple of guys who obviously had too much time on their hands.


    Perhaps they were getting ready for a small scale ball.


    All in all, a lovely day.

    posted by Eric at 11:54 PM | Comments (3)

    Guns don't kill horses! People kill horses!

    I'm having some serious logical problems with this:

    It's time for all of us to collectively mourn more for people than we do for a horse. If we don't show the most desperate among us that we value their lives more than an animal's, they have no reason not to kill indiscriminately.
    So says Philadelphia City Paper's Brian Hickey, who's upset about the press coverage paid to the fate of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

    Hickey contrasts Barbaro with a murdered man named Damon Edward Heggs, who not only didn't receive as much press coverage as Barbaro, but whose family received nowhere near the public attention devoted to Barbaro:

    . . .on the ride home, I got to thinking about the anonymous well-wishers who order carrots by the caseload and ship them over to an animal hospital that's decorated by 4-foot-high get-well cards covered with signatures. About how we're almost at the point that Barbaro's bowel movements qualify as breaking news. By the time I got back to the Philadelphia Theater of War, I knew why:

    We the people care more about an animal than we did about Damon Edward Heggs.

    I'm not too fond of the first person plural being used that way, because not only did I not send carrots to Barbaro, I care about most of the people I know far, far more than I would care about any horse. If I don't know someone, it's impossible for me to care as much as I would care about someone I do know, but still, I favor human life over animal life. If the brakes went out on my car and I had to choose between running into a horse or a human being, I would choose the horse every time. Regardless of the value of the horse, and regardless of what kind of life had been lived by the human. (Obviously, the value of human life is also reflected in society's laws, which make murder a capital crime, but which allow the humane killing of horses.)

    Whether that's good enough for Mr. Hickey, I do not know. But it certainly isn't good enough for animal rights activists, who maintain that Barbaro was a victim whose life was every bit as worthy of that of Mr. Heggs.

    Here's In Defense of Animals:

    Many racehorse "owners" see these animals purely as economic investments, so rather than trying to save the lives of horses injured during competition, they will choose to simply euthanize them to spare themselves the expense of veterinary services. The least sympathetic investors can even recoup some of their losses by selling an injured horse to a slaughterhouse where they will be killed just as cattle are: with a shot from a captive bolt pistol to the head and a knife blade across the throat. Winners like Barbaro aren't kept alive simply out of compassion. This repeat winner will be used for breeding other racehorses, continuing this vicious cycle of abuse.

    Racehorses have been genetically selected and bred for one specific purpose: to run extremely fast. These animals normally weigh over 1,000 pounds, but their ankles are as thin as a human being's, making them very fragile indeed. As long as thoroughbreds are forced to race one another at excessive speeds with a rider jockeying for position on surfaces that can be as hard as cement, there will be serious injuries, many of them fatal. In this way, racehorses are victims of a multi-billion dollar industry that literally gambles with their lives. It can never be an acceptable form of "entertainment" to those who truly care about the welfare of animals.

    I don't know how Mr. Hickey would answer the IDA argument. Might he and the AR activists be able to agree on capitalism as the common enemy?

    What Mr. Hickey finds so offensive is that the media pay more attention to Barbaro than Mr. Heggs. That, however, is a direct result of market forces, not morality. The same people who decide to run big headlines about Barbaro, while barely mentioning another fatal victim of street crime, have not made a moral decision that a horse life is more valuable than a human life. If the statue of William Penn fell off Philadelphia City Hall tomorrow, it would be a HUGE headline in all the local papers, even if no one was hurt. Does that mean that "we the people" care more about bronze statues than human beings? Of course not. Would people be more upset? Yes, and they'd probably volunteer more time and money to get the building repaired than they would for a victim's family. But it doesn't mean that they place greater moral value on statues than on human life. These things are not logically related. Many people are more interested in the sports page or business section than the news section, and this does not mean that they place a higher value on baseball than surviving a nuclear attack by Iran or North Korea.

    Then there's this:

    If we don't show the most desperate among us that we value their lives more than an animal's, they have no reason not to kill indiscriminately.
    First of all, who is included in "the most desperate among us"? Mr. Heggs? Here's what Hickey tells us about him:
    Marcia explained that her son was a good kid. He went to Overbrook, ran a cleaning business and had a 3-year-old daughter. He didn't smoke, drink or have enemies. He didn't get in trouble.

    "The police," she said, "assured me that it was a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time thing."

    OK, so that makes Mr. Heggs a successful, law-abiding entrepreneur and father. Doesn't sound like "the most desperate among us" to me, any more than a lot of people I know. I'm not getting it. His life had value, and he was murdered.

    As far as I'm concerned, his murderer should get the death penalty, or at least life in prison. Of course, now that I've said that, I'm thinking that perhaps Mr. Hickey thinks that the murderer was in the "most desperate" category. That he may have killed because "we" place more value on the life of an animal than on his. How can Hickey be so sure? Can he look into the mind of the murderer? For all we know, the guy was shooting at someone else, and Damon Heggs got caught in crossfire.

    Assuming the murderer was the kind of person who had "no reason not to kill indiscriminately," can it be that Hickey is seriously suggesting that had the murderer realized that society places more value on human life than on the life of a racehorse (which I think it does), that he would not have killed? That some sort of mass "collective mourning" of murder victims in deliberate disproportion to the alleged collective mourning of dead horses is going to change the reasoning of anyone callused enough to shoot people?

    I don't think so. I think the way to show that society values the lives of people is to prosecute those who kill them.

    As I've explained, I value the life of Mr. Heggs more than the life of Barbaro. But, at the risk of sounding callused, I'd value the life of Barbaro more than the life of a murderer.

    (If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that Hickey was using a straw horse to blur the distinction between murderers and victims.)

    UPDATE (07/28/06): Brian Hickey has responded in a comment below. While I continue to disagree with him, the fact that he came here to defend his piece speaks well of his integrity, and of the City Paper.

    posted by Eric at 05:47 PM | Comments (9)

    Time place and manner? Well, yes!

    I'm wondering what went into the thinking of the ACLU's decision to file suit on behalf of Fred Phelps' God Hates Fags "church group":

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas church group that protests at military funerals nationwide filed suit in federal court, saying a Missouri law banning such picketing infringes on religious freedom and free speech.

    The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., on behalf of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, which has outraged mourning communities by picketing service members' funerals with signs condemning homosexuality.

    The church and the Rev. Fred Phelps say God is allowing troops, coal miners and others to be killed because the United States tolerates gay men and lesbians.

    Missouri lawmakers were spurred to action after members of the church protested in St. Joseph, Mo., last August at the funeral of Army Spec. Edward L. Myers.

    The law bans picketing and protests "in front of or about" any location where a funeral is held, from an hour before it begins until an hour after it ends. Offenders can face fines and jail time.

    I agree -- partially -- with this commenter to a post by Jonathan Adler at
    In this case I would think that picketing a cemetary would bear some similarity to picketing a private home, restrictions on which the Supreme Court has generally permitted. A cemetary has never been a traditional public forum; it is a place where people expect a certain tranquility, and come with a certain vulnerability. It strikes me as very similar to a hospital. I suspect the Supreme Court's abortion-picketing cases -- roundly criticized by Scalia -- which have generally upheld restrictions on protests of abortion clinics, staff homes, etc. -- will be found analogous and will apply.

    Although oddly enough, come to think of it, the ACLU, despite its general absolute-free-speech position, has rarely come to the aid of the first amendment rights of abortion protestors.

    First of all, it appears that the ACLU has repeatedly come to the aid of abortion clinic protesters. (Another commenter provided this example of the ACLU's amicus brief arguing against Colorado's "floating buffer zone" prohibition.)

    But in general, I'm inclined to agree with reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, because this goes to the right to be left alone. The right to protest is not an unlimited right to force people to listen to the message at all times and places. Protesting in front of someone's house crosses the line that separates free speech from simple harrassment. It's a bit like receiving repeated, unwanted telephone calls. Just as free speech does not allow the God Hates Fags people to call people repeatedly on the phone for purposes of harassment, they shouldn't have a right to show up at someone's house and wave signs.

    In Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474, anti-abortion protesters (with the ACLU filing briefs) demanded the right to picket the home of a doctor who performed abortions, contending that the following local law was unconstitutional:

    "It is unlawful for any person to engage in picketing before or about the residence or dwelling of any individual in the Town of Brookfield." App. to Juris. Statement A-28.
    The ordinance itself recites the primary purpose of this ban: "the protection and preservation of the home" through assurance "that members of the community enjoy in their homes and dwellings a feeling of well-being, tranquility, and privacy." Id., at A-26. The Town Board believed that a ban was necessary because it determined that "the practice of picketing before or about residences and dwellings causes emotional disturbance and distress to the occupants . . . [and] has as its object the harassing of such occupants." Id., at A-26 - A-27. The ordinance also evinces a concern for public safety, noting that picketing obstructs and interferes with "the free use of public sidewalks and public ways of travel." Id., at A-27.

    On May 18, 1985, appellees were informed by the town attorney that enforcement of the new, revised ordinance would begin on May 21, 1985. Faced with this threat of arrest and prosecution, appellees ceased picketing in Brookfield and filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The complaint was brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and sought declaratory as well as preliminary and permanent injunctive relief on the grounds that the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

    The Supreme Court upheld the law. Among its reasons:
    There simply is no right to force speech into the home of an unwilling listener.
    If there's no right to force speech into a home, I don't see how there's a right to force speech into a funeral.

    The Court also upheld the ordinance because a home, by its nature, is a captive audience:

    The First Amendment permits the government to prohibit offensive speech as intrusive when the "captive" audience cannot avoid the objectionable speech. See Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Service Comm'n of New York, 447 U.S. 530, 542 (1980). Cf. Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., supra, at 72. The target of the focused picketing banned by the Brookfield ordinance is just such a "captive." The resident is figuratively, and perhaps literally, trapped within the home, and because of the unique and subtle impact of such picketing is left with no ready means of avoiding the unwanted speech. Cf. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S., at 21 -22 (noting ease of avoiding unwanted speech in other circumstances). Thus, the "evil" of targeted residential picketing, "the very presence of an unwelcome visitor at the home," Carey, supra, at 478 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting), is "created by the medium of expression itself." See Taxpayers for Vincent, supra, at 810. Accordingly, the Brookfield ordinance's [487 U.S. 474, 488] complete ban of that particular medium of expression is narrowly tailored.
    I think that attendees at a funeral are at least as much of a captive audience as people living in their homes, and perhaps more so. If you think about it, suppose Fred Phelps and his pack of idiots showed up to proclaim that "God hates fags" at your home. While that would be extremely annoying, you could always leave temporarily and return after the protest -- inconvenient though this would be.

    But a funeral only happens once, because we only die once, and people come there to honor us, and to grieve. The people there are not only a captive audience with no way to escape, but many of the loved ones are in a precarious mental state. Literally, they are in pain. The idea that they should have to endure protesters -- of any kind -- at such an event strikes me as obscene. I think it's far more invasive, harassing, and egregious than a protest in front of a home.

    If the Missouri statute is not a perfect example of a permissible time, place, and manner restriction, I don't think anything would be.

    I'd also note that the nothing in the statute (the text of which has been posted in comments to Jonathan Adler's post) singles out Fred Phelps or his particular message. It simply prohibits funeral protests, and it would apply equally to anti-war protesters, anti-gay protesters, anti-union protesters or anti-abortion protesters. A hero has just as much right to an undisturbed funeral as a villain*, and those who mourn the dead have a right to do so without being made a captive audience.

    *I'd go so far as to say that mass murderers (and even people guilty of worse crimes, like Ken Lay) have the right to protest-free funerals.

    But what about protests at weddings?

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (7)

    Is CHB leftist? Is CHB rightist? Do I care?

    I'm getting a bit tired of Capitol Hill Blue. It's an unreliable web site which I'd never read before July 16, and I think it's staffed by sock puppets. John Hawkins had it right in February, when he said:

    I wonder if Thompson actually makes up like names for these fake sources? Like ya know, Mr. I. Friend the Secret Service Agent or White House Aide Puff'N'Stuff? Better yet, maybe he makes little puppets out of socks, puts them on his hands, and asks them questions. "Mr. Socko, you saw Cheney drunk, didn't you? Of course you did! That's a good Mr. Socko!"

    The fact that there are actually bloggers out there linking to this moronic fraud for reasons other than to laugh at him, even if they are on the left, is a stain on the entire blogosphere. Even liberals should know better than to buy into this sort of garbage...

    The discovery that "George Harleigh" was a fraudulent character merely supplies more evidence of sock puppetry, and while I suspect the whole outfit is as phony as Harleigh, I realize the site will continue to have readers and defenders.

    What I find most remarkable is that it matters very much to some people whether the site is relied on by "liberals" or "conservatives." My assumption has tended to be that because the site is primarily anti-Bush in the extreme, that most of its fans would be on the left. However, not only does Doug Thompson claim to be "non-partisan," before Bush was president much of his wrath was directed against Clinton, and he helped feed the then-popular stream of Clinton conspiracy theories.

    Remember, I only wanted to know who George Harleigh was.

    The rest just sort of flowed, and when I saw the Harleigh quotes disappear, I was forced to do more work, and that resulted in one of the longest posts I've written. I didn't stop to speculate much about who was reading Doug Thompson, and I really don't much care.

    I think it's fair to point out that the site has a number of right wing boosters.

    Writing in 1999 for WorldNetDaily (who else?) Lew Rockwell listed Doug Thompson among the "courageous writers and thinkers who have thrown themselves into the battle to stop the bombings and stop the war."

    WND's editor Joseph Farah thought so highly of Doug Thompson that he went out of his way to express gratitude to him (and other "journalistic colleagues") in a special 1999 Thanksgiving column:

    I'm thankful for a small group of journalistic colleagues, as well. I think, especially, of Bill Gertz, Matt Drudge, Robert Morton, Doug Thompson, and Paul Sperry - all of whom stand up to the establishment, to the conventions of our day, in their relentless desire to seek truth.
    WND quoted CHB's "editor Jack Sharp" to the effect that Doug Thompson had a brain tumor:
    Doug Thompson, publisher of Capitol Hill Blue was recently diagnosed with the tumor, but a spokesman from CHB said the publisher confirmed that he is doing well.

    "He tires easily," said CHB editor Jack Sharp, "but his doctor is confident of a full recovery."

    Sharp told WorldNetDaily that physicians have decided to treat the tumor medically rather than surgically.

    "I expect him to be back up to full speed by late September or early October," Sharp said.

    Must I research this claim too?

    Freepers praised Thompson at the time, and wished him well:

    I received an email this morning from a friend of mine who works in House Speaker Denny Hastert's office. He reports that that the word on the Hill is that Capitol Hill Blue publisher Doug Thompson is seriously ill with a brain tumor and has been undergoing chemotherapy for the past three weeks.

    I sent an email to Jack Sharp, the editor of Capitol Hill Blue this morning to try and get more information, but I thought fellow freepers might want to know. Doug and his web site have been strong supporters of Free Republic and I felt others would want to join my family in our prayers for Doug for a swift and complete recovery.

    "Word"? On the "Hill"?


    Here we go again.

    Who is Jack Sharp?

    Why oh why am I plagued with this infernal curiosity that makes me, simply, want to know?

    I am not accusing the left.

    I am not accusing the right.

    I Want. To. Know.

    But I'm afraid that might be asking too much of this wretched imaginary cyber world.

    Whoever he is, "Jack Sharp" is the man now said to be responsible for "George Harleigh." Not Doug Thompson! At least, so claims "Editor Bill McTavish":

    Doug Thompson is not responsible for George Harleigh's quotes appearing on Capitol Hill Blue. Hareigh was first quoted by former editor Jack Sharp in our series on Congressional miscreants and Harleigh was quoted more often in stories written by others. The only times Doug used a quote from Harleigh in any of his writings was when someone else on our staff passed it on to him because they thought he might find it useful.

    (Emphasis added.)

    There are a lot of people named "Jack Sharp", but the only associations between the name and CHB are either from CHB or WND (which most likely received its information from CHB).

    I'm stumped.

    Whatever happened to CHB's mysterious "former editor"? Why, the man headed CHB when the site was in its "pioneer" days. Why did he leave? What did he do after he left? I think it's a bit strange that there's no word anywhere. Did he die? (A distinguished Tennessee botanist of that name died in 1997, but nothing in his encyclopedia entry mentioned CHB. There's also a Tennessee assemblyman with that name, but his biography makes no mention of CHB.)

    I'm skeptical.

    Is there any reason why my skepticism should be labeled right wing?

    I'd note that even now -- after the Bush stuff -- the right wing given up entirely on Doug Thompson. For example, he's linked by Chuck Baldwin.

    And here's another interesting "factoid": CHB was "sold" in a deal to take effect on April 1, 2003:

    "Capitol Hill Blue is a pioneer in web-based journalism," said partnership spokesman William J. Lowrey. "We intend to honor that tradition and improve upon it."

    The partnership is composed of working, Washington-based journalists who work for print, broadcast and web-based media outlets.

    "We intend to use Blue as a test bed for new techniques and concepts for web journalism," Lowrey said.

    Capitol Hill Blue first appeared on the web on October 1, 1994, as a one-page weekly newsletter published by veteran journalist Doug Thompson. He expanded publication to daily on January 1, 1995, and the site gained fame during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals of the Clinton administration.

    Thompson left the publication earlier this month to pursue new opportunities.

    Terms of the sale were not disclosed. The new owners will take control of the web site on April 1, 2003.

    Um, anyone know Lowrey? Did "he" "fire" "Jack Sharp"?

    Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

    And. Sigh!

    Alas there are only three William J. Lowreys on the Internet. (All died long ago.)

    Anyway, the autopsy will have to wait, for I'm digressing from the question of whether CHB disinformation is rightist or leftist.

    Parenthetically, I should point out that "George Harleigh" is disappearing everywhere. So fast it makes my head spin. Last week there were thousands of Google hits; now they number in the hundreds. I realize that CHB pulled all the Harleigh references, but that alone does not account for the disappearing links. (From over 1400 to about 500 in less than a week.)

    This is not meant to be comprehensive, but aside from WND, at least one Huffington Post contributor has relied on CHB, as did Newsmax's Geoff Metcalf.

    James Corsi evokes the constitution-as-a-piece-of paper meme, but does not mention Doug Thompson. (Corsi's theories are being systematically debunked by John Hawkins, btw.)

    The point is, a lot of people were fooled -- for a long time -- by Doug Thompson, and not all of them were on the left. Some were libertarians. But some libertarians were more skeptical. Like Rand Simberg in 2004, who said he thought Thompson had "gone off the deep end" and was making stuff up.

    At this point I doubt very many people will care, but beyond the issue of politics (and made up sources) there are also serious questions of plagiarism. In the comment to a Reason piece on TIA, one commenter raised the issue:

    I don't know whether TIA is still running or not, but I am pretty certain Doug Thompson and Teresa Hampton are thieves and plagiarists.
    The commenter supplies classic examples of plagiarism by CHB. I stumbled onto the same phenomenon.

    Comparing this CHB piece to an earlier piece from the San Francisco Chronicle, I noticed the same characters, the same quotes, yet Thompson makes it appear that he did the reporting.

    Here's CHB:

    Dennis Dalbey cuts the hair of Camp Pendleton's young Marines, giving them the regulation haircut before they head to combat in Iraq. His barbershop on the Coast Highway near the base in California is covered with painted yellow ribbons, flags and "We support our troops" banners. But Dalbey, a Republican and a self-described conservative who voted for Bush, says he is fed up with the President's lies.

    "Enough is enough," he says. "It's time to bring the boys home."

    In San Marcos, retired Navy veteran Herb Ranquist, 77, sits in the local VFW hall and says Bush is a failure.

    "I voted for him two times, and I wish I hadn't," Ranquist says. "It was probably one of the worst mistakes I ever made."

    Dr. Crossfield says it doesn't take a degree in psychology or advanced training in spotting liars to realize the President plays fast and loose with the truth.

    "More and more ordinary Americans see the evidence clearly every day," she says. "It is difficult to ignore."

    Wait! Oh no! Here's comes another of the endless interruptions of my stream of consciousness by yet another suspicious source. At this point I'm almost too tired to ask about this "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield," but she appears to have morphed into Doug Thompson's expert on Bush's lies directly from Doug Thompson's expert on Clinton lies in 2001.

    Must I go there too?

    Or is it possible that reasonable people might be able to agree that regardless of who or what it is, or how, or why it originated, Capitol Hill Blue has been so thoroughly discredited, that it should not be relied on by anyone, anywhere, ever again?

    (I don't know, but tedious as it is, I feel obligated to return to my stream of thought despite having been so rudely interrupted by "Stephanie Crossfield." I don't have time to debate her existence right now. I just don't.)

    The passage about the Dalbey barber shop appears to have been lifted from the San Francisco Chronicle without crediting author Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer, who wrote this:

    Dennis Dalbey, armed with scissors, an electric hair clipper and a steady hand, has given dozens of Camp Pendleton's young Marines the regulation haircut before they head to combat in Iraq.

    In his Cut-Rite Barbershop on the Coast Highway, he wears his loyalty to those customers openly -- the business is adorned with painted yellow ribbons, flags and "We support our troops'' banners.

    But these days, Dalbey, a Republican and a self-described conservative who voted for President Bush, is not nearly as supportive of the commander in chief.

    "Enough is enough,'' he said of the war while showing Lance Cpl. Aaron Kernell, 19, from Tennessee, to a red Naugahyde chair for a cut. "If they haven't got this thing settled by year's end, it's time to bring the boys home.''

    I'm almost tempted to say "Enough is enough" about CHB sock puppetry, but I'm sure the site will continue to have its defenders.

    I suspect I'll continue to be harangued by anonymous sock puppets who think that I'm maligning "the left" because some people on "the left" relied on CHB sock puppetry.

    By that logic, I'm also maligning "the right."

    MORE: Back to CHB, March 23, 2006:

    "President Bush exhibited symptoms of pathological prevarication," says Dr. Stephanie Crossfield, a psychologist who treats people who have trouble telling the truth and who watched Bush's performances on Monday and Tuesday at my request. "His eye movements, gestures, and changes in voice tone all display traits of consistent evasion of the truth."
    How long can we expect that quote to last at the CHB site?

    FWIW, the quote appears to have been lifted almost verbatim from the earliest citation of "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield" I could find (with "Bush" substituted for "Clinton," of course). And who "hired" Dr. Crossfield? CHB in 1999! So claimed Doug Thompson!

    Capitol Hill Blue hired a psychologist who treats chronic liars and a private investigator who uses voice stress analysis to catch liars. They analyzed the President's press conference live on television and again on videotape.

    Their conclusion: The President lied more often than he told the truth. Even when he told the nation that he felt a "scorecard" would show he had been a good President who had told the truth more often than he had lied, he was, in fact, lying.

    "The President exhibited all the classic symptoms of pathological prevarication," said Dr. Stephanie Crossfield, a psychologist who treats people who have trouble telling the truth. "His eye movements, gestures, and changes in voice tone all point to a consistent evasion of the truth."

    Jonathan Rensley, a private investigator who used a voice stress analyzer to monitor the President's performance during the press conference, agrees.

    "In spite of his demeanor, the President's voice patterns showed unusually high levels of stress, consistent with someone who is not telling the truth," Rensley said.

    At Capitol Hill Blue's insistence, Dr. Crossfield and Rensley did not make their judgement based on one viewing of the President's performance or by consulting with each other. Both watched the press conference live, then rechecked their findings by viewing a full videotape of the press conference on both Saturday and Sunday to confirm their findings.

    Oh no, not again!

    Who is Jonathan Rensley?

    Um, do I have permission to stop yet?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: While I've probably spent way too much time on this CHB business, the time I've spent on it pales in comparison to how long the web site has been cranking out fraudulent nonsense, outright plagiarism, and more.

    If this CHB web site is as fraudulent as I think it is, how is it that it has been taken seriously for so long? Why is it that the sources were allowed to go unchallenged for so many years? Is it because of the shortness of human memory? Or is it because so many people are suckers for what they want to believe?

    UPDATE (07/23/06 -- 03:06 p.m.): Incredible as it may seem, CHB has just -- in the past hour -- rewrittten the above plagiarized article from the San Francisco Chronicle!

    Here's the Google cache:

    Venture out beyond the Beltway and you find conservative Republicans shaking their head and wondering the same thing.

    Dennis Dalbey cuts the hair of Camp Pendleton's young Marines, giving them the regulation haircut before they head to combat in Iraq. His barbershop on the Coast Highway near the base in California is covered with painted yellow ribbons, flags and "We support our troops" banners. But Dalbey, a Republican and a self-described conservative who voted for Bush, says he is fed up with the President's lies.

    "Enough is enough," he says. "It's time to bring the boys home."

    In San Marcos, retired Navy veteran Herb Ranquist, 77, sits in the local VFW hall and says Bush is a failure.

    "I voted for him two times, and I wish I hadn't," Ranquist says. "It was probably one of the worst mistakes I ever made."

    Dr. Crossfield says it doesn't take a degree in psychology or advanced training in spotting liars to realize the President plays fast and loose with the truth.

    And here's the now-edited article as it currently appears at CHB:

    Venture out beyond the Beltway and you find conservative Republicans shaking their head and wondering the same thing. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

    Dennis Dalbey cuts the hair of Camp Pendleton's young Marines, giving them the regulation haircut before they head to combat in Iraq. His barbershop on the Coast Highway near the base in California is covered with painted yellow ribbons, flags and "We support our troops" banners. But Dalbey, a Republican and a self-described conservative who voted for Bush, says he is fed up with the President's lies.

    "Enough is enough," he says. "It's time to bring the boys home."

    In San Marcos, retired Navy veteran Herb Ranquist, 77, sits in the local VFW hall and says Bush is a failure.

    "I voted for him two times, and I wish I hadn't," Ranquist says. "It was probably one of the worst mistakes I ever made."

    Dr. Crossfield says it doesn't take a degree in psychology or advanced training in spotting liars to realize the President plays fast and loose with the truth. (Italics in original.)

    Have to say, he's quick! (It's also here.)

    Earlier, some commenters had noticed that the Google caches disappear too; so if you're interested, better check it out now!

    Will someone please tell me this is comedy?

    UPDATE (07/25/06): Hey, maybe Doug Thompson can go work for USA Today! (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I should probably point out that the link to the USA Today story goes to Clayton Cramer, whom I stand accused of "hate linking." (Not sure what that means, but I refuse to stop it.)

    UPDATE (07/25/06): Doug Thompson replies, sort of. His commenter named "Jonathan Levinson" (I love it!) is questioning my bona fides:

    I decided to do a little background checking of my own on Eric Scheie, the blogger who claims he "outed" this situation. I find it odd that someone who demands so much disclosue from others doesn't include a link to any information about himself on his own blog. Make me wonder what he has to hide.
    I am using my own name, and I don't quote fictitious people. I think regular readers will know that there is more information here about myself and my background than most bloggers ever provide. I don't have categories, though. Just daily postings, since May of 2003, in which I have discussed at various times my education, political experience, legal experience, suicidal depression, deaths of loved ones. Mostly I just share my opinions on a daily basis. Anyone who wants to know about me can poke around. I never wrote an "about me" post because it never seemed necessary. What's the point? (Like "52 years old; UC Berkeley '78; USF Law School '82; licensed attorney in California (but hates law); lives near Philadelphia; registered Republican but small "l" libertarian; held nose and voted for Bush" -- plus a smiling picture of me in a suit? I think regular readers all know these things. Do I need to create an "about" category to please a non-reader?)

    "Levinson" continues:
    A little additional research shows he claims to have a "criminal law" background as a prosecutor.
    Wrong about that. I never worked as a prosecutor, although I have represented criminal defendants. Once did civil litigation, including work for the famed Mel Belli. So what? I don't drop names, but anyone who thinks I am "hiding" can just start reading anywhere in this blog and decide.
    He also is the sponsor of an Internet petition to gain a Presidential pardon for convicted Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy.
    Not very good at "hiding" that, was I? As a matter of fact, I discussed it twice in this blog, and linked to it in my Watergate blog. What? Should I brag more loudly about an unsuccessful project?
    That tells me all I need to know about the leader of this pack of liars. I'll stick with DT and CHB.
    I admit my mistakes. If anyone can tell me what "lie" I have told, or who in this pack is lying, I will note that promptly.

    I'll say this: I exist, and I am who I say I am.

    What I'd still like to know is whether "Dr. Stephanie Crossfield" exists.

    UPDATE: I've written another post on CHB -- "The psychology of sock puppetry."

    posted by Eric at 11:40 AM | Comments (24)

    Capitol Hill Blue Made Easy

    It occurred to me that the George Harleigh>Doug Thompson>Bill McTavish>Teresa Hampton>Sandra Riley connections might have been tough for readers of the several previous posts to follow.

    So, I have attempted to simplify everything by making an easy-to-follow flow chart:

    Harleighflow chart.jpg

    PLEASE NOTE: This is intended as a guide only, and it is based on my interpretation of the data before me. Others may have suggestions. The ultimate identities and various twists and turns of the parties is of course open to some speculation, but the following "facts" are known from the "evidence":

  • "George Harleigh" (the disappearing man) was a professor at Southern Illinois University who sent a newsletter via email to unknown "web sites";
  • Doug Thompson is, at various times, writer, editor, and publisher of Capitol Hill Blue;
  • Bill McTavish is a CHB writer and sometimes editor who has announced repeated crackdowns on standards (most recently on "July 17, 2006"), and who is said to have removed many quotes and articles from the site;
  • Teresa Hampton is a CHB writer, co-author, and editor, who attended SIU;
  • Sandra Riley is an "ombudsman" who has fired both Bill McTavish and Teresa Hampton.
  • Doug Thompson has now said to have "resigned."
  • Bill McTavish is still in charge!
  • It is anyone's guess whether any of this will interrupt the flow chart I so lovingly designed. But stay tuned!

    UPDATE: My thanks to commenter and blogger Signal94 for cluing me in on the "departure" of "Doug Thompson."

    Sig94 is a great blog BTW -- with some incredibly cool cars! (My first car was a 1941 Plymouth, for which I paid $200.00.)

    UPDATE (07/25/06): Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Wuzzadem has made some fine sock puppets. (Now, if I could just borrow them, the roles are already mapped out. . .)

    posted by Eric at 12:53 PM | Comments (11)

    Discredited is victory, but victory is discredited

    I can't believe the really intelligent, well-thought-out, and downright encouraging comments and emails this blog has received in response to the "George Harleigh"/"Doug Thompson"/CHB affair. My thanks to all, and again, especially to Glenn Reynolds for linking the post. Discrediting web sites is not what I normally do here. Most of the time, I write long philosophical essays about whatever strikes my fancy, and the only reason for the extended posts about "George Harleigh" and his sock puppet compatriots is that I was embarrassed to see quotations from a "famous" man I'd never heard of who'd worked for both Nixon and Reagan.

    While I may be wrong, I think I've gone about as far as I can go with this, this thing. As John Hawkins's February post reminded me, this "Doug Thompson" and his minions (both real and imaginary) were discredited long ago. (At least they should have been.)

    And (as people have told me) he's now even more discredited. Which means I can just stop, right?

    In a way, yes. (But not for the reasons I might like to assume.)

    The normal meaning of the word "discredited" is -- no longer being worthy of being given credit. Not believable. No more credibility. Based on the comments here, based on John Hawkins' post (and plenty of others by less-known bloggers) based on what people have told me, Doug Thompson and CHB have zero credibility, and are discredited.

    But what does that mean? Many of Ted Rall's crackpot remarks have been discredited. Many people would say that Michael Moore has been discredited. John Dean discredited his own book ("Blind Ambition" -- long considered a sort of Bible of Watergate). Yet all of these people and more just keep cranking stuff out willy-nilly, and there are always people to buy it. (Another day, another Rall cartoon. Another Moore film. Another Dean book.)

    Doesn't this mean that (at least in the eyes of their followers) they are not discredited?

    Glenn Reynolds earlier linked to David Bernstein's post which seriously discredits Hezbollah. I think it's fair to conclude that Hezbollah has been discredited. But Hezbollah's followers won't reach any such conclusion.

    My question is, considering the nearly unlimited audience capacity of the Internet, can anything ever be said to be truly, finally, completely, discredited?

    I doubt it. Rather, I think there will be an ever growing number of people who will be always discredited in the minds of some, and never discredited in the eyes of others. I think that as the online community grows ever-larger, audience growth virtually guarantees a new Warholistic phenomenon -- not so much that everyone gets his 15 minutes of fame, but that everyone gets to be discredited.

    And, of course, vindicated!

    I do not doubt that Mr. Thompson (or whoever he is) will claim vindication, and his loyal readers will keep right on reading him. That's because of the vastness of the audience. Crackpot conspiracy sites don't wither and die because conspiracies are disproved. To the contrary, they thrive because people don't want them disproved. (The Apollo moon landing was fake! What? Didn't you know?)

    This probably sounds like relativism. By definition it may well be relativism in the true, mathematical sense of the word.

    Truth, unfortunately, has very little to do with it.

    But in truth, aren't some things really discredited?

    (I'm tempted to regard discrediting Doug Thompson as approaching a sort of victory for the truth. . . But what about the people whose job it is to discredit the discreditors?)

    posted by Eric at 02:13 PM | Comments (18)

    Who's Doug?

    Who is Doug Thompson?

    Honestly, I have no idea (although for starters, this Doug Thompson


    says he's not this Doug Thompson:


    Who appears to be the same as this guy.)

    But what do I know? Nothing. Until July 16 (when a friend emailed me and asked about a story he'd written) I had never heard of Doug Thompson, and never read his site. This started as a small fit of curiosity aroused by "George Harleigh" -- because I'm somewhat of a history buff, and I felt a bit embarrassed by my ignorance of a famous man. Now, it's gotten so strange and involved that I feel I'm under a bit of a duty to find out precisely who's who.

    I thought I should check out his official biography:

    Doug Thompson realized the value of capturing history 46 years ago as a 10-year-old schoolboy in Farmville, Virginia, when the community, caught up in a fight over integration, closed the public schools and opened an all-white private school.

    Thompson wrote about his experiences and submitted his story and photos to The Farmville Herald,the local newspaper. He developed other photo stories for the paper and a journalism career was born.
    When his family relocated to the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Floyd, the 14-year-old Thompson took his photographs and stories to Pete Hallman, editor of the weekly Floyd Press. Hallman encouraged the young man to continue writing and taking photos, teaching him the ins and outs of the newspaper business.

    Thompson went on to join the staff of The Roanoke Times where he covered the police beat, emerging racial turmoil in the city and tackled other tough subjects. His story about a young girl who obtained an abortion (illegal at the time) won the top feature writing award from the Virginia Press Association. Another, about street racers in the city, won a feature writing award while his coverage of the murder of a Southwest Roanoke couple and the abduction and rape of their teenaged daughters brought the top news writing award from the association

    After moving on to The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, Thompson continued to win awards for writing and photography, capturing the Illinois Associated Press Managing Editors top prizes for news, feature and column writing as well as first place awards from the Illinois Press Association.

    Elsewhere, Thompson states he has won 30 awards:
    The first journalism award I won, a Feature Writing First Place from The Virginia Press Association in 1967, came from a story about an anonymous teenager in Roanoke who obtained an abortion that was illegal at the time. I've won more than 30 journalism awards over the last 38 years and about half of them for stories that depended heavily on anonymous sources.
    OK, but why not list the other 28 awards? Two awards is wonderful, but 30 is stupendous. Amazing. Fantastical!

    Does anyone know or care what sort of award he won? Today's resume refers to a "Feature Writing First Place" award from The Virginia Press Association, but here's Thompson's account:

    In 1967, I interviewed a teenage girl who sought out an abortion (illegal at the time). She talked about her experiences in graphic detail and I put those details in the story which sparked a heated debate among editors at the paper. Howard Eanes, the assistant managing editor, did not want to publish it.

    "This is a family newspaper," he argued. "We don't print sensationalist material like this." Eanes also said he doubted the story was true.

    Woody Middleton, the managing editor, agreed with Eanes so I took the story to executive editor Barton Morris who read it, liked it, and overruled Eanes and Middleton. The story ran on the front of the local news section on a Sunday and sparked widespread community uproar along with a visit from the Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney who wanted to slap me in jail for daring to write a story about a young woman who, at the time, committed a felony by having an abortion.

    I refused to cooperate, the paper backed me, and the furor died down. Three months later, the Virginia Press Association honored the story with a first prize in the annual state news writing competition. I was right but my relationship with both my managing editor and his assistant went downhill from there.

    Is "first prize in the annual state news writing competition" the same award as the "Feature Writing First Place" award?

    I called the Virginia Press Association and was told their records don't go back that far, but the guy I spoke to was very polite, said he'd check and email me if he found anything.

    Back to the biography:

    Thompson took a sabbatical from newspapers in 1981 and moved to Washington to work on Capitol Hill. He served as press secretary for two Congressman (Paul Findley of Illinois and Manuel Lujan of New Mexico) and then Chief of Staff before joining the House Committee on Science & Technology as special assistant to the ranking minority member.. From 1987-1992, Thompson served as Vice President for Political Programs for The National Association of Realtors. During that stint he became involved in campaign finance issue and was a founding member of the Project for Comprehensive Campaign Reform.
    I called the National Association of Realtors, and sure enough, "Doug Thompson" as Vice President for Political Programs in that period checks out.

    I'm curious, though, why the current biographical resume doesn't mention being "Chief of Staff" for Congressman Dan Burton? (This is taken from in the now-disappeared biography listed at something called the Save America Foundation:)

    Thompson took a sabbatical from newspapers in 1981 and moved to Washington and work on Capitol Hill, where he served as press secretary to two members of Congress (Rep. Paul Findley of Illinois and Rep. Manuel Lujan of New Mexico), Chief of Staff to a third (Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana) and then Special Assistant to the Ranking Member of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee (Lujan again).
    Thompson explains the demise of the Save America Foundation here. (No word on the disappeared resume.)

    I'm also wondering why, when Thompson excoriates Dan Burton for sexual misbehavior, he doesn't mention that he was once his Chief of Staff. Isn't that something the readers might want to know? I'm not saying he wasn't Burton's Chief of Staff, and I'm not about to check every claim. I've spent enough time as it is. But in logic, either he was or he was not. I'll just assume he was. But why the scrubbing of the reference?

    NOTE: I don't have time to flush this out, but there seems to be another Doug Thompson in Washington.

    Back to the current resume:

    But journalism remained Thompson's true love and returned to his roots as a free-lance writer and photographer. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including Esquire, Life, Look, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Paris Match, AFP, the Associated Press and Reuters.
    I don't have time to go to the library and spend possibly days verifying any of this.

    I suspect no one does, so no one will.

    But there's plenty more.

    Unlike Al Gore, Doug Thompson actually did help invent the Internet:

    During his stint at the House Committee on Science and Technology, Thompson worked on transfer of what was then DARPANet from the Department of Defense to the National Science Foundation, the beginnings of the Internet. Sensing the coming growth of the Internet, he started a web hosting and design company in 1994 and that same year launched Capitol Hill Blue as the web's first political news site.

    Besides Blue, Thompson publishes a number of other web sites. He also owns Blue Ridge Creative, a photography, video production and digital imaging company in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia as well as web hosting operations. In 2001.

    The Thompsons left Washington in 2004 and moved to a hilltop retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia. He returns to Washington once a year to speak to journalism students at the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism and still has business interests in the National Capital Region but his days as a Washingtonian are over. Despite his success in new media, Thompson remains a newspaperman at heart and lives by the creed that it is the role of a newspaperman to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In 2004 he returned to his newspaper roots by joining the staff of his hometown paper as a sports photographer and reporter covering the county government and courthouse beats.

    I've spent enough time on this guy.

    All things considered, should "William D. McTavish" simply fire "Doug Thompson"?

    It's not for me to decide.

    posted by Eric at 11:03 AM | Comments (11)

    Free speech in Europe? Forget about it!

    Europe is hardly the free place Americans so often assume it to be.

    Brussels Journal's Paul Belien was recently visited by the police because of alleged "racist articles" on his website:

    This morning, a police officer from the "Projectcel Mensenhandel en Vreemdelingen" (Project Cell Human Trafficking and Foreigners) came to my door to question me about alledged "racist" articles on this website. I was not in. My son was told to tell me to contact the police asap in order to make an appointment for interrogation. Apparently crime statistics in Belgium are so low that the police have nothing better to do than harrass journalists. However, since my lawyer is on vacation they will have to wait. The Belgian regime has decided to intimidate me in the hope to close down this website. I am becoming quite a regular at the local police station.
    (HT PJM)

    The whole thing is quite scary, and it shows the danger posed by "hate speech" laws. Anyone can claim to be "aggrieved" by another person's statements, and allege that they are racist or hateful. Or "extremist." Or "pseudofascist." Or even "authoritarian."

    Today, Fjordman (who blogs here) has a piece in the Brussels Journal which gets really radical, and advocates American-style freedom for Europe:

    This “swirl of speech-law charges, lawsuits, and investigations” is now sustained by an “antiracism” industry. “Europe’s speech laws are written and applied in ways that leave activists on the political left free to whitewash crimes of leftist regimes, incite hatred against their domestic bogeymen of the well-to-do, and luridly stereotype their international bogeymen, often with history-distorting falsehoods such as fictitious claims of genocide said to be committed by the United States and Israel. It may be no coincidence that Socialist and extreme-left parties have played central roles in the design of speech laws.”

    According to Alexander, this trend represents “the greatest erosion of democratic practice in the world's advanced democracies” since WW2. He recommends that reform-minded Europeans should use “the example of U.S. practice, which tolerates even loathsome speech.” I agree with him. It is time Europeans put aside some of our prejudice against the USA and adopt something similar to the First Amendment in the American Constitution, securing the right to free speech.
    Gee, I wonder whether agitating against laws criminalizing "racism" or "hate speech" might in and of itself be seen as racist of hateful.

    Lest anyone think Americans have nothing to fear, consider Dayton Law Professor Vernellia Randall's view:

    Courts have often recognized that the right of free speech is not absolute. They have limited free speech when it becomes libel, incites a riot, threatens an elected official, or conspires to monopolize industries. Bans on cigarette advertising or liquor sales also narrow free speech. Anti-racists must become First Amendment realists who argue that individuals harmed by racist speech and symbols should be able to sue under defamation laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress laws, and/or assault and battery laws.

    Moreover, racism is a violation of human rights, as stated in the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) ratified by the U.S. government in 1994. Article 2 of this international human rights treaty requires that governments "prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means..., racial discrimination by any [private] person, group or organization." CERD goes further to say in Article 4 that "States will condemn all propaganda and organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race...or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred...and will adopt positive measures to eradicate such incitement to...discrimination."

    The Race Convention is the only treaty that deals comprehensively with the elimination of all incidents of racial discrimination at the local, state and federal level, and supports positive actions by states, such as affirmative action, that are under attack in the United States. The treaty not only protects the right of a black family to buy a home, but also protects all African Americans from discrimination so that they may live in the neighborhood of their choice. In this way, the treaty not only protects individual rights, but also collective rights as a members of a group.

    When ratifying the CERD treaty, the U.S. government decided to make a reservation to Article 4 saying that "suppression and criminalization of certain expression" such as racist speech and organizations is "inconsistent with existing First Amendment principles." Even while the ink was drying on the treaty, the government reaffirmed the constitutional shield for racists by declining to enforce this provision of the treaty.

    The anti-racist movement now must build a human rights movement in the United States that will force the repeal of this crippling reservation to the Race Convention. We can use international human rights standards to develop effective laws to halt the worldwide spread of the dangerous virus of racism. By bringing human rights home, contagious boxes of hate literature will no longer be shipped around the world with labels saying, "Made in America."

    Books like The Price We Pay have been advocating the end of free speech for many years.

    Most Americans tend to take free speech for granted. Police going after bloggers is thought of as something happening only in brutal Third World dictatorships. I'd go so far as to say that many would be surprised to read about the police going after a blogger in Belgium.

    Those who think "it can't happen here" should remember that it happens in countries we consider free, and that a growing chorus of people want it to happen here.

    MORE: I just returned home and saw that I accidentally cut and pasted a paragraph from Fjordman's post (involving Second Amendment advocacy of all things) into the beginning of Professor Randall's quote!


    It has been deleted. My apologies to both, and any readers who might have been confused. (I'm wondering whether George Harleigh's ghost is playing tricks on me. . .)

    posted by Eric at 02:31 PM | Comments (8)

    Where's George? And where's Doug?

    My previous post about the much-quoted "George Harleigh" (said to be a SIU political science professor who worked for Nixon and Reagan administrations) has received enough attention that I thought it merited a new post.

    Clayton Cramer linked my original post and asked his readers for help in locating the mystery man. According to readers who've checked the relevant academic databases, there's nothing. Anywhere:

    There's nothing by "George Harleigh" on EBSCOHost Academic Search Premiere, either.


    Social Science Citation Index reports, for Harleigh, G :


    The author name you entered did not result in a match from the index. Hint: Check the spelling of the name, or remove the initials to broaden your search."

    No change when the initial was omitted.

    There's a Harley, G, who has published
    " Zhang XF, Harley G, De Jonghe LC
    Co-continuous metal-ceramic nanocomposites "

    Doesn't look like political science.

    JSTOR returns Harleigh Hartman and Harleigh Trecker.

    Political Science Abstracts returns no hits for Harleigh

    Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life returns no hits for Harleigh.

    Dissertation Abstracts returns Harleigh Enid Wilmott, a biologist.

    OCLC's "WorldCat" shows no titles by George Harleigh

    GPO Access shows no government documents with author George Harleigh.

    To which Cramer comments:
    Amazing--someone became a professor at Southern Illinois University without a single published work, anywhere!
    Well, not according to the SIU Department of Political Science. (When I called the department, I was told the list of emeritus professors goes from Hargraves to Harlow.)

    Philadelphia journalist Steve Silver has linked this post and is also asking questions about George Harleigh:

    Calls by the blogger to SIU, and searches of Lexus-Nexis for published material by him, find no mention of Harleigh, and he's not mentioned on Google anywhere other than in providing quotes to blogs. Anyone ever heard of this guy, and have any evidence that exists or did exist? I'm figuring either he's real and everyone's wrong, or someone just made him up and his same few quotes have been recycled again and again for years, or there's some guy out there claiming to be a disgruntled former Nixon/Reagan aide.
    There are serious logical problems posed by any attempt to prove conclusively that a person does not (or did not) exist. No matter how many searches fail to prove the existence of someone, that failure does not negate the person's possible existence. However, when a specific person's specific occupation or background are made relevant as they are here, it is possible to disprove such a person's occupation or background, simply by the absence of official records. (For example, if someone claims to be a Navy SEAL, that claim can be verified or debunked, and there are websites devoted to doing just that.)

    The burden of proof, though, normally falls on those asserting that the person exists. In the case of George Harleigh, virtually all quotations and references to him originate with Doug Thompson, a self-described journalist ["newspaperman"] who runs the Capitol Hill Blue web site.

    Which means at this point that the burden is on Mr. Thompson to supply evidence:

  • that there is a "George Harleigh"; and
  • and that he is the man described and quoted in innumerable articles, who taught Political Science at SIU and worked in the Nixon and Reagan administrations.
  • If "George Harleigh" is a pseudonym, that fact should be disclosed, and if there is a person calling himself "George Harleigh" whose remarks are being repeated, it falls on Doug Thompson to provide some evidence that this man is who he says he is.

    Under the circumstances, until I hear otherwise, I think it is entirely reasonable to conclude that:

  • there is no former political science professor named "George Harleigh" who worked for Nixon and Reagan; and
  • Quotations attributed to him are inherently unreliable, and cast serious doubt on the credibility of sites which rely on them.
  • Again, if my suspicions turn out to be wrong, I'll certainly acknowledge that with apologies to Doug Thompson and George Harleigh.

    MORE: According to blogger Angry Bear, three years ago Doug Thompson admitted that he had been conned for the last 20 years by someone named "Terry Wilkinson":

    The Capitol Hill Blue story cited below is a hoax--Capitol Hill Blue founder Doug Thompson now alleges that he was intentionally deceived by someone pretending to be Terry Wilkinson for the last 20 years (Thompson: "Erasing the stories doesn't erase the fact that we ran articles containing information that, given the source, was probably inaccurate. And it doesn't erase the sad fact that my own arrogance allowed me to be conned").
    The problem is, the Thompson site link does not discuss the Terry Wilkinson "conning" incident.

    But that's because the references were erased. Another post has the full quote about the "erasures," plus more from Doug Thompson: If that is the case, then why were these words edited out of the post in question? Another post here -- same thing, Doug Thompson's apology from nowhere.

    Editing the fraudulent character out of the post is one thing, but if we assume Doug Thompson was conned, admitted it, apologized for it, and vowed not to let it happen again, well, why would he censor such an important admission to his readers?

    Might this not be seen as casting doubt on the sincerity of his admission?

    Or am I missing something?

    UPDATE: More on the Wilkinson "con" story:

    On a forum for the CHB website, Doug Thompson, who runs CHB, was asked about the problems a Freeper had reported in trying to get information on Wilkinson. Here is the meat of Thompson's reply:
    I've known Terry Wilkinson for 20+ years and his decision to go public was a painful one that I'm sure will bring recriminations. But he loves his country a lot more than any political party or politician. I've received some emails today regarding his comments and have forwarded them on to him. It's his decision as to whether or not he wishes to respond.

    But I don't feed anyone's desire for a witch hunt. When we ran the stories about Bill Clinton's sexual assaults on women, we identified a number of the women. I don't recall anyone at Free Republican demanding "proof" of their identity although I did have a number of liberal media types hounding me for more information.

    I didn't pander to them and I won't to anyone else. I stand by the stories that run on our web site. You are free to read them or not read them, believe them or not believe them. It's a free world. We've been on the web since 1994 and we will be here 10 years from now.

    Hopefully, there will be some kind of confirmation or refutation of this story within the next few days, but I thought the information was interesting enough to at least make note of it. I'll let you know if I find out anything further.
    Again, there are links, but they're useless. (Anyone who wants to experiment with them can just go to the post.)

    UPDATE: This is more fun than I thought. Kevin Drum had a post discussing the CHB con job which refers to a "'CIA advisor' named Terrance J. Wilkinson" and which says:

    YELLOWCAKE UPDATE....Yesterday I wrote a post about a story in Capitol Hill Blue in which a "CIA advisor" named Terrance J. Wilkinson claimed that he was present at White House briefings where George Bush was told that the Niger uranium story was bogus.

    "I'm not sure how seriously to take this," I wrote, and it turns out that the answer is, "Not at all." Writing in Capitol Hill Blue today, publisher Doug Thompson says, "I've been had big time." Wilkinson is a fake and the briefings never took place.

    The comments are lots of fun, with one saying that "Poor Wilkerson is even now being chased by Ashcroft's thugs . . ." and another saying he's "grateful not to coincidentally be named Terry Wilkinson right now."

    Will John Ashcroft's goons soon be rousting everyone named "George Harleigh"?

    My favorite comment predicts the end of the "right wing" CHB:

    Goodbye CHB. danelectro: fascinating. It certainly explains this weirdness better than anything else I've seen, and CHB is, as you say, clearly a right-wing site: so why would they break a story trashing Bush?
    Hmmm . . .

    (Is it just my imagination, or are there a lot of antiwar activists claiming to be "right wing"?)

    UPDATE: Cache of now-dysfuntional Truthout post with the full text of CHB's original apology here. (Rather than clutter up the blog, I'm putting it below.)'s website appears to be functioning, so I don't understand why the CHB apology link is not.

    MORE: In 2003 Glenn Reynolds discussed the CHB Wilkinson matter in at least two posts, and praised the bloggers who had linked the retraction.

    . . .many bloggers who ran with the original story have noted it, including quite a few lefty bloggers who clearly wanted to believe it. They deserve credit -- as does Capitol Hill Blue -- for the retraction.
    But will there ever be a "George Harleigh" retraction?

    Stay tuned!

    UPDATE: I have emailed Mr. Thompson with my concerns, and I'll note any response I receive.

    UPDATE: as of 3:35 p.m. today (07/20/06), "George Harleigh" is being deleted from posts! Here's the cache of the most recently written post -- as it appeared yesterday:

    It's not the first time the unwary President, who claims to be a born-again Christian, has been caught cursing. He called a New York Times reporter a "son of a bitch" to an open mike, told Wall Street Journal reporter Al Hunt "fuck you" in front of his daughters and, in a meeting with members of Congress, called the Constitution "just a goddamned piece of paper."

    "Like Nixon, Bush's private persona is much different," says retired political scientiest George Harleigh, who served in both the Nixon and Reagan administration. "Nixon cursed like a sailor when he was out of public view. So does Bush."

    The U.S. president blames Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah guerrillas operating in southern Lebanon.

    And here's the same text as it appears now:
    It's not the first time the unwary President, who claims to be a born-again Christian, has been caught cursing. He called a New York Times reporter a "son of a bitch" to an open mike, told Wall Street Journal reporter Al Hunt "fuck you" in front of his daughters and, in a meeting with members of Congress, called the Constitution "just a goddamned piece of paper."

    The U.S. president blames Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah guerrillas operating in southern Lebanon.

    Bush also seemed to complain about U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wanting an immediate ceasefire to stop the violence between Israel and Hezbollah.


    Ditto with this article -- The Continued Madness of King George:

    Yet Savage's story fell off the media landscape with a resounding thud as the rest of the mainstreamers, apparently kowtowed by Bush's threats to haul reporters and editors in front of grand juries if they dare write about his abuse of the Constitution and use of U.S. spy agencies to snoop on Americans, stuck with reporting on the President's latest road show to sell the failed Iraq war.

    The revised USA Patriot Act emerged from Congress with a number of oversight provisions requiring the President to report to the Hill on a strict timetable. One of those provisions said the White House had to tell Congress just how the FBI used the expanded wiretap and surveillance powers granted under the act.

    Some in Congress, like Senator Patrick Leahy, are pissed as hell at the President's claim that he is above the law.

    Yesterday's version is cached here.
    Yet Savage's story fell off the media landscape with a resounding thud as the rest of the mainstreamers, apparently kowtowed by Bush's threats to haul reporters and editors in front of grand juries if they dare write about his abuse of the Constitution and use of U.S. spy agencies to snoop on Americans, stuck with reporting on the President's latest road show to sell the failed Iraq war.

    "Frankly, I'm surprised," says political scientist George Harleigh, who worked in the Nixon and Reagan White Houses. "I thought the story would have legs and get much more attention. After all the debate in Congress over the need for the President to keep them in the loop he simply signs away one of the key provisions of the revised act."

    The revised USA Patriot Act emerged from Congress with a number of oversight provisions requiring the President to report to the Hill on a strict timetable. One of those provisions said the White House had to tell Congress just how the FBI used the expanded wiretap and surveillance powers granted under the act.

    "George Harleigh" is disappearing fast. I'm sure the rest of the Harleigh quotes are being systematically pulled, and I have to go out, so I will not be able to track down the caches of them all.

    No word from Doug Thompson.

    MORE (04:05 p.m.): George W. Bush: An American Dictator:

    ''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.
    The rest -- four deleted paragraphs worth -- are all in the cache:
    ''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.

    Political scientist George Harleigh, who served in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations where Presidential power became major issues, says Bush's actions place the country on a dangerous course.

    "Presidential authority, once assumed, is seldom relinquished. The Constitution prevailed when Richard Nixon ignored the laws that govern his actions," Harleigh says, "but this President neither obeys nor upholds his oath to support the Constitution. He sees the document as an obstacle to his power and has chosen to ignore it. If no one else is willing to uphold the Constitution then it becomes, as attorney general Alberto Gonzales has written, an 'outdated document' and places this Republic in grave peril."

    Harleigh believes this nation faces more than a battle for which political party controls the White House and/or Congress.

    "This is now a battle for the soul of America," he says. "The very future of this Republic may well rest on whether or not anyone can, or will, stop George W. Bush."

    AND MORE (04:07 p.m.): The "heady atmosphere of Congress" quote from 1999 I mentioned yesterday has been scrubbed:

    Does the heady atmosphere of Congress turn honest men and women into a criminal class? Or is elected office simply a magnet for those who lie, cheat and steal for a living?

    It could be a little bit of both, say political scientists and Constitutional scholars.

    Congress has always had its share of rogues and scoundrels:

    · Adam Clayton Powell, the fast-talking Harlem Congressman who was re-elected even after Congress expelled him in 1967. Powell had survived charges of income-tax evasion (with a hung jury) even before his first election to Congress.

    Once again, the Google version:
    Does the heady atmosphere of Congress turn honest men and women into a criminal class? Or is elected office simply a magnet for those who lie, cheat and steal for a living?

    It could be a little bit of both, say political scientists and Constitutional scholars.

    "There's no doubt that politics attracts the glib, the fast talker and the con artist," says retired Southern Illinois University political scientist George Harleigh. "It's a natural place for those who think fast on their feet."

    Congress has always had its share of rogues and scoundrels:

    · Adam Clayton Powell, the fast-talking Harlem Congressman who was re-elected even after Congress expelled him in 1967. Powell had survived charges of income-tax evasion (with a hung jury) even before his first election to Congress.

    Does this mean "George Harleigh" has now been declared an unperson going all the way back to 1999?

    But he was alive and quotable all these years?

    Any readers who can help, please let me know.

    I'm dumbfounded.

    AND MORE: Here's today's version of "The Decider in Chief":

    Decider-in-chief? A key statement to the arrogance that is George W. Bush.

    "I decide what is best," he says.

    For Bush the game has always been about power. Absolute power. Dictatorial power.

    This is the American President who said: "it would be much easier if this was a dictatorship, as long as I get to be the dictator."

    At the time some people thought he was joking. Those who know him knew he wasn't.

    In 1999, while completing a profile of Harris County, Texas, Judge Robert Eckels, I interviewed a number of Texas political observers. Republican and Democrat alike agreed that then Gov. George W. Bush was stubborn, arrogant and used to having his own way.

    And yesterday's (from the cache):

    Decider-in-chief? A key statement to the arrogance that is George W. Bush.

    "I decide what is best," he says.

    For Bush the game has always been about power. Absolute power. Dictatorial power.

    This is the American President who said: "it would be much easier if this was a dictatorship, as long as I get to be the dictator."

    At the time some people thought he was joking. Those who know him knew he wasn't.

    "Of all the Presidents I've served or observed, George W. Bush is the least receptive to the opinion of others," says political scientist George Harleigh, who served in both the Nixon and Reagan administration. "He has no interest in what others think and he doesn't listen to the advice of experts or professionals."

    In 1999, while completing a profile of Harris County, Texas, Judge Robert Eckels, I interviewed a number of Texas political observers. Republican and Democrat alike agreed that then Gov. George W. Bush was stubborn, arrogant and used to having his own way.

    Now you see it, now you don't.

    I'm starting to feel sorry for "George Harleigh" -- a cyber victim who has outlived his cyber usefulness.

    I have to go out, so I'll let Clayton Cramer speak for Mr. Harleigh:

    I'm sure that somewhere in a virtual reality hell, "George Harleigh" is disappearing, while screaming, "I'm melting, I'm melting!"
    George Harleigh, R.I.P.

    Victim of a cyber meltdown . . .

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post, and calling attention to the plight of the disappeared!

    Welcome all; I appreciate the additional insights.

    UPDATE (07/21/06): My thanks to all the commenters for providing helpful information!

    While I still haven't received a reply to my email to Doug Thompson, I'm intrigued by Editor William D. McTavish's "report and apology to our readers" which has appeared at Capitol Hill Blue. It is dated July 17, 2006 at 11;05 a.m. and states:

    Three months ago, we asked a panel of fellow journalists to assist us in a review of of stories published on this web site over the past 12 years and asked them to assist us in determining any which they felt might be poorly sourced or based on questionable sources.
    Any idea what "panel of journalists" might mean in this context? Was this in house or external? Any confirmation about who they were?

    That review is complete and we are in the process of deleting or modifying some stories which our panel felt did not satisfy the criteria established for responsible journalism.
    What I find odd about the timing is that the story I saw and quoted on July 17 was still there in its entirety on July 19. Yesterday afternoon the "George Harleigh" references were gone, and this morning it contains the new language with the link to the apology dated "July 17." After a "three month review," why keep running these Harleigh stories, why run one right on the heels of the mass deletions, and why take days to explain?

    Is there any way to verify the July 17 date and time of the "apology"?

    While I haven't checked each story, I notice that in the case of "The decider-in-chief: A drunk with power", Harleigh is gone, but without the explanation.

    And the "goddamned piece of paper" story seems to have disappeared entirely. Why no explanation?

    In all, 329 stories were modified or removed from our databases of 25,000 plus articles because of problems encountered when we went back to check on sources or to verify the identity of those quoted. As editor, I was tasked by the publisher to apply new, higher standards for publication of material on this web site and to apply those same standards to stories published in the past.

    Most modifications were clarification of source material. Only 12 stories were removed from the archives. However, the modification of 83 stories involved a "named source" we have quoted a number of times and who claimed to be (1) a retired political science professor and (2) a former official in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations.

    Many of the quotes are the same quotes, repeated in new contexts.

    Then there are the "emails":

    In 1998, our former editor, Jack Sharp, began receiving a regular, almost daily, email "newsletter" from a "Professor George Harleigh" offering quotes, observations and commentary on current political events along with permission to use those comments as we saw fit. "Professor Harleigh" claimed to be a retired political science professor from Southern Illinois University and offered, as backup, links to a number of web sites and news publications that quoted him or used material furnished by him. We checked the web sites and other news publications and found him quoted often so we began using his material in selected stories. Since 1998, we have used quotes from "George Harleigh" in 83 stories on our web site.
    At this point, I'm wondering: how we even know there were emails? If the "web sites and other news publications" where they claim to have "found him quoted often" do not exist (no one has discovered any web sites linking any "George Harleigh references other than the CHB-related links, and a diligent search has failed to find him in any publications), are we supposed to take them at their word that the emails exist?

    Recently, we received an inquiry from Southern Illinois University saying they were trying to locate the "George Harleigh" who claimed to have taught at their institution but said they did not have any record of a "George Harleigh" or even a "Harleigh" ever teaching at the university's campuses in Carbondale or Edwardsville, Illinois. That inquiry led us to investigate further and we found that "Professor George Harleigh" may be a fictitous name.  We talked with other web sites that have used quotes from the same source and all, like us, received the quotes in an email newsletter format. The newsletter email currently traced back to a qmail account. We also posted inquiries on bulletin boards and other blogs. When we received today's newsletter we immediately mailed back and asked for additional information. We did not receive an answer and followup emails bounced back as undeliverable.
    "all, like us, received the quotes in an email newsletter format." If "Harleigh" has been emailing other web sites, why is it that they aren't quoting him directly? Instead, they link back to one or more of the CHB articles.

    Regarding the "inquiry from Southern Illinois University," why isn't the University official who contacted them named?

    This raised enough questions in our minds to remove any quotes by or references to Mr. Harleigh from the 83 stories, including one published today. None of the stories originated from information supplied by him and, in no case, were his comments the central focus of the story, so we did not feel the need to remove any stories or mofidy their original intent so they remain in our archives without the quotes from "Harleigh."

    All quotes attributed to Mr. Harleigh came from the daily newsletters he sent and were unsolicited. They were, however, timely and often fit into stories we were developing and we used them. That was our mistake. It was a foolish, lazy practice that should not have happened.

    Daily newsletters? Sent to other web sites as well? Surely there's some way of tracking down, and verifying just one.
    This is the second time in 12 years of publishing this web site that we have been burned by a source who turned out to be not who he claimed. We're human. We make mistakes. When we find out we were wrong we try to move quickly to correct those mistakes. We apologize to our readers for allowing this to happen and we will no longer use quotes from unsolicited sources and will take greater care to make sure the sources of quotes we do use are legitimate. We will be adding a link to this report to all stories modified but please bear with us while we complete that time-consuming task.
    Everyone is human, and everyone makes mistakes. If I were burned by a source I'd be outraged, and I'd want to find out what happened. I wouldn't delete anything, but I'd note what happened in an update, and I'd leave no stone unturned in an attempt to find out who or what organization had perpetrated a fraud on me and my readers. If there was a newsletter, I would, at minimum, investigate the email headers and attempt to determine its origin, and I would disclose whatever I found.

    I know I shouldn't judge others by my standards, but considering it's the second time, I don't think they're being very forthcoming.

    And quite frankly, I'm now wondering . . . Did anyone ever verify the explanation of the Terrance Wilkinson matter?

    MORE: This is getting so absurd that I'm now wondering how to find out more about the editorial background of William D. McTavish. Can't find much, except that he was called a Republican in UK's Telegraph. According to Capitol Hill Blue:

    Reporter and columnist Bill McTavish is a registered Republican and a veteran who served three deployments in Vietnam

    Back in 2004, when people cared about these things, The Annoyed Army was scouring to find him. He was called "elusive" One commenter said

    For an accomplished journalist he doesn't seem to have written anything that shows up on the Internet, except CHB.
    And another claims he seems to have "sprung from whole cloth":
    Chuck, you seem to enjoy posting stuff from William D. McTavish, but as I look through Google, he seems to have sprung from whole cloth in 2004, (as far as Google is concerned he only exists at CHB... and as a baby that lived to age 2 months back in 1910 :tinfoilhat: ) and, returned no bylines by him... made me think, is this actually your pen name?
    Whose pen name? Did the "panel of fellow journalists" look into this too? I'm wondering, might he be this elusive cat photographer?

    MORE: This gets more and more bizarre. It turns out that "Bill McTavish" issued a similar apology and retraction in May:

    Please allow me to introduce myself to you, the readers of Capitol Hill Blue.

    I'm Bill McTavish, the new publisher of this web site, effective immediately. I'm the head of a new team that takes over Capitol Hill Blue and, we hope, takes the web site in new directions.

    When I was asked to take over as publisher of CHB, I insisted that I have the authority to review past articles published on this web site and remove any that I, and others, felt did not meet established standards of impartial journalism, were poorly-sourced or just plain speculation. I brought in journalists I respect and asked them to go through the archives and identify stories where they considered the sources questionable or the facts hazy. As a result of their review, we removed 217 articles from the database archives of more than 25,000 stories.

    Gone from the site, for example, are speculative articles on President Clinton's sex life, Mrs. Clinton's sexual preferences, President Bush calling the Constitution a "goddamned piece of paper" or various and sundry conspiracy theories.

    STOP right there. That is just wrong. The "goddamned piece of paper" quote was still there yesterday, and it still is.
    Gone too are articles where a recheck of sources did not, to my satisfaction, pass the smell test. Some of the articles removed included columns written by our founder and publisher. I'm not saying these stories were wrong, although I had doubts about some of them, but they were not sourced to my satisfaction and were never verified by additional sources or other publications. Even though they have not been proven wrong (or even denied by the subjects of the story) they did not, in my opinion, pass the standard for verification that now exists for this web site. I may have missed some but if and when someone brings such articles to my attention we will review them, apply the same standards to the others that were removed, and remove them if they fail to meet those standards.

    I have brought in a staff of veterans and young professionals to beef up our news coverage and provide a balanced product. Callie Houston now runs our blog, Fred Hylton oversees the editorial product and we have a staff of reporters, researchers and fact-checkers to review every story. We subscribe to Reuters, AP and Scripps-Howard news service to bolster our news coverage. Our popular discussion board, ReaderRant, continues as an independent web site run by a talented and dedicated group of administrators and moderators. They know how to do their jobs and will get no interference from me.

    I consider the past exactly that -- the past. This web site made some mistakes and decisions were made to run with stories that showed, in my opinion, poor judgment. We will remain non-partisan in our approach to news but our goal is news based on fact, not speculation, and truth, not wishful thinking. We will continue to ask questions that need to be asked and hold all elected officials to an equal, non-partisan standard. I don't expect you take my word that everything is hunky-dory but I do ask that if someone links to something from our site that it be considered for the content and not simply dismissed because someone may have considered the site questionable.

    To answer a question I am sure you have: Yes, Doug Thompson still owns Capitol Hill Blue but he has stepped away from any involvement in the editorial product and now invests his time and resources in a new project aimed at campaign reform. If, and when, he chooses to write columns or articles for this web site they will be subject to the same review, editing and fact checking as any other writer or source.

    Really? By Bill McTavish? Well, why hasn't that happened? Bill McTavish doesn't seem to be keeping up his side of the bargain, but then, their writing styles are so similar I'm wondering whether they get each other confused, especially late at night.
    He has tasked me with the goal of improving CHB and restoring its reputation. Some of the articles I removed from the archives were either written by him or approved by him and he did not object. Recently, he published a public apology to his readers and then asked me to fix the problems. My first step was to clean up the product. My second step is asking those of you who had questions in the past to take a fresh look at what we do and make up your own mind.

    If you have any questions, comments, gripes or vents, please feel free to contact me

    William D. McTavish
    Capitol Hill Blue

    Where is McTavish?

    AND MORE: I verified the existence of at least one real William McTavish.

    UPDATE: Clayton Cramer has more, and links to an important post at McKinley's America which makes what Cramer quite properly calls "a legitimate request":

    I suspect that no bulletin board or blog postings were made.

    CHB says they were receiving these newsletters frequently, including yesterday. They should provide a copy of as many of these newsletters as they have available, including the full mail headers (which can be used to determine the actual originating IP address and could lead to the revelation of the fraudster-- if he wasn't made up in full cloth).

    This seems like a legitimate request. It would certainly establish that CHB was the victim of a fraud, and not the orginator of it.

    MORE: Under the circumstances, it seemed relevant to me to ask who is Doug Thompson. New post here. (I'm still not sure I know. Although I'm sure I know even less about Mr. McTavish.)

    AND MORE: The plot thickens into a veritable hall of mirrors. Here's a wild tidbit. Apparently CHB has an "ombudsman" named Sandra Riley, who promised to crackdown on the elusive McTavish (and another reporter, one "Teresa Hampton"):

    September 8, 2004
    Teresa Hampton and William McTavish fired
    by ombudsman Sandra Riley
    on Capital Hill Blue

    A problem with unnamed sources brings Hampton’s July 28 story, Bush Taking Anti-Depressants into question. While she quotes Dr. Justin Frank on his analysis of the President’s behavior, she does not offer any corroboration to the conclusion that White House Physician Col. Richard J. Tubb actually prescribed any anti-depressant medication to Bush. For that reason, the story was pulled.

    I also killed a July 29 story, Sullen, Depressed President Retreats into a Private, Paranoid World, by Hampton and former CHB reporter William D. McTavish. Again, the only quoted source was Dr. Frank and the quotes were repeats of those from earlier story. His quotes did not back up the claims by unnamed sources.

    This makes two stories removed from the CHB archives. A common thread in all three is that they were authored in part or in whole by Hampton, who was recently relieved of her duties as editor because of a lapse in judgment over publication of a column that reflected a personal agenda by the writer (McTavish, who was also fired).

    Because of this, our publisher has asked me to go back over all articles written by both Hampton and McTavish. I am doing so and will report to our readers when the review is complete.

    McTavish fired? Stories pulled?

    Has a familiar ring, no?

    Note: the quoted CHB text in the the link the blogger no longer appears in the link.

    MORE: Yet another old CHB link confirming that "McTavish" was "fired."

    Is this a game of cyber musical chairs?

    AND EVEN MORE: "Editor" Teresa Hampton, btw, is interesting in her own right. According to her former biography, she not only co-authored the "award-winning All the President's Women series" (sorry, can't find the series or the award) but graduated from "Southern Illinois University."

    I just have to ask: was "George Harleigh" one of her "professors"?

    MORE: In Februrary, John Hawkins wondered whether the CHB site might not be sock puppetry:

    I wonder if Thompson actually makes up like names for these fake sources? Like ya know, Mr. I. Friend the Secret Service Agent or White House Aide Puff'N'Stuff? Better yet, maybe he makes little puppets out of socks, puts them on his hands, and asks them questions. "Mr. Socko, you saw Cheney drunk, didn't you? Of course you did! That's a good Mr. Socko!"

    The fact that there are actually bloggers out there linking to this moronic fraud for reasons other than to laugh at him, even if they are on the left, is a stain on the entire blogosphere. Even liberals should know better than to buy into this sort of garbage...

    As I said, I only got into this because I wanted to know who "George Harleigh" was. As one thing led to another, it just got worse and worse.

    I don't think there's any way to know who anyone connected with CHB is. (Including Doug Thompson.)

    MORE: In March, Doug Thompson not only called Glenn Greenwald a "prominent New York litigator," but he recounted his personal tale of oppression at the hands of Alberto Gonzales:

    "The significance of this cannot be overstated," says prominent New York litigator Glenn Greenwald. "In essence, while the President sits in the White House undisturbed after proudly announcing that he has been breaking the law and will continue to do so, his slavish political appointees at the Justice Department are using the mammoth law enforcement powers of the federal government to find and criminally prosecute those who brought this illegal conduct to light.

    "This flamboyant use of the forces of criminal prosecution to threaten whistle-blowers and intimidate journalists are nothing more than the naked tactics of street thugs and authoritarian juntas."

    Just how widespread, and uncontrolled, this latest government assault has become hit close to home last week when one of the FBI's National Security Letters arrived at the company that hosts the servers for this web site, Capitol Hill Blue.

    The letter demanded traffic data, payment records and other information about the web site along with information on me, the publisher.

    Now that's a problem. I own the company that hosts Capitol Hill Blue. So, in effect, the feds want me to turn over information on myself and not tell myself that I'm doing it. You'd think they'd know better.

    I turned the letter over to my lawyer and told him to send the following message to the feds:

    F*ck you. Strong letter to follow.

    That upset a lot of people, and Michael Silence of Knox News linked to it. However, if you follow the links, the post appears to be empty.

    I looked around, and found the new expurgated version of the story -- the same article (titled "Bush declares war on freedom of the press") but minus the personal tale of oppression. (Better peek fast, as it too, will probably disappear.)

    What happened to the security letter which got him all the attention?

    Does that mean Doug Thompson found out that he -- Doug Thompson -- was unreliable in his own account?


    (Just thought I'd ask; maybe it will.)

    UPDATE: Capitol Hill Blue made easy -- with a convenient flow chart!

    UPDATE (07/24/06): The search for missing persons continues!

    Continue reading "Where's George? And where's Doug?"

    posted by Eric at 10:57 AM | Comments (78)

    Your gun, your dog, or your life!

    The post-Hurricane Katrina "lessons" (if that's what they are) seem to be piling up.

    During the emergency, citizens' guns were confiscated illegally, and they are now having to petition to get them back, and meanwhile state and federal legislation is in the pipeline to stop this sort of abuse from happening again.

    Losing your gun is bad enough, because without a gun in an emergency, you can find yourself defenseless against any number of things. But another -- perhaps more tragic -- thing that happened to people in New Orleans was that they lost their dogs -- not because they were confiscated officially, but because they either left them behind when they fled for their lives, or else they weren't allowed to take them when they were evacuated.

    The story about the little boy crying because his dog couldn't accompany his evacuation touched a nerve nationally. For me, so did this article in the Sunday Inquirer, for it raises some very disturbing issues:

    Sheila Combs lost nearly everything in Hurricane Katrina: her home, her possessions, her job and - what really broke her heart - her 2-year-old mutt, Rocket.

    Combs assumed that the chow-Finnish Spitz mix had died after she, her mother and her 9-year-old son were evacuated from New Orleans to the Houston Astrodome.

    So it seemed to be a miracle last month when a volunteer group seeking to reunite Katrina pets with their masters discovered Rocket alive and flourishing in Doylestown.

    Except that the pooch isn't Rocket anymore - he's Rusty. And his new owners have no intention of giving him back.

    The resulting tug-of-war is among dozens of cases nationwide in which allegations of class bias have been raised by Katrina survivors attempting to reclaim beloved pets from the Good Samaritans who took them in.

    Class bias in this instance takes the form of people who had the wherewithal to adopt these animals imagining that they're more saintly than the people who managed to lose them.

    Not to generalize (as I know some rescue people who aren't like this) but the "rescue" mentality has a strong appeal to people who possess the holier-than-thou form of altruism Ayn Rand used to condemn. They rationalize that because they've got the animal, that they've "saved" it from more than just the Hurricane. They've also saved it from inferior beings.

    "It's almost entirely a movement of animals from poor blacks to middle-class whites," said Steven Wise, a Florida animal-rights lawyer involved in several custody battles.

    People who first considered themselves foster caregivers now say some Katrina pet lovers don't deserve their animals back.

    In what has been called a cultural misunderstanding, they cite neglect - including failure to have animals spayed or neutered and not getting rabies and heartworm prevention - as evidence of unfit care.

    Don't get me started on that one. I have no problem with letting people spay and neuter their animals, but I have a serious problem with people who'd make me do that, as well as people who'd say this makes me an unfit owner.

    Cultural misunderstanding? I guess it's fair to say that people who sexually mutilate perfectly healthy dogs and imagine they're superior to people who don't are guilty of a cultural misunderstanding. Might even be understatement.

    Army Lt. Jay Johnson, who was in Iraq when the hurricane hit, has filed suit against the SPCA of Texas to retrieve his shih tzu, Missy, whom he left with relatives in New Orleans. And Linda Charles, 41, is suing to recover her German shepherd, Precious, from the Humane Society of North Texas.

    "It's aggravating that people took not only our dog, but lots of people's dogs, and they're doing what they want with them," said Charles, of New Orleans, who now resides in Baton Rouge, La.

    After the storm, many who fled left provisions for their pets and expected to return in a few days. When they didn't, the Humane Society of America and others collected the animals and shipped them to kennels around the country.

    Rescue workers left spray-painted notes on houses and posted information on Internet sites, such as, to help owners locate their animals. But by the time Katrina survivors were resettled and ready to search, many pets had found new homes.

    Some groups set Dec. 31 as the deadline for owners to retrieve animals. After that, they were considered eligible for permanent homes.

    Look, I know this was an emergency, but I also think that if someone is looking for his dog, and someone else has it, the dog is still the owner's property. It might be fair to charge him for the value of the boarding and veterinary care, but the dog does not become someone else's just because someone else has it -- a fact Lousiania law seems to recognize:
    But under Louisiana law, residents have three years to claim lost property, said Mimi Hunley, a member of the Louisiana Attorney General's Office who is helping mediate pet disputes.

    And pets are property, Hunley said. "It really is that simple."

    Is it really? I certainly think it should be. But there's a huge nationwide movement now called the "guardian campaign" -- the goal of which is, simply, the removal of the designation of animals as property. A "guardian" could be anyone -- including a thief who "decided" that he's be a better "guardian" than someone who was so cruel as to imagine he was the "owner."
    Wise, who is involved in the Charles and Johnson cases, said it's hard to understand why the animals aren't being turned over.

    "These people lost everything," Wise said of the hurricane victims. "The only thing they have is their family, and these dogs are their family."

    The SPCA of Texas and Humane Society of North Texas declined to comment on the cases.

    It is not hard for me to understand at all. The people who won't give these dogs back think they're saintly for adopting them, and more time they spend bonding with the animals, the more self-righteous they're liable to become. (I do not doubt that in addition, they sincerely love the animals they've adopted, in a manner not completely unlike an adoptive parent.) The problem is exacerbated, IMO, by animal rights activists, and concepts like "guardianship" for animals. If you think about it, saying an animal is like a person really does make the animal owner who had to leave the pet behind look cruel, for who would leave a child behind? This gives the adoptive guardians moral authority to keep the animals (and in cities which have enacted "guardian" laws, possibly even legal authority).

    It's a disgrace that people who love their animals so much that they are still trying to get them back are encountering resistance. But it isn't surprising.

    There is, of course, something worse than losing a gun or losing a dog -- and that is losing your life. In today's Inquirer I see that people in nursing homes may have been deliberately killed because it was too much trouble to save them :

    NEW ORLEANS - A doctor and two nurses who labored at a sweltering, flooded hospital in Hurricane Katrina's chaotic aftermath were arrested and accused yesterday of murdering four trapped and desperately ill patients with injections of morphine and a sedative.

    "We're talking about people that pretended that maybe they were God," Louisiana Attorney General Charles C. Foti said. "And they made that decision."

    The defendants were booked on charges of being "principals to second-degree murder," which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

    The three - Dr. Anna Pou, 50; nurse Cheri A. Landry, 49; and nurse Lori L. Budo, 43 - were the first medical professionals charged in a monthslong criminal investigation into whether many of New Orleans' sick and elderly were abandoned or put out of their misery in the days after the storm.

    All three were released without bail.

    Pou, an ear, nose and throat specialist, and Landry and Budo were accused of deliberately killing four patients, ages 62 to 90, at Memorial Medical Center with a "lethal cocktail" of morphine and Versed, a sedative. No patient names were released.

    I agree with bioethicist Arthur Caplan's analysis:
    No one knowswhether that happened in the New Orleans deaths. The worst-case scenario would be if the doctors "tried to save themselves and didn't want to feel guilty leaving the patients behind and killed them," Caplan said.

    The best-case scenario, he said, would be if those accused believed that "all possibility of maintaining people on technology has come to an end, you're out of power and your battery power is running out, and you say, 'I can't let these people suffer.' "

    "Under American law, neither scenario would be excusable," Caplan said.

    Emergencies present unforeseen opportunities which bring out a latent side of people who find themselves in unusual circumstances. Most of the time, what emerges is the good side -- in many cases people are at their best.

    Unfortunately, this makes the bad side all the more horrendous to behold. People are justly horrified by opportunists who engage in looting and rioting, but I think a good argument can be made that people who abuse positions of trust are worse.

    posted by Eric at 03:00 PM | Comments (4)

    Note to readers

    Anyone whose noticed the blog isn't opening properly (links and sidebar stuff don't appear), please be patient. We've run out of space, and the problem will be fixed soon!

    posted by Eric at 08:09 AM | Comments (4)

    "A result of rigid toilet training"

    I'm glad I called myself a "Goldwater liberal" before this latest bout of psychopolitical "analysis" started:

    Something is rotten in the state of conservatism, says John Dean in Conservatives Without Conscience. Today’s conservatives are “hostile and mean-spirited,” “vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheaters, prejudiced, mean-spirited [again], militant, nationalistic, and two-faced,” not to mention “enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited [once more], power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral.” Mental handicaps such as “intolerance of ambiguity, need for certainty or structure in life, overreaction to threats, and a disposition to dominate others” turn them ineluctably into “authoritarians” and “social dominators.” Unless stopped, Dean warns, conservatives “will take American democracy where no freedom-loving person would want it to go.”

    Those who buy the conclusion that Dean all but assumes—namely, that movement conservatives are destroying the Republic—will find all this wonderfully cathartic. No need to troll the internet for anti-Republican Party talking points: Conservatives Without Conscience hits them all. The GOP has shifted to the extreme right and imposed virtual one-party rule; evangelicals want to install a theocracy and tear down the wall of separation between church and state; the Bush administration has stripped citizens of their civil liberties and emasculated the other branches of government; social conservatives hate women and gays and want to reduce them to second-class citizens; conservative legal scholars, merely by questioning the theory of judicial supremacy (which Dean confuses with the power of judicial review), threaten the independence of the courts. The right wing gets away with these and other crimes by being a bunch of hypocritical, sanctimonious jerks.

    Humorlessly posing as a disinterested champion of the public weal, Dean defends his unkind words for conservatives by invoking the theory of the “authoritarian personality.” First introduced by the neo-Freudian Theodor Adorno in the 1940s but largely discredited by the 1970s, the theory evidently still has its champions, who have carried on a small, if obscure, research industry in its name. Their work does not appear to have earned widespread acceptance among academic psychologists. No matter: in Dean’s mind, as he spends the bulk of Conservatives Without Conscience arguing, the theory of the authoritarian personality establishes the malevolence of conservatives as scientific fact.

    To anyone not blind with ideological rage, however, the theory has patent flaws. The whole thing turns out to be rather trivial, notwithstanding all the portentous claims made on the theory’s behalf. Take, for example, the work of Dean’s favorite guru, a University of Manitoba psychologist named Robert Altemeyer. Altemeyer has spent a career administering a questionnaire he calls the “Right Wing Authoritarianism Survey,” in which he asks subjects to agree or disagree with statements such as “the old-fashioned ways and old-fashioned values still show the best way to live” or “there is nothing wrong with premarital sexual intercourse.” After collecting the results, Altemeyer goes on to find that those who score high on the “RWA” scale also tend to be political conservatives. Well, yeah: the questions themselves do little more than elicit conservative or liberal attitudes in the first place. The RWA scale shows only that conservative beliefs correlate well with . . . other conservative beliefs. Call it science if you will—Dean does—but it certainly hasn’t much in the way of explanatory power.

    Sigh. Read the whole thing. (Not Dean's book; the review!)

    Dean, who's reinvented himself too many times to count, has now come up with a very popular meme that echoes the conservatism-as-mental-illness idea, but with a new twist -- the word "authoritarian" doesn't distinguish between conservatism and mental illness! It's a Marxist term which conflates the political and the personal into one grand evil.

    A marvelous label. And a very impressive one. A masterpiece, even. While there are definitions, they really don't matter. What matters is that if you disagree with someone who believes in this nonsense, you're subject to being called an authoritarian outright, or accused of having "authoritarian tendencies" if there's still hope for you.

    If you really want to have fun, there's even a test here. The author describes Adorno as having produced,

    a Freudian-Marxist melange of pseudo-scientific speculative foolishness that is now, thank God, thoroughly discredited.
    Not discredited enough, it would seem. The Adorno-Dean authoritarian diagnosis is taking the leftie blogs by storm, with wannabes like Greenwald, Neiwert, and Sadly, No! all elbowing their way in. Be the first on your block!

    Jonah Goldberg (doubtless an authoritarian fascist if ever there was one) has more on Adorno:

    [T]his is a very, very old game. Ever since Theodor Adorno came out with his scandalously flawed Authoritarian Personality in 1950, liberal and leftist social scientists have been trying to diagnose conservatism as a psychological defect or sickness. Adorno and his colleagues argued that conservatism was little more than a "pre-fascist" "personality type." According to this school, sympathy for communism was an indication of openness and healthy idealism. Opposition to communism was a symptom of your more deep-seated pathologies and fascist tendencies. According to Adorno, subjects who saw Nazism and Stalinism as similar phenomena were demonstrating their "idiocy" and "irrationality." Psychological counseling, many argued, could cure these maladies. But for some it was too late. In 1964, an ad in the New York Times reported that 1,189 psychiatrists determined that Barry Goldwater was not "psychologically fit" to be president.

    Goldwater??? Huh?

    Like I said, I'm glad I got my foot in the door with the Goldwater liberal meme before John Dean, 'cause he's now claiming to be that and it hurts my feelings big time!

    Yes, it's true. Dean (of whom I've complained many, many, many times), not only continues to obfuscate his role in Watergate, but he's now attempting to claim the mantle of Barry Goldwater:

    Before the break, though, before lights, camera and complete inaction on the part of the assembled crowd, Dean talked about the current state of politics. Much like during his interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, he said that he is a Goldwater conservative, but in this day, that places him left of center.

    From what I gleaned in the discussion and Q&A session (again, not showing my complete political ignorance), Dean's new book, Conservatives Without Conscience, focuses on the authoritarian aspects of the current administration and the big league players in American politics. He talked about growth of executive powers and an administration shrouded in secrecy.

    But. But. But -- Goldwater was right wing, wasn't he?

    An anonymous commenter noted this very thing:

    Anonymous said...

    a goldwater conservative is certainly not anywhere near left of center. His brand of conservatism is right of the current administration on all but a few red herring social issues.

    The problem for Dean (as well as the leftists who want to claim the mantle of Goldwater while labeling libertarians and conservatives as mentally deranged pseudo-proto fascists) is that the commenter is right.

    Goldwater conservatism may be many things, but it simply is not leftism (my satirical "Goldwater liberal" business notwithstanding).

    From Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative":

    "I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them."
    George F. Will defined Goldwater conservatism thusly:
    "muscular foreign policy backing unapologetic nationalism; economic policies of low taxation and light regulation."
    Others have (at least, so I think) strained to redefine Goldwater conservatism as moral conservatism, and have noted Goldwater's shift leftward in his later years, but I think they overlook the clear overall libertarian focus on individual freedom.

    I would agree with George F. Will's definition. I tend to see him as what most bloggers would call a small "l" libertarian. In today's terms, a neolibertarian. (Precisely what's being called "extremist" and "authoritarian" in leftie blogs today.)

    Will has more:

    . . .[T]he domination of the Republican Party by cultural conservatives did make some other conservatives - libertarians and religious skeptics, among others - feel uneasy, even unwelcome. Being derided as RINOs - Republicans in name only - did not help.
    No, being called names never helps, and I don't predict success for the authoritarian authorities, no matter how hard they try. (However, I can't help chuckling over the idea of a libertarian authoritarian. What's next? Anarchist authoritarian?)

    Back to Will:

    The re-emergence into Republican respectability of conservatism with a socially libertarian cast - Goldwaterism - is a development with a large potential to discomfort the Democratic Party.

    The re-emergence can make the Republican Party more appealing to many young and suburban voters, two cohorts in which Democrats have recently made substantial gains.

    I think he's is absolutely right.

    But because the Goldwater-as-leftist meme seems to be striking a nerve right now in the antiwar crowd, I'd like to shatter their bubble and dispel any notion of Goldwater as a pacifist who didn't believe in strong national defense. For starters, Goldwater was a "hawk's hawk":

    An ardent Westerner with a face as blunt and craggy as the state he represented, Goldwater believed in less government and a strong military.

    During the Cold War, he was a hawk's hawk, possessing a deep distrust of the Soviet Union. He also was a stickler for the Constitution and the way he interpreted it. Although he banned racial discrimination in his family's department stores and worked toward a similar ban for Arizona schools and the National Guard, he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he believed it was unconstitutional.

    (I wonder what label would be tacked onto anyone expressing opposition to the Civil Rights Act today . . .)

    Like me, and many libertarians, Goldwater did have a serious problem with the religious right:

    When the new religious right began its takeover of the Republican Party in the 1980s, he broke with them when they advocated limits on the court's ability to bar prayer in school or order busing. He thought their demands would breach the separation of powers between the courts and the Congress, and that religion had no place in politics.

    He believed that the federal government should stay out of people's private lives, which is why, late in life, he came out pro-choice and pro-gay rights.

    This made him a libertarian. But he never became a dove. Even late in life, he still expressed sympathy with sending troops to Central America -- when we hadn't even been attacked! (John Dean complains of "more covert activity going on, both abroad and maybe here in the United States, than in decades because of this so-called war on terror." Goldwater would be calling for more, as he did when Reagan was president.)

    No one with any memory of Barry Goldwater can forget that he was a war hawk. On Vietnam for example, he was to the right of anyone in politics:
    Goldwater was a fervent hawk who believed that nuclear weapons could help bring victory in Vietnam.
    There's more, and if you read it, it'll curl your hair. It makes Bush's war on terror look like what George Wallace used to call "pussyfootin' around."

    But regardless of whether you see Goldwater as a neolibertarian, or of social conservative who became a libertarian late in life, the idea that John Dean -- an antiwar activist who's made a career out of calling for Bush's impeachment -- is a "Goldwater conservative" is laughable.

    I wish I thought it was funnier.

    But I can't stop thinking about September 11, and what Goldwater's reaction might have been to the United States being attacked.

    I remember that he made very ominous comments during the Iranian hostage crisis, threatening to bomb Iran back into the stone age if a single hostage was hurt. I think he would have been far angrier on 9/11.

    Goldwater was not unfamiliar with the tactic psychoanalytic labeling of political opponents:

    . . .In 1964 a large number of American 'qualified' psychologists signed what purported to be a professional analysis of Senator Goldwater as a clinically unbalanced character. I remember the anger of mine, a professor of psychology at an American university and himself a strong opponent of Goldwater's, at this extraordinary breach of professional ethics and of scientific principle. (Goldwater eventually received heavy damages from them in a court action.)
    What sort of things did they say about this man who was the greatest threat the world had ever seen?
    In 1964, "Fact" magazine quoted dozes of liberal psychiatrists analyzing Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Some examples: "A dangerous lunatic..." "a result of rigid toilet training..." Goldwater sued for libel and won.
    The only thing new about this is that people are taking it seriously.

    I'll be kind, and I won't accuse them of projection.

    UPDATE: My extreme (er, should that be "extremest"?) thanks to Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post!

    I welcome all comments on this exciting new hybrid phenomenon -- and I think it deserves a new name:

    "Goldwater Marxism."

    Extremism in pursuit of socialism is no illness!

    MORE (07/19/07 -- 11:00 a.m.): Sorry it has taken so long to update as well as edit a few mistakes. (The server has been overwhelmed, so I've been unable open anything, but I'll keep trying.)

    UPDATE: I am surprised and honored to see that G. Gordon Liddy (who has been sued repeatedly by John Dean -- the latter discussed in several posts) has left a comment below, as follows:

    Concerning Dean's book, "Conservatives Without Concience," I have this observation: Nowhere in the book will you find the name, Ida Maxwell Wells.

    Dean claims, concerning the litigation he initiated against me and others over the book, "Silent Coup," that the litigation was "ended by the judge," but he neglects to say why: It is because I insisted upon a trial and Dean and his wife, fearful of what it would reveal, withdrew thier charges.

    Then, Dean persuaded Ms. Wells to sue me on essentially the same theory, provided her with his own lawyer and, in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, in Baltimore, in whose files lies all the evidence to prove me right and Dean wrong, I won the case by a jury verdict.

    For a summary, but certainly not all, of the Wells case evidence, see the appendix of my book, "When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country.

    This interview of G. Gordon Liddy by John Hawkins has more details about the Wells matter.

    The twists and turns of the Watergate story are complicated, and many mysteries remain. My own summarized view of these events is here.

    MORE: My thanks to Dean Esmay for linking this post! I'm especially honored -- because according to the F-scale test, Dean is now officially certified as a "liberal airhead."

    UPDATE (07/24/06): More here on "questioning authority."

    posted by Eric at 11:36 PM | Comments (17)

    Warning: Media exposure here!

    I'm so busy that I haven't had time to post anything, but in New Jersey yesterday (where else?) I happened upon this sterling example of responsible journalism:


    But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I posted it I might be accused of engaging in "extremist rhetoric" -- or that at least I wasn't being scrupulously fair to both sides.

    So I had decided not to share it at all. Until, that is, I happened upon another sterling example of responsible journalism:


    Despite my attempt at fairness, though, I'm worried. Might I be internally guilty of that form of extremist rhetoric called projection?

    posted by Eric at 01:09 PM

    OK, I give up
    The very future of this Republic may well rest on whether or not anyone can, or will, stop George W. Bush.
    Agree or disagree, it's a very famous quote from an obviously famous man, one George Harleigh.

    He's so famous I feel like a complete idiot going to my readers for help like this, and I'm sure I'll feel even more idiotic when someone finally provides me with the details I cannot find anywhere. (I want to know where he taught, and in what capacities he worked for Nixon and Reagan.)

    "George Harleigh" is quoted in innumerable web sites, and he's a retired Political Science professor who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations. I feel like a total idiot, because I'm unable to find out anything about him. His name doesn't appear in the indexes of any of my books on Nixon or Reagan, I can't find a Wikipedia entry on him, and I can't even ascertain the university where he taught.

    In 1999 he was said to be from "Southern Illinois University.":

    Does the heady atmosphere of Congress turn honest men and women into a criminal class? Or is elected office simply a magnet for those who lie, cheat and steal for a living?

    It could be a little bit of both, say political scientists and Constitutional scholars.

    "There's no doubt that politics attracts the glib, the fast talker and the con artist," says retired Southern Illinois University political scientist George Harleigh. "It's a natural place for those who think fast on their feet."

    Congress has always had its share of rogues and scoundrels:

    But when the same quote appeared this past March, Southern Illinois University was not mentioned:
    Does the heady atmosphere of Congress turn honest men and women into a criminal class? Or is elected office simply a magnet for those who lie, cheat and steal for a living?

    Political scientists and Constitutional scholars say it could be a bit of both.

    "Politics attracts the glib, the fast talker and the con artist," says George Harleigh, a retired political science professor who worked in the Nixon and Reagan administrations. "It's a natural place for those who think fast on their feet."

    Congress has always had its share of rogues and scoundrels:

    What about Southern Illinois University? Was he there? If you google "George Harleigh" and "Southern Illinois University" and you get only 44 hits (all originating from the same source), but if you google his name plus Nixon and/or Reagan, you'll get thousands. Googling his name plus both former presidents turns up 349 hits. But the "Southern Illinois University" reference doesn't occur in the same sentence with work in the Nixon or Reagan administrations.


    Professor Harleigh was quoted in a report not long after the Reagan funeral:

    Capitol Hill Blue has an unsourced report that, amid rumors of proposed Bush ads featuring Reagan's image,
    Former First Lady Nancy Reagan has sent a message to the White House expressing her “extreme displeasure” at any attempt to use her late husband as a campaign tool in the Presidential campaign
    .and quotes retired Southern Illinois University political scientist George Harleigh.
    "Ronald Reagan has achieved god-like status among conservative Republicans and you don’t mess with his memory. If they are smart they will pull the plug on the campaign and order the ads destroyed. Unfortunately, the Bush campaign has not yet impressed us with its intelligence."
    If Harleigh in fact worked for Reagan, wouldn't that be relevant to point out in a piece written near the time of his death?

    He's quoted as an expert on Nixon too, because, it is claimed, he worked there. In the second administration:

    The carefully-crafted image of George W. Bush as a bold, decisive leader is cracking under the weight of new revelations that the erratic President is indecisive, moody, paranoid and delusional.

    “More and more this brings back memories of the Nixon White House,” says retired political science professor George Harleigh, who worked for President Nixon during the second presidential term that ended in resignation under fire. “I haven't heard any reports of President Bush wondering the halls talking to portraits of dead Presidents but what I have been told is disturbing.”

    Two weeks ago, Capitol Hill Blue revealed that a growing number of White House aides are concerned about the President's mental stability. They told harrowing tales of violent mood swings, bouts with paranoia and obscene outbursts from a President who wears his religion on his sleeve.

    Can't find him in any account of Nixon or Reagan anywhere.

    After wasting an hour, I'm stumped.

    There has to be an easy explanation. Surely this George Harleigh is a famous man, and I'm missing something.

    Can anyone help?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: This is not the first time something like this happened, and it shows the limitations of the Internet as a research tool. If any readers could do a Nexis search, I'd be much obliged.

    UPDATE: Dennis found nothing via a Nexus/Lexis (or is that a car?) search, so in despair I called the phone number listed at the Southern Illinois University website. The woman I spoke with checked the emeritus list and said the name "Harleigh" did not appear. The list, she said, went from "Hargraves" to "Harlow."

    (If only it was so easy to call the Nixon and Reagan administrations. . .)

    MORE: The reason I'd like to know whether "George Harleigh" is on the level is that the only man who seems able to quote him says other things I'm unable to verify. A couple of examples

  • President Bush tortured cats when he was a boy;
  • President Bush said the Constitution was "just a goddamned piece of paper."
  • What troubles me is that these stories are widely linked and repeated, but only by leftists. Neither the MSM nor the right wing seem to pay much attention.

    Does that mean that it doesn't matter whether the reports exist? Or that it doesn't matter whether they're true?

    MORE: Not only is "George Harleigh" alive and well, he has just weighed in on President Bush's recent "open mike" remarks:

    Blair said Rice has "got to succeed" if she goes to the region. Bush replied: "What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit."

    It's not the first time the unwary President, who claims to be a born-again Christian, has been caught cursing. He called a New York Times reporter a "son of a bitch" to an open mike, told Wall Street Journal reporter Al Hunt "fuck you" in front of his daughters and, in a meeting with members of Congress, called the Constitution "just a goddamned piece of paper."

    "Like Nixon, Bush's private persona is much different," says retired political scientiest George Harleigh, who served in both the Nixon and Reagan administration. "Nixon cursed like a sailor when he was out of public view. So does Bush."

    The U.S. president blames Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah guerrillas operating in southern Lebanon.

    MORE: Commenter Scott below is "starting to think George Harleigh is an Alan Smithee type person." Alan Smithee, FYI, is a Hollywood pseudonym for directors who do not want their names to go on bad films. The problem is that in the case of "Smithee," it is beyond dispute that there was a director who actually directed a film. (Something that can be verified by the existence of the film.) How could we ever know whether the statements imputed to "George Harleigh" were uttered by anyone other than the writer?

    UPDATE (07/19/07): My thanks to Clayton Cramer who links this post and comments:

    Okay, so some leftist reporters are making people up. What's the big deal? "George Harleigh" has some credibility in attacking Bush because of his obvious impeccable credentials, as a political science professor, and as someone who worked for two conservative presidents. But if he exists only in the imagination of leftists, then he's a lie.
    But he might as well be true, because obviously someone did say whatever it was he should have said, and for every "George Harleigh" who didn't exist, there must be ten genuinely outraged members of the Nixon and Reagan admininstrations who did! And someone needs to represent them, right? So that means figuratively it's almost as true as if it was literally true.

    Also, thanks to commenter Scott below, who has emailed Doug Thompson "asking for Contact Information for George Harleigh, or a list of publications, articles, or books that he's written."

    I can't wait!

    If I am wrong, I'll apologize to Mr. Thompson as well as Mr. Harleigh.

    MORE: George Harleigh disappears. New post here.

    MORE (07/21/07): New visitors, please be aware of my more recent post thoroughly debunking what appears to be an incredible game of cyber musical chairs.

    Plus, a look at Doug Thompson here.

    posted by Eric at 07:46 PM | Comments (28)

    Forgive my slowness . . .

    Other than a post expressing general support for Israel, I haven't had much to add to the discussion of the Israel/Hezbollah war. This is not because of any lack of interest, but because I'm not much of an expert on these things, I don't think I really have much to contribute. Once again, I lack access to inside information, and this makes me naturally hesitant to second guess people who not only have such access, but who are operating in the heat of battle.

    I got an email asking me why I missed the Hezbollah/Iranian/Iraq (via Moqtada al Sadr) connection, and I explained that I discussed the Iranian connection before, as well as Hezbollah's connection with al Qaida.

    The emailer left me with this interesting aside:

    You can thank Jimmy Carter for his work in the creation of modern day Iran.

    In yesterday's Inquirer, Trudy Rubin made a very interesting point:

    Suddenly, the G-8 agenda shifted from how the world community might press Iran to freeze its suspect nuclear program to how to prevent new Mideast wars from exploding.

    Iran was delivering a warning to Washington via proxies, without firing a gun.

    The Lebanese movement Hezbollah gets money, arms and guidance from Iran, and would not have conducted such a dramatic raid into Israel without at least consulting with Tehran. Israel claims the Hezbollah rockets that hit Haifa came from Iran.

    As for Gaza's Hamas, it has leaders in the Syrian capital, Damascus, where they can consult with visiting Iranian officials. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been courting support with the "Arab street" (whose Sunni Arabs are normally hostile to Persian Shiite Muslims) by spouting hard-line rhetoric about Israel.

    Meanwhile, thanks to the United States, Iran can exert powerful influence in Iraq, where Shiite parties allied to Iran now run the government, and in Afghanistan, whose leaders are also close to Tehran. By ousting Saddam Hussein and the Taliban - Iran's greatest enemies - Washington made Iran into the superpower of the region.

    Rubin is of course anti-Bush (a bias she freely admits), but it would be foolish to conclude that renders her entire analysis wrong.

    What I'd like to know is, what's going on with Saudi Arabia?

    There's some interesting top-level hobnobbing with Iran right now.

    But trying to analyze these things from a position of ignorance is like spitting in the wind.

    (At times like this, I wish I had access to information.)

    NOTE: My slowdown worsens. I have to spend all day in New Jersey, and I'll be lucky if I even get to open this blog again before midnight.


    (Who ever said life was fun?)

    UPDATE: Captain Ed discusses a NYT report indicating that Saudi Arabia thinks Iran is a bigger threat than Israel:

    What is clear is that even the various kleptocracies in the region have becomed unnerved by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rhetoric and brazen pursuit of nuclear weapons. The fall of Saddam Hussein removed the one military force that could stack up against Israel, and the American occupation puts Israel out of reach for most of the rest of the Arab nations. That makes any nation that deliberately invites Israeli and American retaliation a little less than rational, and the nutty rhetoric coming from Teheran only means that the Americans will stick around a little longer.

    Iranian provocation threatens to engulf all of the Arab nations in a war they cannot hope to win. Why should they back Hezbollah's play, when Sheikh Nasrallah and Iran didn't bother to consult them?

    For all their talk, the Arabs understand that Israel really presents no long-term threat to their own regimes.

    That is certainly true, and I'd like to hope that most of the tough talk is just talk. (Via Pajamas Media.)

    posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (5)

    Lost freedom?
    Is there anybody who voted against the Commander-in-Chief who can remain free?
    So asks Glenn Greenwald.


    I'm thinking it over.

    I'm thinking it over!

    The problem is, absent some sort of coup, Bush only has a couple of years as president. The American concentration camp system cannot possibly hold more than a small fraction of the total number of Americans who voted against Bush.

    So, if we assume Bush is the "Commander-in-Chief" in question, I think the question is at minimum premature.

    (Perhaps it's some form of extremist rhetoric . . .)

    posted by Eric at 08:39 AM | Comments (2)

    Raging RINOs, long may they range!

    After more than three years of blogging, I'm finally hosting a carnival -- a new first for me. And I don't get new firsts that often, so this ought to be considered cause for celebration.

    Over the years, I've written a number of mini-reviews of carnivals, but I can't do that this time, because my assignment is to write it! (If I'm lucky, I'll avoid the hall-of-mirrors of reviewing my own review.)

    How to celebrate hosting my first carnival? Well, it's a little like having a first baby -- not new for people who've done it, but new for the person having it. So I think I'll have a baby. (A baby rino, of course.)


    A RINO is born


    Wow. This giving birth thing wasn't as tough as I thought. I didn't even need an anesthetic, and the little fellow is already off and running. (Of course, the first thing my little RINO did with his precocious, inquisitive self was to watch this video which illustrates graphically what his parents had to do to get him here!)

    RINOs being linear types who are fond of charging into things, my baby RINO thought the best way to approach this Carnival would be to simply take the posts in the order they were received. It's also more fair that way, because while obviously some are better than others, each is good in its own way. Remember, RINOs tend to be loner animals, not joiners of herds. But some varieties are more gregarious than others. Above all, they cannot be stereotyped.

    Top RINO starts the stampede

    The first post I received was from the head bull -- Stephen (aka The Commissar, at The Politburo Diktat).


  • The fearless leader's post involves an incredible tale about a creationist evangelist who's run afoul of the law.
    A Pensacola evangelist who owns the defunct Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola was arrested Thursday on 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators.
    The entrepreneur, Kent Hovind (aka Dr. Dino), claims he works for God, to which our Satanic Commissar retorts,
    Employed by God? Guess what, I’m employed by Satan himself. Can I get a tax break?
    Only if you render unto Caesar first! (Something it strikes me the good Dr. Dino forgets.)

    Hey wait a minute! What's this Dr. DINO doing at the RINO carnival? Aren't DINOs too big to fit inside our tent? I'll let the RINO readers decide. As for me, the post has reinvigorated my "deeply held religious beliefs against building permits." (Now, if I could just find a fitting religion to expand my religious loophole!)

  • Why do they want to kill us?

    One of the reasons our RINO counterparts in the wild are endangered is because the horns are used to make traditional Arab daggers in countries like Yemen:

    It was not until the 1970s that rhinos declined dramatically, due to a surprising cause: the soaring price of oil. Young men in the Arab country of Yemen covet rhino horn for elaborately-carved dagger handles, symbols of wealth and status in that country. Until the 1970s, few men could afford these prized dagger handles. But Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries are rich in oil, and prices for this "black gold" climbed dramatically in that decade due to a worldwide oil shortage. The result was a seven-fold increase in the per capita income in Yemen, a rise in wealth that made rhino horn dagger handles within the reach of almost everyone. This small country, with a population of 6 million at the time, suddenly became the world's largest importer of rhino horn.

    The value of rhino horn made it enormously profitable to poach rhinos and sell them on the black market. For example, in 1990, the two horns from a single black rhino brought as much as $50,000. Just like poaching for elephant ivory, poaching for rhino horn is simply too profitable for many subsistence farmers and herders to resist.

    (More here.) Undefended wealth is the primary cause of war, as both Hemingway and MacArthur observed. Are we American RINOs also endangered because of insufficiently defended wealth? Undefended wealth of freedom, perhaps?

    Knowing the enemy

  • In this regard, Barry Campbell at enrevanche links to a report which should be of major interest to all bloggers who want to learn more about al Qaeda -- "Abu Bakr Naji’s Management of Savagery":
    The Olin Institute, in collaboration with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, is making this translation available online for free. Writing as a high-level insider, Naji explains how al-Qaeda plans to defeat the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, establish sanctuaries for Jihadis, correct organizational problems, and create better propaganda. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the strategic thinking of al-Qaeda’s leadership and the future of the jihadi movement.
    The report looks fascinating, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. (Barry has the the pdf links.) It's a long read at 268 pages, but it shows that the enemy has a multisplendored plan of attack. Excerpt:
    . . .targeting the economy of the enemy is a sharia policy for putting pressure on the enemy so that he may know that continuing to fight the people of faith leads to the loss of this world and the interests which are their secret goal in reality, covered with deceptive slogans and ideology.
    I just don't have time to read it all, but what I love about the blogosphere is that I know somebody else will. (Perhaps you?)
  • While I realize that reading a 268 page jihadi manifesto is a lot of work, it's worth keeping in mind that if you do too much of what the guy in the next picture is doing, you might lose what you most value!


    No rest for our RINOs!

    Can DINOs be RINOs?

  • The Unabrewer has a comparison of Joseph Lieberman’s interest group ratings to Harry Reid of Nevada, Hillary Clinton of New York, and Joseph Biden and Tom Carper of Delaware. Sample:
    ENVIRONMENT - as rated by the League of Conservation Voters (2005)

    Reid: 100
    Clinton: 95
    Biden: 90
    Carper: 80
    Liebermann: 70 (a HA! Stone him!)

    Hmmm . . . Right after the Sharia lecture, a post about stoning Liebermann. . . (By environmentalist jihadists?)
  • QUESTION: If Liebermann became a Republican, wouldn't he just go from being a DINO to a RINO?

    I know this Carnival is supposed to be the Raging of the RINOs, but twice now I've been thinking about DINOs. Hmmm again . . . Global Cooling might have killed the DINOs the first time around. Maybe the hot air of Global Warming will bring them back?

    As to which DINO might most resemble a RINO, I think it would be one of the ceratopsians -- a monoclonius, perhaps?


    Well, why not? In my own case, a DINO gave birth to a RINO, and there's always an ecological niche for charging nonconformists who believe in self defense. . .

    Lost heads and Yemen

  • Speaking of jihad and the horn-swaggling Yemenis, did you know that "it is not illegal in Yemen to be an accomplice to the beheading of a diplomat in Iraq"? And helping move fighters to Iraq is the "duty of all Muslims" in Yemen? Neither did I, but fortunately, another fearless RINO, Jane of Armies of Liberation, has the details about that and more, including a report that the Russians are tracking down terrorists in Yemen. A very helpful post, I'd say.
  • And here's what the Yemenis make from our endangered brethren:


    What's the matter? A Kalashnikov's not good enough?

    Why the need to kill endangered species simply to get a handle for such outmoded technology?

    Superstition, probably.

    Medieval quackery

  • Superstition is pretty much the subject with which Orac at Respectful Insolence grapples in his entry. Orac has a political question that interfaces with his interest in quackery -- at what age does a cancer patient have the right to discontinue treatment and opt for quack remedies like the infamous Hoxsey Clinic in Tijuana? It's a very thoughtful post in which Orac discloses his skepticism (which I share), and he'e very fair to both sides on the legal issue. The case is complicated by the fact that the parents are backing their son's decision. It's tragic, as he's only sixteen, and with the help of his parents, Orac thinks he's throwing away his only chance at life:
    t's magical thinking that has led to a very foolish one that will preclude Abraham's surviving his cancer. The Hoxsey treatment is quackery and will not cure Abraham, for reasons that I've enumerated in detail. Conventional therapy (high dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplant) has probably around a 50-50 chance of resulting in long-term survival, down from 80% or more, mainly because his tumor relapsed after an initial course of chemotherapy, implying that it is a more aggressive tumor. Also, this is not a matter of Abraham's giving up and letting nature take its course because his situation is hopeless, a perfectly rational decision in cases that really are hopeless. Abraham clearly wants to live and believes that the Hoxsey treatment has a better chance of curing him than chemotherapy and without the nasty side effects. He has in essence fallen for a lie and, if successful in his quest, will pay for it with his life.
    Orac is now getting angry traffic from the "alties." Well, as the saying goes, "No good deed goes unpunished." Excellent post!

  • twinrinos.JPG

    Two posts on the Mideast

  • Two Indian RINOS represent two more great posts on the Mideast. The first one from Dan Melson at Searchlight Crusade shares his "Thoughts on Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, and Iran." If like me, you're always looking for a good roundup, this post also serves as that. Dan sees the situation as bad enough now, but warns that waiting could make it worse:
    I do not want a confrontation with Iran, but if one must come, the worst we could do is delay it until they have nuclear weapons.
    Very true.
  • And Mark Coffey at Decision '08 has some advice for Palestinians and other enemies of Israel which I'd call both heartfelt and practical:
    You cannot defeat Israel, and the longer you deny that obvious fact, the longer you prolong the misery of your people. . .
    Don't miss the post, or you'll be missing the best part, a gem of a quotation from 1863 which is completely applicable to the events of today!

  • rhin.jpg

    Taking us for granted?

  • Below The Beltway's Doug Mataconis has a post to which I really relate: The End Of The Republican Lock?, which takes to heart Ryan Sager's analysis and concludes that the GOP is abandoning libertarianism -- particularly that of the Western states. Warns Doug:
    Republicans have taken their libertarian wing for granted for a long time. The social conservative wing of the party would, most likely, just as soon not have them around to begin with. Now it appears that they may learn what not having them around really means.
    While Doug shares Cato's skepticism that libertarians will ever morph into Kossacks, it's a good question how far a coalition can unravel and still be a coalition. (IMO, it may Take A Hillary.)
  • After that last post, I need a drink!

    So here goes; down the hatch!

    Rhinoceros drinks.jpg

  • While I'm drinking, I might as well drink to Don Surber (a sort of MSM insider's insider) has a classic, much linked post about the MSM -- called "The vicious silence of NYT," in which he contrasts the sanctimonious posturing about the financial surveillance story with the vicious silence about Bob Novak:
    These two big newspapers and others were viciously silent as Novak, a journalism Hall of Famer, was dragged before a federal grand jury and required to name names, to divulge sources, while the editors of the Times in LA and the one in NYC enjoyed the air conditioning.

    Some journalists even demanded an investigation. The NYT called for an special prosecutor. This was madness. This was political payback because Novak dares to be a conservative voice. If some lefty crackpot like Robert Scheer were under attack by a federal prosecutor, you bet your boots NYT would be wrapping him in the First Amendment.

    As well it should. Hauling in reporters and columnists to divulge their sources is anathema to a free press.

    Don concludes that the "Pajama People" are looking good. (Which isn't hard, if the Times is used as a yardstick.)

  • Defending my dog

  • Longtime favorite blogger jd at evolution weighs in with a topic near and dear to my and Coco's hearts: "so-called breed specific legislation" (which usually means banning pit bulls). The Kansas City Star's Greg Clark demands that the dogs be banned, because, he claims, they'll "maul somebody":
    Keeping pit bulls, chows and Rottweilers in our cities is just like playing Russian roulette with fangs.

    Sooner or later, a dog will maul somebody. In recent weeks, that horror has played through our souls, over and over. Now it’s time to ban the breeds.

    Note that this crackpot dog grabbing advocate doesn't stop with pit bulls. I doubt he'd stop with chows and Rottweilers, either. I think people like him hate dogs for the same reason they hate guns; self reliant people have them so that they don't have to live in fear for their lives. Interesting that he puts the word "pets" in quotes. Might he be forgetting that people love their dogs -- even the ones not on this "journalist's" list?

    As to the criminal types who create most of these problems, jd puts it well:

    people that get these dogs to attack people aren’t going to stop because they’re banned. The answer, of course, is the same as it is for anyone who incites violent behavior in humans: charge them with a crime. They’re the ones responsible.
    I can remember when the pit bull was an obscure breed, mostly owned by rural folks. The choice of thugs who wanted a dog to attack people was the Doberman. Ban one breed, they'll just get another. There are innumerable "pit bull lookalikes" too; just try to spot the right one here.
  • Coco's reaction? She's glad someone spoke up for her at the RINO Carnival and she's feeling awfully protective of her baby RINO right now:


    RINO goes national

  • Speaking of speaking up, what happens when a RINO visits the nation's capital? Jack Yoest did exactly that when he attended a Judiciary Committee hearing in which Jim Haynes testified in a confrontational hearing involving his judicial qualifications. Just about everyone in the room was after him and the details are in a post titled "Jim Haynes' Hearing: Not a Pretty Sight." A few nuggets:
    Ted Kennedy preaching obedience to the law. Goodness.
    I really don't know what was worse: the contemptuous questions. Or Haynes' gosh-awful answers.
    Sounds positively gruesome. I don't know if I could stand to watch something like that. . .

  • RINO defends border

  • Obedience to the law, you were saying, Ted? Regarding illegal immigration, Digger posts about a vow by a Dr. Agapito Lopez of the Hazelton Latino Association that "We Will Never Assimilate!"
    We will never convert ourselves into Anglos. We will aculturize. We will learn the language. We will learn the laws. We will follow the laws. But we will never assimilate.
    To which Digger replies:
    Good to see they want to come to this country as other immigrants do -- and have -- in order to not only benefit from the prosperity, upward mobility and opportunity in our society, but also to improve it as people through the history of America have done. These groups just want to benefit from everything America has to offer without giving back. They don't want to embrace the freedom and ideals of our country, they just want to take from it and cause as much divisiveness in our society as they can.
    I agree with Digger's retort to the obnoxious Dr. Lopez. What I find even more irritating is that Governor Ed Rendell would put someone like Dr. Lopez on an official commission -- the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs. The government should be helping people assimilate, not spending tax dollars keeping them balkanized.

  • The fires of emotion

  • One of my favorite bloggers, Rachel at Tinkerty Tonk has a great post about mastering emotions:
    Nowadays, everytime you turn on the news there's emotion by the carload--whether at a funeral or a meeting of the public utilities board. We love emotion. Emotion gives good footage, but not good public policy. Consider Cindy Sheehan: Her willingness to display her emotion has made her an icon of the antiwar movement. Her emotion gave her moral authority, we're told. Her emotion should have been reason enough for us to pull out of Iraq.

    But isn't mastering emotions a sign of maturity? So let's discard emotion in favor of a stiff upper lip.

    I was thinking about this earlier today when I recalled taking a logic class in (I kid you not) the fifth grade. We all have our emotions (hell, that's what makes us RINOs rage), but it's better to use them as fuel for reason than let them overwhelm our ability to reason?
  • Rachel's post about controlling passions reminded me of the unconfirmed legend:

    There are a number of legends about rhinoceroses stamping out fire. The story seems to have been common in Malaysia and Burma.

    This type of rhinoceros even had a special name in Malay, badak api, where badak means rhinoceros and api means fire. The animal would come when a fire is lit in the forest and stamp it out.

    Whether or not there is any truth to this has not yet been proven, as there has been no documented sighting of this phenomenon in recent history.

    Can't stand the heat? Charge in and stomp out the fire!

    And with that, it's time to cover the fire, for this brings me to the the end* of this week's RINO Sightings Carnival.

    I'd like to thank all who participated -- a wide range of bloggers with a wide range of subjects.

    RINOs, of course, need plenty of range space, and they're not used to getting together like this. But when they do, watch out!

    Till next time . . .

    LATE UPDATE (07/17/06): JimK at Right Wing Thoughts sends a fascinating last-minute submission with this look at informer Mubin Shaikh's role in the recent Canadian terrorist plot. I realize that in the real world, we can't expect informers to be saints, and this Mubin Shaikh clearly does not qualify for sainthood (unless working for the imposition of Sharia Law in Canada qualifies as saintly activity). I think it's wise to consider all possible motivations when dealing with someone like that.

    Jim also shares his thoughts -- and a video -- about Girls who kick ass, and concludes:

    If you are a man who doesn’t appreciate a strong woman, I put it to you that you are not a complete man.
    Well, RINOs seem to appreciate tough love. . .


    * I could be wrong, though. RINOs are not elephants. We sometimes forget! So . . . if I left anyone out, just let me know.

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for honoring the RINOs by linking this Carnival!

    Welcome all!

    posted by Eric at 12:03 AM | Comments (11)

    Been there? Done that? Got the T shirt?

    I was planning to grapple with my thoughts about the war between Israel and Hezbollah Iran, until I was distracted by today's Sunday paper.

    Not that an article on the Israel/Hezbollah war didn't merit the front page (it did), but on the same front page there are two huge articles on "gun violence" (at the web site, this one is called the "top story"). Plus there's the accompanying piece headlined "In the city, any day can be a killing day, and on top of all that, today's lead editorial calls for gun control.

    Yet I keep reading that gun control is not a winning issue for Democrats, and that the Democrats know it. Philadelphia is a city run by Democrats, and Pennsylvania's governor is Democrat Ed Rendell.

    And all politics is local, right?

    So what gives?

    I'm having a political logic problem, because whether it's a "winning" issue or not, local, Philadelphia "gun violence" (the Inky's term, not mine) is an issue that will not go away. (Only yesterday, an Inquirer story editorialized that Philadelphia is a "war zone," -- and just the day after I had given credit to the rival free Philadelphia Weekly for the term! Really now. Such competition can only leads to cycles of war zones.)

    To be fair to the Inquirer, though, today's editorial lists cultural factors along with the availability of guns:

    The blueprint hits many right notes: It is long-term. It is multi-pronged. It aims to increase awareness about violence, change community norms, link people to services, and improve enforcement of gun laws.

    As part of the research that went into the Blueprint campaign, the teens and adults who live inside the street code of violence, or who have lost loved ones to it, talked about the reality. Listen:

    "Respect is everything - pride, and get your name out there as the next big person."

    "We fight because we don't know no other way."

    "If you don't have money, you are going to get it."

    "A lot of violence is because kids don't know how to read."

    "Little bitty kids are repeating" violent song lyrics.

    "My pop never encouraged me for nothin'."

    "You've sometimes got 15 kids on the block, and the oldest cat watching them is 12."

    "It's racism."

    A list of reasons like that won't submit to a one-size-fits-all solution.

    Responding to these problems requires a change of culture in some homes, on some streets. It requires creating more opportunities on those streets to make money legally.

    It requires fathers to be present in their kids' lives, and all parents to be more responsible for their children. It means more parenting classes that can teach adults the skills they never learned from their own families.

    Children need more role models and mentors who can show that respect doesn't have to come from violence, more people such as businessman Blane Fitzgerald Stoddart, a product of Philadelphia public schools and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Stoddart has been a driving force behind community development and safety programs in West Philadelphia.

    Kids need to be taught how to respond to conflict and perceived disrespect without shooting a gun. Peer mediation programs in the city schools, along with violence prevention curricula such as Second Step, are providing those lessons. Support them with your time and dollars.

    The media should seek out stories about African Americans and Latino males doing the right things.

    And yes, the flood of guns has to be dammed.

    Gun rights' advocates preach unreasonable absolutism when it comes to the sale of firearms. . . .

    I'll leave off there, because I know that I fall into the Inquirer's "unreasonable absolutism" category, and I think I've written enough about the particulars that regular readers know my stand, and know whether they agree with me or not. Plus I just don't feel like fisking yet another cry for gun control. I should content myself with the reassurance that this is a "losing issue" for the Democrats, and focus on the, um, "cultural" issues. At least I'll try. But what if guns are a cultural issue? Is it possible there are two distinct gun cultures? A law abiding gun culture, and a criminal gun culture? Is it possible that in the haste to blame guns, this criminal gun culture (itself illegal by definition) is being allowed to evade responsibility? This is a problem I've discussed before, along with what I suppose might be called "media responsibility."

    I also think it touches on the Inquirer's advice to its fellow members of the media:

    ". . .the media should seek out stories about African Americans and Latino males doing the right things."

    I'm wondering. Might this image (which I saw at every news rack and every store in the area last week) be undercutting that theme?


    I don't know.

    But what about the cult of hero worship surrounding rap stars who proudly serve time for not snitching on shooters? It's one thing to send a message that we shouldn't be too judgmental of people who fear for their lives and won't "snitch," but isn't the cover suggesting a bit more? Isn't there a difference between being afraid to snitch, and belonging to a cult which boasts of proudly intimidating the snitchers? Why would anyone want to blur the distinction between the two?

    After all, the whole point is that these T-shirts are being worn all over the place -- especially in areas plagued by shootings.


    I'm not saying Philadelphia Weekly wanted to boost T shirt sales, of course. But to put it bluntly, the T shirt is intended to be -- and is -- a form of intimidation (bordering on advocacy of violence) against people who snitch, as well as an expression of solidarity with people who don't. And of course it's permitted expression under the First Amendment. But its free speech character has nothing to do with the public's right to properly condemn it. While PW seems to feel differently, I think the suggestion that the public should not condemn the whole anti-snitching movement is not a stellar example of what the Inquirer calls "doing the right thing."

    All the more reason I applaud another Inquirer proposal from the editorial:

    Kids need to be taught how to respond to conflict and perceived disrespect without shooting a gun.

    Maybe they also need to be taught something I think is a major reason there isn't as much shooting in some neighborhoods as others (despite the "easy availability" of guns): when someone commits a crime, why, you call the police!

    That was once called common sense; now it's called "snitching."

    I don't think this is a profound idea, but the fact is, in some neighborhoods, calling the police is considered a form of cultural treason. I'll never forget an incident which really opened my eyes to the phenomenon. When I was in my twenties, I moved into a bad neighborhood in Berkeley, California, which was plagued by what were then called "drive-by shootings." No one seemed to know how to deal with the problem, which was obviously drug-related. I soon noticed that the shootings were inextricably related to groups of young people who'd hang out and direct customer traffic to whoever might have been the connection to whoever might have been holding. I was amazed by the complexity of the operation, and being a curious person, I entertained myself watching through the shades with binoculars. Young "lookouts" (early adolescents -- usually 12 or so) would hang around a few blocks from the "action," and if they saw a police cruiser they'd yell "rollers," which would then cause an immediate (if temporary) disbursement. If you wanted to buy, you'd have to ask one of the older guys, who'd then direct you to another guy, who might tell you to pay twenty dollars "to the guy over there." Then, someone else would come along and tell you to go somewhere else to score. More often than not, the stash would be hidden, and rotated constantly. The kids were so good at this game that often you'd see a customer stopping to pick up what looked like a tiny piece of trash (which had just been left next to a fence by someone else), then get in the car and immediately drive away. Other methods including cigarettes and candy being apparently "shared" during what would look like a long conversation between driver and pedestrian, but the car would drive off, and it didn't take much imagination to see what was going on. Even stash houses were often not the real location, but they were multi-unit buildings where one apartment might appear to be holding, but the real stash was handed across a common ventilation shaft from another apartment. Of course, ventilation shafts in the backs of these buildings often are a few feet away from the back of another building on the next street -- with a completely different address.

    You could almost swear that the dealers knew more about search and seizure law than the cops!

    Now, I think drugs should be legalized. "Relegalized" is the word I like to use. Really, it never ceases to amaze me how few people know that not that long ago (when my father was a small boy, in fact) heroin and cocaine could be purchased over the counter in any neighborhood drug store or ordered from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. If druggies could buy the drugs, urban entrepreneurs wouldn't be setting up these businesses on street corners. And they wouldn't be acting like mini Al Capones, either; when was the last time a shootout occurred over alcohol distribution rights?

    I have to say, the libertarian in me was conflicted, because I don't think anyone should be imprisoned for drugs. However, what most bothered me was the noise. I had trouble sleeping because there's something about people "tweaking" in the street at three in the morning (with the inevitable noise that entails) and your alarm clock is going to go off at six, that another libertarian principle is invoked: the right to quiet enjoyment of your home. (I mean, even if we see the drug trade as a business, why should freelance pharmaceutical retail outlets have any more right to make noise on residential street corners than anyone else? At the risk of sounding like a hopeless communitarian, what's wrong with reasonable business hours?)

    Back to my memorable incident. Eventually, I made the acquaintance of a very nice elderly woman -- the type who kept an eye on everything. One day, we were chatting in her front yard and, looking about and lowering her voice to a whisper, she asked me to come inside quickly. She had a confession, but the way it came out was a major shock for me at the time:

    "I'm so glad you white boys have moved in here, because now they know I'm not the only snitch, and they don't know who's callin' the police."

    What this meant, though, was that they "knew" that I (and my partner) were "snitches."

    Why? Simply because we were "white boys"? (Like I say, it was a shock.)

    I'm wondering now, would the T shirt have made me safer?

    (Times change.)

    posted by Eric at 12:23 PM | Comments (6)

    Kick him in the head -- but in which direction?

    There are ad hominem attacks, and then there are ad hominem attacks.

    And I am fascinated by the latest, full-blown all-out assault launched by the free leftist Philadelphia Weekly against local talk show host Michael Smerconish.

    Here's the cover:


    Because of my penchant for analyzing things, I always want to know what is going on, as personal and ad hominem attacks fall generally divided into two styles:

  • preaching to the choir (intended to persuade no one, but in general fire up the troops against an adversary the group members all love to hate)
  • scolding or intimidating the other side
  • In the case of "personal" attacks on public figures, the target himself is only the ostensible target. (That's why I placed "personal" in quotes, and it's also why defamation law distinguishes between public and private figures.) It's not intended to change the mind of the "victim" so much as it is to intimidate his allies, influence people to abandon him, and (as the case may be) simultaneously rally his collective enemies -- either against him or against whatever "forces" he is said to represent.

    Before I get into analyzing this mess, let me admit that I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, because I do not know Smerconish, and other than inadvertent bits while flipping through the channels, I have never listened to his show. Local talk radio bores me, although I read somewhere that Smerconish may be courting a national audience. (His web site is here and his show can be streamed here, although I've never tried it.) Because of my ignorance, I cannot characterize his politics, although he is generally said to be conservative.

    However, he's also said to be a conservative who's rumored to be going wobbly, or possibly moderating his views. I haven't researched this extensively, but Smerconish contributes to the Huffington Post, and the conservative-leaning Newsbusters notes his background as a moderate, and takes serious issue with him being called a "conservative." And just last month, Smerconish attacked Ann Coulter, and threatened to vote Democrat in 2008.

    Could Smerconish's apparent flirtation with liberalism be the reason for the high profile attack?

    Why? What possible interest might a local leftist freebie have in attacking -- as a far right conservative -- a moderate Republican said to be headed in a leftward direction? I mean, I could see conservatives caring about such a thing (obviously some of them do), but since when are liberals interested in policing deviation from conservativism? Am I alone in seeing that as odd?

    I have no dog in this race, and as far as I'm concerned, Smerconish can do whatever he wants.

    The perennial Rhetoric student in me is just insatiably curious. Is the goal is to drive Smerconish back into the pen of right wing untouchables, with vicious insults used like a cattle prod? Is the goal to keep leftists away from him? Are the writer and his paper merely having a great time venting at Smerconish's expense? Or all three?

    I'll start with the editor's introduction to the hit piece:

    I figured Steven Wells would go mad listening to Michael Smerconish every morning—which is pretty much exactly what happened.
    Wells is the author, and if you read his stuff, you'll see he was already quite mad before the Smerconish assignment. (In my experience, happy people do not generally write for publications like the Socialist Worker and Socialist Review.)

    I might be mistaken, but I'd almost swear that PW's editor doesn't seem to like Smerconish's show or the station:

    Smerconish's radio show can be heard from 5:30 to 9 a.m. weekdays on 1210 AM, a station once known by the iconic call letters WCAU, but now known only as the Big Talker.

    A useful slogan, but here's a more apt one—the Big Wanker.

    Hannity and Limbaugh do shows on the Big Talker. So does Bill O'Reilly. You have to be a wanker to have your radio dial anywhere near this satanic house of darkness.

    Once, before radio became a medium of thieves and corporate raiders, 1210 was a big deal. With its 50,000 watts, you could pick it up everywhere. People in Birmingham, Ala., and Buffalo, N.Y., could hear the Phillies rolling into the seventh, or even better, listen to Jack McKinney—Irish rebel, Daily News columnist and radio host—riff on the issues of the day.

    McKinney—there was a guy who could make you think.

    These guys, the only thing they make you think is how quickly you can put a bullet in your head.

    Should I call the suicide hotline? Or should it be obvious to me that since liberals hate guns this is an idle threat?

    I keep hearing the word "wanker" a lot. Is that a synonym for wingnut? In some circles, maybe. But before we get to Smerconish, it's probably worth pointing out that author Steven Wells not only excoriated the Beatles for various political deviations (primarily for perpetrating a "myth of the inherently talented white male singer/songwriter genius"), but called John Lennon a "wanker":

    For sure, Lennon's solo classic "Imagine" is an ideologically perfect socialist/atheist utopian anthem. But against that you've got to set George Harrison's bourgeois bellyaching on "Taxman" (the government taking money off multimillionaire pop stars to build schools and hospitals? Outrageous!) and Paul McCartney's excruciatingly embarrassing support of Dubya's war on brown-skinned people controlling their own oil.

    The Beatles were well dodgy. But to state that in public is to risk a savage kicking. I once appeared on a TV show on which I said John Lennon was my fave Beatle 'cause he was a rude, screwed-up, arrogant wanker. Cue animal howls of outrage from the assorted "friends" of the clog-popped moptop also present in the studio.

    Ouch! I hadn't known about Harrison's capitalist greed in wanting to keep his own money, or Paul McCartney's excruciating war against brown skin.

    If that's the way Wells feels about the Beatles, imagine. . . Just imagine -- how he feels about Smerconish.

    Actually, Smerconish's biggest crime seems not to be Smerconish, but Ronald Reagan:

    While the rest of us were bewitched by the twitching swagger of walking corpse Sid Vicious, or the hypnotic ferret-eyed Dickensian cynicism of John Lydon, or the subverted S&M ice-queen proto-goth chic of sinisterly sexy Siouxsie Sioux—you fell in love with the stiff Antichrist, the suburban Satan, Mr. 666 himself—Ronald Wilson Reagan.
    Hmmm. . .

    As WC Fields once asked, "Is any of that in my favor?"

    Reagan is so evil, that it's tough to reconcile with Smerconish's religion:

    And this is the bit I really find hard to understand, Mike. You were—and still are—a practicing Catholic, with a keen sense of right and wrong.
    Get ready, 'cause it's time for a blistering, multi-count indictment. Of Smerconish. Because he Saw. Nothing. Wrong. With the war crimes of Reagan:
    Yet you saw nothing wrong with the wholesale slaughter of liberal Catholic clergy by Reagan administration-trained Central American death squads.

    You saw nothing wrong with Reagan's support for squalid antidemocratic right-wing dictatorships in Central America and elsewhere (including our good friend Saddam Hussein).

    You saw nothing wrong when, on March 24, 1980, the Reagan-backed El Salvadorian dictatorship shot down Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero for daring to call, in the name of Christ, for an end to the repression.

    Or when, just 11 months later, the same Reagan-backed regime (funded by Washington to the tune of $1 million a day) sent a U.S.-trained and -equipped “antiterrorist” death squad to the village of El Mozot, where they massacred 800 men, women and children (after first torturing the men).

    You saw nothing wrong when Reagan declared that the “dirty war”-fighting Contra terrorists were “the moral equivalents of our founding fathers.” Or with Reagan's support for the right-wing government in Honduras that murdered more than 200,000 indigenous people over a 36-year period.

    But hey, they were probably all communists or something, right?

    Is that it? Was Smerconish on the wrong side in the Cold War? Had be been a normal young man, he'd have doubtless been on the side of the Sandinistas. Like Joe Strummer's Clash.

    Musical taste, that's very important to developing and raising the proper political consciousness. Smerconish's "worst of all" crime (well, after voting for Reagan) is that he liked the wrong music. Ted Nugent, Yes, and Kansas figure as top objects of scorn, although Wells also steers a gratuitous insult towards the Grateful Dead for the crime of Ann Coulter liking them. This is a 4200 word essay, and I can't begin to do it justice. (Yeah, I disagree with the author's politics, and I'm sure he'd hate me for that, but I do admit, he's an accomplished practitioner of mouth-watering invective. Like "choking on cheesy corporate cock like the forelock-tugging lickspittle it really is" and "wizened old ax-spanking-turkey-cock-dressed-as-spring-chicken.")

    Back to the indictment. Smerconish, it seems, did not like the music of his "peers." (The Sandinista-supporting Clash.) So, for shame!

    So when your peers, your fellow politicized punk-era gobshites—like Joe Strummer and Jello Biafra—were ranting and raving in horror and disgust at the torture and murder of all those innocent men women and—God help us, Mike—children, where were you?

    Busy, by your own admission, voting for every swivel-eyed psychopath-supporting Republican presidential candidate that came trotting down the turnpike.

    For shame, Mike.

    What's missing in the piece is any real discussion of the radio show to which Wells was "sentenced" to have spent a week listening. Maybe he hated it so much that he didn't do his homework (a relief for me, as I don't have to tune in to something for which I have not time), but most of the rage fuel comes from Smerconish's web site, and his book. And pure conjecture -- about what Smerconish might have remembered about Kirk kissing Uhura in 1968, and the lesson he ought to draw from Brokeback Mountain:
    Remember the racist outrage when Kirk kissed Uhura back on Star Trek in 1968—American TV's first biracial kiss?

    Before your time, Mike?

    The scolding voice of the ages. I'll bet he doesn't remember lynching either. Or the Pilgrim Pogroms against Wiccan children.
    Well then, what about the Christian pressure group-orchestrated outrage when T.O. got mildly amorous with a white TV actress in a TV commercial in 2004? Or the insane hurricane of horrified gasping that supposedly swept America when it glimpsed Janet Jackson's carefully tasseled tit at that same year's Super Bowl?
    I recall the outrage, but it seemed to consist of around three people sending the same letter hundreds of times. Was Smerconish for or against the tit? No idea.

    If you still think PC is a left-wing disease, Mike, print up bumper stickers reading “Fuck Our Troops” or “This Flag's for Burning,” then stick 'em on your car and see what happens. Go on. I dare you.
    How about just "HITLER WAS A VEGETARIAN"?
    The only difference now is that we live in ever so slightly more enlightened times where, now and then, an excess of prudery or political zealotry might come from the touchy-feely liberal left—rather than, as it did in the 1950s, almost entirely from the embittered proponents of racism, sexism and homophobia.
    I was a kid in the 50s, and I remember the early 60s rather well. The racism in many places was unbelievably dreadful, as well as institutionalized. That's what led to a thing called the Civil Rights Movement, which attracted broad mainstream support. But embittered homophobia? The word didn't exist yet. Homosexuality was closeted. Now the only permitted closets are on the left. I don't use the word "homophobia" as it implies that bigotry is a disease. But I do think that many leftist bigots are afraid -- in the true sense of the word -- of conservative, non-conforming homosexuals, and would like to bully homosexuals into staying on the left, or moving to the left where they belong. Their conservative counterparts who hate homosexuals also want them on the left -- again, where they "belong." Assuming both forms of fear are to be called homophobia, I think the embitterment today is primarily directed against conservative homosexuals.
    Ah yes, the good old days, when white Americans could walk the streets with banners demanding white children be protected from the dangers of “jungle music” without fear they might be told to shut their stupid racist mouths.
    I might have seen something like that (or this) on a documentary about the history of the Klan. But such racism would have been roundly condemned even at the time by most reasonable people, as it would today. To define such condemnation as "PC" is, I think, a bit disingenuous.
    'Sup, Mike? Didn't you get the point of Pleasantville? By the way, here are a few other cultural pointers you might've missed in the past 40 or so years.

    The Sheriff of Nottingham, Captain Hook and Darth Vader were not the good guys. You weren't supposed to laugh when Bambi's mother got shot. Those two strapping red-staters in Brokeback Mountain were both gay, and the savages who beat one of them to death for being gay? They were almost certainly not liberals.

    Fictional characters decades ago were not liberals? For shame!

    As I say, as ad hominem invective goes, the piece is a classic.

    I'm still trying to figure out exactly who is supposed to be persuaded, and of what.

    As I've never listened to the show (as if listening was necessary for writers like Wells), and I don't consider myself a conservative, I really can't consider myself part of Smerconish's "misogynist, homophobic, tinfoil-hat-wearing right-wing-radio-listening fan base." (For starters, I voted against Reagan, twice.) But even if I was a Smerconish fan, would I see the light that Wells would have my wobbly hero follow after reading the hit piece? Somehow, I doubt it.

    (But it doesn't matter. As it is, I'm consigned to a hopeless state of permanent libertarian fascist darkness.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and welcome all!

    Had I the slightest idea this would happen, I'd have done my homework, and actually listened to the radio! Fortunately, the hit piece didn't focus on the program. That's part of the magic of the ad hominem attack. Who needs reality-based facts?

    posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (27)

    A bad sign

    This is very disturbing news:

    BAGHDAD, Iraq - Thousands of Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad on Friday praising the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and denouncing Israel and the United States for attacks against Lebanon. Some protesters said they were ready to fight the Israelis.

    The Iraqi protests came as Israeli warplanes struck the Lebanese capital of Beirut, blasting the airport for a second day, knocking down a bridge, igniting fuel storage tanks and cutting the main highway to Syria. Hezbollah fired more rockets at Israeli towns across the border.

    The demonstrations started immediately after Muslims left Friday prayers in mosques around the county. Thousands of people chanted slogans and carrying banners denouncing the Israel’s attacks on Lebanon.

    Since Wednesday, 61 people have been killed in Israel’s bombardment, mostly Lebanese civilians - including three who died in bombing of south Beirut early Friday, police said. On the Israeli side, eight soldiers have died and two civilians were killed by Hezbollah rockets on northern towns.

    “No, no to Israel, no no to America,” chanted some of the more than 5,000 demonstrators in Baghdad’s eastern neighborhood of Sadr City. “Oh God make (Hezbollah’s leader) Hassan Nasrallah victorious.”

    (Via Pajamas Media.)

    The article goes on in like vein. While I'm tempted to stomp up and down and yell "What a bunch of f---ing ingrates!," I think I should at least try to hold out hope that this represents a small minority of activist Shiites, who see the Shiite-led Hezbollah as allies.

    It doesn't help that the "moderate" Ayatollah Sistani (who thinks homosexuals should be killed "in the worst way") also seems to have voiced support:

    In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, Sheik Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, representative of Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani said” we condemn the Zionist terrorist offensive against Lebanon that targeted the infrastructure of this country, while Hezbollah hasn’t targeted the infrastructure of the Zionists. They targeted military facilities.”
    There's an important point that doesn't matter.

    Israel was attacked!

    Or doesn't that count for anything anymore?


    I'm reminded of similar arguments I've had with people over 9/11. There's a growing mindset that if you're attacked you're just supposed to accept it, and start negotiating surrender.

    Would the people advancing that argument feel that way if someone broke into their houses?

    I guess some of them would.

    Times change.

    MORE: Dave Price thinks that Israel is at war with Iran:

    Israel should behave as though they are at war with Iran, because they are. The mullahs are barely even bothering to pretend otherwise anymore.
    Price also makes a good comparison to our own situation:
    These truly are regimes run by thugs, and nothing less than the probability of retaliatory violence being visited at their own doorstep will deter them.

    If that seems overly aggressive, consider what action the United States would take against a nation actively harboring and supporting a terrorist group that was killing Americans (for a hint, look east and west of Iran).

    I think he's right.

    posted by Eric at 09:32 PM | Comments (4)

    Benito's brothel of missing link whores

    These days, we live in a world of missing links. I've become quite used to it. But I don't like it when links are missing because they have been deliberately pulled under duress -- like this.

    Nor do I like it when links are deliberately omitted when those links present the other side of the very opinion being attacked!

    But what about the pesky issue of not linking to someone because you don't want to give him traffic, even though you disagree with him? According to an angry post ghost-written by "Karl Rove" for Ace (and linked by Jeff Goldstein), it's not a good idea to link Glenn Greenwald, because he's a troll and a link whore. I agree that Greenwald is a troll and probably a link whore. And I'd like to take Ace's advice and ignore him, except this is a complicated situation because (as you'll soon see), I am the one who is being ignored.

    And not just by Glenn Greenwald, but by Austin Cline, who's not only much more famous, but whose recent ferocious attack on Glenn Reynolds is inextricably intertwined with Glenn Greenwald, but which provides not a single link to Glenn Reynolds. While I was more bothered by Austin Cline's opinion than by Glenn Greenwald's I see no way to discuss the former without mentioning the latter.

    And if I mention the latter, and I don't provide a link, doesn't that put me in the same category as Austin Cline? Hell, it might even put me in the position of committing a Wolcott! (And much as I enjoy Wolcott's style, the deliberate non-linking of things under discussion just doesn't work for me. Plus, even Wolcott might have turned over a new leaf.)

    Anyway, according to Austin Cline, it’s now official. Glenn Reynolds is a far right extremist. And not just any old far right extremist; he's a far far right, far right extremist's extremist!

    That's right, Glenn must now be considered far to the right of the Republican Party and to the right of "the conservative movement" itself. Not only that, his extremist rhetoric is so beyond acceptable political discourse that even the right wing should be shutting him out and loudly condemning him:

    There's a better-than-even chance that someone will get hurt or even die because of the rhetoric of people like David Horowitz, Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds. Their rhetoric is well outside what is acceptable in political discourse; the fault for this, however, lies not just with them but with the entire conservative movement in America. Conservatives and members of the Republican Party have had the moral and political responsibility for shutting such people out and loudly condemning them. Instead, they have welcomed ever more extremism into their ranks and are thus complicit not only in the current situation, but also in whatever violence is perpetrated as a consequence of it.

    If you read that for the first time, you'd almost think Glenn had just recently been discovered to be a mouthpiece for Nazi sympathizers or something.

    Searching in vain for the Reynolds rhetoric which is going to get people killed, I found only a link to this post by Glenn Greenwald (there! I enabled his link whoring with apologies to Karl Rove):

    In order to avoid criticizing his comrades on the Right who are engaging in thug tactics, Reynolds actually equates discussion of the vacation homes of top government officials (who enjoy the most extensive and high-level security on the planet) with publication of the home addresses of private individuals and journalists (who have no security of any kind). By his reasoning, mentioning that the Vice President has a vacation home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is no different than publishing the home address of private individuals who are publicly identified as traitors.
    I'll say this for Glenn Greenlinkwhorewald. Unlike, at least he provided a link to what Glenn actually said, even if he ignores it.

    Logically, providing but ignoring a link beats launching an attack with no link at all, so that means Glenn Greenwald is fairer than Austin Cline at About Atheism. Still, neither one of them is really being fair -- or most importantly, original.

    I think that I am the one who is being ignored, as this post will attempt to prove.

    Parenthetically, as many people don't click these links (assuming they are there to click), I think it's fair to point out that they're building the case against Glenn Reynolds out of hot air, as he simply did not say what is being attributed to him above. From the missing link:

    . . .I don't argue that. Greenwald is arguing with himself. I think he's got his Glenns confused. And for those who don't follow links, here are the Online Integrity principles on this stuff:
    Private persons are entitled to respect for their privacy regardless of their activities online. This includes respect for the non-public nature of their personal contact information, the inviolability of their homes, and the safety of their families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted. The separateness of private persons’ professional lives should also be respected as much as is reasonable.

    Public figures are entitled to respect for the non-public nature of their personal, non-professional contact information, and their privacy with regard to their homes and families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted.

    Clear? Well, I think so.
    It seems quite clear to me, but I guess if the goal is to accuse Glenn of being responsible for people getting killed, nothing will ever be clear.

    But at the risk of engaging in the same type of "me first!" narcissism that they're engaged in, I do think there's something else going on here. I admit, I'm a little annoyed, because the arbiters of far right extremism won't give me any credit. I repeatedly warned the blogosphere about this far right business long ago -- back when Glenn Greenwald was just a plain old lawyer whose main contribtion to humanity had involved representing unusual clients.

    Why, I even provided the following scary picture to document my claims:

    glenno e benito01.jpg

    What more could any reasonable person want?

    And am I being given any credit for it? Hell no! These self appointed judges of all right wing extremism seem to think that they came up with the idea, when the original research -- the long tough hours of backbreaking work, the joyless task of speaking truth to authority -- all that and more was mine! And the final victory -- in the form of a confession by the Instafuhrer himself -- all of this happened long before people like Glenn Greenwald and Austin Cline came along with their so-called "discoveries."

    Who do they think they are?

    No, seriously. And I really should be a lot more pissed off about this than I am, but who ever said life was fair? If these people won't acknowledge me as the original source -- the mother of all missing links to Glennocidal Instafascism -- then I'll just have to show them that not only have I been proving Glenn's extremism for a lot longer than they have, but even now I do an infinitely better, and above all, more comprehensive job.

    As most experts on right wing extremism (especially libertarian fascist conservatism of the Reynolds variety) will agree, it's hardly enough merely to assert that someone is "just like" a noted fascist figure -- however true the claim may be. To really connect the dots and really prove the historical case, there can be no more substantive and meaningful methodology than a list of verifiable similarities.

    Let's start with the damning and incriminating noise factor.

    Above all, both Glenn Reynolds, and his mentor Benito Mussolini are known for shouting at people. Reynolds shouts so loudly that (to quote decibel expert Andrew Keen) he's "drowning out mainstream opinion" by "shouting louder and blogging more often than the rest of us."

    Benito of course simply screamed at crowds from his emperor pulpit, but isn't that a distinction without a difference?

    Might this just as well be Glenn Reynolds, drowning out mainstream opinion (and receiving millions of hits) while cravenly shouting us down?


    The same cruel and empty slogans, the same attitude towards all who might even think of disagreeing! (Notice the intimidated wingnuts cowering in the background -- just the way Reynolds' trembling chickenhawks cower today.)

    Haven't we seen it all before, and haven't I already proven it repeatedly?

    And if the noise factor alone isn't enough to convince the few remaining skeptics, let's take a look at disturbingly similar content -- and (most damning of all) disturbingly similar silence.

    Let's take a look -- an objective, unbiased, scientifically verifiable, reality-based look -- at some of the important issues of concern.

    Table 1A -- showing verified Reynolds-Mussolini similarities.

    disclosing public email addresses failed to condemn failed to condemn
    Tom DeLay's Senate departure suspicious silence complete and continued silence
    ice cream policy discussed religious objections to ice cream banned ice cream altogether
    war supports supports
    obscure but famous legislator failed to condemn failed to condemn
    fascist designs on coins linked by Reynolds minted by Mussolini
    Election of Kerry did not support did not support
    Impeachment of Bush failed to support failed to support
    Reputation for Truthfulness "lies every day" "habitual liar"
    sex on the internet failed to condemn failed to condemn
    Featured in Wikipedia article yes Si

    I could go on and on. Do I really need to? I mean, other than the slight policy difference over ice cream, their positions are nearly identical on nearly every major issue.

    I think I have more than made my point. No one has done a better or more comprehensive job of proving Glenn Reynolds far right extremism than I have. These leftist Johnny-cum-latelys owe me apologies, which I'll kindly accept in the order they are received!

    The problem is, I'm not the only one who's owed an apology, so I guess I'll have to stand in line . . .

    UPDATE: After reading Snarky Bastard's post, I'm adding Andrew Sullivan (who also relies on Greenwald) to the list of people who have failed utterly to credit my tireless documentation.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds cannot hide the appearance of fascism!

    Welcome all -- and viva Il Instapundo!

    UPDATE: Link fixed above. While the first one was right, the second "missing link" went to the right wing delinking campaign against Glenn, which is worth reading. (My thoughts on that here.)

    UPDATE (07/15/07): As if anyone needed further proof of his appetite for fascism, Glenn Reynolds has now made insensitive remarks about malnutrition in the United States! (The insensitivity, IMO, is heightened by the undeniable fact that the victim is a woman of color.)

    UPDATE (07/15/06): For the most meticulous and thorough fisking of Glenn Greenwald's claims I've seen to date, do not miss this post by damnum absque injuria. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) At the risk of sounding down and dirty, is there such a thing as a douchefisking?

    UPDATE (07/17/06): More proof of the scope and influence of Glenn Reynolds' extremism in this description of the "right-wing blogosphere":

    . . . their usual relaxed and carefree attitude toward the espousal of murder, genocide, and the dismantling of the American political system in favor of an authoritarian one-party state.

    UPDATE (07/18/06): Ken from it comes in pints? thinks I might be missing a distinction between Reynolds and Mussolini:

    . . . so far as I know, Mussolini never put puppies in a blender or murdered a hobo.
    There are a couple of problems with the idea that this is a distinction of any merit. First, although Reynolds' bizarre and lamentable tastes in food are well known, I don't see how this makes him any less a fascist. If anything, it only adds to the case. Second, can we state with any confidence that Mussolini did not eat puppies?

    posted by Eric at 04:13 PM | Comments (14)

    Instalanche violates terms of service? Huh?

    Unless gave me a false reading, it looks like this ISP took down a site run by a blogger called "" ( -- and cached here) because Glenn Reynolds linked to him!

    According to Glenn, that's what his email says:

    I got this email:

    This morning you linked to a post by Conor Friedersdorf defending you against Andrew Sullivan. I run the site,, and the no-talent [censored] who evidently run my server have decided that the traffic generated by your link violates my terms of service. I must therefore ask you to delink so that they will restore service long enough for me to retrieve my blog and move it elsewhere.
    "No-talent [censored]" is a bit strong (it's my "censorship," not his!) but what kind of hosting service kills your site when it gets noticed? A lousy one, I guess.
    It's not censorship, but I read through their "Terms of Service" pretty carefully, and I couldn't find a word about Glenn Reynolds, or Instalanches, anything like that. Not even a limitation on incoming traffic. Just the usual recitals about prohibited content and network abuse. (Spamming, kiddie porn, stuff like that.)

    Might something else be going on?

    (Hope this isn't a trend . . .)

    UPDATE: Problem solved. Snarky Bastard is back up, with a great post about Glenn's right wing extremism!

    posted by Eric at 11:50 AM | Comments (4)

    "Bush makes pig jokes, Beirut burns"

    Yes, that was what a lead headline at Raw Story read as I went to bed last night.

    But this morning, they've dropped the "Beirut burns" portion, which severs the classical allusion to Nero.

    I liked last night's version better, and because I liked it so much, I fiddled around and saved a screen shot (while Beirut burned of course):


    As to the connection -- the actual tie in -- between pigs and Beirut, I found myself disappointed, because the headline in the linked piece reads

    Bush defuses tension at German news conference with gentle jibes
    Gentle jibes? Defusing tension? I'm not a kneejerk Bush supporter, but reading the piece, I just couldn't find much of Nero in Bush's conduct when I read the pig remarks in context:
    STRALSUND, Germany - With the world's most perplexing problems weighing on him, President Bush has sought comic relief in a certain pig.
    Hey, at least they didn't say "sought relief in a pig." That would have been, like really innuendoish!

    But my classical appetite was whetted, so I read on in search of more details about the latest victim of Bush's genocidal wrath:

    This is the wild game boar that German chef Olaf Micheel bagged for Bush and served Thursday evening at a barbecue in Trinwillershagen, a tiny town on the Baltic Sea where the boar chef also serves as second deputy mayor.

    "I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig," Bush said at a news conference earlier in the day punctuated with questions about spreading violence in the Middle East and an intensifying standoff with Iran over nuclear power.

    Hmmm.... Slicing? The imagery sounds dicey -- a bit evocative of violence too, but at least the pig is already dead. Might it be that world leaders not supposed to talk about food when there are problems in the world? Problem is, Bush doesn't seem to have been the only culprit in this porcine distraction. The German chancellor herself seems to be heavily involved:
    The president's host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, started a serious ball rolling at this news conference in the 13th century town hall on the cobblestone square of Stralsund. But Bush seemed more focused on "the feast" promised later.

    "Thanks for having me," Bush told the chancellor. "I'm looking forward to that pig tonight."

    If this 13th century setting and formal news conference seem an odd stage for presidential banter, the 21st century problems that Bush confronts often prompt him to attempt to defuse the tension in the room with a dose of humor.

    Does he really have a right to defuse tension over 21st century problems by talking about pigs at a 13th century news conference?

    Wurst of all, the president repeatedly and with apparent premeditation talked about the pig (a boar, no less) -- and even threatened to bring up the subject the next day!

    And when an American reporter asked Bush whether he is concerned about the Israeli bombing of the Beirut airport and about Iran's failure to respond to an offer for negotiations that the U.S. and European allies have made, Bush replied with more boar jokes before delving into the substance of the questions.

    "I thought you were going to ask about the pig," said the president, promising a full report from the barbecue. "I'll tell you about the pig tomorrow."

    This is really, really bad. Frankly, I'm reminded of Bush's deliberate and premeditated bicycle riding in the face of Iraqi horrors (which the NYT's Bob Herbert so thoughtfully condemned.)

    Why, in terms of monumental scale, it even approaches the evil of Condoleeza Rice's depraved shopping spree, in which she actually bought shoes while poor people in New Orleans were eaten by alligators. (In fairness to Condi, I don't know whether the shoes were made from alligators. Such a factoid, if true, might possibly mitigate the horror.)

    The serious side of me might wonders what Bush was supposed to do. So I suppose I should ask some serious questions. Am I missing something here about the connection between pigs and Beirut? Is there some sort of inside joke which known only to Raw Story and its readers, or is there really a connection?

    I had to know, and fortunately, this piece at Aljazeera provided a clue:

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's leader in Iraq, has said in an audio tape put on the internet that rockets had been fired at Israel from Lebanon last month "on the instructions" of Osama bin Laden.

    "The rocket firing at the ancestors of monkeys and pigs from the south of Lebanon was only the start of a blessed in-depth strike against the Zionist enemy... All that was on the instructions of the shaikh of the mujahidin, Osama bin laden, may God preserve him," said the voice attributed to al-Zarqawi.

    That was written back in January, and the guy who made the connection is now dead, so we can't ask him exactly what he meant by "ancestors of pigs." I'm assuming he was talking about people, probably Jews. And because we know that he hated Jews, that must mean that he hated pigs too if he's saying they're descended from Jews.

    Hmmm. . .

    Maybe more context is needed. It just so happens that last month, shortly after the Bush administration killed the guy who claimed his outfit fired rockets at the pig ancestors, I was walking down the street in Chinatown. Friday being pig delivery day in Chinatown, I took this picture and posted it in honor of Zarqawi (would be pig ancestor slaughterer):


    It seemed like poetic justice at the time. I know, I know, Philadelphia is not Beirut, and Zarqawi never fired rockets from here.

    But Philadelphia is often described as a war zone, because a lot guns run around and shoot people all by themselves.

    It might be a stretch, but if Bush ate pork in Chinatown during the gun violence epidemic, wouldn't that be Nero-like too?

    Of course, as Bush crimes go, nothing could top reading to children about a goat while the Towers fell. Said Osama bin Laden:

    It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers. This gave us three times the time needed to carry out the operations, thanks be to God.
    Yeah, that's it. All documented right there in the film by Michael Moore. If you get stoned before you watch it, these connections are even more compelling.

    (I'm pretty sure Bush has a dog too, and maybe some cows and chickens on his ranch, but I don't have time to explore every damning connection in a single blog post.)

    posted by Eric at 10:05 AM

    Depressing quote of the day . . .
    The Mohammadan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.

    -- Will Durant, in The Story of Civilization

    I have barely scratched the surface of this history, but it's some of the most contentious, most hotly disputed stuff I've seen.

    To say that Muslims and Hindus "disagree" on this history is to engage in understatement which would be laughable if these things weren't so serious. There are claims and counterclaims, and even allegations that the history was sanitized by Indian activists from both religions seeking to unite each other in order to better wage their fight against British imperialism. (Interestingly enough, Muslim Mughal rule in India was formally liquidated by the British.)

    There's enormous animosity between Muslims and Hindus, and a lot stems from the fact that Hindus were forced to live under Sharia Law:

    Aurangzeb's influence continues through the centuries, affecting not only India, but Asia, and the world. He was the first ruler to attempt to impose Sharia law on a non-Muslim country. His critics, principally Hindu, decry this as intolerance, while his mostly Muslim supporters applaud him, some calling him a Pir or Caliph. He engaged in nearly perpetual war, justifying the ensuing death and destruction on moral and religious grounds. He eventually succeeded in the imposition of Islamic Sharia in his realm, but alienated many constituencies, not only non-Muslims, but also native Shi'ites. This led to increased militancy by the Marathas, the Sikhs, and Rajputs, who along with other territories broke from the empire after his death, and to disputes among Indian Muslims. The wanton and ruthless destruction of countless Hindu temples remains a dark stain on Muslim/Hindu relations to this day. His one-pointed devotion to conquest and control based on his personal worldview has continuing resonance in our current world.

    But I neglect Hezbollah, Israel, and Lebanon.

    I'd say there more fronts than most of us want to imagine or admit in what I won't admit to imagining is a war.

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

    I try not to tilt. (But sometimes you need to tilt!)

    Sometimes I feel like a nitpicking asshole.

    I mean, I try to look at the big picture of things (and ask the broader questions) but every time I do that, it seems the smaller, more mundane details just creep up on me and get in my way, hit me in the face. Or even spill all over the place. They can range from the definitions of words to hotly debated pieces of history such as the Crusades, and when words can't be agreed on, when basic facts can't be agreed on, how on earth can I hope to look at the big picture, and focus on philosophical questions? In a previous essay, I conceded CAIR's point about the Crusades as something that tended make Christianity look bad. I did this not because I am out to avenge the victims of the Crusades or have any dog in that particular race, but because I wanted to look at the mechanics of the argument. Yet by conceding that, I ran afoul of the argument that the Crusades were a good thing. The merits of the Crusades were not what I wanted to debate, for that would take at least an essay-length post. And that would be superficial, as books -- many books -- have been written on the subject.

    So, OK, people are sensitive about the Crusades. They think they were justified, or at least should be seen in the context of the times, and the larger Islamic threat or something.

    I don't like to devote too much time to avoiding giving offense to anyone's sensitivities, but then I don't like these endless distractions either. I just wanted an example of something most people would not consider to be a stellar example of Christian conduct. So, I thought, should I have maybe used the Inquisition as an example? Would that have "worked"?

    No, it would not have worked. Because last month, I was out to dinner with some friends, and when the issue of the Inquisition came up, I was immediately scolded by a friend whose father is a Jesuit scholar, and who maintains that the Inquisition was largely a "myth" made up by Protestants at war with Catholicism. That its methods were humane, that only a maximum of twenty five people were killed, etc.

    Sure enough, there are plenty of web sites like this arguing that the Inquisition was a myth, and Inquisition denial seems to be a thriving cottage industry. The BBC had a special called "The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition," and of course there's the usual (disputed) Wiki entry. And the books . . .

    Let me therefore stop right here and say something: this post is not about the Inquisition! I only thought I might use it in the sense of assume-for-the-sake-of-argument (wish I could just say "AFTSOA") example, but I realize that I can't. Because to do so, I'd have to devote an entire essay to the Inquisition.

    Siht, (sic) what's my point here?

    I'm getting buried with nits I'm complaining about not wanting to pick!

    If you use something as an example in the context of larger discussion, the central argument can easily be lost if someone takes issue with the underlying merits of the example -- even if the merits of the example really belong elsewhere, in a debate about that subject.

    In the post in which I "gave away" the Crusades, I also thought I could point to Aztec sacrifices and cannibalism as things we could all agreed upon as morally egregious, but I discovered that no, there isn't agreement even on that. What that means is that in order to generalize about things, or discuss the logical premises in arguments, I need to constantly endeavor to be more careful, or at least preface everything with "assume this," "assume that," or "if this is correct," and of course, "for the sake of argument." I can do it, but it seems like a lot of busywork, and sometimes I wish I could just say what the hell I think and run the risk of being "offensive."

    I could, and I can. But being offensive is just not my style. If I vent and let loose with a string of ill-thought-out generalizations, profanities, and ad hominem attacks, I'd lose the whole point of what blogging means to me, which is an attempt to use logic, reason, and analysis to find out what I really think.

    Venting is a bit like having a temper tantrum. It has its place (and I have done it in posts) but like any fit of temper, it's only of limited value, and it tends to be self-indulgent. If I stub my toe, or if I try to pour a cup of coffee and it dribbles all over the counter, I'll lose my temper and probably let loose with the usual profanities.

    But would I write them down and sign them?

    No, because such things are silly distractions, although the underlying experience might ultimately generate a blog post (or, as is happening right now, a few paragraphs in a blog post).

    I might point out that finally at the tender age of 51 I discovered the precise mechanism that made my coffee pot dribble, and now that I have learned to work around it, I need no longer wail and scream about the stupid coffee pot which "always" leaves a black pool on the countertop as well as streaks along the face of the cabinet underneath.

    I did this by trial and error, by filling the carafe with water and pouring it repeatedly into the sink. To my utter amazement, I discovered that whoever had engineered it had made the assumption of a zero-degree, straight, line line-of-sight pour (the way you would pour if you held the pot straight in front of you and lined up the indentation like a gun sight). The carafe, I discovered, did not dribble unless it was tilted in an off-line manner!

    Obviously, this meant that the engineers who designed the thing were thinking in a linear manner. They assumed that a human arm would pour in the same straight, line-of-sight manner as would a robot arm. I'm no engineer, but I don't think they took into account the nature of the human arm, or the human wrist. Because, if you take a carafe (especially a full one) and aim its neck towards a coffee cup, unless you are "correcting" yourself your aim will be far from centered on line-of-sight. Because of the nature of my wrists, when I tilt the full carafe my natural tendency is not to tilt it in a straight line, but to tilt it to the left while pouring, so that instead of flowing in the direction it seems it should, the coffee is actually pouring towards the left. And thus the dribbling.

    The solution, of course, was simple. I learned that all I have to do is correct the angle, by deliberately rotating my wrist and tilting the carafe towards the right, and thus making it line up straight. (It's counterintuitive, of course, as it doesn't "feel" right. It feels as if you're tilting the thing to the right, which you are not.)

    I'm sure most housewives (and most engineers) already know this, and I'm ashamed it took me nearly a lifetime to figure it out on my own.

    But it beats having a tantrum.

    Not to change the subject, but while I'm nitpicking, am I crazy for wanting to know just wanting to know what precisely is the name of the city which suffered the al Qaeda attack?

    Earlier this week, it was Mumbai in many of the reports.

    But yesterday it was "Bombay":

    BOMBAY, India - It took just minutes.

    One by one along the railway line, the bombs went off, ripping apart the trains, tearing through flesh, and paralyzing what is arguably India's most vibrant city.

    And today, it's still Bombay:

    BOMBAY, India - The soggy, crumpled photograph shows a young man grinning at the camera.

    An inconsolable Vasanti Chavan is afraid it is the last happy photograph she will ever have of her 24-year-old son, Chetan.

    Well. Bombay or Mumbai? Inquirer writer Will Bunch had the same problem that I did:
    Q. OK, my first question isn't really about the attacks. Why do some people call the city Mumbai and some call it Bombay?

    A. A good question. Bombay was the name that the imperial English bestowed on the city, a corruption of the name first given by Portuguese traders in the 16th Century.

    The local state government changed the official name back to Mumbai, always the city's name in the native Marathi tongue, in 1995. News agencies seem divided over which to use.

    News agencies are "divided"?

    How about the blogosphere? According to Technorati, as of right now,
    Bombay at 91,669 is losing to Mumbai at 127,379.

    And no. I refuse to engage in an ideological analysis to see which "side" I am supposed to "choose."

    The bombing is a horrific event, and I wanted to write about it. But I feel this same creepy feeling of digust that if I say "Bombay," someone might correct me. But then, if I say "Mumbai" someone might correct me. Not that I am in any way obligated to reply. But is this a political litmus test of some sort?

    Might deliberate deference to the unnecessary renaming of a city be one of those things Arnold Kling called a "trust cue"?

    Which way am I supposed to tilt without spilling my mental contents all over this nice clean blog?


    All this nit-picking makes me feel like engaging in risk taking behavior and engaging in preemptive nit-picking, by deliberately planting nits to be picked.

    How could I do that?

    Well, how about pointing out that the Inquisition actually came to Bombay! And on the heels of the fall of the Sultans of Gujerat:

    The rule of the Sultans of Gujarat over the archipelago of Bombay came to an end with the arrival of the Portuguese. In 1508 the first Portuguese ship, captained by Francis Almeida sailed into Bombay harbour. The Portuguese were already at war all along the coast of India. In 1534, with just 21 ships, they managed to defeat the kingdom of Gujarat, and extracted, among many concessions, rights to the islands of Bombay.

    India was not a priority for the Portuguese. Francis Almeida had been sent to the east to secure the spice trade for his country. The most lucrative part of this trade lay further east. Bombay and the Arabian sea was important only as a staging post to Malacca. Almeida's successor, Albuquerque, consolidated their position by taking control of Goa in 1510, Malacca in 1511 and Hormuz in 1515.

    The northern parts of the Portuguese holdings in India, mainly on the coast of Gujarat, were defended out of their fort in Bassein, present day Vasai, on the mainland north of the islands, and stronghouses were built in Bandra, Mahim, and the harbour of Versova. Control over Bombay was exerted indirectly, through vazadors who rented the islands.

    The vazador of Bombay was a certain Garcia da Orta. He built a manor house on the island in 1554. On his death in Goa, in 1570, the island was passed on to his sons. During this time Bombay's main trade was in coconuts and coir. The island of Salsette also exported rice.

    The Portuguese encouraged intermarriage with the local population, and strongly supported the Catholic church; going to the extent of starting the Inquisition in India in the year 1560. The result was a growing mixed population which supported the Portuguese in times of strife. However, their intolerance of other religions, seen in the forcible conversion to Christianity of the local Koli population in Bombay, Mahim, Worli and Bassein, had the effect of alienating the local population.

    Imagine. First the Muslims (yes, the Sultanate of Gujarat was Muslim) then the Inquisition.

    I guess I can hope that the people who blow things up are not misinterpreting history or engaging in historical nit-picking. God forbid that I should be asked to choose between the lovable Spanish Inquisition and warm and fuzzy Sultans of Peace.

    (Could irony be called a "distrust cue"?)

    posted by Eric at 07:35 AM | Comments (14)

    Funny wisdom of opportunistic repugnance

    If my effort at satire in the earlier post seems tacky, perhaps it's getting harder and harder for me to make fun of ad hominem attacks, outbreaks of trollish agent provocateurism, and bad logic -- all while keeping a straight face. . .

    But honest, folks, I'm trying to be funny! God forbid I might allow myself to have feelings of repugnance at anything another blogger said. This is all just good clean fun, right? We're all just having fun stating our opinions, because that's what the blogosphere is here for!

    And if I didn't know he was a fun-loving guy, I'd almost be willing to swear that Glenn Greenwald considers his former representation of Nazi sympathizers as something to be worn as a badge of pride.

    Even (gasp!) moral authority:

    As is true for many lawyers who have defended First Amendment free speech rights, I have represented several groups and individuals with extremist and even despicable viewpoints (in general, and for obvious reasons, it is only groups and individuals who espouse ideas considered repugnant by the majority which have their free speech rights threatened). Included among this group were several White Supremacist groups and their leaders, including one such group -- the World Church of the Creator -- whose individual members had periodically engaged in violence against those whom they considered to be the enemy (comprised of racial and religious minorities along with the "race traitors" who were perceived to defend them).
    Far be it from me to be repelled. I'm all for free speech, even for Nazi sympathizers (and their very real eliminationist rhetoric).

    As I've had controversial clients myself, I have no problem with any lawyer representing any client, however vigorously (within the bounds of legal ethics, of course), because I recognize the importance of the adversary system, the presumption of innocence, etc. Matthew Hale was Greenwald's most famous client, and it goes without saying that Mr. Greenwald had just as much of a duty to represent him as would any other attorney.

    Still, the account of this shooting spree which was allegedly committed by Hale's followers raises questions which go beyond Mr. Greenwald's free speech formulation:

    Elevating the profile of last July's racially-motivated shooting spree to still a higher level, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights has filed suit against the white supremacist group it claims is responsible for the two-state tear that left two dead and nine wounded.

    In a federal lawsuit filed here Tuesday, lawyers for a Decatur pastor wounded during the spree allege World Church of the Creator leader Matthew F. Hale not only encouraged, but conspired with shooter Benjamin Nathaniel Smith to "commit wholesale acts of genocidal violence in furtherance of their self-proclaimed 'racial holy war' against any and all African-Americans, Jews, Asians and other ethnic groups."

    Filed on the anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the suit seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages from Hale, Smith's estate and the World Church of the Creator for the Rev. Stephen Anderson, a pastor of Greater Faith Temple Church who suffered three gunshot wounds July 3, 1999, while standing in the driveway of his home in Decatur.

    Lawyers are suing under the Illinois Hate Crimes Act and the historic Anti-Klan Act, enacted in the 1870s to financially damage white supremacist organizations engaging in acts of terror, intimidation and violence.

    Again, Greenwald had every right to represent any of the people involved, whether in civil or criminal matters. What I'm having trouble with are his characterizations of the parties and (apparently) their lawyers:
    Hale's lawyer, New York attorney Glenn Greenwald, took a similar tact in responding to the suit. "It's all just guilt by association," said Greenwald, who isn't sure yet whether he will be representing Hale on this latest federal action.

    He did, however, seem interested in taking the case on. He compared it to the first suit, which alleged Hale ordered Smith to target minorities.

    "All they can say Matt Hale did is express the view that Jews and blacks are inferior, he said. "There's just no question that expressing those views is a core First Amendment activity."

    Further, Greenwald said, "I find that the people behind these lawsuits are truly so odious and repugnant, that creates its own motivation for me."

    "the people behind these lawsuits"?


    Who might they be? Reverend Stephen Anderson, who seems to have done nothing more odious or repugnant than standing in his driveway?

    I realize that when Greenwald said this, he was being a lawyer, and not a big leftie blogger, but still. . .

    Since when is it odious and repugnant to be standing in your driveway only to be shot by Nazi sympathizers?

    There's more:

    The first suit, filed in state court by Chicago attorney Michael Ian Bender on behalf of two Orthodox Jewish teens shot at in Rogers Park, is pending, though a circuit judge in Chicago threw out allegations that Smith's parents were somehow responsible for the shootings.

    In addition to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Chicago's Latham & Watkins and the People's Law Office represent the Rev. Anderson.

    "We signed onto this because we felt strongly about this case and this cause of action [for the Rev. Anderson] as a victim of a hate crime," said Mary Rose Alexander, the Latham & Watkins partner handling the case. "We feel justice should be served." The case is Rev. Stephen Tracy Anderson v. Matthew F. Hale, The World Church of the Creator, etc., and the Estate of Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, No. 00C2021.

    So exactly which people are the ones Glenn Greenwald found "odious and repugnant"? Reverend Anderson? Orthodox Jewish teens? Attorney Michael Ian Bender? The Latham and Watkins law firm? Or was it perhaps the Center for Constitutional Rights?

    Let's assume the latter firm was the odious and repugnant one. It's a left-wing activist outfit, which seems to focus on things like Guantanamo. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't like their political agenda, but is that the point now, and was it then? I mean, if they were acting as attorneys in good faith for a man who was shot for being black and standing in his driveway, how is that odious and repugnant? How was representing Orthodox Jewish teens odious and repugnant?

    I don't trust Glenn Greenwald's repugnance -- then or now.

    It just smells, well, funny.

    (Like I said, I'm trying. . .)

    UPDATE (07/16/06): More on Greenwald and his prevarications here. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    posted by Eric at 07:33 PM | Comments (2)

    (No hyperbole needed)

    While writing about rhetorical hyperbole, I discovered that war has broken out:

    MARJAYOUN, Lebanon (Reuters) - Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed up to seven Israelis in violence on either side of the Lebanese border on Wednesday, further inflaming Middle East tensions.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the Hizbollah attacks as an "act of war" by Lebanon and promised a "very painful and far-reaching" response.

    Two Lebanese civilians were killed and five people wounded in retaliatory Israeli air strikes after Hizbollah announced it had captured the Israelis.

    Israeli ground forces crossed into Lebanon to search for the captured soldiers, Israeli Army Radio said. Hizbollah and the Lebanese authorities said there was no large-scale incursion.

    Maybe it's another war involving Israel, and maybe it should be considered another battle in the ongoing war between the West and radical Islam.

    Either way, I'll admit my bias.

    I'm on the side of the West.

    posted by Eric at 11:56 AM | Comments (1)

    Faggots. Flames. Bloggers. (Some context required)

    Glenn Greenwald thinks the Deb Frisch debate (discussed infra) really ought to be about Misha, for saying the following:

    Five ropes, five robes, five trees.

    Some assembly required.

    This is at least as old as the T shirt.


    Well, let's assume that "five robes" refers to the five justices wearing them. While Misha didn't mention anyone by name, it could certainly be surmised that he's talking about the five justices he's just criticized for (in his view) putting the country in danger. Is that an attack on an institution, or is it a personal, real threat? Regardless of interpretation or propriety, it in any way comparable to singling out a two year old child as a proper candidate for murder and sexual abuse?

    As to Misha, he says it's hyperbole:

    my hyperbole tends to be directed at the ones I have a beef with, rather than at their 2-year-old children
    I don't normally go out of my way to defend political hyperbole, because I tend not to use it, but I think there's a difference between something meant personally and literally, and something meant institutionally, figuratively, or even satirically.

    I have repeatedly declared that spammers should be crucified. Frankly, I'm a little disappointed that not only has the right wing blogosphere failed to properly condemn me, but Glenn Greenwald -- and (so far as I know) the entire left wing blogosphere -- have also remained silent. I'll echo what Glenn Greenwald calls Confederate Yankee's "most cited sermon[]" here:

    one might be tempted to think that this absolute lack of condemnation was a tacit acceptance of these tactics.
    Am I to believe that both sides of the blogosphere agree with my plan to take every last spammer and nail him alive to a cross?

    Gee, I'd hate to think that my eliminationist rhetoric might be seen in context.

    I'm sorry if I sound overly inflammatory, because even though I'm not known for being a self flamer, I have offered to immolate myself before -- in the interests of peace -- but no one ever took me literally.

    Am I getting warm yet?

    Well, it could be worse.

    (I mean, it's not as if this was about Jeff Goldstein's penis.)

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds is refusing to condemn those who refuse to condemn.

    (My refusal to condemn Glenn's refusal to condemn deserves the strongest possible condemnation, I'm sure.)

    CORRECTION: I am sorry that I mischaracterized Frank J. by implicitly insinuating his refusal to condemn what he has in fact literally and willingly and with aforethought condemned:

    Misha is a bad bad man. It is wrong to call for deaths of Supreme Court Justices. Don't tell me you were just using "hyperbole" because I don't like that word since it looks like it should be pronounced HIPE-ER-BOWL, but it's not. Killing is wrong, and, if you don't like Supreme Court Justices, you should just wait to vote them out of office the next time they hold Supreme Court Elections.
    I'm sorry! It just burns me up when I get these things wrong!

    posted by Eric at 11:24 AM | Comments (6)

    Illiterate graduates (and other radical ideas)

    A couple of local criminals pleaded guilty to murder recently. While that's hardly earthshaking news, a disturbing detail caught my attention:

    David and Carlos Carmichael are mentally retarded and illiterate despite graduating from Philadelphia high schools, their attorneys contend. Both have strong employment histories in food service.
    If it is true that Philadelphia high schools give diplomas to mentally retarded illiterates, a good argument can be made that people who are forced to pay taxes to support these schools are being swindled. It isn't even necessary to examine whether or not the school is responsible for a retarded graduate's illiteracy; that such students are able to obtain diplomas renders the entire system suspect. From a market standpoint, such schools are supplying inherently defective products.

    Yet they survive, because our society has created a phony marketplace giving them an unfair advantage -- backed by government force:

    Many libertarians attempt to point to the very existence of the public school system as a hindrance to quality education. But that explanation doesn't suffice. Active private markets can usually exist alongside government provision, even when the government service is free.

    For example, the existence of the post office doesn't mean we are hamstrung in sending packages from place to place. If we don't like post office service, we can choose another carrier. Because there are so few restrictions, there is no shortage of companies willing to deliver packages for a fee. In the educational market, there are surprisingly few options for private, affordable, consumer-responsive educational services.

    The reason is legal restriction. Thanks to federal pressure, all states presume to define what does and does not constitute a "school" and an "education." They do this through compulsory education laws, the very existence of which implies a state supervisory role as well as the use of coercion. To the extent that market-based schools step outside the approved boundaries, they set themselves up for legal entanglements and harassment.

    For example, in no state in this country may a mother decide, without government permission, to set up a for-profit school in her home and have neighborhood parents pay her for educational services of their own choosing to the exclusion of other forms of schooling. Both the service provider and the willing parents would risk visits by social workers and school officials, and then, possibly, incarceration. That's true even in the freest states.

    In a free market, this would be the mainstream means of purchasing educational services, especially at the elementary level. Classrooms would be small and largely neighborhood based. Fees would be low. Stay-home moms would have a great entrepreneurial opportunity to bring in some extra income. The reason such an environment does not exist is because compulsory schooling laws prevent it from developing in the first place.

    What can be done to foster a market in schools? Compulsory education laws must be repealed. Only this radical step would introduce genuine market forces into the education industry. This would be a great victory for parents and children. But for the educational bureaucrat, it would be a nightmare, even if the public school system were left exactly as it is now.

    Some say this would amount to government giving up its central source of privilege in the educational sector. That is precisely why it is the best and most profitable avenue for reform. In the meantime, home schooling may not be a perfect solution, but, like tax shelters, it thrives because it is able to meet a market demand by exploiting loopholes in the law.

    Just as importantly, home schooling sends a message to the elites that there are some things, namely children, that are not owned or controlled by the government. Until compulsory schooling laws are completely scrapped, it will continue to be a crucial means for providing the quality education that public schools have failed to provide.

    While intellectually resourceful parents are fortunate that home schooling remains a legally available loophole for their own kids, I'm sure the educrats who crank out illiterates would say that educational freedom is a radical approach.

    As approaches to education go, I'd say illiterates with diplomas is also pretty rad.

    posted by Eric at 07:57 AM

    misinterpretation as a pyramid scheme

    What is freedom of religion?

    Americans often make kneejerk assumptions about these things, and simply think you have the right to believe in whatever you want, and the right to freely exercise (or not exercise) that belief.

    In reply to an email I received earlier about the Saudi madrassa, I asked sarcastically whether freedom of religion would allow Aztecs to build pyramids, then drag sacrificial victims up the stairs to cut out their beating hearts.

    Obviously, they'd be allowed to build the pyramids, but not even the wildest interpretation of the First Amendment would allow human sacrifice or ritual cannibalism.

    Well, suppose that there was a group of "Aztec fundamentalists" who didn't actually eat people or practice human sacrifice in this country, but who were sponsored and funded by Aztec fundamentalists in another country. And suppose the foreign Aztec fundamentalists did eat people and practice human sacrifice, and believed in promoting those things here. Not only that, let's suppose that they were influential enough to bully foreign governments and private citizens into funding their promotional campaign.

    I think readers will see where I'm going . . .

    I just want to pose a common sense question. Are there limits? If free speech does not include the right to yell "FIRE" in a crowded place of entertainment, should the equivalent be allowed in a crowded place of worship? How about advocacy of genocide?

    Does religion afford a cover which would not be available in its absence? Does it make any difference whether you chop out a beating heart because you just always wanted to, as opposed to doing so because you wanted to satisfy the religious demands of Huitzilopochtli?

    One of the reasons the Aztec hypothetical is easy is because there is no such religion today. There are no organized Aztec apologists to deny that human sacrifice is part of "mainstream moderate Aztecism" or to claim that the Aztec codices have been "misinterpreted." They won't scream that "sacrifice" in its proper context actually means making real sacrifices by doing things like helping people, feeding the poor, or engaging in self improvement. There's no group to deny that they have any involvement whatsoever with practitioners of actual human sacrifice, nor will they say that the wielders of sacrificial knives have misinterpreted the true Aztec religion.

    Stay with the Aztec hypothetical, and assume the existence of the religion and modern Aztec lobbyists making these arguments. Fine; let's agree, then, that the practitioners of human sacrifice and their advocates are engaged in misinterpretation.

    Would it really matter whether they were "real Aztecs"? Aren't we entitled to do something about the misinterpreters -- no matter what we might call them? Or would we allow these misinterpretations to be interpreted by the people who lobby on behalf of the religion said to be misinterpreted?

    OK. I do not suggest that the Aztec religion is the moral equivalent of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Shintoism. This was not meant as a moral equivalency argument, but as a hypothetical application of the First Amendment.

    But let's turn to an example of modern religious interpretation. And a religion often said to be misinterpreted. Here's a spokesman for CAIR:

    [Parvez Ahmed, CAIR chairman] said a minority of Muslim extremists helps perpetuate anti-Muslim sentiment in the US, but that it is wrong for Americans to rush to conclusions based on these groups that have distorted or misinterpreted Qur’anic text. He compared it to making judgments on Christians based on the Crusades.
    I agree with Mr. Ahmed, and just as I don't want to judge all Muslims based on people who've misinterpreted Islam, nor would I judge all Christians based on the Crusades.

    But I have a question:

    Would it be permissible to make judgments on the Crusaders themselves based on the Crusades?

    OK, Christofascists, radical Christianists, simple renegades -- I don't care what you call them; can't they be condemned? Certainly, we would not take seriously any Christian activist who complained that Christians shouldn't be judged based on the Crusades, but who then turned around and supported the Crusades, would we?

    And just as we wouldn't condemn all Christians because some of them burned witches at the stake, then surely we shouldn't judge or condemn all Muslims because some of them engage in the following behavioral patterns:

  • - cutting off people's hands as punishment;
  • - stoning people to death;
  • - executing people for homosexuality;
  • - executing people for not praying.

    Just as I'm sorry that a few misinterpreters of Christianity might support the Crusades, I'm sorry to see that people calling themselves Muslims are doing the above things while claiming that they're justified in the name of Islam. My hope is that they are in fact misinterpreting Islam. In fact, I hope it so much I'd be glad to hear it.

    If the CAIR lobbyists don't want me to judge Islam by the actions of the religious renegades in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Somalia, can't they at least state plainly that the above conduct is practiced only by renegades?

    Unless religious renegades can be renegades and still be considered members of the religion they're renegades against, I just don't get it.

    I hate to think that misinterpreters might be in charge of misinterpretation.

    Who gets to interpret these things anyway?

    Beats me.

    However, it may be that I got a little carried away with the Aztec example. Not because I might have been seen as engaging in a moral equivalency argument, but because I was engaged in ethnocentrism. I had no right to judge the Aztecs at all.

    That's because, according to Jack D. Forbes, Professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis (and Guggenheim Fellow), the Aztecs were no different from the Christians. Or the Muslims. Or anyone else.

    From 1493 onward the Spaniards were guilty of the sacrifice (for their own Roman Catholic religion and for secular wealth and power) of the lives of many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Native Americans. And yet the historians and anthropologists speak only of Aztec and Maya human sacrifice, exempting the Spaniards because of their white race and Catholic religion, it would seem.

    The failure to talk about human sacrifice today may be, in part, due to the fact that many of our modern practices of human sacrifice are "secular" rather than "religious." But much of modern sacrifice involves the use of elaborate patriotic rituals, lots of military ceremony, and an overriding ideology (such as anti-communism, extreme nationalism or ethnic racism). Very often also the sacrifice is proclaimed as part of a holy war or a sacred cause and various Christian, Jewish, Muslim and now Hindu religious functionaries bless the troops or the killers and ask the Supreme Being to smite the terrible enemy, even if they are women or children.

    It is just plain European ethnocentrism to avoid applying the concept of human sacrifice to the Spaniards and to our modern world. The same thing is true of "cannibalism," used to undermine the credibility of Native cultures in the Caribbean, South America and in the Iroquois regions of Ontario and New York. Anthropologists have failed, for example, to see the consuming of the lives of slaves and exploited workers by Europeans as a form of "eating." In the case of infanticide, we have many examples of that today in the inner cities of the United States where poor babies are dying at Third World rates. Similarly, the killing of parents (matricide and patricide) is being practiced on a large scale in the U.S. through the denial of health care and adequate diets to old people. It is wrong to accuse Native people of the north of leaving old ones to die when neglect of elders is an intrinsic part of classic capitalism.

    Gee. And all this time I thought the Aztecs were bad! (And so did Justin!)
    But this guy's a professor, right? Of Native American Studies, which means he has more right to interpret than I do.

    So, according the rules of interpretation, I guess I stand corrected.

    (I'll just remain cowering at the bottom of the pyramid. . .)



    (I must always try to put a little heart into everything I write.)

  • posted by Eric at 02:49 PM | Comments (11)

    Not in my nice clean police car!

    A short article in today's Inquirer reminded me that the problem of mentally ill criminals is not limited to the New York subway system. Notwithstanding all their protection and security measures, even the courts aren't safe:

    YORK, Pa. - The county sheriff has apologized for what he called an "embarrassing and egregious" security breakdown after court security workers missed a knife later thrown at a judge in a courtroom.

    Terry Lee Rehm, 58, was arrested Thursday after authorities said he threw a 13-inch butcher knife at Judge Michael J. Brillhart, who was seated on the bench. The knife went over the heads of several county employees and a defendant and sank into a wall to the judge's left, authorities said. No one was injured.

    Intrigued not so much by the breach of security, but by the type of alleged suspect who'd come to an alleged court to throw an alleged knife at an alleged judge, I found another news report, with more alleged background:
    The man charged with hurling a butcher knife at a county judge Thursday was also arrested 2½ years ago, accused of threatening to blow up the courthouse and demanding to talk to Satan.

    On Feb. 24, 2004, Rehm walked into the office of Karla Forbes, a court reporter, and told her he was the author of "The Invisible Line," according to the arrest affidavit from the incident.

    He told Forbes and Beth Ness, another court reporter, that he wanted to talk to Satan, Jesus Christ and Mr. York County, the document states, and that he wanted justice. It also states Rehm told the women he was a terrorist and wanted to blow up the courthouse.

    When the women asked him to leave, he refused. When sheriff's deputies intervened, Rehm sat down on courthouse steps and repeated that he was terrorist and that they would have to carry him out.

    When deputies picked him up, he started screaming, according to the document.

    Rehm was handcuffed and taken to York Hospital.

    Rehm was charged with disorderly conduct and making terroristic threats. In a request to determine Rehm's competency to stand trial, his attorney, T. Korey Leslie, wrote that the man "appears to suffer from a mental disorder and has at least one known prior commitment to a mental hospital."

    Rehm also "demonstrated bizarre and inappropriate behavior in the presence of counsel," Leslie wrote, and he was unable to "communicate with counsel coherently or logically."

    Following a psychological examination to determine whether he was fit to stand trial, the misdemeanor charges were dropped in October 2004, court records show. However, court records available do not indicate why the charges were dropped. The prosecutor and defense lawyer in the case couldn't be reached for comment.

    In last week's incident, detectives said, Rehm smuggled the knife and a number of other potential weapons past courthouse security: bullets, a wrench, two screwdrivers, two knives and a hammer.

    Looks like the alleged suspect slipped through the cracks, doesn't it?

    I'm wondering about the cracks. Is there a pattern in which an accused suspect's mental illness, while not being a defense to a crime (it isn't), becomes a de facto opportunity for buck passing by everyone concerned?

    As a practical matter, incarcerating the mentally ill poses problems -- one being that there is no way to force criminals into treatment:

    "It's kind of like a revolving door," Mr. McHugh said. "When they need room at the forensic hospital, the inmates come back, and they may take their medication or they may not. Our department does not have the legal authority to medicate someone against their will."

    Mr. McHugh acknowledged that in the prisons, opportunities to consult a psychiatrist are "relatively limited," an impression confirmed by a former inmate, George Jones, who was held in administrative segregation in Rahway from 1992 until his release in 1995.

    Mr. Jones, who has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and antisocial tendencies but is not one of the five plaintiffs in the suit, said that the only way to get an appointment with a psychiatrist at Rahway was to do something wrong.

    "If I wanted to see a psychiatrist, I flooded my cell," he said. "On the bottom tier, somebody was always either burning themselves up or burning their cells or eating feces or trying to kill themselves to get medical attention."

    When an inmate did see a therapist, Mr. Jones said, the average session lasted two or three minutes. "Basically," he said, "it was just: 'Are you taking your medication? Are you sleeping O.K.? Would you like to increase your medication?' That and 'Do you feel like hurting yourself today?' "

    Dr. Grassian, citing court decisions in New York, California and Texas limiting or blocking the solitary confinement of mentally ill prisoners, said policy makers were gradually being forced to recognize that subjecting the mentally ill to harsh punishment rather than therapy exacted a high price, both in prison and out in society.

    "It's like beating a dog and leaving it in a cage and making it as violent as you can, and then taking it to the middle of Manhattan," Dr. Grassian said. "What do you think is going to happen when you open the cage?"

    Is this leading to a culturally ingrained (if not officially acknowledged) status quo? Are the mentally ill just too much trouble?

    When I served as a Berkeley Police Review Commissioner, I used to hear laments from officers who just didn't know what to do with crazy people when they were the subjects of complaints. Some -- not all -- were called "homeless," and this was reflected on police cititions with the word "NOMAD" appearing as the "address." The cops knew they'd never show up for court, and they didn't want them to. They didn't want crazy filthy homeless people urinating in their nice clean police cars either.

    Do I blame them? Hardly.

    One time, a homeless man broke into my car, tore open a bag of dog food I'd left inside, ate some dog food, washed it down with engine coolant I had in the back seat, then passed out. I know this because the next morning when I saw a man sitting in my car and angrily told him to get out, he promptly puked all over himself and the front seat -- and after he staggered away I saw the open coolant container and dog food bag along with the mess he'd made. I say this not to engage in mindless homeless-bashing, but to illustrate a simple fact of life: no one wants to deal with mentally ill, dysfunctional people. I'm not sure the problem is that they slip through the cracks so much as it is society's game to ignore them in the hope they'll just go away. Only when they finally do something really serious do they get attention. Until then, there really is no system.

    From Congressional Quarterly, 2002:

    Beginning in the 1960s, deinstitutionalization, a policy of hospital closures, developed in response to advocates who argued that Americans were being warehoused in state mental institutions and would receive better care in their communities. Furthermore, the development of more effective psychotropic medications promised better symptom control, and a greater chance that some patients could eventually care for themselves. In response, state governments dramatically accelerated the release of patients and the downsizing of state mental hospitals. In 1955, state mental hospital populations peaked at 559,000 persons. Today, 70,000 individuals with severe mental illnesses are housed in public psychiatric hospitals. In the past decade, 40 state mental hospitals have closed, while more than 400 new prisons have opened. "I'm very suspect of deinstitutionalization," Dion says. "It just cost-defected from the state mental hospitals to the jails. Now the state can say they have a more caring, loving system in their hospitals."

    Many promises underlying the closures have not been kept. Community-based programs haven't taken care of the released hospital populations. "Deinstitutionalization happened pretty quickly, and the government has become pretty hesitant to provide funding for the services," Mauer says. "The community programs just fell through the cracks, so the criminal justice system became the default."

    It is also not enough to expect the state to shoulder the entire burden, says Lynn Duby, commissioner for the Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services. "Medicaid cannot be the main funder. When you have to fund something 100 percent through state funds, of course it's not enough."

    State governments have traditionally been the major source of money for public mental health services, and remain so today. But according to the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, total state spending for treatment of the seriously mentally ill is one-third less now than in the 1950s. According to a 1998 study by the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the growth of spending for the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse nationwide has been lower than for health care generally. It is clear that the costs for caring for the mentally ill have shifted from the health care system to jails and prisons.

    Except that the jails, prisons, and police don't want them. They prefer "real" criminals. The mentally ill, it is thought, simply "don't belong" there.

    Legal advocacy groups, of course, make lots of trouble for the police and prison system, as mentally ill criminals are in a never-never land (as well as a special category against which discrimination is forbidden). It is considered unfair that they be treated like prisoners, but of course in many cases there are no viable treatment options (closed state hospitals, no compulsory treatment, no halfway houses, no money, etc.)

    Ignoring a problem in the hope that it will go away has a poor track record.

    It's not a crack that mentally ill criminals are falling through. It's a huge, de facto gap.

    posted by Eric at 08:41 AM | Comments (3)

    Fight ignorance before it's too late

    When I started writing this post, I had intended it as a lead-in to this week's RINO Sightings Carnival, which is hosted by BloodSpite at Technography.

    It's a great carnival, artistically and poetically presented, and I highly recommend it.

    Lots of good rhino pictures, too, and the pictures served as a poignant reminder that the critter we like to emulate is in serious, serious trouble. I say that not as an environmentalist, because I'm not an environmentalist.

    However, I am someone who admires these grand animals and hates stupidity and ignorance. And I am very sorry to read that the West African black rhino has apparently become extinct, as a result of poaching:

    One of four sub-species of African black rhinoceros has been declared extinct after researchers failed to find the animal in its last known habitat.

    The West African black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) had fallen from a population of around 3,000 to just 10 in recent years but today specialists from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) said no traces of the creature had been found during a recent survey in northern Cameroon.

    "As a result this subspecies has been tentatively declared as extinct," said Dr Martin Brooks, the chairman of the African Rhino Specialist Group at the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.

    The sub-species, one of six types of rhino found in Africa, had been decimated by poaching for its horn, which is used as an aphrodisiac in Yemen and China. The long porous border between Chad and Cameroon, where the rhino enjoyed West Africa's savannah, prevented easy protection.

    In 2000, Dr Brooks estimated that just ten of the rhinos were still alive and could have drifted too far apart from each other to breed.

    From 3000 to 10 is decimated? Wrong. Formally speaking, "decimated" means a ten percent reduction in numbers. The Black Rhinoceros subspecies had not been decimated, but nearly extirpated, and now it has been annihilated.

    A shame, but what is not entirely clear from the article is whether the primary culprit is the use of the horn as an aphrodisiac. It appears not, as the primary uses are as Yemeni daggers and in Chinese medicine:

    Africa's "black" and "white" rhinoceros total about 3,600 and 11,100 individuals, respectively. The Indian rhino numbers about 2,400. The Javanese and Sumatran rhinos are in truly dire condition. About 300 Sumatran rhinos survive in peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Indonesia (and perhaps a few in Thailand and Burma); only about 60 Javanese rhinos remain in the wild, including one group of 50 in Java and a second population of around 10 in Vietnam.

    Why the decline? Asian rhinos probably suffer most from loss of habitat. In Africa, horn trade may be the most dangerous factor. Wildlife biologists believe horn poaching for two big export markets cut black rhino populations from about 70,000 to 2,550 between 1970 and the mid-1990s. The first market (in China, Korea, and Taiwan) is traditional Asian medicine, where rhino horn is ground to a powder used to treat headaches and fevers. Across the Red Sea, meanwhile, horn is used for the ornamental hilts of traditional Yemeni daggers known as jambiyya. (These are curved knives about a foot long, reported by the Yemen Times to cost $800-$5,000 apiece. Per capita income in Yemen is about $450.) A 1997 staff report from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species estimated that 67 tons of rhino horn had been shipped from Africa to Yemen in the 1980s and early 1990s. With a typical horn weighing three kilos, jambiyya-making may account for the loss of 22,000 rhinos over these years.

    According to the Honolulu Zoo, a fatwa was issued by Yemen's Grand Mufti saying it was "against the will of Islam to kill rhinos in for dagger handles" but I guess that was too little, too late. In any case, the Yemeni "Jambiya" dagger tradition is a local cultural one, not grounded in Islam.

    As to the rhino horn's use in Chinese medicine, it's grounded in rank superstition. The horns have been studied scientifically, and found to have no medicinal properties, and no aphrodisiac effects.

    Furthermore, the only places where the rhino horn has ever been used as an aphrodisiac were said to be in certain parts of India, and even that has died out. Thus, the report that it's "used as an aphrodisiac in Yemen and China" would seem to be incorrect.

    Medicine, yes. Dagger handle, yes. Aren't these ignorant customs superstitious and idiotic enough without having to blame sex too?

    I'm sorry that it's too late to save the West African Black Rhino, and that there isn't a damned thing I can do about it.


    The whole thing is a crying shame.


    While it won't save the real rhinos, as a means of combatting ignorance I don't see how reading this week's RINO Sightings Carnival can do any harm.

    American RINOs are a relatively new breed, and fortunately, they're far from extinct.

    posted by Eric at 03:24 PM

    madrassa update III

    The Saudi madrassa I've written about in a number of posts seems to be receiving national attention. The following comes from an email I just received, from which I've removed the headers:

    For Immediate Release Residents Protest Expansion Of Islamic Center in PA “ Venue For Young Muslim "Jihad Camps" July 10, 2006 Philadelphia, PA Militant Islam Monitor - Residents of Lower Merion County protesting the expansion of the Foundation for Islamic Education because of zoning violations, recently became aware that the center is planning to hold a Muslim Youth camp with many of the controversial speakers who appeared at a self-described "Jihad Camp" in 2001. The FIE is funded and owned by the ex Saudi Minister of Energy and Electricity -Mahmoud Abdullah Taiba, and is a satellite campus of the American Open University the American division of al-Azhar University in Cairo, a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood activity.- LINK HERE

    A hearing on the expansion permit was scheduled to take place on July 13th. Even prior to the news about the camp, Lower Merion councilman Philip Rosenzweig conceded that "it would take time for the FIE to reestablish trust with the neighbors," according to a July 5th article Philadelphia Inquirer. When the Foundation for Islamic Education took over the 23-acre college campus in Villanova in 1994, Muslim leaders overcame neighborhood opposition by agreeing to a host of restrictions which included limits on traffic, number of permanent residents to be housed there, the frequency and scope of religious retreats and limitations on noise. As the Foundation seeks zoning permission to expand operations it has had to admit it violated not only the covenants, but also the original 1994 zoning order as well. Foundation leaders are pledging to be "better neighbors" from now on, but it is proving to be a tougher sell this time. The Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board took up the expansion proposal in November. After a second hearing in May, James Greenfield – representing 26 neighborhood families - asked the board to reject the zoning application, saying "The Foundation will not police itself and has no qualms about expanding its use without regard for the governmental regulations. The board must therefore regard this institution as a threat to the community." The Foundation is headed by Mustafa Ahmed and represented by attorney Fred Fromhold who – according to news reports - declined last week to comment on the neighbor's complaints.LINK HERE

    Among the complaints are that the school foundation began an elementary school in 1999 and was the site of a summer camp in 2004, neither of which are permitted under the zoning order. Neighbors allege that a registered child abuser resided on the premises and that FIE is being used as a homeless shelter in violation of local codes. Neighbors testified that they were especially concerned that the foundation would not provide information on the nature of the groups using the grounds for retreats or provide proof that the activities were being supervised. The residents of Villanova have a right to be concerned for their security. LINK HERE

    Unbeknownst to the residents at the time of the last hearing and in keeping with FIE's pattern of deception is the fact that a gender segregated Jihad Camp of the Young Muslims organization had been scheduled to be held on August 2nd to 7th. The list of speakers at this event include radical Islamists; it includes

    * New Jersey Imam Mazen Mokhtar, who was under investigation for running a mirror website for al-Qaeda.

    * Siraj Wahhaj an unindicted co conspirator in the 1993 WTC bombings and board member of Saudi funded pressure group CAIR.

    * Jamal Badawi who recently justified suicide bombings on the Islamonline forum.

    * Faisal Hamouda, a ‘volunteer' for the Islamic Relief ‘charity' whose Gaza coordinator was just arrested in Israel on charges of funding Hamas.

    The FIE premises have been used for CAIR [The Council of American Islamic Relations] an above noted Wahhabist front group for Hamas, and ICNA [The Islamic Circle of North America] which has been linked to al-Qaeda. - LINK HERE

    Beila Rabinowitz - Director of Militant Islam Monitor - is urging the Lower Merion council to refuse an expansion permit to the Foundation for Islamic Education and launch a complete investigation into all their previous and upcoming activities especially the August scheduled Young Muslims' Jihad Summer Camp.

    Given their extensive record of zoning violations, misreprentations and troubling associations we believe that the onus is on FIE to prove its suitability as a local resident and we join with FIE's neighbors in demanding a thorough review and accounting of the organizations operations and activities.

    For further information contact Beila Rabinowitz XXX XXX XXXX

    [Email and phone numbers removed.]

    Concerned residents should contact The Lower Merion Township 610 649 4000

    While I haven't had time to check out all the above links (and I can't vouch for the quality of anyone else's research) it seems that the suspicions I voiced previously were not unwarranted.

    UPDATE: Thanks to Vik Rubenfeld for linking this post!

    MORE: The people in my neighborhood are not alone in facing the problem of Saudi madrassas. Here's Joe Kaufman (of Americans Against Hate):

    Radical mosques are being built across the United States at an alarming rate, all tethered to a fanatical strain of Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia. And while so many have gone up, not one has come down. Not even Brooklyn, New York’s Al-Farooq Mosque, which housed al-Qaeda’s American hub in the early 90’s, the Alkifah Refugee Center, has met its demise. Recently, a new mosque of this kind was given the green light, a 29,000 square foot goliath, smack in the middle of South Florida. Tonight, a group of community leaders will be voicing their concern in protest.
    New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg issued a report warning about the Saudi madrassas, but it appears nothing has been done.

    For some reason, the Lautenberg Report no longer opens at Senator Lautenberg's web site, so I've made it available here. (PDF format.)

    posted by Eric at 10:45 AM

    Pardon Hillary Now?

    I'm thinking more unthinkable thoughts.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I found myself walking down memory lane with this reflection on a newly resurrected Pardongate case by Captain Ed:

    One can ask for no clearer indication that the Clinton administration had a fire sale on presidential pardons, and made sure that the money stayed in the family.

    Hillary Clinton needs to answer for this. It involves her brother and her husband, and the family business in presidential pardons can be expected to have a grand re-opening if Hillary wins the presidential election in 2008. George Bush cannot allow this obvious corruption to go uninvestigated, and if the facts bear it out, Bill Clinton and Anthony Rodham should face prosecution for corruption.

    The Pardongate scandal is an oldie but a goodie. It never got the play it should have, because the pardon fire sale happened at the last possible minute -- during the lamest lame duck days of the nearly extinct Clinton administration.

    Not only had George W. Bush just been elected, the unsuspecting country was in the last stages of its naive, pre-9/11 days.

    And now that I think about it, the country was still in its pre-blogosphere days! That means there were no hordes of bloggers to scrutinize the pardons. There were a lot of them, and as pure corruption goes, this was the worst scandal of the Clinton administration, and possibly any administration. Here's Salon's editor in 2001:

    it's not just Rich and Green. There's Carlos Vignali, the cocaine trafficker whose father was a big Democratic contributor (and one of the two men whose lawyers paid Hugh Rodham $200,000 for his services). Thanks to his well-connected dad, Vignali relied on a network of folks close to the Clintons. "How'd you get out?" Vignali's lawyer asked him, shocked at his client's release halfway through his 15-year sentence. "Word around prison was that it was the right time to approach the president," Vignali replied, according to the L.A. Times.

    "This was a straight-up drug dealer, a source of cocaine, proven at trial, convicted by a jury and sentenced to a fair sentence," the U.S. attorney who prosecuted him, Todd Jones, told Good Morning America. Jones, who is black, said Vignali's pardon "further erodes any confidence that the public, particularly communities of color, may have that federal drug laws are enforced fairly." Indeed. Prominent Los Angeles Democrats, as well as Cardinal Roger Mahony, also pleaded Vignali's case, but Mahony at least has since said he regrets his involvement. So should Clinton.

    Then there's Hugh Rodham's other would-be benefactor, Glenn Braswell, the herbal-medicine mogul sentenced to three years in prison in 1983 for mail fraud, perjury and tax evasion. Clinton, lamely, claims he didn't know that Braswell was under investigation by federal prosecutors for separate cases of tax evasion and money laundering, which his pardon made harder to prosecute. He might have known if the pardon had gone through normal Justice Department channels, but Braswell was apparently too deserving of urgent mercy to abide by the normal process. Maybe he had a sick friend who desperately needed one of the phony baldness cures Braswell specialized in providing.

    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's campaign treasurer, New York attorney William Cunningham III, helped obtain last-minute pardons for two Arkansas tax evaders, Robert Clinton Fain and James Lowell Manning. Even more intriguing, the pair were referred to Cunningham by Clinton's New York campaign guru and fixer Harold Ickes. With pals like these, maybe you don't need to talk directly to the first lady and senator.

    The list goes on. There's Tom Bhakta, another Arkansas businessman convicted of tax evasion. (His name was misspelled in his hasty pardon). For geographic balance, we have the four New York Hasidic leaders -- convicted of stealing $40 million in student grants, small-business loans and housing subsidies from their suburban New Square community (those guys certainly took a village, literally) -- after their representatives met with the president and his wife, their new senator, in December. In that case, no money is alleged to have changed hands, but there may have been political considerations at play. On Election Day, the New York Daily News reported, the New Square community gave only 12 votes out of more than 1,400 to Clinton's GOP opponent Rick Lazio, while a nearby Hasidic community not affiliated with New Square chose Lazio over Clinton, 781 to 26.

    There are no doubt other stinky pardons. This list alone makes the pardons Clinton granted strictly on personal prerogative -- to his brother Roger for his cocaine conviction (Roger will need another, thanks to his DUI last weekend); to his Whitewater pal, Susan McDougal, who went to jail rather than talk to Kenneth Starr -- look humanitarian by comparison. (And believers in the vast left-wing conspiracy will love the footnote that Hugh Rodham's lawyer, Nancy Luque, defended former Kathleen Willey pal Julie Hiatt Steele when she was battling the evil Starr machine.)

    Now, instead of battling, say, evil Starr machine factotum Ted Olson, newly appointed as George W. Bush's solicitor general, Democrats are having to either defend or distance themselves from Clinton's mess. These outrageous pardons seem to confirm everything Clinton-haters said about them (well, maybe not the charges that they murdered small children, or poor Vince Foster). They appear to be the corrupt, self-dealing mandarins of their opponents' most virulent imaginings, insulated from the implications of their grasping and their bad judgment by layers of protective minions all these years.

    That's just an excerpt, but come on. Selling pardons, for cash, to convicts?

    The Justice Department (per Mary Jo White) had a case going, and there was a lot of talk about Bush doing the right thing and pardoning the Clintons, but Bush (and his advisers, doubtless weighing his slim margin of victory and the Democrats' threat to go ballistic had Bush dared pardon the Clintons) obviously wanted to put the acrimony behind, and "move on."

    But a huge unresolved scandal can't be expected to stay disappeared when a principal player decides to run for president. It's one thing to move on and forget the past, but quite another to return to power a co-partner in an administration which left such a grand mess as its last nose-thumbing gesture.

    At the time, I thought Bush should have just pardoned the Clintons, and I'm sure there were many reasons why he didn't. Bush's style was to sweep the whole thing under the carpet (a literal coverup?) and let bygones be bygones. That would have been fine had bygones become bygones. The problem is that if Hillary makes a serious run for the presidency, the Pardongate scandal will not be a bygone. The stuff Captain Ed is talking about is barely the tip of the iceberg.

    Still, I'm wondering. Is it too late to pardon the Clintons? Couldn't Bush just pardon Hillary? (Honestly, I don't see how it could hurt his ratings. And legally speaking, no indictment is necessary.)

    Might it be time to put the whole mess behind us?


    UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and welcome all!

    I notice that commenter Daveg below mentioned the White House dishes. Frankly, I had forgotten about that. China was the last thing on my mind, but yes, let's bygone that doggone bygone too!

    posted by Eric at 10:15 AM | Comments (16)

    Building falls after explosion in NYC

    Links at the top of the Drudge Report point to two preliminary stories: WNBC and Breitbart. There's nothing on the local news in Philadelphia save a feed on CBS 3 from a chopper showing billowing smoke, but this is done picture-in-picture while the regular program continues.

    Details are few and sketchy (from WNBC):

    A three-story building on Manhattan's East Side went up in flames and collapsed Monday after what witnesses said was a thunderous explosion that rocked the neighborhood.

    The cause was not immediately known, and at least two people were under evaluation at a hospital.


    TV host Larry King, who had been in his hotel room nearby, described the explosion to CNN as sounding like a bomb and feeling like an earthquake.

    The reporter had the sense to include a pertinent detail in light of recent threats: the subway was unaffected.

    UPDATE: From SFGate: "The cause was not immediately known, though White House press secretary Tony Snow said there was no indication of terrorism."

    UPDATE 2: Salt Lake City's CBS affiliate says: "Con Edision was investigating a smell of natural gass in the area earlier in the morning, according to WCBS-TV reports."

    UPDATE 3: The latest Drudge link suggests a doctor's attempted suicide.

    posted by Dennis at 09:48 AM | Comments (1)

    More Treasonous Coulter rot

    Speaking of friendship as treason (and groups with "G.D." as an acronym) Glenn Reynolds links David Kopel's post which asks a good question about Green Day:

    If a person likes Green Day's sound, but not their politics, what other bands might the person enjoy?
    I'm too old to keep track of the competition, but I love Green Day, and I always have. I witnessed their rise firsthand in Berkeley, and of course I know their politics are far left. For that matter, so are the Grateful Dead's, the Rolling Stones's, and just about every rock group I can think of that I love.

    I'm thinking about the trouble Ann Coulter has made for the Grateful Dead, and I'm wondering . . .

    Suppose she put in a good word for Green Day. In logic, something like that should not alter the opinion of any thinking person -- either about Ann Coulter or Green Day. But there are a lot of non-thinking, mostly emotive beings out there.

    And there are also a lot of people -- left and right -- who believe in the principle of guilt by association. I don't think Ann Coulter would suffer, as she's already been outed as a Deadhead, and few things are more likely to irritate the scolding wing of moral conservatism than the (gasp!) "approval" of a drug-addled band generally seen as a major contributor to America's "culture rot." As culture rot has already become "Coulter Rot," what's one more admission to the culture scolds of the right?

    More likely, I think the "Green Day Ann" meme would infuriate Green Day fans (and possibly the band members themselves) in a manner impossible for "Deadhead Ann."

    Who knows? If you believe in karma and astrology and all that stuff, being forced to endure Ann Coulter as a fan might be a well deserved punishment for them. Besides, there's no way to make fans disappear, as anyone can buy a CD, and anyone can cover himself or herself with purple Crisco and drink the right Koolaid.

    The downside is that this might be seen as giving license to treason.

    But that's not my problem.

    I'm a traitor if I do, traitor if I don't.

    posted by Eric at 09:31 AM

    Extinction through marriage?

    If there's one thing I hate, it's when I'm forced to review book reviews of books I haven't read! But review the review I will, because I have a responsibility to live up to the blogger's creed of speed, volume, and vehemence.

    In my defense, I should say that it is possible to agree or disagree with the alleged premises of a book as they are presented by a book reviewer -- even without having read the book. That's because a reviewer's statements about a book can be analyzed at their face value regardless of whether they accurately represent the book. If a reviewer attributes something to an author, I can disagree with it, and if it turned out that the author didn't say it, why, my disagreement wouldn't be with the author, but with the reviewer. Bear that in mind as you read my speedy, voluminous, and vehement review-review.

    Just as you don't have to have read the book, you don't have to be an atheist or a gay marriage advocate (I'm a non-conforming neither) to question some of these premises:

    In The Empty Cradle, his indispensable book about falling birthrates, Phillip Longman postulates a number of forces influencing American birthrates.

    Some are obvious: the spread of abortion, contraception, divorce, and women's work opportunities. Another factor is the decline of religious belief (or at least practice) in America over the last 200 years. As Longman writes, 47 percent of those who attend church weekly "say that the ideal family size is three or more children, as compared to only 27 percent of those who seldom attend church." The birthrate in pious Utah is nearly double what it is in secular Vermont.

    There are a host of other small, hidden influences. The social acceptance of homosexuality surely plays some part. And Americans have become more geographically mobile over the years. People now settle farther from their families than ever before - which cuts off a traditional source of support for day-care costs: grandparents. For a variety of reasons, American women have also been putting off childbirth until later in life. Longman notes that "recent studies show that a woman's fertility begins to drop at age 27, and by age 30 can decline by as much as 50 percent." And for practical reasons, the chances of having multiple children decline with age.

    So says Jonathan V. Last (a former blogger who seems to have become a leading anti-blogger) in his review of The Empty Cradle, by Phillip Longman.

    Assuming that Last was talking about the book, and not interjecting his own opinions, I wanted to know more, because there seem to be a couple of unsupported premises there. Let's start with the churches. While I do not doubt that there's a correlation between church non-attendance and fewer children, does that mean there's a causal relationship? Does church non-attendence really cause a failure of reproduction, or might it be that parents with children tend to see church as a more valuable activity, which might help develop their developing children's character? Might it therefore be just as likely that having children promotes church attendance? (I have close friends who never attended church until after they had kids, and now they're regular attendees.) I'd want to know how many of the church goers with children were church regulars before they had kids.

    Intrigued, I looked for more information about the book at Amazon. From the book description:

    Overpopulation has long been a global concern. But between modern medicine and reduced fertility, world population may in fact be shrinking--and is almost certain to do so by the time today's children retire. The troubling implications for our economy and culture include:
    * The possibility of a fundamentalist revival due to the decline of secular fertility
    * The threat to the free market as the supply of workers and consumers declines
    * The eventual collapse of the American health care system as inordinate expenses are incurred by an aging population.
    Obviously, the less secular fertility there is, by definition the more non-secular fertility there will be. But why presuppose a choice between "secularism" and "fundamentalism"?

    As to the connection between the "social acceptance of homosexuality" and the declining birth rate, I couldn't find any mention of it at Amazon. However, there's this comment in one of the reviews:

    [Longman] suggests legalizing gay marriage (p. 175), but fails to address the negative evidence in the Scandinavian countries where gay marriage has already been legalized with the consequences that fertility rates have failed to recover and marriage itself is declining even more precipitously, leading to a less stable environment in which to bear and raise children.
    Gay marriage? If I'd relied solely on Last's review, it would not have occurred to me that the book he was reviewing could possibly have advocated any such thing. Because, if Longman argues against "social acceptance of homosexuality" because it leads to a decline in population, why on earth would he be for gay marriage? I suppose he might be thinking dark conspiratorial thoughts, along the lines of gay marriage causing an antihomosexual backlash which would cause a rush to reproduce by angry heterosexuals driven by righteous vengeance, but I think if he'd made such a nutty statement someone would have been sure to notice it.

    Seriously, I am curious about the theory Last imputes to Longwood. How might "social acceptance of homosexuality" cause a decline in the reproductive rate of the general population? Unless the statement suffers from an omitted premise, I can't see how.

    I mean, suppose you're Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, and you decide to socially accept homosexuality. I've heard the arguments about how acceptance leads to approval, but even if it did, what might that mean? That you'd have gay friends? Invite homosexuals into your home for dinner? That you'd not hesitate to buy from gay businesses? By what mechanism would the attributes of social acceptance lead to having fewer children? Unless your friends were gay Stalinists who made it their business to scold heterosexual "breeders," and you considered it a mandatory part of the social acceptance obligation to take marching orders from them, I'm at a loss.

    More likely, there's a hidden premise to Longman's alleged claim. That the social acceptance of homosexuality is leading ever greater numbers of homosexuals to freely admit their homosexuality -- and that once they have taken this drastic and irreversible step, that they've forever removed themselves from the human breeding pool. (Again, there are premises nested within premises.)

    Does the evidence bear that out?

    Getting reliable figures on the gay population is next to impossible, but estimates range from a low of less than 1% to a high of 6%. As I see it, the problem with eugenics-based theorizing (that gays shrink the population) is that it runs smack into the "gay gene" theory. If we assume that homosexuality is genetic (a theory I regard with great skepticism -- but one which is promoted by gay activists), then if all homosexuals "came out" and rendered themselves non-reproductive, homosexuality would be expected to decline, and homosexuality (at least exclusive homosexuality) would go the way of the Shakers. Without reaching the question of whether gay activists want their own population to die out, if we assume the extinction of the gay gene and a longterm die-off of homosexuals, wouldn't the heterosexual, breeding population only increase over time?

    So, even assuming if we assume complete 100% social acceptance leading to official social and governmental approval of all homosexuality, I'm just unable to see how this could possibly lead to a longterm reduction in population.

    Interestingly, in his discussion of the Longman book, Arnold Kling touches on this:

    I wonder, for example, if liberal attitudes about homosexuality, which reduce the pressure on homosexuals to marry and have children in order to appear normal, will lower the amount of homosexuality in the gene pool at some point.
    I've thought about that too.

    And if I may be forgiven a moment of dark satire, I'd like to think the unthinkable, and ask the unaskable: Might gay marriage be paving the way towards the eventual extinction -- not of the human race, but of the homosexual race?

    (Fortunately, I don't believe in crackpot eugenics theories or sexual ghettoization, and I'm free to advocate old-fashioned things like sexual freedom . . .)

    NOTE: Longman's advocacy of gay marriage is also confirmed at this religious site which disagrees with him. Is it possible that he didn't actually say what Mr. Last has attributed to him? Because if Mr. Longman did advocate gay marriage, while simultaneously complaining about social acceptance of homosexuality, that's a problem which needs explaining. (Of course, if he didn't, there's still some 'splainin' to do.)

    Since when do I have to read a book to find out whether or not it says something that isn't there?

    UPDATE: Thanks to Pajamas Media for the link!

    posted by Eric at 11:14 PM | Comments (6)

    Chocolate and Zucchini

    I wanted to point you toward a truly rewarding blog today, a most excellent blog, a blog guaranteed not to make you feel despairing of, or disgusted with, the damned human race. It's the creation of Clotilde Desoulier, and she calls it Chocolate and Zucchini. If you enjoy food (not necessarily a sure assumption, I've actually met some unfortunate souls who do not), then you will like her blog.

    Now, much as I enjoy a fine meal, I almost never frequent the dauntingly numerous food blogs. They tend to be oriented more towards producers of fine food than consumers, if you take my meaning. Or at least, such has been my experience.

    In simple fact, they intimidate me. You see, I'm not really a very good cook. Bit more of an eater actually, second breakfasts and such being more in my line. For me, the recipe part of a blog posting might just as well be decorative calligraphy.

    This may appear to be off topic, but as Max Beerbohm has so sagely pointed out, mankind can be (roughly) divided into two categories...

    In practice, no, there cannot be any absolute division of mankind into my two categories, hosts and guests. But psychologically a guest does not cease to be a guest when he gives a dinner, nor is a host not a host when he accepts one.

    The amount of entertaining that a guest need do is a matter wholly for his own conscience. He will soon find that he does not receive less hospitality for offering little; and he would not receive less if he offered none. The amount received by him depends wholly on the degree of his agreeableness.

    Pride makes an occasional host of him; but he does not shine in that capacity. Nor do hosts want him to assay it. If they accept an invitation from him, they do so only because they wish not to hurt his feelings. As guests they are fish out of water.

    So count me as one of life's guests. Which perhaps helps to explain why I enjoy Chocolate and Zucchini so much. Miss Desoulier makes me feel like a welcome guest, one who perhaps just happened to drop in for a minute or two, but with whom she's perfectly happy to share her latest doings.

    Did I mention that she's a very fine amateur photographer? Look, here's her gallery. Semi-random excerpts here, here, here, here, here and here. Judge for yourself. If you should see anything that looks especially delicious, you need merely click on it to reach the relevant posting. Here's an example...

    [Green Tea Cat's Tongues]

    Langues de chat are classic French cookies that fall into the category of petits fours secs (dry petits fours, as opposed to miniature versions of pastries with buttercream, pastry cream, etc). They used to be a frequent accompaniment to ice-cream in restaurants, in rotation with cigarettes russes, but I haven't seen that done for a while -- gavottes seem to have taken their place.

    "Cat's tongues" are oval buttery cookies, with a blonde center and lightly browned edges. The packaged versions one can find at French grocery stores are crunchy all over and quite decent, but the homemade langue de chat offers a nice change of texture, with its thin crispy rims and tender, slightly chewy heart.

    Langues de chat are very simple to make, and a great use for leftover egg whites. I usually flavor them with vanilla -- delicious with a warm apricot compote -- but the other day, when my mother asked if I could bring something to nibble on with tea after dinner at their house, I decided it was high time I used the small package of matcha that had been waiting around in my baking treasure box for months, and was beginning to feel just a little dejected.

    I was unsure of how much matcha I should use, so I just added a teaspoon and a half and hoped for the best. As it turns out, this was just the right amount for the earthy green tea notes to come through, without giving the impression that you had just swallowed a spoonful of tea leaves -- if you've ever tried that, you know it's not too pleasant an experience. The flavor was lovely in an adult kind of way, the cookies an interesting shade of olive green, and we liked them so much that I baked a second batch for us the next day.

    A little history, a little domesticity. A winning combination. Do click through for the accompanying picture. It's tres cute, and her photographs are a large part of her blog's appeal. If I couldn't ogle her numerous delightful creations, all I would be left with are her deftly tasty verbal sketches. Here's another...

    Tartines have been a fairly trendy lunch fare in Parisian restaurants for a while. Originally, "tartine" means a slice of bread, toasted or not, with something spread on it, usually eaten for breakfast : butter (tartine beurrée), jam (tartine de confiture), cheese (tartine de fromage)...

    For a few years now, the concept of tartine has been recycled into an easy but delicious main dish : one or two slices of bread on which ingredients are laid, creating a sort of open-faced sandwich. It's interesting to note that this is a flashback to the Middle Ages, when slices of bread were used in lieu of plates!

    This simple idea can lead to an infinite number of variations. But it is a very open concept that should be used with care, and one has to make sure the combination of ingredients is sound. Whipping up a tartine using all the miscellaneous leftovers in the fridge can work wonders. Or not.

    Incidentally, that last excerpt was my introduction to Chocolate and Zucchini. I found it by happy accident. Sometimes internet serendipity can be a wonderful thing. Here is one of my absolute favorites of her postings, excerpted at considerable length. You may have to scroll down a bit on her page...

    And today, let me introduce you to one of the quirky wonders of old-school French charcuterie: the Oeuf en Gelée.

    It's a simple preparation, really: a fresh egg, expertly poached into a plump oval, nested in an amber casing of veal aspic, and supported by a few benevolent companions -- here, a strip of cooked ham, a bit of chopped parsley, a small piece of tomato and a slice of cornichon.

    I am well aware that this may not seem like such a compelling idea, and may even put off more than one aspic-shy eater. I myself turned my nose up at these eggs for years, dismissing them as an obsolete oddity, quite literally congealed in time.

    But that was before I actually tasted them (and before I realized you can't just decide you don't like something before you've even tried it). Maxence had been a long-time fan -- it was always a treat when his mother got him one for lunch -- and when we started living and food-shopping together in Paris, he persuaded me to give them a chance. I was pleasantly surprised, and quick to join him in his devotion.

    First, there is the simple joy of freeing the egg from its thin plastic mold, running a knife around the aspic, squeezing the supple sides of the cup, and plopping its contents onto your plate. Secondly, you get to cut through the whole thing with your fork, rupturing the yolk and forming a golden puddle that just begs to be dabbed with a piece of fresh baguette. And then, as you eat your way through the egg, each bite reveals clean and fresh flavors, the glistening smoothness of the aspic responding marvellously well to the rich velvet of the yolk.

    Step inside any charcuterie, throw a sweeping glance at the selection, and you will quickly spot the disciplined formation of oeufs en gelée, neatly lined up on a refrigerated shelf. Each shop will have its own shapes and formulas -- this one has dill and a sparkling sprinkle of pink peppercorns -- and chances are you will also be able to choose from different models. A popular variation features smoked salmon, but I largely prefer the more humble ham version.

    Doesn't she write beautifully? Yet, there's an unassuming quality to her prose that is very pleasant and disarming. One never feels condescended to. And as for the Oeuf en Gelée itself? My, oh my. It almost doesn't look like food at all, does it? You might reasonably mistake it for an industrial artifact of the distant future, or perhaps one of those plastic jewel boxes that ladies watches were once sold in. I love her blog.

    And now I find out that her father is an absolutely huge Jack Vance fan, as am I. In fact, he is responsible for translating The Blue World into French. Truly an accomplished family!

    There are quite a few other things I'd like to say about Chocolate and Zucchini. Sadly, time presses. Let's leave them for another day and give them the care they deserve.

    In lieu of my own thoughts, I will leave you with those of Miss Desoulier, a tasty dessert if you will...

    A lot can be learned about your cooking self by considering what you eat when you're on your own. I have friends who are just not hungry when they're alone, who (gasp!) forget to eat, who don't consider it a real meal if there's no dining companion, or who just eat a Kinder Surprise, build the little toy and call it dinner -- and I'm not making this up.

    What's most surprising to me is that some of them are great cooks, but somehow they don't find it worth the effort to use their talents if it's just for their own benefit. I say, you should treat yourself as if you were your own guest.

    I certainly understand the desire to keep things simple when no one's looking -- and I'm not saying you should prepare multiple courses and whip out votive candles, although it's a nice thought -- but to me, dinner alone shouldn't be expedited as if it were a chore. Instead, I see it as a unique opportunity to eat exactly what I please and how I want to eat it, comfortable in my delicious solitude. And in my world, this often means eating from a bowl, on the couch, while watching Desperate Housewives.

    posted by Justin at 12:28 PM | Comments (2)

    "a scourge that fuels conflict worldwide"

    That's how the LA Times (writing in today's Philadelphia Inquirer) describes what it calls "the illegal weapons trade" (code-language to describe what the gun grabbers want made illegal):

    UNITED NATIONS - A two-week U.N. conference reviewing efforts to fight the illegal weapons trade has ended in failure, with nations too divided on too many contentious issues to agree on the best way to combat a scourge that fuels conflict worldwide.

    After days of negotiations, delegates on Friday gave up their bid to agree on an "outcome document" meant to reflect their consensus on the most serious threats and the best way to fight the illegal trade in small arms, worth about $1 billion a year.

    "It's a squandered opportunity," said Anthea Lawson, spokeswoman with the International Action Network on Small Arms. "It's preposterous, especially when there was so much will from so many countries to do something."

    The conference was reviewing progress made toward achieving a 2001 program of action to curb the illicit sale of pistols, machine guns, and other light weapons.

    The global small-arms trade is worth about $4 billion a year, of which a fourth is considered illegal, according to the annual Small Arms Survey, an authoritative report on such weapons. The weapons cause 60 percent to 90 percent of deaths in conflicts yearly.

    I think this is yet another editorial masquerading as a "story." Notice the typical code language: guns "fuels conflict". (And, of course, weapons "cause" deaths.) That's the same logic as saying guns cause crime. Never mind that in Rwanda so much of the genocide was perpetrated by Hutus armed with machetes that there's even a book about it titled "Machete Season." Is anyone at the UN complaining that machetes are "fuel"? Is anyone at the UN complaining about the fact that Rwandan gun control meant that only the government-backed Hutus had guns, while their Tutsi victims were legally disarmed and helpless?

    Jeff Soyer takes a different view from the Inquirer and the LA Times:

    Well then maybe, instead of trying to implement a world-wide government control of firearms, it should be left where it belongs -- to the discretion of each country. That way, if England wants to completely disarm their victim populace and grant criminals open season, go for it. And if the U.S. doesn't, bravo!

    If rogue dictatorships want to slaughter innocents, maybe others could try arming the victims of such regimes and evening the playing field.

    Precisely. Had the minority Tutsis been armed, I think the genocidal slaughter would have been rendered impossible.

    Adolf Hitler (leading expert on slaughtering innocents if ever there was one) put it this way:

    The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.
    While we're all appalled by idea of "subject races," it's a lesser known fact that gun control plays a major role in their creation and continued subjugation. The most regrettable chapter in U.S. history was slavery, which was based on the creation and perpetuation of a "subject race." American gun control began precisely as a means for white people to keep black slaves and former slaves subjugated. This despicable story has been amply documented by Clayton Cramer in "The Racist Roots of Gun Control," but it's not considered part of conventional history. Why might that be?

    I hope there isn't a movement to reduce humanity to a collection of "subject races," as I prefer the idea of all men being created equal, and governments which derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    posted by Eric at 11:54 AM

    Deb Frisch Does Understatement
    You might find it queer that a psychologist who studies stereotypes would have such strange stereotypes. But there's more than a grain of truth in the stereotype that psychologists study things that are problematic for them. For example, I study decision making and have a lot of trouble making decisions. I feel ambivalent about most decisions. And most people I know (including me) would say I have a tendency to make bad decisions.
    But wait, there's more...

    In the past, my critiques of Danny and Amos have been kind of snarky. This is partly due to the fact that I was denied tenure by the University of Oregon, in part because some outside reviewers called my critique of their research “confused” and “unsophisticated.” It’s partly due to frustration and irritation at how they dismiss and/or distort the views of other critics, especially Lola. And it’s partly due to anti-Zionist feelings I’ve had since September 11. This combination of personal, professional and political reasons makes me nastier than necessary. After 911, I got into the idea that my current status in academia (migrant professor) is analogous to being a Palestinian in Israel. The only difference is, I used to be a Jew (tenure-track professor). But somehow, in my mind, I’ve started to identify with Palestinians and Iraqis and this increases my desire to throw metaphorical rocks at K&T.
    posted by Justin at 11:55 PM | Comments (4)

    'Objective' reporting

    A BBC headline reads "Ten Taleban fighters 'killed'" and I read 'so they say.' What else could the scare quotes mean? Supposedly? In a manner of speaking?

    Is this meant as a direct quote? It's possible that coalition forces used precisely the word 'killed,' but there's no reason to quote the word unless you want to distance yourself from it.

    And why might someone want to do that? Scare quotes as a rhetorical device are a natural extension of direct quotation as a means of dissociating oneself from a statement. In that regard, they're essentially the same thing. So why would someone, whether consciously or not, dissociate himself from a word like kill?

    Could it be that 'to kill' is neutral? One kills a bug as easily as a proposal. One kills in self-defense. It says nothing about means, manner, or morality. People are killed by accident, killed justly, killed in their sleep.

    The only reason I can come up with is that the term is too neutral. To say that coalition forces have killed members of the Taleban seems to some an understatement. Perhaps they see it as 'murder.'

    Here's the lead*:

    US-led forces in Afghanistan say they have killed 10 suspected Taleban militants in the south of the country.

    Well, that's what they say.

    For his part, the journalist spends the majority of the article listing coalition deaths and injuries with no real elaboration on the headline.

    The final tally from this confused and repetitive article:

  • hundreds of deaths (total? on both sides?)
  • 13 coalition injuries
  • 7 coalition deaths
  • 1 Taleban injury
  • 10 Taleban 'killed.' Or so 'they' say.

    * NB: the spelling 'lede' is a misguided pedantry, despite what your favorite website says.

  • posted by Dennis at 04:14 PM | Comments (1)

    Friendship is treason!
    Love your enemies, for they will tell you your faults.

    -- Benjamin Franklin

    Might William F. Buckley be "one of the reasons Senator Joe Lieberman is having such a tough time running for reelection in Connecticut"? In his recent column, Buckley reminisces and wonders:

    . . .[T]hough Lieberman did not move one inch rightward, we of the Connecticut Right made common cause with him in the defeat of Weicker. And, two terms later, he was designated by candidate Al Gore as running mate in the race against George Bush, which happily Lieberman lost. However, his early backing of the Iraq war, along with such as John Kerry and Al Gore, was a hard commitment and now he suffers for it. The hard-leftist gang, dominated by George Soros and Barbra Streisand, came up with a peachy young man in Greenwich who is rich and handsome and seeks to replace Lieberman in the Senate. Guarding against the possibility that Ned Lamont would win the primary, Joe Lieberman decided over the weekend to begin amassing the support he would need to run as an independent (as Weicker had done when he ran for governor in 1990). It is, in Connecticut as elsewhere, the ideological minorities that are best represented in primary contests, and Lieberman is willing to give up his seat but only in a contest in which all Democrats figure. Lieberman will probably win the primary but if not, he will probably go on to win as an independent.

    But the narrative returns to the 50th anniversary dinner, at which Lieberman and I were seated at the same table. In the days that followed, the Democratic blogosphere gave Lieberman hell for showing up at my party, reading into his presence there ideological courtship, never mind that Lieberman has been a stalwart Democratic 95 percent of his times at bat.

    But in looking into Lieberman's vulnerabilities I discovered in Wikipedia this item: "Following his 2005 State of the Union address, President Bush, after shaking lawmakers' hands, abruptly grasped Lieberman's head in both hands and kissed him on the cheek. At first, Lieberman’s staff humorously referred to the embrace as ‘some kind of Yale thing.’

    Hmmm . . .

    Interesting that Lieberman's voting record won't save him.

    One of my pet peeves is the use of guilt by association to conflate friendship and political treason. I've experienced it firsthand, as a libertarian with friends on both sides of the spectrum. In general, I have learned that left wing ideologues tend more towards an inquisitorial mindset in personal matters than do their counterparts on the right. Leftists make a much bigger deal of these things, and it's as if they're looking for deviation, and, far from being tolerant of it, they think it's something to expose and condemn. In general, the conservatives I've known (even extreme conservatives) do not care about personal friendships with leftists. Leftists, on the other hand, tend to react -- ballistically, like this -- to anyone associated with the "right wing."

    You'd almost think morality was involved, but I don't think that's quite it, as in these matters, even the most morally conservative moral conservatives don't seem to consider friendship a moral issue.

    Yet such conservatives often think all leftists are evil, every bit as much as extreme liberals think all conservatives are evil, so something else is going on.

    I don't like to let politics stand in the way of personal friendship, and I try not to let it. So why the difference? Are leftists more concerned about these things? Is that because they're more concerned with appearances? If so, why?

    I don't think politics should be incompatible with friendship, but I do think that for some people the politics of friendship is more important than friendship itself.

    They don't know what they're missing.

    MORE: The friendship-as-treason hypothesis finds confirmation here:

    the most popular campaign button among the Nedheads displays a photo of the moment when George W. Bush, after his 2005 State of the Union, embraced Lieberman and planted what appears to have been a kiss squarely on his cheek. It might as well have been a kiss of death, of the sort that Michael Corleone gives his treasonous brother Fredo in The Godfather, Part II. For Lamont supporters, the photo symbolizes all that is wrong with Lieberman's approach to politics. One volunteer told me that, when it came to Lieberman, "It always seemed that every time he reached across the aisle, he was compromising our side's principles."
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Hatred seems to be the hottest new political litmus test.

    UPDATE (07/09/06): In another remarkable example of this phenomenon, Philadelphia Weekly columnist Brian McManus manages to condemn the Grateful Dead for the crime of having Ann Coulter as a fan!

    As for Coulter's affinity for the Dead, it makes complete sense when you think about it.

    What other artist or genre could Coulter have named that would've offered such a vivid snapshot of her utter unhipness?

    Metal? Too edgy.

    Steely Dan? Too ironic.

    Soul? As a general prerequisite, you have to be in possession of one to listen to Marvin, Sly, Mayfield and the like. Obvious no.

    That Coulter's favorite band is the Dead is perfect. Let's face it: If complete and total musical know-nothingness had a poker tell, it'd be an enthusiastic and unapologetic proclamation that you love the Grateful Dead "for their music"—something Coulter does several times in the piece.

    Forgive me, but my dark side is wondering about something. . .

    Maybe the recording industry could consider paying hated figures to endorse the competitors' music. Would such reverse psychology work? Or are fans so confident in their tastes that it wouldn't matter?

    As for me, I'd still like the Dead even if Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore both announced they were Deadheads.

    I suspect other Deadheads would be equally non-plussed, because angry Dead-bashing goes back for decades. But does all music work that way?

    posted by Eric at 01:59 PM | Comments (5)

    Forgive me for snitchin' on our standards!


    Here comes yet another post about anti-gun bias in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I like the Inquirer and I honestly wish I didn't have to be doing this, but articles like this latest one just have a way of making me feel obligated.

    Raymond Ruffin, also known as "Dude" or "Black," was shot in the forehead and again in the top of his head.

    Whoever killed him made sure he was dead.

    His mother, Celestine, who lives on neighboring Pierce Street, ran to the corner and held his fallen body.

    It wasn't the first homicide in the family.

    Ruffin's cousin, Anthony Dickerson, 27, also was shot in the head and killed at 24th and Dickinson Streets early last year. Police reported an arrest in the slaying.

    The day before Ruffin was shot, Antose H. Brown, 19, the nephew of Ruffin's stepfather, Reginald Brown, was shot to death at 18th and Ellsworth Streets. There has been no arrest in that case.

    "Everything's going ballistic," said Reginald Brown, 46.

    Mark Broadnax, 24, Ruffin's cousin and housemate on Watkins Street, said he didn't know why his cousin was shot.

    Homicide Capt. Michael Costello said nobody had been arrested.

    "They shoot first and think about the consequences later," Ruffin's stepfather said. "But it's too late. You already took someone's life."

    Just like that, huh? People are killed execution-style, and it's the fault of the guns?

    What about the man who the gun saw fit to execute?

    They also knew Ruffin, who worked at a barbershop in West Philadelphia.

    "He was no angel," Al Payton said, "but he didn't deserve that."

    No angel? That's pretty vague. I could describe myself that way, and I think so could 99.9999% of the people in the world. "No angel" is not much to go on.

    The headline describes the neighborhood as "reeling from gun violence" -- and the first few paragraphs make much of the fact that the husband of a woman said to be caught in crossfire was a war veteran who "took fire" in Iraq:

    He took fire, and that was to be expected.

    In Philadelphia, however, his wife should be safe.

    "It's out of control," he said this week, sitting a few feet from where his wife had collapsed, mortally wounded, inside the house.

    I suspect that many readers won't spend their time reading through the entire article, as they've already made up their minds about whether the guns -- or the shooters -- are to be blamed.

    I admit my bias. I think when someone goes to the trouble of picking up a gun and shooting another human being with it, that he is responsible. The only way I could blame a gun for a shooting would be in those rare instances where it was physically defective and fired itself by accident.

    I realize, of course, that others disagree with me, and that this debate will never, ever, be settled. I am as tired of re-echoing the "guns-don't-kill-people! people-kill-people!" theme as I suspect people are of reading it, no matter what side they're on.

    And this time, I'd like to look at another factor.

    A word. A single, annoying word.


    Back to the Inquirer:

    The police Crime Scene Unit got the call a half-hour before midnight July 1: 2200 block of Watkins Street in South Philadelphia; female shot once; dead. It was the third homicide that Saturday.

    The block was quiet. Witnesses had been taken away to be interviewed by homicide detectives. A few remaining residents sat on their darkened steps and quietly watched as Officer Brian Stark and civilian investigator Karen Auerwick arrived on Watkins Street at 12:30 a.m.

    Armed with flashlights, they scanned the white rowhouse where the unidentified woman was killed. The front door and the storm door were smeared and spattered with blood. "It looks like she's shot in front of the house, and the direction of the blood patterns indicate she was trying to get inside," Stark said.

    A bottle of Canada Dry pineapple soda lay where the woman sat. Inside, a thick puddle of blood on the green carpet marked where she collapsed.

    Auerwick photographed the location and then measured the distances from house to house. They collected a few items as possible evidence. Around the corner, they stopped briefly at the SUV of a Good Samaritan who transported the dying woman to a nearby fire station. Auerwick photographed what appeared to be a bloodstain on the backseat.

    They arrived at the police Forensic Science Center at Eighth and Poplar Streets at 2:45 a.m. Stark relayed what he had been told by homicide detectives at the scene.

    Apparently the "stop snitchin' " mentality plaguing the city had quickly stymied the case.

    "Fifty people having a barbecue, and nobody seen anything," Stark said, using the vernacular of the street.

    "Nobody seen anything, huh?" Officer William Trenwith, a longtime crime-scene investigator, replied with mock surprise.

    "The street's 16 feet wide, and nobody seen anything," Stark said.

    (Emphasis added.)

    While most readers wouldn't get that far in the article, I'm always interested in details, so naturally I'm intrigued by the "the 'stop snitchin'' mentality plaguing the city," and I want to know more -- especially because on the Fourth of July I saw members of the crowd at Penn's Landing wearing black T-shirts which said "STOP SNITCHIN'"

    So what is snitchin'? Is it definition time again? Here's the free dictionary:

    To turn informer: He snitched on his comrades.

    2. An informer.

    "Snitch" is said to be synonymous with "rat," and "stool-pigeon."

    But it's more than that. In the T shirt context, it's a campaign -- an all-but-official one. Wikipedia has an article on the campaign, said to originate with Baltimore criminals:

    Stop Snitchin' refers to a modern campaign by criminals to frighten people with information from reporting their activities to the police. It specifically refers to a Baltimore-based home made DVD that threatened violence against would be informants.

    The campaign has been shown to be an effective measure in dissuading witnesses and disrupting legal proceedings

    Two criminal trials this month were disrupted by an article of clothing.

    A witness called to testify against three men on trial for conspiring to kill him was ejected from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court because he came in wearing a T-shirt that said "Stop Snitchin." Without his testimony, prosecutors were forced to withdraw charges against the three defendants.

    The following day, during the sentencing phase of a federal drug case, an assistant U.S. Attorney paused to show the judge two T-shirts vilifying witnesses who gave prosecutors information about a cocaine kingpin.

    One shirt had a photograph of a witness, an admitted drug dealer, who eventually won a reduced sentence for cooperating with authorities. Above his image and a photo of another cooperating witness were the words "No snitching allowed." On the opposite side, it read "Niggas Just Looking For a Deal" and, once again, "Stop Snitchin."

    The back-to-back incidents were no coincidence. The shirts belong to an urban fashion trend that hit Boston and Baltimore about a year ago and is now taking hold on the streets of Pittsburgh.

    The above article features a picture of the shirts from a sales display:


    Yeah, that's the same Tee as the ones worn at Penn's Landing on the Fourth. Obviously this anti-snitchin' meme has blossomed into a big business.

    What that means is that the "stop snitchin' code" is not limited to helpless neighborhood residents plagued by crime. It's actively promoted by heroic media celebrities like Lil Kim -- recently released from a federal prison here in Philadelphia amidst huge hoopla.

    (A hoopla which was covered in a piece failing to mentioned the key role played by the the "snitchin'" meme in the context of Lil Kim. Odd, because not only is she a major anti-snitchin' heroine, but the piece was written by the same reporter who wrote today's "gun violence" lament.)

    Elsewhere, though, the Lil Kim snitchin' meme has not been ignored. Far from it. As the "Lil Inky" reports, the big bad MSM has devoted a lot of money to making high-profile documentaries about her -- the "executive director" of which openly express sympathy with the no-snitching code:

    Lil' Kim (real name: Kimberly Jones) was sentenced in September to "a year and a day" behind bars. She's been serving time at Philadelphia's Federal Detention Center for lying to a grand jury about a 2001 shoot-out between members of her entourage and a rival rap crew in front of a New York radio station.

    Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown launches March 9. The promos may appear to support the rapper, but BET takes no position on her crime, network officials said here yesterday at the opening day of the TV Critics Association's winter meetings.

    "We take a very serious look at her life and her choices, and the consequences of those choices," said Reginald Hudlin, BET's new president of entertainment. He labeled Kim's situation "absurd, tragic, Fellini-esque." (He's a Harvard grad.)

    Hudlin, a film writer/director (Boomerang; The Ladies Man), will continue to serve as executive producer of The Boondocks on Cartoon Network. He directed the pilot of Chris Rock's new UPN comedy, Everybody Hates Chris.

    BET and UPN are owned by Viacom; Cartoon Network is a Time Warner property.

    Back to Lil' Kim's ethics. "We're letting viewers decide," Lockdown executive director Tracey E. Edmonds said in an interview. "We just want to educate them on all the issues involved, and the type of pressure that would lead her to make that decision."

    As for Edmonds' personal view, she would "have to support" Lil' Kim, "because even though it may have been against the law, she was under a lot of pressure.

    "She was courageous enough to accept the fact that she made a mistake and is suffering the consequences. She's not blaming anyone but herself. She was prepared to serve her time."

    Lockdown will also enlighten viewers about the "no snitch" code of the 'hood, Edmonds said. Kim "had a tough upbringing in Brooklyn. She was taught from day one that you do not snitch. You try to stay uninvolved."

    I think it's unfortunate that someone would grow up with such a "code," but that doesn't tell me much about the word "snitch."

    Lil Cease (who testified as a witness against Lil Kim) says he's "not a snitch" and explains the nuances of the term:

    Lil' Cease says he just didn't have a choice.

    If you're from the streets, one of the most honored codes is that you don't tell, especially not on your friends. And although he testified against his estranged friend Lil' Kim in her perjury trial, he maintains he's not a snitch.

    "Being that Kim took the case to trial, they subpoenaed all the witnesses," Cease said on Friday (see "Lil' Kim Found Guilty Of Lying To Grand Jury, Investigators"). "Me and Kim wasn't on good terms for the moment, and she made it clear to the world that she didn't want to have anything to do with me and my peoples. So she wasn't trying to call us to her defense. Being that we was witnesses there, the U.S. government subpoenaed us. And there's nothing you can do about that. When you're subpoenaed, you either come or they take your ass to jail. It's just that simple."

    So, if there's a federal subpoena and you're not on good terms with someone, testifying about that person isn't snitchin'.

    Is that the rule in all cases, or only in Lil Cease's case? Anyway, even the rule in Lil Cease's case seems to be questionable, as unless I am reading this wrong, Lil Kim still seems to think Lil Cease is a snitch:

    He says he doesn't appreciate them calling him a snitch in various media outlets.

    "Keep my name out of your mouth," Cease insisted. "I was really bugging off Cam because I saw him a couple of times ... and everything was all gravy. I'm like, 'OK, n---as is taking shots.' But [Cam] sat there and did something I didn't do. You get on a record and say the n---a threw up the Roc sign before he shot you [last year]. That's dry snitching. I got no love for them."

    Cease says he's been catching it pretty hard since Lil' Kim and others labeled him a snitch after he testified against her in the highly publicized perjury trial.

    "It took its toll," he said. "It [messed] up my street cred for a minute. I never got disrespected as far as n---as in your grill saying it, but that's everybody's word: 'The n---a is a snitch.' That had me feeling [bad]. A lot of people didn't want to do business with me. They didn't want to play our records. They thought I fouled out." ease says he's going to show the full transcript of his testimony in Kim's trial as added proof.

    The Junior M.A.F.I.A. are also planning to release a soundtrack mixtape for the DVD with guest appearances from Method Man and Peedi Crakk. Cease is also working on his solo LP.

    "A real power unit is trying to holla at me," he said.

    Sheesh! Now the whole recording industry is involved! I don't know much about the music, and I'm afraid this business of snitchin' is getting a little over my head.

    But considering the commercial aspects, maybe I don't need to define snitch. After all, I'm just a blogger, trying my best to be representing the English language and logic and common sense and stuff which really isn't relevant to these things.

    I mean, isn't this a question for the big guys in the industry?

    Can't they come up with an industry standard?

    My sarcasm aside, I think something serious is being missed here, and it may touch on an unresolved cultural problem.

    When I was a kid, I was not a snitch. Meaning, I wasn't what you'd call a "tattle tale." But a snitch in those days meant being a boy who would "tell" on his friends for doing bad things.

    I can't speak for anyone's childhood but my own (and I admit it's arguable whether I ever grew up, but that's another issue), but I can state honestly that while boys who misbehaved considered all tattle-tales to be snitches, it was considered worse to snitch on your own comrades in crime than to be a good responsible boy who would tell on the bad boys. The latter, while worthy of boyish contempt, were mere "Sidney Sawyer" types -- and not nearly as detestable as the former. That was because if you were a boy prone to misbehave, you knew who the good boys were. They were not comrades, and you could avoid them.

    This code of children that I grew up with, while it might be lamentable from an adult perspective, is at least understandable, because it is inherent in any institutional setting where there are authority figures who set rules. Thus, in a prison setting, the rules are very different than they would be for free adults who provide for themselves independently.

    I think it's fair to point out that now that I am an adult, I still don't consider myself to be the adult version of a snitch, which is a "rat." I don't provide damaging information about friends or comrades. That, however, does not mean that I would not call the cops or testify against a neighbor who opened fire on the neighborhood -- to say nothing of a stranger who might enter the neighborhood and commit crimes. Calling the cops or testifying at a trial of such a person would not (in my opinion) be ratting, because I'm not part of his conspiracy or plan, and merely being a neighbor of someone does not obligate me in the least to be silent if he decides to go on a criminal rampage.

    So what am I missing here? If a neighbor did shoot another neighbor, I'd blame him, and I would willingly tell the police all I knew. I would not be a rat for doing so, and I would not even think of blaming the gun he used.

    But I must wonder: Might there be a connection between the "no snitchin' code" and blaming guns?

    I mean, if you live in a culture where snitchin' is not allowed, what else can you blame? Think about it. If guns are considered evil by the authorities (or whoever might constitute the collective powers-that-be), and you live in an area seeped in institutional standards from cradle to grave, why, a gun is an external, neutral thing. There's no way you can get in trouble for laying blame on the gun. And it's not snitching (or even "telling") to say that the gun went off -- because that's not in dispute. So there's a certain emotional appeal to simply blaming the gun.

    Especially if there are people who want to hear it.

    What this means is that if I were against guns, and I thought in a Machiavellian manner, I would be 100% in favor of the stop snitchin' campaign.

    The problem with this approach is that getting people to feel sorry for people who won't "snitch" is a tougher sell than blaming the guns. So it would be in my interest to say as little as possible about snitchin'!

    But me, I'm on the other side!

    That's why I'm snitchin'!

    posted by Eric at 11:58 AM

    Sanity is optional

    Miss me?

    I know I did.

    Woulda left you alone, but one of my favorite blogs is under a DDOS attack right now, and it's pissing me off so much that I just had to get toasty. And you know what happens when daddy gets toasty. That's write. He starts righting.

    In other news, Khalid is angry, and according to CNN, that aught to scare me. I'm curious as to why, precisely, I'm supposed to be scared, and CNN is now just catching on. Given my current inclinations, perhaps it's CNN which should be scared.

    Wait a moment! I've just engaged in a double standard! Kindly drag me out in front of the obvious bus and have me shot for consumption of common sense.

    Yes, I bring you drunken variants on freedom today. Why? My suspicion is that I'm not actually drunk enough. I hope you all will forgive me. Two more shots of vodka and another two minutes of rambling should rectify the situation in to an appropriate level of incoherence though. Fear not dear reader!

    Know what I've discovered? The world is not very good at spelling. So let me go ahead and spell a few things out for you. When's the last time you've heard of a socialist/communist/lefty/liberal website getting knocked down from a distributed denial of service attack? Really. Seriously. When's the last time Kos, or, um, Kos, or, yeah, you know, all those liberal sites out there I don't read. Really. When's the last time one of them got taken down from a malicious attack?

    'Cuz I can name a dozen high profile right wing/ libertarian / conservative sites which have been knocked down in such fashion. You've got your LGF, you've got your Instapundit, you've got your Jawa Report, you've got your PW, you've got your Ace, you've got your Malkin, you've got your... if you're unfamiliar with these acronyms, well, it doesn't really matter. You get the point, and you can all find the links ultimately buried under the improbably dense blogroll to your right. Or Google. Always a good place to start, that whacky, happy-go-lucky Google. I mean, so long as you're not Chinese and all.

    Thought: while on a large scale basis the pen might well be mightier than the sword (digression: no really, just look at the NYT and the damage it's able to do to the Bush administration. Suspend for a moment your opinions on said administration one way or the other. Just look at the damage. Carnage I tell ya. Blood dripping gore covered heaps of corpses violated, mutilated, and desecrated. And that's just the NYT. Lump in the BBC, WaPo, LAT, [insert more acronyms until people get the point], and you're left with nothing but a steaming pile of entrails.


    But what I'm here to tell you right now is that the sword is incredibly mightier than the pen on a case-by-case basis.

    Trust me on this one. Lest I be forced to ventilate ya.

    And in conclusion... said conclusion going exceptionally well with my lack of a point... I present to you a couple random quotes coughed up for me by the generosity of... Google!

    "No man remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself."
    - Thomas Mann

    "Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers."
    - TS Eliot

    "Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge."
    - Paul Gauguin

    That last one's my favorite. Bitches.

    posted by Cosmic Drunk at 12:34 AM | Comments (3)

    Professor moves from insults to threats against children?

    Of all the various forms of viciousness I've seen in the years I've been blogging, this one takes the cake.

    While I can't open Jeff's links right now as his site is down, via Pajamas Media and Ace, I see that Jeff Goldstein's two year old child has been threatened by University of Arizona psychology professor Deb Frisch. Says Ace:

    When it comes to lunatics expressing their hope that a two year old boy gets "Jon Benet[ed]," it's time for her boss to know precisely what he's giving a paycheck to.
    Ace is pissed as hell, and has another post here.

    Incivility and ad hominem attacks are one thing, but this. . .

    I don't think I've seen anything quite so despicable in the three plus years that I've been blogging.

    The text of what Deb Frisch said (via Six Meat Buffet) follows below (because it's so psychotically disturbing I don't want to look at it when I open my blog). What I find most incredible about this is that she really seems to be working as a professor.

    If I had a kid attending the University of Arizona, I'd sue for a refund.

    MORE: Froggy at Blackfive has more (in a post titled "A New Low") and also explains that Jeff Goldstein is under a DDOS attack:

    I just spoke with Jeff by phone and he informed me his site is currently under two (2) Denial of Service attacks at this time. Apparently, some elements of the psychotic left are closing ranks around Dr. Frisch and seemingly approve of her tactics of threatening children with death and sexual abuse. Nice going.

    Frisch makes Ward Churchill look like a nice sweet man.

    UPDATE: Deb Frisch has apologized. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    UPDATE: For blog pathologists interested in the Deb Frisch style of trolling, the "Deb Frisch" comments at this Crooked Timber post vacillate between aggressor and victim, leveling bogus charges then pliantly retracting them.

    Interesting, as of right now she seems quite unfazed, and unless someone else is using her name, she's still be at it today, over at Ace's.

    Ace commenter "Jeff G" links to another comment made by "Deb Frisch" here which purports to "explain" her threat against the two-year-old:

    By telling Jeff that I would not be upset if harm came to his two year old, I was trying to create in him the feeling I had from all the sexual comments.
    (Names are in quotes because there's no way to be sure that things are what they appear.)

    And finally, at her blog, Deb Frisch is saying she's not as bad as conservatives:

    It is unbelievable that a comment saying I would not care if harm came to your child is such a crime to the rightwingnuts when they've been happy as clams to send American dupes to murder, maim, rape and torture (yup folks - depriving people of electricity and clean water is a form of torture!) Iraqi children for four years.
    Personally, I think she's enjoying the attention. It's a pity that such despicable methods often work.

    UPDATE (07/09/06): Thank you Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post, and welcome all!

    New CV readers, don't miss Justin's post about Deb Frisch's self-proclaimed identification with Palestinians and her stated desire to "throw metaphorical rocks." This caused commenter DANEgerous to opine:

    Oh I get it... now that she identifies with Palestinians she has an overwhelming desire to kill Jewish toddlers...

    Sure... makes perfect sense now.

    Seriously, if anyone had told me when I started blogging that the killing of bloggers' toddlers would ever be a topic under discussion, I wouldn't have believed them.

    MORE: Via Glenn's link, I was appalled to read Gateway Pundit's reminder about the political targeting of children (including a threat by animal rights activists to cut open a 7-year-old and stuff him with poison) being nothing new. I'd written about the latter threat previously, but until today I had not known about targeting the children of members of the Minutemen group.

    Just wondering. . . Might any of this be called "eliminationist rhetoric"? Or is that term only used to condemn Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh, etc.?

    MORE: As if anyone needed more evidence of trolling by "Deborah Frisch, Ph.D.," I found some comments purporting to be made by her to University of Chicago Economics Professor Steven D. Levitt at his Freakonomics blog:

    Also, I think your research is lame. You relentlessly pursue inanely trivial topics (poker, baseball, sumu wrestling). When you stumble across a real topic (abortion), you pathologically reject the obvious policy implications of it.

    Your refusal to acknowledge that your results are pro-liberal shows that you are either a republican or a wimp. I’ve heard from a mutual acquaintance (an mba student at chicago) that you are not a republican so i deduce that you’re a wimp. (Personally, I don’t think your data are ammo for the pro-choice crowd. I don’t think you showed that legalization of abortion CAUSES a decrease in crime, but that’s another story.)

    It seems like your goal in life is to titilate adolescent boys and men whose interests are similar to theirs rather than shed light on issues of societal importance.

    I believe economists pose a greater threat to the security and well-being of the country than al qaeda. Ben Shalom Bernanke, Larry Summers and especially, John Graham scare me more than Osaddama.


    From gay to economist to Jew bashing?

    It all has a familiar ring.

    Continue reading "Professor moves from insults to threats against children?"

    posted by Eric at 07:23 PM | Comments (3)

    Defusing the FMA?

    A brief word on decision by the New York Supreme's decision that same sex marriage is a matter for the legislature. (Excellent roundup from Glenn Reynolds, who also links Gay Patriot's thoughtful post on the subject.)

    I think it is a matter for the legislature, and that's why I also agree with GayPatriot that the decision will help defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment. A central argument advanced in the Amendment's favor is based on the premise that out-of-control activist courts are legislating same sex marriage.

    Keeping the matter in the legislature where it belongs tends to shift the issue (and the argument) from "out of control activist courts" to one of states' rights. From the activists' standpoint, getting a change in the marriage laws through the legislature is a lot harder -- and much slower -- than a carefully selected and well-publicized test case aimed at persuading a single court.

    Of course, I'm always looking ahead to future elections, and it remains to be seen which party will benefit most from this shift.

    (My gut feeling is that defusing the issue might redound more to the benefit of the Democrats, but it's too early to tell.)

    UPDATE (07/09/06): It didn't take Hillary Clinton long to step up to the newly defused plate:

    Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton sidestepped the controversy over gay marriage in New York yesterday, reiterating her support for gay civil unions and calling for "full equality for people in committed relationships" after the state's highest court rejected marriage rights for same-sex couples.

    Mrs. Clinton's remarks, which made no specific mention of gay marriage, disappointed and even angered some gay rights advocates, who are now recruiting political leaders to push a gay marriage bill through the State Legislature.

    The New York Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that lawmakers, not the courts, were the proper authority to consider the issue.

    Some advocates said privately that they were particularly annoyed by Mrs. Clinton's use of the phrase "full equality," given that it echoes the phrase "marriage equality," which gay groups use to describe gay marriage.

    Activists are not happy:
    Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said Mrs. Clinton's position was at odds with the personal wishes of many gay New Yorkers.
    The dust will have plenty of time to settle . . .

    MORE: Chuck Schumer echoes Hillary:

    New York's senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, also said yesterday that he supported civil unions and that the Legislature, not the Court of Appeals, should decide any policy on gay marriage.

    His view drew criticism from the gay rights advocates along the same lines that Mrs. Clinton faced, but it was less fierce.

    Democrats for states rights! Who'da thunkit?

    This puts the Democrats in the enviable position of having to do absolutely nothing except wait for the Republicans to move further to the "right" by agitating against states rights -- or even against domestic partnerships.

    Clayton Cramer is surprised by this ruling in such a liberal state, but I am not.

    Might the judicial skids have been greased? Was this a taste of the famed Clintonian triangulation strategy rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of history?

    Too soon to tell.

    posted by Eric at 11:09 AM | Comments (1)

    Another day, another wolf

    In previous posts, I discussed allegations of an allegedly "secret" government plan to create a "North American Union" which would supposedly erase the borders between the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

    I now see that John Hawkins of Right Wing News has entered the fray, in a dramatic online debate with John Corsi, the man who's been sounding the alarm at World Net Daily and at Human Events (the latter hosting the current debate).

    John Hawkins doesn't think there's much cause for alarm right now:

    Let's cut to the chase here, folks: Corsi's articles amount to a great big sack of nothing. There's just no "there, there" to anything he's saying. I mean this stuff is so ludicrous that the sort of people who believe that the Trilateral Commission secretly controls the whole world would look at it and go, "No, that's just too far fetched."

    The President simply cannot arbitrarily combine the US with Mexico and Canada. Even if he could, Bush isn't going to be in office in 2010. Do you think President George Allen or President Newt Gingrich is just going to walk into the Oval Office, see a plan on his desk that says, "US/Mexico/Canada Merger," and go, "Well, it is on the desk, so I guess we'll have to do it." It would take a complete rewrite of the Constitution to make this work, which has absolutely no chance of happening.

    All that Corsi has stumbled onto here are a few bureaucratic documents describing how we're going to better cooperate with our neighbors on issues like trade and security, no different than you'd see anywhere else in the world where neighboring nations are trying to get along. It's not frightening, it's not scary, and it's not going to lead to an "Amero" or a "Super State." Take it from someone who has soundly thrashed George Bush's position on immigration, who has defended the Swifties time and time again, and who also writes for Human Events: Corsi's series of articles are completely and utterly without merit.

    More at Human Events and Right Wing News, and trust me, it's getting nasty. (I think it's significant that Corsi has attempted to remove what John properly calls "enormous blunders" -- apparently without even admitting his mistake!)

    I think Corsi's argument elevates paranoia over substance. The fact that "working groups" have been formed does not mean anything in the legal sense, because they have no power to do anything.

    What I think is going on is hobnobbing by utopian globalists, which has been uncovered by people who are crying wolf. However, I think it's important to remember that that does not mean that there might not be a wolf in the future.

    Lots of gun owners, for example, are indignant about the UN's plan for international gun control, and for now, John Bolton is preventing the United States from entering into any treaty which would violate the Second Amendment. The present ineffectiveness of a conspiracy does not negate the existence of a conspiracy, and the powerlessness of conspirators does not negate their existence.

    And just because a group of utopian globalists can't erase the border does not mean that this is not their plan. They'll keep trying. And I imagine that the blogosphere will keep watching.

    In this respect, the neat thing about the blogosphere is its sheer size, and uncontrollable nature. What that means is the obsolescence of the old "boy who cried wolf" principle. In the old days, a boy could cry wolf once, maybe twice, and then eventually, no one would pay any attention if on the third occasion he turned out to be right.

    WorldNetDaily, for example, often strikes me as the boy who simply will not stop crying wolf, because he's now grown into a professional wolf-crier. (I called them on at least one prediction I can remember, and I'm ever-skeptical.)

    But with the blogosphere, hordes of highly motivated analysts are now there to go over every detail of every boy's cry of wolf. If it turns out that a cry of wolf happens to be right, and that is verified by a blogger, even if the blogger is small and insignificant, his verification of the wolf cry will now be noticed, and will tend to work its way up whatever blog heirarchy might exist at the time.

    Every cry of wolf can now be heard, analyzed, debunked. Or taken seriously when necessary.

    I think it's cause for optimism, and I think it's worth remembering that there's more than one moral lesson in the story of the boy who cried wolf.

    "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"
    There's tragedy in missing the truth because it was told by a liar. While Aesop understood the importance of truth, he didn't realize that one day there'd be a lot of nobody bloggers listening.

    (These nobody bloggers, of course, have the time to evaluate every lie. And every potential truth.)

    UPDATE: Speaking of global utopianism (which in this case is not paranoia at all) David Kopel reports that the UN gun-grabbing conference has ended in failure for the UN, and victory for the Second Amendment:

    Today's victory is extremely important, but it should not be mistaken for a final victory in the international arena. The international gun prohibition lobbies are already looking towards other international fora where they can advance their goals, including their ultimate prize--a binding treaty requiring severe restriction of citizen gun possession. The various U.N. departments which have been providing funding and propaganda for gun prohibition and confiscation will almost certainly continue to do so.

    For now, everyone who cares about the right to arms has much to celebrate.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Kopel notes that things could have gone very differently with a different president. And they'll be back.

    So will the blogosphere.

    posted by Eric at 09:38 AM | Comments (1)

    "Please don't hurt me!"
    "Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it."

    --Mark Twain

    Earlier reports that the the attacker who sawed open a passenger's chest in the New York subway was carrying a teddy bear seem to have been inaccurate; according to authorities, Mr. Williams was actually carrying this:

    Subway monkey.JPG

    From the NY Daily News, here's the latest:

    Cops arrested accused madman Tareyton Williams at 5:40 a.m. after he allegedly slugged Oliver Vaquer, 29, who was walking his dog with his pregnant wife on W. 86th St. near West End Ave.

    "He was big, all muscles, and he had a crazy blank look in his eyes, but I just thought he was going to ask for money," said Vaquer, a commercial voice-over artist.

    "The next thing I knew he punched me as hard as he could, and I fell on a newspaper box."

    As Vaquer's wife screamed for help, he said, Williams hit him in the face again and on the arm, then walked away.

    "It was the craziest thing," Vaquer said. "Not a word from him, nothing. He was either on drugs or didn't take the ones he should have, but we realize now how much worse it could have been."

    The suspect, a 33-year-old convicted drug dealer, was cradling a stuffed toy gorilla shortly after 3 a.m. when he entered the 110th St. station in Morningside Heights, witnesses said.

    Construction workers from Five Star Electric Corp. were replacing a sound system when Williams allegedly strolled onto the southbound No. 1 train platform, where he dropped the 2-foot-tall toy.

    After urinating into an empty bottle and tossing it into a garbage can, Williams suddenly ran toward the workers, witnesses said.

    "He picked up our tools and started chasing us. He just had a dumb look on his face. He seemed deranged," said one worker. "He didn't say a word. Nobody knew how to react. Everyone ran in the opposite direction." (Emphasis added.)

    I hate to quibble, but the toy in the picture looks more like a chimpanzee. Whatever.

    But is the identity of the toy really of vital importance to understanding the dynamics? It's just another distraction. What isn't funny is this society's paralyzing inability to deal with the criminally deranged. Society will not protect us -- which means that we as individuals have to take care of ourselves.

    What I find totally unacceptable is that the same society that refuses to protect us against hallucinatory scum increasingly will not allow us to protect ourselves. People are taught to be passive, and they are told that "doing their job" consists of complying with the demands of the insane and the dangerous. I think the mindset starts in the elementary schools, where teachers are forced to passively watch aggressive children engage in destructive, disruptive behavior.

    Employees -- whether in stores, banks, or the New York subway system -- are made to cooperate, no matter what.

    Fortunately, the 9/11 hijackings awakened people to what can happen when this compliance attitude is carried too far. I'd be willing to bet that had this same psycho acted this way on an airplane, people would have seen the wisdom of jumping him.

    Not that anybody wants to jump a psychotic muscle man who's on drugs or hasn't taken his medication. Who can blame them? You might get hurt, and besides, what if no one helped you? Who wants to be a dead hero? Who wants to get sued?

    The answer is of course to carry something that will tend to level the playing field, to equalize. Guns immediately come to mind:

    The Equalizer

    Be not afraid of any man,
    No matter what his size.
    When danger threatens, call on me
    And I will equalize.

    Nice Victorian poem. Except today, guns are illegal in New York. Only criminals and police have them (and criminals can easily spot cops ahead of time). Law abiding citizens are disarmed.

    This leaves what? A stun gun? Wrong! Possession of stun guns is also illegal in New York.

    Even pepper spray is strictly controlled. It's considered a deadly weapon, and may be sold only by authorized dealers:

    (b) Before delivering a self-defense spray device to any person, the licensed or authorized dealer shall require proof of age and a sworn statement on a form approved by the superintendent of state police that such person has not been convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault. Such forms shall be forwarded to the division of state police at such intervals as directed by the superintendent of state police. Absent any such direction the forms shall be maintained on the premises of the vendor and shall be open at all reasonable hours for inspection by any peace officer or police officer, acting pursuant to his or her special duties. No more than two self-defense spray devices may be sold at any one time to a single purchaser.
    Of course, it's illegal to buy pepper spray online, or transport it to New York from another state. Not only that, the New York variety is the weaker 2% solution, which might not work against everyone.

    I haven't researched the law regarding blackjacks, brass knuckles, and other weapons which might tend to even the score, but I'm pretty sure they'd be illegal.

    That's because New York is a civilized place where people in authority (like the MTA employees) will sit there and watch while your chest is sawed open.

    Oh, I almost forgot. They were "traumatized" by watching.

    (While it's none of my business, you'd think this stuff would eventually be bad for tourism.)

    posted by Eric at 07:39 AM | Comments (2)

    Disarmed is out-sawed

    New York subway incidents like this are in my view doing a pretty good job of making the case for right to carry laws:

    The victim of the subway power-saw attack says workers at the Manhattan station did nothing as a man sliced his chest open.

    Meanwhile, police say they've charged a man who they say fits the description of the attacker.

    The victim, Michael Steinberg, 64, said in a phone interview from his bed at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital that he had just put his MetroCard through a turnstile at the West 110th Street and Broadway station about 3:30 a.m. when he saw transit employees running down the platform. "I saw this guy with a hacksaw, or whatever the hell it was running toward them."

    Steinberg, who was on his way to his job as a postal worker, says he didn't know what was going on and that "all I was thinking was I was late for work. I just wanted to get to work."

    "And the guy came outside, where I was standing--he looked at me, and before I knew it, he was attacking me."

    Police say the suspect had snatched up two cordless power saws from a workbench being used by a contractor, and taken a swipe at one rider on the platform before attacking Steinberg. An MTA spokesman said the tools were on a cart that was cordoned off, and were not out in the open.

    The suspect sliced open Steinberg's chest, puncturing his lung, before fleeing on foot, police said. Police say he also robbed Steinberg of his wallet, which had cash and credit cards. The saws were later found ditched in a trash can on West 110th Street.

    "I screamed for help, 'Please help, please help me'" says Steinberg, who lives on 113th Street and is in critical but stable condition. "The transit authority people heard me, and they just looked at me, and they never stopped to help me."

    "That disturbs me more than anything else."

    I'm sure none of them are allowed to be armed. But if it's any consolation to the victim, New York's MTA workers are in a special, legally protected category -- as I noted just a few weeks ago, after the last subway mayhem spree.

    They've posted signs like this everywhere:


    Maybe the sign is working after all. After all, he only sawed through the chest of a passenger, and there were plenty of MTA employees around.

    I'm amazed that New Yorkers put up with such nonsense.

    Not that I have any illusions that they'll change their draconian gun laws or anything, but I think that if another Bernard Goetz came along, it might make a few of these psychos think twice.

    MORE: Tha arrested man, Tareytown Williams (an ex-convict who had earlier been seen holding a teddy bear) seems to be your typical angry street psychotic. Probably the type who walks around yelling at people all day as they tiptoe gingerly around him hoping he won't go ballistic on them. The MTA workers (who did nothing to intervene) are said to be traumatized:

    One MTA worker says the attack was a frightening scene for his colleagues.

    "They're very shook up," said MTA Supervisor Saint Dorceus. "They're very shook up because this is an incident that happened right in front of them. The guy grabbed their tools and went to work trying to kill people. And so it's traumatic."

    I can remember when people who behaved like rabid animals were locked up. Now, there are armies of activist bureaucrats almost singlemindedly devoted to making sure they're "free." Reform (in the sense of taking these people off the street) is impossible. What that means is that ordinary people who want to be safe can either arm themselves, or take their chances.

    What's interesting about this is that we wouldn't allow wild animals or rabid dogs to roam the subways.

    Why is that?

    posted by Eric at 04:38 PM | Comments (1)

    madrassa update II

    Regular reader may recall that there's a Saudi madrassa operating in my neighborhood which has been the subject of a number of complaints. A ruling from the Zoning Board is due next week, and the Philadelphia Inquirer has an article with lots of details:

    Foundation leaders are pledging to be better neighbors from here on, but residents are proving a tougher sell this time.

    The Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board took up the expansion proposal in November. After a second hearing in May, James Greenfield, attorney for 26 neighborhood families, asked the board to reject the zoning application, saying: "The foundation clearly will not police itself and has no qualms about expanding its use without regard for governmental regulation. The board must, therefore, regard this institution as a threat to the surrounding community."

    More background on the dispute:
    In 1993, the foundation, a New York nonprofit religious group headed by Saudi businessmen, agreed to buy the campus of Northeastern Christian Junior College, the former Morris Clothier estate, for $2.7 million.

    About 60 families dropped opposition to the 1994 zoning change after agreeing on the covenants. The zoning board, incorporating some of the covenants in its order, then ruled that the foundation's plans posed no threat to public health, safety and welfare.

    That was the high point of the relationship.

    The zoning order had given the foundation approval to hold as many as six retreats a year, at least 30 days apart, and to use the college dormitories to house up to four members of the support staff and their families. Outdoor sound systems were prohibited, as were outdoor calls to prayers, or calls inside that neighbors could hear.

    During the November hearing, Manal el-Menshawy, foundation general manager, acknowledged that "much more than six, about 10," retreats had been held during summers, violating the 30-day intervals. The foundation also began an elementary school in 1999 and was the site of a summer camp in 2004, neither permitted under the original zoning order.

    In addition, retreat groups set up outdoor speakers whose sounds carried easily into backyards of neighbors, and refugees from Turkey and homeless people were temporarily housed in the dormitories.

    Neighbors testified at the May hearing that they were especially concerned that the foundation could not provide much information on what groups used the grounds for retreats or assurances that the foundation supervised their activities.

    "It gets kind of scary in terms of security and what they're doing up there," said Kent Haas, one of about 30 neighbors whose properties abut the foundation.

    Exacerbating relations with neighbors were reports this year that a convicted child abuser, subsequently identified through the Pennsylvania Megan's Law Web site, had been spotted at the foundation. In addition, the foundation's Web site was discovered to link to what Greenfield said was "some material that can be construed as anti-Semitic or anti-American."

    While there is no way to know everything that goes on there, what has been seen has the neighbors worried, and at the hearing it became quite clear that very little oversight or supervision is exercised by the people who are supposed to be running the place. It's right smack in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood, and is surrounded by homes with backyards abutting the madrassa.

    As was made clear in the article, the problem is not that it is a Saudi madrassa, but that it simply isn't behaving in the way neighbors would reasonably expect a religious institution located in a suburban residential neighborhood to behave:

    "It has very little to do with the fact it is an Islamic institution," said Township Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig, who has been heavily involved in working to bring both groups together. "It could be a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a day camp, any institution. It's about following the rules and being a good neighbor."

    It was not until early 2004, after residents complained about plans to house refugees and homeless people, that the foundation applied to the zoning board to expand activities under the 1994 zoning order, according to Michael Wylie, township zoning officer.

    Upon protests by neighbors, the foundation dropped plans for housing refugees and the homeless. It is seeking approval for the elementary school and for summer camps.

    Approval after the fact, of course. They've been violating the original agreement without consulting anyone, and now they act as if they can waltz right through and obtain approval for things that were never agreed to, and probably would not have been. The neighbors would not feel any differently had this been a synagogue or a Catholic school.

    All the neighbors want is peace and quiet. But according to the report, the Islamic Center can't seem to give them that -- not even while the hearing results are pending:

    As the zoning board moves toward a decision, another incident has roiled the waters. Haas said last week that on June 11 "the foundation started blaring Arabic broadcasts at an outing once again."

    Police were called, but Haas said foundation officials told officers that they had a waiver for that day.

    Wylie said he was investigating, but "we didn't give any kind of approval to use any kind of amp system."

    Haas said he was amazed the foundation would risk a confrontation with neighbors during its appeal to expand activities.

    Menshawy, foundation general manager, denied there were any outdoor speakers. She said police had responded twice that day but "didn't hear anything."

    From what I saw at the hearing, it seemed that Ms. Menshawy did her level best to deny everything that it was possible to deny.

    There are, of course, larger implications than peace and quiet in a particular neighborhood.

    And unlike most synagogues and Catholic schools, Saudi madrassas in general don't have the greatest track record, which means that you'd think they'd be on their best behavior. The attitude and conduct of this place towards its neighbors falls far short of what would be expected from any other religious or educational institution.

    It's hardly reassuring to me.

    posted by Eric at 02:41 PM | Comments (1)

    Labeling my political autoimmune disorder

    Glenn links a post by Ilya Somin dealing with the stubborn issue of what libertarians should call themselves.


    Right there, I hesitated. I wanted to say "ourselves" but I didn't -- because of the inevitable baggage that first person plurality carries. I don't and I cannot speak for libertarians, and I don't even know whether I should call myself one. I use the term as a point of reference only -- mainly because it give a closer approximation to my political philosophy than other words in the popular political vocabulary. Also, every time I take one of those political litmus tests, the test has put me squarely within the libertarian camp, so it seems fair to mention that fact from time to time. I don't mean to mislead anyone or imply that I am speaking for anyone but myself.

    The problem with using any political label to identify yourself is that we do not live in a perfect world where people understand that these terms are often approximations. Pure libertarians, like pure liberals or pure conservatives, exist mainly in theory. Put a bunch of members of any one of these groups together in any room, and there will be fierce disagreements. Libertarians can be some of the worst pains-in-the-ass -- especially the ones who believe that libertarianism is some sort of fixed, verifiable ideology. (No, I didn't use the "o" word -- because I am trying to be objective, not Objectivist.)

    For me, the biggest headache doesn't come from conservatives who call me liberal (or liberals who call me conservative); it comes from people who call themselves libertarians, and who accuse me of not being a "real" libertarian?

    Well, excuse me, but when did I pledge allegiance to "real libertarianism"? All I have ever wanted to do was to be allowed to think whatever the hell it is I think. I don't claim to be ideologically correct, nor can I claim that I am necessarily right about anything. I might very well be wrong. But I am not wrong about a given issue simply because someone claims I am "not a real libertarian." I am not wrong because someone calls me a liberal. Nor am I wrong because someone calls me a conservative. Why, I don't even think it makes wrong if someone calls me an "Ann Coulter" or a "Roy Cohn" or even a "lobbyist."

    I don't like playing label games. They interfere with independent thinking. I don't mind using a label on myself if that will help people have a general understanding of my thinking, but I refuse to conform to the label. I've called myself a "classical liberal" and a "neolibertarian" -- and more recently I've enjoyed calling myself a Goldwater liberal. Has a nice confusing ring, and I hope the label mongers find it as irritating as I find it reassuring.

    But anyone can label me. Fire away!

    My ultimate goal is label immunity.

    I'm human, though, and because I have these god-damned things we call "feelings" I might never get to such a place.

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (2)

    Skepticism and other life and death issues

    A lot of people don't trust Wikipedia, and here's a perfect example of why:

    The death of former Enron chief Ken Lay on Wednesday underscored the challenges facing online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which, as the news was breaking, offered a variety of causes for his death.

    Lay, 64, died of a heart attack early Wednesday, a family representative said, just six weeks after a jury found him guilty of fraud in one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history.

    Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, added news of Lay's death to his online biography shortly after news outlets began reporting it at about 10 a.m. EDT.

    At 10:06 a.m., Wikipedia's entry for Lay said he died "of an apparent suicide."

    At 10:08, it said he died at his Aspen, Colo., home "of an apparent ((heart attack) or suicide.)."

    Within the same minute, it said the cause of death was "yet to be determined."

    At 10:09 a.m., it said "no further details have been officially released" about the death.

    Two minutes later, it said: "The guilt of ruining so many lives finally led him to his suicide."

    At 10:12 a.m., this was replaced by: "According to Lay's pastor the cause was a 'massive coronary' heart attack."

    By 10:39 a.m., Lay's entry said: "Speculation as to the cause of the heart attack lead many people to believe it was due to the amount of stress put on him by the Enron trial." This statement was later dropped.

    By early Wednesday afternoon, the entry said Lay was pronounced dead at Aspen Valley Hospital, citing the Pitkin, Colo., sheriff's department. It said he apparently died of a massive heart attack, citing KHOU-TV in Houston.

    Officials at Wikipedia did not immediately return phone and e-mail requests for comment.

    By its nature, Wikipedia is a dream come true for promoters of conspiracy theories or crackpot ideologues. It's just a fact of online life that misinformation can take on a life of its own, and it's just all the more reason that Wikipedia entries -- especially those on recent or controversial matters -- should be taken with a grain of salt. Skepticism and common sense is the rule, and it's worth remembering that if something looks too good to be true, it often is.

    Still, I use Wikipedia a lot -- especially to provide background on historical matters that are largely uncontested. As to recent or controversial matters, the more time people have had time to hash things out, the more information will have accumulated on Wiki -- along with links -- which often means no particular viewpoint will be able to maintain permanent ideological hegemony. For example, this excerpt from a post about Yasser Arafat's death provides both "sides" of the AIDS speculation:

    In September 2005, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that French experts could not determine the cause of Arafat's death. The paper further quoted an Israeli AIDS expert who claimed that Arafat bore all the symptoms of AIDS, a hypothesis later rejected by the New York Times. Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi, personal physician of Arafat for the past 20 years, later declared that nothing in Arafat's medical report mentioned the existence of such a disease. Another "senior Israeli physician" claimed in the Haaretz article that it was "a classic case of food poisoning", probably caused by a meal eaten four hours before he fell ill on October 12 that may have contained a toxin such as ricin rather than the standard bacterial poisoning. However, in the same week that the Haaretz report was published, the New York Times published a separate report also based on access to Arafat's medical records which claimed that it was highly unlikely that Arafat had AIDS or food poisoning. Both Haaretz and the New York Times further speculated that the cause of death may have been an infection of an unknown nature or origin. However, rumors of Arafat's poisoning have remained popular especially in the Arab Community, but also in the rest of the world. Dr. Ashraf Kurdi, which also follows the Hashemite kings, lamented the fact that the leader's wife Suha had refused an autopsy, which would have answered many questions in the case. Calling for the creation of an independent commission to carry out investigations concerning Arafat's suspicious death, dr. al-Kurdi declared to Haaretz on September 9, 2005 that "any doctor would tell you that these are the symptoms of a poisoning" 3.
    Yes there are links, but I don't have time to fill them in; you want the juicy details, go to the Wiki article.

    I use Wiki to provide background -- not truth! It is what it is, and it is often quite helpful. I think it's even helpful to know what partisan ideologues and crackpots are thinking, but skepticism is of paramount importance. Anyone who thinks Wikipedia = truth needs to start with a course in basic logic and then move to common sense. (The problem is that the latter cannot be taught.)

    I also like Wiki because in general, the links linger over time. There's nothing more infuriating than spending hours finding a link to something I feel is important in one of these posts, only to discover when go back a year later because I need the cite again that the site is gone and some damned XXX swinging singles popup site is in its place! Wiki has never done that to me or my readers, and I appreciate it.

    But what about the fact that any kook can come along and post nonsense? That's bad, right?

    Well, let's take a typical crackpot conspiracy theory -- the 9/11 Bush-blew-up-the-towers stuff. Many people (including me) have lamented the fact that this found its way into Wiki -- but which is worse: the fact that a crackpot can manage to insinuate his theory into a Wikipedia article, or the fact that a leading American university would hire -- as a "professor" -- a crackpot promoting the very same theory?

    Isn't it better to be able to express skepticism and laugh at the theory online than shell out a hundred grand to have it taught to your son or daughter in a classroom and regurgitated at the family Thanksgiving dinner table (amidst particles of reflux from Margaret Cho's anti-Thanksgiving prayer)?

    The optimist in me would hope that Wikipedia might just encourage skepticism in a young mind in advance of encountering such a professor.

    Might not a skeptical mind be a harder thing to indoctrinate?

    UPDATE: Commenter Mike mentions some scathing comments on the occasion of Ken Lay's death which can be found here.

    I'll say. Here's a sample:

    Death by heart attack, in ASPEN of all places, was too easy and dignified for Ken Lay. He was a convicted felon and he should have died IN PRISON, preferably by hanging, burning, beheading, gassing, electrocution, dismemberment or (ideally) all of the above simultaneously, but if by natural causes then at least by something that involved long and painful suffering, like cancer unrelieved by expensive treatments that our taxes should not have to pay for. Justice will not be complete until Ken Lay's widow, children and grandchildren are all stripped of all their property and reduced to the life of migrant farm workers.
    Nice, but might he have gotten some better ideas from the Classical Values "What ancient form of execution would you LEAST prefer" poll?

    But really, wouldn't Lay's death by torture have also been too lenient? As the commenter suggests, why should Ken Lays wife and children get off scot-free? After all, don't we believe in inherited guilt in this country?

    I think the author of the above (one "TomHillinMass") has the right stuff to be a college professor today!

    posted by Eric at 08:13 AM | Comments (2)



    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gets a little advice from Hugo Chavez.

    posted by Dennis at 10:41 PM | Comments (3)

    Divine right of kings nature?

    There's long been a big debate about the degree to which the founders were religious men, and there still is. (They were, although they saw the wisdom of keeping any particular religious view out of the founding.)

    Because they are part of our history, I think it's essential to know the religious viewpoints of the founders, although I'm not sure that it's of the earthshaking importance one way or another that so many people think it is. George Washington will do perfectly well as an example. Two camps have been ferociously battling it out over how religious he was. There's one camp which insists he was a "Deist" -- an ill-defined term which seems to mean as many things as there are interpreters of it. While I suspect that many in the "Deist" camp would be just tickled pink to discover that Washington was a closet atheist (or at least an agnostic), I don't see why that would be any more relevant to our lives today as it would if he turned out to be a fundamentalist (er, Biblical literalist).

    George Washington and the other men who founded this country did not want their religious views to be controlling! Didn't they risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to prevent such a thing from happening? What they wanted was religious freedom. Religious freedom does not consist of being an atheist because some historian discovered that's what Tom Paine was, a get-on-your-knees-and-pray "Low Episcopalian" because some say Washington was, a deist because Franklin was, or someone who considers only Thomas Jefferson's Bible to be the true word of God because Jefferson said so.

    They didn't want things to be that way; why should we?

    Their religious views aside, they founded a country based on religious freedom and religious pluralism. In addition to belonging to various religions, they were white, they were men. Many owned slaves. Should any of these attributes be controlling in any way over what we do? I cannot see how. What they left was a Constitution, for us to preserve (yeah, protect and defend -- all that stuff) and a republic -- "if we can keep it."

    I'd go so far as to say it dishonors their memory to look back in history and behave like a bunch of historical dirt diggers, as if it matters what they thought about God. I don't see how they could possibly have made it any clearer that their personal views did not and should not matter.

    Not that they couldn't have, had they chosen to. As Jonathan Rowe points out in a very well-reasoned post, the issue was not new to them:

    . . the Founders thought it was absolutely necessary to not define God’s attributes too specifically or indentify him as the God of the Bible.

    The Founders specifically drew a connection between indentifying God’s attributes too specifically and denying the rights of those whose religion denied those specific attributes of God. The Founders faced a dilemma: They posited a conception of individual rights which were both universal and antecedent to majority rule. Moreover, they needed to refute prior claims of right such as Divine Right of Kings which explicitly invoked God to justify such claims. The Founders thus needed to tie their notion of rights to God to make such individual rights unalienable.

    Yet, invoking God as the source of political claims had long led to terrible persecution itself (indeed, it was the source of religious persecution which they were trying to solve). If it is claimed that God X grants rights, the Founders feared political forces would deny rights to those who didn’t believe in God X. But such rights, the Founders believed, applied to everyone regardless of what they believed.

    Let's assume for the sake of argument that some of the founders believed very strongly in the literal truth of the Bible. That it was God's word, God's Law, etc. Certainly, no reasonable person would argue that they didn't know about the existence of the Ten Commandments (and the rest of the stern and complicated Mosaic Law that goes with them). Had they wanted us to follow Mosaic Law as part of our law, I think they'd have damned well said so. They had every opportunity. Indeed, as Ed Brayton points out, the fundamentalists of the time were demanding they do just that:
    From pulpits all around America, in pamphlets distributed in all of the original 13 states, and in newspaper editorials as well, the religious right of that day railed against the Constitution as a godless document that would bring down the wrath of God upon us all.
    Yet instead of Mosaic Law, we get a Constitution with no mention of God, and the First Amendment.

    But what about the Declaration of Independence. Doesn't that mention God repeatedly? Well, yes. There's the Creator. There's Nature's God. But somehow, neither Jehovah nor Jesus warranted a mention.

    I've just been wondering about this in the context of men playing God, men wanting to be God, and men trying to speak for God. Such behavior has a long, often bloody history. And what about the "divine right of kings?" This was a very serious concept, and it was based on the idea of an all-knowing, all-seeing deity who intervened in human affairs, which meant you could be sure that if a king was on a throne, it was his king, by God. (Forgive the redundancy.)

    The founders were of course still smarting from their recent scrape with that sort of nonsense, and I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that it might have had an effect on their thinking about divine intervention, and how to work with something that many people believed in, but which must have been humbling for them to contemplate, seeing their new roles unfold. I mean, if you grow up steeped in the divine right of kings, and you suddenly find yourself taking the place of He Who Had Been Ordained By God, it would be no small task to come up with the proper language reigning in your human limits. It must have been doubly tough for those founders who did believe in divine intervention to live with the possibility that God might very well have intervened -- against King George, and for them!

    (Hey, I know I couldn't have handled it. . .)

    For the most part, these men were not theologians. So what did they do? According to many of the pundits today, they declared that man had inherent "natural rights" but what they really meant by this was that the rights came from God, which meant no man could take them away.

    Quite a turnabout from divine right of kings, isn't it? Because if there was a divine right of kings, God had been putting them on the throne and acquiescing to their vast tyrannical powers for many hundreds (nay, thousands) of years.

    Why, I think there are even kings in the Bible, and if we take those king references in the same literal manner that we're supposed to take other things in the Bible, a good argument can be made that the Bible itself justifies monarchy.

    What that means is it might have been tough for these men to look God and their fellow men in the eyes and say,

    "Look, God gave men their natural rights, but the tyrants took them away and they lied when they claimed that their authority came from God. But this time, we're telling you the truth! God gave us Natural Rights! And he really did it all along, but he's never made that clear until now! Through us!"
    Sorry, but I don't think it would work. These men were not so dishonest as to claim they were on God's side, but I certainly think they were honorable enough to hope they were.

    Had they simply declared that the rights we enjoy were given to us by God, they'd have been playing the same game that they had seen played for too long: men playing God, and men speaking for God. They knew that whoever gets to define and speak for God gets to be God. So once God is placed into something as a legal concept, first come the definitions of God, and then come the rules of God. But look who's writing them! (That is why, IMHO, the word "God" does not appear in the text of the Constitution. It not only would have been arrogant, it would have set in motion an uncontrollable series of events.)

    I think it's significant that the Declaration (not legally controlling, but evidence of founding philosophy) -- which comes closest to grappling with the issue of deity -- scrupulously avoids Biblical language. Not only that, but the natural rights language uses the term "endowed by their creator." That is a far cry from "granted by God." Something granted by God can be limited or even taken away by God. Again, who gets to define God? Is God a book? Which book, and why, and who gets to say so, and why?

    "Creator" avoids this problem by moving the deity to the metaphysical level -- the being force of creation. The great unsolved, unsolvable, where-we-came-from question. And even our creator (he or she or it) did not "give" or "grant" us anything.

    We were endowed!

    If you're endowed with something, it's part of you, just as surely as your brain, your arms, your legs, and other, um, endowments. That's not conditional.

    The founders didn't just change God's role in human government by taking his backing away from the king and suddenly handing it over to natural rights. They did a lot more, by doing a lot less. They didn't remove God from human affairs, and I don't think they intended to remove God from government. I think they hoped God would wish the country well, and would shine his benevolence down on the new republic. That was their hope, but it was a human one.

    Wanting to be right in the eyes of God is a good goal.

    Knowing you're right in the eyes of God is not a good way to start a country.

    We should all be glad the founders learned from the past. It would be nice if we all could.

    MORE: FWIW, I didn't like writing this, and I put it off all day. Most people find these things boring, tedious, irritating, even inflammatory, and I don't blame them. But if I didn't write my thoughts, who would?

    posted by Eric at 08:38 PM | Comments (2)

    When all shame fails

    Today seems to be a poor day for headlines. While acknowledging Kim Jong Il's missiles that fizzled, the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer mainly highlights the ridiculousness of government -- with the top story being the closure of casinos in New Jersey, which "ceased all gambling operations amid a state budget impasse that idled New Jersey's gambling inspectors." No inspectors, of course, means that there can be nothing to inspect. The power to inspect is of course the power to destroy. People laugh at the fiasco that is New Jersey (and I think few feel sorry for casinos), but what they ought to remember is that this same principle could be used to shut down the necessities of life. New Jersey casinos are not allowed to operate without inspectors, which protects us from something. (Corruption in gambling, perhaps? Heaven forefend!) New Jerseyans should be grateful that the bureaucrats haven't required inspectors in supermarkets, or else they could effectively shut off the food supply. Or how about online safety nannies watching over New Jersey ISPs? Without government money, they'd have to shut down all Internet service in New Jersey.

    And closing New Jersey beaches! I like that. I guess the tides will have to stop, and the seas will have to recede, because the King Canute bureaucrats have shut down operations.

    New Jersey's Democratic governor Corzine wants a sales tax hike, and the Democratic legislature won't give it to him. Apparently it never occurred to either that they might try doing without the additional funds. Instead, they turn their wrath on the people who come to New Jersey to gamble, and who'd be better off in Las Vegas or Reno.

    It's tough to be sympathetic.

    Sharing the front page with closed casinos is Philadelphia's recycling crisis. Whether it should be front page news or not, it seems that the city does a piss poor job of recycling, so they're trying different carrot and stick approaches to motivate Philadelphia's benighted humans:

    .. they no longer will have to separate recyclables. Everything can go into one bin because it will go into one truck, to be sorted later at the Blue Mountain Recycling facility in Southwest Philadelphia.

    Residents can get city containers or use anything from an old laundry basket to a plastic tub.

    Officials are hoping the added materials and convenience will jump-start household recycling in the city, which has stubbornly held at 6 percent - meaning 6 percent of everything that could be recycled.

    While comparisons can be misleading because programs differ, New York reported a residential recycling rate of 17.8 percent and Los Angeles, 45 percent, according to a Waste News survey.

    Six percent? That may be generous. If the facts in this Philadelphia Weekly story still hold, it's more like 5.5 percent:
    Currently, Philadelphia's residential recycling rate ranks at the bottom of the bin compared to that of other large U.S. cities-and the figure is actually trending lower. According to statistics for the year ending June 30, Philadelphia households recycle only 5.5 percent of all paper, glass bottles and aluminum cans they take in.

    By contrast, San Francisco reports a residential recycling rate of 38 percent, Chicago recycles about 22 percent of its residential waste stream, New York claims an 18 percent recovery rate, and 43 percent of materials set on the curb in Seattle are recycled.

    I guess that means if you love recycling, move to San Francisco or Seattle!

    Is the goal really recycling, though? Or is it to change human morality? I couldn't help notice that the recycle activists aren't too happy with the new and simplified "single stream" approach Philadelphia is taking:

    Maurice Sampson II, the city's recycling coordinator in the mid-1980s and an advocate of a Philadelphia-based firm, RecycleBank, questioned the wisdom of rolling out a new program in summer when community groups that could help spread the word aren't meeting.

    "The best word I would probably use is ill-advised," he said.

    Frankly, I don't think the activists would be pleased if new methods (of separating in bulk) were developed which eliminated curbside recycling entirely.

    That's because recycling is a quasi religion, and activists want to change human behavior.

    It's more important than how much a program costs -- or even whether studies and statistics used to justify it are true. One of Philadelphia's throwaway weeklies -- the Philadelphia City Paper -- examines the supremely elitist mindset of the people behind Philadelphia's recent anti-smoking ordinance (and others like it):

    Helena [a bogus and debunked secondhand smoke "study"] and a few others are their best and their brightest but are all similarly and deeply flawed. And they are all repeatedly paraded before legislators who rarely have the knowledge, conviction or inclination to question them.

    Would you raise the question if you were in their place? Would you do so knowing you'd be accused of being a "Big Tobacco Mouthpiece" and realizing you'd be standing alone in mean-spirited opposition to the phalanx of innocent and pink-lunged children with whom Councilman Michael Nutter packed the balcony? And would you do so aware that you'd be sharing the TV screen with dozens of fresh-faced idealistic little girls wearing signs proclaiming the dread diseases you're condemning them to? What politician in their right mind would have the courage to stand up for truth when confronted with such opposition? Unfortunately, very few.

    Last week, Lady Elaine Murphy of the British House of Lords chided me in an e-mail, saying that I had "completely missed the point" about the English smoking ban in talking to her about the science. She wrote that "the aim is to reduce the public acceptability of smoking and the culture which surrounds it." Now, that's quite different than the public posturings about "saving the health of the workers" and the images of oppressed teenaged waitresses being slaughtered by deadly toxins as they work their way through school. And, it's quite different than the cheap shows of pleading children in front of City Council's TV cameras.

    The smoking ban is based on lies, even if they are lies that are often truly believed by those supporting it. (Emphasis added.)

    When I read Lady Elaine's remarks I wasn't surprised in the least, because the subordination of truth is nothing new to activists.

    But there's more to this than the use of bogus scientific pronouncements to advance activism. Lady Elaine (more on her here) was at least honest enough to acknowledge the existence of primary purpose beyond that of getting legislation passed -- and that is the deliberate induction of shame. Just as citizens should feel ashamed by the presence of aluminum cans in their trash, so should they be ashamed if they smoke.

    Why, it's almost as evil as missing the Sunday service once was!

    While the anti-smoking shame game is a classic example, Lady Elaine reminded me that statistics are just an activist game and it really shouldn't matter in the least whether they are accurate. They could be made up entirely, as I suspect they are in the "dog overpopulation" meme. Statistics are used as a tool in advancing an agenda of transforming the way we think about a subject, but they do not go to the merits. They only appear to go to the merits. They provide a rationale, and it really doesn't matter whether they are true so much as whether shame is fueled.

    The more I thought about this mechanism, the more I came to realize that just as the truthfulness (or even existence) of statistics is largely irrelevant, the practicality (and enforceability) of activist-based legislation is irrelevant. The most important, overreaching issue is to change the way people think. Humans have a vast and innate capacity for guilt and shame, and I think that accounts for how these ideas move so rapidly from insanity to reality.

    A law forbidding smoking might be just as unenforceable and impractical as a law forbidding unneutered dogs, but arguing over those things (the way libertarians often do) misses the larger point: these laws make the violators ashamed of themselves. That's the whole idea.

    I'm afraid the only way to combat this is with civil disobedience. Smoke!

    Or just pretend to smoke!

    Counter shame with shame. It's the only language the enemy understands.

    What worries me is that some might call this "activism" -- and I loathe activists. I think there's a difference, though, between using government force to tell people what to do and defending your own inherent right to be free from having the government use force upon you.

    I have absolutely no problem with people doing what they think is right and advocating for what they believe. If people think it is a good idea to encourage spaying or neutering, or discourage smoking, they are free to do so. But a line is crossed when they use the power of the state. I am not forcing them to conform with my views, and I only ask the same in return. But when they go further, and would imprison me for not doing what they want, that goes too far.

    If the goal is to make me feel ashamed, then I must not.

    Smokers should be as proud to smoke as I am of owning an intact dog!

    Beyond that, I think people should be very suspicious of attempts to change the way we think by the utilization of guilt and shame.

    Whether Philadelphians should take pride in their trash is another matter. But is scolding people for their alleged bureaucratic shortcomings really the answer?

    I mean, doesn't scolding hurt people's self esteem?

    MORE: Ann Althouse has a shame classic -- hitting up a friend for money in order to give to a spare changer the friend just bypassed.

    AND MORE: Commenter Mary in LA links to a thing called the Great American Smokeout, which involves smokers giving up smoking.


    Holding a "smoke-in" is the obvious counterpart.

    But it occurs to me that there are a lot of people who are giving up eating who aren't really hurting that much. Anyone can quit eating for a day. And these people are the brown-rice-eating, organic types who are used to starving anyway, for reasons of "health." Considering the lack of real suffering that this faux "fasting" entails, why not really do something that really demonstrates suffering?

    They talk about "putting their lives on the line," right?

    Why not simply take up smoking in protest? It's slow, there's plenty of time to proclaim martyrdom, and even the newbies who don't want to go all the way could participate in the occasional "smoke-in."

    If they hate smoking, why, that makes their suffering all the more real!

    posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)



    Some credit is due here. I'm still warming up my old skills, and I decided to do this one with real pens (crow quills, speedballs, india ink, and all that). I splattered some ink and butchered the lettering, but wanting to get this up and move ahead, I decided to use a font rather than redraw and scan the lettering seperately. That font is Gnatfont, by Kaare Andrews. It's my favorite of the many 'comic book' fonts floating around on the internet, but I like doing hand-lettering as much as possible, even though I tend to be hasty about it. This font, though, is very nice.

    UPDATE: Oops ... fixed a typo in the text. Glad I spotted it before anyone else did.

    posted by Dennis at 02:45 PM | Comments (3)

    A Dark Age of "Progressive" Science

    When control freaks who used to be on opposing sides of the political spectrum get together, God help us. A very important essay -- Frank Furedi's Confronting the New Misanthropy (linked by Glenn Reynolds) discusses this phenomenon. What makes the essay so hair-curling is that it's so true. This Orwellian Newspeak, religion-as-science, Luddism in the name of progress stuff is uniting the various malcontents and crackpots from the left and the right -- the result being a grotesque, post-modernist form of Original Sin. Man is fallen (this time permanently), because he is bad. Animals -- and "the environment" (not ours) -- are good. And the only hope is man's destruction:

    Today we don't just have Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse but an entire cavalry regiment of doom-mongers. It is like a secular version of St John's Revelations, except it is even worse - apparently there is no future for humanity after this predicted apocalypse. Instead of being redeemed, human beings will, it seems, disappear without a trace.

    Anxieties about human survival are as old as human history itself. Through catastrophes such as the Deluge or Sodom and Gomorrah, the religious imagination fantasised about the end of the world. More recently, apocalyptic ideas once rooted in magic and theology have been recast as allegedly scientific statements about human destructiveness and irresponsibility. Elbowing aside the mystical St John, Lovelock poses as a prophet-scientist when he states: 'I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news….' (3) Today, the future of the Earth is said to be jeopardised by human consumption, technological development or by 'man playing God'. And instead of original sin leading to the Fall of Man, we fear the degradation of Nature by an apparently malevolent human species.

    I'm no fan of religion, but if I had to choose (fortunately I don't), I'd say that the old Original Sin is better than its replacement. When Luddism replaces religion and superstition infects science, trouble is sure to follow.
    ...apocalyptic ideas once rooted in magic and theology have been recast as allegedly scientific statements about human destructiveness and irresponsibility.
    The idea was once that superstition should be replaced by science. What no one imagined happening was that science might come to invent superstitions of its own, and conjure up demons which would threaten the world as once did the demons of old.

    I used to think that if I minded my own business I might be left alone. But when I see these crackpots doing things like passing laws requiring me to surgically alter my perfectly healthy dog (in the name of "animal rights" my dog is said not to possess, because humans bred her), I am forced to recognize a very ugly fact.

    They will not leave me alone.

    But radical animal "rights" theories are only one avenue of attack (usually one of the handmaidens of radical environmentalism). The ultimate goal, of course, is the destruction of human civilization.


    For some reason, it's cool to be in favor of destruction of human civilization. Progressive, even.

    It's one of life's ironies that being in favor of human advancement and technology is now seen as reactionary. And regressive.

    I disagree. I think those who want to move civilization backwards are by definition the regressive ones.

    I therefore plan to celebrate progress with a "reactionary" barbeque!


    As I get ready to post this, I see Dennis's wonderful new cartoon. . .

    Cindy Sheehan is starving herself?

    Hmmmm. . . Let me eat steak!

    Maybe there is progress after all.

    UDPATE (MESSAGE TO "MOTHER" SHEEHAN): Cindy, I know you're morally superior to the entire country because of the incredible courage you've shown by starving yourself on the Fourth of July, but still. I'm concerned. It's unnatural to starve when there's food and people are celebrating.

    So, in case you get hungry or change your mind . . .


    UPDATE: My thanks to Chefen at Sir Humphreys for linking this post. I'm honored that it reminded him of a very thoughtful post he'd written earlier discussing Steven Hawkings, which concludes:

    I'd rather see humanity expanding, protecting itself from a single asteriodal cataclysm perhaps, while harnessing the drive of those who want to explore and build. I even think that Earth would be better off for it with the knowledge gained, technology developed and resources found. Then the great unwashed can go on worshipping Gaia and calling humanity rats.
    I couldn't agree more.

    posted by Eric at 02:19 PM | Comments (11)

    in pursuit of the right to keep and bear life and liberty

    Coco has been thinking about government tyranny -- especially the kind which would force me to have someone to take a knife to her private areas.

    I don't want to do that to her -- any more than she wants it done to her. We both think it violates Natural Law to force a man to take his dog and mutilate her insides for no good reason, when she has done no harm to anyone. I think this because I am rational and I can write about it. As to Coco, I can tell you that it would be extremely difficult to take her away and do such a thing to her without my consent. (If you don't believe me, just try; she'd resist, and so would I!) And if I am not going to do that to her, then who is? Who claims the right to do this to Coco, and under what theory? Animal rights? Hah! Coco knows her rights, she knows her power, and in her own way she believes that she should not have to do anything unless I demand it of her. We have a sort of compact, and I like to think that I look out for her best interests, and that she in turn trusts me to do that. She would defend me, because that's her nature, and I would defend her -- because that is the nature of our relationship. It is healthy, and based on thousands of years of interaction between man and dog.

    We've been brainstorming a bit, and I've been reflecting on whether there is any connection between the effort to take away my inherent natural right to defend myself and the effort to take away Coco's natural rights. True, mine are more complicated, but that's because I am a human being. But, assuming there is such a thing as natural rights, Coco's natural rights would seem include the right to keep -- and defend -- her organs. To the extent Coco cannot do that, then I am obligated to defend her rights for her. But if my own rights -- especially the primary right to self defense -- are taken away, then how can I defend Coco's?

    As I thought about this, I thought about the United Nations. There are a lot of governments run by dictatorships whose reps are hanging around right now thinking about ways to take away a basic right of people all over the world -- the right to defend themselves.

    If self defense is a right, then how are we human beings to exercise it? We don't have teeth like Coco and like other dogs. Instead, we live in a world where there are people, and there are guns which can be used by either good people or bad people. Because bad people (including the bad people who run bad governments) have guns, there is no practical way for good people to defend themselves unless they have guns. In short, guns are the human equivalent of dog teeth. Without them, we are defenseless against those who have them.

    While Coco may not understand this intellectually, I think she does instinctively and intuitively. Just as I don't want my guns taken away, Coco doesn't want her ovaries taken away.

    So we posed together -- basking in our natural rights on the eve of the Fourth of July.

    Coco, as you see, is wearing shades to prevent "redeye."


    As she became more comfortable with the gun (a Yugoslavian M70AB2 Kalashnikov clone), without my posing her at all, Coco just seemed to relax.


    I really didn't expect this of her, but it's not posed, and Coco stayed in this position for quite some time.


    Considering that there are ongoing domestic and international attempts to ban Coco, to force me to subject her to genital mutilation, and to take away my guns, we thought a joint statement would be appropriate.

    You can have our guns and ovaries when you pry them from our cold dead paws!

    SAFETY NOTE: Not only were no animals harmed during the making of the above pictures, but neither were any humans. That's because unlike Senator Dianne Feinstein, Coco had the good sense to keep her paws off the trigger while posing!

    posted by Eric at 12:00 AM | Comments (2)

    In search of responsibility

    There's something I've been trying to figure out for over a week now, and I've just been coming up dry. I think I'm pretty close to being a First Amendment absolutist, and while the New York Times' publication of a classified national secret (to our detriment, and to the benefit of our enemies) bothers me a lot, I recognize that the Times is within its First Amendment rights.

    Of course, I'd have to concede that the Times would have had a First Amendment right to publish the details of the Normandy invasion before D-Day, too. I'd also hope that they'd have been too patriotic and too wise to do a crazy thing like that. Being a practical sort of person, I'd expect the government to have stopped the Times from running the piece -- even though that would have been illegal. (A huge war was on, and in war, well, inter arma silent leges.)

    However, the Times had the same First Amendment right to run a story damaging to national security that I or anyone else has, and no more. "Freedom of the press" does not mean there's a variable percentage of freedom -- depending on the size (or circulation) of the particular journal. Freedom of the press does not confer any right to withhold information, regardless of how loudly someone claims it does. If someone came to me with inside information about an unsolved crime under investigation, and I disclosed it in this blog, a local district attorney might very well want to know who told me. Were I subpoenaed, I'd have to answer whether I wanted to or not. I see no theory deriving from my right to engage in reporting which would allow me to refuse to answer questions about what I knew. There might be valid public policy reasons to encourage sources to come forward to reporters which might give rise to a statutory privilege, but it has nothing to do with free speech.

    Those are just some preliminary observations. Now, to my nagging question. I keep hearing references (by both sides) to something usually termed a "duty" of so-called "responsible journalism." Under this theory, say many people, the Times should not have published the story damaging to national security, because that would not have been responsible.

    What is responsible journalism?

    A couple of years ago, I provided readers access to beheading videos, because the media refused to show them on television. The reason given? Responsible journalism. It was because they might stir up people's passions, and get them all pissed off, and it might traumatize people.

    Many mainstream media outlets refused to show pictures of the people who jumped from the Twin Towers on 9/11 in the following years. Again, responsible journalism -- this time because now it was "old news."

    During the recent Muhammad cartoon flap, all but three newspapers in the United States refused to print the cartoons involved. Reason? Responsible journalism. It was because they might stir up people's passions, and get them all pissed off, and it might traumatize people.

    OK, so what's different this time? What are the factors?

  • Might stir up passions, and get people all pissed off? (Well, yes. Passions are stirred, and lots of Americans are pissed off.)
  • Might traumatize people? (Yes, it might cause mental agony, plus the publication might have led to people getting killed, which is traumatic.)
  • "Old news"? (Well, there's a lot of talk about how "everyone already knew" about terrorist finance tracking, so I guess it would qualify under that standard too.)
  • What am I missing in my search for a definition of responsible journalism?

    I don't think there is a definition, because there are no standards of responsible journalism.

    Not that the "responsible journalism" standard isn't invoked. It's often invoked -- by the "responsible journalists" themselves. Either after the fact, as a way of defending whatever it is they've done, or as a justification for what they haven't done.

    It's also invoked in the hope of scolding bloggers, but logically, I just don't see how that might work. Considering the lack of any standard, and the moral bankruptcy of the phrase, accusing a blogger of "responsible journalism" might even be taken as an insult.

    UPDATE (07/04/06): Might the phrase "responsible journalism" be what Arnold Kling calls a "trust cue"? If he is right, then stock phraseology (expressions I've called "code language" more times than I can remember) are not to be taken literally, nor dealt with logically, but must be seen as akin to membership in a religious group, or secret society.

    Although empiricism has become a standard philosophy in the West, dogma persists. I believe that the main reason that non-verifiable ideas survive is that they serve as trust cues. People still need to demonstrate their commitment to membership in groups, and recitation of dogma is a low-cost method of doing so.


    An empirical argument attempts to convince you using logic and observation. A trust cue threatens you with loss of membership in a valuable group unless you take a given position.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I think Arnold Kling is right, and I suspect that "responsible journalism" is more of a recital of dogma than a real standard.

    But are there implications for the First Amendment? I'd hate to think that "freedom of the press" and "freedom of speech" are becoming trust cues. (They are supposed to be innate human rights, not indicia of ownership.)

    MORE: For what it's worth, I distrust "trust cues," (especially those that take the form of scolding political phraseology). When perfectly normal words -- like "reality" and "family" -- are misused to denote group membership and to scorn outsiders, I'm more inclined to think of them as "distrust cues." Sometimes I worry that the satirical name of this blog might be taken as the wrong kind of cue.

    Sigh. Cueless can lead to cluelessness I guess.

    posted by Eric at 08:08 PM



    This was pretty much done Saturday, but I didn't have a scanner over the weekend. Now that I've drawn a donkey and an elephant I think I've covered all of the basics of drawing political cartoons.

    posted by Dennis at 01:05 PM | Comments (2)

    Does he or doesn't he?

    I was most amused to learn of James Wolcott's concerns about Ann Coulter's "shampoo with its special conditioning agents."

    While I almost never agree with Wolcott, I do, I confess, enjoy his writing. But in this instance I have to question his hair expertise. And not just because of the picture in Pajamas Media. There's this:


    Far be it from me to criticize anyone's personal appearance, as I'm hardly a model of good grooming. But I didn't bring up Ann Coulter's hair; Wolcott did.

    So I'm wondering. . .

    Might the man be jealous of Ann Coulter's hair?

    Or is he just trolling for a spot on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"?

    I'm hesitant to make assumptions.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: In fairness to Wolcott, I think he is probably not jealous of Ann Coulter's hair. More likely, he'd be "envious," because, even though there is a small possibility of some involvement in the conspiracy I outlined here, I think it is highly unlikely that James Wolcott owns [or has any proprietary interest in] Ann Coulter's hair. However, he might nonetheless be jealously envious -- assuming he thinks Ann Coulter's hair receives more attention than his. But even there, might he be wrong? (Parsing these issues is hairy.)

    posted by Eric at 11:39 AM | Comments (2)

    Celebrate Independence with Independent RINOS

    The Fourth of July Edition of the RINO Sightings Carnival is being hosted by Barry Campbell at enrevanche.

    The RINOs epitomize political dissent (trust me, you really have to be a dissenter to embrace terms of derision), and I can't think of a better way to celebrate the Fourth of July.

    There's good stuff there too.

    The one and only Rusty Shackleford is back after surviving a huge DDOS attack ("a cyberterrorist attack launched by Turkish Islamists"). Be sure to catch up with the whole blog.

    I love the idea of getting revenge on spammers, and the Commissar links to what looks like a wonderful post explaining how. The problem is, the link won't open right now, which makes me worry that the spammers are fighting back. (Well, I've proposed a classical final solution, but I guess some things are too old-fashioned. Besides, the ACLU is against crucifixes, right?)

    Enough of my spoilers. Read the rest yourselves.

    As Barry concludes, "Eat some hot dogs, drink some beer, and go see some fireworks."

    But, as Don Surber advises, "please stay sober if you're going to blow shit up."

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM

    Beaten down by change?

    I don't like to correct people, and it isn't my job to do it here, but I hate it when the plain meaning of expressions is changed simply because the historical source of the expression has been forgotten.

    Recently I was startled to hear the term "whipping boy" applied to an overworked employee whose boss was a hard-driving taskmaster.

    That is not the meaning of the term "whipping boy." I don't care how abusive a boss might be (or how masochistic an employee), a whipping boy is not merely someone who is punished or abused; he must take punishment on behalf of another -- and not at the hands of that person (i.e. a scapegoat).

    This is a very old concept, and a historically interesting one. Wondering whether it might be falling into misuse (like the word "decimate" -- which once meant a ten percent destruction of forces), it didn't take me long to find examples.

    I realize that leftists consider Bush an oppressive tyrant, but that does not make his alleged victims his "whipping boy" -- despite the insistence of this post:

    Airstrikes on Iraqi weddings so Bush can appear to have a plan? How many people have to die for Bush to get elected? Or have the Iraqi people just become Bush's whipping boy when he gets upset? For their sake we ought to hope Bush does better in tonight's debate.
    Look, this isn't about politics. It's one thing to hate Bush, but if you're going to call someone or some group a "whipping boy," just use the term accurately. (I could see calling John Bolton "Bush's UN whipping boy," for example.)

    I hate to dwell on this, but I'm having fun with my "whipping boy" hate fest, so here's another hideous example (this one involving the elder Bush):

    In the interest in keeping the world's informational databases accurate and safe, Willie Horton was the Massachussetts-furloughed murderer who subsequently became George Bush's whipping boy during his presidential run against Dukakis.
    Wrong. Willie Horton was not the elder Bush's "whipping boy" any more than the Iraqi people are the younger Bush's whipping boy. Willie Horton did not receive blame for anything Bush did, nor was he punished -- literally or figuratively -- for any of Bush's errors.

    The term "whipping boy" is historical, and it is based on real boys whose function it was to be punished in place of misbehaving princes:

    It seems an odd notion to us now that a royal court would have kept a child for the purpose of beating him when the crown prince did wrong. That's just what did happen though. Whipping Boy was an established position at the English court during the Tudor and Stuart monarchies of the 15th and 16th centuries. This may not have been quite as bad as it sounds. The whipping boys weren't hapless street urchins living a life of torment, but high-born companions to the royal princes. They were educated with the princes and shared many of the privileges of royalty. The downside was that, if the prince did wrong, the whipping boy was punished. It was considered a form of punishment to the prince that someone he cared about was made to suffer.
    "Whipping boy" is a good, solid, traditional term, but it involves knowing a little bit about history -- something in short supply these days.

    I think I have beaten this to death, and I hope no one objects too much to my historical defensiveness. It is beneath my dignity to be a whipping boy's whipping boy.

    (I'd rather catch flak for defending ovaries, although that brings to mind another troublesome expression -- and I do not mean "ovarian whipping boy" . . . )

    posted by Eric at 07:49 AM | Comments (1)

    Bombs bursting in air

    While the Fourth isn't till Tuesday, Philadelphia had its big fireworks show at Penn's Landing last night.

    The way digital cameras photograph the trails left in the air by exploding fireworks is like nothing I ever saw in the days when I used conventional film.

    The first photo shows the crowd watching the display, which is a considerable distance away. Yet in the photo, the trails seem to be in the foreground -- between the camera and the crowd (something I can't explain, but what you see is unedited).


    I selected the shots I liked best, and here they are.







    I had a great time, and so did the crowd.

    And technically, it isn't even the Fourth of July yet, but Happy Fourth of July anyway!

    posted by Eric at 10:16 PM

    Actually, it is the Luddites who would castrate civilization!

    I stumbled onto a disturbing transhumanist idea I'd rather leave alone. But if I left it alone, it might gain momentum in the transhumanist, singulatarian, um, "community."

    While I doubt I'm much of a member of this community, I am certainly more sympathetic to it than I am to its polar opposite -- the Luddites and NeoLuddites who want to halt or retard human technological progress for a variety of reasons.

    The idea I don't like is this: certain transhumanist singulatarian types are claiming that men would be better off without their balls.

    Yes, I'm afraid a man named "Cybert" has devoted a post to this topic. No armchair eunuch he, Cybert has also had himself castrated:

    It was done a few years ago, in my mid 20's. From my understanding of biology, the fact that it was done well after puberty make a big difference. My voice is not any higher. I still grow a beard. I can even still have sex/masturbate. Only difference is no liquid comes out. But libido in general is way down. I find myself thinking of transhumanism a lot more. Not in that it will restore libido virtually, just in that my mind isn't distracted.
    While I could make hair-splitting arguments over the definition of "distractions," there's an emotional side of me that just plain does not like this.

    I think having yourself castrated is a bad idea, and I disagree with the central philosophical argument (which Cybert offers by way of self-definition):

    About Cybert

    Eunuch. An important first step to transhumanism.


    First, as a practical idea castration is dreadful, for the future will require men of strength (warriors and pioneers), and strength requires testosterone. The effects of castration include loss of physical as well as mental strength, loss of bone density, weight gain, and a whole host of other unpleasant things. As a libertarian, I probably wouldn't intervene to stop any man from doing that to himself, but I certainly wouldn't consider him an appropriate candidate for a space colony!

    Practical considerations aside, as a political idea, I think the idea of futuristic castration would only have, well, an emasculating effect!

    Imagine, for example, if Andrew Keen, Christine Rosen, and the rest of the NeoLuddites found out about this! Why, they'd probably accuse Glenn Reynolds of seeking to lead an Army not of Davids, but of David's eunuchs.

    While it would be unreasonable to accuse Glenn of hegemony through castration, he's been accused of worse things, so I wouldn't put it past them.

    My natural inclination is not to write a post about this topic, and to engage in self censorship.

    But that's the coward's way out!

    And I wouldn't like not having the balls to criticize eunuchs, for what would that make me? A eunuch's eunuch? (A eunuch's bitch, even?)

    I must therefore stand up to the eunuchs, and declare that this castrate-yourself-for-the-future idea should be confronted, and rejected, and I don't care what the Luddites think or say!

    Besides, if we use simple logic, I think Luddites have to be seen as more on the side of castration -- precisely because of their goal of rolling back history. Castration is one of those old and tired ideas which died out as man made progress.

    Far from being a future trend, castration is a barbaric ancient practice -- a form of depraved sexual brutality about as backward as man can get -- something Luddites who would return us to the past would do well to consider.

    A number of forward-thinking Roman Emperors -- notably Hadrian -- tried to put a stop to castrations and it's beyond dispute that eunuchs were much hated by ordinary Romans. But the practice wasn't stopped by Christianity, and didn't quite die out in the West until the last of the castrati died early in the 20th century.

    I think it's an idea without much of a future.

    (At least I hope so.)

    MORE: A typical accusation leveled at accused transhumanist/singulatarian "techno-triumphalists" is that they "see robotic solutions everywhere."

    (Isn't that better than creating eunuchs to be used as sex slaves?)

    UPDATE (07/03/06): Major breakthrough in bionic limbs was announced. Transhumanism is closer than we realize.

    UPDATE (07/15/07): Tammy Bruce discusses the latest castration news -- this yahoo story about a ghoulish plan to exhume and study Italian castrato Farinelli. I fail to see how medical science is advanced in any way by studying the skeletal remains of a castrated man, and I agree with Tammy that it's "wrong and completely unnecessary."

    posted by Eric at 03:04 PM | Comments (7)

    Since when does value negate value?

    Some additional thoughts triggered by my earlier post about the so-called "dog overpopulation crisis."

    Suppose there was a surplus of cattle (let's say that fears of mad cow disease had led to a glut in the beef market), and that stray livestock were causing accidents. Would there be a clamor to declare a "cattle overpopulation" crisis, and demands that farmers sterilize their livestock? I doubt it. Because farmers would complain that sterilization was their own business -- and that if the government made them do it, that would constitute an unconstitutional taking of private property. Is the result different because cattle are seen as having inherent economic value, but that dogs are not? While I would not sell her, as a purebred dog, Coco is worth between $500 and $1000.00 in her present unneutered state. If neutered, she'd have no intrinsic economic value. Might one of the goals of outlawing dog breeding be to destroy the economic value of dogs?

    Why is no distinction being made between dogs of genuine economic value and other dogs? Why is no additional independent valuation being assigned to the former?

    Is the distinction being blurred, or am I mixing apples and oranges? It seems that family pet values (being non-economic, or sentimental in nature) are very different, as most people would not sell their pets -- even if offered far more than they're worth. However, there is no denying that purebred animals have economic value independent of their virtue as pets -- and not just because of their value for breeding. Working and sporting dogs (police dogs, seeing eye dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs etc.) are of intrinsic economic value because of what they do.

    And what about pure bred dogs, whether of "show quality" or not? Don't they have economic value wholly independent of their sentimental value? Aren't they more than just companion animals? Surely they are that, but every good pure bred dog represents the culimination of centuries of human improvements in the breed, and in breeding. Regardless of their function (guard dogs, ornamental dogs, lap dogs, etc.) their owners take proud in their appearance and the features and qualities unique to their breed. Don't these things constitute real economic value, just as worthy of recognition as a dog's ability to lead the blind or herd sheep? We might not all want to keep a Pekinese, a Pomeranian, or a Shih-Tzu as a pet, but the people who do that, are they to be judged as evil because they appreciate these breeds? If ornamental fish can be seen as having economic value, why not an ornamental dog? Is it because a dog is more than a fish, and unlike a fish, a dog is loved? If anything, the capacity of a dog to give and receive love only adds to the inherent economic value. Yet the animal rights activists seem to argue that this additional factor -- love, which cannot be ascertained -- negates and nullifies all economic arguments.

    Many centuries of human improvements go to the heart of man's relationship with dogs. The innumerable varieties of dogs are of immense esthetic and cultural importance to humanity. But now, we are told by a tiny minority of highly emotional activists that all of these things should all be tossed out.

    Excuse me, but who put these people in charge?

    I think they are profoundly, stupendously, wrong. Our love for the dog (which is a creation of man) is being used in a game of emotional sleight of hand, in which one value is used to destroy another value. We are being so beaten with activist guilt that we forget that there is a hugely important bottom line.

    Dogs are valuable in more ways than one.

    How can I make this more plain?

    Sentimental or emotional value does not negate economic value!

    But, speaking as a lawyer, I have to admit that cultural arguments are valueless. Courts don't enforce culture, and they are not there to build up (or destroy) man's cultural achievements. Culture, while it may be priceless, does not have ascertainable value.

    What I think I can say as a lawyer is that mandatory sterilization laws -- by failing to recognize the real economic value of dogs -- are at odds with economic reality.

    I think they constitute a taking under the United States Constitution.

    MORE: From a constitutional standpoint, mandatory spay/neuter laws are also overbroad, as they punish responsible people for the conduct of irresponsible people. (A bit like cutting off everyone's hands to prevent thieves from stealing.) Even if (for the sake of argument) there is a problem caused by, say, indiscriminate breeding, wouldn't prohibiting indiscriminate breeding make more sense than sterilizing all dogs?

    While I'm not what most people would call a "judicial activist," I'll stick my neck out here and venture that the laws also interfere with the right to privacy. If that precludes the government from prohibiting abortions or criminalizing pornography viewed in one's own home, unless I am allowing Coco to run at large, I don't see how the government would have any right to invade my property -- by entering inside the body of my dog against my will.

    posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (2)

    Secret(ive) weapon against "sprawl"

    While I always keep my eyes open when I'm walking around, spotting snakes is not easy, because they're such adept hiders. This is even more true with the more secretive, tinier snakes, like the Ringneck snake, Diadophis punctatus. I've seen them in captivity, but it's rare to find them in the wild.

    The picture will give you an idea why.


    These tiny snakes are mud colored (except for the yellow ring around the neck) and extremely shy. I happened upon it purely by accident while walking Coco. Fortunately, I had my camera so I could document the find before letting it go. When I put it down amidst some weeds and tree roots, it literally disappeared before my eyes, and I doubt I could have found it again had I searched for an hour.

    The underside (which cannot be seen) is much more colorful:


    Interestingly, the small half moon spots indicate that it is a Southern Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus).

    Diadophis punctatus has some fourteen subspecies, and the Northern Ringneck Snake is Diadophis punctatus edwardsii, which would normally be expected to be found in Pennsylvania. (Oddly enough, the Northern variety is found in parts of the South, so I guess the Southern variety would be occasionally found in the North.)

    I should probably not tell anyone exactly where I found this little critter, as these snakes are so rare in the area that the presence of one might supply environmentalists with an argument against "development." (As a libertarian snake lover, I wouldn't know whether to speak up or shut up, but my silence might be as valuable as my noise.) I suspect they're more common than people realize, but just try to find one!

    These days, a tiny snake can stop a bulldozer. (And there are at least as many bulldozers in the area of the snake as there are enemies of bulldozers.)

    posted by Eric at 12:00 AM | Comments (7)

    In defense of ovaries

    One of my pet peeves (if you'll forgive the pun) is that there's a chorus of angry and emotional people out there hell-bent on invading my personal life by forcing me to cut out my dog's ovaries.

    It's tyranny, plain and simple.

    I know this will sound anthropomorphic, but I love my dog, and I would no more do that to her than I would cut out a daughter's ovaries. Well, I don't have a daughter, so it's only speculation, but I'm pretty sure if I did I'd feel the same way.

    My dog's sex organs are not the government's business.

    Proposed legislation which would make me spay Coco is based on highly questionable premises:

  • that there is a "dog overpopulation" problem;
  • that the breeding of purebred dogs has caused it;
  • that all unneutered dogs will in fact be bred.
  • As a result, mandatory spay and neuter ordinances have been passed in a number of cities, including Camden, New Jersey -- with operative text like this:

    It shall be unlawful to own, possess or keep in the City any dog or cat over the age of six months that has not been spayed or neutered, except as provided in §210-40 of this article.
    Ditto, Capitola, California which recently passed a similar ordinance.

    This prohibition on dog breeding (often acheived by emotional hype involving "puppy mills" in rural areas nowhere near the cities in question) targets all breeders.

    One animal rights website highlights the text of one such ordinance:

    "No puppies of any breeds shall be offered for sale, adoption or trade, or given away in a public place, except by animal care service mobile adoption or non-profit humane welfare organizations."
    Excuse me, but doesn't that sound a tad monopolistic? Is the "crisis" really so severe that breeding should be outlawed?

    As the above site demonstrates, there are unintended consequences of these ordinances. As is so often the case with laws like this, the irresponsible people being targeted simply do not comply. Additionally, the drop in license applications suggest that draconian legislation instills fear into even ordinary dog owners:

    Since the passage of this 2000 “spay or pay” Los Angeles ordinance, there has been a decline in dog licensing compliance. The animal control budget after passage of the law rose 269%., from $6.7 million to $18 million. The city hired additional animal control officers and bought new trucks and equipment just to enforce the new law.

    Capitola, California recently enacted a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance. With the passage of that ordinance, Capitola joined the rest of Santa Cruz County which in 1991 began requiring spay/neuter of dogs with limited exceptions for breeding. Secs. 6.10.030, .050 The city requires a $15 certificate and charges twice the amount for a license for unaltered dogs. Dogs without the certificate must be spayed/neutered. There is a warning for a first offense, and a mandatory spay/neuter order is issued for a second violation. Since the law’s 1991 inception, licensing compliance has dropped significantly.

    In Montgomery County, MD the mandatory spay/neuter law was repealed. When the law was enacted, it was estimated that 550 breeding permits would be issued per year. In reality only an average of 30 permits were issued per year. There was an estimated 50% decline in licensing compliance.

    I can certainly understand why. Ordinary people are smart enough to see that a government invasive enough to criminalize dog breeding and require mandatory castrations and ovariectomies might not be inclined to leave people alone.

    The site also asks some good utilitarian questions, and questions the logic of going after breeders:

    . . .[T]o suggest numbers of animals in shelters and euthanasia rates will decline if there is a ban on breeding, is a little like saying we could find homes for all the unwanted children if people stopped giving birth to their own children. As with children who end up on the streets, in foster care or in trouble, there are many reasons why animals are left in shelters. It does not appear to have much to do with the operations of most purebred breeders. Thus, banning most if not all breeding will not reduce shelter intake or euthanasia rates. A permitting program for breeding is difficult and expensive to administer. Even mandated spay/neuter that targets everyone with few exception can also be costly. The evidence also suggests these laws may simply cause people to avoid licensing pets. As a result, there is a loss of revenues for animal control including the expensive breed permitting and compliance programs. And there is then no way to track and control unaltered animals and their numbers. In the end it appears at least some of these programs do not reduce shelter intake and euthanasia.

    According to the Journal of Veterinary Medical Association, the characteristics of most dogs who are left in shelters include lack of veterinary care, obtained at little or no cost, lives mostly outside, needs more care and attention than expected, comes from a family who are divorcing, moving, or has changed financial circumstances; is noisy, destructive, or soils the house. Most of the dogs left in shelters are adult dogs of mixed breeds, strays, who may have been abandoned by owners who could not or would not care for them. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy has identified the top ten reasons people abandon dogs and cats in shelters: (1) euthanasia due to illness; (2) moving; (3) found animal (of unknown origin); (4) landlords will not allow pets; (5) owner has too many animals; (6) euthanasia due to age; (7) cost of maintenance of pet; (8) animal is ill; (9) allergies within the family; and (10) house soiling.

    In other words, dog breeders (who breed pure bred dogs) are not the problem at all.

    Nor is "dog overpopulation."

    On this subject, unfortunately, there is a near-total dearth of information. I'd be hesitant to call it censorship (after all, I'm writing this, am I not?), as there's no way to censor information in a free country. But where are the statistics? Every official site I can find lumps dogs and cats together -- using the convenient phrase "pet overpopulation" despite the vast differences between dogs and cats and the huge, largely uncontrolled feral cat population (as opposed to virtually no feral dog population.)

    Is information being suppressed, or is it not being compiled? Only one book I know of takes an honest look at the actual evidence -- Save Our Strays:
    How We Can End Pet Overpopulation and Stop Killing Healthy Cats and Dogs
    , by Bob Christiansen. According to the author,

    “The overwhelming majority of the dogs killed are not puppies (as would be the case if there were true dog overpopulation) but young adults that were once owned.”

    “The problem is not responsible breeders. The nation needs more certified, responsible breeders. The problem stems mainly from accidental breeders and amateur, backyard charlatans out to make a quick buck on the sale of puppies.”

    To me the most telling evidence that the author is onto something is the fact that his book -- an out of print paperback! -- commands $44.95 and up at

    I cannot state with certainty that there is no dog overpopulation in the United States. However, if there are not enough puppies to supply demand, it strikes me as profoundly illogical to define the problem as purely "dog overpopulation." More likely, the problem is that people prefer puppies to grown dogs, and some irresponsible people don't look before they leap so they end up with an animal they cannot keep.

    Moreover, how is "overpopulation" to be defined? Does the existence of "homelessness" (a euphemism for the socially problematic) mean there is a human overpopulation problem? Does the fact that millions of children are surrendered for adoption or placed in foster homes indicate a human overpopulation problem? How?

    Does the fact that there are "unwanted" children mean there are too many? In the home of the people who had them, possibly. But I don't see what the fact that some people -- or some dogs -- are unwanted has to do with population. This is not to say that animals cannot and do not overpopulate. Feral cats are a good example. So are deer. But I can't remember the last time I saw (in the United States) packs of starving stray dogs running about.

    It is not surprising that not as many people want grown dogs as want puppies. After all, a dog is a bit like a child. The younger it is when you get it, the earlier the bond, the stronger and more intimate the relationship. This may be cruel, but it reflects reality.

    How many adoptive parents will take an unwanted teenager?

    Aside from the fact that puppies are only rarely found in shelters, adopting puppies from shelters can be a bad idea, as there's no way of knowing its health or disposition ancestry (or even what size it will be). This means that like it or not, responsible dog breeders are the best source for healthy, reliable puppies.

    So why target them?

    I don't know, but I suspect this has more to do with issues of power than dog overpopulation.

    Back to my personal issue. Coco has never been bred, which is my business. And Coco's. She might be bred, and then again she might never be bred. It's not very difficult dealing with ten days of discharge twice a year, and with Puff, allowing him to keep his testicles (and his integrity) posed no problems at all.

    I don't care what excuses they offer, the government has no right to mess with genitalia.

    (Mine or Coco's.)

    MORE: Anyone who thinks I am engaged in hysteria (or exaggerating about the goal being complete elimination of all dog breeding) should read the Institute for Animal Rights Law's MODEL MANDATORY SPAY/NEUTER STATUTE.

    (The goal, of course, is elimination of all pets.)

    UPDATE: Mandatory spay-neuter ordinances have recently been proposed in Riverside, California, and San Antonio, Texas.

    AND MORE: Here's another high priced used paperback -- The Hijacking of the Humane Movement: Animal Extremism
    by Patti and Rod Strand -- which seems well worth reading. (These dissenting tracts sure are pricey . . .)

    UPDATE (06/02/06): Out for fireworks last night, and this morning I see Glenn Reynolds has linked this post. Thanks Glenn, and a happy Fourth to all!

    (In all honesty, I never thought of this post as a defense of ovarian independence, but I'm all for it!)

    One more thing. Considering Glenn's link to Virginity or Death!, and Ana Marie Cox's review of it, I think this is a good time to remind readers that Coco is still a virgin.

    UPDATE: More thoughts on the economic and cultural ramifications of mandatory sterilization.

    UPDATE (07/04/06): You can have our guns and ovaries when you pry them from our cold dead paws! (Some Fourth of July thoughts.)

    posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (7)

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