Global Cooling

I was reading the Netscape Blog today and came across an interesting post on the politicization of climate science. They report:

More than 120 scientists across seven federal agencies say they have been pressured to remove references to "climate change" and "global warming" from a range of documents, including press releases and communications with Congress.
As usual there is a Usenet type discussion going on. Flame wars (not too bad - Netscape is somewhat moderated). And just people with out a clue. Fun to visit. On the odd occasion.

So out of that discussion I pulled a couple of interesting urls.

The first is from Russia

ST. PETERSBURG, August 25 (RIA Novosti)- Global cooling could develop on Earth in 50 years and have serious consequences before it is replaced by a period of warming in the early 22nd century, a Russian scientist said Friday.

Environmentalists and scientists today focus on the dangers of global warming provoked by man's detrimental effect on the planet's climate, but global cooling - though never widely supported - is a theory postulating an overwhelming cooling of the Earth which could involve glaciation.

"On the basis of our [solar emission] research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth's climate by the middle of this century and the beginning of a regular 200-year-long cycle of the climate's global warming at the start of the 22nd century," said the head of the space research sector of the Russian Academy of Sciences' astronomical observatory.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov said he and his colleagues had concluded that a period of global cooling similar to one seen in the late 17th century - when canals froze in the Netherlands and people had to leave their dwellings in Greenland - could start in 2012-2015 and reach its peak in 2055-2060.

I first did a piece on increased solar output in November of 2004. In that piece I suggested that the global warming we have been experiencing is mainly due to increased solar output. Since then further reports have come out adding more weight to the evidence.

Here is a report with links showing the connection between solar activity and climate for the last 1,000 years.

During the Medieval maximum of 1000-1300 there was an extremely large Sunspot which is believed to have warmed the Earth higher than normal. There were no accurate measurements of the weather to call upon during this time but the discovery and colonization of Greenland by Eric the Red supports this hypothesis. Eric was exiled from Iceland for manslaughter and sailed west discovering Greenland. He then led many ships, filled with people who wanted to make a fresh start, to this new land. For 300 years Greenland flourished, new communities settled, trade with other countries grew, and the population increased. Around 1325 the climate cooled down considerably, people started to abandon the northern settlements. By 1350 glaciers covered the northern settlements, and the southern most settlements were dying out as well.

The Sporer minimum of 1400-1510 and the Maunder minimum of 1645-1715 were each known as a "little ice age." They were both droughts in Sunspot activity, and a link to a time of abnormally cold weather on Earth. In addition to finishing off the Greenland colonies, the Sporer minimum showed increased rates of famine in the world, and the Baltic Sea froze solid in the winter of 1422-23. Some of the more notable effects of the Maunder minimum included the appearance of glaciers in the Alps advancing farther southward, the north sea froze, and in London there was the famous year without a summer where it remained cold for 21 consecutive months.

That was posted in 2004. What did the poster expect for the future?
The Sun could start going through a down trend in sunspot activity at any time. We could find ourselves back in a state similar to the Maunder Minimum with decades of much colder weather. Or sunspot activity could increase to an even higher level and temperatures could rise more than the amount some models project as a consequence of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide.

My guess is that the chances are greater for a reduction in sunspot activity than for an increase. Why? Most of the time the planet Earth is in an ice age. This is suggestive of the possibility that the Sun just doesn't put out enough heat to keep the Earth out of ice ages most of the time. Also, the higher sunspot activity reported above is at the high end of an over 1,000 year period. Therefore the odds seem greater that we will have more future years with lower sunspot activity than with higher sunspot activity.

My further guess is that a reduction in sunspot activity would cause more harm to humans than a further increase in sunspot activity. A decrease could put large amounts of farm fields out of production and would reduce the useful length of the growing seasons for other fields. The freezing over of rivers and seas along with snows and ice would interfere with transportation more than higher temperatures would.

Which is exacly what is being predicted by the Russian scientist.

He is not alone.

The New Scientist report, along with other scientific assessments warning of global cooling, also come as a blow to the campaign -- led by David Suzuki and one of the directors of his foundation -- to portray all who raise doubts about climate change theory -- so-called skeptics -- as pawns of corporate PR thugs manipulating opinion. If the Suzuki claim is true, then the tentacles of Exxon-Mobil reach deeper into science than anyone has so far imagined.

Dramatic global temperature fluctuations, as New Scientist reports, are the norm. A Little Ice Age struck Europe in the 17th century. New Yorkers once walked from Manhattan to Staten Island across a frozen harbour. About 200 years earlier, New Scientist reminds us, a sharp downturn in temperatures turned fertile Greenland into Arctic wasteland.

These and other temperature swings corresponded with changing solar activity. "It's a boom-bust system, and I expect a crash soon," says Nigel Weiss, a solar physicist at the University of Cambridge. Scientists cannot say precisely how big the coming cooling will be, but it could at minimum be enough to offset the current theoretical impact of man-made global warming. Sam Solanki, of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, says declining solar activity could drop global temperatures by 0.2 degrees Celsius. "It might not sound like much," says New Scientist writer Stuart Clark, "but this temperature reversal would be as big as the most optimistic estimate of the results of restricting greenhouse-gas emissions until 2050 in line with the Kyoto protocol."

Funny thing is that solar output is not handled well in current climate change models.

That was discussed at length at Winds of Change. In fact the discussion basically evicerates the whole cimate change modeling community for over promising on the reliability of their results.

The more I look into this the more I find it is old news. From October of 2000 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

Although the processes of climate change are not completely understood, an important causal candidate is variation in total solar output. Reported cycles in various climate-proxy data show a tendency to emulate a fundamental harmonic sequence of a basic solar-cycle length (11 years) multiplied by 2N (where N equals a positive or negative integer). A simple additive model for total solar-output variations was developed by superimposing a progression of fundamental harmonic cycles with slightly increasing amplitudes. The timeline of the model was calibrated to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary at 9,000 years before present. The calibrated model was compared with geophysical, archaeological, and historical evidence of warm or cold climates during the Holocene. The evidence of periods of several centuries of cooler climates worldwide called "little ice ages," similar to the period anno Domini (A.D.) 1280-1860 and reoccurring approximately every 1,300 years, corresponds well with fluctuations in modeled solar output. A more detailed examination of the climate sensitive history of the last 1,000 years further supports the model. Extrapolation of the model into the future suggests a gradual cooling during the next few centuries with intermittent minor warmups and a return to near little-ice-age conditions within the next 500 years. This cool period then may be followed approximately 1,500 years from now by a return to altithermal conditions similar to the previous Holocene Maximum.
You have to ask yourself, why isn't this being discussed? Why wasn't it in Al Gore's movie on climate? Which I'm told is set to recieve an Oscar this year. I'm willing to bet Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth will go down with Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. A triumph of propaganda.

More on the 1,500 year solar cycle

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:23 PM | Comments (3)

Not ugly enough to appreciate?

Barcepundit's Jose Guardia links to a fascinating piece on modern art, titled "Admit it - you really hate modern art":

There are esthetes who appreciate the cross-eyed cartoons of Pablo Picasso, the random dribbles of Jackson Pollock, and even the pickled pigs of Damien Hirst. Some of my best friends are modern artists. You, however, hate and detest the 20th century's entire output in the plastic arts, as do I.

"I don't know much about art," you aver, "but I know what I like." Actually you don't. You have been browbeaten into feigning pleasure at the sight of so-called art that actually makes your skin crawl, and you are afraid to admit it for fear of seeming dull. This has gone on for so long that you have forgotten your own mind. Do not fear: in a few minutes' reading I can break the spell and liberate you from this unseemly condition.

Spengler also explains why modern artists can become rich, while modern composers starved. It's because modern art does not overwhelm the senses, while modern music does:
Why is it that the audience for modern art is quite happy to take in the ideological message of modernism while strolling through an art gallery, but loath to hear the same message in the concert hall? It is rather like communism, which once was fashionable among Western intellectuals. They were happy to admire communism from a distance, but reluctant to live under communism.

When you view an abstract expressionist canvas, time is in your control. You may spend as much or as little time as you like, click your tongue, attempt to say something sensible and, if you are sufficiently pretentious, quote something from the Wikipedia write-up on the artist that you consulted before arriving at the gallery. When you listen to atonal music, for example Schoenberg, you are stuck in your seat for a quarter of an hour that feels like many hours in a dentist's chair. You cannot escape. You do not admire the abstraction from a distance. You are actually living inside it. You are in the position of the fashionably left-wing intellectual of the 1930s who made the mistake of actually moving to Moscow, rather than admiring it at a safe distance.

That is why at least some modern artists come into very serious money, but not a single one of the abstract composers can earn a living from his music.

Return to the topic of "break[ing] the spell and liberat[ing] you from this unseemly condition," it just so happens that Salvador Dali (who called modern art a "grandiose tragedy") believed it was his destiny to rescue painting from modern art:
Salvador means "savior" and Dalí said he was "destined for nothing less than to rescue painting from the void of modern art." Dalí disparaged modernism (which he saw as lacking respect for craft) as a dead end. He rebelled by infusing contemporary art with virtuoso draftsmanship and painstakingly realistic technique.
In other words, he knew how to draw and paint, and his paintings actually looked like something. (Unlike Jackson Pollack, who knew only how to drip and spill.)

The only slight disagreement I might have with Spengler is his statement that "by inflicting sufficient ugliness upon us, the modern artists believe, they will wear down our capacity to see beauty." I'm not even sure that what they are inflicting is necessarily ugliness, because that would require a depiction of something which is ugly -- which would in turn generate an emotion, a reaction. Many fine artists have accurately depicted ugliness, especially human ugliness. Depicting something like spilled paint or a solid black canvas really depicts nothing at all, and I think it's more on the level of nihilism.

By contrast, here are a couple of Dali's depictions of ugly beings, from Hell:

Lucifer.jpgdalisig.JPG tarbaby.jpg

They're meant to be appreciated as ugly.

A leading Dali dealer and art scholar told me that he loved talking to young fans of Dali who had not yet been to college, because they had not yet been taught to hate Dali.

I'm sure the fact that Dali draws bigger crowds than "traditional" modern (forgive me) artists doesn't help endear him to professors either.

MORE: Another advantage that modern art has over modern music is that it's easier to participate in the former than in the latter.


AND MORE: Great news for Dalí lovers! Via Pajamas Media, the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation now has an online catalog of the works of Salvador Dalí. What's great about this catalog is that it lists the works alphabetically, chronologically, and by the location all over the world.

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

Why that which is concealed is so often "irrelevant"

Warning. Some generalizations follow. I can't really help it, because I'm thinking about the way people tend to think, and there's no way to think about the way people think (especially when it comes to things like "values") without generalizing about the way people think.

A lot of people argue over identity politics (and its profitable spawn, affirmative action), but what bothers me the most about it is not so much that it makes the irrelevant relevant, but that it gives it an actual value -- something measurable in terms of wealth. Dollars and sense.

When rewards are bestowed in the form of giving people real and tangible things (like admission to college, preferential treatment in hiring and promotions), the people who get these things can be expected to treat them the way anyone else might treat something of value. If you have something of value, your natural inclination is to fight like hell to keep it. When you're told that you deserve it, this adds a moral justification, and thus a moral "value" becomes a genuine value.

People argue over "values," but they're more likely to go to war over value. The former often supplies a justification for the latter, and when historians look back, they're often confused. Thus, the causes of the Civil War (and many other wars) are still debated.

While it is natural enough to expect someone to fight like hell to defend his property, it helps if he has a moral rationalization. A tenant in a rent-controlled apartment who pays a fraction of its market rent naturally wants what he has, but he'll feel better about fighting for it if he is told that he is good (or "oppressed"), and his landlord is bad ("exploitative"). Pennsylvania has a system of government-run liquor stores which stay in place despite widespread public opposition, because of the lobbying efforts state liquor store employees union, which claims to be "protecting the public." Similarly, the FCC claims that its artificial and outmoded licensing system protects the "public airwaves." So do the licensees, who have paid billions and don't want their licenses devalued.

When moral arguments are used in these and other instances to defeat logical arguments, people spend so much time debating the moral arguments (whether with logical arguments or moral counter-arguments) that they overlook the economic arguments.

Maybe they're uncomfortable with them. Perhaps economic factors are seen as irrelevant -- even immoral -- in the face of morality.

They are not irrelevant. Welfare, affirmative action, rent control, state regulation of alcohol and bandwidth are all someone's bread and butter. To debate the moral issues is fine, although I try to focus on logic. (Logic and morality do not always mix, of course.) Yet in logic, there is no way for me to ignore value as well as values. If someone is getting money, it is not going to be easy to turn off the flow. Money has a way of creating and fueling moral arguments, whether the latter should be there or not. Value often creates values.

Even arguments which seem driven by morality (and "fairness") like same sex marriage have strong economic components. People don't just want the "right" to a piece of paper saying they're married; they want real benefits they see others as getting. Global warming masquerades as "save the planet" morality, but I suspect there are careers, jobs, and vast economic forces behind a regulatory scheme which promises to be the most massive transfer of power in human history. The louder the moral arguments become (in what amounts to a vast international bureaucratic war against carbon), the more suspicious I become that a tangible shift in economic value is involved. If the war on carbon isn't started soon, public opinion might prevent the inevitable power grab, which would be very bad for the emerging new power class. Thus the heavy-handed moral rhetoric has become deafening.

Unfortunately, many of the fiercest proponents of global warming morality cut their teeth by championing an argument against the Vietnam War which many people (myself included) assumed was strictly a "values" argument -- in favor of "peace." While undoubtably there were a lot of sincere people who really believed in peace at the time, many of the peace demonstrators were violent. But that was only because they "believed" so strongly in their newfound peace values. At least, that was what I thought until I saw a sudden and dramatic drop in attendance at the demonstrations which accompanied the end of the draft. This made me suspect a more tangible value was involved -- the value of not risking your life. That's at least as legitimate a value as any economic benefit, but it was concealed by the values argument. And many of the people who did the concealing never admitted what they were concealing, because few asked them whether a very real motivation wasn't simply the preservation of their own lives.

Doubtless, had they been asked (and I'm sure some of them were), they'd have said that wanting to save their skins was "irrelevant." (An argument I have heard.) Really? Their own lives were irrelevant? I doubt it.

I don't mean to generalize about an entire generation of people (because many of them served honorably in the war, and many antiwar leftists have regretted their dishonesty), but some of them developed what I think is a bad habit of imagining that their moral values were more important than other values.

Worse, if these other values (like saving one's skin, keeping a job, keeping a rent-controlled apartment, or building a power base) are sources of shame, it is natural to expect them to be concealed.

When concealed values masquerade as ostensible values, we spend a great deal of time arguing over the less relevant while missing the highly relevant.

posted by Eric at 10:15 AM

Guilford Student Cleared

Guilford College student Jazz Favor has been cleared by the school and allowed back on campus.

Greensboro, NC -- A Guilford College football player's mom is speaking out, only to WFMY News 2.

Anita Favors, Jazz Favor's mother, says the players and the Palestinan students were friends. She also says at least one of the accusers have already apologized to some of the football players.

Favors says her son was trying to break up the fight between his teammates and the three Palestinian students.

"Our son told us that it was a fight. It started out as an argument and then a whole bunch of people got involved. Jazz was instructed by an official of that school to break up the fight because he's so big and he grabbed a football player and asked him to leave," Anita Favors explained, "In the process of removing the football player he told one of the accusers just run and leave. He was telling everybody just run get out."

An independent investigation by the college is still underway, but Favors says her son has been cleared and allowed back on campus.

A very good video of Jazz's mother talking about the case is available at the above link. Click on the WFMY Video On Demand box on the page. The video is about two minutes. Jazz's mother stated in the video that before the fight the football players and the Palestinians had been friends.

Now all Jazz has to worry about is the court case.

The details are murky but I have heard rumors that the fight was over stolen beer and that the "brass knuckles" may have actually been a gold watch. All rumor so far.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:22 AM | Comments (1)

"It takes a Carrier"

So proclaims the motto of the U.S.S. Hillary Clinton, according to John Birmingham's Final Impact (The Axis of Time Trilogy, Book 3).

I didn't order it, as I'm not a sci fi reader, but in this case perhaps I should make an exception. Not only does Justin say it's great, but when Glenn Reynolds reviewed books one and two in the trilogy (Designated Targets and Weapons of Choice) -- he noted that the author (and blogger) got in trouble for calling Hillary Clinton "the most uncompromising wartime President in the history of the United States."

Stuff like that gets my attention in ways that "normal" science fiction can't, so maybe I should try reading the sequel.

It's probably a good idea to get caught up with history before it happens.

UPDATE: Via Wonkette (where they're outraged enough to manage a Hitler comparison, although they avoided saying "Hitlery") I see that six anti-war demonstrators have been arrested outside Hillary Clinton's office.


Might these sci fi guys be onto something?

MORE: I guess this sort of thing was inevitable sooner or later.

You know, in the future, everyone will be Hitler for fifteen minutes?

No, I'm not going to copy and paste the offensive image! This armband was bad enough:


Can't we just get along, folks?

Please. Give war a chance.

And don't blame me! Wonkette started it!

ary's "ominous pastels' offensive, as Jan Moir of the Telegraph writes, Ilsa -- She wolf of the SS might be more appropriate:

UPDATE: Sissy Willis has a classic post about Hillary's Pink Offensive, with this picture:



I see fusion! Confusion! Collusion!

(A Vast Conspiracy of Pink Triangulation!)

posted by Eric at 04:39 PM | Comments (4)

Meet The Accusers

The accuseers in the Guilford College fight have finally met with police.

Last Edited: Monday, 29 Jan 2007, 11:21 PM EST
Created: Monday, 29 Jan 2007, 11:20 PM EST

GREENSBORO (WGHP) -- More than a week after a fight on the Guilford College campus, Greensboro police have interviewed the accusers. Three Palestinian students claim members of the football team beat them and used racial slurs during a confrontation January 20.

After two missed appointments last week, the three accusers met with Greensboro Police and the FBI Monday evening at their lawyer's office in downtown Greensboro.

This is the first step in the police investigation. The accusers have filed criminal complaints six football players.

Note that the complaints were filed directly with the magistrate bypassing the police, until now.

Normally accusers do not do police interviews with their lawyers present. So that is kind of strange. Waiting a week before making contact (time to get the stories straight?) is also not the regular course of action following an altercation.

Not to worry. The Angry Studies people have it under control.

The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project chose to enter the public discourse by issuing a news release Monday afternoon.

"May God grant the Guilford College community the courage and wisdom to name, engage, and overcome their own underlying attitudes and cultural prejudices that led to such a tragic event," read the final sentence of the statement.

I wonder if they are talking about prejudice against jocks? Or prejudice against white people?

I suppose it couln't be the white people thing. Half the accused are black.

A look at the Reconciliation Project statement might be helpful.

We pledge to all the members of that college community our whole hearted support as they seek to deal fairly and compassionately with the students involved in this recent event, but also with the underlying spirit of racism and domination revealed in it---a hate-filled spirit from which none of us in this competitive, fragmented, violence-prone society is free.

We pray that God will assuage the wounds of our three young Palestinian neighbors and grant them many friends whose love and support will transcend the barriers of race and culture and hasten their healing in body and soul. May God grant the Guilford College community the courage and wisdom to name, engage, and overcome their own underlying attitudes and cultural prejudices that led to such a tragic event. May God grant the young men who participated in wounding their fellow students the tough love of honest friends and the necessary guidance and support by which they may be freed from the destructive power of the spirit of domination and the exclusive attitudes that drove them into such violent and hateful behavior.

That statement sure looks like a rush to judgement to me. What if it was the Palestinians who did the wounding? What if they started the fight?

What if the The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project are tough loving the wrong people? What if they don't have a lock on truth? What if they are really bigots in disguise?

Me? I smell a rat.

Here is how The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project got started. The short version: On November 3, 1979, Klansmen shot and killed five communists.

After digging further into The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project it looks to me like they are a group of "progressive" organizers. i.e. communists. Although the communists did extraordinary work on civil rights, their goal was never the reconciliation of the races. Their goal was to weaken America in the long cold war between the Soviets and the Western world. I think they are still at it.

I checked out some names mentioned at The Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Project

More than 1,000 people -- Greensboro residents and national and international supporters -- took part Nov. 13, 2004, in the the 25th Anniversary March for Justice, Democracy and Reconciliation. The anniversary was marked by a collection of other religious, cultural and educational events featuring distinguished guests including Naomi Tutu, the granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, nationally acclaimed playwright Emily Mann and veteran national civil rights activists including Vincent Harding, Elizabeth McAllister and Ruby Sales.
Vincent Harding had this to say.[pdf]
Don't let people fool you when they say they went to Grenada because the communists were taking over. Don't let people fool you when they say that someday they are going into Cuba because that's where the trouble starts. I know what Cuba was like before Castro came to power. I know what it means to be a slave. Don't be telling me about sending our young men to fight communism in Cuba.
Yep. Cuba is the model. Land of the free.

The other names mentioned don't seem to have any obvious communist sympathies. If fact Naomi Tutu's father Desmond appears to have been anti-communist.

Desmond Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with agreement from nearly all churches. Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid through his writings and lectures at home and abroad. Though he was most firm in denouncing South Africa's white-ruled government, Tutu was also harsh in his criticism of the violent tactics of some anti-apartheid groups such as the African National Congress and denounced terrorism and Communism.
Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:36 PM

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 12

The current cease fire is holding. Except for one killing. So far.

A Hamas affiliated gunman was shot dead in Khan Younies on Tuesday afternoon. Hamas officials are holding gunmen from Fateh responsible for the shooting. It is the first fatality to be reported since the cease-fire came into effect at 3 A.M [local time -which is +2GMT - ed.] on Tuesday morning.

The man killed was an operative of the Al-Qassam brigades, an armed wing affiliated with the Hamas movement, according to Palestinian security sources. The gunman who opened fire at him has not yet been identified.

IMEMC called Fawzi Barhoum, the spokesman of Hamas in the Gaza strip. He stated that apparently some groups of Fateh are not commited to the political leadership commands of Fateh movement, and are still acting on an individual basis.

Jeeze, what a surprise. The chain of command is unsound. They don't have orders. They have "suggestions".

Give the situation, in another day or two the battles will be raging again.

It looks like the person killed was a Hamas military leader.

Gunmen shot dead a Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and the Islamist group blamed a Fatah-dominated security service for the first killing in the territory since a ceasefire went into effect overnight.

Hospital officials in the southern town of Khan Younis said Hussein Shabasi was shot in the head.

A spokesman for Hamas' armed wing said he was killed by the Preventive Security Service, most of whose members belong to President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction. The security service denied any connection with his death.

It looks like the cease fire is holding. So far. In addition Fatah and Hamas have exchanged hostages.

Rival Palestinian factions have swapped hostages under a ceasefire deal that went into effect hours earlier, largely halting gun battles in which at least 30 Palestinians were killed.

The internal Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip was the fiercest since the Islamist Hamas group, which rejects peace talks with Israel, trounced the more moderate Fatah faction in elections last year, triggering a Western aid embargo.

A total of 20 Hamas and 18 Fatah hostages were freed over a several-hour period, said Samih al-Madhoun, a senior leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah.

"The process of handing over the hostages has been completed," Madhoun said.

The truce agreed late on Tuesday to end five days of fighting seemed to be generally holding despite the killing of a Hamas commander in Gaza on Tuesday.

The ceasefire went into effect after Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas met an aide to Abbas.

The bloodshed had derailed unity government talks between Hamas and Fatah and prompted some families in the coastal strip to flee their homes.

Shops are opening. Traffic is resuming. People are coming out of their homes after being shut in for 5 days. It is quite possible that this truce will hold. For a while. Which would make my prediction of a couple of days to rest and refit wrong.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:23 PM

You win, I'm Satan! End of argument.

In my post about the Moscow Mayor's comments (that gay parades are Satanic), one of the things that came up was whether Krishna is Satanic.

Here's why I think a lot easier to opine on whether gay parades are Satanic than whether Krishna is Satanic. Because nearly everyone believes in (I mean in the sense of understands that there is) such a thing as a gay pride parade, and that there are gay people. Whether they are Satanic depends on two things:

1. Whether you believe in Satan; and

2. Whether gay parades share a sufficient number of his (or her; depending on the sex of angels) attributes that they can be considered Satanic.

This makes the analogy at least managable, as simple logic can be applied to at least one side of the comparison. One thing exists; the other thing might or might not. Where it gets problematic is the definition of Satanic, because the existence of Satan is not easily demonstrated, and beyond that, the attributes of Satan are by no means universally agreed upon. It has, for example, been argued that Satan is a medieval adaptation of Nature's God Pan (aka the "Horned God"). And of course if the horned god is nature and Satan, then Satan is Nature, and (like nearly all world leaders) we are all Satanic to a certain degree and so on. It's an emotionally charged mess, because of a lack of readily agreeable definitions.

But calling Krishna Satanic makes calling gays Satanic almost child's play. There's a definitional threshold on both sides of the equation. As someone who does not believe in Satan or Krishna, for me to even entertain the idea that Krishna is Satanic (or Satan is Krishnatic) requires a quantum leap in suspending disbelief. It is my opinion that both of these deities are made up. Yet I don't want to disrespect anyone's religious beliefs, so I tend to assume for the sake of argument that both exist. And I must bear in mind that what's fantasy for me is dogma for others. So, while I can entertain the comparison, it's on the level of "Is Santa like Bacchus?" Not satifisying for those who believe in Santa Satan, or for those who believe in Krishna.

Oddly enough, those who claim Krishna is Satanic would seem to believe in both. Does that mean that to them, Krishna is not made up?

To stay with the example, in the case of Satan and Krishna, there are four possibilities:

1. Both Satan and Krishna are made up;

2. Only Krishna is made up, but Satan exists;

3. Only Satan is made up, but Krishna exists;

4. Both Satan and Krishna exist.

How is a reasonable and logical person supposed to choose from the above possibilities? By tallying up the number of people who believe in one or the other, and go with the winner? By looking at the "date of manufacture" to determine which deity was referenced first in human writings? Some combination of both? Or by believing neither without tangible proof? (The problem with me is that while I do believe in God, I am extremely skeptical of human religious writings.)

These sorts of things make it tough to have reasonable discussions. Not that an unreasonable discussion isn't occasionally entertaining. In the early 90s I remember actually spending time in chat rooms! (Yes, true confession time!) Lest anyone think the chatting was all dirty, I remember one time I argued well into the early morning with someone whose screen name is long forgotten, but who wanted to discuss religious issues vis-a-vis homosexuality, which he maintained was sinful. I was feeling very patient, and I thought I had done a great job of making allowances for what seemed to be a substantial educational disparity between us, and suspending my disbelief as best I could. All I wanted this person of unknown age or sex to do was to engage in logical thinking, and after hours (during which he asked me to "please wait") he brought some new person into the chat room who claimed he was the first person's minister. I started over with that person, and the argument turned into demands to know who I was, where I was, and finally, an accusation that I was "Satanic" and had been trying to "trick" the first person. This struck me as grounded in frustration, as well as an unanswerable, ad hominem attack, and I just wanted to sleep. The worst part of this is that I wasn't trying to win an argument. I just wanted to know exactly what this person thought, and it seemed to me he wasn't thinking so much as he was being told what to think. I only wanted to know why he thought it, and that was ultimately deemed "Satanic."

I'll have to say, it ended an argument which could never have been won.

That's because Satan by definition can't win for losing.

posted by Eric at 08:02 AM | Comments (9)

An Incentive, Not A Deterrent

Bernard Lewis says that MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) does not work with people who want to be destroyed.

Outdated Cold war concepts, such as mutually assured destruction (M.A.D) are irrelevant when it comes to Iran , because the Iranian president and his circle see such a scenario "as an incentive, not a deterrent," renowned scholar Bernard Lewis said during a lecture Monday evening at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Addressing a packed hall, Lewis spoke after a screening of the film 'Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West'.

"Ahmadinejad and his group clearly believe, and I don't doubt the sincerity of their belief, that we are now entering an apocalyptic age, which will result in the triumph of their messianic figure," Lewis said, referring to the twelfth Imam, Mahdi.

"Muslims, like Jews, believe that there are things you can do to hasten the messiah. M.A.D doesn't work with these people."

Lewis added that the threat of many Iranians perishing in a war did not deter the Iranian leadership, which believes "it would be doing them a favor, by giving them a free pass to heaven."

"Iran is a mortal threat, and one also has to take account of the apocalyptic mood of Ahmadinejad and his circle. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, has an end of time scenario," the scholar said.

"There is only solution to the Iranian threat, and that can only come from the Iranian people," Lewis said.

Let me note that the Jews who believe you can rush the Messiah are few in number and do not run any countries.

I do think that the Iranian people will have to change Iran. However, there are some Iranian people who think that a push from the USA might be helpful.

WASHINGTON - While United States Minister of Defense Robert Gates, along with many specialists on the matter, warn against a military attack on Iran, which in their view will entrap the Iranian people behind the Ayatollah regime, Iranian student leader Amir Abbas Fakhr-Avar believes an attack will have the reverse result.

In an exclusive interview with Ynet, Fakhr-Avar describes his blueprint for how to topple the regime. If the West launches a military attack on Iran , "The top brass will flee immediately. People will come out onto the streets protesting, why are we being bombed? Many of the regime's mid-level officials will shave their beards, don ties and join the (civilians) on the streets."

So he does expect at least street protests in opposition to an American bombing. He also thinks thtere is a better way.
He testified before the US Senate, met with President George W. Bush and senior administrators in the State Department and the Pentagon, as well as with experts and analysts on Iran, like Professor Bernard Lewis and others.

His message to the West is: Stop supporting the reformists in Iran. Help us topple the Ayatollah regime. He claims the time is right; all that is needed is a push from the West.

Fakhr-Avar believes the revolution can be accomplished within ten months to a year. He does not ask for much from the Americans: "What we really need is the tools," he says. "Cell phones, computers, cameras, publication ability. This is the funding we need for our (revolutionary) activities, to coordinate within Iran and outside."

Publication ability could mean nothing more than copiers. Or fast printers hooked to computers. At 30 pages a minute you can do 1,000 pages in about 35 minutes. Spread that around to 10 or 20 sites and you have a clandestine printing industry. Easily disguised as a business.

So what Amir see as his role in the USA?

Our main purpose and help we can give the administration is to help them to decide better. They don't know that society that well, they really don't know the regime or the people. We need to help them - we being the opposition outside Iran.

In my testimony to the senate I told them a few things: Mainly that sanctions will help to make the regime weak, and that they need to put down the regime.

The outside world does not know much about Iran, maybe they know at best 10 percent of what is going on in Iran, what the people's sentiments are. Seventy percent of the population is under the age of 30, but they've had grand experiences. They've been through post-revolution, war, robbery during (Akbar Hashemi) Rafsanjani's era, so-called reform.

Once burned twice shy they say.
Not the mobiles, not the cell phones. They don't have the technology to stop it, and there are too many. Right now they're busy controlling each other's mobiles - the mullahs, so that's why some of these guys are doing it freely. However, landlines, they do control. But mobiles there are problems.

What is interesting is that the rest of the world believes in the information network of the Islamic regime is very strong, but that is not the case. They are extremely weak. They have a very low IQ.
Say. Where have I heard that before? One must not underestimate the animal cunning, even in people with low IQ.

What we need to do then is flood Iran with cheap or free satellite connections. Uplink and down link. I think we have the technology for that.

Ahmadinejad is stupid. We've known him for the past 6-7 years from the political arena in Iran. When he was the mayor Tehran his plans were so stupid that people laughed at him. One of them was to pave the roadway that the 12th imam traveled on. He took all the intersections and removed the traffic signals so everyone can go where they want. A few months later they decided it was stupid and put them all back. It cost something like 2 billion dollars.
I wonder who got the paving contracts?

Amir says there is a generation gap in Iran.

People in Iran react the opposite of what the regime says. If the regime says it's day, they'll close their eyes and say it's night. Whatever the Islamic regime fights against- that becomes important to the Iranians. I don't represent the entire population of course, but I can give you an idea of what are the sentiments. I was elected by the students and I speak for them. Remember, 70 percent are under age 30.

The older generation is stuck in the 70s, the youngsters speak a language the adults don't understand

The majority of the population don't care for Hizbullah or the Palestinian people, mostly because they see that their money is going to them.

Israel's attack on Hizbullah was they best thing they've done in recent years. It helped to clean up the land from the terrorists, when they don't have land they have no place to run troops, that's why they drove Hizbullah crazy, regime in Iran wasn't happy either.

Wow. Israel's fight with Hizballah has cheered the anti-government Iranians. That is a side effect from last summer's war I wasn't even aware of.

I hope the Iranian people get the tools they need. And, if necessary, the mullahs get a good hard shove to help them out the door.

I remember reading a few years ago an Iranian stating that if an American attack kept civilian casualties under 1,000 it would be worth it.

Faster please.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:29 PM | Comments (1)


Now I'm not sure if magistration is a word. At least in the sense I intend to use it. So what do I mean by magistration? Getting a magistrate to swear out a warrant without any input from law enforcement. Basically a way to get a person jailed with out any evidence except a sworn statement.

Why is this of interest? It has just happened for the sixth time in the Guilford College case.

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- A sixth Guilford College football player was charged Monday with assaulting a Palestinian student, court officials said.

The arrest warrant states that Rushing hit one of the victims while he was on the floor being beaten by others.

Micah Rushing, 21, of Albemarle, was released on a promise to appear, the Guilford County Magistrate's Office said.

The charges stem from accusations by three Palestinian students who said they were taunted with racial slurs and called "terrorists" as they were beaten by several members of the school's football team just after midnight Jan. 20, according to court documents. Besides assault, the five other players have been charged with ethnic intimidation.

Faris Khader, one of the three accusers, swore out the assault warrant against Rushing, the magistrate's office said. None of the charges against the players are the result of police investigation.

For those of you keeping a race score card, there are now three black and three white defendants. And as this latest report notes: so far there has been no police investigation. Despite the fact that the accuser's lawyer has said that the accusers would meet with police to discuss the matter.

Just a guess, but I think the accusers were jealous of the football guys. What was that old Rolling Stones' song? "I can't get no...."

Here is a recap for those of you who would like to catch up on the case details:
Guilford College Six's Injuries
Palestinians Lawyer Up
Guilford Is A Street In Rockford

H/T reader linearthinker

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:47 PM

First it was Bush fascism! Now it's a "fight for survival"!

The hilarious Chris Hedges (whose views I ridiculed as the "final countdown to Bush Fascism") just can't seem to get enough.

Of what?

Humor, hopes Clayton Cramer, as he waits for Hedge's punchline and links Eugene Volokh's discussion of some truly horrendous anti-free speech remarks by Hedges.

From Hedges' book (American Fascists):

This is the awful paradox of tolerance. There arise moments when those who would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible should no longer be tolerated. They must be held accountable by institutions that maintain the free exchange of ideas and liberty.

The radical Christian Right must be forced to include other points of view to counter their hate talk in their own broadcasts, watched by tens of millions of Americans.

Wait a second! The "radical Christian right" consists of a few loony tunes like the death-penalty-for-sodomy Michael Marcavage, the late R.J. Rushdoony, and maybe Fred Phelps. They're watched by tens of millions? Hedges must mean Pat Robertson (although to be fair I have never heard the latter advocate the death penalty for homosexuals). How would the Hedges anti-fascist fairness doctrine work in his case? Who gets to debate him Michelangelo SIgnorile? Or Hugo Chavez?

More from the Hedges book:

They must be denied the right to demonize whole segments of American society, saying they are manipulated by Satan and worthy only of conversion or eradication....
Denied the right to demonize whole segments of society? But isn't that what Hedges is doing? I wrote a post about the Mayor of Moscow's silly statements that gay parades are "Satanic," and much as I disagreed with him, it would never occur to me that he shouldn't have been free to say that. As a matter of fact, I just concluded that in America anyone can say anyone is Satanic, and "calling people Satanists is as American as apple pie." That goes for Bush, Kerry, anyone! (They've been called worse things.)

So where does this leave me?

Who does Hedges think I shouldn't be allowed to call Satanic? Hedges?

Hedges, you are Satanic!

There. I said it. Do I get to go to jail? Or will he just force me to have a leftie co-blogger assigned to criticize what I say? (I guess he means the latter, although the insanity of this is a little mind-boggling.)

From Hedges' NPR radio interview, Volokh has some hilarious quotes. He gets to Rushdoony:

Mr. HEDGES: I think that, you know, in a democratic society, people don't have a right to preach the extermination of others, which has been a part of this movement of - certainly in terms of what should be done with homosexuals. You know, Rushdoony and others have talked about 18 moral crimes for which people should be executed, including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy, and all - in order for an open society to function, it must function with a mutual respect, with a respect...

JIM: Sure.

Mr. HEDGES: ...for other ways to be and other ways to believe. And I think that the fringes of this movement have denied people that respect, which is why they fight so hard against hate crimes legislation -- such as exist in Canada -- being made law in the United States.

[NEAL] CONAN: But Chris, to be fair, aren't you talking about violating their right to free speech, their right to religion as laid out in the First Amendment?

Mr. HEDGES: Well, I think that when you preach -- or when you call for the physical extermination of other people within the society, you know, you've crossed the bounds of free speech. I mean, we're not going to turn a cable channel over to the Ku Klux Klan. Yet the kinds of things that are allowed to be spewed out over much of Christian radio and television essentially preaches sedition. It preaches civil war. It's not a difference of opinion. With that kind of rhetoric, it becomes a fight for survival....

A fight for survival? Between homosexuals and R.J. Rushdoony? The man has been dead for six years now, and I think the number of his followers would be in the hundreds. Ditto the Klan. I can understand why a lot of people might be offended by what they say, and it's always tempting to want to shut up people like Fred Phelps, but a fight for survival? Who is Hedges kidding?

I'm inclined to agree with Clayton Cramer that it's Hedges who's the fascist. And, just as I agreed with the ACLU that the Nazis had the right to parade in Skokie, IL, I think Hedges has the right to perform his verbal goose steps on NPR.

Without having to allow Fred Phelps equal time.

I'm also hoping this is comedy.

(There's been a lot of it going around lately.)

posted by Eric at 06:55 PM | Comments (5)

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 11

The Palestinian civil war appears to be raging on. Fighting appears to be heavy and wide spread.

22:43 Jan 29, '07
( Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was unhurt in heavy fighting near his home and office as he called for a halt in the violence which claimed the lives of at least thee more people Monday.

Heavy exchanges of gunfire between Fatah and Hamas supporters were reported earlier in the evening, and a rocket propelled grenade was fired on the Gaza police station a short time ago.

The Ynet News has more details.
An explosion ripped through the Shati refugee camp near Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's house after nightfall Monday, witnesses said.

There was no immediate word of casualties.

Haniyeh's Hamas and rival Fatah forces have been fighting for several months. In another incident around the same time, security officials said Hamas militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a police station near Haniyeh's office in Gaza City.

All this fighting might explain why the Palestinians were offering the Israelis a ten year truce. The maximum allowed under some Muslim law doctrines. Without a truce to refocus on Israel the Palestinians have begun to focus their anger on each other. Which is one way to work it out.

Great news. A cease fire has been declared.

Warring Hamas and Fatah factions in Gaza declared a cease-fire early Tuesday, set to go into effect at 3 a.m. local time (0100 GMT,) Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas announced.

Zahar spoke after a meeting between PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and a representative of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, with the participation of Egyptian mediators. They flanked him during his statement.

I hope that works out as well as the previous cease fires.

A Palestinian blogger has called on Israel to bomb Palestine. Nope. This is not a joke.

Following the suicide bombing in Eilat Monday, Palestinian journalist Fadi Abu Sada offered his two cents on the attack and the infighting in Gaza through his blog on Palestinian News Network:

"Israel poising to respond on Eilat attack, it could be by the aerial bombardment and artillery, or perhaps they will try to assassinate Palestinian resistance leaders, what a ironically, we really want that to happen quickly, it might be the only solution to stop the bloody fighting between brothers in the Gaza Strip.

Fadi goes on to say:
"No Palestinian faction, and no one seems to be now able to mediate between fighters, and stop the bloodshed, either Arabs and their calls on the parties to meet in the country, and it does not seem that anyone actually will respond to that, despite the welcome media practitioners.

"It's defective to reach such thinking, to call Israel to stop this shameful chapter in the chapters of the Palestinian case, if there is case still after all that has already happened and is happening.

"But if this is the only option, there is no problem in this, if this will remind the fighters for a moment that the occupation is still perched on us, because it seems to be lost on their chest.

So there you have it. The only hope for Palestinian national unity is for the Israelis to maintain the occupation and to regularly attack the Palestinians.

However, I don't think the Israelis will oblige. They have been very restrained of late. What is amazing is that the Sharon Plan for the evacuation of Gaza foresaw all this (not in detail) several years ago. The man is lying in a coma and his plan is working. A true military genius.

That didn't take long. The truce was suppsed to go into effect at 0100 GMT Tuesday. It is now 0414 GMT and the civil war is back on. Note Israel time is GMT +2.

Fighting raged in Gaza Tuesday morning despite a cease-fire declaration by warring factions.

Gunfire and explosions were audible in downtown Gaza City as gunmen from Fatah and Hamas ignored the cease-fire, reached at a midnight meeting between Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and a representative of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

It is a wonder they can get together without killing each other.

The latest news is that the cease fire appears to be holding for now. (times given are Israeliy time which is +2 from GMT)

Jan. 30, 2007 0:46 | Updated Jan. 30, 2007 9:52

A cease-fire started taking hold in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, after five days of intense Hamas-Fatah fighting that left 34 people dead.

However, previous truce deals struck in recent weeks of factional clashes quickly collapsed, and it appeared unlikely the two sides would comply with all the terms of the current agreement, such as handing over all those involved in killings and abductions.

I give it two days to get started up again.
In Gaza City, gunfire and explosions were heard throughout the night, but the shooting stopped at about 5 a.m. (0300 GMT), several hours after the cease-fire deal was struck
That explains the earlier reports.

Here are links to the last few Civil war watches. Because you can't tell the players without a score card.

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 10
Palestinian Civil War Watch - 9
Palestinian Civil War Watch - 8
Palestinian Civil War Watch - 7

and a few other items of interest:

Patterns Are Emerging
Very Complicated
Iraq Comes To Gaza
Palestinians Unpopular
Its Official
Pulling Out Doesn't Work
It's A Family Affair

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:08 PM

Get thee behind me, remanufactured Satan!

I don't know whether Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has been taking moral equivalency lessons from Dinish D'Souza, but his comments that gay parades are Satanic are attracting a lot of attention. Here's GayRussia's colorful version of the story (which uses the charming translation "Satanist happening"):

Mayor Luzhkov said today that he will not even allow this year's Pride march, scheduled for Sunday May 27.

"Last year, Moscow was unprecedentaly pressured to allow here a gay parade which can only be called a Satanist happening," he said in a speech at the State Kremlin Palace during 15th Christmas educational readings.

"We did not allow this gay parade and will not allow it in future."

Mr. Luzhkov then thanked Patriarch of All Russia, Alexi II, for his support in this difficult situation when, according to Luzhkov, Moscow authorities found themselves in the situation of huge pressure, especially from the West.

He said that is not appropriate "to propagate same-sex love" and "blasphemy, as if it is creativity and freedom of speech".

Nikolai Alekseev, a co-organiser of Moscow Pride, said that he was shocked at the Mayor's outburst.

"We are shocked by the statements of Mr. Luzhkov that "gay pride is a Satanist happening" and consider them as personal insult against the organisers and potential participants of the gay pride," he said.

"Such words in respect to huge number of homosexual people who live in Russia are not worthy of an official of such high standing".

It occurs to me that these remarks are religious in nature, because Satan is a religious concept. This means that the denial of the parade would seem to be based on religious opinion.

I'm not quite sure about what the specific religious objection is, because unless the marchers are having sex in the streets, what they are doing by parading is advocacy of an opinion about their lifestyle. If the conduct the Mayor is preventing is speech, the question becomes: is Satanic speech prohibited in Russia? I realize Russia has no First Amendment, and I don't know to what extent it is governed by religious law, but even if it was, is there any religious prohibition on advocacy of a homosexual orientation or lifestyle? There is the Leviticus prohibition on certain conduct (lying "with a man as a woman"), but does that prohibition extend to advocating it?

If it is conceded for the sake of argument that homosexual conduct is "Satanic," where is that found? Is it in the Bible, or is it an interpretation? Does it declare only homosexual acts Satanic, or does it additionally declare their advocacy Satanic? If it is a religious argument, there has to be some citation to some text, otherwise it's just an ungrounded assertion of Satanism.

What else is Satanic? Apparently, the Russian Orthodox Church considers plenty of things Satanic, including Hinduism. In a letter to Mayor Luzhkov, the Archbishop of Moscow called the Hindu deity Krishna "satanic":

Respected Mr. Luzhkov - can you really allow the idolatrous disgrace to be erected for the glory of this wicked and malicious "god" Krishna? The construction of this Krishna "temple" is a blatant offense of our religious feelings, and an insult to the millennial religious culture of Russia, where the overwhelming majority of people, Orthodox Christians and Muslims, consider Krishna an evil demon, the personified power of hell opposing God. It is shown that even for Buddhists, Krishna is a negative figure, the head of black demons. Sikhs and Jains also consider him the most formidable demon.

Of course, modern Russia is a secular state, based on secular laws. But can these laws screen our peoples from the judgment of God? Can the Russian Constitution abolish our common responsibility for our acts before God?

I don't know. I haven't had time to read the Russian Constitution, much less offer an opinion on whether Russia is a modern secular state. But if it is, it would seem that even admitted Satanists have a right to exist.

Here we have people who (like the Hindus) indignantlly deny that they are Satanists, and claim the term is being hurled against them as an insult. But from a religious standpoint, they would seem to have the same rights as Satanists. As homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia, so they can't be accused of advocating illegal conduct either.

I'd say the Mayor is on shaky secular ground, and I think he might be on shaky religious ground too. Interestingly, as a former Communist Party official, he would have had to have most likely been an atheist, and would probably have been involved in the manufacture (see infra) of new Soviet Communist morality. Now he seems to have switched to the remanufacture of old morality.

I wonder how far it will go. Wife beating was once standard fare in the Orthodox Church. So was (and perhaps is) anti-Semitism.

History shows that times change, and morality changes with time. But there's no certainty about either.

I should be thankful to live in a country with a First Amendment, where calling people Satanists is as American as apple pie.

posted by Eric at 03:46 PM

Anti-Railroading Society

Let me state here at the beginning that I do not have it in for the Union Pacific, B&O, Southern Pacific or any of the myriad other rail transportation companiers in America. The kind of railroading I'm against is where police and prosectors home in on a suspect and won't let go despite evidence of innocence.

We have seen that in the Duke case where the charges against the 3 Duke lacrosse players is demonstratively false. The accuser's story has changed in very significant ways over time. None of them matching the evidence. The accuser couldn't identify any lacrosse players in the first two line ups. None of her early descriptions matched any of the boys she picked. And on. The case is a bust and yet DA Nifong couldn't quit. He needed the case to win a hotly contested primary election.

However, similar cases are reported all over America. What is unusual in this case is that the boy's parents were in a positioin to fight back. They have good lawyers who have investigated and destroyed the case before it even came to trial. So badly destroyed that the original DA in the case is now up before the bar on charges.

However, most such cases never get the spotlight or the resources this case did. Who gets buried by such tactics? Poor people. Many blacks, hispancics, and poor white trash. Which brings me to the Duke Chapel. Rev. William Barber spoke yesterday at Duke Chapel. A sermon. KC Johnson discusses what he heard.

I decided to watch the webcast of Barber's sermon to hear what he had to say. With copious references to Martin Luther King, Jr., Barber organized his talk around the "devastation of denial" when Pontius Pilate gave into the mob and denied clemency for Jesus.

"The refusal to acknowledge what is right in front of us," declared Barber, "can be devastating," even more so when accompanied by a denial of responsibility to change what is bad. Any "attempt to deny injustice covers us with the blood of guilt," since "all the denial in the world will not save us from ultimately having to face reality." To replace this atmosphere, "what we need today is a theology of truth and not denial."

Then he goes on to discuss all the Rev.'s individual and collective denials. In other words the Rev. is trying to support a case that doesn't exist.

What he needs to do is turn his whole mind set around. Which is very hard. What Rev. Barber needs to focus on is bigotry free justice. I'm not just talking in a raicial or other similar context. I'm talking about situations where there is a rush to judgement, which in itself is a kind of bigotry. Bigotry is the art of avoiding evidence contrary to preconcieved notions. We know this happens from the numerous cases of people on death row exonerated after many years in prison. We also know the system is reluctant to re-examine the evidence when it is available. Which means that the system thinks it has a lot to hide.

What I think the Rev. should do is join the anti-railroading society. Because, if the prosecutors would pull this on white boys look at how much easier it would be to do to blacks. How do poor people come up with even a retainer for top lawyers?

Rev. Barber needs a serious attitude re-adjustment.

Well any way. We should help our brothers get back on track rather than pick fights with them. It would be the Christian thing to do. Funny thing is I'm Jewish.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:53 AM | Comments (15)

RINOs -- They're bad, and they're baaaaack!

The Carnival of the RINOs has been posted at Dan Melson's Searchlight Crusade.

I am delighted to see so many posts, especially after some post election slump.

Great posts, and a great job by Dan Melson!

posted by Eric at 11:06 AM

Picking nits over lousy principles?

Is graffiti is now officically sanctioned? So asks Glenn Reynolds, as he links a report from The Hill about the refusal by U.S. Capitol Hill Police to stop anarchists from graffitiing the Capitol:

Anti-war protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of thewest front steps of the United States Capitol building after police wereordered to break their security line by their leadership, two sources toldThe Hill.

According to the sources, police officers were livid when theywere told to fall back by U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Phillip Morse andDeputy Chief Daniel Nichols. "They were the commanders on the scene," one source said,who requested anonymity. "It was disgusting."

It might have been disgusting, but the USCP brass were probably still smarting from the bruisings they received after tussles with Cynthia McKinney and Cindy Sheehan.

The Hill continues:

Approximately 300 protesters were allowed to take the steps andbegan to spray paint "anarchist symbols" and phrase such as "Ourcapitol building" and "you can't stop us" around the area, thesource said.

Morse responded to these claims in an e-mail Sunday afternoon,explaining that the protesters were seeking confrontation with the police.

"While there were minor instances of spray painting ofpavement by a splinter group of Anarchists who were seeking a confrontationwith the police, their attempts to breach into secure areas and rush thedoors of the Capitol were thwarted," Morse said. "The graffiti waseasily removed by the dedicated [Architect of the Capitol] staff, some ofwhom responded on their day off to quickly clean the area."

He added, "It is the USCP's duty and responsibility to protectthe Capitol complex, staff and public while allowing the public to exercisetheir First Amendment rights ... at the end of the day, both occurredwithout injury to protestors or officers."

Yet, the sources who talked to The Hill were furious thatprotesters were not stopped before reaching the Capitol.

I think I know what's going on, and I think those who are outraged at the orders to allow the grafitti need to put themselves in the position of those who gave the orders.

I'm not saying I agree with them, but let me (a former Police Review Commissioner who has dealt with professional anarchists up close and personal) play Devil's Advocate.

This might appear to be a clear case of principle, but is it?

That depends on how we define "principle." Is it a matter of principle to wait in a longer line to save two cents a gallon on gasoline? Sometimes, when I weigh these things, I'll decide that saving twenty cents isn't worth my time, and I'll just fill up where there's no line.

An easy example, though, because paying more for gasoline is not a matter of principle.

However, I think a simple weighing process -- which disregarded matters of principle -- went on in the minds of the bureaucrats who gave the order to allow grafitti.

What costs more? Arresting the vandals? Or cleaning up after them?

The latter is far, far cheaper. (In the short run, and depending on your perspective, maybe even in the long run.)

I say this because of my experience with anarchists, and with civilian review of the police. Anarchists are not ordinary people, but true fanatics. Their operating maxim reminds me of an expression attributed to Golda Meir --

"We will show the world that killing Jews is an expensive enterprise."
Arresting an anarchist is an expensive business. While the criminal justice system is set up to deal with ordinary criminals, these are not ordinary criminals. Nor are they innocent citizens wishing to have their names cleared. To arrest them requires the use of force, and any use of force will trigger an avalanche of complaints, as these people will use every available legal and illegal artifice to abuse the system at every turn, in the process making life as difficult as they can for the police, the jailers, the relevant review boards, and every bureaucrat and politician they can possibly connect to the arrest. If no force was used, it will be alleged that it was. If force was used, it will be alleged to have been excessive. All officers, clerks, hearing officials, judges, etc. are said to be "part of the system" and therefore evil.

In a previous post, I quoted from an anarchist who was honest enough to have provided an example of this mindset at work:

....we will battle the authorities with all means that can be used in an anarchist way.

As anarchists, we have no interest in the justice system. Rob says he did not commit the crimes of which he was accused, and we will certainly do what we can to prove this. But from an anarchist perspective, the guilt or innocence of a comrade is not important in determining our solidarity with him or her. This concept of guilt and innocence is just another aspect of the democratic system of justice and law which we reject.

The justice system, justice as it exists in the present society, is a system of judgement, a system which allows certain people to determine that others--whom these judges have never met and know nothing about--should be locked up, forced to give up certain free doms, even killed. Such a system is beyond any sort of reform that could be acceptable to an anarchist, because at its heart it is authoritarian. Thus, an expression of revolutionary solidarity with an imprisoned comrade would be a struggle aimed at the destruction of the justice system.

This requires an understanding of the justice system. It is courts, judges, prosecutors, the entire trial process; but it is also prisons, police, and laws. There is no use in pursuing prison reforms. No matter how gentle and homely a prison becomes. it remains a prison, a place for locking up one who offends the law. Nor are better behaved police of interest to us. No matter how well behaved the cop is, he or she remains the armed protector of state power and private property, both of which the anarchist seeks to destroy. And better laws only reinforce state power. Their purpose is to protect the present social order, to maintain social peace. And social peace is based in the violence of domination and exploitation, the violence of power.

So our struggles in solidarity with specific prisoners such as Rob base themselves in our struggle against the social order. They use the anarchist methods of attack against that social order, not the democratic methods of accommodation and negation.

It's easy to condemn the police bureaucracy for "caving." I'd love to be in their position, because that way I'd get to try implementing a policy of refusing to cave!

Who knows? I might keep my job for a day.


In other cave news, Justin pointed me to this report that head lice are now being tolerated in the Oakland public schools:

Under new guidelines, Oakland children with lice or nits will be allowed to stay in class -- a policy that may be a first in the Bay Area.

Oakland officials cited schools in western Australia as their model, saying the policy encourages treatment and is justified.

"There are no serious health consequences or risks of students having head lice," said Joan Edelstein, the district's health services coordinator. "We don't want students to be missing five to 10 days of schools when they pose no risk of harm to themselves or anyone else."

Some parents are unhappy at being forced to send their kids to lice-infested schools, but in this case, the principal refused to pick nits over principle.

posted by Eric at 09:48 AM | Comments (2)

A Stand Up Fight

I seem to be obsessed with war news these days. Kind of a morbid fascination. In any case, US forces in Iraq have some how managed to get a group of insurgents to stand up and fight. As usual under such circumstances the insurgents are taking a beating.

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces killed some 250 gunmen from an apocalyptic Muslim cult on Sunday in a battle involving U.S. tanks and aircraft near the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, Iraqi police, army and political sources said.

Two Americans were killed, the U.S. military said, when an attack helicopter went down during the day-long battle in what was one of the strangest incidents of the four-year conflict. Iraqi officials said the helicopter seemed to be shot down.

According to one Iraqi political source, hundreds of fighters drawn from both Sunni and Shi'ite communities were still fighting. A Reuters reporter at the scene, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, saw U.S. tanks and heard blasts after dark and an Iraqi officer said F-16 jets were bombing the area.

Details of the day's fighting were sketchy and the origins of the fighters unclear. An Iraqi army source said some of the dead wore headbands declaring themselves a "Soldier of Heaven."

The governor of Najaf province said the group had gathered in orchards near the city and had been planning to attack the main Shi'ite clerical leadership on Monday. It is the climax of the annual Shi'ite rite of Ashura, marking a 7th century battle which entrenched the schism between Shi'ite and Sunni Islam.

Given that the usual battles against insurgents only kill a few at a time, the death of 250 or more has to mark a turning point.

Normally guerillas do not stand and fight. As this fight shows it is not to their advantage. Worse, is to fight in the open. They must have been in a very bad position to get into a situation where all they could do is go down fighting.

It is possible that the troop surge is having an effect. Not necessisarily beneficial to the anti-government forces.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:11 AM

How to deal with yellow brick road rage

This is the next president of the United States?

DAVENPORT, Iowa, Jan. 28 -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton called today for President Bush to "extricate our country" from Iraq by the time he leaves office in 2009, and she also said she knew enough about "evil and bad men" to protect the country from its enemies.
(BTW, if that sounds snarky, remember, it's the NYT, and not WND.)


Not that there's anything wrong with protecting us from evil and bad men. (Or for that matter, evil and bad women.)

I don't want to sound skeptical, but at this point, it's all just talking the talk. (Like asking "Are you a good evil man, or a bad evil man?")

Back in 1939, Billie Burke really knew how to walk the walk!


And if the questioning got tough, she knew how to disappear.

Not in a puff, but in a bubble!


And it never burst.

MORE: Was the "evil and bad men" remark possibly a reference to Bill Clinton? Glenn Reynolds links Don Surber, who wonders about Hillary's "Maalox moment," and thinks she should divorce him:

Every day, hundreds of young women with little babies to feed work up the courage to divorce the rat they married. Hillary should dump him already.

If Britney Spears is smart enough to dump K-Fed, surely the valedictorian of the Wellesley Class of '69 can figure this out.

. I think this may be a Catch-22, for reasons I touched on earlier. But for Bill (who would have been reelected overwhelmingly had the Constitution allowed it), Hillary wouldn't be a candidate. Thus, the idea that "a vote for Hill is a vote for Bill" is an inextricable part of what fuels her candidacy.

If she dumps Bill, she might be happier, but she bursts her own bubble. I don't think she can be elected without him.

Of course, bubbles do cause gas.

(Hence the Maalox moment.)

posted by Eric at 08:09 AM

Gaza Plunged Into Darkness

You knew that already, didn't you? Well a little extra darkness has been added.

10:21 Jan 29, '07 Gunfire and rocket attacks by rival terrorists hit a power transformer, plunging the western part of Gaza into darkness. A sixth militia gunman was killed a short time ago as fighting and kidnappings continued despite agreements by Hamas and Fatah leaders to accept mediation efforts by Saudi Arabia.

Hamas militia men kidnapped the teen-age son and nephew of the commander of the Fatah militia in Gaza.

I guess the killings will continue until the mediator properly mediates. After that they will resume.

This is no longer just about business. It is about family. It could get really vicious. In fact it has already.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:53 AM | Comments (2)

At least Kerry is consistent!
"Kerry is exactly what the U.S. needs right now."

--Tehran Times, June 2004.

(The Tehran Times' links to that and other pro-Kerry articles are not working, but they once were.)

This is not to suggest that Bush is perfect. Far from it. I'm often disappointed in him, and many times I've looked back and asked whether things might have been different had Kerry won.

The answer is yes they would have. I think they would have been worse. The more I read about Kerry, the more I'm glad I didn't vote for him.

But none of it surprises me. It's not as if we weren't warned.

Kerry might be known as a flip-flopper, but he's remarkably consistent on Iran.

Right now, it's looking like this Cox and Forkum cartoon was a full three years ahead of its time:


I don't know whether to call this "Kerry nostalgia," as I tend to think of nostalgia as something pleasant.

Perhaps its post-election nostalgiaphobia.

Or considering that we're in a state of perpetual state of election, maybe that would be pre-election nostalgiaphobia.

UPDATE: I said I was glad I didn't vote for Kerry. But watching his performance on the video here, I'm even more glad. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for linking this post. Welcome all!

Considering the way Democrats (like Carter and Kerry have been acting), no wonder Joe Lieberman is considering endorsing a Republican. (I think that whether the two major party bases like it or not, a McCain-Lieberman ticket would be unbeatable.)

posted by Eric at 09:45 PM | Comments (1)

War Is A Racket
Major-General Smedley D. Butler: Common Sense (November 1935) I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member of our country's most agile military force---the Marine Corps. I have served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to major-general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers, In short I was a racketeer for capitalism Thus, I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place to live for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.... I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American Sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents."
So what is a quote like that doing on an avowedly neo-con blog? Sit down swollow your drink. Get your hands off the computer.

I agree with the General.

Whoa. Say it isn't so. Nope. It is true. The purpose of the American military in 2007 and well beyond is to open trade possiblities and keep the trade routes open. If we don't do that job as I explained in Decline and Fall, the world and all its people will be worse off. In fact the outcome would lead to Desolation Row.

What people do not understand is that if war is done as a way to increase trade flows (Gen. S. Butler was right about that part - his Marines were sent to make opportunities for American companies or to protect assets the companies had already invested in) every one involved gets richer.

If it is purely a blood sucking operation (as the Soviets did to their "clients") every one gets poorer.

Now in general (and yes from time to time we have screwed the pooch badly) where do you think America stands?

What about people who think that if we stopped spending on the military the money could go to better uses.


However, those people needn't wait to get the Feds to move on it. They could start in their own communities by demanding the police force be disbanded. Think of all the money that could go to better uses.

Some one is going to be the world's policeman. Given the options I'd rather it was us. We are not so good. But there is lots worse out there.

Suggested by the discussion at Rose Colored Glasses

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:23 PM | Comments (1)


The former head of Israeli Intelligence says that World War III has already started. I actually count it as WW IV since I think WW III was fought against the Soviet menace. However, that is a mere quibble. Let us listen to former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy in his own words.

A third World War is already underway between Islamic militancy and the West but most people do not realize it, the former head of Israel's intelligence service Mossad said in an interview published Saturday in Portugal.

'We are in the midst of a third World War,' former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy told weekly newspaper Expresso.

'The world does not understand. A person walks through the streets of Tel Aviv, Barcelona or Buenos Aires and doesn't get the sense that there is a war going on,' said Halevy who headed Mossad between 1998 and 2003.

'During World War I and II the entire world felt there was a war. Today no one is conscious of it. From time to time there is a terrorist attack in Madrid, London and New York and then everything stays the same.'

Violence by Islamic militants has already disrupted international travel and trade just as in the previous two world conflicts, he said.

Halevy, who was raised in war-time London, predicted it would take at least 25 years before the battle against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is won and during this time a nuclear strike by Islamic militants was likely.

He goes on to say that it could be something like a dirty bomb. It doesn't have to be a Hiroshima.

I did take a look at what strangling trade routes means to civilization in:

Decline and Fall
Desolation Row

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:35 PM

Very Complicated

Here is a Gaza resident's view of the Palestinian Civil War.

Independent legislator, Rawya Shawa, said she was not surprised that the situation had come to this.

"This fight has no end," she said. "One group won the election; the other doesn't want to believe they have lost. The feeling on the street is that these two groups are preparing for a real battle. People feel that on every corner, one is waiting for the other."

"Gaza people are very tough people," Shawa added. "We don't miss the beautiful life because there has never been a beautiful life. We are very experienced with misery. But now, we are very afraid. It is very bad when it comes from your own people. We never expected something like this to happen. But now, one expects anything at any time.

"Personally, I cannot go out at night. In the day, I go to my office but I follow the instructions closely."

"We have a few groups working under the table" Shawa said. "Ready to make things worse. Pulling towards a civil war. In one family you can find supporters of Fatah and supporters of Hamas. It is a very complicated situation."

Once the politics begins dividing families, then you do have the true makings of a civil war; not just a Hatfield vs. McCoys family feud.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:21 PM

The sixth sick gay sheikh's sixth gay sick sheep's straight!

Much as I hate to dwell on things like the interplay between what we call "science" and what we call "morality," sometimes it seems that duty calls. Whether in this case it's a duty to science or a duty to morality, I do not know.

To back up, in a post last week, I complained about what I saw the manufacture of morality in the context of global warming. I thought I'd made my point, and amazing though it might be, I managed not to mention homosexuality. Not that I don't believe morality has been -- and continues to be -- manufactured in that context, but I just didn't think it was closely tied to global warming. Well, in a general sense, I suppose you could say that I commented on the irony of climate morality vis-a-vis sexual morality. I did conclude by saying this:

I've reached the point where I actually think that some moral evils are worse than other moral evils.

My reactionary moral relativism has now reached the point where I think I should feel more guilty about letting people starve than about letting them breathe.

At this rate, I'll soon be a nihilist.

(Almost makes me wish for good old days, when you were immoral if you screwed but it was still OK to breathe. Now that everything has become immoral, nothing is immoral.)

Damn it, I hate it when people bring up the gay issue, as it's so emotionally charged that it often makes rational discussion uncomfortable. But a commenter brought it up, and he accused me of ignoring the manufacture of morality by gay activists -- something that apparently made it inconsistent for me to criticize manufactured global warming morality. I thought this was illogical, irrelevant, and even unfair as I distrust manufactured morality wherever it occurs, and I have often criticized gay activism for precisely this reason. But if we assume the commenter was right on the merits of his complaint about gay activism, why would the manufacture of a new "gay morality" defeat my complaint about the manufacture of global warming morality?

I'll take this a step further. Suppose I engage in a little Maoist "criticism/self criticism," and plead guilty to the manufacture of morality, here and now! Let's take a look at my last comment (written yesterday):

While I think the effort to "normalize" homosexuality certainly has been characterized by a process of manufactured morality, my concern is whether there is any rational reason to care about another person's sex life, and I don't think there is. This is my opinion, not an effort to manufacture morality. As to the "admissibility" of "further moral changes that [I] happen to favor" I think we're arguing apples and oranges here as I am not arguing for a new morality vis-a-vis homosexuality. Saying homosexuality is good or bad makes about as much sense to me as saying snakes are good or bad. While I would criticize not thinking logically about these things, I don't consider myself responsible for the way other people think or how they are influenced. Here, I criticized the manufacture of morality in the global warming context, but the fact that people use that technique in other contexts is simply irrelevant to my argument. I think you may be confusing my "not caring" with a moralistic desire for "normalization" -- and thus missing my point.
I'm thinking that perhaps by not caring I am engaged in amorality. In logic, is not amorality a form of morality? If I don't think homosexuality is good or bad in itself, is that not a refusal to judge? And is not a refusal to judge something a form of judgment? If it is, then I stand convicted of being judgmental. If we assume this is true, then why would it preclude me from making further judgments? Isn't that a little like saying that no one who has ever exceeded the speed limit has a right to accuse another of speeding?

The problem for me is that morality is a feeling thing. You either feel it or you don't. I can get really outraged over terrorism, murder, robbery, rape, disloyalty, dishonesty -- but this business of worrying where someone sticks his dick, it really is a matter of indifference to me, and I cannot help it. Unless someone else's sexual conduct is directed towards me, I just don't have feelings about it. While I admit that the novelty of hearing about new and really kinky or particularly unusual behaviors triggers a certain intellectual curiosity, whether someone has homosexual or heterosexual impulses bores me. I hesitate to say "bored stiff," but if boredom is a moral response, I guess I am strangely moralistic, and if I admit truthfully to what I think, I could at least be said to be promoting (if not manufacturing), my form of bored morality.

(All I can say to that is "yawn.....")

Anyway, if I don't worry about human homosexuality, how can I be expected to worry about homosexuality in sheep?

No, seriously.

Apparently, a new coalition of gay activists and animal rights activists think I should do just that, and (via Glenn Reynolds), Ann Althouse has a post about it. I'm going to quote the whole post because it's so good -- starting with a quote from a noted tennis player who seems to have become a dabbler in scientific morality:

"The more we play God or try to improve on Mother Nature, the more damage we are doing with all kinds of experiments that... turn into nightmares."

That sounds like the alarmism of a religious fundamentalist, but hostility to scientific research comes from the progressive side when the question is the source of sexual preference.

That quote is from Martina Navratilova, who is one of the many critics of Charles Roselli, a researcher who is studying why some male sheep have a sexual preference for other males. Roselli tells his critics that he hates the idea of trying to manipulate the sexuality of human beings and claims that his real interest is in fact sheep.

Don't we accept the idea of sheep breeders doing what they can to get sheep who will in fact breed? Should someone who objects to efforts to cure human beings of homosexuality resist efforts to manipulate sheep? Assuming you don't care about the individuality and personal fulfillment of sheep -- and note that PETA started the campaign against Roselli -- don't you have to admit that any learning about sexual orientation will be applied to thinking about human beings?

But that's the whole problem. Some learnings shouldn't be learned, and some thoughts shouldn't be thunk!

Dr. Zeus couldn't have put it better.

We should not learn about anything about sexual behavior if that might be applied to human beings.

Ann Althouse concludes by asking a rather excellent question.

Shouldn't gay rights advocates care when they sound like the religious fundamentalists they usually deride?
Um, the question has occurred to me.

As a matter of fact, I think it's one of the reasons I started this blog -- in May of 2002:

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

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

I can't believe I wrote that nearly five years ago (before I'd really started blogging in earnest), but there it is.

Manufactured morality, by gay activists! My commenter certainly had a point, and I think it's fair to acknowledge it.

(BTW, my opinion is that both sides have manufactured morality. Much of the argument involves whether moral beliefs which are said to be older are controlling, and while I have postulated that morality which is said to be in the classical tradition -- "values" -- if I must use that word again -- is older than morality said to be traditional, I realize that if morality is manufactured, the date of manufacture should not be controlling. There's a fine line between logic and satire, and I'm not always sure I know where it is!)

Anyway, gay activism is laden with schmaltzy, syrupy, morality. What a man does with his penis is thought by activists to be almost analogous to skin color -- and therefore of utmost importance. At least as important as it is to the moralists on the other side, and I have long believed that a dirty little secret is that this mutual moral antagonism is mutually symbiotic. While both sides would probably hate me for saying this, I think both sides need each other. And desperately.

Not being content with their preoccupation with making moral judgments about what humans do with their penises, they're now being judgmental about sheep!

I saw Brokeback Mountain, but it was just a movie. (Bah!)

Do these poor sheep have to be dragooned into a gay political morality pageant? It's one thing for them to be herded around, sheered, guarded, slaughtered, and it's another to care about whether their shepherds are gay or straight, but really!

Politicizing sheep genitalia?

Sorry, but that's carrying manufactured morality too far.

Why, it's not even morality; it's nonsense!

And if I have the right to object to manufactured morality, I think I have just as much right to object to nonsense -- even though I acknowledge that the mere discussion of nonsense can be construed as manufacturing more.

If I could offer a nonsensical conclusion by way of advice to the gay sheep it might be along the lines of "RAM EWE!"

But that might be construed as countancing heteronormative immorality!

(What? Should I have said "RAM BUTT"? There. Is that better?)

posted by Eric at 11:50 AM | Comments (2)

Social weather science class issues

Recently I've been reading that global warming causes suicide, as well as terrorism, which means it probably threatens to hurt an emerging identity-politics-group of people called "the homeless." I don't know whether there's a bureaucratic plan in place to deal with the unique threat that "global warming" poses to them, but the right now, the biggest climate threat this group is facing seems to be cold weather. While it doesn't yet seem to have triggered an outbreak of homeless suicide bombers, the government in New York has decided that it's so cold that something must be done, so it has given police authority to help them by force:

Arctic Blast Sends Temperatures Into Danger Zone

NEW YORK (Jan. 26) - One month into one of the mildest winters on record in the Northeast, an arctic blast sent temperatures into the danger zone Friday, and New York gave its police legal authority to remove homeless people from the streets to keep them from freezing to death.

Why? Because it's dangerous to be out in the cold? Should it be a crime to refuse to come in out of the cold? Lots of things are dangerous, and if we are to give police the authority to take people in out of the cold, why stop there? What I'm trying to get at is: under what social theory is this being done?

I don't mean to be frivolous, but I suspect that the people who gave the police this authority were motivated by some kind of concern grounded in what many people would call morality, and I think it might be worth examining it in a little more detail. Whether from a libertarian standpoint, a "moral conservative" standpoint, a "compassionate conservative" standpoint, or even a "moral liberal" standpoint isn't the point really. I'll leave it to others to worry about the labels. I just want to know why it is that demented psychotics are allowed to run around clutching stuffed monkeys and yelling at their hallucinations in various states of, um, "mind" and nothing is done about it until they hurt other people in ways that simply cannot be ignored.

Like sawing open the chests of total strangers.

But in addition to the commission of heinous crimes, we are now to add the refusal to come in out of the cold as a reason for removal from the street?

It's tough being logical about these things, but let me try. Apparently, it's OK for people like the mental patient who sawed open the subway passenger's chest to have been running around hallucinating and hassling people for money in cool weather, warm weather, and I assume hot weather (maybe I shouldn't assume that), to block entrances to stores despite the high taxes and rents charged the store owners, to stink up public places, to not take medication which might cause his hallucinations to stop, to refuse treatment for out-of-control substance problems, but once it gets too cold, something has to be done.

If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that the psychos on the street weren't the only psychos running around.

But I do know better. It's not crazy if the goal is maintenance of bureaucratic power. Leaving decrepit and psychotic people in place and calling them "homeless" (as if they're victims of corporate downsizing or a failure to tax the rich) is a good way to build and maintain a power base. Endless problems require endless solutions that endlessly solve nothing but create endless bureaucratic jobs. (For people with degrees! In social, um, "science"!) Endless committee meetings. Endless "special commissions on homelessness."

But there's a bright side in this spot of cold weather -at least from a bureaucratic standpoint:

"In some ways, [the cold] was fitting," said Madeleine Shea, acting director of Baltimore Homeless Services, which provides funding to nonprofit groups that serve homeless people. "It's good to be reminded of the conditions in which homeless people live."

The city's 2003 census recorded about 2,600 homeless people. Two years later, about 3,000 people reported that they did not have a regular place to stay. The final total of this year's census won't be known until the spring, but Shea said there's reason to believe that homelessness has continued to increase.

"The cost of housing is going up, and that influences homelessness," she said.

Cost of housing?

While I'm not entirely convinced that's what your average hallucinating derelict is thinking about (what, I should ask the guy with the saw and the monkey?), let's assume she's right.

If the cost of housing is the problem, then the government should build special housing for the hallucinating classes who can't take care of themselves.

Not only am I all for it, I'm old enough to remember it!

Gee, I hate to think about the political implications of being in favor of free housing for the mentally ill. It might mean I'm not a liberal, not a conservative, or not a libertarian.

(Thoughts like that can trigger depression. Seriously, it can be depressing not to have an identity group.)

posted by Eric at 09:19 AM

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 10

No slack Saturday. The bodies pile up.

Deadly battles between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have continued in the Gaza Strip, leaving at least five more dead.

Saturday's deaths raise the toll since Thursday night to at least 22.

However, despite tension, the funerals for those killed on the previous day passed off peacefully on Saturday.

Clashes erupted in Gaza after weeks of relative calm and renewed efforts to form a national unity government. Both sides say they have suspended talks.

Those killed on Saturday included a boy of 11 or 12 who was hit during a shootout late at night between the two factions in the northern Gaza Strip.

Earlier at least one person died in a gun battle near Gaza's Islamic University, while another died in a car explosion - rumoured to be caused when explosives being carried in the vehicle exploded.

Shops were shut up and the streets of Gaza City were almost empty on Saturday as people hid inside from the gangs of gunmen stalking the streets.

Members of Hamas and Fatah have fired mortars and grenades at each other and mounted tit-for-tat kidnappings.

This is down a bit from Friday when 13 died. Friday sermons at the mosque seem to be very inflamatory on most Fridays.

The IHT has an even larger body count.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Gunmen from the rival Hamas and Fatah movements battled in Gaza City for a third straight day, firing mortars and grenades in clashes that killed seven people in the increasingly bloody power struggle over the Palestinian government.

Saturday's deaths brought to 25 the number of Palestinians killed since late Thursday, with at least 68 people wounded and efforts to forge a coalition government at a standstill.

The latest fighting, which began late Thursday after a Hamas activist was killed in a bombing, has been among the deadliest in nearly two months of clashes.

Opinions in Gaza show that the situation is bleak and getting bleaker.
A poll conducted amongst Gaza Arabs last month shows that over fifty percent believe that the current violence marks the beginning of a civil war. Sixty-six percent said that they are pessimistic about the situation, and eighty-seven percent said that they feel unsafe. The poll was conducted by an-Najah university in Shechem, with five hundred Gaza Arabs participating, along with eight hundred and sixty Arabs from Judea and the Shomron.
Update: 28 Jan '07 0802z

Fighting rages on.

GAZA CITY (AP) -- Gunmen from the rival Hamas and Fatah movements battled each other in Gaza Sunday, continuing an increasingly bloody power struggle over the Palestinian government that left the coastal strip littered with dead over the weekend, while civilians cowered in their homes.

An explosion early in the morning rocked the home of a bodyguard to Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, but the man was not in the building and no casualties were reported. At least eight people were wounded in exchanges of fire between the sides overnight, Palestinian security officials said.

The longer this goes on the harder it will be to stop. Fortunately.

It looks like some one has it in for Palestinian President Abbas.

Ronny Shaked Published: 01.28.07, 08:46

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas escaped an assassination attempt last week. Four large explosive devices were uncovered by Abbas' security officers on the road leading from the Erez crossing to Gaza, as the Palestinian president left Ramallah and was about to travel on that route.

Upon discovering the devices, Abbas' security officers instructed him to return to Ramallah. The explosive devices were detonated by sappers of the Presidential Guard.

The assassination attempt took place while the Palestinian president was on his way to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to discuss the establishment of a national unity government.

You know it looks like some one is not negotiating in good faith. That is a surprise. Normally the Palestinians are such honorable men.

The UN has the proper line.

The UN's Middle East envoy Alvaro de Soto called on all the factions "to cease clashes and comply with international humanitarian law by refraining from acts which endanger civilians".

The violence also showed signs of spreading to the West Bank, where Palestinian police clashed with about 200 Hamas supporters on Saturday.

Everything the Palestinians do, from suicide bombs, to rockets shot into Israel, to using human shields is predicated on endangering and harming civilians. Why should they stop now?

Update: 28 Jan '07 1803z

Calm has been restored to Gaza.

A relative halt to the inter-factional bloodshed in Gaza was brought about through mediation by an Egyptian security delegation between various Palestinian groups. However, kidnappings continue in the West Bank and the tense ceasefire appears close to a breakdown.

Funeral processions are taking place in Gaza, where four more people were killed Sunday morning during the fourth day of Hamas and Fatah infighting. Since Thursday night, 24 people have died, including a two year old boy caught in the crossfire.

Violence continued in the West Bank, with riots in Nablus Sunday afternoon. Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades - Fatah's military wing - kidnapped at least ten Hamas operatives, including senior municipality officials.

Violence resumes.
GAZA, Jan 28 (KUNA) -- Unknown gunmen shot dead on Sunday a Palestinian Hamas activist in the city of Khan Yonis south of Gaza.

Hamas Radio, Al-Aqsa, in Gaza said "gunmen opened fire toward Nasser Sharab, 22, a member of the Executive Force of the Interior Ministry in one of the streets in Khan Yonis." According to the Al-Aqsa radio, Hamas blames members of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah military wing, for the shooting, and directly put blame on Palestinian legislative member Mohammad Dahlan for the incident.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:39 PM | Comments (3)

Who you gonna call?

Mountain lions are predators whose only natural enemy has traditionally been man.

Or in this case, woman:

Jim and Nell Hamm, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next month, were hiking in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park when the lion pounced.

"He didn't scream. It was a different, horrible plea for help, and I turned around, and by then the cat had wrestled Jim to the ground," Nell Hamm said in an interview from the hospital where her husband was recovering from a torn scalp, puncture wounds and other injuries.

After the attack, game wardens closed the park about 320 miles north of San Francisco and released hounds to track the lion. They later shot and killed a pair of lions found near the trail where the attack happened.

The carcasses were flown to a state forensics lab to determine if either animal mauled the man.

Although the Hamms are experienced hikers, neither had seen a mountain lion before Jim Hamm was mauled, his wife said. Nell Hamm said she grabbed a four-inch-wide log and beat the animal with it, but it would not release its hold on her husband's head.

"Jim was talking to me all through this, and he said, 'I've got a pen in my pocket and get the pen and jab him in the eye,'" she said. "So I got the pen and tried to put it in his eye, but it didn't want to go in as easy as I thought it would."

When the pen bent and became useless, Nell Hamm went back to using the log. The lion eventually let go and, with blood on its snout, stood staring at the woman. She screamed and waved the log until the animal walked away.

"She saved his life, there is no doubt about it," said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game.

Nell Hamm, 65, said she was scared to leave her dazed, bleeding husband alone, so the couple walked a quarter-mile to a trail head, where she gathered branches to protect them if more lions came around. They waited until a ranger came by and summoned help.

"My concern was to get Jim out of there," she said. "I told him, 'Get up, get up, walk,' and he did."

He'll live, thanks to this ballsy woman.

Meanwhile, in California (where police are vilified for killing mountain lions that threaten children), another mountain lion has been spotted.

In beautiful Beverly Hills, no less!

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Police searching for a mountain lion in Beverly Hills came up empty-handed Saturday, authorities said.

A mountain lion sighting was reported in the 1000 block of Tower Road at about 11 p.m. on Friday, police said.

After about an hour, the search was called off.

Who could blame them? If they found the mountain lion and shot it, the activists would be outraged, and complaints would be lodged against the police.

I say, if people can't rely on the cops to shoot mountain lions in Beverly Hills, there's only one solution.

Bring back the Clampetts!


posted by Eric at 03:33 PM | Comments (4)

The Right Loses Faith

It is interesting to read the hard right's take on the justice system based on the Duke case.

When folks from Free Republic lose faith in the justice system, we are in serious trouble.

Here is a typical comment:

To: TommyDale

"Multiply that in North Carolina, where the legal system can screw innocent people and the general public would never know,"

That is everywhere in the country.

10 posted on 01/24/2007 6:14:39 AM PST by SmoothTalker

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:56 PM | Comments (1)

past and future demolition

People who complain about being controlled by the past might get a chuckle reading about the extent to which modern Rome is still controlled by ancient Rome:

In Rome, modern progress is often slowed down by the past.

Italy's robust preservation laws make it difficult to renovate, remove or otherwise tinker with anything deemed to be of historical significance, and that includes most of central Rome. The laws have protected the capital from newer architectural eyesores but have left it ill-equipped to deal with the stresses of a modern metropolis.

Rome currently has only two modest metro lines to serve its 2.5 million people, leaving the city's streets regularly clogged with buses, cars and scooters whose pollution coats the historical monuments with grime. Neither line passes through the heart of the old city, an area always teeming with tourists.

But successive attempts by city planners to unclog the center by building underground parking garages and tunnels to handle traffic have run afoul of historical preservationists just about every time a shovel has hit the earth.

Geez. It reminds me of the way civil libertarian crackpots and assorted "constitutional preservationists" (myself included) go berserk every time the federal government tries to violate the Bill of Rights. What gives the past the right to control the present?

One exasperated Roman bureaucrat complains that it's like a parody:

"It's like a parody," complains Enrico Testa, the chairman of Roma Metropolitane SpA, the city-owned company that operates Rome's subway. "There are treasures that are underground that would stay buried forever if we didn't have to dig. But as soon as we uncover them, our work gets blocked."
While my analogy to the Constitution is meant as humor, I do tend towards Originalism, because I think that there's no way not to be directed by the past, at least to a certain extent. How else could we know that things we take for granted, like ownership of property or the right to free speech, are legitimate?

Totalitarians, of course, care very little about the past.

Breaking ground in Rome wasn't always so difficult. When the city started building its first metro in the 1930s, dictator Benito Mussolini refused to let history impede his master plan to create a modern Roman empire. Work didn't pause even when diggers clipped off a corner of the foundation of the Colosseum. The plans were crude: Engineers cut a canal alongside the ruins of the Roman Forum. Truckloads of dirt containing many ancient artifacts were carted off and dumped.
Gee. Sounds like Ceaucescu (who demolished 15,000 historic buildings to make Bucharest resemble a Stalinist version of Paris) No doubt Mussolini would have had the same regard for the Bill of Rights had he been elected and reelected president of the United States. (Even the benign FDR had serious, um, issues.)

Those who would level the past worry me. Of course, at the other extreme are those who would prevent the future by preventing growth. Whether in the name of stopping "global warming" or "urban sprawl," they invoke "the environment" in the same way that archaeologists invoke terms like "cultural heritage." If an apparently vacant lot has priceless architectural ruins underneath it, I'm all for preserving its cultural and educational value, as long as the owner is compensated. But if it's just because activists think it should always be "green," and they want it to remain that way without compensating the owner, that's not letting the past control the future; that's strangling the future, and disrespecting the past by ignoring settled constitutional principles and the law of property ownership. Arguing that "nature" was here first and that we should therefore be controlled by "nature" is like saying that the lack of electricity and plumbing were here first, and that therefore we should all live in a state of nature like Ted Kaczynski. Saying "no culture" should control culture is primitivism, and its advocates (condemned repeatedly infra) want anti-civilization to replace civilization.

Preserving and respecting the past is civilization. Blocking the future is uncivilized, and has a lot in common with demolishing the past.

It may sound like a paradox, but I think it's common sense.

posted by Eric at 09:50 AM

Reparations for you and me too?

There's a very peculiar full-page ad in this week's Philadelphia City Paper for a group called the International Coalition for British Reparations (and its web site,, which is demanding 31 trillion pounds in reparations for -- well, for literally billions of people worldwide, and almost everyone in the United States.

Here's what it looks like:


If you can't read the text, there's plenty more at the web site. The arguments are so silly that I don't think I need to address them seriously. (For starters, it's corruption of blood.)

Initially, I thought (as did a Cold Fury commenter) that the ad might be satire, for the site blames the British for, among many other things, Stalin's Gulags (prison camps were a British invention, natch), World Wars One and Two, all the Iraq Wars, the list goes on and on. But I think the Cold Fury commenter may have been wrong when he called Grasse a con artist:

Here is what I found interesting: Under the header of "Who is behind the International Coalition for British Reparations (ICBR)?" it says:
The ICBR was founded by Steve A. Grasse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Grasse is a lay historian and founder of a successful multinational marketing company
Allow me to translate:

"Lay historian": Someone who doesn't know shit about History but has read a few books and watched a few TV programs and fancies himself an "historian."

"founder of a successful multinational marketing company" = Con artist.

While it is true that the web site describes Grasse as the founder of a successful marketing company, I don't think it's a con. If Grasse is who I think he is, he might not be a con artist at all. (At least not in the ordinary sense of the word.)

From the Amazon cache:

Editorial Reviews
Book Description
They invented slums. They invented child labor. They put Saddam Hussein in power. They burned Joan of Arc at the stake. They made Elton John a knight.

We're talking about Britain, of course, and the terrible evils they've set loose on the world. In The Evil Empire, American author Steven Grasse documents the 101 worst atrocities of Mother England everything from foxhunting and the invention of the concentration camp to the rock band Oasis. (He's also launching a massive global Internet campaign for reparations worth 58 trillion dollars this spring.) With an irreverent mix of historical facts, smartass commentary, and red-blooded American arrogance, Grasse offers a devastating critique of the country that gave us the machine gun, factory labor, and Phil Collins. Publishing just in time for the Queen's birthday (April 21), The Evil Empire is essential reading for anglophiles and true-blue Americans everywhere.

About the Author
Steven A. Grasse is the CEO of Gyro Worldwide, a multimillion-dollar ad agency. He has designed award-winning campaigns for clients such as Coca-Cola, MTV, and Puma. This is his first book. Penny Rimbaud is a drummer, writer, poet, and cofounder of the anarchist punk band Crass.

For whatever reason, the "about the author" part seems to have been sanitized.

The new Amazon listing for the book says nothing about Grasse being the CEO of Gyro Worldwide, and I am not sure why. Considering that Gyro is a huge advertising outfit which has worked with the Philadelphia Inquirer with (lots of big money involved there, folks), you'd think it would help sell the book to let the readers know what a hot shot the author is, and how long he's been a hot shot.

Here's what the "About the Author" section says now:

About the Author
Steven A. Grasse is a cultural studies analyst and media communications expert, who has extensively studied the British Empire. He is also the spokesperson for the International Coalition for British Reparations (ICBR), a massive global initiative for reparations from England worth 58 trillion dollars. This is his first book. Penny Rimbaud is a musician, writer, poet, and cofounder of the anarchist punk band Crass.
When things disappear, I get suspicious.

And right now, while I don't know exactly what is going on, I am very suspicious.

Is it possible that someone is pretending to be Steven Grasse, or that there's more than one?

According to local Philadelphia blog Phawker, Grasse directed a film called "Bikini Bandits" and sure enough, IMDB lists a "Steve Grasse" as the director of that film. And both City Paper and Wikipedia confirm that the director Steven Grasse is the founder of Gyro Worldwide.

Weird, huh?

This is obviously timed to coincide with Prince Charles' upcoming visit to Philadelphia, as the ICBR web site states that Comcast has pulled their TV ad, as did the Bill O'Reilly Show:

The ICBR is a new grassroots organization formed by Steven Grasse, a cultural studies analyst and media communications expert. His ancestors fought in the American Revolution and Civil Wars. He is a distant relative of three presidents--Franklin Pierce, George Bush, and George W. Bush. He is the author of a forthcoming work on the history of British civilization and its role in world affairs, to be published in April 2007.

The Coalition consists of forgotten victims of the British Empire who have banded together to ask for compensation for the injuries and injustice suffered over the past five hundred years. England's shameful misconduct and neglect have necessitated that a global network of citizens from all walks of life unite to seek reparations in the sum of 31 trillion pounds sterling. ($58 trillion USD).

The controversial spot was set to air on "The O'Reilly Factor," but was pulled mid-airing in a move that can be called nothing short of censorship. Comcast execs refuse to broadcast the commercial until major revisions have been made.

Comcast accepted payment for the advertisement and then mysteriously yanked the spot mid-air. When ICBR representatives called to inquire as to whether or not it was a technical difficulty they nervously explained that Comcast's New York City legal counsel had prohibited the commercial and cancelled all future airings.

We respectfully ask: What was the reason for this? Who got to them? And what other acts of injustice will innocent citizens of the world face at the hands of the British Empire?

What other "acts of injustice"? Considering that the British are responsible for Stalin's gulags, I'm sure that anything the United States does will qualify, as we descend from a particularly vicious and evil colony the British colonialists started.

It would be easy to dismiss this nonsense if it didn't appear to be the product of an important person.

If this is a gigantic hoax, or if Steven Grasse is not the Gyro founder/movie director, I hope someone will let me know.

My information comes only from what I found at the above sites.

I enjoy jokes, and even an occasional hoax. But if it turns out this is serious, and if it turns out a well-connected Philadelphia advertising executive is behind it, would it still be funny?

Well, maybe to me.

(But then, I think Ward Churchill and Michael Moore are funny....)

MORE: If you're as offended as I am by the gratuitous bashing of an ally, Glenn Reynolds links a more appropriate use of the Union Jack.

(Sorry, Glenn! I meant "scary racist symbol." My bad.)

MORE: The same full page ad appears in this week's Philadelphia Weekly.

British Reparations may be a lunatic fringe idea, but somebody's putting a lot of money into it.

UPDATE (01/27/07): Metro Philadelphia asserted that the British Reparations movement is in fact run by the same Steven Grasse of Gyro:

CENTER CITY.?Blame the bloody English.

That's what a longtime Philadelphia advertising executive says in a book set for release in April called "Evil Empire" and plans to spell out at a press conference tomorrow at the Constitution Center.

Steve Grasse, head of Center City's Gyro Worldwide Advertising, wants Britain to pay $58 trillion to the world, or roughly $8,500 per person, for causing what he called "injuries and injustices suffered over the past [500] years" by the world at the hands of the British.

"We're only asking for a fraction of what the world is due," Grasse said yesterday of his Philadelphia-based organization called the International Coalition for British Reparations.

And he says he's dead serious.

The piece (by brian x. mccrone) is dated January 23, 2007. Why it didn't come up on Google yesterday, I don't know. And why doesn't it come up on Google News?

What I'd really like to know is why the Philadelphia Inquirer does not seemto consider this major local story to be newsworthy.

Something isn't right.

MORE: If Gyro is trying to hide its connections with British Reparations, they aren't doing a good job. Using a standard domain lookup, I discovered that the contact information for points to "Carrie Carnegie" at Gyro:

Carnegie, Carrie
c/o Network Solutions
P.O. Box 447
Herndon, VA. 20172-0447


Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Carnegie, Carrie Whois Privacy and Spam Prevention by
Gyro Worlwide Advertising
c/o Network Solutions
P.O. Box 447
Herndon, VA 20172-0447

Record expires on 04-Sep-2007.
Record created on 04-Sep-2006.

And "Carrie Carnegie" is also listed as the contact for
Gyro Worldwide
394 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106


Administrative Contact:
Carnegie, Carrie Whois Privacy and Spam Prevention by
Gyro Worlwide Advertising
114-120 S 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

I'm tempted to say "case closed."

If Mr. Grasse is joking, I'm waiting to hear all about the prank.

UPDATE: My thanks to Pajamas Media for linking this post!

At this point, I think it's obvious who's behind it.

What I'd like to know is why. Is it a joke, or is it serious?

And why the lack of local coverage?

MORE: I hate it when things don't make sense.

If the idea here is for a big, MSM-connnected ad agency to create a brand-new political meme, wouldn't media coverage be the whole idea? After all, it's not as if this involves some piddly rent-a-demonstrator service.

Come on guys! If this is a media-manufactured meme, where's the media?

posted by Eric at 06:24 PM | Comments (14)

Guilford Is A Street In Rockford

It is also a Quaker founded college in Greensboro, N.C.

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) -- Three college students were assaulted on the campus of Guilford College early Saturday morning, according to court documents and the school's Web site.

The Greensboro News & Record reported Tuesday that Faris Khadar, Osama Sabbah and Omar Awartani were the victims of an attack by three others.

According to the newspaper, Khadar and Sabbah are students at Guilford College. Artwani is a student at N.C. State who was visiting friends.

Three football players from Guilford College -- Michael Bates, Michael Six and Christopher Barnette -- were arrested and charged with ethnic intimidation. Bates and Six were charged with three counts of assault and battery each, and Barnett was charged with two counts of assault and battery, according to the News & Record.

Bates is from Reidsville, Six from Greensboro and Barnette from Semora.

Naturally they have the boy's pictures featured at the top of the front page of the story.

Today two more boys were arrested in the case.

From today's News & Record

GREENSBORO -- An additional two Guilford College football players were arrested Thursday in connection with a recent attack against three Palestinian students outside a campus dormitory.

The arrests came the same day college officials announced that five people tied to the incident have been charged with violating the school's student code of conduct. And in the morning, students staged a walkout in solidarity with the injured Palestinians.

Police identified the latest people arrested as Jonathan Blake Underwood, of Clinton, S.C.; and Jazz Alfray Favors, of Alpharetta, Ga. Both were released on $5,000 bond.

Their arrests bring to five the number of students arrested in the incident police are treating as racially motivated.

Warrants for Underwood and Favors were issued Sunday but not served until Thursday. The reason for the delay wasn't clear.

Underwood is charged with three counts of ethnic intimidation, two counts of assault and one count of communicating threats. Favors is charged with two counts of assault and two counts of ethnic intimidation.

The charges weren't requested by Greensboro police but instead stem from statements the injured Palestinians made to a magistrate, who issued the warrants. Police said their investigation is ongoing.

Interesting. Police didn't prefer charges.

Here is a press release from the police thinly disgiused as a newspaper report:

The Greensboro Police Department today issued an updated statement regarding the Guilford College case:

As stated in the previous press release, this case was referred to our Metropolitan Criminal Investigation Division and has been assigned to a detective for follow-up. Two interviews have been scheduled with the alleged victims in this case, and the victims have rescheduled on both occasions. As of this time, they have not spoken with us. We have followed up with Guilford College security and have spoken with them about the information they obtained regarding this incident.

On yesterday, warrants were issued on two additional subjects accused of assault. These warrants were not issued as a result of our investigation.

With an assault investigation, we begin by speaking with the alleged victim or victims in the case. At this point, we have not been afforded this opportunity. We will continue to make efforts to interview the alleged victims in this case and anyone who has information that will lead us to the correct version of events. The Greensboro Police Department will conduct a fair and impartial investigation into this matter. We will issue an updated press release as new information becomes available.

You know the police appear a bit sceptical on this one.

Here is a statement from the family of of a football player.

It is very apparent that the media and many uninformed individuals have unfairly prejudged Michael Bates, Michael Six, and Christopher Barnette of the beating of three Guilford College students during an unfortunate altercation involving several students last Friday night. Since media coverage has been so one sided the Bates, Six, and Barnette families issue this statement to allow for more balanced reporting of this event.

None of these accused young men have yet to be interviewed by any college official. The Greensboro Police Department has refused to take their statements and declined to review physical evidence including pictures of a vicious stabbing and belt whipping that was inflicted by Khader (an alleged victim) upon Michael Six during the altercation.

We also believe that a letter emailed on Sunday, by a college official, to all students of color greatly inflamed emotions needlessly. Here is the first paragraph from that letter from the Guilford College Director of Multicultural Education:

"By now, most of you have heard about the situation that occurred on Friday night between some football players and Faris Khader, Osama Sabbah, and Omar Awartini (a student from N.C. State). Faris, Osama, and Omar were defending themselves against students (and possibly perspective students) that were attacking them physically and simultaneously verbally with phrases like "sandnigga," "terrorist," etc. The incident was a hate crime."

We are deeply saddened by the inaccurate portrayal of these young men in this altercation by their school. When all of the FACTS are revealed, we believe that those who are sensationalizing this story will be rightly embarrassed and hope the retractions will receive the same level of visibility as premature and false charges. Under our system of government, our sons are presumed innocent of these charges and we hope that the community and the media will let the system run its course in determining their innocence or guilt.

The Bates, Six, and Barnette families would like to thank those in the communities, who know the true characters of these young men, for their continued support throughout this ordeal.

Isn't that interesting. It appears that the Palestinians may have attacked and then blamed their victims for responding. Where have I heard that story before?

In fact, according to this anonymous reportthat is exactly what happened.

gcstudentathlete, Jan 24, 2007 11:30 PM

As a Guilford College student athlete I have been appalled by the reaction to this incident by not only the student body but also the media. Most of the students that are so intent on screaming hate crime are extremely uninformed about the actual occurance of events that night. No, I did not witness the fight the fight but I withhold judging or condemning the parties of either side until all accounts are fully investigated. It seems that even the news has not refrained from prematurally passing judgement. All of the articles and stories I have viewed on the television have been biased and from the most part over victimizing one party why already passing the other off as guilty. From the eyewitness accounts I have heard it was Osama who struck first, taking off his belt and hitting one of the football player. Osama himself has admitted this Also there were no brass knuckles involved in the fight, these so called brass knuckles were actually a watch. I am not saying that it is ok to beat anyone, I hate violence just much as anyone, but you also have to realize that mistakes were made on both sides. I know both of the parties that were involved. Faris and Osama are good guys, I like them a lot, and no doubt they did not deserve this, but as much as I like them they sometimes tend to look for fights. I also know one of the football players who has been arrested, and he is a good guy. He does not deserve to be slandered all across the news when he has not yet been convicted of anything. So get your story straight, stop being one sided, and stop trying to use this unfortunate event as an excuse to get all riled up and protest a hate crime that didn't occur. Further the student body needs to discontinue their DISCRIMINATION against the athletes of this campus. We are your classmates, and your equals. We get no special treatment, we work hard at our classes, our sports, and our held accountable for all our mistakes just like you. So any divide that has been created on this campus has not been created by me or by any of my teammates. So the question I pose to you is who is hating who right now?

It will be interesting to see if the police get to the bottom of this. So far the accusers don't seem to be very interested in coming forward.

I wonder if the football guys have good lawyers?

This page has a picture of Michael Six's injury alleged to have come from the fight.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:41 PM | Comments (2)

Enabling the flatulence of flat-screen swine

As I remarked in a previous post, I loved the new Barajas airport in Madrid. So much, in fact, that I had my picture taken there:


I was, of course, very upset when I read it had been bombed by Basque terrorists. That's because not only do I hate it when terrorists kill people, I also hate it when they destroy beautiful things. I think such terrorist acts are patently immoral.

Yet I must always remember that for other people, even beautiful things like the Barajas Airport are patently immoral.

I kid you not.

This morning Justin told me about this essay by a man who saw the same beautiful new airport, but had a very different reaction. Massive, self-consuming, guilt:

One minute I was admiring Richard Rogers' gorgeous roof, and the play of light upon curves.

But I suddenly stopped perceiving these effects as aesthetic. In place of elegant forms and vistas, I started to contemplate the vast amount of energy embodied in the artefacts, structures and processes that surrounded me.

A big new airbus, taxiing in to park, made me wonder how many thousands - millions - of pounds of matter and energy must have been used to build it.

Beside me was an elegant concrete pillar. It looked benignly tree-like with a gently curving trunk and branches, higher up, that supported a soaring roof.

But how many carbon dioxide emissions were generated during its fabrication? A ton of CO2 is emitted for every ton of concrete that ends up in a pillar - or the miles of concrete apron that stretched, in Madrid, in every direction.

Millions of tons of concrete visible to the eye. Millions of tons of emissions out of sight.

Then there was the noise. I don't usually notice the background hiss and hum of these great modern spaces. But this time my cognitive filters seemd to fail. I became aware of an ambient, angst-inducing roar.

All that air-conditioning, cooling huge volumes of empty space, blowing gales of out hot air to goodness knows where in the sky.

Get that, folks? Air conditioning is evil! Being comfortable is evil.

And of course the United States is the most evil place of all:

Eight per cent of the world's total electricity supply is used to cool buildings in the United States.
You think air conditioning is evil? Did you know that many of you -- my readers -- are so greedy that you are reading these very words on a flat screen monitor?

And did you know that by staring into that flat screen monitor, you are ruining the world? I thought not. But it's the truth.

And therefore, shame on you!

Then there was the light! There was a bank of large plasma screens. On the screens, ads were playing - but all I could think about was their greed for electricity.

Did you know that flat screens use five times more power than the bulbous ones they replace?

And that's just the power they use. Cathode ray televisons contained mostly air. These new plasma screens are packed densely with complex materials whose manufacture is highly energy intensive.

This goes on and on, and while it's easy to dismiss the man as a fanatic, I think that he's a proponent (for all I know he's a victim too....) of an emergent, recently manufactured morality I complained of in an earlier post.

I hate to belabor a point I think is all too obvious, but I thought my readers of the flat-screened persuasion ought to know.

You people are evil, energy-swilling swine!

You are destroying the planet!

And by writing blog posts, I am little more than an enabler.

Isn't it obvious that from a collective standpoint, we're worse than the terrorists?

UPDATE: A scientist I am not. But as a firm believer in scientific morality, I thought it might be worth taking a close look at this screen shot from today's Drudge Report:


Isn't it a little irresponsible of Drudge to show a man freezing his butt off in front of a flat screen monitor?

Because, not only are flat screen monitors ruining the planet, but the image itself -- why, I can't imagine a more blatant depiction of immoral warmth, of hotness, even! The most sinister aspect of this depiction is its cleverly seductive, inherently self-advocating nature. (People who don't know any better might be tricked into imagining that evil is good.) It's a sickening example of what I can only call triple immorality!

posted by Eric at 11:15 AM | Comments (4)

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 9

It has been about 20 days since the last Palestinian Civil War Watch. And the Palestinians are at it again:

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Rival Palestinian factions clashed across the Gaza Strip, killing six people, as thousands of Hamas supporters marched on Friday to mark the Islamist group's election victory over Fatah opponents last year.

The escalating violence forced the postponement of talks to form a coalition government which could ease a U.S.-led boycott imposed after Hamas won Palestinian elections last January.

Ah yes, the fabled, mythical, imaginairy, national unity government. Just a little more talking will close the deal and return Gaza to the Paradise it once was.
"The entire dialogue could explode," Fatah spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa said, blaming Hamas for the tension. "How can dialogue go on when there is a bomb underneath the table?"

The talks, due to resume on Friday, were pushed back to Sunday.

Three Hamas supporters, a militant from the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and two bystanders were killed in violence which began with a bombing on Thursday night and continued with a spate of shootings on Friday.

I guess he wasn't kidding about bombs under the table. Literally.

Further updates as the civil war war progresses.

Update: 26 Jan '07 2258z

Busy day in "Palestine".

Hamas gunmen stormed the home of a militant from the rival Fatah movement late Friday, witnesses said, sparking a deadly gun battle and capping a day of factional violence that killed at least 12 people, including a two-year-old boy, across the Gaza Strip.

Friday's violence was among the deadliest in nearly two months of infighting and marred the first anniversary of Hamas' upset victory in Palestinian elections. After nightfall, the fighting showed no signs of slowing, as the sound of gunfire echoed throughout Gaza City.

Some of the heaviest shooting was concentrated around the home of Mansour Shaleil, a local Fatah leader in the Jebaliya refugee camp just north of Gaza City.

Hamas is celebrating one year in office:
GAZA: Rival Palestinian factions clashed across the Gaza Strip, killing six people, as thousands of Hamas supporters marched on Friday to mark the Islamist group's election victory over Fatah opponents last year.
I wonder if their celebrations always include hunan sacrifice?
Both Fatah and Hamas officials said late Friday that unity talks would be suspended until the fighting ends. Both sides blamed each other for the breakdown.
Boy. That really breaks my heart. They were so close to an agreement. Just a little more effort would have done it. And, now this. Pity really.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:10 AM | Comments (1)

My inner hypocritical desires -- exposed at last!

You know, for all my criticism of government bureaucrats, reading a story like this makes me want to be one:

[Recently resigned Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Chairman Jonathan H. Newman] often stayed in style, at times booking $500-a-night New York City hotel rooms, an Inquirer analysis of documents obtained through the state's Right to Know law shows.

Newman yesterday vigorously defended the travel, arguing that his wine-buying trips to Napa Valley, the Bordeaux region and Rome generated millions in profits for the state through sales from the Chairman's Selection program he started three years ago to give consumers better wines at a better price.

Haggling for the best wine bargains can't be done over the phone, "sitting on your derriere," he said.

"I'm working my tail off. I'd rather be home with my family. I'm working from 8 in the morning to 10 at night," he said. "And I brought back these new, great products and generated millions in profits for the commonwealth."

Between 2004 and the end of last year, the PLCB spent $47,188 for Newman's travel. Expenses for the two other board members - Thomas Goldsmith and P.J. Stapleton - totaled $35,887 and $20,048, respectively.

Activists who are pushing for greater financial restraint in Harrisburg pounced on the spending reports.

"There is no justification for this type of extravagant, excessive and lavish lifestyle," said Eric Epstein, founder of "When you become drunk with power, you make impaired decisions."

Stapleton, who replaced Newman as chairman, said yesterday that he was unaware until recently of many of the travel bills, but planned to send a memo to the agency's senior staff next week mandating that more discretion be given to picking hotels.

More discretion? That's carrying a crackdown too far! If the taxpayers sent me to the Napa Valley, the Bordeaux region and Rome to hobnob with international wine merchants, why should I have to be discreet?

This story highlights a contradiction inherent in the state control of alcohol distribution. If you're going to be sent on a wine-buying trip to places which are vacation spots for the rich and famous, wining and dining kind of go with the turf -- even if you're a bureaucrat.

The irony, of course, is that a private liquor dealer would probably do a better job of wining and dining the French, the Italians, and even the Californians -- precisely because of the lack of oversight that's present here. "Accountability" would be based not on bureaucratic oversight -- but on whether he turned a profit.

In California, wines are sold in the supermarkets' wine sections, and they are cheaper and have a better selection than the Pennsylvania state stores. The customers neither know nor care how much money the stores' wine buyers or distributors might spend on hotels. What's an "entertainment writeoff" for a private business is a career-ending "scandal" for a bureaucrat.

Putting bureaucrats in the liquor business is a good way to make "bureaucracy" seem synonymous with hypocrisy.

I really should be more outraged here. Instead, I find myself wanting to be a bureaucrat.

Now that's real hypocrisy!

AFTERTHOUGHT: Geez, I just thought of something about which I'm starting to have second thoughts. Should the government really be put in charge of vice?

posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (3)

War Talk

Bush is starting to make his case for a strike on Iran.

Fri Jan 26, 12:46 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian agents active inside Iraq, The Washington Post reported on Friday, citing government and counterterrorism officials with direct knowledge of the plan.

The move, approved last fall, is aimed at weakening Iran's influence in the region and forcing Tehran to abandon its nuclear program that the West believes is for nuclear weapons and not energy, the newspaper said, citing the unidentified officials.

For more than a year, U.S. forces have held dozens of Iranians for a few days, taking DNA samples from some as well as photographs and fingerprints from all those captured, the report said.

Several Iranian officials have been detained in three U.S. raids over the last month. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters on Wednesday that details of accusations against them would be made public in the coming days.

He said they were "going after networks" of security agents, which he said were a mainstay of Iran's involvement in Iraq. The United States has accused Iran of helping arm, train and fund Iraqi militants, notably fellow Shi'ite Muslims.

I discussed in An Act Of War how the USA was starting to provoke Iran. Little insults like the taking of an Iranian Embassy in Iraq and six people from that embassy. Cutting off bank transfers with Iran. That one really hurts. I think they are going to be poked until they do something rash or lose face. Of course Iran is using Hizballah in Lebanon to show they can make trouble too.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:19 AM

Iran Answers American Moves

In An Act Of War I discussed American moves on Iran. It looks like Iran is making a counter move in Lebanon.

BEIRUT, LEBANON - Lebanon's army imposed a curfew on the capital Thursday after hundreds of government supporters and foes wielded rocks, Molotov cocktails and sometimes guns in street battles that dragged past nightfall.

Four people were killed and 150 wounded, officials said, many of them soldiers who at times stood helplessly between the two sides.

The clashes, which began in a university cafeteria and spread to the surrounding neighborhood of Tariq Jedideh, offered a bitter contrast to the optimism of an international conference in Paris where more than $7.6 billion was pledged to help Lebanon's economy recover from last summer's war with Israel.

As the grants and loans were announced, bursts of gunfire echoed along the airport road and columns of black smoke rose from burning cars in some of the worst clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

America appeals for calm.
WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The United States appealed on Thursday for calm in Lebanon and reiterated concern that "irresponsible" forces were working to topple the government of embattled Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

In November, the White House warned that Syria and Iran, acting through the Hezbollah group of Shi'ite Muslim militants, might be on the verge of an attempted coup in Lebanon.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack condemned the latest violence in which at least four students were shot and killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government activists in the capital, Beirut.

"There are certain irresponsible parties in Lebanon who have been provoking an atmosphere of confrontation and antagonism within the political system," he told reporters.

"The links between those individuals and groups and outside entities are well known. And they have been engaged in a cynical manipulation of public perceptions in the political process."

Asked whether the United States still saw the activities of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah as a threat and whether it was nervous about the safety of Siniora himself, McCormack said nothing had changed since November.

You know that sounds like a "talk softly carry a big stick" threat to Iran. I wonder if they are listening?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:40 AM

NEWS UPDATE? Castro still alive?

Yes, that's what's being reported at Euro News, apparently because Castro's enemies have been spreading evil rumors about his demise:

Castro shows doubters he is alive and well

A defiant Fidel Castro has issued more footage of himself, as proof that he is on the road to recovery after intestinal surgery. The Cuban leader - appearing in a sports tracksuit -is seen walking freely and heard speaking clearly. His message was to those he called 'enemies' who had declared him dead. "Now they will have to ressurect me," he says. "I'm not worried. They said I was dead. Nonsense. But what they say is what keeps me working and fighting."

These are the first images released of Castro for six weeks. He carried a copy of the day's newspaper to prove the date. He reveals that he is still active in government decisions and up-to-date with current events before signing off with the words: "Thank you very much. Homeland or death."

The problem with the above "story" is that while it's dated today, it's a recycled version of the same quote dated October 30 of last year.

I'm a bit suspicious.

Meanwhile the International Herald Tribune (in a story titled "post-Castro transition has already occurred") reports that the Cuban government is already in the "post Castro" stages.

I'm not entirely convinced the man is alive, and Dennis thinks he's dead but they just don't want to admit it.

Not that this has stopped Hugo Chavez from claiming he's ready to use a jump rope, or whatever "almost jogging" means. I have a feeling if he was really almost jogging, some new pictures would be released.

These news reports that he's "still alive!" are starting to remind me of Idi Amin.

I guess we've entered the ex post Castro era.

Anyway, here's what he looked like in October:


And here he is in happier times:


What's with the finger? Some "in" joke? (Don't expect me to provide the caption, as it's not very nice.)

Staying with the ex post Castro theme, we can go back even further in time -- to a fascinating interaction between "boy Castro" and another U.S. President -- Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Castro was 14 years old, he wrote to him and asked for ten dollars*:

"If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american . . . because never I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them. . . . Thank you very much. Good by. Your friend. Fidel Castro."

Perhaps if FDR had actually sent that kid a sawbuck, the past 40 years would have been completely different for so many.

The letter goes on to say:

My Address is:
Sr. Fidel castro
Colegio de Dolores
Santiago de Cuba
Oriente, Cuba
I dont know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don't know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American...

If you want iron to make your ships I will show to you the bigest(sic) (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari, Oriente, Cuba.

The entire letter (from the National Archives) can be seen here.

What fascinates me about it is that many web sites report that little Fidel was twelve years old at the time. But that's only because they take him at his word; Castro dated the letter November 6, 1940, and in the letter he states unequivocally that he is twelve!

Here it is, in his own handwriting:


According to Wikipedia, Castro was born on August 13, 1926, which would have made him fourteen (as Bababu points out) when he wrote the letter. Why do reputable (gulp) news outlets like the BBC continue to say he was twelve? There's quite a difference between twelve and fourteen, and two years a long time when you're that age.

Unless Wikipedia is wrong and the BBC is right, I'd say the lie is there, for the world to see.

But why would the teenage Castro lie about his age to FDR? For financial gain, perhaps?

And if he was lying then, how do we know he isn't lying now?

Terrible as it is to make such an accusation against a world leader, I think that even if Castro were dead, he would continue to lie.

Has anyone other than Hugo Chavez verified his latest claim?

* Ten dollars would be $143.69 in today's money.

posted by Eric at 06:41 PM | Comments (3)

Iraq Comes To Gaza

Evidently the Palestinians have learned a great lesson from the Civil War in Iraq. Road side bombs work.

GAZA, Jan 25 (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed a member of a Hamas-led security force in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and wounded five others, a Hamas police spokesman said.

The spokesman said the six were travelling in a jeep when the bomb was detonated. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

I wonder how this will help the moves towards a national unity government? I guess some one is trying to veto the plan.

Update: 26 Jan '07 0614z

Hamas is fighting back.

Hamas gunmen shot dead a member of the Fatah faction's militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in the northern Gaza Strip early Friday, a Fatah spokesman said.

The spokesman said that the militant was "executed" by members of Hamas' security force, who had come to question the slain militant about the death of one of their members.

The Hamas militants surrounded the house, said the spokesman, sparking a gunbattle which killed the Fatah man.

I guess his answer (a hail of lead) was unacceptable.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:44 PM

free isn't always free

More on the right of free association, which (as I pointed out yesterday) seems to be a court-ordered emanation from the penumbra of the First Amendment right of the people to peaceably assemble.

The comments intrigue me, and I realize that this issue is far from settled.

Just what is freedom of association and how far does it go?

The right to freedom of association is a right I believe in, especially where it comes down to the individual level. Thus, I think I have as much right as the Boy Scouts to form any sort of association I want, and keep anyone out of it I want. When I go out into the public streets, I have a right to assemble with whomever I want to assemble. Whether -- and to what extent -- that right to assemble includes a right to keep others from assembling in my assembly, that confuses me. Because, don't they have a right to assemble wherever they want, and associate with whomever they want as long as they do so in a peaceful manner?

Is there a right of home-schooled children to compete in public spelling bees? There's a story in today's Inquirer dealing with just that, and the answer is unclear. Pennsylvania state law requires that home-schooled children be allowed to attend public school events and activities, but the school here maintains that the spelling bee is part of its "language arts" curriculum.

The law says that home-schoolers must be allowed to participate in public-school athletics or in any other activities outlined in Section 511 of the Pennsylvania School Code, a definition that includes "exercises, athletics, or games of any kind, school publications, debating, forensic, dramatic, musical, and other activities related to the school program."

It is up to local districts to interpret how that applies to their schools, said Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Michael Storm. There is no specific penalty for noncompliance, he added; the family's only remedy would be through the courts.

Avon Grove School District Superintendent Augustus Massaro says the law does not cover the first round of the spelling bee, which is held in school classrooms. "This is a co-curricular, not an extracurricular activity," Massaro said last week. "The early rounds of the spelling bee require participation in the Language Arts program. If you are not part of the school, you can't participate, because this is part of the Language Arts curriculum."

What seems to be going on behind the scenes is that this particular girl won the spelling bee last year and they're afraid she'll win this year, thus hurting the self esteem of the public school bureaucrats who hide behind the passive aggressive claim that it's the children's self esteem that's being hurt.
Senate majority leader Pileggi, whose district the Reynolds family lives in, said that while he could not comment on the specifics of Meghan's situation, "clearly, spelling bees are the type of activity that home-schoolers were to be allowed participation in. That was the intent of the law."

Roger Wilson, a Franklin Township supervisor who is a neighbor of the Reynolds family, helped circulate an e-mail appeal and a petition for Meghan's inclusion that has gathered widespread support and will be presented to the school board tonight, he said.

"I'm concerned that the district is looking for ways to exclude her rather than be open," Wilson said. "You can't help but have the suspicion that she's being excluded because she won last year and they don't want the competition. It's surprising and disappointing that they don't welcome her participation."

It's not surprising at all, and while this case is governed by the interpretation of a specific law, suppose that there was no law, but suppose this was part of a national "public" spelling bee which decided to bar home-schooled kids. Whose First Amendment rights to assemble would be implicated? The kids who were kept out? Or the contest organizers' right to keep them out?

What I am asking is who has the right to assemble, to associate, and with whom? And, assuming that a given individual or group has a right to attend or leave a particular assembly, along with a right to keep others out, at what point should the state be allowed to enforce this right?

Let's turn to another example. Local anti-gay activist Michael Marcavage (the subject of a number of posts in this blog) has just lost a court battle against the Philadelphia Police Department which excluded him from participating in a gay rights event. The court's legal reasoning was that there is no "right to drown out" the speech of other people at their own, properly licensed event:

U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel on Thursday granted a summary judgment for the city and the event organizers, Philly Pride Presents Inc.

"There is no constitutional right to drown out the speech of another person," Stengel wrote in the 52-page judgement.

The activists, whose case received extensive coverage in the Christian media, argued that the city had violated their First Amendment rights by arresting them at an event on a public street. They claimed police silenced them because of the content of their message. A city judge later dismissed the criminal charges against the 11 defendants.

Organizers of the gay-pride event initially tried to block the protesters from entering, but police escorted the activists in while attempting to confine them to the fringes. The protesters, using bullhorns and signs, were arrested after they disobeyed orders to move. Police said the crowd was threatening to get violent.

Stengel said the gay-pride event had received proper city permits, and the evangelists had neglected to take alternative means to communicate their message, including applying for a permit to hold a counterprotest. He called the activists' claims "simplistic."

Stengel's decision expands upon a 1995 Supreme Court decision that held that the Boston organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade could exclude gay protesters from a private parade on public streets. "This is an important decision that supports the First Amendment rights of organizers of all permitted events," said Jeremy D. Frey, an attorney with Pepper Hamilton L.L.P., which provided free representation to Philly Pride Presents.

Ted Hoppe, attorney for the activists, said the decision allows the government to deny free speech in public areas.

The anti-gay activists are appealing. (I'd call them "Christian activists" except that it sounds a bit condescending and presumptuous, and implies that Marcavage speaks for all of Christendom. Those who use the word "Christian" to describe nuts like Marcavage tend to be the activists on the two opposite "sides" and the word is becoming so charged this way that I worry its meaning is being altered. And by "appealing" I mean appealing their case, OK?)

Very distracting even to write, It's getting harder and harder to use ordinary words.

Where was I?

Marcavage. He claims that he has a right to assemble where others have already assembled, in order to yell his message at them. Does he? How far does freedom of association go before it becomes freedom of disassociation? U.S. District Judge Stengel's decision is here in pdf format; it relies on the "time place and manner" doctrine.

I remember attending a pro-Israel demonstration in Berkeley, which was greeted by angry Islamic counter-demonstrators. The latter were waving the PLO flag and attempting to drown out the pro-Israel demonstrators with bullhorns. The BPD was enforcing a rule of separation which required the counter-demonstrators to be on the opposite side of a busy major street, where they could still be heard, but where they were incapable of exercising whatever "right" they had to drown out the pro-Israel demonstrators. There was a lot of emotion present, violent rhetoric was flying, and while I was appalled by the Muslims and on the side of the Israel supporters, I remember feeling sorry for the Berkeley police. Had violence erupted, the cops would have been blamed.

No doubt the Philadelphia police were faced with a similar situation in the case of Marcavage (whose views that homosexuals should be executed have been widely reported in the local gay press). I wish I had easy answers, but they're not staring me in the face.

Ditto the Ku Klux Klan. Every time they want to demonstrate, it requires more police than Klansmen just to keep a semblance of order, and preserve public safety. I shudder to think what would happen if the Klan decided to hold a rally in Philadelphia. But what about the right of the people to peaceably assemble?

And what about "freedom of association" as a subset within the penumbra of the right to peaceably "assemble"? Are they necessarily synonymous? Most of the arguments I hear about freedom of association involve not the affirmative right to associate, but the right to exclusivity in association, to disassociation if you will. Surely, the right to associate includes a right not to associate. In cases where there's a group of people who have assembled in agreement with each other, that's fine. But who has the right to kick out whom? The bare majority of the group that has assembled? Well, what is the group? In the case of a Klan rally, the counter-demonstrators always outnumber the Klan, so why doesn't that give them the "right" to just say no to the Klan? The Klan is easy, but what about a town that decided not to allow Republicans (or gay activists) to assemble? Whose "assembly" is it?

If Marcavage can attend a gay pride festival and yell at them, shouldn't I be allowed to attend the local Saudi Madrassa and yell in their mosque?

Of course, this just an exercise in court-ordered line drawing, so there's really no need for me to be confused. All I need to do is wait for the court decisions to come down, and just say "That's the law!"

I mean, isn't that where freedom of association comes from?

Back to educational issues. I have to say, I have a bit of a problem when that freedom-of-association entity we call the "assembly" is a huge enterprise created and funded with tax dollars decides to exclude some of the very people whose tax dollars made its existence possible. In a historic showdown on June 11, 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace (backed up by state troopers) physically barred black students from entering the University of Alabama.


Wallace eventually stepped aside in obedience to the superior force posed by federal authorities (in the form of the combined forces of the Attorney General's office and the National Guard).

Who had the right to attend college in the name of freedom of association derived from the right to assemble? All the taxpayers? Or just some of them?

Isn't there also a thing called the 14th Amendment? Isn't that constitutional? Or can amendments to the Constitution be unconstitutional?

Don't laugh.

There's an argument that the Constitution can become undeclarational, but the idea's champions seem more enchanted with the "laws of nature" part than with the "pursuit of happiness" part.


I hate the tyranny of the majority almost as much as I hate the tyranny of the minority, so I'll probably never figure out just how "free" this freedom of association deal really is.

posted by Eric at 09:50 AM | Comments (8)

The year that dare not speak its name?

In China, it's the Year Of The P-P-P-Pig!

Yay! Right?

Not in China. According to this detailed WSJ report, the Chinese government is systematically censoring all mentions of pig and pig images -- putting Western advertisers in a mad editing scramble:

SHANGHAI -- Next month, China will ring in the Year of the Pig. Nestlé SA planned to celebrate with TV ads featuring a smiling cartoon pig. "Happy new pig year," the ads said.

This week, China Central Television, the national state-run TV network, banned Nestlé's ad -- and all images and spoken references to the animal in commercials, including those tied to the Lunar New Year, China's biggest holiday.

The intent: to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pigs unclean. "China is a multiethnic country," the network's ad department said in a notice sent to ad agencies late Tuesday. "To show respect to Islam, and upon guidance from higher levels of the government, CCTV will keep any 'pig' images off the TV screen."

Suddenly, companies reaching out to China's booming consumer market have a pig problem. The edict has sent Nestlé and others scrambling to adapt to the last-minute rule change, altering spots that had included pigs.

Nestlé is now figuring out what to do with its ads, says its media-buying company MindShare, a unit of WPP Group. "We act in line with any requests that we receive from the authorities" about the content of ads, says Francois-Xavier Perroud, a spokesman for Nestlé.

Coca-Cola is pulling its pig ads too.

What amazes me about this is it isn't even mandated by the Koran, which forbids Muslims to eat pork.

Islamic leaders are usually quick to denounce any and all misinterpretations and mischaracterizations of Islam and the Koran. So why aren't they speaking up?

Until they denounce the war on pig images, I'll have to assume Allah doesn't just hate pork, he hates Porky himself!


Not to b-b-butt in, but shouldn't the rule be "hate the pork but love the pig"?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post! Welcome all!

And Happy New Year -- including all you pig lovers out there!

Comments are always appreciated, and feel free to look around.

MORE: I should stress that the anti-pig campaign (as the WSJ article points out) involves television right now. How far it will go is not entirely clear:

The policy shift offers a window on the inner workings of China's governmental machinery, known for its surprise edicts and abrupt shifts in regulation. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ban applies just to ads or to all TV content. And some analysts said the government could still reverse itself, or offer exceptions to the ban.
I suspect the targets right now are mainly the big Western advertisers.

Are the Piglet stamps that had already been printed safe? It's too early to tell. Pigs are an important part of Chinese culture, and while this is speculation, I think the government might be very hesitant to issue unenforceable edicts. But television is under state control, and Western advertisers are an easy target.

AND MORE: Is there a double standard in China where it comes to cultural sensitivities? Are some animals more offensive than others? Or does it depend on who's offended?

The reason I bring this up is because in 2004, China celebrated the Year of the Monkey, despite the fact that this forced American blogger Frank J. to spend the year in a state of terror.

posted by Eric at 07:20 AM | Comments (32)

This may be my last apology

And I may not be blogging here much longer.....

In fact, if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is right, very soon I might not be blogging at all:

Israel and the United States will soon be destroyed, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday during a meeting with Syria's foreign minister, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) website said in a report. Iran's official FARS news agency also reported the comments.

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad... assured that the United States and the Zionist regime of Israel will soon come to the end of their lives," the Iranian president was quoted as saying.
How much time I have, I really don't know, as the president didn't set a definite date. But all this blogging has been fun while it lasted, and had the United States made it to May, I might have had a four year anniversary.

Surely, when Mahmoud says "soon," he means before May?

Damn! I hope I didn't contribute to the problem, for I recently compared Mahmoud to Coco's favorite ShihTzu, Tristan. But honest, it wasn't meant as a particularly unfair comparison, and I didn't mean to offend the Iranian president, much less cause the end of the world. Honest! All I was trying to say was that Coco and Tristan (the ShihTzu) probably had more fun than Mahmoud and Hugo (the Venezolano).

Is that really so bad that things had to come to this?

And on top of that I'm starting to really feel guilty about something else. I'm remembering my well-meaning attempt to send Ahmadinejad a necktie. Might that have been misinterpreted? Like, you know, him being from another culture and everything?

I swear I wasn't trying to insult him or make him feel bad or hurt his self esteem, but I thought that if he would wear a necktie that might lead to him being put on the cover of Time Magazine, where only peaceful people go.

Anyway, this was how I visualized world peace:


Laugh if you want, and I know it sounds naive in retrospect, but I honestly thought that if I could get the man to put on a necktie, not only would he see the light, but it might stop the end of the world.

Hey, at least I tried. And hey, if it turns out I really have caused the end of America, well, I'm sorry!

There. I apologized.

Shouldn't that be enough?

posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (2)

Strict Scrutiny Doctrine

The bloggers are watching.

posted by Simon at 06:12 PM | Comments (1)

Unwanted emanations of free association?

John Derbyshire caught my attention this morning with this:

One of the lesser evils of our age is the passing of "anti-discrimination" laws by legislators in democratic countries. These laws amount to systematic destruction of the principle of freedom of association. While governments should of course treat all citizens impartially, legislators have no business telling citizens whom we may do business with, rent a room to, hire, fire, or engage in any other private transaction with.
I agree. But who is "we"?

As an individual, I think freedom of association is absolute. There's a right to associate or not associate with anyone, for any reason or no reason.

But when individuals form themselves into groups, the "I" (the "me") of the individual tends to become subordinate to a greater "we." At what point does the greater "we" limit the freedom of association inherent in the individual "me"?

Obviously, an individual landlord in close proximity to his tenants is not the same sort of entity as state-funded public housing administration. While it violates the small landlord's rights to tell him who he may or may not rent to, this argument is based on the landlord's individual right -- something wholly irrelevant to the government. (Similarly, a mom and pop store owner is not Wal-Mart.)

What about Muslim cab drivers refusing to pick up passengers carrying alcohol? Are these drivers to be seen as individuals, or as members of a state-licensed group? Taxi medallions are considered a special privilege, and it can be argued that they border on being a state-licensed monopoly. How far does it go? Can Bill Gates decide not to sell computer software to Scientologists?

I don't have the answer, but I think it involves individual conscience. The larger the group of individuals, the less it can be argued that a particular member of the group can claim to be the conscience for the rest of the members of the group.

However, some groups have group consciences (the Boy Scouts are a good example), and these groups have every right to exclude those who do not subscribe to the dictates of their consciences. I can't demand that my local Saudi madrassa allow me to teach students that their religious texts ought to be interpreted in the context I'd like them to be interpreted, and indeed, I don't have any right even to join them in educational or religious services if they don't want me.

Individual rights and group rights are like tar and water, and that's what makes freedom of association such a tough principle to analyze. Analysis is compounded by the fact that freedom of association is not spelled out in the First Amendment, but is implicit in the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Doesn't that mean it's as much a part of the First Amendment penumbra of rights as the right to privacy?

Uh oh. Maybe I shouldn't have said "penumbra."

God forbid that I should emanate anything.

posted by Eric at 10:08 AM | Comments (7)

Always full of it here

Clayton Cramer comments on an interesting cultural phenomenon: female Muslim police officers who refuse to touch men:

In addition to refusing a traditional congratulatory handshake from Sir Ian, the WPC - who wore a traditional Muslim hijab headscarf - also declined to be photographed with him as she did not want the picture used for 'propaganda purposes'.

The woman had earlier insisted that it was contrary to her religious teaching for her to touch a man.

Now The Mail on Sunday has learned that her gesture has sparked top-level discussions at Scotland Yard.

Some officers argue that her attitude towards men might impede her ability to detain offenders.

However, it is clear that she is happy to come into contact with men, just not shake their hand or kiss them.

An inquiry has now been launched and the unidentified WPC - described as 'a non-Asian Muslim' - could face the sack if it is considered that her strict religious beliefs prevent her performing as an effective police officer.

However, senior commanders are worried that dismissing her would deepen the atmosphere of mistrust between the police and the Muslim community.

I enjoyed Cramer's take on this:
"Sir, you will have to handcuff yourself--my religious beliefs prevent me from touching you." I believe, from reading Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, a memoir of teaching literature while wearing a veil, that Muslim women are only allowed to touch father, brother, and husband. It sounds like this police officer is going to have a rather limited set of potential offenders that she can handcuff!
There is still such a thing as reality, as well as an ability to perform the functions of a job. If someone's religion forbids him from touching dead bodies, he should not work as an undertaker. (Ditto for pigs and meat packing plants.) It is unreasonable to demand that employers "accomodate" religious demands when those demands flatly contradict the nature of the employment. Hooters and other businesses employ scantily-clad women, and (notwithstanding the Manolo's post about the "sexy" Iranian fashion show) I don't think they should have to "accomodate" the demands of an Islamic applicant that she be allowed to wear a hijab.

What also intrigued me about the British incident was this little tidbit at the end:

In June 2005 Sir Ian was judged to have 'hung out to dry' three white detectives - who were accused of rudely mispronouncing "Shi'ites' - to prove his anti-racist credentials.

An employment tribunal said that while he was deputy commissioner in charge of discipline and diversity he had prejudiced disciplinary proceedings against the men because he wanted to make an example of them.

Can anyone tell me how to "rudely mispronounce 'Shi'ite'"?

One of the advantages of blogging is that mispronunciations aren't usually a problem. Still, I suppose I can always run into trouble by creating the appearance of a comparison, and with a word like "Shi'ite," the opportunities abound!

While I don't know whether these cops were Cockneys, I see a possible problem with the Cockney pronunciation of "Shi'ite" because Cockneys tend to drop their "t"s anyway, replacing them with a back-of-the-throat borderline vowel sound that resembles the "uh" sound only harder.

Precisely the sound which the apostrophe in "Shi'ite" would seem to invite!

Thus, if the "t" in "Shi'ite" is dropped in the normal Cockney way, then the apostrophe in "Shi'ite" would come to sound like the "t" in "Shi'ite" -- and this might cause to a court reporter or linguist familiar with intepreting Cockney pronunciations to believe that a "t" is meant to go where the apostrophe appears!

That's not very nice result for Shi'ite sensititivities, is it?

I believe in being fair and logical, so it strikes me as just as likely to believe that there are two apostrophes as two "t"s.

Therefore, it is just as reasonable to assume the Cockney officers might have intended to say "Shi'i'e" as they would the very wrong "Shitite."

I worry about these things because Coco's best friend happens to be a ShihTzu, and were he and Coco to mate with each other, the hybrid result would either be a "ShihT Bull," or a "BullShihT."


I can get into enough trouble as it is from merely staring at words. At least I don't have to worry about mispronouncements.

(Unless I make a pronouncement that turns out to be wrong.)

UPDATE: Commenter geekWithA45 advises that in the UK, "shit" is pronounced "shite".

No bull?

posted by Eric at 09:21 AM | Comments (3)

A lesson in self misunderstanding

Via Drudge, I now see that the experts have been counting Pelosi eye blinks, and timing McCain's little snooze.

Ah, the vital issues this country faces!

While I noticed these "issues" last night, I was trying to be funny when I commented on them, and I did not mean to imply that they were of urgent national importance.

But suppose I said the following, in my usual sarcastic manner:

If Pelosi's blinking is any indication of what's going on with the Democrats, and if McCain's snoozing is any indication of what's going on with the Republicans, that suggests all is not well with the state of the union.
Would I be making a false comparison between McCain and Pelosi?

I honestly don't know. Normally, it wouldn't have occurred to me. Perhaps I shouldn't be reading comments.

posted by Eric at 08:35 AM

Morality Police In Iran

Here is a short video of an Iranian woman confronting the morality police in Iran. Dymphna has this to say about it:

...I think you will enjoy the thirty seconds or so of sweet revenge, I urge you to click on what my friend described as an example how "Iranian women are sick and tired of the women morality police." Fortunately, you don't need to understand Farsi to see what is happening.
It looks like Iran may be ripe for a revolution.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:58 AM

The Revolution Is Free

In my post on the State of the Union I included a video by Stuck Mojo.

I went to their www site and found a tale of woe about how record companies rip off bands and fans. However, Mojo has an answer.

The tracks on our new record, "Southern Born Killers," will be posted at, as well as all over the internet for you to download, FOR FREE! You read that right! Download the songs, share them with your friends and, if you like what you hear, let potential new fans know where they too can get the songs for free.

1. Why would we give the songs away for free? Well, we've been recording records for free for almost twelve years now anyway! Of course it wasn't free to you, the fans. You thought you were supporting the band as you shelled out 16 bucks to a retail store which kept five or six of those dollars for a few inches of shelf space and the rest ended up at a record company in New York, Los Angeles, London or Germany. Yeah, I know, they have a staff to pay, rent, a light bill, advertising budgets, etc. I'm a confirmed capitalist and I want to see everyone that works hard succeed. But most of the guys that I know who play music for a living drive older, used cars, live in small apartments and eat microwave burritos three times a day. I've never once met a record label executive that drives a Toyota Corolla, sleeps on an air mattress and has to take medicine to control his chronic case of diarrhea from Taco Bell. And that's saying something because I've met a lot of them! In fact, most of them have a fresh tan and a golf swing that wasn't perfected just on the weekends. I'm through with them making money off my music.

2. If you like the songs and want to own a copy of the actual "Southern Born Killers" CD, then purchase it at This guarantees you the album at it's highest possible audio quality as well as a full-color, 16 panel booklet, a bonus DVD featuring the new video for "Open Season" shot by British filmmaker Simon Evans and a 20 minute behind-the-scenes documentary.

3. This album was completely financed by the band. By purchasing "Southern Born Killers" directly, you can do so knowing the money will go directly to the creators of the music who will continue investing in another record, another video, another tour.

4. Lastly, if you don't have the dollars to buy the record, then just enjoy the free downloads. Tell everyone to go to or and come see Stuck Mojo live when we are in your town or a town near you.

Thank you for your support.
Rich Ward
Cross Posted at Power and Control
posted by Simon at 12:01 AM

Live blogging the State of the Union Speech....

.... is all being taking care of by Stephen Green -- the one and only VodkaPundit -- (along with others) so I can relax. I'm delighted he's feeling better too, and this occasion calls for a drink.

Have to say, I'm glad I don't have to live blog this one, as I'm so distracted by watching Nancy Pelosi's face for signs.

Signs of what, I do not know.

She's just looking like she doesn't want me to know.

MORE (9:46 p.m.) : I'm glad to see Bush is talking the talk on Iraq ("not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it's the fight we're in" and "let us find our resolve and turn towards victory") but he's got an uphill battle and he knows it.

The uphill battle is not winning in Iraq (which is possible), but winning in Congress.

He should make these speeches more often.

MORE: "America must not fail" and "the consequences of failure would be grievous."

They would be.

What is a "nightmare scenario" for us is simply "the objective" for our enemy.

To Congress: "Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure."

(Let's hope.)

MORE (10:30 p.m.) : Bush mentioned Iran, and Stephen Green thought it was the most significant part of the speech :

Bush did just explicitly mention Iran as complicit in the campaign in Iraq. And that, my friends, is the only part of tonight's SOTU worth remembering.

MORE at 10:34: Glenn Reynolds noticed Pelosi jumping and rocketing to her feet. Damn! I thought I saw some sort of movement, but my back was turned. I miss all the good stuff. Like that and the "butt kissing" noticed by Mary Katherine Ham.

I don't know if it counts, but I did see McCain appearing to catch a snooze until the camera turned away. Whether he was really asleep or just pretending, God knows. (I was tuned in to MSNBC, and please don't ask me why, as I don't know.)

posted by Eric at 09:22 PM | Comments (2)

Intimidation keeps the middle out

In her last Boston Globe column, Cathy Young shares a valuable political insight while discussing the "Mommy Wars":

The "Mommy Wars" of full-time motherhood versus career are likely to remain intractable, with some feminists accusing stay-at-home mothers of letting down the sisterhood, some conservatives accusing working mothers of letting down their children, and people in the middle calling for freedom of choice.
(Via Dr. Helen.)

Not only is she absolutely right, but what's even worse is the way the people in the "middle" (it's pretty unsettling to consider that only the middle favors choice) get it from both sides. I've seen this happen in countless other ways, with countless other issues. If we stick with Cathy Young's example, both the feminist activists and their conservative counterparts will lash out at any person from this middle who dares to get involved in politics. Typically, those who do not agree with one side entirely and on all positions will be accused of being on the other side. This is why the "middle" (a term I use reservedly) tend to avoid any and all situations where they might come into contact with activists.

The hot button issues are the worst of all, as they attract absolutists. If you don't believe me, just try being in anywhere near the middle on the abortion issue and talking to people on either side. The anti-abortion side will all but accuse you of aiding and abetting murder if you hesitate to advocate imprisonment, and the pro-abortion side will say you must be "part of the right wing" and that you're "setting women back" if you admit you're squeamish about partial birth abortion. Unless you agree with them 100%, each side will accuse you of being "on the other side."

My theory is that those in "the middle" avoid political situations because they don't like being insulted. Unfortunately for them, this suits the activists just fine. Insulting people who don't agree 100% has therefore become a way of maintaining standards. Keeping people out.

The hard lesson is that it's a rude world out there, and if you care enough to get involved in anything, you'd best be prepared to be insulted.

But there are many people who are unable to tolerate being insulted, and they never will.

How many of them will vote?

Back to Cathy Young, who concludes with these final words to her Boston Globe readers:

As I say goodbye, I'd like to conclude with an issue that has become a subject of overriding concern for me : a tendency toward polarization and mutual demonization in American public life. I have often been embroiled in debates on whether the right or the left is more responsible for the politics of hate. This is fruitless. Things will not get better until people on both sides forget about the blame game and start ostracizing the hate-mongers in their own camp.
Demonization is a good way for the hate-mongers to keep the non-activist "middle" off the playing field. Those who might ostracize them are weeded out. Those who remain are intimidated.

Ostracizing hate-mongers requires a very thick skin. The "middle" simply does not have it. It's all they can do to get up the nerve to go vote -- and brave the activists who hang out at the polls.

posted by Eric at 09:17 PM | Comments (4)

Under The Shadow

It appears that in the US determination to get a regime change in Iran the Gulf States are siding with America. Just as they sided (by acquiecense) with Israel's strike against Iran's cats paw Hizballah last summer.

Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns clearly knew his audience in Dubai and the reception he'd get if he'd talk tough against Iran. While Burns was busy today in Dubai warning Iran to back down, the think tank Mr. Burns was speaking to, the Gulf Research Center (described by the AP as "an influential think-tank"), had just put out a paper on Sunday, warning that "Tehran has to finally realize that if push comes to shove, if the choice is between an Iranian nuclear bomb and a US military strike, then the Arab Gulf states have no choice but to quietly support the US. Living under the shadow of Iranian nuclear bomb is unacceptable."
Funny thing is they never felt this way about Israel. Perhaps in this case intentions matter as much as capabilities.

H/T Little Green Footballs

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:17 PM | Comments (1)

Palestinians Unpopular

Nothing new. Palestinians are unpopular where ever they live. The Lebanese didn't like them. The Jordanians didn't like them. And now it appears that some Iraqis don't like them.

Palestinians living in Iraq have been warned that they will be killed by Shia militias unless they leave the country immediately.

Iraqi police say the immigrants, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, are the target of a backlash by hardline Shias, including members of the Mehdi Army led by the Shia preacher Moqtada al-Sadr.

More than 600 Palestinians are believed to have died at the hands of Shia militias since the war began in 2003, including at least 300 from the Baladiat area of Baghdad. Many were tortured with electric drills before they died.

Now the Shia militias are stepping up their campaign to drive out Iraq's 20,000 remaining Palestinians - half the estimated 40,000 living in the country at the start of the war, all of whom were welcomed by Saddam Hussein and provided with housing, money and free education.

Hundreds of Iraqis were forced to leave their homes to make way for the migrants, many of whom joined the ruling Ba'ath party.

Sheik Mahmoud El Hassani, a spokesman for the Mehdi Army, said the Palestinians had brought their suffering on themselves. He said Shias believed they were in league with Sunni extremists and al-Qaeda.

It appears that this is a part of a general Sunni - Shia war brewing in the Middle East.
DUBAI: An influential cleric of Saudi Arabia's hardline Sunni school of Islam has denounced Shia Muslims as "infidels" in a new religious edict that comes amid rising sectarian tension in the region. "The rejectionists (Shias) in their entirety are the worst of the Islamic nation's sects. They bear all the characteristics of infidels," Sheikh Abdel-Rahman al-Barrak said in the fatwa, or ruling, distributed on Islamist websites. "They are in truth polytheist infidels, though they hide this," the fatwa said, citing theological differences 14 centuries after the death of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), such as reverence of shrines which followers of Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi school consider abhorrent. Concern is growing in Saudi Arabia over Shia-Sunni violence in Iraq which has taken the northern neighbour to the brink of civil war. Sunni-Shia tensions are also high in Lebanon, where Shias are leading efforts to bring down a Sunni-led cabinet. "The Sunni and Shias schools of Islam are opposites that can never agree, there can be no coming together," the fatwa said. Barrak, an independent scholar, has come to be regarded by many as the highest authority for Wahhabi Muslims.
It seems like our little adventure in Iraq has opened the fault lines of the Middle East. Jeeze, if this keeps up we could have a religious war on our hands.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:37 PM | Comments (1)

Nasserallah Goes After Easier Target

It appears that Lebanese Hizbaballah leader Hassan Nasserallah is tired of knocking heads with Israel and is going after an easier target. His own country Lebanon.

Thousands of Lebanese loyal to Hizbullah leader Nasrallah blocked main roads in Beirut and around the country at the start of what may be a putsch against the government. One man has been killed.

Hizbullah's masses blocked roads with rubble and burning tires, cutting the capital off from its airport and from the rest of the country. In addition, the government opposition, led by Hizbullah, announced a general strike. The riots began at 6 AM local time, and plumes of smoke formed a black cloud over the city soon after.

Nine people have been reported injured in shooting, including one dead.

Thousands of pro-Syrian, Hizbullah and other elements have staged Beirut street protests and sit-ins for nearly two months. Camped outside Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's office, they wish to topple his government, install a new unity administration and hold early elections. Hizbullah leader Nasrallah has been making fiery speeches, calling the current government of a part of the "Zionist-American conspiracy."

Most main roads inside Beirut were blocked Tuesday morning, as were the highways linking the capital to north and south Lebanon and to the Syrian capital Damascus.

There is a report from Reuters that the siege is being lifted.
BEIRUT, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Lebanon's opposition began removing roadblocks across the country on Tuesday night after suspending a general strike and halting protests aimed at toppling the government, a senior opposition source said.

"All roads in various areas, including that leading to the airport, will be reopened shortly," the source said. He had said that the move was agreed by various opposition forces, including Hezbollah, after a day of clashes killed three people and wounded 133.

Here is another view of the situation posted about 4 hours ago. It is about 2207 GMT as I post this. Lebanese Premier Fouad Saniora in urgent discussions with the opposition.
Posted: 23-01-2007 , 18:23 GMT

Lebanon's Premier Fouad Saniora called for an urgent parliamentary session to discuss the deteriorating security situation after riots between anti and pro-government followers claimed three lives and wounded scores of others on Tuesday. Saniora told a news conference "I demand an immediate extraordinary meeting by the parliament to settle issues within the constitutional institutions."

According to Saniora, the general strike called by the opposition has developed into "provocations that went beyond all limits." "Blocking an aggression on the people and their freedoms. It is an attack on social order and it involves risks that are hidden to nobody."

However, he stressed that "our hands remain stretched to facilitate dialogue and settle problems and renew confidence between the Lebanese." The premier said the March 14 parliamentary majority that supports his government "will not fail to listen to the opinions of others."

The risk that is not hidden is a return to civil war in Lebanon. A wound that is still raw.

More on the end of the strike.

Lebanon's pro-Syrian opposition has suspended a general strike and halted protests aimed at toppling the Government.

Clashes between anti and pro-government supporters left three people dead and about 130 wounded.

Lebanese security forces say protests erupted into violence as pro-government supporters fought street battles with followers of the opposition, led by Hezbollah.

The reports are fragmentary so far and give no hint of why the siege was called off.

Here is a report from a day ago using the big lie technique. Nasserallah was trying to prevent a civil war. So he says.

BEIRUT, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called on Lebanese to take part in an anti-government strike on Tuesday to topple leaders who he said wanted to take the country to civil war.

Nasrallah said his Shi'ite Muslim group, part of the opposition which is locked in a power struggle with the government, would not be dragged to violence in a country still rebuilding from its 1975-1990 civil war.

"Some of the governing team strive day and night to push matters towards a civil war in Lebanon. Some of them work and dream ... that there will be a Sunni-Shi'ite war in Lebanon," he said, adding that they sought to partition the country. "We will not go to a civil war," Nasrallah told followers gathered to mark Ashura, when Shi'ites commemorate the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, the Imam Hussein.

The opposition has called a general strike for Tuesday, stepping up its campaign to oust the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who has in turn defied its demands for veto power in cabinet and early parliamentary polls.

A bit of speculation here, but I wonder if Iran isn't doing this as a warning to the US about what an attack on it could mean. Thing is, if you kill the queen bee, hive activity goes on for a while and then ceases.

Gateway Pundit has a round up of earlier events and photos.

Update: 23 Jan '07 2324z

Michael Totten has photos and commentary.

Just a side note here...Up until today Hezbollah has modeled its "resistance" to the elected government after the March 14 demonstations to oust the occupying Syrian army. The March 14 movement, though, never did anything remotely like this. That's because they are, for the most part, liberal and democratic while Hezbollah is a Syrian-Iranian terrorist army. Today should be a moment of clarity for the willfully obtuse.

Notice, also, that the violent clashes in the streets are mostly between Sunnis and Shia, not between Christians and Shia. This is, and was, entirely predictable. Those who think Hezbollah is a popular movement with the support of Lebanon's Muslims as a whole should think again.

Michael thinks it was called off because Hizballah was losing popular support due to the violence.
Hezbollah called off the so-called "strike." Nasrallah seems to be aware that his latest stunt was seen by Lebanese an act of war in direct violation of Lebanon's power-sharing arrangment.

Members of Parliament today described Hezbollah as "terrorists" and Beirut as "occupied." Nasrallah is learning the limits of what he can do. He can squat downtown, but he can't seize it or burn it without starting a war.

Michael Totten in the comments:
What you see in Lebanon right now is a proxy war between the Syrian-Iranian axis on one side, and the US, France, and Saudi Arabia on the other.

Saudi Arabia is on our side in this one. Lebanon may be the only country in the world where Saudi foreign policy matches mine.

The reason the Saudis are on the March 14 side is two-fold. One: The Sunnis are with March 14 and the Shia Iranians are with March 8. Two: The Saudis want one freewheeling Arab country they can visit on vacation. Seriously. The Saudis love Lebanon just the way it is. Huge numbers of them go there during the summer for drinking, gambling, and sex.

Ah the draw of Democracy, whiskey, sexy. And hashish. Blond Lebanese.

H/T reader linearthinker.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:29 PM

A Culture Of Rape

Commenter firebug at Durham in Wonderland points out this really wonderful site called Pandagon and a discussion of the Duke case going on there.

They talk about the culture of rape that allowed and encouraged the "rape" of the "victim" in the case.

If Federal Crime Statistics[pdf] are to be believed there is very little white on black rape in America. The numbers show that black on white rape is the predominant interracial rape crime. If you account for population it is even worse.

So I suppose you could say that there is a culture of interracial rape in America.

What supports it? Just listen to the music.

When a culture no longer honors its women, you have a culture in serious decline.

Clayton Cramer discusses the statistics.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:23 AM | Comments (1)

Why I'm still sick of Bill Hill

A friend (who happens to be a loyal Democrat) has just sent me this:


FWIW, I am already sick of the above picture. Naturally, I didn't know what to do with it, so naturally, I'm putting it in this blog post. I'd hate to be manipulated by the vast right wing conspiracy, though, and I'm avoiding that by not googling the picture.

What I don't know I can't be charged with, right?


But at the risk of sounding like a VRWC theorist, I do know (and I admit) that I am already sick of Hillary. No; unlike Andrew Sullivan I am not struggling to overcome "hatred" of her. I don't think she's worth hating. Besides, as I have said in far too many posts already, I believe her presidency is inevitable, so why would I hate her? Shouldn't I love her? I'll say this for Hillary: she's one of the few major public office holders to personally answer me in a signed letter with a specific reference to the subject of concern to me. I do appreciate that.

At minimum, I should try to be polite, and perhaps it's rude for me to admit I am sick of Hillary. The thing is, I'm trying to be honest here, and if Andrew Sullivan can grapple with his admitted hatred (hatred he feels no more) then I think I should try to examine my tiredness.

Sullivan says he hated Hillary (who "managed to arouse every one of my love-to-hate zones") before he stopped hating her. Hate is a strong emotion, and a destructive, poisonous one. It cannot be carried on forever. But the thing is, being sick of something or someone is very different.

How do you stop being sick of something? Sheesh! Does this mean I have to explain why I was sick of Hillary? That's almost as bad as examining whether I still am -- but let me try.

I was sick of Hillary long ago -- way back in the mid 90s. I voted for -- no, that's just it. I didn't vote for her; I voted for Bill Clinton. But they started this "co-president" deal that "twofer" business, and it made me feel as if I had voted for her. She acted as if she had been elected, and I didn't like that. I didn't like (and still don't like) socialized medicine, and I didn't like the smoke and mirrors with Hillary's Health Care Plan from Hell. There were so many just-short-of-an-indictment things, from firing the travel employees, rudeness to the staff and the secret service, shreddings, missing records turning up in the kitchen, and the last minute terrorist pardon deal was (I thought) just beyond the pale. I breathed a sigh of relief when she was gone -- not because I hated her, but because I was sick of her.

It's hard to forget the main reason she left the White House -- that her husband had to leave the White House because the Constitution required it. Had there been no 22nd Amendment, he'd have been easily, overwhelmingly, elected to a third term. Or should I say she?

Anyway, I am sick again of Hillary, and I didn't want to be, but this latest move on her part has activated a lot of talk which I'm not supposed to ignore, and which gives me this ghastly sense of blogligation! I know there's nothing literally requiring me to write a blog post, but I hate it when my agenda is dictated by the decisions of other people. And let's face it, it was Hillary's decision to run, not mine. I'd rather she not have, because I'd rather not have felt forced to write another blog post about her.

But there's that picture above. Regardless of its source, I think it brings up an important point.

It occurs to me that Hillary may be a bit like Lurleen Wallace.

Who is Lurleen Wallace? Why she was the wife of Alabama governor George Wallace, and she ran for office only because her husband was legally barred from seeking another term.

He could have easily won a second term in 1966 had he been eligible to stand for one; in Alabama (as in many states at the time), governors were not allowed to serve two consecutive terms. This provision dated back to the adoption of the current state constitution in 1901.

Wallace attacked this problem on two fronts. First, Wallace worked for the repeal of the term-limiting constitutional provision. Although he failed to achieve the change in time for the 1966 campaign, he eventually succeeded; Wallace was to serve three subsequent terms, including two which were consecutive. Second, Wallace devised a plan in which his wife, Lurleen, would run for governor while he controlled the policies and procedures of the governorship in the background, duplicating the strategy in which Ma Ferguson won the 1917 election for governor in Texas.

Wallace's attempt to change the succession rule in time for the 1966 campaign failed. However, using his wife as his electoral surrogate succeeded, and Mrs. Wallace won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1966. She was elected Governor of Alabama in November 1966, and her inauguration was held in January 1967.

(Web page with pictures -- including one of Lurleen with a gun -- here. It might be cruel to say this, but I doubt the image of Hillary holding a gun would look as sincere.)

Times have changed, and I don't mean to say that Hillary Clinton is the exactly the same as Lurleen Wallace, for she has served in the United States Senate, and she wants desperately (a little too desperately, IMHO) to be seen as her own man. (Er, sorry, her own woman.)

But is she really her own woman? A Margaret Thatcher, perhaps? To answer this, I think it's fair to ask whether Hillary Clinton could have (or would have) ever been elected president without Bill having been president.

I don't think so. But back in the 90s it occurred to me that the main reason I was sick of her was because I was sick of him.

So perhaps I shouldn't ask myself whether I am still sick of her. Perhaps I should ask whether I'm still sick of him.

The answer is yes.

I fear it will only get worse.

Tiredness doesn't improve with age.

AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurs to me that once you become sick of something, it's almost impossible to stop being sick of it. It's a little like an overplayed song. ("If I hear that 'Young Girl Get Out of My Heart' or "Sign, Sign Everywhere a Sign!" one more time.....")

I realize that people are sick of Bush, but I'd remind them that people were once just as sick of the Clintons.

Unless there's a moral lesson along the lines that we must "take turns to be sick," I'm afraid I'm confused.

posted by Eric at 10:03 AM | Comments (1)

The mathematical inevitability of rudeness?

Are people getting ruder? We all hear about the collapse of good manners -- a complaint often fraught with cultural implications ("coarsening of culture" is, I believe, one of the common terms). And anything with cultural implications quickly morphs into a political issue.

I don't want this to be about politics, because I see it as more akin to math.

Yes, math. I've been thinking that one of the downsides of the modern put-everyone-on-hold, no-one-has-real-authority-or-responsibility society is that we haven't yet dispensed with meme that "nice guys finish last," that politeness is for wimps and "in order to succeed, you have to be assertive." There is a fine line between assertiveness and rudeness -- so fine that I can't possibly hope to draw it, much less in a blog post. I can only give examples, but I have noticed that when the natural human tendency to do as little as possible is juxtaposed with a bureaucratized system encouraging people to do as little as possible, the result is that the polite are often simply ignored. As a Paddy Chayevsky put it, "Forgotten to death."

But lest anyone think that assertiveness is called for, beware of an emerging Catch 22. The same people (the do-nothing bureaucrats charged with running government and many large businesses) who see politeness as an excuse to do nothing because politeness is mistaken for wimpiness are very quick to "mistake" assertiveness for rudeness. Hence, those who have been polite but who get righteously assertive are greeted with an equally righteous sense of bureaucratic Entitlement to Do Nothing.

This leads to more rudeness.

I like to think the trick is to be politely assertive, over and over, and never become provoked. I once allowed myself to be placed on hold for eighteen hours by CNN when I called in with an uncomfortable question for a TV guest. (Their dime; not mine. I like to think that I elevated "politeness" into the realm of the surreal, although I acknowledge that the shrinks would say I was just being passive-aggressive.)

But after all, there is never any "entitlement" to rudeness? Or is there?

Sometimes I worry what happens to legitimate internal anger when it is constantly syruped over with politeness. Will it melt away without residual damage?

Am I playing the odds? Or just being a wimp?

posted by Eric at 08:46 AM

RINO Sightings Carnival -- Surrealistic RINOCEROTIC Edition!

While Eric had planned to do a surrealistic RINO carnival based on the rhinocerotic art of Dali (the world's first surrealistic RINO Carnival), it seems that something went awry in the channeling department. Eric was trying to channel Dali, but Dali is instead channeling Eric.

To illustrate:


Of course, Dali does not believe in politics, but he does believe in RINOs as an essential art form. On the other hand, RINOs are endangered because of politics. They are destructive of the forces of political conformity, so these forces in turn conspire to destroy them. Eric wants to channel Dali, but Dali is peering into the eyes of the RINO! But what if the RINO is Eric and is peering into the eyes of Dali? There is no way to win.

It's not as if the Republican Party doesn't need RINOs. Far from it. With things getting ever more surreal by the day, the RINOs are starting to look positively normal! And that is a contradiction. On top of that the RINOs are so demoralized that very few posts were received. While Eric the pessimist might call this a form of disintegration, Dali the optimist believes that the Creation and Destruction elements are all at work, and thus even the disintegration of the RINOs means the creation of new atomic and subatomic rinocerotic subparticulate matter -- the stuff of which all change, all metamorphosis, even all creation, is based!

To illustrate, here is a disintegrating RINO.


Notice the angels; even they are concerned. Is it too arrogant to suggest that this means God cares about the fate of RINOs? Eric would never say such a thing, but if Dali says that on his behalf, then who is to say that a dead man cannot put words into a living man's mouth? And if he can do that, then why can't he also put words into a living man's blog? The answer is that it happens all the time!

Considering Dali's hatred of politics, why drag him into the RINO carnival? For several reasons, the first of which is that Republican politics have become so surreal, and what could be more surreal than dissenters from surrealism? As a dissenter from surrealism (expelled from the Surrealist movement for being too surreal) Dali is the perfect symbol. Moreover, there's Dali's paranoiac obsession with all things rhino -- which this essay sums up pretty well:

Artists, all through history, have been tormenting themselves to grasp form and to reduce it to elementary geometrical volumes. Leonardo always tended to produce eggs ... Ingres preferred spheres, and Cézanne cubes and cylinders. But only Dalí... has found truth. All curved surfaces of the human body have the same geometric spot in common, the one found in this cone with the rounded tip curved toward heaven or toward the earth ... the rhinoceros horn!

After this initial discovery, Dalí surveyed his images and realised that all of them could be deconstructed to rhinoceros horns.

Which means that we RINOs are onto something.

We go to the irreducible essence of politics.

So, with that, it's on to the posts, along with some illustrations which I hope are appropriate.


Here's a Dalinian sculpture of a RINO whose legs are so delicately long and sweet that I'm reminded of beautiful hookers:


  • Enrevanche's Barry Campbell says that some quotes just can't be improved upon, and he's right. If you want to know who said, "If I cared about the opinions of 90 foreign strangers, I'd be a hooker outside the U.N.," you'll have to go read the post!


    Beginning in the early 1950s, Dali became obsessed with atomic particles -- and depicted them in the form of RINO horns. A good example is the Dust of Souls:


  • Bearing that in mind, AJStrata has a long and utterly intriguing post about the death-by-poison of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko -- "a complicated crime which requires some knowledge of chemistry, biology and physics to sort through." Was it a political assassination, or was it a smuggling-related accident? I'm not going to spoil AJ's conclusion, but it's a hair-raising story, and in involves the deadly radioactive material Po-210 --
    so deadly that, when ingested or inhaled, an amount the size of a dust grain is sufficient to kill someone 30 times over.
    Go read about what the dust did to Litvinenko's soul.


  • That's Dali's painting of David Ben Gurion, which brings to mind another great post, Mark Coffey of Decision '08, who looks at the roots of anti-Israel politics in Europe, and sees anti-Americanism. Mark argues that "we can't change our policies just to please European sentiment":
    ...there's one huge reason why history will never forgive us if we lose our will: a nuclear 9/11.

    Here's a joker who seems to be annoying the RINO in the background:


  • RINOs don't like to be annoyed by jokers, and Searchlight Crusade's Dan Melson is no exception. Dan looks at the California's Home Equity Sales Contract Act, and speculates about the jokers who wrote it:
    This [statute] is so brain damaged it has to be the idea of some clueless person out to save the world without first stopping to consider the Hippocratic Injunction to "First, do no harm."
    I agree that it hurts the very people it supposedly aims to help. The people who write these laws should not be allowed out of the houses, much less allowed to tell real estate professionals what to do.

    From the early 1960s, a study for Dali's "Battle of Tetuan":


  • Digger of Diggers Realm looks at the ViolentCrimes Institute Study which found that there are 240,000 Illegal Alien Sex Offenders In US:
    A 12 month in depth study by Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin of theViolent Crimes Institute finds that there are currently over240,000 illegal alien sex offenders in the United States and that 93more sex offenders are coming into the country illegally every day.It also notes that the number of victims per sex offender is 4. Justthink, that's nearly 1,000,000 chances that you or someone you lovecould be sexually assaulted by someone who shouldn't even be in thiscountry. Don't you feel safe and happy with those currently in controlof our immigration system?
    Concludes Digger,
    All the more reason to close the border off and deport as many illegal alien criminals as possible.
    I don't know what the solution is, but if they don't do something soon, it'll make the 1860 Battle of Tetouan look like a cakewalk.

    Particles floating around in the cosmos, anyone?


  • That's what the above reminds me of, and Mog at Mind of Mog looks at the possible consequences of China's successful deployment of anti-satellite weapons, which are mostly bad. Mog also takes a critical look at comments by an "expert" on Iran and concludes he's wrong, and that Iran is indeed a threat. (Iran a threat? Who'da thunk it?)

    While that concludes the submissions I received, isn't it true that not all "submissions" are voluntary?

    As I see it, the people who actually submitted posts to this anarchic and surreal carnival were behaving in an orderly manner. This means that the RINOs who submitted no submissions were more in need of submission than those who submitted, and thus I feel that as the host I have a duty to submit their submissions on their behalf. And even if I don't have a duty, I nonetheless have a right, don't I? I mean, isn't this a blog post as well as a carnival? And, being a blog post, I can link to anyone I want, regardless of whether any formal "submission" is involved.

    So, the involuntary submissions (selected by me from favorite fellow RINOs) follow.

    RINO submits to angel (who seems to like the RINO):


  • While I don't know whether to call her angelic or RINOcerotic, Rachel Sawyer has a couple of real gems which I just couldn't leave alone. Between this discussion of the history of etymology and this bullshit generator you have everything you need to start, continue, and win any argument. If you're bored, you could even start an argument with yourself! Trust me on this; it works.
  • Dali, a grand master of bullshit if ever there was one, said the following in Conquest of the Irrational:

    we Surrealists, as you will realize by paying us some slight attention, are not quite artists, nor are we really scientists; we are caviar, and believe me, caviar is the extravagance and the very intelligence of taste, especially in concrete times like the present in which the above mentioned hungering for the irrational, albeit an incommensurable, impatient, and imperialist hungering, is so exasperated by the salivary expectations of waiting, that in order to arrive progressively at its glorious conquests close by, it must first swallow the fine, heady, and dialectical grape of caviar, without which the heavy and stifling food of the next ideologies would threaten immediately to paralyze the vital and philosophical rage of the belly of history.

    For caviar is the life experience not only of the sturgeon, but of the Surrealists as well, because, like the sturgeon, we are carnivorous fish, who, as I have already hinted, swim between two bodies of water, the cold water of art and the warm water of science; and it is precisely due to that temperature and to our swimming against the current that the experience of our lives and our fecundation reaches that turbid depth, that irrational and moral hyperlucidity possible only in the climate of Neronian osmosis that results from the living and continuous fusion of the sole's thickness and its crowned heat, the satisfaction and the circumcision of the sole and the corrugated iron, territorial ambition and agricultural patience, keen collectivism and vizors propped up by letters of white on the old billiard cushions and letters of white on the old millyard Russians, all sorts of warm and dermatological elements, which, in short, are the coexisting and characteristic elements presiding over the notion of the "imponderable," a sham notion unanimously recognized as functioning as an epithet for the elusive taste of caviar and hiding the timid and gustatory germs of concrete irrationality, which, being merely the apotheosis and the paroxysm of the objective imponderable, constitutes the divisionist exactness and precision of the very caviar of imagination and will constitute, exclusively and philosophically, the terribly demoralizing and terribly complicated result of my experiences and inventions in painting.

    For one thing is certain: I hate any form of simplicity whatsoever.

    I love the guy, and God help me, he makes perfect sense, and I say this whether he makes sense or not. I try to be logical, but Dali is a man after my heart! He is trying to explain what he cannot hope to explain.


    Or does submission beat logic? I don't know, but Dean Esmay (whose unsubmitted submission is titled "The Standing Male Response To Female Complaints That Has Annoyed Every Woman Since Eve") may have discovered an infallible way to piss off all women without exception. No; I will not say what it is, for I might get sued.

    However, Dean's post invites a little Dalinian relativism.

    Here is Dali's traditional depiction of Vermeer's Lacemaker:


    To fully understand the deconstructive/reconstructive power of the RINO horns, here's Dali's RINOCEROTIC version -- titled the "The Paranoiac-Critical Study of Vermeer's Lacemaker":


    And if that doesn't manage to annoy every woman since Eve, Dali took this a step further with "Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized By the Horns of Her Own Chastity":


    Commented Dali,

    The rhino horn is indeed the legendary unicorn horn, symbol of chastity. The young lady may choose to lie on it or to morally play with it; as it was usual in courtesan love epochs.
    If only the sickos who kill rhinos for their horns knew this!


    This Dalinian RINO depiction illustrated a 1950s essay about fear:


  • And what could be scarier than SWAT Teams comanded by faceless RIAA bureaucrats breaking down your door for copyright infringement violations? Nick Schweitzer has a post about just that. Um, we're still living in America, right? These are scary times. I should pinch myself?
  • Also in the fear department, jd at evolution looks at a new trend: the posting of "NO CONCEALED CARRY" signs at various places -- apparently at the behest of insurance companies.
  • Global Warming

    Hot climate anyone?


  • Dali's degenerate RINO beach scene (titled "RINOCEROTIC Disintegration of Illissus of Phidias") not only shows Dali's appreciation of the classics, but it makes me think of global warming. And Don Surber (who wants to meet Flemming Rose in the coming re-education camps) has a hilarious post about global warming and Al Gore's refusal to talk to the Danish press:
    This is the leader of the global warming movement?

    Gore won't debate this. That is because global warming is about as scientific as phrenology. Better funded, of course. But alchemy had its sponsors.

    And, of course, Phidias alone "had seen the exact image of the gods." Dali was forced to make copies of what the gods had seen. Al Gore can neither see nor copy.
  • DOOM

    At the risk of sounding apocalyptic, here's an image from Dali's Apocalypse of St. John:


    With that in mind, a couple of very "final" posts.

  • Our former Commissar, Politburo Diktat says the war is over, and the Shiites have won. I hope he's not right, because I think the war is winnable. But whether wars can be won by people who will not win them is a question for history, and I'm not terribly optimistic.
  • Finally, Say Uncle says we're doomed. Literally! (I'm setting my watch for the coming meltdown.)

    At this point I don't know who is channeling whom, but it seems fair to allow Dali to conclude this post with a prayer for the RINOs:


    UPDATE: Digger, by the way, has announced a new site -- The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration:

    From the educational costs of illegal aliens to traffic congestion to gangs to solutions to the immigration problem, the website is packed full of facts, links to reports and detailed analysis.
    Check it out.

    UPDATE: As Jennifer linked this post and had some very kind words, it seemed fair to her and the Dali theme to find a late but fitting entry from Jennifer.

    My surrealism button was pushed by her "TV Pretend" post:

    Decompress time. Unwind from pretend nuclear explosion. TV pretend. I don't think I spoke for about 27 minutes after watching Dr. Strangelove, I am easily impressionable I know, but I like me that way.

    So what better way to forget about TV pretend?

    While Jennifer wrote about the Golden Globes, Dali thought the television looked like a thumb:

    From the TV Guide cover of June 8-14, 1968, (titled "Today, Tonight and Tomorrow"):


    That's TV Pretend.

    And thank you Jennifer!

    posted by Eric at 12:19 AM | Comments (11)

    An Act Of War

    It was reported on Janurary 12th that the US attacked an Iranian Embassy in Iraq and detained five "diplomats".

    BAGHDAD: U.S. troops in Iraq raided an Iranian consulate in the Kurdish city of Arbil in northern Iraq and captured six staff members early Thursday, according to Iraqi state television reports.

    Later Iran's official news agency IRNA confirmed the development and explained that the troops disarmed the guards manning the gates of the consulate and entered the office building and took the six staff members into custody.

    Well a question came up. Are the "diplomats" diplomats?

    The answer. Some are not.

    BAGHDAD, Jan. 18 -- Iraq is carrying out an extensive review of its diplomatic protocols with Iran and may place new restrictions on them, the Iraqi foreign minister said in an interview on Thursday, after Iranian military officials and diplomats were picked up in three separate American actions here.

    The raids have deeply embarrassed Iraqi officials, who say that the United States did not consult with them before it detained the Iranians, who were properly accredited visitors to this country. At the same time, Iraqi officials have been put in an awkward position by their neighbor, as the Iraqis concede that at least some of the Iranians appear to have been working with Shiite militias, just as the Americans claimed.

    As a result, Iraq has decided to tighten diplomatic controls on Iranian officials, insisting on detailed itineraries for their missions here, closer coordination with Baghdad and pledges that the officials will not work with armed groups outside the government, said Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister.

    The Iraqis seem strained over this. Which is good. We are operating on American time now.

    The US Command has a few things to say on the subject.

    The U.S. military insists the Iranians in its custody are not diplomats. Earlier in the week Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, told a news conference there was no doubt about that.

    "We have statements made by people in detention and we have records that give us great confidence that these are in fact intelligence operatives," Casey said.

    Here is a another report of what the "diplomats" were up to.
    One of the six was released and U.S. officials said the five still in custody were linked to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents and militias in Iraq.

    Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was not available for comment, his office said.

    Tehran denied the five detained Iranians had been involved in financing and arming insurgents in Iraq.

    "The capture of Iranian diplomats is an insult to the Iraqi government and people," ambassador Hassan Kazimi Qomi said in a news conference at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. Iraqi "Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told me that they will be released within days."

    Asked why he believed the Americans carried the raid, Qomi said through a translator from Farsi to Arabic that "they want to destabilize relations between Iraq and Iran."

    An insult to Iran? Actually under the Geneva Conventions it is an Act of War.

    However, it looks like America has been getting ready to go after Iran for some time. First off there was a report of an aircraft carrier battle group heading for the area around 8 Jan.

    The following other capital ships are in the area or near by as of 23 Jan. '07 - 0629z.

    Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG):
    USS Boxer (LHD 4) - Persian Gulf
    USS Dubuque (LPD 8) - Persian Gulf
    USS Comstock (LSD 45) - Gulf of Oman

    Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG):
    USS Bataan (LHD 5) - Mediterranean Sea
    USS Shreveport (LPD 12) - Mediterranean Sea
    USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) - Mediterranean Sea

    Amphibious Warfare Ships:
    USS Nassau (LHA 4) - Atlantic Ocean
    USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) - Atlantic Ocean
    USS Ashland (LSD 48) - Indian Ocean

    In addition A Brigade of the 82nd Airborne heads to Iraq.

    It looks like a squadron of F-117 Stealth Fighters are headed to North Korea to keep them from making trouble while we are busy with Iran.

    The Pieces Are Being Put in Place

    Col. Sam Gardiner

    [Sam Gardiner is a retired colonel of the US Air Force. He has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College.]

    The pieces are moving. They'll be in place by the end of February. The United States will be able to escalate military operations against Iran.

    The second carrier strike group leaves the U.S. West Coast on January 16. It will be joined by naval mine clearing assets from both the United States and the UK. Patriot missile defense systems have also been ordered to deploy to the Gulf.

    Maybe as a guard against North Korea seeing operations focused on Iran as a chance to be aggressive, a squadron of F-117 stealth fighters has just been deployed to Korea.

    This has to be called escalation. We have to remind ourselves, just as Iran is supporting groups inside Iraq, the United States is supporting groups inside Iran. Just as Iran has special operations troops operating inside Iraq, we've read the United States has special operations troops operating inside Iran.

    Just as Iran is supporting Hamas, two weeks ago we found out the United States is supporting arms for Abbas. Just as Iran and Syria are supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon were now learning the White House has approved a finding to allow the CIA to support opposition groups inside Lebanon. Just as Iran is supporting Syria, we've learned recently that the United States is going to fund Syrian opposition groups.

    We learned this week the President authorized an attack on the Iranian liaison office in Irbil.

    The White House keeps saying there are no plans to attack Iran. Obviously, the facts suggest otherwise. Equally as clear, the Iranians will read what the Administrations is doing not what it is saying.

    Another carrier is headed for the Pacific.
    SAN DIEGO - Barely six months after returning from its maiden deployment, the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan will leave its Coronado pier within weeks for a cruise in the western Pacific Ocean.

    Two Navy spokesmen said the Reagan probably will spend several months filling in for the Kitty Hawk, the Japan-based carrier that is unavailable because it's undergoing routine maintenance. The sources requested anonymity because Pentagon policy forbids them from providing such information before an official announcement.

    The Reagan's unexpected deployment is an indirect result of President Bush's new decision to station a second carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf, the spokesmen said.

    The Reagan will fulfill patrol duties in the western Pacific in place of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, which Bush sent to the Persian Gulf as added muscle to supplement the strike group of the Virginia-based carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    The Stennis strike group - which includes three aviation squadrons from San Diego as well as the San Diego-based cruiser Antietam, destroyer Preble and frigate Rentz - was scheduled for a routine cruise in the western Pacific.

    The date of the Reagan's departure hasn't been set, but its crew is expected to receive deployment orders within a week, the spokesmen said. The tour is expected to last a few months.

    The ship likely will deploy without its carrier air wing or escort ships, relying for support instead on vessels and aircraft already stationed in Japan.

    The Reagan, commissioned in 2003, arrived in San Diego the following year and completed its maiden deployment in July.

    It is really unusual for a carrier to travel without its task group and air wing. Very unusual.

    However it does allow for the ships and air group to be a reserve to make up for losses in any attack on Iran. It also allows the carrier to deploy at flank speed. Something difficult to do when oil burners have to keep up with a nuke carrier.

    There appears to be Naval support for operations off Somalia. Which is not too far from Iran. As the carrier cruises.

    2007/1/9 DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

    (AP)In a further escalation of American involvement in Somalia, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived off the war-ravaged country's coast and its aircraft have begun flying intelligence-gathering missions over Somalia, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

    The U.S. Central Command re-tasked the USS Eisenhower to Somalia last week from its mission supporting NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, said U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown in Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based.

    The announcement comes a day after at least one U.S. Special Forces AC-130 gunship launched a deadly strike against several suspected members of al-Qaida in Somalia. Brown said the Navy had no supporting role in U.S. attacks in Somalia.

    The U.S. launched at least two more airstrikes against terror targets in Somalia on Tuesday, a Somali official and witnesses said.

    The carrier joins three other U.S. warships _ two guided-missile cruisers and an amphibious landing ship _ already conducting anti-terror operations off the Somali coast, the Navy said.

    Brown said he did not know how long the Eisenhower's redeployment would last. "We'll be there as long as required," he told The Associated Press.

    On top of all that it appears that NATO is taking an interest.
    NATO has begun taking a major interest in intelligence information about Iran's nuclear program, according to Israeli defense officials who recently held talks with senior officers in the Western military alliance.

    NATO's interest stems from growing concern that diplomacy will ultimately fail, the Israeli officials told The Jerusalem Post this week, and that military action will be necessary to stop Iran's race to obtain nuclear weapons.

    There is growing criticism of Ahmadinejad in Iran.
    TEHRAN, Jan 16, 2007 (UPI via COMTEX) -- There is growing criticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, including a parliamentary drive to summon him to answer questions, a report says.

    Even previously friendly hard-line newspapers have taken him to task for being too hostile towards the West since the passage of a U.N. sanctions resolution, the BBC said.

    Carrier battle groups start showing up unexpectedly in the neighborhood and people get nerveous.

    Despite all that Iran is keeping out 38 IAEA nuclear inspectors because they are upset at UN resolutions pertaining to their nuclear program. Makes sense.

    Say. Didn't Saddam go down that road? Those boys better be careful.

    Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press
    Published: Monday, January 22, 2007

    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran has barred 38 nuclear inspectors on a United Nations list from entering the country, the foreign minister said Monday in what appeared to be retaliation for the UN sanctions imposed last month.

    The rejected officials are on a list of potential inspectors drawn up by the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit and monitor Iran's nuclear facilities.

    "The act of rejecting some inspectors is legal and in accordance with the agency's regulations," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the official Islamic Republic News Agency. He said others on the UN nuclear watchdog's list remain eligible, but did not explain how Iran decided which inspectors to bar.

    The IAEA "submits a long list of inspectors to member countries and the countries have the right to oppose the visit by some inspectors," Mottaki said.

    Last month, the UN Security Council imposed limited trade sanctions on Iran over its refusal to cease uranium enrichment, a process that can produce the material for nuclear energy or bombs.

    It looks like Iran is preparing for war. I expect with all this going on one side or the other will instigate some provocation the other can't resist. My guess would be US Special Forces in Iran doing some kind of mischief that Iran would have to respond to. After all we have already tried the diplomatic route.
    The drum-beating suggested Iran does not intend to back down in its standoff with the West. It could also aim to rally the public behind the government and silence increasingly bold criticism at home of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's antagonism toward the United States.

    Iran's leaders have touted the possibility of a U.S. attack since President Bush announced on Jan. 9 the deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf region, a move U.S. officials have said is a show of strength directed at Iran.

    Last month, the Security Council imposed limited trade sanctions on Iran over its refusal to cease uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear energy or bombs.

    The Iranian military on Monday began five days of maneuvers near the northern city of Garmsar, about 60 miles southeast of Tehran, state television reported. The military tested its Zalzal-1 and Fajr-5 missiles, the report said.

    The Zalzal-1, able to carry a 1,200-pound payload, has a range of 200 miles. That would put Iraq, U.S. bases in the Gulf, and eastern Saudi Arabia in its range. The Fajr-5, with a 1,800-pound payload, has a range of 35 miles.

    Neither could reach Israel, but Iran has other missiles that can. It was not known whether the missiles tested are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

    The Iranian show of strength came as the American aircraft carrier USS Stennis was heading toward the Gulf, joining the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in a beefed-up American military presence. The Stennis is expected to arrive in late February.

    The U.S. is also deploying Patriot missiles and nuclear submarines to the Persian Gulf and F-16 fighter planes to the Incirlik base in neighboring Turkey.

    With all the cross confimation you have to know that something is afoot.

    With the American logistics on the move the opening shots could come at any time. As always the key to any war is logistics. It does no good to have forces if they are not sufficiently close to the scene of action.

    Update: 23 Jan '07 0333z

    A strong explosion jolted Mashhad.

    ...a strong explosion at the high-voltage sub-station of Mashhad rocked a large part of the city and frightened residents in this provincial capital.

    Israel urgently needed in NATO?

    In an effort to establish more effective deterrence in the face of Iran's race to obtain nuclear weapons, government ministries are, for the first time, working on drafting a position paper that will include guidelines and a strategy for turning Israel into a full-fledged member of NATO, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

    The paper is being drafted by an interministerial committee made up of representatives from the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry and headed by the National Security Council. The committee plans to complete the paper by the end of February and present it to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for approval.

    Meanwhile Monday, in an exclusive interview, former Spanish prime minister Jos Mar a Aznar told the Post that "Israel needs to join NATO as soon as possible."

    According to Aznar, the Iranian threat serves as "an excellent occasion to enforce [Israeli] deterrence by making Israel a member of NATO."

    The former Spanish leader and current president of the FAES Spanish think tank said that if Israel became a member of NATO, "the perception in Iran would change, knowing that it's not only Israel [they are dealing with], but all of NATO."

    Aznar said that NATO needed to change its focus to counter the growing threat of global terrorism.

    Interesting. Things are moving right along.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:50 PM

    Portrait of the blogger as a young dog

    Over the weekend, a friend sent me a picture which reminded me how large a chunk of life a dog occupies in the life of a dog owner. Regular readers will remember Puff, who's pictured over on the right and who died in June of 2005.

    The picture shows me on my deck in Berkeley, in 1990, holding Puff when he was still a puppy:


    Damn, but I look young and naive compared to today! Little did I know what I was in for over the next few years. (Now, of course, I look old and naive, which is a completely different deal.)

    Fifteen years. It's a lifetime for a dog, and a lot of time for us, too.


    The blog will be four in May, so I guess by dog standards, it's getting middle aged.

    posted by Eric at 05:59 PM

    What are you waiting for? 2008??

    You can go vote in the election now, at Pajamas Media!

    And be sure to check the early results.

    Not to spoil anything, but a candidate I'll call "Mommie Dearest" isn't doing as well as I would have thought. (I guess the blogosphere isn't Hollywood, and this ain't the Oscars....)


    posted by Eric at 01:51 PM | Comments (3)

    The relative acceleration of my moral decline

    What is morality?

    Perhaps that's a silly question, for we all know it when we see it and those who don't are said to be moral relativists. By merely posing the question, I may have already caused hard-line moral absolutists (if such a thing exists in logic) to roll their eyes in disgust.

    One of the things I touched on in the discussion of Dinesh D'Souza's newfound Islamic moral absolutism (assuming that's the right phrase; maybe his embrace of Islamic absolutism is morally relative) was whether or not morality is necessarily limited to sexual matters. A lot of people seem to think it is, or at least they act that way. Typically, there's a lot more outrage by these people over sex on the Internet than crime on the streets.

    But I want to move away from sex, and examine the mechanism by which morality is manufactured. I suspect it's something like the manufacture of legislation and sausage -- something that goes on behind the scenes, in a very undemocratic manner. Until at last, before we know it, things that were once considered either "good" (or at least morally neutral) take on a moral tinge. A charge, even.

    For example, is it immoral to build a house? To cut down a tree? In the huge North American continent, once the land of promise and opportunity, these things were considered "progress" and doing them -- when it took the form of what we call "development" -- was generally thought to be virtuous. Now, building a house or cutting down trees is seen by many people as downright evil. For years, an anti-sprawl movement has been fighting to stop development, and this movement been aided and abetted by pliant politicians and sympathetic reporters. While "sprawl" hasn't quite managed to take on the dirty connotations normally associated with phrases like "Larry Flynt" and "Hustler," sprawl (and development) are definitely dirty, and I see evidence that the anti-sprawl people are striking paydirt as the "Global Warming" meme heats up. Now is their moment of opportunity, and if they are lucky, the builders of new homes and roads will find themselves excoriated in a manner once reserved for the Larry Flynts -- maybe even drug dealers.

    What prompted this morning's observations was seeing morality manufactured before my eyes right here in my county. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, has not only decided to implement anti "greenhouse gas" measures, they're implementing moral rhetoric in order to put it over on regular people who often don't have time to think.

    Today's morality play begins with the apparent conversion of a "skeptical" Republican County Commisioner by a mere graduate student at Penn State:

    Climate change is by nature a global problem.

    So when a Pennsylvania State University graduate student presented Montgomery County officials with a 145-page report on what it could do to reduce greenhouse gases - the culprits in global warming - Commissioner Thomas Jay Ellis was skeptical.

    Could one county - even one with more people than some states - make a difference in such a huge problem?

    Ellis and his fellow commissioners decided this month that it could at least try.

    Montgomery County, which emits more greenhouse gases than more than half the world's nations do individually, thereby joined a burgeoning list of cities, counties and states that have stopped waiting for federal direction on global-warming remediation.

    "The leadership on global warming... is coming from city halls and state capitols, not from D.C... .," said Glen Brand, director of the Sierra Club's Cool Cities campaign, which encourages local programs to address global warming.

    What Glenn Brand would have us believe is that this is a "grass roots" effort by ordinary people, stymied by years of Bush Cheney greed, and who are trying to do what they can to "save" the planet.

    Not included in the Inquirer write-up is the fact that Pennsylvania is said to produce "1 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions" -- of which Montgomery County is but a fraction. Add to that the fact that even the advocates of greenhouse gas theory admit that the world's total of human-emitted greenhouse gases are responsible for a tiny fraction of overall global warming and the contribution of Montgomery County is so meaningless as to be statistically insignificant. If the entire county were depopulated and shut down tomorrow by the Khmer Rouge, worldwide CO2 would not be affected.

    But we're talking morality, not reality. Typically, moralists present their argument to people who are into feeling terrible and making everyone else feel terrible by scolding them. The goal is the infliction of guilt, and this does not work at first, so it has to be achieved in increments.

    Back up to 1914 and the Harrison Narcotics Act. People who took drugs before that consumed opiates and cocaine purchased over the counter. If addiction developed, it was a personal health matter to be discussed with the doctor. While such a person might be seen as weak, the notion that it was "evil" did not set in until laws were passed, followed by years of yellow journalism.

    When my father was a kid (he was born in 1909), drug consumption was a health problem as opposed to a moral problem, and when I was a kid, it was not considered evil to build homes or cut down trees. (I know I'm ranting, but I always remember this when I hear people screaming about the absolute, unchanging nature of morality.)

    Back to the conversion of today's skeptical Republican by the graduate student. Am I allowed to express skepticism about his skepticism?

    Back in June of 2005, Mr. Ellis sounded anything but skeptical:

    Montgomery County earlier this month became the first in the state to take action by agreeing to create an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. That inventory would let county officials know where local sources of greenhouse gases are coming from, such as farms and traffic pollution, to help inform open space and smart growth policies, said Montgomery County Commissioner Thomas Jay Ellis.

    "We can set an example. We can be the laboratory for the nation," Ellis said.

    Hey, that's my county you're making into a laboratory for the nation, buddy!

    What about us little guinea pigs? Don't we have any say?

    Normally, I'd opine that hell hath no fury greater than the recently converted, except I don't think Commissioner Ellis's conversion was recent. As to the evidence that converted him, today's Inquirer article features an impressive chart showing Montgomery County's "total emissions in million metric tons of CO2 equivalent":


    The source for the chart is said to be "A Global Warming Plan of Action for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania." I can't find any plan by that name online, although it might be a rebadged version of this EPA-funded project. The Inquirer describes this plan as a master's thesis by a single student, one Sarah E. Knuth.

    Isn't it wonderful to see democracy and morality in action? One student -- with one paper -- can affect an entire county!

    From the description of Ms. Knuth's EPA-funded "plan":

    By targeting sprawl, I will capture a dominant process driving Montgomery Countys emissions and uncover opportunities for climate change mitigation that are tailored to local stakeholder objectives - combating sprawl is vitally important to county officials and residents.


    I will work with local stakeholders in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to develop a county greenhouse gas emissions inventory, exploring local emissions in much greater-than-usual detail and making a special effort to draw out and quantify emissions trends related to sprawl. With stakeholder input, I will translate inventory results into a county climate change mitigation plan, developing a series of emissions reduction strategies that target place-specific trends driving emissions and that make the most of local stakeholders power over these trends.

    So says who? I don't remember being asked to vote on this plan.

    How did the county manage to find this dedicated young activist? Apparently, the right connections never hurt, as her professor is a former law partner of the "skeptical" Republican Commissioner himself!

    Knuth was a student of Robert McKinstry, a Penn State University professor and former law partner of commissioner Chairman Thomas Jay Ellis. Nelson said the county should work to reduce greenhouse emissions because it dovetails with county goals, such as open space and farmland protection. It also fits in with the county government's mandate to protect public health.
    McKinstry (who seems to be the power behind the scenes in today's scheme) is said not to be a scientist at all, but a well-connected lawyer and left-wing environmental activist (now professor at Penn State). Scientist or not, he certainly knows how to represent science:
    Goddard Chair professor Robert McKinstry co-wrote a brief submitted in May 2006 to the U.S. Supreme Court representing a number of leading scientists supporting the position of a number of states contending that the federal government should regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from automobiles to address climate change.
    (I sure as hell hope they're not using my tax dollars to advance a left wing political position in which wreaking economic havoc is cloaked in "public interest" language.)

    Let me admit my bias here. I think that what most people call "morality" is usually cheap partisan demagoguery in drag. I see this smoke-and-mirrors game being played across the political spectrum, and while I find it a bit exhausting to complain about it so often, the alternative is to watch it go unchallenged.

    Unless I am misreading today's think-globally-act-locally morality pageant, I get the distinct impression that they really want to reach out and touch everyone -- including me:

    Tom Kreutz, a Princeton University researcher who models the performance of energy systems, said returning to 1990 emissions levels can be difficult for growing areas, yet that is "a pretty modest goal in general, compared to where the globe needs to go."

    The country needs taxes that make it costly to emit greenhouse gases, he said, and that needs to come from the top. "We can't do it without federal intervention. No question," he said. "Right now it's free to dump your CO2 [the primary greenhouse gas] in the atmosphere and, as long as it's free, people won't stop doing it."

    Yes, every time I drive, and every time I exhale, I "dump" my CO2 into the atmosphere. Is the goal just to tax me? Or do they want me to feel guilty so that I'll be more willing to go along with their scam?

    Sorry, but while I know they have the power to tax me, they do not have the power to make me agree with them. My morality stays where it is. Yes, on this issue I am a moral absolutist, and I don't mind saying so.

    My breathing is not immoral!

    They've got some kind of "mayor's agreement" but they don't think it will be enough. Not unless they get people "out of their cars":

    The Institute for Local Self-Reliance this month released a discouraging report on progress made by 10 cities that have signed the mayors' agreement. John Bailey, a research associate who wrote the report, concluded it was unlikely that more than two could reach the Kyoto Protocol goals, "unless complementary state and federal policies are put in place," he wrote.

    Only one city he studied, Portland, Ore., is close to 1990 emissions levels. Americans' driving habits have been a particular problem. "Getting people out of their cars has been difficult," Bailey said.

    Nevertheless, he still thinks the cities are on the right track. "To wait just doesn't make sense," he said.

    Ah, I see it now! There are a lot of fat people who sit in their cars dumping their tax-free CO2 into the atmosphere while they could be bettering their health and saving the planet. Maybe this is a moral issue after all! Maybe we need some moral communitarianism. Besides a little forced marching is liberating for the soul. Get them out of their cars! Put them on bicycles! And tax the holy crap out of them them! Above all, make them feel guilty!

    Of course, there are some people who are just born to feel guilty, and want to inflict their misery on others. There's plenty of misery to go around, and as I've noticed, things have reached the point where people are actually upset by unseasonably warm weather.


    But why?

    Because they're having what we used to call "a nice day."

    What we the guinea pigs need are moral examples:

    The most important result of local initiatives, several experts said, is that they serve as an example to residents and show federal and business leaders that people want action.

    "The fact is that people in their everyday lives can make a difference in this," said Steve Nelson, Montgomery County's deputy chief operating officer. "Quantitatively, it may not make a huge difference in greenhouse gases, but it's got to start in our own backyard."

    Excuse me, but can I say "not in my backyard"? Or would that make me a NIMBY?

    As to the author of the master's thesis which wants to reach out and touch everyone here in Montgomery County, she's headed to my old hometown of Berkeley:

    Sarah Knuth wrote the Montgomery County report for her master's thesis. Now 24 and studying for her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, she's thrilled that the county is taking her work seriously. "This is a dream come true to have it at least leading somewhere," she said.
    Of course she's thrilled to have the county taking her work seriously.

    Count me as less than thrilled.

    It's all part of my ongoing struggle to preserve immorality.

    Seriously, it's worse than anyone imagines. I actually enjoy breathing, and every time I exhale I revel in the terrible damage my untaxed CO2 is doing to the environment. I admit it's awful and I know it makes me a genuinely evil person, but it all began a long time ago. My slippery slide from absolute morality to absolute evil began when I was told it was evil that people were starving. I started to develop callused thinking at the dinner table, and it occurred to me that maybe it wasn't my fault, and that maybe I didn't have to feel as guilty as I did. Over the years, it got worse, and now I've reached the point where I actually think that some moral evils are worse than other moral evils.

    My reactionary moral relativism has now reached the point where I think I should feel more guilty about letting people starve than about letting them breathe.

    At this rate, I'll soon be a nihilist.

    (Almost makes me wish for good old days, when you were immoral if you screwed but it was still OK to breathe. Now that everything has become immoral, nothing is immoral.)

    posted by Eric at 10:12 AM | Comments (17)

    Topless In Azerbaijan

    The Muslim world is changing.

    Roya is a slut. I don't like her." So says a dark-haired Azerbaijani girl nestled on a barstool of the Universal Bar in downtown Baku, a spot where foreign oil workers can meet eligible young women for the right price.

    Roya, a provocative young singing sexpot, is a tornado in Azerbaijan, a country of eight million mostly Shia Muslims who live in a thoroughly secular system.

    Now freed of Soviet tanks, Azerbaijan stands at the crossroads; in one direction western materialism (they enjoy solid ties with the US and Israel), in the other a return to Muslim Shia orthodoxy, encouraged by neighbouring Iran.

    Roya's face stares down from the billboards (those not taken by images of President Aliev), her confidence and sensuality in stark contrast with the grey-eyed souls walking the streets. With her sultry looks and sizzling antics, she may be the perfect embodiment of a new Azerbaijan, long known as the Land of Fire because of the blazes that have burst from the soil since pre-history, leading fire-worshippers to create Zoroastrianism.

    Did you know that Zoroastrianism had an influence on the Jews because of the Babylonian exile? The idea of Satan is one such borrowing.
    in the same celebrity magazines that refuse to offend Muslim sensibilities by discussing unmarried relationships, Roya is routinely pictured topless, or kissing a variety of young men and women. She swears on TV and appears semi-nude in her videos.

    Recently one Sinatra-style old-time Azerbaijan crooner was asked what he thought of Roya and the flesh- baring generation of singers she inspires. "They should be shot," he said, apparently speaking for many.

    He might not like it, but there's no denying Roya is leading a massive young Azeri demographic revolting against stifling tradition and seeking a more exciting future. In other words, Roya's a sexy Azeri punk.

    Iran which is right next door has its own ideas about religion. They are pushing them on the Azeris. However, it is likely the flow is also in the other direction at the same time.

    Guys with beards or topless chicks. For your average male: a tough choice.

    Many believe the growing count of minarets in the smaller cities of Azerbaijan is slowly blossoming into something bigger, something that will only grow with ongoing cynicism and the inevitable crisis of oil wealth.

    On the other hand, some believe Roya and other Azerbaijani entertainers could help seduce Iran away from fundamentalism. Those 20 million Azeris make up one-third of all Iranians and they are showing signs of tiring of the state's ongoing cultural repression. Many have satellite TV and can see Roya and other pop stars living the high life - and speaking their language.

    Is throaty, brazen Roya singing the theme-song for the westernisation of Azerbaijan - or a battle-hymn for the break-up of Iran?

    We can only hope.

    Faster please.

    Roya Music MP3. Thanks to commenter Geoff. Click on CKAYATb to start the music.

    A Roya page list at Youtube.

    Change in Russia.

    Kurdish music Youtube.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:30 PM | Comments (3)

    Internet Service Providers, not Internet Parenting Providers!

    In what I hope isn't a new trend, families are suing My Space because their underage daughters had sex with adults they allegedly met online:

    Four families have sued MySpace after their underage daughters were sexually abused by adults they met on the site. Announcing the lawsuit were the families lawyers at Barry & Loewy of Austin, Texas, and Arnold & Itkin of Houston. We posted an item on the first of these types of lawsuits when it was filed last June.

    The families want millions of dollars, alleging negligence, recklessness, fraud and negligent misrepresentation by the company, which is owned by News Corp. Said lawyer Jason Itkin: "In our view, MySpace waited entirely too long to attempt to institute meaningful security measures that effectively increase the safety of their underage users."

    Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, disagrees, saying in a statement: "MySpace serves as an industry leader on Internet safety and we take proactive measures to protect our members [and] provide users with a range of tools to enable a safer online experience."

    In the lawsuit filed last June, a family alleged that a 19 year old boy lied in his profile, thus gaining the girl's "trust and phone number."

    The essence of the complaint (here in pdf) -- that My Space is not "safe" -- boils down to the undeniable fact that the Internet is not safe.


    Nor is the telephone! And nor are the movie theaters, the back seats of the evil automobiles, or the sleazy public streets.

    My reaction to this is, what the hell are the parents doing? Assuming that some 19 year old lied to the daughter and gained her confidence, one thing obviously led to another.

    If they eventually had sex, it sure as hell didn't happen online!

    Web sites and blogs are little more than communication devices, analagous to mail and telephones. Lying and con games can be accomplished by any of these means. Does that make the US mail service or the telephone company responsible?

    I suspect the parents allowed their daughter to use My Space, and paid no more attention to what was going on than when the kid called her on the phone. Suing My Space strikes me as rank opportunism, as well as an abrogation of parental responsibility.

    The implications for blogging are obvious, and I hope these cases are thrown out of court, because they will only lead in one direction -- massive communitarian statism, in which we all become responsible for the the responsibilities of others.

    I allow comments, and I have no duty to police them. If some underage girl gets into a dialogue with a older teenager who lies and gain her confidence, does that become my responsibility, or that of my ISP? Apparently, some would say yes.

    FWIW, I think the lying teen should be prosecuted if he broke the law. It's just too bad the parents can't be prosecuted for poor parenting.

    Why should free speech be made the victim? If age and identity verification requirements are imposed on My Space, what's to stop them from being imposed on all blogs? There are, of course, already people who want to do that. This phony "protect-the-children" meme could easily breathe new life into legislation -- roundly condemned -- which would force ISPs to "require and obtain legal names and addresses for anyone who posts online." I don't think it's paranoia to anticipate that protecting children from sex could well become the foot in the door for Chinese style censorship in the United States.


    Being held responsible for the conduct of other people is becoming a national disease.

    posted by Eric at 11:52 AM | Comments (1)

    Camille Paglia On The Duke Case

    No, actually I couldn't find anything by Camille on the case. However, I did find a LOT on line that speaks to the acedemic issues involved.

    Feminist ideology has totally failed to deal with humanity's instinctual drives. No matter what garbage you hear from Foucault's minions, sex is ultimately about procreation. It's in the best interests of the species for fertile women to mate with the strongest, most vital and resourceful males.
    Paglia Speaks

    Foucault's analysis of "power" is foggy and paranoid and simply does not work when applied to the actual evidence of the birth, growth and complex development of governments in ancient and modern societies. Nor is Foucault's analysis of the classification of knowledge particularly original -- except in his bitter animus against the Enlightenment, which he failed to realize had already been systematically countered by Romanticism. What most American students don't know is that Foucault's commentary is painfully crimped by the limited assumptions of Saussurean linguistics (which I reject). As I have asserted, James Joyce's landmark modernist novel Ulysses (1922) contains, chapter by chapter, far subtler and more various versions of language-based "epistemes" inherent in cultural institutions and epochs.

    I'm afraid I bring rather bad news: Over the course of your careers, your generation of students will slowly come to realize that the Foucault-praising professors whom you respected and depended on were ill-informed fad-followers who sold you a shoddy bill of goods. You don't need Foucault, for heaven's sake! Durkheim and Max Weber began the stream of sociological thought that still nourishes responsible thinkers. And the pioneers of social psychology and behaviorism -- Havelock Ellis, Alfred Adler, John B. Watson and many others -- were eloquent apostles of social constructionism when Foucault was still in the cradle.

    Catching on are we?
    Foucault-worship is an example of what I call the Big Daddy syndrome: Secular humanists, who have drifted from their religious and ethnic roots, have created a new Jehovah out of string and wax. Again and again -- in memoirs, for example, by trendy but pedestrian uber-academics like Harvard's Stephen Greenblatt and Brown's Robert Scholes -- one sees the scenario of Melancholy, Bookish, Passive, Insecure Young Nebbish suddenly electrified and transfigured by the Grand Epiphany of Blindingly Brilliant Foucault. This sappy psychodrama would be comic except for the fact that American students forced to read Foucault have been defrauded of a genuine education in intellectual history and political analysis (a disciplined genre that starts with Thucydides and flows directly to the best of today's journalism on current events).

    When I pointed out in Arion that Foucault, for all his blathering about "power," never managed to address Adolph Hitler or the Nazi occupation of France, I received a congratulatory letter from David H. Hirsch (a literature professor at Brown), who sent me copies of riveting chapters from his then-forthcoming book, The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism After Auschwitz (1991). As Hirsch wrote me about French behavior during the occupation, "Collaboration was not the exception but the rule." I agree with Hirsch that the leading poststructuralists were cunning hypocrites whose tortured syntax and encrustations of jargon concealed the moral culpability of their and their parents' generations in Nazi France.

    American students, forget Foucault! Reverently study the massive primary evidence of world history, and forge your own ideas and systems. Poststructuralism is a corpse. Let it stink in the Parisian trash pit where it belongs!

    Paglia on "Junk Bonds..."

    How should the humanities be taught, and how should scholars in the humanities be trained? These pivotal questions confront universities today amid signs of spreading agreement that the three-decade era of poststructuralism and postmodernism is over.

    It remains my position--as detailed in my long review-essay, "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders," published in Arion in 1991--that Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault were false gods, created and promoted by secular academics who might have been expected to be more skeptical of authority. As it became institutionalized in the undergraduate and graduate curriculum, poststructuralism hardened into dogma, and many humanities professors lost the ability to respect, assess, or even recognize any hypothesis or system outside their own frame of reference. Such insularity has little to do with genuine intellectualism and is more akin to religious fundamentalism.

    Most seriously, poststructuralism did manifest damage to two generations of students who deserved a generous and expansive introduction to the richness of the humanities and who were instead force-fed with cynicism and cant. I fail to see that American students are emerging today even from elite universities with a broad or discerning knowledge of arts and letters. Nor has poststructuralism produced any major new critics--certainly none of the towering scholarly stature once typical of prominent professors who had been educated in the first half of the twentieth century.

    I bolded the bit above.

    Duke - are you listening?

    Post Post Modern Camille

    Uh. Oh. I did finally find something on the Duke Case from Paglia. It was April 5, 2006.

    During questions and answers after her talk at GW the other night, Paglia was asked about the situation at Duke. Here's what she said, more or less:
    University athletes these days are a kind of master race. They get special favors, special dispensations. Does this sense of entitlement lead to crime? How does the ethos of the college sports team turn into Attila the Hun?
    It was still early in the case, before a lot of information came out, so maybe she deserves some slack.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:10 AM | Comments (2)

    Setting The Reichstag On Fire

    In the comments at Durham in Wonderland commenter anon. (who is very prolific on the board) points to an article by Bill Anderson with this quote:

    "For example, any number of college campuses have been the site of "racist" attacks that later were found to be contrived, something I pointed out a while back in looking at what I call "Reichstag Fires" on college campuses. Furthermore, I noted that Duke's latest episode of angst was another rendition of that famous fire, and the nonsense is not limited to Duke. A few years ago at the prestigious Claremont Colleges, a social psychology professor, Kerri Dunn, returned from a free speech rally to find her car windshield smashed and "nigger lover" and other such things spray-painted on her car.

    "Naturally, the campus erupted in mass rallies, where people expressed fear at the racism that was engulfing their beloved campus. However, police and the FBI (yes, the FBI was called to investigate) soon discovered that the perpetrator of this "hate crime" was none other than Dunn herself, who had done the damage before the rally began. (Unfortunately for her, bystanders witnessed the vandalism and told investigators what they saw. Thus, Claremont's Reichstag Fire went out quickly.)"

    Bill explains the genesis of the problem in a bit that came before the above quote.
    The pool of qualified black faculty members was - and is - small compared to whites, Asians, and people from the Middle East (qualified means having an earned doctorate from an accredited university). In my profession, economics, only about 40 percent of those receiving doctorates in any given year actually are from the United States, and the vast majority of them are white. This is a very good situation for those blacks who do earn doctorates in economics, as their chances for landing a well-paying job are going to be good, since many institutions of higher learning are going to compete for their services.

    Unfortunately, not all economics faculties that would like to fill an opening with a black applicant can do so; as a result, most faculties are dominated by people from white, Asian, and Middle Eastern ethnic groups. That is a hard fact of life, not a situation that is due to racist attitudes or hiring practices, no matter what the critics might say.

    But such hard facts still do not mitigate the problem that elite universities face. They want more black faculty members; they need more black faculty members, so they permitted the creation of new disciplines in order to "solve" that problem. Thus, on most campuses - and especially at the elite universities - there are entire departments devoted to things like "African-American Studies," "Women's Studies," or "African Studies." These academic areas did not exist a few decades ago, but have become popular, especially with administrators who are pressured to keep up their numbers of black professors.

    A real quandary exists, however, and that is that these particular areas of study are based upon historical racism and sexism in society, and that such "isms" must be kept alive in order to legitimate them. In other words, it is not enough to deal only with historical racism, such as the Jim Crow era or black chattel slavery. Every speck of current racism must be discovered, exposed, and magnified, and if none can be found, it can be created.

    Bill then ties all this to the Duke "rape" case.
    Even as the case is falling apart, however, most of the faculty members who signed the original document have lent their names to a new statement, one that justifies what they said before:
    As a statement about campus culture, the ad deplores a "Social Disaster," as described in the student statements, which feature racism, segregation, isolation, and sexism as ongoing problems before the scandal broke, exacerbated by the heightened tensions in its immediate aftermath. The disaster is the atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus. The ad's statement that the problem "won't end with what the police say or the court decides" is as clearly true now as it was then. Whatever its conclusions, the legal process will not resolve these problems.

    The ad thanked "the students speaking individually and...the protesters making collective noise." We do not endorse every demonstration that took place at the time. We appreciate the efforts of those who used the attention the incident generated to raise issues of discrimination and violence.

    There have been public calls to the authors to retract the ad or apologize for it, as well as calls for action against them and attacks on their character. We reject all of these. We think the ad's authors were right to give voice to the students quoted, whose suffering is real.

    Therefore, if this latest document is to be believed, Duke University is a living hell for black faculty and black students. Racism runs unchecked; women are raped; students face intimidation at every turn, and their lives are governed by fear.

    Yet, in modern times, I seriously doubt that one - one - black student or faculty member at Duke University (or any other college or university in this country, elite or lower-tier) ever has faced what the lacrosse players faced each day during that terrible time last spring on the Duke campus. A few years ago, a black member of the Duke basketball team was accused of rape (a false charge, but a charge nonetheless), yet he never had to face signs on campus openly calling for him to be castrated.

    Indeed, Duke was an unsafe place - a dangerous place - for some young men who engaged in behavior that was no different than what other students at Duke have done: have a party with drinking and hire strippers. (I am not endorsing either, but neither do I believe that what they did was a Crime Against Humanity, as so many at Duke seem to be saying.)

    Here was the ultimate fraud, the ultimate Reichstag Fire. Faculty and students - each group claiming to be the brunt of vicious racist attacks - joining forces to launch a vicious and racist - yes, racist - attack on people who did not deserve what they were receiving. In the end, the supposed victims ended up creating real victims and helping to ruin many lives in the process. Perhaps that is the greatest irony of all.

    What the race baiters won't tell you is that black on white rape is by far the most prevalent and way out of proportion to the number of black males in the population.
    When it comes to interracial rape and sexual assault, the statistics contained in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report and the Department of Justice's National Crime Survey during Wilbanks' study revealed that white rapists chose black victims 8,448 times.

    However, black rapists chose white victims in 17,572 cases. In other words, according to Wilbanks, there were more than twice as many black-on-white rape cases as there were white-on-black cases. Overall white-on-black violence cases numbered 100,111, whereas black-on-white cases totaled 466,205. Therefore, blacks using violence against whites is over four times more likely than the reverse.

    If you adjust for population the rate of black on white to white on black rape is not just a factor of 2 but a factor of 6 to 10 (I haven't done the math).

    On the other hand rape rates in general are are declining at a fairly steady clip. So however difficult things seem they are getting better. What we need to do, as usual, is to face reality as it is and keep our prejudices from causing a rush to judgement.

    Keep in mind that even with the statistics I showed, very few black men are rapists. So you can leave your stereotypes at home.

    It would seem though if the Black Studies Departments are to be honest they have to live in today. We are not where we were 40 years ago, we are certainly not where we were 150 years ago and no amount of screaming will make it so. Thank the Maker.

    I have only excerped bits of Bill Anderson's piece. Go read it all for it is good.

    Durham in Wonderland has a round up of the last weeks news and commentary for those (like me) who cant get enough of this train wreck.

    Here are some statistics[pdf] on rape by the percieved race of the victim and the perpetrator. It turns out that whites raping blacks happens in less than .1% of the cases and is listed as zero.

    Update: There appears to be a discrepancy noted between the two sets of statistics re: white on black rapes. Any one have a clue? The second set is directly from the Department of Justice. The first numbers quoted are from a post that refers to a study of FBI numbers.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:38 PM

    Puppies In A Blender

    California wants to outlaw some dog breeds. This strikes some people as wrong headed.

    Following is a MySpace bulletin received from my daughter Melody. Mel's dog Bodhi was the gentlest, friendliest pup I ever encountered. He converted me from being a pit bull hater to a friend of the breed. He was part boxer, part chow, and part pit bull, if my memory is correct. All are "fighting breeds", but Bodhi put the lie to the myth of the visious *Pit Bull*. Just as with humans, it's the love and affection, or training and abuse that the child or the dog receives that creates either a loyal friend or a monster.

    As this campaign suggests, "Ban the deed, not the breed."

    Sounds about right to me. I'd add that the owner of a dangerous dog should be prosecuted for any damage done by the dog as if the owner had comitted the crime himself, with rebuttable presumption of malice. However, it has to be shown that it was a pattern of behavior by the dog. i.e. not a strike out of the blue.

    Oh yeah, lots of cute puppy and dog pictures at the above link.

    H/T reader linearthinker

    Commenter linearthinker tells me that:

    SB 681 passed into law 11/05, an initiative attempt was unsuccessful in 2006
    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:21 PM | Comments (2)

    Got Embryos?

    Michael Fumento at Winds of Change is discussing how amniotic stem cells are a huge break through and will eliminate the need for embyonic stem cells. He thinks the New York Times is covering up this breakthrough by inadequate reporting.

    Not so fast I say. How about current research in the matter?

    For instance how about this work on regenerating heart tissue?

    An Israeli scientific team from the Technion have succeeded in creating in the laboratory beating heart tissue from human embryonic stem cells.

    Moreover, the researchers - Dr. Shulamit Levenberg and Prof. Lior Gepstein - have succeeded in creating blood vessels in the tissue, which will enable its acceptance by the heart muscle.

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. During heart attacks, tissue is destroyed when blood is temporarily cut off to a section of the heart, and this tissue can never be repaired

    The scientific journal Circulation Research reports in its on-line issue on two innovations in the researchers' work: one, the use of human embryonic stem cells, and two, the creation of a vascular system in the tissue, which is critical for its acceptance by the body.

    "Without this system, acceptance could be prolonged and the cells could die during this time period," explains Levenberg. "In our work, we demonstrated the importance of the endothelial cells (cells that build blood vessels), which encourage differentiation of the heart cells and their organization, in addition to their multiplication. That is - it is important to create heart cell tissue, with all its component cells, in this case the endothelial cells, heart cells and cells that support the blood vessels."

    Or this work with rats using human embyonic cells to regenerate spinal tissue.
    BOSTON: Human embryonic stem cells can help regenerate damaged nerves in rats, producing compounds that nurture nerve cells and stimulate the growth of new ones, Geron Corp said on Wednesday.

    The company's stock rose on the news, published in the journal Stem Cells and Development. Geron had earlier reported that human embryonic stem cells had helped replace myelin, a fatty covering on nerves that is vital to function.

    Now, the company's researchers said, they had shown the cells produce multiple nerve growth factors, which are proteins that stimulate the survival and regeneration of neurons.

    "In addition to the remyelinating activity as previously reported, GRNOPC1 produces growth factors that can improve the survival and extension of neuronal circuitry in the spinal cord," said Thomas Okarma, Geron's chief executive.

    So maybe this research will show that rat stem cells can help humans. Eventually. Or maybe human stem cells are the way to go in humans too.

    Fortunately the research is being done.

    Here is a bit on Jewish Law and embyonic stem cell research.

    Before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, medical bioethics expert Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler of New York's Yeshiva University emphatically stated that Jewish law permits embryonic stem cell research and that Jewish tradition clearly mandates the seeking of cures for diseases that cause great human suffering.

    Citing Torah sources, the 80-year-old biology professor and Rosh Yeshiva of the university's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) explained that harvesting stem cells from an early-stage embryo on day five or day six does not violate Jewish law concerning when an embryo achieves legal status as a human being.

    "That only occurs after 40 days when the embryo has already reached human form and developed all of its organ systems, including having a heartbeat," Tendler said.

    In addition, Tendler explained that embryos in a laboratory in a Petri dish have no chance of becoming children without being implanted in a womb.

    "Some Christian groups equate embryonic stem cell research with abortion, but that is not Judaism's position," Tendler said. "Because the culling of stem cells by necessity results in the destruction of embryos, these groups oppose it."

    Evidently the Rabbi understands the difference between an acorn and a tree. Something that escapes the anti-embyonic stem cell research folks.

    The Rabbi nails it with a reference to the US Constitution and Torah Law.

    "One of the great tragedies of the Bush administration has been the weakening of the wall between church and state, between the religious and the medical," said Tendler, adding that many of America's leading stem cell scientists are now working in other countries where they have more freedom in research.

    "We can be proud that Israel is a world leader in this regard and that many of the best brains in America have gone to do their research at the Weitzman Institute," Tendler said. "Weitzman is the only place so far that has developed stem cells not grown from mice cells."

    Because of their regenerative properties, scientists believe that stem cells can be used to treat a variety of degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and spinal cord injury.

    "My stance can't change the controversy," said Tendler, who also serves as rabbi of the Community Synagogue in Monsey, N.Y. "I can only resolve the controversy by saying that if the instruction of the Torah was followed, there would be no controversy. But people don't follow the Torah."

    It is time we got back to the old time religion. If it was good enough for Jesus it is good enough for me.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:36 PM

    A Truce Is Offered - Weakness Admitted

    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh

    said Saturday that his Hamas-led government would be willing to accept a temporary Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in exchange for a 10-year truce with Israel.

    His comments - consistent with a call for Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders - came as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to meet Hamas' supreme leader Khaled Mashaal in Syria to discuss ways to form a coalition government and end international sanctions on the Palestinians.

    Well you know this is a no sale. Who wants to help create a state that starts out at war with its neighbor except for the minor detail of a ten year truce? It didn't sell the last time it was on the table. It will not sell today.

    However, his bargaining position must be extremely weak, because he admits his weakness. This is a highly unusual bargaining strategy.

    "We are with liberating any inch of Palestine," the Palestinian Prime Minister said in a televised address,

    explaining his suggestion.

    "But we will not close the door for the next generation, because the weak don't always stay weak, and the strong won't stay strong," he added.

    Breathtaking. Actually though, that has always been Hamas policy. Nice hearing it from the horse's mouth.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:49 PM

    Weather or not!

    I'm freezing my butt off after having been spoiled by Bush's global warming.

    Naturally, my weather resentment is growing.

    Who the hell is in charge of my weather, anyway? It's not what I want, and I don't think it's entirely fair to blame the angry Republicans -- or the new right wing BDS. This weather is hard to take, and I question the timing.

    Didn't the Democrats just take over?

    And didn't it get colder in no time flat?

    As FDR said, in politics, there are no coincidences. Just as the Republicans and Bush made it warmer, now the Democrats have made it colder, and the lame duck Bush is powerless to stop them. This cold weather is thus proof positive of the downside of democracy.

    To a Democrat, though, the cold weather is probably wonderful. I think it sucks big time, and I think it means that long term, we are destined to lose not just the current battle for the weather, but the war against the Ice Age itself.

    Yes, long term, we may very well lose the Cold War.

    The best we can hope for is an occasional but temporary period of warming.

    A lame "surge" if you will.

    MORE: In another ominous sign of the times, those who dissent from the new Cold Warriors -- especially the weathermen we once needed to tell us which way the wind blows -- are to be driven off the air. An all new "weather underground" might be our only hope.

    posted by Eric at 02:30 PM

    Let's Do It on The Cheap

    Dr. Sanity is discussing denial. She says that it is a cover for something we don't want to look at. Hiding under the covers.

    The most interesting thing to me is in the comments.We have alleged Muslim Supremacists and good old American Defeatists. Commenter Phoenix comments on a post farther up the thread including a dig at the Muslim:

    "Jesus talked of love. You talk of denial. And he lived in a world far more brutal than this one."

    How can you say Jesus lived in a world far more brutal thing this one? That's nuts. Any era that has embraced wishful thinking and denial has been a brutal era. That means we've had nothing but increasing brutality from BCE to now. Jesus didn't have a thing to do with the brutality other than to think he could mitigate it by love. And to think that love might have engendered brutality? No, never, I'm sure you'd say. Men never kill in the name of their religion, right? Whatever. The thing we know for sure is that we can now kill many more with much greater efficiency. That's a fact not based on denial or wishful thinking. Hmmm.... I wonder if that's considered a truth? Hell if I know....

    Phoenix - 01.19.07 - 8:35 pm

    So I replied to Phoenix:
    En fuego!

    Which if you think about it is kind of a pun.


    To the rest:

    Want to know how America can fight when it gets pissed?

    Look at the campaign against the Japanese in the Pacific - WW2 after the first 3 months.

    No quarter asked, none given. Shoot the wounded.

    Nuke 'em if they complain.

    Really, you had better hope we suceeded on the cheap, because it could go much worse for the bastards.

    Do you suppose they are listening? Is De Nile a river in Egypt?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:12 PM

    Blue Dogs Bark

    The Blue Dog Democrats in the House are finding their voice.

    ...another sizable group of House Democrats is set to propose a different course today. The Democrats' Blue Dog Coalition -- comprised of more conservative Democrats -- will hold a press conference on the war at 11:30 am. Their proposal appears likely to include important differences from Murtha's legislation.

    Currently including 44 members, the group describes itself as primarily "dedicated to a core set of beliefs that transcend partisan politics, including a deep commitment to the financial stability and national security of the United States."

    Some Blue Dog leaders have criticized President George W. Bush's escalation plans for Iraq. Arkansas' Mike Ross, the Blue Dogs' Communications Co-Chair, has said that "sending 21,000 new troops is not a new direction, it's simply more of the same." Kansas's Dennis Moore, the Caucus's Co-Chair for Policy, added earlier this month that "instead of the same open-ended strategy to stay in Iraq, we need to consider options put forth by the Iraq Study Group."

    RAW STORY spoke to a variety of Blue Dog Democratic staff on Thursday about their pending proposal on the Iraq war. More than one noted that deliberations on the final bill would not be concluded until late in the evening.

    But one aide was able to say that "the Blue Dogs are not calling for troop withdrawal tomorrow, and they're not cutting off funding, but they do want accountability and responsibility."

    Blug Dog California member Joe Baca, however, told RAW STORY he supported Murtha's bill.

    "I voted against the war in Iraq and have consistently opposed it and spoken out against it." Baca said. "I support Rep. Murtha's proposal to redeploy American troops and start to bring them out of harm's way while turning responsibility for Iraq over to the Iraqis themselves." He also added "As a Blue Dog committed to fiscal responsibility, I am in favor of holding the Administration accountable for the massive amounts of American taxpayer dollars being spent in Iraq, particularly with reports of fraud and profiteering by contractors."

    A Democratic Leadership aide told RAW STORY that Speaker Pelosi was supportive of the bipartisan resolution on Iraq put forward Wednesday in the Senate. But, the aide added that "Democrats are exploring multiple options."

    The Republican Party appeared ready to capitalize on the possible divisions that the Iraq war could create for Democrats in the House.

    No surprise there. I have been telling my D friends since the election that Conservatives won.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:22 PM | Comments (1)

    OK, let's talk Turkey about freedom

    If Jimmy Carter is any indication of what's going on with the Democrats, and Dinesh D'Souza is any indication of what's going on with the Republicans, not only is the war on terrorism lost, I'd say so are the two parties.

    But much as I hate being a RINO, I don't see what difference it would make if I went back to being a DINO. (No matter which party I'm in, I'll be as annoyed with the damn bases as the bases are with people like me.)

    This D'Souza business couldn't have come at a worse time, because while the GOP may be damaged irreparably, I think the real casualty will be the war in Iraq. When I wrote about D'Souza's book, I speculated that it might be a symptom of right wing war fatigue, and I think I should return to that general theme.

    The idea that the war might still be winnable seems to be largely lost. With a new meme for war-fatigued social conservatives to devour, I think it will become ever more lost. It is one thing for the war to be undermined by the antiwar left. That they'll do that is as certain as the fact that the sun will rise. Then there's the multiculturalist left, which, by treating Islamists as an oppressed minority, have done much to enable a domestic Fifth Column. But D'Souza's answer to this is to create yet another Fifth Column -- this time on the right. Of course he'll deny it, but that's where I think this conservative-Islamist alliance is going.

    In a recent interview with the NRO's Kathryn Lopez, D'Souza makes it quite clear that libertarians are not even on his radar.

    ....both the Right and the Left have been operating under illusions. The radical Muslims are against modernity and science and democracy. The radical Muslims are upset because of colonialism and the Crusades. It's all nonsense. That's not what the leading thinkers of radical Islam say. And Bin Laden's own views are quite different. In his Letter to America, issued shortly after 9/11, he said that America is the fount of global atheism and it is imposing its morally depraved values on the world. So Muslims must rise up in defensive jihad against America because their religion and their values are under attack. This aspect of Bin Laden's critique has been totally ignored, and it's one that resonates with a lot of traditional Muslims and traditional people around the world.
    Unless D'Souza has simply not read bin Laden's Letter to America, he's engaged in very selective quotation at best. Sure, bin Laden lists sexual immorality as among our sins (along with a failure to ratify Kyoto and a whole host of other things), but what's his first gripe? Israel, Israel and Israel. Oh, and the Jews who control everything:
    Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:

    (1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.

    a) You attacked us in Palestine:

    (i) Palestine, which has sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation. The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its*price, and pay for it heavily.

    (ii) It brings us both laughter and tears to see that you have not yet tired of repeating your fabricated lies that the Jews have a historical right to Palestine, as it was promised to them in the Torah. Anyone who disputes with them on this alleged fact is accused of anti-semitism. This is one of the most fallacious, widely-circulated fabrications in history. The people of Palestine are pure Arabs and original Semites. It is the Muslims who are the inheritors of Moses (peace be upon him) and the inheritors of the real Torah that has not been changed. Muslims believe in all of the Prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all. If the followers of Moses have been promised a right to Palestine in the Torah, then the Muslims are the most worthy nation of this.

    When the Muslims conquered Palestine and drove out the Romans, Palestine and Jerusalem returned to Islaam, the religion of all the Prophets peace be upon them. Therefore, the call to a historical right to Palestine cannot be raised against the Islamic Ummah that believes in all the Prophets of Allah (peace and blessings be upon them) - and we make no distinction between them.

    (iii) The blood pouring out of Palestine must be equally revenged. You must know that the Palestinians do not cry alone; their women are not widowed alone; their sons are not orphaned alone.

    There's a lot more, and of course bin Laden does get into sexual immorality (which he lists along with gambing, usury and more references to the Jews who "have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense; precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned you against.") Read bin Laden's "Letter to America" if you can stand it; it's one of the most long-winded and tedious tirades of bigotry I've read.

    To D'Souza it's the "cultural left" which is to blame. But what does "cultural left" mean? Who are these "moderate" Muslims he now calls "traditional" Muslims?

    D'Souza's lack of specificity leaves us guessing, but he says the latter are nonetheless the enemies of the former, and the allies of the right:

    Our concern should be with the traditional Muslims, who are the majority in the Muslim world. These people are also religious and socially conservative, and they are our natural allies. In fact, since the cultural Left in America is de facto allied with the radical Muslims, we as conservatives have no choice but to ally with the traditional Muslims. We cannot win the war on terror without them. No matter how many Islamic radicals we kill, it's no use if twice as many traditional Muslims join them. Now building bridges to this group doesn't mean changing our way of life, and if we are conservative there is nothing that needs to be changed. Our values are quite similar to those of traditional Muslims. There's no point chasing after "liberals" who believe in secularism and feminism and homosexual rights. Such people are quite rare and they have no constituency in any Muslim country. The traditional Muslims are our best bet. Besides, they're not asking us to live like them. They're asking us not to attack their religion, which conservatives do with depressing regularity. They're asking us not to force secularism and separation of church and state on their society, another foolish cause to which some conservatives subscribe.
    Our values are quite similar to those of traditional Muslims?

    Isn't D'Souza forgetting that according to the traditional Muslim view, opposition to secularism means Sharia law? Has he read the Sharia? I think he'd better, for if the Sharia is now to be considered moderate Islam, shouldn't those with values said to be so "similar" be told what those values are? (I'm thinking that traditions like mandatory headscarves, polygamy, flogging, and amputations might not be as "quite similar" as D'Souza imagines.)

    And excuse me, but since when did "moderate" become a synonym for "traditional"?

    What about those who don't share these moderate traditional Islamist Red State values? By reductionism they all become part of the "cultural left" -- the Enemy That Started This War By Opposing Traditional Islam.


    Many libertarians have actively supported the war effort, and I don't know of a single libertarian who has made the alliance with Osama bin Laden which D'Souza complains the "left" (conflated into the cultural, no doubt) is making:

    look at the Left's uncontrolled fury toward my book. These people are going absolutely nuts. They have never said anything remotely this harsh about the Islamic radicals. That's because I am attacking the Left's values at home, and exposing a link between the Left and the Islamic radicals that is the great unspoken secret of American politics. Basically the Islamic radicals supply the terror and the Left uses the terror to demoralize the American people and urge them to pull American troops out of Iraq and the Middle East. So on the one hand the Left dislikes the values of the Islamic radicals, and on the other the Left needs the Islamic radicals to fulfill its core mission in America, which is to wipe out the Right and send us back to the margins of American politics.
    D'Souza's silence about libertarians couldn't be any louder. It is as if they do not exist. Criticism of his book comes only from the left (which refuses to criticize Islamic radicals).

    For the record, I'm one of the people who has criticized his book, and I don't believe I have uttered a single word in favor of the Islamic radicals. Ever. (And that's a serious understatement, as any longtime reader of this blog knows.)

    The closest D'Souza gets to an actual criticism of libertarianism is his complaint about the "liberal campaign of cultural imperialism that is trying to force the values of the Western Left on the rest of the world":

    Already there have been working relationships between traditional Christians and traditional Muslims in the United Nations and some other international forums to block liberal efforts to declare abortion as a right under international law. In fact the U.N. Charter lists no such right, but this is part of the liberal campaign of cultural imperialism that is trying to force the values of the Western Left on the rest of the world. Planned Parenthood is distributing condoms to teenage girls on every continent. Leftist groups are suing to overturn restrictive abortion laws in South America. The Left is trying to force Turkey to liberalize its laws on homosexuality as a condition of joining the European Union. So here are opportunities for people who differ on theology but agree on morality to form an international coalition to block these bogus "rights" from being imposed on cultures that do not want them. I emphasize that I am not contesting any of the rights of classical liberalism. But this is a new liberalism that is trying to smuggle its own political preferences and call them "rights." Come to think of it, hasn't the Left been doing that here in this country for several decades now? Here are home we have to fight these bogus "rights" ourselves, but abroad we have the entire traditional world as an ally. Why wouldn't we want that? This has nothing to do with putting Pat Robertson and Ahmadinejad together, and everything to do with forming coalitions among mainstream groups across international boundaries.
    I don't like the U.N. telling countries what to do, as I think it violates their sovereignty.

    But let's look at Turkey. As to "laws on homosexuality," there don't seem to be any:

    Homosexuality is a crime in most Muslim nations, where penalties range from prison to death. But Turkey has no laws against it, and Istanbul, the largest city, attracts those whose sexual orientation would be considered aberrant elsewhere in the Muslim world.

    "When you see transvestites on the street, that is something," says Demet Demir, who was born a man 41 years ago but had a sex-change operation in 1996. "That is the first step for freedom in a country."

    Turkey not only tolerates those with alternative lifestyles, it embraces them. One of its most famous writers, Murathan Mungan, is gay, and one of its most popular singers, Bulent Ersoy, is a transsexual.

    Another gay singer, Zeki Muren, achieved such legendary status before he died a few years ago that his picture -- bearing an uncanny resemblance to Liberace -- is sometimes displayed alongside that of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

    Nor is it hard to find gay gathering spots. The Internet site of Lambda Istanbul, a gay organization, lists almost 20 gay bars, clubs and discos in the city, in addition to sex shops, "blue movies," cruising areas and bathhouses. Even Time Out, the city guide distributed in luxury hotels, provides a half-page rundown of Istanbul's gay scene, including the most popular item in local sex shops -- a $70 "inflatable transexual doll."

    According to the Turkey Gay Guide,
    There are no articles on homosexuality in the law but vague references to public morals and public order. The police has the legal right to take anyone who looks suspicious to the police station for interrogation.
    As to the charge that Turkey is being forced by "the Left" to change its laws to enter the EU, if this Wikipedia writeup is correct, the Left is Turkey's own left, and the EU is, well, the EU:
    Turkish LGBT rights activists created the Radical Democrat Green Party to campaign for on a left-wing Green platform that included support for LGBT human rights. Several of its members participated in a hunger strike in 1987 to protest the police harassment of LGBT citizens.

    In 1988 the civil code was amended to allow for transgender people to have a sex change operation, under medical approval. In the 1990s the LGBT movement fought against government bans on LGBT conferences, which prompted the creation of Lambda Istanbul, and in 1994 the newly created Freedom and Solidarity Party banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within its party, and Demet Demir, nominated by this party, became the first transgendered candidate for the local council elections in Istanbul.

    In 1996 The Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling and removed a child from her lesbian parent, on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral. While bias motivated violence against gay and transgender people intensified as did efforts at government censorship, the desire of Turkey to join the European Union has forced the government to grant official recognition to LGBT rights organizations, respect a greater degree of the freedom of speech and the press and to entertain gay rights legislation. Gay themed conferences and gatherings now regularly take place, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara. Several universities have LGBT associations.

    Are libertarians now to be lumped in with meddlesome EU bureaucrats, simply because they would support a right of gays to organize? Does D'Souza want gay organizing banned in Turkey, or is he defending laws against homosexuality where none exist? Is he advocating Sharia-style laws for Turkey? I can't tell. But he certainly seems to be on the side of the Turkish Islamists, and he wants them to work with "natural allies" like him.

    As a libertarian, I have to acknowledge that D'Souza and his supporters have every right to form an "International Coalition to Block Gay So-Called "Rights" and Stop Condom Distribution." But how will they feel about working with people who are also out to stop Bible distribution? And Jews? Not long ago, I wrote about one of Turkey's most popular films, which advances the idea that Jewish doctors harvest organs from Iraqi prisoners.

    To be sure, Turkey hasn't been America's greatest ally in the Iraq War. Is it D'Souza's argument that if conservative Americans help their traditional Muslims stop homosexuality and condoms, Turkey will then become a better ally of the United States in the war against terror? Much as I'm trying for the sake of argument to entertain the idea, I can't see how that would happen. More likely, conservatives will look ridiculous, Hillary will be elected president, and certain conservative think tanks will then get more money.

    And it will be tougher than hell for bloggers like me to maintain (as I have repeatedly) that there really is a huge difference between fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam. Much as I hate to say this, I think Dinish D'Souza has done more to advance Andrew Sullivan's thesis of a "Christianist-Islamist alliance" than Sullivan ever could have.

    Winning a war requires building coalitions, and I'd almost swear D'Souza is doing his level best to destroy the shaky coalition between conservatives and libertarians which has (at least in the blogosphere) been the backbone of a less than monolithic group we call "war bloggers."

    One of the blogosphere's most articulate longtime war supporters is Dean Esmay, who links a long, excellent post by neo-neocon about the hard choices required in war:

    ....those who require moral perfection in our actions on the world stage are either hopelessly idealistic and out of touch with the consequences of what acting on that idealism would have wrought (in this case, the triumph of the Soviets, and later the Iranians), or they are cynically mouthing arguments they don't even believe.

    I wish the world were otherwise. But it's not, and pretending the lion has already lain down with the lamb is an absurdity, or worse. There are plenty of lions out here, about to devour huge herds of lambs, and sometimes all we can do is back the lion who seems less voracious.

    The funny thing about the whole thing (and I mean funny-strange, not funny ha-ha) is that it is the neocon philosophy that represents one of the only strategies offering a possible way out of the realpolitik dilemma. And yet those who criticize our realpolitik decisions to back dictators also criticize our neonconnish decisions to overthrow them and try to institute a better and more democratic form of government. Odd, isn't it?

    Make no mistake about it, however: the neocon notion that we should attempt actions designed to transform these countries into something better is not an easy one to execute, as Iraq has demonstrated (and, by the way, it does not always involve our waging war--sometimes it involves our supporting internal forces within the country itself, as suggested presently for Iran).

    It's hard enough with the left making common ground with the Islamist enemy. With the right doing the same thing (if along slightly different lines), realism itself will become unrealistic. Previous coalitions will unwind.

    The most disturbing aspect of D'Souza's argument is that, just as he engages in selective editing of radical Islam, he completely ignores libertarians -- thus leaving it to them to guess whether or not they are part of his "cultural left" and therefore part of The Enemy responsible for 9/11.

    Might this be intentional?

    Here's Andrew Wile, of Market News Network:

    In America, liberalism is imposed on the American public through regulation. Around the world, and especially in the Middle East, such morality is imposed at the point of a gun. This is actually what Muslims are reacting to with such hatred - the imposition of a secular bureaucracy that contravenes the moral dictates of their religion. It is not Hillary Clinton's personal beliefs, whatever they are, that makes part of the world "hate" the United States. It is the regulatory enshrinement of those beliefs and their subsequent militarization and exportation.

    What neither D'Souza nor Noah seem to touch on is that it is not individual views that are responsible for problems inside and outside the United States. It is government adoption of these views and subsequent enforcement. So long as the argument is framed as liberal versus conservative, there will be no end to it. The political structure, framed in this manner, lurches from one government fascist enterprise to another, with the mood of the country souring, its freedoms eroding. Only on the Internet, thank God, will you find the libertarian point of view to oppose the fraudulent liberal-conservative intellectual construct. (No wonder the Internet has enemies!)

    Might D'Souza be part of this fraudulent liberal-conservative intellectual construct? It might go a long way to explain his selective quoting, and selective definitions.

    I don't see how any of it is going to help win the war. I suspect that the book reflects D'Souza personal war against libertarianism.

    Along that line, here's an excerpt from a chapter titled "the Libertarian Temptation" (in D'Souza's Letters to a Young Conservative):

    Consider an example that contrasts the conservative and libertarian views of freedom. If you said to a libertarian, "What if 300 million Americans opt to become pornographers like Larry Flynt? Would that constitute a good society?" While the conservative would emphatically answer no, the pure liberatian would have to answer yes, because these people have chosen freely. As this example illustrates, libertarianism is a philosophy of choice without political concern for what people actually choose. Thus, although many libertarians live virtuously, libertarianism as a philosophy is indifferent to virtue. In this respect it differs markedly from conservatism.
    In other words, freedom of choice means moral indifference to the consequences? I favor the right to keep and bear arms, and I do not believe the government should regulate consensual sex or the consumption of drugs, but I do recognize that there are social downsides attached to such freedom. Some people will die, and others will ruin their lives. Saying someone has a right to ruin his life is not the same thing as saying that it's good, nor is it blind to virtue. If 300 million Americans opted to become pornographers, I wouldn't say this was good. In fact, I'd wonder what was wrong with everyone. But that does not mean I would use government force to stop them. And since we're stuck with 300 million Larry Flynts as an example, I think having that many pornographers would make the use of government force an impossibility anyway. But the country wouldn't last long, as the economy would collapse. Yes, 300 million Larry Flynts is a bad idea! Does that mean I'm not a libertarian? Then what am I? A liberal? Or merely a "cultural leftist"? For D'Souza, Larry Flynt is emblematic of all that is wrong, and he seems unable to distinguish between the acknowledgement of a right to print Hustler and a declaration that its contents are virtuous. (Perhaps he is aware of this distinction but just wants to blur it as much as possible.)

    Is libertarianism as a philosophy indifferent to virtue? In the strict sense, you could say the same thing about the Constitution. But can't virtue take other forms than speaking out against sexual immorality? Can't freedom be a virtue too?

    If freedom is a virtue, that does not mean that all things flowing from freedom are virtuous. So let us assume that Larry Flynt is a bad man -- the "loathsome character" that D'Souza says he is, but that our freedom allows such loathsome characters to run around loose, make millions, and even (as D'Souza claims) be feted by Hollywood and the ACLU. Is it unreasonable to see such freedom as a virtue anyway? The freedom we're talking about is free speech, and while I'm no fan of Larry Flynt, I'm even less of a fan of Michael Moore, Ward Churchill, or the American Nazi Party. What makes Larry Flynt so much more odious? Is it that he peddles obnoxious sex, while the others only peddle obnoxious politics?

    Ah but if only the choice were between pornographers and people who want to kill us.

    What a world.

    Seriously, I don't know what to say. Rational debate about freedom is becoming impossible.

    Hugh Fitzgerald, in Pajamas Media, pulls no punches with a very thorough fisking of D'Souza, and concludes,

    With this book, he should lose any residual respect any one of sense might once have harbored for him. He has lost the right to an audience. He should no longer be given a hearing at National Review or, for that matter, anywhere else that wishes to be taken seriously.

    This book is beyond the pale. Beyond all pales.

    A little thing like being beyond the pale never stopped anybody from making money and achieving success.

    Being beyond the pale is part of our freedom in America.

    (Just ask Larry Flynt.)

    MORE: Born Again Atheist is skeptical about D'Souza's sincerity, and quotes from a piece he wrote back in 2003:

    America is under attack as never before -- not only from terrorists but also from people who provide a justification for terrorism. Islamic fundamentalists declare America the Great Satan. Europeans rail against American capitalism and American culture. South American activists denounce the United States for "neocolonialism" and oppression.

    "Anti-Americanism from abroad would not be such a problem if Americans were united in standing up for their own country. But in this country itself, there are those who blame America for most of the evils in the world. On the political left, many fault the United States for a history of slavery, and for continuing inequality and racism. Even on the right, traditionally the home of patriotism, we hear influential figures say that America has become so decadent that we are "slouching towards Gomorrah."

    If these critics are right, then America should be destroyed.

    Says Born Again Atheist,
    Dinesh, in The Enemy At Home, you run the gamut. You Justify terrorism, affirm that America is the Great Satan, and rail against American global cultural hegemony and cultural oppression. You blame America for 911. You fault it for 911, and for continuing insulting the terrorists and their supporters with its culture. Slouching towards Gomorrah? By your own admission, we're already there.
    If these critics are right, then America should be destroyed.
    "If those critics are right?" Dinesh, you've joined them.

    Does that mean D'Souza was against destroying America before he was for it?

    (Sorry! But such evolution in thinking has become a trend lately....)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post. Welcome everyone; I appreciate the comments.

    I should stress my belief that this is the most disturbing political development I have seen in years. Please bear in mind that my goal is not to bash social conservatives here; I only hope and pray that they stop and look within themselves before making the drastic, possibly irreversible about-face that D'Souza advocates.

    UPDATE (1/21/07): Dean Barnett has a brilliant review of the D'Souza book:

    ....intellectually obtuse, poorly informed and, most importantly, an irresponsible exercise in putatively conservative bomb-throwing.
    And more:
    ....if the book's principle theory gains any traction it would be destructive. If conservatives decided that liberals are the reason we were attacked and why we're hated, it won't do anything for domestic unity. D'Souza's theory in this regard is not only misguided, it is offensive. Liberals won't have to bother to caricaturize D'Souza's argument. He did that himself.

    Second, and this is also no small thing, it's not liberals' fault. Radical Islam hates a respectable Church-going Presbyterian family man every bit as much as it hates a spoiled libertine like Paris Hilton.

    And finally,
    It is dispiriting to see D'Souza stumble so badly, and distressing to think that he is selling the theories of this book as a de facto spokesman for America's conservatives.
    Barnett doesn't get into polemics with D'Souza; he methodically shows how wrong he is. Read it all!

    UPDATE: My thanks to Virginia Postrel for the link to this and my earlier post in her discussion of the Alan Wolfe's New York Times review of D'Souza's book. As to whether Wolfe has "willfully overlooked the strong negative reaction to the book that has, in fact, come from 'decent conservatives,'" perhaps Wolfe could answer Jules Crittenden's question:

    Anyone else find it highly ironic that the New York Times should run a piece attacking anyone for being an treasonous al-Qaeda symp?
    Well, the Times had to start somewhere.

    One step at a time. Should I be holding my breath?

    UPDATE: My thanks to Kim du Toit for the link, and for reminding me that D'Souza indeed does not speak for all conservatives, much less all Republicans.

    Some of the commenters (both here and at du Toit's blog) make me think that perhaps I should have stressed the first word of this post -- "IF."

    It is of course my sincere hope that D'Souza is not "any indication of what's going on with the Republicans" -- hence this post!

    At the risk of being redundant, perhaps I should stress again that allowing something is not an endorsement of it. FWIW I do not endorse Larry Flynt, nor do I endorse D'Souza's latest meme. To some commenters, that makes me a liberal (one of du Toit's commenters was especially outraged by my sarcastic statement that "being beyond the pale is part of our freedom in America"). Considering that I am routinely called a conservative, perhaps I should be grateful to be smeared as a liberal!

    BTW, I'm seeing a report in today's new that Jimmy Carter is apologizing for his book. If Carter in fact apologized, and if D'Souza does not, would it be a false contrast to point that out? Or a false comparison?

    Much as I'd be delighted to retract a tentative comparison I never knew I'd fully made, perhaps I should apologize for creating the appearance of a comparison. (Usually, when I make comparisons -- like these two examples -- I like to think I am being, um, perfectly clear.)

    posted by Eric at 05:38 PM | Comments (40)

    Who Won In Lebanon?

    Michael Totten has been doing some really excellent work in Israel and Lebanon showing the aftermath of the war and interviewing those who saw the war first hand. There is way more than I can cover in a few paragraphs so let me give you the short version. Michael thinks the Hizballah got the worst of it. His pictures confirm it. His pictures also show that the Israelis were very selective in their targeting and Hizballah was indiscriminate.

    Hizballah headquarters area in Beirut.

    Cedars of Lebanon

    A Liberal Cleric

    South Lebanon - Christian Village

    South Lebanon - Hizballah Village

    Cross Posted at Classical Values

    posted by Simon at 04:18 PM | Comments (2)

    Rifling through feminist magazines?

    I love it when my disorganized blog is ahead of the local paper in pursuing forgotten memes. The other day, I had fun with the New York Times' "51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse" (which I deemed unfairly ahead of Glenn Reynolds' "A Rifle in Every Pot") by dredging up the decades old feminist metaphor -- "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

    I was, well scraping (rescraping, actually) the dregs of the 70s -- at least I thought I was. It was my way of mocking what I saw as a bad metaphor, but in all honesty I like to think that today's feminist women have evolved past mindless slogans and poor analogies.

    I mean, a fish on a bicycle? Aside from being a rather poor analogy, there's a certain unattractive suggestiveness which might evoke certain negative stereotypes you'd think the feminists would have left alone.

    But here's the cartoon that accompanied this Op Ed in today's Inquirer:


    [NOTE: The cartoon is in the Inquirer's hard copy only; hence the link to the artist's site.]

    What I don't know is whether the author of the Op-Ed (University of Connecticut Professor Gina Barreca) chose the cartoon to accompany her piece, or whether the Inquirer editors thought it would be clever.

    I should always try to keep in mind that what's satire to me may be someone else's opinion.

    At least, I think it's someone else's opinion. Perhaps Ms. Barreca intends the cartoon as satire. She is (according to Ms. magazine) an accomplished feminist humorist:

    GINA BARRECA, Professor of English Literature and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, received a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.A. from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York. An award-winning columnist for the Hartford Courant, she has served as an advisor to the Library of Congress for work on humor and the American character, and was deemed a "feminist humor maven" by Ms. magazine. With Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post, she wrote I'm With Stupid: One Man, One Woman, and 10,000 Years of Misunderstandings Between The Sexes Cleared Right Up (2004). Barreca's works, which have been translated into five languages, include the best-selling Sweet Revenge: The Wicked Delights of Getting Even (1995); Perfect Husbands (and Other Fairy Tales) (1993); and They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted (1992).
    So the cartoon might very well be intended as irony, or even as ridicule of the feminist slogan, because the bicycle rider depicted is none other than its creator Gloria Steinem -- whose late-in-life marriage in 2000 caused Camille Paglia to wisecrack famously,
    "Gloria Steinem's marriage is proof positive of the emotional desperation of aging feminists who for over 30 years worshiped the steely career woman and callously trashed stay-at-home moms."
    For all I know Steinem was out to defy her own counter-stereotype when she married. The same might apply to Professor Barreca (or whoever managed to dig through the newspaper morgue to retrieve what appears to be an old cartoon).

    Anyway, in today's Op-Ed, Ms. Barreca inveighs against stereotypes:

    Indeed, popular culture - the film/TV world especially - is doing all it can to keep alive the worst social clichés of the past. When women over age 26 or over size 8 are depicted as unmarried, they are most often played by Kathy Bates - or Martin Lawrence. If they're thin and unmarried, they're depicted as predatory and played by Glenn Close or Sharon Stone. If they are young and unmarried... well, by the credits, they won't be.
    I don't watch as much TV as I should, so I can't say whether that's true. But I do remember the groundbreaking TV show "Murphy Brown" in which the unmarried woman was played by Candice Bergen. The show ran for ten years. Wasn't it a stereotype, too? Or did it break the stereotypes? I don't like stereotypes any more than Ms. Barreca, but at this point in my life I find myself asking whether new stereotypes intended to counter old stereotypes aren't still stereotypes.

    Complains Barreca, men -- even ugly, out-of-shape men -- are stereotyped as delectable:

    Single men remain delectable, however, no matter what shape they're in. I'm not talking only George Clooney here. Any man with a steady job, a history of reasonable sobriety, and the ability to cook one signature meal (either a red gravy for pasta, which they refer to as a "Bolognese" sauce, or a stir fry made in a wok they got from their last girlfriend) can find a woman willing to marry him. Guys who look like Notre Dame gargoyles can find wives who look like Isabella Rossellini. Think Everybody Loves Raymond. Think The King of Queens. Think The Simpsons. Meantime, women who look like Christie Brinkley get dumped for 17-year-olds who work at ShopRite or hookers named Divine Brown.
    Not to quibble, but I think I've seen an occasional man get dumped too, as well as an occasional man who is irredeemably clueless or stupid. Why I don't feel any particular need to avenge these stereotypes is probably a question for the shrinks. I don't care, but then, I don't watch much TV.

    But forget the new stereotypes. What matters is that the old stereotypes are gone, and that's good for women:

    But in the non-screen world, it may be that women have turned the Donna Reed image of singlehood inside-out. Perhaps women are learning that being alone in a relationship is far worse than being alone not in one. (A friend of mine once told me she'd never remarry: single, she can make herself feel inadequate whenever she needs to without having to watch football or, for that matter, her weight.) More and more, being unmarried is a sign that a woman is in control of her life.
    Have to say, I'm all with that woman who hates having to watch football. If someone made me watch football, I'd slink off to my computer and harbor a grudge. Fortunately, it doesn't happen, or else I'd be snidely attacking football in this blog, leaving readers to wonder what I had against it. (I have nothing against it, but then, no one is forcing me to watch it. Unlike the way "cultural leftists" like me always force Islamists to watch pornography.)

    But who is making her watch her weight? Her husband? Society? Or might it be her own rational and selfish desire to live longer? Seriously, what has weight to do with this? Not to get off topic, but men and women both get fat, don't they? And isn't being overweight bad for you? Unless Professor Barreca subscribes to the old stereotype -- "fat is a feminist issue!" -- I'm confused. No; I'm wrong right there, because even if she did subscribe to fat theory (or whatever the feminist meme is), then why would she have complained about Kathy Bates? For the fat theorists, shouldn't the latter be considered a liberating stereotype?

    OK, enough fat. Let's cut to the meat. Much as I'd like to believe that "being unmarried is a sign that a woman is in control of her life," I often wonder what is meant by being in control. Feminism is supposed to mean independence, yet so many feminists are socialists that I often wonder whether the goal is simply to substitute The State for The Man. If it is, that is not independence, and it is the antithesis of being in control. In logic, if the stereotype of men being in control is bad (because it's bad to be controlled), then how does it become good for the state to be in control? Asserting that it's good for women to be in control of their lives is one thing, but I find myself wondering whether the people who say this really mean it. That's why I suggested that single women be armed. How could any true feminist oppose that?

    I think a good slogan would be "a woman needs the state like a fish needs a net."

    I know. The net of the state (whether nanny or daddy state) is meant as a safety net.

    Nothing funny about it.

    (The fish/bike analogy may have been scraping, but the net analogy really is bottom trawling.)

    posted by Eric at 09:07 AM | Comments (4)

    De gustibus est disputandum!

    Speaking of ham sandwiches, some people will swallow anything -- including other people:

    Marco Evaristi, an edgy Chilean artist, served meatballs made with his own fat to his dining companions at his latest exhibit in Santiago. On the plates in front of them was a serving of agnolotti pasta and in the middle a meatball made with oil Evaristti removed from his body in a liposuction procedure last year. Some of the meatballs will be canned and sold for $4,000 for 10 units. "You are not a cannibal if you eat art," he said.
    This reminds me of what Salvador Dali said after signing his name to an omelette:
    When an autograph hound asked Dali for his signature during lunch, the eccentric artist whipped out a pink marker and signed his half-finished omelet, much to the dismay of his fan. "Art should be edible," Dali announced.
    I think this gastronomic occasion calls for cannibalizing another Dali (who painted "Autumn Cannibalism" and wrote a fabulous cookbook.)

    dali soft skulls with fried egg.jpg

    The title is "Soft Skulls with Fried Egg Without the Plate, Angels and Soft Watch in an Angelic Landscape" (1977).

    My personal opinion is that it's better art than canned fat from the overweight Chilean artist.

    More tasteful too.

    posted by Eric at 11:10 PM

    Spy vs Spy

    America is desperatly short of translators of Arabic, Farsi and other languages important to our defence against Islamic terrorists.

    Last Thursday, Brigitte Gabriel and I put out an Action Alert to the American Congress for Truth (ACT) membership, asking you for examples of how our government rebuffed your valued assistance as Arabic and Farsi linguists for critical intelligence translation work assignments in military, foreign and homeland security agencies.

    In less than 72 hours were got dozens of responses and they are still coming in.

    While a sampling they are nevertheless indicative of your concerns about why our government persists in denial of loyal American citizens offering to reduce the mountainous backlog of untranslated intercepts and transcripts of interrogations in Arabic and Farsi, in particular.

    How mountainous is the backlog of untranslated intercepts? Read this comment from a National Security Agency (NSA) official quoted from Congressional hearings in a Washington Times article on the subject written by Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz in their column "Inside the Ring" entitled: "Intelligence backlog."

    NSA director, Army Lt. Gen. Keith in commenting in written response to Senators on the large backlog of time consuming labor intensive foreign language intercepts on terrorism noted:

    "Today's backlog is no longer confined to Arabic and its multiple dialect but also less commonly taught languages where linguists are in short supply."
    One knowledgeable insider in our national security apparatus wrote in response to the ACT action alert:
    "The fact that the FBI and the military don't have enough linguists/translators especially after 9/11 is a disgrace and the fact that those they have are possibly not reliable or trustworthy makes it imperative that new competent resources are found."
    Here are a couple of people who have applied to help and have been turned down
    Brigitte Gabriel, ACT founder, Lebanese Christian.

    Brigitte applied three times to the FBI in 2001 and 2002 VOLUNTEERING her services to help translate, in whatever capacity she could be used, to help our country in the fight against terrorism. She never got an answer. Finally the Government sent her a government application that stated that translators must be between the age of 25 and 35, (she had just turned 36), must have graduated with a degree in the language they wish to apply to translate and must have three years on job experience as translators. (utterly ridiculous bureaucracy) Meanwhile complaining on TV that they do not have enough translators.

    Brigitte Gabriel speaks not only the classical Arabic which is the official language of all the Middle East, but also the local dialects, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Palestinian, and Jordanian.

    From an Iraqi Christian.

    'I applied twice for the FBI. I never got an answer from them. I heard that the Recruiters are Egyptians and want translators with an Egyptian dialect. I don't know if religion is a factor, but I've given up. I think it will be very intimidating under these circumstances. By the way I'm an Iraqi Christian living in the U.S. I worked as a linguist for the U.S. Army in Iraq."

    Here is a case that may illustrate the cause of the problem:
    From a Lebanese American Christian.

    "I was deployed from Ft. Benning, Georgia in May, 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Supporting our armed forces and intelligence units. In October 2004, I was injured by a suicide bomb blast inside the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. I had to come back for treatment. A year ago I was released by all doctors and they recommended that I could go back to work, but not in Iraq. I called my employer and to my amazement they offered me a job back in Iraq but not a stateside one because I lacked a security clearance. I refused and they sent me a letter in January, 2006 laying me off. I have tried in vain to find a job with the government or defense contractors. The recruiters are usually Muslim and some have told me that they have relatives working for al Jazeera TV. Can you believe that!"

    Our translation services may have been compromised by agents of our enemies. Nothing new. During the Soviet era our spy agencies were compromised by Soviet Agents. Of course the cheese with the biggest number of holes was the British spy agencies; the Philby, Burgess, and McClean cases among others were notorious. In America we had the Walker spy ring in the Navy and Hanssen in the FBI.

    The case of Jan Dickerson was reported on 60 Minutes.

    The FBI has admitted that when Dickerson was hired last November the bureau didn't know that she had worked for a Turkish organization being investigated by the FBI's own counter-intelligence unit.

    They also didn't know she'd had a relationship with a Turkish intelligence officer stationed in Washington who was the target of that investigation. According to [whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds, Dickerson tried to recruit her into that organization, and insisted that Dickerson be the only one to translate the FBI's wiretaps of that Turkish official. ...

    Edmonds says that when she reviewed Dickerson's translations of those tapes, she found that Dickerson had left out information crucial to the FBI's investigation -- information that Edmonds says would have revealed that the Turkish intelligence officer had spies working for him inside the U.S. State Department and at the Pentagon.

    You know maybe that case and others like it explain why Christians, Jews, and Apostate Muslims are having such trouble getting jobs as translators. It may be that our espionage and counterespionage agencies are closed shops mostly run by our enemies.

    Update: 19 Jan '07 0535z

    Amir Taheri says our media has the same problem.

    January 15, 2007 -- JUST outside Um al-Qasar, a port in south east Iraq, a crowd had gathered around a British armored car with a crew of four. An argument seemed to be heating up through an interpreter.

    The interpreter told the Brits that the crowd was angry and wanted U.K. forces out of Iraq. But then a Kuwaiti representative of Amnesty International, accompanied by a journalist friend, approached - and found the crowd to be concerned about something quite different.

    The real dispute? The day before, a British armored vehicle had an accident with a local taxi; now the cab's owner, backed by a few friends, was asking the Brits to speed up compensating him. Did these Iraqis want the Brits to leave, as the interpreter pretended? No, they shouted, a thousand times no!

    So why did the interpreter inject that idea into the dialogue? Shaken, he tried a number of evasions: Well, had the Brits not been in Iraq, there wouldn't have been an accident in the first place. And, in any case, he knows that most Iraqis don't want foreign troops . . .

    Since 2003, Iraq has experienced countless similar scenes, with interpreters, guides and "fixers" projecting their views and prejudices into the dialogue between Iraqis and the outside world.

    My guess is that the intent is not totally biased. They are looking for the low cost producer of translations. Augmented by special contacts with otherwise uncontactable individuals.

    In a way you got to hand it to these Iraqi guys, they must have studied "Wag The Dog" a hundred times. Reality doesn't count. Only what is in front of the camera counts.

    The following is a real classic:

    The industry geared itself to meeting demand. In 2004, for example, many journalists coming to Baghdad wanted to interview the "militants" who were attacking U.S. soldiers. The industry obliged by arranging interviews.

    One popular interviewee was one "Abu Muhammad," who claimed to be a fisherman by day and "a killer of Americans" by night. One U.K. paper paid $2,000 (a tidy sum in the cash-starved Baghdad of those days) for an exclusive with Abu Muhammad, who later took up a full chapter in a book published in London. The scam ended when someone found out that Abu Muhammad was, in fact, a busboy at a local hotel who'd grown a beard and was "fishing" Western journalists, splitting the proceeds with his cousin, who acted as interpreter and guide.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:57 PM

    Unfair To Ham Sandwiches

    There is a hassle going on in Minneapolis between Muslim cab drivers and the airport authority.

    International media attention has focused on Muslim cab drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport after many, based on their religious beliefs, refused to transport passengers carrying alcohol. It is forbidden in Islam to consume or transport alcohol. Unfortunately, much of the attention has been negative and based on false information, including suggestions that declining to transport alcohol is only the beginning and that Muslims are trying to impose their religious beliefs on others. That's false. Muslims respect the rights of non-Muslims to drink and carry alcohol. We simply ask that our beliefs be equally respected.

    Muslim cab drivers are simply trying to earn a living without compromising their beliefs. In the most religiously plural nation on earth, one that claims to champion religious freedom, it seems like a reasonable expectation. However, the discourse has strayed far from reasonableness. Instead, a tone of intolerance of Muslims based on fear and a lack of understanding has dominated the dialogue.

    This intolerance has forced the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport commission to cancel an agreement with the cab drivers and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, which has acted as a mediator. We believe the commission is bowing to public pressure based on bigotry toward Muslims.

    Under that agreement, cabs would have used a color-coding system to indicate whether they accepted alcohol; taxi starters would have directed passengers to cabs based on whether alcohol was visible in their luggage. Cab drivers agreed not to ask passengers about the contents of their luggage and to make customer service paramount.

    Either Cab Drivers are common carriers or they ar not. People who didn't like the agreement could have shut the Muslims down by having every one carry a bottle in the open.

    Of course if enough of that happens the Muslims pile up and it becomes hard to dispatch the cabs.

    I like the American way. Don't want to make money in a pig abattoir, because according to your religion pigs will defile you? Don't apply for the job.

    What will the Muslims ask for next? Banning ham sandwiches? I suppose that would be bad for lawyers. Especially when it comes to grand jury indictments.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:25 PM | Comments (4)

    Real Men Do Real Physics

    There is a discussion going on at Matt Yglesias' place about the future of the Republicans if they stay the course of the war. Matt thought the odds for the Rs was not good.

    I made the point that we needed to stay the course in the Middle East as long as our civilization depended on Middle Eastern Oil.

    I said that with out access to that oil we would Decline and Fall leading to Desolation Row.

    Then I suggested that an alternative existed, but we would have to develop it. That alternative is Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion.

    Well I got the usual wise guy comments. Some fool thought I was talking about cold fusion and dismissed what I had to say with derision.

    Then we get this from commenter Ed who actually visited my blog for at least 3 seconds to get ammunition for the following comment

    The fusion thing is hillarious. M. Simon's blog has a post about how Muslim's aren't very good at's right next to some Christian Zionist kookery.
    Well if the Muslims are good at science why do they depend on oil for almost all their income? As to Christian Zionism, I replied:
    BTW the Christian Zionist piece quotes Democrat Tom Lantos extensively.

    Christian Zionism

    And I would not go around bashing Christianity too much. The Blue Dog Democrats might not like it. There are 40 some in the House. LOL

    From the above:

    Rep. Lantos then said, "All Christians, please stand."
    Really if you look at the election results the D party has moved to the right. Get with the program.
    Well we get one more ignorant guy with an opinion.
    M, you're talking physics on a political blog, and 'free power' is something that high school physics says cannot happen, so this is hardly the right place to be advocating it.
    Then some real men came on the scene and asked some real questions.
    When I spoke to a plasma physicist at Texas A&M about one version of the electromagnetically accellerated boron-proton fusion schemes, he told me that a lot of these results are suggestive but misleading. Sure, you can use simple devices to accelerate particles to speeds that approximate the temperatures needed to fuse borons and protons. But the problem is in equating these particle speeds to temperatures. Particles in a thermal distribution come in lots of different speeds, centered around a peak in the center (which is what we call the temperature). But fusion doesn't happen at the peak--it happens at the tail of the distribution. Non-thermal particles have to reach much higher speeds than what you'd expect to reach the energy needed to ignite fusion.

    I've loved the idea of boron-proton fusion every since I read the Monkhorst paper in Science back in the mid-1990s. But it's gonna take more than tearing apart someone's Trinitron to make it happen.
    Posted by: jlw on January 18, 2007 02:08 PM

    To which my response was:

    The really neat thing about the Bussard Reactor is that the particle speeds in the reaction area are not thermally distributed. They are all moving at around the speed determined by the potential gradient. Just as the speeds of particles in a linear accelerator are nearly idenitical.

    You do have the vector problem but the pariicles oscillate into and out of the reaction space. The vectors are all into or out of the reaction space.

    Really, go to my link and watch the video. I had to see it several times to get all the points he was making.

    In addition I have links to the papers that describe the science, the reaction rates, etc.

    After you have watched the video I think I can answer any of your questions.

    You have made a really austute observation about thermal equilibrium. Which is why the Bussard reactor is so interesting.
    Posted by: M. Simon on January 18, 2007 03:55 PM

    Then another real man steps up to the plate:
    I looked over some abstracts and citation lists on Web of Science. Bussard's work is published in aparently reputable journals, and frequently cited, though he is not very prolific. These are not self-citations by co-authors, or circle-jerk citations by collaborators.

    The fusion is quite real, unlike the cold-fusion fiasco. What seems like the biggest problems are energy break even and durability of the equipment. The conventional fusion reactor has achieved energy break even already, the next step for it is economic break even.

    One advantage Bussard has is that he could fail to accomplish his goal much more cheaply than the big fusion project.
    Posted by: Njorl on January 18, 2007 03:44 PM

    And my reply was:

    Some very good points.

    Bussard says that his idea could be proved or disproved for $200 million and 5 years of effort.

    So far "conventional fusion" has cost multi billions and has gone on for many decades. With no end in sight because of the thermal equilibrium problem.

    Look at the video of the talk he gave at Google. A neat physics lecture if nothing else.

    Here is the Monkhorst paper mentioned above.

    More Monkhorst The University of Florida. Another Monkhorst paper: Science 281.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

    Addiction Is A Genetic Disease

    Surpisingly the NIDA says "addiction" is a genetic disease triggered by environmental factors. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this conclusion. It was pretty much established science by the time they allowed as how it might be true.

    Here is what they have to say:

    Evidence from adoption and twin studies and from animal models suggests that vulnerability to addiction has a moderate to high heritable component. The gene variants underlying increased vulnerability to addiction are unknown, but new advances in science and technology will facilitate the identification and characterization of these gene variants. Like many other psychiatric illnesses, drug abuse and dependence comprise a complex set of genetic disorders lacking a simple pattern of Mendelian inheritance. Multiple genes with relatively small effects are likely to influence vulnerability to addiction, gene x environment x development interactions appear to play significant roles in mediating outcomes, and there may be no simple correspondence between current phenotypes and the genotype(s). Therefore, a broad range of scientific approaches will be needed to elucidate the role and identity of genetic factors in drug abuse vulnerability.
    So I wrote a letter to the NIDA asking what I think is the critical question:
    It is pretty well established (at least anecdotally) that besides a genetic base, addiction requires an environmental trigger. It appears that that trigger is trauma that generates an intense emotional reaction.

    Here is one anecdote that I recieved today at my blog:

    I was a heavy user of hard drugs for a long time, and know many people in the situation. Having some sort of unpleasant past or fractured personality was an almost universal factor- long before most of these people ever started using drugs- physical detox fails because leaves underlying psychological factors intact (in many cases I don't think people can ever really be "cured" anyway). The war on drugs has made criminals people who are mostly either looking for relaxation/stress relief, or escaping some form of psychic torment. oh- Literally every female junkie I've met had either been raped or molested.

    Is Addiction Real?

    This fits in well with the work of Dr. Lonnie Schavelson who wrote a book on his findings.

    Social studies of actual users could put definitive numbers to these anecdotes.

    Are any such studies being done in conjunction with the genetic studies?

    In any case we know that the genetic factor is an important component. Why doesn't the NIDA trumpet this? Well it hardly helps the drug war to think of it as a scheme for genetic discrimination and persecuting the tormented.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:37 PM | Comments (2)

    Why I love the 18th Amendment

    No, really.

    I know that some readers (especially those who've read the 18th Amendment) might be startled by the title of this post, because I make no secret of my opposition to Prohibition, and let's face it, the 18th Amendment was all about Prohibition. Here's the text:

    Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

    Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    My reaction?

    I think the above is incredibly cool! So cool, in fact, that the more I think about it, the more I feel like starting the Eighteenth Amendment Society. Such a thing has been mentioned, but only as a sarcastic reference. Well I'm serious, damn it!

    Now why on earth would I say that? How could I, an avowed libertarian, admire any restriction on American freedom?

    Lest anyone imagine I've had a change of heart, I am as resolutely opposed to government prohibition of substances as ever. The reason I love the 18th Amendment is not because it prohibits alcohol, but because by its existence, it's the telltale amendment.

    Even though it's been repealed, the fact of its existence lets us in on a dirty secret:

    The Constitution once meant what it said.

    (You know, the old, outmoded stuff like "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.")

    At least, the Constitution still meant what it said on on January 16, 1919 -- the date the 18th Amendment was ratified.

    (Alas, I missed its glorious anniversary! I was so busy enjoying Martin Luther King's birthday the day before that I just plumb forgot.)


    Today, if the people who think they're running the United States according to the Constitution wanted to enact prohibition of alcohol, they wouldn't need no stinkin' amendment. They'd simply tack on the magic words -- "in or affecting interstate commerce."

    The manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes, in or affecting interstate commerce, is hereby prohibited.
    I find myself wondering how many of the shrinking minority of American students who still learn civics have ever read the 18th Amendment. How many citizens know that the Constitution was once considered important enough that in order to be disregarded, it had to be amended? That's the real message of the 18th Amendment.

    Or am I advocating "Originalism"?

    (I hate to sound cynical, but right now, the 18th Amendment looks very much like a "noble experiment" after all.)

    MORE: Ilya Somin has an interesting analysis of Originalism, and touches on the amendment process:

    To my mind, the biggest problem may be the fact that the US Constitution is so hard to amend through the formal amendment process that there is a real danger that we could be stuck with an original meaning that, although highly beneficial in its time, is dysfunctional today. A weaker objection is the fact that much of the Constitution was not ratified by as broad a supermajority as the McGinnis-Rappaport theory assumes. For example, as Bruce Ackerman has shown in a series of books, the crucial Reconstruction amendments were only ratified by the necessary three quarters of the states because several southern states were essentially coerced into ratifying by the federal government. For these and other reasons, I am not convinced that originalism should be the sole and exclusive method of constitutional interpretation. However, McGinnis and Rappaport's argument - along with similar ones by other scholars - does persuade me that there should at least be a strong presumption in favor of textualism and originalism that should be overridden only in very exceptional cases.
    The Telltale Eighteenth Amendment is, I think, a perfect example of how the process was meant to function. If enough people think there's a problem that the federal government lacks the power to solve, and the Constitution stands in the way, amend it.

    Maybe this should be called Amendmentism.

    posted by Eric at 11:51 AM

    Who's afraid of CAIR?

    I was delighted to see Nonie Darwish's "Now They Call Me Infidel" reviewed in the Philadelphia Inquirer! For a book like that to make it into the MSM at all is real progress. Unfortunately, your typical, in-a-hurry-to-get to-work Inky reader might miss the review, as it's on page D-5, but what the hell. At least it's there.

    Not often does a book review make me want to run out and buy the book, but this one did, because reading between the lines, I get the feeling that Ms. Darwish was lucky that her book even made it to the review stage. For starters, the book apparently comes accompanied by a battery of bigoted "blurbistas":

    I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book. It comes accompanied by a battery of blurbs by several right-wing luminaries, including recently (and involuntarily) retired Sen. Rick Santorum. Still, you can't always tell a book by its blurbistas, and Noni Darwish's Now They Call Me Infidel might, I say just might, indicate something astir in the Islamic world: women in rebellion.
    How this review made it past the CAIR censors, I do not know. Perhaps the Philly chapter is lazy. But before my very eyes appeared statements like these:
    "As a child," Noni Darwish writes, "I was not sure what a Jew was. I had never seen one. All I knew was that they were monsters. They wanted to kill Arab children, some said, to drink their blood."

    Today, some 50 years later, she writes articles and gives speeches against Arab terrorism. She has spoken to Hadassah. She is an American citizen, a Christian, and a Republican. She has visited Israel and is a passionate defender of its right to exist, and its democracy.

    What happened to explain this transformation of a Muslim girl, the daughter of a shahid, raised to fear and despise Jews?

    It might have had something to do with a natural against-the-grain mentality. Even as a child she could not accept "a culture that was willing to orphan its own children in its obsessive hatred of Jews."

    In 1964, at 16, she became a student at the American University in Cairo, where, she writes, she obtained a new perspective - a respect for knowledge and truth that she found lacking in Muslim society. She came to America in 1978 and married her Coptic Christian boyfriend, who converted to Islam, but the marriage foundered. She remarried an American.

    Darwish is unsparing in her condemnations of Islamic and Arab culture. She denounces the anti-Semitism propagated in schools, in mosques, in the Arab media and the persecution of Christians, especially Copts in Egypt. She tells of an Arab society infected by the inferior status of women, with polygamy still widespread. Marriages, she writes, are arranged between families; a girl can't even risk being seen with a boy she's not married to, lest her reputation be ruined.

    If, as some assert, Islam is a religion of peace, why, Darwish asks, is teaching hatred, violence and jihad tolerated in Muslim schools? Where is the outrage over terror against civilians? Where is the outrage, in the Arab street and media as well as among Arab Americans, over such barbaric acts as the beheading of Daniel Pearl and the murder of Margaret Hassan, the British woman who for 30 years labored to help Iraqi women?

    These are all good questions -- questions my Zoning Board not only failed to ask the local Saudi madrassa, but which neighbors concerned about their safety were specifically barred from asking.

    Understandably, the reviewer displays a little turf-protectiveness where it comes to what he calls Ms. Darwish's "outrage at Western media":

    The author's own outrage at Western media is somewhat overdone. Where does she get the idea that reports are "often intertwined with messages of blaming America first" and "smearing Americans who wanted to alert the American public to jihad in America by calling them bigots and alarmists." Examples, please. None provided.
    Must I?

    OK, I haven't read the book and I do not have it, so this is another one of my reviews of a review of a book I haven't read. I cannot state definitively whether any examples are provided in the book. To say that there are "none," though is a pretty broad charge. (Any readers who have actually read the book, feel free to chime in and enlighten me.)

    I figured that I could at least Google the author to see what's up. The name seemed familiar, but the paltry 496 hits which turned up just didn't seem right. Once I realized that the correct spelling of Ms. Darwish's first name is "Nonie" (as opposed to the reviewer's spelling of "Noni"), the number of hits skyrocketed to over 100,000, and it didn't take me long to discern Ms. Darwish has been providing examples herself -- for years. For years she has written that groups like CAIR go after people like Daniel Pipes (who is of course routinely called a bigot) and her by making angry charges which find sympathetic ears in a pliant media which considers CAIR to be "moderate."

    It appears that CAIR and these "moderate" Muslims are powerful enough to have given Ms. Darwish problems finding a forum. In November, she was effectively censored at Brown University:

    Muslim students had complained that Darwish was "too controversial." They insisted she be denied a platform at Brown, and after contentious debate Hillel agreed.

    Weird: No one had said boo about such Brown events as a patently anti-Israel "Palestinian Solidarity Week." But Hillel said her "offensive" statements about Islam "alarmed" the Muslim Student Association, and Hillel didn't want to upset its "beautiful relationship" with the Muslim community.

    Plus, Brown's women's center backed out of co-sponsoring the event, even though it shares Darwish's concerns about the treatment of women. Reportedly, part of the problem was that Darwish had no plans to condemn Israel for shooting Arab women used by terrorists as human shields, or for insufficiently protecting Israeli Arab wives from their husbands.

    In plugging their ears to Darwish, Brown's Muslim students proved her very point: Muslims who attempt constructive self-criticism are quickly and soundly squelched - by other Muslims.

    I don't know the details of the "beautiful relationship" with the "Muslim community" at Brown, but stifling dissenting voices has never struck me as one of the hallmarks of beauty. Or moderation.

    Ms. Darwish maintains that radical Muslim preachers know how to work the system, and excel at pretending to be moderate:

    Such preachers are often regarded as a joke and as extreme even by moderate Muslims in Egypt only to find themselves with new respectable status and freedoms they could only dream of under Muslim dictatorships. Such Muslim radical preachers should never have been allowed in America. But believe it or not they have discovered that only in America can they work the system to their advantage to demand this and that and if anyone criticizes them they learn the good old buzz words in America: racist, bigot and Islamophobia -- the choice words they learned quickly from some Muslim American organizations who claim to be moderate. These are expressions represent realities that are a way of life in the old country where racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism are the norm. In America these individuals are finally free to spread their hatred, rage and subversion and cause a rift between Muslims and the rest of America.
    There are worse things than being called a bigot, though. In an open letter to PBS, she says that fear of Saudi-funded mosques in the United States is what requires her to use a pseudonym:
    I now write articles critical of Islam and speak to many groups about the Middle East but have to use a pseudonym so I do not get killed by some of your Moslem friends in the US mosques you were interviewing! They have no shame to be complaining of discrimination after 9/11, thanks to Media outlets like you who gave them a voice. The US goes out of its way to protect them. What discrimination? Are you kidding? These mosques in the US are financed by Saudi money and have an agenda and they scare people like me who want to write and speak freely. Scared and oppressed former Moslems like me could be killed by these Moslem extremists in US mosques. There are many moderate Moslems and former Moslems like me who feel intimidated by some US Moslem extremists. Former Moslems have to be given a voice on why they escaped Islam. People like me and oppressed Christians and Jews in the Moslem World had no say on your show. That is very sad. I wish you had defended my right to choose or reject Islam without getting killed.

    Is Islam now the "in" thing to defend to sabotage America, or did Saudi money corrupt you?!

    Again, I haven't read the book the Inquirer reviews. But it certainly isn't hard to find examples of the "bigot" charge being used to smear "Americans who want[] to alert the American public to jihad in America." (Anyone heard of Charles Johnson?) Complaining about jihad in America is a great way to get tarred as a bigot, and I think it is why so many in the MSM are afraid of CAIR.

    Frankly, I can't blame them. Like most people, reporters want to be left alone to live their lives in peace and raise their families. Unlike bloggers (who, as O'Reilly famously complained, "work for no one" and cannot be fired) reporters depend on a steady paycheck.

    Being called a bigot is a dire career threat. Especially when the people leveling the charge are "moderates."

    So, my congratulations to the Inquirer for the review. Especially the conclusion:

    Now They Call Me Infidel is Darwish's personal story - provocative, repetitious, and not too well organized, Still, she asks some pertinent questions:

    "Why is the Muslim world threatened by Israel? Why are they obsessed with hating it? What is the Muslim world afraid of? Is it afraid of Israel, or is it that they are afraid of comparing themselves with it and seeing reality?"

    Thank God we haven't reached the stage when defending Israel is called bigotry.

    UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has more on CAIR's intimidation tactics, which now include filing complaints against Daniel Pipes (and assorted Jews they claim are engaged in "hate speech") with the Justice Department. (The complaint is here in pdf format.)

    MORE: The Virtuous Republic has more on the letter from the CAIR board member, along with an excellent analysis. (Thanks for linking this post too!)

    posted by Eric at 09:37 AM | Comments (1)

    avoid all things which might create appearances!

    As Larry Elder makes clear in a recent piece about "flipping the bird" sometimes, what can seem like racism or bigotry really isn't racism or bigotry at all:

    When driving to work a couple weeks ago, the convertible in front of me, with three young black men and a young black female driver, stopped for the red light at an intersection. But when the light changed to green, the convertible just sat there with the passengers yakking away. Not one of those who honks right away, I sat for a bit - from seven to 10 seconds - waiting for the driver to get going. Then I gently tapped my horn.

    The three passengers immediately flipped me the bird, with the two in the backseat glowering at me as we moved forward. The staring continued until we stopped at the next red light, with the driver this time - presumably intentionally - sitting at the green light for several seconds before moving. The same thing happened at the next red light.

    While I told this story to my brother, our pace slowed as we approached the bookstore. Soon, my brother and I stood still in an empty parking space as I finished my tale. "Was I a victim," I asked Kirk, "of being a black-man-driving-behind-a-convertible-full-of-black-people-who-flipped-me-off?"

    To make matters worse, when Elder reenacted the story and included the finger gesture, a nearby white stranger thought he was giving him the finger.

    Elder was black (which means race was not an issue with the convertible occupants) but I'm sure a lot of white guys in the same situation would have assumed that race must somehow have been involved.

    The Elder story reminded me of one of Coco's most annoying habits -- something which I fear makes me look like a white racist cracker. When I take her in the car, she barks at pedestrians. All pedestrians -- white, black, Asian, Latino. She hates fast movements, so she doesn't like the way they whiz by when she's in the car. What she just cannot grasp is that it's not the people who are whizzing by her car, it's her car that's whizzing by the people. Instead of thinking it over logically and applying simple laws of physics, she barks furiously with a sound best described as a "drive-by barking." Coco is not alone in this misperception; I have had many dogs do the same thing to me over the years. I do not take it personally, nor have I ever noticed the race of the dog-owners.

    But what always makes me cringe is when the "victim" of Coco's drive-by barkings happens to be black, because I'm afraid I'm going to get that look. It's a look that says, "there goes another cracker with a vicious dog trained to hate black people." I hate to read race into a look, because the look might just be grounded in fear of dogs (and Coco is a media-maligned "pit bull" after all) but I don't think it's completely my imagination because I just don't get quite the same look of dismay from white people. I almost feel like pulling over and explaining that I'm really not a cracker, that Coco does this to everyone, that not only does she not hate black people, but her veterinarian -- whom she allows to handle, poke, prod, and even inject her without a peep -- is black. I honestly don't think my dog is aware that humans have such a thing as races. But the pedestrians don't know that.

    I remember when I discovered that a well known leftist blogger was black. I had not known this, and I had ridiculed him without knowing. (As if a thing like that should matter -- but it sure as hell did!) Suddenly, I wondered whether my attack might be seen as "racist." Just the awareness of race has a way of changing things, and it should not. Yet, even the unawareness of the man's race was seen (by him) as evidence that the unaware were making the (racist) assumption that he was white!

    Without thinking, we are all conditioned to think this argument means that race matters. Yet it is not race that matters; it's that the awareness of race triggers a fear-based reaction -- the awareness of the possibility of an appearance of racism.

    The appearance of racism is what matters. Far more than race. Or racism.

    What worries me is that if people are forced to avoid the appearance of racism, they are going to avoid any and all situations which might put them in a position of ever having to deal with the possibility of the appearance of the appearance. If the only way to avoid the appearance of racism is to avoid people of other races, ultimately, this could lead to real racism.

    Maybe Coco's trying to teach me something in her crude way.

    Whatever lesson it is, it seems lost on her "victims."

    posted by Eric at 03:27 PM | Comments (3)

    Corruption of Blood

    Gates of Vienna has a post discussing Delegate Frank D. Harwood's recent remarks on Black slavery in America and the genocide of Jews in Europe. He quotes from a local paper:

    A Hanover County delegate's comments that Virginia's black residents should "get over" slavery and discussing whether Jews might "apologize for killing Christ" drew angry and emotional rebukes Tuesday on the floor of the House of Delegates.

    Del. Frank D. Hargrove, R-Glen Allen, responded to a tearful Jewish delegate from Alexandria whose ancestors came to America from Nazi-occupied Poland by telling him, "I think your skin was a little too thin."

    The Baron (of Gates of Vienna) comments:
    No wonder they gasped. Mr. Hargrove has dared to utter one of those sentiments which simply cannot be said. It just isn't done. I'd say that his political career is in jeopardy, but, since he's seventy-nine years old, that may not be of great concern to him.
    The Baron goes on at length to explain why folks need to "get over it". Then in the comments in response to a few commenters including myself, the Baron explains that his article on the subject was misunderstood.

    I replied to him:

    I would imagine that the Delegate doesn't understand.

    Just as Jews are never going to get over the Holocaust, Blacks are never going to get over slavery.

    I think what you really mean is that for a civil society to function you must not visit the sins of the fathers on the sons. No blood feuds.

    In fact I'm pretty sure that is what you meant. You will correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure.

    I think if you start out with "no blood feuds" as your premise your next essay on the subject will have more clarity.

    In fact that is what is wrong with a significant portion of the black community these days. They operate on a "corruption of blood" principle.

    The good Delegate would be wise to keep that in mind when he delivers his next lecture.

    Now that is not the only place we see this kind of problem. There is a Corruption of Blood attitude by many blacks towards the three Lacrosse players in Durham, NC.
    Since March 14, race and racism have played a consistent, and sometimes depressingly noticeable, role in this case. In the Wilmington Journal, Cash Michaels has frequently quoted from anonymous racist e-mails that he has received; on the Duke campus, Karla Holloway has claimed to have received similar e-mails. Anonymous e-mails of any type, it seems to me, should be criticized; racist emails are contemptible.

    That said, I've received dozens of anonymous, race-baiting e-mails since starting this blog; I don't consider those e-mails any more representative of the Group of 88's thinking than I would consider anonymous racist e-mails to reflect the mindset of the Group's critics.

    Beyond the one lacrosse player and these anonymous e-mails, however, evidence of anti-black racism as applied to this case has been difficult to discern.

    However if you study the case and the archives at Durham in Wonderland (see the sidebar) you will note that there is a lot of anti-white racism in evidence from a vocal segment of the Duke faculty. Despite the fact that a study of the same archives shows little white on black racism evident on campus.

    To come together in America I do believe that we must socially as well as in law not allow Corruption of Blood to influence our thinking. Every person must be treated as an individual. With out such treatment our individual liberties are in great danger.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:04 PM | Comments (1)

    Is socialized medicine worth dying for?

    It appears that one of the great pioneers of socialized medicine, Fidel Castro, may soon die as a result of what appears to be bad health care:

    U.S. doctors said Tuesday's report in El Pais suggested Castro had received questionable or even botched care.

    "It sounds like they tried to spare him the colostomy, which would have been the safer and more conservative approach," said Dr. Meyer Solny, a gastrointestinal expert at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

    Botched care? Under socialized medicine?

    Am I supposed to be surprised?

    One of Fidel's best known slogans was "Socialism or death!" and comedian Jack Benny's best known retort to a similar alternative was to say "I'm thinking it over!"

    How about Fidel? Is he thinking it over? I doubt it. While I'd think it would be a little embarrassing for him to admit they had to fly in a specialist all the way from Spain, to a true believer nothing is embarrassing.

    Not even dying from a preventable death.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post. Welcome all new readers.

    I appreciate the comments.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Damian Penny for linking this post.

    MORE: Via Allahpundit, I see that an earlier report from Reuters which was headlined "Castro surgery seems to have been botched: experts":

    MIAMI (Reuters) - Cuban leader Fidel Castro has long prided himself on Cuba's doctors and free public health care system, but that system seems to have let him down after he fell ill in July , U.S.-based doctors said on Tuesday.

    Based on a report in Tuesday's edition of Spain's El Pais newspaper, the doctors -- who have no first-hand knowledge of Castro's condition -- said Castro had received questionable or even botched care at the hands of health experts on his communist-ruled island.

    "It's not a good story. Too bad they didn't send him to Miami for surgery," said Dr. Charles Gerson, a clinical professor of medicine in the gastroenterology division of New York's Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

    Too bad they didn't send him to Miami?

    Castro? In Miami? Hello?

    Is it possible that Dr. Gerson is being sarcastic?

    posted by Eric at 01:50 PM | Comments (43)

    Real Armies of Davids with slingshots?

    An excavation in Syria appears to have dug up the real thing:

    CHICAGO (Jan. 16) - It was the ancient version of a last stand: Twelve clay bullets lined up and ready to be shot from slings in a desperate attempt to stop fierce invaders who soon would reduce much of the city to rubble.


    The site was anything but peaceful in approximately 3,500 B.C. The archaeologists have previously detailed how they believe Hamoukar's independence was ended by a battle that caused its buildings and walls to collapse and burn.


    ...along this basin, the researchers found neatly lined up along its edge 12 "sling bullets," oval-shaped weapons made of clay that were fired using slings. More than 1,000 of the bullets were found in debris of collapsed walls in 2005.

    Reichel theorizes someone who usually worked with the clay sealings was trying to contribute to the war effort and fashioned bullets from the clay instead.

    "You imagine the despair the people were in. They were using everything they could to throw back at the attacker," he said. "It looks like a desperate last attempt."

    Well, my blog is my slingshot.

    They can have it when they pry it from my cold dead hands...

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I might not be much of a war blogger, I do try to contribute to the war effort, and I urge readers to do likewise.

    posted by Eric at 10:53 AM

    Christian Zionism

    Israpundit has an excellent post up about Christian Zionism. It reports on a Christian's observations of a dinner gala at the Capital Washington Hilton honoring outgoing Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon and incoming Ambassador Meridoron that discussed Christian Zionism.

    The chatty crowd quieted as Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), spoke eloquently about the past and the present world climate of anti-Semitism. Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor serving in Congress, disclosed, "l assumed naively that the chapter [Holocaust] of human history would be a dark nightmare moment of the past but that is not the case." He continued, "We have a new dimension, a convergence of historic anti-Semitism coupled with Muslims and the intellectual elite. This makes for a powerful cocktail yet, we have a powerful antidote [for anti-Semitism]; the decent Christians who learned the lessons of the Holocaust. The antidote to Auschwitz is the Christian community in the United States. We cannot tell you how precious you are to us. We deeply love and respect you more than you'll ever know because you represent the finest of civilization."

    Rep. Lantos then said, "All Christians, please stand."

    Christians don't advocate for Israel to gain accolades, yet when we stood, the sustained applause from Jewish hands settled on me like a crown. It's safe to say that other Christians in the hall, who have advocated for Israel much longer than I, felt the weight of the crown even more profoundly. With a noticeable contingent of evangelicals, including ICEJ Executive Director Rev. Malcolm Hedding, Earl Cox, (founder- Israel Always) and Ben Kinchlow, Co-hosts of Front Page Jerusalem Radio, I reveled in this historic moment in time; a moment which culminated 25 years of work and relationship-building between evangelical Christians and the state of Israel, pioneered in part by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem who planted a small seed of Christian Zionism in 1980. (Most world embassies had vacated Jerusalem in protest when modern day Israel declared Jerusalem as her eternal Capital).

    Since then, Christian Zionism has grown exponentially with organizations and movements taking root all across the world. While the words "Christian Zionism" may represent new terminology, the foundations of the movement are even older than the Western Wall beginning with God's words in Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you..." Scripture is peppered with God's clarion call, which reminds non-Jews to stand with the "apple of His eye." The gala celebration represented a zenith in the mountain range of cooperation now rising between Jews and Evangelicals, significant among them on the Jewish side of things, the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus. I felt humbled to witness the outpouring of appreciation from Lantos and other Jewish attendees who recognize the strengthening trust and respect between the ancient faiths of Judaism and Christianity.

    Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) the new US House Majority Whip, and Roy Blunt (R-MO) stood on the platform, each recognizing their personal friendship and Israel, one of their common causes. Hoyer noted, "Our support of Israel honors our own heritage." Blunt, House Minority Whip, added, "I can always count on the US Congress to support Israel." Blunt also referenced a medieval Jewish poet who wrote, " My heart is in the East but I live in the West." The words echo my sentiments and those of the Christian Zionists I know.

    Other speakers on the podium included Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, television and church Pastor Paula White, and Gary Bauer, President of American Values. Bauer commented, "lsrael and the United States are joined at the heart. Our alliance is built on shared values not oil."

    Every country that has welcomed the Jews has prospered. Every country that has persecuted them has over time declined. It probably has more to do with the value of tolerance rather than just the Jews. As people have noted many times before - Jews are the canaries in the social coal mine.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:45 AM | Comments (2)

    Making anger ridiculous?

    "Not even Barack Obama can save us now."

    There's no way I could ignore an essay that starts out that way, so I read Stanley Kurtz's review of "A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Today (linked by Glenn Reynolds) with great relish.

    This is a familiar topic for me, as I try to use blogging as a method of anger avoidance (or at least not letting anger influence me unduly). Yet for many, blogging has become quite the opposite -- the medium of anger expression. Kurtz elaborates:

    Compelling as Wood's treatment of blogging is, it's even more fun to take some of Wood's general characterizations of New Anger and apply them specifically to blogging. For example: "[New Anger involves] deriding an opponent for the sheer pleasure of expressing contempt for other people....New Anger is a spectacle to be witnessed by an appreciative audience, not an attempt to win over the uncommitted....If in your anger you reduce your opponent to the status of someone unworthy or unable to engage in legitimate exchange, real politics come to an end....Whoever embraces [New Anger] is bound to find that, at least in the political realm, he has traded the possibility of real influence for the momentary satisfactions of self-expression." Although not about blogging per se, these comments all amount to dead-on characterizations of the downside of the blogosphere. Best of all is the longish passage Wood quotes from St. Ambrose, which could serve, I think, as a tiny manual on how to handle an angry blogger. In short, one way to read A Bee in the Mouth is to treat it as a kind of extended commentary on the weaknesses of the blogosphere.
    He is certainly right to identify anger as a key component. As he notes, both sides tend to confuse anger with good character:
    "For the first time in our political history, declaring absolute hatred for one's opponent has become a sign not of sad excess but of good character." That, Wood says, is why our political anger is now New Anger. For Wood (a conservative who's written for National Review Online) New Anger is a phenomenon of both Left and Right. Yet Wood eschews false symmetry, and one of the fascinations of A Bee in the Mouth is following Wood's attempt to make sense of New Anger's long, slow, and decidedly incomplete seepage from the Left to the Right side of the political spectrum.
    If I had to speculate about those who confuse anger with good character, I'd say that they're suffering from a need for that self-righteous moral indignation that was once doled out in Sunday religious sermons. There may be some kind of cultural void (an ecological niche, if you will) for that sort of thing. With religion gone, it's just a sort of uncontrolled force of nature. Professional demagogues love to get it stirred up -- anger is the bread and butter of activists of nearly every variety.

    I am by no means immune. Burned out and cynical though I may be, it doesn't take much to get me provoked. Any attempt to manipulate my emotions will tend to anger me, and often all I need to do is pick up the newspaper. There is no shortage of anger for me to get angry about.

    Anger makes me angry. It's meant to.

    I try to think of anger avoidance as a game, but I often fail. What ticks me off is activists who are seemingly dead to all reason and who crank out arguments the way lawyers in litigation crank out pleading papers. This leads the activists on the other "side" to crank out their stuff, and unfortunately it also leads otherwise reasonable people to conclude that these sides represent true choices.

    Of thought!

    The idea that thought should be dictated from above -- that we can't or shouldn't think for ourselves -- is an unending source of anger for me. And that elitist premise underlies almost every manipulative or misleading argument. I tend to take it personally, for it's as if the activists are trying to lead me. And then blogging becomes an exercise in remaining logical and not succumbing to anger.

    The real challenge is what to do with truly hopeless arguments. Gun control is a perfect example. To the people on one side urban shootings are an argument for taking away guns; to the other, they're an argument for providing guns to the law abiding. The best I can hope for is to try to avoid the ad hominem insulting approach, and I like to remind people that yes, I am biased ("I'm the NRA" even) but that I try to be a thoughtful, hopefully polite, human being.

    Barack Obama is someone with whom I couldn't disagree more on the gun issue, but he strikes me as someone who would be able to be civil about it, which is a welcome change in American politics. I hope it might even become a trend.

    The hardest thing for me is not succumbing to anger in the face of an "argument" which is actually an ad hominem insult masquerading as an argument. Thus, I tended to see Dinish D'Souza's recent book as an accusation directed against me -- that I was responsible for 9/11 because my "cultural leftist" views offended the Islamists.

    Presented with an argument like that, what's to argue? "No, sorry, but I do not believe I am responsible for 9/11" just has a hollow ring to it. These sorts of "arguments" invite recriminations, and when they have been published in book form and they're advertised for sale, there's little an ordinary person can do by way of debate. Blogging, by empowering the traditionally powerless, has changed things for the better.

    The goal for me is to keep it civil. How successful I am, I don't know. Sometimes I worry that even my attempts at gentle satire might be seen as less than civil. But what the hell. My inclination is to say, "Yes, Mr. D'Souza, I am responsible for 9/11." And I'd remind him that this goes onto the long list of crimes to which I have already confessed:

    I killed the kids at Columbine, and my collective guns regularly murder hundreds of children in Philadelphia. I have murdered millions of unborn babies. I tortured Iraqis at Abu Ghraib! I pulled the tube from Terri Schiavo! I also clubbed the baby seals, and probably helped Richard Speck murder all those nurses in Chicago in 1966.

    (Oh, yeah, I also owned and transported lots of slaves. Lots and lots of genocide was committed by the "we." I am therefore guilty as charged!*)

    The asterisk noted something I almost forgot -- that I'm also a "little Eichmann."

    When an argument strikes me as a ridiculous attack, it's very tough for me to see it as other than ridiculous. The result becomes ridicule. Whether this is a shortcoming, I do not know. Does it sink to the level of "reduc[ing] your opponent to the status of someone unworthy or unable to engage in legitimate exchange"?

    That depends on whether there is:

    a) an opponent; and

    b) whether there is any possibility of "legitimate exchange."

    Applying the traditional thinking with which I grew up, would be very foolish of me to imagine that Dinesh D'Souza or any other bestselling author I might criticize in a blog post is my "opponent." Blogging only creates the appearance that he is. As to "legitimate exchange," while it is possible, it would be foolish for me or any other blogger to expect such a thing. That's because I'm a David, and D'Souza, along with his publisher Doubleday, are Goliaths.

    Yet the undeniable fact is, blogging has made legitimate exchanges -- even with the most unlikely Goliaths -- a possibility. Which is why remaining logical and avoiding anger ought to be primary goals of any blogger.

    Not always an easy task, and while I'm not expecting to be "saved" by Barack Obama, I find his politeness refreshing.

    posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

    Don't unmarried women need a gun in every pot?

    I now see that Glenn Reynolds' New York Times Op-Ed "A Rifle in Every Pot" (which I first heard read over the air yesterday by G. Gordon Liddy) has now made it to the number two position in the New York Times. (Last night it was at Number Three.)

    Number Two position places it just behind "51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse," still at Number One.


    I understand that modern women don't need husbands, and I'm aware of that old feminist analogy, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

    But I think this is a guns 'n' butter issue for all women, especially unmarried women. If roughly half of all women need can be said to not need men as much as much as fish need bicycles, don't those in other half need a rifle in every pot?

    And why limit it to that half? From either a feminist or a non-feminist perspective, I think both halves need guns -- and much more than fish need bicycles!

    But what would it take to convince the activists who think married women are like fish on bicycles?

    MORE: If I hadn't read James Lileks' analysis of the 51 percent husbandless class, I'd have never known that it took a total of five reporters to write that one article:

    The real story reflects on the newspaper industry, and it comes after the story's conclusion.

    Ariel Sabar, Brenda Goodman and Maureen Balleza contributed reporting.

    It took four people to write and report that piece. Keep that in mind the next time you hear a tale about ruthless cutbacks in the newsroom.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who doubtless realizes he's been outgunned (or can I say that?) five to one.

    Hey wait a second. With five reporters, why didn't it occurr to one of them that single women might be interested in safety?

    posted by Eric at 08:38 AM | Comments (2)

    I Got A Link

    I got a link from The Muslim Brotherhood. I asked Michael Totten if this was a good or a bad thing. He replied:

    Considering which post they linked to, it is neither good nor bad.

    The MB tries to put on a moderate face. And they are moderate compared with, say, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hezbollah. But they are only really moderate compared with the armed factions. They aren't our friends.

    My response to him was
    Thanks for the reply. And you got it exactly right on the mark. Brilliant.

    What they linked to was:

    I Found A Moderate Muslim

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:46 PM

    The Entertainer's Revenge

    The way a loaf of bread is protected from theft is you put it in a store.

    If you put it on the street it is harder to keep opportunists from taking what they want.

    You know at one time recorded music was feared because it would put an end to live entertainment. Movies were feared because they were cheaper to put on than plays.

    Now we know live content is easier to protect than recorded content.

    Call it the live entertainer's revenge.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:31 PM

    Closing the last loopholes

    Think a man's home is his castle? Think again.

    Thanks to the relentless efforts of the anti-smoking bureaucracy, Americans are losing one of the last vestiges of privacy -- the right to smoke in their own homes:

    A year ago last month, the [Seattle] voter-approved Initiative 901 took effect. It prohibits smoking in work settings and public places -- from offices to bowling alleys -- and within 25 feet of their front doors, or a "reasonable" distance, to keep smoke from wafting indoors.

    Compliance has gone well, according to the health department. The first month, the department received 168 complaints and found 16 violations. A year later, the numbers were down last month to 18 complaints, with the department finding just one violation.

    "When you think of the thousands of businesses in King County, everyone did what they were supposed to do," Valdez said. "What we've heard now is about people smoking in condos and apartment units."

    While the state ban prohibits smoking in the common areas of private apartment buildings, such as hallways, community rooms and libraries, residents may smoke inside their units unless the landlord prohibits it.

    But smoke from one unit can seep through ventilation shafts and doorways into other units, and the ban has emboldened some nonsmoking tenants to complain about that to their landlords.

    "Some landlords are dealing with the issue by banning smoking entirely in their buildings to avoid being stuck in the middle," said Seattle attorney Chris Benis, who advises landlords for the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound.

    As of yet there's no legislation to prohibit smoking inside one's home. But the foot in the door seems to be public housing:
    Perhaps nowhere is the issue more controversial than in public housing, where many residents -- smokers and nonsmokers alike -- have few housing options.

    "You have some people who say, 'My apartment is my castle. I should be able to smoke whenever I want,' and other people say, 'Yeah, but your smoke is helping to kill me,' " said Terry McLlarky, a resident of Casa Juanita apartments in Kirkland, which is operated by the King County Housing Authority.

    McLlarky, who smoked for 40 years before quitting in 2002, is serving on a residents committee that advises the authority on their concerns. Even before the smoking ban went into effect, smoking was not allowed in the common areas of public housing.

    Smoking indoors is of course being seen as a public safety issue:
    Indoor smoking comes with a higher risk of fires, litter and increased maintenance costs when smokers move out, authority spokeswoman Rhonda Rosenberg said.
    No doubt insurance companies will weigh in (if they haven't already) with statistics showing smokers are more likely to start fires. As if that's a risk of tobacco. (Might as well say that electrical appliances start fires. Of course, we all know that guns cause shootings.)

    And then there are the inevitable lawsuits which will be filed against landlords by non-smoking tenants (supported by anti-smoking groups). I'm glad I'm not a landlord -- especially in Berkeley, where you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Writes a Berkeley landlord in an email:

    Second hand cigarette smoke has been classified as a Class A carcinogen, so tenants can sue their landlords for "exposing" them to the tobacco smoke drifting in their doors and windows from other apartments in the building. But what can a Berkeley landlord do about that? The Berkeley eviction control law says that there are "9 just causes" for an eviction, and smoking in your own apartment isn't one of them. Smokers know this, and they know that a threat from the landlord to evict them unless they stop smoking or to at least close their doors and windows is unenforceable. So what is a landlord supposed to do? He can be sued by his non-smoking tenants unless he gets rid of the smoking tenants, but he can't get rid of them because of eviction controls. I think your readers might like to ponder this problem!
    Pondering the problem will not make it go away, though.

    Smoking is becoming an endangered, soon-to-be-extinguished freedom. And not just for tenants. Parents can in theory be sued by their children for exposing them to smoke, and I can easily imagine laws in the near future prohibiting parents from smoking in homes with children.

    At some point (and I am not sure when) we will be looking at genuine prohibition, or something very close to it.

    When I was kid, even non-smoking homes had cigarettes for the guests. Airlines handed out free cigarettes to passengers (and little boxes of candy cigarettes for kids).

    I don't know how I ever survived.

    But remember: no matter how bad it gets, there's still a right to keep and bear cigarettes.

    (If you're fed up with anti-smoking activists, that last link details other ways to annoy them short of actually smoking.)

    MORE: I haphazardly designed a cigarette freedom lover's package appropriate for waving in bureaucrats' faces.

    Here you go:


    But will it sell?

    Would it be legal to market it as a charity brand?

    posted by Eric at 03:50 PM | Comments (2)

    Bloggers overheard on the radio

    Earlier on today's G. Gordon Liddy Show, I heard Pajamas Media president Roger L. Simon (who Liddy noted is a member of Motion Picture Academy) discuss his view that "An Inconvenient Truth" has a lock on an Oscar.

    "I don't want to hear from politicians; I want to hear from scientists," said Roger, who thinks the film ought to be titled "Al Saves the World." (I agree, of course, and I was delighted to hear the interview))

    Today was a big day for bloggers on the Liddy Show, for later Liddy read (with great praise) today's New York Times editorial by Glenn Reynolds on why municipal laws encouraging gun ownership are a good idea:

    ....criminals are likely to suspect that towns with laws like these on the books will be unsympathetic to malefactors in general, and to conclude that they will do better elsewhere.

    To the extent that's true, we're likely to see other communities adopting similar laws so that criminals won't see them as attractive alternatives. The result may be a different kind of "gun control."

    That's a form of gun control I can live with too!

    My congratulations to Roger and Glenn!

    posted by Eric at 12:39 PM

    The ostensible lame duck's real lame duck that wouldn't duck!

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's political analyst Dick Polman, Bush is only the ostensible president.

    The real president? Dick Cheney, of course.

    And this arrogant pretender to the throne refuses to acknowledge that he lost the election:

    He actually performed a valuable public service, by reminding all Americans that he is still the power behind the throne, and that he and the members of his neoconservative network are still determined to use that power as they see fit, even though the '06 voters signaled otherwise.

    The neoconservatives who originally sold George W. Bush on the alleged virtues of a regime change in Iraq have been somewhat diminished by the misadventures of the past four years, but many are still ensconced in Cheney's office, and they hold a number of key positions on the National Security Council. They are also influential at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, which helped develop the troop escalation plan.

    What? You mean, after a congressional election, the executive branch has not uprooted and eliminated every last NeoCon?

    Whatever can be going on? Apparently, these crackpots are so stubborn that they still imagine they have some say-so in setting policy:

    Their determination to proceed has not been shaken by the adverse public mood, nor by the inconvenient truths of empirical reality - as evidenced by Cheney's defiant comments on Fox, notably this one: "I think if you look at what's transpired in Iraq, we have, in fact, made enormous progress."

    If Democrats and restive Republicans on Capitol Hill truly want to gauge the seriousness of the impending battle over Iraq policy, they might be well advised to study the Cheney transcript. It was patently obvious that he is the engine that powers the Bush vehicle.

    OK, fair enough. I read the transcript with a careful eye -- hunting for any hints that Cheney believes he is in fact in charge, and that Bush is President In Name Only. But aside from using the word "we" (in response to questions from Wallace like " why did you and the president decide to overrule the commanders?"), it's pretty clear that Cheney understands that Bush is still the president:
    WALLACE: [I]f they [the Congress] want to stop it, can they?

    CHENEY: The president is the commander in chief. He's the one who has to make these tough decisions. He's the guy who's got to decide how to use the force and where to deploy the force.

    And the Congress, obviously, has to support the effort through the power of the purse. So they've got a role to play, and we certainly recognize that.

    But you also -- you cannot run a war by committee, you know. The Constitution is very clear that the president is, in fact, under Article 2, the commander in chief.

    If Cheney wanted to indicate he was really the one in charge, I'd say he missed an opportunity to say so right there. And later, when he defends the president's position, he completely misses another opportunity to so much as hint that the president was taking marching orders from him:
    The most dangerous blunder here would be if, in fact, we took all of that effort that's gone in to fighting the global war on terror and the great work that we have done in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and across the globe out there and saw it dissipated because the United States now decides that Iraq is too tough and we're going to pack it in and go home. And we leave high and dry those millions of people in their part of the world that have signed on in support of the U.S. or supported governments that are allied with the U.S. in this global conflict.

    This is an existential conflict. It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years.

    We have to prevail, and we have to have the stomach for the fight, long term. And for us to do what Chuck Hagel, for example, suggests or to buy into that kind of analysis -- it's not really analysis; it's just criticism -- strikes me as absolutely the wrong thing to do.

    These are tough decisions, but the president's made it. It's a good decision. It's a good policy. We think, on reflection, it's the best way for us to move forward to achieve our objectives...

    In response to a direct question from Wallace asking whether he, Cheney, had ignored the "will of the American people," Cheney missed another opportunity to say he was in charge. Instead (unless I am missing something) he went out of his way to restate that it was the president's decision:
    WALLACE: [...] By taking the policy you have, haven't you, Mr. Vice President, ignored the express will of the American people in the November election?

    CHENEY: Well, Chris, this president, and I don't think any president worth his salt, can afford to make decisions of this magnitude according to the polls. The polls change day by day...

    WALLACE: Well, this was an election, sir.

    CHENEY: Polls change day by day, week by week. I think the vast majority of Americans want the right outcome in Iraq. The challenge for us is to be able to provide that. But you cannot simply stick your finger up in the wind and say, "Gee, public opinion's against; we'd better quit."

    That is part and parcel of the underlying fundamental strategy that our adversaries believe afflicts the United States. They are convinced that the current debate in the Congress, that the election campaign last fall, all of that, is evidence that they're right when they say the United States doesn't have the stomach for the fight in this long war against terror.

    They believe it. They look at past evidence of it: in Lebanon in '83 and Somalia in '93, Vietnam before that. They're convinced that the United States will, in fact, pack it in and go home if they just kill enough of us. They can't beat us in a stand-up fight, but they think they can break our will.

    And if we have a president who looks at the polls and sees the polls are going south and concludes, "Oh, my goodness, we have to quit," all it will do is validate the Al Qaeda view of the world.

    It's exactly the wrong thing to do. This president does not make policy based on public opinion polls; he should not. It's absolutely essential here that we get it right.

    While it's quite apparent that Cheney agrees with the president, I just don't see any indication that he's the one who came up with this refusal-to-be-directed-by-public opinion idea. Whether you like Bush or not, he just isn't a finger-to-the-wind kind of guy. Cheney's acknowledgement of that is nothing new, and if anything, I think it rebuts the claim that Bush is a puppet with Cheney McHalliburton pulling the strings.

    Reading on (believe me, this got tedious) Cheney blows yet another opportunity to say he's in charge -- despite ample prompting from Wallace to do so. Asked directly what message "he" was sending and how tough "he" would get with Iran, he again deferred -- saying the president was the one sending messages:

    WALLACE: So what message are you sending to Iran, and how tough are you prepared to get?

    CHENEY: I think the message that the president sent clearly is that we do not want them doing what they can to try to destabilize the situation inside Iraq. We think it's very important that they keep their folks at home.

    They've been important, for example, in providing improvised explosive devices to some of the forces inside Iraq.

    The presence of U.S. military out there, not only in terms of what we're doing in Iraq but also with our carrier task forces, for example, is indicated as reassurance to our friends in the region that the United States is committed to their security and that we're a major presence there now and we expect to continue to be one in the future.

    Nonetheless, Polman read the same transcript and saw clear, even overwhelming, evidence that Cheney is in charge and that Bush is only an "ostensible" president:
    Cheney's offhand dismissal of elections in general - equating them with fluctuating public opinion polls - is another matter entirely. His comments should serve as fair warning to administration critics that he and his ostensible superior in the White House will never feel compelled to change course in Iraq just because the will of the people wishes it so.
    I suspect that Cheney has drawn Polman's wrath because he's sounding too articulate. (And therefore, he must secretly be in charge). But on the other hand, had Cheney answered every question with "I don't know. You'll have to ask the president," he'd probably be have ridiculed with jokes about how our "lame duck" president is deliberately avoiding him.

    And according to Polman, Bush is not just any old lame duck; he's a "failed lame duck" as well as the "lame-duck liberator of Iraq."

    But I'm still curious; if Cheney's in charge, wouldn't that make Bush only an ostensible lame duck?

    How are we to distinguish real from ostensible lame ducks, anyway?

    It's very confusing.

    posted by Eric at 10:03 AM | Comments (3)

    Economics In A Free World

    Air is Free

    How do you get people to pay for air?

    1. Sell them an air purifier
    2. Sell them an air freshener
    3. Sell them oxygen in a bottle
    4. Sell them an air conditioner


    The cost of air is zero.

    What is its value?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:39 AM | Comments (3)

    No Word For Liberty

    America since its founding has had an interest in the Middle East says Michael Oren:

    The stalled U.S. mission in Iraq has prompted calls for a return to "realism" in American foreign policy. Instead of striving for freedom and national cohesion in the Middle East, realists argue that the U.S. should negotiate with Syria and Iran and abandon the dream of remaking the region on a democratic, federated model. Realists claim that replacing a faith-based policy with an agenda based solely on economic and strategic interests will return the United States to its traditional posture in the Middle East.

    In fact, long before the rise of radical Islam and even the discovery of oil, Americans worked to bring liberty and human rights to the Middle East. For well over 200 years, U.S. citizens have sought to endow Middle Eastern peoples with the same inalienable liberties Americans enjoy at home.

    The absence of basic freedoms in the Middle East was well known to the founding fathers. In contrast to the young republic, observed John Adams, the ancient dynasties of the Middle East were rife with "avarice and fear," ruled by despots who treated their subjects like "so many caterpillars upon an apple tree." Thomas Jefferson believed the U.S. could never rely on a peace treaty with any Middle Eastern state, whose word was only as good as the life of its ruler. The prevalence of tyranny in the region was noted by Jefferson's friend, John Ledyard, who in 1788 became the first American to explore the Middle East. "It is singular," he wrote, "the Arab language has no word for 'liberty.' "

    Islam is probably in part a codification of that attitude. Liberty would imply a place for cause and effect. Instead for a long time its path was determined by the idea of Insha'Allah - if God wills it.

    Such a concept explains why science has never taken off in the Middle East. It explains why there is still so little science in the Middle east.

    The more sordid the Islamic present seems, the more we are told of the glories of the Islamic past. And the most glorious of the glories of Islam, the most enlightened of its enlightenments, are the "Islamic science" and "Islamic philosophy" of the Golden Age.

    So what does Islamic law say about this science and this philosophy? According to Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 1368), they are unlawful, serious affronts to Islam, a form of apostasy. Apologists for Islam in the West brag about the "Islamic science" and "Islamic philosophy" that their accomplices in the Islamic world condemn.

    The kinds of unlawful knowledge include philosophy and the sciences of the materialists. Why are they unlawful? Because anything that is a means to create doubts is unlawful. This was the position of the Catholic Church for a long time.

    The Jews of course have had no problem with doubts. Their answer was always debate and reason. Put so well by a very modern Jewish scholar Milton Friedman "You cannot be sure you are right unless you understand the arguments against your views better than your opponents do." Jews as part of their religious training are taught to take any side of any question and argue it to the best of their ability. Which may explain why there are so many Jewish lawyers.

    The term "sciences of the materialists" requires explanation. It does not mean, as one might think, science that is based on the assumption that matter (and energy) is the sole constituent of the universe. Jews and Christians might agree that such "sciences of the materialists," if not "unlawful," at least present a truncated view of reality, omitting as they do the spiritual realm. It means, rather, according to the commentary of Reliance of the Traveller, the "conviction of materialists that things in themselves or by their own nature have a causal influence independent of the will of Allah. To believe this is unbelief that puts one beyond the pale of Islam."

    At issue here is not the existence of the spiritual realm, but the condemnation by al-Ghazali in The Incoherence of the Philosophers of "the judgment of the philosophers," first of all Avicenna,

    "that the connection that is observed to exist between causes and effects is a necessary relation, and that there is no capability or possibility of bringing the cause into existence without the effect, nor the effect without the cause."
    Causes and effects are inadmissible, according to al-Ghazali, because causes limit the absolute freedom of Allah to bring about whatever events he wills. Effects are brought about, not by causes, but by the direct will of Allah.

    We see then that the condemnation of "the sciences of the materialists" and the condemnation of philosophy are really the same condemnation and that the condemnation of "the sciences of the materialists" is a condemnation of far more than secular science, extending as it does to any analysis of causes and effects, whether materialist or not. It extends even to any discussion of the nature of any object, whether material or spiritual, because the nature of an object conditions how it affects and is affected by other objects. So in the end the condemnation of "the sciences of the materialists" is a condemnation of any effort to understand anything.

    I wonder how the modern Islamic scholars such as these folks explain the existance of cell phones? They must have some kind of pretzel logic to come to grips with that. No doubt Occam's Razor is an unknown concept. Since Occam was a Franciscan friar such a concept would have to be banned if its origin was known.
    Averroes replied to The Incoherence of the Philosophers in The Incoherence of the Incoherence, so al-Ghazali, whose views inform Reliance of the Traveller in particular and mainstream Islam in general, attacked Avicenna, one of the two greatest of the "Islamic philosophers," who was defended by the other, Averroes.

    And we are told by the entire decrepit establishment that we should honor the "Islamic philosophy" of the Golden Age!

    There is, however, a still closer connection between the philosophy and "the sciences of the materialists" declared unlawful by Reliance of the Traveller. Without a notion of cause and effect, science is impossible, and the acceptance by Islam of al-Ghazali's views meant that science in the Islamic world could develop only in opposition to a fundamental tenet of Islam.

    If the true cause of events is the will of Allah, and if the will of Allah is inscrutable, then the causes of events are inscrutable and science a vain pursuit. The issue is ultimately whether the universe and its creator are in any way intelligible. The West, with its traditions of natural law and natural theology, agrees for the most part that the universe is astonishingly intelligible and God somewhat so. Islam, at least at its most rigorous, denies any intelligibility whatsoever to either.

    The seriousness of the condemnation of philosophy and science by Reliance of the Traveller can be seen in its list of "Acts That Entail Leaving Islam." Belief "that things in themselves or by their own nature have any causal influence independent of the will of Allah" is apostasy.

    In contrast, the Jewish and Christian worlds have been informed by the notion of secondary causes propounded by Moses Maimonides and Saint Thomas Aquinas. God works, at least most of the time, through the laws of nature, via causes. Just as our wills can be both free and subject to God, and divine foreknowledge does not foreclose the contingency of earthly events, God and nature cooperate in the production of effects.

    So what does modern Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan have to say about Islam and science?
    In the run-up to Pope Benedict's current visit to Turkey, TIME Magazine opened its pages to Tariq Ramadan, Europe's favorite Islamist and perhaps the most influential Muslim figure in the West today. Ramadan chided the Pope and Europe for ignoring the positive contributions of Islam to the development of rational thought in the West.

    Writing in response to Benedict's now-famous Regensburg speech (which prompted outrage in the Muslim world) and the Pope's first visit to a predominantly Muslim country, Ramadan's article, "And He's Still in the Dark", offers a back-handed compliment to Benedict's attempt at dialogue with Muslims, warning that the Pope's efforts actually threatens the West, and directs Muslims in the West to their point of apologetic attack:

    As I have written before, this profoundly European Pope is inviting the people of his continent to become aware of the central, inescapable character of Christianity within their identity, or risk losing it. That may be a legitimate goal, but Benedict's narrow definition of European identity is deeply troubling and potentially dangerous. This is what Muslims must respond to: the tendency of Westerners to ignore the critical role that Muslims played in the development of Western thought. Those who "forget" the decisive contributions of rationalist Muslim thinkers like al-Farabi (10th century), Avicenna (11th century), Averroes (12th century), al-Ghazali (12th century), Ash-Shatibi (13th century) and Ibn Khaldun (14th century) are reconstructing a Europe that is not only an illusion but also self-deceptive about its past.
    But in fact, it is Ramadan who is operating under an illusion and is self-deceived about Islam's supposed prominent role in shaping the rationalist tradition of Christendom. As an article ("The Pope and the Prophet") by Robert Reilly in the current issue of Crisis Magazine ably notes, Western Christianity's rational tradition developed in the Medieval era precisely as a result of the outright rejection of the irrationalism inherent in Islamic philosophy, not the embracing of it.
    So when did Islam go wrong? It went wrong almost from the beginning.
    Any hope of the development of a rational tradition within Islam was dashed with the rise of Caliph Ja'afar al-Mutawakkil (847-861). Prior to al-Mutawakkil's rule, a rationalist philosophy had begun to develop under the Mu'tazilite school of interpretation, which advocated for a created, as opposed to an uncreated, Quran. But Caliph al-Mutawakkil condemned the Mu'tazilite school, which opened the door for the rival Ash'arite interpretation, founded by al-Ash'ari (d. 935), to eventually take preeminence within Sunni Islam - a position of dominance it has retained over the centuries. By 1200 A.D., any hope of recovering a semblance of rational Islamic philosophy was seemingly forever lost.

    It was the work of the very Islamic philosophers that Ramadan cites that prompted Europe Christian thinkers to make a break with their Muslim counterparts. Historically, the views of the Ash'arite school were rooted in the theological dogma of "volunteerism", which holds that rather than created objects having inherent existence, Allah constantly recreates each atom anew at every moment according to his arbitrary will. This, of course, undermines the basis for what Westerners understand as natural laws.

    From volunteerism sprung another irrational idea amongst Muslim thinkers - occasionalism - that further prevented the development of rationalism within the Islamic tradition. Occasionalism is the belief that in the natural world, what is perceived as cause and effect between objects is mere appearance, not reality. Instead, only Allah truly acts with real effect; all seemingly natural observances of causation are merely manifestations of Allah's habits, for Allah simultaneously creates both the cause and the effect according to his arbitrary will. This view is best expressed by one of the Islamic philosophers cited by Ramadan, al-Ghazali (1059-1111), in his book, The Incoherence of the Philosophers.

    So that takes us back to the beginning of this piece.

    This has had a very profound effect on the idea of personal responsibility. It would seem that Islam embraces it in some respects (say laws against theft and murder) and denies it in others.

    Using al-Ghazali's own analogy of decapitation, according to the occasionalist view, when a sword struck off a person's head causing death, it only merely appeared that the sword was the cause of the decapitation: the real and primary cause of the decapitation and the death was the will of Allah, not the sword. The sword, in fact, played no part at all. Had Allah willed it so, the sword could have cut through the neck without decapitation or death. To believe otherwise, Islamic occasionalism held, would be a limitation of the omnipotence of Allah. As with volunteerism, the consequences of occasionalism had catastrophic effects for the development of empirical science in the Islamic world.

    Occasionalism was rigorously opposed by the two great philosophers of Medieval Europe, Albert Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, along with the great medieval Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), who lived and wrote in Muslim-occupied Spain. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) also addressed the threat posed by Islamic occasionalism by affirming the ancient Christian truth that God created the universe ex nihilo (from nothing). This prevented the volunteerist view from gaining ground in the West, and thus occasionalism, merely by stating that God had actually created, and that objects in the natural world created by God have an actual inherent existence and do not need to be constantly recreated.

    Other problems developed within Islamic philosophy which prevented the rise of rationalism. Perhaps the most notable following volunteerism and occasionalism is the "dual-truth" theory advanced by Averroes, who with Avicenna is considered one of the two most important Islamic philosophers in history.

    In an attempt to navigate between faith and rationality, Averroes argued that what may be true in the realm of religion may be contrary to what is true in nature. Thus, the Quranic maxim, "there is no compulsion in religion," (Sura 2:256) can be entirely true from a religious sense; but in the real world and in the course of jihad, compulsion may not only be required, but entirely justifiable. The dual-truth theory was vigorously rejected by Aquinas, and eventually both Roman Catholic, and later, Protestant theology acknowledged both the authoritative nature and the necessary agreement between special revelation (Scripture) and general revelation (nature).

    Aquinas also refuted Averroes on his denial of the personal element to the human soul in the classic treatise, De Unitate Intellectus Contra Averroistas. The implication of Averroes' belief was an ultimate denial of the individual and the rejection of personal immortality - an inseparable component to historic Christian theology.

    So in our effort to reform the Middle East and to bring democratic ideals to them we are going to have to start at the very foundation. Insha'Allah will have to be replaced with cause and effect.

    That is going to be a tough one.

    H/T Kesher Talk and reader linearthinker

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:42 PM | Comments (4)

    My leetle fren' has more fun than Hugo and Mahmoud!

    "Say 'ello to my leetle fren'"

    I would have loved to have made that the title for this post, except I saw it in Pajamas Media and didn't want to plagiarize Fausta, nor do I want to imply any moral equivalency between Coco's normal and wholesome love life and the disgusting displays of affection between Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    But maybe I'm wrong in using the word "disgusting." Perhaps I shouldn't be so judgmental. Aren't displays of affection, after all, matters of personal taste?

    Let's take this as an example:


    If they love each other, why shouldn't that be cool with me? I mean, sure, I'm not turned on, but just because that picture does not turn me on does not mean it isn't someone else's thing. Hugo has just as much right to his little "fren'" as Coco does to hers:


    So maybe it is all relative after all.

    Anyway, Coco and her little fren' were getting very frenly this morning:


    Despite his having been "fixed," Tristan is ever the suitor (to the point that he's been accused previously of behaving immorally), and while there's at least as much discrepancy in size between the two of them as there is between Hugo and Mahmoud, since when has size been a bar to a climate of mutual understanding?


    Personally, I think Coco is cuter than Hugo Chavez, but then, I'm biased. (I also think Tristan is cuter than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, let's face it, would never take first prize in the Shih Tzu show ring.)

    While I hate to read politics into these things, Coco was the consummate diplomat today, as she was dealing with a dog who couldn't possible engage in the sort of rambunctious roughhousing she engaged in yesterday with another suitor.


    I'd never tell Tristan, as I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings, but because I don't think he reads this blog, I think I can safely share the full story of Coco's two-timing extravaganza with the readers. Last September, Coco befriended a huge puppy named "Trey," who kept growing, and whose owners kept in touch with me.

    This was how Trey looked in September when I photographed him and Coco dancing cheek to cheek:


    But contrast that with yesterday, when Coco was paid a visit from Trey, now grown into a huge young stud:


    Once it became clear to Coco that Trey had the size advantage, there was no need for diplomatic niceties.





    The above might look violent, but both dogs were having the time of their lives, and there were lots of fun and games, like tug-of-war with an infuriating yellow smiley toy:


    (Could Hugo and Mahmoud have had as much fun playing tug-of-war with, say, an effigy of Bush? I seriously doubt it.)

    Coco and Trey ran so fast I had to use the camera's athletic event setting to catch them:


    Finally, they shared a drink together:


    But Coco turned out to be the more hyperactive of the pair and eventually, Trey was worn out by his crazy leetle fren'!


    I know I'm just engaged in speculation, but I sincerely doubt that Hugo and Mahmoud had that much fun together.

    But I want to be fair. So if anyone can show me a picture of Hugo lying in the mud like that with Mahmoud standing over him, I will immediately issue a retraction.

    (And an apology.)

    MORE: Any filthy minded readers who think the picture of Hugo and Mahmoud is a graphic depiction of GAY PORN, please think again! This is a clean blog! We do not tolerate GAY PORN here. The dogs pictured above are not having sex, so there is no sex with animals! Since the dog pictures above aren't even straight porn, how could there be GAY PORN?

    You Google visitors who want GAY PORN or other hot action, you've come to the wrong place. We do not traffic in the stuff here.

    Anyone who is irritated at me for failing to provide graphic pictures of GAY PORN, I suggest taking it up with Hugo and Mahmoud!

    (Clean idea courtesy of M. Simon.)

    UPDATE (01/16/07): It's probably worth reminding readers that this post could earn me prison time in Venezuela:

    Ten days ago Chavez handed Izarra a still-bigger stick: a new penal code that criminalizes virtually any expression to which the government objects -- not only in public but also in private.

    Start with Article 147: "Anyone who offends with his words or in writing or in any other way disrespects the President of the Republic or whomever is fulfilling his duties will be punished with prison of 6 to 30 months if the offense is serious and half of that if it is light." That sanction, the code implies, applies to those who "disrespect" the president or his functionaries in private; "the term will be increased by a third if the offense is made publicly."

    There's more: Article 444 says that comments that "expose another person to contempt or public hatred" can bring a prison sentence of one to three years; Article 297a says that someone who "causes public panic or anxiety" with inaccurate reports can receive five years. Prosecutors are authorized to track down allegedly criminal inaccuracies not only in newspapers and electronic media, but also in e-mail and telephone communications.

    The new code reserves the toughest sanctions for journalists or others who receive foreign funding, such as the election monitoring group Sumate, which has been funded in part by the National Endowment for Democracy. Venezuelans or foreigners living in the country can be punished with a 10- to 15-year sentence for receiving foreign support that "can prejudice the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela . . . or destabilize the social order," whatever that means. Persons accused of conspiring against the government with a foreign country can get 20 to 30 years in prison. The new code specifies that anyone charged with these crimes will not be entitled to legal due process. (Via

    No legal process? Gee. Maybe I should cancel my travel plans to Caracas.

    posted by Eric at 03:45 PM | Comments (7)

    I Found A Moderate Muslim

    Yep they really exsist. No foolin'. Here is Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D.'s view on what a moderate Muslim's attitude to the West should be:

    Both Muslims and the media are generally on the mark when they identify moderate Muslims as reflective, self-critical, pro-democracy and human-rights and closet secularists. But who are they different from and how?

    I believe that moderate Muslims are different from militant Muslims even though both of them advocate the establishment of societies whose organizing principle is Islam. The difference between moderate and militant Muslims is in their methodological orientation and in the primordial normative preferences which shape their interpretation of Islam.

    For moderate Muslims Ijtihad is the preferred method of choice for social and political change and military Jihad the last option. For militant Muslims, military Jihad is the first option and Ijtihad is not an option at all.

    Ijtihad narrowly understood is a juristic tool that allows independent reasoning to articulate Islamic law on issues where textual sources are silent. The unstated assumption being when texts have spoken reason must be silent. But increasingly moderate Muslim intellectuals see Ijtihad as the spirit of Islamic thought that is necessary for the vitality of Islamic ideas and Islamic civilization. Without Ijtihad, Islamic thought and Islamic civilization fall into decay.

    So for instance if the Koran or Hadiths say kill the Jews, then that is not open to interpretation. Swell.

    If any of the authorative sources say that a dhimmitude is required of people of "the Book" well then second class citizenship it is. If the authorative sources say pagans must be put to death if they do not convert then no argument against it is to be brooked. If authorative sources say that apostates must be put to death, then appropriate laws must be enacted to make this so. If alcohol is forbidden by authoritive sources or contact with dogs is not allowed then that is it. As soon as possible laws forbidding dogs or alcohol must be passed.

    In fact that philosophy sounds a lot like Democratic Socialism. State control of the economy is to be obtained by democratic means instead of violent revolution. Lovely.

    I guess then, the difference between moderate Muslims and the jihadis is means not ends. In fact if the ends can not be reached in any democratic way then the moderates can join the jihadis to obtain the desired end state.

    Some moderation.

    I have been in private discussion with some moderate Muslims. When I ask them for sources on their views or to delineate the differences between themselves and the jihadis their response is to clam up or to say trust us. Kind of makes a feller suspicious.

    Jen Shroder has this take on Muslim moderation.

    America is embracing a religion that is said to promote peace as many moderate Muslims happily practice it. But as Yale professor and military historian Mary Habeck points out, this "peace" is only the first phase of Islam. The "method of Muhammad" largely known by Middle East Islamists is to spread Islam peacefully at first but always including covert groups of "true followers" who will use violence against those who will not accept it. This method is verified in Islam's holy book, the Sira, and the pattern has been repeated throughout history.

    When scholars point at the Koran and the terrorist verses recited over acts of violence and beheadings, Muslims claim those verses are out of context. But they are only out of context to Islam's first phase. "Peace" is not the last phase of Islam. Muhammad, reverenced as Jesus Christ is to Christians, is the role model. Muslims believe if they want to experience his success, they must follow his footsteps exactly, and Muhammad slaughtered 600 to 900 Jews that rejected his "peaceful" Islam, then sold their wives and children into slavery as he continued to quote Allah, adding terrorism, beheadings and carnage.

    Bin Laden believes he is following Muhammad's footsteps. He did not hijack a religion, he just took it seriously.

    The answer is not to claim moderate Muslim beliefs are true Islam. The answer is not to ask our children to get on their hands and knees and pray to Allah in public school, to "become Muslim," fast for Ramadan, and "assume you are a Muslim soldier" as our textbooks direct. Once the governing majority is Muslim, "true Islam" and the totalitarian oppressive Sharia laws come into effect. Our freedoms will be slowly choked from us as they are being choked from France today.

    Jen thinks that to be an Americanized secular Muslim is to be a Muslim apostate.
    But the plight of the moderate Muslim is grave. As America slowly admits the enemy is true Islam, every effort must be made to embrace the moderate Muslim, not persecute them. The answer is not to blind our eyes and try to convince ourselves that moderate Muslims represent true Islam. They don't. Islam is defined by its holy books, and the holy books proclaim death to all who oppose it, even moderate Muslims. The answer is to live in reality, recognize the violence of true Islam as it rears its head, and ask moderate Muslims to reconsider. True Islam pronounces moderate Muslims as apostate, they are the "near enemies" in the Sira and without true conversion, they will be slaughtered right along with Christians and Jews. American Muslims need to take a hard look at what their Koran, in its entirety and true context, demands. They can no more denounce the method of Muhammad than Christians can denounce the sacrifice and love of God. I know, because as I battle with public educators for my children's religious freedom, I get angry, and God continually rebukes me for my anger. He reminds me of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for them as well, and I am constantly humbled.

    Muhammad slaughtered unbelievers. Jesus Christ gave Himself to be slaughtered. Muhammad took life, Jesus laid down His own life. I am to love these educators that would ask my sons to practice abominations to God, but I am not to give my sons over to them. We are to LOVE American Muslims, but we ought not give over our nation. We need to admit what true Islam is... or we can invest in prayer carpets, head baskets and burkas.

    Now Jen is kind of a Christian fanatic, at least in her beliefs about the value of Christianity (praise Jesus), so let me see if I can find a better source. Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council of Los Angeles spoke to the State Department in January of 2002 and said this among other things:
    I would like to digress to provide some historical context to the issue of reform in Islamic movements. The major schools of thought in Islam (Hanbali, Shaafi, Maaliki, Hanafi, Jaafari) all originated out of reformist movements using the process of ijtihad (intellectual analysis and interpretation of Islamic law). In fact, Shaafi had two schools of thought, one when he resided in Iraq and one when he moved to Egypt, and when asked why there were two, he said because they were for two different peoples. If place is a variable in Islamic thinking, then time can also be a factor. As technological advancements take form, then human understanding can also evolve. The word reform is found in the Koran. In Arabic, it is called islah and is the root meaning of the word maslahah, which means the public interest. When the Koran repeats the call for believers to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, Al-Ghazali interprets that verse as supporting whatever is in the public's interests. That is, to promote any effort for social benefit and to prevent anything that is harmful to society.

    In terms of modern Islamic movements, intellectual giants such as Wali Allah, Afghani, and Abdu are among the most notable that used reason to create revivalist movements impacting us to this day. Wali Allah of India helped to re-open the gates of ijtihaad and condemned blind imitation. Afghani challenged Muslims to think of Islam consistent with reason and science. Abdu believed in educational reforms throughout Muslim society. These same concerns are raised today with respect to the plight of Muslims as illiteracy, poverty, and a lack of effective political systems create an environment that is more susceptible to criminal activity. These figures built their movements in the backdrop of fighting colonial rule. One challenge for Muslims today is to shift from the paradigm of the colonial model, which perpetuates the notion of Jews and Christians as agents of colonialism. The perception that globalization is merely a tool of Western imperialism which is closely reminiscent of their past under colonialist rule, results in antagonistic as opposed to conciliatory posturing towards efforts of change in Muslim society. The shift in paradigm will hopefully lead to a new model based on mutual benefit, cooperation and interdependence as a consequence of independence.

    One concern over Islamic movements is the apprehension that they will come into power with an anti-democratic orientation. As a reflection of support for the status quo, the official U.S. Government response is to remain silent when these groups are banned from political activity. When that suppression takes place, however, the transformation leads to more radicalized groups. In 1952, Mossadegh's party was eliminated, the Shah's tyrannical rule was installed with U.S. Government assistance, and a new Iranian revolution was built on anti-Americanism. Banning the Ikhwan, we get the Gamaa'a; ban the Islamic Salvation Front, we get the Armed Islamic Group. Fatah was neutralized and Islamic Jihad was born. Prevention of dissent in Saudi Arabia led to bin Laden's eruption in Afghanistan and hence the formation of the Al-Qaeda. Banning groups anywhere forces them to go underground and creates a more radicalized current. Despite the fact that these radical groups are real and are ongoing, the moderate voice, while remaining alive, has not been heard.

    Funny he should mention the Shah. These days many Iranians are pining for the good old days of the repressive Shah who was moving aggressively to westernize Iran. He also likes the ijtihad idea but sees it as reason applied to Islamic law, rather than the idea of using democratic means to expand the reach of Islam leading ultimately to the imposition of sharia as does Muqtedar Khan mentioned above.

    However, he does see the need to join religious law (sharia) to the democratic state.

    Because many Muslims seek forms of government that incorporate Islamic law to one degree or another, the concept of Sharia needs more thoughtful approaches in U.S. policy-making than what we have been subject to in the past. Sharia is a core of laws that comprise basic principles (based on Koran and hadith) and man-made laws that are derived from the basic principles (fiqh). Imposing Sharia violates the Koranic injunction: Let there be no compulsion in matters of faith. The notion of religious police, therefore, violates this code. The exploitation of Sharia leads to persecution of religious minorities and women. The Sharia, Islam's legal code, condemns terrorism because it condemns any violence against civilians.

    There is this oversimplification done by both self-proclaimed experts and Muslim extremists that use Sharia as a political football fixating on the penal code and not to the call for government responsibilities, for example, to be accountable to the people through a social contract. The five goals of Sharia, accepted by all Islamic jurists are to secure and develop life, mind, faith, property, and family. These are consistent with human rights declarations and the U.S. constitution. In a national conference the Muslim Public Affairs Council held over the winter break, one speaker presented the thesis that the U.S. constitution is the closest human document that fulfills the goals of Sharia, and his message was well-received by all 1,000 participants.

    The issue of the Sharia must be handled in a balanced manner. While it is wrong to impose the Sharia on non-Muslims or on Muslims against their will, it is also wrong to disallow Muslims, who seek Sharia as a way of advancing their societies, from participating in political affairs. Legal systems based on Sharia are a reality of the 21st century in that they already exist in many parts of the Muslim world. These issues represent dilemmas that need an in-depth discussion, something more than a short answer. Examples include addressing notions of democracy and popular will within the Islamic context; creating space among the U.S. and others to allow discourse; moving the discussion to specifics involving laws and not simply doctrine; determining room for modern ijtihaad (intellectual analysis) with respect to legislation. Within this framework, there must be great flexibility and an avoidance of oversimplification by Muslims and non-Muslims. To suggest that the only acceptable form of government involves the absolute separation of church and state is to ask for more tension and rejection.

    So the Jeffersonian ideal of the separation of church and state is to be rejected. In a pluralist state like America this is going to lead to religious wars. The very thing the separation of church and state was designed to avoid. Not very moderate at all.

    In Demark during the height of the Cartoon Mohammed affair moderate Muslims were speaking out against their local imams.

    Instead of the Danish government surrendering to Muslim radicals, moderate Danish Muslims are now speaking out against the extremists. A group of Muslims in the Danish city of Århus intend to organize a network of Muslims who do not want to be represented by fundamentalist Danish imams or others who preach the Sharia laws and oppression of women. "There is a large group of Muslims in this city who want to live in a secular society and adhere to the principle that religion is an issue between them and God and not something that should involve society," said Bünyamin Simsek, a city councillor and one of the organizers. Århus witnessed severe riots after the publication of the cartoons in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten last Autumn.

    In Copenhagen, too, moderate Muslims are speaking out. Hadi Kahn, an IT consultant and the chairman of the Organization of Pakistani Students in Denmark (OPSA), describes himself as a modern Muslim living in a Western society. He says that he does not feel he is being represented by the Muslim groups. When he goes to the mosque for Friday prayers he says the imam does not say much that is useful for him. "We have no need for imams in Denmark. They do not do anything for us," he says. According to Mr Kahn the imams are not in touch with Danish society. He says too few of them speak Danish and too few of them are opposed to stoning as a punishment.

    My take on all this? As long as the state remains secular and people's individual rights are respected, what a man believes and the religion he practices are not material to me.

    I must say though that the ijtihaad idea does bother me. The way Democratic Socialism bothers me. From what I have seen socialism always leads to tyranny. The more socialism the less freedom. Where socialism totally succeeds so does tyranny. When you get socialism lite what results is restriction through red tape and the multiplication of laws. The EU, where the curvature of bannanas is controlled, is a prime example.

    Update: 15 Jan '07 1637z

    I have found an excellent explanation of ijtihaad from the Muslim Canadian Congress:

    Ijithad has traditionally been defined as free or independent thinking to arrive at a juristic ruling on issues over which the Quran and Hadith are silent. The efforts of the eighth and ninth century learned fathers of jurisprudence such as Imam Shaffi and Abu Hanifah came about as a result of such ijtihad, as these doctors of jurisprudence were exercising independent reasoning to interpret legal sources by responding to the changing conditions of society. Consequently, they came to formulate elaborate rules of conduct for Muslims that would govern both their private and public life.

    Though the need was widely felt to undertake ijtihad in the form of juristic rulings, earlier tensions among emergent juristic schools suggest there were differences in methodology over how such rulings were to be derived. There were some who insisted all rulings would have to conform to the text of the Quran and Sunnah, thereby discarding the notion that Ijma (Consensus) or Qayas (analogy) could be considered legitimate sources of Shariah. However, what crystallized as the Usul-ul- Fiqh or the classical theory of jurisprudence, positioned the Quran and Hadith as the primary, and Ijma and Qiyas as secondary sources of Islamic law. The secondary sources would have to conform in principle to the two primary sources.

    However, rulings deduced through such meticulous adherence to the Usul-ul-Fiqh, led at times to discrimination of women and other disadvantaged groups living in Muslim countries. Less commonly known is the fact that such an eventuality was forestalled by early exegetes of the Quran, particularly those who belonged to the group of scholars known as the "Ahl Ra'aay", who considered rationality and the principle of Istihsaan (juristic preference to arrive at the most equitable solution) a paramount principle in deducing religious law. Their objective was to achieve a just society that would accommodate the rights of all, while paying special attention to the rights of the weak and underprivileged. Unfortunately over time, the principle of Istihsaan came to be sidelined and the doctrine of Taqlid or blind following of traditional schools of jurisprudence gained ascendancy among Muslims.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:29 AM | Comments (3)

    It's not about Iraq. Or nukes. Or Iran....

    For some people, the most important issue facing a potential United States president is, is...

    Gay marriage:

    A prominent Christian leader whose radio and magazine outreaches are solidly in support of biblically-based marriages - and keeps in touch with millions of constituents daily - says he cannot consider Arizona Sen. John McCain a viable candidate for president.

    "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances," said James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family as well as the Focus Action cultural action organization set up specifically to provide a platform for informing and rallying constituents.

    I have some serious problems with John McCain too (especially campaign finance reform), and I have discussed them. But in presidential elections, important issues like national defense tend to be more important, along with the ability to get elected. Guys like Giuliani and McCain are targeted by people obsessed with single issues, and it matters not at all whether these particular issues are within the scope of presidential authority.

    Thus, even if Giuliani and McCain were both in favor of gay marriage (which neither of them is), as president neither could do anything about it, because marriage laws remain matters for the states. Same sex marriage is a huge matter mainly for gay activists and antigay activists, and while the masses of middle class voters might have opinions one way or the other about it, unless I am reading them wrong it does not direct their voting patterns. They're more worried about economic security and national security.

    At the risk of sounding culturally insensitive, whether nutcases like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are allowed to have the bomb is more of a worry than whether the two guys who bought the house next door have a government issued license for their relationship.

    As pressing presidential issues go, same sex marriage is barely on the radar. Whatever it is that gives the antigay radar so much power to determine who gets to be president is one of the contradictions of our democracy.

    But every time the antigay radar (or other single issue thinking) seems ridiculous, all I have to do is look across at the Democratic side.

    Right now, the big argument which is shaping up seems to be over whether Barack Obama is, to put it bluntly, sufficiently black. Veteran black activists like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Stalinist Harry Belafonte seem quite threatened by him, although they've stopped just short of issuing Dobson-style condemnations:

    Civil rights leaders who have dominated black politics for much of the past two decades have pointedly failed to embrace the 45-year-old Illinois senator who is considering a bid to become America's first black president.

    At a meeting of activists in New York last week, the Rev Jesse Jackson, the first black candidate to run for president, declined to endorse Obama. "Our focus right now is not on who's running, because there are a number of allies running," Jackson said.

    The Rev Al Sharpton, the fiery New York preacher who joined the Democratic primary race in 2004, said he was considering another presidential run of his own. And Harry Belafonte, the calypso singer who became an influential civil rights activist, said America needed to be "careful" about Obama: "We don't know what he's truly about."

    The unexpected coolness between the old civil rights guard and the new Democratic hopeful has added an intriguing twist to the budding rivalry between Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, who hopes to emulate her husband, former president Bill Clinton, in attracting support from black voters.

    I think not knowing "what he's truly about" is code language for a growing meme articulated elsewhere -- that Barack Obama is not really black:
    Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.
    In that respect, Obama may be more fortunate than Condoleeza Rice (labeled a "house slave" by Belafonte).

    Are activists in charge of American thought or do they only think they are?

    UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has a great Martin Luther King Jr. Day post which explores the mechanism by which race has been redefined as culture. Concludes Jeff, think of race as somehow socially constructed is to think of race, ultimately, as something essentially essential. Because what makes your memories yours, what makes your heritage yours, and what makes your culture yours is your insistence, ultimately, that it is yours by right, yours by birth, yours by essence. And so race, as it turns out, is either an essence or an illusion. Those who believe race to be an essence (say, the KKK, who base their ideas on bad science) have no need for a project of qualifying race as a social construct; and those who believe race to be non-essential have no grounds, theoretically, for promoting racial identity other than that same bad science (which, it turns out, underlies the constructivist argument), or else their social concern that we somehow need to continue the project of racial identity, for whatever the political reasons.

    AND PERHAPS they are right. But maybe it's time to seize on the lessons learned in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks; that is, maybe it's time we put aside our differences in order to construct a singular American identity. After all, we are each individuals, which is what makes us, ultimately, a nation.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Whatever happened to judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character? Under the new "cultural" definition of race, such color blindness can actually be called "racism."

    I think Barack Obama is a lot closer to Martin Luther King's dream than Jackson, Sharpton or Belafonte.

    MORE: If you click on the link to Harry Belafonte's Wikipedia entry, you'll see this picture of Belafonte with Charlton Heston.


    I guess the country was naive in those days.

    AND MORE: Jeff Soyer is not going to vote for Obama or McCain. Or for that matter, Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, Dodd, Giuliani, Romney, or Bloomberg. I'd be delighted if none of them were on the ticket. But I still prefer Obama or McCain to Clinton. Simply because of his stance against identity politics, Obama breathes fresh air into the Democratic Party. I say this in full awareness of Obama's horrendous anti-gun record, including, I might add, his status as a Director of the notoriously anti-gun Joyce Foundation.

    (In general, politics simply consists of bad choices. I hope we'll never have to choose between Dobson and Clinton....)

    UPDATE (01/16/07): If Barack Obama is, as many have suggested, a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton, the attacks on him by longtime black leaders for being not being "really black" makes a lot of sense. The idea might be to limit the political fallout which might result if overwhelming black support developed, followed by entry of Hillary Clinton as a serious "opponent." Thus, preventing the emergence of solid black support might be a form of preemptive form of Clintonian damage control.


    How cynical can I get?

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

    Must have experience with diapers!

    Barbara Boxer's ad hominem attack on Condoleeza Rice has been getting a lot of attention, as it should.

    While the Boxer remark manifested itself unmistakably as a left-versus-right issue, it touched on a widespread popular prejudice. A New York Post editorial focused on the former:

    Rice appeared before the Senate in defense of President Bush's tactical change in Iraq, and quickly encountered Boxer.

    "Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price," Boxer said. "My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young."

    Then, to Rice: "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."


    Simply breathtaking.

    We scarcely know where to begin.

    The junior senator from California apparently believes that an accom plished, seasoned diplomat, a renowned scholar and an adviser to two presidents like Condoleezza Rice is not fully qualified to make policy at the highest levels of the American government because she is a single, childless woman.

    It's hard to imagine the firestorm that similar comments would have ignited, coming from a Republican to a Democrat, or from a man to a woman, in the United States Senate.

    It's also hard to imagine the firestorm that would have been ignited had a Republican made a similar remark about a gay person.

    Not that logic has anything to do with ad hominem attacks (which are by definition illogical), but Condoleeza Rice has done a good of defending herself without stooping to Barbara Boxer's level:

    "No," Rice answered when asked if her status hinders her understanding of the sacrifices involved. "I also think that being a single woman does not in any way make me incapable of understanding not just those sacrifices but also that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice."

    Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told Rice during a testy Senate hearing on Thursday that without an immediate family Rice will pay no personal price for the Bush administration policy in Iraq.

    Rice has said she was at first perplexed by the exchange, and later told Fox News, "Gee, I thought single women had come further than that."

    The notion that single women have "come further" is subject to the usual identity politics conditions imposed by the left. Because they (along with blacks, gays, etc.) are deemed victims, they are granted conditional minority status -- a status which can be revoked if the grantees do not hew to the official PC line (which is in this case antiwar).

    It's as illogical as calling someone a "chickenhawk," and it shares the same illogical supposition -- that one's status or background is more important than one's argument -- and that such status should be controlling.

    In light of Dinish D'Souza's recent book, I'm also wondering whether Secretary Rice's status as a powerful woman might be considered offensive to Islamists, and an invitation to more terrorism, but I hardly expect Barbara Boxer to raise that issue.

    But she touches on a deeper prejudice against the childless, which as Mark Daniels noted, crosses party and political lines:

    Boxer's comments to Rice were, as her comments often are, tone deaf, seemingly reflective of a widespread prejudice in American culture. In fact, it's a prejudice I was discussing with a friend a few days ago, before Rice's appearance before the Senate committee. It's the prejudice many people blessed with children seem to have toward the childless. These folks often regard those who've been unable to have children as second-class adults, devoid of the normal complement of human emotions or even intellectual capacity. I see these prejudicial attitudes toward the childless all the time.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds; emphasis in original.)

    I've seen these attitudes too, and I don't think the prejudice is limited to prejudice against women. Men who don't have children are also viewed with distrust -- as if they're regarded as less than real men.

    Once again, I am reminded of my wonderful Berkeley neighbors, a childless couple whose libertarian views on certain issues were greeted with derisive remarks such as this:

    "You only think that way because you don't have children! IF YOU HAD CHILDREN, YOU'D UNDERSTAND!"
    It's quite arrogant to presume that the childless can't think.

    But culture wars are always arrogant and presumptuous, and lead to further recriminations of arrogance and presumptuousness on both blasted "sides."

    posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (3)

    I Believe In America

    In a comment to my post Oil Outlook Jay Draiman outlines a plan to get all new housing on renewables, with a ramp up period of 10 years followed by full roll out for all new housing after the ramp up.

    Here is the essence of his proposal without technical details:

    The federal, state and local government should implement a mandatory renewable energy installation program for residential and commercial property on new construction and remodeling projects with the use of energy efficient material, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, etc. The source of energy must by renewable energy such as Solar-Photovoltaic, Geothermal, Wind, Biofuels, etc. including utilizing water from lakes, rivers and oceans to circulate in cooling towers to produce air conditioning and the utilization of proper landscaping to reduce energy consumption.
    Jay further goes on to state:
    I have a very deep belief in America's capabilities. Within the next 10 years we can accomplish our energy independence, if we as a nation truly set our goals to accomplish this.
    I reply to his proposal:
    I like your ideas in general. I favor wind myself. And solar.

    However there is no way to ramp up production at the rates required to make your dream come true in the time frame you suggest.

    In any case you are only talking about new houses in Southern climates. A small drop in the bucket. In addition housing has a 40 or 50 year turn over. So it would take 40 years at least to get all housing in America on partial (daytime) renewables.

    Plus electricity is not a political problem for the USA. We have more than enough coal to get us through the transition.

    Liquid fuel is the kicker.

    Plus if it was such a good idea there would be no need to force people to do it at the point of a gun (government).

    What you are really saying is:

    There is no problem that a little fascism can't fix.

    And every one wants a little fascim to fix their little problem.

    Our best bet is to lower the cost of solar until it is the only sensible choice. Companies are working on it day and night because if the price is right the market is there.

    Plus you state that the capital cost of housing must rise to include the energy generation. What about the people who are then priced out of the market? Don't they deserve a place of their own to live?

    The best way to do it is to let the people who can afford it and want it work the bugs out. Prices will start to come down and roll out will be a natural progression where it makes sense.

    As for liquid fuel? Cheap nuclear power may be the answer.

    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion


    If you really had a deep belief in America's capabilities you wouldn't be wanting to put a gun to people's heads to get what you want done.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    Its Official

    There is a lot of talk on Little Green Footballs (LGF) on the subject of why the United states is giving money to the Palestinians. (mainly the $86 million to Fatah).

    A lot of folks at LGF (myself included) think the purpose of the money is to make sure Hamas and Fatah are fairly evenly matched so the Pali civil war keeps escalating. I think that is Israeli policy as well. Olmert's restraint with respect to rockets fired from Gaza into being a case in point. Minimal retaliation means the factions will not unite against Israel. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh says the US and Israel are conspiring to keep the Palestinian civil war going (he actually says getting it started - but he has to say that to preserve the fiction of Palestinian unity). He should know.

    Diplo speak is being used to cover what is really happening. By all sides.

    I do think America wants Olmert out as Israeli Prime Minister for his betrayal of America last summer in Lebanon. This is good. Rice's recent visit to Israel where she talked with several cabinent ministers but not Olmert or the Defence Minister Peretz is an indication of this. The Israeli people have been given six months to act. Now America is makining its move. Iran won't wait.

    Olmert was tired when he got into office. He is dead tired now. Politically he might as well be out of office.

    Faster Please.

    Every good strategy as B.H.L. Hart points out in "Strategy" has alternate goals. So the enemy can't tell what you are trying to accomplish and splits his forces. In this case the "enemy" is the world community. The people who scream bloody murder every time some action is taken against the Palestinians. In this case, to the casual observer, it looks like America is helping the Palestinians by giving them money. Israel has promised to give the the Palestinians some of the back taxes owed to them. However, it is my guess that the money will be given to factions so as to keep them aproximately matched. A balance of power strategy.

    For the longest time I couldn't figure out why the arms smuggling tunnels into Gaza from Egypt were not severely attacked. Now I see it as part of the plan. You will note that, in co-operation with Egypt, the arms flow freely (if you have the money to pay) but no cash is allowed in. The purpose is to allow a build up of small arms while by controlling the money flows, who gets the arms is controlled. In addition Hamas must be allowed to get some arms through so they have no incentive to close the tunnels.

    Why would Egypt co-operate? Probably because they have been threatened with having the Palestinian problem dumped in their laps if they do not go along. This is something they absolutely do not want. If Gaza became part of Egypt again, Egypt would, for political reasons, have to open its borders to the Gazans. Palestinians seem to cause a lot of trouble where ever they go.

    My guess? Sharon had something like this in mind when he decided that giving the Palestinians Gaza was a good idea. In fact I predicted these events in a general way (the Palestinian civil war) when he first proposed the idea. The best strategy in war is to win without fighting. In this case you get the Palestinians to fight among each other.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:40 AM

    The Word Is Father To The Deed

    There is a discussion going on at Dean's World about Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates. The folks there are trying to figure out if the jihadis of Jefferson's day have anything in common with the jihadis of today. It is a very interesting piece and has lots of interesting quotes such as this one:

    ...when Jefferson was ambassador to France, and Adams was ambassador to Britain, they met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the ambassador to Britain from the "Dey of Algiers."

    Seeking a peace treaty, based on Congress' vote to pay tribute, the two Americans asked Dey's ambassador why Muslims had so much hostility towards America. They later reported to Congress the ambassador told them Islam "was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise."

    Sound familiar?

    In the comments maryatexitzero says (excerpted):

    I can only interpret Jefferson's beliefs by interpreting his actions. His actions, and the laws he enforced suggest that he realized that the Koran may have been used to motivate certain deeds and actions. He also understood that the deeds and actions were the problem, not the Koran.
    So I rephrased that to bring in a bit of modern history.
    I can only interpret FDR's beliefs by interpreting his actions. His actions, and the laws he enforced suggest that he realized that the "Mein Kampf" may have been used to motivate certain deeds and actions. He also understood that the deeds and actions were the problem, not "Mein Kampf".
    Or as the anarchist liked to say: the word is father to the deed.

    Mein Kampf is a best seller in Turkey, and Palestine, and these folks claim it is the #2 best seller in the world, surpassed only by the Bible. Pedestrian Infidel compares Mein Kampf to the Koran. Evidently Oriana Fallaci also thought there were similarities between Mein Kampf and the Koran. The piece on Fallaci lays down the gauntlet:

    It remains for those who identify themselves as moderate Muslims to convince violent Muslims that they are misusing the Qur'an - if indeed they are - and should lay down their arms. They have had no notable success in this so far.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:22 PM

    Religious Liberty

    Not having much profound to say at this time I'm going to quote our profoundist president, Thomas Jefferson on religious liberty. Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom

    Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow-citizens he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

    Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

    And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:35 AM | Comments (2)

    If homo lovers are liberal, then mullah lovers are conservative?

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Dinesh D'Souza has a new book. According to D'Souza, it is the "cultural left" which is responsible for the 9/11 attacks:

    "In this book I make a claim that will seem startling at the outset. The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11. ... In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage--some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice, but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened.
    Hollywood and the universities? They got al-Qaeda so stirred up that flying planes into buildings was the only way to stop cultural depravity?


    Does that make Brokeback Mountain a sort of victory film?

    I'm no fan of the left, but to claim these people are responsible for Muslim religious rage strikes me as a logical stretch, to say the least. Does D'Souza mean that if the "cultural left" is stopped, then the terrorists will stop hating us? Should that be our goal? Precisely what does D'Souza mean by the term "cultural left" and how far does it go? Did Western-looking women who got raped for looking like sluts invite the rapes by their "left-wing" behavior? How about the gay men thrown off buildings by the Taliban or hanged in Iran?

    And if murderous religious hatred is provoked by immorality, why stop with Islamic rage? Didn't the victims of abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph have only themselves to blame?

    I'm wondering whether the term "cultural left" might simply be a grab-bag for things and people D'Souza doesn't like.

    The more I perused D'Souza's thoughts, the more familiar they sounded. But just as my memory alarm bells were starting to go off, D'Souza made a startling claim -- that this "blame the cultural left" meme was his own, brand-new idea:

    "I realize that this is a strong charge, one that no one has made before. But it is a neglected aspect of the 9/11 debate, and it is critical to understanding the current controversy over the 'war against terrorism.' ... I intend to show that the left has actively fostered the intense hatred of America that has led to numerous attacks such as 9/11. If I am right, then no war against terrorism can be effectively fought using the left-wing premises that are now accepted doctrine among mainstream liberals and Democrats."
    A charge no one has made before?

    I'm sorry, but it has been made before, and repeatedly. While Jerry Falwell was probably the first to blame gays, feminists and abortionists (I'm assuming they're the "cultural left" although I can't be sure), his argument was rather simplistic:

    ...the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
    It took culture warrior Robert Knight to refine the argument, and he was quite specific about who was to blame:
    None of this happened by accident. It is directly due to cultural depravity advanced in the name of progress and amplified by a sensation-hungry media.
  • We were told putting women into combat areas is progressive and enlightened.
  • We were told pornography is liberating, and that anyone who objects is a narrow-minded Puritan who needs therapy. We have been flooded with porn imagery on mainstream television and in magazine ads. Where did those soldiers get the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion? Easy. It's found on thousands of Internet porn sites and in the pages of "gay" publications, where S&M events are advertised alongside ads for Subarus, liquor and drugs to treat HIV and hepatitis.
  • We were told homosexuality is harmless and normal, and the military should live with a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows homosexuals to stay in the barracks. We were told that men "marrying" men and women "marrying" women is inevitable - not only for America, but for the world. Imagine how those images of men kissing men outside San Francisco City Hall after being "married" play in the Muslim world. We couldn't offer the mullahs a more perfect picture of American decadence. This puts Americans at risk all over the world, especially Christian missionaries who are trying to bring the Gospel to people trapped in darkness for millennia.
  • This is a Perfect Storm of our own making, and it is up to normal Americans to unmake it. It is not beyond correction. The American people should start by getting on their knees and asking God's forgiveness for letting it get this bad. Then, they should ask Him for guidance in how to restore the moral order.

    Here was my reaction at the time:
    Allowing for the sake of argument that the above "cultural climates" are why Berg was beheaded, since when do we defeat our enemies by conforming our society and culture to their demands? Shouldn't we be defending the things they attack about us? Had a group of Nazis brutally murdered an American civilian during World War II, would that be an argument for cracking down on whatever the Nazis didn't like about us?


    People like Knight are morally on the side of the terrorists every bit as much as the Hate-America left. These enemies of freedom hate independent women, decriminalized homosexuals, all pornography, and Howard Stern (who whether you like him or not will do as a symbol of freedom), at least as much as do the theocratic enemies we fight in Iraq. They give aid and comfort to the enemy by granting them the moral high ground and legitimacy at the worst possible time. It's classic blame-America thinking, except it's on the right.

    No one should forget that this war is about freedom. Freedom can be very clarifying at times like this. You are either for it or against it.

    I certainly hope that Robert Knight and his ilk are a tiny minority on the political fringe, and not worth worrying about. The problem is, lovers of tyranny can do a lot of damage when ordinary folks remain silent.

    While I don't know whether D'Souza endorses all the details of Robert Knight's position, I think the above rebuts his claim to originality.

    My reaction is to hope that this is not the new face of social conservatism, much less conservatism itself. If this to be the position of social conservatives, it will not be good for the Republican Party. I mean, it's not as if I woke up this morning wanting to call D'Souza an apologist for al-Qaeda, but then, he's the one pursuing this latest twist on the "Why do they hate us?" argument, not I.

    I'm not the only one to notice. Timothy Noah has reviewed the book thoroughly, and he maintains that the American right is being libeled:

    The heart of D'Souza's book isn't his libeling of the American left, but rather his libeling of the American right. D'Souza notes, correctly, that al-Qaida's hatred toward the West in general, and the United States in particular, is animated to a great extent by America's permissive culture. But Bin Laden isn't some Michael Medved figure grumping about the vulgarity of American Pie. He's got bigger fish to fry. Al-Qaida's enemy isn't the excesses of secular culture; it's secular culture itself. And to a surprising degree, D'Souza is willing to go along for the ride. Theocracy, D'Souza argues, is misunderstood to mean "rule by divine authority of the priesthood or clergy." Not so! There are checks and balances, just like in the U.S. Constitution. In Iran, for instance, "the power of the state and of the mullahs is limited by the specific rules set forth in the Koran and the Islamic tradition. The rulers themselves are bound by these laws."
    Yes, I seem to remember something about how virgin women cannot be hanged without having first being raped by their executioners.

    To be fair, says Noah, D'Souza won't go as far as the mullahs in enforcing virtue; he just agrees with them in principle:

    I heaved a sigh of relief when D'Souza conceded, "The Islamic system of enforcing piety and virtue through the heavy hand of the law seems to me both unreasonable and imprudent." But D'Souza makes no bones about believing, along with Islamic fundamentalists, that the following things are an affront to civilization: equality for homosexuals ("[W]hy would a sane people jeopardize an indispensable and already fragile institution such as marriage by redefining it away from its central purpose? Is the point of marriage to ensure that children have a father and mother, or is it to make Edgar and Austin feel more accepted by society?"); working motherhood ("[M]any mothers choose to have a career because it is more self-fulfilling than the life of a full-time mom"); divorce ("Now you hear people say things like, 'I feel called to leave my marriage. My life would be wasted if I stayed' "); and contraception ("Rather than call for non-Western women to have fewer children, the left speaks of a woman's right to determine the number and spacing of her pregnancies").
    Reasonable people can and do disagree on moral issues. But our homo-killing, women-stoning Islamist enemies allow no such disagreement. I think it is they (and not their victims) who are patently immoral.

    I think it is dangerously disingenuous to propose a "moral" alliance with immoral and murderous people. But that alone is not what rankles me so much as the even more dangerous claim that D'Souza's fellow Americans who might disagree with him on social issues are to be the new common enemies of a regrouped "conservative" alliance.

    Forgive me if I am reading him wrong, but D'Souza appears to be saying that his camp and the al-Qaeda camp can find common agreement that people like me who disagree with them are their enemy. (And that "we" drove their newly found Islamofascist allies to slaughter thousands of Americans!)

    It's an argument I don't like. Demagogy is one thing (sure, I'm cynical enough to tolerate it) but D'Souza goes too far.

    Timothy Noah thinks so too, and under the circumstances I don't think his condemnation of D'Souza's meme is too strong:

    D'Souza's refusal to recognize, say, that a gay couple might need to share health benefits, or that a father might share equal responsibility in raising his children, offends and dismays me. Ordinarily, though, I would never equate hard-right views on these matters--even from a Dartmouth Review alumnus--with the rantings of an Islamist terrorist. I do so now only because D'Souza has written an entire book encouraging me to do just that. He wants his fellow conservatives to embrace their inner mullah. D'Souza scolds conservatives for seeking in the past to win over American leftists and European allies to the war on terror, and for reaching out to liberals in the Islamic world "who can be recruited the cause of 'civilization' against 'barbarism.' " Not gonna happen, baby! Conservatives, he argues, should instead demonstrate "common ground" with Muslims sympathetic to Bin Laden--earlier D'Souza has cited a 2004 poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project showing that Bin Laden is viewed favorably by 45 percent of all Moroccans, 55 percent of all Jordanians, and 65 percent of all Pakistanis--by:

    attacking the left and the Europeans on the international stage. Instead of trying to unify America and the West, the right should highlight the division between red America and blue America, and also between traditional America and decadent Europe. By resisting the depravity of the left and the Europeans, conservatives can win friends among Muslims and other traditional people around the world.

    As a strategy, forging a values-based alliance with foreigners against your fellow countrymen strikes me as a tad, well, unpatriotic. But making culture war a weapon in the war against Islamist terror would serve to elevate conservative crotchets and prejudices to the higher theoretical plane of national security. I wonder whether that opportunity will persuade other right-wingers to risk ridicule by joining D'Souza's loopy jihad.

    Like many bloggers, I've struggled over the definition of "conservative." If D'Souza's conservatism includes a cultural alliance with declared enemies of America who stone women and execute gays, I guess I'm on the other "side" -- even if I'd rather not be.

    But I should thank Mr. D'Souza.

    Every once in a while, it's good to have a reminder of why I started this blog.

    MORE: Here's Radley Balko:

    After 9/11, a few libertarians and leftists made the case that perhaps we ought to examine our own foreign policy, and see if U.S. interventions may be spurring anti-American hatred around the world. Those critics were roundly ridiculed, and their theory -- sometimes called "blowback" -- was dismissed as "unserious." They were called "appeasers."

    Seems to me that if the publisher's description is accurate, D'Souza's forthcoming book is much more insidious, much more offensive, and much less believable than those "unserious" realists, about a hundred times over. D'Souza is basically arguing that the terrorists hate us for our freedom, and, therefore, we should "curtail" our freedoms to appease them. Actually, it's worse than that. He's blaming freedom itself, along with his political opponents, for provoking September 11. In fact, he's treading perilously close to suggesting we make our society more like a fundamentalist Islamic society so the fundamentalist Muslims will be less likely to hate us. I don't think I can come up with a more offensive explanation for why 9/11 happened if someone paid me.

    Well, someone is paying D'Souza.

    (Now the paranoid conspiracy theorist in me is wondering why a huge publisher like Doubleday would be promoting divisive ideas under the rubric of "conservatism.")

    LINGERING QUESTION: Anyone remember the slogan "Democracy! Whisky! Sexy!"?

    Which "side" did they think they were on anyway?

    MORE: D'Souza is appearing (apparently to promote his message) at the Heritage Foundation on January 18. While sponsoring a talk by D'Souza is no indication that Heritage agrees with what he says, it may be a sign of growing right wing war fatigue. I remember before 9/11 that at least one conservative scholar was arguing that the Iranian mullahs were better friends of conservatives than the Salman Rushdies, although this view seem to lose ground after the war started.

    FWIW, I think it gives moral authority to the terrorists to maintain that America was attacked because the terrorists hate the culture.

    Logically, it makes as much sense as arguing that we were attacked because the terrorists hated Jews.

    MORE: As commenter Jason Pappas notes in his blog, John Kienker of the conservative Claremont Institute (where D'Souza's argument would be expected to find succor) expresses skepticism:

    ...I think D'Souza unhelpfully obscures the differences between conservative Americans who object to adulterers having a steamy affair on daytime TV by writing a letter to the sponsors and traditional Muslims who object to an engaged couple holding hands in public by stoning them to death. I suspect that too many Muslims still view conservative Americans as depraved infidels.
    Considering that Sayeed Qtub (often called al Qaeda's spiritual father) viewed Americans as depraved infidels back in the very decadent 1940s, I think Kienker is right.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and welcome all.

    One of my main beefs with D'Souza's argument is over the ill-defined phrase "cultural left" -- a term I fear conflates communism with unconventional lifestyles. If anyone can explain by what standard things like sexual desires or marital status can be called "left wing," I'm all ears.

    UPDATE (1/14/07): Clayton Cramer (who "share[s] D'Souza's disgust with the left's focus on redefining selfishness and depravity as normality") is mystified by D'Souza's argument, and reminds his readers that the Islamist hatred of America predates the "cultural leftism" of which D'Souza complains. A well-reasoned post, and my thanks for the link.

    It's worth remembering that what the Islamists hate about the West goes much further than abortion or gay marriage; as I just noted earlier today, I'm sure they'd find it offensive that a woman (Condoleeza Rice) is Secretary of State.

    So how far would D'Souza have us go in ending "cultural leftism" in order to placate them?

    UPDATE: Sean Kinsell links this post, and (not surprisingly for Sean) offers his very insightful observation:

    ...if the combination of irreligiousness, acceptance of homosexuality, blithe rearing of children out of wedlock, and preening leftism in the universities is what exercised the terrorists who attacked on 9/11, one is left wondering why on Earth they didn't choose Europe (say the Netherlands or somewhere in Scandinavia) as their target. Not only have those countries institutionalized those social phenomena far more thorougly than America has, but they also have large minority Muslim populations that are inflamed with humiliation over their dependence on the largesse of the social-welfare state. The United States is clearly the single most significant global symbol of Western cultural power; the idea that it's the most significant global symbol of Western cultural leftism strikes me as very suspect.
    Very suspect -- but very convenient.

    UPDATE (01/18/07): My thanks to Andrew Sullivan for linking this post, and for the very kind words.

    I don't think it is quite fair, though to accuse Hugh Hewitt of promoting a "Christianist-Islamist Alliance," because Hewitt neither endorsed D'Souza's book nor agreed with his thesis (I'm hoping he doesn't, of course); he only announced his first Town Hall column.

    To the extent a genuine alliance develops between Islamists and conservatives, it will split conservatives and libertarians in ways that would have been inimaginable before. At least one anti-Republican libertarian blogger is irate, gloating, and even speculating that D'Souza might be part of a Democratic Party plot:

    I've been arguing that libertarians need to end their alliance with conservatives immediately and completely. D'Souza's views will make that far more likely. I've been hoping that Americans will continue to turn away from the extremism that has gripped the Republican Party. D'Souza's call for jihad in America will speed up the decay of the Republican Party. If I didn't know better I'd almost think he was paid to write this sort of rubbish by the Democrats as a means of destorying the Republican Party. But then the Democrats don't have to destroy the Republicans. The Republicans are destroying themselves.
    One of my worries has long been that the right wing of the Republican Party feels marginalized, and would prefer Hillary Clinton to another Bush. Triangulating with Islamists is a great way to split the GOP as never before, and guarantee a Clinton victory in '08.

    If enough people want something to happen, it will happen.

    posted by Eric at 10:30 AM | Comments (43)

    Oil Outlook

    This is a really long piece by A. Jacksonian. He wrote this as a series of e-mail exchanges with me and I edited it making some minor corrections which A. Jacksonian has approved. It covers the outlook for oil production for the next 5 to 10 years. The short version: Iran and Venezuela will probably be dropping out of the oil market as producers.


    The petroleum infrastructure of any Nation or company has multiple components for input, output and feedback. Economic, of course, is the main judge of the overall system, but not the only guide as to system health. The physical 'plant' component of pumps, pipes, pressure gauges, platforms, and then refineries, which are their own specialty, are critical to continued economic efficiency. That said the system is maintained by the actual people hired on to do the work and their skill base is reflected *into* the system itself. An individual, here or there at a low level, can do some OJT, but for the system to work as a whole, good management and training are essential. Economic feedback *into* this system then goes for pay, training, upkeep, exploration to replace depletion and increased demand, and keep output steady with a slow upward spiral to it. Overall the system is 'motion stable' with feedbacks to reduce wobble and instability. The numbers on the amount fed into this system, economically, will either establish/maintain stability or reduce stability. Boom/bust cyclicity is not wanted as sudden surges/declines means an unstable labor base and the physical plant suffers due to that.

    The purpose of the interior system feedback dynamics, is to keep the entire system on an 'even keel' and at a steady and stable state. Deprive the system of economic input, and training suffers then basic upkeep and maintenance and then one starts on a downward decay cycle. Throwing in bursts of cash make that cycle nastier, while giving short-term gains. If you do not have the training to bring up old areas or properly scope-out new areas, then even if you bring them online you are stuck with higher overall depletion and actual loss through mismanagement. The large scale 'wobble' that is now showing up in Iranis due to the 18 months of not meeting export quotas. That is also due to National fiscal policies in Iran coming back with teeth to bite them. The Islamic world, by trying to eschew such concepts as 'compound interest' has problems dealing with the world of economics and markets. It is a key part of the mental toolbox that is missing, and even if *learned* it may be seen as an 'outsider thing'. Strong xenophobia thus exculdes key concepts for actually running a Nation and the Nation suffers and starts to see infrastructure decay.

    Continue reading "Oil Outlook"

    posted by Simon at 01:19 PM | Comments (3)

    But for the grace of God...

    In a post I wrote in Spain, I mentioned the January 30 Madrid airport bombing by ETA (Basque) terrorists, and Jose Guardia's coverage of it.

    Today I see (via Glenn Reynolds) that Jose has made a video of the blast available at his blog.

    It was a shock to watch -- because I hadn't fully digested the fact that the blast occurred at Madrid's lovely new Barajas Airport. It's one of the prettiest airports in the world, and I say this as someone who has been all over the world.

    In fact, I thought it was so pretty that I went out of my way to stop and be photographed there.


    That was on Christmas. The bombing occurred five days later.

    Not that I needed a reminder that terrorism isn't about enemies killing each other on the battlefield. It's about attacking innocent people, in innocent places. Even lovely places like the Barajas Airport. It could have been me, it could have been anyone. (Maybe it could have been prevented, too; maybe not.)

    Knowing how easily I could have been a statistic does little to endear me to statistics, especially from Nobel economists who maintain that I face a greater threat from Global Warming.

    MORE: As I write this, I see that the U.S. Embassy in Athens has been attacked. (Might terrorism really be more dangerous than greenhouse gas?)

    posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (2)

    Why I hate war blogging

    For the umpteenth time, war blogging is an exercise in the unreal. Not the surreal (which I can handle, even enjoy).

    It's because in war, unless you are "there," there's no there there. Information is inherently suspect. Even if you trust a reporter, how can you ever be sure that whoever gives him his information is trustworthy?

    Opinions on war are one thing (yes, I am pro-war, and I also vote), but trying to analyze suspect data in support of your opinion is a colossal waste of time. No one is likely to be persuaded, as people's opinions are what they are, and I am in no particular position to offer anything new. I have no security clearance, nor access to any information other than what any other blogger has.

    As if the shifting sands of the "Jamil Hussein" saga weren't enough (and I still don't know what to conclude), I now see that the top al-Qaida terrorists who were killed a few days ago weren't killed at all:

    The controversial US air strike in southern Somalia missed all three top al-Qaeda members Washington alleges are hiding out in the country, a senior US official said on Thursday.

    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said eight to 10 "al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists" were killed in Monday's attack, but gave no details.

    "Official"? On "condition of anonymity"?

    My, isn't that helpful in my "analysis"?

    Fortunately, I didn't sound off about this. If I had, what should I have said?

    "I'm glad we appear to have maybe killed some bad guys, and if it turns out that we haven't, I'll be glad when we do!"

    Otherwise, I might have had to issue a pompous "retraction" about things I was never in any position to know. (Sorry, if I can't take myself seriously enough, but I just can't. In my defense, I never made it my goal to replace the MSM; only to say what I think.)

    Isn't war blogging great?

    I'm reminded of the old lawyer's expression, "If you don't have the facts, argue the law, and if you don't have the law argue the facts."

    I think I'll just substitute war for both.

    "If you don't have the war, argue the war, and if you don't have the war, argue the war."


    I wish I found this more emotionally satisfying.

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

    Will For Life

    Ilan Pappe comments in the The Electronic Intifada about the Palestinian's will for life.

    The earlier strategy in Gaza was ghettoizing the Palestinians there, but this is not working. The ghettoized community continues to express its will for life by firing primitive missiles into Israel. Ghettoizing or quarantining unwanted communities, even if they were regarded as sub-human or dangerous, never worked in history as a solution.
    That is the ticket. Show your will for life by antagonizing a country with one of the strongest militaries in the world.

    Why has Gaza been ghettoized? Well it seems that the Gazans keep attacking Israel. Israel was hoping that giving the Palestinians their own territory would move them to peaceful pursuits. It hasn't worked as planned.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control - for all my loyal Power and Control readers. Blogger has ironed out the kinks and I will be posting material there that I do not cross post here. Thank you for your attention.

    posted by Simon at 08:03 AM

    licking the climate of blasphemy

    Among the highlights of my trip to Spain was visiting the various Salvador Dali museums including his house in Port Lligat, the official Dali Museum in Figueres, and the Castle in Pubol.

    I don't know how many readers are Dali fans (and I hope those who are not will forgive this exercise in surrealistic love), but those who are will immediately recognize the unmistakable landscape of Port Llligat which Dali made famous. This is the first thing you see at the crest of the hill just above his house:


    The house was originally a one-room fisherman's shack which Dali bought with proceeds from his art when he was very young, and remodeled over the years, adding a room at a time. The shack grew, meandering up the hill in haphazard fashion, eventually coming to look like this:


    Looking over to the right from my vantage point in the last picture, another view of the tiny fishing port:


    From inside the house, the view through the window of Dali's studio:


    That landscape is in the background of many Dali paintings. In fact, that very same window can be seen in the self portrait Dali did of himself painting Gala:


    While alas, I doubt I will ever be able to afford original art by Dali, I collect his prints when I can find them at decent prices, and I just scanned a recent acquisition -- "The Blasphemers" (Dali's depiction of Inferno, Canto 14).


    You can see a hint of Dalinian landscape in the background -- and of course the Dalinian crutch. According to this critic, the tongue (a skull, IMO) represents the blasphemer:

    The enormous tongue with teeth obviously represents the blasphemer's tongue, which has reduced him to a flaccid cripple, upheld by a crutch at one end, and flowing over a boundary at the other. The symbol is simply a meditation on the idea of blasphemy, and could have been created without the Dantean imagery at all, pure Dali. The case is not always as extreme, but there is no question that the enormous zest in Dali for his own symbologies and his own whimsy are the primary driving forces in the Inferno drawings, not a desire truly to illustrate Dante's text. He is not necessarily in disagreement with Dante, as Blake often is, but generally doing his own thing with themes supplied by Dante.
    I have a tendency to see Dali in Dali, and I think he is also doing his own thing by revisiting a much earlier theme.

    "Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano," to be precise.

    You didn't know skulls could do that? Take a look!


    ["Sex on the Beach at Port Lligat" might be a good alternative title.]

    Here's Dali's description:

    "The obsession, accordingly to which the jaws are the most philosophic instruments that man possesses. The lyricism of the piano is brutally possessed by the jaws of a fossil skull. This vision is a retinian product, a hypnogogic image of pre-sleep, occuring in the course of a siesta, contrary to the images resulting from the effects of mescalin, which can neveer reproduce instantaneous memories."
    What Dali leaves out is the obvious similarity between skulls and grand pianos. The grand piano's shape is very skull-like, if you think about it, and the keys are like teeth.

    Were I a skull, I'd probably think pianos were at least cute, if not irresistibly sexy.

    It's not that much of a str-r-e-e-tch. And if the two managed to conceive something, I think it might look a lot like the blasphemers' tongue.

    In "Soft Self Portrait with Fried Bacon" (1941), Dali seems to acknowledge that his own head looks like a grand piano, while the uncontrollable tongue threatens to get away from his head, pulling it inexorably downward:


    Tongues, skulls, pianos, sodomy. A lot of seemingly unconnected parts to a very paranoid puzzle. It makes a great deal of sense to me, but I can't explain why. Dali being dead, the interpretation of his art can take place on an infinite playing field. (By the way, I used to have a wonderful and prolific commenter named Steven Malcolm Anderson, who is still dead -- but whose outrageously logical wit will always make me think of Dali.)

    But the best for last. There's a crucial element which makes my paranoid side wonder whether Dali might have anticipated this essay.

    Bureaucrats! And atmospherocephalic ones at that!

    I kid you not.

    In 1931, Dali painted "Average Atmospherocephalic Bureaucrat in the Act of Milking a Cranial Harp":


    As if the bureaucrats didn't have enough to do.

    (Obviously, "atmospherocephalic bureaucrats" is code language for those who have global warming on the brain, and they're planning to sodomize the lyricism of our pianos and use their unending tongues to administer an endless licking all the way to hell.)

    MORE (01/12/07): What happens when skulls and evil bureaucrats merge? In 1968 Dali did the "Aliyah" series to commemorate the founding of Israel, and one of the images seems to be (in my opinion, anyway) a revisitation of his piano-sodomizing skull.


    The title is "Yea, Though I Walk Through The Valley."

    I think the image of the skull (death) with the multitudes fleeing is an obvious reference to the Nazis (whose bureaucrats of death used the skull as insignia) and of course the Holocaust.

    (Needless to say, I think the man's utter genius will become more and more apparent over time. Many critics couldn't see past his carefully staged buffoonery.)

    UPDATE (01/15/07): I just stumbled upon another image which I think shows that Dali was quite aware of the similarity between skulls and pianos -- "Skull with its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Bedside Table which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal's Nest" (1934):


    If the temperature is right, fertilization occurs?

    posted by Eric at 07:10 PM | Comments (8)

    At this rate, my skepticism will soon be unretractable!

    I'm having trouble counting the the number of times the story over the existence of "Jamil Hussein" has changed. The twists and turns are unbelievable.

    According to a new post by Bob Owen, there is no such Iraqi police captain as "Jamil Hussein," and the name was used as a pseudonym without disclosure by the AP:

  • There is no Baghdad police officer at the Khadra police station named Captain Jamil Hussein, and never has been. Jamil Hussein, and Jamil Gholaiem Hussein are pseudonyms for Jamil Gulaim "XX".
  • The Associated Press published a pseudonym without acknowledging that fact, apparently knowing, if BG Abdul-Kareem is correct, that they were publishing a false identity. Is that a big deal? HUGE. This is a major breach of journalistic ethics.
  • Flopping Aces has more, and saying that the source (whoever he may be) denies that he is the source:
    A man exists who denies he is the source, additionally he is not named Jamil Hussein...that's it. The only other information we get is that the Iraqi MoI has confirmed that he was the source for the AP which I question since how in the world do they confirm he is the source if he DENIES being the source?
    A man who is not Jamil Hussein but who is said to be a source named "Jamil Hussein" denies being Jamil Hussein and denies being the source?

    Is this news, or is it the Twilight Zone?

    I'm thinking that I might have to retract my retraction and stick with my original skepticism.

    Because truth, like, matters, you know?

    And I am sure truth matters to Glenn Greenwald, who is probably busy right now retracting all the unkind things he said about the "Jamil Hussein" skeptics.

    Must be a long post, as it isn't there yet. Just imagine how much fun it would be to retract a gem like this:

    And now the right-wing blogosphere stands revealed as what they are -- a pack of gossip-mongering hysterics who routinely attack any press reports that reflect poorly on their Leader or his policies, with rank innuendo, Internet gossip, base speculation, and wholesale error as their most frequent tools of the trade. They operate in packs, constantly repeating each other's innuendo and expanding on it incrementally, and they then cite to each other endlessly in one self-feeding, self-affirming orgy of links, as though that constitutes proof.

    And they are wrong over and over and over -- and not just in error, but embarrassingly so, because so frequently their claims are transparently, laughably absurd, and they spew the most righteous accusations without any sort of evidence at all. The New Republic has its Stephen Glass and The New York Times has its Jayson Blair. But those are one-off incidents. The right-wing blogosphere is driven by Jayson Blairs. They are exposed as frauds and gossip-mongerers on an almost weekly basis. The only thing that can compete with the consistency of their errors is the viciousness of their accusations and their pompous self-regard as "citizen journalists."


    Nobody is less interested in media accuracy than they are. Correcting media mistakes is so plainly not their agenda. They are nothing more than hyper-partisan hysterics who jump on any innuendo or rumor or whispered suspicion as long as it promotes their rigid ideological views and political loyalties and hatreds. ...

    Come on, Glenn Greenwald, don't be a sourpuss!


    I retracted, and you can too. Retraction is good for the soul. Plus, it's fun!

    However, none of these retractions and counter-retractions will help poor Jamil Hussein. He might exist and then, he might not exist. He might be accurate, but then, he might not. He might deny his existence and his status as a source, but then, he might not. He might as well have existed, even if he might as well not have.

    But hey, at least he has a blog.

    posted by Eric at 12:57 PM | Comments (3)

    Getting touchy-feely with the third rail?

    The best way to deal with so called "third rail" issues is to focus not on the emotions but on the facts. Yet as a debate between M. Simon and others in the comments to this post shows, certain facts constitute a "third rail":

    m. simon - Do you remember the shit storm that was raised by The Bell Curve book? Even if what you say is true as a scientific matter, it is effectively a third rail (touch it and you die) in terms of what passes for "main stream" credibility today (understanding that the "main stream" of media outlets and other institutions is well to the left of popular opinion - witness the popular support for the prohibition of affirmative action in Michigan which was opposed by virtually all "main stream" institutions and bien pensant writers). KC has achieved some fairly sympathetic coverage in the press and has become a meaningful voice in this process. The surest way for him to destroy that influence would be to take on the structure of affirmative action in America. KC is clearly a brave guy and is not afraid to take on the powerful in a just cause, but you have to pick your battles.
    Go figure. Either statistics show that IQ test scores are statistically lower for some groups than others or they don't.

    Gee. Statistics show some people are taller than other people too. (I think I'm several inches too short, and I'd also like 20 more IQ points to make up for my excesses over the years....)

    And I was expecting maybe a big electrical ZAP!

    This IQ business sure as hell isn't my third rail. I just touched it, and I feel nothing.

    Perhaps the debate should be over why there's a third rail.

    Who supplies the power to this third rail?

    Any way to turn it off?

    Or am I being too logical?

    (What annoys me about these third rails is that they stifle debate and encourage dishonesty.)

    MORE: I mentioned height because it struck me as a benign non-controversial topic. Now that I see that arguing over the late James Brown's height can get you shot, perhaps I should think again.

    I guess there's some truth to the saying that size matters?

    (In a man's world, anyway....)

    MORE: The shooting is being called "the James Brown height fight," and I'm a little disappointed by the way the pertinent fact is being avoided:

    Brown, who was known to wear lifts, died of heart failure Dec. 25 at age 73. Accounts of his height vary.
    Accounts vary?

    Are there no facts?

    AND MORE: According to IMDB, James Brown was 5'6".

    So when does the shooting start?


    Let me add a little something to Eric's fine post. Here is a fragment of a comment I posted at the above link that I think bears repeating:

    The "studies" groups have politicized innate differences.

    As Eric points out: it is equivalent to giving preferential treatment to short people. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Eric is a friend. And, I want it to stay that way. /tounge firmly planted in cheek (except for the Eric is a friend part).


    posted by Eric at 09:38 AM | Comments (4)

    Pride goeth after the fall?

    Anyone who thinks Jesus is on the right, think again!

    Hugo Chavez thinks Jesus Christ was the ultimate socialist -- "the greatest socialist in history."

    And Bob Edgar, general secretary of the national council of churches, wants us to put Jesus in charge of war planning:

    I think it's more important to put Christ back into our war planning than into our Christmas cards.
    That was his Christmas message a year ago.

    In an editorial today, Edgar is taking a long historical view of the Iraq War, which he seems to want to go the way of Vietnam -- a total rout for the U.S. Proudly recalling his clergy status and his role as a congressman in the days immediately before the fall of Saigon, he clearly sees the U.S. as deserving to lose now as it did then:

    We were determined not to allow any more money to be spent on more troops for a war we were not winning.

    It is somewhat ironic that, on that same day, April 22, 1975, an official White House photograph captured the architects of the proposed troop surge. President Ford is seated behind his desk in the Oval Office. He is conferring with his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputy, Dick Cheney.

    Fast-forward 32 years. We are hearing the same talk. We are hearing the same reasoning that more troops will help us get out of a war thousands of miles away.

    We have just seen a new Congress sworn in. Many say voters spoke loudly last November against the status quo. In 1975, the 49 of us were called "Watergate babies," referring to the crimes that brought down the Nixon administration. Voters then were tired of being lied to, and wanted desperately to get our troops home from the war in Southeast Asia.

    The architects of the waning days of the Vietnam War are many of the same planners who pushed our troops into the current war in Iraq. Apparently history has taught them nothing.

    History, however, apparently was not lost on the American voters last November. I suspect it will likely not be lost on their representatives in the 110th Congress. I suspect those elected by the people will not approve spending any more tax dollars to extend another unpopular, ill-planned and shortsighted war.

    Yes, wars can be lost. On that point, Bob Edgar and I agree.

    What I can't understand is his apparent pride in scenes like this:


    And this:


    Is that our fate if Edgar and the National Council of Churches "put Christ back into our war planning"?

    (What, I should move to Venezuela to live under Jesus?)

    posted by Eric at 08:35 AM | Comments (4)

    Not by design?

    An interesting new phenomenon is the deliberate creation of designer mixed breed dogs.

    When I was a kid and a purebred dog managed to get tied up with another purebred dog, the result was called a "mutt." There's nothing wrong with mutts, and I say this as a mutt myself. (I'd never call myself a "NorseWelshGermanScotsman.") But today, designer mix dogs are called "cockapoos," "labradoodles," and "puggles."

    And today, Coco played with another designer dog -- a "genuine" "Boglen Terrier." (That's a cross between a Beagle and a Boston Terrier.)

    None of these "breeds" can be called purebred dogs until after many generations a strain is produced which breeds true -- producing definable features every time. I've seen countless different types of "labradoodles" and they definitely haven't ironed out the kinks. The Boglen Terrier pictured at the last web site looks more like a boxer than the one which played with Coco today.

    The name's "Bruiser":


    Have to admit, Bruiser's a cute pup.

    I was toying with the idea of breeding Coco to a French Bulldog and creating a new breed -- the Franco-American Bulldog. Oooh la la! (Whoops! Someone's already created the "French American Bulldog" and started a club. But I like my name better!)

    Coco also played with a very frisky young Rottweiller today. So frisky that neither could hold still for a picture, but I did get this:


    And this:


    I guess if I want my subjects to hold still, I should stick with statues -- like the ones on the Columbus monument in Barcelona (previously featured in my post about Queen Isabella).

    The following display a form of gratitude which can only be called doglike, because it just isn't human:



    I don't think the statues are accurate depictions, though, because people just aren't like that.

    As Mark Twain said,

    If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

    posted by Eric at 07:39 PM | Comments (2)

    Final countdown to Bush fascism!

    Never mind the Democratic majority in Congress. According to Chris Hedges (formerly of the NYT) it's fascism that's imminent. Robertson, Dobson and Bush have all apparently taken over -- without any "countervailing forces" to stop them!

    (Via Pajamas Media.)

    Much of his argument reads like a blog post from David Neiwert. Hedges is admittedly very angry, and he conflates the Reconstructionists and Dominionists with bitter and suicidal evangelists who believe in divine intervention -- and of course Bush.

    Not only is Bush a player ("he's a believer, to the extent that this belief system empowers his own arrogant sense of privilege and intellectual shallowness"), but the author makes a powerful Hitler comparison:

    Hitler was in power in 1933, but it took him until the late '30s to begin to consolidate his program. He never spoke about the Jews because he realized that raw anti-Semitism didn't play out with the German public. All he did was talk about family values and restoring the moral core of Germany.
    I see it now! Bush is doing the same thing that Hitler did! (He's just not talking about the Jews for now. Consolidating his program takes time....)

    I hate to pick nits with this guy, but I have a bit of a problem with that "never spoke about the Jews" thingie. I mean, didn't Hitler lay out his plans for the world to see back in the 1920s? In a famous book?

    UPDATE: Thank you Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all!

    posted by Eric at 08:27 AM | Comments (29)

    No Plan

    I was listening to Sen. Tom Daschle on the Ed Schultz show tonight. I found out a couple of interesting things. First, Senator Tim Johnson will not be back to the Senate soon. He is now undergoing rehabilitation, no mention of when he will be recovered enough to return to the Senate. This means Lieberman is the swing vote in the Senate if the Rs and Ds keep their troops in line.

    Second, Iraq investigations are going to tie up the House and Senate so that Democrats will not be passing much of their agenda, according to Daschle.

    Third, when pointedly asked about the Democrat's plan for Iraq he avoided answering the question in any way shape or form.

    I think what that all means is that the Democrat's plan for the next year or two is to use the investigations into Bush's conduct of the war as a stalling tactic to avoid doing anything substantial.

    I think this fits in with a desperate plan to keep the Democrats From Splitting.

    Update: 10 Jan '07 0438z

    Senator Tim Johnson's condition has been upgraded from critical to fair. His recovery is expected to take several more months.

    Ammended due to a Power and Control Commenter re: counting heads in the Senate.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:25 PM | Comments (7)

    Ezer Was A Savage

    I'm partial to war stories and this is a really great one. Ynet News tells about the beginnings of the Israeli airforce.

    Almost 60 years have passed since that fateful day, but Lou Lenart still remembers every minute of it, as though it was yesterday. Those were trying times for the budding Jewish nation, and Lenart was faced with a task of great importance.

    It was May 29, 1948, only two weeks after the declaration of independence. The Egyptian army was camped outside Ashdod, and its commanders were hard at work preparing the attack on Tel Aviv. Israel needed to defend itself in an absolute way. This historical move was Lenart's responsibility: the IDF's first aerial attack.

    Lenart learned to fly in the US Marine Corps. He flew fighter missions in the Pacific against the Japanese. He says, though that flying for the Israeli Air Force had the most meaning for him. A really interesting part of the story is the logistics. The story of how the pilots got trained to fly Nazi S-199 fighters in Czechoslovakia, and then deliver the airplanes from Italy to Israel. You can find that story at 101 Squadron.

    After the planes and pilots got to Israel they had less than 10 days to get the aircraft assembled and in fighting trim. The Egyptians were attacking towards Tel Aviv and had to be stopped. The airfield where the planes took off from was 20 km (about 15 miles) from where the Egyptians were attacking.

    Lenart, who had the most expansive operational flying experience in the new air force, led the four pilots. The other three were Ezer Weizmann, Mudy Alon and Eddie Cohen. The four Messerschmitt aircrafts were gathered from leftovers of the Nazi Luftwaffe in the Czech Republic which were reassembled in Israel, and were each equipped with a machine gun and 4 70 kg [150 lb. - ed.] bombs. This was a far cry from the standards Lenart was used to in the USAF.

    "We didn't know if we could use the planes. We didn't even know if they would start," he remembers. "But Air Force Commander Aharon Remez
    told us we had to do everything possible to stop the Egyptians. I knew they were in the Ashdod area, but we didn't have up to date maps or radios. Mudy Alon had to give me direction with hand signals. We headed south until we saw the Egyptian forces from above. There were thousands of troops, tanks and hundreds of trucks. We flew lower, dropped the bombs, and started shooting at anything we could spot. The Egyptians tried to shoot at us, but they were stunned. They didn't even know Israel had an air force. The Arabs had everything, we had nothing. And we still won. When I'm asked how we did it, I say: we just didn't have a choice. That was our secret weapon."

    The mission was a success: the Egyptian forces were blocked and main command in Tel Aviv could breath a sigh of relief. Eddie Cohen was killed in the attack, and Mudy Alon, who was killed later, lost his plane. "In one battle we lost 25 percent of our pilots, and 50 percent of our aircrafts," he says.
    Amazing story.

    Lenart, who is now an 85 year old producer in Hollywood, is writing a book about his experiences in the Israeli Air Force and is producing a documentary on the action. In addition negotiations are going on to turn it into a Hollywood movie.

    Lenart was born in Hungary, and emigrated to the USA with his parents when he was 10 years old. After he graduated from high school, in the summer of 1940, he joined the Marine Corps with one target: "killing as many Nazis as possible." He was the only Jew in boot camp. He served as a foot-soldier for a while before being accepted to flight school. He had a bad training accident, but recovered and took part in the battles against the Japanese kamikaze pilots in the Pacific Ocean front. He was discharged as a captain after the war, and came home to discover that 14 members of his family, including his grandmother, who stayed back in Hungary were murdered by the Nazis.

    In early 1948 he attended a lecture on the importance of the Zionist cause. At the end of the lecture he approached the speaker and asked to join the Hagana. A few weeks later he received a phone call with his first assignment: fly a freight plane from Italy to Israel. In Rome he met a mysterious beautiful woman named Carolina, who introduced him to members of the Italian mafia. The mafia, it turned out, was hired by Israel to assist in the purchase of freight planes for Israel. A few days later Lenart was already on a Pressman aircraft. The only problem was that the distance between Brindisi, the departure point, and his destination in Israel was 1300 miles. The planes maximum flight distance was 350 miles.

    "Our solution was to turn the plane into a flying fuel tank," Lenart tell us. "We took out all the seats in the back of the plane, and replaced them with a giant rubber tank full of fuel, which was connected directly to the plane's fuel tank. I could barely take off due to the added weight. In addition, I didn't have any maps, parachutes or radios. I was facing a strong cross wind, and I was afraid I would run out of fuel before we reached Tel Aviv. Finally, after a harrowing 11 hour flight, we, me and my co-pilot Cooly Goldstein, arrived. The landing was good, but as I got off the plane I told myself I would never fly another flight like that one. To this day I have no idea how we didn't run out of engine oil. It was our miracle of the oil."

    After the dangerous mission was done, he decided to stay in Israel. Later on in the war he became one of the pillars of the Israeli air force. After the war, he took part in an operation to bring 100,000 Jews from Iraq to Israel. He tells us that throughout the service he formed a strong friendship with Ezer Weizmann. "Ezer was a savage, but a very brave pilot. I remember that in 1951 I cam to Ben Gurion's office to report on a top secret mission I took part in. Before the meeting Shimon Peres told me that I would be asked for my recommendation for Commander of the Air Force at the meeting. When Ben Gurion asked me I had my answer prepared. I told him I thought it was very important for young pilots to have a commander who is a fighter and will be an inspiration to them, and that that man is Ezer."

    It looks to me like Israel could use some savages in command these days. The Olmert government is tired and they have a plumber for defence minister. Not good.

    In fact let me go further. America could use some savages in the higher echelons and at the helm. Where is Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf when we need him? We have, in many ways, let our savage instincts atrophy. Especially with the election of the Democrats to control of Congress. We too are acting tired. The jihadis have been fighting for around 1,400 years and we are tired after only five. Not good.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:08 AM | Comments (5)

    Pulling Out Doesn't Work

    You would think they would teach that in sex ed classes. Oh. Wait. This is not that kind of story. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert says that pulling out of Lebanon and Gaza didn't work.

    Jerusalem ( - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert now admits that Israeli's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip did not work.

    In an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua, Olmert said he believes in the establishment of a Palestinian state, which will require Israel to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank. But he said he does not believe such a move can be made unilaterally.

    "A year ago, I believed that we would be able to do this unilaterally," Olmert was quoted as saying. "However, it should be said that our experience in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip is not encouraging. We pulled out of Lebanon unilaterally, and see what happened. We pulled out of the Gaza Strip completely, to the international border, and every day they are firing Kassam rockets at Israelis."

    The one thing Olmert is doing right is holding off major attacks on Gaza to allow the Palestinian civil war to develop. Other than that his moves have been a disaster.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:44 AM

    How broken things are kept broken

    Today's Washington DC Examiner has a thoughtful common-sense editorial about how to fix the horribly broken immigration quagmire which so plagues this country. Excerpt:

    Job one on immigration reform is regaining control of America's borders.

    Allowing millions of unknown foreigners to enter our nation illegally is foolhardy in the extreme in the post-Sept. 11 era. You would never let strangers move into your own home uninvited, then pay the intruders for being there. But that's exactly what we've been doing at the national level for too many years.

    Since 1980, illegal immigration has cut the going rate for unskilled labor in half, yet the cost of living continues to climb. Taxpayers are forced to make up the difference. A national policy that compels American workers to accept government handouts while importing even more poverty cannot be defended. As long as there are fellow citizens who lack good-paying jobs, health insurance and educational opportunities, immigration must be controlled -- and then only those who follow our laws and respect our customs should be allowed to enter.

    The 700-mile fence along the Mexican border approved by the last Congress is a first step, but only that. So much more remains to be done.

    Employers who cannot find enough workers should get a limited number of temporary guest worker visas without waiting years for approval. However, such visas must be issued under much stricter controls, with employers and visa holders both required to regularly check in with immigration officials.

    We don't advocate the wholesale roundup of the 12 million illegal aliens already here, but we do insist that those who break our laws be immediately deported upon serving their sentences, as is required under federal law. It's time the federal government takes this enforcement duty seriously. This will require unprecedented collaboration between federal and local law enforcement agencies. Jurisdictions that support such efforts should be rewarded. Those that refuse to cooperate or actively oppose the effort should be severely penalized.

    The editorial has a lot of good ideas, but I think there are two major reasons nothing gets done:
  • 1. Collusion between Republican politicians in bed with businesses seeking cheap labor and Democrat politicians seeking new voters;

  • 2. A debate dominated by inflexible activists with extreme positions unpalatable to the majority.
  • When the "choice" is seen as open-border-liberals versus draconian round-em-up-and-deport-em-conservatives, any consensus based on common sense becomes impossible, and politicians are free to work their usual smoke-and-mirrors game of collusion.

    Were I more of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I'd almost think offering people phony or bad choices was deliberate strategy.

    posted by Eric at 08:01 AM | Comments (4)

    I refuse to forgive Hitler (so I'll never be a true Christian)

    This morning's report of the sentencing in Germany of a Moroccan man convicted of aiding 9/11 hijackers posed a vexing moral question:

    Who has the moral right to forgive other people for their crimes?

    Anyway, the son of a murdered flight attendant forgives the convicted Moroccan:

    HAMBURG, GERMANY -- During an anguished exchange in a German courtroom Monday, an American whose mother was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks said he forgave a Moroccan convicted of aiding the hijackers.

    But the victim's son, Dominic Puopolo Jr., rebuked defendant Mounir el Motassadeq for complaining that the accusations "ruined" his life.

    "Your life is not over, but my mom's is," Puopolo told el Motassadeq in an emotional exchange just before a state court in Hamburg imposed the 15-year sentence, the maximum under German law.

    During closing arguments, Puopolo held up pictures of his mother and struggled with his tears as he urged the judges to consider the "human and emotional cost" of the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

    The court granted el Motassadeq a final chance to speak before it pronounced sentence, and he turned to Puopolo.

    "I understand your suffering," bearded 32-year-old said. "The same thing is being done to me, my kids, my parents, my family -- my future is ruined."

    Forgiveness is supposed to go to the heart of Christian doctrine. Jesus, of course, forgave his killers as they killed him, and he urged others to forgive those who committed crimes against him -- and against them. What I'm a little unclear about is whether or not Jesus ever forgave specific crimes committed by unrepentant criminals against other people.

    One of the logical problems I have with Christianity is that a lot of people run around forgiving people for what they did to others. I don't see what moral or logical right anyone has to forgive on behalf of another person. If someone commits a crime against me, only I have the right to forgive what was done to me. But if someone else is harmed by someone else, by what right and under what theory may I forgive that person? It would seem arrogant in the extreme, as I'm not the victim. Had someone murdered my mother, I might be able to forgive that aspect of the crime which affected me, but only my mother could forgive what was done to her.

    Perhaps I am misreading Christian doctrine, but if we can forgive people for committting crimes against others, then why not forgive Hitler and Stalin?

    (I never claimed to be much of a Christian...)

    posted by Eric at 06:56 AM | Comments (8)

    Walking On Broken Glass

    I was having an e-mail exchange with one of my commenters and the difficulties of life came up. My commenter was talking about his relationships and the "walking on egg shells" feelings you get in your relationships with some loved ones. Parents, siblings, offspring. Here is a little of what I had to say:

    I finally learned that the "perfect childhood" is an illusion. My pain, however, prepared me to help others. Which in the ideal case is what it is supposed to do and what you are supposed to do.

    I have a relative who is borderline mad, schizophrenia. If he takes his medicine he is fine. He hates taking his medicine. Says it deprives him of an interesting life of the mind. Being borderline schizophrenic myself I understand that. Schizophrenia is a big help to creativity if it doesn't turn into madness. Gifts and curses. Sometimes it is hard to tell.

    Well I have lead a very interesting life so far and for that I am eternally grateful.

    When I get that "walking on egg shells" feeling I like to listen to "Walking On Broken Glass" by the EURYTHMICS. It expresses the feeling well.

    Now everyone of us was made to suffer
    Everyone of us was made to weep
    But we've been hurting one another
    And now the pain has cut too deep...
    So take me from the wreckage
    Save me from the blast
    Lift me up and take me back
    Don't let me keep on walking...
    Walking on broken glass

    Walking On Broken Glass - lyrics

    Walking On Broken Glass - music video

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:11 AM | Comments (1)

    historic bullies deserve historicism!

    In a classic example of bullies playing victim, Saudi-assisted Muslims have been demanding the right use Spain's Cordoba Cathedral as a mosque in the hope of reclaiming it:

    The recuperation of places and buildings that were once mosques or sacred Islamic sites is the primary method employed by Muslims to reconquer Al-Ándalus. So-called moderate Muslims are oftentimes more effective than extremists in gaining concessions because of their attempts to portray Western democracies as intolerant if those countries don't cede to certain demands. This technique has been used repeatedly in the case of the Córdoba Cathedral.

    Spanish Muslims have for years been petitioning for the right to celebrate Friday prayer in the cathedral. Up until now these requests have been denied, which is a good thing according to Spanish politician Gustavo de Arístegui, the nation's foremost expert on Islamic terrorism. Arístegui explains that if this request were to be granted, it would set a dangerous precedent. Similar demands would follow in ancient mosques throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Far from satisfying Muslims, initial concessions would only serve to inspire Islamic extremists and their potential recruits.

    Especially considering the original Muslim invasion and takeover of Spain, you'd think there'd be a little more sensitivity to Spanish concerns. (Or does "sensitivity" only operate in one direction?) I think it's the height of arrogance for modern Muslims to claim as "theirs" a building lost centuries ago by earlier Muslims.

    This game of "who was there first" means that because Roman Christians built the Hagia Sofia, they should have the right to take it back. (As Aaron Hanscom points out while in Turkey last November, the Pope "refrained from praying or crossing himself when he visited the Hagia Sophia.")

    Should Wiccans have the right to "take back" the Vatican and other places once home to pagan activities?

    As I just got back from Spain, my immediate reaction to the story was to exclaim that I was half expecting Barcelona's statue of Isabel la Católica to stand up and start wielding her sword again.

    Fortunately, I took a picture of that very statue, and here she is:


    Isabel (known to us as Isabella), of course, was famous not just for dispatching Columbus to the New World, but for expelling the Muslims from Spain. I don't think she'd take kindly to the Muslim demands of today.

    Still, she's about likely to get up off her pedestal and start swinging at Muslims as the 12th Imam is to come out of his holy well. I probably have Jason and the Argonauts on the brain and I'm expecting something like this:


    Not that I have any illusions about Isabella being a nice person by modern standards. She launched the Spanish Inquisition, and her explusion of Spain's Jews (she initially opposed measures against Jews until Torquemada talked her husband into it) ranks as a major disgrace and weakened Spain.

    Still, she was the first named woman to make it onto a United States coin:


    Such a feat would seem unlikely today.

    (Unless, of course, Isabella could be rebadged as a Hispanic feminist.)

    MORE: At (a tourist site with no particular axe to grind), Lawrence Bohme ("artist, author and conference intepreter") takes a long historical look at the Cathedral:

    First, the Romans built a pagan temple on the site. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the new Germanic masters of Spain (the Visigoths) replaced it with the Christian church of Saint Vincent. When the Arabs conquered the peninsula in the early 8th century, they tore down the church and began building their great mosque, which - commensurate with Cordoba's importance as the centre of Muslim power in Spain - became the largest mosque in all of Islam after that of Caaba, in Arabia.
    So, who was there first?

    I just knew it had to be the Pagans!

    posted by Eric at 06:51 PM | Comments (3)

    Hamas Is An Obstacle To Peace

    You say you know this already? Old news? Well let me say that you really didn't know this until you read it from first term Representative Keith Ellison.

    The template set forth by the roadmap for peace currently provides the best outline for achieving a two-state solution to bringing about a lasting settlement. Right now Hamas represents the greatest obstacle to this path, and until Hamas denounces terrorism, recognizes the absolute right of Israel to exist peacefully and honors past agreements, it cannot be considered legitimate partners in this process. Sensible and moderate elements in Palestinian society could possibly provide credible negotiating partners. The United States should encourage dialogue with peaceful Palestinian leaders that recognize Israel, condemn terrorism, and honor past accords.
    Which is exactly what Israel is asking for. Surprised? Me too.

    Just wait until you hear what he has to say about Iran.

    The other serious threat to the security of the region is Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. This must be stopped. A nuclear-armed Iran would upset the strategic balance in the region and pose a clear threat to world peace. Iran's sponsorship of international terrorism as well as financial aid to terrorist organizations endangers peace around the globe. I believe that the United States must engage Iran in a diplomatically meaningful way, through direct or multi-lateral negotiations, before resorting to military force.

    Iran is the leading sponsor of international terrorism as well as the major financial supporter of many radical groups that threaten moderate regimes throughout the Middle East.


    What with the Jefferson Koran flare up and his former membership in the Nation of Islam, I expected the worst from Ellison. Perhaps he had his Malcolm X moment. A change of heart about whitey. And in Keith's case about the Jews.

    I'm going to keep an eye on him. It is possible he is the moderate Muslim we have been looking for.

    Gates of Vienna has a suggestion for Ellison.

    H/T Sand Monkey

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    The Democrats Are Splitting

    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable.

    Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable, new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Jerusalem Post hours after entering the party leadership position.

    The Maryland Democrat said the view is shared by his party, rejecting assertions that the Democrats would be weaker than the Republicans on Iran.

    He also said that the use of force against Teheran remained an option.

    Hoyer, second only in the hierarchy of the House of Representatives to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is charged with articulating and strategizing on party policy.

    This is coming as a real tail twisting surprise for the anti-war wing of the party. Joshua Frank at Press Action says:
    ...the new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told the Jerusalem Post that Democrats wouldn't rule out using force on Iran to block Tehran's nuclear aspirations. In the past, similar remarks had been made by Democratic leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, along with presidential hopeful John Edwards and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Even superman Barack Obama won't challenge the Bush administration's erroneous Iran approach.

    As Obama told the Chicago Tribune in September of 2004, "[T]he big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures [to stop its nuclear program], including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point ... if any, are we going to take military action? ... [L]aunching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in" given the ongoing war in Iraq. "On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse."

    Some other Democrats seem to have come to their senses, and many plan on objecting to Bush's push for more troops in Iraq, a commonsense position that we should hardly congratulate them for taking. Sen. Harry Reid had initially supported such a surge, but later back-peddled after realizing he'd see repercussions from the antiwar wing of his party.

    There you see the dilema of the Democrats. Do what is right, prevent the partition of Iraq among Iran, Syria, and Turkey, avoid a genocide, or cave to the anti-war wing of the party.

    The same goes double for Iran. If Iran gets the bomb the probability of a nuclear war in the Middle east rises to at least a 70% probability. Possibly as high as 95%. Them is bad odds. It is looking like the Dem leaders who are now in the loop can see the train wreck coming. Do they do the right thing to help America prevail and give the Arab world hope for a more prosperous future (Iraq GDP rose 4% last year)? Or do they cut and run, leaving a worse mess just in time for the '08 elections?

    We really are at the point of no good options. I think the Democrats are finding it difficult to be in a very similar position. What ever they do probably means the end of their coalition. I had a little squib about this after the election. They are trying to ride into the future with a team of horses that are pulling in opposite directions. It is going to be tough.

    In addition they are in a difficult position with the UN which says we can't leave Iraq until the Iraqis can defend themselves. Democrats in favor of defying the UN? The world has turned upside down for sure if that happens.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:30 PM | Comments (2)

    ¡Capitalismo o muerte!

    Souvenir anyone?

    While I didn't buy one, I couldn't resist taking a picture of these Che Guevara keyrings in Barcelona.


    Aren't they lovely?

    But for the life of me, I just can't decide whether I prefer the green or the lavender background. And the one in the middle has a bottle opener, which is very handy to have in case you need to open some of the trendier non-screwcap microbrews.

    Decisions, decisions!

    This highlights one of the problems with life under capitalism, of course. There are just too many choices! Let's face it, having too many varieties of Che Guevara keyrings is an undeniable example of genuine capitalist oppression.

    Nothing ironic about it.

    posted by Eric at 12:11 PM

    We Could Have A War On Our Hands

    The Iranian economy must really be hurting from America's Cash Flow Jihad on Iran. The Jerusalem Post reports on Iran's latests threats.

    A senior Iranian officer warned that if the West continues to threaten Iran's economy over its nuclear program, Teheran will discontinue the flow of oil via the Strait of Hormuz, Israel Radio reported Monday.

    According to the officer, 40% of the world's oil is transferred through the strait, and the world is dependent on Iran for a source of energy and a stable economy.

    I do believe that there is a war coming to Iran.

    This threat might explain why a second carrier battle group is headed to the gulf.

    The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is scheduled to leave the United States this month for the Gulf region in a Naval buildup aimed partly as a warning to Iran. Officials decided to send the Stennis strike group on top of a carrier group already in the region on a request late last year from the U.S. Central Command, the military unit in charge of activities there as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.
    Note that the threat was always implicit. All this changes is making it explicit.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:43 AM | Comments (3)

    Crossroads? Apogee? Or just politics?

    The sands are shifting in the debate over withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The primary argument no longer seems to be along the lines of whether troops should be withdrawn, but when.

    I agree with Jules Crittenden (via Glenn Reynolds) that withdrawal would be very dispiriting for this country, and would lead to America sitting around and awaiting a "dark age: which brutal second-rate powers such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea do what they choose to whom they choose without restraint. An age of modern warlords, with no over-arching, feared power to keep them in check. We can watch the sick man that is Europe slowly succumb. We can watch small free nations try to fend for themselves. We can await the inevitable nuclear crisis.
    I'd rather prevent it than wait for it, and I'm old enough to remember how the Vietnam malaise led directly to the U.S. sitting around passively watching horrors like the Khmer Rouge, and the emergence of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. I think we're still suffering from the fallout, and I think it could get worse.

    Crittenden thinks we are at a crossroads, between fighting on the one hand and defeat and surrender on the other:

    The Democratic Congress, so eager to abandon Iraq, is fortunate. The world that seems to revile us no matter what we do is also fortunate. Because it will not be their decision.

    We have a president who understands what is at stake. This week he will tell us what it is going to be. All signs indicate he recognizes the mistakes of the past, errors such as are often made in war, and he intends to do what is right. That would be the harder choice, to fight now, when we are tired and feel spent. But, as another American once said, we have not yet begun to fight.

    It is his decision to make, and it will fall to a small number of our fellow Americans to execute. It falls to each of us to join the fight in the best way we can. We can be grateful that we still have men and women who are willing to face death for us, who make their choice every day. We are very fortunate to have them. Because Option One, accepting surrender and defeat, is no option at all.

    Parenthetically, I don't think it's the wisest idea to order U.S. troops to flee when confronted by armed invaders either. It makes the country look lame.

    In a lecture in Philadelphia last month, Charles Krauthammer made a very articulate argument that the United States had reached it's apogee in the post-9/11 period:

    Sept. 11 ushered in the second era of this unipolar era, which I would call the era of assertion, where the power that had been latent in America shows itself. I would date this era from 9/11 to the March 14, 2005, a date probably unfamiliar to you and not particularly renowned in our history today, but a date that I think will be remembered by historians as the apogee of American power, the peak of the arc of the unipolar era.

    On 9/11, the United States, with its ally Great Britain, decided that it would respond in two ways: revenge and reconstruction. It would retaliate against the enemy, try to pursue him and his associates in Afghanistan and elsewhere; but it also decided -- and this was the Bush Doctrine -- that that was not enough of a response; that spending the next twenty to thirty years hunting cave-to-cave in Afghanistan was not an adequate response. It was perhaps necessary, but certainly not sufficient, to deal with this new ideological enemy. This enemy is not, as some have pretended, simply a band of terrorists and extremists numbering in the thousands. It's an idea with many, many practitioners of different stripes--some Shiite, some Sunni--and with allies, fifth columns, potential recruits throughout the world, including large immigrant populations in the West.

    The Bush Doctrine held that besides attacking the immediate enemy who had perpetrated 9/11, it would have to engage in a larger enterprise of changing the underlying conditions which had given birth to this idea of Islamic radicalism, and to change the conditions that had allowed it to recruit and breed, particularly in the Arab world.

    This meant changing the internal structure of Arab regimes and in a larger sense the culture of the Arab/Islamic world. This had been the one area of the world that uniquely had been untouched by the modernizing and democratizing influences of the postwar era. East Asia had famously taken off economically and politically, in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere; Latin America and even some parts of Africa had democratized; of course, Western Europe had been democratic ever since World War II, but now Eastern Europe had joined the march. Only the Arab/Islamic world had been left out. Unless it was somehow encouraged and brought along on that march, it would remain recalcitrant, alienated, oppressed, tyrannical, and the place from which the kind of atavistic attacks on America and the West that we have seen on 9/11 and since would continue.

    That's why the entire enterprise of changing the culture of the Arab world was undertaken. It was, as I and others had said at the time, a radical idea, an arrogant idea, a risky idea. But it was also the only idea of any coherence and consistency that anyone has advanced on how to change the underlying conditions that had led to 9/11 and ultimately to prevent the kind of conditions that would lead to a second 9/11.

    Note the ominous use of the past tense.

    What worries me is the stubborn need for denial that we are at war. It's as if 9/11 can be forgotten now, and we can all get back to the "real" business of the country.

    Such as? I don't know; fill in the blanks. Global Warming, perhaps? Higher taxes? Illegal aliens? Health care? How about the "war on drugs"?

    Anything but the war we're in.

    Political analyst Dick Polman sees the war in terms of politics, and argues that many Republicans are running away from Bush:

    ....politically speaking, there is a growing desire to cut and run from Bush. The first order of business is to make it clear that rank-and-file Republicans don't share the president's urge to "surge." Sen. Susan Collins of Maine doesn't like it. Neither does Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who says: "I think it would create more targets. I think it would put more life at risk." When Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the departing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was asked last weekend whether he backed a troop surge, he offered this stellar endorsement: "I don't know whether I do or not."

    Washington columnist Robert Novak, who has excellent conservative sources, said the other day that roughly 37 of the 49 Republican senators are prepared to bail out on Bush over the troop-escalation plan. That number seems high, in light of the GOP's traditional party discipline. But, at the very least, it's clear that Republicans have studied the '06 election results - particularly the mass defection of independent swing voters - and rightly concluded that they would still be running Capitol Hill if not for Bush's elective war.

    They saw what happened to Sen. Rick Santorum in blue-state Pennsylvania; he was actually more hawkish than Bush, and he lost by 18 percentage points. They also saw what happened to Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island; he said last fall that he would consider the surge idea but changed his tune after he took a lot of heat. He lost anyway, basically because he shared Bush's party label.

    While there's no way to stop it from happening, I'm sorry to see the war being conflated into the Bush presidency by means of the constant application of the "Bush's War" meme, because that makes people forget that it is the country that is in this war, not Bush. To say or imply that thousands of American troops died "for Bush" dishonors their sacrifice, which was for all of us. It's a pretty sad state of affairs when war strategy is reduced to "the surge idea" by finger-to-the-wind politicians worrying about percentage points in the polls.

    I suppose it's naive to talk about such things as statesmanship, but I think we could use some right now.

    I see a few signs of it, but it's mostly limited to the blogosphere.

    It's almost comical that someone as cynical as I am would advocate such a thing as statesmanship. Seriously, in the normal context of politics, the word makes me laugh.

    (But it's harder and harder to laugh at things that aren't funny.)

    posted by Eric at 09:38 AM | Comments (3)

    No bull? How do I know there's no bull?

    Last night I stumbled upon the latest innovation from Nigeria -- puppy scams:

    1/1/07 - It is an old scam with a sneaky new twist. Nigerian criminals -- known for lottery scams -- are now using hard-to-resist puppies for sale.
    Hanford mom Anjelica Garcia began her search for a Yorkshire Terrier online. It was for her daughters' Christmas present, after they lost their old pet. Anjelica answered an ad and exchanged e-mails with the seller. It sounded perfect.

    But there was a slight problem. The seller says he's no longer living in the United States. The "Reverend Robert Greene" says he took the puppies with him to do missionary work in Nigeria.

    "He was a servant of the Lord, so I trusted him," Garcia said.

    So, Anjelica sent $600 to Nigeria. The money was picked up on the other end but the dogs never came. When she questioned the seller he had the nerve to ask her for even more money. That's when Anjelica got suspicious.

    Doug Broten of the Better Business Bureau has seen many examples of this type of advance fee fraud.

    Absolutely no puppies seem to be involved, so animal rights activists can relax. There are no Nigerian puppy mills; just cute pictures of puppies, with heartrending messages attached.

    I was quite surprised to see purebred, AKC pedigreed bulldog puppies listed for sale in New York and advertised for prices ranging from "free" to a fraction of their value, so I thought I would email some of these people with a brief note saying I was nearby and offering to drive up and take a look at them. My suspicions were justified. Not one was willing to let me see or pick up puppies. The replies to my email totally ignored my offer to drive there (something no normal person parting with a tiny puppy would do). Instead, I was given the stories in the replies below and asked for contact and delivery information.

    I emailed back, restating my willingness to drive, and saying that I would not buy a puppy that I could not pick up personally, but have heard nothing since.

    I suspect there are no puppies.

    But as we've been seeing recently, it's very hard to prove that something is not there.

    Am I being irresponsible in asserting that these ads are scams?

    UPDATE: Amazingly, the seller who emailed me back claiming to be in China has replied again to my offer to drive to New York:

    Yes am from new york, but am in china and the baby is right here with me so advice me if to proceed in shipping her to you. i just want this baby to get back to me to the state as soon as possible.
    I don't know how to interpret the last sentence, but I repeated my unwillingness to buy a puppy that has to be shipped.

    Am I cynical in suspecting that the seller from New York does not have a puppy in China?

    MORE (01/09/07): Pikeville, Tennessee must be a very popular place for people who list bulldogs for sale in "New York," as I just received another reply from a different person with a different dog, but with exactly the same "Pikeville" story line, word for word, as the one I quoted below yesterday:

    But Recently i Moved down to Pikeville, Tennessee with my Family and My Buisness Has also been shifted down to Pikeville, Tennessee ,I will have the puppy ship along with her certified health certificate, vaccination and worming record, copy of USDA paper, AKC registration application for the puppy, its pedigree, tips on care and training your puppy, and your puppy's guarantee.also the airline ticket, an approved carrier with a soft, comfortable bed, health certificate from my vet, a puppy pack including sample food your pup has been eating, a tube of nutri-cal,I also include a special gift to your puppy from me.Everything you will need will be taped to the top of your puppy's carrier.the total cost of the $650.00 plus shipping and handling one of the puppies is $ get back to me with your full name shipping address and your contact phone number including the nearest airport to you,Looking forward to hear from you soon.
    The price is different, as is the description of the dog in the preceding paragraph:
    "she is currently just 4 months old and only 2.9 pounds.she is very playful and loves to be held and cuddled! she has a great disposition and tempermentand is definitely NOT a barker at all.He is already potty trained to go on the potty pads and on her wayto being housetrained so the hard part is almost over!"
    Wow, to think that she is already a he!

    But how can I really know there's no dog? I mean, couldn't two different people have moved to Pikeville while listing two different bulldogs for sale in New York?

    Yes, just as it is scientifically possible that a Rolexes offered for sale for $15.00 might be genuine.

    Continue reading "No bull? How do I know there's no bull?"

    posted by Eric at 08:03 AM | Comments (4)

    Free Speech?

    Larken Rose believes your income if wholly earned in the United States is not taxable. He came to this belief by studying the income tax law and its history. He produced a video now available on Google explaining some of his reasons for his belief. He dared the IRS to prosecute him. They did. He lost his case in a jury trial and is doing 15 months in Club Fed. His wife did one month. Nothing too unusual here.

    Former IRS Criminal Investigative Division (CID) Special Agent and CPA Joseph Banister was tried for giving information to and engaging in a criminal conspiracy with a California buisness man to avoid Federal taxes. He was acquited. Interesingly enough, in the Banister trial the IRS could produce no evidence that Banister owed income taxes.

    During the trial, Banister's former supervisor at IRS's San Jose CID office, Robert Gorini (who testified via video recording) when pointedly asked, was unable to cite any U.S. law that required Banister to pay income taxes.

    Banister, who was forced to resign in 1999 after questioning IRS officials about their legal authority, gave Thompson's worker's a presentation in 2000 which reviewed his detailed investigative research of U.S. tax law which concluded that not only did the IRS lack any authority to impose income taxes on the workers, but there was no legal requirement for the business to withhold any taxes from the worker's paychecks.

    OK. So what you ask does this have to do with free speech?

    Larken had two www sites describing in detail his beliefs. and If you click on those links you get a 404 error. Not found. Why is that? Because as part of the settlement of the case Larken was required to take down the www sites in question. Chilling isn't it? There is plenty of good and not so good information on the 'net. Yet in the case of tax information free speech is not allowed. Chilling isn't it?

    Here is what Larken has to say on the matter of his trial.

    They acknowledge that we have a right to show that we did what we believe the law requires . . . they just don't want us to be allowed to show the jury ANY section of the statutes or regulations . . . or QUOTE from any section . . . or show them my "Taxable Income" report . . . or the Theft By Deception video.

    Feel free to be amazed, but don't be scared. This isn't a surprise at all, and about 80 percent of my rebuttal has been sitting here for weeks, waiting to be completed once I got their looney motion, which I knew was coming. "Sure, you can show what you believed . . . as long as you don't say anything about the law." Interesting view of "justice" they have.

    Pretty chilling isn't it? You can't quote the law in your defence. Not only that they have told Larken - the American people are not allowed to evaluate your position even outside a court of law. Free speech in America? You decide.

    This flash presentation 861 Evidence might also be of interest. Joseph Banister appears in the video as well as Sherry Peel Jackson CPA and former IRS agent. More details on the Joe Banister trial.

    It is not just the "Campaign Finance Reform" Laws we have to fear. The IRS is in on the act too.

    Interestingly the Paper Work Reduction Act says that all paperwork required by the government must be certified by the government as required by law. There is no such requirement for form 1040.

    In Section 3512 of the Act, titled "Public Protection," it says that no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with an agency's collection of information request (such as a 1040 form), if the request does not display a valid control number assigned by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in accordance with the requirements of the Act, or if the agency fails to inform the person who is to respond to the collection of information that he is not required to respond to the collection of information request unless it displays a valid control number.
    There was a case brought up in Illinois on this very point. What happened?
    On May 12, 2006 in Peoria, Illinois, the attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) begged the court to dismiss all charges against IRS victim Robert Lawrence in federal District Court.

    The motion for dismissal came on the heels of a surprise tactic by Lawrence's defense attorney Oscar Stilley.

    The tactic threatened exposure of IRS's on-going efforts to defraud the public. The move put DOJ attorneys in a state of panic that left them with only one alternative: beg for dismissal, with prejudice.

    Stilley's tactic paid off. Sixty days earlier, the DOJ had indicted Lawrence on three counts of willful failure to file a 1040 form, and three felony counts of income tax evasion. The federal Judge dismissed all charges with prejudice, meaning the DOJ cannot charge Lawrence with those crimes again.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:58 AM

    my dirty and neurotic coverup

    Does a dirty computer keyboard indicate mental problems?

    I realize that's a strange question, but being away from my keyboard for two weeks made it look especially dirty. And even though I bought the thing used for a couple of bucks several years ago, I have only now realized that I never once bothered to clean it. It never seemed to matter. Yet this morning, the act of looking at the dirt was utterly depressing, and I wondered which was worse: my failure to have noticed that it was dirty, or my failure to clean it. The thing is, I would immediately notice a dirty keyboard if I visited someone else and used his computer, so what's with my apparent double standard?

    Or am I being too picky?

    I hadn't planned to write a blog post about as mundane a thing as cleaning my keyboard (an easier and cheaper process than going out and buying a new one), but now that I'm wondering about my motivations in cleaning it, I suspect that I might be trying to hide something.

    Perhaps I'm covering up my own slovenly habits? But if I am, then isn't the act of cleaning somewhat of a contradiction? Wouldn't it be easier to just never clean it and never mention it? No; I suspect a deeper coverup. I think I might be trying to cover it up from myself, by engaging in a form of denial. Cleaning my keyboard is something I do to convince myself that I really do care about the appearance of slovenliness even though I don't. As to other people, I'd defend my right to be a pig, have my dirty keyboard, and post my dirty blog posts with it. But the fact is, I honestly didn't like seeing it dirty, and there's no denying that if I cleaned it I cleaned it. Hence the "coverup" of my filth was -- and is -- successful.

    This is one of those things like shaving or cutting your fingernails or hair (or even pulling weeds) that if you don't do them, you live with the natural filth. But if you do them, you have a temporary reprieve. If you don't care, it shows. Not that I consider caring or not caring about these things to be particularly virtuous. But this keyboard thing interests me because unlike fingernails or hair, it's so private that but for this blog post I'd be the only person aware of or affected by it.

    What I cannot figure out is whether I really care. Why did it take a two week vacation to make me see dirt that has stared me in the face every day for years? Do I really care? Do I only care because I happened to notice? And is this really about appearances? Is there a distinction between concerns with how something appears to others and how it appears to me? Is it neurotic to be concerned with the appearance of a keyboard, or is it neurotic not to be? And what could be more neurotic than talking about such a private matter on a public blog post?

    I wonder what Freud would say...

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Now it occurs to me that any reader who actually read this inane post might want to know what I did to clean the keyboard. Following the instructions here, I removed all but the little-used F and number keys, and threw them into warm water with mild detergent. As the keys soaked, I wiped up the huge quantities of dust and grime which had accumulated under the keys. Then I removed the keys, wiped off all remaining dirty with a paper towel, threw them in a paper bag and shook them dry while applying a hair dryer. Before I started, I thought to take a picture so I'd know how they went back in.

    Here's a typical before section:


    And the same section now:


    posted by Eric at 01:28 PM | Comments (5)

    Putting facts in their proper hysterical context

    Speaking of the truth, um, "issue," why is it that people so often tend to fight facts they don't like? A good example is the fact that it was in the 70s yesterday, on a January day. Only a fool or an insane person would deny that. But a lot of people take issue with what the fact of a 70 degree January day means. Is it "evidence" of "Global Warming"? Or is it, finally, "proof" even for retarded diehards like me?

    Actually, to some, I'm more than a retarded diehard; I'm downright evil. Because, not only do I tend to fight facts I don't like and demand proof for them, but even if (as here) they are uncontestable, I will continue to oppose any interpretation of them which gives fuel to the argument that human freedom should be limited.

    Hence I am skeptical about global warming/greenhouse gas theory, and skeptical about all facts which are urged in its support. To be fair, I should probably admit that even were I faced with overwhelming evidence of both global warming and an anthropogenic cause, I'd still be opposed to limiting human freedom, unless (and this is a pretty big unless) I could be convinced of some genuine, imminent catastrophe that could actually be prevented. (Unseasonably warm weather does not qualify.) Considering that the planet has been far colder and far warmer, I don't see much chance of any such catastrophe -- certainly not in my lifetime. The evolution of technology being what it is, it would be extremely arrogant of me to presume any sort of duty to "save" future generations of people who will be far better equipped to deal with whatever might happen than any of us now.

    What matters to me is here and now, and what I see happening is a theoretical construct being used to ready one of the greatest power grabs in history.

    Few of the people who succumb to Global Warming scare tactics think about the consequences of government regulation of carbon dioxide in a manner analogous to the way we treat poison. The ability to travel at all, whether by car, plane, boat, will no longer be a right. The food we eat will be suspect, because cattle are said to produce more greenhouse gas than cars, and agricultural soil is fertilized with methane-producing manure. Think you're going to open a can of beer or soda? How dare you poison the planet! Why, your very existence is poisonous, as you exhale CO2, and the more of you there are, the worse it is for the planet! Thus, old, tired arguments against "sprawl" will take on new life, as will restrictions upon virtually any human activity.

    I suppose I can always console myself with the notion that nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given power to regulate these things, but since when has a technicality like that stopped them? True, at the start of Prohibition the Constitution was amended to give the government power to regulate alcohol, but in those days the document still meant something. Today, the war on drugs proceeds without any restraint, and I don't doubt that the war on carbon would too.

    As I say all of this, I realize that it's not the facts that I tend to hate, so much as what I fear people will do with them once the hysteria factor kicks in. Seen this way, the Drug War and the Carbon War are quite similar. Facts are subordinated to larger considerations. The people who want to regulate are generally blind to facts they don't like, and the people who don't want to be regulated are left having to contest facts which aren't seen to matter anyway.

    It's like me and Coco. It doesn't matter whether she bites anyone; what matters is that somewhere in Cleveland an old lady was bitten by a pit bull, and people are hysterical. I can fight the facts all I want, but that does not make the hysteria go away. Ditto for gun control. I do not deny the fact that people kill themselves (and sometimes each other) with guns (or drugs, or even an occasional pit bull unfortunate enough to get dragged into human dysfunctionality), but I deeply resent the way the facts are presented and then manipulated to the point where some know-it-all wants to tell me how I should live. This might take the form of forcing me to cut out my dog's ovaries, making me stand in line to buy cold medicine, enduring endless moral scoldings about how turf war shootouts are caused by drugs and guns themselves, and how my teeth are a health hazard because we really can't admit that the mercury hazard in fish is overblown. Normal people do not have time to dispute or contest these "facts," and many of them fail to realize they are being manipulated by hysteria. Thus, they go along with surrendering their precious freedom, one incremental step at a time. Those who resent the encroachment on freedom are considered cranks.

    And those who oppose hysteria are deemed "hysterical."

    When hysteria becomes powerful enough, laws are passed. Eventually, even disagreement with the prevailing hysteria can become risky. Already, it's a career-wrecker for scientists to express greenhouse gas skepticism, and activists have demanded Nuremberg trials for them. There's a well-oiled movement with a goal of criminalizing disagreement, and a generation of young people softened up with hate speech tribunals is poised to accept it.

    While I was in Spain, Jose Guardia reminded me that there is no such thing as a First Amendment, and hence under proposed new laws, any government minister can shut down any web site he deems "offensive." The more people are ruled by hysteria, the more they tend to see disagreement with prevailing hysteria as "offensive." (Fortunately, the non-hysterical among us can still recognize that preventing such tyranny is the whole idea behind our First Amendment.)

    In a great post last week, M. Simon recognized how the Drug War helped facilitate the corruption so obviously apparent in the Duke University "rape" case. A common thread is popular hysteria, in which feelings are more important than freedom or facts. It's more important to win the drug war or stop cultural racism than to be concerned with trifles, and if the rules (or the Constitution) have to be bent or disregarded, so be it. Aren't we forgetting that under our system, certain principles are more important than facts? That if the police lied to get a warrant, it does not matter whether drugs were found? That even if a certain student displays evidence of racism (or a dislike of homosexuals), that does not make him guilty of rape?

    I'd rather keep my freedom, even if it's 70 degrees outside.

    There. I just said it. I'm prepared to face a Nuremberg tribunal for Holocaust advocacy.

    In fact, I'm willing to risk being burned to death by the Holocaust gases I've helped create and encourage!

    UPDATE (01/08/07): Simon has an interesting post about IRS officials who must think they're government ministers in Spain. According to their position, while the First Amendment might allow Holocaust denial, tax code denial is worse than shouting fire in a crowded theater.

    Any explanations, I'm all ears.

    posted by Eric at 09:16 AM | Comments (10)

    "Mars Inc."

    Since Justin has disabled comments on his piece "The Machines Stop" I want to ask if any one remembers the short story "Mars Inc." Can't remember the author, but one pertinent bit of imagined future was a pocket juke box that stored (hundreds? thousands?) of songs on a crystal.

    I read it not long after it came out. It seemed totally fantastic at the time.

    If any one remembers the author post it here.

    I will get notified.

    posted by Simon at 09:52 PM | Comments (1)

    There Is No Problem
    There is no problem that a little fascism can't fix.
    Now before you get all over me about fascism I'm using it in the common sense of tyranny. I'm not using it in the sense of Mussolini's actual political program although the difference is only in detail, not in kind.

    With that out of the way let me quote some historians:

    "Concentration of wealth is a natural result of concentration of ability, and recurs in history. The rate of concentration varies (other factors being equal) with the economic freedom permitted by morals and the law... democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it. -- Will and Ariel Durant
    What brings all this to mind you ask? A discussion on the Netscape blog about how the middle class is getting screwed.

    Every one on the board has an different idea of what is to be done. One fellow thinks there is too much corporate profit. I have a few things to say about Profit. Here is what I said at Netscape:

    Without profits there is no money for investment.

    The higher the investment per worker the higher the wages.

    What do you think the corporations are going to do with their record profits? Hide them in a mattress?

    Even Marx said that if you want to build up capital, capitalism is the way to go.

    Next up says we shouldn't be satisfied with the scraps the rich throw us. We should just take what we want. Through government agency of course. Other wise it would be robbery. Can't have that. We need proper laws and they must be adhered to. Corporate profits must be fair and CEO salaries reasonable.

    I replied:

    Of course we should't be satisfied with scraps.

    The government should confiscate all wealth and use it for the common good.

    Say hasn't that been tried before? The USSR I believe. I hear it is not working out so well for them. You don't hear much from those guys lately. I wonder why?

    I add:
    Every place this redistributionist crap has been tried overall economic performance declines.

    This is all pure envy. One of the deadly sins.

    If I'm doing OK I do not give a damn if the rich are doing 100,000 times better.

    The reason for the high CEO bonuses is that really good managers are hard to find. Tell you what though. If it so easy apply for the job. I'm sure the companies would be really glad to pay 1/2 as much for better talent.

    Me? I don't like to manage groups of more than about 10.

    No way I want the CEO's job. Too much grief. However, if you think you can do it, apply.

    The complainers are usually ignorant of how difficult it is to do well in such a job.

    Next guy up says that profits must be fair (whatever that is) and the President of Dell makes too much money (227 million is claimed).

    I go after that:

    Even unfair profits get invested.

    Really high profits attract vendors into a business. Which ultimately lowers prices. The higher the initial profits the faster the decline.

    The high profits encourage risk taking. The more risk taking the faster technology advances.

    Envy makes people want to kill the golden goose. Stupidity does the rest.

    So if the Dell guy is making too much buy an HP or a Gateway. Or do what I did. Get a free working computer off the street. [I gave it to my daughter who uses it for school work. My readers helped me get a nice Gateway with their generous Donations.]

    Who cares what the Dell guy makes? The question is: does he sell you merchandise you want to buy at a price you are willing to pay? If so, to the corporation he is worth every penny. Computers are a very hard business these days. Just brutal. It takes two years to develop a new model. Sales of that model last from 3 to 6 months. If you come in around 3 months of sales regularly you go broke. If you regularly get 6 mos. of sales from a model you get rich. Not much margin for error. The guy is worth every nickel.

    Next up says that heath care ought to be mandatory with a job. If a business can't offer health care it ought not be in business.


    You can have a choice. If the business you work at will not offer health care it is better if you don't have a job.
    Man, there is a LOT of ignorance out there.

    Then we have the middle class is sliding into poverty and corporations do not pay enough taxes.

    Median family income is $46K a year and rising.

    Some slide into poverty.

    Corporations don't pay taxes. It is included in the price they charge you. Unless they go broke. In that case they still don't pay taxes.

    Corporate taxes are a hidden tax on you.

    In addition high corporate taxes drive jobs offshore. Pretty good idea, no?

    Heck even Socialist Spain has lowered corporate taxes. Maybe they have real economists running the country? Perhaps they want to attract American Corporations?

    We should lower all taxes as much as possible to attract rich people to America. Better if they spend their money here. Provides jobs for people

    Think people. Think. I know it hurts, but try.

    Another guy complains that you can't get ahead. And, a bunch of Wall Street guys are getting rich just trading paper.

    The reality is if you want to get ahead invest in yourself. Get more educated. Start a business. To do that you have to turn off the TV and quit spending your time bitching on forums like this. However, I will grant that bitching is easier. [It can also be quite profitable given the size of the market, if you can find a way to sell it.]

    The people who get ahead are risk takers.

    Unwilling to take a risk? Then be satisfied.

    Envy will make even the richest person unhappy.

    Which reminds me of Ouspensky who said "Some people get all their pleasures from negative emotions." A sorry way to live. You can't deny some people enjoy it.

    Then we get the fanfare for the common man who is the real creator of all the wealth, so salaries should be capped.

    It is the risk takers that create wealth.

    The labor theory of value is unsound.

    On top of that some people's labor is worth more than others.

    When you are looking for a brain surgeon do you shop based on price? You cap the brain surgeon's income and he will fix fewer brains and raise prices accordingly. Is that a desirable outcome?

    Then we get back to why CEOs are paid so much while the "real worker" on the production line is short changed.
    Brain work is harder than manual labor.

    Don't believe me? Then study an advanced economic text and get back to me.

    Hey study a simple one. Milton and Rose Friedman's "Free To Choose" is a good place to start.

    Don't like to read?

    Watch the video: Free To Choose video. Its free.

    Management is very difficult. If it was easy they would get paid less than the factory workers. Their price is strictly dependent on their scarcity. It is why gold is worth more than iron.

    Another guy wants restricions on how many homes a person can own and the elimination of the house rental market. To eliminate speculation in housing. Another fellow says you need to design the rules with special leeway for special cases. It is only fair. (man it sounds like these folks have a career waiting for them in the legislature)
    The best leeway is no restriction.

    When polititians control what is bought and sold the first thing bought and sold is polititians

    So I guess you want to corrupt politics. This would be a very good move in that direction.

    I add in a little later:
    If we just had enough of the right laws we could create a perfect world, except for corruption and law violators.

    The Soviets had a lot of those kinds of problems. Perfect laws. Rampant corruption.

    Seems like they go hand in hand.

    Well the thread goes on and on like these threads do.

    Here is a classic. I'm not paid enough and things cost too much. No doubt government needs to fix this.

    Every one should not try to get as much as they can for their work and people should stop shopping for the lowest prices

    Where is the New Socialist Man when you need him?

    OTOH maybe people should strike bargains - i.e. buyer and seller should buy and sell by mutual agreement.

    Then government wouldn't need so many watchers and there would be fewer opportunities for corruption.

    Well you know who is wrecking it for everyone? The greed heads.
    Buyers are greedy for a low price. Sellers are greedy for a high price.

    You work them against each other. It checks and balances out.

    If the commenter was not greedy for a low price when he buys he would have no bitch.

    If he was not greedy for a higher price when he sells his labor he would have no bitch.

    I see a lot of greed and envy on this thread. People not satisfied with what they are paid. People unhappy about the high prices of things they buy.

    We can fix this by putting a gun (government) to people's heads.

    Goods will cost less and salaries will be increased.

    I think doubling salaries and halving the price of goods is about right.

    Let's pass a law.

    Then we come back to the general whine. Globalization is stealing our jobs.
    I remember when we had the same worries about Japan and Taiwan and South Korea.

    Evidently they don't teach David Riccardo's theory of comparative advantage in economics schools any more.

    Every one's output is some one else's input. Lowering costs improves economic performance. Lower cost paper means cheaper books. Cheaper books lower the cost of education. More education raises earning power. So should the publisher get his paper cheaper from China? Or the more expensive paper from America?

    If you are a paper maker the answer is obvious. However, every one else in the chain of buyers and sellers is hurt.

    The best thing to do is to buy from the lowest cost producer of adequate quality. This also improves our export position.

    The publisher can sell more books around the world if he uses Chinese paper. Since the profit is higher on the books than on the paper we have a double net gain

    Let me repeat. Every one's output is some one else's input.

    Well it goes on. I believe I have said more than enough on the subject for now.

    Let me leave you with a final quote: John Wayne said, "Life is tough, and it's tougher when you're stupid."

    Update: 09 Jan '07 1314z

    Flopping Aces has a bit on what the Democrats are up to on the economic front.

    Captain's Quarters talks about Arnie's new tax initiatives in California.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:25 PM

    Truth in taste!

    In what he doubtless considers a fair and unbiased examination of all pertinent facts pertaining to the Iraqi police captain whose existence was disputed for six weeks, Glenn Greenwald claims to have exposed the right wing blogosphere for what they truly are:

    And now the right-wing blogosphere stands revealed as what they are -- a pack of gossip-mongering hysterics who routinely attack any press reports that reflect poorly on their Leader or his policies, with rank innuendo, Internet gossip, base speculation, and wholesale error as their most frequent tools of the trade. They operate in packs, constantly repeating each other's innuendo and expanding on it incrementally, and they then cite to each other endlessly in one self-feeding, self-affirming orgy of links, as though that constitutes proof.

    And they are wrong over and over and over -- and not just in error, but embarrassingly so, because so frequently their claims are transparently, laughably absurd, and they spew the most righteous accusations without any sort of evidence at all. The New Republic has its Stephen Glass and The New York Times has its Jayson Blair. But those are one-off incidents. The right-wing blogosphere is driven by Jayson Blairs. They are exposed as frauds and gossip-mongerers on an almost weekly basis. The only thing that can compete with the consistency of their errors is the viciousness of their accusations and their pompous self-regard as "citizen journalists."

    It's really not fair of me to leave readers with only two paragraphs, because that would be as cruel as doling out only two Lay's Potato Chips.

    So here's more:

    Nobody is less interested in media accuracy than they are. Correcting media mistakes is so plainly not their agenda. They are nothing more than hyper-partisan hysterics who jump on any innuendo or rumor or whispered suspicion as long as it promotes their rigid ideological views and political loyalties and hatreds. ...
    Ann Althouse, on the other hand, would probably not agree that reading Greenwald's writing is analogous to eating potato chips, as she finds his writing as repugnant as I find it amusing.

    But isn't repugnance a form of taste? And isn't there that old saying De gustibus non est disputandum?

    MORE: I realize that this post was about taste in writing (and not truth), but I think it's fair to mention that according to one of the leading right wing hyper-partisan hysterics, Jamil Hussein seems to have used two names, and the story is far from settled, as is the issue of his reliability, which should not be conflated into the issue of whether he exists.

    (If "George Harleigh" were shown to have existed, would that make him right?)

    This is my third post dealing with Jamil Hussein -- whose existence has been alleged, questioned, denied, and reaffirmed repeatedly. As none of this can be known by me firsthand, I had no way to know whether to believe the AP the first time, the Ministry of Information the first time, or the MoI and the AP this time. And that doesn't even get into the man's reliability.

    Whether to believe or disbelieve things said by others -- and under what circumstances -- seems to be a judgment call.

    As a philosophical question, yes, the truth is somewhere.

    Why does it so often get confused with taste?

    posted by Eric at 05:31 PM

    The Machines Stop

    On May 8, 2006, James Kunstler had this to say about our future technological prospects...

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

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

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

    I've noted before, the parsnip reference is probably just a joke. As for all the rest, sad to say I think he means it. But that's not what I want to talk about today. What caught my eye is his unwarranted assumption that he knows what science fiction does and does not do. Clearly, the sniggering ponce's humility glands crusted shut years ago.

    sci fi has until now always been presumed to take place in the future. The science fiction of my friends' children will take place in the past...

    Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. Like he knows what he's talking about. Regressed, immiserated cultures have long been a staple of "sci fi", with or without parsnips. Savages living in the shadow of a lost golden age is a theme done to death, albeit in a number of interesting ways.

    For instance, there are countless numbers of "After the Bomb" stories. In most of them, the degenerate starveling survivors look back at our time with a mixture of envy and awe, much as medieval peasants might look back on the Roman empire. As well, they look back with hatred at our inability to forestall the fall.

    Peering somewhat further afield, the fictional galaxy is positively cluttered with lost colonies whose populations have reverted to fascinatingly varied barbarisms. They miss the empire too.

    Let's leave the starry reaches off the table for the moment, and stick a little closer to home. For today, the fallen earth should be enough.

    Having misspent my youth reading far more science fiction than was good for me, I find that Kunstler's vision of our future, which he seems to think is stunningly original, evokes memories of old pulp stories that I'd not thought about in years. Unwittingly, he's been reinventing the wheel.

    Of all those fondly remembered stories, I suspect that Edgar Pangborn's tales of New England after the Thirty Minute War come closest to matching Kunstler's dour prophecies.

    Here's an example for you. Centuries after the atomic war, from the darkest of dark ages, one of Pangborn's characters writes the following lines in his journal, addressing them to an audience that may not exist (Europeans), in a language that's nearly dead ( Twentieth Century American English)...

    After the plagues, your people may not have turned against the very memory of their civilization in the sort of religious frenzy as ours apparently did, determined like spoiled brats to bring down in the wreckage every bit of good along with the bad. They may not have, but I suspect they did. The best aspects of what some of us now call the "Golden Age" were clearly incomprehensible to the multitudes who lived then: they demanded of the age of reason that it give them more and more gimmicks or be damned to it.

    Grim, isn't it? Grimmer than it would actually be, I expect. Pangborn's people don't strike me as responding very realistically to their plight. Everything went smash and no one tried to reboot civilization? They were too psychically exhausted? I don't buy it. Too many garage tinkerers know too much.

    But insofar as out-kunstlering Kunstler goes, those stories surely do hit the sweet spot. What with the red plagues and the melting ice caps, the flooding midwest
    and the one-in-five babies born dead or hideously mutated, the resurgent wilderness teeming with black wolf and brown tiger, and the Holy Murcan Church vigorously crushing intellectual inquiry, well, Pangborn more than matches the life-after-the-oil-crash crowd. And he did it in 1964!

    Taking a happier tack, Poul Anderson wrote a too brief series of stories set roughly a millennium after the holocaust. After centuries of environmental chaos, the dark age is drawing to an end. Climate has been stable for half a millenium and the total human population has climbed back up to around two hundred million.

    In certain favored areas high culture is reasserting itself, but most humans still languish in poverty, ignorance and disease. Evolving in isolation from one another, the most successful survivors have created radically different cultures.

    Preeminent among the successful peoples is the Maurai Federation, an amalgam of New Zealand's English and Maori peoples, along with various Polynesians, Australians, Hawaiians, etc. Being so isolated from the rest of the planet, they came through the bad times with relatively little damage. Think about it. Wouldn't you rather be in New Zealand when the balloon goes up?Their territory comprises most of Oceania, but their trimaran merchant ships can be found in any port of the globe, and if there is such a thing as a dominent culture, they are it.

    For the most part, their suzerainty is characterized by a light touch, verging on benign neglect, but there are occasional technology transfers and educational scholarships. Their unstated foreign policy is to preserve cultural diversity, while simultaneously preventing a revival of the old industrial culture that they claim nearly killed the planet.

    Basically, they're a bunch of easy going green ideologues who want everyone to get along. Sounds nice, doesn't it? But not everyone is satisfied with the status quo. Here's Lorn sunna Browen, an astrophysicist from Corrado. He's been clandestinely hired by the Brahmards of Beneghal, to assist in their (tippy top secret) construction of a thermonuclear fusion generator...

    "Scraping along on lean ores, tailings, scrap, synthetics, substitutes...because the ancients exhausted so much. Exhausted the good mines, most of the fossil fuels, coal, petroleum, uranium...then smashed their industry in the War and let the machines corrode away to unrecoverable dust in the dark ages that followed. That's what's holding us back girl. We know everything our ancestors did and then some. But we haven't got the equipment they had to process materials on the scale they did, and we haven't the natural resources to rebuild that equipment. A vicious circle. We haven't got the capital to make it economically feasible to produce the giant industries that could accumulate the capital."

    He's speaking to an undercover officer in Maurai Naval Intelligence, who responds rather condescendingly to his complaint...

    "I think we're doing quite well...Sunpower, fuel cells, wind and water, biotechnology, sea ranches and sea farms, efficient agriculture--"

    He remains unconvinced...

    "We could do better though." His arm swept a violent arc that ended with a finger pointed at the bay. "There! The oceans. Every element in the periodic table is dissolved in them. Billions of tons. But we'll never get more than a minimum out with your fool solar and biological methods. We need energy. Power to evaporate water by the cubic kilometer. Power to synthesize oil by the megabarrel. Power to go to the stars."

    Amen, brother Lorn! And please bear in mind that this was written back in 1962.
    So who's a prophet now? I swear to god, one reason I get so exasperated with these peaker types is that this has all been done.

    If you're curious how the story ends, read on. The undercover intelligence team discovers the hidden reactor. Turns out the Brahmards were right to try and keep it under wraps. To defend their high ideals, the Maurai commit various acts of murder, vandalism, and theft, followed by a brisk naval engagement.

    With metal for the destroyed magnetic coils being in short supply, the Beneghalis will not be reconstructing their power plant any time soon. Say, a generation or two?

    The Maurai agents depart, mourning the necessity of killing, but comforting themselves with the knowledge that it was all for a good cause. The world is still safe for cultural diversity and low energy renewables. Eventually, they got what they deserved.

    posted by Justin at 02:01 PM

    Just cooling up after a brief warming off period!

    I'm back from Barcelona and mentally a little on the jet-lagged side, and not ready for an essay-length diatribe.

    However, I've been so delighted by the many fine posts by M. Simon (including an Instalanched post) that I just can't thank him enough. It's an honor to have him blogging here. And it has made my vacation from blogging a stress-free one.

    Plus, Dennis wrote a post while I was away, and now I see that Justin is working on two posts. I'm feeling positively expendable, and it feels great!

    I'm also delighted by the mild weather around here. It's more like returning to California than to the East Coast, but amazingly, people around here are complaining bitterly! I overheard three people in the store today bitching about the unseasonably warm weather the same way they normally complain about the usual cold weather. (They'll get their precious cold weather too, because this won't last. And when they do, the masochistic Puritanical Ice Age lovers can bask in their well-deserved blizzard.)

    Unlike the Global Warming scolds, though, Coco has a couple of legitimate seasonal complaints. Not only did I imprison her in the kennel for two weeks in wretched balmy weather, but in Spain I did things like check out the art of Joan Miró.

    Among other things, he painted images like this:


    Knowing that such work is on display in a musem has been too much for Coco's nerves, because last winter she worked hard in the snow and created something far more original (especially considering that she's, you know, a dog!):


    Miró, meet Cocó!

    But through no fault of Coco, her art last winter was tragically destroyed by a meltdown of her medium. The meltdown occurred because of human-induced climate change. And this year, Coco has no medium at all! While I've proposed a Mirovian medium meltdown cooling off period, Coco is still pissed!

    Global Warming is really starting to hit home!

    posted by Eric at 01:25 PM

    Where Are The Arabs?

    Farrukh Saleem says they are at the bottom of the pile. He writes the following from Pakistan:

    Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb: "If God were to humiliate a human being He would deny him knowledge"

    The League of Arab States has 22 members. Of the 22, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman are 'traditional monarchies'. Of the 22, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria and Somalia are 'Authoritarian Regimes' (Source: Freedom House). Of the 22, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Morocco and Somalia are among the 'world's most repressive regimes' (Source: A special report to the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights). Of the 330 million Muslim men, women and children living under Arab rulers a mere 486,530 live in a democracy (0.15 per cent of the total).

    A mere two hundred and fifty miles from the 'League of Dictators' HQ in Cairo is the only 'parliamentary democracy' in the region; universal suffrage, multi-party, multi-candidate, competitive elections. Israel's 6,352,117 residents are 76 per cent Jewish and 23 per cent non-Jewish (mostly Arab).

    So politically things are not so hot in the Arab world. I do think his phrasing 'League of Dictators' is most felicitous.

    So how good is the Arab world at turning money into knowledge and knowledge into money? Not too hot.

    Israel spends $110 on scientific research per year per person while the same figure for the Arab world is $2. Knowledge makes Israel grow by 5.2 per cent a year while "rates of productivity (the average production of one worker) in Arab countries were negative to a large and increasing extent in oil-producing countries during the 1980s and 90s (World Bank; Arab Development Report)."

    Facts cannot be denied: The state of Israel now has six universities ranked as among the best on the face of the planet. Hebrew University Jerusalem is in the top-100. Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute of Science are in the top-200. Bar Ilan University and Ben Gurion University are in the top-300. The Arab League does not have a single university in the top-400 ( One in two Arab women can neither read nor write (remember, "If God were to humiliate a human being He would deny him/her knowledge").

    Israel's universities are producing knowledge. Israeli society is applying that knowledge plus diffusing knowledge produced by others. On the other hand, within the Arab League, repressive regimes have erected religious, social and cultural barriers to the production as well as diffusion of knowledge.

    It is very hard to dictate to people with knowledge. They often have their own ideas.

    All this is built on a foundation of keeping women down.

    Facts are hard to deny: Most members of the Arab League grant Muslim women fewer rights -- with regards to marriage, divorce, dress code, civil rights, legal status and education. Israel does not. Spain translates more books in a year than has the Arab world in the past thousand years (since the reign of Caliph Mamoun; Abbasid, caliph 813-833).

    Six million Israelis buy 12 million books every year making them one of the highest consumers of books in the world. Israel has the highest number of university degrees per capita in the world; the Arab world has the lowest. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other country (109 per 10,000 Israelis); the Arab world -- next to nothing.

    Results are for everyone to see: The average per capita income in Israel is $25,000 while the average income within the League of Arab States is $5,000.

    Also note that Arab League per capita income is declining whlie Israel's per capita income is rising.

    So now you know why the Arabs are Fighting For Self Esteem. They can't earn it any other way. At least under a dictatorship.

    Also note that the jihadi goal is a caliphate (muslim dictatorship) ruling the world. In other words they want to bring back the dark ages.

    H/T Israpundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:02 PM

    More Problems On The Home Front

    I reported a while back on Iran's Home Front Problems. It appears they have some new problems. They can't deliver on their promises. Natural gas deliveries to be exact. The Washington Times reports:

    Iran has stopped exports of natural gas to Turkey due to a tight domestic market caused by cold weather, but vows to restart shipments soon.

    Iran supplies Turkey from the Tabriz to Ankara pipeline as part of a 1996 contract.

    This year Turkey was to receive a total of 10 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas, the state-run IRNA news agency reports.

    "Currently our export to Turkey is zero," Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh said.

    He said he called the Turkish energy minister and apologized "and promised to address these problems as soon as possible."

    "We hope the second phase of Parsian Refinery, in the southern province of Fars, will come on stream within the next ten days, and we can resume gas export to Turkey," he said, according to the Iranian Students News Agency.

    Turkish news sources report:
    Iran, which was selling 27 million cubic meters natural gas to Turkey daily before December, has gradually dropped this amount to 4 million cubic meters since then. The Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Veziri Hamaneh, calling Turkish Minister for Energy Hilmi Guler after the complete cutoff, told him that because of high domestic consumption associated with the extremely cold weathers they had to make this decision. Noting that they called on the Iranian people to decrease their gas consumption, the Iranian minister said that if the Iranians would be more responsible he could guarantee that gas exports to Turkey would resume soon. Hamaned further said they hoped to activate the natural gas facility in the southern province of Fars and resume gas flow to Turkey.
    In a country where socialist central planning is the order of the day, this has got to hurt. On top of that Iran has been unable to meet its OPEC quota for the last 18 months. Another economic hurt.

    H/T reader Paul.

    Welcome Instapundit readers.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:56 AM | Comments (11)

    Palestinian Civil War Watch - 8

    Let me start this one out with a clown photo. Which at least at the current time accompanies an article about 8 new deaths in the Palestinian civil war.

    Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday night to discuss a solution to the current inter-faction violence after a day of clashes between Hamas and Fatah loyalists left eight Palestinians dead.

    According to Army Radio, Haniyeh, of Hamas, said the two had agreed at the meeting to work toward ending the infighting in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

    "We are going to end all armed displays in the streets," Haniyeh told reporters. he said. Abbas had no comment.

    Wait a minute. I thought that was already accomplished in the last cease fire.

    I suppose such promises are about as reliable as their cease fire promises to Israel.

    The eight Palestinians killed in Thursday's armed confrontations brought the death toll to 13 over the past 48 hours. At least 16 Palestinians were wounded in Thursday's fighting.

    Haniyeh, who returned to the Gaza Strip after a week-long visit to Saudi Arabia, appealed to the warring factions to halt the fighting and to direct their weapons toward Israel. Fatah officials, on the other hand, accused Hamas of operating "death squads" in the Gaza Strip.

    With no Jews in Gaza any more it seems the Palestinians are turning on each other. Sort of a way to maintain military proficiecy in live fire exercises. Given the picture of the clowns I'd say they had a ways to go.

    This scene is much more horiffic:

    The body of Gen. Muhammed Gharib, chief of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Service in northern Gaza, riddled with bullets and mutilated by stab wounds, was found in his home in northern Gaza Thursday after a daylong battle with Hamas gunmen. Gharib's two daughters were also killed during the fighting, according to reports.

    Gharib was on the phone to Palestine TV just moments before his death and appealed for help as his house came under attack. "They are killers," he said of the Hamas gunmen. "They are targeting the house, children are dying, they are bleeding. For God's sake, send an ambulance, we want an ambulance, somebody move."

    It is one thing to kill a man because of political differences. Killing his children will get a serious blood feud started. The #1 rule of any successful mafia is that families are off limits. "Businessmen" OK. That is just business. Families are, well, family. When that rule is violated the feud gets serious. It is no longer about business. It is about blood.

    Update: 05 Jan '07 1733z

    The Jerusalem Post reports that a muslim cleric calling for peace between Palestinian factions was killed Friday.

    There was no claim of responsibility in the death of Adel Nasar, who was shot by gunmen outside the mosque in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza.

    Nasar was not openly affiliated with any political party, but he was a well-known figure in the refugee camp and often spoke against Hamas in his sermons. He belonged to a small group called "The Sunna People," which advocates the imposition of Islamic law.

    In a sermon Friday, Nasar had criticized the latest wave of Gaza's factional violence, in which seven Fatah men were killed in an attack widely blamed on the rival Hamas movement, witnesses said.

    Nasar said fighting between Muslims is forbidden, and warned that God is going to punish the killers of the men as well as Palestinian rulers for not implementing the rule of God, the witnesses said.

    He did not mention Hamas by name, but he appeared to be referring to the group, which controls most of the Palestinian government.

    Evidently there are Palestinians who prefer war to peace and they are willing to kill to get what they want and to silence opposition. Who could have guessed?

    Well here is a cheery little thought from Fatah.

    Fatah issued a statement in Gaza: "Blood for blood and aggression for aggression ... and all the sons of the movement should retaliate to each aggression openly."
    As I said. This is turning into a blood feud.

    Update: 05 Jan '07 1544z

    Two Hamas officials have been kidnapped as violence spread to the West Bank

    Gunmen attacked Hamas officials in two separate incidents in the West Bank on Saturday, as weeks of factional violence in the Gaza Strip appeared to be spreading to the West Bank as well.

    In the first incident, gunmen stopped the car of Nablus' deputy mayor, Mahdi al-Khamdali, pulled him out and took him away in a separate car, security officials said.

    In the West Bank town of Ramallah, meanwhile, gunmen stormed the offices of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, shot the office manager in the legs and took him away, Palestinian security officials said.

    The man, also a Hamas supporter, was released in a nearby town and hospitalized, the officials said.

    Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Hamas' paramilitary militia in the Gaza Strip illegal, raising the stakes in his standoff with the Islamic movement.

    Update: 07 Jan '07 0909z

    It is a family affair.

    Three Palestinians members of the al-Dire family, loyal to Hamas, were killed Saturday by members of the Dughmush family in Gaza City in the continuing internal Palestinian violence and seven people injured.

    Two members of the Dughmush family were killed in fighting last week. The family demands that the ruling Islamic Hamas party hand over 18 people to them whom they have accused of involvment in the killings. They have also accused the al-Dire members of involvement as well.

    Earlier, Dughmush members had kidnapped four Hamas supporters in Gaza.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:59 AM | Comments (1)

    Duke Meets OJ

    The Duke case and the OJ case have a lot of similarities.

    I watched the OJ trial from the point of view that the LAPD was a corrupt police department. I knew this because I followed the drug war and saw lots of instances of LAPD corruption in that war. OJ's defence made the point that the police may have corrupted the evidence. Guess what? We found out a few years later in the in the Rampart scandal that the LAPD was corrupt and had routinely planted evidence . The defence took advantage of community knowledge before it became public knowledge. In othter words it may very well have been a case of the LAPD framing a guilty man.

    In the Duke case we have the DA and police framing innocent men.

    In both cases the problem is corrupt police and in the Duke case a corrupt DA as well.

    The common thread is the corruption of the justice system. I believe this is SOP across the country. Look up testilying. (I wrote about that in Corruption Is Routine.) It is rampant. This is another case of the system's bad habits catching up with it.

    I blame drug prohibition for the bad habits.


    The above was inspired by the comments at this post: Durham In Wonderland

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:09 AM | Comments (5)

    Palestinian Civil War Watch - 7

    After over a week of relative quiet the Palestinians are at it again.

    GAZA (Reuters) - Unknown gunmen killed a member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction in Gaza on Wednesday and a car carrying Hamas security officers was ambushed, as simmering internal tensions threatened to erupt.

    A gunbattle between militants loyal to Fatah and the ruling Hamas movement broke out in the Jabalya refugee camp soon after the two incidents in northern Gaza, witnesses said. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.

    Fatah and Hamas declared a truce in December to end weeks of deadly violence which escalated into running street battles in Gaza after Abbas called for early parliamentary and presidential elections to break a political deadlock with Hamas.

    Hamas condemned Abbas's move as a coup to oust it less than a year after it surprised Fatah to win a parliamentary ballot.

    Fatah sources blamed Hamas militants for the shooting of the Fatah militant. Residents said he was on a rooftop in the town of Beit Lahiya with other Fatah gunmen when he was shot.

    Hamas officials were not immediately available to comment but blamed Fatah for opening fire on a vehicle carrying members of a Hamas-led police force in the area.

    I guess the Palestinian national unity government will have to be delayed a while longer.

    Meanwhile Palestinian Preventive Security wants all foreigners to leave Gaza. Presumably so the real civil war can begin without outside observers.

    Gaza City, 3 January - The Palestinian Preventive Security, headed by Mohammed Dahlan, ordered foreign nationals to leave the Gaza Strip because of an alleged threat of further abductions, following the kidnapping on Monday of a Peruvian press photographer, Jaime Razuri. Razuri, who worked for Agence France Press, has not yet been released.

    The order to evacute foreigners from Gaza would affect mostly and most hardly expatriate employees of UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. Christian Nordahl, deputy director of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip confirmed having received an "advice" by the Preventive Security forces about a general kidnapping threat, but UNRWA spokesman Johan Eriksson declared that "in our view, this doesn't change the situation from what it has been in the past two years ... at the moment we are staying put."

    If the UNWRA was not distributing food. Some one would have to take that function over. Evidently Fatah (Mohammed Dahlan) thinks it has the upper hand for such an eventuality. The end result would be the use of food as a weapon. Support Fatah and eat. Support Hamas and look for another source of supply.

    Update: 03 Jan'07 2125z

    Kidnappings followed by violence.

    At least three elite Hamas operatives were wounded in violent clashes with Fatah operatives in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon, Israel Radio reported.

    According to Palestinian sources, Hamas kidnapped two members of the PA Preventative Security forces.

    Hamas, however, denied the kidnappings.

    So, in the spirit of the cycle of violence Fatah retaliates.
    Masked gunmen shot at the Palestinian Authority Religious Ministry building in the West Bank town of Tulkarm on Wednesday afternoon.

    No one was wounded in the incident which was assumed to be perpetrated by Fatah operatives seeking vengeance for the casualties inflicted on its members in Gaza earlier in the day.

    Three Fatah operatives killed.
    Tensions are not expected to subside anytime soon in the Palestinian Authority as a particularly bloody day of infighting comes to an end in Gaza.

    On Wednesday the Fatah movement declared a state of high alert amongst its ranks in Gaza, calling for them to adjust their deployment following the deaths of three officers from the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PPSS) and an additional Fatah loyalist in clashes earlier in the day.

    Members were called to "be prepared and defend themselves by any means in the face of attack."

    Fatah has accused Hamas of instigating the violence and for the wave of kidnappings that plagued Gaza on Tuesday, when no less than 23 people were abducted by both organizations.

    A woman who was uninvolved in the fighting was also killed today after she was caught in the crossfire between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in Jabaliya.

    While the focus of the clashes remains in northern Gaza, representatives from Hamas and Fatah in southern Gaza struck an agreement to end the violence late Wednesday evening. It remains unclear if this agreement will bring to the fighting to an end.

    I'm betting the violence will escalate.
    Later in the evening Palestinian sources reported that senior Fatah military wing leader Hassan al-Qasas, member narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after gunmen fired an RPG towards him and another senior group member. Fatah has blamed Hamas for the attack.

    Ahmad Sarur, a resident of Beit Lahiya, told Ynet on Wednesday that the situation in northern Gaza is "very frightening." Sarur says that masked gunmen are positioned at every junction and along every route. According to Sarur the gunmen interrogate people on the street and search them.

    "Everywhere you go there are masked Hamas fighters," he described his surroundings, "Fatah is nowhere to be seen in the streets, Hamas has taken control of things here."

    Sarur said that residents are embittered about the situation and that there seems to be no solution to the crisis.

    Update: 04 Jan '07 1720z

    A total of five people were killed in Gaza Wednesday.

    GAZA (Reuters) - Clashes erupted between forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas government in Gaza on Wednesday, killing five people in the worst fighting since the rivals agreed a fragile truce two weeks ago.

    At least nine people were wounded in separate incidents across the Gaza Strip, hospital officials said.

    Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas declared the cease-fire in the wake of violence that escalated after Abbas called for early elections to break a political deadlock with the Islamists.

    Hamas condemned Abbas's move as a coup to oust it less than a year after it surprised Fatah to win a parliamentary ballot.

    The fresh violence is likely to revive fears among Palestinians that Gaza could slip into civil war.

    Neither has the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians also seek statehood, been spared. Unidentified gunmen abducted a Hamas government aide in Ramallah, security sources said. In Jenin, gunmen fired at the home of Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, Wasfi Kabha, the sources said. He was unhurt.

    Among the Gaza dead were three security officials loyal to Abbas who were killed in the southern town of Khan Younis, hospital officials said.

    Abbas's Preventive Security force said the three died when a Hamas police unit ambushed two of its vehicles. Hamas said the security force fired first.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:53 AM | Comments (2)

    Desolation Row

    American Thinker has an interesting piece up about American Imperialism. In it J.R. Dunn looks at the difference between American Imperialsm and the Roman version.

    Much in the way of criticism of the United States comes in the form of accusations of imperialism. According to this view, echoed by everyone from Harold Pinter to Noam Chomsky to the Arab press, the U.S. has for decades run roughshod over the globe, in defiance of agreements and civilized norms. Enforcing its policies unilaterally and always for its own benefit, the U.S. has effectively colonized huge swathes of the planet, if not through direct military action, then by economic exploitation or diplomatic chicanery. No one dares raise a hand against this; any show of independence is met by cruise missiles at the very least, if not armored divisions or carrier battle groups. Today it's Iraq, tomorrow... who knows? America is the third-millennial Rome, brutal, implacable, infinitely corrupt.

    Domestically, this takes the form of hegemonism, with the U.S. viewed as the primal source of global iniquity. Internationally, it's a major component of anti-Americanism, in which the U.S. is taken as the embodiment of an overpowering modernity, in whatever form - economic, political, cultural -- the onlooker finds most threatening. In such a context, anything and everything can be labeled "imperialist", from military bases to McDonald's fast-food joints to tourism. Intent and results are meaningless; all U.S. actions are evil, since all are viewed through the lens of imperialist activity.

    It's difficult to match any of this with the actual record. The America that takes on the dirty jobs, the jobs no one else will touch - Serbia, Kuwait, Somalia - the country that comes to the rescue when disaster strikes, as with the Indian Ocean tsunami or the Pakistan earthquake, either goes unmentioned or has its actions attributed to somebody else (as in Kofi Annan's taking credit for tsunami relief operations in his farewell speech).

    It is a strange kind of imperialism that neither rules nor directly taxes the imperium for the maintenance of the imperial garrisons and the American rulers of the conquered states. In fact Americans pay the price to keep the "imperial" system running. Strange indeed.

    Mr. Dunn looks at Rome to see what might be in our future.

    But the world's anti-Americans should take care that their fantasies don't catch up with them. Myths have a way of coming true. If believed in long enough, and hard enough, and by enough people, they can come to pass, if only by limiting the possible responses of the subject in question. Tell someone they're an oppressor often enough, and they may become an oppressor, out of spite, or anger, or simple weariness. Useful the Roman stereotype may be, but it can prove very dangerous.

    How did Rome get that way in the first place? The Rome we know is seen through the lens of the later, corrupt empire -- brutal, heartless, and tyrannical. We see the Romans as dour, arrogant, living off the intellectual capital of older civilizations, slowly falling victim to their own worst impulses. But was Rome always like that? Did Rome start out that way? Was Rome ever young?

    It must have been at one time. Rome was once a republic, and must have possessed a republic's virtues. How could it ever have accomplished so much otherwise?

    So what happened to change things? Wars, in a word - Rome's early history is that of a state with its back to the wall, sacked by the Goths, at constant sword's point from neighboring states. Livy's histories are a chronicle of endless strife -- wars with the Etruscans, the Social Wars, at last the Punic Wars. And with each conflict, another layer of republican virtue was scraped off. At some point, perhaps during the Second Punic War, with Italy all but under occupation by Hannibal's forces for a decade, it effectively vanished, destroyed not only by the fear and strain of constant struggle, but what the Romans felt compelled to do in response. Consider that terrible image of Scipio gazing on the blazing ruins of Carthage and seeing Rome itself in the flames.

    In Decline and Fall I take a look at what the end of American "imperialism" might mean for America and the world. Again, not surpisingly, through a look at what happened to the Roman Empire. It was not pretty. Long distance trade became impossible. With the lack of long distance trade the gains from what economist David Riccardo called comparative advantage are reduced to a local scale. The gains are limited indeed. This leads to a much lower carrying capacity for the regions formerly under protection of the empire. Populations disappear through, war, disease, and starvation. Everything comes back in balance at a much lower level. For the world it would mean a massive die off. For the USA a drastic cut back in our standard of living.
    There's a sense of weariness at international ingratitude, irresponsibility, and hostility. It has not gone unnoticed that sympathy for the U.S. effectively evaporated within days of 9/11, that support for necessary responses has been grudging and hedged with conditions, that, time and again, Western states have been caught under the table with corrupt UN officials and even the terrorists themselves, that, with a few notable exceptions such as India and Japan, our sole dependable allies against a universal threat have been our cousins, Great Britain and Australia.

    The classic U.S. response to such provocations has been isolationism. When betrayed in the international sphere, we go home and mind our own business. But that's no longer a viable option. In this millennium, we can't isolate our troubles overseas. If we turn our back, they'll come right after us.

    There have been rumblings, comments on the Net, voices on talk radio, arguing another alternative. That we owe the rest of the world nothing. That an effective response to terror is simply to start vaporizing cities, beginning with Tehran and working our way down until attacks cease. That, quite simply, the United States should transform itself into Rome.

    I have given some thought to this myself. I have wistfully rejected it. The Sampson option. If we are going down we will take the rest of the bastards with us. Let the world become like the Iranians, nostalgic for the "oppression" of the Shah.
    But we had better know this: if the U.S. ever does take on the trappings of imperium, if we, out of despair or terror, turn to Roman methods, then, like Scipio, we will be witnessing our own fate in the cities we set ablaze.

    Fate is by definition unavoidable. Nations are often forced into roles they might not have chosen, the way Britain found itself an empire "in a fit of absentmindedness". For now, we - the Americans, despised and envied across the world -- still stumble along, doing the best we can, taking our licks and looking for solutions while living up to our image of ourselves. But the criticsshould be wary of screaming too loud, of conspiring too well, of undermining us too thoroughly. Because if they succeed, if they do get what they insist they want, then the result may well be something they never conceived, and it will be their desolation, and our peace.

    I think he has that right. Except with our peace will come our impoverishment.

    We do have a trick or two up our sleves. One I found at Classical Values. One I invented myself. One is defensive, one is offensive (yeah, that's me).

    The defensive measure is Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion. With greatly increased energy supplies we will not be dependent on the oil tankers plying the high seas. We will greatly reduce the funding by the Arab states of terrorism. Enegry independence would become our defensive shield since energy (specifically liquid energy) is our greatest vulnerability.

    The offensive measure is the Neighborhood Development Package. A package designed to give a neighborhood access to the internet, cell phones, and electrical power. By distributing these packages we educate and emanicipate women. Educated and emancipated women are the best tool we have to destroy tribal culture.

    We can get our wish (a measure of peace) by destroying the world. We can also get it another way. Let us hope our better angels predominate, but we will have to get cracking.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:08 AM | Comments (3)

    Amazing Powers

    In the comments at Classical Values in my piece War Is Not A Physics Problem commenter Giuseppe Blow questions our need for the Iraq adventure. He believes the Iraq War (really a battle in a war) was completely unnecessary. My answer:

    If you think Iraq is optional you do not understand the problem.

    The problem is the coming economic collapse of the Middle East. Look at what A. Jacksonian (in the comments) has to say.

    Political democracy and capitalism are the answer to that question. There is no way such a system would happen on its own. A seed needed to be planted. What better place to plant it than Iraq, a country we have been at war with since 1991 and the broken cease fire agreement?

    Oil socialism is a failed experiment.

    Bush has done well to not just see the problem quite ahead of the curve, but also to act on it. Islam is dying. As is the oil socialism of the Middle East. What we are seeing are just the early twitches. Iraq is of course centrally located in the middle of the mess. A good place to be if we are going to contain and possibly reverse it.

    I think, Giuseppe, that it is you who do not see the wickedness of the problem. The looming mass starvation in the Arab world and the destabilization that will cause, due to the shift of oil production from oil well countries to oil shale countries.

    Thank the Maker for Bush, who may yet (despite his detractors) be the rescuer of the people of the Middle East. I know that such a rescue is a fairly liberal position. So be it.

    I never understood why liberalism is so weak in some liberals that Bush could turn those liberals into reactionaries. The man does have amazing powers.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:12 AM | Comments (7)

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