Why hypocrisy shouldn't -- but does -- matter

As I have repeatedly been unable to ignore the following quote from Glenn Reynolds, I'm going to fail to restrain myself once again:

If Gore were less moralistic in his approach -- as he gains weight, he's even starting to look a bit like a younger Jerry Falwell -- the charges of hypocrisy would have less bite.
And as I pointed out last time, even if "Gorewell" lost weight, he might still look Haggard!

That's because of the hypocrisy factor.

In most day-to-day situations where we are supposed to be responsible but fall short of what we should do, a little "hypocrisy" doesn't matter. For example, as I discussed yesterday, my dog Coco is in heat, and it is my responsibility to control her genitalia in such a manner that nothing untoward happens. But if I didn't live up to my responsibility, and Coco got knocked up by the fox who's after her, would that mean that I shouldn't then be able to urge other people to control their animals and their animals' genitalia?

This would seem like an easy question, but it's clouded by public perceptions about what we call "hypocrisy."

I don't see why it would be hypocritical for a drug user to advise people not to use drugs. Frankly, I think he would have more, not less, credibility than someone who had never used drugs.

I can remember when William Talman (who played Hamilton Burger, the DA in Perry Mason) was dying of cancer he made a public service ad warning people not to smoke as he had. The idea that this would constitute "hypocrisy" is absurd on its face.

Even today, if a well-known anti-cigarette crusader were discovered to be hooked on cigarettes, I don't think it would hurt his credibility, nor would he be accused of hypocrisy. But on the other hand, if the head of an "Ex-Gay" ministry were busted in a mens room for soliciting an undercover officer or photographed doing something compromising in a gay bar, he'd be laughed out of the "Ex Gay" business.

What's the difference? Is it that there aren't any militant smokers who run around "outing" furtive closeted cigarette puffers? Or is it that cigarette smoking does not generate moral indignation, but gayness does? No, that can't be it, because being gay is good, and smoking cigarettes is bad. Maybe neither one is a moral issue. No, that can't be right either, because lots of people on both sides believe very passionately that morality is involved.

While I've complained about the conflation of morality with health, there's a lot of it going on anyway. The anti-gay activists like to compare homosexuality to smoking, but I've examined the comparison carefully, and it just doesn't withstand logical analysis. Whether anti-gay activists like it or not, cigarettes are still seen almost solely as a health issue and the only morality involved has to do with where people should be allowed to smoke.

Like it or not, the moral issues draw the hypocrisy charge, not the health issues.

That's why the preachy-scoldy Al Gore, caught in his wildly gluttonous energy use, has set himself up for the charge of hypocrisy. He's like an anti-gay fundamentalist minister caught in bed with a young male prostitute. The thing is, neither Gore nor the minister are prohibited from continuing to preach against the respective ills they condemn. The problem is that they have damaged their credibility, because let's face it, if you don't practice what you preach, people who find that out are just not going to take your preaching as seriously as they would if you did -- unless you admit that you fell short, and (preferably after admission into some sort of program) you solemnly promise not to do it again. Obviously, it is not in the interest of preachers to make such damning admissions.

Not so fast.

I just realized that I have made yet another unfair comparison. Al Gore is really not like the anti-gay preacher caught with the young man; he's worse. That's because those who preach against sins of the flesh recognize that human weakness is involved, and they concede that to those who have such a sinful attraction, it can be irresistible.

While some (including President Bush) have referred to our oil use as an "addiction," I don't think most reasonable people believe that oil consumption is an addiction in the ordinary sense of the word, and that he used the term as political hyperbole. If you doubt me, imagine what would happen if Al Gore tried to claim that he used too much energy because he was "addicted" to it. Stand-up comedians would be making jokes about admitting him into treatment centers run by Greenpeace, and he'd never live it down. He's therefore stuck holding the hypocrisy bag. And worse yet, if his own rhetoric is to be believed, he's guilty of heating up the planet. The closeted gay minister has heated up nothing except his angry congregation, and hell, unlike Gorewell's "carbon offsets," there's simply no such such thing as a homo offset that you can buy -- and I doubt there ever will be. (Not to complicate things unduly, but there actually is such a thing as a homo offset. But they're very technical things, and not intended for misbehaving preachers.)

Meanwhile, of course, the fact of Bush's eco-friendlier home gets almost no media play. If the roles were reversed, imagine the outcry. Actually, Don Surber (via Glenn Reynolds) imagines it pretty well:

If Al Gore were a Republican, the story of his consuming 20 times the national average while lecturing the rest of us on cutting back on our energy use would be front page news from coast-to-coast. Late-nite comedians would have a field day. The editorial pages would puff up about Republican hypocrisy.
They certainly would. Gore has really been asking for this and the blogs are having a field day at giving it to him. Glenn also links Creative Destruction:
Those policy preferences - limit carbon, mandate the use of certain technologies, restrict land use, etc. - all seem to entail increasing governmental control over the economy. Mr. Gore's actual motivation would appear to a fair-minded observer to be a desire to increase government power in the economic sphere - and environmental concern over global climate change is simply the convenient rhetorical tool to flog in the service of that agenda.

Mr. Gore is of course free to advocate for whatever policies he wishes. However, those of us who would bear the burden of his policies are also entitled - in our mindlessly swarming way - to think that his rhetorical flourishes are so much organically-composted, locally-grown, carbon-neutral BS.

Not only is that great, but it touches on one of my pet Gore peeves, which is....

Sorry, there, but "pet Gore peeves" slowed me down for a second, because it just Doesn't. Look. Right. It's more than a pet Gore peeve actually, because it's a pet peeve I have with the whole global warming mindset and I don't think it's getting enough attention in the MSM.

The issue, simply, is human meat consumption -- said by the official data to be the biggest greenhouse gas culprit of them all. That this is being downplayed makes me think Creative Destruction is right that "the desire is to increase government power in the economic sphere," and that they're using whatever rhetorical tools are most convenient. As I said, if this were really the emergency it is claimed to be, it would be easier (and less damaging to the overall economy) to curtail meat production than to prevent people from consuming oil. The former is not a necessity, but the latter is. I think that the reason meat is downplayed as an issue is because oil is a more convenient scapegoat. People just love to hate big oil. But Americans simply aren't ashamed to eat meat; the morality against meat-eating is too new, and few Americans buy into it. The environmental movement, IMO, lives in deadly fear of looking ridiculous. And if they demanded that Americans stop eating meat, Americans would think they were ridiculous. The irony is that curtailing meat production is a sensible demand, if their thesis is valid, which I don't think it is.

Once again, the failure to scold Americans properly about their meat consumption makes me think (to quote Creative Destruction again) that they're just seeking a "convenient rhetorical tool," and that the real goal is control over the economy. And if you want to control the economy, curtailing meat production is not the way to do it -- even if it would save the planet according to your precious theory.

I keep complaining that this stuff is newly manufactured morality, because it is.

It's always a little tough to feel sorry for people who fail to live up to the morality they claim to uphold. In the case of someone who has fails to live up to the morality he has manufactured, it's even tougher.

UPDATE: For trangressors of manufactured eco-morality, IowaHawk offers manufactured (if costly) eco-repentance! (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

A real eco offset, not an eco homo offset!

MORE: Ann Coulter weighs in on Global Warming's food aspects with "Let Them Eat Tofu." (I have to say, for a Deadhead, she writes pretty well.)

UPDATE: Thank you Glenn Reynolds, for the link, and welcome all. New readers, please feel free to comment whether you agree or disagree. (No sign-in necessary here.)

UPDATE (03/04/07): Donald Sensing (my thanks for the link!) comes to Al Gore's defense (at least partially), noting that Gore lives in a older area where the houses are inherently not energy efficient:

Belle Meade is the "old money" section of Nashville, dating back to at least the 1920s and quite likely to the turn of the 20th century. Gore's house, at 10K sq. ft., is no tiny thing, but it's not exceptional in Belle Meade by any means. See the satellite photo of his house. These houses are not energy efficient as first designed and built, though I assume that they have been upgraded since. But geothermal heating and cooling, like President Bush uses in Crawford, is out of the question in Nashville. The whole region sits on limestone that goes down miles. More here.

I'm not sure what Al Gore could do to become greener in his home than he says he is - although it's fair to ask what's taking him so long. I'm willing to bet that his electrical usage is not far out of line with his neighbors. It also should be pointed out that Gore runs his business - and it's a big business, obviously - out of his house (or so his spokeperson claims), and that should be factored in.

So I think we all should take a chill pill here. There's less than meets the eye about all this. The only item that Gore's defense offers that bothers me is the carbon offsetting claim, since it forms a crutch to prop up the profligacy of energy the Gore house uses. Even so, another correspondent to Bruce Thompson thinks it is valid, and explains why. Sure, Gore could use a big dollop of humility, but couldn't we all . . .

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

I wouldn't have a problem with Gore if he wasn't being such a damn scold. While I'm sure Sensing is right that there's not much to do to improve energy efficiency in older luxury homes in Belle Mead, if Gore wants to talk the way he does (about how this is "the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced"), then why dosn't he set an example for the rest of us peons he wants to scold, and simply move? (I think he could afford it.)

I understand and appreciate Donald Sensing's argument, but I still think this is pretty basic stuff. If you're going to take issue with me for burning gas in my Toyota, and I see that you're driving an Oldsmobile Toronado or a Hummer, don't expect me to take you seriously. (And, I guess, depending on the volume of your scolding, it might also be a good idea to think about letting go of the Rolls Royce too. Oh the pain!)

If you're against waste, don't waste. And if you do waste, don't waste my time scolding me.

(HT, M. Simon.)

posted by Eric at 08:16 PM | Comments (18)

New Vistas

Reader Paul has sent me a couple of links on what Microsoft's Vista will mean to computer users.

This link is for non technical folks. Let me excerpt a bit:

...reviews have focused chiefly on Vista's new functionality, for the past few months the legal and technical communities have dug into Vista's "fine print." Those communities have raised red flags about Vista's legal terms and conditions as well as the technical limitations that have been incorporated into the software at the insistence of the motion picture industry.

The net effect of these concerns may constitute the real Vista revolution as they point to an unprecedented loss of consumer control over their own personal computers. In the name of shielding consumers from computer viruses and protecting copyright owners from potential infringement, Vista seemingly wrestles control of the "user experience" from the user.

Vista's legal fine print includes extensive provisions granting Microsoft the right to regularly check the legitimacy of the software and holds the prospect of deleting certain programs without the user's knowledge. During the installation process, users "activate" Vista by associating it with a particular computer or device and transmitting certain hardware information directly to Microsoft.

Even after installation, the legal agreement grants Microsoft the right to revalidate the software or to require users to reactivate it should they make changes to their computer components. In addition, it sets significant limits on the ability to copy or transfer the software, prohibiting anything more than a single backup copy and setting strict limits on transferring the software to different devices or users.

For the more geeky among us here is a look at Vista by a computer security expert.

Here is a really neat geeky explanation of what Microsoft is trying to accomplish. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, which is another way of saying copy protection:

Note C: In order for content to be displayed to users, it has to be copied numerous times. For example if you're reading this document on the web then it's been copied from the web server's disk drive to server memory, copied to the server's network buffers, copied across the Internet, copied to your PC's network buffers, copied into main memory, copied to your browser's disk cache, copied to the browser's rendering engine, copied to the render/screen cache, and finally copied to your screen. If you've printed it out to read, several further rounds of copying have occurred. Windows Vista's content protection (and DRM in general) assume that all of this copying can occur without any copying actually occurring, since the whole intent of DRM is to prevent copying. If you're not versed in DRM doublethink this concept gets quite tricky to explain, but in terms of quantum mechanics the content enters a superposition of simultaneously copied and uncopied states until a user collapses its wave function by observing the content (in physics this is called quantum indeterminacy or the observer's paradox). Depending on whether you follow the Copenhagen or many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, things then either get weird or very weird. So in order for Windows Vista's content protection to work, it has to be able to violate the laws of physics and create numerous copies that are simultaneously not copies.
When I first got into computers (1975) the promise was that what was once the province of the big guys (IBM) would now be available to the average citizen at a modest price. People would be able to do things never before possible (on a mass scale) and users, not software/hardware priests would be in control. Vista looks like a reversion to the bad old days.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:42 PM

Basta La Vista?

I haven't been in too much of a hurry to install Windows Vista, because everything I have works in all four computers (including the upstairs computer, the downstairs computer, the newer laptop, and the recently resurrected old laptop). There have been so many horror stories about Windows Vista incompatibilities that I just think, why would I want to make my computers not work?

On the other hand, there's a computer wiz over at Pajamas Media who finally figured it out! He's got a great, easy-to-follow, instruction-packed video titled "How to Install Windows Vista in 2 Minutes," and I have a machine very similar to the one he's using! I could probably get it to accept Windows Vista...

Not so fast.

I just remembered another problem: that particular machine has a way of always upsetting Coco.

Damn. There's always a glitch somewhere.

posted by Eric at 05:20 PM | Comments (3)

I try not to take personal wars personally....
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.

-- Oscar Wilde

Taking into account that Wilde may have been ahead of his times, here's a video of the Grateful Dead (a personal favorite of Ann Coulter), attempting in 1967 to explain their lifestyle in a documentary by CBS's Harry Reasoner:

While there wasn't any such thing as a formal, officially declared "Culture War" in those days, that was only because people hadn't had time to fully catch up with and process the power of the new medium of television, and all its implications. The Baby Boomers were the first generation to really grow up with something in common -- and that something was a gigantic roving eyeball which enabled the phenomenon of monkey-see/monkey-do as nothing ever before in American history. To a large extent, America has no readily definable or identifiable "culture" before television. There were regional cultures, various class structures complete with particular ways of dressing and even accents which could enable a skilled listener under certain circumstances to discern which part of town someone came from, but no one culture. Well there was American individualism, but that had to go. For how do you wreck a "culture" of individualism?

In order to wage war against a culture, a culture first must be created. TV Culture supplied the stage. As a play (a regular "feature," really), the Culture War was thus inevitable.

Culture War is the nexus where the personal becomes political. Where the details of your life become someone else's business, and where someone else's business becomes your personal life.

It is both a war for and against shame which arose as a result of the television, and it was enabled by the people who thought they could control others through it (and who were of course themselves enabled and fueled by the money and power it brought them).

I blog because I often imagine that the Internet offers an escape.

All I ever asked for was the right to be left alone to live my life as I saw fit without being bothered by anyone as long as I never bothered anyone else.

But as the above television program demonstrated way back when, that's a very elusive "right." Because people are bothered -- and then they bother those they deemed to be bothering them, who then bothered back.

At its heart, the Culture War is personal.

"I have nothing against you personally, I just think you people belong in prison."

Nothing personal, but it's just personal.

I've been a Deadhead since 1970, and one of the things they taught me was that avoiding politics offered no escape from the Culture War. That's because everything is political. Your money, your property, your tastes, your body, and even your genes.

It's been hard, but I've tried to learn (and I'm still trying to learn) not to take any of it personally.

How I envy the sociopaths.

MORE: Not to completely disagree with Wilde's smartass Victorian observation, but I should probably add that I think it would be nice not to try so hard to destroy that in between period of civilization before we've really been able to appreciate it. (Thus, I've tried to warn about the dangers of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.)

UPDATE: My thanks to regular commenter Loren Heal for linking this post, and for reminding me that in my zeal for oversimplification, that I ignored some of America's cultural attributes, which she lists:

While it's hard to distinguish our myths about the culture of our forebears from their actual culture, there is little doubt about the commonality of:
* Freedoms of speech, press, firearms, and religion
* "Manifest destiny" and westward expansion: gold rushes, cowboys, indians, cavalry
* Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Bill Hickok, et al
* The town square containing the courthouse
* Public schools (first small, then bigger)
* Tent revivals
* The Civil War
* Social mobility
* Baseball
* The automobile
* Prohibition and the Great Depression
Undeniably true. It's all our common heritage and much of it is our common history as a people -- which will always be with us, until history ceases to be taught and is replaced with multiculturalist scolding.

But I'm not sure that these various attributes (known to most Americans only through the filtering lens of television, btw) can be all said to be culture in the traditional sense of the word -- when means cultivation of the mind as one would till land. My etymological dictionary refers to "intellectual training and refinement."

Wiki accurately states the anthropological view:

Anthropologists most commonly use the term "culture" to refer to the universal human capacity to classify, codify and communicate their experiences symbolically. This capacity has long been taken as a defining feature of the humans.
My point is that television became the one primary, dominating feature which reached out and touched everyone with the same programming, and it allowed American culture to be defined and created for the first time according to a common denominator which, though passively experienced, was communicated to an entire generation of people at the same time -- a first in American history. While it can be called a lowest common denominator, it made it possible for the entire American public to look in the mirror at the same time and see themselves. (Or at least imagine that they were seeing themselves.)

It is my opinion that America's culture of rugged individualism was replaced by a culture of oneness the likes of which had never been seen before. A cultural stranglehold, if you will.

I think what we now call "the culture" happened before people realized what was happening.

One of the problems with this analysis is that "culture" is not readily defined. When I was a kid, culture meant education, refinement, the arts. I'd like it to mean that again. I'd also like "American culture" to mean individualism again, as opposed to programs which destroy by defining. (The best way to end the culture war I'm talking about here might be to simply turn it off.)

MORE: I didn't mean to write an extended essay about television, but I think I should add that it's more complicated than those-who-watched-it versus those-who-didn't. The early Boomers are the Howdy Doody generation, often control freaks who grew up watching ABC, NBC, and CBS with the "fairness doctrine" and common sets of values and ideals shaped by the early tube. As more and more choices in programming appeared, television persisted, but the number of choices led to a loosening of control, and right now, we are on the verge of anyone being able to be his own TV program, which makes the old medium increasingly moot. To that extent at least, "the culture" is pretty close to being back in the hands of individuals.

Which is good. Unless the Howdy Doody control freaks fight back!

MORE: Proving you don't have to be a first generation boomer to be a Howdy Doody control freak, Eric Alterman sounds off in favor of gatekeepers:

Ever since the beginning of blogging-time, I have worried -- in public and on blogging panels -- about the loss of the media's gatekeeper function. Now, I believe I literally wrote the book on this topic -- and it's about to go out of print for the second time, so if you don't own it, hassle Cornell University Press -- and I am as aware as anyone on earth, I believe, of the dangers of the misuse of that function. Almost all of my books deal with this tension in one way or another. But the fact is, the function is absolutely necessary.
(Via Ann Althouse, who pretty much wipes the floor with Alterman.)

posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (3)

Come celebrate America's traditional values!

Tourists who come to Philadelphia to see the birthplace of freedom will soon be in for a rude awakening.

Access to the Liberty Bell (which is the heart of Independence Mall) will require passing through what's been dubbed "Slavery Mall":

When completed, probably next year, the memorial will constitute the first national commemoration of slaves.

Kelly/Maiello was chosen from a group of five finalists for the project. The firm, over the years, has been involved with aspects of several big-ticket projects in the region, including the expansion of the central branch of the Free Library, expansion of the Convention Center, construction of the Criminal Justice Center, and restoration of City Hall and Family Court.

Their design, which outlines the house at the southeast corner of Sixth and Market Streets where slave owner Washington and anti-slavery John Adams lived and conducted their presidencies in the 1790s, utilizes audiovisual elements to tell the stories and re-create the environment of those who lived there, including the enslaved Africans and other servants.

The house outlines will be punctuated with allusions to architectural elements, such as chimneys and cornices, rising from a low wall defining the site, and the site of the slave quarters is demarcated by a transparent glass cube - at the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center.

"We didn't get here in the usual kind of way - this wasn't exactly a tea party," Mayor Street said at a news conference yesterday at the Independence Visitor Center. "To say that people have a very strong emotional feeling about this would be the understatement of the decade." (Emphasis added.)

While I've spent a great deal of time in this blog decrying the demagogic misuse of the word "we," Mayor Street's "we" as it's used here pretty much takes the cake. (Of course, if he was dragged here in chains, my apologies -- and I'll be sure to note that fact in an update.)

In this context, "we" is little more than code language for blood feud. But never mind. Some of the more activist "we's" designed this hall of founding shame to teach the less activist inclined "you's" a lesson in freedom slavery.

Here are Street's "we's" -- long dead people you never heard of (none of them related to Mayor Street so far as I know -- although they may be related to Strom Thurmond), but their names have been resurrected from obscurity in order to eternally scold those of us with evil blood:

The controversy broke out at the beginning of 2002 when The Inquirer reported that the entrance to the proposed Liberty Bell Center, then unbuilt, would compel visitors to walk directly over the unmarked spot where Washington's human chattel labored and slept.

There were no park service plans at the time to acknowledge the presence of Washington's slaves, now thought to number nine: Oney Judge, Moll, Austin, Hercules, Richmond, Giles, Paris, Christopher Sheels and Joe. All spent some time in the house. Hercules, Washington's fabled chef, and Oney Judge, Martha's personal maid, both were able to escape bondage.

In the summer of 2002, as the controversy boiled, the appropriations committee of the U.S. House of Representatives directed the park service "to appropriately commemorate" the slaves and the house they lived in, known as the President's House.

I haven't read about plans to commission a statue of George Washington whipping the slaves, but I don't doubt that happened too. He was known to have miscreant soldiers flogged. And Jefferson enjoyed cockfighting too. These are all vital to understanding the founding of this country, and the principles of freedom and independence. And oh yes, the Constitution, which may have been written here between strokes of the master's lash.

Guess who's paying for it.

About $1.5 million of the project cost will be provided by the city; the federal government is kicking in $3.6 million, according to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Phila.), a key member of the appropriations committee, and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Phila.), both of whom attended yesterday's announcement.

Fattah said the memorial would end silence over one of the nation's inherent contradictions: the presence of slavery at the very birthplace of the free democratic republic.

"You can't have reconciliation without truth," Fattah said. "Now that will be illustrated in an important way."

Michael Coard, an attorney and organizer of the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, a grassroots community group that has pushed the park service to acknowledge Washington's slaves and their stories, said yesterday that past acrimony represented "water under the bridge."

"If I designed it myself, I couldn't have done it better," Coard said. "But we are still going to be watching them until the final brick is laid."

The Kelly/Maiello design marks out rooms of the President's House - the dining room, the state dining room, the servants' hall, for example - and uses each room to suggest the life of the house and its residents.

The principal vehicles for recounting stories will be audio and LED video screen dramatizations. Professional historians, writers and actors will be employed in the project.

"The stories and the dialogues are really the unifying principle," Emanuel Kelly said. "You will begin to imagine you are standing in the room inhabited by Washington, Hercules, Oney Judge. The experience will be what you hear and see and it will be left to the visitor to put it all together in his or her own mind."

Screw freedom. And screw the damn Liberty Bell. It's all about the "Trail of Blood." And "Avenging the Ancestors."

And, I suppose, tourists who want to hear about the founding of American slavery.


Well, at least "we" don't have to reenact anything.

I hope.

posted by Eric at 07:12 AM | Comments (2)

Gang Rape of Israeli Girls by Arabs

I couldn't blog this myself. Too horrible.

Carl in Jerusalem

posted by Simon at 12:50 AM | Comments (1)

No outfoxing nature here!

Coco is in heat. Yes, it happens twice a year, and it requires me to pay a bit more attention to potential, um, situations, than I normally do. It certainly isn't like the old days, when male dogs roamed about, and having a bitch in heat would cause untold commotion, stalking, and desperate howling late at night. These days, it's almost as if nothing is happening. Even though the scent can be detected for miles, people don't let their dogs roam, and there are almost no male dogs who still have their nuts. Of course, almost is not 100%. There's always that chance, so I remain vigilant.

Thanks to the fresh snow on Sunday night, I learned that there is a late-night frequenter to the property who has left tracks demonstrating a keen interest in Coco. Odd, because as I said, there aren't any dogs that wander, or else they'd be waiting for her in the yard. But this is no dog.

Coco's nocturnal admirer is (I am sure) a fox. A red fox (Vulpes vulpes to be exact).

It looks like this one:


I've seen the fox in the yard before, and Coco has a disturbing habit of rummaging around in the bushes where he lives, and I suspect she's eating something I'd rather not think about, and where I'd rather not "go" in this nice clean blog post. But she's familiar with him, and after looking at the tracks carefully, I'm sure they're from the fox. They're longer and skinnier than normal dog footprints, and...

Hell, here's a picture showing the difference:


It's a match with the tracks in the snow. Furthermore, the fox tracks went right through the hedge without any hesitation, and then looped around and through the yard, then through the neighbor's yard, as if this was an extended detour from its normal nighttime prowling route. There were a lot of tracks circling this house, and around Coco's little spots of yellow snow.

Naturally, a "what if" scenario crossed my mind. While it certainly isn't my goal to play mad scientist with my dog, it did occur to me that mating with the fox would not be a physical impossibility, and that if I left her in the yard in the wee hours of the morning, that little guy might just take a shot at it. Foxes are wily creatures, though, and thousands of years of experience in avoiding man would naturally make them hesitant to get caught in a tie-up (from which escape is impossible for twenty minutes or so).

But lets say that for whatever reason, the deed took place. According to virtually every source I have consulted, the odds are overwhelmingly against a successful pregnancy, because there is said to be a chromosomal incompatibility. Foxes and dogs are in the Family Canidae, but foxes are in the subgenus Vulpes, and cannot interbreed with dogs the way wolves and coyotes can.

If pregnancy did occur, the theoretical result would be a "Dox":

Contrary to popular myth, dogs cannot successfully interbreed with red foxes. Dogs have 78 chromosomes, but red foxes have only 38 chromosomes.* This severe mismatch is a barrier to hybridisation. In spite of anecdotal evidence of hybrids and claims that hybrids are superior to ordinary dogs, there have been no genetically verified "doxes".

An unconfirmed female terrier/fox hybrid was reported, and later euthanized (put to sleep), in the UK. British gamekeeper folklore claims that Terrier bitches can produce offspring with dog Foxes. The supposed hybrids (known as a dox) are natural variation in the domestic dog. There has been a reported cross between a domestic dog and a South American fox, but the latter was a fox-like wolf, known as the maned wolf, and not a true fox.

In Saskatchewan, Canada there was another supposed dox, this time a female miniature sheltie with a wild fox. There was a litter of three, but only one survived. The surviving (a female) was sterile, and looked like an almost pure fox, with slight variations. However, the variability of dogs in appearance makes it impossible to determine whether an animal is hybrid based on looks alone.

While there's been an ongoing fox domestication program in Russia for 45 years, no one appears to have made a serious effort to breed dogs with foxes. Outside of scientific curiosity, I don't know why anyone would, as the fox is a very different animal with very different instincts and behavior, and has a strong scent which is said to be most unpleasant. The offspring would probably be sterile, and most likely would have miserable lives.

I'm not about to try, but that doesn't mean I trust Coco.

Right now, she's wearing a very stylish diaper to keep her discharge from staining up the whole house:


I don't know, but if I were a fox, I might think she looked foxy!

But I'm in no mood to make genetic history right now. Besides, Coco couldn't take the publicity.

* Chromosome differences alone are not an absolute bar. Wiki's discussion of "humanzees" states that "having different numbers of chromosomes is not an absolute barrier to hybridization." (There are tions, ligers, and the beefalos.... Oh my!)

posted by Eric at 09:47 PM | Comments (3)

Avoiding an unfair comparison

Darren at Right on the Left Coast has what I think is a sensible energy conservation policy:

Most of the light bulbs in my house are compact fluorescent bulbs. I own an electric weedeater and, at a cost approaching $200, just purchased an electric lawn mower. I'm looking into a solar system on my roof, although the cost may be prohibitive. In November, when I was looking at new cars, I gave serious consideration to a hybrid Ford Escape.

I'm all about reasonable conservation measures. I'm all about renewable energy, specifically solar and nuclear. I believe these things not because of any fear of so-called global warming, but because there's no reason to pollute the environment if we can reasonably avoid doing so.

I hate waste and pollution too, and it has nothing to do with global warming. It's basic human manners. Respect for other human beings as well as self respect. But such respect comes from the individual, and that's as it should. If someone wants to be an energy glutton or a conspicuous consumer, and he is willing to pay for the extra power he uses, I don't believe in using government force to stop him, any more than I'd stop some idiot from paying $140 million for paint drippings on a canvas.

What I would like to know, though, is why so many of the loudest scolds who call for government crackdowns on gluttony are gluttons themselves.

So would Darren, who links to this report about Al Gore's very anti-global gluttony.

Yeah, I know. Gore is buying "offsets."

And the church used to sell indulgences.


Perhaps that's an unfair comparison.

It's not as if Al's Gore's gluttony is a sin, is it? And it's not as if the man is some sort of corrupt medieval priest.

Tell you what. I'd be glad to spare Al the moral lecture. All he needs to do is spare me.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Gerard Van der Leun had (unbeknownst to me) raised the indulgence issue before I did. Which means that the comparison I failed to make was neither original nor plagiarized.

AND ANOTHER UPDATE: I tried to ignore the following quote from Glenn, but I can't restrain myself. I just can't.

If Gore were less moralistic in his approach -- as he gains weight, he's even starting to look a bit like a younger Jerry Falwell -- the charges of hypocrisy would have less bite.

But even if he lost weight, he might look, um, Haggard!

(Forgive me. I am sorry.)

posted by Eric at 04:12 PM

Latest Medal of Honor Recipient
The latest Medal of Honor recipient was a chopper pilot in 'Nam at the Battle of Ia Drang. President Bush awarded him the Medal. Let me quote a little from the President:
On the morning of November 14, 1965, Major Crandall's unit was transporting a battalion of soldiers to a remote spot in the Ia Drang Valley, to a landing zone called X-Ray. After several routine lifts into the area, the men on the ground came under a massive attack from the North Vietnamese army. On Major Crandall's next flight, three soldiers on his helicopter were killed, three more were wounded. But instead of lifting off to safety, Major Crandall kept his chopper on the ground -- in the direct line of enemy fire -- so that four wounded soldiers could be loaded aboard.

Major Crandall flew the men back to base, where the injuries could be treated. At that point, he had fulfilled his mission. But he knew that soldiers on the ground were outnumbered and low on ammunition. So Major Crandall decided to fly back into X-Ray. He asked for a volunteer to join him. Captain Ed Freeman stepped forward. In their unarmed choppers, they flew through a cloud of smoke and a wave of bullets. They delivered desperately needed supplies. They carried out more of the wounded, even though medical evacuation was really not their mission.

There is more to the Citation. You can read the rest at Medal of Honor.

I want to add that Lieutenant Rick Rescorla was involved in this battle. Rescorla was later to die on 9/11 rescuing people from the World Trade Center Towers.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 10:12 AM | Comments (1)

Conflating Nazism with Islam?

I'm trying to make sense of the [allegedly] murderous Nashville cab driver who ran over his passenger, because it's been coming out in bits and pieces.

A lot of people are objecting to what seem clear attempts to hide the driver's status as a Muslim from Somalia. Nothing new there; hiding such details goes on a lot, another example being the Salt Lake City shooter.

But there's something that perplexes me even more than hiding the driver's religion. At first, I grew suspicious about the fact that this was called a "religious dispute." But now that I've read the details of the dispute, I'm more than suspicious; I'm appalled. If this report is correct, the cab driver was an out-and-out Nazi supporter:

A Nashville cabbie made anti-Semitic statements and praised Adolph Hitler's campaign against Jews during a religious argument that culminated when he ran over one of the passengers as he left the taxi, witnesses said during a hearing today.

The cab driver, Ibrahim Ahmed, said Hitler was "trying to rid the world of Jews," the alleged victim, Jeremie Imbus, told the court.

"I just remember ...(being)... I guess the word is 'shocked,'" Imbus said of the Feb. 18 incident.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Let's assume that the same driver had been a non-Muslim. Would this have been called a "religious dispute"?

I may be wrong, but I don't think so.

But because the guy's a Muslim, Nazism is deemed "religious."

If I were a Muslim (whether of the moderate variety or the less moderate CAIR variety) I'd be outraged -- and I mean seriously outraged -- by this.

And do you even have to be a Muslim to be outraged? Why aren't more people outraged that in the mainstream media, support for Hitler voiced by a Muslim is characterized as "religious"?

Or am I missing something? Is support for Hitler's genocide against the Jews now part of mainstream Islam?

I don't think it is.

However, I realize that most of the reporters who conflated Islam with Nazism by calling this a "religious dispute" probably weren't consciously aware of what they were doing, because they thought they were doing something else.

How excusable it is, I don't know. I suppose foolishness (and maybe a little elitist condescension) is better than evil.

Or do details about stuff like this really matter anymore?

posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (14)

red-and-blue divided by guns-and-race = new collusion?

Huge front page headline in today's Inquirer: "Homicides surge past 2006 rate." Hmmm.... "Surge" is becoming a popular word; it's used repeatedly in the article:

For the moment, police administrators say they can't be sure what is driving the latest surge.

"At this point we characterize '07 as out of character" compared to last year because a larger number of homicides have occurred indoors - twice as many, year-to-date - police spokesman Capt. Benjamin Naish said.

Asked to explain the import of that finding, Naish said it showed "many violent confrontations are taking place outside the normal patrol areas where police are able to impact and prevent those incidents."

"We follow up, and hopefully, we are able to solve these crimes," he said. "The highway patrol and narcotics strike force are zoning in on areas where we have historical data to indicate high levels of gun violence," and a special tactical unit - SITE - has stepped up its work, he said.

He also cited a list of social ills - "poverty, unemployment, educational challenges" - as contributing to the surge.

I'm not saying anyone is getting stuck on surge, mind you, as that would be plagiaristic.

Not to pick nits with Captain Naish, but four of the deaths involved an "angry investor [who] opened fire at the Navy Yard, killing three business partners before killing himself." The killer and the victims were all white collar types and the investment involved hundreds of thousands of dollars. Considering that the 22 percent "surge" over last year's January and February numbers consists of an additional eleven people, I think it's a bit of a stretch to attribute the entire "surge" to poverty, unemployment, and education.

Couple the front page with this editorial letter with the oversize headline of "Different rules on gun ownership":

The solution to gun violence ultimately will be political. It will involve educating rural and urban gun owners on the reasons why they need different sets of rules for gun ownership.

Rural residents can be more than an hour away from law-enforcement help and may need to protect themselves with force before law enforcement arrives.

Urban residents are threatened by concealed automatic and assault-style weapons favored by street gangs. The urban violence is aggravated by automobile drive-bys for escape in seconds - even with the availability of law enforcement in minutes.

We need to establish a legal framework that enables protection in rural areas without enabling the gun epidemic in poor urban areas.

This compromise may be facilitated by further research - to convince suburban and rural citizens of the realities. But nobody wants this research to take decades to convince know-nothing politicians and gun bigots the way it took decades to get global warming past foot-draggers such as former Senators John Ashcroft and Jesse Helms.

While calling people bigots might not be the best way to acheive compromise, I can't dismiss this as an ordinary letter to the editor or one man's opinion, because the letter writer is a local Democratic activist who specializes in letter writing:
I've been writing 3 letters to the editor almost every day since 2003. RapidResponse_PA is a wonderful group of active letter writers. Between us, we have been published an average of twice a week -- setting the record straight against wrong-wing editorials, insipid newspaper endorsements, and wildly misleading Republican astroturf.
That's all well and good, and I wish more people would show such civic mindedness. The point is, I think the letter writer speaks for more than himself. The urban-versus-rural gun control meme is a growing movement which I think is part of a strategy. (And as strategies go, it might be far more effective than the attempt to divide hunters from other gun owners.)

There's clearly a movement afoot to allow local gun control in cities, and I think the idea might be to count on suburban and rural voters to simply write off the large cities as irrelevant to their lives. They're hoping that the complacent suburbanites and country folk will roll their eves over urban crime and say, "if they want gun control in the cities, let them have it!"

Besides, the cities are more civilized. Urban. Sophisticated. Country people are primitive, violent. Into things like hunting. NASCAR.

In Pennsylvania, gun control is undeniably a red-versus-blue issue. In urban areas, there are racial overtones to the debate, and even though the clear intent is to disarm black urban citizens, gun control opponents are being called racist.

Racial overtones drive so many of these things that I'd be willing to bet that the gun control strategists are counting on what they think is racism from rural and suburban voters to mesh with the urban push to disarm the city people. Calling opposition to selective gun control racist is a brilliant way to reassure the "red" inclined people that they're really not racist at all when they look the other way as the Second Amendment rights of urban dwellers are jettisoned.

While I hope it backfires, I think it's an excellent strategy. At least, the math seems to work.

Certainly, no one can say that the gun grabbers aren't doing their homework.

Who knows? With any luck, the selective gun control meme might even stand a chance of dividing Republicans.

I mean, who wants to be a "gun bigot"?

posted by Eric at 09:06 AM | Comments (1)

Sandmonkey On Jailed Egyptian Blogger

My favorite Egyptian blogger The Sandmonkey has been blogging about jailed blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman.

CAIRO -- An Egyptian court's imprisonment of a blogger last week is another official blow to free speech, according to fellow bloggers and human-rights activists.

"It affects the only space of free speech left in Egypt, which is the Internet and the blogs, and it could possibly hinder what you can write in the future," said a prominent Egyptian who posts in Web logs, or blogs, anonymously under the name Sandmonkey.

An Alexandria court convicted Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, 22, of insulting Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, sentencing him Thursday to four years in prison.

Suleiman, a former student of Al-Azhar University, the Middle East's most respected Sunni religious institution, attacked the university, Muslims and the Egyptian government in his blog.

That is not the worst. In true Soviet style his own father has denounced him and called for his death.
His parents denounced him, demanding that he recant or be executed, one Egyptian newspaper reported.

The court's sentence has shocked the growing Egyptian blogosphere. Its more than 3,000 writers, from all levels of Egyptian society, increasingly have exposed police torture and other government excesses through Web articles and videos. Some post in English, although most -- like Suleiman -- write in Arabic.

"These charges are indefinable -- you can't define insulting the president, you can't define the space for religion," said Sandmonkey. "There are no fixed parameters for that."

"What really upsets me is ... that he has no sympathy coming from the Egyptian street, mainly for what he said about Islam and religion," said another blogger who posts under the name Big Pharaoh. "This is really scary. It could start with Abdel Kareem and it could go to other areas. In the future, maybe anyone who writes about politics will get arrested."

Big Pharaoh comments on the sentence - scroll down.

Here are a few Sandmonkey posts on the subject.
Abdel Karim family disowns him
Abdel Karim gets sentenced
My PJM piece on Abdel Karim is up
Proxy Blogging
Leave Egypt, to where exactly?
Follow Up

H/T Israpundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:42 AM

The Teh offensive

I don't know how I manage to get dragged into these things, and I don't know who is to blame. (It's not as if anyone makes me click these links.)

But anyway, there I was, minding my own business and trying to read this piece about Muqtada al Sadr which Glenn Reynolds had linked. What Glenn says is true; Muqtada al Sadr does not like the surge (good!) and he is holed up in an undisclosed location (good in a way, but it's bad that they can't find him and take him out!)

Anyway, as I was mulling all this over, I reached the bottom of the piece and then over on the right I saw some Huffington Post links. I probably should have just left this well enough alone, but when I saw the words "Jerry Falwell on Global Warming: It's a Myth," I couldn't stop myself.

Hell, it's just a little click, right?

Wrong. It was a click on the road to hell! For, I soon discovered to my horror that not only were gays implicated in the Falwellian assessment of Global Warming, but they were partnered with some strange new force I had not seen before -- the force of Teh!

According to David Roberts, Falwell believes that the "nefarious secret agenda of the global warming crowd" is meant to thwart "Teh Gay" hatred:

...to redirect the church's focus, distracting it from its core mission of hating Teh Gay.
Global Warming is intended to distract the church from hating "Teh Gay"? Who or what is Teh Gay? How come I'd never been told about this before?

Determined to find out, I went directly to Google, and found out that indeed there is a phenomenon called "Teh Gay" -- with a viable presence well known for years. According to the Urban Dictionary, there are two meanings:

1. The non-existant malady that one cathces by being around homosexuals (males especially).

2. Term used mostly by those denegrating anti-homosexual positions of religious leaders and far-right wing politicians.

Sorry but "cathces"? In a dictionary? This word mutilation stuff must be cathcing.

Lots of bloggers have written about Teh Gay, in posts such as "Where Teh Gay Originates," and it's in wide enough circulation that Kevin Drum used it to title a post (although his more clueless commenters kept asking repeatedly what "teh gay" meant).

It means a lot of things, and some of them are worse than you can imagine. For example, Satan is teh gay, and the GOP are the Defenders of teh Gay. (Does that mean teh GOP defends Satan? Or just teh concept of teh Gay satan?)

If you're really into the nuances, Snopes has a long discussion. Basically it's an imputation of stupidity and bigotry via a gratuitously imputed spelling error.

I was so fascinated by all of this that I just had to watch Falwell's anti-global warming rant. (See how out of hand things can get when you dare click on a link?) Anyway, it was disappointing, and there was Not One Mention of Gay. Or Teh. Or Teh Gay. No Teh Homos either. Just a few words about how the church would be distracted from its focus on morality. While doubtless that morality would include his typical pulpit condemnations of homosexuality, I watched the video closely and saw no signs of gay -- "teh" or otherwise. This screenshot accurately sums up what he said:


It goes without saying that I'm far from happy with Falwell. By expressing skepticism, he's probably doing more to win over the skeptics to Al Gore's side than Al ever could (especially considering the latter's conspicuous consumption and carnivorous gluttony). Why can't he get with the program like Pat Robertson? That way, we few remaining genocidal libertarian skeptics could at least point to the "religious right" in the hope of swaying maybe a few members of the emotionally hysterical left. (I hope I didn't commit a triple redundancy there.)

The worst part of this is that because I clicked on a couple of links I should never have clicked on, I now find myself in the embarrassing position of defending Jerry Falwell. The fact is, he said nothing about gays in the global warming remarks.

So the Teh Gay business in this case has turned out to be an imputation of bigotry via a nonexistent spelling error involving a topic that wasn't there.

This Teh meme is obviously very powerful stuff. It's not only blowing up the meaning of words, it's blowing up the meaning of language that isn't there.

I'm wondering though, why the haste to have Falwell blame Teh Gay? Couldn't the problem just as easily be "teh Global Warming"?

I should have stuck with Muqtada al Sadr. Or maybe his allies from Teh ran.

MORE: Wikipedia has an entry on the teh phenomenon. It's a leet thing. (u wunt undrtsd.)

posted by Eric at 11:41 PM | Comments (3)

Obsession at NYU

KesherTalk's Judith Weiss has a great post about the screening of the film "Obsession" at NYU -- and cowardly reactions like this:

"The question about radical Islam and how do we fight it is unproductive," said Yehuda Sarna, the New York University rabbi on the panel. "The question is how to break down the stereotypes facing the two religions."
I've never been a fan of stereotypes, but when people are waging war against you, I just don't think breaking down stereotypes should be at the top of the list of priorities. Judith calls this mindset "political masochism" and I think she's right.

Check out the post. There's a ten minute trailer video from the film, plus a classic interview of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Bill Maher (which Judith thinks "Rabbi Kumbaya" should watch!)

posted by Eric at 09:49 PM

Number one cause?

I moan and groan about Global Warming, and I'm a double skeptic, in the following two ways:

1) I'm not convinced that the CO2 produced by man is capable of warming the planet to any appreciable degree. I don't think that has been shown.

2) Even if I were convinced that anthopogenic gases were heating the planet, I still think that the type of massive interventions and regulations being proposed would have more disastrous consequences than the carbon itself.

However, I try to be fair, and I am fond of playing Devil's Advocate because I find it helpful to examine all sides of arguments, and one of the best ways to do this is to assume that what your opponents say is true, and use that as a starting point.

So, for the purpose of this blog post only, let me assume not only that the planet is heating up, but that our carbon is doing it, and that it is absolutely imperative that we put the brakes on those human activities which are most responsible for producing the carbon.

I have read repeatedly that the biggest single cause of carbon production is not the use of fossil fuels, but the human production of animals to be used as food.

In other words, our meat eating. Dr. Joseph W. Fox is a man whose general philosophy I disagree with, but he states the case rather eloquently:

The natural world is being turned into what some call a biological desert or industrialized wasteland by various human activities. Our singularly most damaging environmental footprint upon this planet, now recognized and documented by the FAO (1) is caused by our collectively costly and damaging appetite for animal produce. Some 3.2 billion cattle, sheep and goats are now being raised for human consumption, along with billions more pigs and poultry. These extensively and intensively farmed animals produce less food for us than they consume, and compete with us for water; they result in an increasing loss wildlife and habitat, and of good farmlands and grazing lands. Linked with deforestation, loss of wetlands, over-fishing and ocean pollution, our appetite for meat is the number one cause of global warming and loss of biodiversity.
OK, now meat-eating is either the number one cause of Global Warming or it is not. I've read about this phenomenon and commented upon it a number of times in this blog. I admit, I have enjoyed using it to poke fun at the Global warming crowd, greenie weenies, the vegans, and the animal rights crowd, because it's not too often that so many leftists congregate on the same issue.

Well, I am being serious now. Let's assume there is anthropogenic global warming. I have a legitimate, lingering question that has not been answered to my satisfaction.

Why is all the focus on the number two cause of Global Warming?

Isn't it easier to ask Americans to switch to beans and tofu than to give up their cars and switch to bicycles? Aren't high taxes meat easier to swallow than high taxes on oil?

As a skeptic, I'm not about to give up either one of my noxious addictions. But as addictions go, I think it would be easier to give up meat than to give up heat, and give up driving. I think most people, if they really thought about it, would find it far easier to give up meat than to give up oil, because we can live without the former, but not without the latter.

So why am I being told I'm addicted to oil, but not that I'm addicted to meat?

What am I missing?

AFTERTHOUGHT: To play my devil's advocacy game fairly, I probably should factor the usual political hyperbole into the argument that meat is the number one cause of global warming. OK, let's say it's only the number two cause. That it's not the number one cause, but it's a major cause. There's still a problem -- because I hear and read about global warming constantly, and at least in the conventional mainstream media, the culprit is, simply (in a very steady drumbeat) oil, oil, oil.

Where's the meat?

Can it be that we have an addiction that dare not speak its name?

UPDATE: I am not forgetting about methane -- CH4 -- which not only contains carbon, but which I mentioned in the last post about global warming. Again, my question is, if meat is a major cause of what the global warming proponents allege is happening, why is this being downplayed?

posted by Eric at 01:42 PM | Comments (7)

Lets You And Him Fight

I was reading Michael Totten's blog and came across this interview of him by the Jerusalem Post. One part of the interview caught my eye. (Question by the Post in bold)

Are Syria and Iran still supplying Hizbullah? Have they recovered from the war last summer?

Absolutely. Hizbullah is as strong, or at least nearly as strong, as they were last July. Iran and Syria will continue supplying Hizbullah until they fear the consequences of continuing their support or until no one in Lebanon is willing to receive their support. Right now everyone who dies because of Syrian and Iranian support for Hizbullah is Lebanese or Israeli. They have no reason to stop until that equation is altered.

This fits in with some of my posts from last summer (July and August '06) where I said Israel must take on Syria if it was to accomplish its war aims.

Now it looks like, although Israel thinks a war with Syria is not likely this year, it is preparing for a war with Syria. Perhaps the Israelis are wizing up.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 01:08 PM | Comments (1)

My merciless attack on untreated hoplophobes
the NRA has trained members to attack their perceived enemies without mercy.
So says Pat Wray, who's with the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA). The latter is a group of hunters who claim they're "reasonable" and the NRA is unreasonable. Personally, I suspect the AHSA consists of a group of agents provocateur (gun grabbers dressed as gun owners), but I'm a bit quick to make that claim and I really should be more careful. However, this AHSA statement about who they are raises my antennae:
Unless the sporting community can become unified behind an organization that fights for safe and responsible hunting and shooting practices and sensible gun ownership, future generations may be unable to participate in and enjoy the shooting sports.
Sporting community?

What the hell has hunting to do with the Second Amendment? It's peripheral, and I think this repeated "sporting" meme belies a divide and conquer mentality -- as if hunting is the only legitimate reason for owning firearms. I don't hunt, and I resent the constant (even relentless) implication fueled by organizations like AHSA that hunting is the only legitimate reason why anyone would own a gun.

Pat Wray and others complain about the fact that a hunting columnist infuriated gun owners (like me) when he suggested that because ARs and AKs were "terrorist weapons" they should not be used for hunting. Never mind that they are used for hunting; here's what he said:

I call them "assault" rifles, which may upset some people. Excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. I'll go so far as to call them "terrorist" rifles. They tell me that some companies are producing assault rifles that are "tackdrivers."

Sorry, folks, in my humble opinion, these things have no place in hunting. We don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them, which is an obvious concern.


This really has me concerned. As hunters, we don't need the image of walking around the woods carrying one of these weapons. To most of the public, an assault rifle is a terrifying thing. Let's divorce ourselves from them. I say game departments should ban them from the praries and woods.

I don't want to be "lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them" either, any more than I want to be "lumped into" the group of people who terrorize the inner cities with handguns. But simply because I own handguns, as well as so-called "assault weapons," how does that lump me in with people who misuse them? That is execrably bad logic, and no, the NRA did not tell me to say it, nor did it train me to attack Mr. Zumbo without mercy.

I see the same sort of tripe in the daily newspapers, and I complain about it ad nauseam, but I can certainly understand why gun owners would find themselves especially infuriated to see it in Outdoor Life. I think this is part of a well-orchestrated movement to divide hunters and people who own guns for self defense.

But I'll say this: the NRA isn't issuing death threats against gun "apostates." There's a right for anyone to do a 180 on the gun issue, a right to infuriate gun owners like me with bad logic, and of course, a right to leave the NRA. And there's of course a right to disagree with and criticize people for doing any of those things.

Without receiving death threats.

That does not seem to be the case with some things:

COLOGNE, Germany, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The founder of a group in Germany for former Muslims has sought police protection after receiving death threats.

Mina Ahadi, a native of Iran living in Cologne, said about three dozen people have joined the Central Council of Ex-Muslims.

"I happened to be born in a Muslim family, and I have decided not to be a Muslim," she told the magazine Focus.

Ahadi said she and other members of the group have been "terrorized" and have received death threats, most of them sent via e-mail.

In many Muslim countries, people who abandon the faith face the death sentence under Sharia law.

Ahadi said she hoped to represent the interests of former Muslims who do not practice the religion. She chose the name as a play on the Central Council of Muslims, which has about 800,000 members and is the largest Islamic group in Germany.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

There are ex-NRA members, ex-Muslims, ex-gays, ex-straights, ex-Christians, ex-Pagans, ex-Republicans, and ex-Democrats. (And I'm sure there are lots of ex-bloggers by now.) So what? I think we're going to see a lot more of this sort of thing, especially between now and the election. What separates civilized people from uncivilized people is that civilized people recognize that the right to do something includes the right not to do it, and the right to join something includes the right to leave it.

That does not mean that the people who justifiably feel betrayed by the exodus of fellow members cannot or in some cases should not sound off.

Say Uncle has a great discussion of the Zumbo affair, and there's more here and here.

It was Dr. Helen's blog which alerted me to the Zumbo situation, and I am fascinated by her discussion of a media double standard. (On the one hand Zumbo's a hero for standing up to NRA tyranny, while on the other hand "homophobes" need to be treated for mental illness.)

Here's Dr. Helen:

Take a foul mouthed shot at a minority and one is sent to rehab. Trash a gun owner and liken him or her to a terrorist and you are a sympathetic character who is being attacked by the fringe members of the NRA. I certainly do not condone what Washington said when he called a castmate a sexist slur, yet is it really okay for the The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to request an apology (probably yes), try to get him fired and ABC to send Washington to "rehab," all with no one in the MSM saying this might be wrong or at least giving an opposing view as they did with the gun slur? Why is one type of speech seen by the media as okay and worth defending and the other politically incorrect type seen as not worthy of anything but disdain and punishment?

I wonder when guys like Zumbo will be asked to go to rehab to treat their Hoplophobia?

I don't know; when hell freezes over? At least "hoplophobia" makes linguistic sense; unless "homo" is PC shorthand for homosexual, the word "homophobia" on its face means either fear of sameness or fear of mankind. And all shy people would become heterophobic, because they fear others.

(Parenthetically, I have long thought that the Washington affair touches on race, but I'm not allowed to say that, nor am I allowed to say that the Washington affair is now being driven by the ongoing flap over Tim Hardaway's remarks -- said to have "led" to a savage and fatal Detroit attack on an elderly gay man, and of course it therefore "follows" that Tim Hardaway's remarks are actually the fault of Peter LaBarbera, which means LaBarbera is the ultimate villain, while Washington is a victim in need of treatment.)

But I'm not allowed to say any of that, OK? Some things simply cannot be discussed. Not even in this blog. That's why I did the right thing and crossed out every word.

I should censor myself more often. It feels good.

I suspect the world will get crazier and we'll see more bad logic and stuff I'm not allowed to discuss between now and the election.

Maybe someone can threaten me into treatment for my merciless self-censorship, which is obviously grounded in self hating hillaryphobia.

(Actually, I blame my internalized blogophobia.)

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

Dead blogging the Oscars II

Yes, I'm afraid it's now an annual tradition. I just turned on the Oscars in time to see Al Gore with a sycophantic young admirer (a future cabinet member who starred in "Titanic"), and Gore then made what sounded like a tantalizing major announcement, is if he was going to say he was gay or run for president or something, but then he ran off stage with the sycophant so I turned it off and reminded myself that the thing to do in cases like this is to watch the Grateful Dead like I did last year.

Only this year, I thought I'd share a Grateful Dead video.

It's "Easy Wind," sung by Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, 1970.

Hey, it beats watching Gore play casting director with future cabinet members.


Things were cooler in those days.

This Global Warming stuff is giving my inner child nightmares.

UPDATE (11:11): Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth."

Don't expect me to PhotoShop anything, OK? I'm too damned tired for inconvenient trophy placement.

UPDATE (02/26/07): Via Glenn Reynolds, Pajamas Media describes Gore's rather peculiar "announcement":

The Goracle is anointed by Leo DiCaprio... and then pretends to, kind of, almost, announce he's running. (Why would he? Nobody says such nice things about you when you actually are a candidate. It's worse if you're president.)
PJM has the video of the announcement, although I still think the Dead are cooler than Gore, and they always will be.

UPDATE (02/28/07): After reading about Hollywood's attempt to censor the Oscars on YouTube, I decided after much agonizing to link the video of Al Gore's "announcement":

(I guess Al owns enough stock in Google that he won't let himself be censored.)

But Pigpen is still cooler!

posted by Eric at 09:41 PM | Comments (9)

Baby talk survives word police!

While it wasn't my intention, it must look like baby day at Classical Values, because first there was fetal alcohol syndrome.... And then, before that had had time to clear my system, I stumbled onto a favorite song from Jan and Dean.

Second only to the Beach Boys as a surfer group (and probably best known for "Dead Man's Curve"), in the old days they did doowop, and my favorite Jan and Dean song -- "Baby Talk." It reached the Top Ten in 1959*, but I had no idea that a video had been made of it.

I've watched it twice now, and I think it's just unbelievably fantastic.

Seriously. It's from another world. I cannot imagine anyone making a video like this today.

While the lryics might be considered a bit much for modern standards, in those days, there was no Culture War.

Thank God.

* In the interest of complete accuracy, I should probably point out that in 1959, to quote the lyrics, "I was only five years old..."

Well I was!

posted by Eric at 03:49 PM | Comments (4)

Is "social science" becoming an oxymoron?

I stumbled onto a fascinating paper about "fetal alcohol syndrome" ("FAS") which raises some good questions about whether what we call "social science" deserves to be called "science" at all.

The essential criterion for any social problem is its universalization (Wagner, 1997Go). As long as a problem is orphaned, especially if it is identified as a problem only within a minority race or social class, it has limited impact on society as a whole. Liberal-minded social scientists are especially wary of associating a stigmatized behaviour with race or class, because such associations perpetuate discrimination (Wagner, 1997Go). By disassociating race or class from a stigmatized behaviour, the problem is more likely to gain public attention, because everyone now feels a vested interest in its elimination. The language of democratization therefore characterizes most social problems, e.g. child abuse, alcoholism, cocaine addiction, teenage pregnancy or domestic violence. Despite the fact that these are not 'equal opportunity' disorders (Abel, 1995Go; Wagner, 1997Go), they are typically scaled up into the middle and affluent classes to draw greater attention to the problem at hand and to overcome any charges of racism, classism, elitism, or any other accusation of discrimination (Wagner, 1997Go).

FAS has not been immune to democratization. When the disorder was first described in 1973, Jones and Smith and their co-workers took pains to emphasize its universalism by reporting that the eight unrelated children they had observed belonged to 'three different ethnic groups ...' (Jones and Smith, 1973Go). However, FAS has never been an 'equal opportunity birth defect' (Abel, 1995Go); its inseparable handmaidens are poverty and smoking (Bingol et al., 1987Go; Abel, 1995Go). What Jones and Smith and their colleagues did not emphasize was that the eight children, and virtually all the other children they and others subsequently examined, were seen in hospitals serving a predominantly lower socio-economic status population. Groups whose members suffer disproportionate poverty, such as Native Americans and African Americans, are especially prone to this disorder. In the Yukon and Northwestern areas of Canada, the rate for FAS and partial FAS has been estimated at 46/1000 for Native children compared to 0.4/1000 for non-Native children, a 1000-fold difference (Asante and Nelms-Matzke, 1985Go). In the USA, the rate of FAS among low income populations is 2.29/1000 compared to 0.26/1000, for middle- and high-income populations (Abel, 1995Go). Despite the empirical evidence, grass roots organizations, such as the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) continue to espouse the view that FAS is a threat to all pregnancies. When NOFAS was founded, for instance, its executive director stated: 'I think a lot of middle-class and upper-class women don't know that occasional use of alcohol during pregnancy is dangerous' (Information Access Company, 1991Go).

While it is true that drinking occurs across all social categories in the USA, FAS is undeniably concentrated among disadvantaged groups. The very large socio-economic differences in FAS rates (Able, 1995) are not due to differences in the number of alcoholic women among the poor compared to the middle classes. In fact, drinking is much more common among the middle and upper classes than among the poor (Abma and Mott, 1990Go; Caetano, 1994Go; Abel, 1998aGo). Instead, the reason FAS occurs predominantly among poverty stricken women is that they experience, or are characterized by, many more 'permissive' factors, such as smoking and poor diet, that exacerbate the effects of alcohol (Abel and Hannigan, 1995Go). Since FAS cannot be divorced from poverty, insisting that FAS 'crosses all lines' perpetuates the problem by situating it solely within an alcohol context instead of the wider context of poverty.

Democratization disguises the extent to which moral panic about FAS may in fact spring from much deeper social unease about changing gender roles and about class and particularly race differences (Armstrong, 1998aGo). Many legal commentators in the USA have noted that the recent rash of prosecutions of pregnant women for substance use and purported fetal harm are concentrated among poor and most often minority women (Roberts, 1991Go; Gomez, 1997Go). The moral panic over FAS likewise may reflect social divisions typically invisible in American society, particularly rifts over what constitutes a 'good mother'.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Because I've known many high-IQ individuals whose mothers drank like fish, I've always been suspicious of the claim that drinking during pregnancy decreases a child's potential IQ. Not that I'm advocating drinking during pregnancy, or even drinking. But sexing up statistics and creating false scares simply in order to call attention to a problem is not only dishonest, it can backfire. Fetal alcohol syndrome isn't even the point, really. The more this sort of thing goes on, the less people are likely to believe what they are told, and the less credibility "science" has.


Might that be good?

posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (3)

Objective Entertainment?

Yesterday, I inadvertently touched on one of my own raw nerves when I said this about blogging:

....no one pays me to do this, right? And if they did pay me to do it, I would quit, right? My oh-so-sacrosanct artistic integrity would be compromised if I took money, unless there were truly no strings attached. But money is a string, and so are readers, which means that whether I'm paid or not, what I say is influenced by the public nature of this blog, and the identifiable nature of my persona, which is not anonymous. Thus there's no escaping the fact of inherently compromised integrity.
This didn't go far enough, and while it is a recurrent subject, I'm realizing that I failed to address the complexities of what I'll call the entertainment factor.

There are millions and millions of people doing exactly what I am doing, which is self publishing for little or no money, in a highly competitive environment. Normally, when we think of "bias," we think in terms of politics, especially particular opinions and positions on issues. With bloggers, this is usually transparent. What you see is what you get. I'm biased in favor of my opinions, and while I like to explain them, there's no denying that I have them. The type of bias that rises to the blog scandal level is bias which is undisclosed, hidden, or denied -- and which, if known, would materially affect the blogger's credibility. A classic example would be a blogger secretly taking money from Wal-Mart who spends most of his time defending Wal-Mart, or a blogger in the employ of a candidate who defends that candidate or attacks his opponent.

But what about all the bloggers, and all the purveyors of online opinion who just want to be noticed? Before we even get to their positions on issues, isn't the fact that they're desperate to be noticed relevant?

The reason I say this is because of a phenomenon I've run into more times than I could hope to estimate. Typically, I'll read someone's online column, and before I realize what is happening, I'll find myself getting worked into a lather over things like whether he's gotten the facts right and whether I agree or disagree with his thoughts and opinions. But then I'll get down to the bottom of the column and I'll see what amounts to a resumé -- usually a boastful description about positions and accomplishments followed by information on how to arrange radio and television interviews.

Regardless of whether his position might be biased, doesn't that indicate another type of bias? The opinion purveyor is, simply, on the hustle! He is doing more than offering opinions, even more than trying to influence public policy; he wants to be a celebrity.

In a word, an entertainer.

I discussed this in several posts about Ann Coulter, because I think she's done it so well that she can be considered a master of Opinion Entertainment.

But I'm wondering -- just wondering -- does the desire to be an entertainer affect objectivity? It's a different question than ordinary bias. Sure, someone like Ann Coulter is biased, but the more I see scholars -- even stodgy think-tankers previously regarded as thoughtful people -- promoting downright nutty ideas, the more I wonder, are they just plain getting hungrier? And is it getting harder and harder to be heard through the din?

I'm sure I'm as guilty as anyone, but I think this is becoming so endemic that if you're in the online opinion business it's almost de rigueur. So much so, that last year when I stumbled upon the fictitious nature of "George Harleigh," the guy who quoted "Harleigh" (at least, one of his sockpuppets) went on the offensive against me -- and he seemed to think I was hiding something:

I decided to do a little background checking of my own on Eric Scheie, the blogger who claims he "outed" this situation. I find it odd that someone who demands so much disclosue from others doesn't include a link to any information about himself on his own blog. Make me wonder what he has to hide.
Regular readers know that while I don't talk about my life all that much (it strikes me as egotistical) that nevertheless there's a ton of personal information about me in here that's accumulated over the years. But it's true; I never bothered with one of the "ABOUT ME" thingies. Part of it's that I'm too lazy, and it seems like an administrative hassle. Part of it is that I don't like looking like a celebrity wannabe. Hell I could and maybe should quote what the best bloggers in the business have said about me, and I could even say "CLASSICAL VALUES -- AS FEATURED ON CNN!" or "CLASSICAL VALUES -- LEADING GOOGLE VALUES SITE SINCE 753 BC!" With a big beaming picture of me in a stylish suit, and a toll free number of some phony "appointment secretary" to call.

The fact is, so many people do that nowadays that not doing it can be seen as abnormal.

Again, is the purpose of all of this entertainment?

Can entertainment-based opinion be called truly objective? Or is that the right word? Can Ann Coulter be described as more "objective" than, say, Andy Warhol?

If the desire to entertain people is in fact a form of bias that can affect objectivity (albeit in a different manner than ordinary bias) then why is it so often overlooked?

Because everybody else is doing it, so we're on the same playing field?

Does objectivity suffer the more the field grows? Or am I in too much of a conflict of interest to even care simply because I do this?

I need not worry for long, though. Because this post -- like all posts -- will simply be placed in line and it's entertainment value will diminish quite rapidly.

Somehow I find that comforting. There's something incredibly cool about being able to share a dirty little secret with the entire world. What's incredibly comforting is knowing that even if it matters now, it doesn't really matter for very long. Writing a post like this is, in a certain way, like taking advantage of a hidden loophole. It's almost as if I never told a soul.

(That may represent a hidden and undisclosed form of entertainment, but I won't go there.)

posted by Eric at 10:43 AM | Comments (2)


Since I have a post up on cognitive ability and how it seems fixed, I thought it would be a good idea to post this bit of advice.

There is now considerable evidence that breast-fed children have higher intelligence. For a long time it was impossible to be certain this was not merely because the more intelligent mothers (whose children received good genetic and environmental backgrounds) were those who could breast feed, or chose to do so. However, research by Lucas et al. (1992) with premature babies fed through a tube and the type of milk randomly selected has shown that those given human milk do indeed have a higher intelligence when tested as children. The effect was an amazing 10 IQ points.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 10:42 PM | Comments (1)

Tolerance for blasphemy?

There is an absolutely fascinating religious debate going on in this comment thread, prompted by Titanic Director James Cameron's claim that the body of Jesus Christ has been found and identified:

It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua.

Israel's prominent archeologist Professor Amos Kloner didn't associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus. His father, after all, was a humble carpenter who couldn't afford a luxury crypt for his family. And all were common Jewish names.

There was also this little inconvenience that a few miles away, in the old city of Jerusalem, Christians for centuries had been worshipping the empty tomb of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Christ's resurrection, after all, is the main foundation of the faith, proof that a boy born to a carpenter's wife in a manger is the Son of God.

But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.

More here.

I'm about as far from being a fundamentalist as it is possible to get without being an atheist. But I think Cameron's claim is grandstanding nonsense.

For starters, DNA tests?

On what DNA? Jesus? Mary? Joseph? Mary Magdalene? Did any of them leave a sample somewhere unbeknownst to anyone until now? There has to be some known relative of the people found in that burial group for comparison purposes; otherwise all that can be shown IF any DNA material remains in the bones is that maybe the people in the burial group were all related to each other. (Hardly surprising in a family tomb.) The names were all common names, and according to the Bible the family was poor. Stone ossuaries characterized the moneyed classes.

I suppose Cameron might be claiming that his experts exhumed some members of the Merovingian dynasty (rumored to have been descended from Jesus) and found a 99% match, but I doubt it. Besides, the Merovingian DNA that was already tested "showed no traces of Semitic DNA at all, making it doubtful they descended from someone from the Middle East."

Interestingly, the film is being called blasphemous, although I'm not sure that any serious examination (even a flawed one) of historical facts would be blasphemous in and of itself. Perhaps the resultant claim that Jesus was never the son of God and was never crucified would be -- but only in the Christian religious sense of Biblical accounts of the resurrection, and possibly the crucifixion.

To a Muslim, discussing this find would not be blasphemy. But asserting that the crucifixion and the resurrection happened is blasphemy, because this denies the Koran, which clearly and emphatically states that Jesus, while a prophet, was neither crucified nor resurrected. Muslims believe he simply died like the other prophets. Many Westerners fail to understand that the reason Christian crosses are forbidden in countries with Islamic law is that they are seen as blasphemous -- i.e. they deny the Koran.

Fortunately, we don't have to worry about blasphemy laws, and James Cameron is as free to make stuff up (or deny the central tenets of Christianity) as anyone else.

While I can't prove it, I have a feeling that he'd be less likely to make a similar film claiming to debunk the central tenets of Islam, but that's because he'd be afraid -- legitimately afraid -- of fatwas and of getting killed.

Sure, some Christians will denounce Cameron as a blasphemer. But the days of Torquemada are long gone.

I think it speaks rather well of Christianity as a whole that it's as "blasphemy tolerant" as it is.

MORE: I can't think of a better example of intolerance for blasphemy than what is being done to Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman, who received a four year sentence for "contempt for religion" and "insulting the president". As Roger L. Simon (via Glenn Reynolds) reminds us,

He could easily be killed in jail by a religious fanatic, according to the Sandmonkey, if he doesn't go crazy in solitary first.

It's frustrating to read stories like this. You want to do something, but you don't know how.

That's the way it is with blogging. I often want to do something, and I often write blog posts in the hope that this constitutes "doing something." The next day, I feel as if I did nothing -- usually because the problem did not go away. Well, doh! Blogs are not magic wands; this medium, like any communication tool, has to be used effectively, and often. It's as slow as tearing down the Berlin wall one brick (or one chunk of concrete) at a time, but if each blogger removes that one chunk, a seemingly impenetrable wall can eventually be undermined.

I am reminded of another Egyptian blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fatah. I wrote a blog post and a couple of letters, and I didn't think I was doing much.

In the overall context, I wasn't. But eventually (last June) Alaa was freed in response to public pressure, so I don't think it is unreasonable to say that every little bit helps.

I think those of us who are free to commit "blasphemy" from our armchairs and laptops might have an occasional moral duty to those who are imprisoned for doing exactly the same thing.

What really galls me is that Egypt is supposed to be moderate. What's happening is a disgrace. Shame on Egypt!

And free Kareem!


Read more about it here. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Anyone who watches James Cameron's silly film and imagines that he's being cool ought to stop and think about the freedom we take for granted.

(Hell, you don't even have to be an armchair blasphemer to appreciate such freedom.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: While this post was about armchair blasphemy and not "insulting the president," aren't there Americans who also engage in the latter pastime? I certainly hope they're getting behind this cause 100%.


UPDATE (02/25/07): According to at least two knowledgeable scholars, Kareem's imprisonment is illegal even by Egypt's standards:

We find it shocking that a university [Al-Azhar] would turn a student over to the authorities to be prosecuted for voicing his views. The future of learning and science is at risk when dissenting views are punished rather than debated. Jointly, we have contacted Egyptian authorities to ask that they correct a clear mistake and release Soliman.

Egypt is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media." The exceptions allowed are narrowly drawn and require proof of "necessity" before restrictions can be imposed. The posting of opinions on a student's personal blog hardly qualifies as a threat to national security, to the reputation of the president or to public order.

Soliman is not a threat to Egypt, but this prosecution is.

Whether or not we agree with the opinions that Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman expressed is not the issue. What matters is a principle: People should be free to express their opinions without fear of being imprisoned or killed. Blogging should not be a crime.

UPDATE (02/27/07): Regarding the buried remains, it now seems that there is no cellular DNA:

....the panel was asked if there was enough DNA remaining in the ossuary to clone Jesus. "Some experiments shouldn't be done," one of the film team responded.

Then Tabor said conclusively that there was "no intact cellular DNA" and so no possibility of cloning.

Determined armchair blasphemers might want to keep in mind, however, that it might still be possible to clone Muhammad.

posted by Eric at 10:34 PM | Comments (9)

Innocently feral

OK, now that my feelings are out of the way (at least under control for the time being), I can get back to the business of the post at hand. Or would that be the business at hand of the post?

I had been meaning to write about feral children, because earlier this week Dr. Helen linked one of Kim du Toit's masterpieces on the subject. The whole thing is a must-read (and I also can't wait to see the book) but I'll stick with this excerpt:

When we talk to people about homeschooling our kids, and are asked what we did about "socialization", our answer is dismissive. Here's the gist of it.

1. We were never interested in having our kids learning to socialize from a group of peers who were as clueless about the process as they themselves were. High school kids, unsupervised, are the most feral little beasts on the planet, and we saw no reason why we should subject our kids to that ordeal. The most common response to that statement was usually, "It makes them tougher" or "They learn how to cope with a hostile environment, like they may encounter in the adult world".

Specious nonsense. In the outside world, when you are immersed in a "hostile environment" (work, university, whatever), you have the means to leave it. That's not the case in high school, where you are coerced into staying together with no options to separate yourself from your tormentors.

Another response is that the kids "miss out on so much". Yeah, Daughter really misses that experience of perpetual teasing about her weight, and the physical bullying that went along with it, coupled with sadistic gym teachers who forced her to run a mile during PE class, in the hot sun.

Not only is the topic of feral children not a new one for me, it's one of my pet peeves. I was attacked by a pack of brats when I was two years old, and ever since that day, I have harbored no illusions about the true, monstrous, animal nature of untrained, unsupervised brats. One of the few things which triggers genuine feeling of sickness in me is to hear some lamebrain prattling about the "innocence" of children. Innocent hell! They're as "innocent" as cheetahs.

And therein lies the paradox. A mentality quite similar to that which calls children innocent also tends to worship the "innocence" of animals. This ties in quite nicely with Rousseau's condescending "Noble Savage" pap. Nature is said to be "innocent," and civilization is said to be "guilty." That this is highly judgmental, even religious, thinking does not seem to occur to its proponents. Indeed, they often deride religion, which makes absolutely no sense because they are substituting their own bad logic for the "superstition" they claim to abhor.

Yet, as I condemn this mentality, I am willing to concede that the inability to distinguish right from wrong can be called a form of innocence. The children who attacked me were, in the legal sense, incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, although they did run away when an adult finally appeared wielding a broom -- in much the same way a vicious dog might. Why a vicious dog is seen as more worthy of euthanasia than a vicious child is another Rousseauvian paradox, I guess.

I suppose it's worth asking whether this sort of innocence matters, and why it should. If a feral dog attacks me, even though I love dogs, I might have to shoot it. Not so fast in the case of attacking feral children.

But what are feral children?

Do they look like this?


Like this?


Or maybe like this?

Via Jonah Goldberg, who "thought the appropriate response would be to slap the kid."

What is the appropriate response? (The thing is, by today's standards, an angry, fulminating kid like that would not be considered particularly feral, but worthy of receiving an "A" -- if not admission to a top Ivy League school.)

While a stern lecture, a slap in the face, or a better education might be all that's needed for the angry kid in the video, what is the appropriate response in dealing with a dangerously innocent feral kid?

I don't know, but when local I saw a Philadelphia news item linked at Drudge, and realized that the same item touched on Dr. Helen's and Kim du Toit's posts, I realized that the issue was before me, whether I felt like blogging or not.

There's nothing new about feral children in the Philadelphia public school system (daytime holding facilities, really) and I've posted about them before, but here's today's item:

Two Germantown High School students nearly killed a beloved math teacher during a trivial argument yesterday morning over an iPod, police said.

Frank Burd, 60, suffered three spinal fractures in the attack, a police source said, and was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he underwent surgery last night. A hospital spokeswoman said that following surgery, a stabilizing device called a "halo" was placed on his shoulders to support his neck. She said Burd was in critical but stable condition condition in intensive care.

The students - one in 11th grade, the other in 9th - last night were charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment of another person, police said. They sat inside a holding cell last night in the 35th District, headquartered at Broad and Champlost streets, cops said.

The "trivial argument" consisted of the teacher taking an iPod from the student who had brought it to class. My reaction is that the teacher should have been armed with something other than his bare hands, and allowed to defend himself.

The reaction of others is that the feral children are innocent, and should be loved and nurtured, that nothing be done which might harm their "self-esteem," and that maybe it's the iPod that's at fault.

I love cheetahs, but find it hard to love feral innocence in children.

It's even tougher to love feral children who remain children -- and feral -- into adulthood.

posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (5)

How not to write a blog post

I hate it when I have nothing to write about. What's even worse is when the things I don't have to write about (I mean "have" in the sense of possession not obligation) are staring me in the face. That's because "not having anything to write about" does not mean not having anything to write about; it's a euphemism for not having anything worth writing about, which, if I look closely, translates into "not wanting to write about anything."

The thing is, no one pays me to do this, right? And if they did pay me to do it, I would quit, right? My oh-so-sacrosanct artistic integrity would be compromised if I took money, unless there were truly no strings attached. But money is a string, and so are readers, which means that whether I'm paid or not, what I say is influenced by the public nature of this blog, and the identifiable nature of my persona, which is not anonymous. Thus there's no escaping the fact of inherently compromised integrity. This is not a personal diary that no one can see. There are plenty of things I feel wholly unable to write about. Major things. Things which preoccupy me which I cannot discuss with anyone. And even opinions on certain subjects I dare not share lest people, um, misunderstand. (But I'd better be careful using the word "misunderstand" lest it too become a euphemism for disagreement or simple dislike.)

The above is pretty much the way I feel about blogging most of the time, except I normally spare my feelings. Who the hell wants to know how a blogger feels, for God's sake? That's why I try (not always successfully) to spare readers the personal details and stick to logic, and when I offer my opinions, I try to distinguish them from facts. The problem with over-reliance on feelings is that this leads to an obliteration of the distinction between opinions and facts. That's because a feeling is, by its nature, neither an opinion nor a fact. It's a fact that you have the feeling, if you are sure that you have it. But how can you ever be sure how you feel? Isn't the assertion of a feeling also an opinion? If I "feel" bad about something, what does that mean? It might mean a million things, and it might reveal a lot about me to a psychiatrist or something, but does it really shed light on news, current events, or ideas? How I feel about Bush or Cheney or Obama or Hillary is only of passing interest. What matters (at least what I hope would matter for the purposes of blogging) is what I think, and whether it makes sense logically. I'm not saying feelings should not be disclosed when they are relevant, and I've spent a lot of time lately on the feeling of hate. But it just isn't controlling on anything. I've spent countless hours decrying gun control, the communitarian philosophy of treating adults as children, etc., but of what value would it be for me to just scream "GUN CONTROL HURTS MY FEELINGS"? While it is always relevant to disclose these feelings (because I think it is fair to acknowledge one's biases), it is far better to explain that gun control would threaten my lifestyle, by leaving me defenseless or (worse) by putting me in prison, and that this is why people who want me to leave me defenseless and lock me up make me feel bad.

What happened?

I thought I was going to write a blog post, and I got all distracted with the touchy-feely stuff. Where was I?

I don't think I was anywhere. In fact, I don't even think I ever touched on what was supposed to be the subject this blog post!

See how awful feelings are? Why, they get in the way of reality!

posted by Eric at 08:56 AM | Comments (3)


According to the American founders all men are created equal.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,...
Does that mean all men have equal talents? Of course not. Some are fast runners and some are slow runners. Some are very smart some are not so smart. The equality the founders professed was equality before the law. And there by hangs a tale.

What I'm going to look at here is inequality. Let us start with sports.It seems some people run faster than others. I guess we have races to find out who is fastest of the fast.

Running offers the best prima facie case for the potential impact of body type differences. Athletes of West African descent dominate sports requiring speed and jumping, such as basketball and football. They hold the fastest two hundred 100-meter times, all under 10 seconds, and 494 of the top 500 times. In last weekend's NFL draft, of the 69 players who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or less, only one is white.
How about marathons? That is a little different story.
Humans are different, the consequence of thousands of years of evolution in varying terrains. This is not an issue of black and white. East African blacks, from Kenya and Ethiopia, for example, have traveled a different evolutionary path and are genetically distinct in many aspects of their body type and physiology from West Africans. The best East African time in the 100 meters, 10.28 seconds, ranks near 5,000 on the all time list.

While relatively poor sprinters, East Africans win more than 50 percent of top endurance races. Almost all trace their ancestry to the 6,000-8,000 foot highlands that snake along the western edge of the Great Rift Valley. This region of roughly 1.5 million wins 40 percent of international distance events. The Nandi district in Kenya, 500,000 people - one-twelve-thousandth of Earth's population - sweeps an unfathomable 20 percent, marking it as the greatest concentration of raw athletic talent in the history of sports. They win in large measure because elite runners have a near perfect biomechanical package for endurance: lean, ectomorphic physiques and huge natural lung capacity.

"Kenyans are born with a high number of slow twitch fibers," states Bengt Saltin, director of the Institute of Sports Science in Copenhagen. "They have 70 to 75 percent of their muscle fibers being slow. Very many in sports physiology would like to believe that it is training, the environment, what you eat that plays the most important role. But based on the data it is 'in your genes' whether or not you are talented or whether you will become talented."

White folks sure got short changed when it comes to being runners. There must be some kind of athletics white people are good at. In fact there is.
Genetically linked, highly heritable characteristics such as skeletal structure, the distribution of muscle fiber types, reflex capabilities, metabolic efficiency, lung capacity and the ability to use energy more efficiently are not evenly distributed among populations and cannot be explained. For example, whites of Eurasian ancestry, who have, on average, more natural upper-body strength, predictably dominate weightlifting, field events such as the shot-put and hammer (whites hold 47 of the top 50 throws), and the offensive line in football. Where flexibility is key, East Asians shine, such as in diving and some skating and gymnastic events (hence the term "Chinese splits").
What does he mean by cannot be explained? I think he means that there is no explanation for the clustering of traits in certain groups other than isolated populations in different environments. Natural selection. Darwin in action. In the 100,000 years since our ancestors left Africa we have differentiated according to environment. That is pretty rapid evolution.

So what is all this race stuff any way? It is not like the different races can't interbreed. Isn't race just a social construct? Well no.

Several analyses have confirmed the genetic reality of group identities going under the label of race or ethnicity. In the most recent, published this year, all but five of the 3,636 subjects fell into the cluster of genetic markers corresponding to their self-identified ethnic group. When a statistical procedure, blind to physical characteristics and working exclusively with genetic information, classifies 99.9 percent of the individuals in a large sample in the same way they classify themselves, it is hard to argue that race is imaginary.
Now here comes the hard part. I think that it is now evident and different races have different athletic talents and even within races there are still more subdivisions. What about cognitive ability? Something the scientists call 'g', but we will call it by its better known but somewhat inaccurate term intelligence quotient or IQ. The term 'g' refers to raw computing power. IQ (not 'g') is divided into two main parts. Verbal and spatial intelligence.

Let us look into a real world example, Ashkenazi Jews, to see how this works.

Ashkenazi levels of real world accomplishment are impressive and thus support the IQ studies. Jewish Americans make up no more than three percent of the U.S. adult population. But in the 1995 book Jews and the New American Scene, the prominent social scientist Seymour Martin Lipset, a Senior Scholar of the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Studies, and Earl Raab, Director of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University, pointed out
"During the last three decades, Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals, 40 percent of American Nobel Prize Winners in science and economics, 20 percent of professors at the leading universities, 21 percent of high level civil servants, 40 percent of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington, 26% of the reporters, editors, and executives of the major print and broadcast media, 59 percent of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures from 1965 to 1982, and 58 percent of directors, writers, and producers in two or more primetime television series." [pp 26-27]
Interestingly, the Ashkenazi cognitive advantage seems to be mostly in verbal and numeric, rather than visual, skills. For example, in Hollywood, fewer top cinematographers are Jewish compared to screenwriters or agents.
So that is one example of variation on the high end. The results are obvious. The differentiation of the Ashkenazi Jews happened in a span of 1,000 years or less. That is very rapid evolution.

So are Ashkenazis a race? Maybe. What they are for sure is an identifiable sub group based on DNA (their DNA is most like Arabic DNA, not too surprisingly) and genetic diseases that cluster in the Ashkenazis like Tay Sachs.

What about variation on the low end? Here comes the really hard part.

When the late Richard Herrnstein and I published The Bell Curve eleven years ago, the furor over its discussion of ethnic differences in IQ was so intense that most people who have not read the book still think it was about race. Since then, I have deliberately not published anything about group differences in IQ, mostly to give the real topic of The Bell Curve--the role of intelligence in reshaping America's class structure--a chance to surface.

The Lawrence Summers affair last January made me rethink my silence. The president of Harvard University offered a few mild, speculative, off-the-record remarks about innate differences between men and women in their aptitude for high-level science and mathematics, and was treated by Harvard's faculty as if he were a crank. The typical news story portrayed the idea of innate sex differences as a renegade position that reputable scholars rejected.

It was depressingly familiar. In the autumn of 1994, I had watched with dismay as The Bell Curve's scientifically unremarkable statements about black IQ were successfully labeled as racist pseudoscience. At the opening of 2005, I watched as some scientifically unremarkable statements about male-female differences were successfully labeled as sexist pseudoscience.

The Orwellian disinformation about innate group differences is not wholly the media's fault. Many academics who are familiar with the state of knowledge are afraid to go on the record. Talking publicly can dry up research funding for senior professors and can cost assistant professors their jobs. But while the public's misconception is understandable, it is also getting in the way of clear thinking about American social policy.

Good social policy can be based on premises that have nothing to do with scientific truth. The premise that is supposed to undergird all of our social policy, the founders' assertion of an unalienable right to liberty, is not a falsifiable hypothesis. But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.

One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups. The statistical tests for uncovering job discrimination assume that men are not innately different from women, blacks from whites, older people from younger people, homosexuals from heterosexuals, Latinos from Anglos, in ways that can legitimately affect employment decisions. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 assumes that women are no different from men in their attraction to sports. Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.

The American Psychological Association, not a hot bed of racism, checked out The Bell Curve and this is what they found.
There is no technical dispute on some of the core issues. In the aftermath of The Bell Curve, the American Psychological Association established a task force on intelligence whose report was published in early 1996. The task force reached the same conclusions as The Bell Curve on the size and meaningfulness of the black-white difference. Historically, it has been about one standard deviation in magnitude among subjects who have reached adolescence; cultural bias in IQ tests does not explain the difference; and the tests are about equally predictive of educational, social, and economic outcomes for blacks and whites. However controversial such assertions may still be in the eyes of the mainstream media, they are not controversial within the scientific community.

The most important change in the state of knowledge since the mid-1990's lies in our increased understanding of what has happened to the size of the black-white difference over time. Both the task force and The Bell Curve concluded that some narrowing had occurred since the early 1970's. With the advantage of an additional decade of data, we are now able to be more precise:

(1) The black-white difference in scores on educational achievement tests has narrowed significantly.

(2) The black-white convergence in scores on the most highly "g-loaded" tests--the tests that are the best measures of cognitive ability--has been smaller, and may be unchanged, since the first tests were administered 90 years ago.

What does all this mean?

Let us start with some simple statistical assumptions that are aproximately correct and see if we can figure out what the implications are. First IQ. Ashkenazi Jew IQ is 115. White IQ is 100. American black IQ is 85. These are averages. They tell you NOTHING about individuals. Let us also assume a standard deviation (a measure of variation) is 15 for all groups. I'm going to use this handy bell curve calculator to get my results.

What percentage of white Americans are going to be top college material with an IQ above 125? About 5%. How many Ashkenazi Jews will be found in that range? About 25%. How many American blacks (African blacks are significantly different)? About .4%. Which means if we follow merit alone, there ought to be about 10 times as many whites per capita as blacks capable of work in our top institutions. This is a depressing fact of life, just as the Ashkenazi Jews are a bright spot.

It gets worse at the very high end. For scores above 160, the brightest of the bright, among the Ashkenazi Jews the proportion will be about one in a thousand. For whites the number is zero (actually that really means less than one in 10,000 because the calculator does not do really small fractions) and for blacks the number will be a much smaller percentage than whites. Given that Ashkenazi Jews are at least 100 times as likely to be in that range relative to whites and Ashkenazi Jews represent about .1% of the world's population, the results we see above are not unexpected.

We see all this born out in the top science and math prizes.

So the question as Lenin put it is: "What is to be done?" First off treat people as individuals not statistics. Every one has their own group of talents that should be develped as fully as possible.

Second off we are turning into a society whose rewards are based on cognitive ability. Something the Bell Curve guys discuss at length. What is their answer, besides giving every one a fair shot to develop their talents? They suggest socialism light. The top perfomers should be able to reap top rewards for top performance. Not every one gets first prize in the race. However, because of the work of these top performers, labor doesn't have the value it once did. "John Henry, the Steel Driving Man" was a harbinger of that. It is hard to compete, labor wise, with a motor controlled by a microprocessor. So the top performers are going to have to help those on the bottom, if for no other reason than to keep the peace. Socialism lite.

Milton Friedman and a number of others (including The Bell Curve authors) think that the negative income tax (instituted by Nixon) is the way to go because the bureaucracy required is minimal.

I think we also have to accept that there is a limit to what our public schools can accomplish. Each added increment of resources is going to produce a diminishing return.

There are lots more policy implications in all this. More than I can deal with here. The main point for me is that even in a race blind society not all races will do equally well at all tasks.

A couple of books that might be of interest:

Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It

The Bell Curve

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:49 PM | Comments (12)

Warning: your constitutional rights might depend on your race!

Jeff Soyer often does a better job with Philadelphia news than I do, and earlier today he criticized a Philadelphia Daily News editorial calling for new gun control measures.

While it might be a bit foolish of me to expect fairness in a piece titled "THE GUN-VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC" what disturbs me the most was the attempt to introduce a racial argument where it does not belong:

NOW IS THE time to take steps to fix the laws that are allowing far too many guns to end up on our streets.


In 2004, Pennsylvania led the nation in the homicide rate among black victims: 29.5 per 100,000. Handguns were used in 81 percent of the killings.

This may sound like I'm quibbling, but what does the Daily News mean when it complains that guns will "end up on the street"? Is this code language for something else? "End up in the hands of criminals" perhaps? Why not just say so? I'm assuming, of course, that "on the street" does not mean simply discarded guns left lying in the street like Philadelphia's abandoned cars. I don't think that's what is meant. If we look at "on the street" in a neutral manner, it means no more than "in the home" or "at the workplace" would mean. A law abiding citizen with a gun might have it while on the street or while in his home or at his workplace. A criminal with a gun is dangerous no matter where he is. So I'm puzzled, and naturally I wonder whether this is code language for something else. (The "code" of the street, perhaps?)

My concern is heightened by the lamentable fact that the Daily News saw fit to deliberately inject race into its call for gun control. Why? Can statistical correlations based on race ever be considered an excuse to take away a basic human right? While I didn't check the Daily News facts, one of Jeff's commenters pointed out that it seems to find confirmation in a Wikipedia entry. Jeff then pointed out his prior post on the subject, in which (after noting the national black homicide rate of 18.71 per 100,000 as opposed to a national overall homicide rate of 4.86 per 100,000) he asked a very logical question:

If the cause was the availability of guns, wouldn't the statistics be equal?
I think the statistics would be equal, although the unknown variable here is whether the rate of gun ownership differs racially. If six times more blacks own guns than whites, then at least a statistical correlation could be argued.

But we all know that correlation is not causation. Race does not cause crime any more than guns cause crime (or for that matter, penises cause rape).

I think the Daily News behaved irresponsibly by injecting race where it does not belong. The Second Amendment is truly color blind, but it is apparently the position of some people that black people need gun control more than white people. Saying gun control should be tougher in black communities (which is what the Daily News says) is like saying that black people are less entitled to their constitutional rights than white people.

I think it's racism.

Of course, the people on the other side say it's racism to oppose gun control. It's as if the two sides are not arguing over the same thing. What I see as a cherished form of freedom (the Second Amendment), others see as racism.

If there's no agreement on terms, what's to debate?

posted by Eric at 02:04 PM | Comments (11)

Going to court is so gay!

No really:

(CBS 5) SANTA ROSA The school district's battle against a phrase many teenagers use without giving much thought -- "that's so gay" -- has sparked a legal fight.

Uttered on high school and junior high campuses is slang not many may understand or appreciate.

To say, "that's so gay," according to high school sophomore Jared Young, is to say, "That's dumb. That's lame. That's just stupid."

It has nothing to do with being gay, he said.

The public schools think the slang use of "gay" is highly inappropriate, and the school district is being sued in court for its stance.

So that means that even acceptable words may not be used in an unacceptable manner?

In my darker moments, I'd almost swear the word police are behaving in a niggardly manner.

But that wouldn't be very white of me.

Sigh. This is not new. Hell, I can even remember when Norton Utilities was gay.

I think that whether it's logical or not, if you don't like something, you should have the right call it whatever you don't like. Take, for example (via Glenn Reynolds), these scowling models, for example. No please take them:

Judging from their cold glares on the runway, it seems something has gone terribly wrong in the lives of fashion models. It doesn't matter where they are - the fashion shows earlier this month in New York, last week's in London, this week's in Milan. No place is up to their standards. They look perpetually peeved, as if there's nothing so hellish as wearing new clothes in exchange for thousands of dollars. What do they want-more money? Better clothes? More admiring glances?

Or as they just disgusted at the audience? Are they pained to be surrounded by shorter, pudgier, uglier people? When they pose for magazine ads, are they pouting at the thought of the grubby-fingered masses pawing their photo? Are we not worthy to gaze upon their cheekbones?

Social psychologists at New Mexico State University have studied glaring models, as well as glaring football players, and come up with a unified theory to explain the lack of smiles.

I don't know about unified theories, but for starters, smiling is gay.

Well, isn't it?

If you don't think so, have a nice day.

In court.

UPDATE (02/25/07): Thanks to Clayton Cramer for link. In another post, Cramer explores the issue of possible selective (religious based) bias in the decision to single out this girl.

posted by Eric at 11:14 AM | Comments (8)

"homosexual activist"? comment provocateur? Or sock puppet seeking help?

Regular readers might remember my recent post about Matt Barber's suggestions for Bush's State of the Union speech. I'm on the guy's mailing list (I don't know why), and I have attempted to address some of his concerns in this blog.

His latest couple of mailings concern a death threat incident at Pam Spaulding's House Blend. The story has been considered newsworthy enough to have been written up at WorldNetDaily, and the Dakota Voice.

Because there's nothing about the threat at the cited Pam's House Blend post to indicate what happened, I thought I should attempt to address this in chronological order.

Here's how the Concerned Women for America first reported the threat:

In what was, at the very least, an apparent attempt to intimidate and frighten LaBarbera, who is married with children, "House Blend" published his home address in a January 13, 2007, thread titled, "Saturday this and that." Shortly thereafter, someone identified as "Barry G. Wick" posted the following comments: "It's across from a park in an area with cul de sacs. I'd bet it's a residence ... and across from a park. Snipers take note." (emphasis ours)
I don't agree with much of what Pam Spaulding says, and I have criticized her blog before. But when I read that she published LaBarbera's home address, my suspicions were aroused, because that's just not her style.

As it turned out, she never did publish the home address; a commenter did. In a later column, Matt Barber -- who is CWFA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues -- noted that it was "someone" named "Barry G. Wick":

In what was, at the very least, an apparent attempt to intimidate and frighten Americans for Truth president Peter LaBarbera, who is married with children, someone on House Blend published his home address in a January 13, 2007, thread. Shortly thereafter, someone identified as "Barry G. Wick" suggested that "snipers take note" of LaBarbera's address. Wick also suggested that shooting LaBarbera would amount to an act of self defense and stated that, "[LaBarbera] and others like him ought to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what future awaits them from a cadre of selected defenders willing to give up everything in order to protect the lives of gay and lesbian citizens."

Spaulding and other members of her blog so frequently foment hatred toward Christians that it's no real surprise that one of her posts culminated in this chilling and ostensibly illegal threat to LaBarbera's life.

John Hawkins discussed the threat, noted the distinction between commenters and bloggers, and reminded readers that this is not a new phenomenon
You shouldn't blame Spaulding for this since one of her commenters, who was later banned, was responsible, but it is worth noting that this isn't the first time liberals have posted addresses of their political enemies online and have encouraged violence towards them.

This isn't really all that different from what happened to Michelle Malkin back in April of last year. The death threats towards Malkin's family back then got so bad that she had to remove one of her kids from school and move.

Again, I'm not blaming Spaulding for this, but I will say this about the whole left side of the blogosphere: when liberals constantly tell their audiences that conservatives are evil Nazis, who want to form a theocracy and may have been behind 9/11, is it a big surprise that you have someone posting a conservative's address and suggesting that, "Snipers take note?"

I'm not blaming Spaulding either, but I see several problems with the way CWFA has attempted to present the facts.

Any reputable blogger making such accusations against another blogger would have preserved a screen shot as evidence so that readers could distinguish between comments and posts, and draw their own conclusions. Instead, a clear attempt was made to insinuate that Pam Spaulding posted the address, which she simply did not.

As I keep saying, anyone can leave a comment. Anyone means anyone. Names mean nothing, and claims about political leanings (or, in "Wick's" case, sexual leanings) are completely unverifiable. Comments thus provide a golden opportunity for sock puppets or agents provocateur to pretend they're from the other "side" in the hope of discrediting whoever they might want to discredit.

What I find especially fascinating about this is that the alleged commenter, "Barry G. Wick" (routinely taken at his word as being a "homosexual activist"), has issued an apology which has not been independently verified, in which he goes out of his way to blame the Spaulding blog for his threatening comments:

There had been some good-natured joking about a very hurtful song posted on that website...and thinking my words would also be taken as so much hyperbole...well, they were not. As a new member of Ms. Spaulding\'s blog community, I got carried away with the atmosphere. I shall not return there.

We live in America. A land governed by law. We have differences about what the civil law ought to provide it's citizens....but we are in agreement....that violence in any form is not the answer. I, too, have been threatened in my activist work of past years. I knew there was no serious substance to them and did not report them. You have used your vast power to swat a fly...and as that fly I feel swatted. I apologize to your wife and family for any fears they may have had. There was never any danger and I stand apologetic and humbled by my misadventurous writing style that has made a wrong turn. Please accept this as a sincere apology on all levels and that I hope this letter will put an end to who is responsible.

Lest that raise any antennae, Mr. Wick reassures skeptics that he is real. So real that he is "sadly" real. And get this -- he's even apologetic enough to put the word "gay" in quotes:
I heard your thoughts that perhaps the person writing the words was not a real person. Sadly, I am real...the words were wrong and were not taken in a hyperbolic, humorous context. Such "manifestos" are of a period that no longer exists in American social action. Further, I apologize to CWA for having to use its airtime and resources to tell this story to its audience. Nobody in the "gay" community would ever take what I said seriously. Trust me, any friends I may have made by my writing have now deserted me. I hope CWA will report this letter and its true sincerity to the same audience. I have truly supported non-violence in the gay community and continue to do so to this day.
Why the quotes weren't around the last "gay" I don't know. Are there two gay "communities" -- the quoted and the unquoted?

I found another comment by the alleged-alleged "perp" which couldn't possibly sound more contrite, and even refers to the "New Tower of Babel":

Barry G. Wick says:

I can genuinely see that some of my comments on Pam's Blog could have seemed as a threat...and I didn't really want that. I never meant to threaten Mr. LaBarbera. I've sent him an apology...a deep honest apology. And he's made some hay from my hyperbolic language. Fine. One has to admit that gay folk have used the hyperbolic and threatening language of the "homo-haters" to make their points. We all live in the day and age of the New Tower of Babel....we're all yelling at each other....we're all talking at each other...demanding to be heard...demanding to have our side of the argument accepted. We're not trying to find common ground, common things to discuss...we're all trying to find the things we disagree on immediately. I don't have the answer, sorry, but if I get the chance to apologize to Mr. LaBarbera with my own voice, I shall. If he understood some of my language to be a threat...I want to put his mind, the minds of his family and friends at ease. I know we're going to disagree on a whole range of issues. But I will listen. And I hope we'll find something to talk about besides our differences.
And if he should choose to blast me for the perceived threat...I'll listen and acknowledge that.

I'm certain there are a number of people who think I'm a wacko. Fair. There are sometimes I wonder about myself. I live a bit of an isolated life except for my internet connection. If all I had to judge the world of humans by was the internet, and that's about what's happening in my life, after a while one would have to think the whole world mad. So many voices, so much confusion. Yes, some people don't want to listen. There are times I haven't listened. The older I get...the more I want to listen because there may be a time I won't be able to listen any longer. I would love to bring the voices back to me of my friends of dieds of AIDS complications.

I'd love to have my good friends, gay and straight, those who've gone...I'd love to listen again. It's not possible.

So maybe I'll listen to Mr. LaBarbera...and I'll read more of his websites...and try to hear what he's saying. I know we'll disagree. But just perhaps we can find some things to talk about. The militant gay part of me says:
"you're nuts Wick. " The 55 year old bearded man in mirror says: "listen and try to understand."

For those of you who are angry at my words and for "taking-on" Mr. LaBarbera or for even apologizing to Mr. LaBarbera...I apologize to you as well.
I have some kind of path to follow here. I don't know where it's leading me. Give an old queer this rocky path to stumble on, wish me well...and let's hope I'll find some answers.

February 10, 2007 3:29 AM

I could be wrong, but I smell something fishy here. It's as if the next move of this tragic, aging, self admitted "wacko" will be to seek help. (From whom is anyone's guess.) As a 50-somethingish person who's also lost friends to AIDS and stumbled on many a rocky path, I might be inclined to be somewhat sympathetic to the man's plight, but --

Whatever happened to "trust but verify"?

I realize that in the normal course of blogging there's no way to verify anyone's identity, but once there's been a death threat, and once that crime has been reported to the FBI, doesn't there come a point where we ought to be able to verify the facts?

Why couldn't the Dakota Voice get hold of Mr. Wick or Mr. LaBarbera? Has the FBI been contacted about the results of their investigation? Is there any such person? Or has the "homosexual activist movement" found it's own "George Harleigh"?

All things considered, I have to say that this time I agree with Matt Barber. At least on this:

LaBarbera indicated that he has been in touch with both the FBI and the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. He's anticipating a full criminal investigation. "I'm a big boy. It's not so much that I'm worried about myself," said LaBarbera, "but the effect this could have on my wife and children ... that has me extremely upset."

Concerned Women for America is deeply disturbed by this apparent threat to Peter LaBarbera's life. Matt Barber, CWA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues said, "This is nothing short of cyber-terrorism. There should be a thorough criminal investigation, and if it's determined that a crime has occurred, the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

I think death threats should be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Whether there will be a thorough investigation -- and whether its results will be made public -- remains to be seen.

The bottom line here is that while I'm not in the habit of defending leftie or gay activist blogs, unless Pam Spaulding wrote the post, she is not to blame for her commenters -- any more than I am here. But beyond that, the idea that Pam's "homosexual activist" commenter would first issue death threats, then later blame her "atmosphere" cannot but raise common-sense suspicions.

This person either exists or he does not. He is either a "homosexual activist" or he is not.

(I mean, sock puppets can't play games with the FBI, can they?)

MORE: According to Peter LaBarbera, a police investigator in Rapid City, South Dakota has refused to prosecute "Barry Wick":

Update on the "sniper" story: an investigator with the Rapid City, S.D., police department has contacted Americans For Truth and told us that South Dakota "gay" activist Barry Wick will not be prosecuted for his "Snipers, take note" comment against this writer, posted on lesbian Pam Spaulding's blog, because the threat was "too vague." We have received and accepted a heartfelt apology from Mr. Wick.
Aren't such things usually up to the District Attorney? Or (considering the interstate nature of the crime), the United States Attorney?

It's tough to know what or whom to believe. Determining the facts online is not easy.

MORE: Here's more evidence confirming the genuine nature of Barry G. Wick, in the form of a comment purporting to be ffrom him:

Sad to say...you're the first to get this news...the Rapid City South Dakota Police Department wants to talk to me tomorrow 2/12/07 though I've been told I won't be arrested. As for facts, I decided to resign from Pam's House Blend on my own. She gave me the sense that her rules were violated. I took myself off the blog permanently so as not to add confusion. My apologies have been accepted by Mr. LaBarbera, but that doesn't mean the police agencies or other conservative bloggers involved will leave me alone. I'm hoping for the best. Thanks for the mention. I'd just as soon go back to a quiet life without downing anyone for any reason. At 55 years of age, I'd just as soon live a little quieter.
I thought my comments on Pam's blog would have been taken as outrageous, but the outrage was of a different kind. I'm looking forward to this being Over Over Over.
B. G. Wick
"I took myself off the blog permanently"? If the guy was a commenter, why would he say that? Unlike bloggers, commenters are not in a position to "take themselves off." That can either be banned, or decide not to return.

AND MORE: Reading this, I conclude that Barry G. Wick exists, and lives in Rapid City, SD.

My suspicions and doubts about his existence therefore appear to have been quite groundless. As to what his motivations might have been or are now, I have no idea.

There is no excuse for what he said, and I think commenters who cross that line should be held accountable.

posted by Eric at 09:46 AM

The Worst Job in America

R rated - language

Selling drugs in the inner cities is the worst job in America. The pay is low and the death rate is much higher than the death rate in Iraq. Drug prohibition has literally created a war zone in American inner cities.

A University of Chicago economist who lived with a gang for ten years looks at the details from an economic and sociological perspective. The talk lasts about 22 minutes and is given by one of the researchers on the project, economist Steven Levitt.

Eric tells me that the video does not show up on some browsers. If you are having trouble here is a alternate Youtube version.

Some commenters are wondering about drug addiction. Glad you asked:

Addiction Is A Genetic Disease

Fear memories, the amygdala, and the CB1 receptor

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 07:51 AM | Comments (23)

accessories to fit the official enclownment

There isn't much I can add to the beclowning of Professor Paul Campos (about whom I've complained before). I guess it wasn't enough to have called Glenn a "Bush dead-ender" and "jingoistic right-wing ideologue" so it has to be ratcheted up to Glenn Reynolds, Fascist Murderer.

Considering all the beclowning that's been going on (even begloating over beclowning) I don't know how I'm supposed to take this guy seriously. Perhaps I could sue Campos for plagiarism, for I called Glenn Reynolds a fascist -- long before he did. But Campos is a law professor, and he probably has a million and one sneaky loopholes to hide his fascist plagiarism behind. (Yeah, I know I should have said "behind which to hide" but I'm too tired for prepositionally correct behind placement.)

But be aware, Campos, I am not fooled! In my heart I know you take orgiastic delight in copycat fascism!

Anyway, I think the man has been already been taken seriously enough (in particular Eugene Volokh did a fair and thorough job of explaining why Campos is wrong in the legal sense), that there really isn't anything serious I could add to the discussion at this point.

However, because of my tendency to get all fussy about these definitional things, I am a bit concerned about the word "beclown." Campos is said to have beclowned himself, and while I think he has certainly done that, I am not entirely certain that being beclowned is the same as being enclowned.

It occurred to me that maybe there ought to be some kind of official enclownment ceremony, so I came up with this:


Personally, I think he looks kinda cute that way.

No, not him!

(The one with the accessories!)

posted by Eric at 08:40 PM | Comments (6)

"Saddam Hussein Hayek" finally sees the light

There's nothing more challenging than agreeing with a central thesis that is mostly right, but which suddenly veers off on an irritating, seemingly minor tangent which ends up contradicting the central thesis. What's worse is when the thesis involves complex unresolved philosophical questions that have plagued the West's greatest thinkers for centuries, but are simplified and squeezed to fit into a column for public consumption.

For me to imagine that a problem like that could be resolved in a blog post would be the height of arrogance.

So why even write about it? Because it stared me in the face when I made the mistake of opening the newspaper, and the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that this oversimplified pablum might not just be meant for public consumption or as entertainment for the little guy in the street. That the author might actually be trying to influence public policy. I like to think that those charged with setting public policy are at least informed. Asking them to be enlightened is a bit much, but the people who founded this country were enlightened, and I don't think it's asking too much that those who stand in their shoes at least be informed.

David Brooks paints a view of America as roughly divided into two camps -- that of Rousseau and that of Hobbes. I've read both, and I think both are flawed. But it doesn't matter what I think; the founders of this country were well aware of the dark side of human nature, and while they took into account the Hobbesian philosophy, they rejected it. Brooks, on the other hand, breathes new life into Hobbesian thinking by setting up what I think is a classically false dichotomy:

....As Steven Pinker has put it, Hobbes was more right than Rousseau.

Moreover, human beings are not as pliable as the social engineers imagined. Human beings operate according to preset epigenetic rules, which dispose people to act in certain ways. We strive for dominance and undermine radical egalitarian dreams. We're tribal and divide the world into in-groups and out-groups.

This darker, if more realistic, view of human nature has led to a rediscovery of different moral codes and different political assumptions. Most people today share what Thomas Sowell calls the Constrained Vision, what Pinker calls the Tragic Vision, and what E.O. Wilson calls Existential Conservatism. This is based on the idea that there is a universal human nature; that it has nasty, competitive elements; that we don't understand much about it; and that the conventions and institutions that have evolved to keep us from slitting one another's throats are valuable and are altered at great peril.

Today, parents don't seek to liberate their children; they supervise, coach, and instruct every element of their lives. Today, there really is no antinomian counterculture - even the artists and rock stars are bourgeois strivers. Today, communes and utopian schemes are out of favor. People are mostly skeptical of social-engineering efforts and jaundiced about revolutionaries who promise to herald a new dawn. Iraq has revealed what human beings do without a strong, order-imposing state.

Stop right there. Until that moment in his piece, Brooks had been talking about American culture, making an excellent case against Rousseau, and demonstrating why that silly philosophy is on the decline in the United States. No argument there. I have never imagined man to be good, and I have never been a pacifist, nor have I glorified the "noble savage" or any of that philosophical garbage, so I agree with Brooks.

But Hobbes? Getting from Rousseau to Hobbes requires a quantum leap, and it also requires discounting centuries of what this country has always stood for: the dignity of the individual, and his right to freedom.

American adults are not children. At least they're not supposed to be. The unfortunate reality is that some are. What galls me more than just about anything is to see a growing consensus between left and right that because some adults are children, that the rest of us (that awful "we") need a big strong government to micromanage our lives.

Iraq has revealed what human beings do without a strong, order-imposing state.

Read that carefully. There are no qualifiers. Unless I am reading Brooks wrong, the clear implication is that we Americans are all like Iraqis. Iraq showed that Hobbes was right, and therefore we (the clear implication of "human beings") need a "strong, order-imposing state."

If I didn't know Brooks was a good man who cannot mean what he appears to be implying, I'd be inclined to characterize this as an attack on the idea of the American founding.

I'd like to think that it wouldn't be necessary to point out to David Brooks that the United States Constitution was not intended to create a "strong, order-imposing state." Precisely the opposite. Or has Iraq "revealed" that the founders of this country was wrong, and Hobbes was right?

Brooks continues, with the apparent assertion that James Madison and Friedrich Hayek would now agree on the need for a "strong, order-imposing state." Oh, and in conclusion (by the way) conservatives dislike evolution:

This is a big pivot in intellectual history. The thinkers most associated with the Tragic Vision are Isaiah Berlin, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Friedrich Hayek and Hobbes. Many of them are conservative.

And here's another perversity of human nature. Many conservatives resist the theory of evolution even though it confirms many of conservatism's deepest truths.

Nice to throw that in. Whether the "many" of the "many" include Hayek, who knows?

Who cares?

Iraq has shown us how evil we are.

Sorry I can't solve all these vexing philosophical questions in a single blog post, folks, but over the years I've been trying to defend Western Civilization a little bit at a time. (In that context, I can even remember agreeing with David Brooks.)

And hell, I'm human, and I can at least partially understand Brooks' frustrations. Over the weekend someone I greatly respect told me that we should have left Saddam Hussein in power. I disagree, but I don't think that makes me a follower of Rousseau.

What brings out my Hobbesian side is little things. Things like seeing people deliberately throwing their garbage (not litter, but garbage) in the middle of a public parking lot when there are trash cans nearby. Such clear evidence that there are people on whom the social compact is hopelessly lost tends to bring out my inner Saddam Hussein -- but that's an essay I'd rather avoid lest I be misunderstood by the kind and gentle Rousseauvians.

posted by Eric at 09:34 AM | Comments (9)

Outside the Wire

Outside the Wire

You can see a high definition version of the trailer and buy the movie at Outside the Wire the DVD.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 02:42 PM

(I should probably never say never)

Pajamas Media has a fantastic piece by Buzz Aldrin and Taylor Dinerman about man's return to the moon. Aldrin begins:

On my last trip to the moon I didn't get to stay the whole day and had to share my accommodations with another man. If I could go back, I would expect not only a larger room, but a longer moment to gaze at the stars and the cloudy blue ball that should only be mankind's starter home.
Read it all. There are a lot of reasons why it's long overdue to return to the moon, including the construction of a permanent station there (the details are there), harvesting energy ("lunar solar power beamed directly from the Moon to the Earth's surface"), and something I consider of paramount importance to the future of space exploration:
An American moon base would insure that traditional American ideas such as private property and homesteading would influence the future legal regime. Otherwise the Europeans and others might try and push their model of tight government control and high taxes onto the off-Earth economy of the late 21st century. Such an environment would stifle the creative endeavors not only of American entrepreneurs such as space ship one financed by Paul Allen, built by Burt Rutan, that forms the basis for Virgin Galactic's suborbital space tourism project.
I won't live to see it, but I hate the idea of man continuing to be stuck on one planet when things like survival -- and destiny -- are at stake.

It's a crying shame this wasn't done before now, but I'm glad to see that it will happen. True, I might not live to see it, but that does not mean I can't support it anyway.

posted by Eric at 01:42 PM | Comments (2)

Please don't make me refrain!

While I hope it's not another indication of a coming showdown over What We Eat, Pajamas Media features a humorous piece by Nancy Rommelmann -- a mother trying to cope with her daughter's boyfriend's veganism:

My daughter insists he's a vegan for political reasons; that Aidan--a tall, rangy high school senior who thrashes guitar in a band called Wolfgang Williams and the Punk Rock Faggots--doesn't believe in cruelty to animals, and wants to "support the environment." Mm, okay. And aside from the dietary constrictions, I truly like the kid; he's polite and funny and genuinely cares about my daughter. Because he's constantly riding his (non-polluting) bike or skateboard and thus burning what must be 5,000 calories a day, I also have a mother's concern that he eats.

"Is there any dairy in it?" my daughter asked, eyeing a dish of freshly mashed potatoes, as Aidan lingered in the doorframe, looking leaner than the last time I saw him. And I really wrestled; I thought, is he even going to know there's milk and butter in there? I sighed, and said, yes, there was, and watched them trudge upstairs, unfed.

He seems like a nice enough kid, and Mom even helped enable his silliness by assisting her daughter bake him a rather grotesque Valentine cake.

To go with the piece, there's this very funny video:

I have no problem with "nice vegans" like the writer's boyfriend. What bothers me are the vegans who want to make me be a vegan, and I worry that the "Global Warming" scare is going to make them ever louder, and ever more insistent that Only They Are Saving The Planet.

There's something annoying about messianic people who want to convert others, and I don't care what the cause is. Gay activists can be extremely annoying, but despite the complaints I have heard about attempts to convert other people to homosexuality, they are nowhere near as annoying in that regard as are some of the vegans. (The radical vegan activists don't simply want to be left alone to eat their tofurkey; they are abolitionists who ultimately would throw me in prison for eating meat.)

Commenter John Blake has an interesting take on veganism as a passive virtue:

In his Autobiography (c. 1750?), Ben Franklin states that, yes, he flirted with vegetarianism in his twenties. Self-immolation of this nature goes back aways... two factors sobered him.

First, humans have three kinds of teeth: Canines, incisors, and molars. Nature designed us to rip, tear, bite off great chunks and masticate them into pulp. It is literally unnatural to pretend otherwise. And since Nature knows no dietary constraints, preferring omnivorous nourishment, who are we to disagree?

Second, on his first transatlantic voyage back to Blighty, the one on which he noted the Gulf Stream, Franklin observed schools of flying fish hunted by "shoals" of predators. Well, said Ben, if they can eat each other, then I can eat them.

So much for vegetarians' practical premises-- as for moral ones, there aren't any. As Churchill later wrote, "There are no passive virtues." The fact that one is not a serial child molester does not render you thereby more "moral" than otherwise.

In fact, if you consider mere absence of anything a virtue, then lack of virtue becomes virtuous. Contradictory propositions such as "zero equals one" (nothing is something) can assert anything: Zero virtue equals Thomas Aquinas. Given that so-called Vegans assert contradicory propositions, they profess mere attitudes rather than informed opinions.

I guess that means that by reversing the vegan logic, if I refrain from a vegan diet, I am virtuous. If I am what I eat, then I am not what I don't eat. Does this mean that if I don't want to be a tofurkey, I must refrain from eating tofurkey? Or if I don't want to be halal, I must refrain from halal-slaughtered meat? (Who knows? It might be even be better for the animals; if given the choice of having a steel bolt fired through my skull and having my throat cut while conscious, I'd probably opt for the bolt.)

But if veganism constitutes refraining, and it is not a virtue to refrain from doing something, then would it be more virtuous to refrain from refraining?

I'd hate to think that double passivity would be a virtue, so maybe it's eating meat that is a virtue.

After all, if virtue requires doing something, and if eating meat is good for you, maybe carnivores are more virtuous.

This whole thing reminds me of refraining from golf, which I once analyzed thusly:

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

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

I'm not sure I'm completely following the logic, but it would seem that in order for the refraining from golf to be considered a virtue according to the School Of Passive Virtues, I would have to love golf in order for my refraining to "count." And if I didn't like meat to begin with, my vegetarianism would not be virtuous. Which means reformed smokers are more virtuous than those who never smoked.

But if virtue is being active, then wouldn't people who hated smoking but who forced themselves to smoke anyway be more virtuous than non-smokers?

If this "logic" is correct, I must conclude that the only way for vegans to be virtuous would be for them to eat meat while hating it.

If virtue requires more than being passive, perhaps I should go shopping for a hair shirt.

On second thought, I think I'll refrain.

But shouldn't I say that I'm refraining from something that would give me pleasure? I mean, otherwise, what's the fun in refraining?

posted by Eric at 09:24 AM | Comments (4)

Duke And The Cultural Marxist Program

I was commenting at Durham in Wonderland about the Duke Lacrosse case. I was explaining what the faculty Group of 88 are really up to and explaining their motivation.


Cultural Marxism explains what the Gang 88 is up to.

The subversion of America. i.e. turning America into the USSR.

an excerpt from the above Cultural Marxism link:

Both communism and the New Left are alive and thriving here in America. They favor code words: tolerance, social justice, economic justice, peace, reproductive rights, sex education and safe sex, safe schools, inclusion, diversity, and sensitivity. All together, this is Cultural Marxism disguised as multiculturalism.

an excerpt from a link at the above link:

Gramsci posited that because Christianity had been dominant in the West for over 2000 years, not only was it fused with Western civilization, but it had corrupted the workers class. The West would have to be de-Christianized, said Gramsci, by means of a "long march through the culture." Additionally, a new proletariat must be created. In his "Prison Notebooks," he suggested that the new proletariat be comprised of many criminals, women, and racial minorities.

Thus thugniggaintellectual.

Communists have always used the criminal element to advance their cause. They represent the muscle of the movement. Thus the New Black Panther Party (NBPP).

The NBPP is not an abberation. It is part of the plan. Where argument and persuasion do not work intimidation will be used.

BTW this was all worked out in the 1920s.

About 5% of the American population creates the wealth we all enjoy. That 5% are our top intellectual performers.

In any Communist regime they will be the first up against the wall.

This is what the thugniggas of the world are up to. Which is why this is the "perfect" case for them.

The sex stuff is all about destroying coherent families because such families are naturally in the way.

I have been pretty much a libertine in my youth. However, nature changes all that when children start to arrive. It surprised me. Children naturally seem to change most people's point of view on the subject. Conservatism is nature's political program for families.

The USSR was a bastion of free sex in the beginning. That went away after the first few years because it is not natural for families. Families are naturally conservative. It has nothing to do with politics. It is nature.

To reduce the power of natural conservatism, sexaul libertinism is promoted for all, not just the unmarried, because it breaks family bonds and family bonds as Gramasci saw were an impediment to "revolution".

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:50 AM | Comments (4)

Democracy! Whiskey! What?

John Fund has an interesting piece in today's Wall Street Journal, titled "George Washington, Whiskey Entrepreneur":

....[H]ow many people know [George Washington] was also a leading businessman, probably the No. 1 whiskey producer in all of colonial America?

Indeed, Washington was a prosperous farmer and entrepreneur throughout his life. "He thought like an American businessman," says Jim Rees, the executive director of Washington's Mount Vernon estate. "He was a true disciple of the free enterprise system, and he sensed that our new system of government would encourage people to think creatively, take chances and invest."

Mr. Rees is proud that Mount Vernon is helping showcase our Founding Father's business career by opening a complete reconstruction of his 75-by-30-foot distillery, which at its peak turned out 11,000 gallons a year of corn and rye whiskey along with fruit brandy. (The distillery and accompanying museum open to the public on March 31.) James Anderson, a Scot who was convinced making whiskey was a growth industry, pitched the idea to Washington just weeks before he retired from office. Import taxes had reduced the consumption of molasses-based rum and made home-grown hooch popular. At the time, the average American consumed five gallons of distilled spirits every year, compared with only 1.8 gallons today.

Americans used to drink more? But what about the people who think America has grown more depraved?


Next they'll be discovering that Americans used to have more sex.

No! Say it's not true!

posted by Eric at 08:02 AM | Comments (1)

forgive us our pork

I doubt very many readers will remember that post more than two years ago, I complained about an employer who prohibited his employees from eating pork or having pork products on company premises. What I didn't like was the bizarre notion that eating pork was discrimination against anyone:

This is an interesting test case, and I predict that if it goes anywhere, a few misguided American religious zealots will follow the usual left wing ideologues and side with the Muslim employer. One reason is that (apart from the fact that homosexuality is more charged emotionally than eating pork) there is no logical difference between discriminating against someone for tastes in food and tastes in sex partners (something I have pointed out before), but there is a shrill movement seeking the right to do the latter. And they're always looking for new opportunities.

It never ceases to amaze me how thoroughly confused people can be over the concept of discrimination. Failing to follow the religious dictates of other people is not discrimination, nor is it persecution.

I can understand the employer's position of course, and there's always the right to freedom of association (which presumably would allow me to discriminate against vegans or other people who refuse to eat pork). But if there is such a thing as "accommodation" I don't see why it doesn't work both ways.

Anyway, in today's interesting coincidence, the brother of the pork-banning employee has been indicted for funding terrorist groups, but (apparently in mitigation) gave money to the GOP:

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari gave $15,250 to the NRCC since 2002, according to FEC records published on the Web site opensecrets.org.

On Friday, Alishtari pled not guilty to funding terrorism and other crimes, including financial fraud.

The NRCC is the main political group dedicated to helping the Republican party win seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Reached Monday morning for comment, an NRCC spokeswoman declined to discuss the matter on the record.

The indictment against Alishtari unsealed in Manhattan federal court Friday charges him with providing material support to terrorists by transferring $152,000 between banks to allegedly be used to purchase night-vision goggles and other equipment needed for a terrorist training camp.

Gee, I hope it wasn't for the training camp around the corner. (I never know when today's sarcastic remarks will turn out to be tomorrow's news.)

As Glenn Reynolds points out, Alishtari's GOP donations might be an exercise in CYA:

This is an embarrassment -- though if I were a terrorist I'd be a big GOP donor, too. It might help, and at the very least would ensure that prosecution would be an embarrassment.
It's embarrassing, but not as embarrassing to the GOP as the pork busting. (Sorry!)

Anyway, the reason I know Alishtari is the brother of the employer I blogged about in '04 is that in another article on the same case, it was reported that,

Kweli [the employer] introduced the policy because Rising Star shared a building with its main client, GlobalProtector.net, owned by A.T. Alishtari, Kweli's brother. Kweli voluntarily instituted the no-pork policy in 2000 or 2001 after he found out some of Alishtari's employees, who were devout Muslims, felt they could not eat in the shared lunchroom because of the presence of pork.
Elsewhere Alashtari claims to have saved Internet commerce from online identity theft, as he holds the patent on some new technology that does appear quite lucrative. As Riehl World View notes, he's also behind a charity called the Global Peace Film Festival, which is aided by famous actors and Nobel Laureates. Their site features such screen classics as "Criminalizing Dissent" and "Forgiving Dr. Mengele." (The latter is reviewed here.)

I guess money probably buys a lot of forgiveness -- especially from pork lovers.

There's so much corruption in high places that it's hard to know what to think about these things, or in what directions I am supposed to care. Starting with my local Saudi madrassa -- which probably funds both parties.

posted by Eric at 10:10 PM | Comments (3)

Too inconvenient for Al Gore?

For years (decades, even) I've derided radical vegetarians and animal rights activists. By way argument ad absurdum, many times I have sarcastically opined that, given a chance, they would mandate a vegetarian diet.

Well, thanks to the Global Warming hype, it looks like they may be getting the chance:

Livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent, reports the FAO. This includes 9 percent of all CO2 emissions, 37 percent of methane, and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. Altogether, that's more than the emissions caused by transportation.

The latter two gases are particularly troubling - even though they represent far smaller concentrations in atmosphere than CO2, which remains the main global warming culprit. But methane has 23 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2 and nitrous oxide has 296 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Needless to say, this is music for the ears of the vegans and the AR crowd:
Animal-rights activists and those advocating vegetarianism have been quick to pick up on the implications of the FAO report.

"Arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products," writes Noam Mohr in a report for EarthSave International.

Changing one's diet can lower greenhouse gas emissions quicker than shifts away from fossil fuel burning technologies, Mr. Mohr writes, because the turnover rate for farm animals is shorter than that for cars and power plants.

"Even if cheap, zero-emission fuel sources were available today, they would take many years to build and slowly replace the massive infrastructure our economy depends upon today," he writes. "Similarly, unlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years, so that lower methane emissions quickly translate to cooling of the earth."

Researchers at the University of Chicago compared the global warming impact of meat eaters with that of vegetarians and found that the average American diet - including all food processing steps - results in the annual production of an extra 1.5 tons of CO2-equivalent (in the form of all greenhouse gases) compared to a no-meat diet. Researchers Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin concluded that dietary changes could make more difference than trading in a standard sedan for a more efficient hybrid car, which reduces annual CO2 emissions by roughly one ton a year.

There's something in this Global Warming stuff for nearly every crackpot group on the left. Those who like to tell people what to do have never had a better issue, and I expect the Global Warming coalition to get bigger, and ever more ferocious, regardless of whether the theory has ever been proven.

It occurs to me that making us all stop eating animals might not end methane emissions, though. I realize that animals emit methane, but aren't humans also part of the methane equation? Considering that there are 6.5 billion humans and no euthanasia plan in place to reduce their numbers, what would be the consequences of forcing them all to be vegetarians?

Why, more methane gas, of course:

Suffice it to say that flatulence is a common complaint among and about vegans, and for that matter vegetarians generally. (For those of you who don't know many vegetarians, they come in various flavors; vegans are the most hard-core, eschewing not only meat but animal products of any kind, including milk and eggs.) The problem is the body's inability to fully digest the complex carbohydrates so abundant in the vegetarian diet and the consequent excessive production of gases such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane.

Vegetarian nutritionists claim this phenomenon abates once the intestinal flora adapt to the new menu; perhaps your friend is an intransigent case. However, I suspect high gas production is inherent in any diet consisting predominantly of plant products. Cows and sheep, for example, are marvelously adapted to all-veggie fare, yet they generate such prodigious quantities of methane-laden flatulence that some authorities regard them as major contributors to the greenhouse effect and thus to global warming.

There's also some dicussion of odor, but I think the culture war already stinks enough, so I'm not going to add to the aroma.

Isn't it time someone asked Al Gore about his diet?

According to Kathy Freston (a vegan who writes for the HuffPo), "Vegetarian is the new Prius." But as a commenter to one of her later posts observed,

Al Gore eats meat, and lots of it.
Well, it may take flatulence to end flatulence.

UPDATE: Commenter XWL has a great blog post on how to stem Global Warming, plus usher in a winter we've all been waiting for. As Final Solutions go, it's not bad.

Which means I was mistaken when I said there was "no euthanasia plan in place."

My bad.

posted by Eric at 01:57 PM | Comments (6)

RINO Carnival -- Dashiell Hammett edition

This week's RINO Sightings Carnival is hosted by JimK at Right Thoughts. Taking the form of a hard-boiled detective drama, it's one of the most creative carnivals I've seen:

The night was black as ink and cold, the kind of cold that makes a man wish he had a bottle of applejack and someone to drink it with. I was waiting. Just waiting. Stakeouts are about the most boring thing you can do when you're a gumshoe, but that's the job, so we do it. I knew that tomorrow I was hosting the RINO Sightings, but tonight - tonight it was just me, the night air and the job.
And what a job it was!

Be sure to check it out.

posted by Eric at 10:52 AM

The Culture War (and why "we" fight)

Lest anyone think the genital sex culture war is limited to arguments involving homosexuality or the use of words like "scrotum" in children's books, the mud flap flap demonstrates that adults are the targets too. And not urban sophisticates, but plain old non-metro, hetero, truck-driving, adults at that.

I kid you not. The great issue of the day for the forces on each side of the Culture War looks like this:


And the argument against them looks like this:

"I personally am tired of explaining to my 11-year-old son why they (women) are depicted on mudflaps , but not all women are 36Ds. He's very confused by that," Ulmer said. "But seriously, this is about family values -- what are we going to send out as a message to our children."
I guess that means war, with the AFA on the side of God and against sex, and the ACLU on the side of the truckers and depravity.


I never really thought about what message I was sending out by allowing a truckdriver to have mud flaps like that. But since "we" means me, maybe we should start requiring size 36D mud flaps on all trucks. That way, the nasty Islamists will have a tougher time driving fuel tankers into bridges and stuff, because their refusal to display the mud flaps will stand out in advance of their attacks. Just a thought.

And if we really wanted to freak out the Islamist enemies, we could go further yet by returning to the days before the culture war, and bring back the "bomber girls" like these:


If you think that's bad, check out this bestially suggestive image:


Here's one designed for flying over the hump:


I think the above are more impressive than the mudflaps they want to ban. Of course, the latter are only about trucker morale, while the former are about war morale, but hell, we're in a war, aren't we? That's why I suggested making them mandatory.

Supposedly, bomber nose art was banned in recent years, but I can't verify this.

But at least in the old days, they really knew how to fight a culture war. Why, they even had girls on the hood!


I'm telling you, the Culture War is Hell!

MORE: Laura W. at Ace of Spades has more on the claim by Rep. Ableser that he had seen mud flaps with a derogatory term for black children -- "pickaninny" -- and there is some discussion in the comments as to whether any such mud flaps exist. I've never seen one, and a diligent search failed to find one.

Is it possible that Ableser just made it up, and that the real goal was to ban the girl silhouettes?

AND MORE: Believe it or not "mud flap" is listed here as a racial slur.

posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (7)

Congressman Manzullo Speaks

Madam Speaker, I am privileged to be a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Our chairman, Mr. Lantos, has scheduled for March a hearing to discuss the different proposals relating to the handling of the war in Iraq. He has promised a lot of time for debate on all the different bills introduced in the House of Representatives, ranging from those that call for us to pull out of Iraq immediately, to those that demonstrate our presence there as part of a larger war, not against a nation, but against a movement, Islamic jihadis. They are everywhere and are responsible for attacks in India, Jordan, Israel, England, Egypt, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the Gaza, Morocco, Pakistan and in the United States and Iraq.


You can read the rest at
Congressman Manzullo Against Cut And Run .

Maybe we have some intelligent Congressmen after all.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 05:23 PM

Terrorists In Georgia USA?

Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna is reporting on aerial survelance of the Jamaat ul-Fuqra compound in Georgia. Some photo analysis is provided. The Baron is asking for help from any one who could assist in further analysis.

The Christian Action Network [CAN -ed] recently made another aerial run over a Jamaat ul-Fuqra compound, this time the one near Commerce, Georgia. Martin Mawyer, the president of CAN, has kindly made the resulting photos available to Gates of Vienna.

The compound on Madinah Road actually has a Royston address, and is about halfway between Commerce and Royston, to the northeast of Atlanta.

Jamaat ul-Fuqra -- the terrorist organization whose cover group is known as the Muslims of America -- means "community of the impoverished" in Arabic.

The Baron has a lot of speculation, however he could use some help from an experienced photo interpreter.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 03:24 PM

Scrotal Marxism for kids?

I don't know whether this children's book (containing the word "scrotum") is what Antonio Gramsci and WorldNetDaily would call "cultural Marxism," as I haven't asked the author whether that was her intent.* But Glenn Reynolds' link to the discussion reminded me of M. Simon's post from yesterday as well as some earlier ones on the subject.

Whether it's to be called "Cultural Marxism" or not, increasingly, the culture war seems to be a sex war.

A war over genitalia.

It does occur to me that we all have these things, and that we all have varying issues -- should I say "levels of excitation" or would that go too far? -- about them.

I'm reminded of the medical school nursery rhyme.....

"Although we hardly ever see 'em, we all have a perineum!"

I'm trying to take this stuff seriously.

What? I should try harder?

*Intent is relevant, isn't it? Or is cultural Marxism to be discerned without regard to intent? (i.e., by a similar process to that which discerns racism.)

MORE: Ann Althouse has mixed feelings, and says:

I can see feeling hostile to a children's author who uses this technique to get attention.
I can too, and I can also see feeling hostile to the division of parents into two warring camps -- one which fears the word "scrotum" and another which loves to feel smugly superior by baiting the former.

And a drooling news media which loves to, um, quote'em.

I'd like to think this should be up to the parents, but there are a lot of things I'd like to think.

Should I be glad I don't have kids?

posted by Eric at 01:04 PM | Comments (2)

Dishonest (and disabling) deferment

Lest anyone think I was condemning everyone who received a draft deferment during the Vietnam war in my prior post, I was not. In fact, it wasn't my goal even to condemn draft dodgers.

My complaint is not with people who saved their own skin. All of us have done things that were less than brave at one time or another. My problem is with those who have spent decades convincing themselves that their simple (and forgivable) acts of cowardice were of a high moral caliber. For many of them, this process started when they were in college, when they began to feel a bit guilty about the fact that because of their middle class backgrounds, it was they who got to go to college and receive a student deferment while their less-well-off (or not as bright) counterparts had to go and serve, often being blown to bits. Fairly or unfairly, the deferment system put the former in a serious moral quandary. All too often there was only one way to resolve this in a manner consistent with -- what's the word? manhood! (Yeah, I'm afraid that's it. Many of their dads served in WWII, and such issues -- laughable as they are in academia today -- loomed large in those days.)

So, if you grew up in one of those typical middle class baby boom households and you avoided service, whether by deferment or by draft dodging, you were less than a man. Not an easy thing. Probably not as bad as being a homo, but maybe something approaching it.

How to solve the manhood problem? Why, by radical opposition to the immoral war, of course! The more ferocious the opposition, the more manly the draft dodger became. I cannot tell you how many aging radicals I've known who related countless "war stories" about how "I was there in Chicago in 68" when "heads were bloodied" and the rest of it. They sound much like old veterans carrying on about military service, and no doubt they were schooled in sounding that way by dads who related their WWII service to them when they were boys.

The problem is that avoiding service is still avoiding service. It is less than admirable, and less than manly. And again, while I think it is eminently forgivable, in order to be forgiven and in order to move on, it is necessary to acknowledge what you did.

I have more respect -- a lot more respect -- for the guys who just avoided service and aren't proud of it than for those who imagine it's a badge of honor. Yet the latter never stop lording it over the former that they are morally superior.

Since when is it morally superior to spend much of a lifetime in denial? To disguise cowardice as virtue? I think that's what the anti-war draft dodgers have done, and I think it is what those who will not acknowledge their mistakes are continuing to do. Believe me, I realize it's a tough acknowledgement to make -- for it's an admission to something less than manhood.

But it takes a man to admit to a mistake -- especially such a longstanding one, and it's why I think those who are proud of their draft avoidance and antiwar stance are less manly than those who aren't. The former are stuck -- because their manhood is permanently disabled by dishonesty -- while the latter can move on.

This is, of course, counterintuitive according to the popular wisdom that prevails. (But that's why I felt the need for another post.)

MORE: The irony is compounded by the fact that the draft-deferment kids were steeped in the then-prevailing middle class morality, which accounts (IMO) for their original desire to be seen as morally righteous. What occured was a classic case of rationalization often aggravated by social pressures and even mass hysteria.

Not that I'd expect the massive societal damage this caused (and continues to cause) to be solved with a blog post.

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

Cultural Marxism

American Thinker looks at Cultural Marxism

There are two misconceptions held by many Americans. The first is that communism ceased to be a threat when the Soviet Union imploded. The second is that the New Left of the Sixties collapsed and disappeared as well. "The Sixties are dead," wrote columnist George Will ("Slamming the Doors," Newsweek, Mar. 25, 1991)

Because the New Left lacked cohesion it fell apart as a political movement. However, its revolutionaries reorganized themselves into a multitude of single issue groups. Thus we now have for example, radical feminists, black extremists, anti-war 'peace' activists, animal rights groups, radical environmentalists, and 'gay' rights groups. All of these groups pursue their piece of the radical agenda through a complex network of organizations such as the Gay Straight Lesbian Educators Network (GSLEN), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), People for the American Way, United for Peace and Justice, Planned Parenthood, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), and Code Pink for Peace.

Both communism and the New Left are alive and thriving here in America. They favor code words:
tolerance, social justice, economic justice, peace, reproductive rights, sex education and safe sex, safe schools, inclusion, diversity, and sensitivity. All together, this is Cultural Marxism disguised as multiculturalism.

It is not about melting pot America. It is about Balkanize and conquer.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:01 PM | Comments (5)

Clinton On Iraq

Christopher Hitchens has a fine piece on the trajectory of our war with Iraq.

...it was on the initiative of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, both of whom delivered extremely tough speeches warning of another round of confrontation with Saddam Hussein, that the Senate passed the Iraq Liberation Act that year, making it U.S. policy to remove the Baathists from power. It was the Clinton administration that bombed Sudan, claiming that a factory outside Khartoum represented a chemical-weapons link between Saddam and Osama Bin Laden. And, as Sen. Clinton reminded us in the very same speech, it was "President Clinton, with the British and others, [who] ordered an intensive four-day air assault, Operation Desert Fox, on known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets" in Iraq. On its own, this is enough to make childish nonsense of her insinuation that an "obsession" with Saddam took root only after the Bush-Cheney victory in 2000.
This just in: Clinton calls for pullout starting in 90 days.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has called for a 90-day deadline to start pulling American troops from Iraq.

Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, has been criticized by some Democrats for supporting authorization of the war in 2002 and for not renouncing her vote as she seeks the U.S. presidency in next year's election.

H/T Instapundit and Don Surber and a commenter at Ann Althouse.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:53 PM | Comments (15)

The Victory Caucus

The Victory Caucus is a new blog devoted to Victory in the war against Islamic fascism.

What is their mission?

This will be a long and serious effort, but it starts now. We have established a team within the site that will focus on identifying strong candidates -- veterans, ideally --- as well as teams devoted to identifying White Flag Republicans and their antimatter opposites, the Blue Dog Democrats. These three groups will be at the forefront of our efforts to identify the districts where we can do the most good: whether that is to replace a defeatist Democrat with a new Republican victory candidate --- or to help a Blue Dog Democrat who is strong on the war take down a White Flag Republican. Here, party comes second: victory --- and country --- come first.
If you wish to do more Register at The Victory Caucus.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Austute Blogger

posted by Simon at 08:27 AM

Honesty deferred?

I agree with Glenn Reynolds and J.D. Johannes:

"Support the troops. Let them win."
But the Vietnam generation is still sharply divided.

I can't find a more perfect example than Senator Charles "just-like-in-the-days-of-Vietnam" Schumer who is bound and determined to plunge the country into another glorious defeat.

Of course, he'll say the war was "unwinnable," but this is often turns out to be code language for "wrong and immoral," and the people who talk this way want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus, they try to undo whatever victories are acheived by U.S. troops on the ground, so they can turn around and say their lives were "wasted" -- all in the name of "supporting the troops."

Sorry, but I've already seen it one time too many during the Vietnam era, and it makes me sick that the anti-war generation -- the ones who came to age under student deferments and have been rationalizing their cowardice ever since -- still have so damned much power. This makes them feel it's their God-given moral duty to decide that their country deserves to lose another war. It's not an entire generation, mind you. But this psychology represents a substantial portion of the pre-1953 boomers -- the ones who stayed in college to avoid the draft, rationalized it into pride, and now consider themselves America's moral conscience instead of America's moral cowards (which is what I think they are). Schumer epitomizes them, and I don't want them to return to power in the White House. For starters, I can't stand to hear them whine about what "heroes" they were, when all they did was saved their own skin from the draft.

Perhaps I lived in Berkeley too long, but I just find that kind of sanctimony unbearable, and I don't think it will mellow with age.

For the life of me, I don't see why they can't admit for once that they just wanted to save their asses from the draft, and the rest is just rationalized claptrap. Hey. I'm not perfect; I say this as a former Marxist who once hated the U.S. military.


Perhaps I should be more understanding. I was born in 1954 so I didn't have to deal with the draft.

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

Palestinians Are At It Again

It looks like the Palestinian Civil War has resumed.

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) condemned Thursday an attack by unknown gunmen at the house of MP Yousef Alsherafi in northern Gaza Strip.

In a released statement, the PLC condemned the attack, reminding all Palestinian factions of abiding by the recent agreement on ending all forms of internal violence, reached in the Saudi Arabian city of Makkah two weeks ago.

The press release emphasized the need to swiftly form a national unity government in line with what has been agreed upon over the weekend between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister, Ismaily Haniya.

Meanwhile, various parts of the Palestinian territories saw over the past couple of days a number of incidents such as shootouts at the house of Palestinian planning minister in Nablus city, at some Fatah members in the Gaza Strip town of Bani Sohaila and a small-scale shootout between gunmen on the Salaheldin main road in central Gaza Strip.

If they keep this up some one is going to get killed.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:59 AM

Live laptop motherboard blogging

I'm writing a test post on a Dell laptop motherboard I just hooked up to see how well it works. My older laptop (a Latitude c600) has a motherboard problem which isn't worth the money it would cost to fix, so I bought a new board on Ebay. Basically, it's the bottom of a laptop, minus the keyboard and everything else, and it looks like this:


The reason they sell them like this is it's not worth the time and trouble to remove the board. Too many little screws (many of which are bears to remove), endless tiny plugs, wires, miniboards and doodads, each of which has to go back in exactly or else nothing will work.

Wanting to be sure this worked before dissecting my laptop, I stuck in the hard drive, the RAM and the mini PCI board, then plugged in a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and VOILA! It booted right up. No stupid XP activation problems either.

Not that I really needed to write a blog post using it, but I'm trying to determine whether it overheats and whether the charging system cycles properly, and the monitor, keyboard and mouse are disconnected from the other computer, so I'm "on" my new laptop motherboard.

Used this way, it doesn't feel like a laptop at all.

UPDATE: Done. I'm using the laptop now with its new motherboard, and everything works fine.

Taking these things apart is almost as much fun as blogging.

posted by Eric at 05:57 PM

Duke Lacrosse - A Black Man Speaks

A very funny video by a black man who gets the Duke Lacrosse case.

posted by Simon at 01:40 PM

The annual trilateral summit...

(which possibly ought to be called the "perilously white classically bendable values agenda" or something) was held in Philadelphia yesterday.

Visiting dignitaries Sean Kinsell of White Peril (who traveled all the way from Japan) and yours truly of Classical Values arrived at Philly AIDS Thrift (514 Bainbridge Street) -- a charitable thrift store which doubled as unofficial conference rendezvous center:


NOTE: Please ignore the fact that the mannequin on the far left has had its underwear pulled down to its ankles. I am assured the problem will be corrected.

Presiding over the meet-and-greet festivities was proprietor Tom Brennan of Agenda Bender, who issued each attendeee with an official T-Shirt. By unanimous intuititive consensus, the decision at the time seemed to be that the arctic temperatures did not constitute T-shirt weather, and it was not until today that Eric decided to take a unilateral and risky decision to model his T-shirt over regular clothing outside in the cold:


After some browsing at the store, the next stop was a late working luncheon at the PhilaDeli, at 410-412 South Street, in Philadelphia. (Review here, picture here, menu here.)

Because of the highly confidential and sensitive nature of the meeting, no official minutes were requested or taken, and while I think I can fairly state that not all of the world's problems were solved, nevertheless a fair and frank exchange of views occurred, with globlist as well as local perspectives being exchanged and discussed.

After a volunteer photographer was drafted into service, an official picture was taken:


The meeting then adjourned, and we went back to the store, where Sean went on a bit of a buying spree.

(If you're in Philadelphia, definitely check out "PAT." Huge inventory and great prices, for a good cause.)

posted by Eric at 09:47 AM | Comments (1)

Garrison Keillor's garment phobia

For someone who bills himself as a humorist, Garrison Keillor doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor. First there was his threat to sue a blogger for parodying the Prairie Homo Home Companion with a t-shirt. And now there's his latest pissy hissy over Giuliani's Marilyn Monroe parody in drag:

Say what you will about the Current Occupant [President Bush], there is no video out there of him waltzing around in a long lavender gown and a brassiere, and blond wig, while an aging tycoon nuzzles his chest. He may have sunk low back in his drinking days, but he managed to keep his adventures private. . . .

This is not a major issue. . . . But the video has a creepy fascination to it. . . .

Mr. Giuliani should put the issue behind him by answering a few questions: (1) How much did he have to drink that night, and what was he drinking? (2) Whose idea was it--his own or an aide's? If the latter, was there wagering involved and how much was bet? (3) Were the garments new or used, and who picked them out? And was he wearing male or female underthings? (4) On a scale of 1 to 10, how good did he feel in that dress?

The above was reported by WSJ's Jim Taranto, who opined that the "creepy fascination" is Keillor's.

I couldn't agree more.

As I said before, it took balls for Guiliani to do his drag routine, and his "It's okay, they aren't real" shows that he has a great sense of humor. (HT Glenn Reynolds.)

Concluded Taranto,

Whether Keillor is expressing his own prejudices or cynically trying to appeal to the prejudices of others, his effort to smear Giuliani by playing on fears of homosexuality is invidious and unseemly.
I swear, this homo-baiting nonsense is becoming such a habit with the left that its getting downright tired. And the targets seem to be growing.

Here we go again.... First they came for the gay conservatives. And now, if you're a Republican, you don't even have to be gay to be targeted. You only have to do something that might look gay, or hang around with gay friends.

If I didn't know any better, I'd swear the left wants all Republicans to be homo-hatin' "Christianist" stereotypes. (Perhaps they should bear in mind that Fred Phelps is a Democrat.)

And what's with the "Were the garments new or used" question?

Is there a right answer to a question like that?


I guess if I were advising Guiliani, I'd tell him to answer "Yes!"

(OK, I'm trying to take politics seriously, but this is getting a bit ridiculous.)

posted by Eric at 08:36 PM | Comments (1)

Sleepy pit bulls never lie!

Coco has a visitor, Sean Kinsell, and she's convinced that he traveled all the way from Japan just to see her.

As you can see, Sean has mastered a rare Japanese massage technique which never fails to put pit bulls to sleep:


(If only the Humane Society put pit bulls to sleep that way instead of the other way.)

Sean's blogging certainly won't put anyone to sleep -- especially human pit bulls. Here's a sample from yesterday (about a lesbian Muslim activist Irshad Manji, who's being snubbed by the left):

Plenty of gay men and women who "don't care what people think" when they're having a noisy good time at brunch or giving conservative relatives a heart attack with their views about social policy will turn into the most craven protocol-followers alive when it's time to venture, even gingerly, the opinion that maybe there are strains of thinking in non-Western cultures that are incompatible with human rights and are not the fault of Western imperialism. Or that gay advocacy groups often choose cheap partisan expediency over gay interests.
I couldn't agree more with what Sean says about the double standard; read it all.

As for Coco, she's steeped in double standards, and I can barely get her to read this blog, much less help me with editing and proof reading.


Wish I had more time for blogging today, but I'll be running around.

Meanwhile, Coco plans to petition the Humane Society to put Sean in charge of all pit bull policy.

posted by Eric at 09:47 AM | Comments (2)

Murtha Has A Plan

Murtha has a plan for American defeat in Iraq. MoveCongress.Org says John Murtha will speak to them about removing support for our troops and thus ending the War in Iraq. Evidently they would prefer genocide followed by a full scale Middle East War. MoveCongress has spoken and here are their words.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has begun consideration of the president's $93 billion supplemental appropriations request for Iraq. Action on the request will be the first opportunity for the new Congress to exercise its "power-of-the-purse" over the Iraq war.

Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president's foreign and national security policy. Chairman Murtha discusses these steps in a videotaped conversation with former Congressman Tom Andrews (D-ME), the National Director of the Win Without War coalition, sponsor of MoveCongress.org.

Join us here tomorrow for this exclusive interview.

The bolding was by me. Also note that the offending sentence can no longer be found at MoveCongress. I wonder why? Well, it is a big web with eyes and ears everywhere.

Why do I feel this is 1936 all over again?

And now, on March 7, 1936, while France had only a caretaker government, Hitler, not fearing the League being used against him, sent troops into the Rhineland. According to the Versailles and Locarno treaties the Rhineland was to remain demilitarized. The move defied these agreements but was popular in Germany - an issue of national sovereignty - the Rhineland being a part of Germany. But Hitler's generals were concerned. Germany's army was still not ready for combat. Hitler had assured his generals that they could withdraw at the first sign of a counter move by France's army, but he had taken measure of the pacifism in France and Britain and was confident that France and Britain would do nothing. His move into the Rhineland caused a sensation and the world waited to see what France and Britain would do.
Bolding again mine.

The UN is corrupt and will do nothing. The enemies of liberty advance with the help of our anti-war folks. Did some one say 1936?

Churchill, in the House of Commons, declared the remilitarization of the Rhineland to be a triumph for Hitler. He spoke of the danger to parliamentary nations from heavily armed dictatorships. He complained that Britain was confronting dictators "without weapons or military force" and that the spirit of British people was being tamed and cowed "with peace films, anti-recruiting propaganda and resistance to defense measures."
Fear of the Left in France

In May, 1936, elections in France brought to power a new coalition government, called the "Popular Front" - a coalition that included Communists - who were responding to the Soviet Union's new policy of allowing alliances with anti-fascists. After only a few days in office, France's new government announced its intentions to improve working conditions - which, along with wages in France, lagged behind other advanced industrialized nations. Labor leaders were emboldened by the Popular Front's victory. They were impatient and wanted to demonstrate their power, so they sent their workers out on strike, aggravating everyone but labor and the Left.

The head of the new government was Leon Blum, the leader of France's Socialist Party. Rightists in France wondered whether Hitler conquering France would be any worse than the Left in power in France, Rightists knowing that Hitler would suppress the Left. The expressions "better Hitler than Blum" and "better Hitler than Stalin" were heard.

What good are weapons and military force if you can't use them? Churchill was of course in great dismay over the British situation in 1936. Had he been in America today he would have been livid.

Churchill did have one nice thing to say about America. "Americans can always be depended upon to do the right thing --- after they have tried everything else."

He was right, but it is going to cost us. Dearly.

You can hear what John Murtha has to say at Google Video.

Mark Levin has an excellent rant on Murtha [audio].

Murtha has me frosted. So I'm adding a bit more on this crook.

The Washington Times calls the Murtha plan a plan for defeat.

In the wake of September 11, McGovernism -- that is, the reflexive opposition to the use of force by the United States against foreign enemies that has dogged the Democratic Party since Richard Nixon's time -- became more of a liability than ever. At least, it appeared that way judging from the 2002 and 2004 election results. But in last year's congressional elections, the Democrats came up with a shrewd, cynical new P.R. strategy that has until now served them well: saying lots of nice things about American soldiers fighting in Iraq while simultaneously advancing resolutions that denigrate their mission. But the decision to effectively cut off funds by micromanaging their use -- rather than by doing so directly -- may also be unconstitutional.

When the House votes today on the resolution denouncing Mr. Bush's plans for additional troops to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Iraq, members should be under no illusions about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership are trying to do: to make it impossible for American troops to properly do their job in Iraq.

The battle going on in Iraq is still in doubt. It may be in doubt for a number of years. Insurgencies are not defeated over night.

Sweetness and Ligght has some good quotes:

By Richard Cowan and David Alexander

WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Rep. John Murtha, a leading congressional opponent of the war in Iraq, on Thursday said his plans for placing conditions on how President George W. Bush can spend $93.4 billion in new combat funds would effectively stop an American troop buildup.

"They won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There's no question in my mind," the Pennsylvania Democrat said.

Lovely. If our troops need help the cavalry will not be on the way.

Murtha says he was once a Marine. I'll agree with that. He is a Marine no longer.

"We're trying to force a redeployment not by taking money away, by redirecting money," Murtha said, adding he wants U.S. funds to be slanted more toward diplomacy and Iraq reconstruction...
Now why would John "I coulda been a crook" Murtha want to redirect the money? His brother is a defence lobbyist. Perhaps he will have some say in how these redirected funds will be spent. Ya think?

Further reasearch shows Murtha's Military Medals may have been unearned.

"Of course Congressman Saylor wanted to help if he could, but there was nothing in the service record to indicate the wounds were of any severity and the documents specifically indicated that next of kin was not notified in either instance," Fox told the Herald-Standard in 1996. "We were amazed that Mr. Murtha was asking for Purple Hearts for superficial lacerations," he added.
I guess Murtha belongs to the John Kerry squad of war heros.

The Captain's Quarters has some thoughts on Murtha's slow bleed of American troops..

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:28 AM | Comments (1)

Shamelessly plugging a good book

I just ordered Clayton Cramer's new book, Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie -- the thesis of which I thoroughly agree. (Among other things, he debunks the notorious Michael Bellesiles.)

It's reviewed here, and despite the insane weather (and a series of travel glitches from hell) the author made it to the East Coast, where he's right now is in the middle of his book tour.

I only yesterday got my driveway shoveled out, and in addition to other commitments this weekend, right now I'm entertaining Sean Kinsell who's visiting from Japan. (Although Sean is blogging on the road -- check out this post about lesbian Muslim activist Irshad Manji, who said "Society needs people who offend, otherwise there will be no progress.")

Anyway, I won't be able to attend the book signing festivities. But in case there are any readers in the DC area, this is Cramer's schedule for today:

February 16, 2007

10:45 - 11:30 G. Gordon Liddy's radio show

1:30 lunch with several Maryland legislators and gun rights activists

5:00 Books-A-Million, DuPont Circle, Washington, DC, for book signing

I think I've been to that store, and if it's the one I'm thinking of, it's a good one. If I didn't have commitments, I might be willing to brave the drive down there.

If you're in the area, don't miss it.

posted by Eric at 07:27 AM

Jumping Ship

It looks like the American government is jumping off the Abbas ship.

The United States has informed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that it will shun a future Hamas-Fatah coalition government because it will not explicitly recognize Israel, Abbas aides said Thursday.

That position would be a severe blow to Abbas, who is trying to reach a power-sharing deal to end Palestinian infighting and to get crippling international sanctions on the government lifted.

Last week, the two political rivals reached a coalition agreement in principle, and the Hamas-led government was to resign later Thursday to pave the way for a coalition government.

Until now, Washington had withheld judgment on the power-sharing deal.

Abbas received word of the new US position in a phone call from a senior US State Department official late Wednesday, the aides said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue. A US diplomat then delivered the same message to Abbas in person Thursday, the aides said.

That has got to hurt. No amount of "National Unity" fakery is going to work until the Palestinians agree unequivocally to the Quartet's main demands which are: the renunciation of violence, the recognition of Israel, and adherence to past peace agreements.

If Hamas does this they will get killed by their own people. If they don't do this they get strangled economically. Tough choice.

What the US is saying is that for the Palestinians "National Unity" is pointless.

I'm ticking off the hours until the civil war starts up again.

I just read an interesting bit that may explain why the US reserved comment on the deal until now. It looks like they waited until the "National Unity" government was formed.

By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press Writer

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas announced the resignation of his Cabinet on Thursday, a formality that paved the way for the formation of a national unity government with Fatah . Haniyeh said a unity government would usher in a new era for the Palestinians. He stood next to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the ceremony. Abbas then authorized Haniyeh to form a new coalition government.

Meanwhile aides to Abbas said Thursday that U.S. diplomats told them Washington plans to shun a future Hamas-Fatah coalition government because it will not explicitly recognize Israel.

If the U.S. decides to shun a new Hamas-Fatah government, it would be a severe blow to Abbas. The Fatah moderate leader has been trying to implement a power-sharing deal with Hamas to end Palestinian infighting and lift crippling international sanctions against the government.

Washington had previously withheld judgment on the power-sharing deal.

This looks suspiciously like a diplomatic double cross. Wait until "National Unity" was a done deal, then tell the parties involved it is not going to work.

There is a picture of Abbas at the first link in this piece. It looks like he is having a very bad case of acid reflux and forgot to bring his Tums. He is now in a fight for his life.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:12 PM

God hates alcoholics

I don't keep up with professional basketball as I should, but according to CBS there's apparently been "a groundbreaking revelation made by former player John Amaechi, who became the first professional basketball player to openly identify himself as gay." (Of course, he waited till he retired to jump through that hoop.)

Another player, Tim Hardaway, is none too happy about it. Pressed for his views, he decided to come out with them -- quite vociferously:

"Well, you know, I hate gay people," Hardaway said in response to Le Batard. "I let it be known I don't like gay people. I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world, in the United States, I don't like it."
According to the Berkeley Hate Man, this probably reflects years of conditioning to love everyone. People need to hate.

Everybody needs to hate somebody. However, these days, it is not easy to hate. Usually, it's easier to say you hate a particular person than a group. If you say you hate a group, people will come down on you for it. Especially people who are conditioned to think that you have no "right" to hate them. But of course we have a right to hate people -- whether individuals or groups. We have a right to say so, too. What I think is going on here is that people resent being told they can't hate people, and it helps to have a convenient group which other people hate, and if a religious justification can be thrown in, so much the better.

I don't know how scientific the CBS poll is, but it indicates that 29% of the voters either agree with Hardaway or think his comments accurately reflect what most people think.


Nothing surprising about it. People have a right to hate whoever they want. (As well as what I've called a right to be sick -- logically a two way street.) Hell, God might even agree with them. How anyone would know what God might think, I don't know, but I can't say what God does or does not think. A lot of people think God is a bigot who hates all kinds of people, and they're willing to die to prove it. (Fortunately, in the West this is a minority view.)

In Russia, there seems to be a religious movement to conflate religion and epidemiology. Somewhat analogous to the American "homosexuality is like smoking" meme, in the case of Russia the argument is that homosexuality is like alcoholism:

In an attack on what he said was criticism from the Swedish ambassador, Muradov equated homosexuality with alcoholism and drew a comparison meant to suggest the ban was intended to protect the heath and well-being of society.

''As you know, the sale of alcohol is restricted in many Scandinavian countries. Why not pose the question of removing the limits on alcohol in these countries, of holding a 'parade of alcoholics' in Sweden? They would answer, No, it's bad for one's health, it affects society's morals,'' RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying.

I think this is bad logic, and I don't think there would be a similar movement against parades advocating smoking or drinking. Maybe there would, but I doubt it. If we accept the analogy for the sake of argument, though, advocacy is free speech. It no more "causes" (I know, many communitarians would disagree) alcoholism or smoking than the advocacy of gay pride causes homosexuality.

You can find plenty of religious authority against either, but I don't think that changes the nature of advocacy, which is simply a form of free speech. Or the nature of hate, which is as natural as snowfall in winter.

I guess it's OK to hate free speech too. But the right to hate does not include the right to censor.

MORE: I realize that people don't understand the point of this post, but the point is I am having a bit of trouble understanding, and I am trying to write satire without being judgmental. Thus, I never speculated about whether alcoholism might be considered morally superior to homosexuality. (Especially in Russia.)

UPDATE: My thanks to The Blog Report for linking this post!

UPDATE (02/19/07): Hardaway has apologized:

"I don't hate gay people," Hardaway said. "I'm a goodhearted person. I interact with people all the time. ... I respect people. For me to say 'hate' was a bad word, and I didn't mean to use it."

posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (21)

They're baaaack!

Yes they are. And as M. Simon reminded me this morning, they -- the Democrats -- are pushing for a renewal of the (so-called) assault weapons ban.

Les Jones has the scoop:

"Well, all you folks who voted for anyone but a republican now know what the next 2-10 years are going to be like. Maybe longer."

Which was countered by:

"Plus, even if it does pass, all you good Republicans have nothing to worry about because your President will veto it, right? Remember, you guys all said Bush was just playing politics when he said he would sign a new AWB. You guys don't think you are wrong now, do you? Do you?"

Yep. Bush said in the 2004 election that he would sign the AWB renewal if it came across his desk. At the time, he was confident of a Republican Congress keeping that from happening. What could possiblie go wrong? The 2006 elections went wrong, Democrats now control both houses of Congress, and Bush's words are coming back to haunt gunowners.

Oh yes, the Republican Congress. Whatever happened to that? Why, they were voted out -- by Democrats who had a little help from angry rank and file Republicans. As I remarked in an email to Simon it was the "punish the Republican leadership by not voting" thing. (Like a kid deliberately hurting himself to punish mommy.) I complained repeatedly, and I tried to warn my readers. I guess that means I don't have enough, um "influence."

Lately, of course, I'm continuing to complain repeatedly in a similar vein -- about the movement to put Hillary in the White House. Why, I'm feeling so repetitive today that I'll even repeat my repetition:

If you don't believe me about this, read the immortal words of Tom DeLay:
Hillary Clinton as president may be the best thing that ever happened to the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, when enough people want something to happen, it will happen.

I keep opining that collusion is not always an intentional process. Voting means choosing the better of two bad alternatives, and people get so blinded by their emotions that they forget.

The bright side of this is that the gun issue was once supposed to be a losing issue for the Dems, so they dropped it.

But now that they're back, maybe they'll make it a losing issue again!

posted by Eric at 10:03 AM | Comments (2)

Dissension In The Ranks

Evidently Fatah is having trouble keeping the troops in line.

The Palestinian Authority has fired hundreds of security officers who refused to participate in the recent fighting against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
It also looks like we are back at disunity as the order of the day.
Meanwhile, PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas announced that it was "premature" to talk about the resignation of his government. Haniyeh was expected to submit his resignation on Tuesday to pave the way for the formation of a Palestinian unity government. Haniyeh did not offer any reason for his decision to delay the resignation, sparking speculation of renewed tensions with Fatah.

Fatah officials admitted on Tuesday that they were facing "certain difficulties" in persuading the US and EU to accept the agreement that was reached with Hamas in Mecca last week.

And just what might those difficulties be? Might it have something to do with the fact that the "National Unity Government" will not agree to the renunciation of violence, the recognition of Israel, and adhering to past peace agreements? The US's and the EU's minimum requirement for recognizing the Hamas led government.

OK. That is the current political situation. We will get back to that later. Sometimes the Jerusalem Post writes as choppily as I do.

So what happened with the troops?

PA security officials told The Jerusalem Post that the officers were dismissed for "failing to fulfill their duties" during the armed clashes with Hamas militiamen. The officials described the behavior of the security officers as a "form of mutiny." They said most of the officers were fired after they refused to defend senior PA and Fatah officials who came under attack from Hamas.

In one incident, scores of officers refused to confront Hamas gunmen who besieged the home of Gen. Muhammad Ghraib of the Preventative Security Service in the northern Gaza Strip for eight hours before killing him.

The fired officers belonged to the Preventative Security Service, Military Intelligence and Force 17.

According to the officials, the officers are suspected of sympathizing with Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

Taking their pay from one side while secretly helping the other? It really has to frost you when people don't honor their contracts. Oh? They are Palestinians? Never mind.

Palestinian President Abbas has put off giving a "National Unity" speech. That is funny. I thought they had that all sewn up in Mecca a few days ago. Sewn up with a billion dollars of Saudi thread. It appears the sewing was not that great and the thread is unraveling. Remember what your mother told you. Don't pull on that thread. The whole garment will unravel.

By Wafa Amr

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas abruptly put off an address he was due to give on Thursday about a new unity government and an official said on Wednesday the delay was due to a dispute with Hamas.

Abbas had been expected to promote the deal in a speech to Palestinians before heading to the Gaza Strip to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader who is supposed to lead the new unity government agreed in Mecca.

Abbas adviser Nabil Abu Rdainah told Palestinian television the president would give his speech after the Gaza talks.

Some Hamas lawmakers said Haniyeh would not step down until he and Abbas, the moderate Fatah leader, had finalised several unresolved issues in the Saudi-brokered deal including naming an interior minister and deputy prime minister.

"Hamas has made several unacceptable conditions which cannot be implemented. The Mecca agreement cannot be re-interpreted and must be implemented immediately without any conditions," a Palestinian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Evidently it was not just a pull of a thread. Some one got their chain yanked.

So what do the ordinary folks in Gaza think?

After countless broken cease-fires, skepticism in the Palestinians territories remains strong.

"There is a lot of mistrust," said Bakr, the local Fatah chief. "If it (the Mecca deal) lasts for six months, it is a good agreement."

If it lasts six weeks he will be lucky. I give it six days. However, a word of caution, I have been known to be way too optimistic on these deals.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:47 AM

Readiness For What?

The Democrats have a strategy for defeat in Iraq.

Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.

Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself.

The legislative strategy will be supplemented by a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign designed to pressure vulnerable GOP incumbents into breaking with President Bush and forcing the administration to admit that the war is politically unsustainable.

I wonder if after our pull out it becomes necessary to retake Iraq to prevent genocide, will that be politically sustainable?

No doubt Democrats have the courage of their convictions.

"What we have staked out is a campaign to stop the war without cutting off funding" for the troops, said Tom Mazzie of Americans Against Escalation of the War in Iraq. "We call it the 'readiness strategy.'"
Readiness for what?

Certainly not readiness to defeat our jihadi enemies. It is 1936 all over again.

This move by the Democrats will not shorten the war against the jihadis. It will make it at least ten times bloodier for them and us.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:28 PM

Five More Victims Of Sudden Jihad

I put off blogging about the Salt Lake massacre until there was more information. We have it now.

Ajka Omerovic, who said she was Talovic's aunt, visited the home Tuesday afternoon. She told the Deseret Morning News that Talovic had been "a good boy." She said the family are Muslims from Bosnia who had lived in the vicinity of Sarajevo.
It is early days in this story.

Unfortunately unlike the Mr Taheri-azar of North Carolina the jihadi in this case will not be available for questioning. Ever.

If this gets more frequent it will make Muslims unwelcome in America.

Eric at Classical Values has an early take on events. He believes if there had been more folks with weapons (concealed carry) the killer would have been brought to heel sooner.


Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:26 PM | Comments (1)

Deadly "Upbringing"?

Six people were killed in a shopping mall in Salt Lake City, but the mass shooting incident doesn't seem to be getting much attention as national news. Normally, such shopping mall shooting sprees do.

As to the motive, according to a local news report, it might be related to the man's "upbringing":

A family friend, who didn't want to be identified, told us Talovic's upbringing may have played a role. He was a Muslim-Bosnian, born in war-torn Bosnia. Talovic has lived in Utah for the past several years. He dropped out of high school in 2004.

The family friend said Talovic had a tough time interacting with people and dealing with traumatic episodes. That may be why neighbors who lived near the Talovics for years don't know the first thing about him.

John Buddensick, Neighbor: "Me or my family, or pretty much anybody on my side of the street never came in contact with Sulejmen or any of his friends or anything like that. So to hear that this happened is somewhat shocking because you really didn't know who he was."

Whether there were indicators or not, police say Talovic planned on killing as many people as possible at Trolley Square. Talovic carried with him a .38 caliber pistol, a shotgun, a backpack full of ammunition and a bandoleer of shotgun shells into the mall.

While Forbes has a lengthy report authored by three AP writers, the attention is focused on the off duty officer who fortunately happened to be armed and present at the scene. But the "upbringing" part is left out.

So, all we have to go on is that this is a local shooting that may have been caused by an "upbringing."

I'd like to know more.

At this point, all I can conclude is that it's another good argument for carrying concealed.

UPDATE: Flashback to 1929, in which the infamous "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" captivated the nation's imagination. The mass shooting has never been forgotten, even though the victims were not innocent bystanders, but rival gang members.

I guess what made that different was that seven people were killed, but Sulejmen Talovic killed only six?

Via Michelle Malkin, I see that Charles Johnson is wondering whether this might be Sudden Jihad Syndrome.

If it is, we'll never know. I mean, if it's hurtful to call people crazy, "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" would probably be a disease that dare not speak its name.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Mary Katherine Ham has pointed out that the race of criminal suspects may not be mentioned unless they are white.

In the case of the Salt Lake City suspect, it's his religion that may not be mentioned (at least, not by the AP).

I have a feeling that if a family friend had said that the shooter's fundamentalist Christian upbringing may have played a role, that this pertinent fact might have made it into the AP story.

posted by Eric at 11:46 AM

Just because you can do it does not make it right

Gerard Van der Leun offers some words of wisdom over the John Edwards campaign blogger controversy:

Without referencing the Edwards bloggers, I would note that over time people change and at certain moments people online write things they later regret out of passion or ignorance. Over time, people's situations change as do their needs and views.

It seems to me that we use past opinions to dump on future aspirations in our political squabbles at our peril. Getting people sacked in real life by using online life as a club is always a bad idea.

If you think it isn't, you're next.

(Emphasis added.)

He's absolutely right, and while I think it's perfectly OK to take someone's opinions into account in hiring, there's something absolutely disgusting about using online life as a club in real life. Not that I don't expect that it will continue to happen.

This was by no means the first time.

Does anyone remember the frenzied attempts to get Glenn Reynolds fired for wearing the diversity gun t-shirt in a humorous manner? Readers were urged to contact his employer, and I was so outraged that I immediately ordered one of the shirts and posed for my blog wearing it.

In "retaliation" for the attempts to get him fired, Glenn made some comments about his "second career as a male model." (His modeling career did result in an unexpected consequence, though.)

Despite the fact that Amanda Marcotte was not fired, her blog Pandagon is supplying her supporters with an official IRS "Information Referral" form all filled out with the name of the people who urged Edwards to fire her along with IRS contact information, and (with a clever wink-wink) making a suggestion:

One thing I would certainly NOT expect is that anyone would go here[PDF], using the above as a template (or not), and stick that fucker in the mail. I certainly would be shocked if anyone were to alert all their friends and loved ones to behave similarly.
This sort of thing only invites more of the same.

Yeah, I know free speech has consequences, and I have a perfect right to criticize anyone for anything, and say just about anything in disagreement. This includes the right to hurl insults and vituperative language as long as it doesn't cross the line to libel or slander. And I suppose it even includes the right to contact the employer of someone I disagree with, try to get them fired, try to sic the IRS or other authorities on them, (and vice versa), but I'd never do that to anyone -- no matter how much I might disagree. I think using online life as a club in real life is about low as you can go.

Unfortunately, I think there's going to be a lot more of it.

posted by Eric at 11:18 AM

May all your valentines be white!

Man, for two days the snow has been coming down fast around here. First snow, then liquid ice; I parked my car in the front of the driveway and could barely get out this morning.

I'm glad I'm not in the flower delivery business. It would drive anyone crazy.

Or am I not allowed to use the word "crazy" anymore? Considering that Amanda Marcotte called me a sociopath yesterday and I didn't especially mind, I think it should be perfectly OK to use the word "crazy" -- especially in a humorous manner.

But it isn't -- at least, not if you're in the teddy bear business and don't want to offend certain activist groups. The Vermont Teddy Bear company got in trouble for selling teddy bears in cute little strait jackets, and they had to pull them. So now, they're selling on ebay as collector's items for as much as $315.00. This one's a steal at $75.00 and it ends in a few hours. Might be just the thing for people who are going crazy at the last minute. (If I really were a sociopath, I'd send one to Amanda, my new love! But alas, I'm afraid I may not be gay enough for her. Or do I mean lesbian enough?)

The interesting thing about the teddy bear is that because of its self deprecating nature, it doesn't make fun of other people, but only the gift giver. How this can hurt the "feelings" of an identity group is beyond me. Even if you're not crazy, how does saying you are crazy as an expression of love hurt those who are crazy? Suppose a heterosexual man tells another heterosexual man he likes him so much that he feels gay even though he isn't; does that insult gays? If I call myself a sociopath in response to my dear new girlfriend Amanda, am I hurting the feelings of sociopaths?

Is everybody crazy or is it just me?

MORE: Michelle Malkin has a reminder that angry Islamists are burning Valentines in protest. They're offensive! And blasphemous!

Oh baby! Set my blasphemous heart on fire!

posted by Eric at 09:55 AM

Actions have consequences

Amanda Marcotte had the temerity to call me a "sociopath" earlier today.

And as of now her website is down with this explanation:

Whenever the site is up, we get slammed and it goes down. I have to suspend the site until the fervor dies down. At this point, I think it might be a few hours before the Lookie Lous give up refreshing the site.
Well, let that be a lesson!

We sociopaths really know how to slam a site when our feelings are hurt.

UPDATE (02/15/07): If I think it's unfair being called a "sociopath," I should count my blessings. Cathy Young was accused (by Amanda Marcotte) of being an "apologist for abusers, as long as they are male." (Via Dr. Helen.) Young's crime was to have stated the obvious fact that women can be abusers too, and the whole post is a must-read for "PandaGate" fans.

(At least I can comfort myself knowing that Amanda thinks I'm sick and in need of help.)

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

Reality Based

The "reality based" movement has morphed into the Net Roots.

Obviously they have decided that reality is too much of a burden and now references to reality are no longer required. All that is required now is belief. No pesky facts can in any way intrude.

Breath of the Beast has an interesting look at the origins of this kind of attitude in human mass psychology. He starts out with a quote from Louis Menand.

The mysterious part of totalitarianism's appeal--and here we return to the Problem of the Loyal Henchmen--is that its official ideology can be, and usually is, absurd on its face, and known to be absurd by the leaders who preach it. This is because the mob is made up of cynics; for them, everything is a lie anyway. And the masses' hostility is free-floating. It has no concrete object: the masses are hostile to life as it is. The more extreme and outrageous the totalitarian ideology, therefore, and the more devoid of practical political sense, the more ineluctable its appeal. Totalitarian rule, Arendt argued, is predicated on the assumption that proving that a thing is true is less effective than acting as though it were true. The Nazis did not invite a discussion of the merits of anti-Semitism; they simply acted out its consequences. This is why documents like the memorandums for which Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason and "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" continued to be believed even after they had been exposed as forgeries, and why the Moscow Trials were defended even by people who knew that the "confessions" were fraudulent. It's why some of the defendants in those trials went uncomplainingly to be executed for crimes they had not committed.
The idea that the anger and disenfranchisement of the "Arab street" is in some way a comprehensible rationale for the callous barbarity of the attack on innocent civilians is an offense to humanity. Ironically, the very enormity of the crimes they commit and the wildness of the pretext they do it under, are taken by those who do not understand the game they are playing as proof of the authenticity (even righteousness) of what they do.

The rage, when looked at honestly, is nothing more than that same invincible, fervent stupidity that filled the air at the nazi rallies in Munich or that propelled the Bolshevik protesters into the streets of Moscow. This wild arousal state crowds out reason and hope. It pumps up its own excitation and then demands revenge on the world for the distress it has caused itself. Daniel Pearl's death tape is the perfect illustration of the end result. It is actually mostly propaganda and screed. It is an obscene blend of lies, fabrications and outrageous distortions. It intimidates by showing Daniel Pearl being forced to "admit" to being a Jew and making him dwell on his Jewishness. Then at the end, after his head is hacked off and held up as a trophy, a threat scrolls onto the screen. This will be repeated "again and again" it promises. That phrase, "again and again" forms a mocking echo to the Israeli Slogan "never again".

In much the same way that Hitler told the world what he had planned in Mein Kampf the Islamofascists are being very honest with us.

I am also reminded of the Christian philosopher Tertullian who may have said "I believe because it is absurd." Which is the way of madness.

In direct opposition to the Catholic Church's current position that faith and reason are not in opposition. Their little to do with Galileo seems to have cured them (mostly) of their opposition to science.

This conflict has been going on for a very long time. In fact we use Greek names for the opposing philosophies. Dionysian and Apollonian. Ecstasy vs. Reason.

My position in all this? I get my ecstasy from reason. Much more difficult than ecstasy alone. So much more worthwhile. It also avoids embarrasment when reality does not match faith. Since there can be no contradiction in my philosophy, then I simply modify my faith. The faith based people have no such luxury and thus are bound to smash into the wall of reason. Me? I prefer to brush lightly against it and change my course.

American Thinker weighs in on the subject of Islam's embrace of faith over rationality.

Muslim reformers of the past century - such as Mohammed Abdu, Refaa Al-Tahtawi, Taha Hussein, Ali Abdel-Razik and others - sought and unfortunately failed to modernize Islam. The militants, led by Hassan Al-Banna and his partisans, won this battle, and forced their vision to "Islamize" modernity on the people. They created a certain pattern - a mindset and a lifestyle - and promoted it as "The Valid Islam," Al Islam al-Sahih.

They resorted to seduction and fear to impose this pattern on their societies, and made sure to attach an "Islamic" label to each and every aspect, with the clear implication that other patterns were deemed non-Muslim and illegitimate. An increasingly wide array of things fall under this valid pattern: the Islamic dress, the Islamic banks, the Islamic economy, the Islamic education, the islamization of science, media and the judiciary system, the application and enforcement of Islamic laws, the widespread dissemination of the fundamentalist culture, the promotion of Islamic medicine and the Prophet's medicine, the expansion of Islamic organizations, the marginalization of the national identity of the state in favor of Islamic nationalism, and the islamization of daily vocabulary and political terms (mobayaa, welaya, shura, thawabet al-oma, etc..).

As a result, the Muslim countries wasted their chance to embrace modernity, opting instead to import a shallow veneer of modernity from the West; and they became idle consumers of the products of civilization, with no contributions to offer.

So now you know why we are in a war of civilizations. Except it is not really a war of civilizations. It is the age old war of reason vs. unreason. A war that is much older than Islam and Christianity.

The two main political parties in America mirror this age old conflict. The left aligning (mostly) with the Dionysian and the right aligning (mostly) with the Apollonian. Which is why these days I side mostly with the right where reason has more sway, despite the frequent lapses.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:13 PM | Comments (4)

Acting tips for the globally unsustainable

Recent but reliable reports that Al Gore's speeches may be triggering snowstorms and record low temperatures (a still unfolding natural phenomenon known as "Global Coldening") have reminded me of an inconvenient truth about Al Gore -- the criticisms over the years that he's stiff and cold. I understand he's been working at making himself warmer, but if this recent picture is any indication, he still has a long way to go:


OK, there's at least an attempt at humor there. The globe floating above him in the evergreen trees is a wonderful prop. But instead of rising to an occasion which cried out for some fun, he just stands there like the same old stiff and wooden Al Gore. Regardless of whether the goal was to depict him as the world's steward, or just to show him having fun with a globe, either way it fails, because if you look carefully, you'll see that he's allowing the world to fall into someone else's hands! (If you really think about it, that's neither funny or reassuring.)

Normally, I don't like to tell politicians how to entertain, or entertainers how to politick. However, this situation cries out for some sort of treatment. Maybe the phrase is "product placement." Whatever. Al clearly needs help of some kind here, and if I can't offer help where help is needed, what kind of public service am I providing?

Because I don't like to complain about a problem without offering a solution, I thought I would contrast Al Gore's globe-handling with that of the great Charlie Chaplin. Here was a guy who knew how to behave around a globe. He didn't let it sit there while he stared at the camera with a slight Mona Lisa-type smile. On the contrary, he interacted with it.

Please bear in mind that what follows was Chaplin's comedy, and I do not mean to suggest or imply that Gore (whether he means to be a comedian or not) is in any way comparable to either Charlie Chaplin or the fictitious character the latter was portraying. The goal here is simply to offer a few acting tips to Al Gore, and he can take them or leave them.

My point is that if you're trying to show the world you save it, you have to show the world you mean business -- even if you're trying to be funny and light about it. Standing there stiffly while the world falls into the hands of a stranger is neither meaning business by taking control nor is it funny and light.

Contrast that with the Chaplin approach. Right away, he zeroes in and transfixes the globe with a serious stare -- as if to let it know he means business!


In today's parlance, the above is called "thinking globally." (But I'm sure Gore understands that, so I'll skip the pedantic lecture.)

However, as Chaplin made clear, it's not enough to just think globally. The goal is also to change the world! Which means you have to show the world that you know how to handle it!

That you can stand up to the task of taking the world in your hands:


That you're willing to sit down in order to work the world's problems out:


That no matter what it takes, you'll really get down!

And if the business of the world requires it, you won't hesitate to butt in:


Personally, I prefer a more hands-off approach where it comes to building a better world, but I heard that Hillary pays conservative bloggers not to run her ads, so I'm hoping that Gore will pay me not to help him anymore.

(Seriously, isn't being paid not to do stuff part of the American way?)

MORE: Lest I be accused of unaccountability (or worse, hypocrisy) by attempting to hold Al Gore to a standard higher than that which I impose on myself, I went out into the freezing weather and tried to hold the whole world in my hands.

As you can see, it is not an easy task:


In this weather, it's more than inconvenient.

It's downright unsustainable!

posted by Eric at 04:19 PM | Comments (3)

Magnetism At War

A. Jacksonian left an interesting comment on my piece "Clouds" posted at Classical Values. It is a fascinating look at magnetism, war, global climate, and impending doom from natural causes. I'm posting it here in full. And, thanks A.J. for your always interesting posts and comments.


Actually, there have been numerous magnetic field reversals in Earth's history. The fact that this was so was discovered due to WWII subsurface magnetic readings taken to try and find U-Boats. Once all the data got put together, identical stripes of different magnetic polarity could be seen on either side of the mid-Atlantic. This was one of the great insights that led to the first International Geophysical Year and the culmination of data from core samples on magnetism and radioactivity that led to the discovery that these stripes were coincident at the same time in history indicating they were placed at the same time. The mid-Atlantic ridge was analyzed and folks realized that new material was being forced out there and it contained the same magnetic orientation and strength as the surroundings as the rock cooled. The very first tape recorder had been discovered, save the 'tape' was oceanic basalt. Global studies of similar rocks pointed to the exact same magnetic orientation at the same time and the same changes over time. This has proven to be a long term key for analyzing rock strata, and measuring the orientation and radioactivity not only places it in time but in position.

From all of that continents now were seen as in motion... well, all geological plates were seen as in relative motion to each other based on sub-plate movement. All from trying to find U-Boats in WWII. That information required that we change how we look at the planet and ask it different questions and we found different answers, and so our view of the planet changed and changed again so we could understand what the rock
was telling us.

Some magnetic flip-flops have been coincident with extinctions (large and small) but not all of them. Changes in background cosmic ray incidents is an indicator from the solar system's relative position within the galaxy and who its neighbors have been. That has also varied over time some changes, up and down, coincident with extinctions, some not. Continents coming together to form supercontinents and their break-ups have been a high, nearly 1:1 indicator of extinction events as habitats suddenly disappear or appear both having long-term impacts on life in those ecozones.

Volcanic activity can play a part, especially those large caldera events at Yellowstone, Toba and elsewhere, as they release large amounts of particulates into the upper atmosphere. The idea for for the amounts was put forward in a good way by a movie on the History Channel. Consider the ejecta to Mt. St. Helens to be a sugar cube. Tambora was a box of sugar cubes (the volcano responsible for the 'year without a summer'). Yellowstone is a 1m x 1m x 1m packing crate of sugar cubes. That gets pretty close to the scale differences involved for relative particulate output, save the actual crate is a bit bigger than the 1 meter cube. Yellowstone, itself, goes through different cyclic events, where it will rest for hundreds of thousands of years and then erupt and continue with smaller-scale, continuous eruptions for a long period and then go quiet. Considering that this same hotspot laid down the meters thick basaltic rock seen in Oregon and Washington States, that is nothing to be sneezed at.

We haven't even started in on the real disasters that can hit North America and will, sooner or later. Cyclicity and periodicity tell us that these things will return, sooner or later, as the geophysics behind them has not changed for them. Global Warming? Heh. Yellowstone! Because once it hits, it continues on for thousands if not tens of thousands of years... did it before and will do it again. And that will assuredly change climates on the planet... I wouldn't suggest trying to 'laser lance' it either. That would be like taking a can of soda, putting it in a paint shaking machine for half an hour, heating it up to couple of hundred degrees and *then* trying to put a small hole in the container. Not a good idea, at all, really. Just like trying to build flood protection on land that is sinking...

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:44 PM

CAIR About Guilford

Commenter linearthinker reminds me in an e-mail that I have not covered the CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) aspect of the Guilford College fight. Let me rectify the oversight.

Here is a bit of what CAIR had to say on 26 Jan. '007

"At approximately 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007, an altercation took place in Bryan Hall on the Guilford College campus involving physical violence and alleged verbal abuse. Such behaviors have no place at Guilford and will not be tolerated in a community that values the peaceful resolution of conflict."

"It is important that political and religious leaders in North Carolina speak out against the kind of hate that apparently motivated this attack," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. "The alleged bias motive of the assailants clearly warrants the intervention of the FBI in this case."

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

They have been pretty quiet about the whole thing lately.

You don't hear much fron the Anti-Defamation League (a Jewish organization) about it since they first came out with their statement supporting the Palestinians.

I think the silence is because they have figured out the Palestinians probably initiated the attack.

The low down on CAIR is that it looks like a terrorist supporting organization.

On December 18, 2002, Ghassan Elashi, founding board member of CAIR-Texas, a founder of the Holy Land Foundation, and a brother-in-law of Musa Abu Marzook , was arrested by the United States and charged with, among other things, making false statements on export declarations, dealing in the property of a designated terrorist organization, conspiracy and money laundering. Ghassan Elashi committed his crimes while working at CAIR, and was found Guilty.
It also looks like they are not very American friendly.
CAIR Board Member Imam Siraj Wahaj, an un-indicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing, has called for replacing the American government with an Islamic caliphate, and warned that America will crumble unless it accepts Islam.
I think America wll crumble if it does accept Islam.

So what is CAIR's goal for America? Here is their advice to Muslims who stay in America.

"Those who stay in America should be open to society without melting, keeping Mosques open so anyone can come and learn about Islam. If you choose to live here, you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam ... Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth."
You know I don't think this is going to go over well with most Americans. In fact it could just turn them resentful. Or worse.

General Patton of WW2 fame had a few things to say about the Muslim world.

"To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Muhammad and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing" -- General George S. Patton: The War as I Knew It
He spent a lot of time during WW2 in the Arab world. No doubt he was significantly briefed on Islamic culture so as to keep the natives as friendly as possible. Education and experience add weight to his opinion.

For more on the history of the case: Guilford College

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:31 PM

Rats are at least as immoral as robots

In an article I found in the back pages of today's Inquirer, Jesse Jackson spoke at an AIDS conference in Philadelphia yesterday where he criticized pharmaceutical companies for their emphasis on AIDS treatment instead of a cure:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at an AIDS conference in Philadelphia, yesterday called for more funding for research to find "a cure" for AIDS.

The civil rights activist was particularly critical of pharmaceutical companies that make drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. He urged the hundreds of medical professionals and AIDS activists in his audience at the National Conference on African-Americans and AIDS to buy stock in drug companies and attend stockholders' meetings to push for "a cure," instead of the cocktail of drugs used to treat the AIDS virus.

"They may have an interest in more medicine and less cure," Jackson told the conference at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel, which is next door to GlaxoSmithKline's U.S. headquarters. "Ultimately we don't want the medicine. We want the cure."

Since 1987, when the first HIV treatment was approved, the medical arsenal has grown to more than 26 drugs. Although the drugs can have serious side effects, combinations of therapies have turned HIV from a death sentence into a chronic illness.

Jackson did not mention that the conference, now in its ninth year, is partly underwritten by some pharmaceutical companies. GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer are among the major sponsors of Minority Healthcare Communications Inc. in Fogelsville, Pa., the nonprofit health-education organization that produces the conference.

Doncha just love the way the Inky put quotes around "a cure"? (I thought it was cute, anyway. But then, I'm the type who notices odd little details in the back pages of newspapers.)

I'm not sure exactly who Jackson means by "we," but I think almost anyone infected with AIDS would prefer a cure to an extended treatment regimen consisting of a daily "cocktail" of half a dozen or more drugs of unknown long-term efficacy.

I don't think a cure is as likely as a vaccine, and I think one of the most interesting areas of research ought to involve mapping out the exact mechanism which allows some Northern Europeans to be immune to AIDS. For what I think is a combination of reasons, this selective natural immunity is not getting the attention it should.

High on the list of reasons is, I believe, the moral disruption which might be caused by a public perception that a deadly venereal disease might be racially selective.

A shame, really, because through genetic engineering, the mutation which causes selective European immunity could be mapped out and marketed as a vaccine. If this theory pans out, the rest doesn't take much imagination:

...some people have a mutation where we are missing the CCR5 protein is missing on some, or all, of macrophages. If you don't have the CCR5 protein, then the AIDS virus can't enter your cells. This mutation is most common among the people in Northern Europe. 14% of Swedish people have the mutation, and so are missing the CCR5 docking protein in some, or all, of their white blood cells - and have some degree of immunity to the virus that causes AIDS. But as you head geographically south and east, the mutation becomes less common. It's present in about 4.5% of Greeks, about 2% of Central Asians, and it's totally absent in people from East Asia, from Africa, and from Native Americans. These people are genetically very susceptible to the AIDS virus.
But let's leave the lab and return to the real issue of today.

What do I mean by moral disruption? It is my theory that sexual morality only masquerades as right and wrong. Concepts like "absolute truth" (tough to apply to genital functions regardless of how hard "we" try) are the window dressing. From a social engineering perspective, what counts is that people don't do things like get pregnant without having families to support the kids, acquire fatal communicable diseases, or even freak out because they cannot go about their business without being distracted by high-profile public displays of sexuality. Whether these displays are disgusting, appalling, titillating or irresistibly attractive isn't the point. It's the old "don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses" rule.

This is why people from the "old school" of morality once considered the idea two men walking down the street holding hands infinitely more threatening than thousands of closeted gay men screwing discreetly in their bedrooms. Women being able to avoid pregnancy by simply taking a daily pill was infinitely more threatening than unwanted pregnancy, because it gave birth to new social meme that pregnancy resulted not from immoral behavior, but by neglecting to take a pill.

It's not morality, but order. The two often get confused. I think that right now America is so steeped in cultural morality of the identity politics variety that the idea of a sexually transmitted but racially discriminatory disease is just too much.

For starters, how might a leader like Jesse Jackson speak to such a disease?

There was a bit more to his remarks than the Inquirer reported, and a local ABC news affiliate provided a closer look:

Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke in Center City with more than 5 hundred health care providers who work with people who have HIV and AIDS. They're at a national conference on African Americans and AIDS.

African Americans make up 13-percent of the U.S. population.

But according to a Kaiser Foundation study they represent 50-percent of the countries newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases. The rate of new AIDS cases among African Americans is 10 times higher than among whites.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson said, "There's a certain sadness because expanding HIV is preventable."

Conference organizers blame misinformation, drug abuse and cultural inhibitions that lead to "down low" or hidden male-to-male sexual activity by men who also have sex with women. Some of that behavior can reportedly be traced to overcrowded jails.

Another factor is simply risky sexual behavior.

"Clearly more loose behavior leads to more loose results. And what we're being fed through mass media is that sex without love is alright," said Jackson.

I guess that means a "love child" is "alright," but if the father didn't love the mother, it's not "alright," but I'm having enough trouble following my own logic to get into his.

I think it might be more accurate to say that over the past few decades it has become possible to decouple sex from love, that many people have done that, and that the media reflects it. To what extent it "fuels" it, I do not know. Individual people may be fueling it themselves.

I for one hate rap music. Even more do I hate gangster rap. But when I ran a nightclub in the early 90s, I was under relentless pressure to have rap shows. I resisted the pressure to the extent I could, not out of any genuine sense of moral outrage, but because I didn't want violence or rioting in the club, and because I just plain didn't like the music.

But suppose I had been running a record and CD store. Not selling rap music would have been economic suicide. Who's fault is that? The media? Somehow, I don't think so. The media simply reflect what's there, and if some idiot wants to drive around emitting gangster rap from a $1500 car stereo, no one is making him do it. Yet at the same time there are countless entrepreneurs competing with each other to sell the idiot the equipment which will annoy the general public and probably damage his hearing for life. (I'm just waiting for someone to sue the recording/electronics industry for hearing loss!)

Comments like Jackson's remind me of why Islam is spreading in the black community.

How this will be affected once the demagogues realize that AIDS is a racist disease, I don't know.

But morality always seems to lag behind scientific knowledge.

Science couldn't care less about the morally disruptive news that white immunity to AIDS has roots in the Black Death:

According to the researchers the mutation is absent in Africa and throughout East Asian populations and evident in varying amounts across Europe. O'Brien explains:

'It was present as high as 15% in Scandinavia; it was less in Europe, about 10% in France, Germany and England. Further south it was 5% and in Saudi Arabia and Sub-Saharan Africa it was 0%.'

Believing that this 'genetic drift' was probably not random, the scientists looked to their history books to find out when this mutation was last prevalent in human history and what conditions may have favoured it.

Interestingly, the Black Death hit the Islamic world a lot harder than it did Christendom

Although the devastation the Plague brought to Europe in terms of lives lost was immense, the Islamic world arguably suffered more, because plague epidemics kept returning to the Islamic world up to the 19th century. Muslim populations thus never recovered from the losses suffered because of the Plague, a demographic shift that arguably helped Europe to surpass the Islamic world's previous superiority in scholarship.
While no one at the time knew that the disease came from rats, there seems to have been a theological split between Christianity and Islam -- both of which blamed God but disagreed over why he sent the plague:
In Christian Europe, people believed that the plague was punishment from God for the sins of all Christians. The Christian doctrine of original sin also factored into the European view of the plague, because they believed that the disease was God's punishment to humans for having been born in sin. Also, death was always treated as punishment in Christian Europe, and the idea that the widespread death caused by the plague might be due to something other than God's wrath was not considered.

Islamic theology held different views about the plague. Muslims agreed with Christians that the disease was the work of God, but they did not necessarily view it as a punishment. Muslims preserved their belief in a compassionate and merciful God, and thus they believed that death from the plague was an offer of martyrdom from God.

The irony that this "offer of martyrdom" came from rats seems to have been missed, but never mind. (Yeah, I know, God could have sent the rats as his agents of martyrdom, or the fleas, but such theological complexities are too distracting for a blog post I'm trying to keep within normal limits.)

I want to return to Jackson's complaint about the message that "sex without love is alright."

Why should the evil media stop there? How about sex without passion? Sex without people? Cyber sex? What if pornography is taking the people out of the sex? What if sex bots and droids became so real you might just prefer them to the real thing?

Or is it immoral to remark that you can't get AIDS from a robot?

I don't think there's anything written in any religious text about it, so the moral arguments will have to be found elsewhere.

(No, I will not ask Leon Kass!)

NOTE: My thanks to Clayton Cramer for his earlier comment he left about AIDS immunity.

posted by Eric at 08:50 AM

The foam-flecked frenzy of an angry sock puppet
Giuliani is by far the most formidable, and most dangerous, Republican candidate...

So says Glenn Greenwald, who seems not to like Rudy Giuliani very much:

As this excellent and comprehensive article documents, Giuliani is an "authoritarian narcissist" -- plagued by an unrestrained prosecutor's mentality -- who loves coercive government power (especially when vested in his hands) and hates dissent above all else. He would make George Bush look like an ardent lover of constitutional liberties. He is probably the absolute worst and most dangerous successor to George Bush under the circumstances, but his political talents and prospects for winning are being severely underestimated.

Reading through the above carefully, I get the impression Greenwald thinks he has found his new calling. While he sounds especially irate about Giuliani dressing in drag (discussed infra), I think the real problem is that he thinks Rudy can beat Hillary.

I have a feeling this may be why Greenwald has moved onward and upward to join the Hillary forces at Salon.com!


No one's even been nominated, but it already feels like an election.

And it's not too early to diagnose a clear case of Giuliani Derangement Syndrome!

posted by Eric at 10:52 PM | Comments (3)

"Blogger" issues death threat?

That's what Newsmax.com says:

....the Secret Service was notified when a blogger posted a rant on one of Sen. Barack Obama's campaign Web sites calling for Clinton's death.
A "blogger"?

I'd like to know how we know that whoever posted this was a blogger? Does he have a blog?

Or are we supposed to take Newsmax.com at its word?

Perhaps we're supposed to take the New York Post at its word, for they have echoed the same charge against a "blogger."

February 12, 2007 -- A blogger's rant calling for Hillary Rodham Clinton's death - and posted on one of Sen. Barack Obama's campaign Web sites yesterday - came as her security has been being dramatically beefed up, The Post has learned.


The sick note, which misspelled Obama's first name as "Barrack," also blasted the Illinois senator, saying he's a "politician who hasn't had experience wrestling in filth with the great whores in Washington."

The anonymous note came as new details emerged about the former first lady's U.S. Secret Service detail - which has received a major boost since the New York senator declared her bid for the White House on Jan. 20.

The increase - from three or four federal agents to as many as a dozen - took place in recent weeks, before the Web posting.

Asked about the posting, Clinton aides said it was forwarded to the Secret Service, but they wouldn't comment further.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, "This is obviously a horrible abuse of the openness of our Web site. We took it down because the content was deplorable and has no place in the discussion."

I have seen no evidence that this was anything more than an anonymous comment left on Barack Obama's campaign blog.

Unless someone has some evidence that it was posted by a blogger, I think it borders on being a smear against blogging.

Ignorance by Newsmax I can see, but the Post ought to know better than to confuse commenters (much less anonymous commenters) with bloggers.

Coupled with the news of Amanda Marcotte's resignation, this makes me wonder whether I might have been onto something when I speculated about whether there's a movement to discredit bloggers.

(I'll have to think about Franklin's hang together or hang separately stuff.)

UPDATE: ABC knows better than to call an anonymous commenter a "blogger," but they still title the threat a "Blog Rant."

Is it necessary to even point out that anyone -- anyone -- could have posted that comment? I think it's disingenous to call it a "blog rant." If someone posted a comment like that here I'd delete it as soon as I saw it, but to call it a comment "blog rant" would be laughable if people weren't taking it so seriously.

MORE: Chris Bowers (with whom I nearly always disagree) says something I think may be relevant here:

By speaking directly to the members of the electorate who are the most politically active and intense consumers of news, we can wield a lot of influence while simultaneously not playing the idiotic games of "gotcha" and faux outrage that have been used to try and sway low-information voters for the past several decades (no wonder low-information voters are dismissive of politics, considering how stupid people often assume they are). In essence, we focus on the middle tier of influence in American politics--the several million political activists--rather than just focusing on how the few thousand elites in the top tier are portrayed to the tens of millions of low information voters in the bottom tier. It is a type of triangle that explains the reach of blog power just as Peter Daou's triangle explained its limits. I can see how established consultants who are used to bypassing the middle tier altogether would want to fire junior staffers out of fear that it will result in backlash from the bottom tier. I can also see how many long time residents of the elite tier would view something as influential as the netroots as potentially vulnerable to attacks in the same way that actual members of the elite tier are vulnerable. After all, if you ignore the middle tier for so long, you might forget how it operates. The truth is that we are a different entity entirely, as our numbers and our activism allow us to boast influence without the baggage of name recognition.

How sweet it is. Being both powerful and anonymous is a beautiful thing.

While I disagree with his assessment of blog readers as activists (readers here often seem as disgusted with activists as I am), he's right about bloggers being unknown to the vast majority of voters. Hence what's important is not so much to discredit individual bloggers (who are as replaceable as pistons), but to make bloggers look like a bunch of demented kooks.

If the rightie bloggers can be counted on to go after the leftie bloggers (and vice-versa), it makes the job easier.

posted by Eric at 09:38 PM | Comments (2)

We the president?
"Bill and I have beaten them before and we will again."
So says Hillary Clinton.

As I said, I think Hillary is more Lurleen Wallace than Margaret Thatcher.

Of course, if she wants to polish up her queen act, she could start using the royal "we" -- as in not amused.


But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the above might be disrespectful.

(For starters, the queen has no power.)

posted by Eric at 05:59 PM

Don't miss the RINOs!

So Cal Lawyer of The Southern California Law Blog is hosting this week's RINO Sightings Carnival. Topics include the futile nature of Israel's nuclear arsenal, Yemen (a god-awful place if ever there was one), McCain, Giuliani, Hillary, and even the Daylight Savings bug. Yes, the last post by BloodSpite involves some good advice about the 3/11 bug and your computer. (Damn! Until now I never realized that time change is analogous to climate change, and it's increasingly obvious that time itself is now being all screwed up because of human activity!)

They're all good posts, and So Cal Law Blog is a great blog, so go check it out!

posted by Eric at 04:30 PM

The relative absolutism of Bush's Global Warming

I question the timing!

Of what?

Of Global Warming, for starters. The main reason I'm a skeptic is because I was in college at UC Berkeley in 1972 -- back when they still had global cooling. Professor Clemens of the UC Berkeley Department of Paleontology had it all laid out in graphs and charts, and he maintained that not only were we still in the Ice Age (which consisted of lots of up and down periods of glaciation), but that we were headed into another cooling blip -- meaning the glaciers would return. Back in those days, only geologists and paleontologists really cared, because it wouldn't have occurred to anyone that we humans had control over the climate.

Average temperatures go up and they go down, like stock prices. Periods of glaciation -- traditionally referred to by the European names of Gunz, Mindel, Riss, Wurm -- came and went along with the sheets of glacial ice they brought.

Anyone can draw a graph of what has gone on during any period of time, but over what period? Do we chart the Dow average for an hour, a day, a week, a year, or over the life of the stock market? Is it going up, or is it going down?

And the stock market is easy -- because we know exactly when it started, and there are detailed records. Climate has existed on this planet for billions of years, so to declare that the planet is "warming" is misleading without some reference point.

What I want to know is, Global Warming in relation to what? The reference point seems to be the beginning of the "Industrial Era" -- a period I tend to associate with Charles Dickens and Victorian soot. Considering geologic time, what makes that tiny little blip in human history so damned special? Man has been around for thousands of years before Dickens, and hundreds of thousands of years before that in uncivilized form, and so what? Man is so insignificant in terms of geologic time as to be of no consequence at all. Global Warming is based on an unproven assumption that recent human measurements which mean nothing in the context of geologic time are meaningful when seen in the context of couple of centuries. The only reason centuries seem important is because of the human lifespan. We live less than a century, so the century is seen as a measuring stick. If we lived for 500 years, I suspect a fifty year trend wouldn't be seen the same way.

Equally unproven is the assumption that humans are responsible for a geologically infinitesimal trend. I think that picking the Industrial Era is a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking, and I have long suspected that carbon dioxide was selected as the cause with the specific goal in mind of asserting an anthropogenic cause. Because there's no quantitative proof of precisely how much CO2 it would take to actually warm the planet by increasing the Greenhouse effect, the proof takes the form of simply coupling higher C02 levels with a slight rise in temperature, and asserting that because man caused the former, he therefore caused the latter.

The chart I'd really like to see is the development of Global Warming hysteria in relation to the development of anti-Bush hysteria. I suspect there's a direct relationship.

I'm not alone in questioning the timing. Via Pajamas Media, Pieter Dorsman wonders "how global warming made it to the center of the political agenda and why it has become such an incredible success story, despite the real questions being raised about the science underpinning it all." And like me, he suspects that climate hysteria may be linked more to politics -- in particular the 2000 election results -- than to climate.

And while many on the right still rejoice over Al Gore's defeat in 2000, one has to wonder where climate change would be on the agenda today had the former veep captured the White House that year.
Gore? But whatever happened to Gunz, Mindel, Riss, Wurm? Is it "relativism" to wonder about whether what we call the "Ice Age" might not be something we're still in, but that which we haven't been on the planet long enough to see?

At the risk of sounding like a hopless relativist, I have to wonder why relativism has all of a sudden become such a profound evil.

I can remember when lots of things were relative, and relativism was a useful tool in science. We're all familiar with absolutism (normally associated with politics or religious fundamentalism), but I can't remember ever seeing as much absolutist thinking in science as I am now seeing in the case of global warming and greenhouse gases.

Or has scientific relativism become relative to the absolutism of the day?

I propose we call the past seven years the Bush Warming Period.

UPDATE (02/13/07): Tim Blair has documented a new scientific truth -- to wit, "the terrible connection between Al Gore and global coldening"

Days after Al Gore went to New York City last month to deliver a speech blasting the Bush administration's environmental policy and touting the dangers of global warming, the National Weather Service reported record low temperatures across the region.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

As a matter of fact, it's snowing in Philadelphia right now.


posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (3)


You were hoping for an erudite discussion of one of the works of Aristophanes? Not today. Instead we are going to look at how clouds and cosmic rays influence our weather and more importantly, climate.

Every one who has looked into the subject knows that climate science is no longer much about science. It is about politics.

When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works. We were treated to another dose of it recently when the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the Summary for Policymakers that puts the political spin on an unfinished scientific dossier on climate change due for publication in a few months' time. They declared that most of the rise in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases.
I was a global warming sceptic once. Now I'm a believer. Given the fact that we have a lot of evidence that other planets in our solar system are heating up as well, I'm not convinced that the global warming the Earth is experiencing is man made.
Twenty years ago, climate research became politicised in favour of one particular hypothesis, which redefined the subject as the study of the effect of greenhouse gases. As a result, the rebellious spirits essential for innovative and trustworthy science are greeted with impediments to their research careers. And while the media usually find mavericks at least entertaining, in this case they often imagine that anyone who doubts the hypothesis of man-made global warming must be in the pay of the oil companies. As a result, some key discoveries in climate research go almost unreported.
Solar output has increased about 0.5% over the last 100 years according to the latest estimates.
The best measurements of global air temperatures come from American weather satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.

That levelling off is just what is expected by the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the sun drives climate changes more emphatically than greenhouse gases do. After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high but roughly level state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun revert to the lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago.

Climate history and related archeology give solid support to the solar hypothesis. The 20th-century episode, or Modern Warming, was just the latest in a long string of similar events produced by a hyperactive sun, of which the last was the Medieval Warming.

A strictly radiation accounting shows that increased solar output accounts for about 60% of the global warming of the last 100 years. What could account for the other 40% if not man?

Well we have a new candidate. Cosmic rays. Or the lack of them actually.

Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with inconvenient discoveries about how the solar variations control the climate. The sun's brightness may change too little to account for the big swings in the climate. But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.

He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun's magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.

The only trouble with Svensmark's idea -- apart from its being politically incorrect -- was that meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation. After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.

So it would appear that increased solar output comes with an amplifying mechanism. Cosmic rays and clouds.

In Global Cooling I looked into how the sun powers our short term climate cycles. Longer term climate cycles appear to be driven by orbital mechanics such as the roundness of Earth's orbit around the sun and global wobble which changes the angle the Earth presents to the sun. Those are well known and are called Milankovitch Cycles.

There is another factor which needs attention. The Earth's magnetic field waxes and wanes. Currently we are in a waning phase. It has declined about 10% in the last 160 years.

I suppose that will give "the sky is falling" folks something new to be scared to death about and some new reason for them to declare that we have to raise taxes to have the money to fix the problem.

Some things never change.

You can read more about clouds, cosmic rays, and climate change at The U.K. Telegraph

Update: 13 Feb '007 1053z

Donalds Sensing discusses the issue with lots of charts, graphs, and pretty pictures of the sun.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:11 AM | Comments (4)

girlish infatuations with macho men

Is Giuliani an excessively macho man? And if so, do his GOP supporters have a "girlish infatuation" with him? Glenn Reynolds raises the question, with a link to Ann Althouse's discussion of how the Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman frames this apparently serious issue:

"The GOP has morphed from a party that reveres limited government to a party that is girlishly infatuated with executive authority."
I think there are several assumptions there. One is whether the GOP reveres limited government as it should. That is certainly a legitimate question, and as a libertarian I share Chapman's concern. (I'm assuming he's some sort of libertarian asking the question in good faith. He wrote an anti-Iraq war piece for Reason three years ago, contributes to Townhall, criticized Mitt Romney's abortion position in Real Clear Politics, and has been accused of dodging the debate about the American origins of the Nazi salute -- so I think it's fair to say he's been around.)

Chapman's second assumption is whether the GOP is in fact "girlishly infatuated" with executive authority, and whether that infatuation accurately targets Giuliani. I'm not sure accuracy is the goal so much as insinuation -- for this is a political hit piece in which Chapman does his best to paint a picture of Giuliani as a freedom-hating macho strong man, and the GOP as sycophantic girlish admirers. Explains Althouse (who is amused, but not buying), Chapman's analysis is "sexual imagery in political analysis":

See, their masculinity is really feminine, because when they like a really masculine character like Rudy Giuliani, they're acting like girls (or gay guys) lusting after a macho man. I love sexual imagery in political analysis. There's also a lot of talk about Shakespeare in the linked piece. I love literary crap in political analysis too.
I love literary crap too -- especially when it's crap, and I think Chapman might be a bit off in his thinking.

He's also leaving out a key piece of sexual imagery in his political analysis, and he's been around long enough that naturally I wonder whether Chapman is making some sort of insinuation about this notorious picture:


Yes, I'm afraid it's Giuliani, and there's no getting around it, as it's all over the Internet.

I found it at a conspiracy site which describes the "macho fest" that went on:

In his drag persona of 'Rudia', Giuliani went on to dance, to strip behind a screen, and to impersonate Marilyn Monroe's breathy singing to John F. Kennedy of 'Happy Birthday, Mr. President'. He convinced four of his five deputy mayors to attend in drag as well."

--Cindy Friedman, NewsWrap, Queer Resources Directory, "THIS WAY OUT Program #467" March 8th, 1997

Impersonating Marilyn Monroe is bad enough, but forcing his deputies to wear dresses? And with Julie Andrews?

Geez! Talk about enabling perversion and degeneracy! And on top of that, ridiculing a dead Kennedy! No wonder that picture has caused him no end of grief with the conservative wing of the GOP, especially the humorless freepers like this commenter:

Liberal Rudy lovers dismiss the dress photos posted in some of these threads as if they were some sort of ad hominem attack. What they fail to accept is that some of the photos were taken at a fundraiser for a radical gay group. In addition, he agreed to appear on the pornographic gay Showtime series "Queer as Folk" in drag to raise money for a project of that same gay group. His repeated public appearance in drag does give one pause before casting a vote for him as it says something of his lack of character and the dignity required in a President. The reasons that he appeared in drag say a great deal about his support for the radical gay agenda.

If it was a front running Democrat candidate who had this record of drag appearances and support for radical gay groups then just about every FReeper would be condemning him. But because he has an (R) after his name, you see many FReepers making the lamest excuses for his shameful behavior and issue position.

While it didn't occur to the the Freepers to accuse the GOP of a "girlish infatuation" with macho man Giuliani, I think the well-known existence of that picture raises questions about just what Mr. Chapman might have been insinuating, and why he didn't provide his readers with the full story.

I mean, we wouldn't want anyone to think macho man Giuliani might have an irreverent and ballsy sense of humor, would we? So, the insinuation is a wink-wink to those who have seen the picture, as well as an attempt to ridicule Republicans who Chapman believes are clueless dummies. Sorry, but this is the Internet, and that kind of concealment no longer works.

Ironically, I think Giuliani has more balls than Chapman imagines, and I agree with Ann Althouse's characterization of his tone:

Hey, no fair nominating such a strong candidate!
I think she's right. It takes balls for a man to get made up like a woman and go out in public wearing a dress -- especially if he isn't into that sort of thing.

You don't believe me? Try it.


I'm far too much of a coward to ever do something like that in this day and age -- even if Giuliani and his macho henchmen paid me!

But I will say this: in terms of humor and courage, I don't think Hillary's pants are comparable.

Whether she'll ever be the macho man that Guiliani's accused of being is highly debatable.

But it's not as if her party hasn't had an occasional girlish infatuation.

Or sense of humor:


At least, I'm pretty sure that was humor.

(It's all been a long time ago.)

MORE: I should probably add that when I said "humorles Freepers" I didn't mean to imply that all Freepers are humorless. Far from it. Nor did I mean to suggest that Giuliani's henchmen are all macho men. There's definitely humor in both camps (and possibly a few good macho girlie men, even if Google doesn't think so).

posted by Eric at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)


I am by trade a designer of aircraft electrical power systems (among other things including laptops). The amount of electrical power on an aircraft is strictly limited. So what does an aircraft system do (formerly there were engineers aboard all aircraft to handle the job, that task is now fully automated) to keep the power flowing? The system switches off expendable loads. First to get dropped are the food preparation loads like refrigerators, ovens, and coffee makers - which may delay food service a little, but otherwise passengers hardly notice. Then comes cabin loads like laptop charger outlets. Entertainment systems would be next. Cabin lighting. And, so forth.

The aircraft electrical system does not need to be designed for the maximum possible load, because loads can be controlled.

Our current terrestrial power systems are not so well controlled. You turn on a switch and you expect the lights to come on. Your refrigerator says it needs a cooling cycle and it turns on without asking permission and stays on until the end of its cycle.

We already have the beginning of a more integrated load management systems with what are called interruptable contracts for electrical delivery. During peak load time those loads are shut off for short intervals in order to match demand with supply. These loads are usually in the megawatt range and often in the multi-megawatts, the transactions are normally handled by phone so the plant engineers involved can make the desired changes in demand.

Sietze van der Sluis, an engineer in the Netherlands, wants to expand that idea.

Refrigerated warehouses might soon be used to store not just food, but gigawatts of electricity. A plan dreamt up in the Netherlands could see the giant fridges acting as massive batteries. They would buffer swings in supply and demand from electricity created from renewable sources.

The idea seems simple. Say you lowered the temperature of all large coldstores in Europe by just 1°C during the night when electricity demand is low, then let it rise 1°C by switching them off during the day when demand is at peak. The net effect would be that the warehouses would act as as batteries -- potentially storing 50,000 megawatt-hours of energy -- and the food wouldn't melt.

That's the calculation of Sietze van derSluis, head of refrigeration and heating technology at The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) in Delft.

What makes all this possible is microcomputers and wireless networks. The microprocessors provide the intelligence and wireless gets the system connected without stringing a lot of wire.

Such a system would make it possible for smaller discrete loads (such as large cold storage plants) to take advantage of their interruptable nature to balance supply and demand. Also feasible is cooling a few degrees colder at night than normal and letting the system warm up during the day. Thus shifting at least part of the load from daytime when usage is high to night when the utilities would actually prefer a larger load (it makes the system easier to control).

Then add in variable sources like wind and solar voltaic and we have a real winner.

Automated integrated electrical power systems were pioneered on aircraft. That technology is now in the process of being applied to our power grid. It will increase capacity without adding any new wires or generating plants by better matching of supply and demand. Automatically.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:32 AM | Comments (1)

Keeping my hand in

Leon Kass has been awe-fully quiet lately, and I've been rather too preoccupied with the demands of mere living to go digging for him. Sometimes I disappoint myself.

But, as a diligent collector of Kassiana, when I unexpectedly stumble across the great man's freshly steaming spoor, well, the whole world seems just a little bit brighter.

A case in point. I found the following profundity (among others), over at Accelerating Futures, Michael Anissimov's transhumanism oriented blog.

"Even if it is true that the great majority of Americans still profess a belief in God, he is for few of us a God before whom one trembles in fear of judgment. With adultery almost as American as apple pie, few people appreciate the awe-ful shame of The Scarlet Letter. The sexual abominations of Leviticus - incest, homosexuality, and bestiality - are going the way of all flesh, the second with religious blessings, no less."

Well, those first two sentences are just stupid and wrong. Even if we judge them as mere rhetorical excess. Repeat after me. Stupid. Wrong.

But that last line is the real kicker. Just what is it, exactly, that Dr. Kass thinks we should do about the proliferating sexual abominations of Leviticus? Kill all the queers and furrys? Or, I suppose we could just force them into arranged marriages. Though that seems a tad unfair to their brides-to-be, to say nothing of The Children. Perhaps a life of enforced celibacy in solitary confinement is called for? Because if we lock them all up together, just imagine what mischief they'd get up to. If we're going to do that, we might just as well let them wander around at loose ends. But let me not put words in his mouth. Concentrate rather on those words he's actually said.

Then repeat after me. Stupider. Wronger.

So much for Kass and the Old Testament. Even better, to my mind, is his recent appearance live, on stage, in the heart of our nation's capital. The press of affairs prevented my attending, but Dr. Kass always provides a lively show, and as luck would have it, Julian Sanchez was there, to provide us with a dispassionate and thoughtful analysis...

More or less as I expected, Kass is a master of what (in honor of the late Alan Bloom) I've decided to call Bloombast: The conservative version of that special gift for conjuring a sense that you are in the presence of Profundity--and, indeed, perhaps even asserting as much repeatedly--without actually making a cogent argument or, indeed, pinning down a solitary clear concept...

I was a bit surprised to find that Kass does, however, give the impression of being a serious and, in a sense, intellectually honest fellow who's aware of and troubled by the gaps in his arguments...For various reasons, Kass is at pains to show that our Dignity, whatever it might be, is not reducible to any number of other familiar moral concerns, such as autonomy, experiential well being, equality, and so on...

The key rhetorical trick Kass employs...involves splitting the question into one of our "higher" dignity, which he calls the "dignity of human being" ("being" read as "fully flourishing") and the "lower" dignity of "being human," which is to say, simply existing as a biological member of homo sapiens...

The moralist concerned with coarse culture, say, will be more attuned to the former...Another sort of conservative especially outraged by abortion and stem cell research, on the other hand, may feel a little uneasy about this rather aristocratic conception of dignity (for how much of that does an embryo have?), preferring to insist this is a basic and unalterable property we have just as humans...

Now, watch closely for the sleight of hand. Kass runs through a series of conceptions of the "higher" dignity, beginning with the ancient Greek heroic sort, coming by turns to Kant's ideal, which he critiques (justly enough) as excessively formal...

Let me just interject here that "a series of conceptions" from Leon Kass should probably be taken with a healthy dose of caveat emptor. The totality of his primary source's thought is sometimes, um, lost in translation. Consider his ongoing treatment of Montaigne.

At the same time, though, Kass does say a number of highly plausible things about the higher order mental properties in virtue of which persons might be thought deserving of special moral respect.

On then, to that "lower" dignity. Here...Kass seems acutely aware of how inadequate are any of the accounts one might try to give of a "dignity" rooted just in some kind of biological humanity...

What to do, then? Here, we get a slew of metaphors in service of a spectacular act of Cirque du Soleil isometrics, with biology grounding and supporting the higher mental properties, which in turn reach down to elevate the biology. The circle is squared, the lady made whole: Biological humanity basks in the glow of the higher personhood for which it acts as necessary substrate.

Except, of course, it is just a trick: The lady was never really sawed in half, and no actual miracles occur when she's made whole...the false division he ultimately repudiates was rhetorically necessary to his argument: Whatever semblance of plausibility it picks up along the way depends crucially on the initial posit of a dichotomy. The counterfactual assumption is discharged, but Kass has snuck one of its consequents back into the main derivation. Because only by way of that imagined split between base biology and higher cognition does Kass justify talking about human biology in the abstract, about the physical, genetic species as a natural kind. Then, when they're reunited, he hopes he can skyhook the whole class into the Kingdom of Ends by way of the cognitive capacities we all recognize as morally significant.

Man, oh man. I sure wish I could write like that. But I am a peasant, from a long line of peasants, and such thoughtful criticism is beyond me. I just like to point at Dr. Kass and laugh. Philistinism? Sure. But it's a great big world, with room enough for even the likes of me. As has been pointed out over at Fight Aging!...

Leon Kass may not presently possess the high profile of past years, and these views are not expressed in the mainstream media in quite such volume these days, but the President's Council on Bioethics that was his podium is just as bad now as then - stacked with folk who believe it best to force you to age and die on schedule...These sorts of pro-death viewpoint are rightfully brought out in the sunlight, ridiculed, and squashed.

One does what one can. Kass's vision of human dignity would seem to demand that we wither and die, more or less on schedule. That's a piece of human dignity that would be well worth relinquishing, could we but do it.

H.G. Wells once voiced some thoughts that seem quite appropriate for this topic. He was talking about the human soul, but if you'll just substitute "human dignity" for "soul", you'll find that it still carries the gentleman's meaning quite clearly.

We are constantly being told that the human animal is "degenerating" body and mind, through the malign influences of big towns, that a miasma of "vulgarity" and monotony is spreading over a once refined and rich and beautifully varied world, that something exquisite called the human "soul," which was fomerly quite all right, is now in a very bad way, and that plainly before us, unless we mend our ways and return to medieval dirt and haphazard, the open road, the wind upon the heath, brother, simple piety, an unrestricted birth-rate, spade husbandry, hand-made furniture, honest, homely surgery without anaesthetics, long skirts and hair for women, a ten-hour day for workmen, and more slapping and snubbing for the young, there is nothing before us but nervous wreckage and spiritual darkness.

Man, oh man. I wish I could write like that, too.

posted by Justin at 03:43 PM | Comments (2)

How deep can strategy sink?

In a comment to an earlier post, Darleen Click said something which ought to be read by everyone, and which, if true, ought to chill the bones of every conservative, libertarian, and libertarian conservative, and conservative libertarian:

RE the GOP, IMHO this is why you're seeing the anti-Romney sentiment amongst a lot of Republicans... he IS a solid conservative candidate, but they really don't want to "waste" him against Hill this time around.
The right wing of the Republican Party seems to have decided that in this race, it is the Republicans' turn to lose, and Hillary Clinton's turn to win, and they don't want one of "their own" in a losing position.

Which makes me want to as the unaskable....

Would they prefer a Hillary Clinton presidency to a Giuliani or McCain presidency?

I realize they'll never answer publicly, but if the private answer is "yes," then which side are they "privately" on?

posted by Eric at 01:40 PM | Comments (2)

Penn and Teller On Drugs

I was over at one of my daily reads Little Green Footballs and came across this Penn and Teller episode of their program Bullshit on Recycling. Very interesting. Very Funny. And laced with profanity. Kind of like Amanda Marcotte only they make you laugh.

So I started noodling around and found a bit they did on the War On Drugs. And how well it is not doing. As you know I rarely post pictures or video clips in order to keep this place low bandwidth friendly. I'm going to make one of my rare exceptions for this one. (about 30 minutes).

These guy are geniuses. And, smart too.

Not Work Safe

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:58 AM | Comments (1)

Reliving History

Warning: brutal honesty follows. Reader discretion advised.

A few weeks ago, I wondered whether Barack Obama might be Hillary Clinton's stalking horse. And for the past week, I was so caught up in blogging about the blog scandal in John Edwards's um, campaign, that for a moment I almost forgot that he really isn't a serious candidate.

Even now, I pick up the paper, and it is abuzz with Obama talk. ("Barack the Vote!" blah blah blah.)

I hate to burst the netroots bubble, but I think that if we look at the big picture, this is all silly business. Unless something truly insane and unprecedented happens, Barack Obama has absolutely no chance of winning the nomination for president, nor does John Edwards. My or anyone else's speculations about whether either one is Hillary Clinton's stalking horse are silly.

It does not matter.

What matters is that Hillary Clinton is simply going to be The Candidate.

She doesn't need no stupid stalking horse.

It's been nearly a year since Walter Shapiro opined that for numerous reasons Hillary was an unstoppable juggernaut -- a view that has only become more painfully obvious since then.

Having way more money than anyone else, the best campaign organization headed by the best campaigner in American history, an early start, and name recognition fueled by the immense popularity of a husband who easily could have been elected overwhelmingly to a third term -- these things all not only count, they make her nomination a foregone conclusion.

To me, it's painfully obvious common sense -- and it is of course all borne out by the polls.

Real Clear Politics:

Clinton 37.4
Obama 17.8
Edwards 12.4
I'd list the other candidates, but why be silly?

American Research Group breaks the race down by state, and in every state Clinton is way ahead of all the rest of the ostensible candidates. Her range is from 35% as high as 41% -- with everyone else in the teens or lower.

Opposition to Hillary amounts to tokenism, puffed up (in my view at least) by a left wing blogosphere out of touch with reality and a very willing media which likes to create the impression that real grassroots democracy is at work.

I would love nothing more than to be proved wrong about this, and if I am, it will be the biggest, longest running error in the history of this blog, as I have predicted a Hillary presidency for years.

In my view, the real clincher for me will prove to be tacit (passive aggressive) support from the Republican right wing, which is divided right now into two pitiful camps. One camp still engages in Hillary Denial, maintaining that she cannot win, that people don't really like her, and thus she will prove easy to beat. (An echo of the Democrats' early Ronald Reagan Denial.)

The other camp is now having the audacity to come out openly in support of Hillary. Not just her campaign, but of a Hillary administration. They think it will revive the right wing.

If you don't believe me about this, read the immortal words of Tom DeLay:

Hillary Clinton as president may be the best thing that ever happened to the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, when enough people want something to happen, it will happen.

Sure, the right wing think tankers will deny that they want Hillary to win, but I'd say the old fixeroo is in. They don't just want Hillary, they need her.

What really bothers me is what I think is an emerging new development. At the risk of sounding cynical, I think the right wing needs her so badly that they're more and more willing to sit back and forgo mounting a serious conservative challenge to Giuliani and McCain. If a Republican moderate "sellout" loses to Hillary, so much the better. The loss won't be blamed on "the right" (although the truth that will be missed is no right wing Republican could possibly beat her) and the Demonic Red Queen will be on the throne! There's no way that this will be seen as the fault of the "divided and dispirited" conservative GOP wing, and the latter can all happily "regroup" for the inevitable long march "back."

I feel like saying "spare me," but I should spare the clichés.

I think I'm going to need them.

UPDATE: I have to say that despite my darker fears, Giuliani is looking pretty darned good!

But will Tom DeLay and company vote for him?

Not if this interview is any indication.

AND MORE: Giuliani is a Native New Yorker. Normally, this wouldn't count for much. But if he runs against Hillary, he could remind everyone that he's actually from New York. (Where he used to prosecute criminals before his opponent's husband pardoned them....)

While he was at it, I suppose he could also ask whether anyone remembered the FALN terrorist pardons...

posted by Eric at 09:05 AM | Comments (8)

Honeymoon Finally Over?

Israel says it will break ties with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas if the quartet conditions - the renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and adhering to past peace agreements - are not met.

If the new Palestinian unity government is based solely on the agreement reached in Mecca and does not include the three conditions of the Quartet, Israel will cut off its ties with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, officials in Jerusalem warned Sunday morning.

In an interview with Army Radio Sunday morning, Opposition head MK Binyamin Netanyahu agreed with this position.

"Hamas has not moved in the direction of Abbas," Netanyahu said. "Rather, he has moved in the direction of Hamas. If he gives legitimacy to Hamas, then that's bad; if we give legitimacy to Hamas, then that's even worse."

The real rhinoceros in this living room is that the Palestinians have never lived up to their agreements. Abbas and his predecessor Arafat paid lip service to the agreements, they never lived up to them. Hamas is doing what Arafat and Abbas would never do. Tell the truth about their ambitions. The destruction of Israel.
Senior Israeli officials said Abbas's agreement to and appointment of a new government that does not accept the three international benchmarks - recognizing Israel, accepting previous agreements, and renouncing terrorism - made him a partner with Hamas, and called into question future Israeli cooperation with him.

The official said Israel was carefully assessing the situation and waiting to see what the new Palestinian Authority government's guidelines would be before making a final decision. "Maybe we will all be surprised," the official said skeptically.

The agreement, which took the form of a letter written by Abbas, calls upon Hamas to "respect international resolutions and the agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization."

Sources in Jerusalem said that "respecting" agreements is not the same as "accepting them," and that the letter made no mention of recognizing Israel and renouncing terrorism.

If Hamas recognized Israel their support among the Palestinians would evaporate.

The Palestinians cry crocodile tears every time they lose a battle with the Israelis. Yet fighting is their policy. Some people are very hard to educate.

The officials said Israel was "stating very clearly that terror is continuing on a daily basis - the firing of rockets and the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip - and has never stopped. And as far as we can tell from the public declarations that were made by Abbas and Hamas after the agreement, the new government does not meet the three international benchmarks."
So the war never really stopped.

The only surprise in the offing is when the next war will start. I'm betting on weeks if not days. In fact it may have already started. In the same way that Stupidfada II started. With a riot about the Temple Mount. The Israelis are doing some reconstruction work about 200 feet from the Temple Mount area to fix a collapsed ramp.

....Palestinians have expressed fears that the excavations under way actually are attempts to tunnel under the compound.

Israeli officials reject that accusation and say they are not digging under the compound, or even close to it. They insist that the replacement of a ramp would not harm the holy site about 200 feet away.

"We have nothing to hide, and yet extremist elements with a hateful agenda have cynically provoked violence by deliberately spreading mistruths about what we're doing," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

The ramp reconstruction was approved by all the requisite authorities including Muslim authorities. In fact the same Muslim authorities who approved Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000. The visit that "caused" Palestinians to start exploding in record numbers. However, the explosions in 2000 were planned in advance. The Sharon visit was an excuse, not a reason. I believe it is the same for this episode. Probably what this signals is the start of Stupidfada III. This show is getting almost as many sequels as Rocky Balboa. Except that Rocky wins his fights.

You know how it is. Hope springs eternal. This time it will be different. For sure.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:16 AM | Comments (1)

War On The Horizon

The Palestinians have formed a national unity government to avoid a civil war. However, that will not end the internal Palestinian disagreements.

So how does a government wracked with internal disunity create a real national unity?

Start a war with a neighbor.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:14 AM

Memorial Services for Saddam

Arabs in Gaza are holding a memorial service for Saddam.

(IsraelNN.com) Arabs in Gaza on Saturday held a memorial service for Saddam Hussein, marking the 40th day since his hanging, reports in the Arab media said.

"Saddam has won more dignity after his murder, far beyond what his enemies had expected. Poets and writers and the whole Iraqi people have expressed their love and respect for Saddam at all levels and political affiliations," one of the program's organizers was quoted as saying. He revealed that in the last moments of Saddam's life, he was offered an agreement, the terms being recognition of Israel," yet he refused because he had always believed that Palestine is Arab land, " the organizer told reporters.

Many poets read poetry in memory of Saddam at the event, and several speakers delivered speeches praising Saddam and recalling his "good works."

What would those good works have been? How about paying $25,000 a pop for Palestinian suicide bombers who were effective against the Israelis?

No doubt Saddam will be missed in their communities.

From what I gather since Saddam is gone the going rate is only $2,500. Hardly worth raising a son or daughter for. Times must be tough.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:25 AM

Give Us The Money - Or Else

The Palestinians will soon have the long awaited National Unity Government. It will not be renouncing violence, recognizing Israel, or accepting past signed peace agreements. The requirements for restarting aid to the Palestinian Arabs.

Recognition of Israel is one of three conditions set by the "Quartet" of international Middle East negotiators for lifting sanctions on the Hamas-led government. The Quartet also demands Hamas renounce violence and accept existing peace deals.

"The issue of recognition was not addressed at all (in Mecca)," Youssef said.

"In the platform of the new government there will be no sign of recognition (of Israel), regardless of the pressures the United States and the Quartet would exert."

The Quartet -- the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations -- repeated its conditions on Friday for a resumption of aid, but withheld judgment on whether the new government met those conditions.

Youssef said a continuation of the aid boycott imposed after Hamas trounced Fatah in elections last year could lead to more violence in Palestinian Territories.

In other words give us the money or we will continue killing each other. We need the money so we can focus our violent tendencies on the Israelis.

Well the Palestinians are on the verge of calling off their truce with Israel.

GAZA, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- A senior leader of Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) called on Palestinian factions on Saturday to revoke ceasefire with Israel in response to the excavation works near al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

"The Israeli occupation understands nothing but rockets," said Nezzar Rayan, who also urged militant groups to "respond to enemy's violations."

Funny thing is that despite the "truce", rocket attacks on Israel never stopped.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:19 AM

It Was Fascinating

What was fascinating? An article I read in the Jerusalem Post about prostitution in Israel. The article is about a woman who ran a whorehouse as a police sting operation.

Today, three years after her unpaid eight-month stint as a brothel proprietor, she still recalls not only the social stigma and neighborhood harassment but her family's horror as well. "You can take my picture, but please blur my personal details a little," she says. "I was a pariah in the neighborhood where I lived. Even though the whorehouse itself wasn't nearby, when the news got out, my neighbors were angry. They thought I'd be bringing men home, into my own apartment. That was completely ridiculous, but I don't want to live through all that again."

Her family was disgusted. "My sister is a social worker, so I told her what I was doing," she recounts. "I thought she'd be supportive of my desire to help these women, but when I told her, her face went white. She refused to listen to another word. Even after all the indictments came down, it remains a sore subject."

You can't really help people unless you can get close to them. Yet getting close has its costs.
Sharon - not her real name - is 66 years old and looks more like someone's grandma than a Madam. A graduate of one of the US's most prestigious Ivy League law schools, she served in the US Department of Justice, US Attorney's office, under Robert M. Morgenthau. She also holds a Masters Degree in Tax Law. She made aliya [emigrated to Israel - ed.] in the late 1970s and is now studying for another degree, this one in an offshoot of veterinary medicine.
Not exactly the kind of training you would expect a whore house madam to have.
All jokes about lawyers and whores aside, Sharon apparently excelled in running a house of ill repute in Hadar, the old commercial center of Haifa. "I loved the job," she admits. "I loved taking care of the girls, and enjoyed the business. I'm happy to tell the story because so much misinformation about prostitution exists, especially about the women themselves. I'd like to see some serious reform, and maybe this will help."
I believe this woman would have some very good input in the nature of reforms that would work in the real world. So how did she get in the business?
Then the opportunity to be a Madam arose. "One of the people I met was a police informant, a really bright guy," she says. "He was trusted by both the criminals and the police. So one day he came to me and said he needed to open and run a whorehouse in an attempt to catch some of the people involved in the infamous 'trafficking in women' trade. Would I consider being the Madam for the sting operation?

"I jumped at the chance. I'd represented a number of prostitutes, and liked the idea of being able to help the women. I agreed."

What kind of women worked in the house?
Most of the women were here illegally from Eastern Europe. "They came from Romania, Kazakhstan and Russia, smuggled in over the Egyptian border, although a few may have had tourist visas. The main point to understand is, these women knew very well why they were coming to Israel. If they didn't exactly relish the work, for them it was a chance to earn pretty good money. On the whole, they'd do a lot better as prostitutes in Israel than they'd do at any job they could get in their home countries. One woman called both her mother and sister in Romania frequently, every time encouraging them both to come to work in prostitution. Compared to life there, they did well in Israel."

There was no compulsion, she notes. "They could leave, get out of the business, anytime they wanted. That wasn't a problem. One woman I really liked had worked in Holland as a prostitute, was imprisoned in Turkey for prostitution, and now was here. Every week, either my partner or I would go with her to the bank where she bought money orders to send to her family in Romania. Both her parents were disabled, and she was their sole support. Another woman had been a literature professor at a university in Russia - she couldn't get a job. Another was very elegant, extremely well dressed. She came because she could make a better living as a prostitute here than there."

There is much more about prostitution in Israel and debtors prisons. A very interesting read. Let me leave you with the final quotes of the article.
In retrospect, how bad is the life of a prostitute? "On the whole, it's probably more pleasant than doing drudge work in a factory, standing on your feet all day. For many, it's better than working in one of the chemical plants. Look at some of the places where people work in Haifa - terrible conditions, fumes, caustic substances, hard work, long hours, low pay. Many women would rather be prostitutes. One thing is for sure: I won't sit in judgment on women who made this choice - their biggest mistake was not being smart enough to choose parents like mine, who saw to it that I had every advantage."

Would you do it again? "You bet," Sharon says with a grin. "In a heartbeat. It was fascinating."

I read the whole thing and found it fascinating myself. A view into a world most of us will, thankfully, never get to see.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:10 AM

Mortal combat!

Here's Coco caught in midair!


Maybe this post should have been titled "Make Love AND War," for that's what the pandemonium resembled earlier today, when Coco was paid a visit by her amorous young suitor Trey.

As soon as the two were let off their leashes, they were moving so fast that it was very difficult to get a picture. It was hot pursuit all the way, although it was tough to tell who was pursuing whom!


Trey had the weight advantage though, as you can tell by the way Coco takes a tumble in this picture:


Coco isn't in heat, but Trey does not seem to realize that.


It took a lot of convincing.....


But at last Coco was finally able to catch his ear:


Both dogs have been cooped up all week as a result of the insufferable climate change we've been having, so unlike the last time Trey visited, today they never managed to exhaust themselves. After it got too cold for the humans, it was time to go.

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

A single rock can ruin your whole day

A bullet made the front page of today's Inquirer, and I guess that's progress. At least the headline didn't say that the gun did it.

However, there's something unsettling about the tone of the headline -- which is "One stray bullet forever changed 2 lives." It's as if they're blaming the bullet -- and not just for the irreparable damage done to the shooting victim. The clear implication of the statement that it "forever changed two lives" is that the shooter was also the victim -- of the bullet that he fired. Oh, but it was an accident, because (so the shooter claims) he did it to impress his friends:

In the video played in court yesterday, Yahnajeah Kirkland pulls herself along in a tiny wheelchair, clutching a doll in the rehabilitation center that has been her home since being shot more than two years ago.

Her mouth hangs open and she has difficulty forming words, thanks to the stray bullet that damaged her jaw muscles. A tube can be seen attached to her throat to help her breathe.

Once a spunky 2-year-old, Yahnajeah celebrated her fifth birthday in December. She has endured brain and spinal surgeries, and now suffers from a seizure disorder.

While the 10-minute video played in Superior Court in Camden, the man who fired the bullet that changed Yahnajeah's life watched from a few feet away, clad in a red prison jumpsuit, awaiting his sentencing.

Taleaf Gunther fired from a corner in Camden's Centerville section on Oct. 28, 2004, merely "to impress his friends," said Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Mary Ellen Murphy.

While Yahnajeah's fate remains uncertain, the 20-year-old Camden man now knows his future: He will spend the better part of the next decade in prison.

I'm supposed to think it's tragic that this thug got only ten years for turning a healthy young child into someone who's now disabled for life? If anything, the tragic part is that he'll be out when he's still in his 20s -- free to be a victim of more of the bullets that have to be loaded into a gun which has to then be pointed and fired.

In my view, blaming the instrumentality of crime -- whether a gun or bullet -- minimizes the outrageous nature of the criminal act. Thanks in no small part to the anti-gun mentality though, this happens more with guns than with other instrumentalities of crime, and thus, perpetrators of gun crimes are more likely to be seen as victims of their own criminal conduct.

To illustrate, let's accept the shooter's story on its face, and assume that when he fired the gun to impress his friends, he meant no harm to anyone else. Is that any different than tossing a rock from an overpass? So many rocks are thrown from highway overpasses that most of them now have tall wire cages on each side of the walkway along with security cameras, but that does not stop the thugs from throwing rocks to impress their friends while meaning absolutely no harm.

But when this happens, the headlines usually don't characterize the rocks as "life changing" objects. They tend to stick to the facts, as in this typical news item, titled "Man Injured By Rocks Thrown Off Worcester Overpass --
May Lose Vision In Right Eye

(CBS4) WORCESTER A 55-year-old Ludlow man was critically injured Thursday morning when he was struck by a large rock in the head, thrown from the Laurel Street overpass, while he riding on Interstate 290 east in Worcester.

State police said it happened shortly before 5 a.m. near Exit 17.

The rock went through the windshield of the Volvo and struck Michael Porra in the face. The car then swerved and hit a guardrail.

Porra is listed in critical condition at UMass Medical Center. It's possible that he may lose vision in one eye.

"Both his eyes are swollen shut," said his wife, Anna Porra. "His right eye, he might have a problem with; he might not be able to see out of it. His eye just shifted totally."

Two other vehicles, a Nissan XTerra and a Chevrolet Silverado, were also struck by rocks but the drivers were not injured. State Police said the rocks were thrown off the Laurel Street overpass.

"The consequences were awful," said State Trooper, Thomas Ryan. "We have a 55-year-old man who sustained very serious injuries as a result of the actions of one or more persons."

But they didn't mean any harm! Stories of rocks thrown from overpasses abound, and there's no question that they're not only dangerous enough to cripple people for life, but that they kill.

Recently, Dr. Helen discussed a local report in Knoxville, Tennessee about a man who used a rock to kill, and who received a life sentence despite the fact that he "never intended to hurt anyone":

I find this statement from the defendant interesting:

"Morgan testified that what he did was stupid but he never intended to hurt anyone."

Uhhh..you didn't? I wonder what this guy can cook up when he does mean to hurt someone? What do you think--is a life sentence too long for this guy or not?

I think a life sentence for killing an innocent person is appropriate, and I am so cold hearted that I blame the killer, not the bullet or the rock.

It's probably also worth asking why a bullet that kills someone is called "stray" but it would be laughable to refer to someone being killed by a "stray rock." I suppose the latter could occur -- especially if it fell from a truck. But when there is human responsible agency, I'm not sure "stray" is the right word. It would be one thing if a gun went off by accident, but if it is fired by an adult human being intentionally pulling the trigger, I don't think it is "stray" unless it was aimed at something and missed. In today's example, the man fired from an urban street corner to impress his friends, and I see no functional difference between that and, say, my throwing a rock from the top of the Empire State Building.

Anyway, I thought I should close with a picture of the Worcester, Massachusetts suspects. The caption is "Two of the rocks Worcester Police say were thrown from the overpass":


The victim may permanently lose some of his eyesight, and the rock thrower hasn't been caught. But if he is ever convicted and sentenced, will the headline be "One stray rock forever changed 2 lives"?

I don't think so.

MORE: Speaking of rock throwing, here's a famous picture of distinguished Columbia professor Edward Said ("founding figure in post-colonial theory") throwing a rock he aimed at people less than 30 yards away:


In Said's case, maybe it was just a "stray" rock.

After all, the rock didn't hit anyone, and he mainly threw it only because he was trying to be a good role model for the oppressed kids or something.

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

Republicans For Hemp - A National First

Hemp is happening in North Dakota. The political landscape in North Dakota is interesting. One of North Dakota's US Senators, Byron Dorgan is a Democrat. Their other US Senator Kent Conrad is also a Democrat. Their only Representative, Earl Pomeroy is also a Democrat.

So who is this Republican spearheading hemp in what appears to be a very Democrat leaning state?

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson Monday signed the first two licenses issued by the state to grow industrial hemp. According to an Agriculture Department press release, the first license was issued to state Rep. David Monson (R-Osnabrock), the assistant majority leader who is also a farmer and strong proponent of industrial hemp. One other license has been issued, and 16 more applications have been submitted by would-be North Dakota hemp farmers.
A Republican State Representative. Interesting that the State House of Representatives is majority Republican in a state that leans Democrat on the national level.
"Rep. Monson has been the leader in developing the necessary legislation for North Dakota to legalize production of industrial hemp," Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson said Monday. "It is fitting that he has the first license." The second license was granted to Wayne Hauge of Ray. "These two North Dakota producers have met all the requirements, including FBI background checks," Johnson said. "They have invested considerable time, money and effort to meet the letter and spirit of the law."

But although North Dakota has moved to make hemp farming legal, it remains illegal under federal law. Johnson and North Dakota would-be hemp farmers will seek registration from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but given the agency's hostile attitude toward hemp, that seems unlikely. Just last week, the DEA refused to waive the non-refundable annual $2,293 registration fee, despite Johnson's request that it do so.

While Johnson and the would-be hemp farmers may be going through the motions of seeking DEA approval to lay the basis for a later legal challenge, for now Johnson said he wants to try to reason with the agency.

"The rules require that a state license is not effective until the licensee receives a registration from DEA to import, produce or process industrial hemp," Johnson said. "I will meet with DEA officials about this matter in Washington early next week. I will ask for DEA's cooperation with our state program, and I will ask DEA to implement a reasonable process to allow North Dakota producers to grow industrial hemp."

I believe this is the first time since World War Two that any one has tried to go through the official procedures to grow hemp in America. For those of you with a high speed connection here is the WW2 US Department of Agriculture Hemp for Victory movie (about 14 minutes running time).

The North Dakota State Agriculture Department has issued a press release on what the State plans to do to get the required hemp growing licenses.

"The controls placed on licensed industrial hemp farmers by North Dakota's laws and regulations include criminal background checks, identification of fields by satellite tracking, minimum acreage requirements, seed certification and mandatory laboratory tests," Johnson said. "The chain of custody for viable hemp seed must be fully documented."

The regulations apply to owners, operators and employees of a hemp farm or anyone to grows, handles or processes viable hemp seed.

Johnson said the production of industrial hemp presents little potential for diversion of controlled substances to illegitimate purposes.

I expect that once they get turned down by the DEA they will go to the courts.
BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota issued the nation's first licenses to grow industrial hemp Tuesday to two farmers who still must meet federal requirements before they can plant the crop.

The farmers must get approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which treats hemp much the way it does marijuana and has not allowed commercial hemp production but has said it would consider applications to grow it.

Hemp is a cousin of marijuana that contains trace amounts of the chemical that causes a marijuana high, though hemp does not produce the same effects. The sturdy, fibrous plant is used to make an assortment of products including paper, rope, clothing and cosmetics.

Actually the precursor to the DEA did allow hemp production during WW2. I covered some of that history in Hemp In Illinois. I also discuss why hemp poachers are not a problem in Hemp Makes Wonderful Fiber.
The number one problem in this field is that the DEA unlike its Canadian counterparts cannot tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. In America you need DEA approval, a fenced garden with razor wire to top the fences and 24 hour monitoring. In Canada all you need is a license. Admittedly the Canadians had a little problem with pot poachers the first year they grew a hemp crop. But soon enough the word got out that all you got from smoking hemp was a headache and the poaching all but ceased.
The Canadians have a vigorous marijuana eradication program that does not seem to be impeded at all by Canadian hemp growers. For all the lame jokes about Canadian dull wittedness, it seems the Royal Mounted Police are actually smarter than the DEA. The RCMP can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

Well this is not the first time I have made fun of our police on this matter I did it at least once before in The Fabric of Our Times

Imagine that. Hemp in Canada. I hear that the Mounties are still busting marijuana plantations and grow ops. The Mounties must be a lot smarter than the police in America. They can tell the difference between marijuana and hemp. I expect with a little education our police could be brought up to Canadian standards in the matter.
We shall see. Police all over America collect a lot of money from the Federal government for their "marijuana eradication" programs. Which is just another way of saying they get paid to collect feral hemp. Nice outdoor work if you can get it. It accomplishes nothing useful and people get paid for it. In other words, just another Federal boondoggle.

Here are some nice charts and graphs and dollar figures for feral hemp eradication.

In the past two decades, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has spent at least $175 million in direct spending and grants to the states to eradicate feral hemp plants, popularly known as "ditch weed." The plants, the hardy descendants of hemp plants grown by farmers at the federal government's request during World War II, do not contain enough THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, to get people high.

According to figures from the DEA's Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, it has seized or destroyed 4.7 billion feral hemp plants since 1984. That's in contrast to the 4.2 million marijuana plants it has seized or destroyed during the same period. In other words, 98.1% of all plants eradicated under the program were ditch weed, of which it is popularly remarked that "you could smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole and all you would get is a headache and a sore throat."

While the DEA is spending millions of tax payer dollars, including $11 million in 2005, to wipe out hemp plants, farmers in Canada and European countries are making millions growing hemp for use in a wide variety of food, clothing, and other products. Manufacturers of hemp products in the United States must import their hemp from countries with more enlightened policies.

I suppose change is just a matter of time. Probably no more than a decade or three.

In the grand scheme of things $11 million a year isn't much. And, at least it keeps a few policemen off the streets for a few days.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:46 AM

Guilford Rumor

A commenter to my post ACLU Gives Up has this to say:

I think the footballers should demand a public apology from the faculty member who sent out the email and staged the private assembly of non-white students. She stated that the Palis were victims of a hate crime. As I understand it, she also led the Palis to the magistrate's office to swear out warrants.
Interesting that "she" led the Palestinians to the magistrates office to swear out warrants on the football players. That action may place "her" in legal jeopardy.Pipeline News has a copy of the letter and the name of the person who sent it.
Perhaps the shrill, racially charged statement by Guilford's director of multicultural education, Sekinah Hamlin demonstrates the level of bile being ginned up by this controversy and the degree to which some have prejudged the event.
"Students of Color and/or International Students:

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 NC 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 must be united as people of color more than ever. What happened to these three young men could have happened to any one of us. That is the reality of racism and no institution, including Guilford, in this country is free of it.

We are concerned about your safety and your mental, spiritual, and emotional health. If you feel unsafe, need to talk, or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact us. In addition, we will have a gathering to discuss how this is affecting you/us/people of color Monday, January 21, 2007 (tomorrow) at 9pm in the International House. This meeting is ONLY for students of color. This affects us in a different way than our white allies and we need to have a safe place to discuss how we are feeling.

I have included cell numbers for myself and Jorge Zeballos, International Student Advisor and Latino Initiative Coordinator. We have been working with Faris, Osama, and Omar and meeting continuously this weekend. If you have any questions or concerns, we will be able to answer them. In addition, if you would like to reach out to other Multicultural Education staff members, I have included their information as well.

Thanks and I see you on tomorrow.


Sekinah Hamlin
Director of Multicultural Education"

Guilford College says that Hamlin does not speak for the school.
Greensboro (WSJS) -- A Guilford College official says an e-mail letter purportedly written by the school's director of multicultural education regarding the incident involving several football players and three Palestinian students does not represent the official views of the college. Nic Brown, assistant director of college relations, says aware of the e-mail but is unable to verify its content. He says no one at the school is under a gag order and is free to express their opinions. The family of Guilford College football player Michael Bates, accused in the beating of three Palestinian students, released a statement regarding the incident claiming Bates, Michael Six and Christopher Barnette have been "unfairly prejudged." The statement also includes what the family says is the first paragraph of the e-mail, in which director Sekinah Hamlin writes, "Faris, Osama and Omar were defending themselves against students (and possibly perspective students) that were attacking them physically and simultaneously verbally...the incident was a hate crime." Brown says he doesn't think any disciplinary action would be taken against Hamlin, who may have rushed "to use language short of the gathering of all the facts." Hamlin has not responded to a call by WSJS for comment.
Ah, the ever popular rush to judgement.

Guilford is doing much better with this than Duke is doing with their Gang of 88 who have also taken a fairly fact free approach to the false accusations against the 3 Duke students.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:29 AM

A disappearing conservative issue?

When I clicked on Glenn Reynolds's link to the National Review's editorial review of Rudolph Giuliani's candidacy, I expected to see the usual conservative objections addressed. While NR allowed that "there is a lot to like" about the candidate, reading on, I knew there'd be no way to avoid the obvious:

there are serious obstacles to Giuliani's winning the embrace of conservatives.
Sure. We all know that. And we all know that right up at the top (along with other issues) is Giuliani's very troubling record of supporting gun control measures.


Wrong. The piece is about Giuliani's positions on abortion, stem cells, and gay marriage.

Does this mean the Second Amendment is of minor importance? Or is it just of less importance to conservatives than previously thought?

Has the gun issue perhaps become more a libertarian issue than a conservative issue over time? If the latter is the case, I'm both relieved and uneasy at the same time. Relieved because I see nothing intrinsically right wing or left wing about guns or human self defense. As a natural right, self defense could be expected to be defended by anyone regardless of their position on other issues, and I've never understood why there aren't more pro-gun Democrats than there are.

Here's why I'm uneasy about the possibility of the Second Amendment being apparently sidelined into the libertarian camp. Liberals already hate guns, and if conservatives are willing to look the other way, the ugly fact is libertarians are considered a bit on the kooky side, and outside of the mainstream.

The National Review is supposed to represent mainstream conservatism, and if mainstream conservatism no longer considers one of our primary freedoms to be worth a mention in a supposedly comprehensive editorial discussing the pros and cons of a man who is notably weak in that area, I think it's cause for concern.

This is not to say that I wouldn't vote for Giuliani over, say Hillary Clinton. (As I've said before, I would.)

I just hope it's not another sign of the changing times.

The sad thing about this is that the Second Amendment has for years been the one safe area on which libertarians and social conservatives could be counted on to be in very solid agreement.

What's going on? Has Giuliani done an about-face on guns and thereby earned the endorsement of the NRA? (Considering what Jeff Soyer was saying two days ago, I doubt it.)

Unless I am unaware of something, what gives?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and to all for coming.

Please bear in mind that it is neither my goal to attack Giuliani's position, nor defend him. (For all I know, his positions reflected the political realities of being the Mayor of New York.)

My worry is that the right to keep and bear arms might become the right that dare not speak its name.

However, I'm glad to see (via A. Jacksonian) that at least Sean Hannity is asking the right questions.

posted by Eric at 03:03 PM | Comments (21)

ACLU Gives Up?

The usually reliable Pipeline News thinks the accusers in the Guilford College case may be ready to give up due to deportation proceedings on some of the accusers.

By Beila Rabinowitz and William A. Mayer

February 8, 2007 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - With possible deportation looming over Osama Sabbah, Faris Khader and Omar Awartani, the trio's attorney - Amiel Rossabi - signaled at a staged event sponsored by the Marxist Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Project that he might want this matter to just go away, expressing the desire to have the accused and the accusers get together in a reconciliation type meeting.

And who could blame him?

The Greensboro Police Department has dropped any further investigation of the West Bank student's claims, and will bring no charges, a clear indication of the weakness of the accusers claim, which was sworn out through a highly unusual Magistrate proceeding.

Of greater concern from their standpoint, it is now clear that both Mr. Khader and Sabbah have a history of violent confrontation that could well undermine their veracity in court on the current matter. Additionally, the photographs taken of one of the defendants, Michael Six clearly show the raised belt buckle shaped welts caused, according to Mr. Six by an enraged Faris Khader during the attack.

Amiel Rossabi - past president of the North Carolina ACLU - is the latest attorney of record for the West Bank students, he took over the case from Seth Cohen, the NC ACLU's general counsel. A spokesman for the organization stated that though we "still talk to him [Rossabi] fairly regularly" he stressed "that's not one of our cases."

Mr. Cohen is, however the lead attorney in the ACLU's lawsuit to allow the Qu'ran to be recognized in North Carolina's judicial proceedings.

So the ACLU has dropped the case? Interesting. That would tend to indicate that by no unreasonable stretch of the imaginination did a "hate crime" happen. A pretty stiff standard.

I do believe all this will fade away leaving the football players the worse for wear with no means of redress.

In any case there is a long discourse on the relationship between Guilford College and the Freinds School in Ramallah confirming some of my speculations in Muslim Hit Team?.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:19 PM

How lying about motives can make motives relevant

While it might be a generational thing (possibly aggravated in my case because I had a classical education of the old school variety), I'm often frustrated by what seems like an utter failure of simple logic. I'd say "logical error" except that attacking arguments by focusing instead on things like people's sources of income, their political affiliation, their race, or even their position on other issues not related to the argument, are not so much errors in logic as they are complete failures to use logic.

It is as if people are content with saying, you are wrong because you are on the other side of this issue. Well, duh! Of course he's on the other side. Isn't that supposed to be the starting point of the argument?

One of the most common forms this classic ad hominem attack takes is to claim that an opponent works for or has been paid by some entity perceived as a malefactor.

The first time I experienced this personally, I had called the offices of a San Mateo County Supervisor who was seeking to prohibit gun shows, which I saw as a violation of the First Amendment. Before I could even state my position, I was asked, point blank -- "Are you a member of the NRA?" After I said I was, I was told that they had "heard enough from the gun lobby" and "we want input from ordinary citizens."

I'll never forget it. My argument was nullified without my being heard, much less addressed. I was considered a "lobbyist" -- simply because I had joined an organization and paid $35.00 or whatever it was. Not only was this deeply insulting, but it was profoundly illogical. Had I not bothered to join the NRA, my argument would have been exactly the same. And it would be exactly the same even if the NRA had paid me $10,000.

The lack of logic seems so painfully obvious that I don't see why extended discussion is necessary. So why do I get so frustrated? Perhaps my education is the problem; I was trained in logic and debate according to the old school -- and an "argument" that someone's affiliation or employment negated his logic would have been considered so pathetic that it would have generated laughter -- and if that was all that was presented, a failing grade. But what was considered logical failure in my youth can mean political success today, and it frustrates me. I'm often forced to wonder whether the rules have changed, and if they have, whether I wouldn't be more successful practicing simple demagoguery, say, as a rhetorical thug working as a scruple-free political operative. (Probably just what they're looking for right now.)

Arnold Kling had an excellent anaylsis of this problem in his discussion of Type C (consequences) and Type M (motives) arguments:

A hypothetical example of a Type C argument would be, "Well, Arnold, studies actually show that the minimum wage does not cost jobs. If you read the work of Krueger and Card, you would see that the minimum wage probably reduces poverty."

A hypothetical example of a Type M argument would be, "People who want to get rid of the minimum wage are just trying to help the corporate plutocrats."

Paul, my question for you is this:

Do you see any differences between those two types of arguments?

I see differences, and to me they are important. Type C arguments are about the consequences of policies. Type M arguments are about the alleged motives of individuals who advocate policies.

In this example, the type C argument says that the consequences of eliminating the minimum wage would not be those that I expect and desire. We can have a constructive discussion of the Type C argument -- I can cite theory and evidence that contradicts Krueger and Card -- and eventually one of us could change his mind, based on the facts.

Type M arguments deny the legitimacy of one's opponents to even state their case. Type M arguments do not give rise to constructive discussion. They are almost impossible to test empirically.

The problem is that they work, or else people wouldn't use them.

But none of this is new. What is new is to see evidence of a dramatic increase in the use of these sorts of illogical attacks -- to the point where allegations that someone is being paid are now considered so persuasive that they're being made up.

The worst part about this is that the shift in the debate creates an appearance that an illegitimate argument is now legitimate.

In a recent example, scientists who didn't take money from Exxon were accused in the British tabloids of taking money from Exxon.

It would be easy to dismiss all this as propaganda from British tabloids, except that a few days ago the "news" crossed the Atlantic where more respectable media outlets, including the Washington Post, are reporting the story in what has become all too typical pack fashion. A CNNMoney.com report offered that, "A think tank partly funded by ExxonMobil sent letters to scientists offering them up to $10,000 to critique findings in a major global warming study released Friday which found that global warming was real and likely caused by burning fossil fuels."

Here are the facts as we've been able to collect them. AEI doesn't lobby, didn't offer money to scientists to question global warming, and the money it did pay for climate research didn't come from Exxon.

Ah, but here's the problem: by forcing these scientists and Exxon and AEI to jump through these hoops, what is being lost is that even if they had been taking money, it would have had nothing to do with the legitimacy of their arguments.

In the public mind (I hope that's the right word), the argument over whether they were paid implies that it is logically relevant to the debate.

It worries me to think that illegitimate arguments are becoming legitimate.

Returning to my experience with the San Mateo County Supervisor's office, suppose they had simply told me that I was a member of the NRA and that I had not been. If I denied being a member of the NRA, that itself could be taken as an admission that this utterly irrelevant argument was relevant. And the more this happens, the less people will realize what is going on.

If this nonsense keeps up, they might as well just ask, "Are you now, or have you ever been, a Global Warming Denier?"

And if the answer is "yes," isn't that the end of the debate?

In my old high school days, it would have been -- for them!

But instead of getting an "F" in logic, they win the debate.

By illogical and nearly unanimous acclamation.

UPDATE: Jonathan Adler has a lot more on the details of the political smearing of the AEI and the scientists involved. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 09:46 AM | Comments (2)

Stocking Up

Confidence in the latest cease fire in Gaza is in short supply. So naturally people are stocking up on food.

(IsraelNN.com) Gaza regional Arabs are stockpiling food and basic goods in anticipation of another outbreak of violence following talks in Mecca between Fatah and Hamas leaders on establishing a unity government. Street vendor Mazen Kheil said he has been selling a large amount of dried goods.

The death toll in the intra-Arab violence rose again Wednesday when a six-year-old boy died of his wounds while gunmen continued to reinforce rooftop and street positions. Fatah militia men fortified the compound of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with cement blocks.

They should be using sand bags. Cement spalls and creates shrapnel.

So far the only thing they are united on is fighting each other.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:13 AM

A Little Mistake

In so many ways this is Sarajevo 1914 all over again, on a much smaller scale. Mistrust and misunderstanding lead to war.

The wave of killings in Gaza on Thursday of last week was sparked by a suspicion: Hamas members feared that containers Israel allowed to enter Gaza held weapons for the Presidential Guard. They fired on the trucks, killing four members of the Guard, and Gaza once again entered a lethal whirlpool: 30 dead and more than 200 wounded.

No rifle or bullet was displayed for the TV cameras, which made it clear to everyone that Hamas propagandists either lied or relied on false information. The containers held only routine equipment, not weapons, for the Presidential Guard.

So far the sides have not seriously attacked each other for about two or three days.

I wonder if the pattern will be spasms of violence followed by a few weeks regrouping and then another spasm? If we see this again then the period can be estimated.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:53 AM

Since everyone else is selling out....

I thought I should lay bare my bottom line.

Unlike a lot of bloggers who've been in the news lately, I am not for sale. But Classical Values has value. And values don't come cheap. I'd take a million for the name. But just to prove I value my values, I'd want two million if the offer were from anyone connected with or controlled by any other entity or web site containing the word "values" in its title.

Wouldn't want to be seen encouraging a monopoly on values.

Not with an election coming up!

posted by Eric at 12:01 AM

If we could save just one network.....

As someone who tends towards First Amendment absolutism, I have always opposed the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" and I find the idea that anyone would want to bring it back most annoying. For starters, how is anyone supposed to define who or what is the other "side" of a given issue? Are libertarians entitled to weigh in on every issue? How about Communists, fascists, anarchists, Dominionists, femininists, and Islamists?

But reading about Air America's bankruptcy (via Glenn Reynolds) made me put on my thinking cap and think real hard. As it happens, my thinking cap is made of tin foil, but never mind that!

The point is, I have figured it all out.

Had the Fairness Doctrine been brought back, Air America would have been saved. Al Franken and company would have had to allow their conservative counterparts on the air (to counter them). You know, those mean hatemeisters like Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Sean Hannity, etc. who've been on the air for years. This would have brought both the listeners and advertising dollars that Air America needed to survive.

So, unless I am reading this fairness doctrine revival movement wrong, it was a disguised and misunderstood cry for help by lefties who desperately needed the righties but were just too proud to beg.

posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (2)

More unbigoted bigotry against bigot-bashing bigots!

Via the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire, I read about John Edwards's decision not to fire Amanda Marcotte and the other blogger who had something to do with whatever it was... rabbits from Byzantium or something.

What intrigued me the most was not Edwards's reasoning (which I found about as interesting as his hair rinse), but that of MyDD's head honcho Chris Bowers:

make no mistake--throwing two bloggers who staunchly support you under the bus as the result of pressure from right-wing bigots would hold serious and lasting repercussions.
Does that mean it would be OK if the pressure came from left-wing bigots?

Or is it bigoted for a bigot like me to call bigotry bigoted?

I'm determined to figure the rules out one way or another.

CORRECTION: It wasn't rabbits from Byzantium. I meant Shakespeare's sister but they gOtI t ALL sPELLEd WRONG ANd i wAS mixxed UP.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Beltway Blogroll reports Amanda Marcotte's fateful words:

...the fate of the world is important enough that I'm willing to play nice.
Welcome to the club, Amanda. My problem is that I was willing to play nice without factoring in the fate of the world.

But hell, I guess I should be glad she's stopped taking herself so seriously.

However, unless I am reading him wrong, Jeff Goldstein (in a must read post) is not entirely convinced of Marcotte's and McEwan's sincerity:

that both Marcotte and McEwan have assured their own personal Patriarch that they'll behave, now that he's promoted them to the grownups' table, is, to put it bluntly, one of the most pathetic public surrenderings of personal integrity I've ever seen.
While Jeff concedes that "we should feel bad for them" anyway, here's why he won't quite go so far as to say that "Jesus wept":
... I fear that would only bring about a thousand cheers from a thousand self-styled emancipated vaginas.
Yes, that would be bad.

posted by Eric at 02:24 PM | Comments (3)

Dropping Boxes Of Ammo And Small Arms

I had been thinking of doing a piece on the small arms trade in Gaza when commenter mdmhvonpa nudged me along with this comment to Vengeance:

Hatfields and McCoys ... swell. Perhaps we should just start dropping boxes of ammo and small arms into 'Palestine' to hurry this up.
We have a better deal going than that. They are paying for the stuff.
RAMALLAH - A loud siren wails in the main street of Ramallah as the ambulance races to the nearby hospital. The casualty inside the vehicle is a teenage Palestinian who received two bullets to his chest during clashes among rival armed militia.

In a separate incident, a number of disgruntled armed young men showered the Daraghmeh store with scores of bullets in Ramallah's commercial district. The fire engulfed the store's interior, resulting in losses totaling USD 450,000.

At the entrance of a well-established restaurant in the city, a big sign reads "No hand guns allowed on the premises."

As ammunition is readily available through black market middlemen, the sounds of bullets are heard frequently across the city. In a Pavlovian response, the citizens of Ramallah run into hiding as soon as the bullets start flying, their daily life controlled by the will of the gunmen.

So what is the market like?
"In the West Bank, the weapon pipeline is the Israeli gangs. They sell their weapons to Palestinian counterparts, who in return sell them to armed groups and private customers," the officer says.

The Israeli army spokesman replies that "this accusation is baseless." Israel has expressed its concerns over the issue of weapon smuggling several times during meetings with Palestinian officials, he adds.

Selling weapons in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is an extremely lucrative business, because of the amount of cash they generate.

"This business is flourishing due to internal clashes; it's simply a matter of supply and demand," says Hamdi Al- Ashgar, owner of a jewelry store in the middle of the Gaza Strip.

"To purchase a weapon, all one has to show is interest. Arms merchants are ready to provide you with whatever you want: M16s, hunting rifles, bullets, Kalashnikovs, mortars and spare parts," Al-Ashgar adds."

Prices have gone down and nowadays owning a gun in the Palestinian areas is not anymore the sole privilege of the armed groups.

"You can have the famous Kalashnikov for USD 1,500, and a Chinese-made rifle for USD 1,000. While digging a tunnel in Gaza costs USD 100,000, renting one could climb up to USD 10,000 per a day," Ashgar says.

In the Gaza Strip, nearly four out of five people are armed, whereas in the West Bank two out of five are armed with different kind of rifles and pistols, according to an officer of the Preventive Security Forces, on condition of anonymity.

I did a little searching and found a Kalashnikov for $335. Considerably below the prices charged in Gaza. Good profit indeed.

The Israelis must have trouble at those anti-smuggling meetings keeping a straight face while denouncing the smuggling.

With prices pretty much standardized there has to be a lot of competition in the market. Figuring out how much it costs to keep the civil war going is pretty much a job for accountants.

Muhammad is a young journalist working for a local radio station affiliated with Fatah. In recent weeks, he's gotten several death threats.

"In a place like Gaza, that sort of menace isn't to be taken lightly, so the station's security guards and staff are armed with hand grenades and machine guns."

Muhammad says he carries a handgun and keeps an AK-47 assault rifle at home.

"In such a lawless context, it's normal for journalists to carry guns," he explains. "Some accuse us of pouring gasoline on the fire and fueling the confrontations between Fatah and Hamas. But I am broadcasting the problems of my society and the Palestinian street."

In Gaza, the arms are coming from all over the world, being transported through the desert to Egypt and to Gaza through the tunnels in Rafah.

After the Israelis pulled out from the Gaza Strip, the number of tunnels for smuggling weapons and other contraband has more than doubled, evolving into an underground maze clawed out of Gaza's soft soil.

The largely unhindered weapons influx also heightens the threat of civil war, instability, and tribalism.

There are usually about 20 tunnels in use at any one time along the border.

It is my opinion that American and Israeli policy for the Palestinians is for the time being: civil war, instability, and tribalism.

When they have had enough they will either leave or ask the Israelis to rule over them.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:11 PM | Comments (4)

Hey Fidel! Shake lift a leg, will you?

Is Castro really alive and well as he's been portrayed in the media?

(This is not the first time I've wondered....)

Fausta Wertz has been doing some fascinating digging, and there's a detailed analysis at Pajamas Media. In particular, French media watchdog Philippe Karsenty makes a compelling argument that there is no proof Castro is alive, and that the "evidence" may be a rehash of old photos and videos showing him with Hugo Chavez.

Here's why I'm inclined to agree with Karsenty and Fausta. I think if Castro were really alive and well, there'd be no need to debate whether the videos were faked or the photos photoshopped. It would be a simple matter for Castro or the Cuban authorities to allow someone to see him.

And I mean someone with credibility, not Hugo Chavez.

On Monday, Fausta blogged about Hugo's claim that he and Fidel were now both green.

That may be true about Hugo in the figurative sense, but I'm wondering whether Fidel might be getting a little green in other ways by now.

posted by Eric at 11:45 AM


The Palestinian Civil War is going to be going on for a while if this is any indication.

GAZA, Feb 7 (KUNA) -- Dagmash family, one of the biggest Palestinian families in Gaza, has claimed responsibility for the killing of two activists from the Izziddeen Al-Qassam Brigades, military arm of Hamas, last night.

A family spokesman said "The killing was to avenge two family members killed by Al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza almost two month ago." Ahmed Dagmash told a local radio station in Gaza "The family of Dagmash claims responsibility for the killing of Mohammad Deeb Abu Kersh (Abu Musab) and Mohammad Abu Namous, two Qassam activists, for killing, in cold blood, Ashraf and Mahmoud Dagmash in the Sabra district, central Gaza, about two months ago." "Targeting the two leaders was meant to avenge our sons killed by Abu Kersh and Abu Namous," he said, threatening more acts of revenge.

This of course is a reversion to Tribalism. A condition that precludes nation building. Once the revenge killings get well underway there is no way to stop them except the extinction of families.

In terms of the larger political scene I see this as the prelude to massive migrations by the Palestinians to any place civilized.

Unfortunately they have a tendency to bring their uncivilized ways with them. That sort of behavior has gotten them kicked out of Kuwait when the Iraqis were kicked out in '91. Kicked out of Iraq When Saddam was deposed. In fact they get kicked or kicked out of a lot of places due a lack of civilized ways.

Update: 08 Feb '07 1549z

Here is a bit more on the Dagmash or Damish clan.

The Damish clan, a large family from the southern Gaza town of Khan Younish thought to be involved in organized crime, claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying it was avenging the killing of two of its members two months ago by Hamas security forces.

The opposition Fatah movement stressed that it was not involved in the overnight shooting and said the killing was not related to the armed clashes between Fatah and the ruling Hamas.

So this could have been strictly business, not politics. Swell. Just swell.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:54 AM | Comments (1)

Follow Israel's Example

America could learn from Israel about how to integrate gays into the military.

The US military needs to learn from the IDF and the tolerant Israeli model regarding homosexual soldiers and officers, concluded a research project on gay and lesbian service in the IDF, undertaken at the University of California, in Santa Barbara.

According to a Florida newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, a brigadier general quoted in the pair's study said Israelis show a "great tolerance" for homosexual soldiers.

David Saranga, a former IDF officer and now Israel's consul for media and public affairs in New York said, "It's a non-issue... You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave one and be gay at the same time."

The paper referenced the California study's survey of 17 heterosexual IDF soldiers: Only two said they would have a problem serving under a gay commander and three expressed concern about showering with a gay colleague. None objected to gay soldiers in general.

As one officer put it, "They're citizens of Israel, like you and me. The sexual orientation of the workers around me doesn't bother me."

Israel is one of 24 nations that allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Since the early nineties, sexual identity presents no formal barrier in terms of soldiers' military specialization or eligibility for promotion.

The Israelis have lived with this policy for over 10 years. In general they are convinced they made the right decision.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili thinks such a policy could work in America too.

Shakashvili noted that in Israel, as well as in the other 23 nations with a similar policy on homosexuals in the military, service by gay soldiers had not had an adverse effect on the military.

The St. Petersburg Times echoed Shalikashvili's sentiments, noting that in 1993 "Israel took exactly the opposite approach (from the US)...Fourteen years later, Israelis are convinced they made the right decision."

During WW2 sexual orientation was no bar to military service. Sixty years later and we are just starting to change policy.
World War II WAC Sergeant Johnnie Phelps, in response to a request from General Eisenhower that she ferret out the lesbians in her battalion:

Yessir. If the General pleases I will be happy to do this investigation.... But, sir, it would be unfair of me not to tell you, my name is going to head the list.... You should also be aware that you're going to have to replace all the file clerks, the section heads, most of the commanders, and the motor pool.... I think you should also take into consideration that there have been no illegal pregnancies, no cases of venereal disease, and the General himself has been the one to award good conduct commendations and service commendations to these members of the WAC detachment.

General Eisenhower: Forget the order.

~Bunny MacCulloch interview with Johnnie Phelps, 1982

Quoted from Odd Girls And Twilight Lovers by Lillian Faderman.

Odd Girls And Twilight Lovers The book.

Nice picture of Sergeant Johnnie Phelps in uniform. Hot. I love the fire in her eyes.

Update: 08 Feb '07 1744z

One of my commenters, PJ, tells me that the Johnnie Phelps story isn't true. Her paths and Eisenhower's didn't cross. Dang. Just another war story. I liked it better when I thought it was true.

She still looks cute in the picture.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:24 AM

The hateful consequences of love

If there's one thing I hate more than this awful weather, it's having to pay homage to someone -- especially someone most people would consider ridiculous. Insane, even. But, much as I'd like to steal his idea and call it my own original thesis, I can't. Whether this is out of some sense of intellectual honesty on my part, or whether it's just out of fear of getting caught, I do not know.

Might there be another reason -- a reason aside from intellectual honesty or fear of getting caught? While I can't penetrate the inner recesses of my unconcious conscience, I think the reason might be that I don't want to take the blame alone. If I can say that someone else cooked up what will sound like a crazy idea, I'll be largely blameless and off the hook. Better yet, this is a satire blog, which means that no matter how serious the ideas I float might be, I can always act all hurt and flustered if anyone is offended, and say, "Hey it's just a satire blog! Sorry if you were offended. I wish more people had a sense of humor!" (Yes, I'm supposed to pretend to care about being offensive, because that emanates from the penumbra of politeness. Truth is, as is the case with so many things, if you pretend you care long enough, you'll end up caring about the things you once pretended to care about! Trust me; it's called "developing a habit.")

That's a lot of background for what I think is a painfully simple thesis. But it's been bugging me for months, and I think it's high time I wrote about it, because the topics I've been writing about lately make little sense without understanding the human emotional needs which drive them. Amanda Marcotte, while seeming to be a player on the immoral side of the war between the immoral and the bigoted, is so openly bigoted that she is actually a convergence of the immoral and the bigoted. It's as if she's a sort of yin/yang creature, God bless her dirty heart!

Should I love her? Or should I hate her?

My unoriginal thesis is that we -- all people (not just Americans) -- are in love with hate. We need to hate. The more this hatred is repressed and suppressed, the more dishonest and unhappy we become.

Before I go any further, let me pay homage to the one and only original prophet of the love of hate, the legendary "Berkeley Hate Man":


Yes, he was a street person, before they came up with the "homeless" nonsense. He used to run around (often wearing a tattered dress) screaming his simple but profound slogan at total strangers,


Whether he's still around I don't know, but the Berkeley Hate Man was very bright, and rumored to have been well educated and once successful (here described as Mark Hawthorne, a former NYT reporter), and if you took the time to talk to him, he would patiently explain that people were living in a state of denial which they could only get over by admitting their hatred. Nothing would make this man happier than to have his "converts" walk up to him and angrily scream "I HATE YOU!" right in his face. This would make him beam radiantly, and of course he would immediately scream "I HATE YOU!" right back. It was like instant dose of the 70s touchy-feely "I'm OK, you're OK" nonsense, except instead of feeling dishonest, you'd get a genuinely warm feeling.

The reason I had to pay homage to him is that over the years I have seen his admittedly simplistic theory coming back to haunt me time and time again. It's no accident that this great man -- a prophet, really (if I'm allowed to be that generous) -- would arise in Berkeley, where the world's most hateful people congregate, surround themselves with fellow haters, and lay plans to rule the world in the name of "peace" and "love." (And above all, opposition to "hate.")

It used to be OK to hate people -- especially strangers who were weird and people who aren't like you and the people you love. Love of "the other" used to be a Sunday church sort of thing, and in church most Americans used to get scolded for their hate. It was once a week, and it was endurable, but as more and more people gave up the weekly church scoldings, there was no way to purge the hate from their systems. It was love love all the time, without a religious component. You can't just press a magical "erase hate" button and make it go away though, because hatred is a human need.

Even in homogeneous cultures like Japan, which had no natural "other" to hate, they had to find one, so they decided that people whose ancestors once worked with leather were untouchable, and hated them.

Because there is a need for hate, if it is discovered and stamped out in one place (by those who hate hate, natch), it will simply spring up somewhere else. America has had a succession of hated groups, and as each one has been added to the List of Groups Which May Not Be Hated, the search for a new one to fill the ecological niche begins anew. So many have called homosexuals "the last permissible target" that I don't think extended comment on this is necessary. It wasn't that long ago that there was another permissible target group -- Arabs and people from the Mideast. Hollywood could get away with ridiculing them in stereotypes, but after 9/11 this became taboo. Of course, there's always the angry white heterosexual man, but it's getting harder and harder to portray him, say, as fat, short, mentally ill, or stupid. (Why? Because that might be "hateful" dummy! These days, villains ideally should be married, white-collar, law-abiding, and church-going. Hey, I don't make the rules, I just hate them. So much I love to break them, OK?)

Anyway, this came up because the more I thought about my proposal of an immoral and biogted alliance, the more I worried about the terrible consequences this might have for hate.

I mean, think about this: if we all need hate, and if hate fills an ecological niche, what I am idly proposing in this blog is that we do away with one of the biggest primary sources of core hatred in the country. And no I don't mean homos! This is much more profound than that. The war between the immoral and the bigoted is the driving force in politics, and it has been for years. (Ask Monica and Hillary for starters.) If these two groups would laugh about their hatred, what would happen to the country? As it is, liberals and conservatives can still hate each other quite freely, and that's as it should be. If we permit them to say "I HATE YOU!" and then just laugh it off, the consequences might be disastrous.

So maybe I should just forget about all this and let people have their phony love.

After all, I wouldn't want to be caught hating hypocrisy, now would I?

Worst of all, if you follow this "hate" thing to it's logical conclusion, it becomes disgustingly schmaltzy and sentimental. Like this sickening line:

if everyone in the world did the hate thing, wow would we have a great planet
Imagine! Schmaltzy and sentimental hate.

Sounds almost as bad as love.

UPDATE (8/21/12): When I linked the above picture of the Berkeley Hate Man, I provided the link to where I found it, which is now defunct. I received an email from the photographer, whose link to the photograph is here.

My apologies for any confusion. It's a great photograph of a guy I will always love hate.

posted by Eric at 08:40 AM | Comments (3)

Mine You Own Business

How the environmental lobby works very hard to keep the poor impoverished. Video: about 3 minutes.

Main site - Mine Your Own Business

The blog - Mine Your Own Business

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:04 AM

A bigoted and immoral alliance?

In a God-awful long essay yesterday, I concluded that the argument over the immorality of homosexuality was hopeless. This is because there is no way to see eye to eye over basic terms. If person A believes that a certain thing is immoral and person B does not, and person A builds into his argument that his morality is absolute morality, and that disagreement with it is immoral (or nihilism, or whatever term might be used), there is, simply, no way to resolve the impasse.

Homosexuality is only one component of what we call the Culture War, but which I'm more and more convinced is a sex war. But the sex war is not so much a war over sex (for very, very, few people are truly against sex itself), as it is a war over definitions.

Most of what we call the Culture War is a definition war. Things like gay marriage, pornography, and condoms on cucumbers merely provide convenient battlefields, but they are only political issues. If compromises are achieved on these issues, the underlying problem remains, and the more I thought about the hopelessness of yesterday's essay, the more I realized that the problem can be distilled into two dirty words:

"immorality" and "bigotry."

Isn't the Culture War simply a battle between the bigoted and the immoral? I use these terms generously, and not because of any particular bias one way or the other, but because they go to the core belief systems of each side.

Let me disclose for the record that I am both bigoted and immoral, and I think most human beings are by definition. The problem is that these words are both considered deeply insulting, and they invite (and seem to require) highly emotional responses when they are used. If you call someone immoral, you can expect that he will call you a bigot. And if you call someone a bigot, he will very likely call you immoral. That this should surprise anyone is hardly surprising.

It's really easy for a total stranger who does not like what he imagines I do with my penis to call me immoral, and it is natural enough for me to call that person a bigot. (Just because I'm polite in this blog does not mean I don't have impure thoughts on occasion; it only means that I try to discipline myself.)

But unless someone really does or wants to do something to harm me -- say, take my property or put me in jail -- what is the consequence of being called immoral? It changes nothing, it persuades no one, and it is just a word. Whether I am called liberal, conservative, or immoral has nothing to do with what I think, but with what the people who use those terms think.

The immoral people are immoral according to the unchangeable moral code of absolutists, just as the absolutists are bigots because they are bigoted against the immoral. This goes in circles. If you care about what other people do with their penises, you are either immoral or bigoted (depending on why you care and who's asking, of course). If they in turn care that you care, they are also either immoral or bigoted. My thesis has long been that each one side needs the other. If the truth be told (which it will not), the immoral and the bigoted have a secret and disgusting romance, but most people are terrified of being sucked into the great, hopeless battle between the bigoted and the immoral. Ordinary people (and polite types like me) don't want to be called bigoted or immoral, so their tendency is to avoid using these terms, and run away from people who use them -- often to people who reassure them that they are not these things. This makes them susceptible to manipulation by people who aren't afraid to call people bigoted or immoral.

Let's face it: the sex war is a definition war between the immoral and the bigoted. That's because the bigots are not bigots and the immoral are not immoral! (You don't believe me? Just ask either!)

In GOP politics, this phenomenon spills over and is endlessly repeated in the war between libertarians (who side with those being called "immoral') and social conservatives (who side with those being called "bigots"). It seems as hopeless as the essay I wrote yesterday, but so what? Is there any reason why that hopelessness should matter in the face of larger issues? (And if there really are people who don't think there are any larger issues than sex, I think they prove my point about the hopelessness of moral debates.)

So let's assume the disagreement over morality is hopeless.

How much does that really matter?

I know what I am proposing will sound insane, but hell, this is my blog, and I can be as insane as I want, and I just wanted to get this out there. Besides, I have already proposed an alliance between atheists and Judeo-Christians, and this is just a continuation along that vein.

Why not an alliance between the immoral and the bigoted?

What this means is that each side will just have to accept and acknowledge that despite these huge differences, there are more important things than sexual morality. Is it really asking that much for the immoral to recognize and admit their immorality, and the bigoted to recognize and admit their bigotry? How about just for the sake of argument? There can still be an argument, and it can still be hopeless as ever before, so no one is really giving up much. Just a little pride, that's all.

If it's an argument over definitions, how much does it matter? Isn't this like sticks and stones?

There is, I admit, a stubborn resistance to being insulted, and that is what makes people take umbrage at being called immoral or bigoted, and return fire. Perhaps some sensitivity training classes will be needed, but I think people could start by practicing at home.

Yes, it's time for Classical Values Sensitivity Training for the Hopelessly Bigoted and Hopelessly Immoral.

Try a few practice lines, like "I know you think I am immoral, but I think you are bigoted!" and "I know you think I am bigoted, but I think you are immoral!"

Then move up to "Let's assume I am immoral" and "Let's assume I am bigoted."

And finally "I am immoral and you are bigoted" and "I am bigoted and you are immoral."

Do I have to write that a hundred times?

So let me start by proclaiming myself immoral and bigoted.

Yes, the situation is hopeless, but life is a pretty big tent.

posted by Eric at 04:38 PM | Comments (10)

Just your typical blogger?

While I don't want to dwell on on Amanda Marcotte more than necessary, let me put on my tin foil hat for a second, and pose a theoretical question.

Might the goal be to discredit the blogosphere?

It's not every day leftists are tarred as "bigots" in the New York Times, so I think it's worth paying attention to this:

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said in a statement on Tuesday, "John Edwards is a decent man who has had his campaign tarnished by two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots."

Mr. Edwards's spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, said Tuesday night that the campaign was weighing the fate of the two bloggers.

The two women brought to the Edwards campaign long cyber trails in the incendiary language of the blogosphere. Other campaigns are likely to face similar controversies as they try to court voters using the latest techniques of online communication.

(Via Rand Simberg with whose analysis I thoroughly agree. And HT to Glenn Reynolds for the link.)

As I said, I didn't want to dwell on Amanda Marcotte, but I think I have to, because she -- Amanda Marcotte -- is the problem here.

Not bloggers. Not "the blogosphere."

I'm afraid that when the dust settles, all that will be remembered is that bloggers are unhinged characters who hurl "incendiary language," ad hominem insults and vituperation willy-nilly, and should never be hired in any official capacity, or in any job entailing responsibility.

Which is one of the reasons I think it's right to compare Ms. Marcotte to Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter gets called a lot of things, but "blogger" doesn't really stand out, even though she has a blog (at least I'm pretty sure).

What's not mentioned by the New York Times (because I think they want it forgotten) is how and why the Amanda Marcotte stuff came to light. If you read only the Times analysis of the Marcotte affair, you'd think she had been exposed by Bill Donahue and the Catholic League.


She was exposed by the blogosphere, and by numerous bloggers (from major players like Glenn Reynolds on down to smaller bloggers derided by Pandagon as Grade B. wingnuts) -- many of whom had known all about her and her site for a long time, and who carefully documented disappearing links, and collected her most "interesting" opinions. If Amanda Marcotte is to be used to discredit the blogosphere, why can't the Times at least report that she'd been thoroughly discredited as a blogger?

I mean, why not at least a mention of her numerous pulled posts and disappearing links?

Sorry to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but something about this whole affair has been fishy from the start, and it's just getting fishier.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds points out that a lot of lefty blogs are up in arms that this has become a scandal (because they want to join the new establishment) and wonders whether there will be "more Pandagon-like airbrushing of blog archives over the next few weeks."

I never thought about it before, but I guess if the Democrats take power, it's natural to assume that some of the leading lefty bloggers would want a piece of the action. If they were rude and over the top in their blogs, maybe they should have thought about that before they did it. (I always try to remember that anything I say can and will be used against me.)

I didn't start blogging with any anticipation of "joining the establishment," and I expect nothing from either party. Ann Althouse doesn't think anyone should be surprised that what they say can derail a political career, and she stresses the value of independence:

For you bloggers seeking jobs: I hope you get them. But for you bloggers staying in this noble enterprise: Preserve your independence and don't let yourself get manipulated, even by some blogger wrangler you loved when she was one of you.
Damn that's good!

posted by Eric at 12:58 PM | Comments (2)

Roughly Justice

There is a discussion going on in the comments at Durham in Wonderland about the quality of our justice system and the acceptable error rate. The ever ubiquitous anon. at 9:12AM had this to say:

As for rough justice? When most violent criminals are just that, violent criminals with long arrest and conviction records, records of commiting violent crimes and pleading down to lesser charges, WHO CARES???? I don't. I don't think rough justice can work for the crimnal underclass. But if it does, if it brings more pain to the families of those who bring pain to others, bring it on. I applaud it.
What does he mean by rough justice? Using the criminal justice system to harass the usual suspects.

My answer (revised and extended) was:

Rough justice is normally done by rounding up the usual suspects. The people no one cares about if a mistake is made per 9:12AM.

However, when it becomes a habit and the race and class boundaries are breeched there is hell to pay.

Here is what Graham Greene has to say about who can be given rough justice and torture in his novel of the cold war Our Man In Havana:

"The poor in my own country, in any Latin American country. The poor of Central Europe and the Orient. Of course in your welfare states you have no poor, so you are untorturable. In Cuba the police can deal as harshly as they like with emigres from Latin America and the Baltic States, but not with visitors from your country or Scandinavia. It is an instinctive matter on both sides. Catholics are more torturable than Protestants, just as they are more criminal."
The Biggest Cover Up Of All

Rough justice is not real justice. It is a short cut. Short cuts have consequences.

When rough justice is the norm the innocent get no break.

The purpose of justice is to prevent the rise of a vendetta culture. It is bad for business.

Rough justice erases the line between guilt and innocence. It is an unwise policy.

Remember back to the movie Casablanca where the police chief says round up the usual suspects even though none of them were guilty. The good guy goes free. Some bad guys got punished, and yet we know in our heart of hearts justice was twisted.

So what level of error am I willing to tolerate?

I'm an aerospace kind of guy. We build the stuff so that it is safer to fly than to drive. We have a system for getting this done and correcting errors in a very timely fashion. Why not have a justice system held to similar standards?

An error is an error even if it takes a bad guy out. The quality of justice counts just as much as the quality of our airplanes. Either can take your life.

And yeah. It is going to cost more money to do things right.

The money is there. All we have to do is give up on drug prohibition and give the drug problem to those best qualified to handle it. Doctors.

We ended prohibition once. We can do it again.


Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can't stop what it's meant to stop.
We like it.
It's left a trail of graft and slime,
It won't prohibit worth a dime,
It's filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we're for it.

Franklin P. Adams, 1931


Isn't it time that our justice system met the quality level of our air travel system? In terms of getting you to your destination alive? I will say it would be nice if your luggage arrived with you a bit more often.

Consider that the baggage system that goes with air travel makes about the same level of error as our justice system - in the range of 1% to 3%, and we are deeeply unhappy with that level of performance.

We ought to apply the same standards to justice as we do to baggage delivery.

So what is the rate of error in our justice system? In death penalty cases in Illinois there were 167 men on death row when George Ryan left office. There had been 13 exonerations. That would then be 13 / (167 + 13) = about 7%. That is for death penalty cases. Would the results be better or worse given the lesser quality control on less serious charges? One of the posters on the thread thought the error rate was under 1%. If you use the lost baggage standard it would have to be very significantly below 1% to make the customers happy.

One wag on the thread thought a miscarraige of justice was more likely in high profile cases due to community pressure. In other words the more community pressure the more corrupt the process. Not a comforting thought at all.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:16 PM

Aimed fire? Or spray 'n' pray?

The story of 'naut rage (if that's the proper term) has attracted a lot of attention. While there's nothing new about jealous rage, even homicidal rage, there's just something about that diaper. I think that's what's really captured the public's limited attention span. A diaper-wearing adult (especially one from the rational-and-scientific class) having a tantrum is just too rich to ignore. (Even I can't avoid getting into the flow....)

After thinking the matter over carefully, I'm inclined to agree with this observation by Dr. Helen:

if you are so desperate to get somewhere that you wear diapers so you will not have to pee, something seems awry.
Yes it does. Of course, it might be nature's discrimination. It's no fair, but men who are in a hurry to get somewhere get to use devices like this:


Or even this:


Of course, it requires a little coordination.

Otherwise your cup will runneth over...

UPDATE: Whoa, there. I didn't know it, but by merely displaying a Starbucks coffee cup, I inadvertently seem to have touched another raw nerve in the "Culture War."

No, really. Concerned Women for America has condemned Starbucks coffee cups for having a homo agenda!

And on the other "side," the immortal Pandagon weighed in on the matter -- with a blog post so filthily titled that even the URL might cause the net nannies to ban me!


Sorry, folks. I thought this post was about traditional urine, but the Culture War cup always runneth over.

posted by Eric at 10:19 AM

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 15

I suppose we should get the optimism out of the way first. The Mayor of Gaza thinks the fighting won't last because it is brother fighting brother.

The factor preventing an all-out civil war in Gaza is that the Palestinians fighting against each other come from the same families, the mayor of Gaza City said.

In many cases there are families in which each sibling supports a different political faction.

"They might fight in the streets but at night they go to the same home," Mayor Majid Abu Ramadan told The Media Line. "We're counting on these family ties to prevent people from fighting."

Abu Ramadan is counting on what he called the silent majority of the Palestinians to urge the fighting parties to lay down their arms.

He said there was an increasing movement in Gaza where families were calling their sons out of the fighting factions.
What about feuds between families? I covered some of that in Radio Wars.

Well that is the good news. The rest is just another depressing day in Gaza. The Gazans have rocketed visiting New York City Council members. You can't buy the kind of publicity they will get from that effort.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Visiting New York City Council members got more than a description of how Israelis deal with almost daily rocket attacks from Gaza on Tuesday. They experienced one.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the delegation of 11 was in the office of Eli Moyal, the mayor of Sderot, an Israeli town of 20,000 just outside Gaza, talking about the security situation. Then the town alarm went off, warning of an incoming rocket.

"The mayor stood up and said, 'There's a rocket coming, everybody has to leave,'" she said.

No injuries were reported.

Hamas and Fatah are again trading fire. I wonder who made the most profit?

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Hamas and Fatah security officials traded fire at Gaza's border with Egypt on Tuesday as Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh passed through on his way to reconciliation talks between his Hamas movement and the rival Fatah group in Saudi Arabia, witnesses said.
There is a really nice big piture of Haniyeh with the article. He does not have a happy face.
Haniyeh, who was in a VIP hall and not in the immediate area of the firefight, crossed to Egypt unharmed, they said. He had arrived at the border crossing under heavy guard after traveling along a route lined with hundreds of Hamas gunmen on foot and in jeeps.

Although Haniyeh expressed confidence that the reconciliation talks would end months of Palestinian infighting, Tuesday's gunbattle was an ominous sign for the meeting in Mecca, which analysts have said could be the two sides' last chance to avert civil war.

The 10-minute gunbattle at the border terminal caused no injuries, said the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.

So on the way to peace talks they have a nice little battle. Good omen.

Fatah has siezed a six story Baptist Church. Has Jimmy Carter been informed?

A Gaza church was seized by the Palestinian Fatah group this weekend during one of the deadliest fighting in nearly two months.

Palestinian Authority police broke into the Gaza Baptist Church when church leaders refused to hand over the building key on Feb. 2, reported Open Doors. The police took positions on the sixth floor using the church as a watch point.

Church pastor Hanna Massad described the crisis as "the worst situation we ever went through in Gaza."

Massad and congregants fear that if PA police fire at Hamas militants from the church top then Hamas militants will retaliate and the church building will be severely damaged.

"Christians and Muslims in Gaza are caught in the crossfire," said Open Doors USA president/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller in a statement Monday. "And it's getting worse...It is so vital that the Gaza Baptist Church remains open so ministry can be carried out to those who are even now more marginalized."

Christians have been leaving "Palestine" in droves. Bethlehem is now minority Christian.

And now for real murder and mayhem. A Palestinian news source reports one dead and three injured.

The Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, said that one of its fighters was killed, and three others were injured, after being attacked by gunmen in the center of Gaza City.
They seem to have a real nice photoshopped picture of some Palestinian gunmen. I guess the stock photos are not dramatic enough.

The Palestinians have finally killed a Palestinian they have been trying to kill for a while. Abu Karsh.

Hamas blamed Fateh for the attack and said that Fateh gunmen fired at Mohammad Dieb Abu Karsh, 23, and killed him, three other members were injured, one seriously.

Eyewitnesses reported that Abu Karsh was driving his car near Al Saraya compound in Gaza city when gunmen opened fire at him.

They have been trying to kill him since at least May 16th of last year.

No doubt practice makes perfect.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:29 AM

crushing climate of dissent

Global Warming skeptic removed from his position as Oregon's State Climatologist?

[George Taylor's] opinions conflict not only with many other scientists, but with the state of Oregon's policies.

So the governor wants to take that title from Taylor and make it a position that he would appoint.

In an exclusive interview with KGW-TV, Governor Ted Kulongoski confirmed he wants to take that title from Taylor. The governor said Taylor's contradictions interfere with the state's stated goals to reduce greenhouse gases, the accepted cause of global warming in the eyes of a vast majority of scientists.

But I thought only Bush censored dissenting scientists!

And Oregon? Say it's not true! Someone!

[Taylor] believes natural cycles explain most of the changes the earth has seen.

A bill will be introduced in Salem soon on the matter.

Sen. Brad Avakian, (D) Washington County, is sponsoring the bill. He said global warming is so important to state policy it's important to have a climatologist as a consultant to the governor. He denied this is targeted personally at Taylor. "Absolutely not," Avakian said, "I've never met Mr. Taylor and if he's got opinions I hope he comes to the hearing and testifies."

God forbid if any of this became personal.

MORE: Speaking of environmental crime, I am sitting right now staring into my swinish flat screen monitor (which uses "five times more power" than the CRTs). As I pause to look up at the deadly mercury-laden thermostat which has been set to a Nixonian 68 degrees -- I contemplate with great regret that while nature is still fighting to be natural (the outdoor temperature today has still not made it into the teens) I am nonetheless spewing forth deadly carbons which warm the planet.

'Bout time they cracked down on environmental crime!

posted by Eric at 07:05 AM | Comments (4)

Chickenhawks coming home to roost?

I love what about James Taranto said about William Arkin's recent outburst.

...if you combine Arkin's viewpoint with the familiar "chickenhawk" canard, everyone who supports the war is disqualified from having an opinion about it by virtue of who he is.
All the more true considering (via Glenn Reynolds) the latest -- and supposedly "final" -- word from Arkin:
It appears that many Iraq war supporters believe that public opinion against the war (and the President) is a concoction of the mainstream news media and the liberal elite. Moreover, some seem to believe that in the battle for public opinion, people like me are in some kind a contest with soldiers or veterans of the Iraq war as to who knows best.

As this line of argument goes, the soldiers themselves and those who have served in Iraq are the only ones who really know what it is like, what the war is about, and what should be done. The media in general and war opponents in particular intentionally and purposefully provide a negative and discouraging view that doesn't comport with what the soldiers see, so goes this argument. But the bigger point is that any dissenting voices are just those of whores, politicians, tin foil hat liberals, or worse, un-Americans. In this view, there are no actual experts in this world, no one who studies and measures public opinion, no one who studies war or the military, who do not wear the uniform. This is not some post-modern relativism, it is pure anti-elitism. The elite think they know it all, while those who do all of the dirty work, who do all of the suffering, are methodically ignored and dominated.

"Dissenting voices"?

And who might they be?

(Anyone but us chickenhawks, I'm afraid....)

posted by Eric at 11:29 PM

Palestinian Thugs At Guilford

Pipeline News seems to have a lot of good sources in the Guilford Case. Pipeline has gotten some more details about the thugs who visited The Guilford dorms.

The leader of this group stated threateningly that they, "were going to take care of what didn't get taken care of the other day." He then opened his trench coat and motioned under his arm suggesting that he was carrying a concealed weapon.

The three then rapidly left the area, fleeing in a dark green 1995-96 Nissan Maxima whose registration plates had been removed.

Pipeline has more use the first link.

BTW a member of the community pretty much confirms what I had stated in the second link:

A Guilford community member familiar with the case made the terse observation to PipeLinenews.org that, "the war has come to Guilford Campus."
Update: 07 Feb '07 0248z

I now have confirmation of Pipeline's sources.

Last Edited: Tuesday, 06 Feb 2007, 5:36 PM EST
Created: Tuesday, 06 Feb 2007, 5:36 PM EST, By ERIC WHITE, FOX8 News

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) -- A Guilford College football player says he felt "very threatened" when three men walked into his school dorm looking for football players who had been accused of starting a fight with Palestinian students in January.

The student, whose identity will be kept secret and who was not involved in the fight, said the initial incident between the players and the Palestinians has been blow out of proportion. The result, he said, has been serious threats on what should be a safe, school atmosphere.

On Tuesday, the student spoke with FOX8 News about his encounter with the three men.

"[I] came out and I saw a guy pacing back and forth in the room, so I asked him if I could help him," he recalled about the incident on Sunday.

Immediately, the walls of security inside a college dorm disappeared. The student said a man wearing a large coat walked into his dorm room.

"In the beginning, he stated he was a Muslim and that he was looking for the football players involved in the altercation, and that he wanted real justice to take place."

The man apparently had two other men with him, but the student didn't see a weapon. "I don't know if he had one," he recalled. "But I'm saying, that's dangerous. He could have had one. I don't know."

The student said the public's opinion of the fight on Jan. 20 has spiraled out of control, and he believes it led to Sunday's incident.

Not unusual when information gets bottled up. The school needs to take the lead on this before some fool commits summary injustice.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:57 PM

indefatigable state of fatigue

I shouldn't put people down for suffering from battle fatigue, as I am often prone to fits of what can best be called Culture War fatigue. The interesting thing about this fatigue is it's what led me to start this blog nearly four years ago. Well, I started it nearly five years ago, only to quit, but then restart once the fatigue set in again. You might call it fatigue-of-Culture-War-fatigue, and in a paradox I don't fully understand, that fatigue often supplies the fuel for this blog.

The difference is, I don't think the Culture War is a real war, so when I call for an end to the Culture War I mean neither defeat nor victory, as I don't believe what people do in their personal lives should be political -- much less grounds for war. I recognize there are huge moral disagreements, but I don't think it's helpful to ratchet them up to the level of "war," as that makes discussions impossible.

But the warrior mentality persists on both sides, and no matter how tired I get of it, my fatigue is no match for the persistence of Culture Warriors. No matter how fatigued I get, no matter how much I'd rather not write another damned post, the culture war stuff just keeps getting cranked out, in much the same Sisyphean way I saw pleading papers cranked out when I did litigation. Hint to future lawyers: if you dislike litigation, becoming a litigator is not the way to stop it. Opposing litigation by litigating does not make litigation go away.

Sometimes I wonder whether a better approach would be just to ignore things I don't like, and not try to get myself lured into discussions of hot button issues. Because, no matter how "logical" or "reasonable" I might imagine myself to be or even try to be, if I disagree, I will be perceived as being "on the other side" and thus, as "the enemy."

Because I'm on neither "side" of the Culture War, I'm an enemy of all who fight. To continue with the litigation analogy (an admittedly flawed one, I know, because there will never be a final judgment -- at least in this life on this earth), imagine how foolish it would be to step into a fiercely litigated dispute and opine that both sides are being somehow illogical or unreasonable. They'd think you were absolutely crazy. The irony, though, is that some of their their clients might agree with the crazy idea that the litigation is not the greatest idea. (I'll never forget a rare instance in which I made a lawsuit disappear by persuading an appellate court to throw out -- for good -- a case that had dragged on for years. The client was an insurance law firm which had hired us to handle the appeal, and when the case was thrown out, the insurance company was delighted! But the client was crestfallen, as the case had generated many billable hours for many years, and by winning it, we had "lost" it! For him, winning a case by getting it thrown out was losing.)

With the "culture war," though, there is no winning or losing, because it's a permanent phrase that isn't going away. No court can throw it out, and there are no permanent victories or losses, and no readily ascertainable cast of litigants. The "sides" are subject to change and revision constantly, spring up overnight, with new "issues" arising over what ordinary people would consider nothing.

So why I engage in these "culture war" debates, sometimes I do not know.

Anyway, new fighters are always emerging in the Culture War, and a rising figure (if such terminology is appropriate) is J. Matt Barber. Best known for his legal dispute with Allstate (discussed infra), he is now on the board of Concerned Women for America and a regular contributor to World Net Daily. How I came to be placed on his list I do not know, but with amazing regularity I get emails from him which criticize the gay lifestyle, often but not always in religious terms. I almost always ignore them. (Or so I try.) But that little man inside my head -- it would be arrogant of me to call it a "conscience" -- accuses me of being a coward if I ignore the emails. Might ignoring them be taken as agreement? Or am I really ignoring them by remaining silent? The answers aren't clear; what is clear is that I am sick to death of these intractable cultural disagreements, but ignoring them does not make them go away. I worry that there isn't enough rational discussion, because these cultural disagreements are so fraught with emotion that they threaten the ability of polite society to remain polite.

So what is more polite? Discussing them? Or ignoring them? Is this the place to discuss them? If not here, where?

At any rate, while I don't like to engage in lengthy religious or sexual disputes (I try to keep both as private as I can), the latest email from J. Matt Barber seemed to cry out for a response. Much as I wanted to ignore it along with so many others, it triggered this inexplicable sense of "obligation" to say something.

What triggers this sense of obligation is complicated; perhaps it could best explained by specialists who treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. For the record, I am willing to stipulate that I may be nuts, as well as immoral, amoral, and downright evil. But even conceding all that, I'm still stuck with Mr. Barber's email. (I don't need to quote the whole thing, because the text is also a featured article at World Net Daily.)

Saying homosexuality is immoral is nothing new for Barber. What's different this time is that Barber is upset that President Bush failed to condemn homosexuality in his State of the Union address:

In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Bush briefly touched on the horrors of the HIV/AIDS pandemic currently plaguing Africa. Most everyone agrees that something must be done to combat the spread of this dreadful and preventable disease, which continues to infect many throughout the poverty-stricken continent.

That being said, the president unfortunately missed a valuable opportunity to address the needless HIV/AIDS epidemic within our own borders, which predominately affects - and infects - men who choose to engage in dangerous homosexual behaviors - and at times the women who love them. (In the U.S., the vast majority of women infected with HIV/AIDS are infected by men who also have sex with men, or through intravenous drug use).

Did Bush really miss an opportunity to address domestic AIDS? Or might he have been motivated by the fact that huge numbers of Africans are infected but have no access to treatment? There are 30 million Africans with the AIDS virus -- compared to approximately 1 million in the United States.

Here's what the president said about AIDS:

Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus -- including 3 million children under the age 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than 4 million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims -- only 50,000 -- are receiving the medicine they need.

Because the AIDS diagnosis is considered a death sentence, many do not seek treatment. Almost all who do are turned away. A doctor in rural South Africa describes his frustration. He says, "We have no medicines. Many hospitals tell people, you've got AIDS, we can't help you. Go home and die." In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words. (Applause.)

AIDS can be prevented. Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year -- which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp. Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.

We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs, and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS, and for children orphaned by AIDS. (Applause.)

While Bush did say that AIDS is preventable, and that it is being confronted in the United States, he clearly thinks the situation in Africa is much more appalling. Would this have been an appropriate time to discuss the American homosexual lifestyle as a contributory factor?

Barber thinks so, and although I disagree, I think it's fair to address his argument, the central thesis of which is expressed in a statement he quotes from Peter La Barbera:

Fighting AIDS without talking against homosexuality is like fighting lung cancer without talking against smoking.
Is that a good analogy? There is no question that in the United States, AIDS is transmitted by certain homosexual practices, the principal one being anal intercourse without condoms. It is also transmitted by shared needles, and increasingly, by ordinary heterosexual intercourse without condoms. The numbers are in flux, but if these 2005 numbers are correct, about half (18,722) of the total number of Americans infected in 2005 (37,930) were infected by "male-to-male sexual contact ." Looking at the numbers, this means is that any discussion of AIDS avoidance should mention homosexual intercourse, heterosexual intercourse, and needle sharing in that order of importance. Obviously, because there are far fewer homosexuals than heterosexuals, a far greater proportionate share of the homosexual population is involved, and thus it would be irrational to fight AIDS in the United States without talking about homosexuality.

What about talking against homosexuality? If all homosexuals engaged in the practices that cause AIDS, this would appear to be a logical claim, but if they are not, would it not make more sense to target (and "talk against") only those who engage in the practices that actually spread AIDS?

To say that AIDS must be fought by "speaking against homosexuality" suggests -- by conflation -- that those who do not engage in AIDS-transmitting practices are morally culpable of spreading AIDS.

Whether Mr. Barber or anyone else approves of homosexuality or not, let's analogize to needle sharing by drug users -- something of which I think very few would approve. Even if we grant that drug use is evil, is it logical to claim that drug users who don't share needles are culpable for the spread of AIDS? I don't see how. And if those who don't share needles are not to blame for the conduct of those who do, how can homosexuals who masturbate each other be charged with "barebacking"?

While it's statistically not as likely a cause as irresponsible homosexual behavior, it is undeniable that AIDS can be transmitted by irresponsible heterosexual behavior. Does that mean heterosexuals in monogamous relationships share the blame for AIDS?

I'm assuming blame is the key to understanding the argument, for Barber complains that those who engage in sexual behaviors of which he disapproves are lacking in "accountability":

For one to continue engaging in unnatural and immoral sexual behaviors of choice, one must deny the need for accountability. In fact, one must do away with accountability altogether. And so from this notion - from the human need to rationalize away sin - was born today's fashionable and accountability-free "safe-sex" myth.
I see several illogical suppositions there. I am assuming that Mr. Barber considers all homosexual behavior to be "unnatural and immoral sexual behaviors of choice," because he does not distinguish between such homosexual behaviors as fetishism, masturbation, sadomasochism, oral intercourse, anal intercourse, online "sex," or even holding hands in public. Otherwise, his complaint about a lack of "accountability" makes no sense. What are online masturbators or public hand-holders to be held accountable for? AIDS? If not AIDS, then why is this in a discussion of AIDS?

Actually, there is a form of undeniable accountability which Mr. Barber does touch on -- and that is DEATH. (Yes, many of my closest friends were held accountable that way.)

What about smokers? Aren't they "accountable" in much the same way?

But concerns over death are conflated into an "obtuse liberal mantra":

Leftist logic: "What? Stop indulging in disordered, promiscuous and random 'gay' sex? No need. Here's a condom. ... But always practice 'safe-sex' or you might die" - goes the obtuse liberal mantra.
You might die? Is something wrong with that warning? Forgive my liberal obtusity, but if death is not a form of "accountability," then what is? I realize that there are people who do not fear death, but if the threat of death does not deter them, I'm wondering what form of accountability will.

Isn't the "you might die" part being glossed over here? The fact is people might very well die if they engage in AIDS risky behavior. Applying Barber's smoking analogy, why wouldn't "smoke cigarettes and you may die" (which is pretty much what the package labels say these days) be considered a "liberal mantra"?

I think the argument that all homosexuality is immoral and therefore causes AIDS is like saying "Cigarettes are immoral and will kill you regardless of whether you light them up and smoke them." (Actually, I have to admit that crazy as it may seem, there are indeed people who think that way. All you need to do is brandish an unlit cigarette at them.)

Seen this way, perhaps homosexuals are as immoral as cigarettes. Or is that an inflammatory statement? Perhaps, but I often suspect that the people who compare sexual morality to cigarette morality don't really mean what they say.

Let's carry the smoking analogy further -- to the issue of whether or not parents should vaccinate their children against the sexually transmitted HPV virus. The moral conservative argument against vaccinating the children is that it the vaccination implies that they are going to have sex, and that the vaccination is a license for children to have sex, similar to handing out condoms.

Let's assume that a vaccine was developed which prevented lung cancer in smokers. I suspect that there would not be the same visceral opposition to vaccinating children against lung cancer as there is to vaccinations against STDs. I can't prove my suspicions (because there is no way of getting inside people's minds), but I suspect there'd be more opposition to an AIDS vaccine than a vaccine against lung cancer.

As to whether screwing should be subject to the same restrictions as smoking, it can be argued that it already is. Try screwing at work or in the street. You'll be told to do it behind closed doors. In fact, even though they're cracking down on smokers, I think that public screwing is considerably more penalized than public smoking -- despite the fact that sexual intercourse poses no direct health hazards to anyone except the participants. In theory, private smoking is approximately as legal as private screwing.

I realize that there's a problem with my analogy in that screwing takes two. But it's not my analogy. I think it is a problematical one and I am not sure that the people who want homosexuals treated like smokers have actually thought the moral implications through.

As the argument continues, Mr. Barber sets up a dichotomy between encouraging "trapped" homosexuals to "escape" on the one hand, and "nihilism" on the other:

And so rather than encouraging those trapped in the homosexual lifestyle to begin the admittedly difficult process of escape - which thousands of former homosexuals have successfully done - liberals prefer the nihilistic approach, one in which there are absolutely no absolutes and in which all morality rests entirely in the eye of the beholder.
I think this sets up a false moral dichotomy, as it implies there are only two moralities -- Barber's morality and moral nihilism. Additionally, there is a failure to recognize the distinction between moral relativism and moral nihilism. If I say that under Islamic morality, polygamy is allowed, while under Judeo-Christian Western morality, it is forbidden, I am engaged in moral relativism, but I am not engaged in moral nihlism unless I say that this means that there is no morality. Denying that different people in different times and different places have different moral views is, in my opinion, denying reality. What gets tricky is the claim of "absolute" morality, because anything said to be "absolute" is said to go beyond the realm of opinion. If a particular viewpoint is (according to Barber and those who agree with him) absolutely right and all disagreement with that is wrong, then it becomes wrong for me to argue at all, which means this essay might be a colossal waste of time. The problem with absolute morality is that there is no absolute agreement on what it is or how it is to be interpreted, and that is why these arguments go in circles. I say this as someone who believes in God, as well as the concept of truth, and of course in right and wrong. I may be wrong in my interpretations of these things, but that does not mean I don't believe in them. I am always willing to admit that I may be wrong, but what I cannot do in logic is to state conclusively that my opinions (or the opinions of other people) are facts. Even the opinions that are said to come from God remain opinions of men about the opinions of God, and no matter how many people share opinions, that does not change the opinions into facts.

The problem is that just because if I proceed from the premise that I may be wrong does not entitle me to demand that others do the same. Where does this leave me? Pleading guilty to being Satanic (as I have done) simply to end the argument? I often wish these arguments could proceed on the basis that both sides have the right to be wrong, but when arguing with absolutism, that's wishful thinking.

A word about "trapped" homosexuals who seek to "escape." Not only do I have no problem with anyone being gay, I have no problem with anyone not being gay. If there's a right to be gay, there's a right not to be gay. But what is meant by the phrase "those trapped in the homosexual lifestyle"? Does he mean that all homosexuals are trapped? Or only those who want to escape? I'm assuming that he has to be talking about the latter, because "trapped" implies a lack of choice, and if homosexuality is a chosen liftestyle, then how can homosexuals who chose it be called "trapped"?

As to the ones who want to esape, this raises questions I'm not capable of answering. First of all, I would need to know who trapped them, and who is preventing them from escaping. Did they trap themselves? To answer these questions requires getting inside the minds of each "trapped" homosexual -- something I am not prepared to do. It seems to me that anyone who feels trapped should have every right to escape. I just wonder whether Barber isn't claiming for himself the right to decide whether or not other people are trapped. If so, on what basis? Is human sexuality an addiction, like tobacco? I don't think it is, but even if I did, how do such speculations about psychology become an appropriate topic for Bush's State of the Union address?

Finally we come to the condom failure rate -- said to be dispositive of the "safe sex" argument. Here I think there's a presupposition that just as all homosexuality involves AIDS, all homosexual "safe sex" is said to rely on condoms (and anal intercourse):

Instead of considering a homosexual's best interests and discouraging both spiritually and physically destructive behavior, the left scandalously encourages him to walk a paper thin latex tightrope, risking up to a 1 in 3 chance that he might plunge to his death. (Studies have consistently established from between a 15 to 30 percent condom failure rate in protecting against HIV/AIDS and other STDs).

Therefore, to show compassion - real compassion - and to effectively combat our own AIDS epidemic, which continues to needlessly destroy the lives of so many of God's children struggling with same-sex attractions and behaviors, perhaps it's time the left stop enabling, encouraging and promoting those attractions and behaviors. Perhaps it's time for liberals to finally admit that political correctness is not only ridiculous and counterintuitive, but that in far too many cases, political correctness can be a real killer.

Assuming he is right about what "condom failure rate" means (this study shows the percentages can be reported by people or by episode), then with a one in three rate, I'd expect all homosexuals to be dead within a very short time (certainly a lot faster than they could be replaced). I don't think that is happening, and frankly, I have not seen much of a movement to proclaim condoms safe. It is well known that anal sex is dangerous, but it is also well known that condoms make it safer, not "safe." But again, there is an assumption that the riskier behaviors are the only behaviors, and zero mention of the fact that there are monogamous gay couples. And what about lesbians? Are they homosexual? They're generally considered a low risk group for AIDS.

I realize that Barber believes homosexuality is immoral, but I think much of his argument is an attempt to conflate morality into epidemiology. It is true that anal sex is not safe, and that condoms do not afford absolute protection. These things are pretty well known.

And while I know I will never convince Barber, I have tried to address the topics in his email -- homosexual immorality, homosexual unaccountability, safe sex obtuse liberal mantras, moral nihilism, condom failure rates, "trapped" homosexuals and more.

I get sick of writing about these things -- and even though I recognize that they provide fuel for the blog, I often wish I didn't have this weird feeling of obligation.

On the other hand, might this blog be a better place for them than Bush's State of the Union speech?

Actually, that raises what I hope is a final point.

No, seriously. If I'm so sick of all these contentious issues and unwinnable arguments that I wonder whether they really belong in this blog, isn't it a bit arrogant to say they belong in Bush's State of the Union speech?

posted by Eric at 04:48 PM | Comments (6)

Errors in number stand uncorrected

Via Glenn Reynolds, I was fascinated to learn about a blogger who has been criticized for having too many links. Jon Swift (a man after my heart) will blogroll anyone regardless of politics or traffic ranking:

when it comes to blogrolling I am surprisingly liberal, as you can see from the Blogroll Policy I have posted on my sidebar. "I will add anyone to my blogroll who adds me to theirs, whether conservative, liberal, moderate, libertarian or Albigensian, with the exception of spam or porn blogs or anything else your mother would be embarrassed to read," it states. I oppose litmus tests for blogs as well as Supreme Court Justices.

You might think that for all their talk of being inclusive, more liberals might agree with my policy. Although some other blogs have adopted my policy as their own, and my blogroll was recently mentioned in a post about blogrolls as an example of a site that had a blogroll "a mile long," my policy is surprisingly controversial and not universally accepted.

Believe me, I can understand why it is controversial and not universally accepted. The two most frequent criticisms of this blog are:

1) that I am too longwinded; and

2) that because I will blogroll almost anyone, my blogroll is equally longwinded, and therefore "out of control."

Yes to the former and yes to the latter. The former is just the way I write, and the latter reflects my philosophy, and an early idea I had that generosity in linking would lead to dynamic growth of the blogosphere. Whether this is true, or whether it just causes "inflationary growth," I do not know. Frankly, the blogroll has been the way it is for so long that it's now one of Classical Values' traditional values, and except for maybe deleting dead blogs occasionally, I do not intend to change it.

Which is why I just added Jon Swift to my blogroll. I think his blogroll philosophy is admirable.

What seems to have given rise to the discussion of blogroll bloat was a self-serving post by Atrios (titled "Happy Blogroll Amnesty Day") in which he claimed he was purging his blogroll in order to be fair or something.

Hey, the blogroll is gone.

As I wrote earlier, one of the big complaints by new bloggers is that it's impossible to get onto blogrolls because established bloggers tend not to add them. They're right. A big reason for that is that everyone feels a wee bit guilty about removing blogs from their blogroll, so they're hesitant to add new ones to an ever-expanding list.

So, big and little, they're all gone, in the name of what? Equality?

Or blogroll bulimia? (Geez, the urge to purge seems to be contagious lately....)

FWIW, I think Atrios's new "policy" sucks. While I know my blogroll looks ridiculous to many (and I agree, it is a little disorderly), the fact is that being dumped from a blogroll is the most insulting thing that can happen to a blogger. Any blogger. Even the high and mighty Atrios, whom I have blogrolled for years (and who of course will remain despite his latest snit).

However, I guess if Atrios had ever blogrolled me (which he had not) I might feel honored to be a purge victim right now. So let's just pretend that I just got purged by Atrios, and that I'm outraged. In fact, let's pretend I'm so outraged that I'm in the mood for -- for....


In an accompanying post written five minutes earlier, Atrios pronounces Glenn Reynolds the "Wanker of the Day," and says this:

I have never come across a person so proud of their own profound stupidity.
Well, all I have to say to that is sic!

Better yet, SIC SAEC SUC!

Normally I don't correct grammar. (I avoid the "sic" business as it often strikes me as argumentatively tedious.) But considering that Atrios is a college professor, for all I know he was grading students for their errors when he wrote what is called an error in number. It's supposed to be "proud of his own profound stupidity." I suspect Professor Black knew deep down inside that he was wrong, but instead of correcting himself, he lashed out at all those little people who helped over the years to make him what he is today.

For shame!

MORE (more damn numbers, that is): Regarding the merits of the "pride of profound stupidity" claim, Atrios links Glenn Reynolds's discussion of a dispute between Tim Blair and Tim Lambert over whether 79 is "similar" to 88.

My view is that those who want it to be similar will consider it similar.

At the risk of being profoundly proud of my stupidity, I'd rather be 79 than 88.

UPDATE: Longtime reader, commenter and linker Socrates wondered whether my failure to blogroll him was an "intentional snub." It was neither intentional, nor a snub! It is my intention to blogroll all blogs that blogroll me, and I try to do this whenever when I discover them. The problem with me is that I am a very poor administrator -- which is why my blogroll asks people to email me and let me know. As far as I know, I have never intentionally failed to honor a request to be blogrolled.

However, any failure to blogroll me is a very grave matter. I will state here and now that all who do not blogroll Classical Values are not only guilty of intentional snubbing, but they are engaged in discrimination, in what amounts to a conspiracy to deprive everyone of my civil rights! Furthermore, by making it harder for potential readers to freely access this blog, they are stifling their First Amendment rights -- thus contributing to the annihilation of free speech and free association!

I therefore reserve the right to engage in retaliatory non-reciprocation!

posted by Eric at 08:44 AM | Comments (8)

Radio Wars

It appears that the Palestinians involved in the civil war are using some pretty harsh language against each other.

The recent fighting between Hamas and Fatah did not just play out in the streets of the Gaza Strip. The rival groups also pummeled each other over the airwaves, calling each other's fighters "mercenary death squads," "child killers" and even "Zionists."

The harsh rhetoric, coupled with the stations' ability to quickly rally their armed supporters in the streets, has led to fears that the local disc jockeys could fan the flames of the recent violence into a full-blown of civil war.

"If we wanted, we could burn down Gaza," said a smiling Ibrahim Daher, director of Aksa Radio, the voice in Gaza of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

He said it with a smile. That must be a real comfort to the people of Gaza. It must be a comfort to see them call each other Zionists. So they are all against Zionists. Nice to see they have national unity on that point. Their problem is that half the Palestinians may be Zionists too and no one can decide which half. This will require some sorting out.
With a lull in the recent infighting, the radio stations have toned down as well. But with no political solution in sight, the radios may yet wage another battle.

"Radio is in every house, every car and every street. It can cause a revolution or quell one. That's a dangerous role," said Salah al-Masri, director of Al-Quds Radio, funded by the radical Islamic Jihad.

"I bet you, in a few hours, I can orchestrate a protest. The question is what kind. We can launch a protest against the Israeli occupation, or at (Abbas), or fire rockets," he said.

Think if they just applied this power to something useful. Nah. Why waste the effort even thinking about it? Not going to happen. At least not for a very long time.

AP reporter Sarah El Deeb has been covering Gaza's factional fighting, often pinned down indoors by gunfire and venturing outside during periods of lull. Here are her notes from the sidelines:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Never mind the almost daily cease-fire announcements. The music played on the radio stations of Hamas and Fatah is a much better guide to war and peace.

When both Hamas's Al Aqsa radio and Fatah's Al Shabab station played "Today is the day of rage" simultaneously a few days ago, it was pretty clear the guns would not fall silent. At times of heavy clashes, the playlists also include Islamic marching songs or odes to legendary Fatah founder Yasser Arafat.

When the two sides withdraw their forces from time to time, songs about Jerusalem are popular, as a unifying theme. Lebanese singer Fairouz is a favorite on Al Shabab, as a demonstration of secular nationalist sentiment.

Radio broadcasts also air political statements and take calls from listeners trapped at home. Trying to lower the enemy's morale, Al Shabab reported that scores of Hamas militiamen had defected. Al Aqsa Radio quickly retaliated with a similar report.

When a new cease-fire was announced Sunday, both stations broadcast the same phone number for listeners to report violations to a police operations room with Hamas and Fatah observers. They received dozens of calls on the first day. And resumed playing songs of national unity.

News reports. Reports of enemy action. Psychological warfare. Boosting morale. Sounds like American radio during WW2.

Note: I had a Palestinian report on the joint operations room in Cease Fire Holding. I also noted in that report that there were some hot heads who would not give up the fight. Murders needed to be avenged.

Here is some more on the hot heads.

After nightfall, thunderous gunfire frequently erupted outside a building housing visiting Associated Press staffers in Gaza City, with some of the shooting coming from a nearby building.

It was more than just a fight between Hamas and Fatah.

The Bakr clan, clamoring for revenge, was after the killer of a 17-year-old member, Mahmoud Bakr, who died in the crossfire last week. For four nights, dozens of masked Bakr men, armed and in black uniforms, pinned down a dozen Hamas gunmen -- whom they blamed for Mahmoud's death -- on a rooftop.

The fighting is increasingly about settling personal scores, and the element of revenge will make it harder to enforce a cease-fire, even if Hamas and Fatah are to reach an elusive power-sharing agreement.

The grieving father, Anan Bakr, a member of the Fatah-linked Preventive Security Service, said the battle has become personal. "In our tradition, in our religion, whoever kills must be killed, even after time passes," he said.

In It's A Family Affair I covered one blood feud. Obviously there are others. With 70 or 80 dead so far there is a lot of revenging to be done. And those revenge killings will require more killings. The Hatfields and McCoys.

Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin said he thought it was not in Israel's best interest to get involved in Gaza while Fatah and Hamas were fighting each other.

He does point out the devolution of the fighing from a nationalist struggle to a tribal struggle.

The major problem facing Israel in the territories, Diskin believes, is the collapse of government in the PA. This is particularly evident in the Gaza Strip, where "there is a return to the clan. Clan loyalty is now more evident than loyalty to any group."

The clan influence, Diskin said, is directly linked with the desire to seek revenge for the dead from the recent internecine clashes, and it poses an obstacle to reaching a cease-fire, even if the leadership of Fatah and Hamas appears to be interested in an accord.

This return to Tribalism and the unwavering desire for Israel's destruction which Diskin also goes into, portends a future of fighting for the Israelis. With any kind of luck the Palestinians will destroy their own societies without much direct military help from the Israelis.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:47 AM

Muslim Hit Team?

The semi-reliable Pipeline News has posted a piece about the fellows Threatening The Guilford Players.

...at North Carolina's Guilford College the hue and cry over a gamed "hate crime" has reached such proportions that a hit-team composed of self-identified Muslims are actually out hunting the football players involved in the January 21 fracas.

"City of Greensboro police were called on February 4, 2007 at 11:50am in reference to three individuals that entered a suite at Bryan Hall on the Guilford College campus stating that they were looking for the football players that were involved in previously alleged assault.

The subjects were described as follows:

1. Black male, dark-skinned, 30-40 years old, 6'3"- 6'4" heavyset, bushy beard green toboggan, green bubble jacket.

2. Middle eastern male, 5'9" thin, black Carhartt jacket, red bandanna on his head,

3. Middle Eastern male, 6'0", thin, black jacket, black toboggan." - Greensboro Police Department

The three thugs aroused the suspicions of student athletes they encountered while casing Bryan Hall. In the presence of these athletes they made the statement that they were Muslims and looking for the football players involved in the assault. Unnerved by this confrontation, the three then quickly left the scene, departing at a high rate of speed while driving a dark green 1995-96 Nissan Maxima whose registration plates had been removed. Eyewitnesses stated that the vehicle ran 3 stoplights to evade pursuers.

We have been informed that Bryan Hall remains unsecured despite the now obvious threat.

Adding additional irony, the scene of this increasingly ominous affair is run by the Quakers. In some venues the college has been described as a "hippie oasis," however less flattering views of the institution refer to it as a place where spikey haired freaky young adults are ushered out of 60 thousand dollar German luxury cars, dropped off by parents who are relieved at not having to see or deal with them again until semester's end.

Some kids never get the hang of reality.

Speaking of reality, Pipeline covers the relationship between the Quaker founded Guilford College and the Friends School in Ramallah, West Bank.

1. Two of the three of the accusers in the Guilford assault case themselves are implicated as having precipitated violent confrontations with other students.

2. Guilford's Director of Multicultural Educational Education, Sekinah Hamlin personally guided the three accusers away from the Greensboro Police Department [which ended its investigation in this matter on January 31, bringing no charges], "After careful review of this case and consultation with the Guilford County District Attorney's Office, no evidence was found at this time that would allow the Greensboro Police Department to proceed any further in this investigation."] and towards Magistrate W.P. Brown, who issued arrest warrants upon the mere allegation of the accusers.

3. That Guilford maintains a feeder school relationship with the suicide bomber justifying Ramallah Friends School in Israel's West Bank.

4. That Guilford College Quaker Chaplain, Max Carter regularly meets while in the Middle East with individuals who are just a handshake removed from terror:

Pipeline has much more on the subject. What is interesting is Guilford's support for violent resolution of differences in Israel and peaceful resolution in America.

The evidence is that the violence in Israel is seeping into America. Brought to us by the peaceful folks at Guilford College. Interesting how often Peacemongers lead us to war.

Nevile Chamberlain was a man of peace.

He had the papers to prove it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:51 AM

Aren't They Supposed To Be Above That Sort Of Thing?

Romantic entanglements entangle astronuat.

An astronaut drove from Houston to Florida, donned a wig and trench coat and confronted a woman she believed was romantically involved with a space shuttle pilot she was in love with, police said. She was charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

US Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the international space station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. She was denied bail.

Police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston to the Orlando International Airport - wearing diapers so she would not have to stop to urinate - to confront Colleen Shipman.

Nowak believed Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station last December, police said.

This romantic rivalry has proven that the space program has come of age and humans have not.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:20 PM

Ready for the rampancy of raging RINOs?

This week's Carnival of the RINOs has been posted at Barry Campbell's Enrevanche, and the theme is "RINOs rampant."

Barry shares his thoughts about how the real RINOs are no longer the proud dissenters, but the "movement conservatives":

as I consider the GOP's sad slow-motion implosion in recent years, and their gradual desertion of core values like small government and fiscal responsibility, it occurs to me that the real Republicans In Name Only are the so-called "movement conservatives" currently helming the party.
Interesting. I've noticed that the RINOs of the Carnival variety are disgruntled for a variety of very different reasons, and that their embrace of the term "RINO" often indicates contempt for the stereotype, along with refusal to be labeled. It's an insult worn with pride, and it should come as no surprise that the people who so often hurl it as an insult might be the real RINOs.

Personally, I'd call them RINOcrats -- but that's only because they're in charge!

Anyway, there are lots of good posts, about things like the real estate bubble, suicide (of a feminist professor arrested for prostitution) Yemeni jihadis (and appalling security), prosecutorial misconduct (in the case of the two convicted border control agents), and the world "pariah" (that everyone wants to trade with, natch).


posted by Eric at 03:38 PM | Comments (1)

blog bulimia on the campaign trail

After having written three posts on the subject of Amanda Marcotte (all of which have mentioned John Edwards), I'm now realizing that because this involves an election, my political motives might be suspect, and I want to remind my readers that I have no interest in taking sides one way or the other vis-a-vis the Edwards candidacy. If anything, I should be expected to, if not support him, at least not do anything to harm his campaign, as I disagree with the idea (once expressed at Pandagon, but now MIA like so many others) that Hillary Clinton would be an easy candidate for the Republicans to beat.

So, while I'm still registered as a Republican, that hardly means I'd want Edwards defeated at this stage of the game. Even though I'll never vote for him, it seems fair to say a few words in his defense.

I think it's quite possible that John Edwards did not realize the burden he had taken on when he hired Amanda Marcotte. As Ann Althouse notes, the man may have been overburdened. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds that "ignorance is strength.")


If ignorance is strength, and if Edwards was ignorant when he hired Marcotte, then he may be blameless -- or maybe just guilty of having made what Glenn thinks is a poor choice.

My view is that Amanda Marcotte is a left-wing Ann Coulter. The two are remarkably similar in the scorn, vitriol and invective departments. But Ann Coulter usually owns up to what she says, and has paid the price for it (as when the National Review dumped her). Amanda Marcotte, on the other hand, wants to be an Ann Coulter and not be an Ann Coulter at the same time. Such a thing is impossible. (Witness the bizarre duality of simultaneously claiming on the one hand that the disappeared posts were "lost in migration" but then instead of restoring them, hurling accusations of sexism at the "right wing mob" for daring to find and cite them. I'm sorry, but that strikes me as selective, passive aggressive, blog bulimia.)

It is one thing to hold kooky (or "interesting") opinions. Some of mine are quite unconventional, although I like to think I can defend them. But to own and disown your opinions at the same time is self canceling.

What remains to be seen is whether John Edwards will be able to get away with having his Ann Coulter and not having her too.

Sorry to butcher the old have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too expression, folks, but if I'd referred to John Edwards and Ann Coulter that way, they might make me scrub my post out with soap.

(I'd hate to be forced to engage in blog bulimia at my own blog!)

UPDATE (02/06/07): While I'm not an expert on complex medical/social issues, it seems that Amanda Marcotte's cycles of blog bulimia have infected a slim (but very angry) woman of color.

(As for me, I'm still working through my urge to purge!)

posted by Eric at 02:38 PM | Comments (1)

Threatening The Players

This is curious. Three people entered Guilford College dorms looking for the football players involved in the fight with some Palestinians that took place on Jan 20th.

GREENSBORO, N.C. Police are investigating an apparent intrusion by three people into a Guilford College dormitory. Authorities say the three were looking for the football players connected to a fight with several Palestinian students.

School officials and Greensboro police say the three quickly left the dorm after police were summoned. A police spokesman says threats were made, but he wouldn't say who made them or who was the target of the threats.

So far, there have been no arrests.

Interesting. Police obviously know who they are. The college has been informed. Why the silence?

Threats were made. Is this some kind of witness intimidation?

Guilford College Statement on the 04 Feb '07 incident:

Guilford College Public Safety and the Greensboro Police Department responded to a brief incident in Bryan Hall on campus at midday Sunday, Feb. 4. Based on the public safety report:

At about Noon, three individuals from off campus entered Bryan Hall and approached a suite that is the residence of several football players.

According to students on the scene, the individuals from off-campus were looking for football players involved in the Jan. 20 incident in Bryan Hall.

Guilford Public Safety and Greensboro Police were called, and the Guilford public safety officer on duty responded immediately.

Guilford Public Safety spotted a car driven by the individuals from off campus in the parking lot beside Frank Family Science Center and followed the car off campus.

Guilford Public Safety has a detailed description of the individuals from off campus and the car that they were driving.

Greensboro Police arrived after the off-campus individuals had left and began their investigation.

It is important to note that the football players and other students involved in the Jan. 20 incident in Bryan Hall were not in the hall during today's (Feb. 4) incident. They were moved off campus following the Jan. 20 incident.

Within two hours of today's (Feb. 4) event, the Community Response Team, led by President Chabotar, took these actions:

Notified or attempted to notify parents of all students directly involved in the Jan. 20 incident.

Reinforced heightened security for Bryan Hall.

Heightened campus security generally and asked the Greensboro Police Department to add patrols of the campus area and Bryan Hall.

Ordered the notification of the campus community of the incident via campus-wide e-mail.

These threats are probably quite serious if the parents of the 20 Jan. incident were notified.

I have a feeling that when this is all over the support for the Palestinian cause at Guilford College will not be what it used to be.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:04 AM

More sexist than the Superbowl itself!

I was so into sexism yesterday that I missed the Superbowl.

Seriously, I didn't know who played or won, but I just looked at the front page of the Inky and I see that the Colts beat the Bears. (Ewww! I don't like the sound of that. It evokes images of mean male guns like Colt 45s and those horrid Assault Weapons shooting endangered Polar bears who sought refuge from global warming, or gentle pandas whose only crime was bamboo munching! Normally I'd be glad to have skipped the whole sordid sexist affair, but I see that I didn't escape being considered a sexist anyway, and that hurts! Especially considering that I wasn't even sure of the sex of my victim!)

Darn. I hate it when I'm forced to be a sexist against my will!

But thanks to a couple of links from commenter "ema" yesterday, I see that my sexism must be addressed. (Maybe even confronted, although I'm the timid sort and hate confrontations, even with my inner child.)

While I don't think either of my posts has been mentioned anywhere at Pandagon, I'm not yet off the hook as a sexist, because Amanda Marcotte has come out swinging in her own defense. (Well, at least, in defense of a defense). In a comment to a post by another Pandagon blogger she maintains that while the disappeared Pandagon posts were actually lost in migration, the primary culprits are sexism, and Michelle Malkin (the latter's "sexist" post is here):

Amanda Marcotte Feb 4th, 2007 at 8:17 am

I did delete and rewrite a post they're trying very hard to misrepresent so that there's no doubt what my official stance is. I wouldn't call it "scrubbing", because my point was that they wanted it to be VERY CLEAR how I felt.

Interesting how Malkin, who has implied that Auguste is sexist in the past, is so willing to go along with an attack on me that 99.5% based in sexism. Anything to score points, huh? Malkin doesn't actually give a hoot about sexism, it's clear. Oh well, nothing shocking about a bad faith right wing argument.

All this said, their entire vendetta against me reeks of bad faith so much that it's crystal clear. Making up rules and then getting angry because your target broke a rule she wasn't aware of is a classic wife beater move, and I'm not surprised it's the favorite manuever of the right wing mob.

Making up rules? The only rule that governs any of this is the First Amendment, which allows anyone to say anything, or unsay it. Barring slander, perjury, or obstruction of justice, the First Amendment allows lying, hyperbole, exaggeration, and covering up. I can write anything I want, change it, delete it, and erase it. There's no legal obligation on my part to leave my archives up, or leave anything in them. I can stop blogging tomorrow, stop paying my ISP, and the blog will disappear. Sure, the posts would still appear on the Wayback Machine, and the Google cache would be there for a month or so, but the point is, there are no rules preventing me from doing anything or requiring me to do anything.

The consequences are a loss of credibility, and right now Amanda Marcotte -- and Pandagon -- have zero credibility. Sorry but consequences are not "rules."

I don't think this is sexism, because I think Jesse Taylor is the primary culprit. When he left, his posts were scrubbed, but his blog (which is officially still in his name) continued -- ostensibly under Amanda Marcotte's stewardship. While I joked that he and Amanda might be the same person (they might be; I don't know either one of them), I think they're both "guilty" of post scrubbing, and of changing authorship status. But I placed "guilty" in quotes because there are no "rules" making post scrubbing a crime.

As to the credibility of Pandagon, right now it's about on the level of Capitol Hill Blue. I can't trust anything they say, because for starters I don't know who is writing what or who wrote what. The whole thing is a mess, the archives are next to useless, and there's no way to tell who wrote what. Here's the official explanation from "Lauren":

Yeah, I love my name right at the top too.

The other thing that's going to continue to bring up charges of deleting and erasing files is the move from MT to WP.

As for this crap:
I reported Taylor's move when it happened in October 2005 and linked to his announcement at Pandagon. When I clicked back to Taylor's post in November 2006, it was gone and there was no sign of it in Pandagon's archives. I had to search the Wayback Machine to find Taylor's post again.

Did Marcotte, who claimed ownership of Pandagon upon Taylor's departure, scrub the site of his disclosure, and if so, why? Those questions came to my mind last fall but didn't seem worth asking then. They were just a curiousity.

Unfortunately lots of those files from the Jesse days were lost during the migration because a) I am a dumbass, and b) MT's exports are terribly inefficient. Later on, due to another weird table gaffe, whole posts were lost and comments and commenters were listed as true posts, while the posts were relegated to comments or gone altogether.

I love how using the Wayback machine is now considered investigative reporting.

NOTE: "This crap" references a direct quote from this post by Beltway Blogroll. If you're calling someone's quoted material "crap," shouldn't there be a link? Or is basic blog etiquette now considered rules made up by sexists?

In the next post (or would it be a comment? The post/comment distinction is elusive with this type of "blog") , Lauren stresses that she had no idea that this would be a scandal:

And for anyone who is confused about my last comment, I'm the one who did the migrations (poorly) and the blog design. We knew the posts Auguste mentions were gone long ago, but hell if I ever thought that would be elevated to scandal status.
Whether the migration constitutes flakiness or deliberate deception I do not know. But I'm having a great deal of trouble finding any posts by Jesse Taylor anywhere at the blog he started -- and which any who-is search still shows is his. It seems job related to me, and it certainly appears that his posts were scrubbed. Why claim it's a "migration"? I haven't done a comprehensive search on every post, but how did Amanda's name get on the one Jesse Taylor wrote about me?

Why did the "stupid conservative asswipe" post disappear?

And what has sexism to do with it? Is it that because Amanda attacks men, any criticism of Amanda is sexism? How does a reasonable complaint about missing posts become analogous to wife beating?

If I wanted to give someone the benefit of the doubt here, who would that be? Jesse Taylor? Amanda Marcotte? Lauren?

As to the latter's remark that she "love[s] how using the Wayback machine is now considered investigative reporting," while I don't think she really loves it, she does not dispute that the Wayback Machine archives constitute the only way to determine what was written at Pandagon, when it was written, and by whom. True, the Wayback Machine has its limits. There's no way for it to tell anyone why Jesse Taylor left, whether he left, whether Amanda wrote the posts now bearing her name. It only reflects what the blog said on a particular day.

As such, it's a remarkable resource, and I see no reason why it can't be used to straighten out the problems caused by the migration. Everything that's there can be copied and moved back where it belongs in the Pandagon archives.

So what's the problem? If I decided to "migrate" my blog, and this happened, I'd be incredibly relieved to know my stuff was still somewhere. It might take time, but I would be able to reconstruct it.

Hell, now that I think about it, the Wayback Machine is like having a free backup system!

But instead of using it, the Pandagon people (whoever they are) seem to be offended that other people are using it. You'd almost think the Wayback Machine was, if not sexist itself, at least a tool of sexists.

So, I have to ask: Is it any coincidence that the evil right wing mob of men who try to trap women by holding them accountable for what they said (using a newly made up rule that what she said was actually said) chose yesterday, Superbowl Sunday, to exult in their sickening display of Wayback Machine triumphalism for their male prerogative purpose of trapping Amanda Marcotte?

I think not.

I was so into Wayback Machine sexism yesterday that I missed the Superbowl.

Missing the Superbowl because of sexism?

Now that's way sexist.

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE AFTERTHOUGHT: If the truth be told, my obsession with wanting to know what was actually said might be one of those sexist "guy things." Part of what Amanda Marcotte would call a "perennial male entitlement."

Perhaps there really isn't any need to understand anything after all.

Can't we all just get along and believe what we're told?

posted by Eric at 09:14 AM | Comments (5)

Cease Fire Holding

The ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank are holding with continuous violations.

GAZA, Palestine, February 5,2007 (IPC+ Agencies) - -Hamas and Fateh movements traded accusations over violating the ninth agreement of halting internecine fighting while the co-room continues to exert efforts to fully hold the agreement effect on the ground as tenuous and attentive calm overwhelmed Gaza Yesterday.

Even though the co-room, set up between Fateh and Hams under the auspice of Egyptian security delegation could manage to solve many controversial problems but some violations were occurred in several parts throughout Gaza Strip.

The gunmen have left higher residential building apartments and dismantle roadblocks and they exchanged hostages. Local police took up positions at the main intersections.

Tawfik Abu Khousa of Fateh in Gaza said that the co-room between Fateh and Hamas solved many disputable mattersand it still work unceasingl to firm up the agreement on the ground.

He also asserted that efforts are still being made to end up the hostages from both sides as many more are still being hold.

"The problem lie in the political echelon of Hamas whom lost their control on some of its members in the field, " Abu Khousa said, asserting that some people of Hamas do not want a halt to the internecine fighting.

No kidding.

So it appears that except for numerous and continuous violations of the cease fire it is holding. Isn't that how they play the game with the Israelis?

Damascus-based head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal called Sunday both factions to cease fighting for the benefit of all Palestinians.

"I call on all our brothers in the Palestinian areas ... to shoulder their responsibilities. We want a lasting calm between us. We should preserve our blood. Dialogue is the only way to resolve our differences," Meshaal said

You know, if he keeps talking like that it could ruin his whole war plan with Israel. Once you start talking negotiations who knows where it will lead?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:45 AM

Setting The Thermostat

Can any one tell me what the proper setting for the Earth's thermostat is?

And who is in charge?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:02 AM | Comments (3)

gratuitous advice for careerists seeking "post-change" surgery

Far be it from me to offer career advice to others, especially to people who are more successful than I am. But I find success almost as intriguing as failure, and the reasons why people succeed in life are at least as worthy of study as the reasons they fail, as are the reasons why some people achieve success on a grander scale than others who seem to be at least as "deserving." Deserving might not be the right word, as it implies a moral judgment and I don't mean it that way. It might strike me, for example, that reasonable people are more "deserving" of success than unreasonable people. But in settings where success is determined by emotion, hysteria, and hype, the idea that the "reasonable" people are more "deserving" of success is unreasonable on its face.

Whether she is "reasonable" or not, from a blogger perspective, Amanda Marcotte is a success by any standard. She writes for the highly successful Pandagon, having replaced Jesse Taylor who went on to greater things.

But wait!

Before he left for greater things, Jesse Taylor was kind enough to accuse me of "grade-B wingnuttia," and "humorless, clueless, mildly dishonest weaseldom."

It's not easy for a grade B wingnut like me to have merited even a mention by the hugely successful Pandagon, but I'm glad it didn't make me cocky, for I now see that the post has been pulled! Instead of snarky remarks about the humorless and clueless Grade B wingnut, there's just a boring error code:

Error 404 - Not Found

Search bar and other tools go here! If you're reading this, it needs to be implemented, remind me!

Feeling utterly dejected and rejected, I did a couple of things. First, I went to the Wayback Machine and looked through Pandagon's archives until I found the original post, dated August 21, 2005.

Phew! At least it was still there, even if relegated to a sort of blogospheric black hole. Its existence probably negates any thoughts I might have of suing Pandagon for pulling the post about me under a shaky legal theory of "unlibel."

But still, I wondered about this pulling of posts. Is there some rule now that bloggers who get important jobs working for politicians have to clean up their acts by doing anticipatory damage control?

It's probably an oxymoron to speak of politics and ethics in the same breath, but isn't sanitizing one's past by erasing blog posts the cyber equivalent of shredding old employment records?

I try to be fair, though, and I wanted to make sure that the post in question really had been pulled before making such an accusation. So, I went back to the search bar as instructed in Pandagon's 404 Error, and entered "grade b wingnuttia" in the box. Much to my amazement, the post was still there, but with a different URL!

But instead of "Posted by Jesse Taylor" it now says "Published by Amanda."

Now I'm really confused. I thought Jesse Taylor had insulted me. Now it's Amanda. What gives here?

Here at Classical Values, there are several bloggers, but I guess I am the publisher, since I am the one who owns the Classical Values URL and pays for the blog to be hosted. Not knowing who owns Pandagon, I ran a whois on the URL, and it reads, "Registrant: Jesse Taylor." Wouldn't that mean Jesse Taylor is the publisher? So what gives Amanda Marcotte the right to "take over" his posts and claim them as her own?

Something about this is very peculiar. It's not so much that I mind what Jesse and/or Amanda said about me. (Actually I was amused, as was Sean Kinsell, who opined that "Grade B Wingnuttia" should henceforth be my drag name.) It's just that I like to know who it is who is saying whatever they say they're saying. This interchangeability of authors (whether they're calling themselves "posters" or "publishers") is confusing.

Anyway, while I can't be 100% sure who wrote the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't post, I'm pretty sure it was Jesse Taylor, because he originally had responded in the comments.

I'm wondering about something, though. Right now, Amanda Marcotte is getting a lot of attention. Glenn Reynolds is calling her post-pulling marathon "the first Blog Scandal of Campaign 2008" and he linked a detailed discussion by Beltway Blogroll. As I say, I don't know whether there are any ethical standards governing post pulling. Probably not, as the right to say something includes the right to retract it, take it down, erase it, delete it, whatever.

The consequence is that there might be a loss of credibility, because when it is done for political reasons or to avoid embarrassment, it has all the elements of a coverup.

But what is it when you put your name on something already written by someone else? I'm in no position to accuse Amanda Marcotte of plagiarism, and Jesse Taylor might not care. In light of a similar pattern noted by Below the Beltway, I suspect there's mutual scrubbing going on.

It all makes me wonder whether there's "any there there" at Pandagon. Whether that matters, I guess, depends on whether you like Pandagon.

The odd thing about this is that I haven't been reading Pandagon as I should, and because I'm only beginning to discover the joys of Amanda Marcotte, I'm glad they still have the Wayback Machine or I wouldn't be able to play catch up with Pandagon's Golden Oldies.

However, I don't think she (or he) should have pulled a single post. Whether you agree with them or not, they're great. Just delightfully unhinged. Not to hurt anyone's feelings, but Amanda Marcotte reminds me of (dare I say it?) Ann Coulter!

I mean, in terms of sheer vituperation, I don't know whether even Ann could match this lovely mouthful:

I write about this shit day in and day out and still it's so hard for me to understand sometimes how the conservative dickwad pundits and politicians don't grasp that women are human, but instead live in some fantasy world where women are actually deceitful cunt-monsters, god's accident, vile sperm-sucking Eves who need to be forced by law to tell our husbands that we are "in trouble", if you will, because we can't be trusted not to sneak around out of sure feminine wiliness. It's just insane, it really is. I guarantee you that 99% of women who've ever been pregnant or just were afraid they were, went immediately to the man they figure got them there and told him first. The other 1% have their reasons for not, reasons that are surely out of the reach of any stupid conservative asswipe who thinks god was testing men by making women willful.
That's great stuff. I don't write that way, but that's because I'm stuck with this stodgy "logical and reasonable" style which probably holds me back as a blogger. My logical and reasonable side recognizes that while Amanda Marcotte might have had a legitimate point (that most women would tell the father of a baby before aborting it), it became lost in the fog of highly vituperative rhetoric. But is being reasonable really her goal? I don't think so. No more than being reasonable is Ann Coulter's goal.

The goal is success, which brings me back to my point. Amanda Marcotte is not as successful as Ann Coulter, but I think that's only because she's holding herself back by doing things like deleting posts. Using the Ann Coulter model, instead of holding back, she should turn up the volume. If she's fired by the Edwards campaign, why, she could leverage that into a bestseller. Plus, unlike Ann, Amanda is steeped in the raging victim culture, so she could claim to be a righteously indignant victim of John Edwards to gain extra leverage. (Sorry, but Ann Coulter could never have claimed with a straight face she was a victim of the National Review!)

When you're in the vituperation business, concealing what you think is really lame. Were I Amanda Marcotte's career counselor, I'd advise her to hold a press conference with a weenie in one hand and a knife in the other and just really let loose. Wave the knife and scream like a banshee from SCUM! Threaten to give those "stupid conservative asswipes" something to really wipe their asses over!

But how can I offer advice -- even gratuitous and unreasonable advice -- to someone if I can't be sure who it is I'm advising?

Does anyone know for a fact that Amanda Marcotte isn't Jesse Taylor in drag?

I mean, post reassignment is one thing, but consider her (or his) boss....


Yeah, it's an old picture, but some things are best left the way they are.

posted by Eric at 04:01 PM | Comments (9)

More Than Meets The Eye

So they're making a live action movie of Transformers. Big freaking deal.

I never watched it as a cartoon, so why should I care about it on the big screen?
Perhaps if I'd been born later, I could have invested it with the meaning that others have found there, and gotten properly stoked about it.

Or perhaps not. After all, it's being produced by Michael Bay, of Pearl Harbor infamy.

I figured no montage could save it.

But then a funny thing happened. I saw the trailer, and I'm embarrassed to say, it kind of rocks.

Naturally, some questions arise. Were those the best two minutes, nine seconds of the entire film? Will Josh Duhamel make a credible Army Ranger? Was Megan Fox chosen for her acting chops, or her extraordinarily expressive, um, face.

Who knows, perhaps Mr. Bay will learn from his past mistakes and excise the boring interpersonal filler. While he's a total scrub at romance and such, they say he's quite good at raw spectacle. And I do love my spectacle.

We should enjoy such seemingly harmless frivolities while we may. Since Hollywood comprises inessential industries that contribute significantly to Global Warming, it may only be a matter of time till the government tries to shut it down.

Transformers opens on July fourth.

posted by Justin at 12:19 PM

Duke Fever

It looks like Angry Studies are alive and well at Guilford College. They have gotten Duke Fever (a desire to persecute the innocent in the name of some cause).

As evidence in the case is coming out, it tends to support the idea that the Palestinians have turned an assault by them into an attack on them. I wonder if this is common to the Palestinian narrative?

Not to worry, the students are behind the Palestinians all the way. You seeGuilford College a Quaker School is loosely affiliated with Quakers' Friends School in Ramallah. And, there are demos.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A group of UNC-Chapel Hill students held a solidarity vigil to support three Palestinian students involved in a campus brawl that happened January 20th at Guilford College. Six of the school's football players were charged with assault.

The UNC-Chapel Hill student group is called "Solidarity with Palestine through Education and Action at Carolina" and the student organization formed just one week after the Palestinian students onGuilford college's campus say they were attacked. Freshman international studies student Haley Koch helped organize Friday's rally at The Pitt at UNC.

"No other universities have come out and supported these students and this has been a very difficult time for them and so we want to express that support to them," explained Koch.

Probably a good thing too as the charges are not holding up well even when all we have to go on is semi-corroborated rumor and barely supported speculation.
They're also encouraging other UNC students to get involved by signing a petition. The petition is asking Guilford College to fully investigate and recognize the incident as a hate crime. It's also calling for changes to the college's Code of Conduct.
Even if it was the Palestinians doing the hating? Some how I doubt it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:45 AM

Crime Reporting

How do colleges and universities report crime? We have a small part of the answer due to the Guilford College case.

GREENSBORO -- If students involved in the recent fight at Guilford College had not gone to the magistrate's office to file charges, chances are good that word of the event might never have left campus.

That's not uncommon.

Colleges frequently don't involve city police in on-campus incidents, law enforcement officials say.

But that isn't necessarily a problem. Not everything that technically could be a crime is best handled through the legal system, officials say.

Which is a good thing. It helps keep civil society civil. The occasional break in civility is usually not worth a civil war.
In the recent incident, Palestinian students said they were beaten by football players who used racial slurs. The father of one player has said the Palestinian students started the fight.

Bowers said that if the charges hadn't been filed, the incident would not have seen the light of day. "They probably would have kept the fight a secret," she said.

Law enforcement officials say they know all incidents that might be crimes are not reported. The key, though, is how serious those crimes are and whether decisions about what to report are consistent.

Which for the Palestinians would have been a better way to handle it. Their story is not holding up well. Now instead of it being a campus issue, it has become a world wide issue. Nice going Omar, Feris.
Police Lt. Brian James said not all incidents necessarily need to be reported to police, but those involving serious injuries or serious allegations do.

When that doesn't happen, that can cause problems, he said. It's harder to go back and investigate an incident after the fact, he said.

In the recent Guilford incident, police have said that their role in the investigation has been affected because they weren't immediately called to investigate.

Colleges aren't alone in not always involving law enforcement. The same thing happens at businesses and public schools and other places as well, Neumann said.

In fact, if everyone reported everything, "we'd be swamped," he said.

I think that points out one of the great difficulties in letting people bring charges before a magistrate. The chances of a complete investigation are slim. A trial then becomes a matter of trading accusations instead of evidence. I'll bet that is what the Palestinians were hoping for.

Those Palestinian boys are real smart. Possibly too smart by half.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:08 AM | Comments (1)

Valerie Solanas

Anybody remember Valerie Solanas? Founder of SCUM. The Society for Cutting Up Men. Writer of the SCUM Manifesto.

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.

It is now technically feasible to reproduce without the aid of males (or, for that matter, females) and to produce only females. We must begin immediately to do so. Retaining the mail has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction. The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.

The male is completely egocentric, trapped inside himself, incapable of empathizing or identifying with others, or love, friendship, affection of tenderness. He is a completely isolated unit, incapable of rapport with anyone. His responses are entirely visceral, not cerebral; his intelligence is a mere tool in the services of his drives and needs; he is incapable of mental passion, mental interaction; he can't relate to anything other than his own physical sensations. He is a half-dead, unresponsive lump, incapable of giving or receiving pleasure or happiness; consequently, he is at best an utter bore, an inoffensive blob, since only those capable of absorption in others can be charming. He is trapped in a twilight zone halfway between humans and apes, and is far worse off than the apes because, unlike the apes, he is capable of a large array of negative feelings -- hate, jealousy, contempt, disgust, guilt, shame, doubt -- and moreover, he is aware of what he is and what he isn't.

Well, it gets better or worse depending on your point of view.

So the relevance of this to current events? It looks like the John Edwards campaign has hired what appears to be a Valerie Solanas clone, Amanda Marcotte. Let us look into some of her writing. KC Johnson of Durham in Wonderland has excerpted from some of her posts. This is typical:

This is about race and class and gender in every way, and there's basically no way this woman was going to see justice. In her part of the country, both women and black people are seen as subhuman objects to be used and abused by white men.

Yeah, I know, Alon. Which is why I'm frustrated that people are pretending 'can't identify which one raped her" somehow equals 'wasn't raped'. I had some initial confusion about exactly who was assaulting me when I was assaulted, but that doesn't mean that his hands weren't actually where they were.

So it is not about evidence. It is about which class you belong to. Well I haved blogged about this particular post myself. Now Ms Marcotte has disappeared it down the memory hole.

Which probably makes her perfect for the Edwards Campaign. Which is all about the class struggle he is waging from his 24,000 sq. ft. mansion with heated swimming pool and when he gets tired and needs a vacation he has an nice vacation home on an island. Kind of like a castle with a moat. Keeps the lower classes out. They want to class struggle? It will have to be from some where else.

So all this has caused a lot of heat. The cover up, such as it is, even more.

Eric of Classical Values is covering Ms Marcotte from a different angle. Her recent blogging duel with James Lileks.

Lie Stoppers is looking at the Edwards campaign aspect. And, the missing posts.

There is also lots in the comments at all the above places. If you don't mind sifting.

I think Marcotte is sunk and so is Edwards.

A nice overview courtesy of Instapundit.

The opinions of Amanda Marcotte.

Note: Lie Stoppers link fixed.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:19 AM | Comments (1)

End at any cost?
If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will.

-- Hillary Clinton

Well, at least she's finally made her position clear. (In analyzing her remark, it probably should be kept in mind that when she says "end" she does not mean "win.")

Democrats who still support the war (or at least might entertain support for the idea of victory) don't seem to be running for president. Right now there seem to be two camps: those who were for it before they were against it, and those who were always against it.

I don't know what I would do if I were still a Democrat, but it's not the first time the Democratic Party has gone officially on record as being in favor of ending a long, drawn-out war.

This was part of the official Democratic Party Platform of 1864:

Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States.
Then as now, the Democratic Party was on record as supporting the troops:
Resolved, that the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiers of our army and the seamen of our navy, who are and have been in the field under the flag of their country; and, in the event of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned.
No way could the Democratic Party have been against the troops. Their presidential candidate was General George McClellan, who had done his level best to keep his troops out of harm's way, and who was finally removed from his command by Lincoln.

I see that I'm not the only person to think about McClellan as a role model for Hillary...

Here's American Thinker's Jeffrey Schmidt:

McClellan is the mask that Senator Clinton would wear because it offers her the ability to project general support for the War on Terror while dishing up plenty of criticism of Bush's management of it, even if the Iraq situation is perceived as improved. To placate the party's core activists, who furnish the grassroots organization and raise a lot of money, Senator Clinton may give tacit approval to antiwar planks in the party's platform, publicly warn about the dangers of future Iraqs, and call for more United Nations leadership and push greater allied involvement, while offering support for military action in the abstract.
Not being a general, I expect she'll draw on her connections and surround herself with uniformed McClellan wannabes.

What saved the Republican Party was success on the battlefield, which resulted from McClellan's resignation, and the emergence of Grant and Sherman.

It's an interesting analogy, but I don't expect history to repeat itself.

posted by Eric at 05:21 PM | Comments (1)

"Into" spilling children's blood?

It's that time of year for gruesome scenes in Lebanon like this:


A victim of Israeli atrocities, perhaps?

I mean, why not? It looks like something Israel would have done, and we all know that Israel is the source of all the world's evil, so why not just admit the truth?

The Israelis routinely wound innocent babies, so why not that one? And the best thing about using that picture to depict Israeli atrocities is that no photoshopping is required!

OK, the above was satire, and in very bad taste. I am not accusing anyone of using that picture to depict Israeli atrocities or insinuate the blood libel stuff again, OK? I should learn not to be so cynical and distrustful of people. Let this be a moral lesson to me.

What the above does depict is a centuries-old religious tradition, in which fathers slice their children's heads open -- "for the sake of Hussein."

Fortunately, the ritual does not seem to be practiced in the United States.

It might be seen as carrying the First Amendment too far.

Some people might say that about the pictures in this post. But what the hell. As the Washington Post's headline says, "Some Shiite Children Are Into Bloody Rite."

Really? Is that what the kids are "into"? If you read the accounts, it looks like they're crying and trying to get away.

Lest anyone think that only sick right wing bloggers are interested in this macabre ritual, pictures of the quaint custom are getting quit a bit of mainstream circulation.

Lest anyone think that first picture depicted an Israeli victim, here's an earlier picture of the same baby with his proud dad:


And lest I appear sexist in my portrayals, mommies are into the cutting edge action too:


As the WaPo points out, the practice of bloodletting during the Ashura has been condemned by a number of Shiite clerics including the Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

Which means that Americans should feel free to condemn it too, without any fear of offending cultural sensitivities.

As for the First Amendment, it seems to me that if we can't scream "fire" in a crowded theater, we shouldn't be able to slice children's heads open in a crowded mosque -- or haul people up to the tops of pyramids to cut their hearts out. Heck, I wouldn't even allow religious wife beating.

I know I'm being intolerant of what people are "into," though. Maybe some sensitivity training is in order.

posted by Eric at 09:22 AM | Comments (3)

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 14

There was a ceasefire called last night, but nobody came.

Less than a day after another ceasefire agreement was attained between Fatah and Hamas, on Saturday morning violence between the factions erupted anew, and eight Palestinian were wounded.

Severe gun battles erupted on the streets of Gaza City, nearby President Mahmoud Abbas' office and the Palestinian security headquarters in city center. Witnesses reported that gunmen from both camps were positioned in the area and there was heavy gunfire.

In an attempt to establish control, Palestinian security forces set up roadblocks in Gaza City and at various strategic points throughout the Strip.

Saturday morning eight people were wounded, one of them severely, in the clashes between the factions.

During the morning hours members of the Fatah-linked Palestinian presidential guard raided and vandalized the Agriculture Ministry in Gaza City, which is under Hamas authority, in search of documents, weapons and suspects.

I call this phase the war of the buildings.

So far Fatah has torched a Hamas University and Hamas has recprocated. However, Hamas is up one radio station. We shall see how long that lasts.

Update: 04 Feb '07 1313z

One person was killed in Saturday's fighting.

Hamas and Fatah gunmen fought in Gaza City's beachfront neighborhoods and around security compounds early Sunday, ignoring renewed truce appeals and Arab mediation efforts. One man was killed, raising the death toll from three days of fighting to 26, the AP reported.
Latest reports are that the cease fire is not holding. Heh.
GAZA (Reuters) - Mortar bombs exploded near the Gaza offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and rival gunmen exchanged fire in the streets, ignoring another shaky truce in the factional war between Fatah and Hamas.

The fighting has brought life to a near-standstill for residents of the narrow coastal strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

Some Gaza residents ventured onto the streets for the first time in days to find masked gunmen manning checkpoints and most stores closed despite the latest ceasefire deal.

"We pray to God that the fighting, which only served Israel, will stop once and for all," Abu Mohammad said, standing outside his Gaza City home.

A hospital official said two members of Abbas's presidential guard, a force that receives U.S.-funded training and non-lethal equipment, died on Sunday from gunshot wounds suffered in fighting over the weekend.

The latest deaths raised to 27 the number of Palestinians killed in factional clashes in the last four days. Few expected the truce, announced on Saturday, to last.

You can count me among the many who predicted there would be no truce.

Hamas has a high level hostage.

Tensions between Fatah and Hamas were again running high in the Gaza Strip following the kidnapping of Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan's nephew by Hamas gunmen on Sunday afternoon.

According to reports, Ashraf Dahlan was stopped at a Hamas checkpoint when the incident occurred. Currently there is no information of his whereabouts, nor have any demands been issued for his release.

Earlier Sunday, Hamas and Fatah gunmen fought in Gaza City's beachfront neighborhoods and around security compounds, ignoring renewed truce appeals and Arab mediation efforts. One man was killed, raising the death toll from three days of fighting to 26.

That is down somewhat from the rate during their previous clash where about 10 a day were killed. It could be random fluctuation or changes in strategies and tactics.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:24 AM | Comments (1)

The Christian Thing To Do

In a discussion of politics in Latin America the Drug War came up. My position is that drug users are self medicating. So a commenter chimes up with the usual:

"People in pain will do what ever it takes to get pain relief"

In other words, it's not the crackhead's fault he's a crackhead.

Comment by Golden Boy -- 2/2/2007 @ 11:54 am

and my response was:
Golden Boy,

Wouldn't the Christian thing to do be to relieve the man of his pain instead of his crack?

Well I'm Jewish, what do I know?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:18 AM

Hamas Will Not Harm Democrats

It appears that top (unnamed) Democrats had a pow wow with Hamas in Europe.

The Palestinian news agency Maan, quoting a senior member of the Palestinian government, reported Wednesday that "ministers of the Hamas-led government recently held talks with European countries and with a delegation of the American Democratic Party.

According to the source, in the talks, the European officials showed their understanding for Hamas' stance.

According to the report, several European countries are already holding talks with Hamas, and the dialogue has succeeded in bringing about a certain change in the European stance toward the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

The Palestinian official said that Hamas representatives held meeting in European countries and even succeeded in convincing the Europeans to accept the movement's stance.
And what would that stance be? No recognition of Israel. No end to the fighting. No keeping previous agreements.

Of course the Euros and democrats "understand" the Hamas position. Neither of those parties much care for Jews anyway.

If it ever leaks who of the Democrats was involved, they are going to be in big trouble. Not to worry. Hamas can keep secrets.

The source also noted that Hamas made some achievement on the American front thanks to a meeting held with senior members of the Democratic Party.

He refused to elaborate on the meeting and where it took place, claiming that Hamas is not interested in harming the Democrats' chances to win the 2008 elections.
The Democrats are courting political suicide playing with this loaded pistol. Some one will find out who was there and the blogs will be all over it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:14 AM

James Lileks and the irrational hatred of perfect strangers

What is hatred? I think of it as a strong, overpowering emotion, which often blinds people to reason.

Hating people you don't know is often a sign of bigotry, but not always. If I say that I hate John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy, I'm not really expected to know them. Just know of them. Likewise, many people hate Nazis and Communists in a general sense, and this is not thought of as bigoted.

But as far as hating a specific person who's a total stranger, that's hard for me to do -- even if everything I have read about the person fills me with revulsion, and even though I think it might be hatred, it's a little illogical for me to claim that I actually hate someone I don't know. Ward Churchill and Cindy Sheehan fill me with loathing, but I cannot honestly say that if I got to know them personally, that I would actually hate them personally.

Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte (of John Edwards campaign fame) complains that James Lileks hates Elissa Terris, a "perfect stranger" at whom Lileks "t[ook] a swipe [...] for no discernible reason." Ms. Marcotte quotes Lileks (the latter quoting from and commenting on the Times):

Anyway. It's nice that the people who don't want to get married don't feel pressured to be married; if they're happy, they're happy, and no one's hurt. But it's the free-to-be-me vibe coupled with the when-I-grow-old-I-shall-wear-purple stuff that gets embarrassing.

Elissa B. Terris, 59, of Marietta, Ga., divorced in 2005 after being married for 34 years and raising a daughter, who is now an adult.

"A gentleman asked me to marry him and I said no," she recalled. "I told him, 'I'm just beginning to fly again, I'm just beginning to be me. Don't take that away.' "

The gentleman should buy a telescope, identify the star responsible for his luck, and thank it.
To Marcotte, this makes Likeks guilty of "irrational hatred":
Apparently Lileks was blustering when he said no one is hurt; the anti-marriage decision of a 59-year-old Georgia woman hurts him to the bone for him to say something like that. How dare she not be married! She's older than Lileks. He hungers for her and everyone like her to be the living embodiment of his nostalgia, to be examples of how people Back Then had it together so that he can point to them and complain about how the rest of us have strayed from the Garden. And indeed, this is roughly is explanation of why he has this irrational hatred towards Elissa Terris, who he doesn't know. That, and of course the perennial male entitlement.
The perennial male entitlement? Of course? If it's so obvious, why haven't I seen it crop up in his blog or his books?

So, I thought I should examine the irrational hatred that James Lileks is said to have for Elissa Terris. How can Ms. Marcotte be so sure he hates her? While what he said could be characterized as snarky, since when is it hateful to say a man was lucky to have been rejected by a woman who obviously didn't want to be married and brags about her single status? How does that indicate hatred of the woman, much less an irrational hatred?

And what about the two paragraphs that follow immediately in Lileks' post. Does this sound like hatred?

"Marriage kind of aged me because there weren't options," Ms. Terris said. "There was only one way to go. Now I have choices. One night I slept on the other side of the bed, and I thought, I like this side."

That's the saddest thing I read in the paper today. I have no doubt she's probably happier, and if she ends up spending the next 20 years throwing pots and taking extension courses, fine. But I'm sure you'll see more of this, and that's not always good news....

Not always good news? Hateful? It sounds as if Lileks knew absolutely nothing about her, and was just engaged in social commentary based on the remarks of a woman who might as well have been named "Jane Roe."

It seemed so unfair to level the charge of hatred at Lileks that eventually, my curiosity got the better of me. I wondered what I might be missing, and I wanted to know just who is Elissa Terris -- this woman James Lileks is said to hate? My first concern was whether she existed at all, because I couldn't find any listing for a "Terris" in Marietta, Georgia, or for that matter in the entire state of Georgia.

However, it occurred to me that she might be the same Elissa Terris reported by CNN to be suffering from fibromyalgia in Georgia in 1996:

Samantha and her mother are a perfect example; Elissa Terris was diagnosed four years ago.

Mother and daughter "My end is more the fatigue, the associated symptoms, the irritable bowel, the irritable bladder, severe vertigo at times," she said.

Fibromyalgia affects mostly women. Its cause is unknown; it has no known cure. Most patients get only limited relief from medications.

The one treatment that has been scientifically proven to help is physical exercise.

Elissa Terris and many other fibromyalgia patients find refuge in support groups. They find understanding among fellow sufferers when they found little in friends and family.

Not only would be hard to hate this long-suffering victim of fibromyalgia, it would downright cruel. I suspect (assuming she's the same person) that if Lileks -- even if he's a war-loving hatemonger -- really knew the details of her medical background, he wouldn't hate her -- but he still might question the mental health of any man was who reported as proposing marriage to her.

After all, what kind of neurotic wants to marry people who are nearly sixty and suffering from fibromyalgia?

And if I put myself in Ms. Terris's position, she looked so worn out in the ten year old picture that just getting out of bed must have been an ordeal. If she's the same Elissa Terris as the one quoted in the Times, little wonder she enjoys the simple pleasure of being allowed to decide for herself which side of the bed to sleep on. Life with fibromyalgia is tough enough without having to take care of some ungrateful husband.

But I should stop with the wisecracks, because this is all speculation, based on a character who for all we know might possibly be a pseudonym. Is it possible to hate a pseudonym? (George Harleigh, where are you?)

Sure, there are the pictures, and they look similar. Here's CNN's 1996 Elissa Terris:


And the New York Times' 2007 Elissa Terris:


Could they be the same person? I don't know, but if they are, I'd have to be honest and speculate that divorce may have done wonders for her.

But wait! This mystery did not end with a picture.

Might Elissa Terris the same Elissa Terris who is described as a Visions Facilitator and Operating Board Member of Visions Anew, the Divorce Resource for Women? She facilitates retreat seminars like the one in this flyer. Vision Anew is described as:

"A support group that helps women going through divorce re-imagine life for themselves and their families."
When I stumbled onto this, I wondered, could the happily divorced New York Times Elissa Terris possibly be the same as Elissa Terris, Board Member and group facilitator for the newly divorced?

Shouldn't the Times article have pointed that out? I think divorce counseling (activism, perhaps?) is at least as relevant as what the reportorial team did point out:

Elissa Terris, 59, of Marietta, Georgia, got divorced in 2005 after being married for 34 years and raising a daughter. "A gentleman asked me to marry him and I said 'No'," she recalled. "I told him, 'I'm just beginning to fly again, I'm just beginning to be me. Don't take that away'."

"Marriage kind of aged me because there weren't options," Ms Terris said. "There was only one way to go. Now I have choices. One night I slept on the other side of the bed, and I thought, 'I like this side'."

She is returning to college to get a master's degree - her former husband "didn't want me to do that because I was more educated than he was" - has taken photography classes and is auditioning for a play.

"Once you go through something you think will kill you and it doesn't, every day is like a present," she said.

Now, there's no way for me to know whether the Visions Anew board member and group facilitator is the same Elissa Terris as the fibromyalgia victim or the woman quoted in the New York Times. Perhaps there are three different Elissa Terrises -- all in Georgia, and all with different issues. I had given absolutely no thought to Elissa Terris until today, and that was only because I wanted to know who it was that James Lileks was accused of hating. However, it occurs to me that if the Times saw fit to discuss the details of Elissa Terris's life (including her return to school to get a master's degree, the photography classes and even auditioning for a play), that they might mention the fact that she was an Operating Board member of a professional non-profit organization dedicated to helping women with divorces, assuming that was the case.

If she is the same person, why should it devolve upon a blogger like me who had never heard of her before to unmask her?

Anyway, I don't know how long "Elissa Terris" has been a member of the Operating Board (the Google cache only goes back to January 15, but the original Times article is dated January 16) and she's been a facilitator there for well over a year.

I cannot state for certain whether this is the same Elissa Terris. Something just seems fishy, that's all. Four people worked on the Times article, which remains important, widely-circulated, and much-discussed -- and which is still shaping the national debate on divorce. When I read the article, I got the distinct impression that the women quoted were just ordinary American women selected at random to aid readers in understanding the current national trend. Unless the reporters just happened to select a Board Member of a non-profit divorce counseling and retreat seminar center and never asked her, this begins to take on the aroma of calculated, partisan, reporting. (Dare I say deceptive?)

None of this is to suggest that there's any reason for anyone to hate Elissa Terris (much less James Lileks, who I suspect does not hate her at all).

But it might be nice to know whether she's a happily divorced, "perfect stranger" type housewife, or a professional divorce expert with some sort of concealed activist agenda.

I hope she's the former, as I'm not terribly fond of activism, or concealed agendas.

But I still wouldn't hate her. Besides, isn't there a rule that says "hate the concealed activism but love the concealed activist?"

Concealed activists. Gotta love 'em!

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Amanda Marcotte has deleted an embarrassing post without realizing that Google is forever. Why Edwards hired her is another mystery.

Perhaps he should advise her that coverups don't work.

posted by Eric at 07:42 PM | Comments (5)

Freewheeling advance of accelerating eliminationist rhetoric!

Via Justin, I just learned that in a visit to the Caterpillar factory in Peoria, Illinois, President Bush got behind the controls of a giant tractor and literally tried to run over the press corps! The full story is here:

Wearing a pair of stylish safety glasses--at least more stylish than most safety glasses--Bush got a mini-tour of the factory before delivering remarks on the economy. "I would suggest moving back," Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. "I'm about to crank this sucker up." As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety."Get out of the way!" a news photographer yelled. "I think he might run us over!" said another. White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor's window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned.

Lest anyone think this is made-up satire, here's a picture of the grotesque event!


On a number of occasions I have criticized those who tried to warn us that the eliminationist rhetoric by Bush and his pseudofascist lackeys would eventually escalate into the real thing.

I now have to admit that it looks like they were right. As I have pointed out before, the Caterpillar is not merely a symbol of great evil, but it is a monstrous creation made by the Great Satan and used by the Little Satan to massacre innocent peace-loving protesters like Rachel Corrie!

And Bush has made it perfectly clear that we are all Rachel Corrie now!

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

-- Mario Savio

Like Rachel Corrie, Mario Savio is no longer with us. And we're in the final countdown stage, folks!

Who can stop Bush's fascist machine before it's too late?

Is Cindy Sheehan the only American with the courage it will take to put her body on the line?

MORE: Tim Blair's commenters are enjoying what can only be called a Rachel Corrie jokefest! Plus, they note that the President was doing 2.5 miles per hour during the murderous joy ride!

It's chilling, I tell you!

We don't have long to live.

AND MORE: Here at last is what the U.S. press is too frightened (for obvious reasons) to show you -- an authentic reproduction of a true photograph of typical Bush Caterpillar carnage:


I'm telling you, this is real! And if it isn't, it might as well be, because it's exactly what Bush wants to do to the press corps.

What will it take to wake America up?

UPDATE (02/03/07): Asking whether it represents an "escalation" of what he calls "bumpersticker wars," Glenn Reynolds links to this:


While you can?

Under the circumstances, I think this constitutes retaliatory eliminationist rhetoric against laughing caterpillar monkeys.

Since when is it OK to laugh at the plight of the endangered?

And how would they like it if someone made fun of their caterpillar? (To say nothing of an undernourished caterpillar....)

posted by Eric at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

NEWS FLASH! Mark Foley bows out of race!

Why this isn't getting more attention I don't know.

But in a stunning announcement that ought to be good news for Giuliani, Gingrich, McCain, Brownback and the rest of the crowded playing field, Florida's Mark Foley will withdraw from the 2008 presidential race!

Local Florida lawmaker Mark Foley has withdrawn his name from consideration for the 2008 presidential nomination, his hometown newspaper reported recently. "It's just no use," Councilman Foley complained. "Everyone thinks I'm that other Mark Foley who solicited underage congressional pages in Washington DC and then blamed it on alcoholism." Foley repeatedly grumbled that, "my campaign just can't overcome that other Mark Foley's name recognition factor." While Congressman Mark Foley is gay, a Roman Catholic and reportedly had internet sex with a youth, Local Lawmaker Mark Foley assured his constituents that he's just a normal all-American politician. "I have sex with female prostitutes, take bribes from special interests and spend taxpayer's money on illegal junkets to Aspen," he cheerfully reassured everyone.
Hey wait a second. Does this mean there's more than one Mark Foley in Florida?


How come I can't find out anything about him or his campaign?

This is almost as bad as Jamil Hussein.

posted by Eric at 09:37 AM

Enabling scientific rule?

In a shocker of a post at Pajamas Media Fausta has the details of how Venezuela, a once democratic country, has now officially become a Communist dictatorship. Freedom is gone.

Tal Cual calls the new [Enabling] law, "giving Chávez all, absolutely all, special powers".

In plain words, Hugo Chávez is now officially a dictator.

Read the whole thing -- and weep.

One of the details that caught my eye was reported in Tuesday's Business News America:

that the Assembly had granted Chávez 'special powers related to the regulation of hydrocarbons and their derivates...
Fortunately, we have a Constitution to prevent any such special powers to regulate hydrocarbons from being created here.

I mean, it's not as if there's a "Dormant Climate Clause" or anything, so reports like this need not concern those who think constitutional freedom is more important than having the government enforce the latest scientific theories.

But Marx was once said to be scientific, and I imagine Hugo (along with the usual power-seeking sycophants) will proclaim he's acting in the interests of science.

posted by Eric at 08:51 AM | Comments (2)

When implementing policy, the devil is in the details!

I hate to admit it, but what's going on in Gaza is not normally my thing. That does not mean I consider it unimportant. Far from it. The fact that I don't blog about something does not indicate indifference. There are hundreds, thousands, and if we get down to the individual level, probably millions of topics that I cannot and will not blog about. Even though I often wish I could, I just can't.

Therefore, I am just tickled pink that M. Simon writes blog posts about events in Gaza. I'm so delighted, I thought I'd chime in by discussing an additional news tidbit -- the growing presence in Gaza of Al Qaida, and its attacks on music stores and Western-dressed women:

GAZA CITY -- Hamas has found an ally in its war for control of the Gaza Strip.

Al Qaida cells have come to Hamas's aid in the militia war against Fatah, particularly in the northern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources said purported Al Qaida operatives have joined or led attacks on Fatah targets in Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Beit Layhia, regarded as the remaining Fatah bastions in the strip, Middle East Newsline reported.

Al Qaida cells have claimed responsibility for strikes on music stores and places of entertainment in the Gaza Strip. The cells have also attacked women in Western dress.

If Dinesh D'Souza is correct, the reason for the attacks on music stores and women in Western dress is that the "cultural left" has forced these things upon traditional Muslims. Accordingly, the job of conservatives should be to forge an alliance with the "traditionalists." Says D'Souza:
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.
By doing what? Endorsing the attacks on music and clothing? Or by ensuring that these vile music stores are closed and women properly attired, so that they don't become targets of the attacks?

I guess if the "cultural left" is responsible for having opened the stores and made the women lose the veils and put on mini-skirts in the first place, then the cultural right ought to be able send in its cultural imposers to reverse the damaging trend.

But I'd like to play the devil's advocate for a moment. If we assume D'Souza is right, that means that until now we have done an excellent job of "imposing our views" on traditional Muslims living in the Gaza; it's just that we have imposed the wrong views on them. (The "morally depraved values" of the "cultural left").

Does this mean we should send in cultural emissaries to impose the right values on these people? Or should we just support the people who are combating the imposition of the wrong values?

This is very confusing for me, as I am having trouble with the word "impose." I have always tended to think that impose denotes an obligation, or requirement, and no matter how hard I try, I just cannot see how anyone (whether from the cultural left or not) imposed an obligation on any Gazans to open music stores, go uncovered, or wear mini-skirts.

Is it possible that the word "allowed" is being confused with "imposed"?

I hope not. Because if "allow" means "impose," then I'm in a world of trouble. Just think: being allowed would have mean being imposed. Which would mean that by being allowed to write this blog, I am not only imposing my views on everyone, but I'm even more imposed upon than I realized.

So, that can't be it.

What am I missing?

Can anyone tell me how we managed to impose music and fashion on the Gaza?

posted by Eric at 08:31 AM

Gaza Explodes

The Palestinans are having fun in Gaza terrorizing each other.

Ibrahim Barzak, Canadian Press, Published: Friday, February 02, 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Hamas fighters blew up a pro-Fatah radio station in Gaza, ambulances were caught in the crossfire and gunmen exchanged heavy fire in deserted streets as a new wave of factional fighting raged Friday throughout the chaotic coastal territory.

The resurgent violence, which killed four people Friday and a total of 10 since Thursday, destroyed a brief truce between Fatah and Hamas and forced thousands of Gazans to huddle in their homes to escape the crossfire.

I see this as democracy in action, where the rule is: be careful who you vote for. Your life may depend on it.
In a symbol that the two sides had returned to open warfare, their respective radio stations stopped playing songs of national unity and broadcast songs about armed struggle and fighting the enemy.
Man, this is way worse than the talk radio wars in America where we trust Arbitron to tell us who the winners and losers are. In Gaza, if your station is still on the air you haven't lost yet.
On Friday morning, 50 officers from Abbas' presidential guard surrounded the Hamas-led Interior Ministry and exchanged fire with Hamas gunmen guarding the building. Outside of Gaza City, Hamas militants launched mortar shells at a Fatah training base in an attack that wounded 30 recruits, security officials said.

The roads of Gaza were nearly empty, sealed off by makeshift roadblocks of rubble and garbage. Only masked security officers, some with hand grenades clipped to their ammunition vests, were visible in the streets.

Fighting in northern Gaza killed two Fatah-affiliated security officers and two Hamas gunmen early Friday, according to hospital officials and Hamas.

Overnight, rival gunmen fought in the streets with mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy calibre machine-guns. Dr. Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry said Friday morning that 120 people had been wounded since Thursday afternoon.

It is now about 1 PM local time (GMT +2) so the day is not over yet. Mortars, heavy machine guns and RPGs. Whew. You really have to keep your head down in conditions like that.
Late Thursday, hundreds of Fatah gunmen raided a Hamas stronghold, the Islamic University in Gaza City. Flames were seen leaping from two of the university buildings.
Destroying an Islamic University? How irreligious.
The violent Islamic Jihad called for an urgent meeting to resume truce talks. The mufti of Gaza called for a truce, saying Muslims shedding Muslim blood is "taboo."
Evidently neither Hamas nor Fatah has much respect for religion. Truce talks? They have been doing those for months. Always with the same results. Agreements are reached and then fighting resumes. Whatever.

Update: 02 Feb '07 1252z

It is now about 3 PM local time in Gaza and the body count is up to eight. Another two hours until dark.

Eight Palestinians were killed, including two children, in ferocios fighting Friday between Hamas and Fatah gunmen.

Also among the dead were a Palestinian Authority intelligence commander, his bodyguard, three Fatah-affiliated security officers and a 38-year-old woman, who was killed by a stray bullet in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. The two children killed were aged eight and five, health officials said.

At least 14 people have been killed and 182 people have been wounded - 19 of them critically - in the fighting since Thursday afternoon, the Health Ministry reported.

Health officials said Gaza was running out of blood and appealed for blood donors. Ambulances had come under fire and a ricocheting bullet lightly wounded one rescue worker, they said. A Red Crescent hospital near a security base in Gaza City was hit in cross fire and its windows and gates were pocked by bullet holes.

The last round of fighting killed 50 or 60 people in five days. So I'd say they have restored the previous intensity.

What you want to watch for is the number of deaths per day (or hour depending). The greater the death rate the more intense the fight. That is obvious. The more intense the fight the longer it goes on. Not so obvious. Various estimates can be made based on the size of the forces involved. The greater the numbers in a fight the longer it goes on. I don't have a metric yet for the proportions. What we can expect from the current rate is at least five days of fighting.

Update: 03 Feb '07 0030z

Reporst as of 19:30 02 Feb local time say 11 were killed today.

A Hamas spokesman announced late Friday afternoon that a new Gaza cease-fire agreement has been reached following violent battles between Hamas and Fatah gunmen which left 11 dead over the course of the day.
Other accounts have a higher number.
Web posted at: 2/3/2007 2:53:11
Source ::: Agencies

gaza • Fighting between rival Palestinian factions escalated across Gaza yesterday, killing at least 17 people, as Hamas overran compounds used by President Mahmoud Abbas's forces and two major universities were set ablaze.

Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal yesterday declared a ceasefire between their feuding factions in the Gaza Strip.

Shortly after the ceasefire was announced, unknown gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of the Egyptian envoy to the Gaza Strip, who has been at the heart of mediation efforts between Abbas's Fatah and the ruling Hamas faction.

There were no injuries in the incident which cast doubts on the chances of the ceasefire, which came three days after the declaration of another truce.

Yep this is going to go on for a while.

If 17 is the true number let us estimate how long the fighting might last. If the equation for time of fighting is Casualty Rate (CR) times a Days of War constant (DW) to some exponential factor N then an equation for days of fighting might look like Days of Fighting (DF) = D*CRN. If N = 1.5 then for 10 casualties/day = 5 days of fighting - Dw would equal 0.158114. DF = DW1.5*CRN. If N = 2 then DW = 0.050000. If N = 2.5 then DW = 0.015811.

So let us plug in some numbers and see what happens. With a casualty rate - CR - of 17 we can make some estimates.

N = 1.5 DF = .158114 * (17)1.5 = 11.0 days (aprox)
N = 2.0 DF = .050000 * (17)2.0 = 14.5 days (aprox)
N = 2.5 DF = .015811 * (17)2.5 = 18.8 days (aprox)

So if any of this makes any sense we could see 11 to 19 more days of fighting based on the latest casualties.

BTW the above exercise is an example of what operations reserarch people do.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:16 AM

Iranians In Gaza

Those Iranians sure get around.

Fatah-affiliated Palestinian security forces arrested seven Iranian weapons experts - including an Iranian Army general - during a raid Thursday night at the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City, a security official said.

According to Palestinian reports, another Iranian committed suicide during the raid.

Hamas official Islam Shahwan denied the claim and said there were no Iranian citizens at the university.

After Shahwan warned Fatah to end its assault or face "very serious consequences," the Fatah gunmen left the compound.

In the university compound, the Fatah gunmen also found 1,400 Kalachnikov rifles, rockets, as well as several RPG and LAU missiles.

Iran has supplied Hamas with funds, but there have been no previous claims of Iranians working with Hamas in Gaza.

However, [Israeli] Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh told Army Radio that Israel was fully aware of the presence of Iranian officials in the West Bank and Gaza, who were assisting Hamas and Islamic Jihadf with money, weapons enhancement and training."

So for the time being Fatah is allied with the Israelis, the Sunni Axis, and the Americans, and Hamas is with the Iranians and Syrians.

I think this is another bit in making the case for war with Iran.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:10 AM

Sources Say: Palestinians Did It

Since I have no hard news at this time on the Guilford College case, I'm going to run with rumor and innuendo.

Largely absent from news coverage has been any account of the early morning altercation other than that being presented by the Ramallah students.

Sources familiar with the incident have now come forward stating the the attack was initiated by the Palestinian students.

One of those sources told us that the weekend that the event took place was a:

"recruiting weekend for the college [that on] on that type of week athletes are on best behavior [the confrontation took place in] a courtyard in between apartment buildings...a hangout spot...[an eyewitness to the event saw] Faris [Khader] and Mike Six [one of the football players] [with] an argument going on...[the witness had turned away but turned back to view the scene again when] he heard the belt whipping, looked back and saw the belt...[Mr. Six] took about seven strikes from the belt......[Mr. Six then] used a wrestling move and stuffed him [Faris] into the ground....that started a fumble....[like] a rugby match...[which drew in more football players, there were] no brass knuckles....[involved]"
Mr. Khader was suspended from Guilford for the Winter Semester.
That is interesting. Why would the College have suspend Khader? Could it have been the result of an earlier altercation? As an earlier report pointed out Faris and Osama were hot heads who sometimes looked for fights.

The rumor mill grinds on with:

According to information provided by our sources and as detailed by a former [Jewish] Guilford student [whose name we are not disclosing at this time], Mr. Khader has a history of violence.
There follows a long and rambling account of a previous altercation involving Faris and Osama.

Funny thing is, this Jewish student was a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. This has made him somewhat unpopular with his Jewish friends and caused arguments with his parents (I'll bet).

Here is some of what he had to say:

Every single time that I've stood up for something at Guilford, and anybody that knows me, or has taught me knows that I'm an anti-racist. But it seems ridiculous to me that I even have to prove myself to anyone, cause I know what I stand for, and I know what I said that night, and there is not a single doubt in my mind that I did NOT say those things,"Osama bin Laden", or "terrorist." I do not know if they were said but I know I did not hear them, but I do know that the three other people that were assaulted that night by Osama and Faris did not say them, were racist things said before the five times or more, there were incidents that night. Faris and Osama looked to me to be out of control that night and anybody else who was there would certainly say the same and they have. All the people I have named have all put statements into campus life and corroborate the events of that night; all the events I have just told. Faris and Osama did come to me the next to day to pseudo-apologize; they tol;d me they were sorry for beating the shit out of me but it was because I said racist things, than Faris did admit that he had asked around to see if i would have said those things and people told him no. It wasn't until the meeting with campus life did it become apparent that this was the angle these guys were gonna take for beating up a kid in second floor Bryan during peek hours in front of a hall director, it was in the schools hands now; and these guys knew they were in trouble. I have no problem with Osama or Faris being at Guilford, I'd love to talk about all this with them, but its the school that made the decision based upon the four people that were hurt that night by them; the descisiton that at least Faris would have to be suspended on account that he endangered the community, was not mine. It was the schools. And assaulting anybody on Guilford, in front of a hall directory should warrant a serious punishment."
So our Palestinian boys have an MO. Attack and then cry racism to mitigate the punishment. I wonder where they learned that? Note that the Jewish boy was severly attacked by the Palestinians and still supports their cause. A true glutton for punishment.

The reporter then goes on to say:

We believe that the above information clearly constitutes strong evidence that the so-called hate attack allegedly initiated by Guilford College football team members against defenseless Palestinian students is a hoax and that the members of the football team were acting in self-defense - even absorbing a vicious attack before responding.

The Jewish, former Guilford student's account of Khader and Sabbah's actions also makes comprehensible, their attorney Seth Cohen's recently videotaped remarks, "none of my clients stabbed a man" with the counsel's reference apparently applying to this instance and not the January 21 fracas.

BTW did I mention the Palestinian's lawyer is from the ACLU? Figures.

Also note the (Jewish) Anti-Defamation League has come out in support of the Palestinians. In my opinion they will have an omlet on their face when this is all over. Unless the College and the local system of justice buries the case. However, that can only happen if the Palestinians withdraw the charges. I'm betting that will happen within a month or two. Providing their lawyer is any good. Which, if his statements to date are any indication, is not a good bet.

Update: 04 Feb '07 0632z

Here is the source of the "Jewish guy's" quotes from above.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:44 AM

"But which ship did your ancestors arrive on?"

Lately I seem plagued by definitions. First I wanted to know what "morality" was. Then I wanted to know what the word "better" meant.

Well, as long as I find myself slouching towards a better morality, I might as well ask a question on a lot of people's minds lately.

What is racism?

On its face, the answer would seem easy. For me, racism has always meant believing in race as a factor in measuring the inherent worth of a person, particularly when that is coupled with discrimination.

But times have altered the meaning of the word, to the point where in many circles, racism requires a "power differential" which means "people of color" cannot be racist:

....a person of color cannot be racist, by definition, because racism also defines a power differential that is not usually present when a person or color is speaking.
If you think that's bad, recall the Seattle Public School system's definition of racism as a belief in individualism.

While I shouldn't take pleasure in the misfortunes of others, it nonetheless seems like fitting retribution to see the purveyors of crackpot standards held to the the standards they would impose on others, and I was much amused by Ann Althouse's discussion of the "racism implicit in the excessive praise we've been hearing for Obama." This may tie in with the struggle between "purists" and "diversity purists." "Diversity purist" was another new term for me, but not to worry! Ann Althouse quotes a Penn professor on the subject:

Selective colleges have expanded their enrollments of black students by "increasing the number of immigrant and multiracial black students," Camille Z. Charles, an associate professor of sociology at Penn who is one of the study's authors, said in an interview on Wednesday.

"If you're a purist" -- that is, if you view affirmative action as restitution for the harm done by American slavery and segregation -- "then you'll think that this is not in the spirit of affirmative action," Ms. Charles continued. "But if you're a diversity purist, and your idea is to expose everybody to as many different kinds of people as possible, then you'll think this is great."

To be fair, there is a difference between affirmative action and diversity. Ridiculous and unfair as I think affirmative action is, the theory is that there are "historically disadvantaged groups" who have been held back by "historically privileged groups." In order to remedy the wrongs of the past, the former must be given certain advantages.

I suppose that according to the "diversity purists," someone like Barack Obama would, because he is of black African and not black American descent, not be a proper beneficiary of affirmative action, although hiring or promoting him would be laudable under the "diversity purity" theory.

This gets really crazy, because if black Americans are to be judged that way, shouldn't Chinese Americans whose ancestors were historically disadvantaged and worked to death building railroads back in the "yellow peril" era be entitled to specialized treatment not accorded to recent immigrants from China?

But even if we use historical disadvantage as a criteria, can that really be determined by skin color? Can it even be determined with reference to the period of time of ancestry in the United States? Black Americans who are descended from blacks who were free citizens at the time of the founding (there were many in the North) cannot be said to have been descended from people who suffered under slavery in the United States, nor can it be assumed that Chinese who immigrated to the East Coast have ancestors who were worked to death on the railroads.

It seems that there's a poorly understood mechanism governing the interaction between race, affirmative action, diversity, and the periods of ancestry in the United States. It is more subjective than objective.

But apparently, there are a lot of non-native black students at leading American universities. Enough to cause those who fret about the purity of essence to issue veiled threats of new discrimination:

At the most selective of the 28 schools, the ratios for non-native black students were even higher. The study included four Ivy League universities -- Columbia, Penn, Princeton, and Yale -- and at those universities, 41 percent of black students were first- or second-generation immigrants.

("E.g., Barack Obama," interjects Althouse here.)

"There are differences in racial identity among black students," Ms. Charles said. "In terms of their vulnerability to stereotype threat, it's certainly possible that students who don't identify strongly with an African-American identity don't experience that kind of anxiety."

"On the other hand, it's possible that even though they don't identify themselves a certain way, they realize that other people might be pigeonholing them. So it could go either way. That's what we're trying to parcel out."

How are we to determine who does and who does not "identify strongly with an African-American identity"? Isn't that more ideological than racial? Unless they cross examine individual students for ideological deviation of the Tiger Woods/Whoopi Goldberg variety, I see only one way to parcel this out:

DISCRIMINATION against immigrants!

In other words, to preserve and protect the purity of affirmative action against the growing threat posed by diversity purity, immigrants and their recent descendants must be penalized.

How? Thinking through the unthinkable parceling that's required to follow this out, it would seem that the social engineers might have to be so cruel as to put recent immigrants in a separate category -- maybe even treat them like white people!

Which means maybe it's possible that Barack Obama really might not be "really black" because his ancestors didn't come to America on the right ship at the right time.

It reminds me of the old days when snooty white people used to brag that their ancestors came over on the Mayflower.

I used to think such elitist thinking was behind us.

But there's a new elite along the lines of "My ancestors suffered more than yours!"

Nyaah Nyaah!

posted by Eric at 07:15 PM

Palestinian Civil War Watch - 13

They are back at it.

At least one Palestinian was killed and some 20 others were wounded Thursday afternoon in fierce exchanges of fire that erupted between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in Gaza.

A 17-year-old Palestinian was killed during the gun battles, and two of those injured in the fighting are listed in critical condition.

The violence broke out in the central Gaza town of Bureij after Hamas militants hijacked a convoy delivering supplies to the Fatah-allied security forces, security officials said.

Security reinforcements were seen flooding into the town. Soon after, separate gun battles broke out in Gaza City and in northern Gaza outside a military intelligence post. Security officials said Hamas militants fired a rocket was fired at the post.

A Fatah member was kidnapped in northern Gaza during the clashes, security officials said.

In another incident unknown gunmen opened fire early Thursday at Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum as he drove with three bodyguards in his white sedan toward an impromptu checkpoint near Gaza City, Hamas said.

I predicted the most recent truce would last one or two days. It looks like it lasted three days. More or less. Read the whole article at the link. I have excerpted just a small part of the mayhem.

I do not believe it will come to an actual end for years if not decades. This is an old fashioned power struggle with outside powers feeding both sides. The Palestinians will bleed until the funding for the factions ceases.

See Follow the Money for one of my first looks at the money side of the equation.

The Jerusalem Post reports four dead.

Gunfights between Hamas and Fatah gunmen erupted across the Gaza Strip on Thursday, effectively destroying a three-day-old truce that brought a brief period of quiet to the volatile area.

The new wave of street battles killed at least four people, one of them a security officer, and left dozens more wounded.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:55 AM

I know I'm playing with fire... (But 1968 burns better, baby!)

As I'm not a smoker, it has taken me longer to notice this than I should have, but I have become convinced that ordinary paper matches (the kind you buy in the grocery store) simply don't work as well as the ones I remember from the old days. I'm almost inclined to say they just plain suck, but that would be as judgmental as it would be unscientific, and I like to verify my claims when I can.

For some time, I've been convinced that not only are matches harder than ever to strike, but they go out before they burn even a quarter of the way down.

Or am I imagining things?

Were the old matches "better," and are the new matches "worse"? Even those words are problematic, for what do they mean?

But before I get to the philosophical and political implications of the word "better," I thought I would start by attempting to find out whether my suspicions about old-versus-new matches were correct. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I decided to attempt a scientific comparison under controlled conditions in my own home. Because this is a blog, and because blogs can be read and reviewed by other bloggers, I don't think it's too much to claim that this experiment will have been subjected to "peer review" by the time it's over.

It just so happens that because I collect things, I have a box of campaign matchbooks from 1968. While I never use them (because their value to collectors would be substantially diminished once they are burned), in this case I decided to make an important exception -- in the interest of science!

As it happens, I also have a box of matchbooks from a 2006 store purchase. These are the matches that I use for lighting candles, burned out pilot lights, the hot water heater, and (if I am feeling especially considerate) to destroy unmentionable odors in the bathroom.

Here are the scientific contestants -- on each side of the ashtray, and all ready for the game:


Attentive readers may notice that the striking surface is on the front cover of the 1968 matches, and on the reverse cover of the recent matches. That's because of a 1973 federal safety rule. According to collectors' lingo,

[the modern matchbooks] are referred to as "back strikers" or "reverse strikers", while pre-1973 covers are called "front strikers".
(Just thought you needed to know.)

What is beyond my level of knowledge or expertise is the extent to which matches deteriorate over time. For all I know, the 1968 matches would have performed better in 1968 than they do now; the color of the heads seems a little less red than I remember them, but that could be my imagination. In any event, they lit when struck, and as you will see, not only had no problem burning, but far exceeded today's matches.

Were matches deliberately made fire retardent over time? If so, at what point? I still don't know for certain, but I was intrigued by this 1976 CPSC notice, which urged the adoption of new regulations requiring matches to not only be made childproof, but fire retardant as well:

In view of epidemiological data, consideration of various human factors, an intense study of possible child-resistant requirements and a preliminary assessment of the economic effect on the matchbook industry, the Commission finds a latching cover design requirement to be, at this time, the most feasible means of child resistance. However, it is not the intent of the Commission to exclude other designs that might offer the equivalent child resistance of the latching design. Included in the proposed standard is a procedure for interested persons to submit alternate cover designs for Commission acceptance.

Other features designed to reduce the risk of burns and fires are also included in the proposed standard. The proposal specifies the burn-distance and burn-time of the bookmatch. Under the proposed test conditions, the flame must self-extinguish within 12.7 mm (0.5 inches) down from the top of the match and within a 15-second period.

Prior to publishing this proposal, the Commission assessed any possible environmental effects the standard could have. According to a staff report, the only potentially significant adverse effects are related to the burn-distance/burn-time provision because of the chemicals that could be used to treat the match. However, the report further notes, "there is no evidence to suggest that conditions any more hazardous than currently prevail would be produced through the use of such chemicals to meet the requirements of the standard....We conclude that the proposed standard will not cause significant adverse impacts on the environment."

Nice to know that matches didn't cause Global Warming in those days, isn't it?

Obviously, the childproof "latching cover design" was not implemented. As to whether the self-extinguishing rule was ever enacted, I do not know. However, I can report that (at least in my experiment), when held in place vertically by forceps, the modern matches extinguished themselves in 20 seconds (give or take a second), while the 1968 matches burned for nearly an entire minute (average time 55 seconds), until nearly the entire length of the match was consumed.

Here's the 2006 Safeway match:


And the 1968 Nixon match:


I burned three of each of the matches, and the pattern was the same. "Nixon" burned all the way, while "Safeway" stopped burning in a manner very closely resembling the CPSC's 1973 requirement of "within 12.7 mm (0.5 inches) down from the top of the match and within a 15-second period."

Here they are lined up with a ruler -- "Safeway" on top; "Nixon" below:


Yeah, "three out of three" might not survive rigid scientific scrutiny, but who's paying me to do this? Where's my government grant?

(And after all, how many burnouts from 1968 do we need?)

I don't even think the match industry would approve of what I did, because they don't want ordinary people thinking their product was "better" in the old days. But my "research" really wasn't intended to make the match industry look bad, nor is it my goal here to castigate "safe" matches. I just wanted to confirm my suspicions, and pose a few questions.

What do we mean when we use the word "better"? It's a judgment, and fire marshals and trial lawyers are likely to have a very different view of self-extinguishing matches than I do when I'm crawling around on a cold, damp basement floor in February trying to light the pilot of a hot water heater only to have the damned match go out for the umpteenth time. Older people who remember matches that burned are likely to have a very different view than younger people who probably feel lucky that they're allowed to buy matches at all.

But what the hell. I just wanted to know whether matches were better in the old days. If we look at pure functionality, I think my test shows that they were better -- by a large margin. (The deterioration factor would add strength to my argument.)

Far be it from me to advocate rolling back the clock to 1968....

I've had enough of 1968 burnouts -- at least for today!

posted by Eric at 10:40 AM | Comments (6)

No Charge

After interviewing the accusers in the Guilford College melee, police have decided not to file charges.

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Police have decided not to pursue their own charges in a racially tinged fight between several Guilford College football players and three Palestinian students.

A magistrate judge has charged six players with misdemeanor assault and five of them with ethnic intimidation based on complaints the Palestinian students filed after the campus fight early January 20. Greensboro police, who weren't called to the scene, were not involved in those charges.

"We determined that all of the charges that need to be taken out in this case were already taken out at the magistrate's office," police spokesman Lt. Brian James told the News & Record of Greensboro on Wednesday. "We didn't obtain any further evidence that would allow us to pursue additional charges, which is what we were investigating."

Prosecutors said they would likely wait for the college to complete its investigation before deciding how to proceed.

The accusers - Guilford College students Faris Khader and Osama Sabbah, and Omar Awartani, a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh - said they were called "terrorists" and other racial slurs as they were beaten by several members of the school's football team, according to court documents.

Parents of three of the accused football players issued a statement last week defending their sons, saying one player was attacked with a belt.

So now the College must complete its investigation before the DA can act? This is a bit unusual. Who is responsible for the chain of custody of the evidence? Who is responsible for witness statements? Who collects the video and photographic evidence? Medical statements from treating physicians? Medical files? etc.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:31 AM

Hanging By A Thread

The current "truce" in Gaza is hanging by a thread.

05:33 Feb 01, '07

(IsraelNN.com) a Hamas spokesman escaped an assassination attack in Gaza Wednesday night as the shaky truce between the Hamas and Fatah militias entered its third day. Hamas charged Fatah with carrying out the murder attempt on Fawzi Barhoum, and Fatah denied the accusation.

I wonder if the Hamas folks will get mad enough to restart the fight? In any case it appears that some residents of Gaza have had enough.
Hundreds of Palestinian residents in Gaza city took part today in an anti-infighting protest, in which they called for ending all forms of internal violence.

The demonstration has been called on by the Palestinian Prisoners' Supporters Society, to voice condemnation of factional infighting and call for a national unity.

Jamal Ferwana, head of the society, told reporters "the demonstration today is intended at rejecting infighting and calling on all factions to return to dialogue on basis of the Palestinian prisoners' conciliation document".

Ferwana expressed resentment over recent factional infighting over the past five days that has claimed dozens of lives and wounded scores others.

He called on the Palestinian people to take out to streets to reject such infighting and emphasize on the fact that dialogue is the only means to conclude a national unity government.

Interesting that they think a "national unity" government will fix their situation. Some people might disagree.
Washington - The United States does not expect a change in the position of the Quartet toward Hamas, a senior State Department official said yesterday in light of reports of a Russian intention to raise current policy for debate in the Quartet meeting in Washington tomorrow.

A source in the State Department says there is consensus between the U.S. and the Europeans on policy.

The Americans say events of the past week in Gaza have only proved to the Palestinians that the Hamas government cannot provide them with the security they need. "Hamas is trying to shake off responsibility and give it to the international community," a source in the State Department said, "but it's their responsibility."

The American noted that in Gaza, where Hamas' control is ostensibly stronger [than in the West Bank], Hamas is unable "to deliver the Palestinians what they expect."

What we have is two rival gangs shooting it out for control of turf. National unity would require Hamas to give ground in Gaza and Fatah to give ground in the West Bank. I do not expect it to happen. Why?

There is no honor among thieves and the thieves know it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:52 AM

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