I noticed this morning that thorium blogger Kirk Sorenson has a new son, Elijah Frederick Sorenson. Belated congratulations are in order.

Mr. Sorenson's blog is a wonderful resource if you want to learn about liquid-fluoride reactors. Or even if you don't. And I totally agree with his choice of nomenclature. Such devices are often referred to as molten salt reactors, which strikes me as a PR disaster waiting to happen. Disregarding the old testament overtones, "molten" and "reactor" are two words that don't travel well together in public. Liquid fluoride is so much friendlier sounding, don't you think?

It's comforting to know that if fusion reactors don't pan out we can fall back on something we already know how to do.

However it plays out, I sincerely hope that Mr. Sorenson's boy enjoys a long and healthy life, in a world worth living in.

posted by Justin at 07:24 PM | Comments (1)

Converts and heretics unite!

Every once in a while I need a reminder of why I am not a liberal "progressive," and this kind of thinking went a long way:

...members of the movement Right demand that their candidates buy into the Entire Package of Wingnuttia. This isn't simply political purism, it's about validating a worldview. There are all these articles of faith in wingnuttia which have been given to them by the wingnut noise machine, and failure to embrace them all is a signal that you aren't really part of the club.
My first reaction was that the wording could (with very little effort) be changed around to reflect the other side:
....members of the movement Left demand that their candidates buy into the Entire Package of Moonbattia. This isn't simply political purism, it's about validating a worldview. There are all these articles of faith in moonbattia which have been given to them by the moonbat noise machine, and failure to embrace them all is a signal that you aren't really part of the club.
Being dutiful enough to at least click on Atrios's link, I found this warning to Republicans:
I'll end with one stat that ought to worry any Republicans who think sticking with the Rove strategy is a good idea. According to the Pew study, members of Gen Y (18-30) are about as likely to be atheists/agnostics (19 per cent) as Republicans (no age group breakdown, but it must be less than the 25 per cent for all voters given low party identification in this age group).
The operating assumption seems to be that if you don't agree with us on everything, you are not part of our club. (Republicans do not allow atheists and agnostics, at least according to the left. And if they do, they are hypocrites!)

The overall phenomenon reminds me of Ann Althouse's now classic observation:

bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you're evil/stupid/crazy, and don't even seem to notice all the times you've written posts that take their side.

To which a reader emailed:
...the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics...
And who will be nicer to the doubters who are deemed heretics by one side but stop short of being converts to other?

This recent post by Ann Althouse reminded me that the issue is far from settled. Some libertarians seem a little too impatient with unconverted heretics -- as if they're a little too convinced they're right.

On the other hand, if you're not 100% convinced you're right, most of the "isms" are best avoided.

posted by Eric at 02:35 PM | Comments (1)

Who profits most from provocative idiocy?

Neal Boortz (via Glenn Reynolds) recently examined the question of "why people think conservatives are idiots":

Tell me .. how do you counter the "conservatives are ignorant" argument, and how do you manage to recruit more people to the cause of lower taxes, less government and more individual responsibility when you have people running around loose calling themselves conservatives, getting elected to office as conservatives, and running websites as conservatives all the while telling us that the earth does not spin on its axis and does not revolve around the Sun .. and that everything in the known universe revolves around the Earth?

If true conservatives really want to expand their philosophy and mount a sustained movement that just might save individualism, freedom and economic liberty --- they had better jettison these zealot nut-cases .... and FAST.

This all sure makes me glad to be a Libertarian.

To the "zealot nut-case" category I'd propose adding Michael Savage. Back in 2003, I speculated that the man might be an agent provocateur. (Later post here.) I think I'm a little more familiar with the phenomenon than most people, because I have known a number of genuine agents provocateur over the many years I spent in Berkeley. However, such people almost never admit what they are, and it is very difficult to prove such speculations. A simple opportunist might look and act like an agent provocateur, and while it might be said that all agents provocateur are by their nature opportunists, by no means are all opportunists agents provocateur.

But zealot nut-case?

If the following transcript of Savage's recent remarks is correct, that would be almost a kind thing to say about him:

SAVAGE: It's becoming increasingly clear to me that God wants radical Islam on this planet at this time -- that it's not actually the scourge you think it is. What it is -- it's a counterpoint to the Romanization of the United States of America and the West. The collapse -- the spiritual collapse of the West, the death of the West in that regard, is being countered by the birth of fanatic religion, which is fundamentally a fanatic love of God, when you think about it.


SAVAGE: And God, who is the center of this monotheistic religion, has said, "Oh, you don't worship me anymore? Oh, you don't like me anymore? Oh, I don't exist anymore? Really? All right, I'm going to show you boys in Hollywood and you girls in New York City that I do exist. But since you're very hard-headed, stiff-necked people, and you don't really believe that I exist because you've gotten away with everything you've done all your life without any repercussions, I'm going to show you I exist in a way that you can't believe." Down came the World Trade Center towers. That was God speaking.

First of all, ours is a Greco-Roman as well as a Judeo-Christian civilization. Islam is neither. Considering the classical underpinnings of the American founding, Savage's complaint about the "Romanization" of the U.S., coupled with his attribution to God of radical Islam's Pearl Harbor, puts him squarely in the camp of the terrorists.

Again, it does not prove the man is an agent provocateur, but his words are no more those of a patriotic American than these words of Noam Chomsky:

I read in the Times this morning an interview with Jeanette Rankin, who was the one member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on December 8, 1941, to the accompaniment of a chorus of boos and hisses. Looking back, though, we can see that the Japanese had very real grievances, and that the United States had quite a significant share of responsibility in those grievances back in 1941.
Of course, Chomsky is on the "left" (along with Ward Churchill, and the rest of their ilk), while Savage is on the "right."

It is of course unfair to tar all liberals with the same brush as people like Ward Churchill. Similarly, it is unfair to link all conservatives to Michael Savage. Speaking for myself, I can state with confidence that if what Savage says defines conservatism, then I most definitely am not one. But I'm a little more label-resistant than most people, and my worry is not so much that he's doing his own cause a disservice, but whether he's even part of that cause. I'm more libertarian than conservative, but I think I can fairly state that conservatism does not mean sympathizing with radical Islam, or attributing to God the worst attack on the United States since World War II.

By claiming to be a conservative when he is not, Savage is behaving as a classic agent provocateur.

That he has many fans who call themselves conservatives is more worrisome to me than whether he calls himself a conservative.

I'm not sure whether I should consider Savage's fans to be conservatives or not. (Certainly if he pronounced himself a "libertarian," that would not mean he or his fans were libertarians.) But again, I think the extent to which people who call themselves conservatives agree with Savage begs the question of why some (not all) people think conservatives are idiots.

For the record, I don't think conservatives are idiots (far from it), and I'm going to try not to think of Michael Savage or his fans as conservatives.

(I'm hoping this is an exercise in fairness and not denial.)

UPDATE: Pat at Screw Loose Change (a member of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists who generally attacks "mostly far-left kooks like Rosie O'Donnell and others") is thinking along similar lines, with a good post.

AND MORE: Wow. Saying conservatives crave "hate and rage,"Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is endorsing Savage's GOP presidential candidacy bid. I don't know how I manage to miss such gems.

MORE: It's probably also worth pointing out that Savage previously called for killing 100 million Muslims, and opposed aid to the Tsunami victims because he thought some of them lived in "hotbeds of radical Islam."

He probably thinks his fans are sufficiently idiotic that they've forgotten all about his previous statements.

MORE: John W. Lillpop (who calls Bush "America's worst enemy") explains why he endorses Savage for president:

Savage is the conservative's conservative--a man who would make Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater beam with pride.

Those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area have had the extraordinary good fortune of listening to Savage preach the truth for about fourteen years. His radio career started as a weekend host on a San Francisco radio station better known for it's loony liberalism than common sense conservatism.

Savage's show turned out to be a beacon of hope in the hopeless fog of liberal extremism in the Bay Area.

I completely disagree. I can think of few people who have done more to discredit conservatism in the Bay Area. I think that Savage has discouraged many Bay Area liberals (who might have otherwise had second thoughts, particularly after 9/11) from drifting towards conservatism.

Again, I can't prove it, but I suspect that's one of the reasons he was put -- and is kept -- on the air.

posted by Eric at 12:06 PM | Comments (5)

Catching up with the fifth grade

I hate television. Which is why I don't tend to watch as much video as I probably should. Still, I hate being ignorant -- especially when other people are blogging and talking about stuff in a manner which suggests that you really ought to know what they're talking about.

Ignorant was precisely how when I tried watching this bloggingheads episode. It seemed that all Henry Farrell and Daniel Drezner would talk about was an earlier video I hadn't seen, and they were carrying on about it at such length that I just plain had to see what they were talking about.

A "spectacle"? From which "political junkies" and the like "just can't turn away"?

I couldn't ignore that.

Still somewhat clueless, I found what I thought was the bloggingheads episode they were talking about, but I didn't see the now legendary explosion or meltdown or whatever it is everyone's so upset about, so I scrolled through the little excerpts with comments, and found this segment, where sure enough, sparks fly. It kind of made me sad. Ann Althouse got angry (because she felt she had been casually mischaracterized on a complicated issue), and the other blogger Garance Franke-Ruta was obviously uncomfortable with the display of anger.

Frankly, I don't think this is worth posting about, as I'd rather deal with text. It's less emotional. Seeing people get upset makes me want to drink.

But ironically that comes back to how this started -- which was Ann Althouse's post about drinking (which Glenn had linked), and the "new meme about [her] in the left-o-sphere":

Based on my "American Idol" vlog, where I hold up a glass of wine -- look, it's Jordin Sparks, reflected right here! -- and eventually take two sips of it, they are all: Althouse is a drunk, Althouse's drunken videoblogging, etc. This is the way these people see having a glass of wine? How very prissy and puritanical!
I watched the "wine drinking" video, and it was just friendly and nice. Not even a sign of mild annoyance, much less a drunken tantrum.

So, I guess the new rule is that if you're a nonconforming blogger and lose your temper over something (justified or not), from that moment forward being seen with a glass of wine makes you a wino?

Of the many comments on the wine post, this one was my favorite:

This is getting so tiresome. Today the big complaint is that Ann drinks wine...? Not at all drunk, a little drunk, a lot drunk - who cares!?!? What the hell is this? Nannies Against Drunk Blogging?

No, what it is really is finding something anything to grab onto to criticize someone you don't like. I swear it's like a bunch of fifth grade girls. Did you see what Ann did today? Oh. My. God. She's SO not sitting with us at lunch.
It's hard for me to believe that people get as upset as they do about so little.

I think I'll need a drink to finish this.

I guess I did.

UPDATE: I should add that there is a distinction between watching these videos and watching television. Unlike television (which is scripted, and on which people tend to be much more controlled), these informal videos make me feel closer to actually knowing the bloggers involved. I have no idea whether that is a good thing; in four years I've barely adjusted to the medium of moving words around. Video is probably a healthy thing -- maybe only possibly, because it adds a stress factor that wasn't there before.

But it doesn't seem to matter whether it's good, as it's inevitable. Few things are sillier (or more backward) than complaining about inevitable technology. Fortunately, there's no law forcing anyone to use it.

UPDATE (04/02/07): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post -- especially in the context of the "what's your permanent age" question.

It's a real puzzle. Right now I'm 52, but when I was 50 I was still 30. (Yes, the test still works.) I often suspect life consists of going from the birth crisis to a childhood crisis to a teenage/adolescent crisis to a young adult crisis to a midlife crisis to an old age crisis, then finally into a permanant crisis we call death. These crises prevent us from enjoying the little time we're here, but that hardly comes as news. Crisis management specialists have been trying to figure it out for millenia.

Like it or not, video is part of life, and I struggle with both constantly. More thoughts here.

UPDATE (04/03/07): The debate about Ann Althouse continues, with Bob Wright and Michael Kinsley apparently weighing in on another video. Whether she intended to or not, I guess Ann Althouse has not only brought a lot of traffic to that site, but given people something to discuss. Honesty can be painful. (And no, I have not watched the Kinsley-and-Wright-on-Althouse video.)

For those interested in the details of her side of the argument, Ann Althouse explains here.

UPDATE (04/05/07): Thank you, Ann Althouse for the link!

posted by Eric at 01:05 AM | Comments (4)

Free Granny Dunham? (Or just invade her privacy?)

I'd never heard of this issue before, but at Free Republic, at least one commenter says that "Free Granny Madelyn Dunham" should be a T-shirt slogan.

This controversy seems to be mostly generated by this report written by Andy Martin, who claims that Barack Obama is keeping his grandmother imprisoned because she is white:

....the "segregation" of Madelyn Dunham, Obama's white grandmother, and only real grandmother, has to be one of the cruelest and most mendacious political kidnappings this nation has ever seen.

Mrs. Dunham lives alone in the same apartment where she has lived for many years. Thus, it is reasonable to assume she is not incapacitated or an invalid.

Granny Dunham told the New York Times she was not well enough to speak, but in reality the Obama campaign maintains Stalinist "control" over potential interviewees. Obama's minions tried to control access to Obama's friend who was recently released from prison. Since he became a candidate for U.S. Senator, Obama has locked his white relative away in his racist closet.

Madelyn Dunham raised Barry Obama. It was probably her money that got him admitted to the prestigious Punahou School in Hawaii and paid his fees. Her efforts were formative, perhaps even more so than those of Obama's mother Ann, Madelyn's daughter. And yet Madelyn is being hidden away.

All because she is white and Barry Obama is a "black" candidate for president.

What a lie. What hypocrisy. What cowardice. And this man wants to sit in the Oval Office?

This surprised me a bit, because I thought the fact that Obama had a white mother was common knowledge. Why, then, would Obama hide the fact that he had a white grandmother?

Is he really hiding that? Or is it the overactive imagination of the writer?

It's probably fair to point out that according to CBS News, the grandmother simply refuses to talk to reporters, citing poor health:

Obama's family is already insulating itself. "I am not giving any interviews," Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, curtly interjected when a reporter phoned. "I am in poor health."

The number at Dunham's apartment in a nondescript Honolulu high rise has not changed in more than a quarter-century. It is the same one that a young Obama wrote in the yearbook of a petite black-haired beauty named Kelli Furushima -- the object of his high school crush.

She wistfully showed a reporter the love note Obama wrote in June 1979.

If that report is correct, I don't see much evidence of what Martin calls "Stalinist 'control' over potential interviewees."

What should reporters do? Knock on her door all the time and camp out in front of her place?

The quest to discover Obama's background is not new to the Andy Martin, who's spent years pushing for an investigation. Not only are Obama's white ancestors being kept in the closet (claims Martin), but so are his black ancestors:

I believe Obama's secret shame at his family history of rape, murder and arson is what actualizes him. Our research is not yet complete. We are seeking to examine British colonial records. Our investigation to date has drawn on information on three continents.

"And what about Obama's beloved Kenyan brothers and sisters? None of his family was invited to Boston to share his prominence. Are his relatives being kept in the closet? Where are they? More secrecy, more prevarication.

Who knew?

But contrast that (2004) claim about the closeted Kenyan relatives with yesterday's Newsmax report:

She [grandmother Dunham] is offended that Obambi shamelessly highlights his black relatives in Kenya and, equally shamelessly, pretends his white relatives in Hawaii who actually raised him do not exist. It would hurt me.
So, the Kenyans were once closeted, and now shamelessly highlighted?

Something doesn't sound quite right.

While it's not directly relevant to his claims about Obama, Martin recently took issue with the Wall Street Journal for siding with Israel:

Palestinians have been all too patient and all too peaceful in dealing with forty years of Israeli occupation. Fighting Israeli occupation is, to repeat, a human right, and an obligation of every human being.
I'm a human being. Does that mean fighting Israel is my obligation?

Yes. And apparently because the Wall Street Journal is an Israeli agent, we are all under Israeli occupation!

....peace will never come as long as American media such as the WSJ abandon all reason and objectivity and act as agents for the Israeli regime. We are as much under occupation as the Palestinians and Iraqis.

Ironically, your support for Israel is self-destructive and counterproductive. By encouraging war and occupation and a miasma of lies from the Israeli imperialists you undermine America's economy and our role in the world. Your support for war in Iraq has produced bitter fruit for our nation and our future role in the world.

The American people are fed up with Israel and Israeli demands for unconditional American support. George Bush put Palestinian freedom fighters on trial in Chicago and Tampa, and both times federal court juries rejected the Justice Department's Israeli-inspired lies. What does that tell you?

Well, at least "the American people" have a fearless spokesman.

To be fair, Martin seems to have mellowed with age. Back in the days when he was running for office, he took a somewhat harder line:

Martin also has expressed anti-Semitic attitudes in the past. When he ran for Congress in Connecticut in 1986, the name of his congressional campaign committee included the phrase "to exterminate Jew power in America," Federal Election Commission records show.

In a 1983 personal bankruptcy case, he referred to a federal bankruptcy judge as a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race."

In a related court filing in the case, he also expressed sympathy to the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

"I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did, when Jew survivors are operating as a wolf pack to steal my property," Martin wrote in an April 21, 1983, personal bankruptcy proceeding.

In 1973, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to allow Martin admission to the bar. The court's decision noted that Martin, a University of Illinois law school graduate who was previously known by the name Anthony R. Martin-Trigona, had a Selective Service record that showed he had a "moderately-severe character defect manifested by well documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character."

Still, the court noted that "issues raised as to [Martin's] mental stability" did not need to be considered in light of other matters it cited in deciding that Martin lacked the qualities of "responsibility, candor, fairness, self-restraint, objectivity and respect for the judicial system" required for the administration of justice.

Among issues the high court cited in denying his law license were Martin's criticism of members of a bar review panel as "emotionally ill" and "scum," his filing of a petition asking that a parking violation be lifted because it was "entered by an insane judge" and his description of an attorney as "shaking and tottering and drooling like an idiot," according to court records.

There's more, but I think the above is enough to raise questions about the credibility of Newsmax's source.

In logic, of course, none of this makes the story about Obama's imprisoned grandmother wrong.

Just color me skeptical.

MORE: Andy Martin also thinks Obama should apologize for the fact that his ancestors once owned slaves:

Mr. Obama, my family did not own slaves. Yours did. Most Americans' have no family links to slavery. Yours does. Yours, not ours.

Bill Clinton wanted to "share our pain." You want us to "share your shame." No thanks. Speak for yourself, Barry. That's part of your incredibly tortured family history, and your own tortured psyche, not "ours."

Amazingly, it took the exposure of his slave-owning family history for Obama to even acknowledge that half of his family history came from white racists who waged war against the United States.

And Obama wants "African-Americans" to support his candidacy? His ancestors sought to continue enslaving legitimate African-Americans. Massa Obama. You are the living embodiment of chutzpah. Just ask your friends at AIPAC what that means.

His friends at AIPAC?

I'm afraid it may be time for the tinfoil hat...

MORE: Andy Martin on Rachel Corrie:

Rachel Corrie's memory, our memory of her, stands as a testimony that we have not forgotten who are the occupiers and who are the occupied. We have not forgotten who gloats and preens about "nuclear weapons" and "superpower" status. As a devoted Christian, I hear the Torah, the "Old Testament," read in church every Sunday. I am left to wonder how the world's first monotheistic religion, one of the world's great religions, has been reduced to the rubble of Israeli triumphalism.

Then I remember that someone had to consciously murder, consciously kill, Rachel Corrie. And then I understand.

The conservative Republican tent is larger than I thought.

MORE: A picture of the "imprisoned" grandmother has been found. (Not that I'd been looking for it, but some people obviously care.)

Was there a coverup of granny's race? If so, I'd say it failed.

(Picture link found here.)

AND MORE: The Democratic Party website calls Andy Martin a "typical Republican" who "hates the Latinos, believes the Jews are running the nation and wants us all to speak English" as well as a "racist, egotistical, arrogant Media whore who is addicted to bring lawsuits."

I'm sorry, but calling this man a "typical Republican" doesn't set well with me.

However, right at the bottom of the website state it states, "Paid for by the Democratic National Committee -- 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington DC 20003."

I guess this gives the Republican Party the right to call Fred Phelps a "typical Democrat."

MORE: In case everything else he throws at Barack Obama fails, Andy Martin has filed a complaint with the Illinois State Bar asking that Obama be investigated for non-disclosure of (I am not kidding) unpaid parking tickets in 1991.

Obviously, from that point on, one thing led to another in his career in crime -- until finally he imprisoned his own grandma!

It just demonstrates the truth of the "slippery slope" theory.

I'm sorry, but I've spent enough time defending Barack Obama for one day. I'll never vote for the man, but after all, anyone who loves crocodiles can't be all bad.

UPDATE (03/31/07): Newsmax is now linking the above picture from the Sun Sentinel, and pointing out that the Sun Times has misidentified Obama's black grandmother as "Madelyn Dunham" (which they clearly have). The incorrect (quite possibly lying) caption reads thusly:

Barack Obama with his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, in Africa in 2004. Courtesy of the Obama family
Yes, but who wrote the caption? I think it is eminently fair to inquire whether this was a mistake or a deliberate lie -- and determine whether the Sun Times or the Obama campaign was responsible.

Newsmax also claims they've been deluged with complaints about Andy Martin's story, but that the fault is with the Sun Times:

Since publishing Martin's story, NewsMax has been deluged by pro-Obama bloggers who claim Martin's report is "racist," "inaccurate" or just "totally wrong."

Many direct our attention to a photo that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times (See Photo Here), purportedly showing Obama with a black woman who is identified by the Times as Madelyn Dunham, Obama's grandmother.

In fact, the Sun-Times, not NewsMax or Martin, is in error. The woman pictured on the Sun-Times Web site is not Madelyn Dunham, but Obama's Kenyan grandmother Sarah Hussein Obama.

Readers who are troubled by the coverage of Obama's grandmothers would do better to send their complaints to the Sun-Times rather than NewsMax.

Yes, of course the Sun Times is in error. (And the Sun Sentinel was not.) But what has that to do with whether Andy Martin is in error about the grandmother being imprisoned by Obama?

Isn't it possible that when she said didn't want to talk to the press, she might have meant it? Or is she not allowed to refuse to talk? Seeing that there's no question about her race, I'm wondering precisely what needs to be confirmed.

MORE: Considering the subject, I think it's fair to display the pictures in question.

Here's a screenshot of the Sun Times's mis-captioned photo:


And here's the 2004 photo of Obama with his actual grandparents:



Barack Obama poses at Columbia University in New York City during a visit by his grandparents Stanley and Madelyn Dunham.
(Photo courtesy of Maya Soetoro-Ng)
Mar 23, 2007

And finally, here's Obama shown with his grandparents at his high school graduation:



At his high school graduation, Barack Obama gets a hug from his grandmother Madelyn as his grandfather Stanley beams. His maternal grandparents raised Obama in Hawaii while his mother was living in Indonesia.
(Photo courtesy of Maya Soetoro-Ng)
Mar 23, 2007

I don't think being half white is anything to be ashamed of, and I normally wouldn't be interested in any candidate's graduation photos. But to some people, race matters!

UPDATE (04/01/07): Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for the link, and welcome all!

I'm glad Glenn thinks Granny should be left alone.

You'd think that outing her as white would be enough. (Except I'm not sure that was what was going on, because I don't think it really came as news to anyone. It certainly wasn't news to me.)

posted by Eric at 12:20 PM | Comments (9)

the right to oppression?

Via Pajamas Media, I see that Roger L. Simon is having anger management problems over the way hostage Faye Turney was forced to cover her head when she appeared on television:

I feel like smashing the television. One thing about those mullahs - no matter what their apologists in the West are like - they are not cultural relativists. They know how a woman should dress and the devil (literally) take those who disagree.

Of course this kind of battering ram approach to religion and women betrays an obvious psycho-sexual sickness in Islam that goes back to Mohammed that polite society dares not speak aloud. Polite society better wake up. Nothing could be more explicit. Not far away from dressing women like that is the freedom to rape and beat them. Also to remember is that this is just what Khomeini intended for all of us. This is the point of the Islamic revolution.

The whole thing gives me an anger management problem too.

What particularly angers me is the insidious way the covering of women is promoted in the West. Knowing damned well that Westerners will never go along with mandatory covering, they hide behind multiculturalism, and market the covering of women as a "right." A "freedom," even. Clueless feminists go along with it, often conceding that as a form of identity politics, veiling is "empowering."

In secular Turkey, there's a showdown right now over whether veiling should be allowed. An article in today's Wall Street Journal explores the issue in detail:

Since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic in 1923, Turkey has enforced one of the strictest forms of state secularism in the Muslim world. To this day, for instance, Turkish laws ban students, teachers, judges and other state employees from wearing headscarves at work or in class. A decade ago, the military, which views itself as the ultimate guardian of the secular order, forced a staunchly Islamist prime minister out of office.

In the past seven years, the share of Turks who describe themselves as "fairly religious" has doubled to nearly half of the population, according to a recent survey by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. And most people favor the lifting of the headscarf ban. At the same time, the study found that 77% of respondents believe democracy is the best form of government for Turkey.

I suspect most Americans would be against a headscarf ban. As a matter of fact, as a libertarian, I'd be against it too.

But what Americans forget (and what I suspect a lot of Turks have forgotten), is that this talk of the "freedom" to wear a headscarf is a clever deception practiced by those who would deny women the freedom not to wear a headscarf. Ataturk and the founders of modern Turkey had reasons for the headscarf ban. What clueless Americans see as a "freedom" (which it is, technically), is really not a freedom at all, but a foot in the door for the precise opposite.

Might as well talk about the right to wear chains.

posted by Eric at 10:15 AM | Comments (3)

The dirtiest nuke ever?

A daily WorldNetDaily reader I am most definitely not. But when the coffee still hasn't yet corrected my sleep-deficit disorder and I see a headline that begins with "Nuke bomb hidden inside Hillary," I just have to read on.

As it turns out, it's a South Park episode. The bomb is called a "snuke."

Here's the video:

In its review, The Hillary Project asks,

We can't help but wonder how the woman with an absolute void for humor is soaking in the attention.
More serious review here.

And, lo and behold, there's already a Wikipedia entry on "The Snuke."

I'd love to hear Dinesh D'Souza weigh in on "The Snuke," because it represents a synthesis of two of his primary memes:

What angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television," [D'souza] writes. "What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not [free market philosopher] John Locke but Hillary Clinton.
Yes, but after watching this episode, the dirty nuke lovers might very well change their minds.

posted by Eric at 09:37 AM

if this is a close ally, who are our enemies?

Here's a lovely example of our petrodollars at work:

RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi King Abdullah, whose country is a close US ally, on Wednesday slammed the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq in an opening speech to the annual Arab summit in Riyadh.

"In beloved Iraq, blood is being shed among brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and ugly sectarianism threatens civil war," Abdullah said.

Speaking of illegitimate foreign occupations, what about the Saudi madrassa in Villanova, Pennsylvania? Ya think maybe Bush can speak out against that?

And how about the fact that 70% of Iraqi suicide bombers are Saudis? What's that? Friendly fire?

Forgive my sarcasm, but such friendship can be a bit overwhelming at times.

I often think that Iraq is not the only country which needed our help.

I guess the bright side is that we're still over there until the left finally has its way.

Um, need I mention Iran? I'm not even sure such hostage taking bastards deserve a place among nations. The overall situation reminds me of Patton's famous line:

"We are going to have to fight them sooner or later, within the next generation. Why not do it now while our Army is intact!"

posted by Eric at 09:30 PM | Comments (1)

For every horror, another horrible law?

The idea of adding a "homeless" category to hate crime legislation is not a new topic for me, but it seems that every time a homeless person gets attacked, there's another push for it. (The way activists talk, you'd almost think it was legal to attack homeless people.)

Anyway, I was appalled to read about the latest incident, in which a pack of very young brats savagely attacked a 58-year-old homeless man:

DAYTONA BEACH -- John D'Amico dabbed a tissue to sop up blood seeping from his left eye -- the spot where he said a 10-year-old dropped a cinder block on his face.

The 58-year-old homeless man with deep blue eyes and salt-and-pepper hair said he didn't fight back as three boys -- two 10-year-olds and a 17-year-old -- attacked him near one of Daytona Beach's grittiest streets Tuesday night, not far from where another homeless man was beaten to death by bored teenagers two years ago in Holly Hill.

They wanted to kill him, the day laborer said of his attackers Wednesday from his hospital bed.

"I'm not going to start fighting a 10-year-old," he said. "Then I'd be in jail."

Good point. He probably would be. While self defense is not predicated upon the age of the attacker, as a practical matter, if an adult hurts a 10 year old kid, the cops are not going to be very sympathetic to a self defense claim.

The kids are said to be the youngest attackers of homeless people yet known to homeless activists:

Michael Stoops, acting executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C., said his group has been tracking violence against the homeless for years, but none of those cases has ever involved someone so young.

"These are the youngest perpetrators ever, which is disturbing," Stoops said.

His group released a study last month that found Florida had more reported attacks on the homeless in 2006 than any other state.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, called Florida "ground zero for attacks on the homeless."

He said the violence is similar to hate crimes against minorities and gay people years ago.

"It's becoming less socially acceptable to attack other groups, so the homeless now are taking the mantle of [becoming] the universally acceptable target for aggression."Daytona Beach police Chief Mike Chitwood said the boys' actions may have been the result of bad parenting and a violent society influenced by video games.

Video games? I'd love to know how a video game could make anyone do anything, much less how a violent society has been influenced by them. (Well, I play Tetris on my cell phone. Sometimes it makes me angry when I get a low score, but I try not to take it out on homeless people.)

It also sounds as if Chief Chitwood is echoing Brian Levin, who is on record as blaming video games for attacks on homeless people, as well as calling for homeless hate crime legislation:

Homelessness must be added to vulnerable-victim laws and hate-crime.
I completely disagree. And not merely because I disagree with the identity politics/hate crime philosophy.

Whether or not someone has a home is not an identity -- any more than whether or not someone has health care is an identity. From personal experience, I know that many of those we might think of as "homeless" -- and whom we would routinely describe with the word -- are not homeless at all. Rather, they are mentally ill people with serious personal hygiene and substance abuse problems, but who actually have housing. Some of the people we call homeless also have the irritating habit of sitting around and emitting unpleasant odors, sleeping in public, or hassling people for money. One time I nearly had to get violent with someone who actually got into my face while I was trying to use an ATM, and another time a homeless man took a swing at me while shrieking incomprehensibly. Whether they have housing or not, these so-called "homeless" people regularly assault the non-homeless. Why should it be more of a crime for me to haul off and hit a homeless person than for that same person to hit me? Once a category like that is created, there's a presumption.

Now, I realize that the homeless category would, if analogous to race, probably require that an attack on a homeless person be done simply because he was homeless, with intent to terrorize him for his status. The problem I see with this is that even if we accept the validity of hate crimes legislation, it is a relatively easy thing to determine the race of an attacker and a victim, and if there's a hateful intent, there's usually evidence supporting that. But suppose the attacker just hates filthy looking people who smell, without regard to their housing status. How could a statute be written that creates a "homeless" category? Or what if some blowhard asshole simply decides that he is fed up with aggressive panhandlers, and decides that the next time he's asked for money in an aggressive manner, he is going to deck the guy. Under current law, that would be assault and battery, and he should be prosecuted for it. But would it be a hate crime? Why would that be any more of a hate crime than another asshole deciding that he'd had enough of skateboard punks nearly running over him on the sidewalk, and that he would punch the next one to cut him off?

Once again, these hate crime laws create legal mischief, and I think they're a terrible idea.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I think what may be fueling some of the push for special hate crime legislation is the fear that nothing will happen to criminals under existing laws. But this is not because the existing laws are "inadequate"; it's because of the callused way the criminal justice system is administered. For various reasons, charges are often dropped, violent criminals are routinely granted probation, and even imprisoned criminals are released early because of jail overcrowding. Thus, the victims rights groups become more and more "competitive" in the hope of getting a better shot for their special interest group. In addition, activists just always want more, and the addition of one special category leads to demands for another. Besides, prisons are filled with drug offenders and the courts are filled with drug cases. Who has time to deal with real, violent, criminals?

posted by Eric at 05:03 PM | Comments (1)

Screw incandescence! I'm screwing in my fluorescents!

Just as I am no Christian theologian, nor am I an electrical engineer. So this contentious Wiki argument over potential hidden costs of CFLs is largely lost on me.

All I know is that my crackpot artistic side was fascinated by Right on the Right's post which blamed Glenn Reynolds for the actions of a shaky fan:

....instead of blaming myself for running the fan when it's only 75 degrees in the house (the fan shook the light cover loose), I'm going to blame Glenn Reynolds for suggesting the bulbs and Al Gore (though I ignored Al and listened to Glenn). It's all Glenn's fault.
While I don't think Glenn should be blamed for the actions of shaking fans, I'm feeling an obligation to chime in and share a few CFL light bulb replacement stories.

On my hall ceiling, there is an art deco fixture that I like. It's way up there beyond my reach, which means that every time I have to change a light bulb, I have to use the ladder, which has to be hauled up a flight of stairs and then positioned under the fixture. Then I have to climb up and hold the new bulb with one hand, unscrew the old bulb with the other, then put the old bulb down on the top of the ladder so I can screw in the new bulb with my right hand lest I lose my balance and break the old light bulb or (worse) fall off the ladder. This chore was happening far too often, and I began to suspect that simply opening and closing doors was shaking loose the flimsy filaments of the cheap light bulbs I was using.

Anyway, I was delighted to replace the bulbs with the new CFLs -- which look like this:


No muss, no mess. No more precarious ladder climbing, and no light bulb burnout syndrome. My only complaint about the new bulbs is that they're so much brighter, which is fine on the ceiling, but less than esthetically pleasing at eye level. However, they do sell the low wattage variety, which are perfect for front porch lights, and have already lasted forever on mine (at least so far).

All in all I'm very happy with the CFLs, but until now I never bothered to count them, and now I realize I have ten. Esthetically, however, unless they're going to be on the ceiling, I recommend using them on fixtures with shades, as the brighter ones can be glaring. The one in my piston lamp is simply too bright, and it looks like this:


If I had a colored shade it would be better, but as it is I don't like looking at it. This one (in a swinging wall fixture with a colored shade) is much easier on the eyes.


The brighter one in my kitchen actually improved the overall appearance of the fixture. As you can see, it brought out its natural Sci Fi tendencies rather well:


Trust me, it's more eye catching than it was. And I have an old 1970s shadeless Warhol "pop art" style fixture that's been gathering dust in the basement, because it looks so tacky. As you can see, even Coco is not particularly impressed:


But with CFLs, I think it will look incredibly cool!

Enough about my light bulb issues, or I'll have to I rename this post "Everything You Need To Know About My Light Bulbs."

Now for the important part. I cannot blame or credit either Glenn Reynolds or Al Gore for my CFL experiences. The main reason is that I bought these bulbs before Glenn was promoting the idea, and even though I knew Al Gore was for them, this would have tended to disincline me towards buying them, as the natural contrarian in me doesn't like being scolded into doing anything -- not even things that might be good ideas. The non-scolding approach of people like Glenn Reynolds is (for me at least) far more effective than heavy-handed moralistic hyperbole.

And as to laws, if they passed a law mandating these things, I'd be inclined to unscrew the CFLs and change them back to incandescents, then write an angry post about the loss of freedom, complete with a snide suggestion about what the bureaucrats might do with their lightbulbs.

How many government bureaucrats does it take to make a libertarian change a lightbulb, anyway?

UPDATE (03/30/07): I don't know why, but I thought this (from Ann Althouse's post about making your home "relationship ready") belonged here:

Get someone to make a video recording of you as you go through your house or apartment looking at all your things. You take the role someone who's just met you and is trying to decide whether to reject you. Be honest. Be merciless!
(Via Glenn Reynolds who felt obliged to defend some poor slob's barber chair.)

I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't even qualify for "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy," so an inside peek at my lightbulbs is the best I can offer.

As to the piston lamp, they can have it when they pry it from my cold, dead, crankshaft!

UPDATE: Commenter "Tum" has just pointed to an excellent post at The Futurist which discusses HSL revolution and links an incredible new technology called Hybrid Solar Lighting (HSL). It involves parabolic suncollector discs which track the sun, and send natural sunlight all through the house through fiberoptic cables, as well as store it.

Incredibly cool.

BTW, my CFLs cost 99 cents each.

UPDATE: My thanks Glenn Reynolds for the link! I'm especially honored that the blogosphere's leading luminary has honored me by characterizing this post with what appears to be a new phrase -- "LIGHTBULB-BLOGGING."

A warm welcome to new readers, and I do appreciate the comments.

posted by Eric at 09:41 AM | Comments (17)

News From Zimbabwe

This Is Zimbabwe has the latest news coming out of Zimbabwe. Like this story

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is 34 years for women and 37 years for men.

I would really like you to think about that for a moment. How old are you? How much longer would that leave you to live or have you already exceeded our life expectancy?

Attending funerals is a regular occurrence in Zimbabwe.

I know many people who have died over the last few years.

Last year two of my work colleagues died within the space of a couple of months of each other. I go to funerals, I experience the awfulness of funerals, and then I come home.

But even though this is 'normal', I am sometimes woken up and stunned by something, and I am left horrified and shocked and very sensitive to how extreme life is in Zimbabwe.

For example, a couple of days ago I attended a child's funeral. This is hard enough as it is, but through my tears I noticed how many freshly dug graves there were in the children's section of the cemetery, clear evidence that lots of children are dying.

Even worse, this is a new cemetery and it's already almost full.

I saw two women digging a child-sized grave on their own, and I was told that this was because they could not afford to pay a gravedigger to do it for them.

I was told they were alone because their men were probably out of the country working in South Africa.

The painful reality of what I saw in that place was emphasised by our Zimbabwean tradition of leaving some of the possessions belonging to the person who has died on the grave.

For children this means I was looking at a scene of small graves with bottles, toys, baby baths and other plastic pieces of childhood treasures piled on them. It is wrong, very very wrong, to see these sort of things.

South Africa looks on and tut tuts. This editorial cartoon pretty much expresses what is going on.

H/T Publius Pundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 03:55 AM

Palestinian Lesbians Safe In Israel

It is not safe to be a lesbian in Palestine.

Many of the attendees said they were sad that the only place safe enough to hold a conference for gay Arab women was in a Jewish area of Haifa, which has a mixed Arab-Jewish population.
How is that for irony?

I got the link from Carl in Jerusalem who asks this question:

Can someone please explain why the queers are for 'Palestine'?

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 03:20 AM | Comments (3)


Phone hackers morph into computer hackers. Steve Wozniack is featured. I never got into phone hacking (I did work on Motorola's first Electronic Moblie Exchange [EMX] where I learned a lot about tone switching. I was writing a section of the manuals.). However, when the Altair hit the cover of Popular Electronics in January of 1975 I could see my future. I got my hands on an Altair by April and within two years, I was designing computer boards. An I/O board I designed went into the world's first BBS. I knew Randy Suess and Ward Christianson from the Chicago CACHE Club. No one had a decent I/O board at the time with all the functions needed to really control things. Timers, Signaling chips (UARTS), and Control lines. I had it all plus RAM and EPROM sockets. The UART I used was peculiar because you couldn't be sure a software reset always reset the chip. The guys were having that problem and I showed them how to fix it (use one of the control lines to control the hardware reset).

Well I knew hardware and software. Their idea for a BBS? Couldn't see a future in it. Shows you how much I knew. I did log on to their BBS within a year of when it went up and many many times after that until they finally went off line.

We exchanged programs with the BBS using the Xmodem program that Ward designed. It was one of the things that made it possible for people to share compiled programs. Text files were easy to begin with. Then came FIDO net. A network of BBSs that exchanged text files from about 1 AM to 3 AM in the morning so you could have discussion groups. You uploaded your replies and any one on the BBS could immediately comment and you could have nationwide conversations if you could stand a couple of days delay. I used to be up at 3 AM (hackers hours) to be the first to log on and get the lastest messages. What fun!. Then the internet got going and usenet was popular because it was BBS style but comments got posted instantly. And now blogs. Man I love this stuff!

BTW I first got on the internet around Christmas of '95. Back then there were a number of programs you had to integrate to get it to work. Something called Winsock was a notorious pain. My #1 son and I worked around the clock for 3 days getting it all sorted out. He worked while I slept and vice versa. With some overlap time. More fun.

posted by Simon at 12:50 AM | Comments (2)

A History of the Middle East in Just a Few Minutes

How the Israeli-Palestinian conflict started in 2 1/4 minutes.

posted by Simon at 12:20 AM

Fred Thompson just keeps looking better and better

Regardless of whether there's anything to the idea that a man should be judged by his enemies, I can't think of anything more likely to get me to vote for Fred Thompson than this news:

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson has dealt a potentially devastating blow to Fred Thompson's presidential aspirations, saying the former senator is not a Christian.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson - considered the most politically powerful evangelical figure in the U.S. - said in a phone call to Dan Gilgoff, senior editor at U.S. News & World Report.

"[But] I don't think he's a Christian. At least that's my impression."

Until today, I hadn't known that Jesus Christ put James Dobson in charge of the word bearing his name. It's a remarkable assertion.

One I don't think Thompson even needs to dignify with a reply, although his spokesman apparently has:

Thompson's spokesman Mark Corallo took issue with the statement.

"Thompson is indeed a Christian," he said. "He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

In logic, James Dobson has as much right to opine on Fred Thompson's Christianity as Fred Thompson does to opine on James Dobson's. I don't think Fred Thompson would do that, because he probably knows these things aren't up to him to decide.

Not so Dobson. What I find particularly remarkable about his outburst is that he measures Christianity according to the loudness of the mouth:

Focus on Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger sought to clarify Dobson's statement, telling Gilgoff that while Dobson didn't believe Thompson belonged to a non-Christian faith, he "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian - someone who openly talks about his faith.
In other words, Christians who simply don't yell and brag about their religious beliefs are not Christians?

Since when?

I sincerely hope Dobson's definition of Christianity does not become widely accepted.

For Christianity's sake.

I'm no Christian theologian, but Dobson's denunciation of Christians as "non-Christian" reminds me of the Sayeed Qutb approach of denouncing fellow Muslims as "un-Islamic."

No, I don't mean to say that Dobson is the moral equivalent of Qutb. But bad logic is bad logic, and by questioning Dobson's Christianity, Dobson only invites others to question his.

Who knows? When all this religious test fervor is over, Thompson might end up looking like a better Christian than Dobson!

(Not that it's up to me to decide such things....)

MORE: In Fred Thompson's biography at the Washington Post, there's the following simple entry:

Religion: Protestant
How did the Post find that out? Did they make it up?

What if it turns out that Fred Thompson indeed "openly talked" about his religion?

Wouldn't that mean Dobson bore false witness?

MORE: Daily Kos analyst "liberalpragmatist" warns fellow leftists not to laugh at Fred Thompson, who "might well be the strongest candidate the Republicans could field":

He comes off to most as more likable than Hillary Clinton. Unlike McCain, Giuliani or Romney, he'll certainly out-Southern John Edwards. And he'll score well on the gravitas score against either Edwards or Obama (less so for the latter).

A Thompson-led ticket could very easily solidify the warring GOP base and wrap up the entire South save a competitive-but-Republican-leaning Florida. Pair him with Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota as his running mate, and he would be in a very strong general election position.

My guess is that Obama would be the strongest opponent for Thompson. But Thompson could conceivably beat Obama at the debates and could also appear more authoritative than Obama, something that will earn him points among many suburban swing voters and many seniors. Though Obama would likely win big among younger voters, the "age gap" could tip the scales towards Thompson.

I'm not writing off our chances against Thompson; I still think that, given the political climate, we'd be slight favorites. But we'd certainly have to fight hard for it. And though I like our chances against any of the current Republican top three, I'm nowhere near as certain about those chances against Thompson.

Let's hope he doesn't run, or that if he does, all the top money and operatives have already been snatched up and he gains no more traction than, say, Mike Huckabee.

Solidify the warring GOP base? Is Dobson against that too?

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds characterizes the Dobson pronouncement as "ANOTHER REASON TO LIKE FRED THOMPSON."

What Dobson said is looking more and more like an endorsement.

(But I should be more careful with my sarcasm, as one commenter has already noticed that it's an illness I need to heal. Sorry, but it's the illness that drives this blog!)

UPDATE: Via Clayton Cramer, my attention was directed to this apparent qualification of James Dobson's remarks:

"In his conversation with Mr. Gilgoff, Dr. Dobson was attempting to highlight that to the best of his knowledge, Sen. Thompson hadn't clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him. Dr. Dobson told Mr. Gilgoff he had never met Sen. Thompson and wasn't certain that his understanding of the
former senator's religious convictions was accurate. Unfortunately, these qualifiers weren't reported by Mr. Gilgoff. We were, however, pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Sen. Thompson professes to be a believer.
Well, did Dobson contact Gilgoff in the first place or not? Why all this convoluted lawyerlike language in a press release? Can't Dobson speak for himself? It seems to me he either said "I don't think he's a Christian" or he didn't.

The call to "secular media" Gilgoff in the first place followed by the lawyerlike "qualification" seems fishy to me. I think he wanted to either damage Thompson, or force him to grovel.

posted by Eric at 05:22 PM | Comments (9)

A very shrewd move

Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that the Equal Rights Amendment has been reintroduced. While this is largely symbolic and unnecessary (for the reasons Eugene Volokh points out), it's nonetheless a very shrewd move.

An election move?

To whose benefit?

Well, we're always in the middle of an election, so any move can be seen as an election move, but Bob Krumm links a report showing the people behind it:

Democrats in the Senate and House plan to resume "the fight for women's equality" on Tuesday, when they reintroduce the Women's Equality Amendment.

Sens. Ted Kennedy (Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, both of New York, plan to join Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, in making the Tuesday afternoon announcement.

Doesn't look very bipartisan, does it? (Is there some reason why not?)

Clearly, the Dems are thinking ahead. This puts the Republicans in the very difficult position of having to "oppose" equal rights for women, or else have to explain why the ERA is "not needed anymore." Obviously, it is hoped the latter will look lame to the voters, and especially to the gender gap voters.

Who knows? If the Democrats selected a woman as their candidate for president, this might even transform sex from a non-starter into a legitimate campaign issue.

I'd say the Democrats have done their homework well.

This can't do anything but make the Republicans look bad, because there's no way for them to triangulate their way out of it.

(What won't make much difference is whether the ERA is a good or a bad thing.)

UPDATE: NOW is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for the link! Welcome all. (Now, there's a coincidence!)

posted by Eric at 04:02 PM | Comments (4)

From mourners to suspects overnight. Who knew?

Yesterday I marveled over the inability of the Philadelphia Inquirer to make any mention of suspects in huge front page story, headlined "Woman dies while trying to help children -- Another family is left to mourn."

There's even a picture of mourners:


Which has this accompanying caption:

Rashiek High (left), whose wife was killed Sunday, gets a hug from a friend outside his house on Pentridge Street in Southwest Phila. Jovonne Stelly was shot in broad daylight when she was caught in a gun battle that erupted on her Kingsessing street.
My reaction to this was to wonder why the Inquirer was so quick to blame the guns used in the shooting, without so much as a mention of, simply, who did it:
There's no question that this death was tragic, but what I want to know is why there has been no discussion of the shooters. Were any arrests made? Why not? Considering all the discussion, speculation, and outright mischaracterization of firearms, and the use of the word "slaughter," why is it that nowhere (in any of the articles I've seen) do the words "suspect" or "arrest" occur? And why is it that no reward has been offered?

You'd almost think the guns were the only suspects. Or is there some rule of which I'm unaware that murders committed in the course of family feuds are the fault of the guns?

Were the Hatfields and the McCoys an argument for gun control?

Who knew?

Unless you'd read yesterday's article like a detective (and scoured previous stories, as I did), you'd have been hard pressed to discern that this was a family feud. (Much less that the mourner in the photo would be arrested the next day as a suspect.)

But today, the headline is "Brother; husband arrested in death," and the article begins with talk of "the code of the street":

It's the code of the street: Don't snitch. Dummy up.

"It's not good for me to talk," said a man who declined to give his name as he cleaned up a car damaged by gunfire on the Kingsessing street where Jovonne Stelly, 28, was killed Sunday.

Police yesterday charged two men with her murder - her husband, Rashiek High, 26, and her brother Michael Stelly, 27, both of whom lived with her on the 5800 block of Pentridge Street.

OK, two of the shooters lived with her, and one was her husband? But yesterday he was pictured as a mourner, a victim?

My, the news changes fast around here.

But there still seems to be a movement to make the guns somehow the culprit. Local activists are not happy about the arrests, because the real enemy is, is, well, "the bullets they were dodging." Therefore, a protest march is planned:

The slaying, resulting from a gunfight in which dozens of bullets were fired, was likely the result of a long-simmering dispute.

Detectives also issued an arrest warrant for a third suspect, Keith Devine, 26.

Stelly, a mother of four, died of a shot to the head.

Three alleged killers. One killing shot.

Sgt. Ronald McClane, a detective on the case, said that the ballistic analysis of the slug that killed Stelly was incomplete, and that investigators had not identified the triggerman.

But the principle behind multiple arrests for a single murder is simple, he said: Fire a weapon while committing a felony and face maximum charges if that action contributes to a death.

"The city, the department, the public in general is fed up" with homicides, McClane said. "If you're out there shooting, the D.A.'s Office will come down on you. I think that's in everybody's interest."

While some anti-violence activists applaud such action, Stephanie Dixon, an organizer of a march today to commemorate Stelly, said that some members of her family were upset about the arrest.

"It's not right. They had nothing to do with it. They were dodging bullets just like everybody else. . . . Michael [Stelly] was there just trying to save his sister," Dixon said last night.

The victim's four children, Rashiek, 9, Curtise, 7, Jaylah, 3, and Naj, just a few months old, are being cared for by an aunt, Shelley Myric, Dixon said.

The march, scheduled to step off at 5 p.m. today from 58th Street and Willows Avenue, is "for Jovonne Stelly, but it's also for all the other people dying in this city all over. There's too much bloodshed," Dixon said.

Yes, and according to yesterday's article, the politicians (all of whom think guns are the problem) have been invited:
Elected officials and mayoral candidates have been invited, said organizer Stephanie Dixon, who called for citizen action "to stop the madness."
The madness meme was echoed by a police spokesman in today's piece, which has more on the feud, and how it started:
A witness told a reporter Monday that the gun battle, in which up to 40 shots were fired, began when an unspecified number of gunmen emerged from a house and started shooting.

Capt. Michael Costello, commander of the Homicide Unit, said tensions between the two groups involved in the bloody melee, in which four people were wounded, had been building for two weeks and apparently stemmed from a robbery and a subsequent shooting in which no one was hit.

He said that despite Stelly's relationship to the men in custody in her slaying, there was no indication that she was involved in the dispute. She was killed, he said, "trying to remove her children from the line of fire."

Devine's relationship to High and Stelly was not spelled out by police. All three were known to police from previous encounters, officials said.

Costello said at least four guns were fired during the gun battle and police were hunting for others who fired shots.

The feuding factions had engaged in a number of physical confrontations in the last week, including Sunday morning, and from 15 to 20 people gathered on Pentridge Street Sunday afternoon in apparent anticipation of a fistfight, Costello said.

Besides the two groups, children and adults enjoying the good weather also were on the street, he said.

"But at least four to five people brought guns to this fistfight and they didn't think twice about discharging them," Costello said. "It's just insane."

It's about as insane as the Hatfields and the McCoys. (And, um, might it also be that these people are, dare I say it, career criminals?)

The thing is, I don't doubt the "insane" shooters themselves would be welcomed by the marchers, as long as they agreed that the guns caused their "madness."

I think such thinking is at least as insane as the shootings.

posted by Eric at 08:01 AM | Comments (1)

Educating Diplomats

Michael Ledeen has a few complaints about American Diplomats. What I would like to do is suggest a remedy.

They really need to read some Retief novels.

Our military reads Starship Troopers and used to read the Dorsai Novels. The official reading list. Evidently it changes from time to time.

Maybe Foggy Bottom needs a Book of the Month Club.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:30 AM | Comments (4)

soft spot for crocs?

I don't know exactly what to make of the Palestinian woman who strapped on three live crocodiles (via Pajamas Media) and tried to smuggle them into the Gaza from Egypt. (No, I don't mean she got the crocodiles from Pajamas Media! That's where I got the link.)

I'm troubled, though, because I think this woman is getting a bad press. Almost in kneejerk fashion, people are acting as if she's some kind of weirdo.

What -- do they want her to strap something more normal to her body, like explosives?

Me, I like crocodiles, and even though I don't support breaking the law by smuggling, I find it relieving to see such wholesome behavior for a change.

I just thought I should speak up for her and all other croc lovers.

Including, it should be noted, Barack Obama:

Obama took few kids to his home, just members of an inner circle who were trusted to see his secret pets: crocodiles that lived in a concrete tub, about a foot-and-a-half deep and a yard long, surrounded by chicken wire. The biggest croc was almost as long as its home, recalled Adi.

Obama's stepfather "was breeding crocodiles in his house," he added. "Not many people knew about it. He only had one big crocodile, but they had many smaller ones."

It's almost enough to make me vote for him, but I just can't stomach his position on guns.

Sheesh. You'd think as a crocodile lover he'd learn to be more liberal.

posted by Eric at 03:08 PM | Comments (1)

"I Bet The NY Times will jump on this"

No really. Since the New York Times and so many other members of the moronocy have demonstrated a huge need for moron offsets (as Glenn Reynolds says, "demand may outstrip supply"), I think they might want to do as this ebay listing suggests.

For less than a million bucks the Times can't go wrong.

I mean, think of what they could net in gross?

AFTERTHOUGHT: I am assuming the listing I linked above is either a hoax, a prank, or a nutty form of satire. (In case of the remote possibility that it is on the level, well, I can't can't wait to see the Times jump on it -- provided they give me credit for passing along a hot scoop!)

posted by Eric at 02:20 PM

"slaughter" committed by "high caliber" "automatics"

Yet another inaccurate and misleading front page Inquirer story attempting to vilify guns instead of the criminals who misuse them.

And yet another meaningless series of corrections by a mean-spirited gun nut whose corrections would only matter to other mean-spirited gun nuts (and possibly a few kooks who dare worry about inaccuracy or bias in the media while people are dying):

In a city plagued by epidemic violence, certain slayings always stand out: the grandmother killed in a parked car by Wild West-style gunfire; the parent senselessly gunned down while minding her kids on the street.

Amid the drumbeat of homicides this year - already at 95, a record for recent years - the slaughter of innocents resonates most deeply.

Kingsessing neighbors say Jovonne Stelly, 28, was just such an innocent mother. She was killed in broad daylight Sunday by an errant gunshot during a battle that police say involved at least four people using high-caliber automatic pistols on Pentridge Street in Southwest Philadelphia. The area, a homicide hot spot, was already the site of increased police patrols.

The slaughter of innocents? Is this reporting or editorializing? If this woman had nothing to do with any of the shooters and was in fact caught in crossfire, that would be murder, but isn't it a bit argumentative to call it a "slaughter"?

According to an earlier report, one of the shooters was her nephew, and the confrontation "had begun the night before and reignited about 4:30 p.m.":

A 17-year-old youth was shot in the arm, and a 19-year-old man was shot in the leg. They were taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Stelly's relatives said the 17-year-old was her nephew.

The shooting occurred in the 12th Police District, the same neighborhood where Mayor Street and Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson less than two weeks ago announced plans to assign 80 additional officers in an effort to curb a surge in violence.

The effort, which started March 14, targets a district that "has been troubled by gun violence," Street said, and is viewed as one of the most dangerous areas in the city.

Another article said the shooting involved a family feud:
The gun battle between two feuding families took the life of 28-year-old Jovanne Stelly.

"The commissioner and all the deputies will be working the streets of Philadelphia in uniform," said Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. "[What happened in Kingsessing this weekend] was a gun fight between two groups, like what used to be the wild west. But Philadelphia is not a wild west city."

Today's front page article is the only one which supplies any detail about the firearms used. We are told there were "at least four people using high-caliber automatic pistols." First of all, I doubt they were using automatic pistols. While such things do exist, they are not legal to buy or possess without a special license. Ordinary street criminals would tend not to have them, because they're so rare that they'd cost a small fortune.

But what about the phrase "high caliber"? As Dave Kopel points out elsewhere, the phrase is often misused. As this site explains, it's a non-descriptive term:

The high-caliber rifle is an invention by the news media. Bullets are propelled by a chemical explosion that can be of high-power or low-power.

Caliber is the bore diameter in decimal-inches. You could theoretically refer to a gun with a wide barrel as large-caliber. From my time at aberdeen proving grounds, large caliber is generally a tank round.

Snipers use a range of bullet diameters, some of them up to 0.50 caliber. While that is large-caliber for a rifle, it is peanuts compared to an artillery piece. The also tend to use high-power ammunition to travel long distances.

So you can have high or low power and large or small caliber. But high-caliber is nonsense unless, perhaps, you are referring to the fine workmanship that went into it.

There's a longstanding debate among firearms enthusiasts over weapon caliber, and the .44 or .45 is considered to have considerably more stopping power than, say, a 9mm. However, the proper term would be "large caliber," because caliber is a measurement of bullet diameter. "High" is used to describe power or velocity, and involves the overall cartridge (not bullet) size, and how much gunpowder is inside it. Thus, an AR-15 firing a .223 would be properly called a small caliber, high power weapon.

If we assume (as I think we must) that the guns used in the latest shooting were semi-automatic handguns, then they would not be high-velocity, so, giving the writer the benefit of the doubt, it is fair to assume than when he says "high caliber," he means "large caliber."

The problem with that is there's no indication in today's story that large caliber bullets were used. Instead, there's this reference to a 9mm (which happens to be the most commonly available handgun):

Hearing shots fired around 4:30 p.m., Stelly rushed to the street to retrieve two of her children when a bullet crashed through her skull. Two teens, including Stelly's 17-year-old nephew Kendall Sterns, were wounded in the fusillade of as many as 40 rounds unleashed in minutes, police said yesterday.

Investigators did not elaborate on their initial statement that the violence sprang from a lingering dispute that apparently resurfaced.

"She truly didn't deserve to die like this. All she ever wanted was a chance to bring up her babies," said Gregory Burnside, 46, recalling Stelly's devotion to her four children: Rashiek, 9; Curtise, 7; Jaylah, 3, and Naj, just a few months old.

"We need help. When Rizzo was in, there was fear that kept us straight," Burnside said, referring to the hard-line police commissioner and mayor. "That's the help we need. It's way too easy to walk around here with a 9mm."

While it's probably as easy to walk around with a 9mm as with a .22 or a .44, his use of the term (and the ubiquity of the round) makes me think that in all probability, the weapons involved in the shooting were standard, garden-variety 9mm.

Not high power, and not large caliber.

I can only conclude that the writer used the term "high caliber" in the same way he used the word "slaughter" -- as rhetorical hyperbole.

I am, however, fascinated by the statement that "when Rizzo was in, there was fear that kept us straight," because I remember Frank Rizzo quite well. He epitomized law and order, was much feared by criminals, and the left absolutely hated him. I think he'd probably be elected overwhelmingly were he alive today, because he'd promise to clean up the crime, and based on his track record, people would believe him.

I doubt he'd focus on guns as the cause, as this administration is doing. And if he did, he'd know the difference between large and small caliber weapons, and probably between automatic and semi-automatic. The article continues:

Johnson said an officer was about a half-block away when Sunday's gunfire erupted and arrived at Pentridge Street about the time the first call to 911 came in. He said shootings and violent crime were down compared with last year, even though the number of homicides is up.

Among the factors that could account for that, he said, were the increased use of automatic weapons (which fire more bullets and faster), and the question of whether a victim can get to one of the city's hospitals that is best equipped to handle gunshot wounds.

Increased use of automatic weapons? Is that really what he means? Is that what he even said? I don't know, but again, he would be talking about semi-automatic weapons. They can "fire more bullets and faster" than revolvers, but the technology is a century old, and whether their use is on the increase or not, the fact that "as many as 40 rounds" were "unleashed in minutes" is not remarkable considering that there were four shooters. Even if they'd all been using 6-shot revolvers, they'd have had plenty of time to reload. In another article, the homicide sergeant was quoted as saying that we know that five guns were used in the shootout but no guns were recovered." (Any five functional handguns could easily discharge 40 rounds in a period of minutes.)

There's no question that this death was tragic, but what I want to know is why there has been no discussion of the shooters. Were any arrests made? Why not? Considering all the discussion, speculation, and outright mischaracterization of firearms, and the use of the word "slaughter," why is it that nowhere (in any of the articles I've seen) do the words "suspect" or "arrest" occur? And why is it that no reward has been offered?

You'd almost think the guns were the only suspects. Or is there some rule of which I'm unaware that murders committed in the course of family feuds are the fault of the guns?

Were the Hatfields and the McCoys an argument for gun control?

Who knew?

posted by Eric at 09:15 AM | Comments (1)

Balancing the polls

I'm feeling guilty after having asked the valued and sophisticated readers of this blog to choose between Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton, because I hope and pray such a thing never happens -- especially considering these two are the most unpopular candidates. I don't like to avoid reality, though, and much as I hate to force an unnatural choice on people, I thought I should at least make a stab at finding out how people might react to such a choice.

The problem is that while Newt received 90% of the 22 votes cast, there's no way to tell how many people refused to vote. Thinking it over, it seems fair to give this blog's readers a chance to vote for at least a couple of other candidates in different hypothetical situations.

Please bear in mind that I'm assuming Hillary will be the Democratic nominee, so I don't want to waste time asking people to vote on her Democratic opponents. (Furthermore, the fact that Hillary only got two votes in the earlier poll makes me suspect that not all that many readers are coming here to participate in Democrat-oriented polls.)

So, keeping the above in mind, here are a few more scenarios -- three for the primary election, and two for the presidential election.

Primary election

Assume Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson are the only choices in the primary. For whom would you vote?
Newt Gingrich
Fred Thompson free polls
Assume Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani are the only choices in the primary. For whom would you vote?
Newt Gingrich
Rudy Giuliani free polls
Assume Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani are the only choices in the primary. For whom would you vote?
Fred Thompson
Rudy Giuliani free polls

Presidential election

Assume Hillary Clinton and Fred Thompson are the only choices for president. For whom would you vote?
Hillary Clinton
Fred Thompson free polls

Assume Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are the only choices for president. For whom would you vote?
Hillary Clinton
Rudy Giuliani free polls
posted by Eric at 10:40 PM | Comments (1)

Despite "dog overpopulation," there's a puppy shortage

Before I revisit an unfashionable topic, I want to urge everyone to read what I think is the best discussion I've ever seen on the phenomenon of moral fashion.


....there are moral fashions too. They're just as arbitrary, and just as invisible to most people. But they're much more dangerous. Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good. Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.


It seems to be a constant throughout history: In every period, people believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you would have gotten in terrible trouble for saying otherwise.

Is our time any different? To anyone who has read any amount of history, the answer is almost certainly no.

(Via The Right Coast, via Glenn Reynolds.) Read it all. No seriously; you owe it to yourself.

To me, the single most irritating aspect of anthropogenic global warming theory is not whether it is right or wrong, but the promotion of the quasi-religious notion that if you are a disbeliever in the theory you are a bad person. Immoral. Yet whether CO2 is in fact raising the earth's temperatures is a scientific, not a moral issue. Thus, I have repeatedly complained that the anthropogenic global warming debate consists of heavy-handed manufactured morality. While I hadn't used the term "moral fashion," (although I have complained of "thought fashion") I can't think of a better example than the unquestioning manner in which people mutilate ("fix" is the word) the working genitals of perfectly normal dogs because they are told that their failure to do so causes "dog overpopulation."

I'm coming to my topic, but I want to explain why I so loved the moral fashion essay. It touches on what is probably my biggest pet peeve of all, which has bothered me for many years:

the tendency of people not to think their own thoughts, but simply adopt uncritically the thoughts of other people.

I have tried to distinguish between adopting the thoughts of others and actually believing them (or trying to believe in them), and pretending to adopt the thoughts of others. The latter, while seeming more "corrupt," nonetheless allows for a smidgen of mental integrity, if not moral honesty:

there is a distinction between someone who thinks and says something in order to be considered "cool" and someone who regurgitates thoughts a person in authority wants to hear in order to get a good grade. There is something about the latter which strikes me as less intellectually dishonest, because the thought isn't internalized.

Saying that socialism is great in order to get an "A" from a socialist professor is of course dishonest, but if the student knows that this is wrong and says it anyway, he is less dishonest than if he meekly submits to the will of his professor and internalizes the authority figure's "truth" as his own -- especially if he has to suppress critical thinking in order to do the latter.

However, the one who thinks what he is told to think is in a better position to have a happy life, so even if I am on the right side ethically, I may be on the wrong side socially. Is the unexamined life a happier life? Considering that the pursuit of truth will get you into more trouble than obediently accepting authority, I'd have to say yes. (But there's that troublesome issue of what it is that constitutes happiness; some unhappy fools actually consider true knowledge to be a worthwhile pursuit -- as if that might bring happiness!)

This problem of social pressure is further compounded by laundry list groupthink -- which attempts to use social pressure to do things like make gays hate guns and love abortion (and pro-gun and anti-abortion people to be anti-gay) even though these issues have no logical relation to each other. In theory, a thinking person should make up his mind on each issue based on what he thinks. But in reality, if you agree with some people on some issues, you'll end up catching hell from the laundry list, thought coalition people:
While there's no logical reason why it isn't perfectly consistent to be just as opposed to gun control as penis control, the emotion-driven "bases" of the two major political camps don't see it that way. Only recently has the label of "gay gun nut" emerged, but even that makes light of a more serious problem: the constantly increasing ideological rigidity which attempts to hound people into compliance by means of exclusionary threats. Typically, these threats take the form of conservatives calling people "liberal" if they don't toe the line, and liberals calling people "conservative." Ordinary people don't want to lose their "friends," and they defend themselves by (lamely and ineffectively, in my opinion) explaining "Hey, I'm no liberal! I support the war!" or "I'm no conservative! I support gay rights!"

Eventually, I hope, people will realize that there is no need to defend against these labels, because there is a right to think what you want to think on each and every issue. When someone refuses to address your argument and instead resorts to labeling, that ought to be a clue that he is threatened by it, or is unable to address it on the merits. The resort to labeling is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate, to bully, and it indicates either a small mind, or massive insecurity. In any event, the problem is in the minds of the bullies, and not in the minds of those attempting to think freely.


I'm already exhausted, and I haven't even begun to make my point. Which had nothing to do with guns or gays, and which fortunately doesn't involve disrupting anyone's partisan laundry list, because it's such a "settled" moral issue.

So settled, in fact, that I am a crank for voicing it. Yes, I admit, I'm human, and I don't especially like to disrupt nice people's cocktail parties by opposing conventional wisdom. Truth be told, it's why I have this blog, because it allows me to say things without being smacked down by the petty tyrants who routinely jump on you if you say something that's morally unfashionable.

I've learned that it is highly unfashionable to take issue with the prevailing wisdom that we have a dog overpopulation crisis. That therefore dogs should not be bred, that all male dogs should be castrated, and all female dogs should have their ovaries removed. I've written about this before, but because the evidence on the unfashionable side is accumulating, I thought I should look at it again.

As to the moral fashion, it has not changed. Dogs are still routinely said to be seriously overpopulated, but if you read the articles closely, you'll usually see that they're lumped together with cats, including feral cats. While there are no reliable statistics, a good indicator that dogs are not overpopulated is that there's an undeniable body of evidence of a severe puppy shortage.

While to some people it is not news that unwanted dogs do not result from overpopulation, but "lifestyle changes, such as moving and divorce, and behavioral problems," and dog breeding that mandatory spay and neuter laws have nothing to do with it, only recently has it become apparent that more and more animal workers are daring to publicy admit that there is actually a puppy shortage -- especially in the Northeast, to which puppies must be trucked in from animal shelters in the South:

On the increase, however, are transport programs that are literally cleaning out shelters in one part of the country and bringing dogs en masse for placement in another. This practice began about 10 years ago when New York's North Shore Animal League began retrieving mixed breed puppies from rural shelters in southern states and bringing them north for placement. There was, the shelter alleged, a shortage of puppies in New York thanks to aggressive spay/neuter programs and reduced breeding. NSAL provided financial grants in exchange for puppies so the shelters could establish their own spay/neuter programs. This philosophy soon spread to other large shelters in the northeast that began making treks down south to relieve their own shortages.
The author (an animal welfarist) warns that the puppy shortage is turning shelters into suppliers:
Seeking out and importing shelter dogs to fill regional demands suggests that we may be changing our focus from finding homes for dogs to finding dogs for homes. We may be on our way to becoming suppliers, rather than saviors. Is this really what we want to do? In the effort to help less advanced shelters by importing their dogs into our own states, we must be very careful not to turn them into the new American puppy mills.
God forbid that anyone might allow a market approach. People want more puppies than there are, yet it is considered a serious moral offense (in many instances a criminal offense) to breed them.

Veterinarians have noticed:

Where are the Puppies?

Shelters place puppies in homes easily. Some have such demand for puppies that they transport them from other states and even from other countries in order to have puppies on hand for adoption.

The shortage finds confirmation here:
I live in the Northeast, and (as you know) there's a real puppy shortage due to the high spay/neuter rates. A couple of my neighbors foster dogs here on the final step of their journey from the South to new homes, and it's cool to hear from someone on an earlier leg of the trip.
Not to make light of something so serious, but the puppy shortage is said to be so severe that even Glenn Reynolds might be affected:
What with the national puppy shortage, I figured even Evil Glenn is living lean nowadays.
This trend may worsen, for I also read that Knoxville, Tennessee is exporting what few puppies it has to Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
The spay/neuter program in Milwaukee has been so successful, says Darnell, that the city is experiencing a puppy shortage. The center has responded to this need by sending puppies north, which will help more of Knox County's puppies find homes.
The same phenomenon is reported happening in Virginia:
The county I live in puts excess puppies and younger dogs on trucks going North to where there is a puppy shortage.
Hey, Virginia is where Coco came from! (I guess if I'd had the right connections, I could have had her trucked up here to me instead of having to drive down there.)

And in Denver, Colorado, they don't want to admit to a puppy shortage, but they claim they need puppies in the shelters lest their clientele buy their puppies from (gasp!) private dog breeders:

While none of the Colorado groups would say there is a puppy shortage here, they do concede there is an advantage in having puppies available at shelters.

"If we don't have them, (people) will go to a pet store or a back- door breeder," said Voreaux, of the Denver Dumb Friends League.

"We want to make sure that we, the public, don't support the puppy mill industry. By having puppies here, it drives traffic. Someone may come looking for a puppy, but may go home with an older dog."

Actually, considering that Denver passed a draconian "pit bill genocide" law, they can probably get away with saying that they are "forced" to euthanize "unadoptable puppies" -- for illegal breeds are by definition unadoptable, and thus can be expected to inflate the euthanasia stats. (Especially considering the proliferation of the breed in urban areas.)

But here's the kicker for me. The situation has become severe enough that puppies (and even small dogs) are being smuggled into the United States from Mexico

Why are puppies suddenly the hottest animal commodity crossing the Mexican border, supplanting the traffic in parrots?

After a decade of rumors about an impending puppy shortage, mostly disregarded by animal advocates as breeder propaganda, the U.S. and western Europe are experiencing a puppie scarcity so severe that even some young dogs considered utterly unadoptable just a few years ago are quickly finding homes.

Breeders and brokers, like the notorious O'Neill, are finding profit in strategies that formerly would have looked like economic suicide, including deliberately breeding small mongrels and importing dogs from overseas.

With the penalty for smuggling a puppy much lower than the penalty for smuggling a parrot, while the rewards may be comparable, street dog pups in Mexican border towns are, if not scarce, at least fewer than at any time anyone remembers. As well as seeking a human "coyote" [people-smuggler] to take them into the U.S., would-be migrant workers are seeking non-human peros to sell as their grubstake for getting started in the U.S.

For two weeks preceding Christmas 2005 the Border Puppy Task Force, formed by 14 Calif-ornia animal welfare and law enforcement agencies, tried to get a sense of the size of the puppy traffic.

"Agents at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings" in southern California "ordered vehicles carrying anything with 'feathers, fleas, fur or fangs' to a separate area for more thorough inspections," reported Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat. "The searches turned up 362 puppies under 3 months old, 155 between three and six months, and 1,061 adult dogs," for a total of 1,579 animals in 1,157 vehicles.

"It's unclear exactly how many of those dogs were smuggled," Spagat continued. "It's legal to ferry dogs if they are declared at the border and they have rabies shots and health records--but Captain Aaron Reyes, director of operations at the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Los Angeles County, said the 'vast majority' of those under three months were probably contraband. About half the puppies between three and six months old were likely smuggled, he said.

"Typically small breeds like poodles and Chihuahuas," Spagat wrote, "the puppies are believed to be purchased in Mexico for between $50 and $150, then sold at street corners, parking lots and flea markets in Southern California for between $300 and $1,000 each."

Puppy smuggling? From Mexico?

And we are still scolded about a dog overpopulation crisis and forced to cut our dog's nuts off or face criminal penalties in many communities?

Yes, I'm sorry, I do hold a grudge. I really do. I can't tell you the number of times I was scolded by moral fashionistas who were offended by my old dog Puff's swinging testicles. Never mind that he was never bred, and never let to roam. I was held morally responsible -- in the most irrational manner -- for the fact that "irresponsible" people allowed their dogs to breed with other dogs.

And now it turns out that not enough of them actually did breed, or else there wouldn't be a puppy shortage.

Does this puppy shortage mean that dog breeders will stop being hounded as never before and rapidly being transformed into a criminal underclass?

I think not. That's because the moral fashionistas are stronger than ever, and want to pass more ordinances like this one in Camden, New Jersey is typical:

It is illegal to possess any dog or cat older than 6 months that is not spayed or neutered.

If breeding occurs, the entire litter may be seized by animal control after weaning. The mother animal must be spayed within 10 weeks after birth of the litter.

I think it's obvious why they want to seize the litter, and I think it's related to the maintenance of the myth of "dog overpopulation." The animal bureaucrats simply want power over all animals.

The animal rights activists, though (the real driving force behind this nonsense) are a different story. Ordinary people tend to forget that their ultimate goal is the eradication of pets, including dogs and cats. The criminalization of breeding is just a step in that direction.

It must be remembered that animal rights activists do not use the term "dog overpopulation" in the same way as ordinary people might. As long as a single domesticated dog is living with a human, that is one dog too many. To them, "dog overpopulation" would mean the existence of any dogs at all except naturally wild dogs. Likewise, the elephant activists think one elephant in a zoo is one too many.

But try going to a fashionable cocktail party and pointing that there is no dog overpopulation problem and that hence you refuse to "fix" your dog. I can't think of a better example of "What You Can't Say":

When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to.

The prohibition will be strongest when the group is nervous.

I can hardly blame this group for being nervous. Who wants to be told they've cut their best friend's nuts off because of a fashionable canard?

(Fortunately for me, Coco's ovaries don't dangle when she walks down the street. But when she was in heat last month, she caused me to commit thought crimes.)

posted by Eric at 05:38 PM

Squeezing Iran

The Washington Post reports: Iran Feels Pinch As Major Banks Curtail Business.

More than 40 major international banks and financial institutions have either cut off or cut back business with the Iranian government or private sector as a result of a quiet campaign launched by the Treasury and State departments last September, according to Treasury and State officials.

The financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects and to pay for imports. It has also limited Iran's use of the international financial system to help fund allies and extremist militias in the Middle East, say U.S. officials and economists who track Iran.

The U.S. campaign, developed by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, emerged in part over U.S. frustration with the small incremental steps the U.N. Security Council was willing to take to contain the Islamic republic's nuclear program and support for extremism, U.S. officials say. The council voted Saturday to impose new sanctions on Tehran, including a ban on Iranian arms sales and a freeze on assets of 28 Iranian individuals and institutions.

"All the banks we've talked to are reducing significantly their exposure to Iranian business," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "It's been a universal response. They all recognize the risks -- some because of what we've told them and some on their own. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see the dangers."

What are the dangers? Any project started now could be repudiated by the next government in Iran. Who is scaring the bankers the most? Iran's President. The feller I like to refer to as Ahmanutjob.
Ahmadinejad's rhetoric -- from denying the Holocaust to comparing Iran's stock exchange to gambling -- has helped, experts say. "There is very little foreign investment in Iran not because of sanctions, but because of the atmosphere created by Ahmadinejad's crazy statements," said Jahangir Amuzegar, former Iranian finance minister and executive director of the International Monetary Fund.
In recent news a possible naval blockade due to the capture of 15 Bitish marines by the Iranians could hasten their decline.
The Bush administration has taken several other actions in recent months to contain Iran, including deploying two Navy carrier strike groups near the Persian Gulf, arresting operatives of the Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Force in Iraq and pressing for two U.N. resolutions to punish Iran for not suspending its uranium enrichment program.
Iran is having problems with its gasoline supply. For another it is not maintaining its oil production infrastructure. Iranian net oil output is declining at better than 10% a year. By no later than 2015 its net oil output will be zero. Since oil accounts for 80% of Iran's export revenues the pinch is already starting to hurt and will only get worse.
In December, Iranian oil minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh acknowledged that Tehran was having trouble financing petroleum development projects. "Currently, overseas banks and financiers have decreased their cooperation," he told the oil ministry news agency Shana.
This is a regime on the decline. The question is how fast. In the early days of any blockade the pinch does not seem serious. The longer things go on the more trouble multiplies. Production is cut in industry A due to lack of resources which affects industry B which has not felt the external crimp. This cascades.
Iranian importers are particularly feeling the pinch, with many having to pay for commodities in advance when a year ago they could rely on a revolving line of credit, said Patrick Clawson, a former World Bank official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The scope of Iran's vulnerability has been a surprise to U.S. officials, he added.

The financial institutions cutting back business ties are mainly in Europe and Asia, U.S. officials say. UBS last year said it was cutting off all dealings with Iran. London-based HSBC (which has 5,000 offices in 79 countries) and Standard Chartered (with 1,400 branches in 50 countries) as well as Commerzbank of Germany have indicated they are limiting their exposure to Iranian business, Levey said.

America has a lock on the international banking system. Only friends get to play.

Let me add the biggest risk factor. What do socialist countries (which Iran is) do when economics gets tough? They nationalize. i.e. they steal the investment. Returns have to be very high to make such risks worth while.

H/T Captain's Quarters where ajacksonian has left a very good comment, as have others.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:25 PM | Comments (3)

First they came for our elephants....

The Philadelphia Zoo's plan to get rid of its elephants (which involves a protracted dispute with local activists) has run into a new problem. The Maryland Zoo won't take Philadelphia's elephants, which has forced the Zoo to look elsewhere:

Caught by surprise last week when the Maryland Zoo backed out of a deal to adopt its three African elephants, the Philadelphia Zoo is now searching for a home for the animals at institutions within a day's drive of here.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and the North Carolina Zoo, which had been considered and are poised to open expanded African elephant habitats, seemed likely prospects.

Andy Baker, the Philadelphia Zoo vice president leading the search, would say only that he was looking mainly at zoos in the Atlantic seaboard area with African collections and that he had made contact with a number of potential homes.

"Closer is better," he said. "Petal is 50 years old and it's been a long time since she's moved."

Not only would a one-day move be less stressful for the elephants, but the closer locations offer breeding programs:
"Closer is better," he said. "Petal is 50 years old and it's been a long time since she's moved."

Her companions, Kallie, 24, and Bette, 23, are in their reproductive prime and attempts will be made to breed them wherever the three end up.

Pittsburgh is a major breeding center, with two calves born in the last eight years, and two more on the way, plus four adults.

Likewise, the North Carolina Zoo may be interested, and it also has a breeding program:
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, which is doubling its elephant exhibit to seven acres, is also acquiring.

It has two females and a male who has not been a successful stud, said Rod Hackney, zoo spokesman. As it adds elephants, it will be looking for a bull and breeding-age females.

Surely, the local activists would never oppose placing the elephants in larger facilities with bona fide elephant breeding programs, would they? If you think they wouldn't, think again. They want all the elephants moved to elephant sanctuaries (where, as I'll show, breeding is not allowed):
Philadelphia's Baker said he was not exploring a sanctuary placement for the elephants, which local activists are urging.

Friends of the Philly Zoo Elephants gathered over the weekend at the zoo entrance to push the sanctuary option for the Africans and to say goodbye to Dulary, 42, the zoo's Asian elephant, who is scheduled to move next month to the Elephant Sanctuary in rural Tennessee. That sanctuary is not accepting Africans.

In a statement released last week, Marianne Bessey, a spokeswoman for the Friends group, said another sanctuary, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California, had offered them a home.

"The Philadelphia Zoo has a wonderful opportunity to do what is best for Kallie, Bette and Petal and send them to a place where they will finally have a life free of bullhooks and chains," Bessey said.

A wonderful opportunity? But is it a wonderful oppportunity for the elephants to be trucked 3000 miles across the country?

Not according to the animal rights group "In Defense of Animals." In 2003, an IDAUSA alert -- "Protest San Diego Zoo's Great Elephant Betrayal" -- stated that moving elephants from California to Texas (a distance considerably shorter than Pennsylvania to California) was not only harmful, but possibly fatal:

Elephant experts warn that physical stress of being dragged into trailers and hauled thousands of miles across state lines could actually kill the elephants.
While the Inquirer article doesn't go into detail as to why, reading between the lines it becomes clear that sanctuaries do not pay Zoos the going market rate for elephants. Far from it. Nor do they simply take elephants that zoos are willing to donate:
Pat Derby, cofounder of PAWS, said there was room for the Philadelphians in the sanctuary's 75-acre African habitat, but added, "It's more than saying, 'Ship them out here.' "

"We'd have to evaluate the elephants, the zoo would have to want to send them, and our veterinarians would have to go there," she said in an interview.

Any idea who is supposed to pay?

I don't know, but looking through some of the links at the PAWS web site, I suspect the sanctuary would want the zoo to pay, and heavily. When the typically-vilified Hawthorn Corporation "donated" elephants to the sanctuary, it was uncharacteristically called "generous" for making what was termed a "donation""

An agreement between the Hawthorn Corporation and PAWS will allow the two elephants to retire to a permanent home at the spacious ARK2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, CA. Beyond donating the elephants, the Hawthorn Corporation is also making a generous financial donation to PAWS in order to fund initial arrangements for PAWS to receive the elephants. Upon approval by regulatory agencies, the two elephants will be transported to Galt, CA. to be housed at the old PAWS elephant facility until a Bull Elephant Habitat can be constructed at ARK2000. The Hawthorn Corporation and PAWS are each delighted and excited that their cooperation will enable Nicholas and Gypsy now to find a lasting home together.

Ed Stewart and Pat Derby, PAWS Directors, are initiating a capital campaign for the costly construction.

Derby states that "In order for PAWS to be able to take Nicholas, we are launching a fullscale capital campaign to raise the funds necessary to build a home for Nicholas at ARK2000." Stewart projects the costs to be one million dollars and construction will take at least one year.

Yeah, a million here, a million there, and pretty soon we're talking real money?

However, male elephant transfers might be more expensive than those of females, for when PAWS discussed the transfer costs of another elephant named "Ruby", the figure was closer to half a million dollars:

So far, animal activists have raised $260,000 to transfer Ruby to a sanctuary, which will be matched up to $300,000 from game show host Bob Barker. The funds would cover the costs of transferring Ruby to the sanctuary and pay for her care once she arrives.
What the general public would not realize from reading the Inquirer article is that zoos and these "elephant sanctuaries" are based on two hopelessly incompatible, mutually irreconcilable philosophies. Zoos believe that there is nothing wrong with keeping elephants in captivity, or breeding them. The sanctuary movement (along with the animal rights movement) believes that people should not be allowed to see elephants, which should never be kept in captivity, and which should not be bred. Accordingly, (as the Deseret Morning News reported, breeding is not allowed in elephant sanctuaries. Because, you know, "captive breeding" is an evil thing, a no-no:
Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago wants Wankie to live at a zoo accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, said Kelly McGrath, zoo spokeswoman. "We know what that means -- the highest quality of animal care and a commitment to conservation and education," McGrath said. "We believe that it's only that up-close experience with wildlife that fosters a long-term concern for animals, not just in zoos but in the wild."

PAWS is not accredited by AZA. Hogle's AZA accreditation is valid until September 2009.

Meyer objects to what she calls AZA zoo captive breeding programs, in which elephants are "shuffled from zoo to zoo like baseball cards irregardlessSIC of the bonds they may have," she said. "It's literally bringing any animal to the same deprivation that its parents are."

Sanctuaries do not allow breeding and have more space for animals that can roam tens of miles each day looking for food.

PAWS Director Pat Derby said she does not think the zoo will send Wankie to her sanctuary, but she hopes that "all of this conflict over elephants could be resolved in a way that would benefit the elephant."

Therefore, at these sanctuaries, bulls and females are not allowed to interact with each other, but are kept separated.

Ordinary Inquirer readers (who are for the most part not activists) simply cannot be expected to realize that the elephant sanctuaries are, simply, a dead end. I'm sure the Philadelphia Zoo knows this; in any event PAWS founder and director Pat Derby confirms it herself here:

We always say that although people think running a sanctuary is a wonderful thing, we would hope that in the future there would not be a need for them. We often say that we are working hard to put ourselves out of business. The happiest day of my life would be to see no captive wildlife at all and these animals in their natural habitat. People who are really concerned about wild or exotic animals need to support efforts to protect their habitat.
No captive wildlife at all?

But doesn't that mean the end of zoos? I hate to put it so bluntly, but unless I am mistaken, a zoo which "donates" an elephant by forking over money to one of these sanctuaries is ultimately contributing to its own demise.

Why on earth would the Philadelphia Zoo be expected do such a thing?

Because activists say so? Because Pat Derby (a former Hollywood animal trainer who has seen the light) says so?

Make no mistake, the latter has repeatedly stated that she is against breeding animals in captivity -- a practice she deems "hypocrisy":

The hypocrisy of breeding animals in captivity who will be doomed to live in unnatural enclosures in the name of conservation and science is a practice which should be eliminated by AZA and replaced with truthful information about captivity and the compelling need to protect wild species and their habitat.
But I'll say this for Pat Derby: at least she is consistent. She is a supporter of the notorious (veterinarian-condemned) Guardian Campaign, and in her public statement, she likens the ownership of wild animals to the ownership of human beings:
"In 1973 in my book The Lady and Her Tiger, I wrote, 'Wild animals are not meant to be owned, any more than human beings are. No one has the right to pass a cougar or gorilla from hand to hand, not for the purest of motives. Now, twenty-three years later, I feel even more strongly about this issue. The Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) pledges its support to IDA's Guardian Campaign."
I've written about this movement before, and I think its true goal is honestly characterized here:
The ultimate goal is to abolish the raising of farm animals, animals in medical research, in zoos or aquariums and to end the breeding and selling of pedigreed cats, purebred dogs and other pets.
People interested in reading about the full legal ramifications should also read this. The American Kennel Club also has more, as does this veterinarians group which points out that the goal is to make it illegal to buy or sell all animals.

By "all" they do mean all. I think the movement against elephants in zoos is just part of a larger agenda which wants to criminalize all animal breeding, and end the keeping of pets. I've gone so far as to call it an anti-dog movement, because I think it really is that and more.

I'd hate to see the Philadelphia Zoo assist this movement in any way.

posted by Eric at 11:06 AM | Comments (5)

Hillary's favorite opponent? is very impressed (if not enamored) by Newt Gingrich, and declares him the winner of their recent online poll:

An Internet poll sponsored by reveals that an overwhelming number of Americans -- nearly 7 in 10 respondents -- favor former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as their presidential candidate in 2008.
Here are the results:
1) What is your overall opinion of Newt Gingrich?
Favorable: 87 percent

Unfavorable: 10 percent

No Opinion: 3 percent

2) Is Newt Gingrich your candidate for president in 2008?
Yes: 68 percent

No: 32 percent

3) In the following field, who is your 2008 candidate?
John McCain: 2 percent

Condi Rice: 4 percent

Mike Huckabee: 2 percent

Mitt Romney: 6 percent

Rudy Giuliani: 12 percent

Tom Tancredo: 5 percent

Ron Paul: 2 percent

Newt Gingrich: 58 percent

Duncan Hunter: 1 percent Other: 10 percent

4) In a Republican primary of Newt vs. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, who would you vote for?
Rudy Giuliani: 17 percent

John McCain: 5 percent

Newt Gingrich: 78 percent

5) If the 2008 President race was between Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton, who would you vote for?
Newt Gingrich: 95 percent

Hillary Clinton: 5 percent

While the poll's methodology is highly questionable (What makes Condi Rice a candidate, but not Fred Thompson?), from the looks of his website, it's clear to me that Newt Gingrich is running for president. I listen to talk radio quite frequently, and while I wasn't keeping track because I hadn't been thinking about it, for pretty close to a year Newt has been running ads, primarily talking about restoring God in the country.

Restoring God is the subject of his recent book, and is a central message at his web site.

The following is Point Three of his "21st Century Contract with America":


Recenter on the Creator from Whom all our liberties come. We will insist on a judiciary that understands the centrality of God in American history and reasserts the legitimacy of recognizing the Creator in public life.
I'm one of those people who believes in God but thinks it's a personal matter. Free speech, of course, means that anyone should have the right to talk about God anywhere, and voice any opinion. Is that all Newt is talking about? The way the above is written, it's almost as if it was scripted by lawyers with a goal of coming as close as possible to advocating a constitutional violation without saying it specifically.

This makes me uneasy, because, you know, the guy wants to be president.

Oh, here's that constitutional part I'm talking about:

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

(Emphasis added.)

This is not minor. It's pretty basic stuff. While we might not all be able to agree on precisely what "no religious test" means, I'm wondering. Not that I'm seeking any office or public trust, but for the sake of argument, I'd like to put myself in the position of someone who might be screened by Gingrich and company for a judicial position.

What kind of questions might I face from people who believe a primary goal is to "recenter on the Creator from Whom all our liberties come"? Suppose I didn't believe in God at all, or else I took the view that regardless of whether there were a God (or gods), that creation might have taken place independent of deities, and that the notion of liberties was grounded in human philosophy? Would I be disqualified? If so, wouldn't that constitute a religious test? And whose business is it whether I believe in God, much less what role I might think God played in the granting of liberties to human beings? How can such a question be put to anyone without it being a religious test? FWIW, I don't think liberties could have come from some of the versions of God that some people believe in, so the question itself is very complex, and cannot be asked without getting into individual religious beliefs. Unless I am wrong, I think Gingrich is calling for a religious test for public office, and in so doing, he expresses contempt for the Constitution.

As to the insistence on "a judiciary that understands the centrality of God in American history and reasserts the legitimacy of recognizing the Creator in public life," I suppose even an atheist could understand that religion and belief in God have always played a central role in history. Hell, Gingrich wants them to play a central role in the election, so the mere discussion of this admits the simple fact that religion is important. But is that what is meant? What does it mean to "recognize the Creator in public life"? I'm not sure I know, but I hope it isn't code language for the advocacy of politicized religion, because there are many people who believe in "the Creator" who don't wear their religion on their sleeve. I was raised to believe that it's not polite to ask people about their religious views, much less debate them, and while I understand that some people think that people should be asked about their religious views, I think it is as inappropriate to ask potential public office holders about such personal views as it would be to ask them about their sex lives.

Hillary, IMO, would have a field day. I think she'd love to paint the GOP as the "Party of God" and Gingrich is her dream opponent come true.

But religion is only one factor. Another, factor (and, I think, a more important one for Hillary) is that Newt Gingrich is a polarizing figure -- a fact acknowledged by a former Gingrich PAC chairman Matt Towery. Towery says there's no question that Gingrich is running:

"He's running. I know him. I can read him like a book,'' said longtime Gingrich protege Matt Towery of Atlanta, who used to head the Friends of Newt Gingrich political action committee.
And likewise, there's no question that he's polarizing:
"Hillary Clinton is as polarizing as he is,'' said Towery, the longtime Gingrich aide who now heads InsiderAdvantage, a polling and political media firm that serves Florida. ''That's the perfect scenario for Gingrich who otherwise, considering his high negatives, might be considered unelectable."
My concern is not so much whether he's unelectable, but that he'll make Hillary Clinton electable. By being a vintage Hillary hater (no single person better epitomizes the anti-Clinton, "vast right wing conspiracy," "politics of personal destruction" attack machine), Gingrich will add dimension, importance, and great legitimacy to Hillary Clinton. In what might seem paradoxical, this will do much to help Hillary where she needs help the most -- to build herself up as an independent woman, and not as Bill Clinton's coat-tailing wife. Having a serious enemy dating back to a period when many of the 2008 voters were in high chairs will make her seem like a seasoned, politically hardened veteran, and allow her to run a campaign as a fiercely independent, strong woman who will now do battle to face down -- and beat -- her legendary tormenter-in-chief from the past.

If I were working for Hillary, I'd be positively drooling at the prospect.

Of course, first Newt has to beat Giuliani. For some time I've been wondering why there hasn't been any serious movement against Giuliani on the right. With Newt emerging, there might not need to be, as the hard right primary voters could simply embrace Newt overwhelmingly. By the time the primaries roll around, Giuliani will be looking more tired, while Newt will look like a fresher, more conservative face.

Will the MSM kick in and help out Newt in order to create a more fertile playing field for Hillary? An intriguing possibility.

From a Human Events column, Matt Towery elaborates. He begins by stressing that he's "100 percent positive that Gingrich will enter the battle for the GOP nomination":

I don't need to hear a confirmation from his lips, nor will I seek to press him on the point. That could put him in the awkward position of having to offer an indefensible untruth.
Giuliani becomes the fall guy according to Towery, hence Newt has to preempt him on the adultery issue:
Lastly, which candidate would most need to fall on his face in order for Gingrich to enter the fray?

Rudy Giuliani. That's right. Many say otherwise, that Gingrich needs another right-wing darling to stumble. But the real fall guy is the former New York City mayor.

By making his "confession" to Dr. James Dobson last week, and by then receiving forgiveness from major religious-right leaders, Gingrich outflanked Giuliani and his own publicly unacknowledged transgressions. Gingrich has left Giuliani on an ethical island as the "two-woman" mayor.

With little or no grassroots organization in most states, Giuliani looks to be the '08 version of Howard Dean: leading in the polls, but with a campaign built on a foundation of sand.

Would Dobson and Falwell similarly forgive Giuliani? I doubt it. For starters, Giuliani hasn't been running radio ads with a religious flavor, nor has he been flirting with religious tests for office holders, and I doubt he'd do either.

What intrigues me more than anything else is something Towery calls a "mystery" -- the Newt Gingrich "rock star" treatment:

....the former speaker is getting treated like a rock star at just about every event he attends these days. Even with his rumpled look, complete with glasses resting on his nose, Gingrich seems to have the same political "sex appeal" that followed Henry Kissinger around in the 1970s -- which is still a mystery to me.
If my theories about what Hillary wants are correct, Newt will be built up as the biggest rock star on the right.

I'd been hoping that Bush Derangement Syndrome was the left's retaliation for the old days of the anti-Clinton attack machine, and that after Bush was gone, some semblance of civility might return to politics. This is a major reason I'd rather not have the Clintons back in the White House. If they must run again, I'd prefer to see them opposed by someone who wouldn't be a rehash of the old anti-Clinton attack machine.

IMO, Gingich so personifies the anti-Clinton attack machine that it's almost as if he's coat-tailing on Hillary (as a vintage Hillary hater). This is a scary thought -- mainly because I'm so very tired of Hillary.

It's not so much that I don't want Newt to be my candidate.

It's that I don't want Newt to be her candidate.

MORE: Speaking of hatred, James Joyner links an intriguing Zogby poll showing Hillary and Newt are the two candidates most hated by voters. Hence, concludes Joyner, they can't win:

Presuming these trends are not artifacts of the polling methodology, I'd say neither Gingrich nor Clinton have any shot of getting elected president.
Yes, but does that mean they won't be on the ballot?

I hope my logic isn't wrong, but it strikes me that if the two run against each other in the general election one of them will win.

I think it would be Hillary.

AND MORE: I didn't know what to think about it at the time, but it seems to have been on March 1 that Gingrich first "took off the gloves":

After months of playing nice about Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took off the gloves and called Clinton "a nasty woman" with a "ruthless" campaign machine.
He then called for a "Ronald Reagan-type candidate":
Gingrich told the Post that Republicans need to nominate a Ronald Reagan-type candidate, adding, "A normative Republican running like a traditional Republican, which means a non-Reagan Republican, and trying to beat Hillary by being negative is hopeless."
I'm not sure whether he means that he'd be the best at being negative, but in any case, Newt's sudden removal of the gloves (especially in contrast with the praise he had lavished on Hillary in 2005) has not gone unnoticed on the left. Media Matters offers a detailed compendium of the apparent Newt flip-flop. I'm not sure his praise for her was all that sincere, as I think his dream has been to run against her all along, so I think it might be a flip-flop in name only (if there is such a thing).

With "praise" like this, Newt gave himself away:

In a July 22, 2005, "Washington Sketch" column, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that Gingrich had told a panel at the National Press Club "that 'to a greater extent than we would have guessed,' the former speaker and the former first lady have discovered that 'we have the same instinct.' "
Same instinct? When a guy like Newt Gingrich uses a word like "instinct," you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to call that a clue.

Speaking of instinct, I just can't resist quoting this Media Matters commenter:

Run Newt, RUN...Oh please, RUN...

Let's start a website and raise money for Newtie to run.

Hey, there's no need to get sarcastic about it.

He already has a website, and I'm sure they accept donations from anyone. Even Media Matters readers.

AFTERTHOUGHT: And a horrible one at that. But it's a question that needs to be asked.

What does it suggest about the primary system in this country that the two candidates most hated by the voters could quite possibly end up being the two candidates who win the respective primaries?

I think this calls for a scientific poll.

Feel free to vote.

(Remember, not voting allows me to vote on your behalf. That's my way of being scientific!)

Assume Hillary and Newt are the only choices for president. For whom would you vote?
Hillary Clinton
Newt Gingrich free polls

Just kidding about voting on your behalf, folks. Looking at that choice disinclines me to vote at all. So I'll abstain on behalf of all who abstain.

posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (2)

Allies Cheerfully Betrayed - In Advance

It's Vietnam Time again. The House of Representatives has passed a Cut and Run Bill disguised as a Support the Troops Bill. How clever.

However, we have a lot of clever citizens in America. One of them has something very useful to say.

We must stop this "Hate George Bush" war at any cost.

It is a tremendous roadblock, stalemating the Iraqi war, and tying up the Congress as it tries to come up with more ways to thwart or embarrass the President through the war. Mistakes have been made. But Hating George Bush isn't going to correct them.

"Hate George Bush" involves waiting another two years during which we expend money and troops while awaiting a Democrat president who will inherit, in the least, the same conundrum, two years and perhaps two trillion dollars later. Meantime we will still owe this tremendous moral debt to the Iraqi people.

Here we have another case, like Vietnam, of not supporting our allies.

At least in the case of Vietnam we had the decency to wait until most of the American troops were out of the country.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)

From rampant slut culture to old-fashioned feminism?

Girls are looking like sluts, says Alfred Lubrano:

We live in a world in which oral sex is now second base.

In which girls dress like porn stars.

In which the kids you see at the airport this weekend heading for spring break will wind up topless in Girls Gone Wild, Fort Lauderdale '07 videos.

Are you cool with this?

Frustrated American Christians aren't. They want girls to sign purity pledges in which they promise to stay virgins.

They're against mandatory immunization of girls against sexually-transmitted viruses that cause cervical cancer because they're afraid it'll encourage promiscuity.

Just after I'd finished reading this, I clicked on a Drudge headline reading "Women covered up skimpy clothes at Bill Clinton fundraiser... " which touts as an "unusual detail" the fact that women meeting Bill Clinton are given a gentle nudge in the direction of modesty:
Not everyone came ready to sweat.

"There was more makeup in that spin class than I had ever seen in my life," said Charla Krupp, a writer who attended the event. "Everyone looked like they had just come from the beauty salon."

Among the unusual details of this most unusual fund-raiser is that everyone was given a long-sleeved white cotton T-shirt to wear over workout clothes. Usually people wear as little as possible for spinning, which involves riding a bike in standing and seated positions, and at alternating levels of resistance, while music plays.

"People tend to wear sexy spandex outfits with midriffs showing," Ms. Krupp said. "But in deference to the president, we wore these shirts that said, 'Exercise Your Vote.' "

Obviously, there's to be no hint of slut culture anywhere near President Clinton. It's all behind us. Women need to get the message.

Unfortunately, not all women are getting it fast enough, and, why, it's so bad that it's making everyone crazy.

Back to the Lubrano piece.

Rampant slut culture is making everyone crazy.

Society, to paraphrase a line from a Nathaniel West novel, is a vessel being slowly filled with cold, dirty water.

In her book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy says women have stopped fighting misogyny and are now part of the frat party of pop culture, where men run the show.

Girls raised on music videos and the Victoria's Secret catalog attire themselves like a 16-year-old boy's midnight fantasy. Then they attend parties where they dance-grind against boys, engage in heterosexual girl-girl make-out sessions to turn boys on, and hook up with guys for soul-free sex.

Post-feminists all, young women say it's empowering to be a ho, a personal choice.

But all they're doing is men's bidding. What ever happened to old-fashioned feminism, when women decided to become their own people, and not men's handmaidens and sex puppets?

What ever did happen to old fashioned feminism? When women were their own women, and not dependent on men, or coat-tailing on men, or replacing men with big government? All good questions.

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton wasn't at the spandex-free fund-raiser -- which (to be on the safe side, perhaps?) was closed to reporters and photographers. Back to the Times:

Several other women leaving the fund-raiser -- which raised more than $70,000 and was closed to reporters and photographers -- were a little dazzled.

"He was incredible, he was engaging, exciting, warm, brilliant, phenomenal," said Pam Bierman, a marketing manager from Pinebrook, N.J., who was still wearing her long-sleeved T-shirt. "It only gets you more excited to do more."

Her friend Sheri David, the owner of a marketing firm who lives near Lincoln Center, added: "There's no question why he's the most popular former president. But again, Hillary's the front-runner. It's now our time, women's time, to have a vote."

I'm so glad Bill is there to encourage them in the transformation from slut culture to being their own women!

(And vote for his wife, of course.....)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and welcome all!

I couldn't agree more with Glenn that if the slut culture goes away, the terrorists will have won. In the medieval terrorist mindset, making women cover themselves is inextricably intertwined with considering all women to be sluts. Seen this way, slut culture is at once modern and civilized -- an act of brazen defiance against terrorism.

Whether slut culture is coming or going is in Bill Clinton's case another matter. In an earlier post, Glenn linked Tom Maguire's nostalgic reminiscences about Bill Clinton's breast best of the leftie bloggers luncheon, and feminist fallout therefrom.

Bill-and-Hill's handlers may be trying to avoid any hint of a repeat.

(I'd say "the breast is yet to come," but unveiling such predictions is tacky.)

posted by Eric at 10:17 AM | Comments (30)

The Democrat Plan for Our New Army

The New Army

President Bush:

Today's action in the House does only one thing: it delays the delivering of vital resources for our troops. A narrow majority has decided to take this course, just as General Petraeus and his troops are carrying out a new strategy to help the Iraqis secure their capital city.

H/T Hot Air via Instapundit.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 04:47 AM

We will do nothing, because cowardice is virtuous

Is this country at war?

If we were, I think the Iranian seizure of British Navy personnel and boats (thoroughly covered in this great link roundup) might be taken more seriously than it is.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid I agree with Daily Pundit's David Gillies who said "We will do nothing":

That is an act of war. And what will we do about it? Nothing. They could hang these men on live TV (let's hope they don't) and still we would do little except bluster ineffectually.

The Iranians are feeling their oats, and with good reason. The extent to which they are supporting the Shia terrorists in Iraq, and fomenting unrest generally, should by now have had very serious consequences for them. Our pusillanimity is astounding. We could take Iran down as a functioning country in two days. All we'd need to do is hit its domestic refinement and import capacity and its economy would collapse (Iran is a major oil producer, but a net importer of refined petroleum products).

AJ Strata sees the inability to do anything as political: it is clear to everyone Iran's beligerence is dangerous and out of control. What concerns me is why do this unless you had something in your hip pocket and you were going to play some poker. Why do this kind of escalation? And what will our Democrats do - say the West cannot confront Iran? Talk about bad timing. We are heading into some seriously perilous times right now.
And Glenn Reynolds points out that while a naval blockade would be the traditional response, "I doubt we'll see that."

Whether the U.S. will do anything is closely tied to whether we can do anything. In the purely military sense, there's little question that the U.S. could blockade -- or for that matter, defeat militarily -- Iran. But with the balance of power in Congress being the way it is now, it may be politically impossible.

I think there's a larger issue involving the classical virtues -- especially the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, which involves what we often think of military or martial virtues, but which does not arise out of nowhere. To the extent that this country was once steeped in the ancient virtues, it no longer is. I think they may have fallen victim to Vietnam anti-war era thinking, combined with a post modernism process I have referred to as throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but that's a hugely complex topic. Factor in the loss or decay of classical virtues, and it would fill a book.

This loss of ancient virtues is explored in a marvelous post by James McCormick
at Chicago Boyz which Glenn Reynolds linked earlier. While the discussion takes the form of a review of a book on Stoicism, there's much food for thought which is highly relevant to America's seeming inability to wage war. The whole thing should be read in its entirety but I can't resist quoting the conclusion:

....I do not see American soldiers becoming "citizens of the world" in a world which now widely resents them for their particular brand of modernity.

All this presupposes that the nation has the appetite for both cultural security and military victory in the coming century. As history notes, the American military infrastructure is a financial hog-trough for both political parties, but remains a social experiment only for one. Once the army is again asked to win very hard, very long wars, we'll see whether such social experimentation slows or ceases. Which route the American public takes to provide its security in coming years will be a political question that intrigues us all. These questions are incredibly serious and my own amateur reflections can only fall very short of the mark when it comes to a topic that needs sustained attention from senior combat veterans.

I think resetting the balance between individual suffering and national success (certainly a matter of concern to at least some of those long-dead Stoics) will be America's challenge for the 21st century.

It is this balance between individual suffering and national success which was the real loss of the Vietnam War, because (at least in my opinion) it was during that period that angry, dishonest, self-serving and cowardly "pacifism" (virtuous in neither the Greco-Roman nor Judeo Christian sense) came to be seen as virtuous. The reasons for this are complicated, and I've written several posts on the subject, but in brief, I think that because of a political mistake aggravated by bureaucracy, the young men who in normal times could have been expected to form an officer core were, though the draft deferment system, transformed into a malignantly dishonest force which is now one of the most powerful political forces in the country. A single bureaucratic loophole (draft deferments) was, by operation of human nature (young men naturally don't like admitting they fear war) transformed into a monster, made ever worse by lifetimes of denial.

The country hasn't been the same since.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post.

Welcome all!

posted by Eric at 12:10 PM | Comments (16)

Scientifically manufactured morality?
Science considers what is true, starting out with almost unimaginable ideas (The earth is moving! The future is unpredictable!). The job is to understand these ideas and fit them into a broad and logical picture of the universe. Politics considers what is right. This requires broad understanding and eventual consensus of points of view that often appear incompatible.

-- Edward Teller

The intersection of science and morality always fascinates me.

It strikes me that if you're a scientist, an easy way to grab a headline is to denounce morality as "unscientific." A recent such headline -- "Study: Alcohol, tobacco worse than drugs" -- involved a British study which discovered (surprise!) that alcohol and cigarettes are more dangerous than marijuana and Ecstasy:

Nutt [Bristol University professor, writing in The Lancet] and colleagues used three factors to determine the harm associated with any drug: the physical harm to the user, the drug's potential for addiction, and the impact on society of drug use. The researchers asked two groups of experts -- psychiatrists specializing in addiction and legal or police officials with scientific or medical expertise -- to assign scores to 20 different drugs, including heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy, amphetamines, and LSD.

Nutt and his colleagues then calculated the drugs' overall rankings. In the end, the experts agreed with each other -- but not with the existing British classification of dangerous substances.

That's interesting right there. While many good arguments can be made against the propriety of drug laws in general, or individual drug laws, I had always thought such determinations were political, and largely based on harm reduction as well as morality. Are laws supposed to be driven by science? I'm not saying politicians shouldn't take scientific opinion into account, but it's only one factor among many.

It's not that I have any quarrel with the various drugs' rankings, which I'm sure are based on reliable data.

Heroin and cocaine were ranked most dangerous, followed by barbiturates and street methadone. Alcohol was the fifth-most harmful drug and tobacco the ninth most harmful. Cannabis came in 11th, and near the bottom of the list was Ecstasy.

According to existing British and U.S. drug policy, alcohol and tobacco are legal, while cannabis and Ecstasy are both illegal. Previous reports, including a study from a parliamentary committee last year, have questioned the scientific rationale for Britain's drug classification system.

"The current drug system is ill thought-out and arbitrary," said Nutt, referring to the United Kingdom's practice of assigning drugs to three distinct divisions, ostensibly based on the drugs' potential for harm. "The exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from the Misuse of Drugs Act is, from a scientific perspective, arbitrary," write Nutt and his colleagues in The Lancet.

I wonder how many other laws are, from a scientific perspective, arbitrary. What about the numerous food products which are known by scientists to be dangerous?

Scientists, like everyone else, are entitled to their opinions, and to sound off on political policy, and none of this would bother me but for the arrogance of assuming that the opinions of scientists should drive political and (in this case) moral policy.

They're dressing up a moral and political argument as science.

The statistics, of course, come as news to no one. But libertarians who imagine that "science" merely advocates hands-off policies towards drugs deemed less dangerous than booze and cigarettes, think again. They're calling for more regulation!

Tobacco causes 40 percent of all hospital illnesses, while alcohol is blamed for more than half of all visits to hospital emergency rooms. The substances also harm society in other ways, damaging families and occupying police services.

Nutt hopes that the research will provoke debate within the UK and beyond about how drugs -- including socially acceptable drugs such as alcohol -- should be regulated. While different countries use different markers to classify dangerous drugs, none use a system like the one proposed by Nutt's study, which he hopes could serve as a framework for international authorities.

"This is a landmark paper," said Dr. Leslie Iversen, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University. Iversen was not connected to the research. "It is the first real step towards an evidence-based classification of drugs." He added that based on the paper's results, alcohol and tobacco could not reasonably be excluded.

"The rankings also suggest the need for better regulation of the more harmful drugs that are currently legal, i.e. tobacco and alcohol," wrote Wayne Hall, of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, in an accompanying Lancet commentary. Hall was not involved with Nutt's paper.

While experts agreed that criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be challenging, they said that governments should review the penalties imposed for drug abuse and try to make them more reflective of the actual risks and damages involved.

Nutt called for more education so that people were aware of the risks of various drugs. "All drugs are dangerous," he said. "Even the ones people know and love and use every day."

It would be one thing to simply rank all substances according to the relative danger to humans who ingest them. But once scientists start saying what governments "should" do, they're proceeding under an assumption that science has a role in writing political and moral policy.

Ditto global warming.

I guess I should be glad they allowed that "criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be challenging." Yeah, maybe the politicians learned at least something from Prohibition.

But what has science to do with regulating human tastes? (Oh, I almost forgot about banning trans fats. Never mind!) Seriously, what is scientific about the idea that laws should regulate what we consume? That if we ingest the wrong thing, we should be punished? Like it or not, that is morality, not science, and I think when they get into pronouncements related to morality enforcement, they exceed the scope of their scientific authority.

I guess "science" has come a long way.

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

Denial hits home

I don't know what is wrong with my dog Coco lately, but I think she may be in denial.

Just a week ago, there was six inches of ice in the yard as a result of the sleet storm which hit the area. I had gotten quite used to walking on top of it by sliding my feet, and Coco was having running and skidding around in the yard. It was like having our own private glacier, and it was strikingly similar to those which take millions of years to form.

Well, today the temperatures spiked into the sixties, which resulted in a huge meltdown! This cause the glacier formations to melt in odd-looking shapes, not unlike the melting icebergs which are known for trapping polar bears.

I kid you not.


I don't know which one looks more ominous, but I think they both look like something which would have triggered Salvador Dali's paranoia.


You'd think maybe Coco would be alarmed, or at least concerned, but look at her.


Yes. Definitely denial.

posted by Eric at 05:47 PM | Comments (2)

See CO2?

Thanks to Eric at Classical Values I have come across some very interesting numbers about CO2.

Let us start at the beginning. Before the advent of fuel burning industry the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 288 parts per million (ppm). By the year 2000 man had added 11.88 ppm to that total and nature has added 68.52 ppm to the total. Which means that if the effect is linear (it is not for reasons I won't go into here) and man has added about 15% of the CO2 that has been added to the atmosphere and the temperature rise has been about 1.1 deg F (.6 deg C). Then man made CO2 has been responsible for at most about .15 deg F (.1 deg C) of climate change. Which fits in well with Nir Shaviv's analysis, which says that solar variations accounts for .9 deg F (.5 deg C) of global warming.

That is the best case for the global warming guys. Because parts of the argument are wrong. It assumes that the whole of the warming is caused by CO2. For the sake of argument let us say that the solar contribution is 80%. That would mean that the increase in CO2 is responsible for about .22 deg F (.1 deg C) of the global warming. Man's contribution would then be 15% of that or about .033 deg F or (.015 deg C).

I wonder if any one has told Al Gore?

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 12:22 PM | Comments (5)

replacing tradition with tradition

Via Pajamas Media, I saw this Times article about a coming change in television advertising. The goal is to keep people watching instead of reaching for the remote or charging off to the kitchen.

Remarkably, they're considering bringing back an old idea from the 1950s -- integrating advertising content with the show and/or its characters:

In the so-called golden age of television, when shows did not make it on the air without sponsors, the commercials were often integrated into the programs. That helped keep viewers tuned in.

General Electric is evoking that era in commercials in new-media outlets like video on demand and the Internet, which bear titles like "G.E. One-Second Theater" and "G.E.'s Imagination Theater" that echo the days when the company sponsored "General Electric Theater."

Viewers in the 1950s and 1960s also kept watching commercials because the spots were often delivered by the hosts or stars of the shows in which they appeared. The industry coined a term, cast commercial, to describe spots in which, say, Jack Benny and Don Wilson bantered about Jell-O or Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore puffed Kent cigarettes together.

The test of the Showstoppers segments during "Hogan Knows Best" on VH1 featured a comedian, David Wain, who appears on another series on the network, "Best Week Ever."

What next, ABC asking Dr. McDreamy and Dr. McSteamy on "Grey's Anatomy" to diagnose ailments during commercial pods?

I remember the phenomenon well. If you liked the show, and you saw the Nelson family telling you to buy a range, the Clampetts telling you to buy Kellogg's Corn Flakes, or the Cleavers telling you to buy Purina dog food, this was more persuasive than some stranger reading from a script.

Unfortunately, other than dangling the hint at the end, the Times doesn't explain just how to use the "Grey's Anatomy" cast in the commercials in such a way as to keep people from running to the kitchen or hitting the remote.

Obviously, this makes it my responsibility to butt in and help out.

Considering that the show's fans are doubtless familiar with what's been going on, it would be a simple matter to capitalize on the "f" word choking controversy.

"Hi, I'm Isaiah Washington! As many of you know, I was sent to rehab after I called my friend here a word they won't let me use on TV and then choking my colleague Dr. McDreamy. And let me tell you, rehab therapy is expensive. While I'm now completely cured of my violent homophobia, let me assure you that what happened to me could happen to anyone! That's why we're all sitting here tonight to tell you about an affordable health plan...."

I'd sit and watch it. Even though I've never watched "Grey's Anatomy."

posted by Eric at 11:53 AM | Comments (1)


Googling that phrase, I got 93,000 hits -- most of them involving the argument that even if carbon dioxide is not causing global warming, that it's still a threat to the oceans.

Whether it is or not isn't my point. The reason I Googled the phrase is that I have noticed a rather odd shift in the rhetoric recently -- particularly since more and more skeptics, crackpots, contrarians, and "deniers" have been advancing the argument that CO2 rises after warmer temperatures and thus cannot be logically charged with causing the rise in temperatures.

This comment to an earlier post is typical:

The Vostok ice core samples have shown conclusively that CO2 rises following all past episodes of global warming.

Therefore, since cause can not precede effect, increased levels of CO2 could not have caused global warming.

But CO2 as the cause of global warming is the central pillar of the Gorebots' argument. Without that argument, which has been decisively destroyed, the Goron's implosion has begun.

One of the things I've learned in nearly four years of daily blogging is that there is no such thing as an argument being "decisively destroyed." And I mean any argument -- no matter how unreasonable. I mean, I could refer to the now thoroughly debunked claim that the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled demolition as "decisively destroyed," or Paul Ehrlich's claims of dire chaos and famine resulting from overpopulation. How about the idea that Communism works? Has that too, been "decisively destroyed?"

No argument, no matter how unreasonable or wrong, can ever be truly destroyed except in the minds of the people who think it has been destroyed. It is one thing to analyze these things in terms of logic or by weighing the evidence and attempting to decide them fairly. But logic and fairness will not matter to people who simply want to believe. They will always believe, even if their numbers shrink to a small but fervent hard core.

And numbers (of believers, or disbelievers as the case may be) are what matter most.

Back to CO2. As the theories are highly speculative anyway and open to interprepetation (how much CO2 does it take to actually warm the planet? What is man's share of the total and how much does it matter?), the ultimate truths may not be known for decades. Therefore, what matters is how many people there are on the post hoc ergo propter hoc side of the argument. If enough people start to think that high temperatures precede CO2 and not the other way around, this, obviously, is devastating to the numbers of believers, because it's easy for the common man to grasp that something that occurs after a problem cannot be said to be the cause of the problem.

Which means that if you're an anti-CO2 warrior, you need to crank out what lawyers call arguments in the alternative.

For the purposes of this post it really doesn't matter who is right or wrong about CO2 as a culprit in global warming or oceanic destruction. I've expressed my skepticism countless times, particularly about the hysteria that's been generated, and the morality that's been manufactured.

It just strikes me that if preserving this new morality is seen as crucial, there will be a relentless campaign to preserve man-made CO2 as the ultimate villain.

The enemy is everywhere.

Breathing is evil.

MORE: I'd still like to know whether it is true that man-made C02 constitutes only 3.28% of the total CO2 (and thus only 0.117% of the greenhouse effect) as this site maintains. There's a fascinating debate here, punctuated with much name-calling. But if man's share is in fact anywhere near as low as the proferred numbers claim, Al Gore's campaign against media balance becomes quite understandable.

UPDATE (03/23/07): Clayton Cramer (after watching the "Global Swindle" documentary) did a little digging, and came up with a very interesting collection of scientific papers and abstracts about solar activity changes and cosmic ray flux, which by changing the amount of cloud cover "play[] a substantial role in altering temperatures."

BTW, Cramer used this search string in

Nice work!

posted by Eric at 09:04 AM | Comments (2)

Fusion Newsgroup

WB-4 Fusion Reactor I have just started an IEC Fusion newsgroup. IEC stands for Inertial Electrostatic Confinement. Devices like the Farnsworth Fusor or Dr Bussard's Polywell machine. It will cover technology. Research advances (or set backs). Financing more research. etc.

For starters here is a message from the second person to join the group Tom Ligon:

MSimon, you successfully dragged me over from Helps that I just joined a Yahoo bicycling group and had not yet forgotten my user name and password!

For the newcomers, I worked for R. W. Bussard on his fusion project for over 5 years, and think he's figured out how to save the world. I am a science fiction author for Analog, and wrote a fact article [pdf-ed.] for them on IEC that won an Analab award for 1998.

I'm sometimes credited, due to that article, with starting the amateur fusion movement centered on, but actually that was mostly the doing of Richard Hull. I got Richard started, then he turned it into a movement. Writing that article was Dr. Bussard's idea.

If the subject interests you and you would like to be kept up to date go to IEC Fusion and join up. We will be happy to have you.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 02:47 AM

Cathy Seipp, R.I.P.

I'm so sorry to get back and see (via Glenn Reynolds) the sad, sad news.

While I was driving through New Jersey earlier this afternoon, my thoughts turned to Cathy Seipp. I knew she was dying and I'd tried to wish her goodbye to the best of my ability, but it was just one of those moments that I stopped and thought about all the deaths I've been through (a lot -- a whole lot), and I remembered meeting her, which was one of the rare privileges I've had as a blogger. I told her that I admired her bravery and everything and I sort of choked up at the time. This was when? A couple of years ago in New York? Yes. (It was not long after she had first blogged about her diagnosis.) Anyway, she had such dignity, such class, it was as if she understood what I was trying to say and couldn't. I was just tongue tied and it seemed almost tacky to tell her how many people I knew who had died and everything and I couldn't, and --

Shit. Death is one of those things that just plain sucks. You never get used to it and you never get over it.

She went somewhere. We can all agree on that. And she'll damn well be missed.

There wasn't anyone else like her.

The flag is at half mast.


MORE: Pajamas Media has a link roundup.

posted by Eric at 07:37 PM | Comments (2)

A Helpful Bunch

Popular Science looks at Thiago Olson's fusion reactor.

How did he do it? Olson pored over graduate-level physics textbooks, studied vacuum-pump manufacturers' manuals, and scoured the Web for cheap parts. Though mostly self-taught, he occasionally solicited advice on a fusion Web site. Once, he posted photos of a cheap photomultiplier tube he'd bought online because he had no idea how to rig it up. Another fusioneer on the site who had the same model promptly told him which wires went where. Amateur nuclear engineers are, it seems, a helpful bunch.
Yes we are.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

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

No time to be an NRA attack goon today!

That's because I have to drive to New Jersey.

If I had time, however, I would address in detail the ridiculous claim (detailed by Say Uncle; linked by InstaPundit, with more here) that "The NRA whipped up a frenzy on the blogosphere, where a rabid fringe element of the hunting community denounced Zumbo in the harshest terms, even attacking his patriotism."

Geez, I hope they're not talking about me. Well, I did write a post discussing Zumbo but he'd already left Outdoor Life, so I can't be part of the attack fringe, can I? Not only am I not part of a rabid fringe element of the hunting community, I don't even hunt. (If the truth be told, I'm a bleeding heart where it comes to animals, but I don't want the NRA "attack meisters" to think I'm part of some animal rights "fringe," so I keep my "Bambi" side in the closet.)

The fact is, Zumbo did what a lot of people did. He made a mistake, and he retracted what he said. I think he should be hired back by Outdoor Life.

And it turns out, the NRA had nothing to do with his leaving, nor did it sic me or anyone else on Zumbo. I'm a Life Member of the NRA and I get their emails. I never received a single one mentioning Zumbo, much less telling me to go ballistic. I just said what I thought when I read about Zumbo in Dr. Helen's blog. I seriously doubt that she's a professional character assassin (paid or unpaid), for the NRA.

Things are getting pretty ridiculous when your own thoughts are attributed to the gun lobby. But it's not the first time I've seen this.

Anyway, I wish I had more time, because I also see that now there's a movement to intimidate gun owners by compiling lists of armed citizens -- who are analogized to sex offenders.


I'm wondering whether they're compiling a list of houses with armed pit bulls. The irony is that your child would probably be safer from sex offenders in a concealed carry home. (In my house the sex offenders would first have to get past Coco!)

What's an attack goon like me to do? Compile list of unarmed and unsafe homes?

Nah, I wouldn't want to invade people's privacy. Besides, there's a Second Amendment right to be unarmed (and thus unsafe) -- even in your own home. Why the anti-choice people (who choose not to be armed) want to take away this choice from others, I'll never understand.

posted by Eric at 10:14 AM | Comments (1)

ITER - The Other Side

I have been going hot and heavy on the Bussard Fusion Reactor. I think it is time to present the other side. DNA India reports: ITER is 'the way' to the future of energy. Well I don't believe it. I think ITER (The International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor) is doing wonderful physics. The chances for a working power plant from this effort, in my opinion, are slim and none. From DNA India:

Ever wondered what makes the sun so hot? The process is called fusion and it involves the coming together of four hydrogen nuclei to form a helium nucleus. It is accompanied by the release of huge amounts of energy which we get in the form of light and heat. Now, scientists are trying to replicate the fusion process in an experimental project and India is playing a crucial role in it.

The International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor (ITER) project is a joint international research project that will demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion power. The countries involved in this one-of-its-kind project are USA, European Union, Japan, Russia, India, China and South Korea.

Carlos Alejaldre, deputy director general of ITER, who was in Mumbai to attend a colloquium at BARC spoke extensively on the project. Terming it as one of the most challenging projects ever, Alejaldre said the project would integrate together key technologies from various fields.

So what is the project all about? "The project involves production of 500 MW of power for a considerable amount of time by fusing deuterium and tritium (both are isotopes of hydrogen)," Alejaldre said.

And this is no ordinary power production by any means. "Deuterium and Tritium would be fused at temperatures ranging from 100 to 200 million degrees and at pressure of 106 atmosphere," he added.

The construction of the reactor would begin in 2009 and it will become operational in 2016.

That is seven years of effort. Added to the 40+ years already invested in the project.

The one thing you have to say about it is that it is training a lot of plasma physicists.

Alejaldre believes the advance in fusion technology has been faster than Moore's law which predicts advances in the power of computer processor. "ITER represents a quantum leap in fusion power production. The maximum amount of power generated in a fusion power plant so far was 16 MW. In ITER, this number will swell to 500 MW," he said.

So when will the fusion power of ITER actually reach home? "ITER is a purely experimental project. The 500 MW power won't be connected to the grid. However, if all goes well with ITER, a machine considerably bigger than ITER should start generating electrical power by 2040."

He neglects one important detail. It is easy to get 500 MW out if you are putting 1,000 MW in. So far no reactor in the ITER series has produced net power. The ITER will have lots of superconducting magnets. Be 31.5 meters (103 ft) high and weigh as much as an aircraft carrier. That would put it in the 100,000 ton range.

It will also be a huge neutron generator, making it excellent for producing plutonium from uranium.

By contrast the Bussard design, Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion, when fueled with Boron 11 produces no neutrons, would be about 6 ft across for 100 MW output and about 8 ft across for 500 MW output. Plus it could deliver power to the grid without the need for steam generators, turbines, generators, steam condensers, and the rest of that kind of thermal plant that ITER requires to turn its output into electricity. BTW such a plant operationg at the highest standard temperatures for steam plants could turn maybe as much as 40% of the thermal energy into electricity. Sixty percent is a big giveaway in terms of making the ITER monsters practical.

The Bussard design is a better bet and if it works power plants could be in mass production in 15 years or less from the day the final research and development work starts.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:39 AM

Children As Decoys

Using children as decoys is not the worst part.

They killed the kids.

Canada's National Post reports Children used as decoy in Iraq bombing

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. general Tuesday said Iraqi insurgents used children in a suicide attack this weekend, raising worries that the insurgency has adopted a new tactic to get through security checkpoints with bombs.

Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy director for regional operations in the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said adults in a vehicle with two children in the backseat were allowed through a Baghdad checkpoint Sunday.

The adults then parked next to a market in the Adamiya area of Baghdad, abandoned the vehicle and detonated it with the children still inside, according to the general and another defense official.

And yet our lefty friends tell us this is another reason to leave Iraq to the tender mercies of this scum. Such humanitarianism.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:23 AM

Who decides what's "species-appropriate" for animals?

It didn't come as news to me that animal rights activists have a penchant for killing animals that don't fit within the scheme of their theories of power. But this story involving demands that a zoo in Germany kill an abandoned polar bear cub is especially irritating:

Tiny, fluffy and adorable, Knut the baby polar bear became an animal superstar after he was abandoned by his mother.

He rapidly became the symbol of Berlin Zoo, whose staff bottle-fed him and handed out cuddles in between

At three months old, however, the playful 19lb bundle of fur is at the centre of an impassioned debate over whether he should live or die.

Animal rights activists argue that he should be given a lethal injection rather than brought up suffering the humiliation of being treated as a domestic pet.

"The zoo must kill the bear," said spokesman Frank Albrecht. "Feeding by hand is not species-appropriate but a gross violation of animal protection laws."

(Emphasis added.)

So says Frank Albrecht. And so say a lot of these crackpots. What I can't decide is which is worse: their ideas, or the fact that people who ought to know better listen to them.

Much as I worry that applying logic to the views of someone like Herr Albrecht is an exercise in futility, let me try. What gives him the right to determine what is and is not "species-appropriate"? Did the polar bear identitarian club vote to put him in charge of determining what's appropriate for their species? Or is he just a self appointed spokesman for all species? Hell, I suspect that I belong to the same species as Albrecht, but does that give him the right to decide what's "species-appropriate" for me too? I'm not sure I like that -- any more than I like certain activists deciding what is and is not "natural."

Try as I might, I just can't get over the supreme irony and supreme arrogance of the idea that animal rights activists (who are human beings) should decide what is and what is not "species-appropriate" for animals. I mean, aren't they supposed to be against man having dominion over animals?

Fortunately, the zoo officials don't agree with Albrecht, and they have refused to kill the bear cub. Maybe they should post an armed guard, though, for Knut might need protection against the "species-appropriate" activists....

There's a YouTube video of cute litte Knut engaging in all sorts of "species-inappropriate" acts.

And if you really want to see something "species-inappropriate," check out this video of an abandoned lion which was adopted and raised by a mother dog.

I'm assuming that the animal rights activists would demand the death penalty for both of them -- for their unnatural, species-inappropriate, deviant activities.


Next thing you know, the animal rights activists will decide that some species are more appropriate than other species -- and that some might be not merely "species-inappropriate," but might be an inappropriate species.

At the rate things are going, pretty soon the only species-appropriate thing for humans to do will be to leave the planet.

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

I hate identity politics! Lock me up!

A classic example of identitarian politics is to be found in the calls for "hate crimes" legislation, which Sean Kinsell addresses in an excellent post. The idea behind hate crime theory is that it is morally more egregious to attack an individual because of his perceived status or membership in a group you hate than it would be if you singled him out because you hated him personally, or wanted his money.

The biggest problem I see with this is once there's a list, it not only politicizes the criminal justice process, it it sets up disappointed groups to demand inclusion. If, for example, it is a special offense to target someone for being gay, then why shouldn't it be an offense to target someone for being elderly, female, a child, a Republican, a Democrat, a "yuppie," a "hippie," a cop, a member of the military, or an obvious member of the SUV-driving, conspicuous consumption class? The categories create a formal legal determination that the listed categories are more worthy of protection by the state than the categories not listed -- something which is by its nature unjust, because if the crime is based on hating someone for being a member of a group, the mindset (I hate you not because of who you are, but because of I hate the class to which I perceive you belong).

Not that anyone would defend such hatred. Certainly, attacking someone for belonging to a group evinces a heinous and morally culpable mindset. But there is a mechanism in place to deal with people who commit such crimes, and it's called judicial discretion. Laws like this substitute the political process for something the trial judge is in the best position to determine.

In many cases, whether the hatred involves an individual or his membership in a group is not clear. Unless the criminal belongs to an organization with a stated purpose of hating victim, it's very subjective. In a post I wrote last year which caused quite a debate in the comments, I examined a situation everyone assumed was a hate crime -- the gruesome murder of a man who performed dressed as a woman. The more I looked at it, the less clear it became:

What I've never been able to understand is what classifying a murder as a hate crime is supposed to do. Is murder plus hate worse than murder without hate? Interestingly, in California at least, murder for financial gain is taken more seriously than murders in the heat of passion, although the conduct here would certainly fall into several other "special circumstances" categories.

If there's the death penalty for murder, what can be added by way of punishment? This man's murderer should get the death penalty, period.

It may be that the murderer killed Corrales in a rage after discovering that he wasn't a woman. That is certainly no defense to a murder charge, but does it make it any worse than if Corrales had been killed, say, for refusing to have sex? Suppose Corrales had actually been a woman, and been murdered. Why isn't that a hate crime? And if it is, how does it change anything?

Certainly, if Corrales was mutilated in this heinously gruesome manner, it makes the death penalty even more appropriate. But doesn't murder plus mutilation ratchet this case up into a category worse than mere "hate crime"?

What am I missing? Whether the victim or his murderer were or were not gay? Considering the extreme and depraved level of violence in this murder, I think it's more likely that the murderer himself suffered from an inability to face his own homosexual leanings. A healthy heterosexual male who was not interested in sex would simply have walked away from a homosexual encounter. It's obvious to me from the picture that Mr. Corrales was a man, and I think you'd have to be a moron not to sense that.....

Add self-hatred to that, and what do you have? Someone who hates himself so much that he kills other people who might remind him of what he hates within himself? Carried to its extreme, the suicide of such a person would become a hate crime.

I'm with Sean on this one. I think hate crimes statutes open a huge can of worms. Far from adding a new group to the list, I think the list should be eliminated, and enhancement of sentences should be left up to the trial judges.

Sean does a good job of addressing the idea that an attack on a member of a group is an attack on the group:

Of course, the theory also is that hate crimes hurt the whole group. Here's the Anti-Defamation League:
Hate crimes demand a priority response because of their special emotional and psychological impact on the victim and the victim's community. The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes may effectively intimidate other members of the victim's community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law. By making members of minority communities fearful, angry and suspicious of other groups -- and of the power structure that is supposed to protect them -- these incidents can damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities.
Thinking just in terms of pragmatics, do gays really think it's wise to buy into this? That you can intimidate the whole lot of us by beating up a single gay man on the way home from the clubs? That we see ourselves as outside mainstream social and legal institutions (a.k.a. "the power structure")? And wouldn't the tacking on of gay-specific jail time or fines be likely to make Joe even more resentful of homosexuals than he would if he were just charged with assault?

If the police are responding listlessly to crimes in gay neighborhoods, then residents should be angry; but that doesn't mean that hate crimes provisions are the only possible response. There are neighborhood crime watches, there's the Pink Pistols. Anger can galvanize you into action, not send you into a spiral of fear.

The tendency of hate crime laws aids the destruction of individuality, which in turn only escalates the spiraling of fear. By their nature, these laws suggest to people on the list that people might be targeting them because of their membership in a group, and by implication, that they are weaker than other people (those perceived to be members of the oppressor majority), and thus in need of special protection from the state. This encourages group fear, and thus groupthink. I suspect that's the whole idea.

I have to say, I am fascinated by the "high level silence" about the savage and fatal beating of an elderly gay man -- a murder which (as noted previously) at least one blogger blamed on anti-gay conservatives.

I'm not sure what to make of the high level official silence in Democratic Party-dominated Detroit, but I wonder whether it has to do with the fact that the attacker was black, and this might make black Democratic Party identitarian activists uncomfortable. (Too early to tell, but I have noticed that the amount of hate perceived to be involved in hate crimes increases dramatically if the attackers are white, and decreases dramatically if they are not.)

athnos_suspect.jpgThis composite picture of the attacker was published recently in the Advocate. Whoever the attacker is, I hope they catch him, and I hope he gets the death penalty, which does not and should not require any special hate crimes statute.

But the National Gay Task Force knows who is ultimately responsible for the attack on a gay man by the black man in the picture.

Religious conservative white men, that's who!

From the official "Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force":

"The hatred and loathing that led to the vicious murder of Andrew Anthos only because he was gay is not innate. Instead it is being taught every day by leaders of the so-called Christian right and their political allies who use their vast resources, media networks and affiliated pulpits to blame lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for all the ills of society. They disguise their bigotry as 'deeply-held religious beliefs.' They cloak themselves in 'family values.'

"For years, Michigan has been subjected to the homophobic rants of Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan, while so many otherwise good and decent people have been silent. Just two years ago, the state endured an ugly campaign, led by Cardinal Adam Maida, to 'protect marriage' by writing anti-gay discrimination into its constitution. Based on that amendment, a three-judge panel of Michigan's court of appeals voted last month to terminate medical insurance coverage for families of LGBT government workers throughout the state.

"It is appalling hypocrisy for these forces to pretend that their venomous words and organizing have no connection to the plague of hate violence against gay people, including the murder of Mr. Anthos.....

garyglenn.jpg Gary Glenn? The Gary Glenn connection interested me greatly, even though I'd never (until today) heard of Gary Glenn, nor have I listened to his radio show. (For all I know, he's an insufferable scold, who thinks the content of people's character is determined by the content of their orgasms.) But did he do it? I don't see much resemblance in the picture, but might the man on the left have really caused the young thug to follow the elderly man and beat him to death with a pipe? First of all, we need to know whether the young thug was a devout listener to the Gary Glenn Show. Was he? And did the Gary Glenn Show urge its listeners to beat gays? While it's possible that Mr. Anthos's assailant listened to the Gary Glenn Show, and it's possible the man said homos deserved beatings or death, common sense suggests otherwise.

Tell you what; if I am wrong, and if Gary Glenn in any way exhorted his radio listeners to do anything even close to resembling bludgeoning elderly gay men to death with metal pipes, I'll apologize to the NLGTF.

But I'll still oppose hate crime legislation, and I think statements like the above which impute guilt to people having no connection whatsoever to the crime suggest that the advocates of the legislation are largely driven by emotion. The criminal should be punished for the murder he committed, and extreme malice he showed speaks for the extreme evil going through his individual head. What some organization thinks about the political ideas that might be going on in his head should not be a factor in considering what is or is not a crime.

Of course, if we look at the broader political picture (and factor in a generous dollop of the Imagine People mindset), even something like self defense, could, under the right circumstances, be considered hate crime. Suppose the elderly (and white) Mr. Anthos had been carrying a gun, and opened fire on his assailant before he could bash his brains in with a pipe. I don't think it is inconceivable that under certain theories (if, say, he was on record as a vocal supporter of the war, and opposed radical Islam, and that his killer belonged to the Nation of Islam) then he might theoretically have been the one chargeable with hate crime.

By injecting identitarian groupthink into the criminal process, hate crime legislation politicizes crime, and invites precisely such political mischief.

UPDATE: I seem to have taken the NGLTF a bit too literally on the subject of Gary Glenn, who I assumed was a radio talk show host. Apparently he is not. Although he makes radio and television appearances, he has no talk show of his own, but is the president of the Michigan AFA, and devotes himself to various issues, mainly opposing things like gay marriage, gay adoption, gay rights ordinances (especially where it comes to transsexuals, and Mitt Romney. He seems to be an anti-gay religious conservative of some prominence in Michigan. But considering he doesn't have any sort of talk show, how on earth is it that the entire state of Michigan has been "subjected to the homophobic rants of Gary Glenn" much less an unidentified murder suspect?

I suspect that the only people who have even heard of him are anti-gay activists, gay activists, and political junkies.

UPDATE: A Jacksonian comments below that hate crime laws are really a move towards "transnational progressivism" -- one of the key concepts of which is this:

The ascribed group over the individual citizen. The key political unit is not the individual citizen, who forms voluntary associations and works with fellow citizens regardless of race, sex, or national origin, but the ascriptive group (racial, ethnic, or gender) into which one is born.
There's a lot more and it's a great post -- as well written as it is disturbing.

MORE: Let me see if I can get this straight. According to the Transnational Progressive Identitarians the black man who beat Mr. Anthos to death would become a victim (along with Mr. Anthos) of Gary Glenn and other powerful white conservatives.

Am I right? I hope not.

Will someone please pinch me and wake me up already?

Please. Tell me this is some sick joke and not reality.

posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (3)

The imagine people

Gerard van der Leun has a brilliant post on the "Imagine" people (who provide a seemingly endless supply of fodder for the antiwar, pacifist movement). A couple of excerpts:

Four years in and the people of the Perfect World ramble through the avenues of Washington, stamping their feet and holding their breath, having their tantrums, and telling all who cannot avoid listening that "War is bad for children and other living things." They have flowers painted on their cheeks. For emphasis. Just in case you thought that war was good for children and other living things.


Four years in and the clear and present danger to the nation must be closeted in favor of the unclear and distant end of the world if we insist on exuding, as all life does, carbon dioxide. Send the nation and its armies and its wards and protectorates to the block, but keep the polar bears cold.

"Can't you see that worldwide wall of water sweeping in to inundate all life in 30, 50, 100, 500 years?"

"No. I cannot see it from here."

"Ah well, you are a warmonger, an evil person, a vile Christian, a shameless, shameless American.

"You must have shame. Shame is what we have when we look around us. We are ashamed of what was given us. You must join us; share in our shame at being Americans, at being the last best hope of earth.

"Join us and join the rising despair of people who, believing in nothing, believe only in the self, the life of the senses, the mollifying of guilt, of 'the expense of reason in a waste of shame.'"

Four years in and the fools in the streets multiply. They are tired of the war, but full of themselves.

It's a must read, as is "The Gospel of John and Yoko" which explores the origins of this smarmy system of invented morality which drives them:
So what mysterious force is driving these multitudes into the streets? Why is it morally rewarding to hate this country's leaders and embrace its enemies? What makes it feel so good? The answer is in your definition of what "good" is, otherwise known as morality.

Your morality is what guides you in your choices between right and wrong, good and evil. If you believe it's wrong to enjoy life in a successful capitalist society, you'll feel guilty about your high living standard and a disproportionate consumption of world's resources. By extension, you wouldn't want to miss the once-in-a-year opportunity to redeem your sins by supporting such a highly moral cause as an anti-war protest.

But what is the source of a morality that forbids to fight terrorism and views the United States as the enemy? Clearly it isn't rooted in the American tradition. Such a morality manifested itself on a massive scale for the first time in the 1960s. Many of today's protesters admittedly crave to recapture the spirit of those days. Many will be singing John Lennon's "Imagine."

There's a link to what I suppose is the closest thing to a religious text -- a collection of articles by John and Yoko.

I read, I gagged, I blogged.

The "Imagine" mindset is not a new topic for me. I try not to dwell on it, but this is one of those problems which does not go away by being ignored.

It would be nice if the Imagine lyrics were all in their collectivist imagination. Unfortunately, as I said last September 11, they want to enforce the lyrics:

It's as if they're stuck in an endless replay of John Lennon's "Imagine." Trouble is, they don't want to just "imagine." They want to enforce the lyrics.

I wish it was all in my imagination.

The most tragic irony of all is that had John Lennon lived, he might today be sneering at the lyrics of his own song.

John Lennon, Republican? Imagine that!

It's easy if you try. Being a half-starved junkie crawling around on the floor while being dependent on Yoko Ono could do that.

posted by Eric at 07:35 AM | Comments (3)

What If The Chinese Beat Us To It?

I have been obsessed the last couple of days with the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

While reading around I have gotten the most depressing news. What if the Chinese get there first? Or the Russians. There is a lot of technical stuff in the article and Dr. Bussard talks about why raising funds is so hard. Then he gets down to his current situation.

Bussard is getting discouraged.

"The [U.S.] government, I don't think, is going to do anything," he said.

So he has begun to look elsewhere. Last October he published a paper detailing his work for the 57th International Aeronautical Congress in Valencia, Spain. In it he named eight countries, including China, India, Russia and Venezuela, that "could logically develop interest" in his research.

In November, Bussard presented his work in a 90-minute lecture at the headquarters of the Internet search engine Google.

The lecture is archived at [here with a text preview of the geo-political points - ed.] and had been viewed 87,700 times by early March.

The lecture generated a lot of e-mail, but so far, no funding, Bussard said. His next effort may be a book-length publication detailing his fusion work.

Much as supporters Gay and Triola want to see Bussard's fusion work resume, they worry about the broadening appeal for funding.

"My concern is China," Gay said. "If they have more vision than we do, they could jump on it."

Triola shares the worry. "I think it's a matter of engineering now, not physics any more. Once Bussard gets enough publicity, one of our not-so-friendly allies, probably the Chinese, will go do it."

It will all depend on who owns the patents.

Current grid structures with no magnetic shielding are about 98% transparent. Dr. Bussard says he has improved that by a factor of 100,000. That would make the losses in the range of 2E-6 much better than the expected requirement of 1E-4 or 1E-5.

The critical thing to do now is to go ahead with the low power pulsed experiments with better instrumentation to verify the results and if that proves out go whole hog. Dr Bussard says that the full scale reactor will take 4 to 5 years to design and build. However, if a full scale reactor was run in a short pulse mode. Say 1 millisecond pulses once a second. Copper coils could probably do the job and test out the full scale reactor while the superconducting coils for actual power production were being contracted for and fabricated.

For a 100MW reactor operating in a 1 millisecond per second pulsed mode the total power involved would be about 100 KW. Very tolerable for a system designed for full load operation at 100MW.

Such a program would allow for faster evaluation and design changes before every thing is completed.

It might allow for a full scale proof in much less than 5 years and possibly reduce the cost to $20 million to $50 million instead of the $200 million required to build a power plant. Once we know what to do we can pour on the coal (so to speak ) with higher cost but much lower risk.

That is the big deal for every business. Managing risk.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:03 AM | Comments (5)

Build Your Own Fusion Reactor

As many of my readers know, I have become obsessed with the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

There is a bit of amateur scientist in me so I've been on the look out for general directions for making a fusion reactor in a garage or basement. So far 18 amateurs have replicated this experiment.

You could be next. Total cost if everything is bought new should be under $2,000. If you are a good scrounger $500 might do.

Fusion Reactor ExperimentPhoto at left: Simple demonstration device, built by Worcester Polytechnic Institute sophomore Joshua Resnick as an extracurricular project, sets up a high voltage between two sets of spherical electrodes made from joined metal rings. A transparent bell jar allows the assembly to be placed under low pressure without obscuring the view of the glowing plasma when the device is energized.

The amazing thing about such a device is how amazinly simple it is. There is a fair amount of support equipment required - high voltage generators, vacuum pumps, gas supply regulators, etc. , but the reactor itself is just some grid wires and a vacuum chamber.

Now for the more technical details. Richard Hull[pdf] of Tesla Coil Builders of Richmond, 7103 Hermitage Rd., Richmond, VA 23228, has done an excellent job of explaing the how tos. Microns an torrs refer to levels of vacuum.

The "fusor" can work in several modes based on the materials used, the gas included in the device, and the pressure of the gas. Experimental possibilities are endless and the device itself is interesting to watch. At its low end of operational performance (above 1000 microns) it is working as a conventional glow discharge device but is still more interesting than a plasma globe. Near the top end of its operational performance curve it can produce neutrons through the D-D reaction. This performance curve is still not well defined! The large number of variables make for a great research opportunity.

Nothing is particularly critical in the fusor's physical construction regardless of mode of operation. A good scrounger with a modest vacuum system that can go to 10 microns should be able to assemble the entire device for under $50.00. Buying every thing new except for the vacuum system might drive the cost to $300.00. With a high vacuum system (10-6 Torr), bell jar or stainless steel chamber, and about $400.00 you can be producing neutrons.

There are quite a few technical details given in the article plus a design for a high voltage power supply.

One modification I would suggest is dividing the bleeder resistor into two strings each with an LED in series (at the ground end) as indicators of high voltage. Use the highest efficiency LEDs you can get so even relatively low voltages can be seen. In addition I would add a third divider for exact voltage measurement. That divider should be designed so that it shows 2.0 volts for a 20 KV output. Current through that divider should be on the order of 100 uA for 20 KV output. As in all high voltage work the low voltage part of the divider should consist of two parallel resistors so that a malfunction of one does not leave the low end of the divider disconnected.

All the wiring should be done with solid core spark plug wire. All connections well soldered and covered with glyptol to prevent corona discharge.

Nice resource page by Richard Hull.

A good overview with some construction details and safety precautions by Tom Ligon [pdf].

High Voltage Tips

Overall Construction Tips

If any one in the local area needs help I'd be glad to lend a hand. If you are a distance away e-mail will work. Address on my sidebar at Power and Control where this is also cross posted.

posted by Simon at 03:23 AM

High School Student Builds Working Fusion Reactor

Student Fusion Reactor I just came across this over at the Netscape blog.

This is amazing news, a high school student name Thiago Olson managed to build a fully-functioned nuclear fusion reactor in just 2 years.
There are a number of non believers. However, the first such device of this kind was built in 1959.

Since then there have been a number of advances in the field like the one's detailed in Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion.

Latest Gadget has more:

...Olson's nuclear fusion reactor won't work for generating commercial power because it takes more energy to run it than to produce.
Which is true. Grid losses prevent net power gain. However, if the grids are replaced with magnets as is done in the Bussard design, net energy production looks like a very likely prospect.

Money is being raised (on a donation basis for now) to build a small prototype to repeat earlier experiments (with refinements) and to get a better definition of the reaction constants.

Using this reactor as a power source would lower the cost of alcohol distillation into the range where alcohol would be a cheaper fuel than gasoline.

This is a high risk venture. I'd guess the chances of succes are around 80% although it might be as little as 10%. In any case the cost of the experiment ($200 million for a working prototype) is about .002% of GDP. Certainly we can afford such a risk given the rewards.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 09:28 PM

A single cure? Only if there's a single cause!

Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that the designer gene controversy is heating up. Reason's Ron Bailey writes about the controversy created by the Reverend Albert Mohler's recent assertion that homosexuality might in the future be preventable by in utero intervention. (Rev. Mohler bases his assertion on this article which recites the standard genetic and prenatal theories of homosexual causation, and the newer theory about the possibility of prevention.)

This has all created a very predictable flap, with gay activists claiming that there is a Mengelean plot to genetically engineer "them" out of existence (because many of them believe all homosexuality is caused by prenatal events). And, of course Mohler's claim will upset many of the anti-gay righties who insist that homosexuality -- even homosexual orientation itself -- is always a choice.

I think both sides are at least half wrong. A lot of people have come to see sexuality in binary terms in much the same way they see race. Just as you have to be either black or white, you must be either 100% heterosexual or 100% homosexual. Other sexual preferences, such as sado-masochism, bondage and discipline, and innumerable types of fetishism, don't seem to count, nor do preferences for certain body types, ages, races, or appearances. (Not too many gay men are attracted to Michael Moore, nor are most straight men attracted to Janet Reno.)

But forget all that. It's just gay or straight! Check the box. Why people can't see how silly this is, I have never been able to understand. I first learned about the influence of prenatal hormones on the developing brain (and the role it might play on the differentiating hypothalamus) back in 1971, and wrote a paper about it for a high school Psychology class. Over the years, I came to learn that no single theory could possibly explain the development of something so complex as what might turn on a particular human being sexually. It's too complicated, and the reasons why each person is turned on by certain things are as complex and varied as the individual.

Does that mean that homosexuality is never caused by the influence of prenatal hormones or genetic factors? Of course not. I think there are some people who are born gay; perhaps even a majority of those who knew it from when they were very little and were always obvious to others. But there are plenty of others, and while I know that gay activists have trouble understanding this, there are also plenty of bisexuals (which I define as people who could have sex with a member of either sex under the right circumstances). The degree of bisexuality varies from person to person, but what happens is that many of these people will eventually fall in love with someone, and then society will adjudge them as gay or straight depending the sex of the partner. Peer pressure is also brought to bear. Most bisexuals in same sex relationships will say they are gay, and most bisexuals in opposite sex relationships will say they're straight. While an admission of bisexuality always has consequences (usually skepticism and ridicule), it is much harder on a man in a relationship with a woman to admit bisexuality than for a man in a gay relationship. For women, the consequences are there, but generally less severe, although I have been told more than one time that some lesbian circles are extremely intolerant of women who admit to having sexual desires for men.

I think sexuality is a lot more fluid than people commonly assume, which is why I think attempts to control it by administering hormones will fail. At most, trying to prevent homosexuality in the way Rev. Mohler imagines might prevent some of the "born gay" types.

But there's a big question that's being overlooked. Even if we assume that inadequate amounts of testosterone results in a failure of the male hypothalamus to fully differentiate as heterosexual, how does anyone that all of these boys (born with feminine hypothalamuses) will all be gay? Suppose it's just a predisposition, just a possibility? You'd have to dissect the hypothalamus of every last male cadaver, and even then you wouldn't be sure. What about the "born gays" who never become gay? Is there not a sort of biological determinism going on with the theory that's at odds with individual freedom?

Anyway, if we assume an ability to identify a shortage of testosterone at the crucial period in the differentiation of the fetal hypothalamus, and testosterone is administered accordingly, I'm wondering how many women are going to make an appointment to go to the doctor to have their fetuses tested at precisely the right time and then receive hormones simply to prevent having a possible "born gay" baby. Some, I'm sure. (And if they have the right to abort their fetuses, certainly have the right to add hormones to them.) But I doubt it would be in numbers sufficient to constitute "genocide," and I see no way that it would prevent all homosexuality. First of all, the type of homosexuality that goes on in prisons would still go on, and as long as men have the prostate gland, there are going to be some individuals who will figure out that there are different ways of stimulating it.

Sorry, but "preventative" hormone therapy applied en masse to all babies would not be a good idea. Too much testosterone can do things like decrease IQ, and unnecessary testosterone would be too much. But again, there is no reason it would prevent the fetuses from eventually growing up and engaging in homosexual conduct.

In any case, I seriously doubt the ancient Spartans had a shortage of testosterone, or "gay genes." As I have said before, they did what they did, but did not know gay from straight. The either/or, all-or-nothing heterosexual or homosexual dichotomy is a modern phenomenon.

I believe the creation of an exclusively homosexual "identitarian" caste has been aided and abetted by anti-gay activists who wanted to preserve a cultural stigma working in collusion with organized activists reacting against them. In the process, exclusively gay men have been manipulated into thinking their sexuality is not merely a part of their nature, but it's an identity. Which must be identified as such, organized, grouped into ghettoes, etc. That this is at odds with human freedom and just living side by side with everyone else on an equal basis does not matter to activists on either the pro-gay or the anti-gay sides. (I don't think these sides should be there, but then, I don't think race should matter either.)

As to the gay gene theory (the Xq28 gene -- advanced by gay researcher Dean Hamer), it has been called into serious question by other research, and it has never been independently confirmed in a controlled manner. Nor has anyone ever shown that all incompletely masculinized fetal hypothalamuses lead to homosexuality in adulthood.

There's a lot of irony in the fact that a theory once invoked to advance sexual freedom could be seen as ultimately destructive of it, but that's what's happened with the way the prenatal hormone theory has progressed. I think sexual freedom means the right to do something, as well as the right not to do it. There is no question that some people are born gay, but if there is sexual freedom, what difference does it make? Those born gay have just as much legal and moral right to engage in sexual relations with whomever they want as those who weren't. I have long thought that human freedom is negated by deterministic theories involving genes and hormones -- especially when they are applied to people who were never tested, might not want to be tested, and might have their own reasons for doing whatever the hell it is they do.

But that won't stop people from looking for an attraction-to-large-penises gene, an attraction-to-large-breasts gene, an S&M gene, or an attraction-to-pierced-navals gene or even an attraction-to-pornography-instead-of-humans "gene."

God help sexual freedom. Especially the right to be left alone.

MORE: Speaking of designer genes, the experts also claim to have isolated a gene for religion -- something I discussed years ago in a post titled "Designer genes for God and gays?"

I suppose gay activists who are worried about religious anti-gay "genocide" could always utilize whatever reproductive techniques they choose and practice retaliatory preventative anti-religious "genocide" by ensuring that they give birth only to gay, irreligious fetuses.


Shouldn't such nonsense be called "gene-o-cide"?

posted by Eric at 06:00 PM | Comments (1)

So Brave - The American Eagles in DC

The video starts a little way in.

This is video from the march on DC yesterday. Made me cry and cheer.

Commenters at Captains Quarters say the Eagles outnumbered the defeatists by 5 to 1 or more. Lots of rough 60 year old hombres on our side. Read the comments. Thanks to SoldiersMom for the link to the video.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 02:47 PM

Do guns cause illiteracy too?

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer has a big front page story on the city's upcoming mayoral election, and all candidates seem to agree that the number one issue is crime, that crime is caused by guns, and that the solution is to allow Philadelphia to have local gun control:

Philadelphia's mayoral candidates concur: Reducing crime is priority one. The soaring homicide rate demands it.

Though the five men vying for the Democratic nomination May 15 share some strategies against epidemic violence, they differ in significant details.

Broadly, they want more police - 500 to 1,000 new hires. They want to target "hot spots" with intensive patrols; invest in "21st-century" video surveillance and acoustic gunshot locators; spur faith-based, anticrime initiatives; and amend state law so the city of Philadelphia can enact stricter ordinances against illegal guns.

(Emphasis added.)

Most daily readers of the paper probably agree that the homicide rate is all there is to it, because for more than a year now, the Inquirer has been featuring this daily murder counter:

deadlytoll.jpgNamed "A City'sDeadly Toll," the counter (along with the campaign it links) seems to have the primary goal of convincing people not only that Philadelphia is very unsafe, but that everyone is at risk of being killed by "gun violence."

Thus it seems to be a no-brainer that crime equals homicide equals gun violence, and that it's Philadelphia's number one issue.

At the risk of sounding like a contrarian, I'd like to question whether the murder rate is in fact the number one quality of life issue. The vast majority of killings involve people with criminals killing other criminals they already knew. While any murder is horrible, and I think it's a terrible distortion (as I've argued many times) to focus on the instrumentality of the murder, instead of the murderer himself, I think it does the city an injustice to focus on homicide as if that's the only type of crime voters worry about. Whether it is or not, I don't know.

Should it be? Let's look at the statistics. According to the "FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program as reported in HUD's State of the Cities Data Systems," Philadelphia's murder rate (per 100,000) Philadelphia ranks 14th out of 98 cities.

Philadelphia's rape rate is considerably lower -- 82nd out of 97

The robbery rate is 9th, and Philadelphia (at 253.8) has fewer robberies per 100,000 than the following cities:

Chicago, IL 491.3
Memphis, TN--AR--MS 354.7
Jersey City, NJ 328.6
Miami, FL 325.9
Houston, TX 288.8
New York, NY 273.4
Los Angeles--Long Beach, CA 266
Baltimore, MD262
There's a reason I put those statistics up there. Cynic though I am, I have to say that I have been so influenced by the daily murder counter that I didn't know until this morning that I was more likely to be robbed in New York or Los Angeles than in Philadelphia.

As to assault, Philadelphia ranks 46th. Once again, New York and LA are more violent places. (As of course is gun free Chicago.)

And while you don't need a gun to commit larceny, Philadelphia's larceny rate is 79th out of 98.

I'm not sure how they're defining larceny, but I suspect most of it involves shoplifting and not burglary, and I think the latter would tend to me more of a quality of life issue for ordinary people than the former. At any rate, Philadelphia's burglary rate is 83 out of 98. And it's auto theft rate is 54th.

In the category of robbery with a gun, Philadelphia is bad -- 10th out of 98. The "assault with a gun" ranking is 27, although I would think that the latter would be subsumed in the robbery with a gun category, as pointing a gun at someone during a robbery is also an assault with a gun.

There's no question that Philadelphia has a major crime problem, but looking at the overall picture, the city is in many ways a lot safer than other cities.

But I'm struck by the complete lack of evidence that guns worsen Philadelphia's quality of life in any substantial way. While it's always tough to measure the effect of guns in deterring crime, the statistics made me wonder whether guns might make actually make crime safer.

There's actually a social science study -- titled "The Effect of Gun Availability on Violent Crime Patterns, 455 ANNALS 63 (1981)" -- which touches on that very subject:

reducing access to guns will also cause crimes to be committed against more vulnerable victims, those who cannot fight back. Id. Cook concludes that reducing gun availability will increase the robbery injury rate, but decrease the number of murders. Id. at 76. The reasoning is that more victims will resist if the criminal is unarmed, and will suffer injury in the process.
This would tend to confirm that an armed society is a polite society -- even in the context of crime.

Common sense would suggest that if robbery victims were given the choice between being jumped by an unarmed thug or being held up at gunpoint, they would choose the latter. That's because the strongarm robber has to "convince" the victim that he's serious, whereas the guy with the gun is more likely to be taken seriously from the beginning of the encounter. This may sound counterintuitive, but that's mainly because so many people have been convinced that guns are the root cause of crime.

Aside from human evil, I think the leading root cause of quality of life crimes is functional illiteracy:

In an attempt to bring illiteracy to the attention of the American people, the U.S. Department of Education pointed out a decade ago that an alarming 47 million American adults were functionally or marginally illiterate. Arguably, little meaningful progress has been made in the fight to reduce illiteracy in the most affluent nation in the world.

A 2001 Newsweek article pointed out that an astonishing 47 percent of Detroit, Mich. residents, or almost one-out-of-two adults in the predominately African-American and urban city were functionally illiterate. By way of comparison, only 6.7 percent of citizens in Vietnam are functionally illiterate.

The correlation between crime and illiteracy is well known to criminologists and sociologists throughout the world. It is estimated that 60 percent of adults in federal and state prisons are functionally or marginally illiterate and 85 percent of juvenile offenders have problems associated with reading, writing and basic math.

Kids who hang out in the street and end up shooting each other aren't doing their homework because they have no homework to do.

Even anti-gun activists acknowledge that the kids apparently have nothing to do:

"We all want it to change, but how is the hard part," says Margo Davidson of the Caring People Alliance in North Philadelphia, where Andrea, Sierra, Christopher, and other teens can spend their afternoons after school. "We do the thing that we know how to do: We have a safe place for kids to come after school. We do family therapy and counseling, help people with [finding] jobs. But it's not enough. There are too many guns on the street and not enough jobs for young people."

Too many young people, says Ms. Davidson, are milling around after school with nothing to do except what the streets offer: guns and drugs.

Why is it that they have nothing to do?

I think it's because schools are not schools, but daytime holding facilities. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently featured a series of articles focusing on the violence in Philadelphia schools -- especially attacks on teachers. I'm not saying violence is unimportant (as I've said many times, if disruptive students were expelled, the rest might be able to learn), but focusing on violence in the schools reminds me of the focus on sex education (programs teaching students how to put condoms on bananas, etc.). With sex and violence getting all the attention, what's being overlooked is a complete failure of education.

Let's take West Philadelphia High -- the focus of the series on violent attacks against teachers. Of course violence against teachers is deplorable, but if teachers had the ability to discipline disruptive students at the slightest hint of trouble (and discipline means being able expel them from class), the violence rate would plummet, and the students who wanted to learn could do so. Instead, very few are learning anything at West Philadelphia High. Well, they might be learning that schools are violent holding facilities, but they are certainly not learning how to read and write.

As the following chart (from the very helpful web site) graphically illustrates, students at West Philadelphia High are for the most part functional illiterates.


By way of contrast, here's Lower Merion High School -- a suburban school just minutes away from West Philadelphia High.


I think the contrast is shocking. And it has nothing to do with the "availability of guns," as the gun laws are the same statewide.

I am sick of hearing that guns cause crime when the real problem is so glaringly obvious. In today's society, functionally illiterate people are simply dysfunctional. They are not so much unemployed as they are unemployable. There was a time when children in all schools were taught how to read and do simple math, and there's no reason why the same can't be true today.

Instead of looking at the daily murder toll, I think Philadelphians should be looking at the city's annual illiteracy toll.

We're still supposed to care about root causes, aren't we?

MORE (03/20/07): Anyone who wants to understand why inner city schools are so awful, the comment from teacher KarenT below provides some indication. But the best critique I've seen (an indictment really), is Megan McArdle's post (via Glenn Reynolds) which lays out the full scope of the problem point by point. Like these:

1) The American educational system sucks.

2) It particularly sucks for poor and minority kids

3) It has sucked in approximately the same way for at least forty years.

4) The institutional barriers to not sucking are apparently insurmountable with the current interest groups in place.

5) It is extremely segregated by class, race, and income

6) It is extremely hard to recruit and keep good teachers

7) As a result, the schools with the most attractively upper middle class parents and children get almost all of the good teachers (Emphasis added.)

There's a lot more, and the bottom line (as far as I'm concerned) is that the teachers unions stand in the way of any meaningful reform, and the only prayer of hope is in vouchers.

posted by Eric at 10:57 AM | Comments (3)

Let's Make It Happen

There is a site up to collect donations to make the Bussard Fusion Reactor a reality.

If you are interested have a look at EMC2 Fusion.

I have no idea how reputable the organization is so you might want to look into that before sending money. They do have some nice pictures of Dr. Bussard's experimental devices.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 02:46 AM | Comments (1)

"I so hope he runs."

When I waxed enthusiastically about a possible Fred Thompson candidacy in a previous post, a commenter threw a little cold water on my enthusiasm:

Thompson voted for McCain-Feingold. That disqualifies him from upholding and defending the Constitution.

He'll get no vote from me.

The commenter is not alone.

Asked about McCain-Feingold by the WSJ's John Fund, Thompson seems to be having second thoughts:

Many on the right remain angry he supported the campaign finance law sponsored by his friend John McCain. "There are problems with people giving politicians large sums of money and then asking them to pass legislation," Mr. Thompson says. Still, he notes he proposed the amendment to raise the $1,000 per person "hard money" federal contribution limit.

Conceding that McCain-Feingold hasn't worked as intended, and is being riddled with new loopholes, he throws his hands open in exasperation. "I'm not prepared to go there yet, but I wonder if we shouldn't just take off the limits and have full disclosure with harsh penalties for not reporting everything on the Internet immediately."

Mr. Thompson has also been criticized for failing to back some comprehensive tort-reform bills because of his background as a trial lawyer. Here he insists his stance was based on grounds of federalism. "I'm consistent. I address Federalist Society meetings," he says, noting that more issues should be left to the states. For example, he cast the lonely "nay" in 99-1 votes against a national 0.8% blood alcohol level for drivers, a federal law banning guns in schools, and a measure limiting the tort liability of Good Samaritans. "Washington overreaches, and by doing so ends up not doing well the basics people really care about." Think Katrina and Walter Reed.

Indeed, the federal government's inability to function effectively would likely be a major theme of any Thompson campaign. "Audits have shown we've lost control of the waste and mismanagement in our most important agencies. It's getting so bad it's affecting our national security."

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

I have to say, I like the fact that Thompson was a lone Federalist "nay" in a sea of 99 Big Government "ayes."

Of course, I realize not everyone likes Fred Thompson, and I was especially crushed to read what James Wolcott said about him:

God what a grumpy old dog farting on the front porch he was yesterday, parked across the table from Chris Wallace. I so hope he runs. He has all the sparkle, verve, charisma, and inspirational lift of Lawrence Eagleburger acting as if it's some great imposition on him to discuss foreign policy and explain subtleties to idiots. Despite being a two-time Senator, Thompson acts as if he didn't cotton the way they do things in Washington and shouldn't be confused with the rest of those deal-cutting politicians.
Well, if he's the lone Federalist vote, maybe he shouldn't be confused with the rest of them.

Besides, anyone who can draw Wolcott's venom before even making a formal announcement looks pretty good to me.

As to "I so hope he runs," well, I say ditto to that! I find it genuinely refreshing to be able to agree with James Wolcott for once.

I simply won't touch Wolcott's "grumpy old dog" analogy, though, as I think canine comparisons should be scrupulously avoided -- especially in this race.

I mean, what if I said the female version of "grumpy old dog" was "grumpy old bitch"?

That might be misunderstood.

MORE: Pajamas Media has exclusive from Fred Thompson about the movie "300." Excerpt:

Who are these guys who are getting all flushed over our cultural insensitivity?

People who want to blow Jews off the face of the earth. The regime that stormed our embassy in 1979 and kept Americans captive for 444 days. Iran's Hezbollah puppets have killed more Americans, than any other terrorist group except Al Qaeda. Explosive devices from Iran are being used right now against our soldiers in Iraq. They're clearly more skittish about cultural warfare than the sort that actually kills people - like the one against Israel that Iran financed just a few months ago.

I must say that I'm impressed that Hollywood took on a politically incorrect villain. Must have run out of neo-Nazis. So now these sensitive souls in Iran think that Hollywood is part of a U.S. government conspiracy to humiliate them into submission. I can only wish we were that effective.

Again, I so hope he runs!

posted by Eric at 01:55 PM | Comments (3)

The Man Who Beat the DC Gun Ban

Robert A. Levy is the man who beat the Washington DC gun ban.

Meet Robert A. Levy, staunch defender of the Second Amendment, a wealthy former entrepreneur who said he has never owned a firearm and probably never will.

"I don't actually want a gun," Levy said by phone last week from his residence, a $1.7 million condominium in a Gulf Coast high-rise. "I mean, maybe I'd want a gun if I was living on Capitol Hill. Or in Anacostia somewhere. But I live in Naples, Florida, in a gated community. I don't feel real threatened down here."

He is 65, a District native who left the city 40 years ago for Montgomery County, a self-made millionaire who thinks the government interferes too much with people's liberties. He was an investment analyst before he sold his company for a fortune and enrolled in law school at age 49. Now he's a constitutional fellow with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, working in his luxury condo 1,000 miles away.

There is lots more. GRTWT

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 12:13 PM

Mr. Fusion

Fusion ReactorInstapundit says that we will need coal, oil, and natural gas for some time even if some one invents Mr. Fusion tomorrow. Which is true.

However, Mr. Fusion was invented yesterday (several years ago actually).

It was invented by Dr Robert Bussard formerly of the AEC fusion office. He did the work under a Naval contract.

The Bussard Fusion Reactor will lower electrical costs at the busbar by at least 10X over coal or fission nuke power plants. Capital cost for electical plants using the Bussard Fusion design will decline by at least 5X mainly because no turbines, condensers, steam generators or electrical generators are required. With such a lowering of costs and simplicity of required equipment, roll out will be very fast.

The reactor is just a big sphere surrounded by electro-magnets. The main cost of the plant is converting the 2 million volts DC output to AC for local use. The direct 2 million volt output would be great for long distance transmission. Although the plants copuld be sited in just about any reasonably sized electrical yard since any required cooling would not requre a water supply. Air cooling would work fine.

The power generator is about 10 to 12 ft across for an output between 100 MW and 1,000 MW. Power output scales as the 7th power of size. Double the size and you get 128X as much power.

No thermal plant is required. Thermal plants - steam generators, turbines etc. - are long lead time items. They can take from 3 to 5 years from start of production to delivery. The Bussard Fusion Reactor output is direct 2 million volts DC. (a very large battery).

Unlike fission plants there is no fuel stored in the reactor core = no Three Mile Island kind of problems. Turn off the electricity or turn off the fuel and the
reaction stops.

It would make a good rocket engine for fast interplanetary travel.

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion - video plus technical details.

Dr Bussard needs $2 million in start up funds to verify reaction constants. He will need $200 million for a test reactor.

The fuel is Boron 11 which is very abundant. We have 200,000+ years of reserves on the planet if it is used exclusively for power. Most borax is used now for borosilicate glass.

Let me take this time to specifically thank the crew at Classical Values Justin and Eric for giving me a heads up on this.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:59 AM | Comments (2)

If you're trapped on a plane, may God (PBUH) help you!

I'm not much of a fan of litigation (or, for that matter, litigators). But reading something like this tends to make my blood boil vicariously:

Rahul Chandran said he was trapped aboard a Cathay Pacific Airways jet from midnight until nearly 9:30 a.m. Saturday, when the flight to Vancouver was finally canceled.

Throughout the night, the pilot repeatedly described problems with deicing equipment, including a lack of fluid, that kept the plane waiting endlessly to have its wings sprayed. When the airline finally gave up and tried to return the plane to its terminal, it took at least another hour to arrange a gate, he said.

"You can't keep your passengers on the plane for 9 1/2 hours," said Chandran, 30, of New York City. "They kept saying 'half an hour more, 45 minutes more.' But by the time it got to hour six, we were pretty much accepting that we weren't going to go ... At least in the terminal, you can get up and walk around."

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the metropolitan area's airports, said airlines , not the airport , are responsible for supplying and maintaining terminal deicing equipment.

Port Authority aviation director Bill DeCota said airport operators and the carriers need to collectively work out a solution quickly to what is evolving as a major problem with deicing.

Just last month, JetBlue stranded passengers on several planes for up to 10 1/2 hours during a similar storm. At the time, the airline said its inability to get planes deiced in accordance with the new FAA rules was a factor.

"We and the carriers need to sit down and find out whether there is anything we can do," DeCota said. "I know there are a lot of irate passengers, and they have a right to be."

I know there was a storm (it deposited six inches of ice in my yard, and I don't know when it will melt), but I can see no excuse for keeping passengers on a plane for 9 1/2 hours. The airlines are so callused that there is just no remedy for situations like this. I think that if for whatever reason a plane cannot fly, the passengers should simply be allowed to get off. There's no way that in that period of time they couldn't have gotten them off, and I think it constitutes false imprisonment. Unfortunately, there's no other way to teach the callused airlines a lesson than to sue.

And here in Philadelphia,

some passengers spent more than four hours strapped into airplane seats, idling on the taxiways waiting patiently for takeoff clearances that would never come.

While four hours is not as bad as ten hours, it's still inexcusable. I think the airlines are getting away with this stuff for three reasons:

  • 1. People are more and more used to being herded like cattle; and
  • 2. The more accustomed people become to bureaucratic restrictions, the less they complain and the more callused those with petty power become; and

  • 3. A climate of corporate unaccountability prevails, in which there's no reliable chain of command, and no discipline exercised over individual employees.

    What are the passengers supposed to do? Start a riot? Not a good idea -- especially because it can now be considered a criminal offense just to yell at airline employees.


    I think there might be a loophole.

    Isn't it still legal to yell "ALLAHUAKBAR!"?

    (Yes, it is legal. And if yelling "ALLAHUAKBAR!" frightens other passengers and gets you put off the plane, you can still sue for damages! That's a twofer.)

    NOTE: This was satire. I do not advocate yelling "ALLAHUAKBAR!" -- not even if you're trapped on a plane with Ann Coulter and Andrew Sullivan.

    UPDATE (3/19/07): Via Glenn Reynolds, I read about a passenger who managed not only to avoid feeling stressed out by flight hassles, but got a free in-flight upgrade to first class! (This gives "final destination" an all new meaning....)

  • posted by Eric at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)

    Anndrew Coulter?

    Can anyone explain to me what gives Andrew Sullivan the to right use the word "faggot" with impunity?

    I have to say that I find it very annoying that he is using the word to describe Mickey Kaus, and I think it tends to undermine what I thought was his position that the word should not be used.

    Actually, while I do not defend either (and I wrote several posts criticizing Ann Coulter for her use of the word), a good argument can be made that Sullivan's use of the word is at least as odious as Ann Coulter's. Here's what he said (in a post titled "The Faggot-Guy"):

    ....from now on, inspired by South Park, on those few occasions when his name comes up, [Mickey Kaus] will have a new appellation on this blog. He's the Faggot-Guy now. How does it feel, Faggot-Guy?
    Sullivan might imagine that he's "retaliating" against Kaus for having defended the use of the word (he argued about its context in the past), but the crucial difference is the Kaus has never used the word as a pejorative -- against Sullivan or anyone else. He has said repeatedly that he doesn't use it and is against using it:
    For the record: 1) I don't defend and haven't defended use of the ugly and offensive word "faggot." On Ann Coulter's remarks, I wrote that it's a "a toxic word that shouldn't have been used even in a joke--or anyway in that joke." It's not a word I use or accept others using.
    Nevertheless Sullivan used it to put down Kaus -- in at least two posts -- and he says he'll keep doing it.

    Here's why I think Sullivan's word use is at least as egregious as Coulter's:

  • While making it clear that she intended it as a putdown of John Edwards, Ann Coulter did not directly call Edwards a "faggot." She used praeteritio -- a rhetorical trick which involves saying something by saying you won't say it.
  • Ann Coulter later explained that she believed the term was acceptable only when used to describe heterosexuals as long as it was not implied they were gay. By using the term to put down a heterosexual man without any implication that he is gay, Sullivan has implicitly endorsed Ann Coulter's tactical use of the insult, except he criticized her for doing what he now does. By his own standards, this makes Sullivan a hypocrite.
  • Sullivan is gay, and Coulter is not. By taking special advantage of his gay status, Sullivan uses the word and uses identity politics as a protective shield. This tends to encourage bigots to use the word by almost daring them, and I think it's irresponsible, and certainly should not be coming from a man who many consider to be a de facto gay leader.
  • While I would never call for censorship of any kind, I have many times called for civility, and I think the use of derogatory pejoratives to insult people is beyond the pale -- whether by an leading author at CPAC or by a leading blogger attacking another blogger. I think it is especially abhorrent for Sullivan to be doing this, because he knows damned well that anyone who retaliates in kind will automatically look like a bigot. The thing is, by calling Kaus a faggot, he's inviting the use of this word in his own slimy way, just as Ann Coulter invited it in her own slimy way.

    I think it's reprehensible, and I think Sullivan should apologize.

    Of course, Ann Coulter hasn't apologized, and since Sullivan appears to be following her lead, I don't expect he will either.

    The only thing I can say in Sullivan's defense is that I think he's being a copycat; Ann Coulter started this latest outburst of calling people faggots, and now Sullivan has shown himself unable to resist tagging along. I think the left has benefited enormously from Ann Coulter's remarks (as Rand Simberg said, she fragged her own troops). So far, people not on the left are fighting, while people on the left are gloating.

    In a comment to my earlier post about the Ann Coulter episode, I asked, "Will any good come of this?"

    Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not seeing any good yet.

    (Sorry, but this post was no fun. Neither is this topic.)

    posted by Eric at 07:28 PM | Comments (6)

    Why they hate free speech

    Dr. Helen's reflections on how quickly and dramatically members of a New York audience changed their minds after a global warming debate drove home the deep significance of the sharp scolding Al Gore gave the MSM for daring to present both sides.

    While it's very easy to condemn Al Gore for what appears to be an outrageous position "against free speech," that's a simplistic, even moralistic, approach. It's fine if the goal is just to dismiss the opposition, but I think that when someone of Al Gore's stature goes out of his way to advocate against presenting dissenting views, the reasons why are worth closer scrutiny.

    I think there has been a huge rush job to sell the public on the anthropogenic theory of global warming, and now too many people are asking inconvenient questions (especially if they get to watch inconvenient documentaries).

    For people who have been dominating (and basically winning) the debate for a long time, this must be incredibly tedious. I think that accounts for a growing emotional need to simply end the discussion! Without getting into the merits of either side (I remain a skeptic), I think that there might be some kind of emerging rule along the following lines:

    The bigger the debate and discussion grows, the greater the need to declare the discussion over.

    The problem is, this is not simply a scientific debate. While is of course that, in addition it is:

  • 1. a political debate within a scientific debate; and
  • 2. a scientific debate within a political debate.
  • If it were purely a scientific debate over a long-settled and repeatedly verified scientific fact I could see the argument behind simply telling people to shut up, as well as criticizing the media for "balance." I mean, there are people who believe the earth is 10,000 years old, but it would be highly misleading to claim that there's a scientific debate over whether this is true. It is no more true than the contention that the earth is flat.

    The problem is, advocates of policies like the Kyoto protocols and carbon taxing hold that their support of them is "science," and cite for support the fact that "thousands of scientists" have endorsed what are inherently political proposals. To be against a tax or a treaty is not to be against science, but against a particular human remedy for a problem over which the scope and causes are still being disputed -- yes, even by some scientists.

    What has annoyed me the most about this debate is the huge advantage that one side has. By being able to claim that "science" is behind them, they don't need to understand the science. They can be totally ignorant, yet their agreement with "science" puts the onus on anyone who disagrees in the position of having to gain an understanding of the science in order to justify his disagreement. If we assume a debate between two completely ignorant laypersons, one taking the position for anthropogenic global warming, and the other against, the former has the advantage of being "on the side of science" (even if he knows nothing about it), while the latter is necessarily put in the ridiculous position of being not only ignorant, but against science!

    Factor in the human tendency not to want to look ridiculous, and it's easy to see which side the ignorant will choose.

    In logic, it's simply an argument to authority.

    A lot of what passes for argument in this debate consists of the invocation of favorite authorities for or against. Few take the time to read through and understand the authorities they're citing.

    M. Simon has far more patience and stamina than I do where it comes to slogging through these endless debates, and he wrote a number of (twenty seven, at last count) excellent comments to this post by Megan McArdle. McArdle simply titled it "Open Comment Thread" and to her credit, took absolutely no position on the debate she started by her two posts at InstaPundit.

    An engineer by training, M. Simon has written a great post called "Climate Alchemy" which discusses his own comments in detail. It's a must read.

    A few commenters criticized Megan McArdle unfairly, and considering that she started a comment thread when she didn't have to, it's highly disingenuous to accuse her (as this commenter did) of "suppress[ing] public discussion of a very important topic, about which one would think people would want as much info as possible." Another commenter seemed to think she suggested it wasn't worth debating:

    When you say something is not worth debating you are telling a lot of us to shut up, that we don't have a right to tell our point of view.
    Again, I don't think that's what she did. She raised an issue, and went out of her way to give people a chance to discuss and debate it. How many other anthropogenic global warming proponents have done this? I think she deserves praise, as I think this issue needs more -- not less -- debate.

    On one minor point, I disagree with the idea that the views of Ron Bailey are controlling one way or another, and I think this comment is simply an argument to authority:

    Who's Ron Bailey and what authority is he?

    Ron Bailey writes for Reason magazine, and he's much smarter than you and everyone else here.

    This is relevant because Megan McArdle stated that "when you've convinced Ron Bailey it's happening, you've convinced me."

    (While I greatly respect Ron Bailey, I don't think there's anyone about whom I could say that convincing him convinces me. It would impress me, and it might force me to look more closely, but I can't be convinced of something simply because someone else is convinced. Plus, I'm a bit skeptical of Bailey's apparent advocacy of "Green Economics," and I hope the Green Economics Institute hired him in order to have a diversity of opinion.....)

    Another commenter expresses the exasperation which I identified earlier:

    From Jane Smith:
    I am greatly disturbed at the general public's tendency to believe this theory without serious, critical thinking
    As we have told you over and over, we have already had "serious, critical thinking", we have already asked the "hard questions", and we now have a consensus on the answers with which no rational person can even find the smallest crack to debate. End of discussion!
    As you can see if you take the time read through the 216 comments, no matter what position one takes, it's wishful thinking to declare the discussion at an end.

    There are too many parts to the anthropogenic global warming debate for the discussion to end. Too many arguments within arguments, and suppositions within suppositions. This argument will not end soon, nor should it.

    Considering that the methodology of measuring temperatures has come into question (and I have long wondered by what right the MSM says "highest ever" when it means "highest since 1880"), and that even assuming there's a statistically significant increase there's a debate between CO2 and solar activity as a cause, it's quite a stretch to maintain the debate is settled over what could be done about it, and from there to what should be done about it. (Hell, there's even an argument that deliberately warming the planet might be beneficial and not evil.)

    I'd say not only has the debate barely started, but there's a lot more than one debate. More will emerge. (Again, one of my pet peeves is that according to the data cited by the theory's proponents, eating animals is the number one cause of anthropogenic global warming. So why is it "scientific" to target fossil fuel?)

    People who oppose debating make me think they're either weak on their arguments, or have completely made up their minds and are unwilling to think any further.

    I think the people who don't want this issue debated would prefer that the ignorant remain ignorant, in the hope that when the ignorant masses make up their minds, it will be on the side of what they are told is "science." The more people learn about the science the greater the chances of having a real argument in which people can make up their own minds.

    But history shows that the purveyors of inconvenient truths don't like inconvenient arguments.

    MORE: I just got in from extensive shoveling. Well, "shovel" is not a complete description, as I had to first use a splitting maul to crack the ice before I could get the shovel underneath to throw it aside.

    A thought did occur to me though.

    Anyone remember this scary-looking picture of greed?


    If people continue to desert the Northeast and temperatures continue to rise, wouldn't heating oil consumption go down dramatically?

    Or would it be better to invoke the precautionary principle proactively, and transform the Northeast into a population-free zone?

    What would scientists say?

    UPDATE: I completely forgot about the Gore effect (also known as the "coldening"), but Glenn Reynolds got back just in time to remind me that when Gore speaks, ice descends.

    I know correlation is not causation, but hasn't this coldening thing happened a few times too many?

    At this rate they'll have to nickname Al "Frosty."

    posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (14)

    Friday fun

    This is one of the most unbelievable videos I have seen to date.

    Unfortunately, I can't read, write, or speak Japanese (at least I think it's a Japanese show), so I have no idea what they are talking about.

    It pretty much speaks for itself. A chimpanzee and a bulldog do a fairly complex (for animals, at least) exercise routine. Be patient; the real action doesn't start until 17 seconds into the video.

    If the player doesn't work in your browser, the link is here

    Can anyone tell me what this is and whether it's real?

    (Whatever it is, I'm hoping the bulldog's name is "Halliburton.")

    MORE: Oh, I almost forgot to give the title (which probably won't display):


    Hope that makes everything clear.

    GRRRR: The title came through as nonsense characters, so here's a screenshot:


    I'm sure everything is clear now.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Considering my last post, I hope the animal rights activists approve of this.

    Well, I think I can truthfully state that no animals were harmed in any way in the making of this blog post!

    posted by Eric at 01:02 PM | Comments (4)

    Meat denial is so old it seems canned!

    Regular readers know how I feel about the animal rights movement. However, for the embattled few who still maintain that an anthropogenic cause for Global Warming has not been established, it is my position that they're the best possible allies, for they put the lie to the people who see the automobile as the primary offender.

    For the umpteenth time, by the environmentalists' own data, eating animals is the number one cause of Global Warming.

    According to that standard, the "The Fifth Annual International Eat an Animal for PETA Day" (linked by Tom Maguire, guest blogging at InstaPundit) really ought to have a subtitle along the lines of "Eat an Animal to Warm the Planet."

    I could have, would have, and perhaps should have ignored Megan McArdle's guest post at InstaPundit stating her belief in the anthropogenic theory, because I don't enjoy debating with people I respect (even if co-blogger M. Simon does). However, her failure to address meat consumption despite the blatant earth warming advocacy in Tom Maguire's Eat-The-Meat post simply cannot be ignored.

    But what am I personally supposed to do to resolve this conflict?

    Eat my meat and send a "sirloin offsets" check to PETA?

    That might offset this:


    But will it offset Coco's conspicuous canine consumption?


    Go ahead. Tell me Coco should be a vegan!

    (Right now she's waiting for Al Gore to set an example.)

    posted by Eric at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

    Climate Alchemy - Turning Hot Air Into Gold

    I have been having an ongoing discussion at Jane Galt about climate change. The discussion has been wide ranging, but what I want to focus on is the input data for the climate models and some of the problems with the models themselves.

    I'm going to reprise my remarks here with block quotes. Block quotes in italics will be saved for other commenters. Revised and extended of course.

    So let us look at the temperature record and how much reliance we should place on the data:

    Temperature measurement instruments are not well enough calibrated to measure a 1 deg F signal over a 100 year span. A really expensive and well calibrated instrument re-calibrated weekly could probably measure down to the .1 deg F level in the field. If you have an above average instrument calibrated yearly you might get 1 deg F. Now try extrapolating that back to the days of glass thermomometers and humans reading the numbers.

    And you want to tell me that within that error band you can find a 1 deg. F (.6 deg. C) signal (temp rise over the last 100 years)?

    Oh yeah. Moving the measuring site 30 ft could easily cause as much as 1 deg F difference due to micro climate. Would you care to bet on how many measuring stations have moved 30 ft in the last 100 years? Would you want to make a trillion dollar bet?

    OK. We are all libertarians here. When do I get my share of the really good hemp?

    I never got offered the hemp. Just as well. :-)

    I'm an electronics engineer by trade. I worked in aerospace which is one step below rocket science. Let me add that my aerospace specialty was instrumentation and control. So it is quite possible that I actually know something about the problems of measurement and control.

    Continue reading "Climate Alchemy - Turning Hot Air Into Gold"

    posted by Simon at 04:58 AM | Comments (3)

    Looking at Doctors and Drugs

    Hootsbuddy's Place has a look at how doctors prescribe psychoactive drugs. Not a pretty picture. As Hootsbuddy says:

    This remarkable young woman is changing the way I look at people, medicine and just about everything else.
    So go read the whole thing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:26 PM | Comments (1)

    Your local station and Al Gore don't want you to see this!

    Cynic that I am, I am amazed that a documentary taking issue with the anthropogenic theory of Global Warming managed to find its way onto television, but it has.

    And on British television at that!

    I guess we're a little behind on this side of the ocean, although I'm a bit surprised, because the usual stereotype is that media bias in Europe is worse than here.

    Not so in this case.

    Here's Noel Sheppard from Newsbusters:

    With American media falling all over themselves in unbridled adoration for soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore while they generate totally unwarranted hysteria over climate change, it seems impossible to imagine a televised documentary debunking the junk science surrounding this issue.

    Yet, across the Pond, our greatest ally, Great Britain, has done exactly that.

    The program is called "The Great Global Warming Swindle," and the entire must-see video has been posted at Google

    Earthtimes has its review, and Newsbusters discusses an interview with director Martin Durkin about the frenzied fight against the documentary.

    The documentary is over an hour long and can be watched in its entirety at YouTube (and here's the Google version), but I thought I'd supply an eight minute teaser version (which follows).

    Needless to say, George Monbiot (and, I'm sure, all of his Biotic moonbots) are hopping mad.

    But the big question on my mind is What Would Al Gore Say?

    I'd call Al Gore and ask him to comment, but I doubt he'd talk to me -- even if I said I was with the country's leading values site. However, Steven Milloy says this:

    When I met Al Gore in January 2006 after a presentation of his climate slideshow, I asked him if he'd be interested in setting up a public debate between climate scientists. He declined - twice. At this point, I'd settle for a movie face-off - "An Inconvenient Truth" vs. "The Great Global Warming Swindle."

    Let the public see both sides of the story and then we'll see who's believable and who's not.

    At this point I'm just glad we still have free speech for evil deniers (even if it has to be imported from abroad).

    Here's the eight minute teaser.

    (The link is here if the video won't work in your browser.)

    MORE (03/16/07): Here's Dr. Helen, on a Pajamas Media report about how quickly a recent global warming debate changed the minds of a New York audience:

    I am certainly glad that Crichton and his colleagues changed some minds at the debate but it makes me wonder, "Isn't it kind of astounding that such a high percentage of people changed their minds about global warming over one debate?" It makes me wonder what happens when An Inconvenient Truth is shown in schools without any scientists or experts on the other side to balance out the views of global warming advocates. If adults can change their mind this quickly when given another view of global warming or perhaps any political message for that matter, then what does it do to kids to give them one side of an issue without equally presenting the other side?
    I think it indicates that Americans (even those who are assumed to be left wing) are inherently skeptical about political messages.

    Not that I blame them. I often wish people would learn to think for themselves.

    But do they have time?

    AND MORE: I think this phenomenon may be a classic illustration of why Al Gore is against media balance.

    posted by Eric at 06:02 PM | Comments (6)

    maggots make me sick!

    Here's something I hate that happens to me all too often (and probably indicates senility).... I'll be in the course of looking for one thing, and I'll stumble upon something interesting (or inane as the case may be), but because that's completely unrelated, I'll forget where I saw it, and then days later something else will remind me of it, but I can't remember where I saw it.

    In this case, it "bugs" me, because it involves insect fear, and the "yuck" factor so often invoked as philosophically informative.

    There's an irony here, because in this case I think the "yuck factor" is philosophically informative.

    Anyway, once I put aside my guilt over how many Boreal virgins were sadistically shredded in pulp mills to produce this morning's Inquirer, I opened it up with my guilty, bloody hands, and saw a piece about the growing gastronomic trend -- eating grasshoppers. They serve them in a local restaurant, and the importer had to jump through years of FDA hoops to sell them as food (they're "agricultural pests" naturally enough), but now they're on the menu as gourmet food, and they're said to be delicious:

    In a warm tortilla slathered with creamy avocado, they taste great, providing a crackling chew and hit of salt and garlic. (Priced at $15.95 for a heaping ounce with avocado, lime and two soft tortillas.)

    A grasshopper is, it turns out, all about flakiness and crunch - an initial sensation of the Spanish peanut's flaky skin; then the hollow crunch of fried pork rind.

    The flavor? Well it's like anything oil-fried in garlic and lime, salt and chile, geared to maximize the lust for beer or, perhaps, a snifter of the bar's high-end, blanco tequila.

    Saute even a lowly snail in garlic and butter and it's easy to forget its origin and mode of transport.

    Which brings us to the broader cultural issue of dietary aversions: "How strange that we think it natural to eat some arthropods - even crabs," Calvin Schwabe writes in Unmentionable Cuisine, while sticking our noses up at bugs and caterpillars.

    Crabs, he points out, are notorious scavengers of the deep; grasshoppers, fastidious vegetarians.

    Which may be the way Suro will try to sell his next act - imported cactus worms (which are used in, among other applications, powdered salts) and, toward the end of the evening, I believe he made mention of the eggs of ants.

    But you've got to draw the line somewhere.

    (I draw the line at eating ants for moral reasons. Ants are hard-working, and grasshoppers are lazy! Just kidding, of course....)

    While I'm neurotic where it comes to eating liver and hard-boiled eggs (something that could probably be fixed with therapy), I have no problem with eating insects, and when I was a teenager I ate fried termites (by the plateful) in the Congo. If shrimp are served to me with the heads on (as they are in Europe and South America), I'll eat them in their entirety. Some people consider this gross, but I enjoy the taste and it doesn't bother me at all.

    Certainly there is a yuck factor involved, because we are conditioned that way. But it would never occur to me to think of this in moral terms, much less scold people for eating insects.

    However, I was reminded of something I'd seen somewhere. Someone somewhere had said insect eating did involve morality, and I'd seen it recently but just couldn't remember where. I googled and I googled, and finally, some angry leftists (trying, in their usual inane way, to link all conservatives to Dinesh D'Souza), supplied a clue. In the comments to this Crooks and Liars post, they claimed that D'Souza "implied gay marriage is akin to eating maggots" because liberals ate maggots on the "Fear Factor" show or something. One commenter was particularly irate:

    Dinesh D'Souza's version is that liberals eat maggots and promote the videos on TV. I do take exception to that because the Republicans own all the TV stations and they want to do everything on the cheap so they put on shows like the ones described. They find some idiot broke enough to compete for money by eating maggots. As a liberal, I refuse to take responsibility for such a middle school concept. When the adults take control of the TV landscape I'll start watching again.
    While I don't see what's liberal about eating maggots (or any other insect), this triggered my memory, and finally I found the source. It was D'Souza (in a screed I had linked just two days ago for other reasons), and I had not considered the maggot decadence remarks all that interesting, but here they are:
    ...are the radical Muslims right? Is America a threat to the traditional cultures of the world? Is American culture a worldwide destroyer of morals? Do American values undermine the traditional family and corrupt the innocence of children? Many Americans are likely to indignantly answer, "No." Even conservatives are reluctant to admit that some radical Muslims may have valid objections to American society. Patriotism itself seems to demand an American response that highlights the horrors of Islamic behavior. "Look how your religion inspires terrorists to kill women and children!" "Look how you oppress women!" As broad judgments on Muslim society, these charges are ethnocentric, which is to say they reflect a narrow, prejudiced view of Islamic culture. But even if the charges were true, they would hardly constitute a vindication of American culture.

    We should not dismiss the Islamic or traditional critique so easily. In fact, as our own domestic and cultural debate shows, we know that many of the concerns raised by the radical Muslims are widely-shared in our own society. Indeed, many conservative and religious Americans agree with the Islamic fundamentalists that American culture has become increasingly vulgar, trivial and disgusting. I am not merely referring to the reality shows where contestants eat maggots or the talk shows where guests reveal the humiliating details of their sex lives. I am also referring to "high culture," to liberal culture that offers itself as refined and sophisticated. (Emphasis supplied.)

    There's no question that most of us would find eating maggots to be disgusting, so I think it's a good example of the "yuck factor." (Certainly, a better one than ice cream licking, although the father of philosophical yuckery once deemed that to be disgusting, at least, if done in public.)

    I admit, eating maggots doesn't appeal to me, but for the right price I'd probably detach myself from my senses and give it a whirl. But would this be decadent? To people with religious dietary issues, perhaps. (Many Muslims, for example, are said to be prohibited from eating crabs and shrimp, and I can remember someone saying "God hates shrimp!" a few years back, and yes, it appears that God hates maggots.)

    Back to D'Souza, who shifts gears immediately from maggots to vaginas, and after reeling in what I'm assuming is sincere horror from "The Vagina Monologues," he asks an interesting question about "rights":

    If the garbage heap of American excess leaves many Americans feeling dirty and defiled at home, what gives America the right to dump it on the rest of the world?
    That's an unanswerable question as he poses it. I don't feel dirty and defiled by Fear Factor or the Vagina Monologues, and I'd be lying if I said I did. But what do my feelings have to do with the fact that some producer somewhere will sell videos of these things to people who are willing to pay for them? I mean, traditional Muslims hate alcohol too. Does that mean the Gallo wine company has no right to sell wine in other countries?

    Lots of people are grossed out by lots of things, and I am sure that many people find alcohol to be worse (and more yucky) than maggots or vaginas. Why should the yuck factor be invoked to limit the free market? It isn't as if anyone is being forced to rent videos and vomit over them, is it?

    Drink enough booze and you'll vomit too, and just whose "fault" would that be?

    But let's stick with maggots. I think they're disgusting. But is that "wise"?

    I'd probably find it more creepy to have maggots crawling inside my body. Such a reaction might very well be wise in the medical sense, because if maggots are crawling around inside me, I probably need a doctor.

    But wait!

    There's now an emerging medical consensus that maggots can actually be good for you. That under the right circumstances, they promote wound healing:

    It's enough to make your skin crawl -- yet flesh-eating maggots being applied to a festering wound that fails to heal could become a familiar sight in our hospitals. Last week Madeleine Moon, Labour MP for Bridgend, hailed maggots as an alternative to expensive antibiotic gels and lotions. She pointed out that maggots could speed recovery times, help to free hospital beds and fight MRSA. In a parliamentary motion backed by 35 MPs from all parties, she urged the Government to carry out clinical research into the widespread use of maggots.

    Recent studies have indicated that maggot therapy can cut treatment duration from 89 days to just five, and slash the cost from £2,200 to £300 per patient.

    Moon describes the grubs as "a highly cost-effective, highly efficient but forgotten and undervalued method of treatment", and Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, says that using fly larvae (maggots) is "increasingly common" and "an illuminating idea"

    In trials in Wales and Manchester, says Moon, patients not only recovered faster but noticed less smell and felt less pain from their rotting flesh when maggots were allowed to eat it. "Maggots are highly precise," she says. "Unlike surgeons, they remove only the rotting tissue. Surgeons have to cut out healthy tissue to clear the wound, thereby creating a larger wound and more bleeding."

    Last year 30,000 NHS patients had maggots applied to their wounds. A study published in the Journal of Wound Care suggested that if larvae were used more widely the annual saving could be £162 million.


    This "illuminating idea" generated an interesting conservative discussion at Free Republic, and interestingly, the "yuck factor" is discussed at length, but it didn't seem to be philosophically informative -- even to conservatives.

    I'm not sure whether that means FreeRepublic has gotten decadent, but I'm sure Sayid Qtub would think so if he were alive today. Hell, he thought vaginas were disgusting, and had a lot of issues that way, but is an organ that half of us humans have worth getting so exercised over that you have to start a movement around it?

    Is it wise? As it happens, I have known many gay men who find vaginas disgusting too. It is no exaggeration to describe their reaction as another form of the "yuck factor." But most of them didn't think this was a form of wisdom.

    We all have our "yucks," and they're all worth taking into account. But because they involve emotion, I don't think they're should be controlling over our ability to use logic and reason, and I disagree with the approach of calling them "wisdom."

    Obviously, billions would disagree with me, although I should try not to let their collective "yucks" trigger my counter "yuck."

    Of course, I'm human, so it's counterintuitive.

    posted by Eric at 09:58 AM | Comments (4)

    Meaningless Sacrifice

    The New York Times has an excellent report on the dead end of the Palestinian fight to destroy Israel. Even victories like expelling all Israelis from Gaza look like defeats.

    "It was always our choice to be fuel for the struggle," he said. "But our problem now is that the car burns the youth as fuel but doesn't move. There's a problem in the engine, in the head. These kids are willing to be fuel, but many have been burned as waste."

    Mr. Zubeidi was a hero of the first intifada. "When I was younger I thought, 'if I die, that's natural, it's for a cause,' " he said. "And today I think differently. To die? For what? For these people who can't agree? That's what this generation fears. It's lost, and its sacrifices are meaningless. Is the Palestinian dream dying? In these circumstances, yes."

    Actually this is a very hopeful sign. Wars end when one side loses all hope.

    One must also look carefully at what the Palestinian hope is. The destruction of Israel and the expulsion of all Jews from "Moslem" lands. The end of that hope could be the beginning of reality.

    A Palestinian father talks about his children's future.

    For the Id al-Fitr festival, the boys asked for toy Kalashnikovs and Uzis, and they know all about the crude rockets, the Qassams, that militants fire into southern Israel. "They classify the weapons, they want a particular gun," Mrs. Assar said. "And when you think of the violence, and what future will we have here? It will be a very violent future."

    Mr. Assar broke in. "The world is moving ahead, and we're moving backward," he said. "We're back to 1948."

    What was 1948? The first Arab war to exterminate the Jews or drive them from Israel. It was a failure for the Arabs.

    They commemorate their defeat with Al-nakba Day. Nakba means "catastrophe" or "disaster." So far Palestinian Arabs have one disaster after another to celebrate. Every few years they come up with a reason for a new holiday.

    What happens when a culture is just going through the motions and no longer believes in its own myths? It collapses. The fall of the USSR is a prime example that is less than 20 years old.

    In another part of the refugee camp, four black-clad fighters gathered in self-conscious secrecy, members of the Abu Rish brigades, a militant Gazan offshoot of Fatah that opposed the Oslo accords with Israel and has moved closer to Hamas.

    Raed, 30, was arrested in the first intifada, when he was 16. He felt a hero at the time, but the political result, the 1993 Oslo accords, "were useless and benefited Israel," he said. "No one can resist with stones or build a nation without violence."

    Like his comrades, he says he is fighting for the future of his own children, but he has small hopes for them, and large fears. "Hamas and Fatah are so divided, the goal of Palestine disappears," he said. "I talk about willing my children to be martyrs for Allah, but I honestly wish for them to be safe and healthy, that's all."

    There is bravado there, but also frustration. None of the fighters, who agreed to talk if their last names were not published, believes a Palestinian state will be established; none can imagine living next to Israel. All of them want to leave and start again, somewhere.

    What do you do when your dreams of conquest turn into a nightmare of defeat? If you can, you go some place else to start over.

    Where that some where might be is not yet determined. Their Arab brothers certainly don't want them. With their propensity for violence they will not be welcomed in any civilized place. Even conquest only gets you so far when you run out of victims. Then you must return to productive pursuits and produce real fruits. Martyrdom produces no fruit.

    Gaza is a poor, chaotic place of 1.5 million people, 70 percent of them refugees or their descendants. Younger, more conservative and more religious than the West Bank, Gaza is the heartland of Hamas, and the people of Gaza are even more constrained by Israeli and Egyptian security restrictions on their travel. There are fewer jobs than in the West Bank, and even more weapons.

    With the economy of Gaza shutting down, much of the work available for young people is either in the swollen and disorganized security forces or in the armed militias or gangs, many of them built on clan loyalties, and some of which engage more in racketeering than in fighting. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with considerable financial help from Iran and Syria, are known at least to pay their people, even if Hamas cannot pay full salaries to all Palestinian Authority employees.

    Hassan, 21, ran out of money before finishing university, but cannot imagine what he would do in Gaza with a degree. "I look at the graduates here, and their diplomas are useless," he said. "That's why I'm in the resistance."

    Before the start of Intifada II the Palestinian and Israeli economies were integrating. Unemployment among Palestinian Arabs has declined from about 35% to about 15% over a four year period. That ended in 2000 with the start of the latest war between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

    One of Arafat's henchmen gave the reason for the start of the latest war - well fed people do not wish to fight. So it was Arafat's policy to start wars when the people stared progressing. Economic independence makes rule difficult. People start gaining a measure of independence. Alternate power centers are created. What dictator wants that going on in his back yard?

    Khader Fayyad, 46, lives in Beit Hanun and works as an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent, dispatched to every horror.

    "I call these kids the destroyed generation," Mr. Fayyad said. "Nobody pays attention to this generation, except to recruit them, and it's very dangerous."

    He is proud of 16-year-old Ayman, the brightest of his sons. But he feels unable to provide him a valuable future.

    Mr. Fayyad's own father died when he was 17. But it was a different time, he said -- the peace talks, the Oslo accords, the return of responsibility to Palestinians over their lives, Camp David. "We were exposed to the world, to politics, and yes, to Israelis," he said.

    "Resistance and politics must go together," he said. "Yasir Arafat knew how to use one for the other. Now, there is no politics, no talks, so the sacrifices of the youth are wasted and empty."

    Ayman, however, like most members of his generation, cannot imagine living in peace next to an Israel that has ripped up his town, or becoming friends with an Israeli who has rolled over his schoolyard in a tank.

    Which only indicates that their defeat is not yet sufficiently complete. The Germans and Japanese found a way to work with their enemies. To get to that point however they needed to be utterly crushed and face starvation.

    Short of that they will have to live with hopelessness for probably another decade before the reality of the situation crushes them utterly.

    Mr. Hussein says he has never spoken to an ordinary Israeli. "The only Israelis I see here are either settlers or soldiers," he said. "They all have guns."

    He hates waiting on people and washing dishes, and says he is still looking for a decent job. But he is also looking to get out -- to the United States, if possible, where his sister lives, but "almost any place," he said, "where I can work and live a normal life."

    He is a Palestinian patriot, he insists. "But there's no hope here," he said. "You see the situation. It's useless to think it will improve. You see it; it just gets worse."

    Just how bad can it get? Very bad even for those trying to leave.
    Even the young fighters of the Abu Rish brigade have tried to leave. Muhammad and Saado, both 27, sold their weapons, took bank loans and paid $2,000 for visas and tickets from Cairo to Beijing on Austrian Airlines. They made it out of Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, but the Egyptians put them on a bus, locked the door and drove straight to the airport. For the four days before their departure, they said, the Egyptians then locked them into a crammed airport waiting room.

    "A dog wouldn't use the toilet," Muhammad said. "They charged us 150 Egyptian pounds a day ($26.30) to use a seat, even the little kids. One Egyptian said, 'Even a dead body has to pay.' " They bribed guards to bring them food and water.

    The day of their flight, a Friday, they were brought to the departure hall. But an airlines security guard examined their documents and turned them away. Presumably, the visas were fake. "He looked at us as if we were evil," Saado said. "There was no respect for us. I hate the Israelis, but I hate the Egyptians more."

    They were returned to the fetid waiting room, and a day later, when there was a busload, they were shipped back, first to El Arish. There they waited for days in an even more disgusting detention area, they said, until the Rafah crossing opened.

    "When we finally got back to Gaza, I kissed the soil," Muhammad said, laughing at his humiliation. "We said, 'Gaza is paradise!' "

    In time it is possible the Palestinian Arabs will figure out who their real enemies are. Their leaders and their Arab "brothers" who use them as cannon fodder.

    Some want to leave at any cost.

    What about those who would accuse you of giving up your rights in your land?

    Mr. Hussein turned away. "I don't care," he finally said. "I want to live happily."

    First the myth dies. Then the struggle to uphold it even with lip service ends. Once that is over, and it could take a decade or more, new beginnings are possible. Provided they change their operating myth. Building must replace fighting as the motivating ideal. It is very difficult. Not impossible.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:45 AM

    wholesome ghosts brought to life on YouTube

    I don't know why I'm not more interested in the Alberto Gonzales, um US Attorneys, um story. Maybe I'm a hack.

    But at least I'm not a heartless hack.

    I can remember my heart was beating for this Herman's Hermits classic back in 1965 (when I was only eleven years old):

    Almost too wholesome for today's standards, isn't it?

    And I almost hate to be accused of promoting wholesomeness, but I still like Herman's Hermits. So what the hell am I to do?

    Well, here's another wholesome song, "Silhouettes"

    I suppose the lyrics might be considered a celebration of stalking by today's standards, but wouldn't that make it too wholesome for words?

    posted by Eric at 02:51 PM

    The relative ungodliness of Hollywood

    A historian in Toronto has criticized "300" for creating the appearance that King Xerxes is homosexual:

    300's Persians are ahistorical monsters and freaks. Xerxes is eight feet tall, clad chiefly in body piercings and garishly made up, but not disfigured. No need - it is strongly implied Xerxes is homosexual which, in the moral universe of 300, qualifies him for special freakhood. This is ironic given that pederasty was an obligatory part of a Spartan's education. This was a frequent target of Athenian comedy, wherein the verb "to Spartanize" meant "to bugger." In 300, Greek pederasty is, naturally, Athenian.
    Yawn. The Spartans' sex practices are nothing new. Almost everyone has heard about them.

    I haven't seen the film, so I can't comment on its "moral universe" of "special freakhood" but I'm wondering whether the reviewer might be conflating effeminacy and homosexuality. That's a popular stereotype which both the anti-gay and gay activist forces like to evoke for their own ends, but it has little to do with homosexuality in practice. It is certainly true that the stereotype holds for many publicly identifiable ("obvious") gays, because after all, an effeminate gay man stands out. Additionally, effeminate gay men are usually exclusively gay, which the Spartans absolutely were not. In fact, their sexual practices cannot be called gay at all in modern terms, and I doubt those of the Persians could either.

    I think the reviewer is a modern writer projecting his own biases onto the film. Xerxes and the Persians are effeminate; therefore they are "gay." The Spartans are manly; therefore they are not. This is reflected in a gay-oriented review which (totally missing the point IMO) claims that "queer history is usually downplayed and has often gone missing entirely" and that "for Hollywood, being gay and being a warrior are still antithetical."

    Queer history? Being gay? These are ridiculous assertions. The Spartans didn't know gay from straight. They just did what they did. No one seems to understand that ancient homosexuality was not only not gay, it wasn't homosexual, as they didn't categorize sexuality that way and didn't have a homosexual-specific taboo. Thus, it is absurd to expect Spartans to see homosexual conduct as modern human activists -- either gay or anti-gay -- see it.

    (Not a new topic here.)

    I haven't seen the film, so I can't say it doesn't reflect modern biases. (It probably does, as the Spartan leader apparently calls the Athenians "boy lovers" -- which would have been a very unlikely Spartan slur.)

    But the idea is entertainment, not historical accuracy. I think that if it were possible to travel back in time and study the Spartans, and an accurate film was made about them, modern audiences would find the whole thing beyond their comprehension.

    (For starters, by today's standards they worshipped immoral gods -- something modern historians can't begin to understand.)

    UPDATE (03/15/07): Iranian film director Ardeshir Arian, writing in Pajamas Media, takes serious issue with "300" and maintains that the film is not only historically inaccurate, but it confuses "the ruling class of that era with the vastly different culture of today." His criticisms are quite harsh:

    ...Obscuring history and slandering a great civilization is an undeniable sin, and an intolerable offense by any standard.

    Due to the many falsifications of this film I will not bother to enumerate them all. But for the enlightenment of the reader I should mention that the Persian wardrobe was taken from "Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves of Baghdad", and the attire of the "Immortals" was stolen from Darth Vader. I guess what these filmmakers lacked - besides substance, knowledge, ethics, and a conscience - was professor Emmett Brown's flying DeLorean.

    There's a lot more. Read it all.

    posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (9)

    Some things are more important than what we call "drive"

    Via Tom Maguire (guest blogging at InstaPundit), my attention was directed to an interesting remark about Fred Thompson reported by Bill Hobbs:

    The Nashville City Paper interviews a couple of national political pundits who don't think Fred Thompson has the drive to become president - and notes that some Tennessee Republicans, such as U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Knoxville), have endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president.
    I think Thompson would be a great candidate, especially if Giuliani doesn't make it past the primary voters.

    Naturally, I'm curious to know what might have been meant by the word "drive" so I went to the source, which was Nashville's City Paper:

    Pundits, GOP insiders and organizers from Nashville to Washington, D.C. expressed excitement at the idea of a Thompson candidacy while noting the oftentimes maverick within his own party would have to find a "fire in the belly" which was not a hallmark of his previous days in politics.

    "He'd have to be a world-wind of activity, and the words 'world-wind of activity' and 'Fred Thompson' haven't been in a lot of the same sentences before," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan newsletter The Rothenberg Political Report. "He'd have to raise tons of money. He'd have to start doing that right a way."


    When Rothenberg heard that Thompson was considering running for president, he reacted with "mild surprise" because Thompson had a reputation of not being "driven by politics" and not having "a fire in the belly."

    In addition, Rothenberg said Thompson would have to "camp out" in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and "meet the folks and spend time in people's living rooms for coffees."

    Well, they could have said the same thing about Eisenhower, who had to be drafted. But that doesn't mean Ike lacked drive (anyone who commanded the D-Day invasion could hardly be described that way); it might just mean a distaste for the egomania so closely associated with campaigning for high office.

    Frankly, I find it refreshing, and I think the country might do well to elect a president who is not "driven by politics."

    Whether the political system allows for such a possibility is another matter.

    The City Paper touched on another detail which might help account for what is being seen as a lack of drive:

    During his time in the Senate, Thompson was chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs and won landslides in both his initial campaign and his re-election bid.

    His history with the GOP dates back to the days of Watergate, when as a young attorney Thompson helped prosecute an impeachment case against President Richard Nixon.

    Well, he was Republican minority counsel during the hearings. I don't know whether that made him a "Watergate prosecutor" in the strict sense of the word, because there never was a formal impeachment, nor did he actually prosecute any of the people convicted in Watergate.

    But Thompson was certainly in the middle of everything and wrote a book about it:

    Thompson, the minority counsel in the Watergate investigation, wrote a book about the experience: "At That Point in Time: The Inside Story of the Senate Watergate Committee."

    Even he hadn't put pen to paper, Thompson would still be memorable for his role in the 1973 Watergate hearings, which were televised and recorded for posterity.

    Thompson was the one to ask Alexander Butterfield, an aide to White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, what would become a sensational question - "Are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?" - prompting a sensational answer: "Yes, sir."

    Wikipedia says he's responsible for a famous question that still resonates every time the suffix "gate" attaches itself to a new scandal:
    He was the campaign manager for Senator Howard Baker's successful re-election campaign in 1972, which led to a close personal friendship with Baker, and he served as co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of the Watergate scandal, (1973-1974). He was responsible for Baker's asking one of the questions that is said to have led directly to the downfall of President Richard Nixon--"What did the President know, and when did he know it?"
    I would not be surprised to find that because Thompson is the equivalent of genuine combat veteran of the worst political war this country has seen in modern times, he has a different view of the process than your typical ego-driven, hard-charging political animal.

    The man has been in the arena and seen the worst of it.

    What appears to be an absence of drive might indicate the presence of something much more important and in generally short supply: political wisdom.

    I think Fred Thompson has sufficient political wisdom that he might be worthy of being drafted into service even if he expressed no interest in the office.

    posted by Eric at 09:13 AM | Comments (4)

    fighting ancient virtues with Islamic values -- to stop Hillary's homos!

    Sorry, folks. I know that's a mouthful, but these things just get crazier and crazier -- to the point where analysis becomes an exercise in satire.

    Anyway, this report (purporting to be about a culture war survey by Robert Knight's outfit), intitially struck me as a plug for the survey, which among other things, has an interesting definition of "progressive":

    About 31 percent of Americans, regardless of political stripe, are "orthodox" -- faithful Bible-believers who strive to live by "God's teachings and principles," see "a clear set of right and wrong behaviors" in every issue and believe government should be allowed to follow religious principles.

    Seventeen percent of Americans, again regardless of political affiliation, are at the "progressive" end of the religious spectrum -- many believe in God, but they strongly disagree that religion is "the most important factor" in forming their values or that religion is "the most essential ingredient" of a good, moral life. Progressives don't want the government to follow religious principles and don't believe that people "should always live by God's teachings and principles."

    The largest group of Americans -- 46 percent who described themselves as "independents" -- do not fully identify with either of the other groups. However, they tend to align with the orthodox regarding belief in God, sexual morality and spiritual issues. They reject, for instance, progressive efforts to replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays" -- but side with progressives about using personal principles, not "God's teachings," to make certain moral decisions.

    The culture war, according to the CMI report, occurs because the "morally absolutist" orthodox Americans are fighting to uphold values such as honesty, personal responsibility, sexual restraint and "classical character virtues."

    Progressives, with their secular views and "situational ethics," collide with the orthodox over some of these issues, and both groups work to attract independents to their side, the report stated. This makes independents the main battlefield in the culture war, it added.

    Whether I dismiss this entirely, attack the logic, or ridicule it, no matter what I say, the undeniable fact is that people believe it.

    Does that mean I have to take it seriously? I guess so. For starters, the survey attempts to conflate failure to be "orthodox" with situational ethics. Nothing could be more outrageous, for situational ethics is the negation of character -- of virtue -- and has nothing to do with the presence or absence of particular religious beliefs. This is not to say that there aren't people who have this regrettable tendency and that many of them are not anti-religious, but conflating them in this manner is not only disingenuous and divisive, but I think it only serves to encourage those about whom I have warned would "throw the baby out with the bathwater."

    Aside from lumping together people with little in common, this conflation is accomplished by asking unanswerable questions.

    I also noticed that the three categories -- 46%, 31%, and 17% -- equal 94% of the country. In a more detailed discussion of the survey (which is called the "Cultural Values Survey"), Knight claims that 8% decribed themselves as atheist or agnostic, but they're lumped in with a larger group -- 53% of which which does believe in God. What makes this survey impossible to analyze is the built-in assumption that God's authority can be defined with references to text:

    The real story is whether people place God's authority above their own moral compass. Although 52 percent of Americans say they believe that the Bible is God's authoritative Word, only 36 percent (including 92 percent of the Orthodox) believe that people should live by God's principles. Another 45 percent say they combine God's principles with their own, and 15 percent (including 77 percent of Progressives) say they will ignore God's principles if they conflict with their own. Since we don't know whether Madonna was in our survey group, we can only guess that she fits into one of the latter two categories, in which, when push comes to shove, people devise their own moral system to accommodate their behavior.
    I don't know why Madonna is so important to Knight, but he punctuates his remarks with references to her (the title is "Madonna's Dilemma: Survey Shows America in Cultural, Spiritual Confusion"), and I'm not especially interested in what Madonna's daughter wears.

    The survey (here in pdf) asks questions which reference "God's Principles" -- without defining what they are:

    I notice that 14% of the respondents were unable to answer the questions. I certainly couldn't have, because in order to do so I would have to presuppose two things:
  • 1. That I knew what God's principles were; and
  • 2. That what I "knew" consisted of the same "knowledge" as that of the test proponents.
  • I believe in God, but there is no way to know the unknowable. Religious texts having been written by men, I consider it a bit arrogant to assert that what they mean and all the nuances have been defined and universally agreed upon, but that is presupposed by the phrase "God's teaching and principles." Therefore, I have to question the survey's methodology.

    Not only are God's opinions being spoken for and assumed by this self proclaimed "Cultural Values" survey, but so, it would seem, are the Classical Virtues. No really. There is actually a category called "Commitment to Classical Virtues by Values Group." Here's what the entire category looks like:


    It gets a little confusing to see the words values and virtues so freely exchanged, and I have to admit, it hits a little close to home, because one of the reasons for this blog name is that I grew annoyed with the relentless scolding about values by people who seemed so historically unaware.

    While I don't agree with Gertrude Himmelfarb on a lot of things, I think the authors of this survey would have done well to read her discussion of the distinction between virtues and values before engaging in their word polemics.

    For starters, the classical virtues go well beyond the ones the survey lists, and it isn't my purpose here to get into them all. (The Roman virtues are listed here.) That would require a serious and comprehensive discussion of ancient thought -- several essays worth at least. And I'm not so arrogant as to assert that I'm enough of a scholar to do it. Without endorsing her opinions about modern America or Victorian England, I will say that she understands that the classical virtues are no simple matter:

    The cardinal virtues celebrated by Aristotle--wisdom, justice, temperance, courage--do not appear in the litany of Lady Thatcher's grandmother. Nor were her virtues Aristotle's (although some of them might be subsumed under his categories). "Family values" (an expression Margaret Thatcher also used) do not figure among the classical virtues. Plato, of course, would have utterly rejected them, as he rejected the very idea of the family. And even Aristotle, who gave the family the distinction of being "the first community," did not go so far as to elevate what we would regard as family values to the rank of virtues (except, perhaps, household management, which was largely a matter of finances and property).
    The classical virtues are serious and complicated stuff -- and I don't think they lend themselves to the reductionist approach taken by the Knight organization's survey.

    For the best single one-liner on what happened to the classical virtues, I'd have to give credit to Leo Strauss:

    The mystery of Western thought is how a term that originally meant the manliness of a man came to mean the chastity of a woman.
    Let me be blunt for a moment. What I think is really going on with this "values" business is that the so-called traditionalists really don't really want to talk about ancient virtues, because they're trying to sell people who don't understand their history on the idea that the Romans and the Greeks were immoral, and that's why their civilizations fell. Morality, in their view, is not possible without their deity. And any honest discussion of classical virtues will reveal that morality did not always (and thus does not always) have to come from the Christian deity. They cannot handle the implications, and (at least so they believe), neither can their followers.

    But hey, let's forget being serious, and get serious with some serious sophistry! (After all, I do run a satire blog, and what they're doing right now resembles the kind of sophistry which fuels me.)

    Regular readers will (I hope) understand why the buffoon in me is wholly unable to ignore nuggets like this (a closeup of the paragraph immediately preceding the "Commitment to Classical Virtues by Values Group"):


    Really now!

    "Commitment to classical values?"

    How dare they analyze the commitment of my blog or its readership!

    How dare they!!

    Should I sue for DMCA infringement?

    Nah, because not only is this not infringement, but so paramount is my belief in robust free speech that just as I would allow Ann Coulter to call people names, I would have no problem with DMCA violations.

    Hell, for all I care, if they don't like this can buy me out!

    Yes, I'll sell my values! (For a measly million bucks, you can't go wrong!)

    Speaking of satire, what really stood out when I first read about the survey in the Washington Times, was not the survey or its conclusions, though, but the following rehash from Dinish D'Souza:

    "What angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television," he writes. "What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not [free market philosopher] John Locke but Hillary Clinton."
    Wow. Hillary and the homos?


    I should probably reiterate my conclusion about D'Souza:

    Triangulating with Islamists is a great way to split the GOP as never before, and guarantee a Clinton victory in '08.
    I might be willing to sell my values, but you couldn't pay me enough to vote for Hillary. But Dinesh D'Souza saying she's "the person that horrifies them the most"?

    What's he trying to do; make people vote for her?

    Don't ask me why his argument was linked to the Cultural Values survey (I hope it wasn't because my post accused D'Souza of borrowing Knight's idea.)

    I've had enough values-based satire for one day.


    Next they'll be telling me that "Islamic Values" are "traditional."

    Well, I guess they can tell Muhammad that there's no quarrel with tradition here...



    UPDATE 03/14/07): Commenter Socrates thinks it's clear that the people behind the study (which would be CMI) do not know the difference between values and virtues, or between classical and traditional.


    If that's right, then I'm probably wrong to suspect dishonesty.

    posted by Eric at 09:39 PM | Comments (4)

    "Sociopath." Professional diagnosis or political insult?

    Whenever two people I greatly respect disagree with each other, I tend to pay attention. And thus I am unable to ignore the ongoing debate between Dr. Helen and Ann Althouse over the correct definition and usage of the term "sociopath."

    As I think both are honestly concerned with what the term means (and neither seems to be debating for the sake of winning a debate) this may shed some important light on the definition of "sociopath" -- and perhaps on the growing trend of turning political disagreements into psychiatric diagnoses.

    Some of the Althouse commenters have launched ad hominem attacks against Dr. Helen, which I find at least as annoying as the casual use of the term "sociopath" to label people you disagree with.

    Of course, there's a Catch-22 in this. (Um, maybe it's a Scylla versus Charybdis.) If someone calls you a sociopath, and you freak out, you run the risk of being labeled as neurotically insecure and unable to handle criticism. Which is why Dr. Helen advises learning how to get rejected -- over and over again!

    And how!

    Short of trying to shop a book around or engage in freelance political lobbying without any training or help, the best way to do that is to start a blog.

    On the other hand, if you don't care about being called a sociopath, why, you might be a sociopath! That's because, according to the Althouse view, the toughening process could lead one to become a sociopath:

    I think that maybe some people could come out well at the end of getting "rejected over and over and over" until the reach the stage where they don't "give a shit," but that this also sounds like a description of a sociopath!
    Naturally, I find this fascinating, and I don't know whether to take it personally or not.

    I left the following comment:

    After writing a post critical of her, I was "diagnosed" as a sociopath by a Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte (a woman I don't think is a licensed psychologist).

    Naturally, this left me in quite a quandary. I could either take it personally and be hurt (thus evincing the inability to tolerate rejection that you described in the earlier post), or I could not care at all (thus proving to "Dr. Marcotte's" supporters that I am a sociopath).

    I may not be 100% right, but I suspect that if I were a real sociopath, my primary goal would not be to grapple with hurt feelings or the absence thereof (or the meaning of either), but to do or say whatever I had to do or say to present whatever appearance would get the most for me. (Above all, sociopaths strike me as selfish people who if they seem unselfish, it's only because they are pretending in order to con someone.)

    The problem is compounded by the fact that the person who called me a sociopath may be one herself. (Except I don't want to call her that because she might not be, and I think there's a lot of politically motivated name calling which takes the form of "medicalized insults.")

    The Marcotte diagnosis is here. Should I care more? Or should I care less? Am I supposed to care about whether I should care, or am I a sociopath for posing these questions?

    I'm wondering about the "Althouse principle" (I'm using the term loosely) that the more you're insulted, the more sociopathic you become. Might we be confusing a personality that has developed hardened calluses with a personality that was uncaring to begin with?

    I'm not a psychologist. All I can do is look at Wikipedia. I'm not qualified to psychoanalyze myself, but I don't think I have enough of the traits to fit the diagnosis. (For starters, I'm too much of a damned bleeding heart, and I really can't stand to hurt people. I hope that doesn't mean I should develop a thicker skin so I can run for president or something....)

    Anyway, a lot of people are casually called sociopaths for political reasons. Last week I wrote about the attacks on Glenn Reynolds which called him exactly that. Use a word like that enough, and it will become overwrought like "racist" and it will not only lose its sting, but it will have no meaning. Then eventually everyone gets to be a sociopath for at least fifteen minutes -- to be added to their fifteen minutes of Hitlerdom. And what will the real sociopaths be called?

    Who gets to diagnose? Well, psychologists and psychiatrists at least have some training in these matters. Certainly more than Glenn Greenwald, or Amanda Marcotte, or me, or Ann Althouse. Lawyers, by the nature of their training, are qualified to opine on matters such as whether someone has a valid cause of action for breach of contract, but (absent additional training) a law degree does not entitle them to any credibility in psychology or psychiatry.

    I understand Ann Althouse's concerns, but I think her view of sociopathy might be based more on practical experience with ordinary manipulative assholes than clinical experience in diagnosing them. The term "sociopath" is becoming a lay descriptor for a host of unattractive personality types (if not a garden variety insult), and it shouldn't be.

    While I've called plenty of people sociopaths too, and I'm hardly innocent, that doesn't mean this medicalized insulting is a good thing. I mean, if you're a sociopath for believing we need to tough it out in Iraq, then what does that make Charles Manson?

    Until "sociopath" degenerates into being a plain old insult, I'm inclined to side with Dr. Helen on this one. I'd like the term to mean something.

    posted by Eric at 06:36 PM | Comments (3)

    Leftism Is As Leftism Does

    I put up a piece a couple of days ago called Leftism Is where I said:

    Leftism is the elevation of fear and anger over courage.
    I note that today I have recieved the most marvelous anonymous comment.
    ... and rightism is... fascism? trampling on everything is sight just because you can? adrenaline-fueled ego trip? jingoistic popinjay sycophantism? childhood abuse/PTSD-induced rage? oh yes I forgot spare the rod and spoil the conservative
    Well I had a snappy comeback.
    I see your fear and anger have overwhelmed you.
    In other words.

    Suspicions confirmed.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 05:21 PM | Comments (4)

    More on "Slavery Mall"

    Readers might remember that a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the transformation of Philadelphia's Independence Mall into "Slavery Mall."

    Well, today, Robert M. Morris ("a descendant of Robert Morris, who signed the Declaration of Independence and owned the structure known as "President's House") has a guest editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer excoriating the decision to transform the footprint of his ancestor's mansion into a grotesque anti-slavery memorial. He writes with passion, and I don't blame him:

    The National Park Service has chosen a design for the memorial on the spot now known as the "President's House." Before being known by that name, this site had been known for more than 200 years as the location of Robert Morris' mansion. Morris, often called the "Financier of the Revolution," helped form this nation's banking and defense systems. But he and his life's work of creating economic freedom for all Americans have been unceremoniously shoved aside.

    The planned memorial will not tell us about Morris' role in the origins of American-style free-market capitalism or his critical leadership of the Continental Navy during most of the Revolutionary War. We will not learn about his struggles to keep America together during Confederation. Instead, we will be treated to the politically correct message "Freedom and Slavery in Making a New Nation," the subtitle of the memorial project.

    Although Washington did keep slaves when he resided at the house, others who occupied the house did not. John Adams was virulently antislavery - but never mind such inconvenient details; after all, here was a perfect opportunity to make a negative statement about America, right in Independence Mall. To realize that part of the agenda, a decision was made to cherry-pick the record to create a memorial to slavery. And to ignore the fact that slavery was not unique to the site, or to America, for that matter, because it existed everywhere in the world while Washington was president.

    Read the whole thing. Ironically (and tragically) the "slavery mall" exhibit will hardly benefit the descendants of the slaves it purports to honor. Quite the opposite:
    America owes black people the same thing it owes everyone else: an honest shot at real opportunity. One of the stories not told at the President's House will be the genesis of those opportunities - ones all Americans rightfully take as their birthright. Visitors will not learn the source of America's success and the power of economic freedom, American-style. Instead they will learn how to be enslaved and how to blame others.

    Now Slavery Mall is on the way. I hope you enjoy it when current and future generations learn about George Washington as "slaver in chief."

    I write satire a lot, but this is really sad.

    I think Robert Morris is right, and the National Park Service -- and Mayor Street -- are wrong.

    DISCLOSURE: I should probably point out that I've been a friend of Robert Morris since 1958. (I don't think I need to remind regulars that friendship has nothing to do with whether I agree with friends.)

    posted by Eric at 03:20 PM | Comments (1)

    Without Victorian modesty, even pianos can get carried away!

    In a 2000 lecture dealing with (among other things) the mutation of "virtues" into "values," Gertrude Himmelfarb asked whether the covering of piano legs by Victorians really involved sexuality:

    This mutation in the word "virtue" has the effect first of narrowing the meaning of the word, reducing it to a matter of sexuality alone; and then of belittling and disparaging the sexual virtues themselves. These virtues, chastity and fidelity, have been further trivialized by the popular conception of Victorians as pathologically inhibited and repressed. Thus "Victorian values" have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons, human as well as table legs referred to as "limbs," and books by men and women authors dwelling chastely on separate shelves in country-house libraries.

    In fact, these were not the normal (or even abnormal) practices of real Victorians. They were often the inventions of contemporary satirists (writers in Punch, for example), which have been perpetuated by gullible historians. "The woman who draped the legs of her piano," one historian solemnly informs us, "so far from concealing her conscious and unconscious exhibitionism, ended by sexualising the piano; no mean feat." In fact, it is this historian who has sexualized the piano and has imposed his own sexual fantasies upon the Victorians.

    I have a minor correction. While I must necessarily take no position on the perpetuation of satire by gullible historians (lest I get into a conflict of interest), and I cannot claim to know who is right about sexualizing the Victorian penchant for covering piano legs, I can state with some confidence that the historian Himmelfarb criticizes was not the first to sexualize the piano.

    Unless the Victorian satirists were first, I'm afraid the credit must go to Salvador Dali, who did a pretty good job of it back in the 1930s:

    Once again, here's "Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano" (1934):


    And from the same year, here's "Skull with its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Bedside Table which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal's Nest":


    I don't know whether this means the couple had a child or just merged with each other, but the presence of the bedside table indicates some that some sort of ongoing intimacy occurred.

    I scrupulously take no position on whether any of this could have been avoided had the piano been appropriately covered.

    And at the risk of being anthropopianomorphic, I have to venture that Dali might have been using the pianos as some sort of substitute for his own libido, or maybe his sex life. Because in the same year he painted the indisputably sexualized pianos, he also painted "Cardinal, Cardinal!":


    Note the same bedside table. The man (IMO) is clearly Dali, and he's leaning towards the bedside table at the same angle as the skull does. His shirt even looks like a skull! Not only that, he's holding a pitcher (the breaking of which artistically symbolizes lost virginity), and seems unable to put it back where it belongs. The uncovered woman is of course his wife Gala. (A divorcee who could not be considered virginal by any definition.)

    As to what the reference to the "exact temperature of a cardinal's nest" might mean, I'm tempted to speculate that it might involve a failure of the human fertility cycle, and I'd note that by 1934 Gala seems to have left her fertility cycles behind her.

    Whether Dali was making any judgment about virtues or values (or what that judgment might have been) I'll leave to others.

    Politics is surreal enough as it is.

    (I've tried not to politicize art, but the piano meme seems to have legs.)

    MORE: While I wasn't thinking about her when I wrote the post, a Hot Air commenter named OBX Pete says that Hillary Clinton looks like a piano:

    I've seen her legs and believe me you don't want to see them. If you take a picture of her and crop everything above the waist she could be mistaken for a grand piano. Actually she is doing us all a favor by wearing those pantsuits.

    On the other hand, she has to work with what she was born with (as we all do) so she can't help it if she has piano legs. I'm more concerned with that ultra-liberal mind.

    I looked into this and discovered that it's worse than I imagined -- to the point where the Urban Dictionary includes Hillary in the very definition of "Piano Legs":
    1. piano legs

    Disproportionately thick calves and/or ankles on a woman with otherwise normal body weight.

    No wonder Hillary Clinton always wears pant suits. She's got a humongous set of piano legs.

    Comments (by no means limited to the right wing) about Hillary's alleged "piano legs" abound -- in the blogosphere and on various bulletin boards. And a syndicated columnist actually complained about David Letterman's failure to mention them:
    Democrats of the female persuasion, difficult as it is sometimes to tell, are off limits when it comes to insults. Not once has Mr. Letterman joked about Hillary Clinton's piano legs, Donna Brazile's weight, Carol Roberts' (the Palm Beach county balloteer and marionette for team Gore) gravely voice, or those Palm Beach voters who can't punch a chad and look like cross-dressers. Such attacks are cruel. But, John Goodman playing Linda Tripp on Saturday Night Live, now that's funny.
    I never thought about this before, but the meme is definitely out there. So I have to ask what if -- just what if -- Senator Clinton's trousers are intended as a sort of piano leg coverup?

    If we dovetail this into Ms. Himmelfarb contension that "'Victorian values' have been associated with piano legs modestly sheathed in pantaloons," what are the implications for the sexualization of pianos?

    Might the latest campaign represent a desexualization of sorts?

    posted by Eric at 01:48 PM


    Here's Salvador Dali's version of a Dahlia from a 1972 series:


    And my photo of a disturbing scene earlier tonight:


    Outreach, right?

    Yeah, that's a form of growth....

    posted by Eric at 11:10 PM | Comments (2)

    Making Headway

    I have been pounding the drum for a while about the likely aftermath of leaving Iraq. There are many bad possibilities and some worse ones. So who comes to support my position? The ever reliably left Los angeles Times.

    Congress should not hinder Bush's ability to seek the best possible endgame to this very bad war. The president needs the leeway to threaten, or negotiate with, Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds, Syrians and Iranians and Turks. Congress can find many ways to express its view that U.S. involvement, certainly at this level, must not go on indefinitely, but it must not limit the president's ability to maneuver at this critical juncture.
    Not a complete capitulation by the LA Times by any means, but a move in the right direction.

    Standing on the edge of a precipice tends to have a sobering effect. Maybe you don't sober up all at once, but you at least take a step or two back and have a look around.

    As an activist, I intend to keep hammering at the Vietnam analogies, because I think that is the most recent and clear historical analogy to our current and possible future situatiion.

    H/T Q&O

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:27 PM | Comments (1)

    Cheney takes fall for Soros?

    I'm questioning the timing of two recent events:

  • 1. George Soros buys Halliburton:
    According to papers filed with the SEC, in the fourth quarter of 2006 Soros purchased nearly 2 million shares of ... hold your breath ... Halliburton. The Halliburton shares reportedly went for an average purchase price of $31.30 a share. That puts Soros' total investment in Halliburton at around $62.6 million, or about 2 percent of his total portfolio.
    (Via Judith Weiss.)
  • 2. Halliburton moves to Dubai:
    Halliburton Co., currently the largest military contractor in Iraq with billions of dollars in Pentagon contracts, announced Sunday that it was planning to move its CEO and corporate headquarters from Houston to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

    The move could eventually save the firm a fortune in U.S. taxes, but it is raising serious questions about its priorities and prompting at least one possible congressional hearing.

  • Much of the fuss over Halliburton's latest move involves Dick Cheney. But according to Wikipedia, while it is true that Cheney once was the company's CEO, his holdings now consist of "unexercised stock options at Halliburton, which have been valued at nearly $8 million."

    In other words, Soros's interest is nearly eight times Cheney's.

    So if we assume that Halliburton is being evil by moving to a sexist, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay country, can anyone tell me why Cheney is more guilty than Soros?

    posted by Eric at 03:20 PM | Comments (8)

    The anti Anti-choice choice?

    Speaking of single issue politics, From Burke to Kirk ponders an interesting question:

    Would the election of a pro-abortion Republican as President of the U.S. set back the pro-life movement for a generation?
    I don't know. He's talking about Giuliani, and while I'm in no position to know whether the pro-life movement would be set back (as the National Catholic Register contends), I do think a threshold question might be whether Giuliani is in fact pro-abortion.

    So far as I can tell, Giuliani has always said that he is personally, morally opposed to abortion, and I have seen no reason to doubt that. As to his legal position, Ann Althouse has looked at Giuliani's abortion position carefully, and finds it to be consistently federalist. Harvard law professor Michael C. Dorf also took a close look, and also concluded Giuliani was consistent on abortion (although he worries about how this squares with other issues). And law professor Stephen Bainbridge (who very much opposes legal abortion) nonetheless describes himself as leaning towards Giuliani.

    But having a federalist position (that the states should be allowed to set their own laws), can that honestly be said to be pro-abortion? Remember that Roe v. Wade is predicated on a rejection of federalism, so Guiliani's legal position on abortion can be said to be fully consistent with overruling Roe v. Wade -- which he was on record as opposing as far back as 1989. Unless overruling Roe v. Wade is now considered "pro-abortion," this becomes confusing.

    Again, what does "pro-abortion" mean?

    Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a friend who has recently become a father, and he told me that the experience has made him unalterably opposed to abortion. The idea of destroying that tiny human life fills him with horror. (And it doesn't appeal to me either, although I tend towards the view that for a fetus to be considered human, there needs to be a brain.)

    Anyway, my friend has zero sympathy for anyone who would kill a fetus. In fact, the way he was talking yesterday, I'd say he holds fetus killers in contempt. But he is still unwilling to put them in prison, and he said, "If they want to kill their babies, it's on them and they'll have to live with it."

    Now, that would hardly strike me as pro-abortion. But considering that Giuliani has said repeatedly that he "hate[s] abortion," I don't see much difference between his position and that of my friend. And when I told my (non-activist) friend yesterday that according to the activists he was still "pro-abortion," he rolled his eyes. (Eyeball rolling is increasingly the reaction of ordinary people to activists -- which is probably why the latter would like to make eye-rolling a chargeable offense, as it seems to be in school.)

    At CPAC (where else?) former Arkansas Governor Huckabee took on Giuliani, arguing that hating something you'd nonetheless allow is essentially a form of hypocrisy:

    "Please don't count me among those who think that this is a peripheral issue, because I believe it's a defining issue in terms of how we view each other as human beings. . . . I'm a little troubled when I hear people say . . . 'I hate abortion, but I support the right for people to go ahead and do it.' Let me just tell you, it would be like a Hindu friend of mine saying that 'I really don't care for the slaughter of beef, but I'm going to buy a steak house.' Now, something is just irreconcilable in that very concept."
    Well, maybe it would be if Giuliani had said he was going to buy an abortion clinic. Did he? I think we would have heard about it if he had.

    Of course, I should probably disclose that I'm a total hypocrite, because there are a lot of things I pay for even though I don't support them. For example, I don't care for the Saudis' Wahhabism or Hugo Chavez's Communism, but I finance both every time I fill my tank.

    Hell, now that I think about it, I'd probably support allowing US companies to freely buy Saudi and Chavez oil, too.

    Unless that makes me pro-Saudi and pro-Chavez, I think calling Rudy Giuliani "pro-abortion" is a bit too much of a rhetorical stretch.

    Of course, I'm insane enough to believe that people can support the right to keep and bear arms even if they hate firearms and don't own any.

    I'm such a hypocrite that I wholeheartedly support a war in which I'm not fighting.

    (And as long as the world full is of armchair hypocrisy like mine, I suppose I should also support the right to keep and bear armchairs.)

    MORE: I should probably stress that I think Giuliani could -- in much the same way as Schwarzenegger did in California -- win the presidential election overwhelmingly if only he could get past the activists in the primaries.

    Fortunately for Schwarzenegger, he was able to do an end-run around the activists.

    I'm hoping Giuliani will be popular enough that he'll be able to inspire ordinary people to vote in the primary elections, but that remains to be seen.

    UPDATE: My mistake in calling Huckabee the former Arizona governor, and my thanks to The Unabrewer for the correction!

    posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (6)

    Pulp secrets from Victorian virgins!
    (and other pressing issues I ignore)

    Yesterday I took a break from blogging. Well not a break, really, because I had to do other things so I didn't have time for blogging but before I left I managed to put up some pictures of Coco, who doesn't think I do enough.

    Coco is right, of course. From her point of view, I don't do enough. I'm sure that many people -- especially the single issue people -- think I don't do enough to address or assist with their Most Important Issue, whatever it may be. So from a Single Issue perspective, almost anything I write about is wrong, unless it's about the Single Issue, and I'd damn well better agree with them on it, lest some Single Issue commenter come and tell me that I'm wrong about a singular issue.

    The worst part about taking a break from blogging is the feeling that you're "falling behind."

    Falling behind from what? The constant manufacture of new morality? The stuff that's wrong in the world, which needs to be discussed here and now? Spare me. It will be discussed elsewhere and always -- and in far more detail than I could muster.

    The worst thing about blogging is that my penchant for examining things logically leads me into a truly awful state of nothing making any sense. I find that if I take something and scrutinize it long enough and closely enough, eventually it becomes insane. (How do I keep my bearings without losing my marbles when bearings and marbles are both round?) Even deciding which issue is worthy of focus is an exercise in the insane, and more unsettling to me is that the very act of picking an issue to write about involves bias. Perhaps what I should do in order to be fair is use the dartboard method. Just take apart a newspaper, spread it out, and throw a dart aimlessly, then focus in on that.

    Nah, that's no good. I mean, suppose the dart landed on the obituary of some nice old woman whose family was grieving? I'd have to write about her, and if I learned that she belonged to some benevolent organization of philosophical crackpots which I hated, then the whole blog post would become a needless and pointless exercise in gratuitous cruelty. What if, for example, the dart landed on an article about "violent racial slurs" directed against Vietnamese women riding the subway? I might want to know what racial slurs are "violent," as well as the race of the insult slingers. And that might be considered racist, although I'd only want to know the race of the slur-mongers because of the standardized meme that because of a thing known as a "power imbalance," only white people are capable of racism. What about the question of their free speech rights? I wouldn't want to appear to be gratuitously injecting Ann Coulter into the debate, so I'd have to scrupulously leave her out of it. You know, if you mention Ann Coulter in the context of race, angry Coulter fans will accuse you of making unfair comparisons. In fact, by even mentioning her here, I could be seen as injecting her into the debate even if I admitted that a racial slur is not the same as a sexual slur.

    But I'd better not utter the words "slippery slope" anywhere in the same paragraph, and I don't think any explanation is necessary. Which means that if I discussed this story at all, I'd be safer to slant it against Bill Maher. (Maybe, but is "slant" really the right word?) Anyway, I've had enough of defending the free speech right to use vulgar or offensive speech for the time being, because people don't understand the distinction between the right to do something and the advisability of doing it. There might very well be a free speech right to say something, but there's just as much a right to not say it and to criticize someone for saying it. Who gets to be the victim?

    A much safer topic would be Canadian diamonds:

    In 2005, Canada's first two big diamond mines in the Northwest Territories unearthed 15 pounds of the gemstones, worth $4 million, each day. Today, three mines are open, and more are planned, bringing a flush of cash to northern Canada and making the country the third-largest producer of diamonds by value, surpassing even South Africa.

    The territorial government is cheering the miners on. "Diamond mining is critical for us," Brendan Bell, the minister of industry, said from the capital, Yellowknife. "We don't want to be a one-trick pony, but if you have to be reliant on one industry, diamonds are perfect."

    No debate there, right? I mean, diamonds from nice, clean Canada (a place nearly as clean as Joe Biden) have to be morally superior to blood diamonds from Africa, right? A wonderful solution for the problem of finding a politically correct engagement ring.

    Not so fast.

    According to the official spokesman for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Canadian diamonds are morally no better than blood diamonds from Africa:

    Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said De Beers Canada in particular is causing environmental devastation and disrupting his community of 45,000 Cree and Ojibwa in northern Ontario.

    "They're not clean diamonds; they're not conflict-free diamonds," Fiddler told CBC News. "People are paying a price for these diamonds and it's our people in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Our people, our children, are languishing in poverty while these resources are being extracted from their territory."

    Fiddler this week had an editorial published in the diamond industry trade publication Rapaport News, in which he outlined his concerns about Canadian diamond exploration and mining. He says several communities have called for a moratorium on mineral exploration on land where the legal title is under dispute.

    "The battle over diamonds will be largely fought in the United States, where annual sales of diamond jewelry represent almost half of the $55 billion sold worldwide. The time is now for consumers in the United States to connect the dots and weigh in," Fiddler wrote in his editorial.

    "Tell De Beers, other diamond miners and Canada that unless things change, Canadian diamonds are no better than conflict diamonds from Africa."

    While Deputy Grand Chief Fiddler's paramount concern seems to involve Indian rights, paying off his tribe might not settle the moral question, because as he explains if you read his argument in the entirety, Canadian diamond mining threatens the environment:
    Unfortunately, many Canadian diamonds are anything but conflict-free; ongoing aboriginal rights and environmental concerns should make consumers think twice before purchasing a Canadian diamond, too.

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which means the people and the land, represents some 45,000 Cree and Ojibway people scattered across 49 communities in Canada's Boreal Forest--the world's largest intact ecosystem and Earth's last line of defense against global warming.

    At 1.4 billion acres, the Canadian Boreal Forest is one of the largest unspoiled forest ecosystems remaining on Earth, a mosaic of interconnected forest and wetland ecosystems, teeming with birds, fish, plants, and animal life. Canada's Boreal Forest is also a potential treasure chest of timber, oil and gas, and minerals, including diamonds and is under heavy development pressure.

    At present, less than 10 percent of the Boreal is protected from industrial development.

    Unless something changes, corporations will carve it up without regard to the impacts to the people or the environment. While few American's have ever heard of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation or the Boreal Forest, scientists will tell them what the peoples that live there already know: It is critical to the earth in so many ways, and must be protected.

    The Nishnawbe Aski Nation, along with many other First Nation communities throughout the great Boreal Forest have been in the grip of a diamond exploration boom led by companies like De Beers. That and other intensive resource development is causing environmental devastation. A complicit Canadian government seems to be turning a blind eye.

    But the real culprit is the United States -- where "annual sales of diamond jewelry represent almost half of the $55 billion sold world wide."

    Halfway into this one issue, I realized that I have been neglecting the Boreal Forest Ecosystem. And the diamond mining is just the tip of the, well, um, I don't know if I should use the word "iceberg" because that might offend cultural sensitivities of the threatened iceberg people and the drowning polar bears.

    OK, Canadian diamond mining isn't the tip of the iceberg. It's the tipping point of the ecological balance of the planet or something, because it threatens 1.4 billion acres of land -- the touching of which (so claim the usual thousands of top scientists) will ruin the planet.

    The evil Americans to the south are the primary problem. Not only do they buy 55% of the diamonds, they are also wood gluttons -- consuming 70% of Canada's exported forest products:

    According to a 1993 United Nations report by the Food and Agriculture Organization, world consumption of forest products will increase over 70% between 1990 - 2010. More than 60% of this increase will occur in northern Canada. (The Taiga Trade - a report on the consumption and trade of boreal wood products; Taiga Rescue Network, 1995 pg. 72)

    Canada is the world's largest exporter of wood?based products. As a result, forestry plays a significant role in Canada's economy. The single largest consumer of Canadian forest based products is the United States, which consumes 70% of all forest products exported by Canada.

    What do the gluttonous Americans do with these virgin Canadian trees?

    Glad you asked. Americans are not only environmentally immoral people, they are sexually immoral! For "we" grind up the beautiful Canadian virgin trees into paper pulp -- which is them used to print up sexually titillating catalogues!

    I kid you not.

    American sexism is ruining the pristine Canadian environment.

    Fortunately, the environmentalists boycotted one of the primary offenders, and chained themselves to the doors of Victoria's Secret, causing the company to give the activists whatever the hell they wanted.

    So it's not diamonds. It's paper -- pulp! "We" pay for the former, and "we" throw away the latter. But either way, "we" are guilty!

    And of course, not just guilty of consuming diamonds and junk mail, but of everything else. The world is a dartboard of offensive offenses -- mostly committed by Americans -- but any particular issue that might be a blog post of passing interest for me is someone's single issue to be defended, offended by, and defended against in endless, unresolvable, noisy, ad hominem debates.

    Take a day off from such a guilty world, and the issues will beat you to a pulp.

    Well, at least the pulp I generate here is digital, and I didn't destroy virgin trees in the Boreal Forest Ecosystem to generate it. (Of course, I'm sure I said nothing original here. Which means others have beaten me to my own pulp.)

    MORE: I cannot overstress the importance of focus, and in this regard I am not entirely sure readers fully appreciate or understand the true scope of the pulp problem:

    Forty-six percent of all newsprint consumed in the United States was once Canadian forest habitat-- principally originating from the Boreal. (Bringing Down the Boreal, Forest Ethics)

    Many of North America's largest catalogs and tissue product manufacturers use virgin boreal pulp. (Bringing Down the Boreal, Forest Ethics)

    Catalogs, copy paper, lumber, newspapers, magazines, and even toilet paper are made from Canada's old-growth forests. (Bringing Down the Boreal, Forest Ethics)

    Printing and writing papers are one of the largest end-uses of paper products including copy, book, junk mail, magazine and catalog paper. Many are made from Endangered Boreal fibers. (Bringing Down the Boreal, Forest Ethics)

    What this means is that every time the morning newspaper hits my driveway, I should cringe at its very thwack! And not because of any media bias in the paper, but because the MSM is forcing me to aid and abet their conspiracy to destroy Canadian virgin trees. And I cannot win, because even though I throw the junk mail and catalogues directly into the trash without ever bringing them into my house, I am simply part of a vast conveyor belt system which violently cuts down the virgin trees, turns them into pulp, and finally transforms them into landfill down here. I have no say in the matter. And every time I blow my nose or wipe my ass, I destroy virgins and doom many more!

    Any idea why the environmentalists would go after Victoria's Secret instead of the New York Times?

    Let's look at the respective circulations. According to company president Bill Lepler,

    ... Victoria's Secret Catalogue mails 360 million catalogues each year. If a customer after a period of time does not respond, the company stops sending the catalogue.
    Yet the New York Times prints 1.1 million copies of its newspaper daily, and some 1.6 million on Sundays, which works out to well over 400 million. Not only, the Times has "stakes in two paper mills in the US and Canada."

    So made Victoria's Secret so incredibly guilty?

    Was it?

    Or was the company just a convenient scapegoat selected by activists (utilizing "mafioso" tactics) because sexy lingerie catalogues are seen as more "immoral" than the "straight news" of the New York Times?

    posted by Eric at 10:05 AM | Comments (6)

    Gasoline Prices To Jump 26%

    Yep it is terrible. Gasoline is slated to rise from 34¢ a gallon to 43¢ a gallon in Iran.

    Iranians are bracing themselves for a fresh round of belt tightening after their government voted to impose petrol rationing coupled with sharp rises in the price of fuel.

    The rationing system will limit Iranians to 22 gallons (100 litres) of petrol a month, two full tanks for a typical family car. It is a direct result of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's adherence to an economic model, based on Iranian self-sufficiency, that has caused housing and other living costs to soar.

    The basic price of petrol will rise by 25 per cent, but Iranians who need to use more than the permitted amount will be hit by rises of up to 450 per cent.

    You know what rationing means. A black market. Nothing like a lot of corruption to keep an economy humming.

    A. Jacksonian discussed Iran's oil industry in Oil Outlook. The short version - they are mining their oil industry for capital to spend on other things. Like keeping the people happy with low gasoline prices and building nuclear weapons.

    If current trends prevail Iran will not be exporting any oil in less than ten years.

    It's hard to know what's really going on in an Iran full of Orwellian doublespeak. The Expediency Council is pursuing a 20-year plan to create an "Islamic Economy". At a recent conference of the Elite Society of Self-Sacrificers of the Islamic Revolution, economic discussions were pretty theological with calls for "economic jihad".

    And yet, behind the scenes, it is becoming clear that all is not well inside Iran, even in the middle of an oil price boom. At 3.9 million barrels a day, oil production remains stubbornly below its level at the time of the 1979 revolution.

    A complete failure to invest in refining and the hostility to the use of Western technology has ensured that Iran imports much of its refined oil from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Rather bizarrely, petrol has recently been rationed in some instances and is subject to strict government control - a whopping 86 per cent price increase has been proposed. On current trends, Iran would cease to be a net oil exporter altogether in 2015.

    Let me also note that Venezuela is on a similar course.
    This seems to be extraordinary economic mismanagement. Despite a 20 per cent increase in the national budget last year, Mr Ahmadinejad had to go back to Iran's parliament, the Majlis, six times to ask for more money. Government expenditure is extremely high and rising - a pledge to reduce budgetary dependence on oil supplements by 10 per cent each year has been thrown aside as the government has resorted to using the Oil Reserve Fund as its piggy bank. Commentators speculate that Iran has inadequate foreign currency reserves to negotiate the demands of the coming year.

    In fact, the extent of government borrowing from Iranian banks is jeopardising the solidity of the Iranian banking system. The borrowing increased by nearly 50 per cent last year and this swollen government sector carries significant knock-on inflationary implications. The official target for inflation is 9.9 per cent but the current rate is thought to be at least 20 per cent, and rising. In certain foods it is closer to 40 per cent and some fresh vegetables are disappearing in Tehran.

    I covered the vegetable problem in Tomato Plot. It appears that socialism does not work. Not even when you have huge oil reserves to back it.
    Not surprisingly, criticism of government policy is mounting - and it goes right to the top. Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khomeini, made an extraordinary intervention on economic policy last week, stating that Mr Ahmadinejad's "trial period is over".

    Given the theocracy which is Iran, Mr Ahmadinejad has every reason to be worried. In taking on the US, he seems to be following Shakespeare by trying "to dizzy giddy minds with foreign quarrels".

    I don't think the Iranian people will be very distracted. First off they are not too happy with being an Islamic Republic. Second off many are great fans of America and Israel. Persia once had a Jewish Queen, Esther, and they have not forgotten. Even if their rulers wish they did.

    Here is the story of Esther in English and Persian and a history of Hamadan, Iran, the oldest city in Iran. Esther is buried in Hamadan. Wiki has a nice bit on Esther.

    In any case it boils down to this. Iran is an economy run on the socialist model with a disdain for profit. Iran's moves in the Middle East are seriously harming its economy, while America hardly notices the cost of the current war. Our economic output last year increased enough to cover the whole Defence Department with money left over. This year it looks like we will have a similar increase. In Iran it is a race between nuclear weapons and economic collapse or revolution. I'm betting that nukes will not win.

    H/T Captain's Quarters where A. Jacksonian has some interesting things to say in the comments.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:16 PM

    "Can Coco come out and play?"

    Well, Coco thinks the Global Warming is all about her, so now that the temperature has gone from the teens into the 50s (yesterday it hit a balmy 63 according to my car thermometer, which I'm all but sure was calibrated by scientists), the above question is much on her mind, and she thinks that it is my responsibility to throw her stick.


    I don't mean just throw it.

    I mean really throw it.


    Over and over.

    A hundred times is not enough!


    Don't just stand there pointing that thing at me!

    I'm glad Coco doesn't write fortune cookies or she'd be laying this message at my feet:


    I'd have to get all defensive and say something like, "But Coco, what if being a stick in the mud is my lifestyle?"

    (Fortunately, I don't have to. Not that such philosophical complexities would matter to Coco....)

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

    Must Thermopylae be Fallujah?

    I have been reading so many reviews about "300" (Glenn Reynolds has a roundup; these two both whetted my appetite) that I am beginning to think it was a major mistake sitting here on a Saturday night blogging about it instead of going out and seeing it. Via M. Simon, I especially like classicist Victor Davis Hanson's take (written in October when he saw the CD):

    Recently, a variety of Hollywood films -- from Troy to Alexander the Great -- has treated a variety of themes from classical Greek literature and theater. But 300 is unique, a sui generis in both spirit and methodology. The script is not an attempt in typical Hollywood fashion to recreate the past as a costume drama. Instead it is based on Frank Miller's (of Sin City fame) comic book graphics and captions. Miller's illustrated novelette of the battle adapts themes loosely from the well-known story of the Greek defense, but with deference made to the tastes of contemporary popular culture.
    His latest Pajamas Media post has more, and stresses the important historical aspects of the film, while cautioning that it's not about Iraq:

    I went to the Hollywood Premier of the "300" last night, and talked a bit with Director Zack Snyder, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad, and graphic novelist Frank Miller. There will be lots of controversy about this film-well aside from erroneous allegations that it is pro- or anti-Bush, when the movie has nothing to do with Iraq or contemporary events, at least in the direct sense. (Miller's graphic novel was written well before the "war against terror" commenced under President Bush).
    Not surprisingly, however, many of the reviewers are bound and determined to spin this film into Iraq. Via Don Surber, the New York Times poses the question: "Is George Bush Leonidas or Xerxes?"


    I remember last year they spouted similar nonsense about "The War of the Worlds" and I went to see it, expecting ominous moral parallels and obvious references lurking everywhere. Instead, I saw an exciting SciFi film, which didn't seem like Iraq at all. Well, I suppose you could (if you were a paranoiac and hadn't taken your meds) imagine that Bush's gigantic evil walking warbots were sucking the blood out of every last Iraqi man, woman and child, but I saw them as giant bloodsucking aliens. And I wouldn't be surprised if I see 300 brave Spartan warriors holding out as long as they can until they're finally finished off with arrows by King Xerxes.

    No, Bush is not Leonidas, and Ahmadinejad is not Xerxes!

    I know I am prone to make comparisons about a lot of things, but please.

    Not everything is about Iraq!

    Not even Thermopylae.

    Keeping the above in mind, I did like Hanson's conclusion:

    Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary 'who are the good guys' in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that unambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.
    Can't wait to see it!

    I just wish the flattened and nihilistic blogosphere would stop making me write movie reviews about films I haven't seen.

    (As Senator Claghorn would say, "That's a joke son!")

    UPDATE: Tom Maquire (guest blogging at InstaPundit) has another link roundup of reactions, including Wretchard, Armed Liberal, and his own.

    Sounds to me like the Maguire version would be a gas.

    But seriously, wouldn't such a plan both violate the Geneva Convention and cause Global Warming?

    posted by Eric at 08:56 PM | Comments (7)

    UN Wants To Fight Hizballah

    I have just read the most amazing report. UNIFIL - the UN forces in Lebanon - want to go after Hizballah.

    UNIFIL would like a more aggressive mandate for its forces to engage Hizbullah on their own, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

    After last summer's war in Lebanon and the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, UNIFIL was beefed up from 2,000 troops to more than 12,000 and received a mandate stipulating that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) be present during any incident involving Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.

    According to the mandate's rules of engagement, UNIFIL soldiers are not allowed to engage Hizbullah guerrillas independently. They must first contact the LAF and wait for their arrival and decision whether they request UNIFIL assistance.

    "There is a feeling of frustration within UNIFIL that under the current rules of engagement they are not free to do their job, which is to prevent Hizbullah rearmament in southern Lebanon," an Israeli defense official told the Post.

    UNIFIL, commanded by Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano of Italy, cannot make changes to the rules of engagement on its own. The decision needs to be made by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in conjunction with countries that contribute forces to UNIFIL.

    Nice of the General to make a stink. He is correct. However, his stated job and what the rules of engagement actually permit are two very different things. I'm sure this was no accident.

    Why would the General be saying anything? By the time you get to be General politics is a very important part of the job. For him to speak out on this subject indicates he might have some backers in his corner who are not among the usual suspects.

    Let us start with Prime Minister Fouad Seniora. Why would he be backing this if he already has the power to authorize UN action? One word. Hizballah. If he takes such overt action he will bring down the wrath of Hizballah on a somewhat shakey government.

    Then there is Saudi Arabia. They have a lot of assets in Beirut. Just as Hizballah once had a lot of asset in Beirut. Which have lately gone into a disasterous decline in appraised value. The Saudis are aware that if the Israelis take a dislike to them it could hit them where it really hurts. In the pocket book.

    Then there is the Sunni vs Shia thing. Plus a strong anti-Iranian sentiment over and above religious disputes.

    The General's call for a change in the rules of engagement may have a chance. Depending on how much pressure the member states can bring on the Security Council.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:16 PM

    imitation is the sincerest form of fraud

    It has come to my attention that my attribution to the Animals of a Nina Simone song was not completely fair.

    blah blah blah

    And George Harrison imitated the Shirelles

    blah blah blah

    Likewise, the Dovells imitated the Students

    blah blah blah


    blah blah blah

    The Grateful Dead stole (with help from Owsley Stanley and Ken Kesey) Tim Leary's idea for communal LSD ingestion

    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah

    The Gay Movement stole Oscar Wilde's idea.

    No, they stole Krafft-Ebing's Victorian notion that homosexuality was an ism thing.

    No, because Krafft Ebing stole homosexuality from its original inventor, one Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

    So put an ism in your jism

    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah

    And of course, there's always

    [fill in this space with another imitated concept, thing, ism or more original blog post on this subject]

    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah
    blah blah blah

    What, I'm supposed to publish this nonsense?

    Why, I'd be immediately accused of making unfair comparisons!

    AFTERTHOUGHT: The above could be called a "good skeletal framework."

    Now, if I could just add a few links, and replace the blah blah blahs with some long-winded pronouncements, there might be a Ph.D. in it for some enterprising young idea thief. Or maybe just a little grist for a think tank and ammo for activists.....

    (Do I hafta?)

    Might as well. But I've said absolutely nothing original here.

    MORE: Oh, I guess I left out the Declaration of Independence, said by John Adams to have involved plagiarism by Thomas Jefferson.

    Wouldn't wanna copy that idea, would I?

    Might get in trouble with the DMCA police.

    How unoriginal of me.

    posted by Eric at 11:15 AM

    Correcting gramatically incorrect PC genocide

    Normally I don't deign to correct grammatical errors, but Glenn Reynolds' link to what he called an "ongoing disgrace" made me feel obligated to say something about this one:

    "We will never come out against a religion, but the politics we are against," said Buckner-Nkrumah. "We believe every Zionist should have a bullet in their head."
    That is a disgrace!

    He should have said "bullet in his head."

    The reason it's an especially shocking disgrace is because Troy Buckner-Nukrumah was described as some sort of "teacher." At least, he's described as a "lecturer" for the "College of Ethnic Studies." Is that an academic outfit? The reason I'm asking is that San Francisco State is taxpayer supported, and I'd hate to think that the California tax dollars I paid over the years might have been funding teachers who can't teach.

    It's hard not to notice that Lecturer B-M (forgive me, but these hyphenated names leave a bad taste in my mouth sometimes) also advocated murder, and in very general terms. I'm assuming he defines "Zionist" as every Israeli Jew, as well as everyone who supports Israel.

    What that means is that I also deserve a bullet in my head according to the College of Ethnic Studes "lecturer."

    The idea that I need a bullet through my head because I support Israel is an opinion, but it's a lunatic fringe one.

    How voicing such an opinion is in any way educational I do not know.

    But when it isn't even uttered correctly, I feel obligated to step in and be a language cop.

    posted by Eric at 10:40 AM | Comments (3)

    Genocide Question

    America left South Vietnam to its own devices in 1975, leading to 2 1/2 million deaths and totolitarian governments in Cambodia and Vietnam.

    So I assume the anti-war mantra now is: if it turns out no worse than 'Nam every thing will be fine.

    Also note that in '75 all the South was asking for was material support and airstrikes against the invading North.

    The anti-war folks who constantly scream about genocide now want to enable another one.


    So the question is: if our leaving initiates a genocide in Iraq should we go back to save the people we once promised to protect?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 04:09 AM | Comments (2)

    Childhood Trauma Leads To Depression

    Anxiety Insights has a post up about childhood trauma and its relation to depression.

    Childhood trauma, but not adult trauma, is strongly associated with depression and coronary heart disease in adulthood, say Emory University researchers and colleagues presenting at the American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, being held March 7-10 in Budapest, Hungary.

    "Little is known about the long-term emotional and physical consequences of childhood trauma and whether it poses greater long-term health risks than other types of stressors," says study leader Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, professor of medicine (cardiology) at Emory University School of Medicine and professor of epidemiology at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.

    "Trauma occurring earlier in life is particularly harmful because it may disrupt the development of adaptive responses to stress. Future research on stress and disease should focus on early life stress," says Dr. Vaccarino.

    Child abuse is one of the most pressing problems we have in the world brcause it leads to all kinds of maladaptive behavior and can also lead to illegal drug use as a form of self medication.
    According to the study results, twins in the highest quartile of the Early Trauma Inventory were twice as likely to have major depressive disorder than other twins. Of the childhood traumas, emotional trauma was the most strongly associated with major depressive disorder.

    Study participants with childhood trauma were also more likely to be exposed to trauma as adults and to develop post traumatic stress disorder. After adjusting for smoking, twins in the highest group on the inventory were two to three times more likely to have a previous diagnosis of coronary heart disease, including previous myocardial infarction, coronary revascularization and hospitalizations for coronary heart disease.

    In contrast, no significant associations were found for adult general trauma and combat trauma with either major depressive disorder or coronary heart disease, notes Dr. Vaccarino.

    Tobacco is an anti-depressant. So is cannabis.

    We are wasting untold billions every year fighting drugs when we should be dealing with the root cause - child abuse.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:47 PM

    "This Is HUGE!"

    That's Clayton Cramer's take on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Parker, which Cramer calls "very nearly the perfect decision, for
    the following reasons":

    1. Because it struck down key parts of DC's gun control law, DC governnment either has to appeal it to the Supreme Court, or actually deal with DC's violent crime problem by going after criminals, instead
    of non-criminals. (Hard decision for them, I'm guessing.)

    2. Because the decision recognizes that the right is individual in nature, this isn't a technical win for us, but opens up the door to challenging other federal gun control laws to help determine what are the limits of Congressional and Executive branch authority. For example, if I'm camping in Yellowstone, does the Second Amendment protect my right to have an appropriate grizzly bear discouragement device in mytent? There's a plausible argument based on this decision that I do.

    It is great news.

    Orin Kerr links the text of the decision (pdf file) while Eugene Volokh has an interesting analysis of the dissenting view of the majority's holding (that the Second Amendment being an individual and not a group right) is mere "dicta."

    It will be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court decides to hear the case.

    posted by Eric at 05:59 PM | Comments (4)

    Nagas with attitude

    Where was I? India? Gay porn and Christian forgiveness?

    I don't know whether there is any way to tie these loose ends together on a Friday afternoon before I lose my head completely, but I'm going to try.

    I'll start with Ghandi:

    I do not believe in forced unions. If you (Nagas) do not wish to join the Union of India, nobody will force you to do that.
    But as the source of the quote makes clear, Ghandi's promise was disregarded:
    The conflict between the Nagas and India ranks as one of the most persistent and least-known struggles of indigenous peoples in the world today. The Naga Nation, with a population of over 3 million, claims a traditional territory of some 37,000 square miles, straddling the official boundary of India and Myanmar (Burma), from just south of the Chinese border. Following the independence of India and Burma from British control in the late 1940s, Naga territory was divided between the two new states, without Naga consent, and ignoring the Nagas' own declaration of independence.

    Yesterday, the Economist had a fascinating story about missionaries invading the heart of the largely untamed hill country where the Nagas live. I'm always fascinated by anything having to do with this area, as my dad served there during World War II under General Stilwell, and he used to frighten the wits out of me by showing me pictures of severed children's heads, and telling me true stories about the Naga headhunters. (I've posted about this before, with pictures, of course....)

    Mentioning the Nagas only in passing, the Economist focused on the Manipuris -- and went a bit out of its way (IMO) to poke fun at invading Missionaries with eating disorders (assuming the account is not exaggerated):

    ONLY one kind of foreigner slips through Manipur's tight permit regime, and, as I was leaving my hotel today, I encountered a herd of them: Christian missionaries, mostly like this lot, American Pentecostals, come to dispense the Good News and greenbacks to Manipur's hill-tribes.

    After a few days among trim Manipuris, I am dumbfounded by the sight of these soul-savers. Not content with the bread of heaven, most look as if they have devoured heaven's grits, ribs, wings, double-topped pizzas and fries, super-size. They are ivory-white and enormous. As I wait for the evangelists to clear a narrow stairwell down to the street, they literally block out the sun. One extra-large middle-aged lady requires a bell-boy to hoist her down the steps.

    The hill-tribes, Nagas, Kukis, Peiteis and others, were converted to Christ by 19th-century British missionaries. Considered "untouchables" by their neighbours, the Meitei valley-dwellers, they needed little persuading to quit Hinduism and its caste-system--such is the history of most of India's 25m Christians. In addition, denied the meagre economic benefits of British India, Manipur's tribes might also have considered Jesus the best way to the white man's wallet, and so it remains.

    Several hundred American and European missionaries each year are given permits for Manipur's remote highlands, where they dispense millions of dollars as they please. By contrast, Médecins Sans Frontiéres, that rare thing, an efficient international NGO, is restricted by a rolling 10-day permit to Churachandpur and Imphal, where it treats AIDS patients.

    Outside the hotel, after a biblical struggle, the last of the colossal evangelists succeeds in summiting the steps of a waiting blue tour-bus, and its doors close. Waving gaily behind the windows, they drive away to plant new churches in the hills, and perhaps some schools.

    The "biblical struggle" business sounds a bit condescending. And the implication that the Nagas gave up Hinduism is just wrong, as the Nagas were traditional animists who converted to Christianity, and who overwhelmingly oppose Hinduism. But never mind. After Ann Coulter's lesson in tolerance for the week, I don't think I should be taking offense at anything anymore -- especially if that means siding with one group of "noble savages" at the expense of another, or protesting the ridicule of overweight missionaries I have never met.

    The problem is, because of my childhood, I have an admitted (if spooky) pro-Naga bias.

    So when I read the Economist I was disppointed, dammit, because I wanted to read about Nagas, not some wimpy lowland Hindu tribe that's allegedly being pestered by Pentecostalists who can't make it up a flight of stairs. (How they're supposed to evangelize primitive hill people I do not know. But again, I don't want to fall into being judgmental....)

    Now that my bias has been admitted, I'll move along. The Nagas have a long and turbulent history as warriors. Over the centuries, they would often fight with other Naga tribes, and the trophies were of course heads. Not long ago, the minority Nagas in Manipur fought a war with the Kukis, and they're now said to be in a "fragile alliance" with the Meiteis (the group the Economist describes as currently under Pentecostalist seige). Whether the Indian government has a selective policy about allowing missionaries (animist conversions yes, Hindu conversions no) is anyone's guess, but they've been accused of continuing the same divide-and-conquer strategy the British once used in the same area.

    There's so much irony involved here that it's tough to know where to start. The Nagas would I guess have to be called ex-headhunters, as they've not only been converted to Christianity, but as headhunting has been banned since 1991, it's faded into a sort of collective memory of the past. But the tattooed, former headhunting elders are greatly respected.


    Despite their conversion, the Nagas today don't seem to be exactly non-violent, although just about every source I can find is biased in one way or another. Some are pro-Naga, some are pro-Manipuri, and some are anti-Naga and anti-Christian, such as this Hindu activist:

    as we know, south korea went from 80% buddhist to 50% christian in one generation. mizoram and nagaland are now 99% christian. the naga siege of manipur recently was a clear religious battle: manipuris have refused to convert and so they were being punished by the (ex-headhunter) nagas. once again, praise be to the First Prime Minister of India (Registered Trademark) who invited australian and nz missionaries and gave them free hand in the northeast.
    I think that might be a little harsh and judgmental, but these days I'm not sure of anything. Anyway, the Nagas have not only become Christian, they've become literate. And in what seems like barely a generation or maybe two at the most, they've gone from the Stone Age to the Internet Age.

    I kid you not.

    I found a number of examples, but the following was written by a tough-talking Naga who calls himself "Boss Man," posting on Kuknalim -- "a home for Nagas on the net":

    The Naga soldiers are just the top in the world - much more than Gurkhas and even US Marines. They can die for their cause standing.

    You Meiteis are the most cowardly race on earth. Do you know how the Britisher easily defeated the Meitei with your raja in no time. There also, the war was prolonged a little bit because there was a Naga to hinder it called General Thangal who helped you all out of pity. Where are your UGs fighting [ or is it hiding only and not fighting ?]? Are they staying among the Meities and fighting in your valley called Sanaleibak [ your peanut valley ] or are they hiding inside the longpants of the Nagas in upper Burma under Big Boss Khaplang. You people are taking shelter with us even now as you speak with big mouth.

    We Nagas live, fight and stay in our Nagalim territory. Our message to you all losers is this: Get lost if you don't like us and don't want to support our cause, we Nagas don't need you. We can fight on our own our cause as we have been doing for more than half a century. We are fighting Asia's longest bush war. And Indian soldiers are tired and afraid of fighting us and therefore they are having serious peace talk with us. We can fight another half century.

    Don't speak to us of plural society. That is shit to us. When the Burmese attacked you, where were you all? You ran as usual to the Nagas for shelter. And you called as "Seven Years Shelter in hill villages", not your ungrateful tricky " Seven Years Devastation."Of course, you all were devasted for as long as 7 years by the Burmese.

    The Nagas fought off the Burmese for you as you take humble shelter among us and that's how you are staying in your peanut valley once again. But these time, we 4 million Nagas [living in Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Myanmaer and Arunachal Pradesh] may decide to attack the 1.5 million microsopic minority in the peanut valley and finish you all off.

    By the way, in ancient times you rightly say that Nagas fought one village against another. Yes, that's because we are warlike.

    And even single villages were not afraid to fight a war with raja of the whole Meiteis. And the raja of the whole Meiteis have a hard time defeating even a single powerful village in ancient times. Because Nagas are a fierce and brave race. Even two - three villages were able to deafeat the Meitei raja very often.

    That's how weak you are actually. Read your history to find that.

    All the Nagas never combined to fight a war with the Meiteis. Now Nagas have awakened and we are ready to fight unitedly. You Meeties will be finshed and conquered in no time in your peanut valley.

    I think that might be called a fair warning, but I can't be sure. Boss Man certainly sounds knowledgeable about his people's history.

    "Meiteis" is a word for Manipuris. I hope it's not a derogatory word, and I hope readers will forgive my cultural insensitivity if it is. (But I don't think it is derogatory, as Wikipedia uses it, and Wikipedia would never use derogatory language, would they?) There's more here in pdf, and another board discussion here (and I am not endorsing any of the opinions expressed at either link!)

    Today, the Nagas are 90% Baptist -- and Nagaland has been described as "the most Baptist state in the world." (Sorry, but Mississippi is only number two.)

    This Naga site supplies more background about Baptist evangelizing, as well as the proud history of the Nagas in helping fight the Japanese in World War II:

    On the other hand, the American Baptist Missionaries started their station at Molung among the Ao tribe and started educating the Naga's and evangelizing the Naga people. Education was an integral part of the mission and converts were educated in their schools. Literacy was the stamp of authority that gave Christianity supremacy over traditional customs and belief. What the missionaries taught was to have a drastic effect on the traditional social fabric of Naga society. The missionaries had little understandings of the working Naga society and made little or no effort to look beyond the surface. When they saw, using beliefs as a yardstick was promiscuity, heathenism, barbarism and ignorance, converts were compelled to make a complete break with the tradition; they were forbidden to drink rice beers, take part in traditional singing and dancing, sleeping in the Morungs, or participating in any of the traditional co-operative activities of the community. They were actively encouraged to emulate their converts in every ways, dress included and to renounce their heathen brethren. The missionaries are even believed to have destroyed traditional artifacts. Many of the administrators of the time disagreed with the missionaries methods and feared they were destroying Naga culture. They would have preferred Naga culture unchanged. They failed to realize that by romanticizing the Naga's as noble savages they were being a paternalistic as the missionaries. They themselves were not blameless. Their administration had introduced a market economy that brought an end to Naga self sufficiency.
    Let me interrupt right there and refer readers to the Glenn and Helen Show's podcast interview with Claire and Mischa Berlinski. The latter's book -- Fieldwork -- is all about "historical conflicts between missionaries and anthropologists." The subject of the interactions between the Nagas and their neighbors, and the relative roles played by different missionaries over time so intrigued me (and so reminded me of the interview about the Berlinski book) that I had originally titled this post "Anthropomissionaries and Baptist Headhunters." A ghastly title, to be sure, and I would have left it that way had not the recent Coulter controversy convinced me that I should try to come up with something catchier.

    To continue with my hopeless cultural relativism, what about the missionaries? Would the anthropologists grant that they too have a culture? Or are they to be seen simply as antimissionaries with no culture worth preserving?

    Who gets to decide these things? Are the Nagas less worthy than their Hindu neighbors, even though the former are more primitive and the latter more civilized -- simply because the Nagas are considered "Christian"? (Why would the Economist say they were converted from Hinduism, anyway?)

    Might the Nagas be getting the short end of the stick because they are seen as both too "primitive" and too "Christian"?

    Or might it be that their proud warlike nature is considered somehow less than desirable?

    Again, who gets to decide these things?

    Back to the text, and to World War II:

    ....Naga's were to come into even more contact with the outside world and new ideas with the coming of the two world wars.

    The first world war did not have much impact on the the Naga's, though Naga warriors were recruited for the Labors corps in France, the response of which was remarkable.The second world war, however, had a more devastating and far reaching effect. The Japanese penetrated up to Kohima under the Naga Hills District and the Naga's faced the sufferings, dangers and disaster of the modern battle. The Naga's gave invaluable support to the allied forces. Despite floggings, torture, execution and the burning of their villages, they refused to aid the Japanese in any way or to betray the allied troops, instead they guided the allied columns, collected information's, ambushed the Japanese patrols, carried out supplies and helped the wounded in the battlefields.

    I can vouch for that based on what my father told me. They were tough, proud warriors, but if you could win them over, they were loyal to the death.

    The two prinicipal battles in the area (Kohima and Imphal) are described here; unfortunately there's not much about the Nagas. However, these were not minor skirmishes. The Japanese advance was stopped, and Supreme Allied Commander Lord Mountbatten compared the allied victory to Thermopylae:

    Louis Mountbatten latter described the Allied victory at Imphal and Kohima as "probably one of the greatest battles in history,... in effect the Battle of Burma.... [It was] the British-Indian Thermopylae."
    I found more here, and after hours of web research, I managed to find confirmation (from a non-Naga source) of what my father had always told me -- that the Nagas helped kill Japanese:
    ....And then there was "the forgotten army" fighting in the Far East. Just as D-Day was decisive in the war in Europe, so the Battle of Kohima, being fought at exactly the same time in north-east India, proved to be the turning point in the Burma Campaign.

    Earl Mountbatten called it "one of the greatest battles in history. . . in effect the Battle of Burma. . . naked unparalleled heroism".

    Henry Crook-Rumsey, of Newton Aycliffe, was there, fighting in the Naga Hills, hacking his way through paddy fields, and surviving on rations dropped every five days from the air.

    "I boxed at 12st 12lbs before the war, and came out at 7st 2lbs, " he said. "Most of us had dysentery and tropical diarrhoea, and there was malaria and dinghy fever.

    "Our main object was to cut the Japanese communication lines. The local people, the Nagas, were fantastic: they were our guides, our spies and our interpreters. They were still headhunters. I remember going into one village and they had five Japanese heads on posts. They would tell us where the Japanese were, and we would sit and wait for them, usually with machine guns."

    That's what I call Nagas with Attitude.

    Don't mess with the Nagas.

    Nowadays, they seem to be substituting monkey skulls for the human variety.


    For now....

    But how many young American men can proudly pose like this in front of granddad's skull collection?


    Christians? Noble Savages? Victims of missionaries? Victims of a heavyhanded Hindu bureaucracy continuing divide-and-conquer British tactics despite Ghandi's promises?

    I honestly don't know how to characterize the Nagas. I find myself sympathetic to their goal of independence and self determination, and I find myself liking them, though.

    (I guess it runs in the family.)

    posted by Eric at 04:30 PM

    the peaceful but angry relativism of violent Ghandian pacificism

    A conversation with Justin brought back fond memories of the following video, which of course I promptly found at YouTube.

    It's proof that hideous nihilism respects no boundaries, and that it didn't start with the blogosphere.

    So don't blame me for Ghandian revisionist thinking, OK?

    UPDATE: Commenter Phelps notes that this video is from Weird Al Yankovic.

    posted by Eric at 01:57 PM | Comments (3)


    I know, I know, true confessions are always hard. (No, seriously!) Before I go any further, let me just thank the "right wing hordes" in the blogosphere who have been gracious enough to acknowlege that having been a gay porn star is not necessarily a prohibition against supporting the war, being a Ronald Reagan Republican, or even going to CPAC and shaking hands with Ann Coulter. (Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Goldstein, Pajamas Media, Gay Patriot, Michelle Malkin, John Hawkins, and many others have all contributed to a climate which has made my, um, confession possible.)

    OK, my confession is going to be a little complicated, because maybe I wasn't a gay porn star. Maybe not exactly. But then, maybe there were times when I might as well have been. (And "might as well" counts, doesn't it?) And much as I like to think that whatever the hell I did when I was young (and thus still considered "worthy") might not matter to anyone, I see that it very much matters if you take a political position that former gay porn stars aren't supposed to take.

    Seriously, while outing gay Republicans has become a traditional leftist value, this smear job is one of the most vicious attacks I've seen. [Yeah, be warned. It has dirty pictures, which means you're a hypocrite if you look while Republican.] It has been linked by top outing practictioner John Aravosis, and numerous other prominent leftie blogs; even Atrios has given it his official seal of approval, so this smear cannot be dismissed as the work of an anonymous gay axe grinder.

    Geez, this is getting so tired that I don't know where to begin. Yet another conservative outed -- this time as a former gay porn star. How does that mean he's not allowed to support the war, or shake hands with Ann Coulter?

    While this is not a new topic for me by a long shot, I do have some new suggestions on ways to deal with it. But before reading anything else, I suggest reading Matt Sanchez's side of the story which appears at He also has a great blog, and just today he pointed out that there's already a Wikipedia article about him.

    Corporal Sanchez also linked David Horowitz (whom Sanchez humorously calls "another conservative abandoning me"). Here's the Horowitz "abandonment":

    I find it appalling that people who actually call themselves Progressives would attack an Hispanic American and accuse him of being an exploited minority because he chose to serve his country. I find it appalling that gay leftists - who otherwise think Bush is destroying the constitution by tapping the phones of our terrorist enemies - would open an American citizen's buried past and make it public in an attempt to destroy him. But I'm not surprised. That's what the Left does. All day and every day. It's for the cause.
    And of course, they'd like to claim the "right wing" is ultimately responsible for the fact that they must invade people's privacy and attempt to destroy them.

    As to how "the cause" works, Jeff Goldstein explains the principle pretty well. But first, here's Jeff's reaction to the "Bacchus" post with the dirty pictures:

    It's surreal. The hatred in that post. The vileness of the language. The attempt to shock.

    And yet, the beautiful irony is, nobody here really gives a flying fuck. Just like with Gannon.

    Why? Because the caricature [Bacchus] has been nurturing in his smudged soul about the "reichwingers" is a sham--a tool to fuel his victim status and to give him license for his "angry queer" persona.

    Real "reich"wingers turned people like him into fucking ashtrays. Good thing none of them are alive, or they'd probably bitch slap this snarling little gossip with a copy of Mein Kampf.

    I'll get to Hitler. No, seriously, Hitler's coming. But before I get to Hitler, I'll let Jeff explain the thinking behind the outing "principle" involved:
    ....once we eschew the inevitable equivalency arguments that touch on matters of style, it is clear that, on the substance, Bacchus' message is one of pure identitarian hate. In Matt Sanchez, we have a conservative who, from the perspective of his earlier libertine attitudes toward sex and sexual orientation*, wandered off the "progressive" plantation, and so, to people like Bacchus, must be exposed, mocked, and MADE TO PAY for his ideological transgressions, the undisguised subtext being that the political positions of gay men must necessarily be tied to that of the collective, which not only presumes to speak for them, but which, it is clear, is willing to police its ranks by engaging, in the most vicious ways, in behaviors it claims ostensibly to find anathema--namely, reducing a person to his sexual orientation (the game of "outing") in order to undermine his positions (which has the net effect of arguing that your only value as a homosexual is tied inexorably to what you are willing to do for the orthodoxy's conception of "the cause"; your individualism, that is, is ironically only granted you should you willingly surrender it to the Greater Good).
    I'm not as well versed in the multi-culti PoMo lingo as Jeff, but for some time, I've been saying that the people who do the political outing are now almost exclusively on the left:
    In what will go down as one of history's great ironies, in enlightened, modern America, there are still people engaged in exposing and persecuting homosexuals working in the government or in important positions, and they are activists in the Democratic Party. (Michael Rogers and John Aravosis are two notorious, longtime practitioners, and the latter was recently invited to lunch with Bill Clinton.)

    The difference is that the Democrats doing the persecution today can't fire gay Republicans directly; instead they are tracking them down and exposing them in the hope that the Republicans will be bigoted enough to fire them. Unfortunately, this has failed. Even Rick Santorum, supposedly the worst gay basher of the lot, refused to fire his gay aide after the man was outed.

    What this has created is a huge (if ironic) double standard between the parties. Gay Democrats have a right to their privacy, but gay Republicans are hounded and live in fear of the new (Democratic) sexual McCarthyism.

    The reason they are made to live in fear while their Democrat counterparts are not is because gay Republicans are said to be self hating hypocrites. According to this argument, because the Republican Party does not support same sex marriage, any gay Republican is by definition betraying himself -- even if he disagrees with the Republican Party on that issue. For that, it is fair to invade his privacy and make his identity and sexuality known to the world, in the hope that he'll be fired by bigoted Republicans.

    Of course, when the bigoted Republicans refuse to do anything about gay conservatives, this causes a very curious sort of moral indignation. This reaction is typical:
    The right-wing has gobbled this porn hunk up with a spoon, never knowing that tons of men have gobbled up his monster cock ON FILM. I love it, I love it, I love it.
    While it's debatable whether he really loves it, I think this evinces a certain desperation, along with a clear intention of spreading the porn -- smearing the right with erect penises in the hope that they'll collapse in complete, abject horror. (A chorus of "Oh my God! A gay conservative penis! Help!")

    I think this is an attempt at sleight of hand, and it is accomplished by starting with a false claim of hypocrisy, which is then projected. The logic is intended to work this way:

  • all gays or porn stars who are conservative become hypocrites.
  • All conservatives who have been in contact with them are hypocrites by association.
  • While both premises are absurd on their face, it is hard to imagine a more ridiculous idea than the latter. Exactly when did the left take on the responsibility of writing, upholding and enforcing standards of morality which then must be followed by conservatives?

    This, of course, puts conservatives in an impossible position, because they can't win no matter what. If a gay porn star working for conservatives is outed and then fired, why they're bigots! But if they just don't care (or if they follow some old fashioned Christian notion of forgiving past transgressions), why, they're hypocrites, because they are supposed to live up to standards set by the left. [In other words, you're a hypocrite if you dare to tolerate whoever we decide you're not allowed to tolerate!]

    In its sheer arrogance, it's remarkable. How long this will go on, I don't know.

    Yesterday I complained about the repetitious nature of blogging, and I know I am repeating myself. So I'd like to switch gears a little, and instead of just repeating myself, I'd like to propose something new.

    Let's return to the title of this post:


    Instead of lying down and taking it, is it too much to ask that conservatives, and libertarians, and all fair-minded people, start being proactive, and preemptive, and just out themselves as former gay porn stars? I know it sounds outrageous , but if you think about this logically, if we're all gay porn stars, they won't be able to use this tactic anymore.

    Granted, this is not a new technique, and we've all heard about the King of Denmark and the yellow stars. I'm not suggesting wearing pink triangles or anything like that, nor do I mean to compare porn stars to Jews or Republicans to Danish kings.

    But I like the idea of preemption. Hell, you don't have to be gay, and if you're uncomfortable with that, just say you're a former porn star. (If you think about it hard, admitting you're a porn star will do wonders for your self esteem -- especially if you've gotten old and less than sexually attractive.) I suppose if you're a woman you could also say "I WAS A LESBIAN PORN STAR!" and while it's a different rant, I see no reason why a man couldn't say that too.

    Those who insist on combining preemption with redemption could even say "I AM AN EX GAY PORN STAR!" although I don't recommend it. Might bring on too many thought gestapos police all at the same time.

    Which brings me to the Hitler meme. I just struck the "gestapo" reference but I left my mistake there to illustrate how easy it is to fall into the trap of violating Godwin's Law.

    I'm not advocating violating Godwin's Law here; far from it!

    What I am talking about would best be called Inverted Preemptive Godwin's Law, and I will explain how it works.

    It is now a well settled principle that in the future, everyone will get to be Hitler for fifteen minutes. With that in mind, here's a simple logical question:

    Can any rational person say that it is worse to be a porn star (gay, straight, or bi) than to be Hitler?

    I thought not.

    So, once we can accept that porn stars are not comparable to Hitler, and that we're all destined to be Hitler for fifteen minutes, it necessarily follows that saying you were once a porn star is a mere trifle.

    Furthermore, considering today's rapidly evolving technology, declaring yourself to be a former gay porn star now, before you're outed, might be a very smart move. As we've been seeing for years, anyone can airbrush a Hitler moustache onto anyone. But no one is really fooled by this, for we all know that there was only one Hitler. Pornography, though, is another matter. Anyone can be Photoshopped into the raunchiest of porn, and it's a lot tougher to deny that you're in a picture you appear to be in than it is to deny being Hitler.

    So my suggestion for everyone is to get it over with now, while you still can. Just choose one or more of the following:






    Yeah, you could always say "I AM" and then add an "ex" but I didn't want to be too busily redundant, and besides, "X" is already associated with porn, so the sound of "ex" might be confusing.

    For those who either can't stand having to make such a damaging admission or think it's just plain dishonest, you could always join the gay porn star solidarity committee:










    or even


    I'm sure I missed some group or another.

    (And of course I may yet be accused of an unnatural perversion of Godwin's Law, but still think it beats having to be Hitler.)

    AFTERTHOUGHT: If implemented properly, I think the above will put the left on the defensive, and they'd resort to predictably lame responses like these:




    What? Do I have to do their homowork for them? (Sorry about that last typo. Do I have to correct everything?)

    UPDATE: In what is probably an omen of something, my activity log now shows that by the mere act of publishing this post, I have repeatedly committed the following crime against error:

    "Your ping could not be submitted due to questionable content: PORN"
    PORN? No way!

    This was not PORN!


    I'm reminding myself of the lyrics to a song:

    "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good

    Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood"

    But alas, the code to hell is in Spammish.

    UPDATE: Sean Kinsell links this post, and adds some very wise observations, including this:

    we can have all sorts of self-righteous fun by pointing out that the way someone lives now conflicts with the way he lived years ago. After all, no one ever sincerely changes his mind about important issues as he ages. Especially not in a free society where we all have access to lots of information and are taught to think for ourselves.
    Well said, Sean!

    posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (13)


    Well almost. It was on March 7.

    But considering the time changes between here and Japan, it might be even later than I think. Of course if I turn the date upside down I'm still OK even if it's the 9th in Japan, because it's the other side of the world, which means it is upside down, so according to my calculations (which are at least as scientific as my earlier end of the world predictions) the sixth would have to be the ninth in Japan. So even if today is the 9th in Japan because of the time difference I'm still a day early, because it's only the 8th here.

    Which means it's perfectly OK to celebrate!

    Happy birthday to Sean!


    As you can see, Coco is trying to have Sean's cake and eat it too.

    Sean if you don't hurry up it will be upside down cake...

    posted by Eric at 09:14 PM | Comments (2)

    War For Profit

    I was reading a thread at the Netscape blog about why and how Iraq is lost. It made me clarify some of my ideas from an earlier post.

    One commenter put forth the notion that wars are in fact diplomacy by other means and that the object is to gain a post war commercial advantage. When you are in such a war, profit and loss calculations are certainly in order. Our war with the USSR certainly was of that nature. The Soviets promised a chicken in every pot. America promised two (our poor people have a fat problem if that is any indication).

    So the question again is: when is it wise to shake hands and make up and when must one fight on despite losses and adversity? It all depends on the enemy you fight. Do they want a chicken in every pot or Valhalla?

    The Valhalla types require harsher treatment, because they will not respond to profit and loss except in extremity.

    Eric at Classical Values has some thoughts. The Belmont Club post on the Three Conjectures is also apt.

    Here is my position on Iraq:

    In Iraq our enemies are stalemated just as much as we are. We only have to fight one day more than they do. However long that takes.

    For those who need a little inspiration in these troubled times I can do no better than quote Winston Churchill extensively Which I do here. (also linked above)

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:44 PM

    How trying to prevent genocide becomes genocide

    I just left the following comment to M. Simon's last post:

    Mein Kampf is a bestseller in the Mideast.

    So why is that Glenn Reynolds' remark -- that fighting and winning a smaller war now is the best way to avoid the genocidal war our enemies want -- gets him accused of being a murderous genocidal fascist?

    See my post (and if you have the stomach, follow the Greenwald and Sadly No! links):

    According to the Greenwald Law, if the enemy wants an all out, worldwide, genocidal war and you want to avoid that by taking precautions now, you're said to be advocating genocide.

    Can you explain the logic? I can't. Because there is no logic. But if there's one thing I've learned in nearly four years of blogging, it's that defeating the logic of an argument does not defeat the argument.

    I'm sorry to sound like a pessimist (or worse, an angry ex lawyer), but the process almost reminds me of litigation.

    While I don't usually bump comments into posts, I figured I'd make an exception here, because this is one of my pet peeves.

    Believe me, I hate litigation. So when I say that blogging reminds me of litigation, it's a way of expressing frustration over the inherently repetitive nature of blogging. It really is like litigation, and the reason that's unpleasant for me is that I didn't like litigation. I truly despised -- even loathed -- litigation. With every bone in my body.

    An experienced insurance defense lawyer I knew (who had a sense of humor and saw the big picture) put it rather well:

    Being a litigator is like shoveling shit. They'll shovel shit at you, and you just shovel it right back. If you don't mind shoveling shit, it's a very good way to make a living!"
    Well, now you know where your insurance premiums go.

    And now I'm really getting this blog blocked by the net nannies, because I had a shit linkfest the other day, and this is just shit on top of shit and they only let you say shit so many times and when that's on top of Ann Coulter's faggotry, why, I'm afraid that if I had a kid, I wouldn't want him anywhere near this blog!

    Damn! (See what's happening to me?)

    I'm literally up to my neck in shit a dirty war.

    (Pretty soon I'll be guilty of genocide.)

    Actually, I think I've preemptively pleaded guilty to the genocide charge. Yep, I did.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: It just occurred to me that with an election comin', we ain't seen nothin' yet. (Sorry to sound "Southun" there, but I have contempt for contempt-based strategies.)

    UPDATE: Thanks Bird Dog!

    Commenter Jeremy Bowers discusses this interesting essay about blogs and nihilism. There seems to be a recurrent meme that too many blogs means blogs represent nihilism (the "flattening" argument). Yes, and infinity is nothing. But life still has a purpose, and there is still good and evil, even if we cannot pinpoint these things with exactitude. And of course, if you look for nihilism, you're bound to find it.

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (4)

    I Have Not Yet Begun To Fight

    The usual quit now and avoid the rush folks are out in force at Winds of Change. One of them comes up with the clever idea that in geopolitics it is wise to avoid moves whose outcome is uncertain. Of course that cedes all uncertain ground to our enemies. Given that most of life is uncertain that is a lot of territory.

    Here are some of my remarks on the subject. Revised and extended.

    Avoid uncertain outcomes?

    Prediction is hard, especially about the future.


    What I would like to avoid is certain outcomes. If America or Israel gets hit hard enough a nuclear war will ensue. That is a certain outcome I'd like to avoid.


    I understand though. In 1936 all the Europeans wanted to do was to avoid 10,000 certain deaths from a confrontation with Germany. And by golly they avoided that certain outcome.

    The results of avoidance turned out to be rather uncertain after all. Who at the beginning of 1939 could predict 50 million dead by Sept '45? In January of 1942 was even 10 million dead on the horizon?


    So the question you have to ask yourselves: are we dealing with the USSR or Nazi Germany? Are we dealing with cold calculators? Or frenzied mad men? Are we looking at an enemy who has a plan for paradise on Earth? Or is paradise to be obtained elsewhere? A chicken in every pot or Valhalla?

    Once you know that you can decide what effort is worth it.

    If an enemy is undeterable then you have to kill enough of them so that their followers lose faith.

    Here is a little hint to help you along: "Mein Kampf" is a best seller in the Middle East.


    So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. Sir Winston Churchill, Hansard, November 12, 1936

    If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves. Winston Churchill

    One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Winston Churchill

    Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

    War is mainly a catalogue of blunders. Winston Churchill

    Moral of the Work. In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill. Winston Churchill

    Never, never, never give up. Winston Churchill

    Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. Winston Churchill


    Now gentlemen measure yourselves against that kind of will. Do you have the courage to say no defeat is final?

    So Iraq is going badly.

    So what?

    Our enemies are stalemated just as much as we are. We only have to fight one day more than they do. However long that takes.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:38 AM | Comments (3)

    Wind Boom

    Wind energy generation is booming [pdf].

    Brussels, 2 February 2007. The booming wind energy markets around the world exceeded expectations in 2006, with the sector experiencing yet another record year. On the day of the publication of the 4th Assessment Report on Climate Change by the IPCC, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) released its annual figures for 2006. These figures, which include wind energy developments in more than 70 countries around the world, show that the year saw the installation of 15,197 megawatts (MW), taking the total installed wind energy capacity to 74,223 MW, up from 59,091 MW in 2005.

    Despite constraints facing supply chains for wind turbines, the annual market for wind continued to increase at the staggering rate of 32% following the 2005 record year, in which the market grew by 41%. This development shows that the global wind energy industry is responding fast to the challenge of manufacturing at the required level, and manages to deliver sustained growth. In terms of economic value, the wind energy sector has now become firmly installed as one of the important players in the energy markets, with the total value of new generating equipment installed in 2006 reaching €18 billion, or US$23 billion.

    China is getting into the act. One of the resons for this is that China uses coal for most of its electrical generation. One of the major sources of air pollution in China.
    Asia has experienced the strongest increase in installed capacity outside of Europe, with an addition of 3,679 MW, taking the continent over 10,600 MW. In 2006, the continent grew by 53% and accounted for 24% of new installations. The strongest market here remains India with over 1,840 MW of new installed capacity, which takes its total figure up to 6,270 MW.

    China more than doubled its total installed capacity by installing 1,347 MW of wind energy in 2006, a 70% increase from last year's figure. This brings China up to 2,604 MW of capacity, making it the sixth largest market world wide.

    The Chinese market was boosted by the country's new Renewable Energy Law, which entered into force on 1 January 2006. "Thanks to the Renewable Energy law, the Chinese market has grown substantially in 2006, and this growth is expected to continue and speed up. According to the list of approved projects and those under construction, more than 1,500 MW will be installed in 2007. The goal for wind power in China by the end of 2010 is 5,000 MW, which according to our estimations will already be reached well ahead of time," said Li Junfeng of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA).

    How is North America doing?
    22% of the world's new wind capacity was installed in North America, where the annual market increased by a third in 2005, gaining momentum in both the US and Canada.

    For the second year running, the US wind energy industry installed nearly 2,500 MW, making it the country with the most new wind power.

    "Strong growth figures in the US prove that wind is now a mainstream option for new power generation," said Randy Swisher, President of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). "Wind's exponential growth reflects the nation's increasing demand for clean, safe and domestic energy, and continues to attract both private and public sources of capital. New generating capacity worth US$4 billion was installed in 2006, billing wind as one of the largest sources of new power generation in the country - second only to natural gas - for the second year in a row."

    2,500 MW of new capacity is roughly equivalent to one nuke plant. How many nuke plants were added last year? Zero. How many are expected next year? Zero. How many are projected to be built in the next five years? Zero.

    A 25% a year increase in the rate of capacity installation means that within three years or so we will be installing two nuke plants worth of wind a year. In six years that will be four nukes worth of wind per year. etc. An astounding rate of increase for such large systems.

    You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:40 PM | Comments (2)

    Isaiah Washington, victim

    Among other things, Ann Coulter has caused renewed interest in the Isaiah Washington case. From her appearance on Hannity and Colmes:

    Frankly, I didn't think Edwards was really worth attacking, and I promise you, an audience of conservative news junkies not only know the Isaiah Washington story, they know John Edwards, with his two Americas and you know, his charlatan performances before illiterate juries. They know that that is wussy. That is lame. That is a sissy thing to do. Everybody knows what I was talking about, and I also know that John Edwards is not gay, and that I was using it in a schoolyard taunt way. In that way, it is a sophomoric word. It is not a bad word.

    [Emphasis added.]


    COLMES: Was Isaiah Washington wrong to use that word to -- when he used it to describe T.R. Knight?

    COULTER: Yes. He used it incorrectly, but I still don't think he should go to rehab for using a word. I think that's crazy. I think all of America outside of Hollywood thinks that's a wee bit crazy.

    Maybe I'm not as up-to-date on the Isaiah Washington case as the Washington political junkies, but when I posted about it in October, the word "faggot" just didn't stand out as the man's primary offense:
    "What are we waiting on?" said Isaiah [Washington].
    "Not me," said Patrick [Dempsey]. "I'm always ready."
    "At that point," said the source, "Isaiah said something mean to T.R. Knight" (who plays mild-mannered Dr. George O'Malley).
    "That's when Patrick told Isaiah, 'Pick on somebody your own size.'
    "Well, that did it. Isaiah became enraged and grabbed Patrick by the throat and shoved him back a few feet.
    "Dr. McDreamy [Dempsey's nickname] almost landed in McDreamland."
    When Knight demanded that the pair break it up, the source says, "Isaiah called him a bitch. Isaiah stormed off to his trailer to cool off, while Patrick and T.R. stood there in disbelief. (Emphasis added.)
    Other accounts concur, and in the initial reports, there wasn't any mention of the word "faggot." Instead, the word used was "bitch."

    I realize it is not a crime to call anyone a faggot or a bitch, but I find myself wondering about assaulting someone by grabbing him on the throat. Legally, that's assault and battery, although whether it is prosecuted usually depends on whether or not a complaint is pursued by the victim. Here, the victim was not the man referred to as a "bitch" or a "faggot" but a heterosexual member of the cast.

    At the time, my reaction was that Washington should have been fired. I realize that's entirely up to the employer, but I'm just wondering why this "audience of conservative news junkies" thinks that it's all about the use of politically incorrect language.

    Is it?

    In a way, yes, and I'll explain why.

    I think that if Washington hadn't called T.R. Knight a "faggot," but had instead simply throttled the other man by the throat, we'd never be hearing anything about this case -- even if he had been sent to rehab, and even if he had been fired.

    Am I wrong in thinking that the guy's use of the "f" word might have actually created sympathy?

    All I know is that people are feeling a lot sorrier for him than they would if he'd just been a silent throat grabber.

    I guess the moral lesson here is that if you're going to assault someone, you'd better throw in a derogatory epithet.

    UPDATE: Not to be nitpicky, but I'm a bit worried about the "conservative news junkie" business. If someone called me that, I'd take it as a triple insult, because I don't like to be labeled or stereotyped because of someone else's perception of my politics, and I don't think it's fair to attribute the disease model to my interest in the details of news stories. Furthermore, isn't it degrading to casually compare avid news readers to people who may be engaged in a struggle for their very lives over substance issues? I mean, what's funny about that?

    [QUESTION: Am I supposed to place little sarcasm emphasis tags somewhere, or is it better to let clueless commenters believe I'm serious? Nah, forget it! If I started doing that, the readers who do get it might think I was being condescending. There is simply no way to take every hypothetical human into account. It's probably wiser to risk offending a clueless minority than spell everything out for the eyeball-rolling majority.]

    posted by Eric at 05:33 PM | Comments (4)

    Hippie Shirts
    Well the design is hippie. The sentiments not so much.

    CnF Hippie Shirt

    Click on the design to get one. Mugs and other stuff too.
    The artists? Cox and Forkum of course

    posted by Simon at 05:07 PM

    A cunning exercise in liberation linguistics?
    It isn't offensive to gays. It has nothing to do with gays. It's a schoolyard taunt, meaning wuss.

    -- Ann Coulter, on the correct usage of the word "faggot"

    On the Hannity and Colmes show recently, Ann Coulter maintained repeatedly that she was joking, did not mean to insult gays, and that the word "faggot" means something else:

    ...what they say about me, they literally misinterpret a joke. Liberals like Kerry get caught calling our troops dumb and then go back and say, oh, I botched a joke. No, I didn't botch a joke, and I didn't use an insulting word. I used a schoolyard word about a married man with children, 28th billionth time, and the audience knew that. I mean, the joke wouldn't have worked if I had inserted the name of a gay Democrat. Any other Democrat, the name could have been inserted. It could have been Howard Dean or Hillary Clinton, because it's a schoolyard taunt meaning wuss, meaning nerd, meaning...
    This new definition (which I could not find in any of the various conventional online dictionaries, nor even in the urban dictionary) comes as news to me, but I'll try to parse it out logically to the extent I can.

    The new definition carries with it Ann Coulter's recognition that the word is insulting if it is directed towards gays, and as she conceded, it was used wrongly by Isaiah Washington. But if directed towards someone who isn't gay, it becomes just a schoolyard taunt, and a not very insulting one. This sounded a bit counterintuitive to me, almost in defiance of common sense. Ann Coulter elaborates:

    COLMES: Was Isaiah Washington wrong to use that word to -- when he used it to describe T.R. Knight?

    COULTER: Yes. He used it incorrectly, but I still don't think he should go to rehab for using a word. I think that's crazy. I think all of America outside of Hollywood thinks that's a wee bit crazy.

    COLMES: So he used it incorrectly, but you used it correctly?

    COULTER: Yes. Yes. I would say that of pretty much every Democratic politician. It could have been John Dean, but he's not running for president. It could have been a different word...

    Regular readers will remember that I cannot stand John Dean. I would never insult the millions of decent, tax paying gay citizens by stating or implying that he was gay -- even if I thought he was. In fact, even if hypothetically I knew that John Dean was gay, I would probably not say anything about it, because I think the man is so morally abhorrent that I wouldn't want to give ammo to the people who hate homosexuals.

    At any event, it would seem that Ann Coulter is urging upon us the following, very novel definition of "faggot."

  • Correct usage: a) a schoolboy who is considered by another schoolboy to be "weak or timid" and b) pretty much every Democratic politician -- male or female, specifically including Hillary Clinton. (Um, does Bubba know?)
  • Incorrect usage: any homosexual.
  • While I guess I should be glad that Ann Coulter has taken it upon herself to unburden homosexuals from the yoke of this rather unpleasant word (as well as change the word's gender), there's that stubborn common-sense part of me that just doesn't quite understand.

    I'm wondering whether her audience understands the new meaning. I mean, if the language has evolved and she is right, then there ought to be no more objection to being called a "faggot" than to being called a "wuss" or (I suppose) even a "bitch." Or even a "cunt." After all, it's quite apparent that Edwards is not a woman. Honestly, I was just kidding around when I uploaded the photo of him in drag (it involved my temporary Marcotte's Syndrome exacerbated by the fuss over Giuliani's drag).

    The problem with my thinking here is that because I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with unmanly men, I tend not to see this taunting in the same way that others might. Is Ann Coulter breaking new barriers for tolerance and understanding in this regard?

    I'd like to hope so. But I just wonder -- especially about the people who cheered her on. There was a time not that long ago when calling a heterosexual man a faggot was the worst insult you could bestow on him. It was considerably worse than calling him a "wuss," and that's because not all wusses are homosexuals. According to the popular stereotype prevalent at the time, however, all homosexuals were wusses. So, if you called someone a faggot, it carried extra weight.

    Now we are told it no longer does, because the word "faggot" does not carry the imputation of homosexuality. It only means "wuss" -- and the "wuss" factor is completely detached from the gay factor.

    If calling a heterosexual a faggot is no longer insulting for the additional reason that there's nothing wrong with being gay, I am delighted, because that means prejudice against homosexuals has disappeared.

    I want to believe her.

    Should I?

    What then, am I to make of her earlier "Bill Clinton may not be gay, but Al Gore is a total fag" remark? If "fag" is a schoolyard taunt meaning "wuss," then I'm confused. But then she said it was a joke. But what was the joke? The idea that "gay" and "fag" might be mistakenly seen as synonyms? Or was it a joke for her to suggest that Al Gore is a wuss? No, that can't be it, for had she stated that Al Gore was a wuss, she would have been serious, and would not be backing off the remark. For it is her contention that "pretty much every Democratic politician" is a "faggot" meaning "wuss."

    Maybe what I'm missing is that it's serious to call Democrats wusses, but that it's a joke if you call them "faggots" and you mean "wusses."

    Hey, I'm trying to be serious here.

    What I'm still trying to figure out is why I found it funnier when Howard Stern used the same word. I guess it was because he always made it clear that above all, he liked the "homos" he'd gently rib, but that his real goal was to ridicule the word. He'd put his gay co-workers on the air, that sort of thing.

    Is there some reason why Ann can't do that? Is she personally anti-gay? I have no idea, really. But sources as widely divergent as Ace and Counterpunch have examined this and don't seem to think she is.

    I think what will matter most is what the ordinary voters remember about this after the Republicans stop fighting each other about it and the dust settles.

    Will this resonate as Republicans-think-it's-funny-to-call-people-faggots?

    With emotional issues like this I'm not sure nuanced arguments will matter.

    If I'm having trouble getting to the truth after years of blogging about such things, I think it would be unreasonable to expect the same thing of ordinary voters.

    Again, I think Rand Simberg got it right when he said she was fragging her own troops.

    Whether she meant to do that is a much more complicated question.

    MORE: Sean Kinsell has analyzed the Coulter phenomenon, and is not offended:

    I never figured Coulter was anti-gay*. I have friends who've seen her out having drinks or dinner with prominent artfags, for one thing. And for another...well, generally speaking, a lot of loudmouthed, high-strung, unmarried urban professional women are fag hags. I'm pretty sure she's against gay marriage and abolishing the DADT policy in the military, but those are specific policy positions, not overarching attitudes. Not that I gave it much thought.


    Now, of course, it's suddenly become impossible to open a browser without encountering a solemn discussion of what exactly Coulter meant when she mentioned John Edwards and the word faggot in close proximity to each other. Her explanation strikes me as sincere. "You can't understand the joke I was trying to make without bearing in mind that I operate at the developmental level of a second-grader" sounds about right, doesn't it?

    So while I think she's wrong about the way the word is used in contemporary American English by adults, I wasn't particularly offended. I agree with Connie that fetishizing words is a bad idea, and I think it's especially bad in this case. The last thing we need as gays is to look yet again as if we were easily-bruised creatures who need to be protected from hurt by big, strong, kind-hearted straight people.

    For those who don't click links, Sean is referring to this very thoughtful post by Connie (yes, she's best known by her sinister non-spinster name of Mrs. du Toit):
    people need to get over the name calling thing. Yes, all the usual can be said about it, bad manners, rude, and crude, but the counter balance to it of "... but names can never hurt me" needs to be brought back into the lexicon.

    I have kids. One of the annoying things they do is annoy each other. They test boundaries. They poke-poke-poke until the other explodes. Then the other pokes-pokes-pokes until they get a reaction to their reaction. This goes on constantly. Without going all Bill Cosby on them and declaring, "Don't any of you ever talk or touch each other again!" you have to let them sort it out.

    One of the clues I've given to them is to stop being annoyed by something the other does. If you allow it to annoy you, they will keep doing it. If it never causes a reaction, it will stop. It's a akin to pretending that being tickled isn't ticklish. So most of the annoyances are avoided by CHOOSING not to be annoyed.

    And I think that's key.

    The whole post is a must-read, and there's also this:
    Words cannot harm anyone. They aren't magic spells. They don't have any power besides the power we've decided they have. They can't harm you UNLESS you choose to allow them to harm you--you CHOOSE to be hurt/offended by them. That is a very bad thing and a very unhealthy thing for a supposedly sophisticated and civilized society.
    This is all true. The only thing I would add to that is that if you don't like the language someone uses, it's perfectly legitimate to criticize it, and ask for a clarification. If someone uses a word I don't use, I might not be hurt, but I might want to ask how he meant that. If the explanation is "because I hate all --------s and don't mind saying so," then there's still a choice to be made. It's tough to disagree with someone's taste in people, but hating all members of a group does constitute bigotry. While that bigotry might be justifiable (a good example is "I hate all Nazis"), I don't think there is anything wrong with not wanting to associate with people who are bigoted against entire groups of people some of whom you might like. If someone tells me he hates Mexicans, I can't dispute that, but I might not want to hang out with him. And if he uses the word "spic," I might choose not to be offended, but I might (if it was clear he meant ill by that remark) consider choosing a different friend.

    I don't think this reduces itself to a game of "BINGO! YOU JUST USED A WORD ON THE FORBIDDEN WORD LIST, SO YOU'RE A CERTIFIED BIGOT!" but I do think common sense is involved.

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, IowaHawk has a lesson in civility from Ann Coulter and Bill Maher. The funny thing is, I thought the remarks were well-deserved by each. The whole thing is a must-read, but if I may summarize briefly, Ann is an "anorexic Nazi whore," a "skeletal Nazi-felcher," and an "emaciated Eva Braun sideshow freak," while Bill is a "syphillitic commie scumnozzle," a "repulsive Godless pederast," a "hideous crotch-rotted abortionist midget," and a "venereal diseased, dwarf-penis pinko fag."

    While it just kills me to be judgmental, it's tough not to agree with "Bill's" assessment of Ann on one point:

    ...a typical Ann Coulter comment is good for 10 minutes of monologue and $2 million for the DNC.
    As I said, I think she's conspiring with the Democrats to circumvent McCain-Feingold.

    UPDATE (03/10/07): I don't know whether Dave Kopel will have the last word on this affair, but I think he should. In a very thoughtful editorial, he compares Ann Coulter to Paul Campos (a law professor who smeared Glenn Reynolds as a murdering fascist), and argues that the technique they're using is "insulting upward":

    ...pick somebody more famous than you. Vilify the person in some outrageous way. Ideally, the target gets upset and responds, and the press covers your public argument. By engaging in a public fight with you, the target has implicitly raised you to his own level of importance.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I think Kopel is absolutely right, and I also agree with his conclusion that they are both demeaning themselves and degrading our civic culture:
    In person, Campos/Coulter are likable, pleasant people. (I've known Campos since 2000, and Coulter since 1988; she spoke at the Independence Institute's annual dinner last year.) Yet in their public personas, they play mean-spirited, shrill characters.

    Campos/Coulter demean themselves and degrade our civic culture with their outlandish rhetoric. They would do better to aim their writing and speeches at the adult, accurate level which they have each achieved many times in the past.

    I think insulting people is just wrong -- whether it's insulting upward or insulting downward. I will defend the First Amendment right to hurl insults as long as I draw breath, but I think insults like these insult everyone's intelligence.

    MORE: The fact that there's a right to use a word does not make it a virtue to use it, nor does it make its use a victory for free speech -- any more than a right to an abortion would make an abortion a good thing.

    (And no, I did not compare Coulter to "baby killers"!)

    posted by Eric at 02:44 PM | Comments (12)

    Sometimes unprincipled demagogues are better than principled activists

    I've been trying for some time to figure out exactly what "principles" are. Is there a universally agreed-upon definition?

    All too often, when someone is called "unprincipled" it will arise in a political disagreement -- usually over what tactics and methods should be used to advance an argument or a cause. People who play by certain rules, such as fairness in debating, obedience to the law, honoring the truth (or insisting on logical arguments, which is one of my frequent themes), will tend to call those who don't "unprincipled."

    My question is this: are those who are deemed "unprincipled" really unprincipled? Or are they simply activists who believe that the ultimate truth of their cause is more important than adhering to what they consider "someone else's rules"?

    A good example can be found in this quote from Glenn Greenwald (in flaming red), as discussed by Jeff Goldstein:

    There are some people who treat our conflicts with the Bush administration and their followers as just a matter of basic, friendly political and policy differences--along the lines of "what should the rate of capital gains tax be?" or "what type of laws can best encourage employers to provide more benefits to their employees"--and therefore, we treat people who support the administration with respect and civility and simply have nice, clean discussions to sort out our differences among well-intentioned people.

    That isn't how I see that, and nobody should come to this blog expecting that. I don't think I've done anything to lead anyone to expect otherwise. I see the Bush movement and its various component parts as a plague and a threat, as anything but well-intentioned. My goal, politically speaking, is to do what I can to undermine it and the institutions that have both supported and enabled it.

    As Jeff explains quite eloquently, this is an admission by Greenwald that the ends justify the means:
    There you have it: an admission by Greenwald(s) that he is justified in using whatever bad faith arguments he must to "undermine" the Bush administration and to demonize those who support its policies.

    Which makes Greenwald(s) an admitted demagogue--and explains, in large part, why his jeremiads are so transparently disingenuous. Those who cite him approvingly, it follows, are either complicit in his goal of undermining this administration, or else are his (willing?) dupes.

    Either way, he's a fraud, and his supporters either frauds or dullards.

    That he spent his time today giving cover to those who essentially cheered on the Taliban marks him as someone whose hatred of Bush has, at long last, shown him to be among those whose love of country is provisional--granted on the condition that policies he likes are in place, and leaders he favors are in power.

    While I don't know what Greenwald would do if put in a position of real power, I think a good argument can be made that he should not be.

    But still, my question about principles has not been answered. While I suspect most (but not all!) of the readers of this blog would call Glenn Greenwald unprincipled, in his mind he is quite the opposite. He answers to a higher set of principles, best known to him, and subject only to his own review. He wants what he wants, and those who disagree with him are in his mind murderous sociopathic, bloodthirsty, downright frightening right-wing authoritarians. The details of this demented argument are not especially worth my time, but it's important to bear in mind that Greenwald (in conjunction with Sadly No) is making the argument about Glenn Reynolds, which I find deeply disturbing. Because if (and I mean if) we assume Greenwald really believes these things, then almost anything he does becomes justified.

    How many of us would consider Count von Stauffenberg's assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler to have been unprincipled? Very few. That's because defeating murderous sociopathic fascism is a moral principle of the highest order. Thus, if Greenwald believes his vicious rhetoric, this makes him a moderate in comparison to the highly principled Count von Stauffenberg.

    So what are "principles"? Are they "relative"?

    I still don't know, but I do hope Jeff Goldstein is right about Greenwald being a demagogue.

    Whether this make me a hopeless moral relativist is another question.

    posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (2)

    PETA agrees -- with me!

    While I'm a skeptic about anthropogenic global warming gas, I have been steadily pointing out the suspicious silence by the MSM on the meat issue -- because according to all the official data, human meat consumption is said to be the number one cause of global warming.

    I now I see that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is laying the issue at Al Gore's feet -- and they accuse his movie of failing to address cause number one:

    Norfolk, Va. -- This morning, PETA sent a letter to former vice president Al Gore explaining to him that the best way to fight global warming is to go vegetarian and offering to cook him faux "fried chicken" as an introduction to meat-free meals. In its letter, PETA points out that Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth--which starkly outlines the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming and just won the Academy Award for "Best Documentary"--has failed to address the fact that the meat industry is the largest contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions.
    Among other things the letter cites studies showing that switching to a vegan diet is more effective than switching to a Prius:
    The effect that our meat addiction is having on the climate is truly staggering. In fact, in its recent report "Livestock's Long Shadow--Environmental Issues and Options," the United Nations determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

    · Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius.

    I hope they hold Al Gore's feet to the fire on this one.

    Something about the way they're avoiding meat strikes me as downright devious.

    I suspect it's because they don't believe their own rhetoric. Or maybe it's because they think taking the country off meat will be too much of a hard sell.

    Whatever it is, I'd like nothing more than to get to the bottom of this nonsense.

    I hope PETA makes Gore squeal like a stuck hog.

    MORE: I'm sorry to be redundant about this, but I don't think people fully appreciate the logic. Meat eating is either the number one cause of GW or it is not. If it is the number one cause, then why are the GW people not talking about it? Even the skeptics are not focusing on meat as they should be. I think meat may be the Achilles Heel of GW, as it puts the lie to them. The skeptics should be pressing it. I think the logic is being blurred for several reasons. One is that lot of people think we should conserve (we should), and end our dependence on foreign oil (we should). This does not mean that CO2 is being released in sufficient quantities to cause climate change, though. People rationalize going along with the GW scare because we need to conserve, and they forget that conservation of oil is a different issue. (I think it's right to conserve oil and reduce dependency, but I think fudging the issue is manipulative.)

    Another reason is that even the believers have a natural resistence to giving up meat, and they fear it will damage their movement. They want to keep it quiet, and for some strange reason, their opponents go along with keeping it quiet, probably because they think the less said about it the better. Big mistake IMO, especially if meat is in fact the Achilles Heel of the environmentalists. The American people are used to being scolded about oil, but if they're asked to give up meat, they'll begin to wise up, and start asking basic questions. It's this "leave well enough alone" mindset which prevents people from getting to the truth.

    Finally, there's a natural inclination to think of oil as the culprit, not just because Big Oil is so widely demonized, but because we've all been conditioned from childhood to think of smokestacks and tailpipes as pouring out evil, filthy pollution. Never mind that we emit carbons and that they're organic. Oil companies are "bad." Farmers are "good."

    Thus, it is counterintuitive to see meat as the problem. Frankly, I don't think man's oil consumption or meat consumption emits enough carbon to change the climate. But I believe in being fair.

    The emphasis on oil despite the data is just not logical!

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all.

    (Um, but Is PETA looking into this sirloin offset business?)

    UPDATE: Thank you Rand Simberg for the link. ("The Real Problem" is how he puts it, and it is a real problem -- especially for Al Gore.)

    AND MORE: Via Justin, I learned about a blogger named Mr. Bingley at "The Coalition of the Swilling" -- whose post graphically demonstrates how profitable "sirloin offsets" could be.

    As you can see there's, what, 10 filets? Not bad. So 2 packs of 4 each go into the freezer.
    Anyone know what's in Al Gore's freezer?

    UPDATE: I don't know if PETA has heard about bloggers advocating rights for robots, but let's keep it quiet, OK?

    UPDATE (03/10/07): With apologies to the great Jonathan Swift, Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture offers "A Modest Proposal: Butchering Animal's for PETA and Green Sex":

    Groups like PETA will have an important role of course, because in choosing which species need to be controlled we need a deeply ethical group such as them to monitor the process. We don't want species eliminated because some people just don't like them. I am sure snakes will be put up before the methane commission by someone as an offset to some cute species (Maybe rabbits? We don't want to be killing cute little bunnies do we?) It'll be up to them to make the unpopular and politically dangerous case that it isn't ethical to kill 10,000 snakes to "offset" the emissions from some Senator's daughter's cute little pony.
    Read it all!

    posted by Eric at 06:57 PM | Comments (28)

    The high pitched squeal of small carbon footprints

    A safety Nazi I am not.

    Nor am I much of an environmentalist.

    But I was very curious to know what Glenn Reynolds meant when he referred to "pushy Prius drivers," and Mickey Kaus explained:

    As Priuses have proliferated from the do-gooder niche into the mainstream, their drivers have gotten as rude and aggressive as anyone else. Ruder, in my experience. I think they feel entitled because of their small carbon footprint. ... P.S.: And you can't hear them coming.
    I don't know about the carbon footprint entitlement deal, but boy, can I testify to the latter! While out running the other day, I came to an intersection and with an SUV sitting there making not a sound, as if the engine had died or the driver had shut off the ignition. Because this was a bit puzzling, I slowed down, and I was quite disconcerted by the fact that the driver was staring at me impatiently, as if he wanted to go! It made absolutely no sense, but I wasn't about to offer to help someone who obviously did not want me even looking at him. As soon as I passed in front of the car, it zoomed forward, and then I heard the motor, which didn't seem loud enough. I looked, and sure enough, I could read "PRIUS" as it turned.

    You'd think that with all the money these things cost, they could make a little traditional, you know, noise? Let people know there's an SUV coming? I mean, the electronic cash registers they've got in most 7/11s would be dead quiet but for the speaker which plays the "kachink kaching" sound, and the reason they do it is to reassure customers that the transaction is actually taking place.

    As I see it, if you can hear a cash register you ought to be able to hear a car. Now, I'm not trying to make this mandatory. As a libertarian I believe in free choices. But shouldn't there be at least a digitally prerecorded engine noise as optional equipment for these SUVs? (Or do we have to wait until we hear this sound?)

    Blind activist groups are trying to make them mandatory, but I wouldn't go that far.

    But on the other hand what about those stupid and annoying back up beeps that all trucks and forklifts have to make? Are workers in factories considered more worthy of protection than ordinary pedestrians?

    Sooner or later, there will be an accident, and of course a lawsuit. And it won't be the reasonable prudent Prius drivers who will force a change in the design, either. The ones most likely to get sued are the pushy, I'm-saving-the-environment-so-I can-do-whatever-I-want, talk-on-my-cell-phone-about about-saving-the-world, not-looking-at the-road types.

    I certainly hope there isn't such a "type," but my instincts tell me there is. My instincts also tell me that pushy and silent is a potentially deadly combination.

    And you don't have to be blind to not hear them coming.

    posted by Eric at 02:48 PM | Comments (6)


    I just heard Libby was found guilty.

    The problem is that it was during a commercial break on the radio, and I wasn't listening carefully. Now I'm hearing it again:

    Count one -- perjury -- guilty,

    Count two -obstruction -- guilty

    Count three -- not guilty.

    I guess I heard right!

    I think this is an example of a runaway independent prosecutor, and I hope Bush has the courage to pardon him. (That is, if he has been found guilty.)

    The whole thing was a big mess from start to finish.

    MORE: As usual, Tom Maguire is on top of this, and I'm sure he'll have the most thorough analysis available.

    AND MORE (12:37 p.m.): Still waiting for Tom Maguire's verdict. Right now all he has is a post titled "The Deep Breath Before The Icy Plunge", and I like this comment from M. Simon:

    I hope the Duke Lacrosse case doesn't go to trial.

    MORE: Jane Hamsher was there, and lists the verdicts on all five counts:

    Count I: GUILTY

    Count II: GUILTY


    Count IV: GUILTY

    Count V: GUILTY

    And Jane Hamsher's own eyewitness reaction:
    To say it was tense in the courtroom as we were waiting for a verdict would be an understatement. My heart was pounding in my chest as it all started to become real for me, all we'd done, how far we'd come.

    Libby was stoic and Mrs. Libby daubed her eyes as the verdict was read. Nobody on the prosecution showed much emotion but Zeidenberg held his head in his hands. Libby himself was seated between Wells and Jeffress. He did not move.

    Afterwards Mrs. Libby came up and hugged Jeffress profusely, then Wells, saying "love you, love you" with much emotion. Then all the rest of the defense team. She didn't hug Scooter however, or hold his hand, or even make eye contact.

    Wells said he would make a statement in the hallway in 10 minutes, and Fitzgerald will give one on the courthouse steps.

    It's a good day to be an American, huh?

    I don't share her assessment of the day, obviously.

    MORE (1:20 p.m.): Tom Maguire delivers his verdict:

    Let's be clear - when the Yankees lose, I am both disappointed and surprised; today I am disappointed.

    MORE (1:37 p.m.) Glenn Reynolds and Pajamas Media both have nice roundups of links, and Glenn opines on the pardon issue:

    Will a pardon be forthcoming? My guess is Bush will wait till the end, a la Clinton and Bush I, but who knows?
    I know I've said this before, but I hope Bush pardons Hillary too. Might makefer a cozy twofer.

    A pretty comprehensive Wall Street Journal report is here.

    MORE: Ted Kennedy:

    President Bush should now pledge that he will not pardon Scooter Libby
    I think that's a good enough reason to pardon him right now.

    AND MORE: Pardon Libby says the National Review:

    Fitzgerald adopted the discredited Wilson's script and focused his three-year investigation on Cheney, Libby, and Rove--and not, inexplicably, on others. Not on Armitage. Not on Ari Fleischer, either. The recent trial revealed that the former White House press secretary was granted immunity from prosecution, and that he admitted to telling two reporters about Plame's employment. Those reporters were never even questioned. Nor did any charges arise from Fleischer's faulty memory, even though a third reporter (Pincus) testified that Fleischer had told him too about Plame--something that Fleischer denied under oath.

    There should have been no referral, no special counsel, no indictments, and no trial. The "CIA-leak case" has been a travesty. A good man has paid a very heavy price for the Left's fevers, the media's scandal-mongering, and President Bush's failure to unify his own administration. Justice demands that Bush issue a pardon and lower the curtain on an embarrassing drama that shouldn't have lasted beyond its opening act.

    I agree.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (2)


    Only as a cyber experiment in free expression, of course....

    They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I think I can, if the cover looks like this:


    More here on the Kloran, which I think most people would agree is a book of hate.

    So we can all agree that it's OK to spit on the Kloran right?

    Or would the PC word police have another, more niggardly view of language usage?

    I honestly don't know, but I keep searching for klean answers in an unklean world.

    Perhaps I should whiten bleach klean my mouth with Klorox.

    HT -- commenter Tim Maguire

    posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (2)

    I confess! I am a word cop who hates all word cops!

    My repeated objections to Ann Coulter's use of the word "faggot" seem to have raised questions about whether I have (or am) falling prey to the PC language police.

    While I don't think objecting to insulting language is PC behavior (I have always objected to insulting language and the word police, as long as I've been writing this blog) I'm wondering how the term is to be defined.

    Was I being overly PC when I objected (in two blog posts) to the invention and use of the term "Christianist" by Andrew Sullivan?

    I mean, who and what is PC these days? If "Christianist" is an insulting PC epithet (which it seems to be), then I guess objecting to it would technically be a form of PC word policing. But maybe not. (Doesn't "PC" traditionally mean "PC for me but not for thee"?)

    So I am once again confused.

    And I must confess.

    I don't know where to start, but I guess if I am a word cop who hates all word cops, then I must be a self hating Christianist faggot word cop.

    Self hatred is very un-PC, isn't it?

    How do I atone?

    MORE: The word cops strike again:

    A disc jockey in Austin, Texas was suspended Thursday after he attempted to joke about the recent politically incorrect comments made by Sen. Joe Biden about Sen. Barack Obama.

    In January, Biden, D-Del., said that one of Obama's political attributes is that he is "clean." Host Bob Cole of KVET's "Sam and Bob in the Morning" show reminded listeners Thursday that Biden had used the racially-insensitive word to describe Obama.

    "He's clean is what what's-his-name said. Joe Biden told us that," Cole said.

    "Clean darky," quipped host Sam Allred.

    It appears the local NAACP did not share the host's "darky" sense of humor.

    Allred refuses to apologize, and defends his First Amendment "right to say anything":

    Allred told KXAN that he will not apologize because he was within his rights.

    "It's called the First Amendment," he said, "and you get the right to say anything." KVET issued a statement saying it is not the station's "intention to be offensive. ...We do not discriminate against individuals regardless of race, religion, gender age or sexual orientation."

    A lot of people have not taken the time to read the First Amendment. While there is a right to say pretty much anything (barring criminal advocacy, the seven dirty words, and things like that), this right only means the government is without power to stop you. Thus, while the First Amendment gives you a right to call your boss a fa*got or a ni*ger, it does not prohibit him from firing you for doing that.

    Whether the man was making fun of Biden or whether he made the remark with hateful intent I do not know. He had a right to say it, the station had a right to fire him for it, and the rest of us have the right to approve, disapprove, boycott or picket, in whatever way we like.

    Have I made that perfectly clear?

    Am I allowed to say my language is clean?

    Or would that be unclean of me?


    I'm having trouble with the rules again. Can anyone help me out?

    Is it more insulting to call someone clean, or unclean?

    Just asking.

    UPDATE (03/07/07): Don't miss Rand Simberg's discussion of the Coulter mess -- which he brilliantly calls "her latest fragging of her own troops."

    posted by Eric at 09:18 AM | Comments (18)

    My own private Kilimanjaro

    There's been altogether too much denial and screwing around on this blog, and I think it's high time I took things more seriously. I therefore intend to deal head-on with what Al Gore calls the "most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced."

    It's about time, isn't it? My denial ends -- and my science begins -- right here and now, with this blog post!

    We've all heard that all politics is local and we've all heard that we're supposed to, you know, "THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY." Well, since weather is politics, and politics is weather, the same local and global rules apply. All weather is local -- starting right here!

    On Friday, the temperature here rose sharply -- reaching the mid 50s.

    As the snow melted, I thought to document the peculiar phenomenon:

    This was one of the last patches of receding snow in my yard, as it looked on Friday:


    And here's exactly the same spot on Saturday -- taken moments before it disappeared forever:


    Yes, I do mean forever. Those flakes (which by then had become crystalline structures clinging precariously to the ground as if for their very lives!) have literally disappeared.

    Never to return again.

    I was so upset by the implications of this that I prepared my own scientific chart to document the ominous spike in temperatures.

    Here it is, as submitted it for peer review:


    Had the warming trend continued at that rate (20 degrees per day), according to my calculations, the planet would have been incinerated by March 26 ( the date at which 451 degrees Fahrenheit would have been reached, of course.)

    However, that is not what happened.

    Instead, a bizarre invasion of arctic air (doubtless caused by the ushering in of the new ice age triggered by the Notorious Shutdown Of The Atlantic Conveyor Belt System) has swept into the area:

    Arctic air, accompanied by snow squalls and strong wind gusts, is sweeping into the Northeast this afternoon. The bone-chilling invasion is setting the stage for dangerously cold wind chills later tonight and early tomorrow. Wind chills in northern New York state and northern New England may tumble to 40 below zero by sunrise. In eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, wind chill factors could plunge to 15 or 20 below. Even around NYC, wind chills are expected to fall below zero. Frost bite can occur rapidly in such conditions, and residents of the Northeast, especially north of the Mason-Dixon Line, are advised to dress for extremely cold conditions tonight and tomorrow morning.
    Right now it's a bitterly cold 14 degrees. Coco was hesitant to go outside and do her business.

    Let's see.... From the mid 50s to the mid teens in a two day period is also a very ominous phenomenon.

    This called for another carefully prepared, scientifically peer-reviewed graph, which I assure my readers was prepared with state of the art methods.


    If current trends continue, temperatures will hit Zero Degrees Kelvin by March 30(a 20 degree daily drop in temperatures until -459.40000000000003 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.)

    Zero degrees Kelvin, of course is "absolute zero" -- "the temperature at which all molecules stop all movement."

    All molecules will stop all movement?

    Gee, that sounds awful.

    That means my computer probably won't work anymore, and I'd have a major problem writing this blog!

    Of course, according to certain scientific skeptics (the ones whose opinions Al Gore doesn't think should be reported), my modeling might be off a little:

    Formerly of University College London, Dr. Orrell is best known among scientists for arguing that the failures of weather forecasting are not due to chaotic effects -- as in the butterfly that causes the hurricane -- but to errors of modelling. He sees the same problems in the predictions of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which he calls "extremely vague," and says there is no scientific reason to think the climate is more predictable than the weather.

    "Models will cheerfully boil away all the water in the oceans or cover the world in ice, even with pre-industrial levels of Co2," he writes in Apollo's Arrow . And so scientists use theoretical concepts like "flux adjustments" to make the models agree with reality. When models about the future climate are in agreement, "it says more about the self-regulating group psychology of the modelling community than it does about global warming and the economy."

    In explaining such an arcane topic for a general audience, he found himself returning again and again to religious metaphors to explain our faith in predictions, referring to the "weather gods" and the "images of almost biblical wrath" in the literature. He sketched the rise of "the gospel of deterministic science," a faith system that was born with Isaac Newton and died with Albert Einstein. He said his own physics education felt like an "indoctrination" into the use of models, and that scientists in his field, "like priests... feel they are answering a higher calling."

    I blame the gods.

    I'm sorry folks! I know that this is "the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced," but my hockey stick got stuck in the conveyor belt. I'll try to lead a more virtuous life in the future.

    posted by Eric at 08:42 AM | Comments (2)

    DANEgerus RINOs!

    Yes, this week's RINO sightings Carnival is being held at DANEgerus weblog.

    The theme is Shakespearean...

    "Hamlet faced a world gone mad."

    And so do some of the RINOs, especially Rachel, who relates the worst, most God-awful horror story of insane bureaucracy run amok I've read in a long time. I'm amazed she didn't go mad.

    A world gone mad is sometimes the way I think the world is going, but I'm still proud enough to remain a RINO.

    Go check it out!

    posted by Eric at 08:03 PM | Comments (3)

    "I don't feel no ways tired"

    If you listen to this video, it sounds as if Hillary Clinton is going out of her way to affect "talking black" (or at least what she imagines the stereotype of "talking black" sounds like).

    Why would she do this?

    Simply to read the lyrics of a song? I think it might be an attempt to remind black voters that Barack Obama doesn't sound black.

    I don't doubt that Hillary "don't feel no ways tired," but what I think she forgets is that a lot of people are tired of stereotypes.

    I for one feel way tired.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: There are a lot of ordinary people running around who aren't white, they aren't black, they aren't Hispanic, or Asian, or anything, because they're of indeterminate racial mixes. They don't like the pressure to be members of racial groups, as they just want to be themselves. I think Barack Obama -- whether he wants to or not -- appeals to people who want to be allowed to just forget about their race.

    (Too modern an idea for thoroughly unmodern Hillary.)

    MORE: Speaking of modern ideas, Salon has an interesting article (from 2000) on the struggle to get a "multiracial" category into the U.S. census. Predictably, activists resisted the move:

    The NAACP as well as the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund are urging any of their constituents who may be part white to identify themselves as simply black or Asian on the census. Other civil rights organizations are already pressuring the government to "reassign" multiracial Americans back into the traditional racial categories, to resist dilution of any individual non-white racial group.
    In other words, you have to have a race! Or else one will be provided for you!

    UPDATE: Via Pajamas Media, Hot Air has video showing Barack Obama reducing himself to Hillruh's level in what seems to be some sort of Southern pandering strategy.

    Is Hillary forcing Obama to act more black by "talking black"?

    Does this make Obama free to retaliate and say, "Don't talk black to me"?

    This is getting surreal.

    UPDATE: Thanks to A Second Hand Conjecture for the link! Lance has a very interesting take on people who imitate Southern accents, and his discussion reminded me of some very condescending behavior I witnessed in Nashville.

    UPDATE: More on accents from GM's Corner.

    posted by Eric at 11:37 AM | Comments (3)

    "Coulter cash" skirts McCain-Feingold?

    While writing a previous post on global warming (in which I tried to avoid unfair comparisons), I was surprised to discover the existence of something called a "homo offset."

    Of course, I was contrasting Al Gore's ability to buy carbon offsets to atone for his conspicuous consumption with the unavailability of any similar offset for anti-gay preachers wishing to atone for their um, promiscuous consumption.

    But I was joking.

    What's come up now is deadly serious, and it might even be illegal.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I now see that it is possible to purchase homophobia offsets. It's called "Coulter Cash" and it's just a click away.

    The thing is, I've been speculating for some time about how Ann Coulter wants the left to win, and if you think about it, having Hillary Clinton as president really is in her best economic interest. Hence, my conclusion has been that in the long-term, Ann Coulter wants Hillary to be president.

    So why, then, would she be helping Edwards? (I might have to make some adjustments on my tin foil hat, as I don't think it's receiving properly.)

    Might she be getting secret kickbacks from the Edwards team? Has anyone audited Ann Coulter?


    Perhaps Coulter knows that Edwards has no chance of winning, but that he's a stalking horse for Hillary so this represents an indirect way of skirting McCain-Feingold.

    Still, we all know that McCain-Feingold was supposed to prevent all such disguised forms of fund-raising. Has Ann Coulter really found a loophole, or will her dissembled campaign contributions have to be properly reported?

    Shouldn't there be some sort of independent investigation?

    UPDATE: I am not alone in wondering about Coulteral collusion. Here's Roger L. Simon:

    ...the Democrats should love Ann Coulter. Nearly every time she opens her mouth, she helps them get elected.
    Again, isn't it time for a little financial disclosure?

    posted by Eric at 09:21 AM | Comments (5)

    At least something sounded good at CPAC!

    I'm still nursing a grudge as a result of the notorious McCain-Feingold bill, pretty much for the reasons Don Surber outlined and Glenn Reynolds linked here, and I haven't been at all impressed with the McCain candidacy.

    But the something happened over the weekend which moved McCain up maybe half a notch in my estimation.

    Here's Ron Kessler's Newsmax report from CPAC:

    Of the 1,705 votes cast in the CPAC straw poll, Romney got 21%, compared with 17% for Giuliani and 15% for Kansas Senator Sam Brownback.

    McCain trailed with 12% of the votes. The results were announced at the conclusion of the conference to a ballroom packed with 1,400 people. When McCain's name was mentioned, loud boos erupted.

    Crazy as it sounds, and despite the fact that I'm no McCain supporter, I wish I had a video just so I could hear the boos.

    They'd sound good to me right now, a soothingly perverted lullaby for my tired and angry nerves.

    This is not to say that I'm in any way disappointed in Giuliani, for whom I'd have no problem voting despite my reservations about him. But McCain showed some balls by snubbing the bastards, and by booing him (not long after cheering Ann Coulter's use of the word "faggot"), CPAC not only honored McCain, they showed that they've got what it takes to lose an election. (Fortunately, they don't speak for the entire GOP.)

    I'm not planning to bolt the Republican Party as Barry Campbell did earlier, but I should probably thank CPAC for a much-needed reminder of why I am not a conservative.


    UPDATE (03/05/07): Via Pajamas Media, The American Mind's Sean Hackbarth offers a reminder that not only were a number of CPAC attendees not cheering Coulter, they've signed a petition which they urge other conservatives to sign:

    Denouncing Coulter is not enough. After her "raghead" remark in 2006 she took some heat. Yet she did not grow and learn. We should have been more forceful. This year she used a gay slur. What is next? If Senator Barack Obama is the de facto Democratic Presidential nominee next year will Coulter feel free to use a racial slur? How does that help conservatism?

    One of the points of CPAC is the opportunity it gives college students to meet other young conservatives and learn from our leaders. Unlike on their campuses--where they often feel alone--at CPAC they know they are part of a vibrant political movement. What example is set when one highlight of the conference is finding out what shocking phrase will emerge from Ann Coulter's mouth? How can we teach young conservatives to fight for their principles with civility and respect when Ann Coulter is allowed to address the conference? Coulter's invective is a sign of weak thinking and unprincipled politicking.

    CPAC sponsors, the Age of Ann has passed. We, the undersigned, request that CPAC speaking invitations no longer be extended to Ann Coulter. Her words and attitude simply do too much damage.

    I'd be delighted to add my name, except didn't I just "thank CPAC for a much-needed reminder of why I am not a conservative"? Or can I call myself a non-ACU, non-CPAC conservative?

    Frankly, I don't know what I am, and because labels disgust me, I tend to acquiesce to whatever people want to call me. Occasionally, though, I have to distance myself from people with whom I don't want to be associated, and my goal in writing this post last night was to distance myself from Ann Coulter's cheering minions -- whoever they might be.

    My concern is not so much with Ann Coulter, but with the unavoidable fact that what she said was intended to please the crowd in front of her. Had they not liked hearing a remark with the "f" word, they would not have cheered.

    I mean, it's not as if they don't know how to boo.

    posted by Eric at 11:59 PM

    Economics in About Five Minutes

    Economics for every day people. Translation from economics to english by Yoram Bauman PhD.

    H/T A Second Hand Conjecture

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 10:32 PM | Comments (1)

    All unintended consequences left behind!

    Another report of an attack on a Philadelphia school teacher initially made me want to write this post as an update my earlier post on two other attacks. But that post -- "School of hard knocks" -- has now moved so far down on that even though it's still on the blog's front page, I don't think most readers would see it.

    Or am I wrong? Are there readers who would actually scroll past 8000 words they've already seen just to check to see whether there's been a recent update to a two day old post?

    I didn't think so.

    Anyway, in the latest incident reported by the Inquirer, a teacher was attacked by eighth grade girls:

    Smith, who had been teaching eighth-grade science and history at de Burgos since early November, said he was attacked Thursday afternoon when he told a student to stop making crank calls from the classroom phone.

    It was 2:50 p.m., and students were getting their coats and preparing for dismissal when the eighth grader was making calls.

    When Smith told her to get off the phone, he said, she whacked him across his left eye with the receiver.

    As he attempted to restrain the girl and hang up the phone, Smith said, she grabbed his tie and choked him. As he struggled to break free, she grabbed a dictionary and hit him in the back of the head.

    Smith said that as he was starting to pass out, three other girls jumped on him. Security officers and other teachers arrived and pulled off the students.

    A statement by the teachers union president also caught my attention:
    Ted Kirsch, president of the union that represents 18,000 teachers and other employees, said the union was considering asking to have legislation introduced in Harrisburg to make it easier to remove violent students. The union also may seek stiffer penalties for administrators who try to skirt state law by underreporting serious incidents. (Emphasis added.)
    Underreporting serious incidents? Might that explain the rule requiring teachers to contact parents directly instead of going through the principal?

    Today's followup article sheds a bit more light:
    "The administration doesn't want to do incident reports because they don't want people to know," said Marie Barnett, who taught 12th-grade English at Germantown High for more than a decade and attended yesterday's meeting. "We need help."

    The PFT plans to meet with state lawmakers this week to request better-enforced and stricter penalties for abusive students and administrators who "sweep it under the rug," Kirsch said.

    Reached by phone later in the day, city schools spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district "aggressively mandates" the reporting of all incidents.

    He pointed out that Philadelphia's is the only district in the state with a safe-school advocate, whom he said teachers could approach in confidence.

    "We are not afraid of labeling our schools as 'persistently dangerous,' " Gallard said.

    Something about the phrase "persistently dangerous" attracted my attention (especially because it was buried at the end of an article on page B6), so I Googled.


    "Persistently dangerous" is in fact an official term -- well known and much dreaded by school administrators:

    "It is the Scarlet Letter of the education community," said Kenneth S. Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, in describing the "persistently dangerous school" component of the No Child Left Behind law. The law allows parents to transfer students if schools are determined to be "persistently dangerous" based on definitions created by each individual state.

    No wonder they don't want to hear about violent incidents!

    Another NCLB irony. Well meaning regulations intended to make schools do more about violence are in fact creating an incentive for them to do less.


    It's as if violence has become an unintended consequence of safety.

    Pennsylvania's standards certainly ought to put the fear of God (and fear of the School Board) into any administrator dumb enough to report dangerous incidents. The state's "Approved Standards for Persistently Dangerous Schools" can be found here, beginning with the definition of the term itself:

    "Persistently Dangerous School" shall mean any public elementary, secondary, or charter school that meets any of the following criteria in the most recent school year and in one additional year of the two years prior to the most recent school year:
    (1) for a school whose enrollment is 250 or less, at least 5 dangerous incidents;
    (2) for a school whose enrollment is between 251 to 1000, a number of dangerous incidents that represents at least 2% of the school's enrollment; or
    (3) for a school whose enrollment is over 1000, 20 or more dangerous incidents.
    The remedy for parents includes the right to transfer to other public schools, or even charter schools:
    Student Opportunity to Transfer

    (1) Except as provided below, a student who attends a persistently dangerous school must be offered the opportunity to transfer to a safe public school within the LEA, including a charter school.

    (2) A student who attends a persistently dangerous school may apply to transfer at any time while the school maintains that designation.
    Hmmm... Parents can yank their kids from your school, and the School Board has to pay for it? (I wonder what consequences that might have on the principal's self esteem....)

    Human nature and the nature of bureaucracy being what it is, it's understandable that administrators want to do as little as possible about the problem even without additional reasons.

    So why -- why -- would the government give these do-nothing educrats an actual incentive to do nothing?

    What's going on?

    Is there some hidden cabal of diabolical fiends who spend their time drafting legislation cleverly contrived to achieve precisely the opposite effect of its stated purpose?

    Or is it just that there's no escape from the Law of Unintended Consequences?

    posted by Eric at 05:30 PM | Comments (6)

    First they came for the cigarettes....

    If, as Al Gore says, Global Warming is "the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced," (a ludicrous contention IMO), then why aren't Al Gore and his minions letting ordinary Americans know what they have in store for them?

    As I've tried to point out in a couple of posts, if human meat consumption is the number one cause of Global Warming, then why is there so much silence surrounding America's obvious "addiction" to meat?

    And if this is the "most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced" should there be any internal combustion cars on the road at all?

    Why aren't more environmentalists calling for an outright ban, like author Edwin Black?

    "These [cars with internal combustion engines] are the cigarettes of individual movements. These are the cigarettes of technology. These are eight-cylinder cigarettes. They are killing us....


    Congress and the administration can make up for lost time, Black said, if they "tobacco-nize" the industry. Just as the government can legislate that smoking is not permitted in public buildings, so too, he said, can it prevent certain vehicles from driving on certain roads.

    "The government owns the complete infrastructure for automobiles -- every road, every highway, every alley is government-owned," Black said, adding that such authority gives the federal government the ability to dictate what forms of fuel should be located alongside the roads and which cars should be allowed on them.

    Internal combustion vehicles "should not be permitted on the road. They should be taxed out of existence right now," Black said.

    If it's really "the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced," then Black is right.

    A most peculiar situation. You'd almost think that most of these people didn't believe in their own rhetoric.

    Either that or they're hiding their agenda.

    And I'm supposed to trust them?

    posted by Eric at 04:05 PM | Comments (2)

    The Greenwalding of Coulteral Diversity?

    While I can only speculate about the reasons, this morning I learned that Barry Campbell of Enrevanche is no longer a RINO. And he has a short but sweet farewell post:

    I am a RINO (Republican In Name Only) no longer... because, in fact, I am no longer a Republican.

    I've changed my party registration to "unaffiliated."

    I've stuck with the GOP through thick and thin, success and failure, smart and stupid.

    Stupid finally got to me.

    More on this soon.

    Clueless though I am about what's going on in Barry's mind, it did occur to me that Ann Coulter might have triggered his reaction, and the more I thought it over, the more I wondered whether the spectacle of a group of self-congratulatory bigots laughing over her use of the "faggot" slur might also be triggering -- as a very much intended consequence -- an exodus of" homo lovin' RINOs" from the GOP.

    I can just hear the other "side."

    "Good riddance!"

    "'Bout time!"

    "Maybe now we can get rid of the rest of these perverts. After all they caused us to lose the last election because of the Mark Foley thing. We've been far too tolerant, for far too long! It's about time to take a little pride in being judgmental, and high time we started calling a faggot a faggot!"

    The undeniable fact is, there are a number of people in the GOP who think this way. (You can watch them clap on video.*) And there are a number of people who believe -- passionately -- that homosexuality is the greatest threat this country faces, as well as the greatest threat faced by Western Civilization itself. (As I've discussed, to them Brokeback Mountain means the end is near or something.) Not that this latter group will necessarily use the "f" word. But developing calluses (as I have) will not make them go away. Nor will trying to get them to laugh at themselves work. They truly believe God is behind them on this issue. Arguments based on logic and reason are a colossal waste of time. So is humor.

    I thought about them (the "apoplectically apocalyptic" homo haters) last night when I contemplated Ed Morrissey's remark on the Coulter flap:

    At some point, Republicans will need to get over their issues with homosexuality.
    I used to think that too. The problem is, for certain people, there's no getting over certain things.

    I worry that these "can't get over" types of things are the sort of things that will put Hillary in the White House. The right wing of the GOP are doing the heavy lifting for her.

    But what about the GOP as a Big Tent? Have things reached the point where I have to ask myself whether I would rather be in the same tent with Ann Coulter, or the same tent as Glenn Greenwald?

    I don't think so. Anyone is free to either join or leave either party.

    My emotions aside, before I run from one hate-filled tent to another, I plan to keep the following two points in mind:

    1. Fred Phelps is a Democrat;

    2. And Giuliani is the GOP front runner.

    The former hates gays even more than Ann Coulter, while the latter has faced criticism for not only having close gay friends, but for dressing in drag at a gay-friendly event.

    The conspiracy theorist in me wonders whether Giuliani might be the primary target of a Coulter and Greenwald campaign.

    Hey, if two people from such different tents and can agree on something, why not?

    I'm sure Ann can stomach an opportunistic fellow traveler, even if he's someone she wouldn't allow herself to use the "f" word to describe.

    And for all of Greenwald's fussing about fascism now, he once thought the people who sound the way he does now were "odious and repugnant."

    I know times change, but opportunities always abound.

    MORE: I do not mean to suggest that all the people at CPAC approved of Coulter's remarks, nor do I mean to suggest that those who did are representative of the GOP majority. Just thought I should make that clear, because commenters sometimes read things in.

    UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has been accused of supporting Ann Coulter. Which he doesn't. But what Jeff objects to is the idea that he has some affirmative duty to jump up and down because he is told to:

    To be clear, while I don't believe it inappropriate to distance oneself from certain remarks if, in fact, one feels strongly enough to do so, I also feel like the "need" to get out in front of such things is a form of surrender to a public speech code that I'm finding, structurally at least, quite problematic. Ann Coulter doesn't work for any particular candidate, nor does she speak for "conservatives" en masse. So demanding that people necessarily distance themselves from Coulter publicly is a bit like demanding that ocean lovers distance themselves from stingrays in the wake of Steve Irwin's death.

    (Which begs the question of who loves her the most.)

    posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (8)

    Another Hated Duty

    That would be the duty on imported ethanol. Or if you prefer the Aurthur Daniels Midland duty.

    This video is Not Work Safe in places. In other places it might be a requirement. Viewer discretion advised.

    For more video of a somewhat drier nature visit Set America Free. Actually since they are promoting alcohol they would be wets.

    H/T Instapundit who links to a semi-tame version. i.e. you have to scroll down. If I get any complaints I may do the same.

    posted by Simon at 04:43 AM | Comments (3)

    The Missing Proletariat

    As some of you may know I'm a big fan of Economist Hernando DeSoto. I covered some of his thinking in Property. Which is all about the historical origins of property. Of course the origin of the desire for property is biological. What property rights do is minimize the fighting about property. Making the owner more secure.

    Economic development expert Peter Schaefer says we have a property problem in Iraq.

    Vietnam sparked Schaefer's interest in economic development. I spoke to him yesterday (March 2) on the phone. Pete told me: "I couldn't get my mind around the fact that the Vietnamese people were so smart and industrious and yet they were just so damn poor. The (destructive effects of the) war didn't answer that for me. Why would someone choose Mao over Jefferson?"

    Schaefer concluded the Vietnamese Communists pursued a calculated land reform policy, one that leveraged Vietnamese villagers' traditional recognition of property rights.

    He also looked at World War Two. "One of the crucial pieces of what we did in Japan was to give property rights to peasants who didn't have them," Schaefer said. "That was fifty percent of the population, approximately. General MacArthur (on the advice of his staff) gave the peasants their land and almost overnight created middle class. It was a brilliant move."

    In the 1990s, Schafer noted, Peru turned the "land reform" tables on the Communists. Property right reform helped defeat Peru's "Maoist" Shining Path guerrilla movement.

    OK. That was the wind up. How about the pitch?
    "The Third World is not populated by proletariats, it's populated by entrepreneurs- successful small business people," Schafer said. (And that is what I've seen in the time I've spent in developing nations.) He added: "If you are someone who is surviving and raising a family by taking a bunch of bananas from out the city and bringing it in (to sell) you are an entrepreneur. You understand business --by low sell high And if you come to them and say you want to extend credit to them they understand that."

    In Schafer's view, property right reform gives Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government a very powerful political weapon, one that has war-winning potential.

    Schafer supplied some fascinating evidence. According to Schafer, less than five percent of Iraq's cultivatable agricultural land is "freehold" (owned with clear title). 95 percent of the cultivatable land in Iraq is therefore "dead" (illiquid) and cannot be used as security for a bank loan. "Iraqi farmers who lack clear title can't get (bank) loans," Schaefer said. That limits economic creativity, particularly in a population demonstrably successful at small business operations. Schafer believes that 95 percent of family homes in Iraq also lack clear, secure title.

    "Prime Minister Maliki needs to go on television," Schaefer advised, "and say "Citizens of Iraq, 95 percent of the property in this country is not legally in your name. You don't have title to your own land or your own houses. We're going to change that right now.""

    The article gives lots more reasons for doing property reform. So go read it all.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 03:33 AM | Comments (1)

    Turning Iraq Into Vietnam

    London Calling. The Times Online has an article by the author of "Sideshow", William Shawcross, about how Iraq could turn out like Vietnam. (bolding by your ed.)

    At the end of 1975 I went to the Thai-Cambodian border to talk to refugees. Their horrific stories of people with glasses being killed as "intellectuals" and of "bourgeois" babies being beaten to death against trees were being dismissed as CIA propaganda by the antiAmerican Western Left, but it seemed obvious to me that they were true. I wanted to discover how the Khmer Rouge had grown and come to power; I wrote a book called Sideshow, which was very critical of the way in which the United States had brought war to Cambodia while trying to extricate itself from Vietnam.

    But horror had engulfed all of Indo-China as a result of the US defeat in 1975. In Vietnam and Laos there was no vast mass murder but the communists created cruel gulags and, from Vietnam in particular, millions of people fled, mostly by boat and mostly to the US. Given the catastrophe of the communist victories, I have always thought that those like myself who were opposed to the American efforts in Indochina should be very humble. I also think it wrong to dismiss the US efforts there as sheer disaster. Lee Kuan Yew, the former longtime Prime Minister of Singapore, has a subtler view. He argues that, although America lost in IndoChina in 1975, the fact that it was there so long meant that other SouthEast Asian countries had time to build up their economies to relieve the poverty of their peasants and thus resist communist encroachment -- which they probably could not have done had IndoChina gone communist in the 1960s.

    That long view seems to me to be the one that has to be applied to Iraq. I still believe the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the correct thing to do -- and it was something only the United States could have done. For all the horrors that extremist Sunnis and Shias are inflicting on each other today, the US rid the world of the Pol Pot of the Middle East. So long as the vile Saddam family regime remained in power there was no hope of progress in the region. There is still hope -- if we do not abandon the Iraqi people.

    That is pretty much the key.

    We must not abandon the Iraqi people the way we abandoned the people of South East Asia. I supported the abandonment at the time because I believed John Kerry, the Communists, and their American supporters. So I get the humble bit. In fact it is a stain on my soul. The best I can do now is never forget.

    H/T Powerline via Instapundit

    And for my e-mail buddy linearthinker who thinks this is very important. It is. It may be that the Revisionism of Vietnam is finally going to get revised. About time.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 08:44 PM | Comments (4)

    I denounce Ann Greenwald's remarks!

    There's an interesting debate over whether Ann Coulter called John Edwards a "faggot," and Howard Dean is calling on Republicans to denounce her for making the following statement:

    I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word "faggot," so I -- so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards."
    Once again, Ann Coulter has demonstrated a unique ability to enrich herself by making others look bad.

    The issue is not whether Ann Coulter is a bigot, for by using that word, she shows that she is. And that's new? (Yawn.)

    The issue is recurrent one in politics and even in the blogosphere: to what extent are people responsible for the remarks of others?

    I don't think they are.

    I don't feel obligated to denounce Ann Coulter's remarks in order to show that I am not responsible for them. I am not responsible for them whether I denounce them or not.

    The woman is an opportunist who knows how to grab a headline, and she knows that had she not said this (or something like it; last year it was the "raghead" remark), there'd have been nothing about her in Drudge or any of the blogs.

    She stole the show, and she loves the fact that everyone is arguing over who is responsible for what she said.

    Saying that she's responsible for what she said is not very satisfying.

    So her allies in collusion on the left like Glenn Greenwald lead the charge, and not only claim that other people are responsible for what she says, but that they "love" her:

    This is why I wrote so extensively about the Edwards blogger "scandal" and the Cheney comments "scandal." The people feigning upset over those matters are either active participants in, or passive aiders and abetters of, a political movement that, at its very core -- not at its fringes -- knowingly and continuously embraces the most wretched and obvious bigotry and bloodthirsty authoritarianism. They love Ann Coulter -- and therefore continue to make her a venerated part of their political events -- because she provides an outlet, a venting ground, for the twisted psychological impulses and truly hateful face that drives the entire pro-Bush, right-wing spectacle.
    I never knew that I loved Ann Coulter, but I guess Glenn Greenwald is more of an expert on these things than I am.


    Next thing I know, Ann Coulter will say that I love Glenn Greenwald.

    Please don't make me PhotoShop that!

    I hate three-ways.

    Besides, as Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture makes clear, Greenwald is already having a three-way with himself.

    (Just say heh.)

    MORE: On a more serious note, Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of links including Rick Moran's advice on how to end Coulter fatigue:

    1. Never write another blog post about Ann Coulter no matter how outrageous, cruel, or bigoted her language.

    2. Immediately write the Presidents of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN demanding that they refuse to schedule Coulter on any show for any reason on their networks.

    3. Write the editor of Human Events and demand that they drop her column.

    4. If her column appears in your local newspaper, write a letter to the editor demanding that they drop her column.

    5. If you see her writings in any on line or print publication, write the editor and demand that they stop carrying her columns.

    6. Any upcoming forum in which she is scheduled as a speaker or panel participant, write a letter to the organizers and make it clear that the reason you are not attending is due to Coulter's presence.

    Adds Rick:
    I am sick to death of this woman leading people to believe that she speaks for conservatives. She doesn't speak for me. And if you believe that she speaks for you, or if you were one of those mouth breathers who applauded when she used that disgusting epithet deliberately to hurt other people (not just John Edwards), then you are hopelessly beyond the pale yourself and would do well to examine exactly what you believe a conservative is and what is acceptable political discourse.

    And here's Jennifer Rubin:

    By clearly stating her comments are beyond the bounds of civil discourse and her presence not a welcome addition to a mature political party, the Republicans could do themselves a world of good. How often does a party have the opportunity to display some measure of dignity, restraint and self-reflection.?

    So who will play the role of Bill Clinton to Coulter's Sister Souljah? It would be a sad commentary on the GOP if the answer is "no one."

    Immodest Proposals has a great post with the ironic title of "Oh Man, She's So Bad That I'm Going To Have to Agree With Andrew Sullivan " which he then does, although he agrees with Ed Morrissey more. Ed BTW, offers a thoughtful warning to the GOP:
    At some point, Republicans will need to get over their issues with homosexuality. Regardless of whether one believes it to be a choice or a hardwired response, it has little impact on anyone but the gay or lesbian person. We can argue that homosexuality doesn't require legal protection, but not when we have our front-line activists referring to them as "faggots" or worse.
    As I've said before, I think Coulter wants Hillary Clinton to be president for a variety of reasons.

    Helping Republicans look like bigots is good strategy.

    Finally, Mickey Kaus quotes an email from Coulter to the NYT:

    C'mon it was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean.
    Actually, she did worse than insult gays by comparing them to Edwards. She insulted them by using the equivalent of the "n" word for blacks, the "g" word for Chinese, the "s" word for hispanics, and the "c" word for women. And if attributing homosexuality to Edwards was meant to insult Edwards, how could that possibly be insulting unless it was meant to insult gays?

    But alas. Logic has nothing to do with this.

    posted by Eric at 05:28 PM | Comments (7)

    shaming the unshattered?

    Butchering quotations or taking things out of context quotes is unfair, but when the the butchered text is then ridiculed further, the unfairness tends to be compounded. So it was with great interest that I followed Glenn Reynolds' "ridicule and ellipsis" link to Eugene Volokh's take on a WaPo book review which butchered the author's words until they looked ridiculous enough to ridicule, then ridiculed them for looking ridiculous!

    The book in question is Laura Sessions Stepp's Unhooked, and as Volokh makes clear, the butchery of the quote renders her thought almost incoherent.

    Here's the mangled (and subsequently ridiculed) WaPo quote:

    Your body is your property.... Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn't want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?
    Yeah, that makes very little sense. But here's what's omitted:
    Your body is your property. No one has a right to enter unless you welcome them in. Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn't want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you? Is your body worth less than a house?
    And here's Eugene Volokh:
    The second sentence (the omission of which the Post noted with the ellipses) explains why we're talking about nonconsensual rock-throwing. In this paragraph, the author seems not to be faulting fully consensual, enthusiastic casual sex, but rather casual sex of the sort that is at least not entirely welcome (a characteristic that I take it the author thinks is not uncommon in casual sex). Many young women, the author is suggesting, let men have sex with them even though they do not fully "welcome them in," perhaps because they feel pressured by the man or by social expectations. Not-fully-welcome sex is not the same as rock-throwing, but at least the analogy is closer than it is between presumably enthusiastic "hooking up" and rock-throwing.

    The fourth sentence (which is also omitted in the Post review, though conventions of quotation allow the omission not to be marked with ellipses) then tries to tie the body with the house: They aren't the same (for instance, in the sense that they're both great places to have a party), but rather they're both valuable, and your body is if anything even more valuable. Again, not a terribly convincing metaphor, but not as zany or worthy of derision as some might think. Among other things, try the lampoon quoted above on the whole paragraph:

    I don't think Stepp's broken window analogy is either zany or worthy of derision, although I understand why others would. I suspect that those who derided the analogy are only pretending not to understand it, and I think they wouldn't want to get it (and would claim not to get it if someone explained it). That's because the broken window analogy goes to the center of the difference between the sexes that people imagine can be dismissed. Therefore, it's easier to mangle an analogy and ridicule it than grapple with its reality.

    The broken window analogy (to a woman's loss of virginity) is hardly new. Ask anyone who studied art history.

    There's Bouguereau's Broken Pitcher, Greuze's Broken Pitcher, and I even found a cute little narrative about the subject coming up in an art history class:

    She is actually relieved to be in Art History discussing Greuze's Broken Pitcher, even if there are idiots in her class. The girl with the jewel-encrusted crucifix obscuring all her other features insistently claims the girl in the painting signifies the masses, and the broken pitcher is their broken relationship with Christ. The cocky guy who has missed half the classes since joining his frat, is spinning the class all off on a tangent somehow connecting the broken pitcher to unemployment rates during the Great Depression. Stupid.

    Sighing, she is patient, sighing again and again as she digests her so-called peers' comments and systematically discards their worth. The class wallows in a pit of circular reasoning. Just as she is about to reach her limit and set them all straight, the teacher says, "What if it's about sex? What if the pitcher is her virginity?"

    Silence blooms. Her classmates look at each other, some giggling.

    I don't know whether the teacher planned on show-and-tell, so I'll complement her lecture by adding Bouguereau's Broken Pitcher:


    It's tough to unwrite Art History, but I'm sure they're working on it.

    Although times have changed (along with, fortunately, the consequences of lost virginity), this is not complicated stuff. To understand it does not involve social conservatism, nor is it necessarily about morality. (I think it's more about mechanics, laws of physics, coupled with basic self awareness.) It's just that on this one key point, there is a huge difference between men and women. A Basic. Biological. Difference. (Sorry if I plagiarized your technique, Rachel Lucas, wherever you are.) Mechanically and from a mental perspective, sex is just very different for the two sexes. It's inherently more special for women than for men, and that's reflected in the nature of the way the gametes are both presented and delivered. One egg released per month versus hundreds of millions of sperm cells released for every male ejaculation. The rare and precious versus the common; the internal versus the external.

    Because of the mechanics involved in sexual penetration, the loss of virginity in women is accomplished by the breaking of something which can never be restored as it once was. The "loss" of virginity in men, on the other hand, is not a loss, but a gain. A man's first sexual experience involves a physical venturing out and a penetration into a hitherto unknown area, into which an invading army of tiny millions is released. The accomplishment of this act for the first time is a demonstration to the man that his reproductive system is functional and working properly. In this regard, it makes no sense to speak in terms of a "loss" of male "virginity"; it is actually a gain of a new skill, one which is required if he is to do it again. Thus, what has been "broken" for the woman has, for the man, been "fixed."

    I don't think it's complicated at all. I just don't think most people are comfortable recognizing any reality which goes to the difference between the sexes.

    As to what is going on in the mind in the mental or moral sense, that's more complicated. The WaPo reviewer touches on a favorite subject of Classical Values, and that is sexual shame:

    In the final chapter, Stepp writes a letter to mothers and daughters, in which she warns the girls: "Your body is your property. . . . Think about the first home you hope to own. You wouldn't want someone to throw a rock through the front window, would you?" And: "Pornographic is grinding on the dance floor like a dog in heat. It leaves nothing to the imagination." The ugliness of these images seems meant to instill sexual shame.
    Look, I'm more against sexual shame than anyone I know. Seriously, I am not kidding; just poke around the blog.

    But I have one question for the WaPo writer. Since when is a dog in heat (actually, it should be "bitch in heat") an ugly image? The reason I'm asking is because I'm harboring a bitch in heat right now, and Coco does not take kindly to being called ugly by the MSM! She's not ugly, and she leaves plenty to the imagination. Well, maybe not when she's waving her little vagina around and her tail curls and the coat of hair on her butt gets all wrinkly and slitherers forward in anticipation of a tie-up. But even that is not without it's charm, at least for a shameless relativist like me. The bottom line is that Coco is not ugly, and I don't consider any of this shameful. (Although I suspect the WaPo might be trying to shame Ms. Stepp.)

    I keep saying that what we call the Culture War is really a war over sex, because I think it is. At the heart of that, though, is a war over sexual shame. While I don't know whether Ms. Stepp is trying to instill feelings of sexual shame as the Post says, I do know that plenty of people are very frustrated by the absence of sexual shame in others.

    The problem is, as I keep saying, you can't feel what you don't have, nor can you expect that if you're disgusted with something, that others will share your disgust. Sometimes, I think there's on one "side" a demand that others not be disgusted by things which disgust them, while on the other "side" there's an equally shrill demand that they be disgusted by things that don't disgust them.

    Right now though, I'm feeling a little disgusted by the lack of honesty in the way this argument is being addressed, because it just isn't being addressed. People yell at each other's tastes or what they perceive as a lack thereof, and they don't even seem to realize that what they're doing is demanding not accommodation or tolerance of their tastes or disgusts, but a sharing of them. While this strikes me as an unreasonable argument, there's no way to discuss whether it's a reasonable argument if people aren't even aware that it is in fact an argument.

    Take Leon Kass's wisdom of repugnance. Please!

    No seriously, let's take it, because I've devoted time to it and gotten not very far. There is no question that sexual shame varies from person to person, as do sexual tastes. From a previous post, here's Martha Nussbaum, interviewed by Reason's Julian Sanchez:

    Unlike anger, disgust does not provide the disgusted person with a set of reasons that can be used for the purposes of public argument and public persuasion. If my child has been murdered and I am angry at that, I can persuade you that you should share those reasons; if you do, you will come to share my outrage. But if someone happens to feel that gay men are disgusting, that person cannot offer any reasoning that will persuade someone to share that emotion; there is nothing that would make the dialogue a real piece of persuasion.

    Reason: As a follow up, can you say something about how that cashes out into a critique of communitarian ideals?

    Nussbaum: The prominent defenders of the appeal to disgust and shame in law have all been communitarians of one or another stripe ([Lord] Devlin, [Amitai] Etzioni, Kass), and this, I claim, is no accident. What their thought shares is the idea that society ought to have at its core a homogeneous group of people whose ways of living, of having sex, of looking and being, are defined as "normal." People who deviate from that norm may then be stigmatized, and penalized by law, even if their conduct causes no harm. That was the core of Lord Devlin's idea, and it is endorsed straightforwardly by Etzioni, and, in a rather different way, and in a narrower set of contexts, by Kass. My study of disgust and shame shows that these emotions threaten key values of a liberal society, especially equal respect for people and for their liberty. Disgust and shame are inherently hierarchical; they set up ranks and orders of human beings. They are also inherently connected with restrictions on liberty in areas of non-harmful conduct. For both of these reasons, I believe, anyone who cherishes the key democratic values of equality and liberty should be deeply suspicious of the appeal to those emotions in the context of law and public policy.

    While I think trying to make someone feel shame who does not feel it is a waste of time, my point is that even if you put sexual shame aside, in logic something is being given up by a woman that is not being given up by a man. To deny this denies reality.

    Denial of reality has a way of annoying me, but it's even more annoying when it's done in the name of reality.

    But I think there's something more going on than denial. I think the attempt to tar Ms. Stepp with the accusation that she's fostering sexual shame obscures something else which Eugene Volokh mentioned, and that is the pressure of what he calls "social expectations."

    From the Amazon book description:

    In Unhooked, Stepp follows three groups of young women (one in high school, one each at Duke and George Washington universities). She sat with them in class, socialized with them, listened to them talk, and came away with some disturbing insights, including that hooking up carries with it no obligation on either side. Relationships and romance are seen as messy and time-consuming, and love is postponed-or worse, seen as impossible. Some young women can handle this, but many can't, and they're being battered-physically and emotionally-by the new dating landscape. The result is a generation of young people stymied by relationships and unsure where to turn for help.
    If it is true that some of the young women doing this cannot handle it, then I wonder why. I haven't read the book, but might another form of shame be going on?

    Is it possible that not wanting to have sex might be considered shameful in some circles? Might there be a stigma attached to virginity?

    Apparently, there is. And it didn't take me long to find it. Here's the (U Va) Cavalier Daily's Kate Durbin:

    Having or abstaining from sex is a personal decision. Like drinking alcohol or eating meat, it is a choice that each person must make for him or herself, free from the pressures of peers and society in general. No reason need be given as to why someone chooses to abstain from sex, just as no reason need be given when someone chooses not to consume alcohol. Personal decisions are just that -- personal. They should be respected as such. Virgins, angered by the negativity surrounding their choices, should seek to change societal attitudes instead of spending time enumerating the reasons they chose to be a virgin.


    ....if society is really so open when it comes to sex, why is it that virginity remains such a curse for those college students choosing it? For whatever reason, abstaining from sex has somehow come to be a socially isolating factor, making virgins feel like their choices are somehow viewed as wrong.

    As long as current attitudes about sexual choices persist, refraining from sex will continue to be seen as some kind of problem. Having sex or not having sex is a personal choice. This fact must be accepted and respected by our generation.

    Hmmm....Virginity a curse? At the University of Virginia at that!

    Oh the irony!

    I don't know how typical the above complaint is (there's more, of course, and it seems to be a response to another column poking fun at virgins), but as someone who is against sexual shame, I try to at least be consistent about it, and it strikes me that shaming virginity is just as bad as shaming the loss of it. And why the refusal to acknowledge that it's a different thing for men and women?

    I can't help but wonder whether the deliberate disregard of the differences between the sexes might be another form of sexual shame.

    posted by Eric at 04:48 PM | Comments (5)

    Bill Maher: transmitter of eliminationist rhetoric?

    In a disturbing pattern with obvious historical parallels (no doubt familiar to experts on the subject of the rise of fascism), eliminationist rhetoric which began in the fringes of the blogosphere is now being laundered and mainstreamed by supposedly legitimate media satraps.

    Echoing deleted comments from the Huffington Post, TV host Bill Maher endorsed the idea that the assassination of Dick Cheney would be a good thing.

    I can't help notice that in doing so, he used what initially struck me as mere bad logic:

    I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn't be dying needlessly tomorrow. (applause)
    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes that leftists feel good about some calls for assassination.)

    But what I immediately noticed was Maher's qualifier. He didn't just say they wouldn't be dying tomorrow; he said "needlessly." What that means, of course, is that Bill Maher concedes while people would still die after Dick Cheney's assassination, their deaths would no longer be needless.

    Considering that the context of the statement was the war in Iraq, what might Maher possibly mean that future deaths would no longer be needless?

    That the Cheney assassination would be a good start, maybe?

    Haven't we seen it all before?

    I'll close by quoting a leading expert on the subject:

    Memes from the far right -- some of them with deep historical roots, like this one -- not only continue to have a half-life in modern society, they have been finding their way into mainstream conservatism in recent years.

    Many of them appear almost unconsciously, out of the zeitgeist, the environment created by the shifts in the political framework that make society more receptive to these ideas. Many are boosted by the increasing interactions of mainstream conservatives with extremist belief systems. "Transmitters" -- figures like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter -- play key roles in bridging the two sectors by picking up extremist ideas and agendas and clothing them in rhetoric suitable for mainstream consumption. Regardless of the mechanism, ordinary conservatives then pick them up and run with them, often utterly oblivious about the origins of the ideas they're absorbing and then promoting.

    posted by Eric at 01:23 PM | Comments (2)

    Rapid Social Change

    I was doing my daily read of LGF and came across an interesting item on the Burka Band. An all girl band from Afghanistan. The music is kind of a bland techno, but the words of social commentary are in english and the visuals are interesting.

    So I went looking in the comments of LGF to see if I could find out more. Commenter Peacekeeper gave a link to this site: Girl band in burka.

    Here is the most interesting quote from the article.

    The Burka Band has never performed in Afghanistan and at the moment the band is not active. During the Taliban regime music was totally forbidden, and women were not allowed to work. To sing in public could carry a death sentence. Today the country is still very conservative, and there is no market in Afghanistan for the Burka Band's music. The band members have to wait for a European or American record label to help them if they are to make a whole album one day.

    - I'd like to play again, but right now it is not possible. Last year there was a big bomb at a concert here in Kabul , and lots of people are still against female singers because the religous leaders condemn it. It will probably take 10 years before we will have real girl bands here in Afghanistan , says Nargiz, who now works in an international organisation in Kabul.

    From no music allowed to all girl bands in 10 or even 15 years is amazingly fast progress for a culture.

    Given that this song was popular in Germany in 2003 it means that Afghanistan is well on the way to becoming at least a semi-modern country. It also points out the irresistability of Western and especially American culture. The old ways are dying.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 04:49 PM | Comments (1)

    School of hard knocks

    The details involving two savage beatings of Philadelphia teachers by their "students" (a word I use advisedly), make me question whether the words "education" and "school" mean what they're supposed to mean.

    I've previously written about the most recent incident in which a teacher's neck was broken by a student whose iPod had been confiscated temporarily. The Inquirer's Daniel Rubin has more:

    ....One moment Burd, 60, was in the hallway of Germantown High with a 17-year-old senior whose iPod he had confiscated in class. The next moment he was in the ambulance.

    Maybe that's a memory he doesn't need. Then he won't have to replay the assault. A hall camera caught the incident: two students hitting him, sending him crashing into a locker. He struck his head, leaving a deep gash in his scalp and snapping two vertebrae.


    Three times during Algebra II the boy had pulled out the digital music player, and three times Burd had threatened to confiscate it.

    The rules say that when a student uses a phone or music player in the classroom, the teacher is to hand the device over to the school police. But Burd always returned it at the end of the period.

    "All I want to do is teach," he says. "And they want to listen to music. But they play it so loud I hear it in the front of the room and the other kids are bopping to the beat."

    The boy's explosion makes no sense. He was doing good work, had ability, even if it was his second time taking the class.

    OK, sorry to interrupt, but isn't there something wrong right there? If he had to take the class for a second time, how is that consistent with doing good work? He'd turned his life around -- only he preferred listening to his iPod instead of the teacher, and then broke the teacher's neck for trying to stop him?

    Good work?


    As what? As an enforcer for Tony Soprano?

    OK, sorry I interrupted. I just want to understand.

    "He's a bright kid. I had a rapport with him. I don't know where [the rage] came from. I don't understand, and I find it frustrating because I care about these kids. They're angry at something that has nothing to do with you."
    If they are so angry that they have to break their teachers' necks, I don't understand either, and quite frankly, I don't want to understand. It isn't the teacher's fault that they are that way, and it isn't his fault that he cannot help them. I don't believe that the majority of students are that way, though. I think the problem consists of a minority of angry violent kids who don't belong in normal schools, but are tolerated.

    Reading on, it becomes quite clear that violent, disruptive kids have to be tolerated, and that teachers are no more allowed to get rid of them than jailers are allowed to discharge inmates for being disruptive:

    "It's way worse than people know," Lelah Marie, who teaches Spanish at Paul Robeson High, said by phone. "We are living in one universe and they are in another, where the kids have all sorts of tiny MP3 players and phones. They take calls in class, and do not stop talking."

    It's an everyday battle.

    "The district has a policy of no electronics in class. We're supposed to take them away, but kids won't give them up. One kid will take it and pass it along to others... .

    "They're so distracted by this stuff. You want to make some contact with the kids, but they really dislike you when you do."

    At least she didn't blame the iPods! (Good for her.) Anyway, I am sorry to hear that the students "really dislike" teachers making contact, but the purpose of a school is education, not confinement. If kids refuse to behave, they should be sent to the principal's office and then home. If the conduct is repeated, they should simply not be allowed to return. The schools have a duty to the other kids to ensure that they have the opportunity to be educated, not confined with and terrorized by juvenile delinquents.

    I'm reminded again of Kim du Toit's post about feral kids:

    ...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.

    The problem here is that their "supervisors" are not allowed to supervise them. They aren't even allowed to really behave as the jailers that they are. At least jailers have some self defense capability, and they aren't forced to pretend that they're "teaching."

    Daniel Rubin leaves us with the teacher feeling overwhelmed:

    Today, Burd is scheduled for surgery. The doctors plan to rebuild his neck using parts of his hip. He's not ready to think about whether he'll step inside Germantown High again, let alone teach another class.

    "The idea I had my neck broken by a student," he says, "is overwhelming."

    I'm sure it is, and my heart goes out to this man. He should have been allowed to teach students instead of being forced into the role of unacknowledged daytime jailer.

    In today's Inquirer, there's an interview with another teacher who thought he was going to teach music, but got his jaw broken instead:

    While he tried to teach jazz, Klein said, students made phone calls in class, brought in bags of fast food, and listened to their own music on "electronic devices."

    The school handbook tells teachers to call parents if students cause problems in class. After Klein made the calls, four of his five classes settled down.

    Sorry, but that is a very dangerous "policy," and if I were a teacher I would refuse to follow it. Many of the bad kids have bad parents -- some of whom can be counted on to be more dangerous than Junior. Whoever wrote this inane policy must have watched too much "Leave it to Beaver" in which a call from Miss Landers would set the whole Cleaver family into a tizzy. Against Beaver! Today's Philadelphia Cleavers would be more likely to be waiting for teach with some "discipline" of their own in mind!

    Today's piece continues:

    But on Friday, Oct. 27, a student in his worst class - third period - told him to stop calling parents or he would regret it.

    The next Monday, as students changed classes between third and fourth periods, a student sprayed Klein head to toe with a water-filled school fire extinguisher.

    At the same time the next day, a student sprayed Klein again.

    Then on Wednesday, he said, another student threatened to kill him and "f- him up" after school for allegedly causing a friend to be suspended.

    And on Thursday, four students Klein had never seen before walked into his classroom at the end of third period. They surrounded him and began picking up papers from his desk and boasting: "There is nothing you can do about this, cracker."

    Well, I have to say, I can't fault the students for honesty in this instance.

    There was indeed nothing he could do, and his feral charges knew it:

    Throughout the days of the harassment and threats, Klein said, he went to the school's security office to report them and fill out the required forms.

    When Klein arrived the morning of Friday, Nov. 3, he told the security guard at the school's metal detector that he had had enough and would seek a transfer to another school.

    At 10:40 a.m. that day, Klein said, a student he didn't recognize came into his room at the end of third period while other students were in the room. Klein asked his name and directed him to leave. "It was clear he was looking for a confrontation," he recalled.

    Klein stepped into the hallway to see whether he could spot a school police officer who was often nearby, but no one was there.

    The student walked around and in front of him and squared off like a boxer, Klein said. The student began laughing and taunting Klein with his fists.

    "He was jumping around like he was going to hit him me."

    Instinctively, Klein said, he put up his hands.

    "That's the last thing I remember," he said.

    I wonder how much self defense training they give these poor "teachers." Actually, I think they might have a good lawsuit, because the schools clearly are analogous to jails in many ways, and if they sent in a jailer with no self defense training, no special equipment, and no back up, they would definitely be liable.

    As for his future as a prison guard teacher, Klein doesn't seem very optimistic:

    Klein said he did not know whether he would return to a Philadelphia classroom.

    "I don't know what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm living a nightmare ... and the worst of it is that it happened in a public school."

    I'm sure he is living a nightmare, and like Mr. Burd he has my sympathy. But I have to disagree with the use of the word "school" in this context.

    A school is a place of education. Philadelphia "schools" turn out illiterate graduates, and they are violent and dangerous places which force good children who want to learn to be subjected to the tender mercies of violent thugs.

    When a teacher is beaten nearly to death, it makes the newspapers. Innocent children have to cope any way they can, and if they are abused or beaten, they'll be taken about as seriously as an abused inmate. I suppose you could say (as du Toit pointed out) that "It makes them tougher." You might even say that "They learn how to cope with a hostile environment, like they may encounter in the adult world." True on both accounts.

    But is it education? Is it fair to call these places schools? Is it fair to characterize these young thugs as "students" and their unprotected custodians as "teachers"?

    I don't think so.

    The dishonesty involved is sometimes overwhelming.

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

    I'd rather be watching South Park (No seriously!)

    Does "the right" have "a penchant" for making things up?

    That's a fair question, and it was posed by Skippy, who left a comment here:

    before we clutch our collective pearls in collective disgust at the left, let's take a look at newsbuckit's actual process and data.

    as i point out on skippy, while it was flattering to be labeled as one of the 18 biggest liberal blogs, there's no traffic ranking in blogtopia and yes, i coined that phrase, that puts my blog anywhere above 500 in ranking.

    even worse, i personally couldn't believe skippy had 419 occurrences of swear words (because i have a pretty stringent approach to using swear words only for emphatic points or jokes, and usually substitute asterisks for vowels).

    so i tried to reproduce his results, by using the same method he outlined in his piece.
    my google search resuled in a mere 137 instances, less than 1/3 of what ishmael insists skippy had.

    i also point out that he conveniently didn't count protein wisdom written by jeff "slap your face with my c*ck" goldstein on the conservative side.

    i would suggest that instead of defending the usage of swear words, the left start attack the right's penchant for just making sh*t up.

    skippy - March 2, 2007 12:52

    This interested me, so I ran the "template" and I got 293 Carlin filth hits for Skippy.

    This left me only more puzzled, and as I said in the comments, I'm not an expert on this process. Tinkering around, I found that it makes a difference* if you have a space between the colon which appears after the word "site" -- and I don't understand why it should. I tried again and I got 136 Carlin filth hits for Skippy!


    A leftist with a "cleaner mouth" than the sleazy, Marcotte-certified-sociopathic Classical Values!

    Mortified though I was, I conceded that "he" Skippy, was (is) cleaner than "I" am!

    Bearing in mind that I think this is all a bit silly (for starters I don't think I am responsible for what others say -- either commenters or other bloggers) I still thought it would be fun to rerun all the blogs listed in the News Buckit link that I cited.

    After all, if "the right" is said to be "making sh*t up," I'm chargeable with the offense of being part of the "made up right" if I have linked made-up stuff and refused to examine it.

    So, this will tedious, but here I go.

    The blogs are all listed in the same order News Buckit listed them, according to the charts he used.

    Here's the first chart -- "Blogs on the Left":


    What follows are my results, each one Googled "by hand" according to the template I used yesterday.

    The News Buckit results are in parentheses, following mine.

    Daily Kos

    155,000 (146,000)

    TPM Cafe

    4310 (3520)

    Huffington Post

    144,000 (109,000)

    Eschaton (Atrios)

    275 (278)

    (Whether these searches turn up the type of comments Atrios uses, I do not know. Not that comments should matter, but I suspect that comments that are permanent and built into the blog will turn up in a search, whereas the whateverthef*ck temporarily hosted comments won't. I hate this stuff, OK? I really do!)


    Crooks and Liars

    162 (160)

    Think Progress

    3900 (3820)


    90,500 (78,200)

    Digby (Hullaballoo)

    273 (285)

    Jesus' General

    73 (73)


    4700 (4580)

    Shakespeare's Sister

    5610 (5410)

    Hey I still hate this, OK? It interferes with my ability to think, and what I hate more than doing it is the certain knowledge that people are paid to do nothing but this horrid drudgery, and no one gives me a dime. (You couldn't pay me to do this sh*t.)

    Bitch Ph.D.

    338 (330)


    136 (419)

    Legal Fiction

    32 (32)

    Glenn Greenwald (blogspot)

    27 (27)

    Glenn Greenwald (Salon)

    56 (1)

    Talk Left

    415 (421)


    26,100 (30,400)

    1680 (1730)

    OK, that's the list that News Buckit has from the left. Some are higher, and some are lower -- the only real anomaly being Skippy.

    I don't see evidence that anyone at News Buckit is "making sh*t up."

    So now I guess I'll have to fact check News Buckit's results from "right" side of the blogosphere. (FWIW, I don't think "right" applies to Glenn Reynolds, which is why I placed it in quotes.)

    Same deal; here's the chart:


    And my results (with News Buckit's in parens in red):


    157 (230)


    118 (121)

    Michelle Malkin

    107 (103)

    Captain's Quarters

    698 (781)

    Power Line Blog

    68 (68)

    Stop the ACLU

    40 (40)

    Hugh Hewitt

    40 (38)

    Hot Air

    408 (412)


    537 (552)

    Mudville Gazette

    278 (292)


    1520 (1490)

    Jihad Watch

    1990 (2000)

    Next up is LaShawn Barber. I know her and I know she isn't foul mouthed and I'll tell you what. My fingers are too tired to keep this up. The results are all so close that I am convinced -- beyond any reasonable doubt -- that News Buckit is not guilty of "making sh*t up."

    I understand Skippy's complaint, though, and I'd be pissed as hell if someone accused me of four times the amount of foul language that I actually use.

    I cannot account for the error in Skippy's case, but I always think it is wrong to make a generalization about everyone perceived as being on the same "side" of someone (I don't know much about News Buckit's politics, for example) because of what one person said. All the more so when the generalization is based on someone who may have made one mistake -- but who clearly didn't make anything up.

    I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.

    (Sorry, but I just felt like I needed to stir up some shit hits.)

    * Actually, putting a space after the colon makes a HUGE difference. Like from a piddling 118 to a whopping 77,500.

    UPDATE: At his blog, Skippy points out that Jeff Goldstein was not included on the list of "right" blogs. I don't know what the explanation is for that, and while I see him as more of a libertarian than a rightist, the fact is, Glenn Reynolds was included on the list, so I think it's a fair criticism to say that Jeff should have been. (He'd have added another 6,620 to the list. Nowhere near the top lefties, but high enough to make a clean-mouthed wimp like me like him.)

    I don't think that the failure to include a blogger constitutes "making sh*t up," however. But I'd like to know what their parameters were. (I avoid statistics like the plague, and I am not about to check anyone's ratings with the various ratings systems. Whether out of blissful ignorance or abject fear, I try to avoid the ecosystem.)

    I love the irony that Skippy is protesting his being called an A list blogger.

    I'd be honored by such a "smear." (Although I admit, it might motivate me to check out my actual rating in the ecosystem.... Others can check out Skippy's if they want. This has been tedious enough.)

    posted by Eric at 10:28 AM | Comments (7)

    China Has Problems

    A. Jacksonian says China Has Problems. He gives a long and detailed look at China's current situation (bad) and its future outlook (worse).

    * He looks at economic problems - non-performing loans in the 30 - 60% of GDP range.

    * Demographic problems - an aging population and too many men

    * Ecological problems - rising lung cancer rates from pollution

    * Lack of business accumen - drug dealers in America could do better

    * Internet and cell phones breaking government control of information

    * The break down of social cohesion

    The short version: get your money out of China while it is worth something.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 08:49 PM | Comments (5)

    Balance is Bias

    Al Gore is starting to sound like an eco-echo of the MediaMatters "the media are too conservative" canard:

    "I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action," Gore said. "There are many reasons, but one of the principal reasons in my view is more than half of the mainstream media have rejected the scientific consensus implicitly -- and I say 'rejected,' perhaps it's the wrong word. They have failed to report that it is the consensus and instead have chosen ... balance as bias.

    "I don't think that any of the editors or reporters responsible for one of these stories saying, 'It may be real, it may not be real,' is unethical. But I think they made the wrong choice, and I think the consequences are severe.

    "I think if it is important to look at the pressures that made it more likely than not that mainstream journalists in the United States would convey a wholly inaccurate conclusion about the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced."

    Gore would not answer any questions from the media after the event.

    I can understand why he wouldn't answer any questions. They might ask him about his now legendary energy consumption.

    How biased of them that would be.

    I have to say, though, I like that "most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced" part.

    Yes, it's the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced ever since the last most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced. (I think that was Al Gore's unbalanced Ozone Hole.)

    Who says morality can't be manufactured like sausage?

    MORE: Unless I am reading him wrong, Gore isn't saying that there isn't another side to the global warming/greenhouse gas dispute.

    Only that it shouldn't be reported.

    HMMMM.... I guess under the same logic, if Gore ran for office, he could claim it was "bias" for the to media report what his opponent said.

    Maybe he is looking ahead after all.

    UPDATE (03/02/07): How dare the National Geographic report this story about Global Warming on Mars being caused by the sun?

    How dare they?

    And how dare Glenn Reynolds link to it?

    Children -- especially human children here on earth -- might read it and get confused.

    Really, the idea that the sun might be heating the earth because it's heating Mars! The very idea!

    Talk about planetary moral, ethical, spiritual and political equivalency.

    This has the most biased piece of balance I've ever seen!

    Doesn't Glenn know that with the earth in the balance, balance harms the planet?

    posted by Eric at 07:28 PM | Comments (3)

    War Stories

    The subject of John Kerry and his war stories has come up again. Some of the people at the above link started in with their war stories. So naturally I had to tell one or two of my own. Some one was talking about Danag. So I piped up.

    I remember Danag early '66.

    My ship, DLGN-25 The Bainbridge, got within a couple of miles of the shore and the arty was going steady. Sounded a lot like July 4.

    That was the closest I got to real combat, although I did get a few months of combat pay.

    Everybody on my ship wanted to get closer to the combat to collect the $50. I think 5 days in the combat zone was the requirement.

    Kerry's testimony in Congress did it for me. Except I didn't wise up til '80 or so. Ever since I have hated that man with a passion.

    I was heavily invovled in the Swift Boat discussions being somewhat impecunious at the time. I did every thing I could to defeat that man.

    Posted by: M. Simon | March 01, 2007 at 09:54 AM

    So then some guy pipes up and asks if I have BSD.
    Do you mean BDS (Bush DerrangementSyndrome)?

    I'm not sure that applies. Our lack of support for South Vietnam led to the death of something like 350,000 Vietnamese and the Death of 2 million Cambodians. I based my non-support of South Vietnam on Kerry's testimony in Congress.

    I believed that man and it led to the death of millions. I deeply regret my decision. It is a stain on my soul. As I believe today that our withdrawal from Iraq would lead to the death of millions.

    Once was enough for me. Kerry wishes to repeat the exercise. Thus my hatred for a man unable to learn from experience.

    Posted by: M. Simon | March 01, 2007 at 10:38 AM

    Well I decided to set the proper mood.
    Man I'm putting the Doors on the boom box and lighting up the incense.

    The war that never ends.

    Posted by: M. Simon | March 01, 2007 at 10:42 AM

    As I type the Doors are still on and the incense is going strong.

    Then the death and destruction tales started. Vets talking about disasters they have seen. What I had to contribute was not much of a disaster. Just a major equipment failure.

    I have no death and destruction war tales.

    I do have a reactor scram of the only running reactor and a hot restart (dangerous, done only in emergencies) of the reactor in a war zone. My job was to check the DG (diesel generator) to make sure it automatically started so we had electrical power in the control room. I also got to help with the hot restart calculations. They were computed by hand in those days and had to be triple checked before yanking the rods. So three guys did the calculations until they all came up with the same number.

    Thank the Maker it wasn't me on the board. just thinking of the dressing down and the paperwork is enough for a moment or two of vicarious depression, even these days.

    We never fired a shot in anger. We did go searching for a downed Enterprise pilot one night. No one ever found him. Watching carrier ops even from a distance is something. I loved going on deck for breaks and watching.

    Posted by: M. Simon | March 01, 2007 at 11:06 AM

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:23 PM

    sublimating my rationalizations on a nonexistent day
    My whole ambition in the pictorial domain is to materialize the images of my concrete irrationality with the most imperialist fury of precision...

    -- Salvador Dali

    Today is March 1 -- a strange day for several reasons. According to Wikipedia, today is the first day of Spring in Denmark, while in Australia, today is the first day of Fall.

    Moreover, today is Day One in the old Roman New Year -- a fact which has left its historical residue depending on how we count days:

    If one begins each year on March 1, till the next March 1, then each date will have the same day number in this year, regardless of whether it is a leap year or not (e.g. December 25 is always day 300), unlike counting from January 1. This is due to the fact that the Gregorian and Julian calendars are based on the old Roman Calendar, which had March 1 as the first day of the year. The addition of the leap day of February 29 (which is what causes the days of leap years to fall on different day numbers) is a continuation of the February placement of the old Roman calendar's Mensis Intercalaris (a shortened extra month inserted to bring the 355 day long calendar into rough alignment with the seasons).
    That's enough to drive anyone crazy.

    What I'm trying to figure out is why the day does not appear on my calendar.

    What? You don't believe me?

    Check out the photograph I just took:


    While the easiest explanation for the disappearance of March 1 is that a simple misprint occurred, I'm not so sure, because this is the official Salvador Dali calendar. Considering the following:

  • Dali was a surrealist who relied on the paranoid critical method (which assumes, among other things, that nothing is coincidental, and that mistakes are important).
  • The theme of the March calendar is the geodesic ceiling of the Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain, which is surrounded by strange figures arranged in a manner evocative of a calendar (albeit 16 of them instead of 12).
  • The blank box in the calendar which ought to belong to March 1 is directly underneath the the figure at the bottom of the calendar which is being pointed to by the index finger of the floating hand.
  • The calendar has an international flavor, as it is translated into five languages and includes more holidays and religious observances than I knew existed.
  • The cosmic significance of the galactic-like dome speaks for itself.
  • I know this doesn't prove that there's any significance to today's missing date, but considering its importance, I suspect cosmic significance of some sort.

    Whether this cosmic significance is accidental or deliberate is beside the point.

    I think Dali would agree. Consider Dali on mistakes:

    Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.
    Far be it from me to correct the sacred.

    What to do on a missing date which will live in mistakenly unmistakable cosmic significance?

    I think I'll try to rationalize the sublime, and sublimate the rational.

    MYSTERY DISAPPEARANCE UNRAVELS AS IT DEEPENS: In another amazing "coincidence," it was on March 1 that Dali's depiction of the crucifixion (which he had done for the Rikers Island jail) disappeared. As it turned out, it was stolen by prison guards and officials.

    Interestingly, Dali intended it for the prisoners' dining room so that prisoners could appreciate it, and dedicated it for that stated purpose in writing. Jail officials moved it to the prison lobby, to which inmates had no access, and from where it was stolen:

    The drawing, a surrealist image of Jesus being crucified, hung in the prison cafeteria for years before being moved to a lobby where officials thought it would be safer.

    Riker's Island's roughly 15,000 prisoners do not have access to the lobby, which is used only by prison personnel.

    "Who knew that it might have been safer left in the cafeteria?" a spokesman for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked.

    Who knew? Dali knew, that's who! That's why he wrote on the dedication -- right on the painting -- that it was for the prisoners' dining room, dummy!

    Here's a picture of the missing work:


    (Link via Wired New York Forum, which has a detailed article on the case.)

    It's tough to read the inscription in that picture, but according to the BBC it read as follows:

    "For the dinning room of the Prisoners Rikers Ysland [sic] - SD".
    That's certainly typical of Dali's mangled way of writing in English, but the sincerity of his message is obvious.

    The crucifixion is still missing, and I think it's appropriate that March 1 is missing from the calendar. It's as if Dali having the last laugh. At disobedient bureaucrats, and malignant prison officials. While there have been a couple of convictions for the theft, according to the testimony, the main culprit seems to have been the assistant deputy warden, who was acquitted:

    A former Rikers Island assistant deputy warden has been acquitted of charges that he masterminded the theft of a $250,000 Salvador Dali sketch from the prison.

    A jury acquitted Benny Nuzzo, 51, on Friday after a monthlong trial in State Supreme Court in the Bronx. Nuzzo had denied any role in the theft of the sketch, which was reported missing on March 1, 2003 when someone noticed that the original had been replaced by a copy. Three other men were charged in the theft, correction officers Timothy Pina and Greg Sokol and former assistant deputy warden Mitchell Hochhauser.

    Hochhauser pleaded guilty in September to one count of attempted grand larceny and was sentenced to one to three years in prison.

    Sokol, who cooperated with prosecutors, testified against Nuzzo at trial. Sokol and Pina still face charges in the case.

    Dali created the ink and pencil sketch, which depicts the crucifixion of Jesus, after he called in sick to a planned visit to the prison in 1965.

    The sketch has not been seen since it was reported missing, and Hochhauser has claimed that Nuzzo destroyed it.

    Nuzzo, who was fired after his arrest, plans to try to get his job back, his lawyer said.

    Former Assistant Deputy Warden Nuzzo did sue to get his job back, but he lost. Here's what the appellate court said in rejecting Nuzzo's appeal:
    Respondent's findings that petitioner took property from its facility at Rikers Island without proper authorization, provided false entries on his work time sheets and then provided misleading testimony during his official interview are supported by substantial evidence
    Hmmmm.... From a legal standpoint, I wonder whether the fact that the findings were supported by substantial evidence means that it's not defamatory to say they're true. (Would it be defamatory to say that OJ killed Nicole, for example, because of a civil jury's findings?)

    I'm more concerned with the destruction of art than with theft. Stolen property can always be returned. Destruction of art might not be a crime against humanity in the legal sense, but I think it's a crime against culture -- something IMO morally worse than theft.

    posted by Eric at 12:29 PM | Comments (4)

    Rating my filth

    Naturally, I am fascinated by the InstaLinked experiment InstaPunk posed last night:

    I propose an exercise to be perfomed by those who have the software and expertise to carry it out. The exercise is this: Search six months' worth of content, posts and comments, of the 20 most popular blogs on the right and the left. The search criteria are George Carlin's infamous "7 Dirty Words."

    I am absolutely certain that the left will far exceed the right in the number of usages of all these words, which will go a long way toward proving that it's the right which is still concerned with ideas while it's the left that's obsessed with the lowest kind of hateful invective.

    Anyone care to take up the challenge?

    It didn't take long. According to Newsbuckit's survey results that Glenn linked today, the difference is overwhelming.

    Naturally, I wanted to see how I ranked. Copying George Carlin's seven dirty words directly into the template, I was shocked by the results -- which indicate 141 uses of these words here at Classical Values.

    I wondered what was going on, as I like to think that I take pride in keeping foul language to a minimum. When I began to look closely, I saw that the vast majority of the posts involved either:

  • quotes from other people, or
  • comments left by visitors to the site
  • Even in the foulest-mouthed post I could find that actually consisted of words used by me, I was addressing the use of the "s" word by another blogger.

    Whether it's a good idea for me to quote the foul language of others or allow commenters to use foul language is debatable. But in any case I don't think it is logical to suppose that other people's words are an accurate depiction of what I say. Fortunately, I'm not large enough hits-wise for most people to care very much, which means that if I wanted to be really foul-mouthed, I could get away with it more easily. However, while I don't have an exact estimate, the fact is that I've written millions of words over the years, so looking at the big picture my Carlin rating is pathetically small. In comparison to DailyKos, my rating is so pathetically small as to be infinitessimal. (Daily Kos's 146,000 compared to my 141, is a ratio of more than 1000 to 1!)

    Still, I'm wondering whether there are search commands that rule out quotes and comments, because I just don't think it's fair to use the words of others to rate my language. Especially commenters, because I have absolutely no control over what they say unless I delete them -- which I refuse to do unless my hand is forced. (In fact, if there was an official rating system, someone could easily screw it up by creating a "Comment F*CK bot" to simply insert comments containing the "F" word, which would require installing yet another tedious MT plugin.)

    Of course, as Patterico thoroughly documents, foul-mouthed comments are only held against some bloggers:

    If you are a conservative, they represent you. They represent me. They represent every conservative thinker in the country. The significance of such commenters cannot be overstated. But if the hateful commenters are liberals -- why, then, they're just isolated crackpots who can and should be ignored.
    Via Wuzzadem, who demonstrates these fascinating rules of leftist logic in cartoon format:
    those who rely on anonymous blog comments to make an argument should be presumed to have no argument at all. [...] Unless of course those comments were made by conservatives and one can establish a connection to the content or theme of the blog.
    I don't have time go slog through the relatively few foul-mouthed comments that have been left here to determine the political leanings of the commenters, or whether they agreed with me.

    It is my general policy to try not to police commenters here, and I don't consider myself responsible in any way for anything I have not said. (As I said repeatedly, I was horrified by many of the comments to this post on the Muhammad cartoons, but I left them deliberately, as a sort of permanent archive. They contain 74 uses of the "F" word alone.)

    I especially appreciated InstaPunk's discussion of the distinction between ideas and verbal graffiti:

    There are plenty of verbal attacks launched by both right and left in the war of words that constitutes political discourse. You couldn't have a free political system without them. What matters is the quality and tenor of those attacks. Political passion is fueled by emotion, and emotion in an adversary situation results quite often in extreme analogies, ridicule, unfairness, and even cruelty. Yet there is a vast difference between employing verbal wit as a weapon of ridicule and employing the foulest lowest-common-denominator cusswords available to describe one's political foes and to wish for their physical destruction. The latter is not wit, which it resembles only insofar as word choices have the power to shock. When endless repetition makes them a thudding refrain used again an again and again without any attempt at irony or illuminating juxtapositions, it's merely gutter-mouthed drivel. Its only intent is to injure, not to educate, persuade, or delineate. A simple test: is there an actual punchline anywhere in sight? Or is there only an irrational need to scrawl the ugliest possible graffiti on the biggest possible wall?
    That distinction is a good one, but it's probably lost on people who consider their graffiti (which is verbal vandalism) a form of art.

    While it's a bit off-topic, even gutter drivel of the sort calculated to to injure (as opposed to "educate, persuade, or delineate") can be accomplished without resort to Carlin's dirty words. Here's a ho-hum example I photographed last year:


    Naif that I am about the ultimate meaning of words, at the time I wondered whether it might fall into the category of speech Dave Neiwert routinely condemns as "eliminationist rhetoric."

    Whatever it is, there's nothing dirty about inviting the lefties to "go sit on it."

    LINGERING QUESTION: Has anyone ever run an experiment like this to determine which side uses more "eliminationist rhetoric"?

    posted by Eric at 09:19 AM | Comments (7)

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