Defeated By Pornography

I have been hinting around about what our Grand Strategy should be in the War On Islamic Fascism. Some of the hints can be found at: Islam vs American Morality and In The Long Run Their Struggle Will Be Hopeless and The New Middle East. So what should our strategy be in plainer terms? We should be undermining Islamic fascist culture. How? There in lies a tail.

Let us start with the BBC.

Up to 70% of files exchanged between Saudi teenagers' mobile phones contain pornography, according to a study in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

The study quoted in Arab News focussed on the phones of teenagers detained by religious police for harassing girls.

So who is winning the battle of mobiles?
"The flash memory of mobile phones taken from teenagers showed 69.7% of 1,470 files saved in them were pornographic and 8.6% were related to violence," said report author Professor Abdullah al-Rasheed.
So sex is more popular than violence by a factor of better than 8 to 1. Excellent.

The Opinion Journal has some early news from the battle for Iraq.

In the giddy spirit of the day, nothing could quite top the wish list bellowed out by one man in the throng of people greeting American troops from the 101st Airborne Division who marched into town today.

What, the man was asked, did he hope to see now that the Baath Party had been driven from power in his town? What would the Americans bring?

"Democracy," the man said, his voice rising to lift each word to greater prominence. "Whiskey. And sexy!"

Around him, the crowd roared its approval.

That was a definite vote of confidence for my proposed strategy.

Ralph Peters takes a look at strategy in information warfare.

For the world masses, devastated by information they cannot manage or effectively interpret, life is "nasty, brutish . . . and short-circuited." The general pace of change is overwhelming, and information is both the motor and signifier of change. Those humans, in every country and region, who cannot understand the new world, or who cannot profit from its uncertainties, or who cannot reconcile themselves to its dynamics, will become the violent enemies of their inadequate governments, of their more fortunate neighbors, and ultimately of the United States. We are entering a new American century, in which we will become still wealthier, culturally more lethal, and increasingly powerful. We will excite hatreds without precedent.

We live in an age of multiple truths. He who warns of the "clash of civilizations" is incontestably right; simultaneously, we shall see higher levels of constructive trafficking between civilizations than ever before. The future is bright--and it is also very dark. More men and women will enjoy health and prosperity than ever before, yet more will live in poverty or tumult, if only because of the ferocity of demographics. There will be more democracy--that deft liberal form of imperialism--and greater popular refusal of democracy. One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims.

We can already see who the victims are. They are the people whose information on every subject has been restricted. The people who have no immunity to the torrent.
The contemporary expansion of available information is immeasurable, uncontainable, and destructive to individuals and entire cultures unable to master it. The radical fundamentalists--the bomber in Jerusalem or Oklahoma City, the moral terrorist on the right or the dictatorial multiculturalist on the left--are all brothers and sisters, all threatened by change, terrified of the future, and alienated by information they cannot reconcile with their lives or ambitions. They ache to return to a golden age that never existed, or to create a paradise of their own restrictive design. They no longer understand the world, and their fear is volatile.

Information destroys traditional jobs and traditional cultures; it seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable. How can you counterattack the information others have turned upon you? There is no effective option other than competitive performance. For those individuals and cultures that cannot join or compete with our information empire, there is only inevitable failure (of note, the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and community). The attempt of the Iranian mullahs to secede from modernity has failed, although a turbaned corpse still stumbles about the neighborhood. Information, from the internet to rock videos, will not be contained, and fundamentalism cannot control its children. Our victims volunteer.

I think that is one of the real keys. Our victims volunteer. My original idea was to have our government print up a bunch of pornoraphy and distribute it in the Middle East. I thought that there was no way this could become a government program. Too many Americans with loud voices would object. Fortunately with the advent of computers and mobile phones we do not have to print anything. Nor does our government have to have its fingerprints on the job. There is more than enough free porno on line to satisfy the immediate demand. In other words Open Source Pornography to the rescue.
Secular and religious revolutionaries in our century have made the identical mistake, imagining that the workers of the world or the faithful just can't wait to go home at night to study Marx or the Koran. Well, Joe Sixpack, Ivan Tipichni, and Ali Quat would rather "Baywatch." America has figured it out, and we are brilliant at operationalizing our knowledge, and our cultural power will hinder even those cultures we do not undermine. There is no "peer competitor" in the cultural (or military) department. Our cultural empire has the addicted--men and women everywhere--clamoring for more. And they pay for the privilege of their disillusionment.
We are addicted to their oil, it is the engine of our prosperity. They are addicted to our culture, the engine of their defeat. Strategy Page looks at the turmoil our communication technology is causing among the Arab/Persian masses:
May 3, 2007: One reason for Islamic terrorism is there are too many Moslems. At least in the sense that the economies of Islamic countries cannot create enough jobs for all the young people coming of age. Consider that for the last fifty years, the population of all Moslem countries has tripled. That's population growth that is more than double the rate of the world as a whole, and about ten times the rate of Europe. It's about five times the rate in the United States.

Many of those unemployed young men are angry, and making war is a typical activity of angry young men. But the women are not too happy either, and this is becoming one a major threat to Islamic terrorists. In Islamic societies, women's activities are greatly restricted. One thing they are encouraged to do is have lots of children. Many women in Islamic countries are rebelling against this. You don't hear much about this, because women don't rebel in the same loud, headline grabbing way that men do. What unhappy women often do is stop having children. Not so easy to do, you think? Well, think again.

That is the wind up. How about the pitch?
While Islamic countries tend to have very low levels of education, especially for women, the introduction of satellite television and DVDs has enabled even illiterate women to learn that there are other options. Ignorance is an excellent form of control, but when the ignorance is lost, so is the control.

Thus in most Islamic countries, the women are having fewer children, and making more noise about economic and educational opportunities. This resonates with some of the better informed Islamic men. One reason the West, and other parts of the world, have enjoyed much better economic growth than the Moslem countries, is that they have added large number of educated women to their work force.

Losing control of the women is something that makes Islamic conservatives very angry. Murderously angry. This is a vicious, lethal battle taking place largely out of the media spotlight. But, long term, it is destroying the source of Islamic terrorism.

Yep. I think the Saudi statistics bear that out.

Matthew Parris discusses the end of the End of the American Empire. He says that it is premature to blow taps for America.

Writing in The Spectator two weeks ago ('Why there will be no future Pax Americana'), the distinguished essayist, author and thinker had sniffed the wind and concluded that it is all up for what he calls the US 'imperium'. Islam has been Washington's undoing, he believes, and after six short decades as top dog of the world, America is already stumbling and set to lose her predominance.
So does Islam really have the appeal its adherents claim? I don't think so and neither does Mr. Parris.
Have we not noticed how incompetent are Islamic governments and organisations the world over? Has it not occurred to us that if al-Qa'eda really were as wily and resourceful as we tell ourselves they are, and if their tentacles really did extend as wide and deep as some say, they would be on the advance -- not battled into a stalemate by Western security and intelligence? If I were an al-Qa'eda activist I could have blown up Parliament or shot at least one of a range of prime ministers by now. Al-Qa'eda's failure to infiltrate or penetrate Western structures has been complete.

There is a reason for this. Islam, in its more fundamentalist form, doesn't work. Serious, committed Islamists are most unlikely to succeed within any structures but their own. Their own, meanwhile, are notoriously inefficient and corrupt. Only by lucky coincidence have much of the world's known petrocarbons been found beneath Islamic nations, giving them what temporary influence they wield. How can any culture which despises modernity, hates mobility, distrusts individual liberty and autonomy, persecutes those who deviate from cultural or ideological norms, imposes a kind of brutal conformity on the way people live, love and work, and at a stroke disempowers 50 per cent of its people (women) from proper education and from all career opportunity so that every boy-child it produces is being brought up by a person who knows little of the world and only a fraction of what the boy must learn -- how can such a culture bestride the 21st century, as Selbourne fears Islamism will do?

Which is not to say that Islam can't cause a lot of trouble. It can, but is it something with appeal to the Western World? I don't think so. Islam prescribes the most minute details of a person's life. The West says: tear down the Walls. Minimize the restrictions. Enlarge the limits. Which will ultimately be more popular?

Wretchard at the Belmont Club takes a look at the issue and our secret weapon:

And that, come right down to it, is why some Muslims believe in the power of Allah. Allah strengthens the will of his adherents past any breaking point. They are willing to go past death itself. And they say to us: with our rifle and our belief in Allah we can defeat you with your laser guided weaponry and your belief in Harry Reid. Come to prayer. Come to Islam.
We have a secret weapon. Come to Brittany. This is a weapon more fearsome than any 20 divisions of soldiers backed up by 10 CBGs.

The munitions are delivered at the speed of light. The targeting precice and once a target is located follow on rounds are almost automatic.

We are making them desire and pay for the liquifaction of their culture. Every dollar we pay for oil, not only buys physical weapons to be used against us but aso buys them our best weapon to be used against themselves and our weapons have better targeting and a negative cost for delivery. We profit from their desires. How much more American than that can you get? It tuns out much more.

Memri TV has a video clip from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International about Saudi women stripping for Web Cams. They also have a transcript of the show.

Reporter: Behind closed doors and far from any supervising eyes, they remove their shame and turn their backs on all customs and traditions. Girls display their bodies in chat rooms on the Internet, in most cases, free of charge. As soon as one of these girls places the camera in front of her, she begins to strip, displaying her seductive charms to more than 300 young men of different ages. Some believe that the phenomenon of stripping over the Internet may be understood within the framework of social hypocrisy, especially since they believe that our religious and educational discourse does not attribute importance to the strengthening of self-restraint, and prefers the appearance over the essence. This drives some people to play several roles and wear several masks.
The liquifaction is well underway.
Reporter: On the other hand, many believe that web stripping has not reached the proportions of a phenomenon, and that these are merely isolated cases. They emphasize that the vast majority of our girls protect their modesty and respect the customs, and traditions. These people believe that web cams can be useful tools. They can be used to maintain family ties, and can have educational applications, in lectures and conferences, for example.

Many young men and women believe that the endless prohibitions drive them to hide behind closed doors, and surf in relations that rebel against all costumes and traditions, in search of love, in some cases, and in order to satisfy their urges, in other cases, especially since the Internet gives them the opportunity to openly declare their repressed desires without fear.

Young Saudi woman in shopping mall: The girls misuse the web cams. They take them into their rooms, and even their families do not know that they have cameras, or what the girls use their laptops or web cams for.

Young Saudi man in shopping mall: A girl can buy a web cam for a very cheap price, 70-75 riyals. She takes it to her room, closes the door, and begins the show.

As one of my favorite bands has said, "On with the show".

Yep it is just a few isolated incidents and outside agitators causing all the trouble. Sure it is. The subject is well known and yet no one knows who is involved. I believe that. Sure I do. Hasn't any one explained that when family members surf the 'net supervision is required?

I'm going to let Dr. Sanity have the last word.

If there was ever in history a better example of the paranoid fear of female sexuality, I can't think of it. You don't have to be much of an expert on Islam or Muslim culture to be able to observe that it has evolved into a societal structure whose primary purpose is to contain and manage female sexuality.

This containment has not only become a key aspect of the worship of their god; but it also is a key factor in individual personality development; as well as the main pollutant of all possible social interactions within the culture.

The men of Islam are obsessed with sex beyond even the wildest imaginings of the Western male's mind. And the obsession is far from healthy and even further from reality.

We frequently joke about men's preoccupation with sex and female body parts in the West, but our fascination with "T&A" is nothing when you consider that the Muslim world is literally consumed by female sexuality and with their fear of it. It is ironic that both Muslim men and women are under the mistaken impression that Western society is oversexualized compared to them, when in fact, it is practically impossible to be more obsessed with sexual matters than they are in Muslim communities.

It is unhealthy. However, in an information resticted society such obsession is inevitable.

It looks to me that their defeat by pornagraphy is inevitable. I might also add that I have been doing some field research for this article (yeah, right) and it appears that pornography by Arabs are increasingly frequent on the free amateur pornography sites. A sub theme in all this is that American music is popular as background on about half the videos that have any music. It is not just sex. Democracy, whiskey, sexy is more popular than Islam. Which means that what ever military action we take is just a holding action while our culture does a number on them.

H/T Little Green Footballs, and Instapundit, and The Daily Brief, and Instapundit again.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:45 AM | Comments (19)

Thompson Will Run

I have been doing a lot of thinking about nuclear physics the past couple of days and I didn't want to post it here until I got the illustrations correct. I'm working on that.

I might also add that politics seems to lose its interest when you can do some serious thinking about hard physics problems. Which sort of explains the "quiet time". However, Fred Thompson moves me.


I'm heartened by this. Thompson is a communicator. A skill sorely lacking in the current White House.

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Politician-turned-actor Fred Thompson plans an unconventional campaign for president using blogs, video posts and other Internet innovations to reach voters repelled by politics-as-usual in both parties, he told USA Today.

Thompson, a former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, has been coy about his intentions with audiences, but made clear in an interview that he plans to run.

"I can't remember exactly the point that I said, 'I'm going to do this,' " Thompson says, his 6-foot, 6-inch frame sprawled comfortably across a couch in a hotel suite. "But when I did, the thing that occurred to me: 'I'm going to tell people that I am thinking about it and see what kind of reaction I get to it.' "

Actually telling people what he is thinking. A novel approach to politics to be sure.

Well Fred was thinking about Michael Moore a while back. And told people what he was thinking.

H/T Instapundit

Partially cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:14 AM | Comments (0)

Hurried Midwest highlights

This is the first time since leaving home that I've had a chance to do anything at all online, as I've been completely busy with other things. (Right now I only have about a half an hour using someone else's computer, running Windows Vista, which I'm not sure I like).

This trip to the Midwest began with a hectic twelve hour delay in the flight from Philadelphia to Chicago, which shortened the Milwaukee visit. From Milwaukee to Chicago for a day, then to Rockford, home to M. Simon!

We met for a beer (or two or three) at a wonderful place Simon suggested called the Irish Rose. (Damn! This sucky-ass Windows Vista doesn't even allow me to insert links!)

I managed to get a photo from the evening into this computer, and I shrank it so I could upload it to the blog.


High time for an official Classical Values party, no?

(The problem is that I've spent so much time getting the hang of Vista that I'm quickly running out of time to finish this post!)

Fast forward to yesterday, when I drove from Freeport, Illinois to Des Moines, Iowa, pausing to stop in Galena where I visited the home of Ulysses S. Grant.


The house has not changed at all since the Grants lived there. Even the furniture is the same. This contemporaneous photo shows Grant and his son Jesse standing on the porch:


Galena is an utterly charming town of 3500, just a short drive to the Mississippi River and Dubuque, Iowa.

I can't think of anywhere more beautiful in the Spring, but I'm out of time, and sneaking this post in was all I could do.

posted by Eric at 11:10 PM | Comments (1)

Lubos Motl Looks At Sun Spots

Lubos sent me an e-mail thanking me for Clouds In Chambers and suggesting I have a look at Sunspots. He shows the correlations between sunspots and global temperatures.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 05:37 PM | Comments (52)

IEC Fusion for Dummies

A short video that schematically shows how a Bussard Fusion Reactor works. The video was done by Foger Rox.

A short technical explanation can be found at Bussard Fusion Reactor. A more detailed look with social implications can be found at Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 05:03 PM | Comments (2)

Harmonica Joe

Last night I had a blogger meet up with Eric of Classical Values at the Irish Rose Saloon in Rockford. My first mate was there and so was Harmonica Joe.

Needless to say a very good time was had by all.

When Eric returns to Philly he will be posting pictures of the usual suspects.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

The Last Full Measure

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

posted by Simon at 03:17 PM | Comments (1)

CO2 - Its In The Air

China is set to becone the #1 CO2 producer in the world. China's rapid industrialization along with its low economic productivity is causing its energy demands to rise at a furious rate.

China is on course to overtake the United States this year as the world's biggest carbon dioxide producer, according to estimates based on Chinese energy data.

The finding might pressure Beijing to take more action on climate change.

China's emissions rose by about 10 percent in 2005, a senior U.S. scientist estimated, while Beijing data shows fuel consumption rose more than 9 percent in 2006, suggesting China would easily outstrip the United States this year, long before a forecast.

Taking the top spot would put pressure on China to do more to slow emissions as part of world talks on extending the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol on global warming beyond 2012.

The nations signed on to Kyoto aren't doing too well on the CO2 front either. Germans in particular are balking at further price increases and other restrictions on their energy supplies.

In the mean time how is the USA, which did not sign on to Kyoto, doing? As it turns out not too bad.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO{-2} emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in both 2001 and 1991, in large part because of economic slowdowns during those years.

In 2006 the U.S. economy grew 3.3 percent, a fact President Bush touted yesterday as he hailed the government's "flash estimate" that the country's carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 78 million metric tons last year.

"We are effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong economic investment," Bush said in a statement. "New policies at the federal, state, and local levels -- such as my initiative to reduce by 20 percent our projected use of gasoline within 10 years -- promise even more progress." A number of factors helped reduce emissions last year, according to the government, including weather conditions that reduced heating and air-conditioning use, higher gasoline prices that caused consumers to conserve, and a greater overall reliance on natural gas.

Well what do you know. Market forces, which is just another way of saying voluntary cooperation, are doing a pretty good job. In fact a better job than command and control.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:57 AM | Comments (59)


The Demolished Car

Take a close look at the photo at the left from Little Green Footballs and see if you can detect anything unusual?

First check out the rubber boots on the steering gear. They are intact with no obvious signs of fire. Second look at the dust on the tires. It looks like the car was dragged into place, rather than moving like a regular car which would have cleared the dust from the wheels. Or had the road been really dusty it would have covered the whole wheel and not just covered a portion of the wheel and left a portion untouched.

Supposedly this car was rocketed and burned.

So far it is just suspicion. Comments welcome.

Little Richard

And just for amusement here is a picture of Little Richard. Looks a lot like one of the guys in the photo. I wonder if the guy in the photo is an old time American Rock 'n Roll fan? Tuti Fruity, nice booty!

H/T linearthinker of Random Traverse who alerted me to the possible fraud and also provided the Little Richard photo.

posted by Simon at 10:36 PM | Comments (6)

Latest Fusion News

Tom Ligon, an engineer who worked with Dr. Robert Bussard, is giving a talk on fusion powered rockets at the International Space Development Conference in Dallas. Here is a link to Tom's Power Point Presentation at ISDC. Scroll down the page and click on the button in the lower right.

In other news Tri Alpha Energy has just raised $40 million in venture capital for nuclear fusion.

Tri Alpha Energy, which hopes to commercialize nuclear fusion technology, has raised $40 million from Venrock Associates and others, according to VentureWire.

The company, which grew out of the University of California at Irvine, says its advanced plasma fusion technologies could be used to generate electricity as well as eliminate waste from nuclear power plants. A plant based on its technology would cost less than a conventional nuclear plant. Tri Alpha was founded in 1998 and has raised funds in the past.

Tri Alpha is working on a generator in which hydrogen chases boron, according to literature from UC Irvine. These atoms then form a helium atom, which is placed in a particle accelerator. Slowing down the helium generates electricity.

I have some links to their proposed design at Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion. Scroll down and look for the Hendrik J. Monkhorst information.

Here are some more details on the venture capital deal from UC Irvine.

Norman Rostoker, research professor of physics and astronomy, received $5.2 million from Tri Alpha Energy Inc. to research a plasma electric generator that will use as fuel a mixture of hydrogen and boron. In this generator, hydrogen will chase boron in a cylinder, eventually resulting in helium nuclei that will be made to escape into a particle accelerator. The backwards-running accelerator will slow down the nuclei, turning the energy released into electricity.
Here is the patent for the Monkhorst/Rostoker design.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)

The Future Of Mainstream Media: 1968

From 2001: A Space Odyssey by Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Heywood Floyd catches up with the headlines while travelling to the moon...

There was plenty to occupy his time, even if he did nothing but sit and read. When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-sized Newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad.

I am not about to try a beat-down on Sir Arthur C. Clarke for not imagining a more user-friendly interface. When I first read these words, almost forty years ago now, I was enthralled by his vision of the world's information at your fingertips. That he didn't also invent the touchpad is no big deal. For science fiction writers the future is a moving target, and Sir Arthur has done a better than average job of keeping up with the times.

Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him. Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-sized rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.

If we ignore all the finicky keystrokes required, what most strikes a modern reader is the user's passivity. The display is as spiffy as one would wish for, likewise the connectivity, but the content is more akin to cable tv than today's internet.

Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word "newspaper," of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.

It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg.

Certainly, I couldn't imagine it either. I had to wait for it to happen.

There was another thought which a scanning of those tiny electronic headlines often invoked. The more wonderful the means of communication, the more trivial, tawdry, or depressing its contents seemed to be.
posted by Justin at 12:18 PM | Comments (2)

Clouds In Chambers

a cloud chamber in action What do you do when you want to study clouds and all you have is balloons because airplanes are not very reliable and they are expensive? Like any good scientist you try to make clouds in your lab. Which is exactly what C. T. R. Wilson did in 1912.

The study of high energy particles was greatly aided in 1912 when C. T. R. Wilson, a Scottish physicist, devised the cloud chamber. The general procedure was to allow water to evaporate in an enclosed container to the point of saturation and then lower the pressure, producing a super-saturated volume of air. Then the passage of a charged particle would condense the vapor into tiny droplets, producing a visible trail marking the particle's path.

The device came to be called the Wilson cloud chamber and was used widely in the study of radioactivity. An alpha particle left a broad, straight path of definite length while an electron produced a light path with bends due to collisions. Gamma rays did not produce a visible track since they produce very few ions in air. The Wilson cloud chamber led to the discovery of recoil electrons from x-ray and gamma ray collisions, the Compton-scattered electrons, and was used to discover the first intermediate mass particle, the muon. Wilson was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1927 for the development of the cloud chamber.

Why did Wilson invent the cloud chamber? It certainly wasn't to study nuclear physics which was in its infancy at the time. It really was the case that he wanted to study clouds.
Inspired by sightings of the Brocken spectre while working on the summit of Ben Nevis in 1894, he began to develop expansion chambers for studying cloud formation and optical phenomena in moist air.
So how did all this interest by people studying nuclear physics come about?
Very rapidly he discovered that ions could act as centres for water droplet formation in such chambers. He pursued the application of this discovery and perfected the first cloud chamber in 1911. In Wilson's original chamber the air inside the sealed device was saturated with water vapor, then a diaphragm is used to expand the air inside the chamber (adiabatic expansion). This cools the air and water vapor starts to condense. When an ionizing particle passes through the chamber, water vapor condenses on the resulting ions and the trail of the particle is visible in the vapor cloud.
Fun stuff. In fact it is so much fun that improved chambers have been developed that can make the required clouds continuously so that you do not have to keep re-pumping the chamber to get the required conditions for cloud formation. Mad Physics has a nice diagram of Wilson's original design and instructions on how to build a more modern version using methanol (wood alcohol), pure ethanol (the drinking kind), or pure isopropyl alcohol (used in diluted form in rubbing alcohol)and dry ice. Cornell University also has similar instructions along with a trouble shooting guide.

OK, so men have been making clouds in chambers since 1912. Since not long after that time we have understood that high energy nuclear particles can help clouds to form.

Which leads us to the question of climate and how our sun's magnetic field can affect climate. I wrote some about that in Clouds and More Clouds. As usual with any "new" science there are sceptics and deniers (you know who you are). So let us follow this along, look at some really big cloud chambers, and see if we can shed some light instead of just generating heat.

Let us start with the experiment that triggered off the whole brouha. An experiment done under the auspices of the Danish Space Agency first reported in the summer of 2006.

An essential role for remote stars in everyday weather on Earth has been revealed by an experiment at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen.

It is already well-established that when cosmic rays, which are high-speed atomic particles originating in exploded stars far away in the Milky Way, penetrate Earth's atmosphere they produce substantial amounts of ions and release free electrons.

Now, results from the Danish experiment show that the released electrons significantly promote the formation of building blocks for cloud condensation nuclei on which water vapour condenses to make clouds.

Hence, a causal mechanism by which cosmic rays can facilitate the production of clouds in Earth's atmosphere has been experimentally identified for the first time.

Well that is just one experiment you say. I suppose that is true if you don't count all the millions of cloud chamber experiments done since 1912. However, there are sceptics and deniers among us and we need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm all for that! Now there will always be a few flat earthers, however we want to satisfy the reasonable sceptics. The way to do that? Why get another team to to perform the same experiment to see if they get the same results. So will this be done? Yep. And by whom? Well atomic scietists to the rescue.
Geneva, 19 October 2006. A novel experiment, known as CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets), begins taking its first data today with a prototype detector in a particle beam at CERN[1], the world's largest laboratory for particle physics. The goal of the experiment is to investigate the possible influence of galactic cosmic rays on Earth's clouds and climate. This represents the first time a high energy physics accelerator has been used for atmospheric and climate science.

The CLOUD experiment is designed to explore the microphysical interactions between cosmic rays and clouds. Cosmic rays are charged particles that bombard the Earth's atmosphere from outer space. Studies suggest that cosmic rays may influence the amount of cloud cover through the formation of new aerosols (tiny particles suspended in the air that seed cloud droplets). Clouds exert a strong influence on the Earth's energy balance, and changes of only a few per cent have an important effect on the climate. The CLOUD prototype experiment aims to investigate the effect of cosmic rays on the formation of new aerosols.

Understanding the microphysics in controlled laboratory conditions is a key to unravelling the connection between cosmic rays and clouds. CLOUD will reproduce these interactions for the first time by sending a beam of particles - the "cosmic rays" - from CERN's Proton Synchrotron into a reaction chamber. The effect of the beam on aerosol production will be recorded and analysed.

The collaboration comprises an interdisciplinary team from 18 institutes and 9 countries in Europe, the United States and Russia. It brings together atmospheric physicists, solar physicists, and cosmic ray and particle physicists to address a key question in the understanding of clouds and climate change. "The experiment has attracted the leading aerosol, cloud and solar-terrestrial physicists from Europe; Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are especially strong in this area" says the CLOUD spokesperson, Jasper Kirkby of CERN.

Data from this experiment will be out around 2010. So we have to wait a while.

In the mean time the BBC reports on some other experiments going on.

A three-week experiment to resolve the biggest riddle in climate science begins in Australia on Thursday.

Scientists will use radar, aeroplanes, weather balloons and a ship to study the life cycle of tropical clouds.

They are searching for details of how clouds form and carry heat high up into the atmosphere.

A better understanding of these crucial processes should lead to computer models that can predict the extent of global climate warming more accurately.

Just how bad is the cloud problem? I cover some of that in More Uncertainty. However, let us see what the above linked BBC report has to say:
Tropical clouds carry heat and moisture from the Earth's surface high up in the atmosphere, a key process in driving heat around the globe.

"You have these 'hot towers', tropical storm clouds acting like chimneys to carry heat to the upper atmosphere," said Peter May from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, co-chair of the project's organising committee.

"Also, you've got large areas of cirrus clouds which are reflecting a lot of incoming sunlight back away from the Earth; but they're also absorbing infra-red radiation coming back from below," he told the BBC News website.

"So you've got competing processes going on; and that balance depends on how big the ice crystals are and what the density is, how high they are and so on."

Existing computer models did not reflect these processes accurately, said Tom Ackerman of the University of Washington in Seattle, US, because they typically treated convection and cloud formation as separate processes.

So even without the nuclear particle (cosmic ray) connection to cloud production there is a lot of uncertainty.

Obviously more information is needed. One of the things we need is an understanding of how the sun affects the cosmic ray intensity on earth.

So let us look into it. First off let us look into Dr. Nir Shaviv's review of the Danish experiment.

After a long embargo, results from the Danish National Space Center (DNSC) Sky experiment were finally published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. These results will probably we overshadowed with today's announcement of this years' physics nobel prize winner (for the COBE microwave background experiment), but they are very important nonetheless.

This is the Royal Society's press release on the publication of Svensmark et al.:

"Using a box of air in a Copenhagen lab, physicists trace the growth of clusters of molecules of the kind that build cloud condensation nuclei. These are specks of sulphuric acid on which cloud droplets form. High-energy particles driven through the laboratory ceiling by exploded stars far away in the Galaxy - the cosmic rays - liberate electrons in the air, which help the molecular clusters to form much faster than atmospheric scientists have predicted. That may explain the link proposed by members of the Danish team, between cosmic rays, cloudiness and climate change."
Nir is kind enough to provide the pertinent graph, pictures of the experiment and the scientists involved, and some more discussion at the previous link.

Now what does all this have to do with the sun?

Nir again provides us with a connection

The activity of the sun manifests its self in many ways. One of them is through a variable solar wind. This flux of energetic particles and entangled magnetic field flows outwards from the sun, and impedes on a flux of more energetic particles, the cosmic rays, which come from outside the solar system. Namely, a more active sun with a stronger solar wind will attenuate the flux of cosmic rays reaching Earth. The key point in this picture is that the cosmic rays are the main physical mechanism controlling the amount of ionization in the troposphere (the bottom 10 kms or so). Thus, a more active sun will reduce the flux of cosmic rays, and with it, the amount of tropospheric ionization. As it turns out, this amount of ionization affects the formation of condensation nuclei required for the formation of clouds in clean marine environment. A more active sun will therefore inhibit the formation of cloud condensation nuclei, and the resulting low altitude marine clouds will have larger drops, which are less white and live shorter, thereby warming Earth.

Today, there is ample evidence to support this picture (a succinct introduction can be found here). For example, it was found that independent galactic induced variations in the cosmic ray flux, which have nothing to do with solar activity do too affect climate as one should expect from such a link. There are many more examples.

Ah, but Dr. Shaviv has more:
So why is this link important for global warming? As previously mentioned, solar activity has been increasing over the 20th century. This can be seen in fig. 5. Thus, we expect warming from the reduced flux of cosmic rays. Moreover, since the cosmic ray flux actually had a small increase between the 1940's and 1970's (as can be seen in the ion chamber data in fig. 6), this mechanism also naturally explains the global temperature decrease which took place during the same period.

Using historic variations in climate and the cosmic ray flux, one can actually quantify empirically the relation between cosmic ray flux variations and global temperature change, and estimate the solar contribution to the 20th century warming. This contribution comes out to be 0.5±0.2°C out of the observed 0.6±0.2°C global warming (Shaviv, 2005).

Naturally you will have to visit Dr. Shaviv's site to see the figures. However, if what he says is correct then CO2 is an amplifying mechanism and not the driver. In fact if his numbers are correct solar variation amplified by the cosmic ray effect accounts for 80% of the global warming we have seen.

Dr. Shaviv has a paper that originally appeared in PhysicaPlus that has more on the cosmic ray/climate connection over geological time. You can read it here along with some interesting pictures.

But wait. That is not all. Let us take another look at Dr. Svensmark's research.

For more than a decade, Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center has been pursuing an explanation for why Earth cools and warms. His findings -- published in October in the Proceedings of the Royal Society -- the mathematical, physical sciences and engineering journal of the Royal Society of London -- are now in, and they don't point to us. The sun and the stars could explain most if not all of the warming this century, and he has laboratory results to demonstrate it. Dr. Svensmark's study had its origins in 1996, when he and a colleague presented findings at a scientific conference indicating that changes in the sun's magnetic field -- quite apart from greenhouse gases -- could be related to the recent rise in global temperatures. The chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change, the chief agency investigating global warming, then castigated them in the press, saying, "I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naive and irresponsible." Others accused them of denouncing the greenhouse theory, something they had not done.

Svensmark and his colleague had arrived at their theory after examining data that showed a surprisingly strong correlation between cosmic rays --highspeed atomic particles originating in exploded stars in the Milky Way -- and low-altitude clouds. Earth's cloud cover increased when the intensity of cosmic rays grew and decreased when the intensity declined.

Low-altitude clouds are significant because they especially shield the Earth from the sun to keep us cool. Low cloud cover can vary by 2% in five years, affecting the Earth's surface by as much as 1.2 watts per square metre during that same period. "That figure can be compared with about 1.4 watts per square metre estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the greenhouse effect of all the increase in carbon dioxide in the air since the Industrial Revolution," Dr. Svensmark explained.

The Danish scientists put together several well-established scientific phenomena to arrive at their novel 1996 theory. The sun's magnetic field deflects some of the cosmic rays that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, and in so doing it also limits the immense amounts of ions and free electrons that the cosmic rays produce. But something had changed in the 20th century: The sun's magnetic field more than doubled in strength, deflecting an extraordinary number of rays.

Well that should be more than enough to keep the deniers and sceptics busy for a while.


A paper by Dr. Svensmark. This appears to be one of his earlier papers on the subject (no date given) and not the results published in 2006.

Another Svensmark paper [pdf] Dec. 2006

A paper by Jan Veizer [pdf] on climate over geological time.

More updates:

Empirical evidence for a nonlinear effect of galactic cosmic rays on clouds [pdf]

The possible connection between ionization in the atmosphere by cosmic rays and low level clouds [pdf]

Cosmic Rays and the Evolution of Earths Climate During the Last 4.6 Billion Years

Low cloud properties influenced by cosmic rays

The Sun is More Active Now than Over the Last 8000 Years

Solar Resonant Diffusion Waves as a Driver of Terrestrial Climate Change

Galactic Cosmic Rays and Insolation are the Main Drivers of Global Climate of the Earth

Reader linearthinker has a post up on his blog about the politics behind the science with reference to the IPCC and Dr. Svensmark.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:01 AM | Comments (27)

More Uncertain

I've been obsessed with the climate change debate recently (you noticed?).

And did a piece on the uncertainties in the IPCC numbers on expected global warming from human CO2 emissions.

However, the spam filtering software seems to gag on the post. Probably too many models in the text.

If you want to read it you can go here:

More Uncertain

posted by Simon at 09:20 PM | Comments (1)

A long voyage starts with a single blog post!

Well it might as well.

Because, as soon as I finish this post, I'll be readying my departure for a nine day trip -- which means blogging (my blogging, that is) will be erratic until June 2.

I hope I'll get to post before Monday, but just in case I do not, everyone have a Happy Memorial Day weekend.

(But feel free to check in anyway, because you never know who will post next, or when. Things might get exciting in my absence......)

posted by Eric at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

Facts are facts, but numbers rule!

How many illegal aliens are there in the United States?

The reason I'm asking is because earlier I clicked on Glenn Reynolds's link to this post by Mickey Kaus in which he says there are 12 million:

If border-enforcement can be made to work (and the implausible premise of the "grand bargain" is that it can--indeed, that it will work so well it can hold off a new wave of illegals lured by amnesty) the problem of the 12 million diminishes gradually, steadily over time. Eventually, it disappears. The Bush administration, which always gins up a "crisis" before its big policy pushes, doesn't like to dwell on this point...
I don't mean to dwell on a point on which George F. Will and Mickey Kaus seem to agree, but I just can't ignore it.

That's because many organizations and activists insist that there are more than 12 million.

Far, far more. According to the number is 20 million.

According to a spokesman for the Minutemen Project, there are 30 million, and that was last summer.

So what is it? 12, 20, or 30?

Or (from Newsmax this month) "more than 30 million"? (A jump of 10 million in a single year!)

Of course, there's also a much lower figure given by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services:

As of 2003, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services put the number at 7 million. Since then, United States immigration officials have said the number has grown by as much as 500,000 a year.
This would give an adjusted 2007 number of 9 million.

Quite a range.

Now, if we look at this logically, there has to be an actual, accurate number. It's just that not only is it impossible to determine it, but there there's no way to achieve a consensus on what that number might approximately be, because there is no method of independently verifying any of the proffered numbers in a manner which would satisfy everyone. Facts are not opinions, but when opinions vary as to what the facts are, it strikes me as rather pointless to refer to numbers as if they are facts.

Is this a sort of "numbers popularity contest" in which the numbers depend more on which side you're on? I strongly suspect that liberals would tend to prefer the lower numbers, while conservatives would prefer the higher numbers.

But even there.... Is "prefer" the right word?

I wrote about political tastes yesterday, and tastes are of course preferences.

But can numbers be a preference?

If so, then should the numbers to be determined by a sort of numbers democracy, in which the number which get the highest number of votes wins? Or should only "experts" be allowed to decide these things? The problem with that is that the experts would inevitably be selected by people who are elected or who have to answer to people who are elected, so democracy (and things like political disagreements) always end up being involved.

I don't know how much any of this really matters, but I thought it over, and it occurred to me to apply some basic democratic logic. Numbers ought to be determined by numbers, right?

So I've written a democratic numbers poll.

You decide.

Approximately how many illegal aliens are there in the United States?
12 million
20 million
30 million
more than 30 million
fewer than 12 million
no freakin' clue free polls

And may the best numbers win!

UPDATE: Because an alert commenter pointed out that my poll was not democratic enough, I've added the "no freakin' clue" category.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but anyone who was inconvenienced, feel free to vote again!

No voter will be turned away!

(At the time I closed the first poll, there were only four votes: 2 for 20 million, 1 for 30 million and 1 for 12 million, so I don't expect the change to affect the poll in a major way.)

posted by Eric at 12:07 PM | Comments (10)

Philadelphia's bee problem

Anyone remember how there weren't any more bees?

Last month, shortly after feeling scolded by an op-ed saying that, I was shocked to discover that my yard was full of bees, and in other posts I explored whether the great American bee extinction meme might be exaggerated.

I realize, of course, that anecdotal stories about the existence or non-existence of bees are not proof of any overall pattern, but here's my bias: I like the bees. I hope the bees thrive, whether in my yard or anyone else's. Whether the bees manage to turn up on farms, on the beaches, or in the cities, I'm rooting for them.

More bees! Yaay!

Naturally I found myself just loving today's Inquirer piece about a bee problem in center city Philadelphia:

Center City remains a very desirable place. Just ask the bees who have been swarming downtown lately.

Over the last couple of days, thousands of Italian honeybees have come to Center City, most likely looking for a place to establish their hives. In the end, it wasn't a good fit.

Italian? Sorry to interject there, but considering the fact that all bees in the United States began as immigrants, is it really necessary to dwell on their particular ethnicity?

I was just kidding of course. Normally I take multiculturalism as seriously as I can, so I really should stick to the facts. The Wikipedia entry on Italian bees notes that they've been here since 1859, but has an ominous warning under the heading of "Character":


It has a reputation for gentleness, but hybrids with the darker races can be especially vicious.

I'd normally be tempted to ask just who is being serious here, but that's beyond my overloaded mental capacity.

I shouldn't get so easily distracted by extraneous issues. Back to today's great news:

It all started Tuesday morning, when thousands of bees appeared on a tree outside Liberty Place at 17th and Chestnut Streets.

That's when Nancy Schnarr of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association was called in. She sawed off the tree limb and drove off with the bees in tow.

Yesterday, another swarm showed up about noon on a planter outside the Borders bookstore at Broad and Chestnut Streets.

But Schnarr was already booked, so she called in a pinch-hitter, her 70-year-old mother, Dawn Potts. Her mother is not a beekeeper, so she had to follow instructions given by cell phone.

Schnarr, 40, said she had no idea where the bees came from, but that mostly likely the swarms happened when someone failed to properly attend to their hives.

Hives can have only one queen. If another queen is going to be born, the old queen will take part of the hive with her and look for someplace else to live. That's a swarm.

Beekeepers keep this from happening, Schnarr explained, by regularly removing compartments in the hive where queen eggs would be laid. Think of it as a kind of bee regal birth control.

From imminent bee extinction to birth control for bees in barely over a month, in the same newspaper?

By any standard, that's progress.

Far be it from me to ask whether there a lesson in life to be learned from Philadelphia's Italian bees, as I'm far from being a moralist, and I'm just not into anthropmorphic morality. Besides, Aesop did it better.

I'm just glad to read about Philadelphia's bee problem (and I'm even gladder that no one so far is blaming global warming).

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

If hysteria justifies hysteria, why not get the facts right?

For a variety of reasons, I am tired of writing posts about the horrendous Christian/Newsom double murder. Now that the victim's family and the Assistant District Attorney have finally spoken up, I'd like to think that the allegations of pre-mortem sexual mutilation have been put to rest. (Others don't think they have been, though.)

The reason this series of posts started (in reverse chronological order, they are here, here, here, here, and here) was because something just didn't seem right to me when I read numerous accounts of these unspeakable tortures, without any official confirmation anywhere.

Now that there has been official confirmation that the allegations were false, that ends my inquiry.

It does not, however, end the legal case, which is only beginning and which will of course drag on for months and probably years. I think it's important to get the facts right in cases like this, especially when the claim is made that the MSM is ignoring them, and now that the unverified stuff has been debunked, it ought to make the discussion of the case that much clearer.

The bigger debate is the MSM's treatment of the story. The MSM hysteria surrounding Duke "rape" case still being very much on the public mind, it is quite natural for people to ask questions about a media double standard. I know I've said this before, but I think media circus trials are a bad idea, as they make it very difficult for a district attorney to do his job and see to it that justice is done. In the Duke case, you had a politically motivated DA who was deliberately fueling the media circus even though he had no case. It was very wrong for the MSM to treat the case as a circus, just as it was wrong in the case of the OJ murder trial, the Michael Jackson child molesting trial, and countless others.

I'm having a conceptual problem, though, because on the one hand I don't like double standards, and there certainly is a double standard in the disparate MSM treatment between the Duke "rape" case and the Christian/Newsom savage kidnap/rape/murder/corpse-burning case.

But on the other hand, there's the principle that two wrongs don't make a right. Should one improper media circus justify another?

It's not clear to me that it should. So, it's right to condemn the double standard, but forgive me if I don't demand a media circus. As it is, I've written enough blog posts about this, and my only goal was to verify the gruesome pre-mortem mutilation details, which I believe fueled the story to the point where it could not be ignored.

In the comments to my last post, Scott from Buuuuurrrrning Hot asked me a very good question:

Does mutilation really add that much to the list of evil already performed?
I replied that it does, and here's why:
In the normal scope of things, there is no crime worse than murder. But there are degrees of savagery which make some murders worse than others. Rape might come a close second to murder, but when you add cutting cutting off a man's penis while his girlfriend was forced to watch, and torturing the girl for four days and cutting off her breast, I think this increases the severity and the emotional appeal -- and very dramatically. I also think that these particularly heinous atrocities are what drove (and continue to drive) the story emotionally -- to the point where people became far more hysterical and less willing to be logical than they'd have normally been.

I keep warning that this can only redound to the benefit of the defendants.

Now that the DA and the family have cleared things up, where are the retractions and corrections?

I don't mean to point the finger at anyone here. I've been wrong lots of times, and relied on things I shouldn't have relied on. So, what bloggers and web sites have said, what MSM journalist John Leo said, or what a particular college reporter said, are not so much the issue as is whether the continued recitals of these erroneous details will at least stop in the future.

IMO, none of them helped the DA's case against the defendants. There are degrees of murder, degrees of savagery, just as there are degrees of hysteria. Had the live mutilation allegations been true, I would have considered this to be the most horrible contemporaneous criminal case I'd ever heard about in my life. This is not to defend the defendants in any way, but a double kidnap/rape/murder does not rise to the same emotional level as cutting off a man's penis while his girlfriend is forced to watch and then cutting off her breast during four days of agonizing torture. Vicious tortures like these performed on live human beings rank among the most cruel and depraved activities of which man is capable. There is no way to read about them and not be horrified and emotionally overwhelmed -- often beyond many people's ability to be logical.

The emotional hysteria thus created can create a lynch mob mentality, and once again, clever lawyers could manipulate this to the advantage of the defendants. (More here.)

Because I want the people who raped and murdered Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom to pay with their lives, I don't want to give their defense team any advantages.

In that respect, perhaps I should not have written about the case at all. I hope that my posts have helped defuse at least some of popular hysteria, and I also hope that people will stick to the facts of the case and let the prosecution do its job.

I also hope this is my last post about the unverified "reports."

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post. I'm on the road, and mostly offline, but I do appreciate all comments.

UPDATE (06/03/07): I just returned from vacation and found this email from Stefanie Williams, the text of which I thought merited an update:

So as I am on summer break, our news editions don't begin until June
6th I believe. I am the opinion editor during the year, not the summer,
and rarely am I allowed to write articles anymore. So in lieu of writing
a "new facts show" article, I logged into my administrative site and
updated the original article, and removed the sexual mutilation

I hope you understand whole heartedly I did not intend this article to
spread rumors and lies. I worked on it based on a reliable source. And
sometimes, reliable sources can make mistakes too. Before I removed it,
I wanted to make sure the information (no mutliation) was correct, and
as it has now been shown, there was no mutilation, so I promtly removed
it, leaving only the information that has been substantiated by reports
and documents. I am not a white supremacist, I am not a KKK member, I'm
pretty liberal to be honest-this had nothing to do with my "agenda", as
I don't have one, and I never wanted people to believe so. Your blog
upset me because I think a lot of people thought that's who I was, a KKK
white supremacist looking to exploit the murders of two kids. It's so
far from the truth, and I hope I have shown you that about myself.

Do I still believe this crime deserved more media attention?
Absolutely. Do I believe it was a hate crime? Debatable, though I do think
affluence and "white affluence" had a place in the attack, but I will wait
'til trial to make a full blown decision. I am not a racist. I just seek
equality all around. If this happened to two black kids by whites, I
would feel the same way if it weren't reported. Just like I feel anger
that so many minority men, women, and children go missing daily and Greta
is not on their case 24/7.

I hope by me correcting the article, it will show you and others than I
was not trying to sensationalize this or lead to any further racial
tensions. I don't believe the families of these two victims, nor the
victims themselves, would ever wish to create an atmosphere of dishonesty or
racial hatred--I think those who exploited this tragedy to advance
their own agendas (specifically white supremacist groups who marched in
Knoxville, for example) did nothing to help any situations that this
brutal double murder highlighted. Making a situation more tense is never a
way to solve it. That was not what my article intended to do either. It
just saught to put things in perspective coming from a very frustrated
former men's lacrosse manager and citizen of a town that was under
scrutiny for so long after the Duke Lacrosse Hoax. Regardless of whether
the victims were white, black, yellow, pink, or blue, I think this case
deserved more attention, and the media failed miserably. I have my !
own opinions why, as I stated, but I don't think anyone will ever
surely know why this case was overlooked. All I can hope is that the
families find some peace in knowing those who did this to their children are
in custody and justice will (hopefully) prevail.

I was hoping maybe you would be willing to post this on your blog, if
it's not too much trouble. I would like people to see that I never
intended the article to be viewed as racial propaganda, nor am I a part of
any group or organization trying to advance an agenda. Simply, I saw
something that pissed me off and I wrote about it. That's what I did as an
opinion columnist.

I apologize very much that it came out so late that indeed those two
facts (the penis and breast mutilations) were false. I never would have
printed them if I didn't truly believe they were correct. And I hope
people understand that.

Take care,

Stef Williams
Maryland '08

posted by Eric at 09:07 AM | Comments (6)

"Internet accounts have exaggerated aspects of the crime"

In what is described as "their first extensive interview" with the AP, the family of rape and murder victim Channon Christian are saying that the Internet mutilation accounts are exaggerated:

The Christians said Internet accounts have exaggerated aspects of the crime, particularly accounts that the victims were mutilated. "Seventy-five percent of the stuff you are reading on the Internet is fallacies," Gary Christian said. "They are stretching it out of proportion. (Though) it was horrific and they were tortured."

The couple was carjacked after leaving a friend's apartment late Jan. 6. His body was found the next day, shot, burned and dumped along some inner-city railroad tracks. Her body was found two days later in a trash can in a house nearby. Both had been raped.

There's no question that they were tortured, but an important question is how far that torture went beyond the kidnaping, rape, and murder. While a lot of people are reciting a lot of grotesque details, I have spent a great deal of time trying to verify the numerous allegations of pre-mortem sexual mutilation, without success. As best as I can determine, the earliest recital of the claims was by a notorious racist named Hal Turner, but the first actual journalist to report the claim was the University of Marlyand's Stefanie Williams. Other than that, trying to verify the allegations is an exercise in futility. Links simply go to other links which go nowhere.

The more people link these words, though, the more the mutually-linked words appear to be true, because of the nature of the Internet. This is not new (and I've seen it before), but whenever I see it, I try to point it out. There was a nonexistent retired political science professor (and former Nixon and Reagan official) named "George Harleigh," and there was the notorious Air Force Regulation 160-23. Both were alive on the Internet, but nowhere to be found in reality. (I consider it a sort of "blogger responsibility" to point such things out when I run across them, but I also see it as an individual human responsibility -- one arising out of the natural distaste I feel when I am being lied to.)

In logic, of course, the inability to verify something does not mean that it did not happen or does not exist. On the other hand, should people be reciting unverifiable information and claiming it constitutes facts? I don't think so -- especially when the allegations are highly imflammatory, and involve a case which has not yet gone to trial.

The Christian family's claim that the facts are exaggerated made me think of something else so obvious I don't know why it never occurred to me before, and that is this: if the pre-mortem sexual mutilation occurred, why aren't any of the suspects being charged with it?

I haven't researched the law, but I'm pretty sure it is illegal in Tennessee to sexually mutilate living people, whether by cutting off penises or cutting off breasts. If there is any evidence that such crimes committed, why hasn't anyone been charged with the crimes? It's not as if there hasn't been enough time to conduct detailed medical examinations. If I may speculate for the sake of argument, if we assume the horrific pre-mortem mutilation occurred, for some reason the authorities in Tennessee are failing to charge anyone with the crime. (And they're covering it up as well.) Unless additional charges are pending, this doesn't make sense.

Again, I wish people would stop reciting things that cannot be verified, because it isn't helping what is a very serious case.

Those who complain about the lack of media coverage ought to be especially concerned.

Again, facts matter.

(Even on the Internet.)

UPDATE: I have just received an email from Stefanie Williams, who believes that I treated her unfairly:

Since I see you made it a point to cover what I sad in my e-mail in
your blog today, I'd like ot point out several things to you. One, I was
not a journalist. News reporters, those who actually report the news,
are journalists. I was a columnist for the opinion section of our paper,
and even if you go back at my other news related articles (the Duke
Lacrosse Case article, and the priest molestation charges in Maryland,
even my story about my Kappa Alpha Theta sorority), every fact in those is
true and can be verified. So when you say the "the first actual
journalist to report the claim was the University of Marlyand's Stefanie
Williams", you are lying. I am not a journalist. I am an English major who
had a bi-weekly OPINION column, not NEWS column.

Secondly, you say so self sighteously "I consider it a sort of "blogger
responsibility" to point such things out when I run across them, but I
also see it as an individual human responsibility -- one arising out of
the natural distaste I feel when I am being lied to". Have you ever
contacted Cash Michaels or Wendy Murphy to ask them why they continue to
spread a viscious lie that the Duke three paid two million dollars to
shut Crystal up? Have you asked why they continue to perpetuate this lie?
Have you contacted Cash about the multiple articles he wrote last year
regarding "cousin Jakki's" verification that indeed there was a payoff,
yet the accuser claiming otherwise? Have you contacted Cash Michaels to
lambast him for not posting his "sources" that "some black leaders"
were approached by "some people" about 2 million dollars? I haven't seen
you bitch about that in your blog. And Cash Michaels is an actual, on
the books, paid by a news publication reporter whose job it is to!
collect facts and report them to the public, not to give opinions. I
have yet to see you lambast him, but maybe you just managed to miss over
that little snipit of total bullshit regarding a huge miscarriage of
justice in our society that was reported online MULTIPLE TIMES IN HIS
ARTICLES and somehow a college student's editorial piece that at the time
still stands 98% true, with 2% uncertainty regarding two of the MANY
tortures those two kids endured, deserved way way way more attention. I
guess I am just missing the big picture. Or maybe you did, I'm not sure.

Next, you make an excellent point: "Those who complain about the lack
of media coverage ought to be especially concerned." As I mentioned in
my previous e-mail, if I didn't have reason to believe it was true, I
wouldn't have printed all the information I was given. As I mentioned, it
came from a reliable source, other parts of that information turned out
to be true, and as I repeat, I AM NOT A JOURNALIST with a PRESS PASS I
am not at liberty to information, nor was there much available at the
time. You say I perpetuated a lie. How about I included every bit of
information that up until that date, had been said about the crime. "Some
reports say...". Some reports, my source. I made it very clear that it
wasn't definitely confirmed, but that I had heard that those two bodily
mutilations also happened. That is not lying, that is repeating what I
was told about the case, issues that hadarisen on the internet about
the case, because my column was not a news report, it was an op-ed !
submission about this case where these kids might have been tortured as
far as these reports, some reports, my source had said. There is a
difference you are not understanding, and by calling my a hypocrite because
you seem to think I was perpetuating a lie you are taking away from the
entire point to my article; had it not been for my article, to date,
10,451 people would not have read about their deaths or the lack of media
coverage. And out of all the tortures those two endured, whether or not
the final bit was done, seems to be irrelevant, specifically when you
now know I didn't include it to "sensationalize" it, but rather to
include all the information I had at the given time.

"Again, facts matter." Then I suggest you learn to distinguish an
editorial opinion columnist from a news reporter, if you are so damn
obsessed with "facts" because the "fact" is, I am not a journalist. I am an
English major who had an opinion and a place to write about it. You are
making it seem to your bloggers I was the go to girl for news stories at
my paper. I work for the opinion desk, NOT the news desk. When we have
editorial meetings (as I am not the EDITOR of the opinion section,
because my stories, even this one, have not only garnered so much
attention, stirred up so much information and made such good points, but exposed
many lies of other organizations), Opinion editors are asked to leave
when the NEWS is discussed because NEWS and OPINION are kept separate. I
was not a news reporter when I wrote this column. I was an opinion
columnist who was handed information about this case and I wrote MY OPINION
about the information I was given.

"(Even on the Internet.)" Except on your blog, where you continue to
make it out as though I am a dirty reporter with no sources, which is a
complete inaccurate depiction of me and a complete lie. And apparently,
you seemed to let Cash Michaels off the hook time and and time again,
an actual journalist, who to this day is still perpetuating lies in
order to make it out as though the Duke three are guilty of SOMETHING. But
hey, apples and orangs right? A college publication with an op-ed from
a college girl who consistantly wrote thorough and factual opinion
articles (again, I suggest you read them all, if you are so interested in
facts) that couldn't with 100% certainty verify the fact that Newsom's
penis was cut off and Christian's breast cut off, but had reason to
believe and at the very least thought readers should know that this was
even being said about the case, God let's just make her the main focus of
four blog submissions because she really has an effect on the world,!
and she must have some sort of agenda. Maybe we'll expose her as a
raging KKK member or the daughter of David Duke! Nope, I'm not.

I suggest you take all your own criticisms of me and possibly use them
in your future blogs. Stiring the pot with words like "journalist"
instead of "op-ed columnist", citing "facts" as missing instead of
understanding I worded my column carefully enough to show it was not certain,
are all lies, and lies by omission. But you are the self righteous
leader of the blog world against college opinion columnists who once in 20
columns might, MIGHT have been wrong about a lengthy, gruesome torture,
where rape, sodomy, abuse, cleaning fluid in the mouth, gun shot
wounds, the body set on fire, were all prevelent and accurate, somehow you
think that in the big picture the penis and breast comments matter. No.
They don't. And the way I worded it makes it that way.

If you want to keep bloging about me as though you are the amazing
blogger who caught the lying "journalist" with her hand in the cookie jar,
go ahead. If it makes you feel important, like you uncovered some huge
agenda driven conspiracy to make these murders "look worse" than they
really were, you need a new hobby. I didn't have to sensationalize the
story. Leave out the penis and breast part, and people would still be
outraged about not hearing about the brutal rape of a man and woman who
were tortured and murdered, their bodies destroyed (Newsom's body WAS
set on fire). Look at the bigger picture. Stop playing self righteous
blogger. And stop painting me to be something I'm not so you can benefit
from it. I'm tired of it.

Stefanie Williams
Maryland '08

Fair enough. I'm not playing self righteous blogger here, but I wish I'd had a reply earlier. If Ms. Williams does not consider herself a journalist, fine. Lots of people were relying on her column, which was one of the few sources cited by links that went anywhere at all. It struck me as the only reliable report in existence, and I looked. I never accused her of lying, nor hypocrisy, nor having an agenda, nor did I ever insinuate a connection to David Duke or the Klan. I only wanted to verify these reports.

As to Cash Michaels and Wendy Murphy, I haven't written about them, and maybe I should. There are a lot of things I've never written about and maybe should.

While I don't think all of the above criticism is well-founded, I decided to post this in order to be fair to Ms. Williams.

I'd still like to know the facts, though.

MORE: Since the subject was raised, readers who are interested in reading about Wendy Murphy could probably start here and here.

AND MORE: Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds linked a column by the distinguished John Leo -- a journalist by any standard, for whom I have the highest respect and whom I have cited in this blog on a number of occasions. Writing in the New York Sun, here's what John Leo says:

Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23, were out on a dinner date in Knoxville, Tenn., on January 6, when they were carjacked, kidnapped, raped, tortured, sexually mutilated, and killed.

Despite the press's taste for dramatic crimes, even crimes that do not involve missing blondes in Aruba, the story got almost no publicity. Conservative bloggers, who are beginning to buzz about the case, think they know why: the couple was white and the five suspects arrested in the case are black.

The mainstream press does not like to carry stories of black mayhem and white victims. First, there is the fear of stirring up more racism among Klansmen and neo-Nazis, as the Knoxville case has started to do. More importantly, the newsroom culture tends to view black-on-white crimes as responses to black oppression, and therefore not worth reporting. Whereas similar white-on-black crime is oppression itself, and thus crucially important to put before readers and viewers.

While John Leo is right to criticize the mainstream press for not wanting to report this story, he is himself reciting the unverified facts -- which are (in my opinion) the most emotionally inflammatory details in the case. Considering John Leo's status as a sort of senior statesman in the business, the fact that he did the same thing that Stefanie Williams did hardly makes her look bad; the only difference is that she wrote about the details before John Leo did.

While I wish they'd both said "according to unverified reports," I'd still like to know whose "reports" they were, because knowing the source of the reports is an aid in evaluating their possible validity.

It is still possible that they'll turn out to be true.

But if (as Nicholas Stix condends) they in fact originated with the notorious Hal Turner, I think that's unlikely.

AND MORE: Also via Nicholas Stix, there's this report that the District Attorney's office says the sexual mutilation allegations are false:

Similarly, claims made over the Internet that the couple were sexually mutilated are "absolutely not true," John Gill, special assistant to District Attorney Randy Nichols, said Friday.
I don't know how to confirm that, but if it is legitimate (as it appears to be) people should just stop reciting these allegations.

MORE: A web site called the Council of Conservative Citizens is taking issue with Assistant District Attorney Gill's claim that the couple was not sexually mutilated:

Assistant District Attorney John Gill claims that the couple was not sexually mutilated. Well, John Gill, what do you call hacking off a woman's breasts and a man's penis while they are still alive? While the details of the crime have not been widely reported, they are well documented. Christian was forced to watch her boyfriend brutally tortured and then shot. She was then raped repeatedly for four days and tortured until she died. The suspects are also alleged to have purchased Viagra so they could continue raping the girl. Truly this was one of the most horrific hate crimes in US history.
I guess this means that according to some people, the failure to file torture charges and the denial of sexual mutilation is all part of a coverup. If the details "are well documented," please, tell me where.

Show me one document!


MORE: I'm now accused of "defending" the awful perpetrators in the comments below. Far from it; I hope they get the death penalty, and I certainly hope the circulation of inflammatory rumors doesn't help the defendants.

It's beginning to look like some people care less about the facts (and less about the prosecution's case, even) than their partisan interests.

UPDATE (06/03/07): I just returned from vacation and found this email from Stefanie Williams, the text of which I thought merited an update:

So as I am on summer break, our news editions don't begin until June
6th I believe. I am the opinion editor during the year, not the summer,
and rarely am I allowed to write articles anymore. So in lieu of writing
a "new facts show" article, I logged into my administrative site and
updated the original article, and removed the sexual mutilation

I hope you understand whole heartedly I did not intend this article to
spread rumors and lies. I worked on it based on a reliable source. And
sometimes, reliable sources can make mistakes too. Before I removed it,
I wanted to make sure the information (no mutliation) was correct, and
as it has now been shown, there was no mutilation, so I promtly removed
it, leaving only the information that has been substantiated by reports
and documents. I am not a white supremacist, I am not a KKK member, I'm
pretty liberal to be honest-this had nothing to do with my "agenda", as
I don't have one, and I never wanted people to believe so. Your blog
upset me because I think a lot of people thought that's who I was, a KKK
white supremacist looking to exploit the murders of two kids. It's so
far from the truth, and I hope I have shown you that about myself.

Do I still believe this crime deserved more media attention?
Absolutely. Do I believe it was a hate crime? Debatable, though I do think
affluence and "white affluence" had a place in the attack, but I will wait
'til trial to make a full blown decision. I am not a racist. I just seek
equality all around. If this happened to two black kids by whites, I
would feel the same way if it weren't reported. Just like I feel anger
that so many minority men, women, and children go missing daily and Greta
is not on their case 24/7.

I hope by me correcting the article, it will show you and others than I
was not trying to sensationalize this or lead to any further racial
tensions. I don't believe the families of these two victims, nor the
victims themselves, would ever wish to create an atmosphere of dishonesty or
racial hatred--I think those who exploited this tragedy to advance
their own agendas (specifically white supremacist groups who marched in
Knoxville, for example) did nothing to help any situations that this
brutal double murder highlighted. Making a situation more tense is never a
way to solve it. That was not what my article intended to do either. It
just saught to put things in perspective coming from a very frustrated
former men's lacrosse manager and citizen of a town that was under
scrutiny for so long after the Duke Lacrosse Hoax. Regardless of whether
the victims were white, black, yellow, pink, or blue, I think this case
deserved more attention, and the media failed miserably. I have my !
own opinions why, as I stated, but I don't think anyone will ever
surely know why this case was overlooked. All I can hope is that the
families find some peace in knowing those who did this to their children are
in custody and justice will (hopefully) prevail.

I was hoping maybe you would be willing to post this on your blog, if
it's not too much trouble. I would like people to see that I never
intended the article to be viewed as racial propaganda, nor am I a part of
any group or organization trying to advance an agenda. Simply, I saw
something that pissed me off and I wrote about it. That's what I did as an
opinion columnist.

I apologize very much that it came out so late that indeed those two
facts (the penis and breast mutilations) were false. I never would have
printed them if I didn't truly believe they were correct. And I hope
people understand that.

Take care,

Stef Williams
Maryland '08

posted by Eric at 10:57 AM | Comments (11)

more political bad taste

Lest I appear more out of my gourd than usual, I should stress that looking at the face of vegan professor T. Colin Campbell was a bit of a revelation for me yesterday.

I realized that political preference can be a taste.

This is not an easy thing to contemplate, but I think it's true. People spend an awful lot of time trying to change each other's preferences, and they forget that in matters of taste, there can be no disagreements. (Well, I suppose anyone can dispute anything, but the ancient wisdom holds that taste-based disputes are a waste of time.)

Not very often have I experienced an insight so simultaneously comforting and unsetlling.

To think that it took a disagreement over food!

If only other matters were that easy.

Examples can be seen everywhere. Earlier this morning, the communitarian views of a minister in the Inquirer made me want to mentally vomit:

Last year, when churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania were asked to acknowledge the legal end of the Atlantic slave trade in 1808, Taylor thought it was about time to end the trade in silence at her own church.

"It's coming to terms with our illustrious ancestors and then realizing that they had slaves," she said yesterday, describing the motives and feelings behind the dedication. "It's hard for white people to deal with that - that the people who were our founders, and whom we're real proud of, had slaves. And they're both part of our church history, the same as they're part of our country's history and everything else."

The service and dedication - Frank Turner, the first African American bishop in the Episcopal diocese here, will deliver the sermon - has been generally welcomed by Trinity congregants, although not universally.

Taylor said some members of the congregation, which is almost entirely white, had expressed indifference, if not hostility.

"One thing I get from here is, 'My ancestors weren't here then, don't blame me. That was then, not now,' " said Taylor, who was born in Canada and is now a U.S. citizen.

"I say when I became American - because I wasn't American, either - that became part of my history, too," Taylor said. "That's the way I look at it. If you join this country, you adopt the good and the bad and the whole thing and you become an American. So in that respect I am responsible. I made myself responsible when I became an American."

I disagree with the notion of collective guilt, and the idea that all are responsible for the actions of some. I don't think that Reverend Taylor is responsible for slavery, and whether she became an American ten years ago or whether she was descended from slave holders is irrelevant. She did not do it. Nor did I. Nor did anyone alive.

Etc. (I've written about this more than a few times.)


But to the extent that it is an argument, it really is a hopeless one. Individualist thinking and communitarian thinking are like tar and water. Like meat-eaters versus vegans. They just disagree. I can say that the communitarian view is wrong till I'm blue in the face, while communitarians can say the individualist view is wrong till they're blue in the face.

This is an argument over taste. Of course, this is my blog, and I like to discuss my tastes here.

Suppose I declare, for now and forever -- my love for paella!



And my love for Cream filled donuts!



But I don't like liver and I don't like hard boiled eggs.


No, I will not upload pictures of what I don't like -- especially of liver. It would just be too gross, and I don't want to look at them in my own blog. I recognize, though, that there are two sides to this issue. The pro-livers think their pictures are mouth-watering, while the anti-livers think they're disgusting.

Again, I share the "Ick!" reaction of the latter, but de gustibus and all that stuff....

posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (5)

the bellwhether of my karma ran over the influence of my dogma!

Er, perhaps I should call this "MY PSEUDO KARMA JUST RAN OVER MY INNER DOGMA, Part II."

"You are you and I am I, You do your thing and I'll do mine, and if in the end we meet up together, it is beautiful."

-Boy Meets World

In an earlier post, a commenter asked me why I even allow comments, and while I replied that comments are there because I believe in letting people say whatever they want, I still think it's a good question.

I have of course every right to turn off comments, but it strikes me that if I turned them off I would lose their most important feature -- something which for me is reason number one for having comments:

They help give me some idea of the type of person who is reading. Without comments, I'd be writing to a completely unknown audience, and I would not have a clue as to what anyone thought about anything I write. I wouldn't know whether they liked the blog or whether they're only reading because I annoy them (I do attract both categories), and I would have no idea what their political, cultural, and personal perspectives were. Not that I absolutely have to know whether someone is right, left, center, libertarian, religious, atheist, apolitical, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, or tired of categories, but the comments at least give an occasional hint of who people are and what they are thinking.

As I have said countless times, I am in no way obligated to reply to comments, or even read them. Sometimes it strikes me that my "say anything and expect nothing" policy is the best way to encourage people to speak their minds, and I often wish I didn't succumb to the temptation to answer comments, because this can affect what people say, and it might even influence what some might think. The latter can lead to a terrible feeling of responsibility I do not seek. To the extent that I care what people think, were I allowed to influence them my goal would not be to change what they think so much as it would be to encourage them to think for themselves. I can't count the number of times I have met people and after conversing with them for a while, I have begun to realize that they cannot justify the logical or philosophical underpinnings of what they are saying. Then I realize with horror that I am not hearing what that person thinks; I am hearing an often mindless repetition of what someone else thinks. It reminds me of my undergraduate days in college when "Marxists" abounded. At least, they said they were Marxists. True, many of them could spout Marx line and verse, but if you offered examples of practical applications (like "Do you think your parents' house should become property of the state?") they'd hem and haw. I see the same thing with people who'll say they agree with this law or that law, but if asked closely whether they'd support putting someone in prison for violating it (especially a family member), the hemming and hawing begins. It often turns out that people do not really think what they say they think. I don't want to change their minds so much as I'd just like to encourage them to really think what they think free from undue outside influence.

There went a mouthful. What is "undue outside influence"? It would take a long essay to explain, but the bottom line is that I don't like seeing people succumbing to thoughts that are not their own and are not arrived at independently to the extent possible. People who are thought-followers. And because I don't want to encourage that, it would seem to behoove me not to participate in conduct which might set me up as some sort of "leader." Leaders, of course, are often (though not always) thought followers. They follow the thoughts of their followers closely, and it leads to cycles of influence.

I don't care so much whether a person agrees with me, so much as that he agrees with himself. It's tricky, but it's one reason I hesitate to get into comment debates. The other is that debates are a waste of time for me. People can say what they think, but for me to agree with it or disagree with it takes time. Most people already know what I think, and if they agree, they know I agree. If they disagree, they know I disagree. I can't remember a single instance in which a comment changed my mind about anything. They are sometimes informative, and sometimes if someone tells me I got the details wrong I can correct them, but for the most part this is opinion, and I'm not going to change my opinion because someone else has a different opinion.

The problem is that I'm human. I do allow myself to be influenced. There's no way to avoid it. If I agree, I am influenced, and if I disagree, I am influenced. Even the refusal to be influenced means being influenced.

It's a tough paradox, and one I'd love to avoid but can't.

However, this morning I saw an example which I think illustrates the futility of trying to influence people who have certain ideas, by positing other ideas with which they are known to disagree. I'm not vegan, and while I don't especially care what other people eat, I was fascinated to read about the vegan parents who starved their child to death, and I wrote a post about it. When I saw (via Glenn Reynolds) that Nina Planck had written about the same case, I was naturally interested in what she had to say:

I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run.

It's all worth reading, and here's her conclusion:
An adult who was well-nourished in utero and in infancy may choose to get by on a vegan diet, but babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil. Children fed only plants will not get the precious things they need to live and grow.
That makes a lot of sense to me, but it meant "the Vegans are on the attack" at Of course, vegan attacks on meat eaters are nothing new, but I thought I'd check out anyway. Here's what one reviewer said:
Completely irresposible would be an understantment.

This book is well suited for people who wish to continue eating the standard american diet responsible for all of our western diseases of affluence.

If you want a real book on nutrition, based on the largest dietary studies ever conducted by one of the world's leading nutritional scientists, please read The China Study By T. Colin Campbell, PhD,

He is the project director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project (the China Study), a 20-year study of nutrition and health. He is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. In more than 40 years of research he has received more than 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding and authored more than 300 research papers.

Sure enough, that book review is mostly lifted verbatim from the "About the Author" section of the book the reviewer promotes:
T. Colin Campbell, PhD, is the project director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project (the China Study), a 20-year study of nutrition and health. He is a Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. In more than 40 years of research he has received more than 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding and authored more than 300 research papers. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
Aside from leaving out his being from Ithaca, that "reviewer" did a nice cut and paste job. True, he also said Nina Planck was "Completely irresposible" but added that even that would be an "understantment" but when he said that the book was for readers "who wish to continue eating the standard american diet responsible for all of our western diseases of affluence" I found myself wondering just how carefully he had read it. (For starters, Planck recommends whole foods, not a diet of Cheetohs.)

I suppose you could say that such a flame war over a book is annoying, and although I did find it amusing, I think it's a good example of the futility of trying to engage in a debate with people who really aren't interested in debates. People who go to to read Nina Planck's book simply aren't going there because they want to become vegans. Whether the vegans like it or not.

The "competing" book's author T. Colin Campbell not only happens to be a vegan, but he's a vegan activist as well as an anti-milk activist:

T. Colin Campbell is a Cornell University professor and an outspoken vegan. He also authored "The China Project," a series of academic papers intended to prove that the Chinese (particularly those who don't eat meat, or rather can't afford it) have a healthier diet than Americans. Raised on a dairy farm, Campbell is now an anti-milk activist as well, arguing -- despite a lack of scientific consensus on the subject and a paucity of evidence -- that milk causes early-onset puberty in young girls.

Much of Campbell's objection to a non-vegetarian diet stems from his concerns over the presence of dioxin in meats. Good thing, then, that Campbell is Chairman and CEO of Paracelsian, Inc. His company sells testing equipment and methods for detecting dioxins, and is actively pressing the case for its own dioxin screening tests to be adopted as the national standard. Much of the company's profit, though, seems to derive from its "natural foods" side business, which operates under the name "New Century Nutrition." New Century's web site is hosted by Jeff Nelson's "VegSource" empire.

Now, I never would have heard of this man or his theories had the reviewer not been kind enough to butt in and try to steer me to the book. But I will not buy his book, as I am not interested in his point of view. No force on earth can make me.

tcc.gif No, not even his picture. And no force on earth can make my slog through the endless debates like this that views like his generate. I don't care what anyone says about his science, his credentials, or any of that stuff. Veganism simply does not appeal to me. Vegan commenters can lecture me all they want, and I'll simply let them. I don't expect to convert them, and they should not expect to convert me. I don't care whether veganism is opinion, fact, science, religion, or (as I suspect) taste.

Don't get me wrong.

I want T. Colin Campbell to have his opinion!

He can have his opinion any way he wants it -- deeply, passionately, and for as long as he wants. What I don't want is for me to have his opinion. It's kind of a mutual respect thing. I get to have my opinion, and he gets to have his.

Sort of like the old 1970s I'm OK, you're OK, you-do-your-thing-and-I'll-do-mine, hippie dippie karma deal.

In all honesty, I don't want him to hold my opinion, as I wouldn't want the responsibility. In return I'd like him to not want me to hold his opinion.

posted by Eric at 08:54 PM | Comments (2)

Rachel Lucas is back!

No really!

I just found out from Ann Althouse (who linked Rachel's Online Guide to Dating), although I should have known from reading Bill Whittle's wonderful "Remnants" posts which Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday. I had mindlessly assumed that when Whittle put the Lucas link there that he was just being cute, and I'm so used to Rachel Lucas Not Existing Any More that I never clicked on it. Technically, this means I really can't say I actually learned about it from him, although I should have.

I'm just glad Rachel Lucas is back. I missed her, and I also missed Sunny and Digger.

And I'm delighted by the list of topics she's going to blog about. (As someone who writes about politics too much, I like her focus on entertainment only.)

posted by Eric at 02:47 PM | Comments (2)

Doing nothing beats doing something awful

Regular readers know that I am not especially enamored of Newt Gingrich. However, I have to say that I agree with a lot of what he said here (via Glenn Reynolds) about the immigration bill they're trying to put through Congress.


In 1986, I voted for the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill. We were promised that in return for amnesty for far fewer than three million illegal immigrants we would get:
  • Control of the border;

  • Enforcement of laws requiring employers to know someone is here legally before hiring them; and

  • No more amnesty and no more tolerance of illegality
  • The government broke its word on every one of those provisions.

    We eventually amnestied three million people who had broken the law, and we sent a signal to the world that it is okay to break the law and come to America.

    Now, 20 years later, we are told to trust Washington while we amnesty 12 to 20 million more people who have broken the law.

    It's insane, and it doesn't require being a supporter of draconian legislation or hardline law enforcement strategies to oppose this law.

    The problem is that very little has been done by way of law enforcement. While continuing to do little or nothing might be bad, granting amnesty to lawbreakers is IMO, a lot worse. It's a complete abrogation of the responsibility of this country to take its laws seriously and it would create a vast new class of people legally entitled to taxpayers' assistance.

    Glenn Reynolds also links Fred Thompson, who says he doesn't think the bill will pass

    CHICAGO - The immigration reform bill worked out late last week by Senate Republicans and Democrats likely will fail, former senator and possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson said here Sunday. Thompson, speaking at the National Restaurant Association annual show, said the bill will not win the support of the American people because they don't trust senators' promises to block illegal immigrants from crossing the Mexican border into the U.S.

    "Nobody believes them. It goes to the bigger issue of the lack of credibility our government has these days," said Thompson, who was greeted with hoots and applause from the 2,300 convention attendees who filled a ballroom at the McCormick Place convention center.

    I hope he's right about the bill failing.

    I also like Fred Thompson's no-campaign style.

    People like him just for not running.

    MORE: Has any human being actually read this bill? I mentioned earlier that according to TTLB, "it's 400 pages, but the final version may expand to 1000+ once it's printed in the 'official format.'"
    I asked whether the geniuses who run our lives should be voting on something that none of them will have so much as taken the time to read!

    I think it's dereliction of duty, and via Glenn Reynolds, Rand Simberg has more and supplies a link that goes to a single, mind-numbing page, with an equally mind-numbing "handwritten additions."

    In the legislators' defense, I'm somewhat sympathetic, as I can see why they don't want to read it. (I don't either.) But that's no excuse for passing it.

    posted by Eric at 11:27 AM | Comments (10)

    Questioning the timing of reality

    A local news item serves as a reminder that despite the prevailing meme of an "anything goes" culture, the legal system increasingly reflects a growing tendency to treat garden variety immorality as rape. Moralists who like to complain about defining deviancy down are generally silent about the expansion of rape to include the type of conduct traditionally regarded as sleazy.

    Jeffrey Marsalis falsely claimed he was an astronaut and a physician, and the women who fell for it went out on dates with him and later had sex. Only months later (after learning months later that he was not the successful professional he claimed to be) did they report the sexual intercourse as rape:

    The first woman to testify [...] came forward in November after seeing a news report of Marsalis on television. And she told a doctor of the attack two months after Marsalis allegedly raped her in January 2003 in his apartment at the Metropolitan in Center City. The doctor's note of the rape allegation was entered into evidence.

    The New Jersey woman, who was 26 at the time, described meeting Marsalis through in December 2002.

    Marsalis, who used the screen name "Doctor Jeff," posted various photos of himself on his profile, including one of him in an astronaut suit.

    She exchanged e-mails, had conversations with him over the phone, and agreed to a date.

    "He seemed like an average guy - very nice," she testified.

    They spent the first part of their date at the Independence Brew Pub, at the Reading Terminal.

    The woman said Marsalis told her that he was a doctor at the University of Pennsylvania and that he also was an "in-flight doctor" for NASA.

    He flashed her a badge, she said, apparently to prove he worked for NASA.

    They sipped some small beer samples and then each ordered a pint of beer, she said.

    Either while drinking that beer or starting a second, she left to use the ladies room, she said. Sometime after she returned and continued drinking, she said she "started to feel disoriented, very passive, very uncomfortable."

    Marsalis suggested she go to his apartment and let the effects of the alcohol pass. She agreed.

    She also acknowledged that she began kissing Marsalis and letting him remove her shoes and panty hose, but said she stopped his hands "climbing up my leg" and told him she did not want to have sex.

    They continued to kiss, "and then I lost memory," she said.

    She regained consciousness to find herself naked in his bed with Marsalis on top of her, she said.

    "I remember telling him to stop. I remember telling him he was hurting me," she testified.

    She said he expressed anger and told her: "Don't you want to please me?" She later passed out again and woke up hours later.

    The woman, who worked for a public-relations firm, said she was intimidated by what she believed was Marsalis' status as a doctor and astronaut, and decided not to go to the police.

    "I was scared and I wanted to let it go," she said.

    Her husband, whom she met shortly after the date with Marsalis, later took the stand and said she had told him several weeks after they met about the incident but did not mention the man's name.

    In November, he was watching a newscast when a report came up about a man who posed as a doctor and astronaut and was facing rape charges. He said he called his wife over to the TV.

    "Oh my God! It's Jeffrey!" she said, according to her husband.

    He said he then convinced her that she had to go to the authorities.

    (Local ABC 6 has more, with a picture and a video.)

    In the not-too-distant past, Jeffrey Marsalis would have been regarded as a liar and a con artist, and the women who slept with him as stupid and foolish. (Bear in mind he's charged with rape, not drugging the women.)

    Common sense tells me that if you're raped, you know it at the time. In the old days, police and prosecutors looked for physical evidence of a struggle. A two month delay in calling the police in reporting sexual intercourse only after learning the man lied about his accomplishments undercuts the notion that rape is a violent and heinous crime -- and (IMO) challenges the very definition of victim.

    This is not to defend lying or misrepresentation in order to obtain sexual favors. What the man did was unquestionably sleazy, and it's unfortunate that so many women fell for his con routine. But that does not transform what happened into a crime of violence, which rape is. If career misrepresentation can supply grounds for a rape charge, where does it end? We can all agree that lying on a resume in order to land a nice job is sleazy and dishonest, and normally the remedy is termination of employment. But suppose female co-workers meet the guy, fall in love with him based on his resume and his job, and have sex with him. Is that rape?

    Suppose a guy takes off his wedding ring and claims he's single but he's actually married. (I think such scenarios have probably happened a few times.) Hopeful women go out with him and consent to sex based on their expectations, but he just keeps on lying and they keep on screwing. Should these acts of intercourse be chargable as multiple rapes once the woman learns she's been lied to?

    I knew a guy who'd fathered enough children so he'd had a vasectomy, but he didn't want to tell his new girlfriend because he was afraid she'd drop him. Interestingly, this man had been falsely encouraged by the woman's claim that she had no interest in "ever" having children. While he never lied to her and said he was fertile, he finally decided to break the news of his vasectomy. She dropped him like a hot potato and never spoke to him again. When she said she never wanted to have children, she had (gasp!) lied. Why wouldn't acts of sexual intercourse with that lying woman who knowingly misrepresented herself have been rape?

    Well? Do I detect a double standard?

    Isn't this sexist? When was the last time a woman was prosecuted for lying her way into bed? Would a man be heard to complain that he had no memory of what happened, if he woke up in bed with a woman with whom he never would have had sex had he known she was lying? I think the police would laugh their heads off -- even if he called them the next day. If he waited two months to call the cops, they'd probably think about putting him under observation.

    Like it or not, there is a huge double standard. I wish people would quit pretending that there is not.

    The biggest problem with all of this is what it's doing to the popular conception of rape. The more people read about prosecutions like this, the more such prosecutions there will be, because it fills a need some people have to become victims in order to vindicate themselves. If acts of sexual intercourse which were once regrettable become grounds for rape allegations, then rape will increasingly be seen not as a crime, but as a game between contestants in a reality TV show.


    Maybe I shouldn't have said that. I hate to provide sleazebag producers with new ideas.

    But what the heck. I don't watch TV, so for all I know, there's already a show called "Your Dream Date from Hell" or something in which it's hard to tell whether the guy is a wonderful professional dream date or a slick con artist.

    How many episodes until the "victim" learns "the truth"?

    Do I really have to stay tuned?

    posted by Eric at 08:27 AM | Comments (16)

    Bio Fuels - Starve The Poor So The Rich Can Feel Good

    Bio Fuels may be good for corn growers, but they are bad for corn eaters.

    Policymakers and legislators often fail to consider the law of unintended consequences. The latest example is their attempt to reduce the United States' dependence on imported oil by shifting a big share of the nation's largest crop - corn - to the production of ethanol for fueling automobiles.

    Good goal, bad policy. In fact, ethanol will do little to reduce the large percentage of our fuel that is imported (more than 60 percent), and the ethanol policy will have ripple effects on other markets. Corn farmers and ethanol refiners are ecstatic about the ethanol boom and are enjoying the windfall of artificially enhanced demand. But it will be an expensive and dangerous experiment for the rest of us.

    Which is always a danger when you use command and control methods (government) to solve what is essentially a market problem. Balance is lost.

    Markets are organic. Command and control is like adding fertilizer to the soil. The right amount can help. Too much and the plant dies.

    On Capitol Hill, the Senate is debating legislation that would further expand corn ethanol production. A 2005 law already mandates production of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012, about 5 percent of the projected gasoline use at that time. These biofuel goals are propped up by a generous federal subsidy of 51 cents a gallon for blending ethanol into gasoline and a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on most imported ethanol to help keep out cheap imports from Brazil.

    President Bush has set a target of replacing 15 percent of domestic gasoline use with biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) during the next 10 years, which would require almost a fivefold increase in mandatory biofuel use, to about 35 billion gallons. With current technology, almost all of this biofuel would have to come from corn because there is no feasible alternative. However, achieving the 15 percent goal would require the entire current US corn crop, which represents a whopping 40 percent of the world's corn supply. This would do more than create mere market distortions; the irresistible pressure to divert corn from food to fuel would create unprecedented turmoil.

    How about that! It amounts to taking better than 35% of the world's corn supply out of the human food chain.
    Thus, it is no surprise that the price of corn has doubled in the past year - from $2 to $4 a bushel. We are already seeing upward pressure on food prices as the demand for ethanol boosts the demand for corn. Until the recent ethanol boom, more than 60 percent of the annual US corn harvest was fed domestically to cattle, hogs, and chickens or used in food or beverages. Thousands of food items contain corn or corn byproducts. In Mexico, where corn is a staple food, the price of tortillas has skyrocketed because US corn has been diverted to ethanol production.
    Mexicans are going hungry so American Greens can feel good about their oil consumption. I wonder what effect that will have on our illegal immigration problem? We all want to help the environment. The moral question is: should we make the poor of the world suffer so greenies can feel good?

    What we need is some alternative crop such as switch grass or even trees that will not take crops out of production. The problem with such non food crops is that at the present time there is no good way to convert cellulose to ethanol. There are micro-organisms that scientist are working on to make the process economically viable. We are not there yet. In the mean time what should be done?

    American legislators and policymakers seem oblivious to the scientific and economic realities of ethanol production. Brazil and other major sugar cane-producing nations enjoy significant advantages over the US in producing ethanol, including ample agricultural land, warm climates amenable to vast plantations, and on-site distilleries that can process cane immediately after harvest.

    Thus, in the absence of cost-effective, domestically available sources for producing ethanol, rather than using corn, it would make far more sense to import ethanol from Brazil and other countries that can produce it efficiently.

    However there is a domestic tariff of 54¢ a gallon on imported ethanol to prop up American corn prices and corn producers. What we are seeing is what happens when governments interfere with the organic adaptations that markets provide. If we are going to mandate ethanol fuels we should at least allow all suppliers into the market on an equal footing. Then the low cost producer wins the day, rather than the most politically connected producer.

    Oh, well.

    We see this so often. When two government agents get together you can figure the intelligence of their proposal by subtracting the IQ of the less smart from the IQ of the most smart. Once you get three or more of them together you are in negative territory. We have 535 Congress critters in America. It is not hard to figure out the intelligence behind any proposals or laws coming from that body. Just do the math.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:39 AM | Comments (5)

    It Is Uncertain

    The Sun - with Sunspot Cycle 23 has an interesting report on the variability of the solar constant (them scientists are really good with the non-sequiturs).

    In what could be the simplest explanation for one component of global warming, a new study shows the Sun's radiation has increased by .05 percent per decade since the late 1970s.

    The increase would only be significant to Earth's climate if it has been going on for a century or more, said study leader Richard Willson, a Columbia University researcher also affiliated with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

    The Sun's increasing output has only been monitored with precision since satellite technology allowed necessary observations. Willson is not sure if the trend extends further back in time, but other studies suggest it does.

    "This trend is important because, if sustained over many decades, it could cause significant climate change," Willson said.

    In a NASA-funded study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, Willson and his colleagues speculate on the possible history of the trend based on data collected in the pre-satellite era.

    "Solar activity has apparently been going upward for a century or more," Willson told today.

    Significant component

    Further satellite observations may eventually show the trend to be short-term. But if the change has indeed persisted at the present rate through the 20th Century, "it would have provided a significant component of the global warming the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to have occurred over the past 100 years," he said.

    That does not mean industrial pollution has not been a significant factor, Willson cautioned.

    Scientists, industry leaders and environmentalists have argued for years whether humans have contributed to global warming, and to what extent. The average surface temperature around the globe has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1880. Some scientists say the increase could be part of natural climate cycles. Others argue that greenhouse gases produced by automobiles and industry are largely to blame.

    Willson said the Sun's possible influence has been largely ignored because it is so difficult to quantify over long periods.

    Difficult to quantify. I think that represents the current state of climate science in a nut shell. There are a lot of things difficult to quantify given the current state of climate science. Like cloud feedback for instance. We do not know whether clouds are a positive or negative feedback element in the climate equation. Convieniently it is assumed positive and a value is assigned which makes the effect of CO2 more intense.
    A separate recent study of Sun-induced magnetic activity near Earth, going back to 1868, provides compelling evidence that the Sun's current increase in output goes back more than a century, Willson said.
    So if we have no data or poor data an effect is ignored.


    It then means you have to increase your uncertainty bands. By how much?

    Well that is uncertain.

    Now all this would be academic except we are basing policy decisions on where to spend real money extracted by force by governments based on models that are clearly inadequate.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 03:19 AM | Comments (48)

    the relative objectivity of science and religion

    As I tried to make clear in a previous posts, I don't think either religion or science are dispositive over political matters. I am free to take into account, ignore, or dismiss whatever argument I want -- whether based on reason, religion, or science -- as largely irrelevant to political concerns about freedom and the constitution. Some religions say homosexuality and alcohol evil, while some scientists say smoking and alcohol (and "unsafe sex") are dangerous. These religious or scientific positions say what they say, but they should not be controlling over matters involving personal or constitutional freedom.

    Now, bearing in mind that I don't think either religion or science should be allowed to dictate how I live my life, I'll say this about religious positions: they are in general less subject to change, and therefore are more predictable.

    Science can be notoriously fickle, subject to change according to newly discovered information, and I am not convinced that scientific opinion is not influenced by public opinion, especially the opinions of political activists. (The same argument could also be made about religious opinions, but they're generally stuck with what's been previously written in religious sources such as the Bible or the Koran, and the arguments for change often involve interpretations or translations, historical perspectives, etc.)

    A good example of how science is subject to political change is the dispute over mercury. Now, just because (as I've argued many times) I don't give a rat's ass about the shifting "scientific" claims about mercury in my teeth, that does not mean that others don't. These others would declare my mouth a health hazard:

    Are your teeth toxic? The mercury in 'silver' fillings would be hazardous waste in a river----yet it's sitting in your mouth

    A professional musician from Arlington Heights suffers from mysterious rashes and lip blisters. A dental hygienist in Hoffman Estates battles migraines. And a social worker in Prospect Heights is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

    All three tried treating their ailments using a controversial method: by having dentists remove and replace their so-called "silver" amalgam tooth fillings, which contain about 50 percent mercury. And all three swear they experienced life-changing health improvements.

    Their personal testimonies are part of what makes dental amalgam, the silver lining for hundreds of millions of American mouths, one of the most divisive issues in dentistry. Though it's one of the oldest materials in oral health care--used by people of all ages for the last 150 years--anti-mercury groups are pushing the startling message that mercury residing in the mouth can leach into the body and cause illness.

    "I thought my career was over," said Arlington Heights' Matt Comerford, now a trumpet player with the Lyric Opera who was suffering from painful sores along his gums. He began investigating the metals in his mouth and eventually had nine silver fillings replaced with a mercury-free alter-native material. "Within a week [of having the amalgams replaced], everything healed," Comerford said. Amalgam, most dentists admit, is crude and ugly, but they say it's a valuable option because it's strong, durable and relatively cheap.

    And studies have shown that there is insufficient evidence to link it to health problems (with the exception of allergic reactions), according to the American Dental Association and several federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Regardless, anti-mercury groups are appalled by the notion that the toxic element, which is considered a hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency, is safe when it's packed inside a tooth. They argue that although it was once thought to be inert inside the mouth, studies now show that mercury can be emitted in minute amounts of vapor and absorbed by the patient through inhalation and ingestion.

    There's a lot more, but I say screw 'em.

    I'm sick of being told what to do (and what I should worry about) in the name of some external authority, be it science or religion or whatever. I consider being told what to do to be inherently political, and what I have seen in the little more than a half a century that I have been on this planet convinces me that the reasons are all subject to change.

    I think much of science is inherently political, whether the proponents say so or not. Ice core data is a perfect example. We are told to believe the IPCC report because a "majority of scientists" support it. Yet dissenting scientists like Zbigniew Jaworowski maintain that ice core data are unreliable:

    Dr. Jaworowski agrees that CO2 levels rose in the last half century. Starting in 1958, direct, real-time measurements of CO2 have been systematically taken at a state-of-the-art measuring station in Hawaii. These measurements, considered the world's most reliable, are a good basis for science by bodies like the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the agency that is co-ordinating the worldwide effort to stop global warming.

    But the UN does not rely on direct real-time measurements for the period prior to 1958. "The IPCC relies on icecore data - on air that has been trapped for hundreds or thousands of years deep below the surface," Dr. Jaworowski explains. "These ice cores are a foundation of the global warming hypothesis, but the foundation is groundless - the IPCC has based its global-warming hypothesis on arbitrary assumptions and these assumptions, it is now clear, are false."

    Ice, the IPCC believes, precisely preserves the ancient air, allowing for a precise reconstruction of the ancient atmosphere. For this to be true, no component of the trapped air can escape from the ice. Neither can the ice ever become liquid. Neither can the various gases within air ever combine or separate.

    This perfectly closed system, frozen in time, is a fantasy. "Liquid water is common in polar snow and ice, even at temperatures as low as -72C," Dr. Jaworowski explains, "and we also know that in cold water, CO2 is 70 times more soluble than nitrogen and 30 times more soluble than oxygen, guaranteeing that the proportions of the various gases that remain in the trapped, ancient air will change. Moreover, under the extreme pressure that deep ice is subjected to - 320 bars, or more than 300 times normal atmospheric pressure - high levels of CO2 get squeezed out of ancient air."

    Because of these various properties in ancient air, one would expect that, over time, ice cores that started off with high levels of CO2 would become depleted of excess CO2, leaving a fairly uniform base level of CO2 behind. In fact, this is exactly what the ice cores show.

    Do they or don't they?

    The answer depends on your political position. Obviously, most "climate scientists" (and most world governments) have lined up in lockstep behind ice core reliability. But it just so happens that most of these scientists and governments are also lined up in favor of imposing government controls to "save the world." (And need I mention that many of these scientists are, by taking government money, in just as much of a conflict of interest as the scientists they accuse of working for Big Oil? And that many of these governments are tyrannical?)

    I realize there are two sides to this dispute, but I think it's hopelessly political. Anthropogenic global warming advocates might say it isn't, but many of them are taking government money while advocating government controls. Call me a bigot, but I just don't trust scientists who take government money and then support more government controls. How could I feel confident that they might not ignore or discard data which didn't advance what they sought to prove? Because of some scientific notion of majority rule?

    Earlier, a scientifically-oriented commenter touched on the conflict between science and the private sector earlier, but he only noted one side of it:

    Given that the scientific societies are united behind the GW picture (and the scientific societies consist of the nerds who thought it was more fun to do science than to get rich doing mergers & acquisitions), whereas the GW-denying picture is promoted largely by free-market thinktanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I think that you could get a hint as to the relative influence of ideology vs. empirical science going into these points of view.
    While I'm not quite sure that I agree with the dichotomy between scientific "fun" and "getting rich doing mergers & acquisitions," I will say that if the free market is now an ideology, I'm inclined to go with free market non-control over than the ideology of ever-increasing science-based controls and limitations on human progress.

    Unscientific freedom beats scientific control.

    It is a political question.

    Various public policy claims can be said to be based on "science," but what science? Whose science? (It was once considered "scientific" to sterilize human beings, and now certain activists demand that I sterilize my dog in the name of veterinary "science.") And whose religions? There are no more absolute scientific truths to be finally determined for once and for all than there are absolute religious truths to be determined once and for all. And even if there were, the political world (at least the political world in the United States) is not governed by external "truths"; it is government by the Constitution, which is there to prevent tyrannical abuses of power. To the extent there is any truth which will govern me or the reality of my life, I'll look for it there.

    Science and religion are fine until (to paraphrase Jefferson) they threaten to break my leg or pick my pocket.

    I consider my skepticism to be nothing more than an application of the Precauctionary Principle to scientific threats to freedom.

    (But I don't need to be scientific about it.)

    UPDATE: Saul of Tales of Modernity left a comment linking an interesting post with this insightful conclusion:

    ....unless we can agree upon the moral claims, scientific hypothesis and experimentation remains worthless.
    Excellent! But I'd add that even when we agree on the moral claims, that's not necessarily dispositive of legal (especially constitutional) issues.

    posted by Eric at 06:06 PM | Comments (27)

    Faking out the anti-fake movement

    I've been a little busy today, but thanks to an email I just learned that candy cigarettes are still for sale.

    And it's (gasp!) legal! While various legislatures (including the U.S. Congress) have been trying to ban the sale of them for years, in the United States they can still be purchased. (Notice that they are labeled "candy" and not "candy cigarettes" though. So this might just mean that there's a "loophole" that hasn't been closed.)

    I'm reminded of the largely successful effort to ban toy guns. The activists can't quite fully ban the real thing yet, so they have to content themselves with banning toys. (Yeah, you can still buy pink plastic guns -- for now -- but why not just surprise your local burglar by spraypainting your real Glock bright pink? Then the activists could demand laws banning pink Glocks and other "fake toy guns" lest criminals be confused. On the other hand, when toy guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have toy guns!)

    And remember, just because you're licensed to carry a concealed real weapon, that does not give you the right to carry a concealed fake weapon.

    In progressive Canada where they've already banned candy cigarettes, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is trying to ban a soft drink called "Robby Bubble" because it looks like a champagne bottle.

    Sheesh. Next they'll be banning play money and fake condoms.

    (Not so fast, there Eric!)

    Alas, my satire is someone else's activism. While there's no move to ban play money, patently nonsensical currency like the million dollar bill does not amuse the Secret Service. And while I was about to say that no one has ever tried to ban fake -- or candy -- condoms I now see that yes, there actually is such a thing. Swear to God!

    What? You don't believe me? Do I have to prove everything I say to a cruel and cynical world?


    Maybe now that I have told the world, some world savior will try to ban it!

    Come on, now! Senators, Congressmen!

    Will someone please introduce a bill?

    If that isn't bad enough, adult candy condoms are also for sale.

    Well? Surely by now some anti-faker legislator must somewhere be drooling in anticipation. ("Beat me! Whip me! Make me write bad laws!")

    While they're at it, I think they should seriously consider prohibiting the use of fake cell phones while driving, otherwise crackpots like me will engage in loophole-flaunting behavior. (Hmmm.... Should that be "loophole flouting behavior"?)

    I think the best defense against the anti-faker movement is to make reality look as fake as possible, the idea being that a moving target is harder to hit.

    That way, reality can be protected by mislabeling it.

    posted by Eric at 02:24 PM | Comments (2)

    Al Be Doh!

    Terrible pun. About what you ask? Al Gore and the Climate Menace. It is my way of saying - Al is not too smart, but saying it in a way that segues into the topic at hand. Which is: what is the maximum possible temperature of the earth and are we near it? Which is all tied up with Maxwellian thermal distributions, the Stephan-Boltzman Law, Planck's Law, and albedo (get it? al be do). Which will all be explained shortly.

    My friend Eric sent me this interesting piece that asks an important question. What is the maximum temperature of the earth? Which is why the above science comes into play.

    Black bodies

    A black body absorbs all of the light that reaches it. It has an absorptivity of 1. Thermodynamics states that objects at thermodynamic equilibrium radiate as much energy as they receive. The Stefan-Boltzmann equation describes the energy flux as it relates to temperature for a body in thermodynamic equilibrium:

    S= σ T4

    Simplified the energy radiated by a perfect radiating body goes up as the fourth power of the temperature of the body. An interesting and important point is that a perfect radiator is also a perfect absorber. An absorbtivity of 1 is equal to an albedo of 0. Conversely an absorbtivity of 0 is equal to an albedo of 1. (1 - absorbtivity = albedo)

    Which brings us to the next point:

    Postulate 1: The average temperature of a body in thermodynamic equilibrium with an external energy source can never exceed the temperature of a black body in the same environment.
    This is true for a number of reasons. One of which is the conservation of energy. If you have two black bodies in the same environment and one was hotter than the other you could get energy out of such a system by absorbing heat at the higher temperature and rejecting it at the lower temperature. Now if you took that energy and re-injected it into the black body you should be able to make the temperature of the black body rise thus getting even more energy out of the system. Perpetual motion. i.e. it can't happen. So a black body in thermal equilibrium with a source is going to have a temperature defined by the source and its distance from the black body.
    Postulate 2: The maximum temperature of a body in thermodynamic equilibrium with an external energy source can never exceed the temperature of black body in the same environment.
    So neither the average nor the maximum can exceed the black body temperature. Other wise you could get perpetual motion from black bodies. So you think a perfect reflector would help? Nope. Perfect reflectors do not radiate energy. You can't pump energy into a perfect reflector in thermal equilibrium. Because if such a thing was possible the temperature would rise without limit. Then you could extract thermal energy from it by rejecting the heat to a black body. You could take the energy extracted and use it to raise the temperature of the white body making even more energy available. i.e. perpetual motion. Not going to happen.

    One other important point. A perfect white body couldn't absorb ANY heat because its temperature would become infinite if you continued to pump heat into it. Another little stumbling block.

    Postulate 3: The greenhouse effect can never produce a temperature that is higher than the temperature of a black body in the same environment
    If it could it would violate thermodynamics principles and we could in theory have a perpetual motion machine. Not going to happen.

    So there is a maximum temperature that the earth can reach no matter how many zillions of tons of green house gasses are pumped into the atmosphere.

    So the question is what is that temperature?

    It should now be clear that the maximum temperature of Earth can be no higher than the maximum temperature of an equivalent black body. We will now try to evaluate what that maximum is. For simplicity, all values and graphs have been obtained from Wikipedia unless otherwise stated.

    The moon is quite close to a black body. It is estimated to have an absorptivity of 0.88. Conveniently the moon is nearly in the same environment in space as the Earth. The maximum temperature found on the moon is approximately 390° K. Using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation described earlier the maximum flux on the moon is

    αS = σ T4

    which for our values gives a flux of 1491 w/m2. Already we have a problem. The flux on Earth from the sun as measured by satellites is widely reported to be around 1366 w/m2, or significantly lower. Why the discrepancy? It is interesting to note that even with only these three elements, moon data, sun data, and the Stefan-Boltzmann equation, we end up with slightly inconsistent results, which may give us some insight into the level of uncertainty in the data that still remains in this area. Since we are interested in the maximum temperature we will take the maximum value of 1491 w/m2.

    The earth is approximately spherical and receives light from the sun on a cross-sectional area of a circle, but radiates thermal energy from the area of a sphere. The ratio of the spherical area to the circular area is 4. Dividing the incoming energy flux by 4 gives the Earth an approximate maximum temperature of 285° K. Again we have another inconsistency as this maximum temperature is below the widely reported global average temperature of 288° K. Also the earth has an uneven distribution of temperatures and therefore an uneven distribution of flux, the end result of which would be to lower the average temperature even more. Still the result is quite close and it suggests that the Earth is behaving very closely to a black body and is operating very close to its maximum possible temperature.

    Which leads to a restatement of the last bit as a postulate:
    Postulate 4: The earth is operating very close to its maximum possible temperature.

    Again, this will cause many to pause as it goes against the conventional wisdom. However we will attempt to provide two pieces of evidence to support this case:

    - ice ages and the runaway greenhouse effect

    - climate variability/stability

    So let us look at the ice age data. Specifically the interglacial periods (like now) when the earth warms up after an ice age. What is postulated is that when an ice age ends the earth's temperature rises rapidly to a maximum (due to positive feed backs) and stays there with very little fluctuation in termperature while during the ice age phases the fluctuations are significant. Which would mean that the earth's albedo (reflectivity) varies a lot during ice ages, and not very much during warm periods.
    The most likely cause of the ice ages is due to fluctuations in the intensity and the distribution of solar radiation caused by changes in the tilt in the Earth's axis. This theory was first described by the Serbian scientist, Milutin Milankovitch, in 1938. There are three major cyclical components of the Earth's orbit about the sun that contribute to these fluctuations: the procession (tilt of the Earth's axis), as well as Earth's orbital eccentricity and orbital tilt. The exact cause and effect relationship between orbital forcing and ice ages is still a matter of great debate, however the match of glacial/interglacial frequencies to the Milankovitch orbital forcing periods is so close that orbital forcing is generally accepted. Other theories include greenhouse gas forcing, changes in the Earth's plate tectonics, changes in solar variation, and changes in absorptivity due to dust and gases spewed by volcanoes.

    The exact cause of the ice ages is not critical to our discussion other than to note that the Earth appears to have two metastable states: an ice age period and a warm period.

    I refer to the metastable states as "strange attractors" from chaos theory. What that says is that you have a local maximum or minimum in an unstable system and once you are far enough from the "strange attractor" the system will tend to rapidly switch states. When a system oscillates between two such states it is said to be bifructed. Which is just a fancy way of saying two stable states. In electronics we have a circuit that does that. It has positive feedback in both directions once you are far enough from a stable input. The circuit is called a Schmidt trigger. Once the input gets out of the stable region it switches rapidly to the alternate stable state. Positive feedback all the way.
    Postulate 5: The transition from Ice Age to warm period and back to Ice Age is achieved through a runaway greenhouse effect and its opposite

    Another remarkable feature is the relative stability of the climate at the peak of the warming cycle. The variability of temperatures during an ice age is relatively high compared to periods of warming. However this makes perfect sense if one considers the climate as being "pinned" to the upper limit during the warm periods and therefore remaining stable due to strong positive feedback. At the upper limit, the major driver of upper temperatures becomes solar input as this is the only thing remaining that can effectively increase temperatures.

    Once your effective albedo is close to zero the temperature is only determined by black body considerations. No amount of additional radiation capture within the body is going to change the temperature. There is no kind of heat trap we can devise which will increase the temperature above the black body limit. In fact we can only raise the temperature locally on such a black body by concentrating the energy from a given area on a smaller area. However that will increase the radiation from the hotter area and the average temperature of the body will in fact decline, because radiation goes up as the fourth power of temperature. You can't beat mother nature. In fact here is a good point to give the three laws of thermodynamics in laymans terms:

    1. You can't win - there is no way to beat the system, energy is conserved
    2. You can't break even - there will always be losses
    3. You can't get out of the game - the rules always apply

    When it comes to thermal systems there can never be any such thing as perpetual motion. There is always a maximum of work that can be extracted from two bodies at different temperatures. Saidi Carnot figured that one out. The work out can only be equal to the heat energy in if the cold body that the heat is rejected to is at absolute zero. Otherwise there will be a certain amount of heat that must flow into the cold body. That heat is unavailable for work.

    Postulate 6: The runaway greenhouse effect ends when the Earth has achieved a effective absorptivity as close to unity as it can get after which the earth becomes insensitive to further positive feedback changes.

    Can there be a tipping point or a runaway greenhouse effect from a sudden injection of CO2/methane or the melting of ice?

    No there can not. The Earth has already experienced a runaway greenhouse effect thousands of times during its lifetime. Each time it is run to the maximum possible level that it can, bringing us the much more habitable climate that we have today. It is not possible for there to be a tipping point to spiral us into a third metastable climate state that has not been shown to exist during the entire history of Earth. Barring a sudden change in input from the sun, changes in climate upwards can only occur in a smooth, slow and limited fashion. A tipping point is possible, however, towards another ice age as has happened thousands of times before.

    So there you have it. The green house gasses (mainly water vapor) have done their job in changing the albedo of the earth to close to zero. The albedo can never go below zero no matter how much CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere.

    Ian Schumacher, the author of the bits quoted above, follows a little different argument than I do on the matter of thermodynamics. The results are the same. Which means you should compare what I said to what Ian has written. In other words - read the whole thing.

    H/T Eric of Classical Values

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:46 PM | Comments (100)

    Divisive argument?

    What is a "radical secularist"?

    I'm not sure, but I should probably thank Newt Gingrich for letting me know that I am not one (even though I would have assumed he'd have thought I was):

    "In hostility to American history, the radical secularists insist that religious belief is inherently divisive and that public debate can only proceed on secular terms," he said.
    I see nothing inherently divisive about religious belief. Or any belief, for that matter. Divisiveness results from engaging in conduct which divides people. If I am not allowed to worship in a mosque, church, or synagogue, I suppose that would be divisive, but the beliefs themselves don't divide anyone.

    Is his argument that some people think belief in God is inherently divisive? I don't think that, but then I admit to a belief in God, so maybe I'm being too self centered. The problem with that is that many of my friends are atheists, and none of them have ever told me that my belief in God is divisive. Silly, maybe, but that's not the same thing. I tend to see divisiveness as involving ideas and things that alienate and polarize. People who, for example, want to use government force to make me cut out my dogs ovaries, I consider divisive. That's because they force me to take a strong side against them, along with all others who don't want the government telling them how to run their lives. You're either with them or against them and no in between. That is divisiveness.

    However, I think there's probably a distinction between the negative divisiveness of the sort that results from threats to jail people who don't do what you want, and the type of ordinary divisiveness that results from some people thinking one way and others thinking another way. Catholics are not Protestants are not Jews are not Muslims are not atheists. There are natural divisions there, and the fact of different religions and non-religions is in that technical sense divisive.

    Is that what Gingrich is talking about? I don't think so, as he seems to be complaining about people who think religious belief is inherently divisive. He calls them "radical secularists" but I think he can only mean atheists (and intolerant atheists at that) because people who have religious beliefs but think it is divisive would appear to be self-canceling. Radical intolerant atheists, on the other hand, might be expected to find all religious beliefs "divisive" because they find all who believe in religion threatening. (There are people like that, but I think they are a small minority of Americans.) What I can't figure out is whether Gingrich thinks these atheists are using secularism as a front for atheism, or whether he himself is attempting to conflate atheism and secularism. (Frankly, I suspect the latter.)

    I don't see any contradiction between religion and secularism, and I don't think the founders of this country did either. Secularism simply means the recognition that there is a distinction between government and religion, and that neither can compel the other. This is reflected in the First Amendment's establishment clause ("no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"). In its time, that was considered radical secularism. Even now, some would consider this statement by constitutional author James Madison to be radical secularism:

    The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both...
    Or this (from James Madison. The Federalist, Essay 51):
    In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as for religious rights.
    While I disagree wholeheartedly with those who would use secularism as a tool for enforcement of atheist beliefs by the state, I don't see what is radical about recognizing that religion and the state are two entirely different matters, best kept apart.

    I've complained before about an increasing trend of using "secularism" as a dirty word and as a synonym for enforced atheism. I'd like to think that Gingrich's complaint is with state-mandated atheism, but the fact that he does not say that plainly worries me. Is he against ordinary secularism, against government taking a hands-off approach to religion? I don't know, but as I've said before, I think his "21st Century Contract with America" comes very close to calling for a religious test for office. (Which is unconstitutional.)

    Why must he use "radical secularism" as a term for radical atheism unless his goal is to smear secularism? (And atheists, especially crooked atheists who masquerade as secularists.) And why say "radical secularists think religious belief is inherently divisive" unless the goal is to declare that no radical secularists could ever hold religious beliefs?

    Was James Madison divisive?

    Or is conflation of secularism with state-mandated atheism divisive?

    For some time I've advocated an alliance between Christian conservatives and atheists, especially libertarian atheists. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but I think these two groups have a more in common than most people realize.

    Perhaps that's what Gingrich and D'Souza and others fear.

    I can't help notice that the two groups who most benefit from driving a wedge between religious and non-religious people are not the rank and file, but atheist activists and fundamentalist activists.

    It's not religious belief that's inherently divisive, nor is it a lack of religious belief that's inherently divisive. What is inherently divisive is pitting these two groups against each other, by twisting secularism into government-mandated atheism, which it is not. The truth is that those who seek official government atheism are no more "secularists" than those who seek official government religion.

    Atheism is simply one way of looking at the unknown, and expressing a disbelief in a deity. Belief in God is another way of looking at the unknown, and of course beliefs in God (or gods) run the gamut. What atheism, agnosticism and all religion they have in common is that they are ways of looking at the unknown. It would never occur to me that it should be my business to care about how others view the unknown. I might not share their views, but unless they want to kill me or put me in prison based on their views of the unknown, I see no logical or moral reason why I should involve myself in any way.

    Government, however, involves the known. The physical and real. The temporal. The very word "secular" is time-based, and it involves matters of this world, not particular views of the unknown. It strikes me as eminently fair that government should neither intrude upon nor promote views of the unknown one way or another, because views of the unknown are personal matters involving individual conscience. They are not divisive unless the government were to take sides.

    What I think is divisive is to speak of "secularism versus religion" as if there's a conflict.

    Whatever happened to people with differing views of God who believed in secular government?

    Of course, if we look at the overall historical picture, the conflict between secularists and religious traditionalists is as old as the American founding.

    But surely Newt Gingrich knew that.

    UPDATE: Reading the entire text of the Gingrich speech, I am more convinced that he believes secularism and atheism are synonymous.

    And in California, the nation's most persistent secularist has renewed his crusade to strike the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.
    He is talking about Michael Newdow, a famous California atheist activist.

    Why couldn't Gingrich simply describe Newdow as what he is?

    posted by Eric at 11:21 AM | Comments (6)

    Vast shameful coverup unearthed!

    Funny thing that I just mentioned George Washington's famous slave Hercules in a recent post, because his fame just grows and grows.

    Unfortunately (because of past historical coverups) many Americans still fail to understand the pivotal role played by Hercules in the American founding.

    But the good news is that a taxpayer-financed reeducation campaign is underway. Hercules and the reeducation effort are featured prominently in a story on the front page of today's Inquirer's local news section. In a shocking exposé titled "Slavery laid bare: A historic platform for dialogue on race," it is reported that not only did Hercules and other slaves work in the first President's House, but that there was actually an underground passage between the slave area and the main house:

    What really energized archaeologists and the public was the discovery a few days later of the foundation and basement of the house's kitchen building, about 20 feet south of the main house. There had been no documentary evidence that the kitchen even had a basement, archaeologists said.

    During Washington's presidency, his enslaved African chef, Hercules, well-known for his culinary artistry, presided over that kitchen, which other slaves and indentured servants staffed.

    A day or two after that find, another stone foundation was discovered - remnants of an underground passageway from the kitchen basement to the main house's basement. The passage allowed slaves and servants to move back and forth unseen.

    The passageway had also been unknown.

    Hmmm... I immediately wondered whether there might be similar passages at the White House itself -- where the today's servants of another powerful man whose first name is "George" are also able to "move back and forth unseen." Will future historians ever be able to know?

    The first President's House was torn down in 1832 (ostensibly to erect commercial buildings) but that's now being seen as a coverup of historic proportions. Now that archaeologists have unearthed the truth, there is no longer any way to conceal the slavery -- the contrast between the powerful and the powerless!

    The excavation now starkly shows the world of Washington and his grand window and, six feet away, the world of Hercules and the other slaves.

    "Here," said one man on the platform, pointing to the window, "the powerful."

    Sweeping his finger over to point at the kitchen, "Here, the powerless."

    African Americans visiting the site often are deeply affected.

    George Peebles of Philadelphia was almost speechless as he looked over the maze of walls the other day.

    "Wow," he said, shaking his head. "Wow. They buried the ugliness of slavery, and it's just being uncovered centuries later.

    "It shows how our history as Africans was covered up. For sure. Literally buried. Now it's a historical thing. But back then, just the ugliness of it - that's what gets me."

    It is, he said, "the real deal."

    Warrington, who is African American and a member of the project's committee of historians, officials and community members, said the site made it possible to talk about identity in a personal way.

    "So many of us grew up without a clue of who we were," she said. "It's not even something you can explain."

    "Identity"? Who "we" "were"? Yeah, I'd have to agree that such logic is something that can't be explained. If the word "we" has come to mean that black Philadelphians in 2007 share an "identity" with 18th century slaves brought from Virginia to Philadelphia during the first presidency, then by the same logic, why can't white Philadelphians claim the identity of George Washington?

    Actually, my grandfather lived in a sod house in the Dakotas, so I probably can't claim a "we" relationship with Washington, but the problem is, I'm having a hell of a difficult time feeling a "we" identity with my grandfather even though I met him as a child. It's just too distant in time and place. I have to use too much of my imagination thinking about daily life without electricity or plumbing or doctors. Plus, he was born in a Norwegian family, and I don't speak the language and really can't identify all that much with the culture. So if I can't even share a bona fide identity with my own grandfather, how on earth can anyone claim it with people who lived hundreds of years ago without a shred of evidence they're even related?

    I think I have a pretty vivid imagination, but this just strikes me as pure fantasy. (All at taxpayers' expense, of course.....)

    But some people have a more vivid imagination than I do. And in what seems like an outtake from the movie "Carrie," they're seeing their identity kinship as reaching up out of the soil.

    Looking at the site, she said, evoked "those people reaching up out of the soil, telling their story. It's a monument of what happened."

    Cheryl Janifer LaRoche, a historical archaeologist, has spent many hours on the platform explaining to visitors what they are looking at.

    "I love this view without the walls because it strips away a lot," she said the other day, surrounded by people on the platform. "I think about walls a lot. This walling away is so symbolic for this site. Now you see this small space between here [at the bow window] and there [at the kitchen] is the space between the great statesman working out his understandings of democracy and the people that he enslaved."

    "Yes," said a woman, "and the people who were slaves were not too far away. But they had to come up to serve him."

    What a monster this awful George Washington must have been. To sit there imagining that he was working out understandings of democracy while his slaves had to come up from underground to serve him.

    Shame on him, and shame on America!

    Not so fast, there. For, we the readers are quickly reassured (by archaeologist Cheryl LaRoche) that white guilt and black shame have been impediments to discussions of race, but that the unearthed foundations of the President's House provide a way around them:

    People, black and white, craned their necks to get a better look.

    LaRoche said discussions of race between blacks and whites were often impeded by a "guilt component" in whites and a "shame component" in blacks. But the viewing platform at the President's House has provided a way around such emotional blockage.

    This dig "is creating a space - I don't want to say of comfort, that's not the right word - it's creating a space of possibility for discussion," LaRoche said. "It's an opportunity to touch a chord in the past, and it's an opportunity to touch a past that's been so maligned and hidden, buried and walled away. . . .

    "What I am seeing is so vast, and the possibility of what I am seeing is so profound, I'm having trouble, in my mere mortal self, talking about it."

    Profound? I learned that George Washington owned slaves when I was a small boy. I also visted Mount Vernon, where he kept slaves. Not only is it no secret, but the guides there talk about it quite frankly.

    The house involved here belonged to Robert Morris, who lent it to the fledgling government of the United States, and both George Washington (who owned slaves) and John Adams (who did not) lived in it. I just can't see the fact that it was torn down in 1832 as a coverup or as part of a plot to "malign, hide, bury, or wall away" slavery.

    I'm frankly skeptical that any of this will provide "a way around emotional blockage" -- whether impeded by a guilt component in whites or a shame component in blacks. As I've argued before, it's a question of perspective. What is so important about a kitchen cellar in the context of the American founding? Why are George Washington and his slave Hercules the central figures in an increasingly morbid President's House guiltfest which minimizes the owner Robert Morris and subsequent occupant John Adams?

    You'd almost think the goal was to smear the founding of the country. I understand that there is a well organized group of people who want to do that, and I believe in their free speech rights. I just don't see why their efforts have to be taxpayer-supported.

    posted by Eric at 09:35 AM | Comments (3)

    Relabeling and regurgitating Wolcott's stew

    It's Saturday mornning and I really shouldn't be blogging, as I have a lot of stuff I'm supposed to be doing. (Trust me, you don't want to hear about my "stuff.") But this trying not to blog when I'm not supposed to be blogging is awfully difficult, and it's a little bit like Al Pacino trying to quit the mob. Every time I try to stop, I click on links, and they draaag me back in!

    Anyway, I thought I'd read Roger L. Simon's wonderful book review and be done with it. But no; I just had to click on his link to that lovable master of vituperation James Wolcott -- only to discover that the latter seems to have given Fred Thompson a promotion, of sorts. Linking the recent video, Wolcott is now calling Thompson an "Edward G. Robinson knockoff with a cigar pasted in his mug."

    I like that, and I like to hope that Fred Thompson likes it too. We need a president who has fun with criticism. And Wolcott's criticisms are always fun!

    (BTW, I think it was nice of Roger not to recall some of the things Wolcott has said about him in the past. When you have to repeatedly criticize a writer for his hat, it's a sure sign of despair. But this isn't about criticizing hats (or who has hair for that matter); it's about Edward G. Robinson Fred Thompson. Ahem.)

    Let me back up. The last time I noticed Wolcott directing his venom at Thompson, it was to call him a "grumpy old dog farting on the front porch."


    I like dogs, grumpy or not, on porches or not, and male or female. I even like grumpy old female dogs, but as I tried to point out last time, I think it's a good idea to avoid as many dog analogies as possible in this particular race.

    But Wolcott did say that he so hoped the grumpy old dog would run, and this brought from me a me too from me too.

    And now it's time for another me too! I not only reagree with Wolcott, but I'm proud to engage once again in Wolcottian pompous regurgitations. So let me regurgitate:

    ...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.

    At least I'm hoping Wolcott still hopes he runs.

    But which Thompson is Wolcott hoping will run? The grumpy old dog? Or the Edward G. Robinson knockoff with the cigar pasted in his mug?

    My grumpy young, um, bitch wants to know.


    I don't think Coco would mind my calling her a bitch because she's not running for office, and she doesn't write as well as James Wolcott.

    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

    Shaky base to build on

    I don't like illegal immigration, and for a long time now, I have believed that the border should be closed, that a fence should be put up, and that no amnesty should be granted to illegal border crossers. I've even argued that uncontrolled immigration might have been a contributory factor in the Fall of Rome. My position on immigration, then, would appear to place me solidly within the conservative camp.



    Because I have not supported draconian employer sanctions and massive door-to-door raids, the angry right wing would consider me a sellout wimp RINO libertarian stooge -- and I'd be lucky not to be accused of being an open border advocate.

    And to the left I'm probably a fascist. (Small comfort that.)

    Anyway, these thoughts have been on my mind over the years as I witnessed the government's inability to effectively do anything about the problem, and they were on my mind again when I saw what Kathryn Jean Lopez had to say about how "the base" feels about the latest crummy immigration bill:

    Mark Levin, on Wednesday night, implored: "Do these Republicans ever learn? . . . Do they understand that a majority of the American people, whether they're Democrats, Republicans, or nothing, have had it up to here with illegal immigration and they don't want to subsidize it?"

    It would seem not. And so I'll make mention of my e-mailers flirting with consideration of the i-word (yes, as in "impeachment").

    The base, of course, will eventually calm down -- a bit. The question is, how much? Was this the last straw? If conservative media is any indication, recovery will be slow. Laura Ingraham began her show Friday announcing "I'm trying not to be demoralized." But after playing tape of Ted Kennedy "waxing triumphant" Thursday, the mood was reminiscent of the morning after Election Day 2005 all over again. And now you can kiss the Senate goodbye, too, if this bill goes through, she said.

    It's going to be a long, hot summer on the Right thanks to la Casa Blanca.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who remarks that there isn't much pro-immigration support for this bill.

    First of all, I think Lopez is right to say that a majority of the American people do not like illegal immigration (see this Inquirer poll, for example), but that does not mean they are necessarily part of the "had it up to here" crowd. Nor are they among those angry activists clamoring for impeachment. My own opinion is that the people who like to call themselves "the base" are very, very loud about having "had it up to here" -- so loud that they drive away all people who might be inclined to listen to them. (Including some people who are in basic agreement with them.)

    I keep hearing that Bush "betrayed his base," yet he has openly touted his Hispanic "strategy" since 1999. What's the matter? Couldn't the base read his lips? When an office holder behaves in a manner consistent with his campaign promises, that is not a betrayal.

    What I find rather disturbing is that (at least if the Lopez column is any indication) "the base" is so utterly delighted to have their own party out of power. So delighted, in fact, that they can't wait to "kiss the Senate goodbye" so they can be even more out of power.

    Presumably, this means they can't wait to kiss the "Casa Blanca" goodbye too.

    Call me a RINO for asking, but what kind of "base" is this that so badly wants its own party out of power?

    I don't know, but I do know that I'm not enough of a "had it up to here" guy for them, and it hurts, because I think I'm generally quite good at having had it up to here, but apparently I'm just not mad as hell enough over this. FWIW, I don't agree with the bill, but I don't agree with a lot of bills. What am I supposed to do? Gnash my teeth and howl at the moon? Join the Minutemen?

    I find myself wondering about one thing, though. If the base has had it up to here now, what will they be like with a president whose campaign is co-chaired by the former head of La Raza?

    How far up can a "had it up to here" base have it?

    MORE: To highlight the problems with the bill, take a look at the picture of it posted at this Pajamas Media post, which links TTLB's analysis:

    It's 400 pages, but the final version may expand to 1000+ once it's printed in the "official format."
    Great! That means that the geniuses who run our lives will be voting on something that none of them will have so much as taken the time to read! I guess legislating has come to mean passing laws you haven't read. (That ought to be an impeachable offense in itself. At minimum, it certainly constitutes outrageous derogation of duty.)

    And Glenn Reynolds links this report in which Senator Bob Corker explains why he'll vote against cloture:

    "On Monday, Senators are being asked to start voting on a complex immigration reform bill that most members have not had a chance to read or review. There is no doubt we need to secure America's borders and reform our broken immigration system, but this should not be done hastily by cramming through a largely unknown piece of legislation in a few days.

    "After reading several summaries of this bill, I have serious concerns and for that reason I will vote 'no' on proceeding to the bill on Monday. I hope in the near future the Senate will return to immigration reform in a framework where Senators will be given the time necessary for serious debate on an issue of this magnitude."

    Without getting into what any senator's position is on immigration, I'd like to risk venturing what sounds like a radical idea.

    I think that any legislator who votes for a law without reading it should be impeached, and at minimum should lose his seat. Such people should be held in contempt -- not by the Republican base, but by the American base. (Anyone who doesn't think there is such a thing as an American base should read the polls:

    Twenty-nine percent of Americans approve of Congress, down slightly from last month's reading (33%) and this year's high point of 37%, while Bush's approval rating is holding steady at 33%.
    It strikes me that there's a base in there somewhere.

    posted by Eric at 05:33 PM | Comments (10)

    If you think our candidates suck...

    And if you think only American candidates make promises they can't deliver....

    Then by all means read Barcepundit's post about a candidate in Belgium!

    (Without giving away her platform, I think she may have taken Glenn Reynolds a bit too literally.)

    posted by Eric at 03:59 PM | Comments (4)


    In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek post, M. Simon noted earlier that he and Glenn Reynolds are both guilty of tabloid journalism. I don't know whether to take issue with Glenn Reynolds's coverage of the Christian/Newsom murder case or to plead guilty to tabloid overage myself, but here's what M. Simon said:

    Glenn Reynolds seems to like to do tabloid bits (who doesn't?) and today he is featuring the CHANNON CHRISTIAN / CHRISTOPHER NEWSOME KILLING, a particularly gruesome job, with black criminals and white victims. BTW note how important it must be to be ALL CAPS. Well at least he didn't go the extra step and BOLD IT as well.
    Well, am I ever feeling left out! Because it just so happens that I did go the extra step of bolding it! Here's what I put in bold (and I will explain why):
    Innocent couple driving down the street fell victim to a carjacking, they were kidnapped, the man was raped while his girlfriend was forced to watch, he was castrated while alive, then murdered, following which the woman was kept and raped for four days, her breast cut off while she was alive, with both bodies being eventually burned.
    As I explained, those awful details -- of pre-mortem sexual mutilation (usually in bold) -- are driving the story, but the point is, they have not been verified.

    Forgive my, um, boldness, but I am beginning to suspect that this story is being fed by a steady diet of misinformation and possibly deliberate disinformation. More -- not less -- attention should be paid to it, and I don't care whether it's tabloid journalism or not. However, to the extent tabloid journalism means sensationalized and misleading reporting, accurate reporting might be a form of detabloidization (if there is such a term). The story Glenn links actually drives home this point:

    Web sites describe gruesome details that are not in the public record.

    (Bold-erization supplied.)

    In a nutshell, that's the biggest problem with this story. The sickeningly gruesome details which fuel it are nowhere to be found. As the victims are dead and the suspects inherently unreliable as witnesses, the only place that proof of pre-mortem mutilation could be found would be in the medical examiner's report. Yet not one site has links to any medical report -- or any other report. The originating source for the allegations is one Stefanie Williams, whose only "proof" is a naked assertion that there were "reports":
    Once again, the only relevant links point to what is titled an "Opinion" by University of Maryland student Stefanie Williams:
    According to reports, his penis was then cut off before he was shot several times and set on fire, all while his girlfriend watched. His body was then dumped alongside train tracks. Christian was kept alive and gang-raped multiple times over a span of four days. Her breast was cut off while she was still alive and her kidnappers sprayed cleaning fluid into her mouth to cleanse it of DNA. Her body was then put into a garbage can.
    That's it. "According to reports." What reports? There are none I can find. There are plenty of links pointing to each other, and ultimately to the above, but nothing else. (Of course, it is also possible that there is something else, but despite a diligent search I haven't found it.)
    And it seems that no amount of diligence will find it. I never received a reply to my email to Stefanie Williams, and although Mike Gaynor of the Conservative Voice stated that she emailed him, in his email to me I got the impression that she is the reportorial equivalent of a anonymous source:
    He stated that he has been in contact with Ms. Williams and "discussed her source(s) with her" but that "it would not be appropriate for me to reveal more."
    I'm sorry, but with a story this important, journalists should reveal more. This is not to say that Gaynor should reveal more, but I think Stefanie Williams should. She's the journalist who should bear the responsibility for first reporting unconfirmed -- and so far unconfirmable -- details which fuel the ever-growing story.

    To put it bluntly, at this point the public has a right to know whether there is any basis to the allegations -- and Stefanie Williams's report.

    Too many people are linking links to links which simply recite words which just go to the same words which go to the same words. It's an unfortunate aspect of the Internet (and IMO, places bloggers in a better position to examine whether the links they provide actually go somewhere.)

    With regards to my growing suspicions, I linked another remarkable "report" the other night, and I strongly suspect it's a hoax:

    Jacque Patrick Fitzgerald (Knoxville) - St. Nicolas Thief, president and founder of Black Poverty Speaks, along with many local Knoxville blacks who live in the Washington Pike area has organized a social action protest celebration championing Lemaricus Davidson and Letalvis Cobbins.

    Davidson and Cobbins are the brothers and two of the five suspects charged in the carjacking, kidnapping, rape and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

    "We're coordinating the celebration to to jive with the march angry whites are planning in memory of the victims and because of the 'media black-out' they note the case is receiving from national news networks," Thief, who is currently stationed in Knoxville, said.


    After the umpteenth diligent search, I could find no such person as "St. Nicolas Thief," no such organization as "Black Poverty Speaks," and no such writer as "Jacque Patrick Fizgerald."

    I suspect the latter is a pseudonym for some racist crackpot or agent provocateur. (I think most readers who check out some of his other "reports," will share my skepticism.)

    I'm not alone in my suspicions. A Liberty Forum commenter named Das Man put it rather well:

    I think this whole thing is just an obnoxious hoax.

    I suspect that there is no "Black Poverty Speaks" org, there's no St Nicolas Thief (sic) ... there is no "Yacub 7 Ali"

    Jacque Patrick Fitzgerald might be the same guy that runs to me fake looking site Svengalimedia, "Kirkland Perkins" or "Waldorf Carather"

    they might be the guys or guy behind

    If you google around, these names and sites are just linking to each other and are otherwise unknown.

    Believe me, there is nothing more exhausting that googling around and finding "sites are just linking to each other and are otherwise unknown."

    (Really. Aren't there enough white supremacists and black supremacists in this world without adding fake white supremacists and fake black supremacists?)

    This case needs far more diligent attention than it has gotten. If the goal is to get the MSM to take the case seriously, the people who make that demand better start taking it seriously enough to verify the details.

    Under the circumstances, I'm glad that Glenn Reynolds is paying attention. Back to the article Glenn linked with the capital letters:

    Knoxville NAACP President Ezra Maize has been meeting with city and police officials. "We don't want to add fuel to the fire. Our goal is simply to keep the peace," he said.

    "Whether it is black, white or Hispanic, there is no way in the world you cannot view what has taken place and not feel remorse for the families," Maize said. "At the same time, you cannot cast judgment as to who did it or who did not do it. That is not our place."

    Angry bloggers have drawn comparisons to the Duke lacrosse rape case and wondered why the Newsom-Christian slaying hasn't gotten the same media attention. "Oh, that's right, the victims were WHITE!" wrote one.

    Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who operates Instapundit, a top current events and commentary blog, said he was branded an apologist by those bloggers after he wrote that he had seen no evidence the killings were a hate crime.

    However, he said, "I think it is totally true if the races of the perpetrators and the victims were reversed, the press would make a bigger deal about it. I think some people (journalists) have been hanging back for fear of inflaming things."

    Hmmm... I can just see the headlines....


    Knoxville? Isn't that where InstaPundit actually lives? The same guy who was called an "apologist" for not seeing evidence that wasn't there to be seen? Under the circumstances, I wouldn't blame him if he did engage in a little tabloid journalism -- assuming the use of capital letters is that.

    Of course, that doesn't excuse my tabloid journalism, for this is my fifth post on the subject, and I live nowhere near Knoxville....

    UPDATE: In case no one realized it, I dislike sensationalized tabloid journalism, and I don't think my attempt to cut through misinformation constitutes tabloid journalism. Hence the deliberately sarcastic title of this post. (I hope I was being obvious, but on the Internet not all intentions are obvious.)

    Lest anyone think Glenn Reynolds advocates the tabloidization of this story, not only has he consistently argued for patience and restraint (and against making unwarranted assumptions), but he just linked a very thoughtful post which praises the local Knoxville authorities for not acting like Mike Nifong:

    The popular comparison for media coverage is to the Duke Lacrosse case, because the races of the accused and victims are inverted. This is considered the main difference driving the degree of coverage. But there's another difference that matters - in the Duke case, the DA actively sought out media coverage. He was either trying to drum up witnesses for an ongoing investigation (if you want to be charitable towards him), or exploiting the racial aspect of the case to help his re-election bid (if you don't.) Either way, he actively asked the media to cover his case. The authorities in Knoxville have not. Are the Knoxville authorities wrong for not acting enough like Mike Nifong?
    No they are not wrong at all. I tried to make a similar point in an earlier post:
    What's really eating at me is how all of this might affect the legal aspects of the case. I was trained as a lawyer, and I do believe in the concept of justice, and it is important that all suspects receive a fair and impartial trial -- no matter how horrifying the facts or circumstances of the case. From a prosecutorial perspective, (unless, of course, you're Mike Nifong and running for office) massive pretrial publicity is not good thing, because it makes it harder to find an objective and unbiased jury, and tends to turn the trial into a circus. Like it or not, there's simply no way to avoid the growing public interest in this case, which is why I think it is important to get the story straight. If massive publicity is based on allegations which later turn out to have been unsubstantiated, I think that might help the defendants avoid the death penalty, because the lawyers could then portray their clients as victims of a lynch mob. Activist defense lawyers like the late William Kunstler would have a field day painting poor black defendants as victims of massive, Internet-fueled hysteria, and false allegations promulgated by "right wing hate sites." And of course there are "right wing" hate sites which are all over this case. (Just Google "Channon Christian vnn" or "Channon Christian" "David Duke" for a sampling.)
    And earlier today, Glenn linked another report which makes me suspect that the publicity may already be affecting the case:
    There is already talk that one defendant's attorney will file a motion to move the trial out of Knox County.
    Publicizing this story may be free speech, but it will not help the prosecution. However, publicizing unconfirmed allegations and spreading misinformation can only help the accused, and I wish people would stop and think about what they are doing.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

    If anyone has any further thoughts, I'm all ears.

    UPDATE (05/21/07): Undercover Black Man does a pretty good job of debunking "St. Nicolas Thief" and "" (The website's name is almost a giveaway, IMO.)

    BTW, there is no logical reason to assume that hoaxes are necessarily perpetrated by "the other side." People who want to deliberately incite racial hatred might have a variety of reasons for doing so.

    MORE: Speaking of linking to links that go nowhere, the Christian Broadcasting Network has simply recited the gruesome unverified details as if they are facts, but the only link they provide goes to the Flopping Aces blog post which has zero links.

    AND MORE: According to Nicholas Stix (who has devoted a lot of time to researching this issue), the first Internet references to the pre-mortem sexual mutilation seem to come from notorious white racist Hal Turner. (While I would not trust the date given by the archiveless Hal Turner web site, I did find discussion group references to it going back as early as February 21.)

    The problem is that Hal Turner cannot be considered a legitimate news source. As best I can determine, the first legitimate news story making these allegations remains Stefanie Williams.

    I guess it's possible that the "source" she cited might have been Hal Turner. (That might explain her reluctance to discuss the matter further.)

    posted by Eric at 01:35 PM | Comments (9)

    Peace, And I Mean That Most Sincerely

    It seems that the City of Berkeley in California is all up in arms about the video to the left. What is so hateful about the video? Easy. It seems to tell the truth about some believers in Islam.

    A British stand-up has been accused of spreading 'racist hate speech' in California.

    Pat Condell has faced a barrage of criticism after links to his anti-Muslim monologue on YouTube were circulated to commissioners in the city of Berkeley.

    In the five-minute video, Condell condemns Islam as a religion of war and its prophet Mohammad as 'some rambling ancient desert nomad with a psychological disorder'.

    He attacks fundamentalist men as 'primitive pigs whose only achievement in life is to be born with a penis is one hand and a Koran in the second' and accuses women who wear veils of their own will of being 'mentally ill'.

    'If God had intended for you to cover your face then in His wisdom He would have provided you with a flap of skin for the purpose,' he said.

    Jonathan Wornick, who is on the 'peace and justice commission' adivisng Berkeley city council emailed his colleagues with the link, saying it was 'an honest attempt to bring dialogue'.

    But his actions have caused a political storm. Commissioner Michael Sherman said Condell's views were 'stunning' because of his 'stereotyping and bigotry of the tone and the language'.

    And commissioner Elliot Cohen called the tape 'insulting, degenerating and racist'.

    'People should not be allowed to spew racist propaganda without others being able to respond,' Cohen said. 'It's not about free speech - it's hate speech.'

    For which there will be totally different rules. The most important of which will be "if I hate it, it is hate speech". Which you must admit is a pretty liberal definitioin.

    H/T JR at The Astute Bloggers.

    posted by Simon at 11:26 AM | Comments (3)

    Reynolds Likes Murders, I Like Sex

    Glenn Reynolds seems to like to do tabloid bits (who doesn't?) and today he is featuring the CHANNON CHRISTIAN / CHRISTOPHER NEWSOME KILLING, a particularly gruesome job, with black criminals and white victims. BTW note how important it must be to be ALL CAPS. Well at least he didn't go the extra step and BOLD IT as well.

    Murders are so ugly, so instead I'm going to do a non-rape of strippers case with home video of nude strippers toying with college kids. Lots of alcohol. And two completely different views of the events of the fateful evening. One view is the stripper's point of view. The other point of view is of the pledge master (did I forget to mention fraternities? - yep, two of them are involved) who hired the strippers. Yep. Two of them. Sorta like the Duke case, except the strippers are white. Plus lots of geeky frat boys. With that particular insolent affectation that some youth (boys especially) of that age have. Did I mention that there is video? Which is NOT WORK SAFE. OK? Raw Deal: A Question of Consent - 20 minute preview - NOT WORK SAFE. Oh yeah. You get to meet the mother and grandmother of the stripper who claimed to be raped.

    Rape is a serious crime and not to be taken lightly. However, there are a lot of false rape claims. Plus, it is a sad but true fact of life that the level of protection for women in that line of work is reduced. Because it blurs the lines of consent/non-consent.

    I have watched the preview and I must say that the story is a strong one. Besides which would you rather do for your tabloid fix today? Read about gruesome murders or watch some strippers in action?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

    Forgotten revolutionary

    Going through some Mother's Day pictures I took at my mom's cemetery, one seemed to merit additional attention. (While it didn't seem eye-catching enough for my Mother's Day post, I didn't want to forget about it.)

    hughmercer.jpg If you can get past the poor quality and the shadows, the inscription reads as follows:

    In Memory of
    who fell in the battle
    of Princeton
    January 3, 1777
    Died January 12, 1777
    Removed from Christ Church
    yard on the 26th of November
    I'd vaguely heard of the guy (there are Mercer counties in both PA and NJ), and I knew the battle of Princeton occurred shortly after George Washington's fabled crossing of the Delaware, but looking at the picture of the grave made me do something historians have traditionally been unable to do -- simply Google the name "Hugh Mercer."

    He's such an amazing guy that a blog post is the least I can do. The son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister, he grew up in the days when they didn't treat adults as children, so he attended the University of Aberdeen at age 15, became a doctor, and, while still in his teens he was an assistant surgeon in the Jacobite Rebellion under the command of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Serving in this capacity, he witnessed the notorious British atrocities committed against the Jacobites under orders of the British commander William the Duke of Cumberland (son of King George II):

    Cumberland ordered his men to execute all the Jacobite wounded and prisoners, an act for which he was known afterwards as "the Butcher".
    Obviously, Mercer was very fortunate not to have been captured. Jacobites were considered traitors, and no one would have wanted to die a traitor's death. The young Scot managed to elude capture, and found passage to Philadelphia:
    According to the biographers of Mercer's early life, he slipped away on a ship bound for Philadelphia. Upon his arrival, he went to the Pennsylvania back country where he served as a doctor to the widely dispersed settlers for several years.

    These certainly seem like rugged and isolating surroundings for a man of his education and breeding. And though some fugitives who came to America established themselves in more familiar routines, we can assume Mercer still felt unsafe at the hands of the English.

    And who could blame him?

    His story is almost a textbook case of how to create a future revolutionary.

    Living in the Pennsylvania back country where he lived and practiced for eight years (near Mercersburg, named after him), he was eventually drawn into the French-Indian War on the British side, apparently because the atrocities committed against the British so reminded him of what the British had done ten years earlier to the Jacobites. Ultimately, this led to a friendship with George Washington, and a move to Fredericksburg, Virginia:

    In 1755, when General Edward Braddock's army was cut down by the French and Indians, Mercer was shocked by the same butchery he remembered at Culloden. He came to the aid of the wounded and eventually took up arms in support of the army that a few years back was hunting him, this time as a soldier, not a surgeon. By 1756 he was commissioned a captain in a Pennsylvania regiment, and accompanied Lt. Col. John Armstrong's expedition on the raid of the Indian village of Kittanning in September 1756. During the attack, Mercer was badly wounded and separated from his unit. He trekked 100 miles through the woods for fourteen days, injured and with no supplies, until he found his way back to Fort Shirley, where he was recognized and promoted. He rose to the rank of colonel and commanded garrisons. It was during these trying times that Mercer developed a life-long and warm friendship with another colonel, George Washington. After befriending several Virginia men, Mercer moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1760 to begin his medical practice anew at the conclusion of the war.
    (During this period, many Pennsylvania settlers fled south to Virginia.) No doubt the irony wasn't lost on Mercer that his new hometown to the south was named for Frederick the brother of the "Butcher" and father of the future mad King George.

    What seems to have rekindled his hatred for the British was what would probably be called gun control today -- British confiscation of militia powder stores. This did not set well with Mercer, then an activist who appears to have enjoyed drinking and plotting:

    ...the sociable Scotsman [Mercer] was frequently enjoying the hospitality of his brother-in-law's tavern in the next block. He was the most frequent patron of the tavern and also bought large quantities of meat and staples from Weedon's supply business.

    He was often at "supper and club" joining the group who ate and drank together. As feelings ran high in 1775, no one was more of an activist than Hugh Mercer (except perhaps his brother-in-law Weedon). In March, Mercer treated the new Independent Company to punch. In July, he paid for four bowls of punch for the volunteers who had gone to Williamsburg to protest the confiscation of the stores in the powder magazine.

    In September 1775, Mercer was elected head of the regional Minute Men (consisting of the surrounding four counties). But he was then appointed an officer in the 2nd Regiment created by the Virginia Convention; and before the year was out, he was promoted to colonel by the convention and then placed in charge of the newly created 3rd Regiment.

    Early in February 1776, the Continental Congress took six Virginia regiments into the Continental Line (army), including Mercer's.

    By then he had less than a year to live. What seems to have sealed his fate was his having been mistaken for George Washington by British troops:
    While leading a vanguard of 350 soldiers, Mercer's brigade encountered two British regiments and a mounted unit. A fight broke out at an orchard grove and Mercer's horse was shot from under him. Getting to his feet, he was quickly surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and ordered him to surrender. Outnumbered, he drew his saber and began an unequal contest. He was finally beaten to the ground by musket butts and bayonet thrusts.

    When he learned of the British attack and saw some of Mercer's men in retreat, Washington himself entered the fray. Washington rallied Mercer's men and pushed back the British regiments, but Mercer had been left on the field to die with multiple bayonet wounds to his body and blows to his head. (Legend has it that a beaten Mercer, with a bayonet still impaled in him, did not want to leave his men and the battle and was given a place to rest on a white oak tree's trunk, while those who remained with him stood their ground. The tree became known as "the Mercer Oak" and is the key element of the seal of Mercer County, New Jersey.)

    Despite the best efforts of noted Revolutionary physician Benjamin Rush, Mercer died of his wounds eight days later.

    This was truly a hell of a guy.

    With a hell of a genetic pool, too. (His direct descendants include Johnny Mercer and General George S. Patton.) There doesn't seem to be any formal portrait of him, but a contemporary sketch by revolutionary era artist John Trumbull survives:


    I can see why he might have been mistaken for Washington.

    Of course, what matters most today would be the question of who owned slaves. George Washington's slave Hercules is more famous than Hugh Mercer -- by a Google hit ratio of nearly seven to one.

    I know it will sound mean-spirited, but I think Hugh Mercer merits more attention than a slave -- even if the slave was known as an excellent chef. Not that either should be forgotten, but I've read more about the latter than the former.

    And if I hadn't stumbled upon Hugh Mercer's grave, I'd have never written this blog post.

    posted by Eric at 10:19 AM | Comments (3)

    "There's nothing that this man doesn't do!"

    Speaking of all things Spanish and Dangerous, I don't share YouTube videos every day, but this one was just too good to ignore. Regular readers know that Salvador Dali is my favorite artist, but even though I've read a couple of biographies I'd never known that he had appeared on the 1950s TV show "What's My Line?" -- much less that the episode could be watched on YouTube. (Link here.)

    The panelists are quite confused by Dali, because his answer to nearly question is "yes," and it drives them crazy. In exasperation, one finally asked "Is there something unusual about our guest?" (The answer, of course, was another "yes.")

    In fairness to the panelists, Dali was one of the first performance artists, so when he answered "yes" to whether he was a performer this may have made them think in too linear a manner.

    Eventually, they figure him out.

    It's hilarious. A real treat.

    (Of course, I'm biased in favor of the guest.)

    UPDATE: A reader just emailed me about the Dali video, and says he saw it at Megan McArdle's blog. Her title?

    Wow. Just. Wow.
    Exactly right.

    posted by Eric at 03:02 PM | Comments (3)

    "Like All Things Spanish, It Is Dangerous"

    "Here it is"

    posted by Justin at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

    Me? I'm Just A Liberal Arts Major

    From an interview at Ccnet...

    Benny Peiser: In a Winter Commencement Address at the University of Michigan two years ago you called yourself a heretic on global warming, the most notorious dogma of modern science. You have described global warming anxiety as grossly exaggerated and have openly voiced your doubts about the reliability of climate models. These models, you argue, "do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in." There seems to be an almost complete endorsement of the world's scientific organisations and elites of these models together with claims that they reliably epitomize reality and can consistently predict future climate change. How do you feel belonging to a tiny minority of scientists who dare to voice their doubts openly?

    Freeman Dyson: I am always happy to be in the minority. Concerning the climate models, I know enough of the details to be sure that they are unreliable. They are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data. But there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors would give the right behavior in a world with different chemistry, for example in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Please, Sir. Could I have some more?

    You students are proud possessors of the PhD, or some similar token of academic respectability. You have endured many years of poverty and hard labor. Now you are ready to go to your just rewards, to a place on the tenure track of the university, or on the board of directors of a company.

    And here am I, a person who never had a PhD myself and fought all my life against the PhD system and everything it stands for. Of course I fought in vain. The grip of the PhD system on academic life is tighter today than it has ever been...

    Unfortunately, I am an old heretic. Old heretics don't cut much ice. What the world needs is young heretics. I am hoping that one or two of you may fill that role. So I will tell you briefly about three heresies that I'm promoting.

    The first of my heresies says that all the fluff about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of twilight model experts and the crowd of diluted citizens that believe the numbers predicted by their models. Of course they say I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak.

    But I have studied their climate models and know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics and do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.

    The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That's why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

    There's no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global...

    I'm not saying the warming doesn't cause problems, obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it. I'm saying that the problems are being grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and important. Poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans.

    Thank you, sir.

    P.S. One more thing. I met your father's cousin Ernst Straus once when he came to a conference in Princeton. He gave an interesting talk about the frustrations of being Einstein's assistant. He said Einstein treated his assistants as slaves, in the tradition of the German Geheimrat. It was a thankless job with very little joy, and he escaped as soon as he could.

    Benny Peiser: Thank you for the interview, Professor Dyson!

    Yes, thank you!

    posted by Justin at 01:44 PM | Comments (7)

    Bussard Interstellar Ramjet: 1970

    My introduction to the Bussard ramjet was Poul Anderson's novel Tau Zero. Being an ignorant and unreflective sprat, it never occurred to me that the device wasn't entirely fictional. I figured it was just another doubletalk drive, like "Ortega's Torch", or "Horst-Conrad Impellers". Oops.

    When I found out that there really was a Dr. Robert Bussard, eminent physicist, I was actually rather thrilled. Here was something we might have a chance of building one day!

    Well, time has passed, and the critics have whittled away at the notion rather effectively. Still, I cherish the fond hope that some bright boy or girl will find a practical workaround. As Vernor Vinge pointed out, it's too useful a notion to give up on easily. So meet the Leonora Christine, "seventh and youngest of her class." She was my first interstellar ramjet...

    A ship accelerating continuously at one gravity would have traveled half a light-year in slightly less than one year of time. And she would be moving very near the ultimate velocity, three hundred thousand kilometers per second.

    Practical problems arose. Where was the mass-energy to do this coming from? Even in a Newtonian universe, the thought of a rocket carrying that much fuel along from the start would be ludicrous...

    But fuel and reaction mass were there in space! It was pervaded with hydrogen. Granted the concentration was not great by terrestrial standards: about one atom per cubic centimeter in the galactic vicinity of Sol. Nevertheless this made thirty billion atoms per second, striking every square centimeter of the ship's cross section, when she approximated light velocity...

    The energies were appalling. Megaroentgens of hard radiation would be released by impact; and less than a thousand r within an hour are fatal. No material shielding would help. Even supposing it impossibly thick to start with, it would soon be eroded away.

    However, in the days of Leonora Christine non-material means were available: magnetohydrodynamic fields, whose pulses reached forth across millions of kilometers to seize atoms by their dipoles-no need for ionization-and control their streaming. These fields did not serve passively, as mere armor. They deflected dust, yes, and all gases except the dominent hydrogen. But this latter was forced aft--in long curves that avoided the hull by a safe margin--until it entered a vortex of compressing, kindling electromagnetism centered on the Bussard engine.

    The ship was not small. Yet she was the barest glint of metal in that vast web of forces which surrounded her. She herself no longer generated them. She had initiated the process when she attained minimum ramjet speed; but it became too huge, too swift, until it could only be created and sustained by itself. The primary thermonuclear reactors (a separate system would be used to decelerate), the venturi tubes, the entire complex which thrust her was not contained inboard. Most of it was not material at all, but a resultant of cosmic-scale vectors. The ship's control devices, under computer direction, were not remotely analogous to autopilots. They were like catalysts which, judiciously used, could affect the course of these monstrous reactions, could build them up, in time slow them down and snuff them out...but not fast.

    Starlike burned the hydrogen fusion, aft of the Bussard module that focused the electromagnetism which contained it. A titanic gas-laser effect aimed photons themselves in a beam whose reaction pushed the ship forward--and which would have vaporized any solid body it struck. The process was not 100 per cent efficient. But most of the stray energy went to ionize the hydrogen which escaped nuclear combustion. These protons and electrons, together with the fusion products, were also hurled backward by the force fields, a gale of plasma adding its own increment of momentum.

    The process was not steady. Rather, it shared the instability of living metabolism and danced always on the same edge of disaster. Unpredictable variations occurred in the matter content of soace. The extent, intensity, and configuration of the force fields must be adjusted accordingly--a problem in ? million factors which only a computer could solve fast enough. Incoming data and outgoing signals traveled at light speed: finite speed, requiring a whole three and a third seconds to cross a million kilometers. Response could be fatally slow. This danger would increase as Leonora Christine got so close to ultimate velocity that time rates began measurably changing.

    Nonetheless, week by week, month by month, she moved on outward.

    Notice how he sneaks in the dual-engine? It's crucial to the plot. When the braking motors are damaged, the crew's only hope of survival is to keep piling on the speed. Eventually, they may hope to reach a region of space empty enough to permit dropping their shields and repairing their braking motors. Of course, they'll need to leave the galaxy altogether to find space that's "clean enough".

    Helpfully, Anderson fudged the laws of physics just a little bit by allowing compensator fields for higher boost. Ten gees, twenty, fifty, hey, no problem! If you're heading out to the deepest black, you'll need to put the pedal to the metal, or else die of old age before you've fairly begun. But he posits that such technology only works when you're close to light speed, so that's okay then. Say hi to the edge of the universe.

    The resultant novel is rather like Powers of Ten: The Soap Opera.

    posted by Justin at 01:02 PM | Comments (2)

    Home Information Systems: 1919

    From The Outline of History by H.G. Wells

    Volume I, p 367

    In those days, it must be remembered, books were not in pages, but rolled like the music-rolls of the modern piano-player, and in order to refer to any particular passage, a reader had to roll back or roll forward very tediously, a process which wore out books and readers together.

    One thinks at once of a simple and obvious little machine by which such a roll could have been wound to and fro for reference, but nothing of the sort seems to have been used. Every time a roll was read it was handled by two perspiring hands...

    It is curious to note how slowly the mechanism of intellectual life improves. Contrast the ordinary library facilities of a middle-class English home, such as the present writer is now working in, with the inconveniences and deficiencies of the
    equipment of an Alexandrian writer, and one realizes the enormous waste of time, physical exertion, and attention that went on through all the centuries during which that library fluorished.

    Before the present writer lie half a dozen books, and there are good indices to three of them. He can pick up any one of these six books, refer quickly to a statement, verify a quotation, and go on writing. Contrast with that the tedious unfolding of a rolled manuscript. Close at hand are two encyclopaedias, a dictionary, an atlas of the world, a biographical dictionary, and other books of reference. They have no marginal indices, it is true; but that perhaps is asking for too much at present. There were no such resources in the world in 300 B.C. Alexandria had still to produce the first grammar and the first dictionary.

    This present book is being written in manuscript; it is then taken by a typist and typewritten very accurately. It can then, with the utmost convenience, be read over, corrected amply, rearranged freely, retyped, and recorrected. The Alexandrian author had to dictate or recopy every word he wrote. Before he could turn back to what he had written previously, he had to dry his last words by waving them in the air or pouring sand over them; he had not even blotting paper.

    Whatever an author wrote had to be recopied again and again before it could reach any considerable series of readers, and every copyist introduced some new error. Whenever a need for maps or diagrams arose, there were fresh difficulties. Such a science as anatomy, for example, depending as it does upon accurate drawing, must have been enormously hampered by the natural limitations of the copyist. The transmission of geographical fact again must have been almost incredibly tedious.

    No doubt a day will come when a private library and writing-desk of the year A.D. 1919 will seem quaintly clumsy and difficult; but, measured by the standards of Alexandria, they are astonishingly quick, efficient, and economical of nervous and metal energy.

    posted by Justin at 12:24 PM | Comments (2)

    Wet Nanotech: 1938

    From Seeds of the Dusk by Raymond Z. Gallun

    Astounding Science Fiction, June 1938

    In the distant future, in the remote desert, a highly evolved corvid confronts an unusual visitor. An invader from Mars. Unnerved, the plucky post-raven hunter-gatherer imagines the worst. But really, how dangerous could an intelligent and civilized plant be?

    It was a bulging, slightly flattened sphere, perhaps a yard across. From it projected flat, oval things of a gray-green color, like the leaves of a cactus. And from these, in turn, grew club-like protuberances of a hard, horny texture--spore-pods. One of them was blasted open, doubtless by the pressure of gas accumulated within it...

    The entire plant bristled with sharp spines, and was furred with slender hairs, gleaming like little silver wires...

    Kaw was no botanist, certainly; still he could recognize the object as a plant of some kind. But those little, bright, eye-lenses suggested an unimaginable scrutiny...

    He hopped forward cautiously toward the invader...lightly and swiftly his beak shot forward. It touched the tip of a sharp spine.The result left Kaw dazed. It was as though he had received a stunning blow on the head...

    Electricity...Electricity generated chemically in the form of the invader, by a process analogous to that by which, in dim antiquity, it had been generated in the bodies of electric eels and other similar creatures.

    However, there was a broad difference here between the subject and the analogy. Electric eels had never understood the nature of their power...The spore plant, on the other hand, comprehended minutely. Its electric organs had been minutely preplanned and conceived before one living cell had been caused to grow on another. And these organs were not inherited but were designed...

    Instead of taking the easy way out, and envisioning motile sapient plants(Morticia's beloved African Strangler comes to mind), Gallun tried to work out how a real plant intelligence might evolve. They say he was known as an idea man. Obviously, fire and metallurgy would be problematic for them.

    Being plants, I suppose the notion of growing what they needed struck him as more reasonable.

    It is not to be supposed that it must always lack, by its very nature, an understanding of physics and chemistry and biological science. It possessed no test tubes or delicate instruments, as such things were understood by men. But it was gifted with something--call it an introspective sense--which enabled it to study in minute detail every single chemical and physical process that went on within its own substance.

    It could feel not only the juices coursing sluggishly through its tissues, but it could feel, too, in a kind of atomic pattern, the change of water and carbon dioxide into starch and free oxygen. Gift a man with the same power...that of feeling vividly even the division of cells, and the nature of the protoplasm in his own tissues--and it is not hard to believe that he would soon delve out even the ultimate secret of life. And in the secret of life there must be involved almost every conceivable phase of practical science.

    Meanwhile, back on the dying Earth, the invasion proceeds apace...

    Now Kaw had but one thought, and that was to get away. Still dazed and groggy, he leaped into the air. From behind him, in his hurried departure, he heard a dull plop.

    More billions of spores, mixing with the wind, to be borne far and wide.

    posted by Justin at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

    Friendly skies

    Earlier this morning, a military helicopter flew so low over the nearby Saudi madrassa that my house shook.

    Dang! I wish that happened more often.

    The nice thing about having military helicopters flying over the madrassas is that the latter can't sue the military because of sovereign immunity.

    Not so in the case of private citizens, who are finding themselves the victims of well-funded lawsuits simply for asking basic questions about Saudi madrassas in their neighborhoods. Writing for Pajamas Media, Martin Solomon has a comprehensive report about a terrible situation in Boston, in which neighbors (beginning with a local Muslim who was outraged to see hate-filled anti-Semitic propganda in "both the religious lesson and the Arabic newsletters inside the mosque") began to ask questions and organize themselves. This is America where cities have such rights, right?

    Not really:

    ...there is and was enough known about the financing and characters involved at the highest levels of the Islamic Society of Boston that a reasonable man acting prudently would be compelled to look closer at this group, their connections, and their financing.

    And that's just what was done. And when those reasonable people found themselves disturbed by what they had found and began speaking out about it, they found themselves silenced by a lawsuit, their personal lives violated by subpoenas and their private emails exposed to the world.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I wrote a number of posts about the Saudi madrassa, which upset the neighbors for a variety of reasons and attracted national attention (especially because of the presence there of Al Qaeda associate Mazen Mokhtar). What bothered me the most was the way local officials bent over backwards to accommodate the madrassa and granted its request for special exceptions despite a history of non-compliance with local zoning ordinances, yet a local Christian church which did the same thing had its request turned down.

    I can't remember the last time I read about a church suing neighbors for asking questions and opposing their plans. These lawsuits are an attempt at intimidation, and they remind me of the lawsuit filed by the flying imams. (When I first wrote about them, they hadn't sued the witnesses.)

    Damn! This post was rudely interrupted by a power failure! Because of my battery backup I was able save what I had written in a word file, but I lost my train of thought. (I was getting ready to drive to a WiFi spot, but fortunately the power was restored within an hour.)

    Oh, yeah, I was going to say something about my experience with a lawsuit against United Airlines in which I ended up having to fly across the country as a witness. But it's really not relevant.

    Or is it?

    The answer may be in the skies.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I would have said that I envy the military helicopter pilots, but I suppose that what's satire for me might be considered slander by suicide-sympathizing Saudi Salafists.

    posted by Eric at 11:41 AM | Comments (1)

    Dry Nanotech: 1937

    From A Menace in Miniature

    by Raymond Z. Gallun, pulp science fiction writer, Astounding Stories, Oct.1937

    The mechanism looked like a beetle made of metal. Its length was only about a quarter of an inch; but it had legs like a living beetle. It was provided with a tiny rocket, and a gravity screen, like a spaceship. Moreover, it possessed a pair of appendages meant for grasping and handling. These were fitted with metal fingers finer than human hair...

    The device was a microrobot, or, if the trade name was to be used, a Scarab. The task of constructing such a tiny and incredibly intricate fabrication was a matter involving infinite skill, patience, and precision. The most powerful microscopes had to be used, and the most delicate of tools. The nervous waver of a finger, during the process, was enough to ruin much of the fragile workmanship that had so far been completed...

    "You know all about these microrobots. If you could make another one, the size of a grain of sand, it should be able to see just what the menace is!"...

    "How could you expect me--anyone--to build a scarab no bigger than a sand grain?"...

    "I don't mean that you should construct this ultra-microrobot with your own fingers, of course--at least not directly. I mean that you should manipulate the robot control, making our Scarab do the work. In the television screen you would see the magnified images of what its eyes saw. As far as vision and handling goes, the whole size scale would be raised so that the job would be almost like working with stuff of the usual dimensions."...

    "Under more favorable circumstances I could really do it justice, by working--how should I say--in steps downward. With the Scarab as big as a beetle, I could make a Scarab as big as a sand grain.This second Scarab could build a miniature of itself, as big as a dust grain. The third Scarab could construct a fourth, bearing the same proportions as the first to the second, or the second to the third. And so on, down, to the limit imposed by the ultimate indivisibility of the atoms themselves!

    The only difficulty would be in maintaining radio control of the smaller Scarabs--the waves they would emit and respond to would be so very fine and faint! But I think this obstacle could be surmounted in steps--upward and down! A large radio transmitter would send its signals to a small receiver, to which was attached a transmitter of the same size scale. This second transmitter would contact a still smaller receiver. And so the relaying process would continue, using finer and finer impulses all the time.

    Upward the process would work just as well, a small transmitter contacting a larger, though sufficiently sensitive, receiver. The radios, which are part of each Scarab, in both diminishing and increasing order of size, would complete the chain. Thus I might be able to explore a truly miniature environment, in which the most minute microbes would appear as colossal monsters!"...

    Actually, there might be a little more to it than that...

    "Almost everything must be made from scratch, so to speak--even many of the tools for our present Scarab. Then it must devise wires almost as fine as the cilia of a microbe, and tiny electromagnets and photoelectric cells, and lenses of microscopic size, not to mention scores of other things as intricate! But from the complete set of spare parts...we can at least draw the necessary substances: steel foil and floss, copper, sodium, tantalum, tungsten, quartz, and so forth."...

    On the turret floor, during the endless hours, a metal beetle toiled busily, plying tools which were almost too small to see with the unaided eye--tools many of which it had fabricated itself from bits of steel floss and foil, and minute flakes of hard diamond...

    Gradually, the Scarab of super smallness was taking form. Viewed directly, it was only a glinting speck, like a little shred of steel among a mass of filings; but examined in the television screen, it was a minute though intricate thing, somewhat like the mechanism that was building it...

    Supposedly, there was a vogue for tales of the miniature way back then. Does anyone else remember The Girl in the Golden Atom? Let's head uptime a few years...

    From There's Plenty of Room At The Bottom by Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winning physicist, Dec. 1959

    Now comes the interesting question: How do we make such a tiny mechanism? I leave that to you. However, let me suggest one weird possibility. You know, in the atomic energy plants they have materials and machines that they can't handle directly because they have become radioactive. To unscrew nuts and put on bolts and so on, they have a set of master and slave hands, so that by operating a set of levers here, you control the ``hands'' there, and can turn them this way and that so you can handle things quite nicely.

    Most of these devices are actually made rather simply, in that there is a particular cable, like a marionette string, that goes directly from the controls to the ``hands.'' But, of course, things also have been made using servo motors, so that the connection between the one thing and the other is electrical rather than mechanical. When you turn the levers, they turn a servo motor, and it changes the electrical currents in the wires, which repositions a motor at the other end.

    Now, I want to build much the same device---a master-slave system which operates electrically. But I want the slaves to be made especially carefully by modern large-scale machinists so that they are one-fourth the scale of the ``hands'' that you ordinarily maneuver. So you have a scheme by which you can do things at one- quarter scale anyway---the little servo motors with little hands play with little nuts and bolts; they drill little holes; they are four times smaller. Aha! So I manufacture a quarter-size lathe; I manufacture quarter-size tools; and I make, at the one-quarter scale, still another set of hands again relatively one-quarter size! This is one-sixteenth size, from my point of view. And after I finish doing this I wire directly from my large-scale system, through transformers perhaps, to the one-sixteenth-size servo motors. Thus I can now manipulate the one-sixteenth size hands.

    Well, you get the principle from there on. It is rather a difficult program, but it is a possibility. You might say that one can go much farther in one step than from one to four. Of course, this has all to be designed very carefully and it is not necessary simply to make it like hands. If you thought of it very carefully, you could probably arrive at a much better system for doing such things.

    posted by Justin at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

    I only debate myself here! (But occasionally I break my rule)

    An earlier post by M. Simon about the slowdown of the solar conveyor has generated an extended and ongoing debate. I'm hesitant to call it a scientific debate, because this is not a science blog, and unverified commenters are not scientists. (Why that post outranks the NASA report at Google is unclear, but hey, I'm not complaining....)

    Scientists and wannabe scientists are as welcome here as politicians and wannabe politicians!

    I am not a scientist, and I am a late comer to the debate on anthropogenic global warming -- the political aspects of which are of far more interest to me than the scientific aspects. The existence of warming is a separate issue from whether man is responsible for warming, and whether man is responsible is a separate issue from whether man can do things to cool the planet. And whether man can do things to cool the planet is a separate issue from whether man should cool the planet. And whether man should cool the planet is a separate issue from how best to do that. (For example, why single out driving if meat-eating is the greater culprit?)

    And all of these things are separate issues from whether the government constitutionally can -- or should -- place restrictions on human economic activity. I think history shows that when the government gets involved in these things, the situation gets worse.

    Anyway, the following comment I left to an earlier post pretty much explains what I think:

    Scientists can say whatever they want, and just as they are free to take scientific positions on various theories, so they are free to take political positions. These theories were of little interest to me until it became apparent that they were being applied in a political manner (to advance proposals that would harm the economy, and even invade my life and my home).

    When science is used politically, skepticism is the inevitable result. But, just as I am skeptical about anthropogenic global warming and the dangers of second hand cigarette smoke, it really wouldn't matter whether I was. If the government seeks to restrict human individual and economic freedom, I'll simply oppose the restrictions.

    Using scientific claims to restrict human freedom is not new. In San Francisco in the 1980s, scientists running the city's health department closed gay bathhouses because of AIDS. You don't have to be gay, or a bathhouse patron, or an AIDS skeptic to oppose that.

    Similarly, scientists claim that their "statistics" show that owning a gun is dangerous, and these arguments are used to advance gun control. I don't consider such statistics to be legitimate constitutional arguments, and while I might ridicule them in this blog, my political position is unaffected.

    Because no one seemed to get it, I might as well add that the real issue in the post was that the Wicked Witch is green!

    (What? Do I have to spell everything out?)

    Anyway, I'm sure many scientific arguments could be advanced against alcohol. It's bad for you! It can rot your liver, screw up your brain and a lot of other organs, dramatically shorten your life, and may very well cause unemployment and domestic violence.

    The above are scientific arguments, but when they are used to advance prohibition, they become fair game politically.

    I might enjoy having fun with science, but my position is political. The thing is, debates just aren't my shtick. I enjoy writing this blog, but just as I'm not interested in getting into political debates, I'm not interested in scientific debates.

    However, I believe in free speech, and I allow anonymous open commenting. I let comments speak for themselves, but I don't consider them debate.

    The problem for me is that occasionally I respond to a comment, as I did in the green witch post. I really should work harder not to do that, and I'm thinking seriously of banning myself as a commenter to ensure it doesn't happen again.

    But that would be a form of censorship, so I don't want to do that. Better to just think of my comments as aberrations.

    However, I'm having an internal debate right now over whether my admitted policy violations constitute hypocrisy. (And worse, whether calling attention to my regrettable policy violations might constitute shameless self-indulgent narcissism.)

    Thinking it over carefully, I have tentatively decided to go easy on myself and declare that my comments are merely exceptions that prove my rule.

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

    Arcs and Sparks

    Tesla Coil

    I have been doing some electronic design work over the last few days in support of amateur fusion efforts. My focus was on how to make low cost High Voltage power supplies. While I was doing that I came across the really neat picture you see here. More pictures of a similar sort can be found at Tesla Down Under.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 02:37 AM | Comments (1)

    The Magic Paradox?

    I found myself wondering earlier whatever had happened to former basketball star Magic Johnson (who contracted the HIV virus in 1991), as I hadn't heard or read anything about him in quite some time. Naturally, I made certain assumptions, but then I Googled him, and saw no mention of his death.

    Quite the contrary. He is very much alive and healthy, even though he has lived for well into his second decade with HIV. But because he has devoted his life to AIDS prevention (especially among blacks) his health and longevity present a slight problem -- called "the Magic Paradox":

    Call it the Magic Paradox. Fifteen years ago, L.A. Laker legend Magic Johnson announced he had AIDS and would retire from basketball. Today, Johnson, 47, looks so healthy some may question whether AIDS is the menace it was made out to be.
    Let me interject here that AIDS absolutely was "the menace it was made out to be" back in the 80s. Magic Johnson may be lucky enough to die of old age, but I lost most of my friends.
    That's one of the myths Johnson says he will have to dispel if he's going to succeed in perhaps his most ambitious venture of all, a $60 million partnership with the drug firm Abbott that aims to cut AIDS rates among African-Americans by 50% in the next five years.

    "You can't take that attitude that you're going to be like Magic," says Johnson, who will launch the I Stand with Magic partnership at a World AIDS Day briefing in Los Angeles on Friday.

    "Since I announced 15 years ago, hundreds of thousands of people have died of HIV/AIDS," he says. "There will be more people dying. The virus acts different in all of us. There's no certainty that if you get the virus, you're going to be OK."

    Could the man have lived so long that he might be undermining his own work? It's a fascinating idea, which the article explores in some detail:
    Despite his best intentions, Johnson can be part of the problem.

    "Just last night, I did a seminar with a group of high school girls," Myisha Patterson, 25, national health coordinator for the NAACP, said Thursday. "I had them write down three things they knew about HIV/AIDS. Somebody wrote, 'There's a cure for AIDS. Look at Magic Johnson.' "

    Johnson says he's anything but cured. He says he owes his well-being -- and quite possibly his life -- to the multidrug cocktail he takes everyday.

    The drugs, GlaxoSmithKline's Trizivir and Abbott's Kaletra, are standard treatments used by many thousands of others infected with the AIDS virus, HIV.

    Johnson can also credit luck and possibly the conditioning that comes from playing up to 100 heart-pounding NBA games a year.

    The paradox is also described as a "sad irony."
    The sad irony of the Magic Paradox is that Johnson has worked so hard to raise AIDS awareness among blacks.
    Hmmm... With awareness should go honesty. There's no point in lying to people Many people have died and continue to die from AIDS, but increasing numbers are long-term survivors. No disease is ever 100% fatal.

    I'm not sure there's anything sad about this irony, and I see no reason why Magic Johnson shouldn't continue to do exactly what he has been doing.

    Of course, it is quite possible that treatments may continue to improve -- to the point where AIDS in Western countries may become as treatable as prostate cancer. There might eventually be a vaccine or a cure. None of that changes the fact that AIDS is a preventable disease.

    I find it a little tough to believe that anyone would look at Magic Johnson's longevity and decide the disease is worth contracting. True, there might be a few people who are that irrational, but they don't need him as an excuse.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link! Welcome all.

    UPDATE: Wow! Thanks to Pajamas Media in Barcelona for linking this post!

    posted by Eric at 05:46 PM | Comments (14)

    the meltdown of the melting?

    It looks like some scientific disbelievers (who'll probably be called "planet haters") are starting to come out of the closet:

    Many former believers in catastrophic man-made global warming have recently reversed themselves and are now climate skeptics. The names included below are just a sampling of the prominent scientists who have spoken out recently to oppose former Vice President Al Gore, the United Nations, and the media driven "consensus" on man-made global warming.

    The list below is just the tip of the iceberg. A more detailed and comprehensive sampling of scientists who have only recently spoken out against climate hysteria will be forthcoming in a soon to be released U.S. Senate report. Please stay tuned to this website, as this new government report is set to redefine the current climate debate.

    In the meantime, please review the list of scientists below and ask yourself why the media is missing one of the biggest stories in climate of 2007. Feel free to distribute the partial list of scientists who recently converted to skeptics to your local schools and universities.

    The tip of the iceberg?

    Was one found floating somewhere? I thought they were all gone.


    Someone should tell these mean planet haters that it's not nice to throw water on people's beliefs.

    posted by Eric at 02:13 PM | Comments (16)

    Slander the government?

    Is such a thing even possible?

    Well, yes, if you're an attorney in Vietnam:

    A court in Hanoi Friday sentenced two attorneys to jail for spreading propaganda against the state after the court determined they had used their law offices to slander the government.

    Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, both lawyers, were sentenced to five years and four years respectively by the Hanoi People's Court, just over two months after their arrest in the capital city March 6.

    They were found guilty of making use of their profession to spread propaganda intended to libel the government.

    Dai and Nhan were also convicted of making, storing and distributing materials with distorted information against the state.

    Article 88 of the criminal code says that it is illegal to spread information sullying or libeling the state or spread fabrications that cause public confusion.

    As well as receiving jail terms, they were also ordered to serve several years' house arrest after the completion of their sentences.

    A court in Ho Chi Minh City convicted three other people on similar charges on Thursday.

    Fortunately, in the United States, we are free citizens, and we can say anything we want about the government at any time, right?

    Well, that depends. We can't discuss speculation about whether a city attorney might be pressured to leave office!

    No seriously.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, Little Miss Attila links a post that made me wonder whether Hanoi is a city in southern California. From the City Attorney's threat:

    .....let me make it clear that the information that you are spewing is false and damaging to the parties involved and to the image of the City of Pomona....
    God forbid that anyone might damage an image of a city!

    Judging from her conclusion, Little Miss Attila does not seem to have been any more intimidated than the blogger the Pomona City Attorney threatened:

    It just makes me want to "libel" someone.
    Why, I'm feeling so wicked that the whole thing just makes me want to do an even worse thing.

    It makes me want to (dare I say it?) slander the government!

    posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

    delegating thought to committee-loving authorities?

    Thought is not democratic.

    That might look strange, but there it is. I say this because the opponents of free and independent thinking often utilize the trappings of democracy to stifle an individual's thought. They forget that in a free society, authority -- whether elected, appointed, or popularly acclaimed -- does not convey authority over any individual's thoughts.

    It may sound painfully obvious in theory, but in practice the authoritarians just don't get it.

    Authoritarian. There's an emotionally loaded word. These days, the people who use it are often referring to Republicans, especially Republicans they deem fascists or pseudo-fascists. You don't want to be called an authoritarian, because it's almost as bad as being called a racist. Yet if you look carefully, it's usually quite apparent that the people who devote their time calling people authoritarians and racists believe very much in authority (particularly of themselves and those they support), as well as systems of identity politics which classify people according to their race and reward some races more than others. This is not to say that there aren't right wing authoritarians, because there are. But to call it a right wing phenomenon is about as illogical as calling racism a right wing phenomenon.

    Authority is by no means limited to people elected to office. It often takes the form of people who have apparent authority to speak for others -- especially in organizations. Such people can be more tyrannical than elected officials, because they often gain authority by a willingness to attend endless meetings -- which the people they purport to "lead" do not have time to attend. Thus, individual members of professional organizations can end up discovering that they are being spoken for by people they'd never paid attention to before, and in many cases never heard of. If you're a pediatrician who also belongs to the NRA, you might be shocked to discover that your professional organization favors disarming gun-owning citizens who made the mistake of having children.

    I'm a dues-paying member of the California Bar Association, and I am sure I would be at least as shocked to discover what is being advocated in "my" name as a growing group of California veterinarians recently were when they discovered that "their" organization supported California's draconian AB 1634 (the mandatory spay neuter bill, which I have discussed in more posts than I can readily count).

    From their recent letter in opposition to the bill:

    ....We also object to the involvement of our state veterinary association, WITHOUT the input of members.

    We oppose Bill AB1634 because:

    1. We object to government intervention on this issue
    2. We were not consulted nor informed about this bill during its development
    3. The bill is poorly designed, cannot successfully be enforced and would be extremely costly to attempt to enforce
    4. The bill does not address the true source of pet overpopulation
    5. The bill penalizes responsible citizens
    6. The bill has a significant negative impact of the California economy
    Our concerns regarding AB1634, pending before the State Assembly, include but are not limited to:

    1. Veterinarian recommendation: We strongly believe that owners should be allowed to choose, with their veterinarian's guidance, whether their dog or cat should neutered and the appropriate age to do the procedure. This decision should not be mandated by state legislation. [...]

    In this instance, the authoritarians are (IMO) a very few veterinarian activists who claim to speak for a group of people who simply practice veterinary medicine, but who never imagined that by doing so, they were giving up any right to think for themselves -- which includes the right to support or oppose legislation.

    Yet this law, if passed, would go further, and by intruding on their right to practice veterinary medicine as they see fit, it would intrude on their individual consciences, and individual sense of ethics.

    I think it's tyrannical, and I'm glad I'm not a California veterinarian, or I might lose my license by encouraging or advocating illegal conduct.

    Fortunately, there's no such organizational tyranny or ethical codes in the blogosphere, although some self-appointed wannabe authoritarian types have tried to create it. (My reactions are here and here, and I especially liked Jeff Jarvis's reaction.) There is, however, no system of real, enforceable authority. No way to tell anyone what to think. No command and control center based on the usual emotional communitarian drivel.

    No matter how many meetings such people might attend.

    posted by Eric at 09:32 AM | Comments (4)

    It's Mayor Nutter

    I've been watching as the results in the Philadelphia Mayor's race trickle in and while Michael Nutter and Tom Knox were initially even, an early trend began to favor Nutter, and it escalated from there.

    Based on the results, at this point, I think it's fair to call the race for Michael Nutter :

    Michael Nutter (D) 57,151 35%
    Tom Knox (D) 45,487 28%
    Robert Brady (D) 29,115 18%
    Chaka Fattah (D) 23,094 14%
    Dwight Evans (D) 8,501 5%
    And the same website, five minutes later:
    Michael Nutter (D) 61,906 35%
    Tom Knox (D) 48,916 28%
    Robert Brady (D) 31,250 18%
    Chaka Fattah (D) 24,431 14%
    Dwight Evans (D) 9,404 5%
    As I explained in an earlier post, the Inquirer was the kingmaker, as Tom Knox had been ahead before their endorsement, and Nutter surged ahead soon after. (They can do that.)

    Despite my concerns about him, I'll say this for Nutter; he'll be a better mayor than Mayor Street.

    Nutter will have to face a Republican in the general election, but in a hugely Democratic city, that will be little more than a formality.

    UPDATE: At 9:55 p.m., with 70% of the vote in, the trend is now statistically irreversible:

    Michael Nutter (D) 70,802 36%
    Tom Knox (D) 56,650 28%
    Robert Brady (D) 35,778 18%
    Chaka Fattah (D) 26,905 13%
    Dwight Evans (D) 11,016 5%

    MORE (10:30 p.m.): With 85% of the vote in, the percentages remain about the same:

    Michael Nutter (D) 87,046 36%
    Tom Knox (D) 64,588 26%
    Robert Brady (D) 40,520 17%
    Chaka Fattah (D) 34,642 14%
    Dwight Evans (D) 17,918 7%
    Philadelphia has over 1 million registered voters.

    Unless my math or my reasoning is wrong, what this means is that the votes of approximately ten percent of the city's registered voters have just elected the city's mayor.

    That's leverage.

    (And it's democracy.)

    MORE: With 90% in, the results are unchanged, but Chaka Fattah is gaining on Brady:

    Michael Nutter (D) 94,561 35%
    Tom Knox (D) 66,835 26%
    Robert Brady (D) 41,768 16%
    Chaka Fattah (D) 38,096 15%
    Dwight Evans (D) 20,401 8%
    Interesting. I originally predicted that Fattah would come in third, and I was suprised by Brady's strong showing. It now seems that Fattah's supporters are being heard from.

    AND MORE: I know I'm liveblogging a dead election (which is probably worse than Dead-blogging the Oscars), but I'm just fascinated by the way Chaka Fattah continues to move ahead. With 94% of the vote in, he's a hair away from stealing third place from Brady!

    Michael Nutter (D) 101,502 37%
    Tom Knox (D) 69,078 25%
    Robert Brady (D) 42,689 15%
    Chaka Fattah (D) 41,738 15%
    Dwight Evans (D) 21,832 8%
    Yeah, I know I should have watched the Giuliani versus Ron Paul smashemup, but as the saying goes, all politics is local.

    LAST UPDATE FOR TONIGHT (11:23 p.m.): With 96% in, KYW has put a red checkmark next to Nutter and seems to have shut down the election feeds, but if the trend continues, I'd say Fattah may take third place by a squeaker before the night's out!

    Michael Nutter (D) 103,885 37%
    Tom Knox (D) 69,862 25%
    Robert Brady (D) 43,050 15%
    Chaka Fattah (D) 42,916 15%
    Dwight Evans (D) 22,212 8%
    I think that's enough nonsense for one evening.

    posted by Eric at 09:40 PM | Comments (2)

    I Like The Cigar

    Fred Thompson is growing on me. Any politician fearless enough to show up for a video chomping a cigar is ceratinly worth a second look.

    posted by Simon at 09:04 PM | Comments (3)

    Burn Or Starve

    It looks like the biofuels guys have plans for our future. Biofuels are supposed to be he great panacea for the burning problem of the day - man made global warming. Hey not so fast. It turns out biofuels could cause food shortages.

    Climate Feedback tells us of the new threat.

    Warnings that switching to biofuels as a 'clean' energy source could threaten food security and increase deforestation have become increasingly stark this week.

    A UN report, released last Monday concluded that, despite offering considerable benefits such as clean energy for millions and the creation of wealth and jobs in poorer countries, biofuel production also has the ability to cause real destruction.

    The report warned that increasing production of liquid biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, could increase the price of agricultural commodities with negative economic and social impacts, especially for the world's poor who spend a large proportion of income on food. It also raised the issue that, where forests are cleared to make way for energy crops, GHG emissions may actually be higher overall from biofuels than from fossil fuels.

    Uh oh. Biofuels could make things worse. You mean the answers to our problems may provide more problems than answers?

    Some one is going to have to answer for this.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:58 PM | Comments (5)

    The IPCC Mandate

    What is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) statement of purpose? Is the organization supposed to find the cause of global climate change and report on what can be done? Why no.

    The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
    Hmmm. They already have their minds made up. Only human induced climate change is of interest to them.

    So how do they go about their job? Do they do science? Why no.

    The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature.
    OK so they pick the papers that go into their various reports. And the reports are mainly backed by peer reviewed science. Mainly. I wonder what is the minor component. Doesn't say. Voodoo? Phase of the moon? Politics? I have my suspicions.

    Richard Lindzen has his suspicions as well.

    So how is it that we don't have more scientists speaking up about this junk science? It's my belief that many scientists have been cowed not merely by money but by fear. An example: Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton issued letters to paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and some of his co-authors seeking the details behind a taxpayer-funded analysis that claimed the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the last millennium. Mr. Barton's concern was based on the fact that the IPCC had singled out Mr. Mann's work as a means to encourage policy makers to take action. And they did so before his work could be replicated and tested--a task made difficult because Mr. Mann, a key IPCC author, had refused to release the details for analysis. The scientific community's defense of Mr. Mann was, nonetheless, immediate and harsh. The president of the National Academy of Sciences--as well as the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union--formally protested, saying that Rep. Barton's singling out of a scientist's work smacked of intimidation.

    All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists--a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.

    Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.

    And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming--not whether it would actually happen.

    Well, well, well. If you set out to look for man made climate change it seems as if you will find it.

    Which brings up another ancient rule. The golden rule. He who has the gold makes the rules.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:06 PM | Comments (2)

    Be an obnoxious bureaucrat! (Or just sound like one....)

    Via Pajamas Media, I just learned about a wonderful new product called "Thriving Office" which offers something for everybody:

    Thriving Office is a recording of office noises.

    The sales pitch says it all:

    Small businesses know they must seem successful to become successful. So they play Thriving Office while they're on the phone. This valuable CD is filled with the sounds people expect to hear from an established company, providing instant credibility
    CEO Bill Freund tells me that the reach is broader again. Some buyers have purchased the CD to play when they are off the phone as a means to increase their productivity. A number of larger companies have also begun using the CD to supplement office sounds; the noise from Thriving Office being more effective than natural noise in the workplace in painting a picture of office life to customers.
    Other possibilities come to mind.

    "Yes dear, I'll be working quite late tonight. That awful Mr. Finster is making everyone stay here until the report is in final form, and I'm sure we'll all be working overtime till midnight!"


    "First of all, let me stress that there is no reason to panic in a situation like yours. We just need to ask a few standard questions. So please, don't worry!"

    Put the CD (or the sound file) in your laptop and play it from anywhere -- even inside a payphone or bathroom, or in the corner of a crowded bar. For the more tech-minded, I'm sure it wouldn't very hard to get it stream into your telephone as background noise.

    Or you could just drive people crazy by playing the CD and not saying anything about where you are. If people ask, you could tell the truth but in a nervous and rapid manner "No, I'm at home!" or "Office? No I'm in my hotel room!"

    Tell the truth, but in such a way that they'll be convinced you have much to hide.

    I'm sure con artists and psychopaths can think of other uses, but this is a very handy device for playing on people's assumptions.

    posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

    Be worried! Be very worried! (Or else!)

    Glenn Reynolds linked a New York Times piece which tells me that scientists have now stopped worrying about something I had never bothered to worry about:

    Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination.
    There's a lot more, of course, but the fear of an imminent Atlantic conveyor belt breakdown (which I do remember) seems (so they now say in the NYT) to have been wrong:
    "The concern had previously been that we were close to a threshold where the Atlantic circulation system would stop," said Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We now believe we are much farther from that threshold, thanks to improved modeling and ocean measurements. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current are more stable than previously thought."
    One of the things which most bothers me about politics is that there are a lot of self appointed thought police running around, who make it their job to prevent people from simply being allowed to think what they think. If you show even a hint of independent thinking (to give just one example, suppose you support gay rights and gun rights at the same time), activists who believe in laundry-list political alignments will come down on you, and alternately attempt to either tar you as a liberal or a conservative, or admonish you for not living up to their view of what it means to be one thing or another.

    Why can't I just be allowed to think what I think? has been one of my pet peeves over the years, and it was -- and remains -- a primary reason for blogging.

    The debate over anthropogenic global warming adds a new twist to this, because it ratchets this phenomenon up by supplying the self appointed thought police with what they regard as new turf. Their jurisdiction extends well beyond mere opinions about anthropogenic global warming, and into the delicate area of whether one is sufficiently worried!

    Thus, it's not enough to acknowledge that the planet might be warming, or even that there is anthropogenic global warming. While it's true that denial of anthropogenic global warming remains a consummate sin (which has been likened to Holocaust Denial), insufficient worry is seen as deliberate complacency -- a more insidious evil.

    If you think about it, to a true believer (and self appointed scold), the attitude of "Yeah, so the planet is warming! I just wanna live my life and be left alone!" can be seen as worse than denial. That's because it's tantamount to outright advocacy of an immoral lifestyle. If we compare the dynamics of this newly manufactured morality system with the dynamics of the old one, it's like the people who acknowledged that, yes, Bill Clinton behaved in an immoral manner with Monica Lewinsky, but they really didn't care.

    To not care in the face of immorality is wicked! Wicked! And the wicked will burn in the lower circles of hell! (Well, in this case, not with Bill Clinton, but with Inhofe, Cheney and Bush.)

    To the enforcers of worry, the details of what we should worry can be changed to fit the dominant worry theme. In this case, anthropogenic global warming is the greater worry, and if the breakdown in the conveyor belt doesn't cause the predicted cooling in the manner predicted, well, no problem! The predictions can be revised at any time, and new facts can be made to fit. The main thing is that the morality based worry is still there.

    Leading Rapturist Hal Lindsey is a good example in the religious field. His predictions of how the Rapture will happen are revised as current events change, but the bottom line is that the people who want to worry must be kept supplied with fuel for their worries:

    Via Pajamas Media, Dean Esmay explores a related version of the scam involving religious huckster Hal Lindsey, who's been rewriting and re-spinning his Apocalyptic interpretations almost too many times to count. As Dean says, the man has no shame. But since when did shame have anything to do with offering people the emotional satisfaction that they crave? I think it takes great talent to get people to keep coming back and lining up for more even after your original hoax has been discredited. Having shame would only get in the way.

    Lindsey reminds me of the people who claim that they are going to get socialism right this time. Interestingly enough, both groups share a common need to elevate emotional satisfaction above reason. Whether the leaders truly believe what they say or are shameless demagogues is tough to pin down in every case. The bottom line is that if enough people want something, someone will offer it.

    Forgive my cynicism, but just as I don't want to worry about getting the Rapture right this time, or getting socialism right this time, so I don't want to worry about getting anthropogenic global warming theory right this time. I'm more worried about the people who want me to worry than I am about their latest revised theories.

    However, people who refuse to worry and who manifest that lack of worry by persisting in patterns seen as violative of the new morality may be in for a rude awakening. Even driving down the street can be seen as a crime against the environment deserving of punishment -- as happened in Berkeley a few days ago to an elderly man. Here's the video report (link here):

    (HT Justin.)

    Remarkably, even the activists' own video shows them shoving the bikes under the van.

    Not that attacking immoral vehicles is anything new. In San Francisco last month, small children were given a similar lesson in "conspicuous virtue".

    I'll say this for the Rapturists. They might be into conspicuous virtue, but so far it doesn't seem to extend to attacks on people for driving down the street.

    posted by Eric at 10:35 AM | Comments (12)

    Fire and brimstone at Vanity Fair!

    Anthropogenic global warming meet religious camp!

    I just received an amazing email from a friend who demonstrates that Vanity Fair magazine is busily promoting global warming with a religious theme.

    I thought I'd quote directly from the email (which amused me to no end), along with the pictures, in the order my friend commented on them.

    Re: Vanity Fair Green For a Day issue

    First, here's Leonardo:


    Isn't he macho? Check out his jeans pulled down around his hip-hop ass.

    Then, here's Rush:


    Talk about demonization!

    (Parenthetically, I interrupt this email to point out that the Rush demonization piece is written by James Wolcott, who's probably not content just to "root for hurricanes" on his blog....)

    The above is just a tease. The rest of the email continues below.

    Continue reading "Fire and brimstone at Vanity Fair!"

    posted by Eric at 06:06 PM | Comments (15)

    UPDATE on a horrendous crime -- but details are still unverified

    Last month I wrote three posts about the brutal double rape and murder in Tennessee. The crime was about as horrible a crime I've read about, except that there was no way to verify the most gruesome (and widely repeated) details of the case -- said to involve pre mortem sexual mutilation.

    Naturally, when I saw (via Glenn Reynolds) that the Anchoress linked a recent post by Rob at Flopping Aces, I read the latter carefully. Sure enough, it's the same as the accounts I saw last month, except no links at all are provided:

    While Channon was forced to watch, her boyfriend was raped prison style and then his penis was cut off. He was later driven to nearby railroad tracks where he was shot and set afire. But Channon's hell was just beginning. She was beaten; gang raped repeatedly in many ways, had one of her breasts cut off and bleach poured down her throat to destroy DNA evidence--all while she was still alive.
    There's nothing I hate more than repeating myself, but I've looked again, and I am still unable to verify any of the details involving pre-mortem sexual mutilation, so I'll just repeat what I said in my previous post:
    I have not seen a link to any medical examiner's or coroner's report anywhere which would indicate pre-mortem sexual mutilation.


    What's really eating at me is how all of this might affect the legal aspects of the case. I was trained as a lawyer, and I do believe in the concept of justice, and it is important that all suspects receive a fair and impartial trial -- no matter how horrifying the facts or circumstances of the case. From a prosecutorial perspective, (unless, of course, you're Mike Nifong and running for office) massive pretrial publicity is not good thing, because it makes it harder to find an objective and unbiased jury, and tends to turn the trial into a circus. Like it or not, there's simply no way to avoid the growing public interest in this case, which is why I think it is important to get the story straight. If massive publicity is based on allegations which later turn out to have been unsubstantiated, I think that might help the defendants avoid the death penalty, because the lawyers could then portray their clients as victims of a lynch mob. Activist defense lawyers like the late William Kunstler would have a field day painting poor black defendants as victims of massive, Internet-fueled hysteria, and false allegations promulgated by "right wing hate sites." And of course there are "right wing" hate sites which are all over this case. (Just Google "Channon Christian vnn" or "Channon Christian" "David Duke" for a sampling.)

    So, while I still have no idea whether Ms. Williams report will be substantiated, my worry is that floating around unsubstantiated allegations might interfere with the administration of justice. If this phenomenon worked to the advantage of the defendants (they are, after all, presumed innocent), whose cause would be served?

    The facts and evidence will all come out sooner or later, but right now, a lot of people are making up their minds based on facts they don't know, and evidence which cannot be found anywhere.

    This is my third post on this matter. Normally, I would not spend hours researching a criminal case in another city, but it just plain bothers the hell out of me to see so many people asserting what isn't yet knowable, and then screaming that the media are ignoring it. I'd like to see this case get the media attention it deserves, but I'd hate to see it get that attention in the wrong way. ("Internet hate sites whip up hysteria with false charges" or something.)

    A gruesome and horrible double murder like this will naturally tend to generate hysteria, and while it's bad enough to see hysteria precede actual evidence, here there's Internet hysteria based on the assumption of evidence which just isn't there. Too many people are behaving as if the facts don't matter.

    I think they do.

    I still think the facts matter, and I'm still not finding them.

    UPDATE: La Shawn Barber has more on the case, and she also notes that the pre-mortem sexual mutilation aspects are unconfirmed. The most important aspect of this horrible case is that it is being ignored by the media:

    What's up with the lack of blanket media coverage? I'm not talking about a story here or there with case updates. The media should be swarming around this story. What happened to Christian and Newsom should be all over the airwaves and printing presses.

    What's up with the stunning silence of feminist types and hate-crime proponents? Forget Newsom. He was a white male. But what about Christian? Where are the pot-bangers and wanna-be castrators?

    Have so-called black leaders said anything about what those thugs did? They have so much to say about everything else.

    I've seen no evidence that the couple was singled out because of their race, but considering the horrendous nature of the case, whether there was racial hate would seem almost irrelevant.

    In any case, the case is outrageous enough without screaming about unverified facts. (If they turn out to be wrong, it is not going to help the prosecution's case.)

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds,

    My earlier comment on the case has had me excoriated by some white-supremacist sites for covering up a hate crime.

    Well, to be a hate crime, the motivation has to be hate. I haven't seen any evidence of that so far. It's certainly true, of course -- as LaShawn notes -- that if the races were reversed the press would be all over this case and lots of people would be confidently pronouncing it a hate crime without any evidence other than the races of the perpretrators and victims, but since it's black-on-white crime they're making less noise. That's the press.

    The press is naturally recalcitrant about reporting this case, for reasons involving political correctness. If it turns out that the gruesome pre-mortem mutilation never occurred, the press will have a field day congratulating themselves for downplaying the story. Which is why the people who are making demands of the press should stick to the facts that are known so far.

    UPDATE: A disturbing and unverified report that people are celebrating the murders:

    Jacque Patrick Fitzgerald (Knoxville) - St. Nicolas Thief, president and founder of Black Poverty Speaks, along with many local Knoxville blacks who live in the Washington Pike area has organized a social action protest celebration championing Lemaricus Davidson and Letalvis Cobbins.

    Davidson and Cobbins are the brothers and two of the five suspects charged in the carjacking, kidnapping, rape and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

    "We're coordinating the celebration to to jive with the march angry whites are planning in memory of the victims and because of the 'media black-out' they note the case is receiving from national news networks," Thief, who is currently stationed in Knoxville, said.

    Someone obviously wrote this, but is it for real? I find nothing to confirm the existence of any "Nicolas Thief" or any organization named "Black Poverty Speaks," so I doubt it.

    many local Knoxville blacks?

    No way.

    MORE (05/15/07): The "Nicolas Thief" story circulates widely, but it's as unverified as the pre-mortem sexual mutilation claims.

    Is verification going out of style?

    AND MORE (05/15/07): Michelle Malkin has a video report which focuses on the lack of media attention paid to this case, and she notes that the sexual mutilation is unconfirmed. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    (And I am still unable to confirm it.)

    Matthew Sheffield says,

    I don't think that local crime issues should ever be covered in the national press but if the media are going to cover them, they need to be consistent.
    Which in this case they most definitely are not!

    (FWIW, I'm beginning to think they're hoping the case gets drowned in a sea of misinformation and unconfirmed reports. That way, they can say they were "doing the right thing" by not reporting it.)

    UPDATE (05/18/07): My thanks to Clayton Cramer for the link.

    New post here.

    posted by Eric at 03:15 PM | Comments (3)

    No Freepers for Giuliani?

    Last night I read an interesting colloquy between Glenn Reynolds and a reader (prompted by a discussion of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynasty politics):

    Reader Ben Borwick emails: "Almost all polls show Hillary losing to Giuliani so why perpetuate this hype?" But will the Republicans be smart enough to run Rudy?
    This depends on who and what "the Republicans" are. (And what is smart.)

    Frankly, I don't know, and I can only speak for myself. I admit to being a registered Republican voter, a self described small-l libertarian, a RINO, and a Goldwater liberal. I don't expect my views to carry much weight within the GOP, much less carry the day when it comes time to selecting a candidate. For years -- literally in post after post) -- I have worried that Hillary Clinton will be elected president in large part as a result of Republican collusion, especially because her election is in the interest of certain elements of the GOP's right wing.

    As I keep saying, if enough people want something to happen, it will happen.

    I'm not much of a Freeper type (I don't comment there and I suspect they'd ban me if I did), but the GOP is a big tent, and the Freepers have always struck me as a tent within a tent. There has always been a great deal of debating going on at, and while I don't enjoy debates or reading through endless comments, the Freepers can usually be counted upon to display a variety of views, and they take issue with each other, with commenters from one ideological camp often being countered by those from another.

    Maybe I'm not as in touch with Freerepublic as I should be, but I have to admit I was a bit surprised to read reports of massive purges going on, with the proprietor Jim Robinson banning pro-Giuliani commenters.

    This has now reached the attention of GOPUSA, in the form of a thread titled "Free Republic : site for one issue extremists only":

    Jim Robinson has been going on a tear demonizing Rudy Giuliani, because Rudy (agreeing with the vast majority of Americans), is personally opposed to abortions on a moral level, but does not think that decent people who disagree and have or provide an abortion, should be criminals and sent to prison.

    Anyone who posts any support for Giuliani at the site, if it's at all forceful, will be banned.

    There's a long essay on the subject by a disgruntled longtime Freeper (and non-Giuliani supporter) Steve Gilbert, and he touches on the collusion aspect:
    A conspiracy theorist might even suggest that Free Republic would be far more likely to regain a lot of its former glory and profitability under a Clinton administration than under a Republican administration. And that this could be a motivation in attacking the GOP front-runner and talking about starting a third party -- or just encouraging people to sit the election out in protest.

    In any case, I was merely trying to remind people on the current blood-letting thread about Mr. Robinson's previous turnabouts when I was banned. With the turnover at Free Republic, there are fewer and fewer people who remember its roller-coaster history. And fewer still who are willing to face banishment by bringing it up.

    I'm not sure that it rises to the level of conspiracy theorizing to wonder whether a particular result (here the election of Hillary Clinton) might be in the interest of a particular web site owner.

    Jim Robinson is certainly no friend of Hillary Clinton, and not only will he never support her, I am sure that if she is elected president he will do everything humanly possible to fight her, play as large a role in the VRWC as possible, and probably work towards her impeachment if that ever became an issue. (Yeah, the site's already taken.) It would therefore be ridiculous to argue that Jim Robinson or is working consciously for Hillary. Unconscious motivations are another matter, and because they are ultimately unknowable, ascribing them to anyone is simply an exercise in speculation.

    But self interest is an entirely different matter, and I don't think it constitutes conspiracy thinking to ask a question along the following lines:

    Assume that either Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani will be elected president in 2008. Under which administration would Freerepublic become more popular in terms of hits, links, and web traffic -- Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani?

    As to Jim Robinson's arguments against Rudy Giuliani, he has written many. His basic worry seems to be that voting for Giuliani compromises an embrace of socialism, and a betrayal of founding principles as well as GOP principles. In a typical post titled "Will FR embrace socialism to make way for Rudy Giuliani as a Republican presidential candidate?," Robinson makes it clear that the founders "never intended" a lot of things. True. I'm sure they never intended Giuliani. Or Hillary. (Or, for that matter Ronald Reagan, Al Gore, the automobile, the cell phone, or the Internet.) They intended the Constitution as the best way to restrain government, but even that allows people to amend it -- in direct contravention of whatever they intended!

    Robinson has also created a special category called "The Giuliani Truth File" which is a collection of posts attacking Giuliani. "The Giuliani Truth File" is listed apart and separate from the rest of the Free Republic News/Activism categories, as follows:

    SCOTUS | ProLife | Terrorism | WOT | Korea | PreWarDocs | Aliens | BangList | Taxes | Homosexual Agenda | Corruption | Congress | Bush | Elections | Rally | WalterReed | TalkRadio | CitizensReportonIraq (.pdf file) | Gathering of Eagles | Donate to FR

    The Giuliani Truth File - Rudy: In his own words and deeds.


    Not to disparage anyone's editorial style, but shouldn't there maybe be a "Hillary Truth File"?

    Just a thought. It might be a handy thing for those who oppose Hillary to have.

    MORE: What the heck. I thought I'd make a poll:

    Assume Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani will be president in 2008. Under which administration would be more popular?
    Hillary Clinton
    Rudy Giuliani
  free polls

    MORE: OregonGuy's comment that reading "Goldwater liberal" was a "Rorschach moment" reminded me that I should have provided links, because the term "Goldwater liberal" is by no means a new term here.

    The crazy thing about all of this is that while I'm a loathsome liberal to many Freeper types, by Philadelphia standards I'm a member of the far right.

    (I'm increasingly unable to explain what appears to be a growing cognitive disconnect. I may need a Rorschach moment.)

    UPDATE: Freepers for McCain, anyone? Perhaps this should be the subject of a new post, perhaps not. But Glenn Reynolds can't ignore "The McCain Comeback" by Pajamas Media's Bill Bradley, and neither can I:

    On the Republican side, McCain has a much smaller edge than Clinton does on the Democratic side. McCain leads with 19% to Mitt Romney's 15%, Fred Thompson's 13%, Rudy Giuliani's 12%, and Newt Gingrich's 7%. But it's a significant development for McCain, in that Giuliani had been leading in what is now the second-in-the-nation contest.

    Last week's American Research Group poll of California Republican primary voters has McCain with a statistical tie with Giuliani. Giuliani has 27% to McCain's 24%. Everyone else trails by at least double digits.

    If McCain has a strong showing tomorrow night in South Carolina, where the Republican field will hold their second encounter following the May 3rd California debate, his standing as comeback candidate should be obvious to all.

    The name "John McCain" has long been anathema to Freepers. While Giuliani might be the number one anathema right now, Free Republic's own polls show that McCain is actually far more of an anathema -- and has been for far longer, and by a very wide ratio: These are the results of polls taken on Free Republic, a destination that makes even conservatives in the blogosphere blanch. And while a significant chunk say they'd go third party with Rudy (they're Tancredoites, analogous to the Feingold backers on Daily Kos), just look at those McCain numbers. More Freepers would go third party than vote for McCain. Fully a third of Freepers would be willing to back Rudy but not McCain in a general election.

    Wow. Just wow.

    Of course, that poll was before the purge, but still... By any reasonable Freeper standard, McCain is by far the worse of the two anathemas.

    If he's pulling even with Giuliani, I think Freerepublic should be getting to work on "The McCain Truth File" before it's too late.

    FWIW, if Hilllary is the Democratic nominee, despite the fact that none of the GOP candidates are perfect I'd have no problem voting for McCain, Guiliani, or Thompson.

    But there are no purges underway here, so it's easy for me to say.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all! I do appreciate the comments, as well as the participation in this admittedly unscientific poll.

    UPDATE (05/16/07): It's not just the Freepers who feel this way. Influential conservative Richard Viguerie is fit to be tied:

    ( - "If the Republican Party nominates Rudy Giuliani as its candidate for either president or vice president, I will personally work to defeat the GOP ticket in 2008," said conservative leader Richard Viguerie following Tuesday night's debate. "Rudy Giuliani is wrong on all of the social issues, is wrong on the Second Amendment, and is pretty much a blank slate on all other issues of importance to conservatives," Viguerie added. "If the Republican Party nominates him, it is saying to the American people that it has lost all purpose except the raw political desire to hold power. It will be time to put the GOP out of its misery." Viguerie is urging conservatives to withhold support for all of the Republican presidential candidates: "The leading candidates aren't worthy of conservative support, and the few who are truly conservative don't have a realistic chance of getting the nomination," he said.
    But could they win?

    posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (22)

    A double standard both sides can agree on?

    In an editorial titled "No special rights for Muslim students," the Examiner questions why George Mason University and other schools are providing religious accommodations for Muslim students which are not being provided Christian or Jewish groups. As Mark Tapscott pointed out in the email,

    GMU's decision is especially puzzling because the school has a bit of a conservative reputation since, for example, former Attorney General Ed Meese is on its board.
    I might be wrong, but I think that there might be a bit of an unholy alliance of collusion between religious conservatives and ACLU types on this one. Once Muslim activists are allowed religious uses heretofore not allowed Christians, the latter can avail themselves of an Equal Protection claim, knowing that in the long run, "special religious rights" for Muslims will be unlikely to survive court scrutiny.

    For now, of course, there is a glaring double standard, as the Examiner notes:

    ....Church and state remain firmly separated on campuses where the majority of students are Christian, Jewish or of no faith, but administrators toss the principle right out the window to satisfy a minority of Muslim students. Many college officials are granting prerogatives to Muslim students in the United States and Canada that are not permitted to other groups. For instance, the Ontario Human Rights Commission regards failure to make special accommodations for Muslim students, including inserting "Islamic perspectives" into secular curriculums like nursing and finance, as a form of "Islamophobia." Expect similar political correct demands soon on American campuses.

    This Orwellian, some-religions-are-more-equal-than-others approach is both hypocritical and discriminatory. The Constitution, to say nothing of basic fairness, demands that the same rules regarding the public expression of religious faith be applied equally to everybody. And for once wouldn't it be refreshing to see a college president show some real backbone when faced with unreasonable demands from activist minority students seeking exclusive privileges?

    I doubt that anyone will show any backbone. Administrators will continue to deny accommodations to Christian groups while granting them to Muslims, until the courts step in. Meanwhile, the ACLU -- and Christian and Jewish religious conservatives -- have nothing to lose by letting it happen.

    That there are very different goals (advancing identity politics on the one hand, and advancing taxpayer assisted "religion in the public square" on the other) is largely irrelevant now.

    Long term, I think religious conservatives will be utilizing identity politics to their own ends, and the left will probably go along with it.

    Hey why not?

    The deliberate fragmentation of society might become mutually acceptable to both sides.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds thinks the reason for the double standard is fear (if schools are providing religious accommodations for Muslim students out of fear that they'll be blown up if they don't).

    Sooner or later, you know, fundamentalist Christians are going to pick up on this lesson, engage in similar behavior, and make similar demands. Because, apparently, it works fine.
    I guess that would also result in equal fragmentation for both sides.

    posted by Eric at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

    Kyoto Destroying European Economy

    Here is some incidental music to keep you entertained while you read the following:

    The Kyoto Protocols are playing havoc with the European economy.

    Carbon trading is the EU's principal strategy for meeting its Kyoto target of reducing CO2 emissions by 8% by 2012. The scheme was launched two years ago in the hope that it would achieve what more than 10 years of political commandeering had failed: significant reductions in CO2 emissions. Instead, year after year, most EU countries continue to increase their greenhouse-gas emissions. Rather than proving its effectiveness, the trading system has pushed electricity prices even higher while energy-intensive companies are forced to close down, cut jobs, or pass on the costs to consumers.

    As the reality of economic pain is felt all over Europe, deep cracks in its green foundations are beginning to become apparent. Gunter Verheugen, the EU's industry commissioner, has warned that by "going it alone" Europe is burdening its industries and consumers with soaring costs that are undermining Europe's international competitiveness. Instead of improving environmental conditions, Europe's policy threatens to redirect energy-intensive production to parts of the world that reject mandatory carbon cuts.

    Verheugen's warning reaffirms what U.S. administrations have been saying for many years. It is aimed at the rapidly evolving challenges posed by Asian competitors such as China and India that are set to overtake Europe's sluggish economy within the next couple of decades. Indeed, Europe's imprudent unilateralism is not only constraining its trade and industry; worse still, it has led to a significant slowdown in European R&D budgets, a sliding trend that is hampering the development of low-carbon technologies.

    Jeeze the Americans were right? What a calamity.
    As far as the imminent future is concerned, one thing is patently clear: After years of inflated promises that the Kyoto process would not upset their economy, European governments are beginning to realize that the era of cost-free climate hype is coming to an end. In its place, concern is growing that key industries and entire countries will pay a devastating price for Europe's reckless Kyoto craze.

    The stakes are particularly high for Germany. Despite its customary role as environmental cheerleader, it has been hit hardest. Brussels bureaucrats have slashed more than 30 million tonnes from its annual carbon permit. It faces up to ?3.5-billion in fines if it cannot bring down emissions by 2008.

    Germany is extremely vulnerable to imposed energy caps. It is strongly opposed to plans for replacing its coal-fired power plants with gas-fired facilities, as such a move would only increase its already precarious dependency on Russian gas imports. Furthermore, successive governments have agreed to shut down all nuclear power plants, which account for a third of Germany's electricity generation. The Greens' anti-nuclear achievement has thus turned ideological triumph into an energy nightmare.

    To make matters worse, Germany's industry bosses have warned that they will not proceed with billions in intended energy investments should the government lose the bitter dispute with the European Commission over slashed emission credits. The EU has made clear that it will not yield to German demands, as this would destabilize its fragile trading scheme. However, should German companies be forced to buy carbon credits at higher prices, it will simply remove funds and economic incentives that the government had hoped would be invested in alternative technologies.

    As the price for electricity, goods and services continue to rise and Asian competitors catch up with Europe's lethargic economy, the public is beginning to question Brussel's unilateral climate policy. According to a recent EU poll, more than 60% of Europeans are unwilling to sacrifice their standard of living in the name of green causes. As long as advocates of Kyoto got away with claims that their policies would not inflict any significant costs, many people were tempted to believe in improbable promises. Now that the true cost of Kyoto is starting to hurt European pockets, the erstwhile green consensus is unravelling.

    What do you know? Evidently the Americans were too stupid to fall for this trick. I blame Bush. Or Congress. Or both.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:31 PM | Comments (6)

    Remembering my mother on Mother's Day

    I visited my mother's grave earlier today, and I normally wouldn't have written about it, but Ann Althouse's post (via Glenn Reynolds) reminded me that there's really no harm in sharing these things.

    Anyway, this was the best I could do for my mother on Mother's Day:


    Nearby is a beautiful statue (with arms missing) of an angel opening a coffin.


    Nice image that it is (and comforting though it might be for the grieving) I think such events are best postponed.

    More than anything I wish I could actually visit my mom in real time.

    I also visited a grave of a woman who was like a mother to me, and had similar thoughts about her.

    Not that there's anything wrong with visiting graves and remembering mothers, but if (unlike me) your mother is alive, don't forget her today!

    UPDATE: Commenting below, Darleen Click opined that it's best to "concentrate on the good memories," and I agree. But this prompted me to scan my hard drive, where I found a picture of my mom and me (from 1989, when both of my parents were alive):


    posted by Eric at 05:43 PM | Comments (5)

    Fossilizing on the beach?

    When I take a day off from blogging, it's much harder to return to it. Taking a day off makes me want to take a week off, and taking a week off makes me want to take two weeks off. So it's better for me to never, ever, take a break from blogging. Because of the lurking, accumulated rest deficit, "resting up" is a dire threat to blogging. Rest equals atrophy, and atrophy leads to fossilization.

    The truth is that taking any sort of rest activates latent feelings of blogger burnout syndrome which want to break free and take over. The only way I have of preventing blog burnout from developing is to switch into robot writing mode. Doing this means forgetting completely about that impulse to write creatively or think imaginatively, and instead approach writing the way I would approach the unpleasant task of performing 120 pushups. Just do it, and fossilization is avoided.

    cocolimulus.jpg I might have been avoiding blogging yesterday, but on the beach Coco and I were unable to avoid stranded, often mussel-encrusted horseshoe crabs, which were washed up all over the place. Coco is looking perplexed, because the one in front of her moved. The horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) isn't really a crab, but a much older arthropod, related more closely to the trilobite, and often described as a "living fossil."

    The horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, is more closely related to chelicerates such as spiders, scorpions, ticks and mites than it is to true crabs and other crustaceans. Horseshoe crabs are considered to be "living fossils" that have evolved little in the past 250 million years. Limulus is an ancient genus which has probably existed since the Silurian period (440 to 410 million years ago), and shows little morphological change from the now extinct genus Paleolimulus that lived about 200 million years ago. Limulus polyphemus is believed to be the closest living relative of trilobites (Shuster 1982).
    Why they get stranded on beaches is not entirely clear. (I've seen them washed up regularly for years, although I'm sure that children today are taught that it's man's fault.) Right now it's spawning season, and it has been hypothesized that telson (tail) abnormalities may contribute to the problem:
    Massive beach strandings of adults accompany seasonal spawning migrations of crabs along Cape May in Delaware Bay, (USA). At least 190000 horseshoe crabs, approximating 10% of the adult population, died from beach stranding along the New Jersey shore of Delaware Bay during the 1986 (May to June) spawning season. Abnormalities of the telson (which is used in righting behavior) were significantly more common among stranded crabs than among individuals actively spawning on the intertidal beach.
    limulus1.jpgI took a picture of the one at left as it was being washed up, and while my suspicion was that the large number of mussels might have had something to do with its lack of coordination, I read that such freeloaders are completely normal. Anyway, it seemed unable to right itself, and uninterested in escaping. I put it back into the water, but that seemed like a waste of time. Some of these creatures are just doomed, like the dozens I saw dried up and dead.

    But Coco wasn't there to learn about living fossils; her purpose was to force me to play.


    Which I did.


    The frisbee is made of rubber, and Coco can't resist shaking it. This deceptive photo freezes in time something which normally takes place too fast for me to notice:


    Finally it was time to go, but on the way back I paused for a brief existential crisis.


    In logic, I have to concede that the above would have to be called tree hugging behavior.

    But can't it also be seen as clinging to voodoo in the hope of avoiding fossilization?

    (Fortunately, Coco dragged me away from what would have been a futile paradox.)

    posted by Eric at 12:47 PM | Comments (3)

    Chompsky Chewed, Jihadis Booed

    Here is an interesting piece at the Huffington Post by my friend Ali Eteraz explaining that Chompsky is not expressing sufficient dissent and then going through a catalog of Muslim ills.

    I just read that in Kurdistan a Yezidi girl was stoned to death with bricks to her head because she loved a Sunni boy; meanwhile security forces watched and people made videos on cell phones. I just read that Egyptian hardliners hold parties where the works of jurists like Abu el Fadl - who writes about the Search for Beauty in Islam - are burnt. I just read that the Taliban "Book of Rules" contains exhortations to kill school-teachers, which is usually accomplished by disemboweling. I just talked to a police officer from a Muslim country who recalled to me instances of boys raped upon stacks of Qurans by heads of religious institutions. I spoke with small business owners in a Muslim country who are regularly extorted by their religious leaders. I just read that Hezbollah is now operating in South America (quite distant from Lebanon, no?), recruiting and drug-running like common thugs, and we have known this since 2002. I just read of "ninjabis" in Pakistan - veiled women who with sticks and rage beat brothel owners, music store owners and video store clerks. I just read of Iranian police officers who kick and beat women for daring to wear earrings. I just read that in some places (Saudi Arabia) women are being beaten so they will wear the veil; in other places women are being beaten (Mogadishu) so they will not wear the veil. I just read that in the world there are over 5,000 (reported) honor killings every year including in places as forward and progressive as Turkey, Italy and England, and in most places courts routinely fail to prosecute offenders. I just read of a German judge affirming that Muslim men are supposed to beat their wives (alternate view here). I just read of a British school where the Jewish Holocaust is no longer discussed because it hurts the feelings of the Muslim students.
    Usually Ali is very sensitive to criticism of Islam see his comment on Giving Up Religious Supremacism which would lead you to a post at his blog. And yet he has a parade of Islam's dirty laundry (there is more I left out) worthy of Little Green Footballs. You know it is possible he finally gets it. Praise the Maker.

    H/T Pastorious at Astute Bloggers.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

    Real acting? Or just pretend acting?

    Long drive today. Blogging will be light.

    I'm wondering though....

    There's an "actress" named Marguerite Perrin, who starred in a reality show. (Yeah, she has a Wiki entry, and a web page.)

    I stumbled onto her on YouTube last night, and my reaction was that she had to be insane, that I should feel sorry for her (and especially her kids).

    Here's the YouTube video:

    The more I thought about it, the more I realized that she really is acting, because she is being watched by an audience (on national television at that), and she knows it.

    But what is acting?

    Any ideas?

    My take on this is that she had me fooled.

    And if she had me fooled, then she's a great actress, right?

    Or was I a fool to imagine that I was fooled?

    This is very confusing. Maybe I can sort it out on the road.

    posted by Eric at 08:43 AM | Comments (2)

    Can't stop the popping

    Yesterday's post about Philadelphia mayoral candidate Michael Nutter left me with the feeling that articulating libertarian views in a large urban area is largely an effort in futility, because ideas like the constitutional right to bear arms are considered fringe. (For that matter, so is the idea that you have a right to live with a dog of your choice...)

    Anyway, it all struck me as a bit of a time waster (a cognitive disconnect almost on the level of arguing for same sex marriage with people who favor sodomy laws), but this morning's Inquirer at least reminded me that at least one of Michael Nutter's ideas is actually being debated, and that is his "stop and frisk" proposal (purportedly targeting citizens who might be carrying illegal guns):

    One expert says such policies may well help get guns off the street - but carry a potential risk of civil-rights violations.

    "The empirical evidence from New York City is that stop-and-frisk as a policy for getting guns off the street helped. I think that's fair to say. The fact is that more surveillance in society tends to be effective," said University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt.

    "The only question is, where do you want to set the level of surveillance? It's a cost-benefit analysis," he said. Cities need to weigh the potential benefits against "liberty interests and the inevitable racial disparities and increased complaints of police misconduct" that have followed such programs, he said.

    Nutter, for his part, is unswayed.

    "We will protect people's civil rights, but no one has a right to carry an illegal weapon," he said in a recent debate. "People are desperately crying out for something to be done now. People have a right to be safe and not to be shot."

    He did not respond to phone calls seeking comment for this story.

    There's more, of course, and while Nutter might not have responded to phone calls, this morning I found him most responsive.

    I kid you not! When I went to the Inquirer web site to get the link to the article, guess who popped up in front of me, in animated form? Why, Michael Nutter himself -- in virtual form of course, with a little speech! I couldn't make the image go away, and it was almost, um, personal! As if I was having the debate right there on the Inky's web site.

    Here's what it (I guess I mean he) looked like:


    I don't know quite what I think about stop and frisk (especially how far it should go), but the frisky popup was intriguing.

    Why can't virtual libertarians pop up like that?

    Actually, I was delighted by the fact that the article quoted Bernard Harcourt (a guest blogger at Volokh, home page here), and it's worth noting that Professor Harcourt raised another troubling issue:

    Harcourt, the law professor, said the toughest issues surface when "hot-spot" policing brings a flood of officers into a predominantly black neighborhood.

    "How do you deal with the racial profiling that takes place? Is it racial profiling if you are in an African American community?"

    While it can be argued that police are targeting crime zones - not minorities - perception matters, he said.

    "In America in 2007, it's impossible to distinguish the sensitive issues of race from the troubling issues of crime," he said.

    It's also tough to distinguish between legal and illegal weapons (32,000 Philadelphians are concealed carry permit holders). And what about drugs?

    Nutter says that "no one has a right to carry an illegal weapon," which is true, but isn't it also true that no one has a right to carry illegal drugs?

    (And no one has a right to harbor an illegal dog?)

    Wouldn't society be safer if the police just searched everyone?

    For everything?

    UPDATE: Someone just had to ask me whether this post constituted a "STOP AND FISK."


    MORE: I now see that the term "STOP AND FISK" is nearly five years old, and was first articulated by Xlrq.

    Why it never caught on, I don't know

    posted by Eric at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

    The Solar Conveyor Has Slowed

    Reliapundit left a comment at my blog about this story which I think covers my theory of why we are seeing a big push for global warming taxes. [Emphasis added]

    the political schmucks running agw crowd are NOT dumb.

    they KNOW we are near the end of this warming cycle, and that's EXACTLY why they are pushing so dang FURIOUSLY HARD to get agw taxes and regulations in place ASAP ASAP ASAP - because in a few years it will be cooling --- they want to hamper capitalism/free markets / industrialization/globalization --- it's always been the left's long term goal - and they KNOW that it's NOW OR NEVER!

    And now the rest of the story:

    NASA says the solar conveyor has slowed. The solar conveyor speed predicts the sunspot level two cycles in advance, about 20 years.

    "Normally, the conveyor belt moves about 1 meter per second--walking pace," says Hathaway. "That's how it has been since the late 19th century." In recent years, however, the belt has decelerated to 0.75 m/s in the north and 0.35 m/s in the south. "We've never seen speeds so low."

    According to theory and observation, the speed of the belt foretells the intensity of sunspot activity ~20 years in the future. A slow belt means lower solar activity; a fast belt means stronger activity. The reasons for this are explained in the Science@NASA story Solar Storm Warning.

    "The slowdown we see now means that Solar Cycle 25, peaking around the year 2022, could be one of the weakest in centuries," says Hathaway.

    What does all this have to do with the climate on earth? Let us look at the climate when sunspot levels were low:
    ...the Sporer, Maunder, and Dalton minima coincide with the colder periods of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1450 to 1820. More recently it was discovered that the sunspot number during 1861-1989 shows a remarkable parallelism with the simultaneous variation in northern hemisphere mean temperatures (2). There is an even better correlation with the length of the solar cycle, between years of the highest numbers of sunspots. For example, the temperature anomaly was - 0.4 K in 1890 when the cycle was 11.7 years, but + 0.25 K in 1989 when the cycle was 9.8 years. Some critics of the theory of man-induced global warming have seized on this discovery to criticize the greenhouse gas theory.

    All this evokes the important question of how sunspots affect the Earth's climate. To answer this question, we need to know how total solar irradiance received by the Earth is affected by sunspot activity.

    Intuitively one may assume the that total solar irradiance would decrease as the number of (optically dark) sunspots increased. However direct satellite measurements of irradiance have shown just the opposite to be the case. This means that more sunspots deliver more energy to the atmosphere, so that global temperatures should rise.

    If sunspots are going to decline in the near future the global warming era may be over. Especially if the sun's effect on Clouds turns out to be affected by solar activity as some scientists have experimentally proved.

    So are things warming up now?

    1. Since about 2002 there has been NO statistically significant global average warming in the lower and middle troposphere,


    2. Since about 1995 there has been NO statistically significant cooling in the stratosphere.

    The IPCC SPM conclusion that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal" is wrong as it ignores the lack of such warming in recent years by these other metrics of climate system heat changes...

    Well what do you know? In addition global temperatures have been on the decline for the last few years. We had a spike in 2004 I believe, but otherwise temperatures have been declining since about 2000 or so.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 01:47 AM | Comments (149)

    the climatic consequences of truthertarianism
    You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin'

    -- from Nancy Sinatra's famous song about Truther Consequences

    While I don't blog about them all that often, I always enjoy reading about the 9/11 Truthers -- a recent example being the man John Edwards took seriously enough that he made an apparent campaign promise to he'd "look into" the WTC-7 Bush demolition, um, "theory." (A Second Hand Conjecture has more on Edwards' failure to criticize 9/11 Trutherism.)

    While they aren't quite as kooky, another type of Truther is the Katrina/Global Warming/More Hurricanes/More Tsunamis/ Truther. They not only continue to spout "the real truth" like this about Hurricane Katrina (a proposition rejected even by leading anthropogenic global warming advocate Kerry Emanual) but they've already started in on this year's killer tropical storms (and have given names to storms that don't rate as storms) despite a lack of any connection -- in this season or in general -- between storms and anthropogenic global warming.

    I see a logistical problem with calling them "Truthers," though. There are already too many types of "Truthers" to keep track of, and I'm sure there will be more, because there's a seemingly inexhaustible supply of "real truths" to fuel the process collectively called "Trutherism."

    I therefore modestly propose a new Truther category. Fortunately, it doesn't appear to have been spoken for.

    The Storm Truthers.

    Well, things could be worse.

    At least there isn't a "Truthergate" scandal yet. (That's probably because there's no absolute Truthenfuhrer!)

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Tim Blair has been roundly attacked by members of a new Truther category, the Debunken Truthers.

    No word on the emergence of a Debunkentruthenfuhrer!

    UPDATE (05/12/07): This post somehow got accidentally depublished for a few hours, so I restored it in its entirety. My apologies for any confusion.

    posted by Eric at 09:45 AM | Comments (9)

    Sign The Fusion Petition

    There is a petition started on 20 Nov 2006 calling for Congress to support the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

    The short version: Dr. Bussard has a Navy contract that is unfunded.

    Also please write your Government to urge them to fund the Navy contract:

    House of Representatives
    The Senate
    The President

    Dr Bussard was on The Space Show last night. You can hear the audio here.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

    Another knuckle-head against Nutter!

    In addition to receiving the endorsement of the Philadelphia Inquirer in Philadelphia's mayoral election (more infra), Councilman Michael Nutter has garnered the endorsement of the city's two left-wing weeklies -- the Philadelphia City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly.

    That Nutter's statist views are anathema to libertarians seems to a plus among his fellow leftists, with the Philadelphia Weekly going out of its way to toss libertarians a gratuitous insult:

    The man is also a pit bull when he believes in something. You got to be like that in this city.

    If not, you get eaten alive.

    Take that smoking ban.

    To make that pass, he had to fight through the mayor's ever-changing timetables, through tavern owners who thought their businesses would cough up profits, through hipsters who thought their nights out would lose their edge, through knuckle-headed libertarians and through a culture that always finds something inherently wrong with change of any kind.

    Yet today we no longer smoke in our bars and restaurants.

    And really, who's still complaining? (Emphasis added.)

    Um, is that a rhetorical question? Every time I see a waitress or bartender smoking a cigarette outside of a bar I wonder whether that's just a bartender losing tips or whether it might be the owner -- forced to leave his own business to partake in a something that once was his own business.

    Who's still complaining? Knuckle-headed libertarian that I am, I'm still complaining.

    And I worry about things I haven't complained about, because Nutter strikes me as one of those government-loving types who is chronically incapable of minding his own business. (Nutter loves red light cameras, natch. And he promises more cameras -- presumably all around the city.)

    Well, at least the Philadelphia Weekly called him a "pit bull." Considering my close and loving relationship with Coco, and my love of determination, shouldn't that warm me to him?

    Actually, I'm such a libertarian knucklehead that it worried me. Because I know from experience that statist types like Nutter love nothing more than going after personal freedom anywhere they can find it. If it's not cigarettes, it's gun control, and if it's not gun control, well, the latest thing is dog control.

    I was all set to go into hypothetical rant mode, and opine gratuitously that Nutter is "just the type of statist" who'd be so low as to go after people's dogs. But that would have just been knuckle-headed me, shooting off my knuckle-headed libertarian mouth without any evidence.

    So I had one of my knuckle-headed hunches, and was I ever right!

    I don't think it's any exaggeration to describe Michael Nutter as an out-and-out anti-pit bull bigot:

    According to Hendricks, Fourth District Councilman Michael Nutter is the only Council member so far to answer his letter. Nutter sides with Hendricks, and has no qualms about advancing the possibility of City Council completely banning pit bulls in Philadelphia.

    "We definitely need to have a conversation about it," Nutter says. "Although a total ban is extreme, I think it's time for extreme action. These are nasty, despicable animals used primarily to scare and intimidate people, or to protect those involved in illegal activity. The problem, of course, is not so much the pit bulls but the irresponsible owners and breeders. They deliberately mistreat the dogs to make them vicious, and they're a menace to many Philadelphians."

    Nutter says the city can make an appeal to the state for changes in the breed-specific rule, either striking it down or asking for an exemption within city limits.

    "It's definitely a quality-of-life issue," Nutter goes on. "Neighbors in my district have complained bitterly about pit bulls and their owners in the community. They use the dogs as tools of intimidation and as weapons, and decent people fear for their safety. It's been an ongoing problem and it's got to stop."

    Sounds familiar, and rather than rant I should probably start thinking about getting out of the area, and moving to some place where people like Michael Nutter don't want to kill my "nasty, despicable animal."

    Funny thing is that on Wednesday I criticized Nutter for using the word "genocide" in an improper manner, and today I find myself tempted to repeat his rhetorical mistake. But I won't, because the word "genocide" does not apply to dogs.

    Still, I can't help wondering why anyone would vote for a man who couldn't make it any plainer that he finds liberty as nasty and despicable as he finds a particular breed of dog.

    I can't speak for Coco, but over the weekend she had a doggie play date in North Philadelphia, and among her friends was a loveable orange pit bull with amber eyes whose favorite activity was clambering around on an upside-down rowboat. The two of them fell in love at first sight. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the "nasty, despicable animal" that Michael Nutter wants to euthanize for the good of Philadelphia, but Coco is already pining away for him.

    And I'm pining away for lost freedom in one of its primary birthplaces.

    UPDATE: I didn't dwell much on Michael Nutter's position on gun control, because it's no different than any of the other candidates -- all of whom believe that Philadelphia should be passing its own gun control measures in direct violation of state law:

    Nods, too, across the board that Philadelphia needs, somehow, to circumvent Harrisburg's handcuffing on gun control. Each of the candidates said they support city council's gun control measure -- though Chaka Fattah worried about its constitutionality -- and each said they'd stand behind a lawsuit against the state legislature.
    Yes, Philadelphia is suing the state legislature for its "negligent failure" to pass gun control laws -- a move so asinine that Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds actually treated it as an opportunity for humor. (BTW, Philadelphia is having trouble finding a lawyer to take the case, and the Inquirer seems to be downplaying the story by burying it in the back pages. Who knows? They might find it embarrassing to the city. I'd hate to be the city's lobbyist in Harrisburg right now....)

    But hey, life goes on, and voting means selecting from the best of the available alternatives. As far as I'm concerned, right now Chaka Fattah deserves to win simply for acknowledging that there is such a thing as a Constitution. Progress is progress.

    MORE: In a great Fox News piece which seems to have anticipated Michael Nutter, Radley Balko compared pit bull control to gun control:

    Both policies [pit bull legislation and gun control] are misguided, and penalize responsible owners for the sins of criminal owners.

    To borrow a phrase from the gun rights movement, when pit bulls are criminalized, only criminals will own pit bulls.

    Coco and I agree!

    AND MORE: Lest there be any doubt as to where any politician running for Mayor should stand, the Philadelphia Inquirer makes it abundantly clear that the principal issue in the election is that guns and crime are synonymous. The cartoon (a map showing Philadelphia as guns) accompanying the Inquirer's question about crime pretty much sums up their editorial position, and the view of the candidates:


    In other words, Philadelphia's problem is that guns = crime. And according to the Philadelphia Police Commissioner, the 32,000 concealed carry permit holders are part of the problem. (Never mind that CCW permit holders are more law abiding than any other group of citizens.)

    Ironically, because of the unanimity of agreement, the gun issue is both the biggest issue in the campaign, and the one generating the least debate.

    The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a fringe idea around here.

    You'd almost think the goal was to chase law abiding gun owners out of the city.

    UPDATE (05/13/07): The kneejerk gun control mindset in Philadelphia is (IMO) a pretty good example of the "parliament of clocks" described in this Chicago Boyz post which Glenn Reynolds linked today.

    posted by Eric at 08:33 AM | Comments (5)

    "why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they own one"?

    Well, that was Andrew Sullivan's question about guns, and I tried to come up with a few theoretical answers yesterday while trying to be funny.

    What happened to a 31 year old Minnesota college student, while not funny, has provided an answer from the real-life world (as opposed to the often theoretically argumentative life of the blogosphere).

    Unfortunately, I'm deadly serious. Via Glenn Reynolds, I saw a reminder that the freedom we enjoy in blogging is often in short supply in the "real world." For criticizing affirmative action, and for "talking about concealed carry" a Hamline University student has been suspended, and he will only be allowed back if he submits to -- get this -- psychological evaluation and treatment:

    On April 23, Scheffler received a letter informing him he'd been placed on interim suspension. To be considered for readmittance, he'd have to pay for a psychological evaluation and undergo any treatment deemed necessary, then meet with the dean of students, who would ultimately decide whether Scheffler was fit to return to the university.

    The consequences were severe. Scheffler wasn't allowed to participate in a final group project in his course on Human Resources Management, which will have a big impact on his final grade. Even if he's reinstated, the suspension will go on his permanent record, which could hurt the aspiring law student.

    "'Oh, he's the crazy guy that they called the cops on.' How am I supposed to explain that to the Bar Association?" Scheffler asks.

    He has also suffered embarrassment. Scheffler obeyed the campus ban and didn't go to class, but his classmate, Kenny Bucholz, told him a police officer was stationed outside the classroom. "He had a gun and everything," Bucholz says. Dean Julian Schuster appeared at the beginning of class to explain the presence of the cop, citing discipline problems with a student. Although Schuster never mentioned Scheffler by name, it didn't take a scholar to see whose desk was empty.

    Scheffler has tried to get answers from the university, to no avail. On April 25, he called President Hanson's office to request a meeting, but when he told the secretary his name, she claimed the computer system had crashed and she couldn't access the president's schedule. She promised to call Scheffler back, but more than a week later, he's still waiting.

    I guess I should be glad I'm not a student anywhere, or else they'd say I'm mentally ill and kick me out. (Well, I've had commenters question my mental health, but they can't do anything to me.)

    Frankly, the tactics they're attempting to use against Mr. Scheffler remind me of Soviet-style "treatment" of political dissidents. The difference is that the government isn't doing it, and I suppose there's no right to attend college.

    Unbelievable. (This is starting to sound eerily like Harvard's anti-homosexual witch hunts back in the 1920s.)

    The most ominous aspect of this is that the same people who would declare Scheffler mentally ill would love to turn right around and use the same argument to deprive him of his Second Amendment rights. This is related to a concern I expressed in the immediate aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting:

    I think if standards are toughened as a result of this, it will be more along the lines of making it impossible for anyone who has ever sought treatment for mental illness to ever buy a gun. Couple that with the notion that nearly all of us are all mentally ill (whether from depression, neurosis, OCD, ADHD, "codependency" etc.) and I don't think it's much of a stretch to see a movement to use mental illness as grounds for disarming a lot of people who, while they might arguably need treatment for one thing or another would never shoot anyone.
    But this latest idea by college administrators is a wonderfully neat trick.

    "Talking about concealed carry" supplies grounds for mental health treatment. And then mental health treatment supplies grounds for losing the right to concealed carry.


    It is any wonder that gun owners don't want to be identified?

    At the risk of making this more painfully obvious than I should have to, gun owners are fearful of being identified precisely because in the real world, they are increasingly face persecution like that meted out to Mr. Scheffler. Or they might face stigmatization, which leads quite predictably to life in the closet:

    So anathema are guns among my friends that when one learned I was doing this piece, he opened his wallet, silently pulled out an NRA membership card, then (after I recovered from the sight) asked me not to spread it around lest his son be kicked out of nursery school.
    It should surprise no one that stigmatization and persecution force people into closets.

    What's surprising is that anyone would anyone be surprised.

    posted by Eric at 02:56 PM | Comments (8)

    Gun control comes to Clayton Cramer's neighboring town

    Yes, I'm afraid it's true. The government of Horseshoe Bend, Idaho has passed a gun control law, and (unless I am mistaken) Cramer seems to actually like the law.

    posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (5)

    censorship by PBS apologists?

    Pajamas Media's Roger L. Simon discusses the refusal of PBS to show a film which couldn't be more relevant and timely -- "Martyn Burke's documentary "Islam vs. Islamism" (produced with Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev) which "was commissioned by PBS for its 'American Crossroads' series."

    PBS, clearly, does not like what this movie says. And I suspect it likes it less because the film is well made (the reverse of what the network originally claimed).

    PBS' views seem particularly troglodytic today in light of recent events at Fort Dix. But that is the least of it. What is far more important to our country is that our Public Broadcasting network, an organization supported by taxpayer money, is practicing the most obvious censorship. PBS is operating here in the manner of similar institutions in the former Soviet Union and in modern day Iran - financing artists and then withholding distribution of their work when it is not deemed ideologically "correct". It's a form of though-control and it's unconscionable.

    I hereby call on my fellow Motion Picture Academy members, whatever their political leanings, to protest this cowardly and un-American act of censorship. As artists, we should be appalled by such blatant disregard of our First Amendment rights. Public funding of PBS should be reconsidered if such reactionary behavior continues.

    Normally, a network decision would not be censorship in the legal sense. However, PBS is government funded, and its refusal to show a timely documentary for political reasons comes dangerously close, in my opinion, to actual censorship.

    Moreover (as Roger notes in the addendum) PBS refuses to make the film available, thus effectively blocking it from the public view:


    As of now, you can't. There have been three public screenings so far, two in Washington and one in New York (standing room only). Another is under discussion for Los Angeles. Pajamas Media will keep you apprised if this happens.


    You can sign the petition protesting PBS' censorship at


    The gentlemen at PBS directly responsible for this censorship are, according to Mr. Burke, Leo Eaton and Jeff Bieber. Bieber perhaps tipped his hand more than he intended when he told Martyn Burke "Don't you check into the politics of the people you work with?" - evidently referring to Messrs. Alexiev and Gaffney.

    As Burke told me about his whole experience, "I'm living the Hollywood Ten in reverse."

    So it seems.

    The irony here (in my view) is that had the film been made before 9/11, it would have been shown.

    This is an irony I've commented on before, and I think it's grounded in the profoundly illogical view that now that we've been attacked, we should suddenly be more, not less, sympathetic to our enemies:

    One of the great ironies of the post-9/11 period is that while violent Islamic jihadists attacked this country, there is a constantly growing network -- both organized and unorganized -- of in-place apologists at virtually every level of society all ready to defend them. Criticize jihadists, and people on the left will call you a racist. An Islamophobe. A bigot. I have seen this too many times to count, and the reason I call it ironic is that before 9/11, feminists routinely criticized the veil. Gay activists did not hesitate to condemn Islamic homophobia. Atheists condemned Islam the same way they condemned Christianity. After 9/11, the PC crowd suddenly included a group which they'd previously neglected, and it seemed to me that the 9/11 attacks helped the image of radical Muslims with the left in this country. And in most newspapers, and on many campuses.

    This network of PC critics is not only defensive in nature, but offensive. Hence, few American newspapers would dare print cartoons that would probably have been printed before 9/11 without so much as a passing thought. Before 9/11, few cared about the Supreme Court's image of Muhammad, or the many images of Muhammad (such as Salvador Dali's 1960s version). Now, even operas have to be careful. Lest they "offend." I'm tired of that crap, and a lot of people are. I don't agree that 9/11 supplied anyone with an excuse to be insensitive or act like a jerk. But then again, why in the world should a horrible attack like that make us more concerned with (what's the phrase?) "Islamic sensibilities"?

    There's a large group of Americans (perhaps the majority) who never really thought about Muslims before 9/11. And now that their country is under attack by a group of Islamist maniacs, is this the right time to suddenly start lecturing them about sensitivity? Like it or not, that's what's happening. I think it is entirely unreasonable, and violates the most basic American common sense. Scolding Americans about how ignorant they are about Islam and how they "need to learn more about it" implies that they now have some duty -- now that they're under attack -- to understand their attackers.

    Where this inexplicable view comes from, who knows?

    But I don't think it is in the country's best interests, and I'm truly sorry to see it come so close to outright government censorship.

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (8)

    Spare the milk and starve the baby?

    I'm intrigued by the story of these two Atlanta screwballs who killed their baby by starving him to death with a radical vegan diet. Now the child's grandmother is afraid her son will starve to death in prison because of his veganism:

    Lamont Thomas' mother fears he may soon die by staying true to his vegan lifestyle.

    The 31-year-old Buckhead resident was rail-thin, with a gaunt face and bones protruding from his neck, when he shuffled into a Fulton County courtroom Wednesday in leg and waist chains. There, a judge sentenced him to life in prison in the starvation death in 2004 of his only child, Crown.

    The child's parents said they fed him organic and soy products, but doctors at Piedmont Hospital, the medical examiner and a nutritionist specializing in veganism all testified at trial that the child had been underfed, not just fed the wrong diet for an infant.

    At six weeks, Crown weighed 3 1/2 pounds, and doctors could count the bones on his skeletal frame.

    Carolyn Thomas defended her son, saying after the sentencing hearing: "My son was afraid all along: 'Nobody understands us.' "

    The baby was born in a bathtub, the parents distrusted doctors, and (they claim) they weren't given the resources to disprove the prosecution's "theories":
    The grandmother said she had urged them to take Crown to a doctor for a checkup, but her son wanted to raise the baby without interference from doctors. Thomas' attorney, Brandon Lewis, said the couple worried about hospital germs.

    Sanders told the judge during Wednesday's hearing: "I loved my son, and I did not starve him."

    Sanders delivered Crown in the bathtub of the Buckhead apartment she shared with Thomas.

    "She went through the pain of delivering herself, and they don't think that's love?" the child's grandmother said.

    The first time Crown's parents took him to see a doctor was on April 25, 2004. The baby was already dead.

    Thomas told the judge through tears that prosecutors had resources his court-appointed attorney didn't have.

    "It takes money to disprove their theories; money we don't have," he said.

    At the hospital, the parents said they fed their child organic apple juice and soy milk, which has a label warning parents not to use it as an infant food.

    Naturally, organized vegans are irate that the parents are even being called "vegans" (a word they place in quotes). An article titled "Don't blame veganism for child neglect" is typical:
    In a sad and tragic story, the news recently broke that a "vegan couple" were found guilty of starving their 6-week old baby to death. The AP story reports that the couple fed the baby mostly soy milk and apple juice. If that's true, then the couple's crime wasn't that they were vegan. They were either incredibly misinformed, stupid, or both.

    First, one wonders why a child so young was not being breast fed. Veganism, which involves avoiding all animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, does not in any way preclude breast feeding. In fact, one of the arguments in favor of veganism is that the milk of cows is best suited for calves, the same way that human milk is best suited for baby humans.

    Second, even if the couple wanted to use a soy product instead, any pediatrician would have told them to use a soy-based formula, not soy milk. In fact, most soy milk products are clearly labeled as NOT being a substitute for baby formula.

    Well, the soy milk fed to the dead baby was apparently clearly labeled.

    The problem is that when I clicked on the link the last author provides, I could find no actual vegan infant forumula. But I did find the following:

    Most infants who are not breastfeeding exclusively should be given a cow's milk based iron fortified formula.

    Soy formulas are made with soy protein and are lactose free. Brands include Enfamil ProSobee, Similac Isomil, and Nestle Good Start Supreme Soy. They are good for children who don't tolerate lactose or milk proteins. ]

    Elemental formulas are also lactose free and are made with hydrolysate proteins, which are easy to digest for infants with protein allergies. Types of elemental formulas include Nutramigen, Pregestamil and Alimentum.

    The problem is that these formulas are not truly vegan, as they contain animal-derived ingredients such as Taurine and L-Methionine. These substances often come up in arguments between over things like "vegan cat food" (yes, there is such a thing, although it is controversial). In the last link, there's a ferocious debate over Taurine, with one side contending that most commercially available Taurine is of bovine origin, and the other claiming it's synthetic. This is a new topic for me, and I am not about to spend all day tracking it down, but it does appear that there's a nutritive difference between natural and artificial Taurine -- with the former being "essential":
    Natural taurine is an essential constituent of formula milk for infants and, because of the inferior nutritional value (), of synthetic forms, it is important to discriminate between these and taurines derived from a natural source.
    For obvious reasons, natural Taurine therefore appears to be a major component in infant formulas. Additionally, this vegan site warns that synthetic Taurine is bad for the environment:
    Taurine - is found in the bile of mammals. It can be synthesized in a lab, but in doing so is encredibly harsh on the environment.
    Wouldn't want our baby to have a bad carbon footprint, now would we?

    True vegans who cannot breastfeed may be out of luck, because as best as I can readily determine, there is no such thing as a true, pure, vegan infant formula. Here's a vegan doctor:

    For those searching for an organic and vegan infant formula, unfortunately, at this time US and UK food industries do not offer any completely vegan soy-based formulas.
    More discussion here of the serious problems faced by vegan mothers -- especially those unable to properly breastfeed their babies.

    There also seem to be health issues related to excess Manganese from eating too much soy.


    Let me admit that my bias here. I am not a vegan, although I have from time to time been a vegetarian for health reasons (I have found vegetarianism to be an effective way to shed excess pounds as well as save money). But I've never been a vegetarian for moral reasons, and I have even less inclination towards veganism. That does not mean that I would stop anyone from being a vegan. The problem I have with vegans is that many of them are evangelical, and see their veganism as a quasi religion. If only they left it at that I wouldn't mind, but in addition a lot of them see it as part of an abolitionist movement -- which means they want to impose their views on the rest of society, even by government force.

    My biases aside, I do see an interesting legal issue here. Suppose for the sake of argument that a radical vegan mother was unable to breastfeed her baby, and that there was no adequate, truly vegan replacement. Suppose further that she maintained her veganism was akin to a religion (at least one test case in California made that claim, and of course there are supportive law review articles). Wouldn't she have the same rights as a Jehovah's Witness or Christian Scientist? What rights are those, anyway?

    This is not as idle a question as it might appear, as it isn't the first time vegan babies have starved. In 2003, a vegan couple in New York was convicted of starving their baby (who fortunately was taken away from them and managed to live). Reading between the lines, I get the impression that they may have seen their veganism as quasi-religious:

    Lawyers for the Swintons said they would appeal the verdict, noting that the first-degree assault charge included a finding that an offender had depraved intentions. Part of the Swintons' defense had been that they were not knowledgeable enough about child nutrition and did not realize that they were endangering their child until hospital workers told them that IIce was sick.

    ''I don't see justice here,'' said Christopher Shella, a lawyer for Mrs. Swinton. ''That they made the wrong choice doesn't make it depraved, given how much they cared about their child.''

    Well, their wrong choice included rejecting medical care, and choosing not to breastfeed:
    Mrs. Swinton, who is 32, gave birth to IIce at her home three months prematurely. They never received prenatal or postnatal care. In an interview yesterday as she waited for the verdict, Mrs. Swinton said she had been a wayward, 300-pound young adult when she decided to adopt the vegan diet. She and her husband of seven years, who is also 32, have been on it for several years.

    Mrs. Swinton said she chose not to breast-feed IIce. After trying to feed her different kinds of commercial baby formula for several months, the couple decided to put her on a natural foods diet. Examining the label on commercial baby formula cans, Mrs. Swinton said she tried to replicate the chemical composition with natural ingredients, including ground nuts and puréed fruits and vegetables.

    ''We were brand-new parents trying to do everything we could for her,'' Mrs. Swinton said yesterday. She was rueful, noting that she had ''never even got a speeding ticket'' and now faced prison.

    Amy Lanou, the nutrition director for the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, testified during the three-week trial that both vegan and vegetarian diets would allow breast milk, and barring that, soy-based baby formula.

    Hmmm..... Considering that there are no truly vegan formulas, it sounds as if Amy Lanou may have been fudging a bit on that one. (But my guess is that she was a prosecution witness. Had I been defending the parents, I'd have had a doctor testify differently.) The prosecutor argued that the parents were feeding the child a "gerbil" diet:
    Mr. Rosenbaum, the prosecutor, said the care given to IIce was akin to what a child might offer to a ''pet gerbil.'' He said that no matter what the parents' intentions, their failure to seek any type of medical care as IIce's condition worsened merited the criminal charges. In addition to assault, the parents were convicted of first-degree reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. They will be sentenced on May 16.
    Race is alleged to have been involved, although I'm not quite sure why:
    Members of several black advocacy groups attended most of the trial and after the verdict, some said that from the start, the mostly white jury was against the Swintons, who are black. The jurors, who deliberated for two days, had been sequestered since Wednesday morning, prompting Judge Richard L. Buchter to remind them as they were dismissed that ''there's a war going on, and it's people like you serving in this system that is what America is all about.''
    While that last sentence about the war going on is wholly unrelated to race (and thus non-sequiturish?) a jury's racial composition alone does not prove bias. Would the same mostly white jury have acquitted a white couple for starving their baby? I see no reason why, and the issue does not seem to have been raised on appeal. At least, it is not mentioned in the appellate opinion, which sustained most of the counts of the verdict, as well as the sentences. The dissent, however, argues that while the child was neglected, the parents were unable to form the requisite criminal intent for reckless endangerment.

    These are interesting cases, and I'm sure there will be more of them.

    Especially if there's no such thing as a true vegan infant formula.

    (One of these days I really should get around to exploring the increasingly urgent vegan cat issue.)

    posted by Eric at 09:10 AM | Comments (4)

    Taking the unfair frothy frappe out of my insensitive crappe

    God. The crap I find myself finding.

    Anyway, I went over to Andrew Sullivan because I read at Instapundit that Andrew Sullivan thinks that "If gun rights are civil rights, why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they own one"?

    Well, gee...

    If being gay is a civil right, why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they're gay?

    If blogs are a civil right, why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they write one?

    Lots of reasons, and frankly it isn't anyone's effing business what those reasons might be. The First and Second Amendments tell the government to butt out of it. Plus the right to privacy. (These strike me as pretty obvious things.)

    Anyway, I went over to read the Sullivan post for myself, and then I found that Donald Sensing (who happens to be a Methodist minister as well as a fine blogger) is being accused by Andrew Sullivan of "the usual sensitivity crap" for the crime of not liking some of the atheistic witticisms on Starbucks coffee cups and for saying that he didn't feel like patronizing the place anymore.

    So, even though I have no way at present to roast my own coffee, I won't buy Starbucks any more. I know there's no way that this international megacorporation will miss my patronage, which at best accounts for 0.00000000001% of its revenue. But doggone it, they'd throw me out on my ear if I went into a store and started handing out Gideon Bibles, so the pittance of money I give to them will be given no more. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
    The whole thing annoyed the hell out of me, so I left this comment:
    You know what? I don't want to be annoyed with witty sayings, atheist quotes, religious quotes (whether polytheistic or monotheistic), political quotes, or any other quotes on my coffee cup, so I don't blame you for being annoyed. As to who is guilty of "the usual sensitivity crap," I'd say it's the people who are annoyed by the fact that someone is annoyed and says so. For Pete's sake, it's not as if you've teamed up with the American Family Association to drive Starbucks out of business. I'm a Starbucks regular, and I can't stand the smarmy music they play in those stores either! Am I guilty of "the usual sensitivity crap" for not liking their stupid music?

    Where I draw the line, though, is with your statement that "on the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." I have to live here, and on the whole, I'd rather be linked by Andrew Sullivan (pain in the butt that that might be).

    uh oh... you know what I mean.

    The usual sensitivity crap.

    Enough is enough. Sensing was annoyed, and said so. But now Sullivan is annoyed that he is annoyed. And on top of that, I am annoyed that Sullivan is annoyed that Sensing is annoyed.

    I am fed up with sensitivity crap. If you can't be annoyed in your own blog, for your own readers, then where can you be annoyed? Isn't it annoying enough to merely be annoyed without the fact of your being annoyed being considered insensitive?

    But life is unfair, isn't it?

    I just want to drink my damned coffee in a plain cup, OK? I write this blog every day, and there are plenty of other blogs, and if I want to be annoyed there are plenty of blogs to annoy me, but if Starbucks is going to annoy me on their coffee cups, well, I might not want to go back for more. (Personally, I do go back, because I systematically ignore the sayings on my cup. But I can't stay for long, because I cannot ignore that sickeningly smarmy music!)

    It's a little bit like not going back to a blog that annoyed me, but with a difference. If I go to a blog, I expect that there's a good chance I will be annoyed. For many blogs, that's the whole purpose, so I go to such blogs prepared to be annoyed. But being annoying is not the purpose of Starbucks (at least it's not supposed to be). Sure, they have a First Amendment right to do it, just as they have every right to play their stupid music. But I don't think it's "sensitivity crap" to say you've had enough of either. (Not everyone is able to systematically ignore the cups, either.)

    I may be wrong, but I have a feeling that if Sensing had complained about the music, Sullivan would have left him alone. Why is that? Might it be that he's not happy with criticism of atheistic messages?

    The thing is, I defended Starbucks when they were attacked for promoting the "gay agenda" on their coffee cups, but that's because I don't believe in boycotts, and I make up my own mind. But certainly, anyone has a right to be annoyed, and if a company puts words that people disagree with on its product, the company can expect that the people who disagree might not come back for more.

    I'm a Starbucks regular, and as I say, the way I deal with their stupid cup messages is by not reading them. That way, I don't have to get annoyed at all, and I can bypass the sensitivity crap.

    But alas! No such cup-message-bypassing today -- not after getting this far into sensitivity issues.

    For, reading about the Sullivan Sensing sensitivity struggle reminded me that (in what I'm sure was just another coincidence) I had gone to Starbucks this morning and bought my usual -- a "medium house coffee." (No, I will not utter the words "grande" and I don't want frothy frappe to go with my sensitivity crappe either!)

    I completely forgot about the cup, and of course I had never given it a glance to read the message. The little cardboard heat protector was still around it, so I unpeeled it (it had been glued on from sugary coffee spilled in the car) and took a photo of it:


    Here's the text -- from the Starbucks website:

    The Way I See It #242

    Children are born with such a sense of fairness that they will accept no less than equal treatment for all. I know - I have three. I hope that as they grow, they keep that sense of justice and learn to challenge the old adage that life's not fair. It should be, in so far as we have control of it.

    -- Beth Vanden Hoek
    Starbucks assistant manager in St. Louis, Missouri.

    "Life is unfair!"

    There is no slogan I hate more than that!

    But the problem is, there is no slogan more true than that! To not tell children that is to fail to educate them about the way of the world.

    Which means I disagree rather vehemently with the sentiment expressed by Starbucks Assistant Manager Beth Vanden Hoek, and I'm not sure I would want to be around her children. Her contention that children are possessed of a sense of fairness is simply not borne out by reality. I saw in my childhood that children are completely selfish beings, and the concept of fairness is learned from their parents. They run it as a racket. I did, and I'm sure most children do. But I don't have any kids, and I'm not about to ditch my Starbucks coffee over this rather idiotic idea by a Starbucks manager.

    Anyway, it annoyed the hell out of me, and reminded me of why I don't read Starbucks' Stupid Sayings.

    Call it sensitivity crap if you will (actually I think Ms. Vanden Hoek's statement could just as easily be called "sensitivity crap" as my reaction to it), but I don't think it goes well with morning coffee.

    I guess I should be glad I didn't read my sensitivity crappe until latte in the day.

    MORE: It seems I'm not the only blogger to take issue with Ms. Vanden Hoek. Laddical elaborates on "what occupies my time as I allow the taste of "not-White Chocolate Mocha, whatever they scribbled on the side" to roll over my tongue":

    Lady, children are inately monsters. They do not understand fair. Why do you think sharing is such a bitch to teach? What you are describing as a "sense of fairness" is the inherent seflishness that, if it can't have it all, at least no one else can have more.

    Honestly. I love my girls, but please. Humanity is learned, not birthed.

    How true.

    More on natural children here.

    MORE: While I was driving around trying to avoid spilling my frappe in my lappe this morning, Ann Althouse was having a sensitivity encounter session with unusually photogenic crappie. (And if you liked that, don't miss her bird's eye view of ants.) Both via Glenn Reynolds.

    posted by Eric at 05:44 PM | Comments (5)

    Isn't It Ironic?

    Isn't it ironic to see that the Democrats are against democracy in Iraq?

    I have provided some ironic music to properly set the mood.

    For those Democrats and others who don't wish to be so ironic there is the I Support Democracy In Iraq support group.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:34 AM | Comments (13)

    Giving Up Religious Supremacism

    Winds of Change is discussing a post by Ali Eteraz. His thesis is that we need to give up partisanship. That no political philosophy is better than another. Split the differences.

    Ali says:

    I cannot in clean conscience engage against religious supremacism and exclusion if I engage in ideological supremacism and exclusion.
    Sure you can.

    For the most part it is impossible to tell whether belief in God A or God B or God Ba has more merit.

    However, one can measure the results of one ideology over another. Capitalism vs. Communism for instance. Or Self Government vs. Despotism.

    Modern man has advanced through differentiation. You know reason. Occam's Razor and all that. We have rules for judging differences. In size. In weight. Even in opinion.

    I'd hate to give all that up just so you can feel good about giving up religious supremacism.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:01 AM | Comments (6)

    local race issue?

    Speaking of the tension between fringe issues and big issues, I have steadfastly avoided writing about the election.

    No, not that election (the one over a year away); I'm talking about the Philadelphia Mayoral election -- which effectively takes place next week, because the winner of the Democratic primary election will be the next Mayor:

    Five Democrats will fight it out in the May 15 primary, including a wealthy political newcomer. But polls show that the race has narrowed to two candidates -- a white businessman who once served as deputy mayor and a black city councilman who is making a late surge.

    The winner of the Democratic primary is almost certain to be the next mayor. Philadelphia hasn't elected a Republican mayor in more than 50 years.

    And just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, Philadelphia is not about to elect a Republican mayor.

    The problem with the race is that it's tough for me to analyze. I don't like any of the candidates, although because I live outside the city I don't have to worry about having to choose one. The corruption of the current administration of Mayor Street is notorious and I've posted about it over the years. What especially rankled me was than the way he managed to spin a completely legitimate FBI corruption investigation into an election victory. (The voters were foolish enough to believe his asinine claim that the investigation was Bush being out to get him in the same way "the Republicans" were out to get Martin Luther King. Jr.)

    So perhaps I am too cynical, but it just strikes me as unreasonable to expect that Philadelphians will get anything resembling good government. Of course, I suppose it might happen by accident. Ed Rendell (now PA governor) was one of the best mayors Philadelphia ever had. But I don't see anyone of his stature running in the primary.

    For months the leader of the pack was local businessman Tom Knox, but now that the Inquirer has endorsed Michael Nutter, Knox is slipping while Nutter is rising. However, Congressman Chaka Fattah, while unable to make much headway, attacked Nutter in a manner some analysts found particularly unsettling -- by going out of his way to invoke the "not black enough" meme:

    Chaka Fattah accused Michael Nutter of having to "remind himself that he's an African American," drawing gasps from the audience at the National Constitution Center.

    "He said it," Fattah said. He and the other candidates had been piling on Nutter's proposal to allow police to stop and frisk people suspected of carrying illegal guns in high-crime areas; they argued that would lead to racial profiling and police abuses.

    "As a person who's been black for 49 years, I think I know a little bit about racial profiling," Nutter said, defending his proposal. Then Fattah pounced.

    If on its surface the exchange was about policing, the subtext was deeper.

    Nutter has surged to the front of the five-way Democratic primary field, with polls showing stronger support for him among white voters than African Americans - an anomaly in a city that has tended for decades to vote along racial lines.

    Fattah, a West Philadelphia congressman, was the favorite early in the campaign but has seen his lead in the polls slip away. He has based his campaign on an ambitious plan to attack poverty by leasing the airport, and is counting on capturing a large share of undecided African American voters.

    It's interesting, because race has been largely irrelevant. Previous front-runner Knox is white, while Nutter and Fattah are black, and no one seemed especially concerned.

    The injection of race into the race drew criticism from the ADL, whose spokesman expressed disappointment that Fattah had violated the spirit of an agreement by all the candidates. Fattah says it was Nutter who brought up race, but considering what Nutter said, I think both Fattah and the ADL missed the fact that Nutter is either ignorant or demagogic on an important historical issue:

    For his part, Fattah said it was Nutter who had brought race into the campaign with a string of references. The former city councilman has described himself an "outraged black man" in referring to the city's soaring homicide rate, and he has called those killings "black genocide."

    "Congressman Fattah never mentions his race," said Rebecca Kirszner, a senior adviser to Fattah's campaign. "He called him [Nutter] out on the hypocrisy."

    In the debate aftermath, Nutter campaign spokeswoman Melanie Johnson would say only that the candidate was "saddened" by Fattah's remark.

    In February, all five candidates pledged to refrain from appeals based on race, in response to a letter from the Anti-Defamation League and others. Fattah's gibe at Nutter raises questions about that pledge, said Barry Morrison, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the ADL.

    Morrison offered the view that Nutter's reference to his own race was relevant to a discussion of racial profiling - but "as to whether he's black enough, that's not appropriate," Morrison said. "This has been a healthy campaign that has stuck to the issues. Here in the 11th hour, it would be a shame to see the course of the [campaign] change because of desperate tactics."

    Fattah might very well be desparate, but I'm disappointed that neither he nor Morrison called Nutter on the misuse of the term "genocide."

    "Genocide" does not refer to murder in the form of street crime. There must be a specific intent to destroy a population or group because of race, religion, nationality, etc. Now, there's no denying Philadelphia's appallingly high murder rate. But according to the official crime statistics provided by Chief of Detectives Joseph Fox, the vast majority of shooter and victims are criminals:

    More than 80 percent of Philadelphia's cold-blooded killers have criminal records. Most of those records are lengthy, many for violent crimes.
    Most but not all of the shooters, and most but not all of the victims are young and black. And according to another Inquirer report, "almost 85 percent of shooters and victims have criminal records."

    The annual rate is about 400 such killings per year in a city that with a population of 1.4 million, over 45% of whom are black. By what possible criteria can these 400 criminal shootings be called "genocide"?

    I think it cheapens the meaning of the word genocide, and I'm surprised the ADL didn't call Nutter on it.

    Nor has the Inquirer called their endorsed candidate on it. Instead, another columnist in today's Inquirer praised him for saying it:

    Nutter may look like a geek and appeal to white liberals, but so far he's the only black leader to call the uncontrolled killing in the city exactly what it is.

    After an especially bloody April weekend that ended with 10 slayings, Nutter called the carnage "one of the worst human tragedies the city has ever seen. The bell should be tolling at 12 o'clock," he said, "for the black genocide that has been taking place in this city."

    That's right. Black genocide. Because that's what it is.

    Notice there's no definition of either "genocide" or "black genocide." Just a naked assertion, apparently under the belief that blacks killing blacks is genocide.

    I hate to sound nit-picky, but the misuse of important words in this way undermines their meaning, to the point where eventually they have no meaning at all. Might that be the whole idea? (If such words are rendered meaningless, then it would probably be completely legitimate to accuse Bush of committing "genocide" because of Hurricane Katrina, and sell T-shirts to go with the phrase.)

    In today's column, not only is there no definition of genocide, but the claim is made that such misuse of language takes "courage":

    No other black leader - not Mayor Street, not Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, and, no, not even U.S. Rep. Fattah - has had the courage to speak the truth. It took a strong black man in the form of the wonkish Nutter to use such a call-to-action term to describe an epidemic that threatens to take out a generation of African American men.

    Cynical observers might say he ratcheted up the rhetoric to attract some of the black vote, but it sounded to me like a black man who cares. Is that black enough?

    Fattah's race-baiting antics sounded like a desperate move from a desperate man.

    Fattah's next move should be to apologize for insulting the intelligence of black voters. We're better than this.

    And I think Nutter's next move should be to apologize for insulting the intelligence of all Philadelphians. But more importantly, he should apologize to the real victims of genocide everywhere for his thoughtless (and likely demagogic) moral equivalency claim.

    As I say, I don't know for whom I'd vote for in this election.

    But I know for whom I wouldn't vote -- and that's Michael Nutter.

    (His Inquirer endorsement notwithstanding.)

    posted by Eric at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

    Fired For Washington

    A tenured Professor is being fired for quoting George Washington.

    A tenured college professor is set to be fired for simply sending out an e-mail to colleagues containing George Washington's "Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of 1789."

    Already professor Walter Kehowski at Glendale Community College in Arizona has been placed on forced administrative leave and the school's chief has recommended his termination.

    "It simply boggles the mind that a professor could find himself facing termination simply for e-mailing the Thanksgiving address of our first president," said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

    So what was in this Thanksgiving Address that was so incendiary? Let me quote a bit and see if you agree:
    Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many single favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
    That seems pretty non-denominational.

    Washington was familiar with the Jews in America and was well disposed to them. In fact a little less than a year after the Thanksgiving Proclomation George had this to say to the Jewish Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. In part:

    The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

    It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

    It is pretty obvious by the standards of those days and even these days that Washington was not religiously prejudiced.

    So it seems that any reference to the Maker or Divine Providence is now out of bounds, at least in some University settings.

    Pretty outrageous when you can get fired in the United States for passing out an Official Proclomation by the First President of the United States.

    H/T JR at The Astute Bloggers.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:49 AM | Comments (13)

    Army Censorship Update

    The fire storm that erupted over the Army's rules about e-mails and blogging has lead to new rules.

    ...the Army has issued a clarification that assures:
    In no way will every blog post/update a Soldier makes on his or her blog need to be monitored or first approved by an immediate supervisor and Operations Security (OPSEC) officer. After receiving guidance and awareness training from the appointed OPSEC officer, that Soldier blogger is entrusted to practice OPSEC when posting in a public forum.
    The statement establishes three conditions for unsupervised blogging:
    1. The blog's topic is not military-related (i.e., Sgt. Doe publishes a blog about his favorite basketball team).
    2. The Soldier doesn't represent or act on behalf of the Army in any way.
    3. The Soldier doesn't use government equipment when on his or her personal blog.
    Plus we have some Senators getting into the act.
    ...Senators Norm Coleman, Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint wrote to Defense Sec. Robert Gates expressing concern over the new rules.
    Their point is that mil blogs are an aid to the war effort and should not be over regulated.

    Seems like very sound advice.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    Update: Military Blogs in the War Zone by Black Five.

    posted by Simon at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)

    The big picture

    Over the weekend I agreed to do this week's RINO Sightings Carnival, which wasn't all that easy, as I tried to come up with some sort of coherent theme. It's not easy to tie together different posts from different people and it's always a challenge. (Once I tried to do it with RINO horns; another time it was Salvador Dali's RINO obsessions.)

    After this morning's attempt at a V-E Day theme, I was given some heartfelt advice from a commenter:

    "stop obsessing on the fringe trivia and get a grip on the big picture!"
    I thought I had tried to do that, but I guess I got so bogged down in the posts that I lost sight of the big picture.

    It's a fair criticism and it happens to me all the time. So I'm trying to refocus, at least for this one post. (The fringe stuff can wait till later, or maybe tomorrow.)

    Anyway, I don't know whether it's fringe trivia or today's news, but a group of terrorists have been arrested for planning to kill "as many [U.S.] soldiers as possible" at the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey:

    One suspect reportedly spoke of using rocket-propelled grenades to kill at least 100 soldiers at a time, according to court documents.

    "If you want to do anything here, there is Fort Dix and I don't want to exaggerate, and I assure you that you can hit an American base very easily," suspect Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer said in a conversation last August that was secretly recorded by a government informant, according to the criminal complaint against him.

    "It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested or get taken away," a suspect identified as Serdar Tatar said in a conversation recorded by the same informant. "Or I die, it doesn't matter. I'm doing it in the name of Allah."

    Still another suspect, Eljvir Duka, was recorded by a second informant as saying, "In the end, when it comes to defending your religion, when someone is trying attacks your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad."

    Officials said four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one in Jordan and one in Turkey. All had lived in the United States for years. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in this country permanently, and the sixth is a U.S. citizen.

    Besides Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Serdar Tatar and Eljvir Duka, the other three men were identified in court papers as Dritan Duka, Shain Duka, and Agron Abdullahu. Checks with Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka and Shain Duka are illegally living in the United States, according to FBI complaints unsealed with their arrests.

    Five of the men lived in Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia suburb located about 20 miles from Fort Dix.

    Gee, that's not all that far from me. (I wonder whether any of them might have been worshippers at the Saudi madrassa in my neighborhood.)

    In a post called (appropriately) "Jihad in America," NRO's Andy McCarthy links this report which has more, while Glenn Reynolds links this CBS Report, and wonders whether Tony Soprano was the tipster.

    Well, I'll say this for the Tony Sopranos of this world. They might not be nice, but they do tend to be on the side of the United States.

    I noticed an odd detail from the WNBC report:

    Fort Dix is used to train soldiers, particularly reservists. It also housed refugees from Kosovo in 1999.

    I'm wondering whether Dritan Duka is the same man as this refugee from Kosovo who sought asylum in Great Britain in 2001.

    Who knows? But considering how many of the men were here illegally, it would appear that someone's not doing the greatest job of keeping track of who enters the United States.

    As to the big picture, Ft. Dix issued an official press release which clued me in:

    "Security at Ft. Dix remains stringent in the wake of arrests Monday of six men who were allegedly plotting a terrorist attack on the post. This alleged attack is a reminder that we are a nation at war, and that each of us must be vigilant and aware of our surroundings ...
    We are at war?

    Gosh, who'd have thought?

    As you can see, I get so caught up in fringe trivia it's easy for me to forget!

    posted by Eric at 02:38 PM | Comments (6)

    RINOs Carnival Special V-E Day Edition

    While many Americans might not be aware of it, today, May 8, is still known as V-E Day.

    That's Victory in Europe.


    Yes, 62 years ago today, President Truman proclaimed victory in Europe.

    In Russia, it's still celebrated by parades in Red Square:

    The parade, to mark the 62nd anniversary of Russia's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, will take place on Moscow's Red Square. The Frunze airfield, on the northern outskirts, was used as the dress rehearsal's venue.

    Some 7,000 troops will march along the Russian capital's central square next Wednesday, and nine Su-27 and MiG-29 Flankers will fly overhead in a lozenge-shaped configuration.

    The parade will also include a historical pageant, with servicemen featuring military uniforms and flags from the WWII era.

    Here's a photo of the festivities:


    I don't know that the Americans would dare engage in such a provocative display. (I mean, what if the Germans took it the wrong way and brought up all the awful things the Americans did like bombing Dresden, and America's incredible ongoing guilt?)

    Anyway, V-E Day is still a big deal in Europe (especially in Russia) and disgruntled Russians in Estonia are grumbling about V-E Day in the context of the recent riots in Estonia.

    A different kind of victory in France led to recent rioting there, and Jules Crittenden has a great piece in Pajamas Media -- by way of advice as to how the victorious Nicholas Sarkozy might address France's "fearfulness about alienating the Muslim immigrant masses risk making it a third-world nation, ultimately a failed state we may need invade (again) someday":

    If you want to restore France to a place of greatness, Nicolas Sarkozy, I'd suggest starting with some French humility. I suggest looking at not just about what France can do for France, but what France can do for the world. Ditch the accordion.
    I don't know how fervently V-E Day is celebrated in France today, but back in the old days, it was a big deal, and here's an amazing picture of grateful (is "victorious" too much of a stretch?) French citizens 62 years ago:


    Is it my imagination, or is a French crowd actually waving the U.S. flag?

    (The mind can play games at times.... Maybe it's just an old OSS Photoshop!)

    Of course, some countries make France look like the beacon of civilization. Jane at Armies of Liberation has a post about how the Yemeni government denying newspaper licenses to tens of people who applied to open a newspaper:

    Female Reporters Without Chains used to be called Women Journalists Without Borders, until a government stooge NGO took over that name in an effort to diminish the impact of the authentic organization which is very active and effective in the civil rights field. And now they can't get a newspaper license after trying for a year or more.
    I am not surprised, considering that Yemen's interesting human rights record - said to include torture, executions for homosexuality, extra judicial executions, girls marrying as young as nine, and last but not least, flogging journalists for "defaming" the leading Islamist Party. A lovely place.

    And need I mention what Yemenis do to the poor Rhinos again?


    If only we could celebrate Victory in the Mideast Day.

    But as a Typical Joe (News, views and musings from a gay New Yorker living in the rural south) reminded me in a post titled "God's destruction in Georgia," it is undeniable that there are some nutcases in this country who resemble Islamists in certain respects. In particular, Joe singles out Michael Marcavage -- a man who believes in the death penalty for homosexuality -- and who declared that Hurricane Katrina had been sent by God to punish New Orleans. Joe wonders why Marcavage has been so silent about wildfires in Georgia. FWIW, I've been writing about the Philadelphia-based Marcavage (whom I suspect him of being an agent provocateur) for years. He no more typifies Christianity than Fred Phelps, and I do wish both Marcavage and Phelps would go to Yemen where they could celebrate the execution of homosexuals and then attempt to convert the natives and see what happens.

    Funny that I would just mention natives, because Dan Amato (author of the one and only Digger's Realm -- and the man who is keeping the RINOs going right now) is dedicated to the struggle to enforce over the out-of-control United States border with Mexico. Natives being people who are born in a country, I think all native born United States citizens ought to be more concerned than they are.

    I thought I should point out another amazing coincidence. In addition to being V-E Day, today commemorates the Battle of Palo Alto:

    the first major battle of the Mexican-American War and was fought on May 8, 1846, on disputed ground five miles (8 km) from the modern-day city of Brownsville, Texas
    That war is what established much of what is now the border. Dan submitted five entries on the general subject of the border and they're all good.

    As an official blogger for the Hold Their Feet To The Fire event ( at which citizen lobbyists from across the country hit Congressional offices lobbying against amnesty and illegal immigration) Dan has a 30 post category of his coverage with lots of pictures, videos and stories. It's quite interesting, and includes pitures of Dan with presidential candidates like Tancredo and Hunter, wives of Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean, and more.

    Not only that, but Dan met up with fellow RINO Rachel of Tinkerty Tonk and wrote about it in a post called Meeting Tinkerty Tonk. Cool!

    Be sure to check out Dan's video interview with Melanie Kortlang, the mother of Amy Kortlang, who was killed by an illegal alien drunk driver in October, 2006. Dan covered Amy's death and the trial and says that "I think as a blogger you don't expect to actully ever be personally involved like that." No, you don't expect such a thing, and I admire any blogger who has the balls to step up to the plate to do actual reporting. (I've tried it, but usually people never call me back, and the few who do leave messages on my machine, which I then return -- but I never seem to get past the telephone tag stage.)

    Dan, however, does a lot more than play telephone tag, and in addition to being a blogger reporter, he's an effective lobbyist. Fourth, is coverage of how my reporting from the event of the treatment of a lobbyist team by a congressional staff member set off a firestorm of calls to a congressman's office and resulted in the signing of a bill.

    In a post called "How Bloggers And American Citizens Are Changing America," Dan explains how he managed to get past a hostile congressional staff and actually persuaded a Congressman to sign on to HR 563 -- a bill to pardon agents Ramos and Compean:

    So, why did I write this entry? Because I want every single one of you out there to know that you can make a difference, but only if enough of us get together. In my 4-5 years or so of running this website I've always had in the back of my mind "Yeah right like anything will ever get done about this bill or that bill", but you know what? Things can get done.
    Remarkable and inspiring story.

    Last but not least, Digger's Realm documents that the open border group "Sin Fronteras" is openly calling for calling for revolution in the United States and allies itself with terroristic groups, while operating as a church front group in Portland. AMong other things, the group states:

    Sin Fronteras Portland is building a network of autonomous working groups in the Portland area with the goal of bringing the anticapitalist and antiauthoritarian struggles of Latin America to the USA. We see groups like the Zapatistas, the Magonistas in Oaxaca, and many others as examples of revolution in action.

    We recognize that until we overcome white supremacy, capitalism, the state, and other forms of domination, there will not be real justice for migrants, for the poor and oppressed here and elsewhere. We live in the heart of a global empire of misery and it is our responsibility to destroy the imperialism that starves and devastates the world...

    For more on this nauseating phenomenon and its link to "church" groups, read "Sin Fronteras Calls For Open Revolution In The United States - Elvira Arellano Ties."

    As if calls for open revolution in the United States weren't bad enough, poisonous anti-semitism is spreading in the universities. An important post on the subject is Dane at Danegerus's "Genocide rationalization as scholarship 'Postmodernizing' Archaeology at Barnard." It has long sickened me that Islamist crackpots and Arab governments attempt to deny the existence of the Israelites in Israel (despite the fact that ancient Roman coins plainly and undeniably illustrated these events.) So it's especially horrifying that this profound -- even insane -- illogic would be getting a toehold in American universities. But it is, and a denier of the existence of Israelites is poised to get tenure -- at Barnard College, which Dane notes is "a Liberal arts college for women affiliated with Columbia University" (home of course to the late Edward Said, inventor of the pernicious idea that identity politics immunizes "groups" from criticism). Dane also links an incredible video I'd never seen before that everyone should watch which has film footage of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem with Adolf Hitler, and which explores the strong historical ties between Islamism and Nazism.

    Hell, it's so damned good I'll embed it here (with my thanks to Dane):

    Anyone interested in why we fought in World War II (and why we should still observe V-E Day) ought to watch it. (And weep.)

    This all leaves me wondering.... If crackpots who spout Israelite denial can get tenure, what's next? Will Barnard and Columbia start offering courses in Holocaust Denial Studies? (A department, perhaps?)

    Considering the toxicity of the left, I need to pause for a breath of some fresh air of freedom.

    Economic freedom, perhaps? In yet another amazing coincidence, it so happens that today, May 8, is also Friedrich Hayek's 108th birthday, Dan Melson of Searchlight Crusade has a submission that's a breath of fresh air! While Dan apologizes for not having a political theme (he's recovering from a separated shoulder, so he's not doing anything more than essential primary theme material right now), economic freedom is his primary theme, which is always a fine theme, especially on Hayek's birthday. In a detailed post explaining why Gravity Is Not a Major Determinant Of Housing Prices, Dan explains that economic regulation is contributing to the housing problem:

    Environmental regulations have taken on a whole new life of their own since 1973. Tests, reports, studies. It can take over a decade to get approvals to build new housing, and if it fails any of the tests, studies reveal any likely issues, or people use environmental issues as a cover for NIMBY or BANANA behavior and sue in court, the whole thing goes down the drain. I happen to agree that we need environmental regulations, but they need to be re-written with more consideration that all economic choices are trade-offs, because the way they are written right now, they form an excellent basis for anyone who wants to stop any development at all to do so legally. Every time we stop a new development, the people who would have lived there need to find some other housing somewhere else. Going along the chain of A prices B out, who then prices C who is lower income than B out of lesser housing, every time we have a new American without building new dwelling space for them, somebody is going to end up homeless, and the price of housing goes up incrementally.
    If you ask me, Dan's view even sounds a little like Hayek's view of the government role:
    "If we wish to preserve a free society," Friedrick Hayek once wrote, "it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion." These are words worth remembering this year, on the 60th anniversary of Hayek's seminal work, The Road to Serfdom.

    Hayek's maxim is a bedrock principle of American liberty. Simply because a majority of Americans may prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla, we don't demand that the government ban all sales of vanilla. Although one may not appreciate the personal preferences of others, we typically realize that they're not any of our concern.

    So Happy Birthday, Friedrich Hayek!

    But how far we have to go....

    Last but not least, Mog submits "Shiites Unite" -- a disturbing post about a report that Iraq's Prime Minister is working with Al-Sadr and the Iranians. "Not very encouraging for the prospect of the war ending anytime soon," says Mog, and I agree.

    Victory sometimes consists of just staying put -- even hanging by a thread.

    That's it for the RINOs, a group so diverse in their views that they defy my ability to define the tent, much less explain how they can all fit into it.

    (Hell, I'm feeling so optimistic that I'd be willing to say we can still celebrate Victory in Europe -- even if by a thread.)

    Happy V-E Day everyone!

    NOTE: Any RINOs I missed (or who may have last minute submissions), simply let me know.

    UPDATE: While it's bad that historical denial can be a fast track to getting tenure, Clayton Cramer reminds us that quoting George Washington can lead to losing tenure. (Cramer is not a RINO, but I think the post belonged here anyway.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Clayton Cramer for the link.

    UPDATE (05/15/07): Those interested in a detailed examination of the bogus scholarship behind postmodernized Archaeology at Barnard should also read this detailed analysis by Diana Muir and Avigail Appelbaum.

    posted by Eric at 11:27 AM | Comments (7)

    Fusion Image

    Fusion Magnetic Field

    This is a simulation of the magnetic field in the WB-6 Bussard Fusion Reactor. A picture of the WB-6 can be found here.

    It was done by Indrek. He posted it to the IEC Fusion Newsgroup. His simulation is logarithmic with 32 steps. Each step is 1.433 times the size of the previous step. It represents a field range of about 65,000 to 1. You can contact him through the newsgroup.

    It was calculated using a program designed by Indrek using the Biot-Savart Law.

    Not that it will matter to most folks.

    It is a pretty picture.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 06:19 PM | Comments (2)

    my selfish personal motivation disclosed

    Warning: This is a personal and (for me, at least) a highly emotional post. Much as I hate it when a political topic becomes personal, there's no way for me to avoid the fact that it has, and I feel I'm under a duty to disclose why I feel so strongly about this issue, and why I don't think it is as trivial or frivolous as it might appear.

    There are a lot of things over which people are should be concerned. Whether it's the war in Iraq, the election in France, the endless election in this country (and whatever issue might be more important) it may seem frivolous that I have devoted so much time to California AB 1634 (the mandatory spay neuter bill).

    Considering that this is my ninth post on the subject, it may seem that I have become single-mindedly obsessed with AB 1634, but the fact is, that bill is only one tentacle of a growing, seemingly unstoppable juggernaut. To me, government-mandated pet surgery is both a symbol and a clear line that is being drawn. It's an early warning sign of something far worse -- the growing public acceptance of the idea that government can and should invade the most utterly personal areas of our lives.

    Few things are more personal to me than my relationship with my dog, Coco. The idea that the government can make me a criminal for not cutting out her ovaries (something which is entirely my business and no one else's) fills me with horror.

    What happened to all the people who used to scream "KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF OUR BEDROOMS?"

    What about the idea that a man's home is his castle?

    A dog is personal. And it's property. But it's different than ordinary property, because there is a personal bond, an emotional investment between a dog and his owner that cannot be measured in economic value. Because of this emotional component, a dog may be the most valuable property that a person can have. I can't speak for other dog owners, but if my house was on fire, my very first thought would be to save Coco! I think many dog owners would feel the same way. That is the real test of value.

    So, people who care about property rights ought to care very about this special form of property which, to the people who have it, is the most valuable property of all.

    The idea of the government entering into my relationship with my dog is thus more than an ordinary violation of property rights. It's highly personal.

    Good intentions are said to be behind the people who want to do this. The theory is that Coco is not my property, but is now the property of others, who lay claim to her under a theory that they, not I, should have power over her. In the name of her "rights." (No really.) Yet, some of the same people and organizations who would make it a crime for me not to cut out Coco's ovaries also want to kill Coco. Why? Because they don't like her breed.

    I don't know if there is any way to put this more simply, but Coco is my dog, and that's all there is to it. I am loyal to her, and in being loyal to her, I am being loyal to myself. The people who want to make me cut out her ovaries and the people who want to kill her I must oppose resolutely, lest I cease to be a free citizen.

    I find it depressing to live in a country which would invade my home and kill my dog, and despite my use of satire, ridicule and sarcasm as weapons, I don't think their movement is funny at all. It is sinister. I do not think it is hyperbole to call it Orwellian, and yes, even totalitarian.

    So for now, I'm drawing the line at ovary control.

    And yes, I have a very personal motivation. My best friend.


    What kind of country is the United States becoming, that I have to worry about the government invading my home and attacking my dog?

    Yes, "attacking" is exactly what it is. We are not talking about a debate here, or about doing the right thing. Even if I were to concede for the sake of argument that I might be well advised to "fix" Coco, from where derives the idea that the government has a right to come into my home and use force to make me do it? It's from an idea based on a theory -- and this theory has such unbridled contempt for my most personal property rights that the mindset behind it believes the government is fully justified in killing my dog, simply because they disapprove of the appearance of her genes.

    It must be remembered, though, that this is not just an idea and a theory; it's a well-organized movement, now very much in the mainstream. That this "movement" is within striking distance of being able to use government force to invade my California home and mess with the dog that I love is something I would find unbelievable if I didn't see it happening before my eyes. Sure, I can continue living in Pennsylvania in what amounts to exile status, but if I return to California I become a criminal thanks to this movement.

    And mark my words, this will spread.

    That apparently well-meaning people could be so low puts me at a loss for words right now. But I just wanted to explain why I felt the need -- by means of a little personal disclosure -- to write this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post. And this post.

    posted by Eric at 08:40 AM | Comments (30)

    the graying of kiddie porn?

    Writing in Friday's Wall Street Journal, Garance Franke-Ruta argues that the age of consent should be raised -- for "providing erotic content":

    It is time to raise the age of consent from 18 to 21 -- "consent," in this case, referring not to sexual relations but to providing erotic content on film.

    Current federal laws bar the production or possession of erotic images of individuals under 18. These laws are hardly a matter of long custom: The first was passed only in 1977, after a spate of interest in child pornography, and until superceded in 1984, only covered those under age 16. A variety of state laws add their own controls on youthful sexuality, trying to keep minors free of exploitation by defining the age, usually under 18, at which adult consent may be freely and responsibly given.

    In certain obvious respects, 18 years is old enough to ward off the threat of "child porn." But the "Girls Gone Wild" problem concerns adult porn: At what age is a girl ready to make that decision, one that she will live with -- technologically speaking, at least -- for the rest of her life? A woman of 18 may be physically indistinguishable from one who is 21, but they are developmentally worlds apart.

    Yes and a woman of 21 may be physically indistinguishable from one who is 25, but they are also developmentally worlds apart. The same could be said about the difference between 25 and 30. Nevertheless, Franke-Ruta argues that "there ought to be a law" -- to save women from their own bad judgment:
    ...a 21-year-old barrier would save a lot of young women from being manipulated into an indelible error, while burdening the world's next Joe Francis with an aptly limited supply of "talent." And it would surely have a tonic cultural effect. We are so numb to the coarse imagery around us that we have come to accept not just pornography itself -- long since routinized -- but its "barely legal" category. "Girls Gone Wild" -- like its counterparts on the Web -- is treated as a kind of joke. It isn't. There ought to be a law.
    I'm wondering how a law like that would work. Considering that young people often film each other, suppose an 18 year old films an 18 year old. Are they both to be arrested, or only the one holding the camera? Aren't both just as culpable? How could such a statute be written without pushing childhood further and further into adulthood?

    So, once possession of erotic images of humans under 21 becomes a crime, if a guy and a girl (or two guys, or two girls) exchange pictures of each other, they all go to the slammer, right? In order to "protect" themselves from "indelible errors."

    Um, but isn't having a criminal record even more of an "indelible error" than an appearance in an irresponsible college film?

    What is entirely unclear to me is whether the 18 year old is a provider or a victim. Certainly, it's easy to see actual children as victims of child pornography. But 18 year olds are not children under criminal law, and this is a criminal statute which is being advocated. So what do they become? Adult victims of crime to which they consented (and in which they conspired), but for which they may not be prosecuted? What I want to know is if they film and sell their own pictures of themselves, who gets arrested? Who goes to prison?

    It's probably worth pointing out that Ms. Franke-Ruta is on the "left." But is she on what Dinesh D'Souza calls the "cultural left," that's destroying the country and inflaming traditional Muslims?

    I think D'Souza should embrace her, for what she's advocating is a major leap forward towards the goal of ending pornography. (In the name of infantilization, of course.)

    But who's going to protect the 21 to 25 year old children?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: It occurs to me that a huge percentage of erotic imagery depicts persons aged 18 to 21. If that were made illegal, countless millions of Americans would become criminals overnight.

    Might that be the idea?

    MORE: I don't know what Garance Franke-Ruta's exact positions are on abortion. But assuming she's against things like parental notification and the rest of it, might this be a good time for her to revisit the issue?

    I mean, under what theory are 18 year-old women too immature to consent to subjecting their bodies to a camera, but mature enough to subject their bodies and fetuses to a scalpel?

    UPDATE: Jon Swift thinks Franke-Ruta's proposal to raise the age of camera consent does not go far enough:

    Can a girl of 21 really know what she is consenting to when she signs a release form for a pornographer? Does she really understand what the ramifications might be later in life? That is why I propose that we raise the minimum age of consent to participate in pornography to 65.

    I think by 65 a woman has finally attained the maturity necessary to weigh the pros and cons of participating in pornography. Since she will most likely be retired or on the way to retirement by that age, there is little danger that such images will come back to haunt her in her career.

    There are also excellent career opportunities for senior citizens.

    Read it all!

    posted by Eric at 02:08 PM | Comments (2)

    Buying a book to spite the publisher?

    I first heard about Mischa Berlinski's Fieldwork on a Glenn and Helen podcast in which they interviewed the author. Until today, I never bought the book, although the interview helped inspire a long post about Naga headhunters.

    Distracted by other things in the past couple of months, I had all but forgotten about the Berlinski book until yesterday, when I stumbled quite accidentally upon Stephen King's review of the book in "Entertainment Weekly." Book reviews don't usually make me mad (especially when the reviewer loves the book as much as King loved this one). But it wasn't the review that made me mad, it was reading about how the publisher undermined the book -- especially the reasons: Here's King:

    If this is such a good read, what's the bad news? That's easy. As of March 26, Fieldwork was No. 24,571 on the Amazon best-seller list, and not apt to go much higher. The reason why is illustrative of how the book biz became the invalid of the entertainment industry, and why fiction sales are down across the board (with the possible exception of chick lit). Critics, with their stubborn insistence that there's a difference between ''literature'' and ''popular fiction,'' are part of the problem, but the publishers themselves, who have bought into this elitist twaddle, are also to blame. Since we're talking Fieldwork, take Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Publishing houses have two faces. In the case of FSG, Jekyll belongs to the distinguished company that has published such award-winning novels as Gilead, The Great Fire, and The Corrections. Hyde is the side which seems to proclaim ''Don't read this, it's too smart for the likes of you.''

    Reading that was enough to make me buy a book I had forgotten to buy.

    Reading on made me want to write a post about it:

    I picked Fieldwork up because I saw interesting words on the flap (fascination, taboo, sexual), but when I think about how close I came to passing it by, I just get mad. As it was, I grabbed it on impulse, thinking: I know you don't want me to buy you, you dull-looking thing, but I'm going to. Just to spite you.

    Why, why, why would a company publish a book this good and then practically demand that people not read it? Why should this book go to waste? Is it because there are people in publishing who believe that readers who liked The Memory Keeper's Daughter are too dumb to enjoy a killer novel like Fieldwork? If so, shame on them for their elitism. Hey, guys, why not put the heroine on the jacket? Martiya in the jungle at night, or embracing her lover, or dancing with the native tribe of which she almost becomes a member? In other words, why not actually sell this baby a little?

    It occurs to me that publishers may confuse ''selling'' with ''pimping.'' If so, here's a flash: They're not the same. Sell this one, and you make it possible for this guy to write the next one. You're doing him a mitzvah. And not just him. What about the ordinary reader? In case you forgot, guys, we are your friends, not unwashed, unlettered, germ-laden interlopers at the literary feast.

    You don't want to do your job? Okay, I'll do it.

    Under the drab title and the drab cover, there's a story that cooks like a mother. It's called Fieldwork.

    So why would they give this excellent book such short shrift?

    Because some strange literary elite wants to be in charge of what constitutes literature?


    At the rate they're going, they'll do to writing what they've done to art.

    So I bought the book not only to support the author, but out of spite for the publisher (to say nothing the intellectually bankrupt literary elites who seem to be influencing them).

    Who knows? I might even get around to reading it.

    posted by Eric at 11:07 AM | Comments (2)

    making my remote vote emote

    After just writing a post explaining why I don't watch television, now it's time for a true confession.

    I watched the Republican presidential, um, debate.

    At least, that's what they said it was. I tried to watch it out of a strange sense of nagging "duty" -- as I thought that I might be morally obliged to keep "in touch."

    Keep in touch with what? With the reality of television? It wasn't a debate at all; merely an exercise in how a candidate might look on TV, and many factoids he could cram into a thirty second sound byte before Chris Matthews hit the switch.

    The problem is, there's no denying that these are presidential skills. How the president does on television is probably more important than how the president does.

    It sickens me, but it's undeniable reality.

    But I could have skipped the whole thing, because Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of reaction, and if I clicked and read each one of the links, I could learn more about the debate than I did by watching it.

    I might as well disclose my reaction to watching it, which is a judgment simply on the two skills I mentioned.

    Romney, McCain, Giuliani and Hunter stood out as the most talented sound-byte packagers. Ironically, McCain and Giuliani did the two best jobs of looking mortally wounded by being cut off, which is a good tactic by way of causing the viewers to think they had much more to say than could possibly be jammed into the arbitrary-but-fair time allotments. Romney and Hunter looked rested and ready, and as masters of the medium, with the former looking as ready for TV prime time as it's possible to be, and the latter looking like a real gladiator. (I'm not as much of a hardliner on the border issue as Hunter and Tancredo, but if you are, I'd say Hunter looks more like the real border warrior. Very impressive.)

    As to being a factor in deciding whom I'll vote for, the debate was utterly meaningless. (I'm torn between Giuliani and Fred Thompson, who wasn't there, and a lot will turn on the entry of Gingrich, for whom I don't plan to vote.)

    But then again, I might switch parties so I can be a DINO against Hillary as I once was years ago.

    (It's almost as easy as switching from Fox to CNN with a remote.)

    MORE: Pajamas Media has a great roundup of reactions, and my favorite was Roger L. Simon's:

    "The big winner of the first Republican presidential debate was the man who wasn't there: Fred Thompson. Although I admire Giuliani and agree with him on most issues, the presidential look and feel of the absent Fred loomed over this boring event with only Ron Paul for comic relief."

    posted by Eric at 10:03 AM | Comments (1)

    Spare me the images while I try to think....

    Commenter "Heather" (in this post by Jules Crittenden) reminded me why I don't watch television:

    I remember seeing a news photo of a little Vietnamese girl running down the road, because she had been/was being attacked with napalm. That was the iconic photo of the Vietnam war, the one that decided a lot of people that this was was an immoral one, and that the USA should GET OUT.

    Well, a moment ago, I saw the photos (not the video) of the little Kurdish girl who was stoned to death last month, for having a boyfriend. This occurred in the Oh So Civilized KURDISH NORTH, the place where all is brightness and light and civilized.

    I am a real supporter of this war in Iraq. However. If we were not dependent upon that oil, I would say, GET OUT NOW, and let those barbarians get on with herding their goats, and stoning teenagers.

    It's time to get the placards out: DRILL ANWAR; and MORE NUKE (reactors) PLEASE!!!

    (Via Glenn Reynolds' link.)

    I don't support stoning young women to death any more than I support tying young gay men to fences and beating them to death. (Or, for that matter, shooting young people to death in classrooms.)

    This is the problem with analyzing any incident. A single incident -- no matter how horrific -- is anecdotal in nature. It's tough enough to read about it and remain logical, without seeing an indelible image of the gruesome atrocity.

    Images have the paradoxical effect of distorting reality while purporting to depict it accurately, because they force us to look at something we were not there to see, and really cannot see objectively from the comfort of our homes. Images and video are inherently propagandistic in the sense that they influence the emotions in ways that textual accounts do not, and that's even when they are accurate.

    The napalmed girl is a perfect example. There are no wars in which civilians are untouched by such horrors, but children are also burned to death in fires deliberately set by arsonists in Philadelphia and many other places. A burning child suffers burns, and if people are responsible, they should be punished.

    Few would argue that a child burned in a building torched by an arsonist is an indictment of society. (Well, I know some would, but that's the radical communitarian view, which is a topic beyond the scope of this post.) But many would (and many did) argue that the napalmed girl is an indictment of American war policy in Vietnam, and war generally. It doesn't seem to matter whether the napalm hit the girl accidentally, whether procedures weren't followed correctly, or whether a criminally culpable rogue soldier might have done it deliberately and needs to be punished. All that matters is the image of the screaming, crying girl.

    I'm a human being too, and it's hard for me to be subjected to images like that because it distorts my ability to be rational and analytical.

    I'm sure I would be horrified to watch the video of the little (I see she's 17) Kurdish girl (a member of minority sect with which I'm unfamiliar), but there's no way that watching it could inform me how accurate it is and what really went on. British news reports state that security forces did nothing, and that Kurdish forces have outlawed honor killings, but aren't enforcing the law.

    Those are the reports, and I'm sure the video is horrible. My inclination would be to want to have those responsible taken out and summarily shot. But before shooting them, I might want to ask who knew her, and what was going on. I'd have to do some kind of investigation, but there's no way to do it from the comfort of my home.

    When James Byrd was dragged to death in 1998, activists tried to paint him as a victim of a systematized violence by white people against black people, and shortly before the 2000 election, an ad campaign showed a horrific video, while the man's daughter read this:

    Renee Mullins (voice over): I'm Renee Mullins, James Byrd's daughter.

    On June 7, 1998 in Texas my father was killed. He was beaten, chained, and then dragged 3 miles to his death, all because he was black.

    So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crime legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.

    Call Governor George W. Bush and tell him to support hate-crime legislation.

    We won't be dragged away from our future.

    And the text from the radio ads:
    I'm Renee Mullins. My father was James Byrd, Jr.

    I still have nightmares thinking about him, the day three men chained him behind their pickup truck and dragged him three miles over pavement.

    I can see skin being torn away from his body.

    I can hear him gasping for air.

    I can feel the tears in his eyes, the struggle of his brain as images of his life painfully bang through his head as the links of a heavy chain clinched around his ankles dragging him bump by bump until he was decapitated. [pause]

    On June 7, 1998 this happened to my father, all because he was black. I went to Governor George W. Bush and begged him to help pass a hate crimes bill.

    He just told me no.

    I'm doing this commercial to ask you to call Governor Bush at 512-X and tell him to introduce a hate crimes bill in Texas.

    Let him know that our community won't be dragged down by hate crimes.

    Needless to say, this ad campaign readily reduced itself to sound bytes which became increasingly misleading -- to the point where people were blaming Bush for Byrd's death.

    Similarly, the image of Matthew Shepard savagely beaten, tied to this fence and left to die is what people remembered, and his death eventually became an indictment of rural people like the tire-wielding rednecks in Brokeback Mountain. (FWIW, I've argued against these stereotypes, because a young gay man is more likely to be beaten to death in a Northeastern city, but emotion is what matters.)

    Emotion is the stuff that fuels television, and images are the stock in trade. There's enough news for me to read without my spending time watching things which are deliberately calculated to make my emotions influence my thinking.

    Thus, I did not once turn on the television during the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings.

    The downside of this is that I am not "tuned in" to many of the emotions with which other people are constantly tuned in, so I am often at a loss to understand why people get so upset over what I consider news reports to be evaluated.

    I'm not saying I have any inherent objection to images, or videos, or their use in propaganda. I just don't think that they are any more helpful for me in evaluating what happened than it would be helpful to watch a video of George W. Bush sitting on the toilet. The latter is a regular event which I do not doubt has happened many thousands of times, but it has no logical bearing on anything. The paradox, of course, is that precisely such a video could, in the right hands, provide fuel for those who think Bush should be impeached.


    Wasn't he caught riding a bicycle while thousands died?

    And didn't his Secretary of State buy shoes while poor Americans were being eaten by alligators?

    posted by Eric at 09:25 AM | Comments (5)

    Where the bees are

    (Sorry if the title sounds imitative of the Connie Francis song, but occasionally I'm stung by spontaneous outbursts of nostalgia.)

    Perhaps I should have titled this post "where the disappearing bee stories aren't" because the more the bees don't disappear, the more the disappearing bee stories do.

    I guess it's tough to get people to take stories about disappearing bees seriously when they can go outside in their yard and see bees.

    beeweed1.jpgAnyway, in light of my previous posts, I thought it was a good time for an update. Yes, there are still honey bees in my yard. But the cherry blossoms they were pollinating last week are losing their petals, and I'm pretty sure the pollen is gone. So the bees are making their way around the yard, and right now they're pollinating some sort of small purple weed flowers. The picture on the left shows what's going on in my yard right now. They're clearly European honey bees, but whether they're commercial I don't know. I doubt it, as I live nowhere near any farms, so they're probably just feral descendants of some long-forgotten beekeeper's bees. The bees that seem to be suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder are the ones that get boxed up and trucked around, and they've been kept going for decades with regular dustings of miticides. Whether this is good for bees and how long they can be expected to compete with wild insects is of course debatable.

    While it's been blurred by scary stories about "NO BEES," the distinction between domesticated and wild bees is nonetheless attracting the attention of at least some environmental activists:

    Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem? Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action in dealing with this issue?

    These are important questions to ask. It is not an uncommonly held opinion that, although this new pattern of bee colony collapse seems to have struck from out of the blue (which suggests a triggering agent), it is likely that some biological limit in the bees has been crossed. There is no shortage of evidence that we have been fast approaching this limit for some time.

    "We've been pushing them too hard," Dr. Peter Kevan, an associate professor of environmental biology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told the CBC. "And we're starving them out by feeding them artificially and moving them great distances." Given the stress commercial bees are under, Kevan suggests CCD might be caused by parasitic mites, or long cold winters, or long wet springs, or pesticides, or genetically modified crops. Maybe it's all of the above. (24)

    There may be some truth to some of that. (Although I am extremely skeptical about the attempt to blame GMOs without real evidence.)

    But in any event, there seem to be plenty of bees in plenty of places.

    In Idaho, there were enough bees to pollinate this Spring's crops, but there's still chatter about Colony Collapse Disease elsewhere:

    Idaho producers had enough bees available to pollinate crops this spring despite what's being called colony collapse disorder, but commercial beemen moving hives across borders are hearing other tales in neighboring states.

    There definitely is a shortage of bees, particularly in California, said Tom Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Honey LLC in Nampa, Idaho.

    Washington state, where Hamilton was working hives during the first week of May, was also more concerned than Idaho about the issue, he said.

    "Washington has a larger tree fruit industry," Hamilton said. "As a honey industry, we're working with Washington State University to develop what we hope will be a world class honey bee research program. The fruitmen are backing us up, and we hope all the media attention on colony collapse disorder will help us get the program started. We need research to help us deal with diseases, and colony collapse is a good example of why."

    In Canada, at least one beekeeper claims that the dying bees in the United States are the "canary in the coal mine," while he trots out the "famous" quote the Einstein never said:

    In the U.S. it's so bad they have even coined a new name for it, colony collapse disorder.
    "Bees are an indicator of how the environment is doing, it's like the canary in the coalmine," said Tillsonburg beekeeper David Brandon.
    "If the bird dies, miners run.
    "Well, if the bees are dying it's bad news for all of us,"
    He then quotes Albert Einstein who is said to have remarked decades ago that if someone killed off all the honeybees, man would be extinct just four years later.
    "No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
    Sorry to interrupt, but the Einstein quote is bunk! (And it's been thoroughly debunked.)
    "Most people don't realize this, but more than one third of all our food comes from plants that need to be pollinated by bees," Brandon said.
    There are all kind of theories out there, everything from genetically modified foods to global warming, insecticides, radiation from cell phone towers and even fungus.
    Brandon said in the States, Congress is taking this very seriously and has set aside $75 million to investigate and more than 100 scientists are now looking for the cause of the die off.
    Brandon lost 75 per cent of his hives, but many beekeepers have lost even more.
    "I had 170 hives, I have 45 left, but I know many other people had 90 to 100 per cent losses," he said.
    Canadian experts, however, do not think CCD is hitting Canada.
    Brent Halsall, president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association is taking a more conservative, or should shall we say careful position.
    "I get the media calling me every day asking if this is a crisis, but I won't say that," he said.
    "Certainly this is a serious situation," Halsall said, "It's not good."
    But he is also quick to point out the ministry and beekeeper groups agree Ontario is not suffering from the American colony collapse disorder.
    He said, in the U.S., bees are leaving their hives to die and any attempt to install new bees into those hives fails.
    Even bee pests like small hive beetles or wax moths won't go back into those hives. Something bad is in there and scientists are trying to find out what it is.
    The situation in Ontario is different. A difficult fall with low pollen and nectar counts and the sudden onset of very cold temperatures in February caught many colonies off guard and bees died.
    "We are experiencing a very unfortunate coming together of a number of different factors," Halsall said, "but it's not CCD."
    So the problem is mostly with American bees. (The evil southern "Other" to the south, natch.)

    And, please bear in mind, that the CCD problem involves domesticated European honey bees. Not the Africanized honey bees which have made their way from south of the border. In Texas recently, 135,000 AHBs were removed from the walls of a town home, along with honeycomb which had taken a decade to build:

    Officials said the size of the hive and numbers of bees inside of the walls led experts to believe the bees may have been building honeycomb for nearly a decade.

    It took beekeepers several hours to remove the bees from behind the wood panels.

    Sounds like our boxed, trucked, and fumigated bees could learn a few lessons in nature from the colonial southern invaders.

    But elsewhere in the South, some people steadfastly maintain there are no bees at all -- foreign or domestic. In Atlanta, the Editor of the Tribune-Georgian sounds pretty steamed up. He claims he "not seen a single bee in his yard so far this spring" and speculates about the cause:

    One study recently completed by German researchers indicates a more insidious problem. They postulate that the electromagnetic radiation put off by the millions of cell phone towers and other wireless communication networks may be putting out enough juice to scramble the bees' innate navigation systems, preventing them from finding their way back to their hives.

    If this is the case, I will take a fresh cantaloupe over my cell phone any day. But if this theory does pan out, expect a massive and vicious response from the telecommunications industry. And no, it's not feasible to fit each of the billions of bees in the U.S. with little metal helmets to stave off the "buzz" of EM radiation we've added to the landscape.

    Sorry there, Mr. Atlanta Editor, but if you look around, you'll see that this is so discredited that the German scientist himself says there's "no link between our tiny little study and the CCD-phenomenon ... anything else said or written is a lie." It's even becoming a joke among USDA researchers. So, I'd spare making the tiny metal helmets for now. (I understand, though, that tin foil might be the best material to use....)

    I doubt such piffling details as the microwave theory being dismissed by its own scientific researcher will concern the Editor in Atlanta. Because -- well because microwaves are just plain evil. They're irradiating our "juices." (I hope that doesn't include my precious bodily fluids, but I've heard rumors....)

    Even if colony collapse disorder is eventually tracked back to a pathogen or a pesticide, the theory about the EM radiation really got me thinking about this huge experiment we are currently conducting on the planet and on ourselves.

    Between the ubiquitous wireless phone networks and the burgeoning wireless internet networks - both the local ones people maintain in homes and businesses, and the more widespread ones that cover entire cities or regions - we have greatly increased the amount of EM radiation in our daily lives.

    You can't see it and you can't feel it, but at some point, you just have to wonder if we all aren't slowly scrambling our DNA as we microwave in our own juices.

    As we microwave in our own juices? Geez, the things I "just have to wonder" about these days. I can barely keep abreast of dog "overpopulation" in California, and I also trying to figure out how there could be so many bees in my own yard when there's WiFi everywhere and I'm using the cell phone all the time, but I'm told the bees aren't there, and now on top of that I have to take into account that my juices are involved?

    Why, it's almost too much.

    I mean, why are we worried about dog overpopulation when the bees are all gone because all life is being cooked to death in a vast electronic stew?

    There is already a strong link between heavy cell phone use and brain cancer and there is a growing body of evidence that cell phone radiation kills brain cells. Are we just setting the next generation up to be senile before they hit 50?
    We? You tell me! I'm feeling senile just from reading the editorial.


    But with the few remaining brain cells I had left after the editorial, I gamely continued my trek around the country to search for bees.

    In North Carolina, the story is similar to Idaho -- plenty of bees there, but obviously the bees are missing somewhere else:

    "There is something real out there," Hopkins said. But he added that so far, North Carolina has not seen the problems that other states have experienced.

    "There are some that are concerned it could happen to them," Hopkins said of North Carolina beekeepers. "And there are others who have lost bees for whatever reason that are convinced that they have lost bees to this. Our office is trying to determine if that is the case or not. Really, we haven't seen the conditions that have happened in California, for example."

    Researchers have said that over the past century, there have been instances of unexplained mass honeybee die-offs, Hopkins said.

    David Tarpy, North Carolina's state apiculturist and an entomologist at N.C. State University, said it is not unusual for beekeepers to lose 30 percent to 50 percent of their bees over the winter. They die for different reasons: starvation, varroa mites or diseases.

    Scientists such as Tarpy must track down why they die or disappear. But there is no test for pinpointing colony collapse syndrome, he said, because they don't know what it is.

    No talk of outfitting North Carolina bees with tiny helmets.

    Again, where is the catastrophe? And, quite frankly, if this Atlanta Journal and Constitution story is any indication, I'm a bit skeptical of the Atlanta Tribune-Georgian Editor's cooked-in-juice claim:

    For [Beekeeper John Pluta] and most other Georgia beekeepers, the honey-making life is sweet, with occasional stings. They have weathered dropping honey prices, pests and, this Easter, a freeze that shut down nectar flow in the tulip poplar. The most serious new problem facing apiarists, colony collapse disorder, has had only a marginal effect in Georgia, according to University of Georgia entomologist Jennifer Berry.

    Pluta says he lost about 18 percent of his bees over the winter to various causes, small damage compared with 80 percent losses reported by some beekeepers elsewhere in the country.

    Hmmmm.... Might the other Georgian be too stewed in his own juices to examine his back yard?

    It can be challenging at times, but I'm doing my damnedest not to stew in my own juice.

    Anyway, I am pleased to report that in my yard, the bees are still there.

    A SYMMETRICAL AFTERTHOUGHT: After writing this post, I find that the stingers of nostalgia are still embedded in my brain. Thinking the matter over with the few brain cells I have left, it occurs to me that there is no reason not to end this post as I began it -- on a note of bee nostalgia.

    So here's Ricky Nelson, signing "Honeycomb":

    I can't think of a sweeter way to end the bee scare.

    posted by Eric at 09:26 AM | Comments (8)

    It Had An Unfortunate Gloating Tone

    KC Johnson at Durham in Wonderland is discussing hate mail. Specifically hate mail recieved by some of the professors involved in the Duke Hoax.

    The latest example of creatively interpreting what constitutes "harassing" e-mails comes from the newly elected chairwoman of the Academic Council, Paula ("No to Due Process") McClain. A Free Republic reader sent two emails to McClain. The first asked for comment about the end of the case; the second said that she had been "hoisted on the petard of Political Correctness, racial identity politics, gender determining feminism and what [the writer] coined as 'Tawana Brawley Syndrome'."

    The reader continued, "Aside from the fact that petty tyrants like you have turned US college campuses into little ivy covered North Koreas, I suspect that you were seeking to appropriate PC bonus points and obtain instant moral authority by championing the cause of the "other" (marginalized black exotic dancer) against racist male chauvinist members of the privileged white elite. A case of cultural Marxist Class warfare that boomeranged. GOD how I love it so!!!!!"

    I would not have sent the e-mail above. It had an unfortunate gloating tone.

    Yeah KC. I loved it too!

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)

    "Little Darling"

    This is an old video of the original song by the Diamonds, which in 1957 reached number 2 on the charts.

    It's downright campy, in a charmingly naive sort of way.

    Amazingly, these guys are still alive, and if you're curious, here's a more recent video.

    posted by Eric at 10:42 PM | Comments (4)

    Abortion of unwanted fetuses is good.
    But euthanasia of unwanted dogs is bad.

    Reading over my post on animal euthanasia (in the context of the AB 1634 mandatory spay and neuter bill), it occured to me that people might think that when I refered to "the manufacture of new morality" that I was being unduly argumentative.

    Having given the matter some thought, I am convinced that if anything, I was understating the case.

    Consider these California abortion statistics:

    In California, 897,590 of the 7,574,045 women of reproductive age became pregnant in 2000. 59% of these pregnancies resulted in live births and 26% in induced abortions.


    In 2000, 236,060 women obtained abortions in California, producing a rate of 31.2 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age.

    Compare the above with these California dog euthanasia statistics:

    For 2005, 293,142 dogs were "processed". Approximately 39% of the dogs were euthanized, about 20% were reclaimed by their owners, another 30% were adopted, and some 5% were transferred. Along with a smaller percentage of dogs that escaped/stolen or died from other causes.


    California has over 12 million households, and if even 50% of those households have 1 dog, the minimal population would be 6 million dogs. If based on the licensing being approximately 20%, then an estimate of nearly 8 million dogs may be made. From this information with approximately 300,000 dogs entering the shelter system in 2005, this represents roughly 4% of the potential dog population.

    The euthanasia rate then is about 2% of the total dog population.

    Unless my calculations are wrong, the California abortion rate works out to 3% of the total population of women. Slightly higher than the euthanasia rate for dogs. The similarities in overall numbers also startled me. (Between 6 and 8 million dogs, and approximately 7.5 million women of reproductive age.)

    It is not my purpose here to debate the morality of abortion. But it strikes me that under similar logic to that being used by the proponents of AB 1634, the abortion rate could be cited for the proposition that there is a "human overpopulation crisis," and that because it's awful that babies are being killed, all women of reproductive age should therefore be sterilized. This would mean no more unwanted pregnancies, and therefore no more abortions.

    Of course, such an argument would be greeted with scorn, because there is no moral comparison between animals and human fetuses.


    Clearly, whether dog euthanasia is a more objectionable practice than the killing of a human fetus is a matter for moralists. Personally, I would not imprison a woman for killing her fetus, as I don't agree with the argument that it's murder. And while I guess a lot of people would disagree with me, I do think killing a fetus is morally more egregious than humanely euthanizing a dog.

    Much as I'm trying to stick to logic here (and not settle morality questions), considering that the primary argument in favor of AB 1634 is based on dog euthanasia being immoral, I'm forced to ask a basic question:

    How can simple, humane, dog euthanasia be immoral if human abortion is morally acceptable?

    Because the fetus does not know it's being killed? (Neither does the dog, so that's not an argument.)

    Because the fetuses are killed humanely while dogs are not? (No, actually it's quite the reverse.)

    There seems to be a fundamental inconsistency here.

    But I guess inconsistency is nothing new where it comes to the manufacture of new morality.

    I think I know what Peter Singer would say, but I still think there's a difference between humans and animals.

    posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (13)

    We Will Get All Industrial On Them

    Wonderful discussion going on at Dr. Sanity's about shame cultures, why they tend to despotism, and why their war on the West could lead to unfortunate consequences. Especially for them.

    The Dr. not being an avid historian gives Dresden as an example of what Americans are capable of. Commenter Simon-Peter sets her straight and proves it was mainly a British show. So I decided to help the Doctor out:


    I think the point is not to make exact American points, but to show what Western Man is capable of.

    The fire bombing of Japanese cities is probably the best American example - with Hiroshima and Nagasaki the exclamation points.

    The generals bombing Japan were worried. They were running out of cities to destroy. As I recall they figured that by Nov. or Dec. of '45 there would be no major targets worth bombing.

    Heck, the atom bomb guys were worried. The production rate was only about 3 a month. Not enough to sustain a bombing campaign.

    Consider the state of mind required to think like that.

    These islamo nut jobs do not want to continue tickling the dragon's tail. We will get all industrial on them.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 02:48 PM | Comments (3)

    massive social engineering to combat bureaucratic inconvenience?

    A lingering, unsettled question which keeps arising in the various discussions of California AB 1634 (mandatory spay and neuter bill)* involves the ethics of animal euthanasia.

    This goes to the very heart of the debate, because preventing animal euthanasia is the bill's central goal. Whether anyone agrees or disagrees that there is a "dog overpopulation" problem (and I disagree vehemently), the bill's proponents define and measure overpopulation by one statistic:

    The number of dogs (and cats) which are euthanized at animal shelters.

    Yet the California statistics show a steady and dramatic decline in dog euthanasia (despite an ever-growing human population). Why then, is the claim made now that there is an overpopulation crisis?

    I think that the reason has less to do with overpopulation than with a dramatic shift in attitudes towards euthanasia -- especially by the animal control personnel, and especially in recent years.

    Why would attitudes towards animal euthanasia in California have changed so dramatically in the past few years?

    A primary reason seems to have been the Hayden bill which the legislature passed in 1998, and Governor Pete Wilson signed. During the arguments for and against the bill, animal shelter workers faced criticism as heartless killers -- to which they responded that they took no pleasure in this unpleasant task. Regardless of the truth of these allegations, the intent of the legislation was to transform animal shelters as much as possible from places of killing to places of adoption, by means of state-mandated holding periods, as well as directives that whenever possible, animals be given to various "no kill" rescue agencies:

    The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights further argued that the longer holding periods would shift the focus of animal control facilities from capturing and killing to more responsible care and increased adoptions (California Assembly).
    As might be expected, the Hayden law caused dramatic increases in operating costs in animal shelters, as well as increased kennel overcrowding because of the required holding periods. Moreover, even animals which were otherwise unadoptable or diseased (and which would previously have been euthanized earlier) now have to be held, given treatment -- even if the staff all know they are doomed:
    Severe overcrowding has been the most visible problem resulting from the passage of this bill, especially in larger cities. Cage space is at a premium because all animals who are not suffering from irremedial injury or illness, including those who are too aggressive or wild to be adopted, have to be held for three, four or six days--depending on the type of animal and the specific shelter--before they can be deemed untreatable and euthanized (Food. & Agricultural Code §§31108, 31752, 31752.2).
    Even obviously feral animals have to now be held:
    Another common critique of the holding periods is that they cause suffering for animals such as the maladjusted, frightened pet or the fearful feral animals that have to be held for at least three days but will never be considered adoptable (Morrison, 1999). Not only does having to hold those animals mean using cage space that another, adoptable animal could have occupied, it also means placing the animal in a very stressful situation only to be euthanized later.
    What I find most interesting, though, is the bill's stated goal of ending euthanasia by 2010:
    The California sheltering community is united in its agreement with the overall goal to end the euthanasia of "adoptable" and "treatable" animals by the year 2010.
    With that as a goal, little wonder that right now there'd be a huge push for new legislation.

    But, laudable as the goal of ending euthanasia might be, should that be allowed to bootstrap the push to end euthanasia into a claim that there is an overpopulation crisis?

    Once again, I think that the evidence is overwhelming that the goal of AB 1634 is to relieve animal control worker stress.

    They simply don't like euthanasia.

    And who could blame them? As I explained, I fully sympathize, as I can think of few things in recent years more stressful than euthanizing my dog Puff. However, having gone through that experience, if a friend or a neighbor couldn't face the prospect of doing it and asked me to help (say, by driving his pet to the veterinarian for the fatal shot), I'd help out. It would be far, far, easier than participating in the death of my own dog, because the less I knew the animal, the less emotional attachment I'd have, and the easier it would be to help.

    Now, I'm not accusing animal control workers of being cruel, or callused, or heartless (and how could I look into their hearts?), but common sense suggests to me that their position would in general be far more analogous to my taking the neighbor's dog to the vet than tearfully holding my own dying dog. Perhaps even less so, because I know my neighbors and am at least familiar with their dogs whereas the animal control workers are dealing with dogs belonging to strangers.

    Familiarity is the key here; the more familiarity, the more pain. More than once I have heard people who grew up on farms tell me that there were rules against too much familiarity with animals doomed to be slaughtered.

    Like "Never name the pigs!" Why? Because, by naming animals, and by getting to know them, you develop an attachment to them.

    I'm wondering (just wondering), might the Hayden bill be a primary cause of the increase in stress among animal workers? Surely, something has to explain why a decrease in the euthanasia rate would be accompanied by the shrillest claim of "overpopulation" in recent memory. I can't speak for them, but it seems to me that the longer you care for an animal, the more stressful euthanasia would become. Might the state-mandated emphasis on adoptions, on rescues, on ending euthanasia be factors contributing to animal worker stress?

    It certainly looks that way.

    Anyway, considering the amount of time I have spent contemplating the stress on animal shelter employees, isn't it fair to take a look at the animals themselves?

    After all, animals are what this is supposed to be about, right?

    Using my dog Puff as an example familiar to me, even if I engage in the most extreme anthropomorphic projection imaginable, there is no way that I could make the claim that Puff, intelligent and sensitive dog though he was, could possibly have been aware what it meant to euthanize him. I was sitting right there, and the dog had been experiencing regular pain and discomfort, and I'll never forget how happy he was when that shot tranquilized him. He wagged his tail and just went to sleep. There was no awareness of death at all. I was the one experiencing that -- and it was all on his behalf. I was stressed (and extremely so), whereas Puff's stress had come to an end.

    From where derives the burgeoning idea that a death like that constitutes animal cruelty? It might be people cruelty for those who are present, but even if I search within the depths of my soul, there is no way I can imagine it to be animal cruelty.

    But let me back up, to when Puff was a young and healthy dog in the prime of his life, say, when he was four years old. Of course I would never have euthanized him, but let's assume that he'd taken off chasing a bitch in heat or something (this never happened, as I didn't allow him to roam, but I suppose it's theoretically possible), and let's assume that he managed to get totally lost and was picked up by a stranger or something, and later found himself in an outlying jurisdiction many miles away only to be turned in by some kind-hearted person to a local animal control shelter. Naturally, I'd have spent all my time looking in local shelters, and it might occur to me to put posters up. (I had a dog stolen years ago, and I got him back that way.) Assume the holding period in the shelter wherever Puff was passed, and that they had a policy against adopting out "pit bulls." Or suppose he had eaten an indigestible object which lodged in his gut, causing a massive blockage only curable by expensive abdominal surgery. (Such things happen all the time.)

    So anyway, there's poor Puff, aged four, facing a lethal injection, without his master there to save him. (Again, horrible as it sounds, these things happen all the time.) Puff would have had no more awareness at that age than he did a decade later. Again, the pain and stress would have all been mine, and possibly, that of the animal control workers. To the extent Puff would have been stressed, it would have been during the holding period before his death. As I raised him from a puppy, and he grew up with his father and grandmother, his real stress would most likely have been wanting to find his way back home to familiar surroundings, so even if he'd been adopted out to a new owner, he might have wanted to escape. So it's arguable that depending on the circumstances, euthanasia might have been less stressful for Puff even than an adoption.

    I say this because I'm wondering about the philosophical objections to animal euthanasia. Aside from the stress to the people who perform the euthanasia (and the owner of the animal), I find myself wholly unable to find any legitimate moral or philosophical objections.

    However, there is a term called "convenience euthanasia" which is floating around, and it's examined by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association:

    Pets are occasionally presented to veterinarians for "convenience euthanasia." The following are examples of reasons given for euthanasia: A new roommate is allergic to the pet, a new apartment does not allow pets. Veterinarians have been known to find new homes for these animals without notifying the original owners. Is convenience euthanasia a welfare issue, an ethical issue, or neither?

    There are various ways to approach this issue. The most obvious is by asking the question if death harms an animal. Clearly, inflicting pain causes harm and, thus, raises ethical questions. On the other hand, would killing an animal painlessly, albeit prematurely, constitute harm? On one view, which I and others have defended, it does not appear that animals possess the cognitive ability (lacking language) to grasp either the concept of life or the concept of death. It is hard to imagine, therefore, that in lacking this idea of life and its end, animals value life in itself. Therefore, I have argued that an animal cannot choose to trade off current pain and suffering (say from cancer treatment) for future life, as people do; thus, we must think seriously about causing them suffering, since for them there is, as it were, no light at the end of the tunnel.

    On the other hand, other philosophers, such as Steve Sapontzis, have argued that one does cause harm to an animal even by killing it painlessly, since one is forestalling its future pleasures. This may indeed inform our commonsense moral intuition that even painless euthanasia is wrong when a healthy animal is killed for convenience, when we have every reason to believe that it could have enjoyed a happy life had it lived. Other philosophers respond that the notion of possible future pleasure is too obscure to be helpful.

    In my view, one need not decide between these competing theories to firmly conclude that the killing of healthy animals is morally wrong, for whichever of the foregoing positions one chooses to believe, such action can be condemned on the basis of what the Greeks called issues of "virtue." On this view, one judges actions by comparing them with the sorts of character traits one wishes to promote in a good society. Consider the following case: a very rich person decides to burn his Van Gogh paintings. They are his possessions; he has paid for them. One may condemn him for this by saying that he is thereby depriving others of the chance to see these paintings; that is partially true, but it is not the whole story, as he is not condemned as deeply if he keeps them locked away in his apartment and no one else can view them. The difference seems to be the primordial sense of horror at someone who would destroy something beautiful for fun. I think we would feel something similar towards a person who wantonly trampled a field of wildflowers even on his own property. Moreover, we certainly feel that way about a person who would kill or abandon an animal that has been a loyal companion and is possessed of special beauty. We are uncomfortable around such people -- "What will they do next?"

    If one adopts this sort of view, one can morally condemn acts of convenience euthanasia strongly on the grounds that they evidence the sorts of character we emphatically do not wish to cultivate or even tolerate in society, even if such an act does not, in an ultimate philosophical sense, "harm" the animal. If nothing else, we would reasonably fear that such a person would likely escalate to harming people, since he or she is of a makeup that we cannot empathize with.

    I find it tough to square the latter view with the reality of slaughtering farm animals for meat, but I find myself wondering about ethics. How can a veterinarian make a judgment what constitutes "convenience," much less decide the relative degree of evil in a particular instance? We might all share feelings of disgust over someone who has her pet euthanized because her new boyfriend "doesn't like dogs" -- but does the dog understand the difference between this type of owner inconvenience and the sort of inconvenience presented by, say, the owner's inability to afford veterinary treatment?

    If a dog gets hit by a car or swallows a collapsed tennis ball, treatment can easily run into the thousands of dollars. For many people, such a high cost is so inconvenient as to be impossible.

    What, if any, are the implications to veterinary ethics? This is explored in "A Right to Die" in a veterinary magazine:

    Social forces are also at work asking, in some cases requiring veterinarians to become more of an advocate for the pet, reports Dr. Annette Rauch, a clinical assistant professor at Tufts' Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

    The result creates conflict.

    "What is best for the animal is not what is always best for the owner," Rauch says.

    "There is a big range of what individual veterinarians feel comfortable in doing. It seems that younger veterinarians are falling on the side of limited to no convenience euthanasia."

    According to multiple sources, the newest generation would much rather serve the pet if it came to a question of convenience euthanasia -- a change in attitude from the generation of veterinarians, who were taught to serve the pet owner.

    But the ethical dilemmas posed by euthanasia, Rauch reports, are nothing shy of gray and inherently unique to each case.

    "Some people are legitimately poor," Rauch says. "They can't spend $3,000 on veterinary care. So, we come into conflict. The animal could benefit from the surgery, yet the owner simply doesn't have the means to do the right thing."

    Might an emerging form of veterinary ethics be involved in California's AB 1634? The California Veterinary Medical Association is one of the sponsors. And "convenience euthanasia" is a hot topic, both in veterinary circles, veterinary ethics classes (one of which mentions euthanasia of a "grieving dog"), and of course the general animal rights community.

    To give an idea how importance of convenience euthanasia as an ethical issue, veterinary ethicist Jerrold Tannenbaum defines veterinary ethics and cites it as the very first example:

    1. Descriptive: values or standards of the profession outlining what is acceptable behavior determined by peers. The Veterinarian's Oath is an example.

    2. Official: values formally adopted by organizations composed of members of that profession. The AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics is an example.

    3. Administrative: rules set by governmental bodies that regulate veterinary medicine. Licensure requirements or Drug Enforcement Agency registration protocols define this category.

    4. Normative: the individual's attempt to discover what he or she believes to be the correct moral standard and norms for professional behavior and attitude.

    A practitioner's stance on convenience euthanasia is an example.

    Is this emergent veterinary ethics issue taking the form of manufactured morality under AB 1634?

    I can think of few clearer examples of "convenience euthanasia" than bureaucratic necessity.

    But what is convenience? Is there, or should there be, a different standard of what constitutes "convenience euthanasia" depending on whether the animal is owned privately, or in the hands of animal shelter workers?

    I don't know, but I suspect that the ethics of euthanasia go to the heart of AB 1634. The idea is to end euthanasia by ultimately eliminating most dogs, with the animal bureaucracy simply shifting its ethical burden to ordinary pet owners. The hope is that the public will be tricked into believing that euthanasia is caused by overpopulation despite evidence to the contrary, and despite common sense and simple logic.

    Just as there are unwanted and uncared for animals, so there are unwanted children, poverty, homelessness, and prisons. While society does not perform euthanasia on unwanted people, even if it did such a monstrous thing, this would not mean that there was "overpopulation" -- only that the people in charge simply found the unwanted people to be bureaucratically inconvenient. That there is such a double standard between humans and animals is not unfair. It is the basis of the distinction between humans and animals.

    To illustrate, assume you have a dog that is suffering from a horrible, untreatable disease causing intractable pain. To not euthanize the animal would be a form of animal cruelty. But if you have a child suffering from an incurable disease with identical symptoms, euthanasia would be murder. Yes, it is a double standard, but it is one grounded in our humanity, and in the difference between humans and animals.

    I know this has been a lengthy essay, but I don't think I have been able to discern any valid philosophical or moral objection to animal euthanasia. (Perhaps readers can enlighten me.) Even the moral objections to "convenience euthanasia" are at best judgments against the perceived heartlessness of the owner -- and have nothing to do with actual suffering of the animal.

    In short, I am unable to find any basis for AB 1634 other than the relief bureaucratic stress and the manufacture of new morality.

    *Previous posts on AB 1634 here, here, here, here, here, and here.

    posted by Eric at 11:02 AM | Comments (7)

    Why not end all deadly traffic?

    Justin had a thought about AB 1634 (more infra -- here, here, here, here, and here) which seemed to merit a post all by itself. However, if I wait around for Justin to write it, AB 1634 may have been passed and signed into law. So I thought now would be a good time to share Justin's thoughts, as amplified and expounded upon by me. (Justin, FWIW, owns no animals of any kind, so he has no, um, dog in this, um, race.)

    Anyway, it struck Justin that spaying and neutering all dogs because a minority of dog owners won't control theirs was a lot like enacting prohibition because of alcoholism, drunken driving, and drinking by minors.

    Good point. And I suppose drunk driving could also be curtailed by a moratorium on the issuance of drivers licenses. For that matter, why not just eliminate the proliferation of cars?

    Now, if we apply the AB1634 model, the sponsors would have to first declare that there was a severe "car overpopulation crisis" (there is), that it causes "traffic" (it does), and that many cars end up being abandoned by their owners (they do), that they therefore often have to be impounded at taxpayers' expense (how true!). And that tragically, many of these impounded vehicles are "unwanted" and never find new owners, and have to be destroyed!

    The sponsors of the "Healthy Car Initiative" could simply require that all existing cars would have to be rendered incapable of highway travel, and that no new cars could be manufactured except for rare, certified collectors cars, along with specially built cars to be used at NASCAR events. Any such cars could not be sold or licensed in the future unless they were "neutered" in such a manner as to prevent their ever being used on the highways. True, there'd still be plenty of cars in private hands, but there'd be fewer and fewer over time.

    Let's turn to cars as a public health issue. By any standard, the public health would benefit far more by getting rid of cars than by getting rid of dogs. Cars killed 4225 Californians just last year, while dogs killed only 30 Californians in the entire period of 1979-1995. Considering that California has around 24 million cars, and 8-10 million dogs, it becomes clear that cars are a far, far, more significant public health issue than dogs -- and by an enormous ratio.

    So what are we waiting for?

    Why isn't Lloyd Levine turning off the larger spigot?

    posted by Eric at 07:47 PM | Comments (4)

    Illegal Numbers?

    Is 09 f9 11 02 9d 74 f3 5b d8 41 56 c5 63 56 99 bf an illegal hex number?

    Nope. I made a transcription error.

    So what is all the excitement? Inquiring minds want to know.

    THE MPAA is having a go at erasing the fairly public HD-DVD processing key number from the Interweb.

    The key, Hex 09 f9 11 02 9d 74 e3 5b d8 41 56 c5 63 56 77 gg, [not the real number - ed.] was discovered months ago and has been distributed amongst netzines everywhere.

    However stories where the key is mentioned have been attracting the attention of MPAA spooks. DMCA take down notices have been issued to sites like Spooky Action at a Distance and Digg.

    The Digg users who published them have even had their accounts closed by mods.

    But this has created a bit of war between users who have been working to keep the number in the public eye.

    In the case of Digg, the entire front page comprised only stories that in one way or another were related to the hex number. You can also find HD-DVD song lyrics, coffee mugs, and shirts.

    Google reports that there are 283,000 pages containing the number with hyphens, and just under 10,000 without hyphens. There's a song. Several domain names including variations of the number have been reserved.

    That looks like a lot of take-down notices that the MPAA is going to have to issue.

    This is all about keeping secrets which can't be kept and making copies which are not copies.

    It is all about preventing copies from being made where copies must be made. It is all about violating the laws of nature. I discuss some of that and have links to a lot of good information on copy protection schemes in New Vistas which is about the copy protection schemes in Microsoft's Vista operating system.

    Well any way it has the folks at digg up in arms.

    It has Charles at Little Green Footballs up in arms about "theft" of intellectual propery. How is it theft if you figure it out on your own or some one tells you? I'm still working out that one.

    As one commenter after another has pointed out encrypting an object and then decoding it on a given machine makes the encryption key vulnerable to the owner of the machine. The key will be somewhere on the machine. Even if it isn't, comparing the encoded data with the decoded data allows the key to be teased out.

    The system has more holes than swiss cheese. In addition in order to make the software distributable you have to have the same key for every disk if the disc is not coded for a specific user. You have to wonder how the MPAA or the RIAA or any of the other royalty collectors hoped to get away with this one.

    Let me leave you with the music maker's lament about coyright:

    "Why should I let my fans steal from me when the record companies already do such a good job?"

    Here is a band doing something about it Stuck Mojo. You can listen to one of their tunes "Open Season" for free on Youtube. They are giving their music away. Not just one song either. A whole album. The Stuck Mojo link above explains how to get free music without risking a lawsuit.

    I might note, as a long time Dead Head, that the Grateful Dead pioneered free music. Going so far as to provide those with tape recorders live feeds from their shows in an area called the "taper's section".

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:25 PM | Comments (4)

    A choice with a weird echo

    I don't know whether Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running for office as a recent article in New York Magazine suggests he is, but he's setting two philosophical straw-men against each other, and claiming that it's either one or the other:

    "There is an ancient struggle between two separate philosophies, warring for control of the American soul. The first was set forth by John Winthrop in 1630, when he made the most important speech in American history, 'A Model of Christian Charity,' on the deck of the sloop Arbella, as the Puritans approached the New World. He said this land is being given to us by God not to satisfy carnal opportunities, or expand self-interest, but rather to create a shining city on a hill. This is the American ideal, working together, maintaining a spiritual mission, and creating communities for the future.

    "The competing vision of America comes from the conquistador side of the national character and took hold with the gold rush of 1849. That's when people began to regard the land as the source of private wealth, a place where you can get rich quick--the sort of game where whomever dies with the biggest pile wins."

    The above is a false dichotomy and I don't trust false dichotomies (especially when they're spouted by Hugo Chavez allies.)

    So naturally, I wonder why Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would be trying to lay claim the mantle of Barry Goldwater in any way.

    No, seriously. I recoiled in horror when I saw Glenn Reynolds's remark that the new edition of Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative contains "somewhat weirdly, an afterword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr."

    I know I get carried away at times, but I think "somewhat weirdly" may be putting it somewhat mildly. Considering Barry Goldwater's politics, I think it's downright bizarre. Although, I suppose, it could be some sort of inside Democratic political strategy. There seems to be a feeling on the left that because Barry Goldwater was a libertarianish sort of Republican and the GOP is in disarray, that there is some kind of power vacuum left open which can be magically grabbed by simply glomming on to the corpse of Barry Goldwater and hoping ordinary people won't know the difference.

    Even so, a little political legerdemain by RKF Jr is in order:

    "I wouldn't be a reliably liberal senator," says Kennedy. "My father was never a liberal. He was a devout Catholic with an open mind." He says Reagan and Bush have completely dekiltered terms like right and left to the point where he was happy to write a glowing introduction to the new edition of Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative, not exactly a Kennedy kind of gig. "Goldwater hated those corporate types, thought they were antithetical to individual rights," Kennedy said, claiming he's "more conservative, in the traditional sense" than George Bush and his Gitmo crew ever were.
    Wait a second! Isn't there a bit of a discrepancy in the book description? I mean, I haven't read the book, and I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but it occurs to me that there is a difference between "a glowing introduction" and "an afterword." So who's right? New York Magazine? Or Glenn Reynolds?

    Being a firm believer in the Reagan doctrine of "trust but verify," I had a gut feeling that Glenn was right and New York Magazine was wrong, but I just thought that I should check the cover. Sure enough, Glenn got it right:


    I suppose it's possible that the introduction was demoted to an afterword after the New York Magazine article, but now I'm wondering just how "glowing" it is. It strikes me that it's the easiest thing in the world to put words in a dead man's mouth. (I say this as someone who has known an awful lot of dead people.) It's even easier when you're not putting words in their mouths directly, but claiming you know what they'd be saying if they were alive today.

    So, while I haven't read Kennedy introduction, I expect it to be along the lines of John Dean's claim to be a Goldwater conservative.

    OTOH, maybe it isn't, and maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    But I do think the left will be up against a rather large stumbling block.

    Goldwater was inalterably, vehemently, opposed to socialism. (So much so that he was called "a dangerous lunatic," and "a result of rigid toilet training...")

    Explaining away stuff like that will take some doing.

    Even if you're a Kennedy.

    Personally, I think the afterword might have been a bigger hit had it been written by a certain former "Goldwater girl." As she still owes him that bowl of chili she promised back when her husband was in the White House, writing the afterword wouldn't require her to claim any mantles, or even be glowing.

    Her cookie recipe is all over the Internet, and a recipe for chili would carry no political cost. Considering that chili is both a Mexican and a Suthun style dish, she could even write accents into the recipe -- "multilingual" style! ("There's nothin' more Suthun than muy Suthun, and Hillary sez it best!")

    Unfortunately, though, I'm not in charge of these things. And even if I were, Hillary might turn me down.

    posted by Eric at 05:32 PM | Comments (6)

    Military Censorship

    The Army is effectively shutting down Army blogs. This is stupid. Sgt Mom says something like: "What did you expect? It is all about Power and Control." (see how easy it is to get a link from me? LOL)

    We need more information from the Army, not less. So what do they do? Put a big kink in the hose.

    I think this has gone beyond stupid and is now firmly into insane territory.

    My guess is that this is a move to cover for the inarticulate Commander in Chief. If he can't adequately express himself no one can. Especially, he doesn't want to be upstaged by some 2nd Lt or a private even. However, that is strictly a guess.

    Here is what I think should be done:

    It seems to me that the way to handle this is blog teams. Each member of the team is assigned to censor all the others with a person responsible in each team. Self regulation.

    Then you have a blog central to pass info and answer questions and handle opsec regulation.

    I miss Armorgeddon.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 12:14 PM | Comments (1)

    There oughta be a law!

    And if I wasn't such a silly libertarian, I'd want something done about people who annoy me by asking me for money!

    A good example was an email I got earlier from ebay, cleverly designed to make it appear that I had just bought something, even though I hadn't. While it was only a minor annoyance, I dashed off an angry email to a friend:

    While junk email and spam are irritating enough, there's something especially irritating about getting it from ebay -- especially when the subject line "ScreenName, you bought this on eBay" makes it seem important.

    I don't like people who want my money.

    And, as was made abundantly clear in the advertisement, these people wanted my money!

    I thought it over and I wondered whether it's really enough to merely not like the fact that there are people who want what belongs to me. If I wasn't a libertarian, I think I should want to do something about it.

    Like a law, perhaps?

    Before laughing this off, bear in mind that the idea that it is wrong to want someone's money is not new. In fact, it goes to the heart of morality, it was written into the Ten Commandents, and it boils down to four words:

    Thou shalt not covet.

    While I could write a satirical essay about enacting the Tenth Commandment into law, I have yet to meet anyone -- sane or insane -- who would suggest it be made illegal to want what someone else has.

    But if I wasn't a libertarian, what a wonderful feeling it would be to know I could call the cops every time someone asked me for money -- whether in person or in an advertisement.

    Actually, coveting has been criminalized from time to time -- a notorious recent example being Khmer Rouge Cambodia. But this was not based on biblical law, and I have been unable to find a single example of any government which actually wrote the Tenth Commandment into an enforceable law.

    If I have missed one, please enlighten me.

    For now, I'll stick my neck out and venture that enacting the Tenth Commandment into law would be in direct opposition to American law and culture:

    The last Commandment for Jews and Protestants (which forms the last two commandments for Catholics and Lutherans) is an admonition against coveting. This text illustrates yet one more way in which the Ten Commandments are antithetical to the American legal and cultural experience. The King James Version of the Bible of this text says "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, . . . Nor anything that is thy neighbour's [sic]." This Commandment seems to stand in opposition to a capitalist, consumer culture that has long been at the root of American life. Whole industries - advertising, automobiles, clothing, and cosmetics - are predicated on the idea of wanting what your neighbor has. Americans learn from an early age to "covet they neighbour's house" and two huge industries, real estate and home building, thrive because of this. We even have a tax code that subsidizes this covetousness. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is a tried and true aspect of American culture. The prohibition on envy found at the end of the Commandments may be an ethical goal of Judaism and Christianity, but it can hardly be seen as part of the foundation of either American law or culture.
    A lot of what we call morality involves what I'd call shoulds. Ideals and principles by which we'd be well advised to live our lives.

    I've often wondered whether the Tenth Commandment is there as a reminder -- not of law, but as a reminder that there are limits to law.

    As to the idea that not all matters of right and wrong are proper subjects for human legislation, I happen to agree with that idea -- regardless of whether it came from God.

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

    My endlessly incestuous and endlessly repetitive arguments....

    about endlessly incestuous and endlessly repetitive topics....

    every endlessly incestuous and endlessly repetitive day....

    In an interesting discussion of laws prohibiting incest, Clayton Cramer takes issue with the idea that what consenting adults do is none of the government's business:

    The claim that what consenting adults do is none of the government's business would apply equally to racial discrimination in employment, or building a machine gun in your home, or having sex with animals, or torturing animals to death for a paying crowd. I think this would make a marvelous new reality show: "Let's see how long this dog stays alive, screaming in pain, while we slowly rip its skin off its body!" A lot of things involve consenting adults that civilized societies don't considerable acceptable--but in the pursuit of making one small group feel good about themselves by mandating legalization of same-sex marriage, the intellectuals are slowly destroying the basis for rules that define civilization.
    I'll try to take these one at a time.

    Racial discrimination is not done between consenting adults.

    Torturing an animal has nothing to do with consenting adults as it is not between them. I've discussed this before -- quite exhaustively in fact -- and I am just too damned tired of these endless debates to repeat all of the thoughts of an entire essay which was hard enough and gut wrenching enough to begin with. Basically, I couldn't care less what large "L" libertarian doctrine might be, but here's a small part of what I said:

    This is the third time I've read about a pit bull (or a close relative thereof) being violated like this, and if "libertarianism" really means letting that son of a bitch do that to the poor dog, then I guess it means I'm not a "real" libertarian. (So what? Will the world weep over my "treason"?) Libertarianism can be criticized for a lot of things, but I just don't see "libertarianism" in allowing this to be done to some poor dog.

    It's a little easier to analyze this case because the animal let the humans know it was in pain. In general, though, there's no way to know, as animals cannot complain. Nor can they consent. There is no such thing as a consenting animal, and unless the animal cries, there is no such thing as a complaining animal. While I disagree with the animal rights philosophy that animals are like people, I nonetheless consider them more than inanimate chattel. Thus, while I would support the right of a person to neglect his car until it conked out (say, to buy an old clunker and run it into the ground), treating a horse that way would be unconscionable, and I support making it illegal. Indeed, the first laws against animal cruelty were passed to prevent the routine working to death of harnessed horses in factories once they had outlived their usefulness. Laws prohibiting cruelty to animals may quite properly define cruelty as including having sex with them for the animals cannot consent to sex. This is no more inconsistent with libertarianism than supporting laws prohibiting sex with minors.

    Likewise, just as one cannot enforce a contract entered into by a child, there'd be no way to enter into a contract with an animal. Consent would be meaningless; suppose a valuable racehorse was "told" that it might sign a contract by imprinting a piece of paper with its hoof. If it did so, no court would consider that a valid contract because a horse cannot enter into a contract.

    I see the question of whether it is within "man's nature" to have sex with an animal as basically moot. No one can define with precision what man's nature is anyway. Is masturbation part of man's nature? What about having sex with a dead animal? Is that necrophiliac bestiality? What about sex with a butchered carcass? Is that more "wrong" than screwing a rump roast?

    How about a watermelon? Yeah, I know, it's considered by some to be an inflammatory symbol, and screwing fruit sounds pretty demented, but does it rise to that level of immorality requiring we punish the offender with criminal sanctions? And for those who are into smaller fruits or veggies and very different activities, how about bananas and cucumbers?

    OK, let's really follow this out.... How about sex with a pumpkin?


    I'm so tired of the lack of common sense I could almost scream "screw the pumpkin!" But I'll try to restrain myself and stick to the issue at hand.

    I think that truly consenting adults have the right to consent to things done to themselves, no matter how horrid we might think they are, as long as they don't do harm to others in the process.

    Incest is to my mind more complicated, and it raises more questions than are settled by the invocation of the ordinary "consenting adults" meme.

    While I've spent a lot of time doing it, I'm always exhausted by discussing the philosophical limits of libertarianism, and I don't think I'm an extremist libertarian, which is why I use a small "l" in describing my personal philosophy. I think it's a time-wasting exercise in frivolity to waste time debating such things as whether hand guns should be sold in elementary school vending machines, but I have seen capital "L" Libertarians doing just that.

    I think there is a balance between the political process and any philosophical doctrine which would trump that, and this was why I supported getting rid of sodomy laws state by state. (Yes, I did a better job in that post than I could today, but like a few thousand other essays I've written, it's long gone and long forgotten.)

    I hate to interject a new topic into a tedious post, but this is as good a time as any to point out what has become my number one objection to blogging.

    I am sick of repeating myself.

    I'll reword that:

    I am sick of repeating myself repeating myself.

    I'd like to laugh it off, but the thing is, when you've written a blog post, no matter how hard you worked on it or how long it took, it simply disappears after a few days, and then it might as well not exist. Yet, exactly the same issues will arise again, and will be discussed and debated as if they are brand new. Saying "I've said this before" is a very unattractive and unappealing sort of argument. Quoting from an old blog post is no fun. But reinventing the same wheel you've carefully invented (and probably reinvented) is even less fun.

    So for me, repetition is the single worst aspect of blogging. In an ideal world, I would only write about new things. But the world is not ideal, and I know I need to get over my aversion to repetition.

    If I never hear the word "sodomy" again, it will be too soon. I was complaining about how I never wanted to write about sodomy again two years ago.

    And yet here I am, two years later, not only still sick of writing about sodomy, but actually sick of repeating how much I hate repeating that I am sick of writing about sodomy.

    Anyway, what I was going to say (before I so rudely interrupted myself) is that I know it's a lot more work to get rid of bad laws like sodomy laws, and I know the political process is disgusting, but had that been done in the remaining few states which had sodomy laws, the argument that Incest Now Threatens Western Civilization would be nowhere near as loud or as credible as it currently seems.

    Frankly, the idea of incest annoys the hell out of me almost as much as the idea of a demented maniac screwing a dog. That a brother and a sister would do that is unfortunate.

    But anyone who thinks it is new, or that it represents a new wave of "freedom" threatening Western Civilization might remember that it's as old as the Hapsburgs (unless you believe that Adam and Eve's children did it), the gypsies, and even the Amish. It's unfortunate, and has known consequences.

    Like this silly creature:


    "Charles II of Spain, the pathetic victim of Habsburg inbreeding" -- so unfit to rule that his reign ushered in the War of the Spanish Succession:

    Charles II, King of Spain, was unlikely to live much longer and the Spanish throne had no direct male heir. The pathetic victim of generations of Habsburg inbreeding, Charles was both mentally and physically retarded. He suffered from severe epilepsy and in him the Habsburg lower jaw was so pronounced as to appear as a caricature. He could not even chew food properly, leading to digestive problems.
    That's what happened when the Hapsburgs kept screwing each other's cousins, nieces, and worse.

    I see that Wikipedia's incest entry has (quite predictably) become a ferocious battleground and I guess that's because of the ideological theoreticians.

    I'm sure I'm repeating myself but I often wish common sense would prevail. Society has a right to prohibit incest. But OTOH, if a brother and a sister fall in love, should they be imprisoned so they can pine away for each other for ten year stretches? Whether imprisonment solves the problem might be a question for the political process, but perhaps the psychiatric process is better equipped to deal with them. I think a good argument can be made that society has the right to sterilize people who insist on doing such things with their genes. It might not be a libertarian solution, but I think it's better than locking them up.

    However, it makes more sense to focus on the people causing the problem than the people who aren't.

    Here's the Pennsylvania law. Other jurisidictions are similar:

    18 Pa.C.S. §4302


    A person is guilty of incest, a felony of the second degree, if that person knowingly marries or cohabits or has sexual intercourse with an ancestor or descendant, a brother or sister of the whole or half blood or an uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the whole blood. The relationships referred to in this section include blood relationships without regard to legitimacy, and relationship of parent and child by adoption.

    Here's California's incest law:

    § 285. Incest
    Persons being within the degrees of consanguinity within which marriages are declared by law to be incestuous and void, who intermarry with each other, or who being 14 years of age or older, commit fornication or adultery with each other, are punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.
    I don't see much of a groundswell to get rid of these laws, but I think that if the incest activists (assuming there are any) want to get rid of them, they should do so by lobbying from state to state. I might sarcastically say "Good luck," if I could find the incest lobby. (The latter has been mentioned, but only in the polemical sense.)

    I guess even common sense has its polemical limits.

    So do I.

    posted by Eric at 10:51 AM | Comments (8)

    To some people, freedom is a leaky pipe
    This legislation will be the equivalent of turning off the spigot on a leaky pipe. If you've got water leaking into your basement, you can bail all you want, you can get buckets and friends with buckets, but until you turn off the pipe, you're going to continue having water leaking into the basement.

    -- Lloyd Levine, author of AB 1634

    While this is my fifth post touching on AB 1634, the reason for this one is that I just realized that California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (the author of an unconstitutional bill which would harm the poor and increase rabies) is the legislator I complained about previously for attempting to ban pet cloning in California.

    Not only that, he's the same guy who wants to make incandescent lightbulbs illegal. And as Kim du Toit's forum noted, Levine also wants to make it a crime if you don't report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours.

    Now, while (as I have said many times) I refuse to cut out Coco's ovaries, it just so happens that I don't want to clone her. And it just so happens that like Glenn Reynolds and Bill Quick, (as well as many PJM bloggers) I use CFLs. Furthermore, if I found out that one of my guns had been stolen, I'd call the cops and report it immediately, law or no law. But these are all personal decisions.

    What I cannot understand is this mentality of making other people into criminals simply because they don't do something you think is desirable.

    With Lloyd Levine, it seems to be a pattern.

    While I'm tempted to agree with Bill Quick's characterization of Levine (a mild one compared to some of those used by BlueDogState), I'm into this wimpy politeness thing and I believe in being civil whenever possible. (Yeah, I also worry about the net nannies blocking this blog.)

    So I'll just say that Lloyd Levine is a delusional plumber who has confused freedom with a leaky pipe. I don't know why he imagines it's his job to shut off freedom, but I wish California voters would stop paying him to do it.

    (Hey I'm just trying to be polite, so I tried to stick with the analogy he provided.)

    posted by Eric at 06:30 PM | Comments (1)

    Racist history of dog control?

    In Clayton Cramer's important 1993 essay, The Racist History of Gun Control, the author makes note of another sad fact of history. Not only was gun control rooted in racism, but the racists who imposed it on black people also imposed draconian dog control:

    The perception that free blacks were sympathetic to the plight of their enslaved brothers, and the dangerous example that "a Negro could be free" also caused the slave states to pass laws designed to disarm all blacks, both slave and free. Unlike the gun control laws passed after the Civil War, these antebellum statutes were for blacks alone. In Maryland, these prohibitions went so far as to prohibit free blacks from owning dogs without a license, and authorizing any white to kill an unlicensed dog owned by a free black, for fear that blacks would use dogs as weapons. Mississippi went further, and prohibited any ownership of a dog by a black person.[5] (Emphasis added.)
    While dog control is admittedly peripheral to Cramer's central argument about gun control, common sense suggests that if the goal is to keep people in a state of subjugation and defenselessness, dog control would be at least as important as gun control.

    It might even be more important.

    Anyone who has owned a dog knows that unlike a gun, a dog is on duty 24 hours a day, and is alert to the slightest intrusion. A gun is an inanimate and inert object without its owner, and if the owner is not home, his guns are useless, no matter how many there might be. Not so with a dog. Many people who own both dogs and guns would consider their dogs the first line of defense in any home invasion situation. And I'd be willing to bet that in many instances, dogs have prevented the homeowners from ever having to resort to the defensive use of firearms. Why? Because the invader simply runs away. The dog awakens the owner and gives him an adequate amount of time to prepare his defense. In those rare instances when the intruder shoots the dog instead of going away, then the homeowner knows that a gun is required.

    Just as there are no adequate statistics on how many criminals were deterred by the presence of firearms, I am sure that there are few statistics on the number of people alive today who would have been killed in the absence of their dogs. That's because if the would-be intruder flees, there's no reason to call the police, and often no way to document that he was ever there, much less explain why he fled. Dogs -- like guns -- save lives.

    I've written three posts now about California AB 1634 (mandatory spay/neuter bill), and I'm wondering whether anyone has looked at it in light of the racist history of dog control. While I'm sure the sponsors would point out that the measure is race neutral on its face, I'm wondering whether they've considered whether the law would have a disparate impact on poor, black, or minority communities.

    Let's look at the exemptions:

  • Pure bred dogs owned by professional breeders who hold business licenses;
  • People who can prove that they devote time to winning prizes at dog shows;
  • Police dogs and seeing eye dogs
  • I'm sorry, but while these categories are race and income-neutral, common sense suggests to me that low-income people and minorities tend to be under-represented among the "pedigree community." (For starters, pure bred dogs cost a bundle.) Of course, my suspicions may be wrong, but a cursory look at dog show pictures reveals attendance by mostly white (if not "lily white") crowds. Not that there's anything wrong with that. No one is forced to go to a dog show or own a pure bred dog.

    But we're talking about a law here.

    As to people who breed and show purebred cats, I know even less about whether it's a low income or minority pastime. Somehow, though, I think that in police practice, this law will lend itself to being enforced against dogs -- and especially dogs in low-income and minority communities. It's one more law that the police have at their disposal which can be used to supply "probable cause" to enter and search the premises. The officer could say that based on his experience and knowledge as a police officer, he believed that the dogs involved were not exempt as show dogs, nor was there any license on record for a commercial dog breeding enterprise at that address.

    Considering that under AB 1634, puppies would become inherently illegal contraband, all an officer would need to say is that he heard the "sounds of a crime being committed" in his presence, and no warrant would be necessary.

    So, while I think the measure is unconstitutional for the reasons I explained earlier, I think a good argument can be made that the enforcement of AB 1634 would have a disparate impact on minorities and lower-income people. Moreover, because it would severely decrease the availability of dogs, it would drive prices sky high -- an economic factor inevitably disfavoring low-income dog ownership. Which means that if you're poor and you want to protect your home, a gun might be more affordable than a dog. (Fewer dogs, more guns.)

    I don't know how much thought the California legislature has given to these issues, but it strikes me that they might need a little sensitivity training.

    MORE: Another important point is that minorities and low-income people are far more likely to become victims of crime -- precisely why they are in more need of dogs than higher-income people. Whether its sponsors intend it or not, AB 1634 would -- by making dogs unaffordable -- harm the very people who are most in need of help.

    posted by Eric at 09:34 AM | Comments (21)

    Different standards for different "communities"?

    In what I think is an attempt at divide-and-conquer, Philadelphia legislators who first introduced a statewide gun registration measure are now seeking to impose local gun control -- limited to Philadelphia:

    State Reps. Angel Cruz and Rosita C. Youngblood yesterday announced another effort aimed at reducing the flow of guns in Philadelphia, this time by allowing the city to create a gun-registry system.

    Surrounded by reporters yesterday in his storefront office on North Fifth Street, Cruz said "something has to be done" to ease the wave of gun violence that has gripped the city.

    Cruz said that while law-abiding citizens purchase guns, "bad people buy guns, too. This way we will know who has the guns."

    Bad people buy guns? Yes, I suppose they do. But they (convicted felons for the most part) aren't allowed to buy guns under existing laws. The only people who will register their guns are law-abiding citizens. Not only will criminals not register them, they don't have to, because forcing felons to register their guns violates the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as it compels them to be witnesses against themselves (by admitting they are felons in possession of firearms).

    Thus, Cruz's comment that "We will know who has the guns" displays both a lack of common sense as well as a lack of knowledge of the legal system.

    Hey, he's the legislator; I'm just a citizen. (Or should I be happy that the people who seek to take away my constitutional rights apparently have no idea what they're doing?)

    The authors of this legislation seem to think that criminals will comply with the law:

    Both legislators, however, conceded that their efforts have little chance of passing.

    Cruz's original legislation, House Bill 760, called for establishing a statewide gun registry for anyone who buys a firearm. It also would have established a $10 registration fee for each gun purchased.

    "If we could establish a significant gun registry system for the city, we could track illegal guns and discourage people from selling them for illegal purposes," Cruz said in a statement.

    Again, illegal guns are not going to be registered. Nor would any registration scheme prevent legal guns from being stolen by or otherwise diverted into the possession of felons. The most that any registration scheme could hope to achieve would be to record the fact that at the time of registration, a gun was owned by a particular citizen. If the citizen was planning on selling it to a criminal, why on earth would he register it? The statement that registration would "discourage people from selling them for illegal purposes" assumes not only that criminals would obey the law, but that they are incredibly stupid.

    The legislators expressed surprise that anyone would think they are trying to take away rights:

    After receiving vocal opposition to the statewide registry, Youngblood last month offered an amendment that would limit the measure to Philadelphia.

    She said gun owners in other parts of Pennsylvania have responded angrily to the idea of registering their firearms.

    "People thought we were trying to take away their right to bear arms," said Youngblood, who represents parts of North and Northwest Philadelphia.

    Youngblood said that by focusing the registry on Philadelphia, "I'm trying to relive some of the fear and stress out there," in other parts of the state.

    I'm not quite sure what that last statement means, but I'm assuming it's a typo and that she meant "relieve." It is to be sincerely hoped that gun owners outside of the city limits of Philadelphia will not be "relieved" to hear that only Philadelphia will affected by unconstitutional laws.

    It's probably worth pointing out that the Constitution was drafted in Philadelphia, at what was known as the Philadelphia Convention, with the Bill of Rights being officially added in Philadelphia in 1791. Did the founders know that Philadelphia's future leaders would consider the birthplace of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be exempt from their provisions?

    Cruz thinks it is, and he makes a statement I find absolutely incredible. According to Cruz, the people of Philadelphia are very different from the people in the rest of the state.

    "The communities that I represent in Philadelphia are very different than many other communities across this commonwealth," Cruz said in a statement. "In other parts of the state, they hunt animals; in Philadelphia, guns are used to hunt people."
    I'd say Cruz takes a rather dim view of the "communities" he claims to be representing.

    Maybe he thinks Philadelphians won't notice.

    I almost didn't. This was a small piece buried on page B-2 of the "Local News" section in yesterday's Inquirer.

    How I fit into the Angel Cruz view of Pennsylvania, I don't know.

    I don't hunt animals or people. While I recognize the legitimacy of hunting animals, I consider it only peripherally related to the right to keep and bear arms. But, hunter though I am not, I think characterizing the murder of human beings as "hunting" does hunters everywhere a grave disservice. Considering that "more than 80 percent of Philadelphia's cold-blooded killers have criminal records" (and thus do not typify Philadelphians at all), I think Cruz's statement does an even more grave disservice to Philadelphians than to hunters. Cynic though I am, I think it's one of the most outrageous (to say nothing of condescending) statements I have ever seen from a public official.

    Or am I missing something?

    (Maybe the rule is it's OK to say things like if the goal is to infringe on the Second Amendment.)

    posted by Eric at 08:10 AM | Comments (3)

    Global War On Jihad

    Nice video by Jihad Watch about the positions of various candidates on the war. About 4 minutes.

    H/T Reliapundit

    Which got me looking around Youtube for other videos by Jihad Watch. Like this one on Obama. Who according to Jihad Watch should speak out on Muslim religious intolerance.

    posted by Simon at 06:00 AM | Comments (1)

    the noisy silence of precautionary principles

    Yesterday I wrote a simple reminder that despite my frequent silence about the war in Iraq, I'm nonetheless a staunch supporter of it. M. Simon (whose frequent warblogging cosmically counterbalances my frequent silence) picked up on the theme, and commented further.

    As it turns out, maybe I didn't need to be silent at all. Via the Anchoress, whom I'm delighted to hear is well from a recent illness, I read this gem (gleaned from Evan Coyne Maloney's latest film "Indoctrinate U"):

    I was struck by the scientist who said that her students were able to figure out her politics simply by noting what she did not say. Just by teaching her subject, without adding extraneous leftist political harangues, she had revealed herself to be a closet Republican. You won't believe what happened when the faculty found out about her politics. But the full horror story is almost less disturbing than the reality of that single observation about silence. Particularly in some of the non-science disciplines, it really has gotten to the point where mere silence on matters political is enough to reveal you as the enemy. (Emphasis added.)
    I guess that means that I didn't need to say anything. (Funny how you can become the enemy when you thought you thought our common enemy was actually Al Qaeda.)

    In a seemingly unrelated matter (which may not be as coincidental as it appears), Glenn Reynolds's link to this awful news about melting polar ice caps made me realize that just as I've been silent about the war, I've also been silent about the polar ice caps issue for too long.

    I don't want my silence to be taken the wrong way, because the ice caps really are melting. And the fact that they happen to be Martian ice caps does not let mankind off the hook one bit!

    No really. I think anthropogenic global warming has spread -- like an interplanetary virus.

    While Science has confirmed that the planets influence each other by means of gravitational pull, astrologers have long known that planets influence each other by direct communication!

    "The planets are the actors, the signs are the roles they play and the houses are the settings or situations in which the cast portrays the role". Adding to that analogy, the aspects are the words the planets communicate with each other. The importance and the influence on action of those words or dialog are dependent on the direction and emphasis given by the Director. Free Will is the Director.
    Yes, and not only does man have Free Will, but he is misusing it to destroy the planet, by spreading his deadly doomsday shroud of toxic CO2!

    While I cannot prove this as conclusively as science has proven anthropogenic global warming, is it really unreasonable to suppose that others in the planetary community have not taken notice? Might Mars be engaged in a sympathetic reaction, as a show of interplanetary solidarity with the embattled earth?

    We cannot be sure either way.

    But what about the Precautionary Principle?

    It's not as if we haven't been warned.

    Hey, wait a second.

    Just what does the Precautionary Principle say, anyway?

    "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."
    I think the antiwar activists should be glad the scientists never thought of applying that to Saddam Hussein or al Qaeda.

    posted by Eric at 04:34 PM | Comments (3)

    Mental illness plus resentment turns deadly

    Another deranged mental case went on a shooting spree in a Kansas City shopping center. This time, thanks to the presence of armed police, he was shot dead after killing only two people. It barely merited a mention in today's Inquirer, and the story doesn't reduce itself to easy stereotypes -- especially the "how did he get a gun" part. That's because the man was a fired security guard who had worked at Target (the target of his attack):

    David Logsdon's life was a disaster. His mental health was fraying; his finances were a mess.

    In September, anonymous neighborhood complaints led to codes enforcement violations for an overgrown lawn and a motor home in his drive. He ignored them.

    In October, those violations led to $250 in fines and two warrants carrying $50 in fees. The warrants prompted police to suspend his license as a private security guard.

    In November that cost him his job at Target.

    He was determined enough to "get even" that even after being shot by police, he still managed to drag himself to his former place of employment:
    On Sunday, the bleeding Logsdon limped through the mall, the rifle in his hands, dead and wounded in his wake. The Target store was ahead.

    At one point he collapsed onto a coin-operated kiddie-car ride, possibly breaking the 20-round magazine on his rifle.

    He didn't realize officers were approaching from the rear, or he didn't care. He never saw the officer who came through the Target store in front of him, or the shotgun.

    The first blast brought him to his knees. The second killed him.

    Thank God someone was armed, and thank God these things don't happen more often.

    After a shooting incident in the news decades ago, I was meeting with a professor at UC Berkeley, who sighed and then sarcastically quipped, "I suppose the next thing that will happen is that I'll be shot for giving a student a C."

    We had a good laugh. Because such things were considered funny then. It isn't funny now, because times have changed. It's entirely conceivable now that just as a high school teacher can get his neck broken for taking away an ipod, a professor might very well be shot for giving a student a C.

    Obviously, this man was deranged, and the family tells the now-familiar tale of how they tried to get him help but couldn't:

    From all that is known about the murderous spree at Ward Parkway mall, it would seem obvious that the gunman, David W. Logsdon, was deranged.

    At a Monday news conference, his sister, Kathy Cagg, spoke of how her brother had a long history of mental illness combined with alcohol abuse. He had been hospitalized in October as suicidal, but only for six hours.

    "I wish he had been given the help he truly needed," Cagg said in front of the church she attends, the First Church of the Nazarene at 118th Street and State Line Road.

    Her situation goes to the heart of how difficult it can be for loved ones, friends, neighbors or co-workers to get help for people they suspect are mentally ill and potentially dangerous to others.

    The problem is that even if a family manages to persuade a court to commit their relative (not an easy thing) the mental health facilities don't want to keep them:
    "There is no guarantee that they will be kept for 96 hours," said Jackson County Circuit Judge Kathleen Forsyth. "Doctors can let them out any time. Sadly, there is no guarantee they'll even let them in. Many times the hospital is full up."

    Sometimes, she said, patients are let out in a matter of hours.

    "The statutory situation is not the problem," Forsyth said. "The courts have no problem doing what needs to be done to commit people for evaluation. The issue is how much mental health treatment is available in the community. That's where the whole thing breaks down.

    "There are so many people that need help. There is a logjam in the hospital."

    There's no money, and this is on top of a built-in bias against holding anyone, for anything. Which means that instead of the old-fashioned guys-with-nets-and-straitjackets, it all comes down to the cops:
    Without an individual's cooperation it is nearly impossible to get a loved one mental health care they may desperately need. Friends, neighbors or family members can try to initiate a 96-hour commitment. It requires at least two people to swear out affidavits and present them in probate court.

    Kansas has a similar procedure. In Kansas, beds for emergency commitments are more available.

    "A lot of people enter the mental health system via concerned people," said Pete Zevenbergen, director of Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Health.

    But if one doesn't want help, it can be hard and dangerous.

    "The whole issue is fundamentally a civil rights issue," said Susan Crain Lewis, president of the Mental Health Association of the Heartland. "This is America. If you are not hurting anyone, you have the right to be as odd or weird as you want. ... We allow people in America the freedom to make maybe poor, misinformed choices, unless they pose an imminent threat to themselves or others."

    When that happens, the alternative is to call the police, if it isn't too late.

    The case underscores the recent debate about the state of mental health care prompted by the Virginia Tech shooting. Dr. Helen and Neo-neocon (both psychologists) have discussed the problem in detail, as has Clayton Cramer. (I've also written a couple of posts on the recent subject, and on the general issue.)

    I have to say, I think Susan Crain Lewis's focus on "the right to be as odd or weird as you want" misses the point by blurring the distinction between eccentricity and mental illness. Part of the problem is the medicalization of nearly everything, and the notion that we are all mentally ill. Neuroses and borderline "illnesses" like "ADHD," "OCD," and "codependency" are indistinguishable from paranoid schizophrenia, and the message is that we should all just be taking our meds. How is a truly crazy and dangerous person to be distinguished from an odd or weird person?

    And what about someone with a clearly unreasonable grudge or grievance which becomes an obsession? A normal student would not shoot a professor for giving a student a C, and a normal high school student wouldn't break his teacher's neck for taking away his ipod. But what is normal? I sometimes wonder whether there has been a quantum shift in the way people hold grudges, and take things as offenses to be avenged.

    Not that this is new. America was once more of an "honor-based" culture in which dueling was the norm, and grudges were settled at gunpoint. I may be wrong, but I don't think a fired employee or a student given a low grade in the old days of "honor culture" would have seen these things as questions of honor to be settled with violence. More likely, they'd have thought that they were at fault. I mean, if you're a student, your grades are your responsibility, right? Where would anyone get the idea that it's the teacher's fault? By reinventing "honor" that went by the wayside? (Now that we are all honor students, where is true honor to be found?)

    Resentment is a common enough feeling, but when it is coupled with mental illness and a sense of entitlement, it can be very dangerous. I've noticed that in day-to-day situations, even people who aren't crazy show a lot more resentment than they used to, and are perceiving personal attacks in the most innocuous situations, and I sometimes wonder if it's my imagination, or if there's been some sort of change in attitudes, but it seems that resentments are on the increase.

    I'll give one teensy anecdotal example. If you order a drink and it's loaded with fruit flies, you send it back, right? Getting another one ought to be a simple matter, right? This happened to me, and the waiter took the fly-filled drink back to the bartender and set it down on the bar. Instead of just fixing another one, the bartender (a very young woman) became totally enraged, and stared at the drink and the flies -- as if its very contents were an accusation of wrongdoing. I had not noticed her before, but she damned well noticed me (I guess the waiter told her who sent the drink back), and she fixed me with a look of death. Had I been her boss, I'd have wanted to fire her on the spot. Whether that would have been a good idea, I guess, depends on whether she is mentally ill or has an angry, grudge-holding boyfriend.

    Normally, such a trivial incident would be so silly as to not be worth mentioning.

    But haven't people been killed for less?

    (I guess I should be glad we're not yet a nation in which everyone is a mentally ill "honor student.")

    UPDATE: Don't miss Clayton Cramer's post on this subject, along with this post on a deranged gunman who shot up a "gun free zone."

    And via Glenn Reynolds, Bernard Harcourt (whose paper Cramer cited before) has carefully researched the deinstitutionalization/crime ratios. Glenn Reynolds also linked Harcourt's earlier post, in which the bottom line is this:

    Aggregated institutionalization is the best predictor of homicide rates. In studying the prison today, we need to aggregate mental hospitalization and prison rates.
    As Harcourt notes, however, it can be tricky to read the numbers, as the crime rate drives the institutionalization rate.

    There is always common sense, though. People who are institutionalized are unable to commit crimes on the outside.

    posted by Eric at 09:00 AM | Comments (6)

    Why Don't The Democrats Support The democrats?

    I keep wondering why the Democrat Party in America doesn't support the democrats in Iraq? Perhaps they have something against democracy.


    I'm an Animated Supporter of Democracy In Iraq.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:10 AM | Comments (3)

    The Balance Sheet

    Clauzwitz says that the moral factor in war is the predominate factor. Fighting and sustaining the fighting has a moral calculus. The answer an individual gets will depend on the weight given to each component in the analysis. The weights are moral weights.

    Eric was taking a look at this and my relentless pursuit of democracy in Iraq. As Eric has pointed out: I'm kind of obsessed. Well he is right. So is this some kind of free floating obsession or does it have an origin? It has its origin for me in the Vietnam War. In my estimation of the worth of a Vietnamese vs the worth of an American. Raw racism in other words. In 1975 after having participated in the war (very lightly in '66 - my unit never fired a shot in anger, although we supported shooting units), I decided after relentless propaganda efforts and the testimony of John Kerry before Congress in '71 that Vietnam was a lost cause. That it wasn't worth one more American life or dollar. It was a pretty popular sentiment at the time.

    Then, despite our leaving history continued to happen in South East Asia. First off were the re-education camps which the Communists had said were not going to be a feature of their victory, unlike every otther communist victory. They lied. 100,000 dead. However, that was only the start. Next was the fear that drove 500,000 out to sea. The boat people. Except for most of them they weren't boats. They were rafts, badly provisioned, open to the weather. Out at sea in the hopes that some one would pick them up before they died from exposure, starvation, or drowning. About half of the boat people died.

    Well history still wasn't over. The dominoes were falling. Cambodia fell not just to Communists but insane Communists. They were going to make a perfectly functioning agrarian society. Rousseau's noble savage raised on Communist shoulders. All they managed to raise was a pile of skulls. Something like 2 or 3 million. Just swell. Well it wasn't our fault was it? We weren't there. Some one else did the dirty work.

    Which reminds me of an ongoing incident in WW2. By 1944 the fact of the death camps was well known. It was also well known that the Jews of Europe represented about 1/2 those in the camps. Jewish emissaries like Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, who asked that the camps and the rail lines leading to them be bombed, were denied. The Jews and the other people in the camps were not worth one bomb. Not unlike the stance we took in 1975 when the South Vietnamese asked for air support to defend against an attack by the Communists. Our Democrat Congress declared that the South Vietnamese were not worth one bomb. So let us do the moral calculus. Three hundred and fifty thousand dead South Vietnamese were not worth one bomb in support. The millions who would live under a totolitarian government were not worth one bomb in support.

    So where do I come in to all this? I was with the "not one bomb" crowd. Big time. The in crowd. The "Morally Correct" crowd. So sure of our calculus. So sure that ending the fighting would lead to a good outcome. After all war is bad. Peace is better than war. "What if they gave a war and nobody came." Which leaves out "What if they gave a death march and you have no choice?" A bit too dark a thought for most people. Better to think of peace, and birds, and kite flying.

    So in response to Eric's look at some of the issues I have mentioned here commenter The Mechanical Eye says:

    "Maybe, just maybe, "victory," at least in the vague, amorphous way you define it, is no longer possible. We don't have the will, the the manpower, the machinery, the morale, the leadership, and dare I say it, the brainpower, to win this."

    I understand your point.

    The Iraqis are not worth even one American death. When we do the balance sheet on this war we must count Iraqi lives as worth zero.

    Then once the Iraqis count for nothing it is impossible to justify any American effort.

    "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." Thomas Paine

    So yeah, my fair weather friends. Give in to tyranny and despots.

    Salve your conscience with "its only Iraqis". What are they worth to us?

    Make yourself feel better by saying that once we are out the head choppers will not follow us home. After all we are strong and they are weak. Haven't we proved our strength by surrendering Iraq to them? Why would they ever think of following us home after we have given them what they want? And you know maybe they won't follow us home. Maybe they will just do death marches, and religious re-ed camps, and totolitarian governments. None of our buisness really. What should it mean to us? They are not our kind.

    We have the example of the Austrian Corporal. Wasn't he satisfied with Czechoslovakia? Didn't the abandonment of Czechoslovakia bring Peace For Our Time?

    Abandoning Iraq will bring us peace. This time giving in to brigands will get us what we desire. The fighting will stop. The killing will stop. For sure. At the very least from the time we leave our hands will be clean.

    Well let me tell you that if any bit of your conscience lives after abandoning the Iraqi people your hands will drip with blood for the rest of your life. And like Macbeth nothing will out the spot.

    Which is why I Support Democracy In Iraq.

    posted by Simon at 04:37 AM | Comments (4)

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