Your President Is Lying To You

Yep. No doubt about it. Your President is lying to you. At least according to the Japanese during WW2.

June 29, 2007: U.S. troops have been mystified at how differently the war they fight in Iraq is portrayed by the U.S. media back home. Most just shrug it off as "politics," and yet another reason to not trust what the mass media presents as reliable reporting. But recently, the troops have been passing around an interesting discovery. Namely, that the Japanese psychological warfare effort during World War II included radio broadcasts that could be picked up by American troops. Popular music was played, but the commentary (by one of several English speaking Japanese women) always hammered away on the same points;

1 Your President (Franklin D Roosevelt) is lying to you.

2 This war is illegal.

3 You cannot win the war.

The troops are perplexed and somewhat amused that their own media is now sending out this message. Fighting the enemy in Iraq is simple, compared to figuring out what news editors are thinking back home.

When it comes to the news media you have to ask yourself. Whose side are they on anyway?

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 10:31 PM | Comments (19)

Greetings from Alaska

This is the first chance I've had to check in at all, and I don't have time for much of a post, but I thought I'd try to share a picture.

In Ketchikan, Alaska yesterday I was lucky enough to see a bald eagle sitting on top of an abandoned ramshackle house. Whipping out my camera, I started shooting pictures as quickly as I could, because I thought it would be frightened away. As my luck had it, not only was it not frightened away, but it was soon joined by a mate -- and they didn't seem to mind my attention.


(I suspect they knew I had a blog, and the Fourth is just around the corner.)

posted by Eric at 02:22 PM | Comments (4)

"Ups and Downs"

From A London Child Of The 1870s, by M.V. Hughes

A settled income has its attractions possibly, but it can never be the fun of an unsettled one. My father was on the Stock Exchange, and wavered between great affluence and extreme poverty. Neither he nor mother had a saving or economical disposition, but lived happily always, neither elated by wealth nor depressed by the lack of it.

We children were never aware of any money troubles, if such they could be called, for they made little difference to us. At no time were we allowed to spread our butter too thick. If things were going well, my father had no thought of enlarging his establishment or otherwise incurring bothers. His idea was that we should all enjoy ourselves a bit more along the old lines. When a shrinkage came we didn't notice much deprivation, or if we did it was put down to the weather...

I suppose it must have been during a lean year, when we were devoid even of servants, that my father would inaugurate some lark. One afternoon he came home and suggested that it was just the sort of day for making toffee...

Barnholt was sent to the grocer close by for 'a pound of his worst butter'. All grins, Barnholt flew forth on his errand. The grocer was annoyed at such a request, but, as Barnholt pointed out to him, if he had a best butter he must have a worst...

Another time it was a Welsh rabbit that my father had a mind for...Mother hovered around, shaking her head, prophesying indigestion and the doctor. But she ate her share and wished it had been bigger.

The best of these impromptu feasts was a positive shoal of sprats that my father came home with one evening.

'They're practically alive,' said he, 'and they were almost giving them away in Farringdon Market. Now, Mary, bring out your biggest frying-pan and some dripping, make up the fire, and you boys put the plates to warm. You shall have some fish on them before you know where you are.'

And lo, it was so. There was a sizzling and a tossing, and soon the crisp little fish were tumbling on to our outstretched plates, while mother was cutting bread and butter as fast as she could. I have had elegantly dressed sole at a grand dinner, salmon straight from the Dart, trout fresh from a Welsh stream, and perch that I caught myself in a Canadian river, but no fish has ever had the magic quality of those sprats 'given away' in London and cooked by my father.

posted by Justin at 12:10 PM | Comments (1)

Arthur Collins

From A London Child Of The 1870s, by M.V. Hughes

Londoners have no neighbors. During our fifteen years in the one house we never had the slightest acqaintance with our 'semi-detached', nor with the people round, although we knew several by sight and gave them nicknames. A very few became known to us through the vicar, the school-master, and the doctor...

Among the frequenters of the house was a young man named Arthur Collins. Where he came from, or by whom introduced, nobody seemed to know. He cannot have been a friend of the boys. He would look in at all hours and stay endlessly--too shy to go. He had a shock of black hair, a perpetual smile, and nothing whatever to say.

Invariably during his visit he held on his knees a paper parcel, which we all knew to be a present for one of us. Never summoning up courage to give it, he would throw it on the front-door mat as he left. You may think how pleasant this must have been. But we all knew that the present would be a cardboard tidy, or bookmark, or box, ornamented with green ribbon--all his own work.

The house was already littered with these gifts, so that we loathed the sight of them, and his mode of delivery involved a letter of thanks from the unlucky recipient.

He liked to join in any game that was afoot, so long as it was simple, such as dominoes or draughts, but was so good natured that he always let his opponent win. Not that he said so, but we were all aware of it, and could see him making mistakes on purpose.

To poor Arthur we owed our disgust with obtrusively unselfish prople, and our understanding of mother's oft-repeated maxim: 'Please yourself, your friends will like you the better.'

posted by Justin at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

A Victorian Childhood Described

Earlier this month, I posted an excerpt from A London Child Of The 1870s, by M.V. Hughes.
Since then, I've been re-reading it and enjoying it greatly. It's a brief, rambling, and episodic little volume, sedately endearing and unpretentious.

Having enjoyed it, my plan for the next few days is to share that enjoyment with the rest of you. The excerpts I'll present have no particular rhyme or reason to them. They're just conveniently bite-sized anecdotes that I found amusing, or touching, or merely drenched in a pleasant surrogate nostalgia for "Merrie England".

Who knows? Perhaps you'll enjoy them enough that you'll hunt down your own copy. At any rate, best we begin at the beginning...

None of the characters in this book are fictitious. The incidents, if not dramatic, are at least genuine memories. Expressions of jollity and enjoyment of life are understatements rather than overstatements. We were just an ordinary, suburban, Victorian family, undistinguished ourselves and unacquainted with distinguished people. It occurred to me to record our doings only because, on looking back, and comparing our lot with that of the children of to-day, we seemed to have been so lucky. In writing them down, however, I have come to realize that luck is at one's own disposal, that 'there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so'. Bring up children in the conviction that they are lucky, and behold they are. But in our case high spirits were perhaps inherited, as my story will show.
posted by Justin at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

Art by Roni Golan
Roni Golan - Woman and Bull

Roni has more fine art at Underground Studios. He lives in Rockford, Illinois and is a friend of mine.

About the artist.

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)

Price Controls

I have made one of my periodic visits to the Netscape blog where today's topic is Anger At the Gas Pump. A topic already covered here. So the topic drifts to Nixon's wage and price freeze.

We have an economic genius who says the policy was really nice but didn't last long enough. farmerman has an answer; a good one too.

Did you like the shortages and gas lines? If we don't want to buy the oil, the Chinese and others will gladly buy it. You libs can try to rewrite history, but you sure can't rewrite the rules of supply and demand.
I wouldn't be so sure. We have a Democrat Congress.

The price freeze in Venezuela is working out nicely. You cannot by food that cost more than is allowed now. There is a reason for that. All the price controlled food has disappeared from the market shelves.

Price controlled oil in America had the same effect.

It is terrible the way the price of gasoline rises and falls. Except for the fact that you can buy it when you need it. Price stability by government fiat comes at the price of availability.

Economics in one easy lesson:

A woman comes into a butcher shop. She tells the butcher she wants some chickens. But she wants to pay the same price as the butcher across the street advertises in his window. "Your prices are too high", she says. The butcher asks, "Why don't you go across the street for your chickens?" "They haven't got any", she replies.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:58 AM | Comments (2)

Plan B From Outer Space

My friend Sgt. Mom, from the Daily Brief has an idea and some chapters of a book she wants to get published. She needs your help. I'll let her explain:

So here's the story, of a blogger (me, of course) who wrote a long multi-part essay a couple of years ago about an incident in history which had always intrigued her, and after posting it, some readers were also intrigued, since they had never heard of it before. And one the readers thought it might make an interesting movie proposal, so I did one, which didn't go anywhere except to a friend of that reader about a year later. The friend thought it would be better to write a novel, because movies based on published novels were an easier sell. So, when I got let go from a corporate admin job a year ago, I sat down and wrote a ripping good historical read, based on all the stuff I had written before.

I was obsessed by the original story of the 1844 wagon-train party who were the first to take their wagons over the Sierra Nevada ., two years ahead of the Donner Party, yet who did not loose a member of the party, even though they also were caught in the snow. Since they were the first to discover the Truckee Pass over the mountains, they also met an incredible challenge of establishing a new trail. How did they manage to work together? Who were they, and what sort of experience did they bring to this great venture? And what did they experience, this handful of men, women and children, once they stepped off into the trackless wilderness a hundred and sixty years ago,?

I had come to believe that their story was the sort of story that we needed to rediscover. We need to be reassured that our forbearers were brave, competent people, capable of working together, of looking out for each other, of daring the wilderness, or any other challenge with grace and courage. We need to get back to our stories, and I felt very strongly that this is one of them.

So I went gamboling playfully in the literary trenches for much of the last year trying to interest an agent and/or a publisher. I have now gone through all the Book of Agents and the Book of Publishers Who Deign To Consider Un-Agented Submissions (all both of them) and been rejected. Hey, and it isn't because I suck as a writer, either. Everyone who has read the manuscript over the last year has said "God, what a riveting story... and why have I never heard of these people!?"

The problem seems to be, as I gather from lurking meaningfully in neighborhood of a lot of book and literary-industrial blogs, is there is a hell of a lot of dreck along with the merely OK to Pretty Damned Good Stuff. The traditional publishing world seems to be swamped up to it's gorgeously nipped and tucked neck, which kind of seriously affects how they can handle the not-inconsiderable quantity of fairly OK to Pretty Damned Good stuff which winds up on the shelves of your local Borders or Barnes & Noble.

And that stuff which makes it past the gatekeepers is still in absolutely unmanageable quantities. All the competent and ethical agents seem to have about all they can do to look at hundreds of similar OK to Pretty Damned Good submissions clamoring for their attention and time and make a snap decision on accepting and managing the tiny percentage of those that will pay off with the least amount of effort on their part.

They kept sending me these letters admitting that they just didn't feel the passion for my book that they felt was necessary to represent me adequately. No one feels sufficiently passionate about "To Truckee's Trail" except for me, and those dozen people who have read the entire thing and loved it passionately too. Unfortunately, all those people were just readers and other writers.

And being a military retiree with a mortgage and trying to make it as a freelance writer, I am perennially broke so, here goes Plan B.; a fund drive to do a POD version, to buy advertising, and put review copies where they will do the most good. I've set up a Paypal link at The Daily Brief, for anyone who wants a good old-fashioned ripping yard about the Frontier, about the people who built America, or maybe even just have the fun of seeing an unknown writer make an end-run around the literary-industrial complex.

I think I can promise an autographed copy of "To Truckee's Trail" to anyone who contributes over a certain amount, too.

Hey, it works for Public Radio, doesn't it?

Sample Chapter

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:24 AM | Comments (9)

Early Thoughts On The Precautionary Principle: 1976

From The Next 200 Years, by Herman Kahn

It is often suggested that adequate technology assessment (TA) studies should be required for any technical innovation before proceeding with commercial applications--that the burden of proof be placed on the people who want the innovation. It sounds reasonable to say that it is up to the innovator to prove that his innovation is safe, but there are some difficulties in this position.

If as a general matter high standards of justification were set and enforced, many important projects would not get off the ground. Full and definitive TA studies of complex projects and phenomena are often simply not feasible.

We have never seen an a priori analysis that would justify the conclusion: "Let's go ahead with the project; we understand the innovation and all of its first-, second-, and third-order effects quite well. There can be no excessive danger or dfficulties."

Indeed, many times the people looking for second-, third-, and even fourth-order effects have often seriously erred about the first; in any case, they usually cannot establish the others with any certainty...

None of the above is meant as an argument against doing TA studies.On the contrary, in many cases much will be learned from such studies. But one cannot expect them to be complete and reliable, and placing too great a requirement on innovators doing such studies can simply be an expensive way of doing less; it entails all the problems and disutilities of excessive caution and of slowing down innovation in a poorly designed--and often capricious--manner.

Which is all too often the real point.

posted by Justin at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

"Top Men"

From The Sydney Morning Herald, June 22, 2007

More than 100 studies have found that experts are often poor forecasters. In one survey Professor Philip Tetlock, of the University of California at Berkeley, obtained 82,361 forecasts from 284 academics, other commentators and professional advisers in the areas of politics and economics. The experts had to select one of three answers (that a situation would not change or would get better or get worse).

The experts performed more poorly than they would have done had they allocated forecasts at random. As an article on Tetlock by Louis Menand in The New Yorker put it: "Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys, who would have distributed their picks evenly over the three choices." Tetlock found that the more famous the commentators or forecasters, the more unreliable their forecasts.

Major Eaton: We have top men working on it now.

Indiana Jones: Who?

Major Eaton: Top... men...

posted by Justin at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

The Difficult Long Term Environment: 1976

From The Next 200 Years, by Herman Kahn

Man's intellectual and physical resources must also be devoted to the task of monitoring and overcoming potentially catastrophic long-term environmental problems...

To help in this effort, we would recommend the world-wide creation of a number of public and private institutions with various specific purposes, but all with an overall mission of the systematic and intense study of far-fetched and improbable phenomena...

In effect, these institutions would together constitute an articulate lobby and an "early warning system" for long-term environmental problems.

It is only fair to warn the public that anyone who studies such phenomena full time is almost certain to exaggerate their likelihood, impact and dangers. To do so is simply human nature.

We do want the people making these studies to conduct them with an almost fanatic intensity, since such fanaticism can be very useful in sustaining drive and even creativity. But we do not want this fanaticism to be carried over into judgments on public policy. Our "fanatics" can alert us to the problems and perhaps eventually to their solutions, and they can put enormous effort into the study of both, but we also recognize that this kind of fanaticism, while useful in research and study, can be a disservice if it dominates public discourse.

The boldings, as ever, are mine.

posted by Justin at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

Gas Wars In Iran

Gasoline Riots in Iran In America a "gas war" is a price war. Fuel stations compete for customers by lowering prices. In Iran the "gas war" is caused by a government mandated sudden jump in fuel prices.

The Spirit of Man blog has a round up of the gas wars in Iran with pictures. It appears Iran is burning.

I am getting some first hand reports from inside of Iran about the situation resulted from fuel ration policy which will go into effect as of tonight midnight (local time) through out the country.

Angry people have blocked the main highway in Tehran and several serious clashes have occurred in gas stations across the capital. The amount of anger among the people is such that police forces have refused to intervene in some parts of the city where roads are blocked and people have shattered the buildings' windows. And some reports indicate that 50 petrol stations were set ablaze in Tehran alone and at least 3 people died in the clashes.

The Socialist Theocrats running Iran (into the ground) bought the favor of the population with low gasoline prices. However, with 40% of Iran's gasoline imported and gasoline prices skyrocketing it appears that the subsidy is unsustainable. The regime had to raise prices. This has made the regime very unpopular to the point of riots.

The Middle East Times reports:

TEHRAN -- Angry Iranian youths torched petrol stations in Tehran and long queues formed at fuel pumps after the government announced the start of fuel rationing, triggering nationwide protests Wednesday.

Youths set a car and petrol pumps ablaze at a service station in the residential Pounak area of northwestern Tehran, throwing stones and shouting angry slogans denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

After the announcement of the rationing plan in the energy-rich nation, which affects both private cars and taxis, long queues started appearing at fuel pumps in Tehran and in the countryside.

Ahmadinejad has already come under fire over his economic policies, which a group of economists complained earlier this month were fuelling inflation and hurting the poor.

Iran, OPEC's number two oil producer, announced Tuesday that its long-awaited plan to ration petrol was coming into force at midnight, a move the government says is aimed at reducing colossal state petrol subsidies.

"From midnight tonight (2030 GMT) petrol for all vehicles and motorcycles will be rationed," state television said, quoting an oil ministry statement.

It said private cars using just petrol would be rationed to 100 liters of petrol a month while those using petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG) would only be allowed 30 liters.

Let me translate that into American. One hundred liters a month is about 25 gallons.

Basically Iran is hobbled economically by two things. A theocracy based on 7th century ideas on how to organize society and an economic policy discredited with the fall of the USSR. Ahmadinejad is an economic illiterate. He doesn't get it. He has pumped the economy full of cash. With no productive capacity to absorb the cash it has led to runaway inflation. Even though the cash is mostly imported at market prices. He should have studied what happened to Spain when they found gold in the Americas. Spain did get richer. It also got a heavy dose of inflation. Despite the fact that gold is "real" money. As with all things he may not be getting what he wants, but he is getting an education. I'm hoping he gets educated to death. Or if he is lucky, absorbs his lessons in exile.

Gateway Pundit has a round up with more pictures.

A. Jacksonian has reminded me of a bit he did on the state of Iran's Oil Sector. Very complimentary to the above.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:52 AM | Comments (0)

Principles Of Forecasting

Did you know there were principles of forecasting? I don't mean like the positions of the planets. Which for time spans of tens of thousands of years is fairly mechanical. The kind of forecasting I'm talking about involves events that are less deterministic than the motions of the planets. And yet there are principles.

The first is to classify the methodology. Are you starting with numbers or guesses? Which is to say how good is your data base? If you have numbers, what kind of precision is attached? Do you use the numbers directly? Or do you use statistical methods to tease out "useful" information?

OK. You have some data. Now you have to select a method of analysis that is both suitable to the data and the purpose for which it will be used. Is this an investment decision? Or just a report on something to keep an eye on? Do you have a business plan in hand or just a casual "this seems like a good idea"?

The above pages are full of annotated charts with little pop-up explanation boxes to help you understand the charts.

And if that isn't enough the authors of these pages and the accompanying book will give you free help if you describe your problem(s) to them.

We have come a ways and surely it can't be just to talk about forecasting methods. Well yes and no. I want to talk about climate. Climate forecasting.

J. Scott Armstrong, of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and Kesten C. Green, of the Business and Economic Forecasting Unit, Monash University have done a short audit of IPCC climate science [pdf] based on the forecasting principles outlined above.

I think it would be good to start with the title which really gets to the heart of the matter.

Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts
Naturally they have some points to make.
In 2007, a panel of experts established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme issued its updated, Fourth Assessment Report, forecasts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group One Report predicts dramatic and harmful increases in average world temperatures over the next 92 years. We asked, are these forecasts a good basis for developing public policy? Our answer is "no".

Much research on forecasting has shown that experts' predictions are not useful. Rather, policies should be based on forecasts from scientific forecasting methods. We assessed the extent to which long-term forecasts of global average temperatures have been derived using evidence-based forecasting methods. We asked scientists and others involved in forecasting climate change to tell us which scientific articles presented the most credible forecasts. Most of the responses we received (30 out of 51) listed the IPCC Report as the best source. Given that the Report was commissioned at an enormous cost in order to provide policy recommendations to governments, the response should be reassuring. It is not. The forecasts in the Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures. In effect, they present the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and obscured by complex writing. We found no references to the primary sources of information on forecasting despite the fact these are easily available in books, articles, and websites. We conducted an audit of Chapter 8 of the IPCC's WG1 Report. We found enough information to make judgments on 89 out of the total of 140 principles. We found that the forecasting procedures that were used violated 72 principles. Many of the violations were, by themselves, critical. We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts to support global warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder.

Then they have a devastating word about the "consensus".
Agreement among experts is weakly related to accuracy. This is especially true when the experts communicate with one another and when they work together to solve problems. (As is the case with the IPCC process).

Complex models (those involving nonlinearities and interactions) harm accuracy because their errors multiply. That is, they tend to magnify one another. Ascher (1978), refers to the Club of Rome's 1972 forecasts where, unaware of the research on forecasting, the developers proudly proclaimed, "in our model about 100,000 relationships are stored in the computer." (The first author was aghast not only at the poor methodology in that study, but also at how easy it was to mislead both politicians and the public.) Complex models are also less accurate because they tend to fit randomness, thereby also providing misleading conclusions about prediction intervals. Finally, there are more opportunities for errors to creep into complex models and the errors are difficult to find. Craig, Gadgil, and Koomey (2002) came to similar conclusions in their review of long-term energy forecasts for the US made between 1950 and 1980.

Given even modest uncertainty, prediction intervals are enormous. For example, prediction intervals expand rapidly as time horizons increase so that one is faced with enormous intervals even when trying to forecast a straightforward thing such as automobile sales for General Motors over the next five years.

They have lots more where that came from. What it boils down to is a warning in the wash room. Keep your eye on this. It is not worth a meeting. Let alone a report to the investment committee.

In electronics we can work with very complex systems because the interactions are strictly limited. How is this done? A marvelous Bell Labs invention called the transistor. It isolates as well as performing other useful functions.

The electronics guys, with lots of knowledge and isolation plus simple models, are real happy when their predictions of what will happen next in a circuit comes within 5%. The climate guys say they can tell within better that 1%. What are the odds?

When you have lots of things or some very complex things interacting, prediction gets hard. As a very great Yogi is reputed to have said: "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:20 AM | Comments (9)

When Only The Truth Is Allowed...

Some of the conspiracists over at Volokh were discussing the Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case that the Supreme Court decided. Basically they said that if you intentionally skip school and show up at a public event with a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign a 10 day suspension for the sign is not unreasonable because school kids were expected to be at the public event as part of a field trip.

Trouble is people have no idea how bad drugs are.

Calling attention to them by public ridicule of the Drug War will not be tolerated in America.

In Canada telling the truth about drugs will get you thrown out of school.

Do you see what these drugs are doing? By their very nature they destroy free speech. All is not lost. I have a fix. We declare all discussion of the Drug War and why people take drugs illegal except for professionals licensed or authorized by the state. Fortunately the state has access to enforcers for just such problems.

When only the truth is allowed everyone will be able to speak freely.

Keep that thought in mind when you listen to the incidental music brought to you by the morning maniacs to the left.

posted by Simon at 10:43 PM | Comments (6)

Because It Is Popular

Ann Althouse is looking at what makes Mike Nifong or as I expect, the soon to be JailFong, different from other prosecutors? Was it the elements of the case: sex, athletes, strippers, and a hooker? Or was it his behavior?

Which got me to thinking. The whole Drug War is prosecutorial misconduct.

We now know from the NIDA no less that Addiction Is A Genetic Disease.

So why does the Drug War continue? For the major reason that you have prosecutorial misconduct. It is popular. Nifong did what he did because he thought it would be popular where he lived. He was right.

Commenter at Ann's place Bruce Hayden had this to say at 11:54 AM:

Realistically though, I don't see most prosecutors crossing the line. I personally have a much better experience with them than I do with cops, in the area of abusing the power of their offices. More than once, I have seen prosecutors dismiss overreaching charges filed by the cops, sui sponte.

That is not to say that they don't work with the cops to overcharge in order to plea bargain into what they consider a reasonable sentence. You see this all the time - where they have charged a dozen felonies, and plea bargain to one or two. Many times, the added charges are not all that strong, but the chance that the prosecution might win on one or two of them is all it takes to rationalize a plea bargain, even if you know yourself to be innocent.


That is exactly how I see it. Prosecutors have the tools to railroad any one they want and they prefer to use the tools only on the guilty.

No one cares as long as it is done to "them". It is when it is done to "us" that people rise up. Who ever the "us" is that gets catered to.

We have in fact condoned the railroading of the guilty. No surprise if the innocent get caught up in that little machine every now and then.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Classical Values

posted by Simon at 10:17 PM | Comments (1)

Enslave The Machines And Free The Humans

I'm working with a bunch of folks at NASA Space Flight blog trying to turn the concept invented by Dr. Robert Bussard, the Bussard Fusion Reactor, into a practical research reactor to test the concepts involved.

What is striking about the people working on the project is that we have every one - from a diarist at Daily Kos to an American style Republican leaning libertarian. All of us have buried the political hatchet in order to co-operate on designing a research reactor that may lead to a production reactor if the research is favorable.

Which got me to thinking about Bucky Fuller and his concept of Energy Slave.

Early energy slaves replaced draft animals - the early age of steam. Then they replaced humans for simple repetitive tasks - like sealing cans of peaches at a peach canning factory. Now our energy slaves are smarter and can think for themselves to a certain extent and will follow orders without complaint. Like the thermostat that will make sure in the winter that during the day the house is warm but at night it is cooler except on Saturday night when it is kept warmer for the traditional Saturday night party. 24/7/365 for decades. Change the timing when you like. Down to the minute.

These energy slaves are getting smarter every day. They are precision machinists that can work at a speed and keep tolerances no manual machine could dream of. Some of them have hands. As many hands as needed.

One of the reasons slavery not to mention work is going out of style. Machines (energy slaves) can do it better, faster, and cheaper. John Henry couldn't defeat steam. He has no chance what so ever against electricity. Design - understanding what humans want and how to make it will still be a human job for another decade or two. Selling is always human.

What is now universally understood is that for more people to have energy slaves we are going to need cheaper energy. We need to Enslave the Machines and Free the Humans. The sooner the better.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:59 PM | Comments (13)

Telling The Truth In School

It seems that in Canada telling the truth in school can get you suspended.

Kieran King got in trouble with his school for doing research on marijuania (on line, not personal) and telling the truth about what he found.

On May 30, Kieran, who is described as "research-obsessed" by his mother, was chatting with friends around the school lunch table and telling them about what he'd discovered, largely from scholarly and government sources. He argued that marijuana carries a near-zero risk of overdose, that it has been approved by Health Canada for medical use and that it kills an infinitesimal fraction of the people that alcohol and tobacco do every week -- claims so uncontroversial you'd have to be high on something much stronger than pot to dispute them.

He also suggested that it doesn't make much sense for marijuana to be illegal in a world where booze and smokes are freely available in shops.

I'd put what is genarally known and admitted by the government about marijuana on a par with the government research on climate science. Both are agenda driven and will only be corrected if enough people do their own research. The government is not going to help. Too many iron rice bowls at stake.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:14 AM | Comments (3)

Classics might be forever, but I'm going on vacation!

Last week I bought a sheet of the new "Forever" stamps:


I like things that can be used forever, and I toyed with the idea of buying a lifetime supply. Too much hassle, I thought. Besides, what's a lifetime? Suppose I die. Can I take them with me?

I was reminded of the Forever stamps again just today while driving around earlier, when I saw one of these omnipresent bumperstickers:


The one I saw was white with red letters, but never mind. The point is, just like the "Forever" postage stamps, the "IMPEACH" bumperstickers are applicable forever, because the "IMPEACH" mindset is now forever a part of the American culture. This means the bumperstickers are true American classics, and their vendors will be able to go right on selling them no matter who is elected president.

While I might be tempted to feel sorry for the guys who have warehouses full of stickers reading "IMPEACH BUSH," they'd be well advised to save them, because with American Dynasty politics you never know. (For all I know, there may still be a warehouse full of "IMPEACH CLINTON" bumperstickers gathering dust somewhere. If you were in the business, would you throw them away? I wouldn't. Classics never go out of style.)

With that, I'm leaving for a trip (returning July 2), which means that for at least eleven full days you won't have me to kick around anymore. (Oh hell, you can still kick me around; I just won't be able to feel my pain.)

But that doesn't mean M. Simon won't be here to be kicked around, and unlike me he kicks back. With any luck, Justin will make some unpredicable reappearances too.

Have fun everyone, and don't anything I would do!

posted by Eric at 02:11 PM | Comments (3)

Multiculturalist Micromanagement?

Via Pajamas Media, I read about a scary new trend in Australia -- selective race-based legislation which would prohibit alcohol and pornography, but only to Aborigines:

Australia's prime minister announced plans Thursday to ban pornography and alcohol for Aborigines in northern areas and tighten control over their welfare benefits to fight child sex abuse among them.

Some Aboriginal leaders rejected the plan as paternalistic and said the measures were discriminatory and would violate the civil rights of the country's original inhabitants. But others applauded the initiative and recommended extending the welfare restrictions to Aborigines in other parts of the country.

Prime Minister John Howard was responding to a report last week that found sexual abuse of children to be rampant in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. The report said the abuse was fueled by endemic alcohol abuse, unemployment, poverty and other factors causing a breakdown in traditional society.

"This is a national emergency," Howard told Parliament. "We're dealing with a group of young Australians for whom the concept of childhood innocence has never been present."

Howard announced the measures for the Northern Territory, an Outback region where the federal government retains powers it doesn't have over Australia's six states. He urged state leaders to apply similar tough rules in their jurisdictions.

Some Aboriginal leaders have spoken out against the plan, and they point out that the problems result from government behavior:
The plan angered some Aboriginal leaders, who said it was the kind of government behavior that has disenfranchised Aborigines and created the problems in the first place. They also complained they had not been consulted; the government had not previously indicated it was considering such action.

"I'm absolutely disgusted by this patronizing government control," said Mitch, a member of a government board helping Aborigines who were taken from their parents under past assimilation laws who uses one name. "And tying drinking with welfare payments is just disgusting."

"If they're going to do that, they're going to have to do that with every single person in Australia, not just black people," she said.

Howard said the sale, possession and transportation of alcohol would be banned for six months on the Aboriginal-owned land, after which the policy would be reviewed. The child abuse report found drinking was a key factor in the collapse of Aboriginal culture, contributing to neglect of children and creating opportunities for pedophiles.

Hardcore pornography also would be banned, and publicly funded computers would be audited to ensure that they had not downloaded such images. The report said pornography was rife in Aboriginal communities and that children often were exposed to it.

Under Howard's plan, new restrictions would be placed on welfare payments for Aborigines living on the land to prevent the money from being spent on alcohol and gambling. Parents would be required to spend at least half their welfare on essentials such as food, and payments also would be linked to a child's school attendance.

Two things stand out. One is that Australia obviously doesn't have the equivalent of a 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection for all citizens. The other is that social engineering invites further social engineering. Once the government undertakes to turn human beings into wards of the state (which they have in Australia), it becomes very easy to rationalize treating them like children and micromanage every detail of their lives.

I certainly hope nothing of the sort ever happens here, but I worry about the people who want to do things like impose selective gun control on urban areas -- especially those who see opposition to gun control as "racist."

If we applied similar logic to alcohol, liquor stores would only be allowed in affluent suburbs. In Seattle, they're moving in that direction:

Sales of "fortified" beer and wine will be banned in certain Seattle neighborhoods as part of a plan to cut homelessness and chronic alcoholism, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported Aug. 31.

The ban applies to 29 specific brands, including Thunderbird, Richard's Wild Irish Rose, and Night Train Express wines, and Colt 45 Ice, Olde English 800, and Red Dog beers.

While these aren't my favorite brands, I'm reminded of a similar mindset to ban my favorite breed of dogs.

I realize some people think discrimination intended to "help" people is fine. I think it's incredibly condescending (as well as unconstitutional) and deserves to be called "nanny racism."

posted by Eric at 12:13 PM | Comments (2)

More laws, more bureaucracy, more social workers, more crime!

Summer's beginning: Six dead in one day

Five died in two triple shootings 15 hours apart in which gunmen opened fire on people on city streets.

That scary headline makes it look as if Philadelphia is being plagued by random gunfire, which just happens all by itself. And as usual, none of the victims or neighbors are talking. However, when I read the details, the shootings didn't strike me as random "gun violence" which just happened to occur on a street corner at 2:30 a.m.:

Police said the three victims had "been through the system" before - including narcotics arrests. Although two of the men had survived previous shootings, neighbors and relatives insisted that they were not thugs.

"They were not dummies, and they had families that loved and supported them," said Marcia Green, who described herself as Burman's godmother and Lundy's cousin. She was aroused from sleep by the gunfire and rushed out to the street to find her relatives dead. "None of them had been involved in crime," she said.

According to family members, Burman was a graduate of Kensington High School, Lundy had a GED, and White was planning to attend Opportunities Industrial Center in the fall.

Lynette White, the mother of the youngest victim, said her son was shot in his left side three months ago, and he still ha a bullet lodged in his chest.

Lundy's relatives said he had survived a shooting last summer.

Scott P. Charles, trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital, said it was not unusual to see a gunshot victim who had been shot before. Often, gunshot victims return to the street intent on settling scores.

"We're patching them up, and they're sending us back a couple more, if they don't come back dead themselves," Charles said.

There's just something about survivors of previous shootings with previous narcotics arrests hanging out at 2:30 a.m. that makes me suspect they were not shot for random reasons.

The problem with urban crime is that many criminals live in urban areas. This leads well meaning people to advocate selective gun control -- in urban areas only, such as the oft-sponsored legislation allowing Philadelphia to enact its own gun control laws. What is being forgotten is that for the huge majority of shooters (85% according to Philly's Chief of Detectives), there already is gun control -- the strongest gun control possible. For any convicted felon, merely being found in possession of a gun is a serious crime involving mandatory prison.

To me, this is conclusive evidence that the mere passage of laws does not affect criminals. To others, it's an argument for more laws which not only won't be obeyed by criminals, but which will only enlarge the criminal class, by transforming previously law abiding gun owners into criminals.

Aren't there enough criminals without passing laws creating more? What I've never been able to understand is why people don't understand that the more laws there are, the more crime there is. What's going on? Does it take a Ph.D. in economics to lay it out on a graph? Just as lawyers generate litigation, legislators generate laws (which in turn generate crime). It is what they do because it's what they need to do to survive. Similarly, bureaucrats need regulations and social workers need social problems, or else there'd be no need for them.

I realize that it isn't nice to question people's idealism, but why is it OK to question the idealism of lawyers and politicians, but not bureaucrats and social workers? Shouldn't the standard be the same? And what is idealism? Should a restaurant owner get a gold star for calling himself a "food provider"? Is a cab owner a "transportation services provider" who risks his life daily engaged in "public service"? It strikes me that the moral authority of many of the people who are being paid to do things (and who make a living at it) is directly related to whether they're being paid by the taxpayers. Does this mean that earning government money is worthier than earning private money? Can anyone tell me why? Couldn't it be argued that receiving money which is extracted from the citizenry under threat of legal force is actually less worthy? Why is it that so few people pose these questions?

I've long been worried about a growing division between tax payers and tax eaters (the latter are now poised to become the voting majority). Common sense suggests that in general, the former tend to be more productive than the latter. In economic terms, this would make them more valuable (although private school teachers make considerably less than public school teachers, despite the fact that the former do a better job.)

But can such value be measured in moral terms? While it isn't my job here to make a moral pronouncement, in my half a century on the planet I have detected a significant moral shift. I can remember when living off government money without working was considered less than morally optimal, and being on the government payroll carried with it no special moral authority. Nor should it. Yet I have seen a growing tendency in some circles to see tax eaters (of all varieties) as morally better than the people whose taxes pay them. This makes no sense. It's not as if working for the government is like working for a religious order.


Maybe it is. I mean, if there is to be such a thing as moral authority, then someone has to have it, right?

MORE: Speaking of two Americas, I enjoyed Glenn Reynolds' comment this morning:

I think there are two Americas: Those who manage to enrich themselves by exploiting legal technicalities, and those who do not.
More legal technicalities, more exploitation?

UPDATE: My thanks (from Alaska where I'm on vacation) to Glenn Reynolds for the link!

posted by Eric at 09:34 AM | Comments (15)

Manufacturing Concensus

Roger Pielke Sr. has a few complaints about the comprehensiveness of the research papers used to prepare various IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Reports have the following stated goals:
"A comprehensive and rigourous picture of the global present state of knowledge of climate change"
"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been established by WMO and UNEP to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation."
However, the IPCC WG 1 Chapter 3 report failed in this goal.

This weblog illustrates this defect using the example of their assessment of the multi-decadal land near-surface temperature trend data, where peer reviewed papers that conflicted with the robustness of the surface air temperature trends are ignored. Later Climate Science weblogs will document this issue with other climate issues.

Bias? The IPCC? Why the IPCC is totally fair minded and comprehensive. If you don't believe that just ask them.
To evaluate the IPCC's claim to be comprehensive, we cross-compared IPCC WG1 references on near-surface air temperature trends with the peer-reviewed citations that have been given in Climate Science. We selected only papers that appeared before about May 2006 so they were readily available to the IPCC Lead authors.
He then goes on to list a whole raft of papers, both included and missed by the IPCC. There seem to be more misses than hits.
If the papers were neglected because they were redundant, this would be no problem. However, they are ignored specifically because they conflict with the assessment that is presented in the IPCC WG1 Report, and the Lead Authors do not agree with that perspective!
Quite a charge to make. Mr. P then goes on to note some criticisms made by others.
"The process for completing the CCSP Report excluded valid scientific perspectives under the charge of the Committee. The Editor of the Report systematically excluded a range of views on the issue of understanding and reconciling lower atmospheric temperature trends. The Executive Summary of the CCSP Report ignores critical scientific issues and makes unbalanced conclusions concerning our current understanding of temperature trends".

"Future assessment Committees need to appoint members with a diversity of views and who do not have a significant conflict of interest with respect to their own work. Such Committees should be chaired by individuals committed to the presentation of a diversity of perspectives and unwilling to engage in strong-arm tactics to enforce a narrow perspective. Any such committee should be charged with summarizing all relevant literature, even if inconvenient, or which presents a view not held by certain members of the Committee."

It seems like we have way too many inconvenient truths out there.

How might we narrow them down? Well Roger thinks he knows how the IPCC arrived at its concensus.

The IPCC WG1 Chapter 3 Report process made the same mistakes and failed to provide an objective assessment. Indeed the selection of papers to present in the IPCC (as well as how the work of others that was cited was dismissed) had a clear conflict of interest as the following individuals cited their research prominently yet were also a Review Editor (Tom Karl), works for the Review Editor (Tom Peterson, Russ Vose, David Easterling), were Coordinating Lead Authors (Kevin Trenberth and Phil Jones), were Lead Authors (Dave Easterling and David Parker), or a Contributing Author (Russ Vose).

In fact, as stated above, the CCSP Report "Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences", with its documented bias, was chaired by the same person as the Review Editor of the IPCC WG1 Chapter 3 Report (Tom Karl)! Regardless of his professional expertise, he is still overseeing an assessment which is evaluating his own research. There cannot be a clearer conflict of interest.

The IPCC WG1 Chapter 3 Report clearly cherrypicked information on the robustness of the land near-surface air temperature to bolster their advocacy of a particular perspective on the role of humans within the climate system. As a result, policymakers and the public have been given a false (or at best an incomplete) assessment of the multi-decadal global average near-surface air temperature trends.

That is right. You get a lot more truth and a lot less inconvenience if you can have people review their own work and exclude contrary ideas.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:42 AM | Comments (4)

Rethinking the First Amendment since 1998. Experience counts!
We're all going to have to rethink how we deal with the Internet. As exciting as these new developments are, there are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function...
Far-thinking words from Hillary Clinton in 1998 (during her second, um, term in the White House).

While she hasn't been talking much about the Internet lately, via Glenn Reynolds I see that time doesn't seem to have changed Hillary's view of the First Amendment. She and Barbara Boxer are quoted as wanting a "legislative fix" for talk radio.

I'll say this for Hillary; at least she's consistent.

Of course, Hillary's "legislative fix" comments may have been deliberately intended as a campaign tactic -- to provoke talk radio hosts into a vitriolic rage in the hope of generating blowback in her favor. Years ago, Jeff Jarvis noticed the phenomenon:

The more the talk-show hosts scream about her, the more Democrats will be inspired to come out to support her.
However, tactics that worked in the old days can't be relied on forever. It wouldn't surprise me if the talk show hosts refused to take her bait and don't go ballistic on cue.

With any luck, she'll try harder.

Jeez, there I go...

(Really, I shouldn't be so cynical as to attribute political calculation to sincere and long-held beliefs.)

posted by Eric at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

The Kids Are Alright!
posted by Simon at 04:41 PM | Comments (2)

this time, let's put environmentalists in charge of the economy!

Now that the anthropogenic global freezing has been announced, I find myself enjoying Czech President Vaclav Klaus's remarks about warming:

As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.

The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists.

The scientists should help us and take into consideration the political effects of their scientific opinions. They have an obligation to declare their political and value assumptions and how much they have affected their selection and interpretation of scientific evidence.

President Klaus's remarks are not getting much play in the United States. Only someone who grew up under Communism would dare to speak so boldly.

That's because Klaus has seen so much of such stuff before that he knows how to spot it:

I agree with Professor Richard Lindzen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who said: "future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century's developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age".

The issue of global warming is more about social than natural sciences and more about man and his freedom than about tenths of a degree Celsius changes in average global temperature.

Were he alive today, I think Milton Friedman would be saying pretty much the same thing. (Actually, he did once opine that "global warming is more likely to benefit than to harm the general public.")

As Arnold Kling pointed out in his review of "An Inconvenient Truth," there are parallels between macroeconomic scientific consensus of the 1970s and the anthropogenic global warming scientific consensus of today:

My concern is with how "scientific consensus" is reached. In economics in the 1960's, there was a "scientific consensus," embedded in sophisticated macro-econometric models, that inflation reflected a competition over income shares, and that government policies to interfere with wage- and price-setting were the solution. Milton Friedman's contrary views were outside the "scientific consensus."

By 1985 or so, the "scientific consensus" had shifted, in part because policies based on that consensus were tried in the 1970's, leading to the worst macroeconomic performance of the post-war period.

By the 1990's, large macro-econometric models had pretty much disappeared from the economics literature. The problem with macro-econometrics is that the models continually broke down out of sample. That is, a model estimated through 1969 would work terribly in predicting the early 1970's. A model estimated through 1975 would work terribly in predicting the late 1970's, and so on.

Of course, none of that should matter to those who want to build a better climate -- any more than they mattered to those who wanted to build a better world.

Unsound theories lend themselves to further "fixing" by their proponents. Creating a problem in order to solve a problem appeals to government lovers, because as they say, the government is there to solve problems. Just ask them!

Thus, the government can always be trusted to do whatever is best for the government.

I have to admit, from a government perspective, putting environmentalists in charge of the economy is the best thing that could happen -- to the government.

UPDATE: My thanks to Darren at Right on the Left Coast for the link.

posted by Eric at 02:07 PM | Comments (8)

Blogger to undergo counseling?


From today's Inquirer:

HARRISBURG - A top aide to State Sen. Lisa M. Boscola will keep his job despite making profanity-laced remarks on a blog about a congressman and his potential Democratic challenger, the senator's office said yesterday.

Bernie Kieklak, chief of staff to the Democratic senator from Northampton County, will remain on her staff if he undergoes counseling and meets "the higher standards that people deserve to expect from individuals in public service," according to a statement.

I try not to be a foul-mouthed blogger, but if an employer didn't like what I wrote, I'd rather be fired than made to undergo counseling. Something about that undermines the inherent human dignity in recognizing simply that someone said whatever it was he said.

We all say things we regret, and it is entirely foreseeable that what a blogger working for a state senator says will likely be scrutinized in ways that another blogger's words won't be. What happened here was that the blogger made profane and indecent remarks about a Republican congressman as well as his challenger.

Kieklak was suspended without pay last week for making vulgar comments online about U.S. Rep. Charles W. Dent, a second-term Republican, and Siobhan "Sam" Bennett, who leads an Allentown nonprofit and is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Dent in the 2008 election. The comments, posted in early June, came in response to blog entries on the merits of the candidates.

Kieklak submitted his resignation last week, but Boscola did not accept it.

He had initially defended his writings as those of a private citizen exercising his First Amendment rights. But he apologized to Dent, Bennett, Boscola and her constituents in a separate statement yesterday, saying his comments were "vicious and obnoxious."

"I know many, many people are angry with me for what I said and their anger is justified," Kieklak said. "It was my mistake [and] I will regret it for the rest of my life."

So why not leave it at that? He admitted responsibility, which means he at least claimed his words as his own.

Counseling implies that he really wasn't responsible for what he said, because implicit in such counseling is the idea that his words are a symptom of disease.

I've used the phrase "Bush Derangement Syndrome" and I now see that people are using the phrase "Clinton Derangement Syndrome." In politics, such things are to be expected. What I would not want is to see someone being ordered into treatment for BDS or CDS. It degrades blogging. (And the nature of political freedom.)

Of course, the comments by the blogger in question could be said to degrade blogging in and of themselves. I won't repeat them because I don't want to upset the net nanny software (which cannot distinguish between what I say and quotes from others). I think this blogger should simply have been fired. Common sense suggests that you not talk that way if you work in a public position like that and expect to keep the job.

However, something about counseling just rubs me the wrong way. If you say something, I think you should live with the fact that you said it -- no matter how right or wrong or obscene it is. Of course, if the guy is really mentally ill, that's something else, but his apology strikes me as quite sane and rational. Fire him or keep him and take the lumps. Sending an adult political blogger into counseling tends to abrogate responsibility, while medicalizing political blogging. At the very least, it creates a public perception that political blogging is a proper subject for "treatment" by mental health professionals.

I'll say this for John Edwards; at least he didn't force Amanda Marcotte into counseling.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and to everyone for coming.

I agree with Glenn about the double effect of counseling (political reducation plus abrogation of responsibility). A win-win.

"How convenient" is right!

UPDATE: Commenter Armed Liberal asked what they really meant by "counseling," and speculates that this could mean simply "sitting with them and making sure they knew what the rules were and what was expected from them."

While I don't know the details of what type of counseling is involve (which would most likely be confidential if they involve licensed mental health professionals), what I've read states that the counseling is more than a meeting with the employee -- it has to be "successfully" completed (whatever that means) -- with termination if he fails to complete it:

Under the terms of what Boscola described as a "Condition of Continued Employment" agreement, her chief of staff, Bernard J. Kieklak, must successfully complete a course of counseling to keep his job.

Boscola said in a statement that if Kieklak fails to complete that counseling, or "[conducts] himself in a way that does not meet the higher standards that people deserve to expect from individuals in public service, he will be terminated immediately."

For this to have any "teeth," I think it's likely that the counseling involves mental health professionals.

BTW, unless I am mistaken about the nature of alcohol treatment and rehab appears that Keiklak -- and his boss -- both may have been through counseling before:

Kieklak's comments refreshed old wounds in Boscola's office. Seven years ago, the chief of staff drank with Boscola the day she was arrested for drunken driving, prompting Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna, to reassign Kieklak away from Boscola's office. Boscola was later admitted to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders.

Kieklak returned as Boscola's top aide in October 2001. Five months later, he checked himself into an alcohol treatment program after he was charged with drunken driving for allegedly causing a four-vehicle accident in Harrisburg. His case later was expunged.

Kieklak kept his job then, too. "Everyone deserves a second chance," Boscola said at the time.


Now I'm intrigued.

Is it possible that this involves drunken blogging?

Here's Joe Owens of the Express Times:

....I believe O'Hare should have jumped in for Kieklak as part of the bloggers FDLFBD credo: Friends Don't Let Friends Blog Drunk.
It's all speculation, of course, but there's no proof that the profanities involved were alcohol laced or inspired. Anyway, in an earlier piece Senator Boscola stated that she "would require him to seek anger-management counseling as a condition of returning to work."

I don't know how much light this sheds on the inquiry, and while I still can't state definitively that I know precisely what type of counseling is involved, my common sense tells me that it contemplates licensed mental health professionals of some sort.

posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (16)

overprotecting the underprotected

Are today's children being overprotected by their parents? There's been a lot of discussion about this, and I agree that many children are way overprotected.

Many, that is, but not all:

A day after his daughter drowned in the Schuylkill, Octavio Perez was still haunted by how the last time he saw her she was playing in shallow water just 10 feet from him.

Perez said in an interview that he and his brother-in-law had taken their six children to play in the river, where it runs through Valley Forge National Park. Just as the two families were leaving around 5:30 p.m., they noticed 5-year-old Kelly Perez was missing.

It strikes me that if you have a five year old playing in a large river, that "as you're leaving" might not be the optimal time to notice a missing child.

Everybody makes mistakes, but something about the circumstances strike me as very odd (especially in the context of our overprotected children):

"She didn't make a sound," Perez said of his daughter's sudden disappearance.

The families searched the area, seeking assistance from fishermen, who Perez said swam underwater in search of Kelly. After 10 minutes, the fishermen called the police, Perez said.

Fire and rescue units found Kelly floating in six feet of water a short distance away, near the Pawlings Road Bridge in Lower Providence Township. She had been spotted by a fireman from the bridge.

The girl was rushed to Phoenixville Hospital, where, after several attempts at resuscitation, she was pronounced dead at 8:23 p.m.

Perez, of the 100 block of Chain Street in Norristown said he and his family had moved to the area from Lakewood, N.J., a month ago, and it was the first time he had taken his children to play in the Schuylkill. He said that neither of them knew how to swim.

"There were no signs saying 'No Swimming,' " Perez said.

I'm wondering whether the signs would have helped. The Schuykill is a huge river, running for about 130 miles, with depths of up to 40 feet. The family's house in the 100 block of Chain Street in Norristown is located a very short distance from the same river, right in front of River Front Park, so I find it hard to believe they were unfamiliar with the nature of a river.

Rivers are dangerous, whether there are signs there or not. While I haven't visited River Front Park, I'm willing to bet there are "No Swimming" signs posted there, because it's in a heavily populated area. Personally, I'm against such signs. Rivers are part of nature, and nature -- if it is public property -- should be free to use at your own risk. A tree can fall on you, lightning can strike you, and of course, water can drown you. Signs warning about these things are superfluous. The duty is not that of the state to warn parents.

Ironically, the placement of "No Swimming" signs in one place could be interpreted as meaning that without a "No Swimming" sign, swimming is safe. So, does this mean that the entire 130 miles of the Schuylkill River should be plastered with signs on both sides lest people imagine it is safe to swim? (And what about the many unsigned lakes and coasts?)

What about the fact that this five year old girl didn't know how to swim? Isn't that a more significant factor than the presence or absence of a sign? I may be crazy, but it seems that if you have a child who cannot swim, whether there's a sign is completely superfluous.

I think incidents like this lead to overprotection from the top down, by the nanny state. The overprotective parents buy into it and support it, while at the other end the underprotective parents become victims.

The safety net tightens like a purse being closed. A government purse, of course -- consisting of millions of taxpayer-squeezing "protective" strings. (It really hurts to have to pay for social harm in the name of protection.)

So stay indoors and eat your trans fatty fried onion rings while you're still allowed!

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

yesterday's goners don't stop

While this probably should have been an update to my previous post, something about Ann Althouse's new Calamari rings post reminded me of a touching tale involving my father's trickery. (Yeah, he got me to eat squid when I was a kid -- by telling me the calamari rings were actually onion rings that had "soaked up the flavor of the fish" and I naively ate them while he stifled a chuckle.)

While it may be cute (and even beneficial) for a father to trick his son into expanding his horizons by lying about what he's eating, something about seeing skilled politicians harness the forces of Hollywood and the music industry to manipulate grown adults to put them back into office strikes me as a little crass.

So do the shrill attacks on Ann Althouse (that she "should have her teaching credentials revoked") for poking fun at what I think is a very unoriginal attempt by the Clintons to hijack popular culture to their advantage. It's not just Bill and Hill as Tony and Carmela, but they needed a theme song, and "Don't Stop Believing" is (they think) catchy, and they wanted to claim it.

Hell, they have claimed it.

Must they?

And must we hear it?

It's all too easy for me to not be impressed, as I put up with them glomming onto Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" for nearly a decade.

I think they're tired, and I wish they would stop.

I'm already more tired than I was in the 90s, and that's pretty tired.

But I won't stop being tired....


posted by Eric at 12:10 AM | Comments (2)

Mobbing in Milwaukee

I don't know why these things keep happening in Milwaukee, but here we go again:

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's Juneteenth Celebration ended in violence after a man was dragged from his car and beaten.

Milwaukee police said an officer was also hurt while trying to break up a fight during Tuesday's celebration.

Several thousand people attended the festival celebrating the end of slavery.

Things turned violent when the festival came to a close, police said.

Police said a 33-year-old man was hurt when hundreds of teenagers swarmed around traffic in the area of North First and West Chambers streets.

They said people rocked the man's vehicle, smashed the windows, dragged him out of the car, and kicked and hit him.

He was treated at an area hospital for cuts on his face and a broken tooth.

He told police he has no idea why he was targeted.

I have no idea either. I'd like to have been able to immediately rule out the possibility that he might have been targeted because of his race, but that wasn't given in the written reports.

However, in the pictures and the video here, the crowd is black, and while the driver cannot be seen clearly, in this video the driver also appears to be black.

So unless I'm wrong, there doesn't seem to be even the possibility of a black-on-white racial aspect to this. Just cars being attacked. That previous link details several other incidents at the same event:

In one incident, a crowd surrounded a black car stuck in traffic at 2nd and Burleigh. A couple of teens jumped on top of the car. One smashed out the rear windshield. The driver stayed in the vehicle and escaped unharmed. He smashed into the car ahead of him trying to speed away from the attackers.

Further down the street, a woman in a gold car stopped after a teen jumped onto the back of her car. She got out and yelled at the teen, then she got back in a tried to speed away, also hitting the car ahead of her.

A short time later, at 1st and Burleigh, the crowd surrounded a red car, pounding on the hood and trunk and breaking out the windows. /after a woman reached into his open window, the driver got out, was kicked in the head by a man and fell to the ground. He was taken to the hospital for treatment.

In another incident, police said a young woman hit an officer in the face as the officer was trying to break up a large fight near 1st and Auer. The blow shattered the officer's face shield. The officer was cut by the shattered face shield and needed stitches at the hospital.

Juneteenth is supposed to be a celebration marking the end of slavery, and why anyone would celebrate the end of it by attacking cars, I don't know.

Attacking cars seems to be the latest trend. In Berkeley and San Francisco, crowds don't need the breakup of a Juneteenth celebration either. Just the fact that people are driving gasoline powered vehicles is enough.

What the attackers in all of these instances seem to be forgetting is that cars have an automatic physical advantage. I wouldn't be surprised if sooner or later a driver realizes this, and uses his car in what might have to be considered self defense.

But then again, it might not.

The problem is that mobs of attackers are usually surrounded by innocent people, so using a car against individual attackers might be akin to firing wildly into the same crowd. The difference is that a car can be used both as a weapon, and as a means of escape. But OTOH, a gun is more accurate as a self defense weapon than a car.

It might be more humane to arm the drivers.

posted by Eric at 04:41 PM | Comments (5)

Calling Dr. Freud!
"I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while."

-- Words stuffed in Groucho's Marx's mouth.

My reaction to all of the fallout surrounding Ann Althouse's hilarious take on the Clinton Soprano video?

The way I see it, if a cigar is just a cigar and oral sex is not sex, then I see no reason I shouldn't take my carrot and put it right through someone's onion ring.

As to the dark screen at the end, it's obvious that there are certain places where the sun don't shine.

UPDATE (06/21/07): I like the fact that Ann Althouse is sticking to her guns, even adding a little postmodernist polish:

The man wants the hole-shaped item, and the woman forbids it. She insists that he confine himself to the phallic item, which has been sliced down to puny, thin stick form. The man looks at it sadly, and the woman tells him it's for his own good. If you don't see sexual imagery there, you exist on a very narrow band of human imagination. I don't see how you are competent to watch film. Christopher Orr appears to be a film critic, too!

When Clinton sadly bites into the carrot stick of his own castration, it makes a crunch noise -- ouch! -- and it's that noise that causes the ominous looking man at the bar ("Johnny Sack") to turn and look at him. He then walks by and gives him a glare. What does that glare mean in the Clinton video? I think it means: "What kind of man are you?"

Geez, this also belongs in one of my recent posts about eunuchs. (The plural of "eunuch" does sound like an operating system, doesn't it?)

posted by Eric at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

Real men need real lies, not fake lies!

Twice in a week now, I've had problems with my cell phone when the local tower has been down because of thunderstorms.

I'm not as patient as I should be, but I do realize that being asked a litany of idiotic questions is part of the tech support process. So is being put on hold.

It's not being on hold that irritates me enough to write a post about it. If all they did was put me on hold, I could handle it. I'd "take it like a man" or whatever male humans are supposed to do these days.

In fact, I'm such a "real man" that over the years I have learned to tolerate the terrible hold music they play.

And you know, looking at this as an amateur classicist, I can always remind myself that if the 300 could hold at Thermopylae, then I ought to be able to hold for my customer service.

Why, if I steel myself further, and really tap into the hidden reserves of my manly Stoicism, I can even tolerate the insults to my intelligence by condescending phraseology read from a bureaucratic script.

So, I have learned to tolerate the long periods on hold, the smarmy musical torture, and the idiotic phrases. The final insult to injury -- the thing that makes my manliness founder -- is when I have to submit to having my intelligence insulted not by men, but by machinery playing automated messages like these:

"Because of the personal attention we are giving your case...."

"We are working hard on your problem...."

"We assure you that your call is very important to us...."

Over and over again they play this stuff -- in voices much louder than the actual humans so that they cannot be ignored (or excused as humans can be for reading from a script they've been ordered to read).

These are not people. By definition, they cannot be sincere. They cannot state truthfully that they are working hard on anything or giving personal attention to it. The voices are, simply, robotic lies.

And no real man (or real woman, or androgyne, transmasculinist,or even human eunuch!) should have to tolerate lying by robots.

So go ahead, ask me condescending questions! Put me on hold! Even play your awful music.

But for the sake of the immortal gods, please stop the automated insults to my intelligence!

A more disturbing question is whether machines are capable of lying, or whether their lies and insincerity are to be attributed to their creators.

But I have no time for a philosophical post; for now, I just wish they'd just add a "turn off the fake lies" button.

UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

I agree with Glenn that "the Spartans wouldn't have taken kindly to modern customer-relations techniques." From what I've read, they didn't take kindly to Oracle public relations.....

AND MORE (6/21/07 -- 2:38 p.m.): It is now a full 28 hours after writing this post, and the cell phone tower is still down.

Now I'm really thinking of going Spartan on 'em.

I don't have a Spartan sword, but I do have a Roman gladiolum.

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

Facing the music

Quite inadvertently, I stumbled onto something that seriously challenged my stereotypes.

I'm still amazed, and I'll try to explain.

According to the New York Times (typical of the media diet Americans have been fed) Nicolas Sarkozy is hated by Muslim youth. So much so that not only did none of them vote for him, but they want to kill him:

"If I could get my hands on Sarkozy, I'd kill him." I had asked Mamadou, a wiry young man wearing gray camouflage pants and a tank top, what he thought of France's former minister of the interior, who is also the right's standard-bearer in this spring's presidential elections. "I'd kill him," he continued and then paused as if savoring the thought. "Then I'd go to prison. And when I got out, I'd be a hero."

We were in Les Bosquets, one of the impoverished housing projects that are scattered across the banlieues, the heavily immigrant working-class suburbs that surround Paris. I asked Mamadou's friend Ahmad if he felt the same way. He said he would not go that far. "I wouldn't kill him, no," he said. "But I hate him. We all hate him."

The Times goes on at length, and nothing about it would have in any way surprised me, nor would it have seemed biased.

Until tonight, when I learned about something that hasn't been being reported: Sarkozy did quite well with the very people who are supposed to hate him:

Although one would be led to believe the opposite from the usual coverage in the media, the support enjoyed by Sarkozy in the banlieues and other troubled urban areas is in fact hardly surprising. One of the most remarkable facts about the 2005 riots, after all, was that the rioters were principally laying waste to their own neighborhoods. The burning cars that became the most enduring symbol of the riots were the cars of their neighbors. Moreover, the 2005 riots and the periodic outbursts of rioting in the banlieues since - including after Sunday's election - represent only the most spectacular aspect of the violence by which the banlieues are wracked. Having evolved, as a result of decades of governmental neglect, into areas largely beyond the reach of the law, the banlieues suffer from endemic criminality - including organized criminality - and gang warfare.

It was clearly this criminal element that Sarkozy had in mind when in June 2005 he famously vowed to "clean up" a particularly violent neighborhood following the fatal shooting in plain daylight of 11-year-old Sidi-Ahmed Hammache. The outrage with which much of the French media greeted the then Interior Minister's remarks, however, quickly made this context - and the boy's shocking death - fade into obscurity. Indeed, the hostility toward Sarkozy theatrically displayed by certain young "banlieusards" appears to have been artificially enflamed by parts of the French media whose hatred - or perhaps fear - of Sarkozy is evidently more profound. The second major episode supposedly "opposing" Sarkozy and the banlieues is yet another case in point.

Thus, on October 25, 2005, French television channels would broadcast a brief clip of Sarkozy being pelted by projectiles in a housing project in the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil and defiantly stating that one would "get rid" of what he called the "racaille": a common French term that means roughly "rabble." Rieff mistakenly places this episode after the outbreak of the riots. In fact, and perhaps not coincidentally, it occurred just two days before. Sarkozy's use of the term "racaille" was widely presented as a provocation. But as the investigations of French media critic Daniel Schneidermann would subsequently show, he was in fact merely responding to a remark by a resident of the housing project who had herself used the term. This context, however, was absent from the news reports. Nonetheless, even from the brief edited clip that was broadcast, it is obvious that Sarkozy is indeed responding to someone else's statement. "You want us to get rid of these rabble for you?" he asks looking up and off camera, "Well, okay, we'll get rid of them for you." (Rieff, incidentally, notes that young persons from the banlieues sometimes refer to themselves by the "inverted" slang version of racaille "caille-ra". He insists, however, that this usage is "rare." A simple search for "caillera" on shows that he is wrong about this as well.)

(There's a lot more in both articles, of course; I'm just trying to summarize them.)

To explain why this is such a shock, I'll have to back up. I'll start with an admission of sorts. I have liked Mideastern music for years -- long before 9/11. I just like it, especially when I'm feeling depressed, because it's like a drug, and because I don't take drugs but need strong medicine, strong magic, whatever you want to call it, Mideastern music has often given me a fix. It's hard to explain, but it has a way of reminding me that no matter how bad I might think things are, I can't begin to imagine how much worse things could be, and are, and always have been, and yet how life goes on. There's a certain poignant, timeless despair, a dark futility, an ultimate meaninglessness -- accompanied by a sense of endlessly shifting sands. It cheers me up even when it doesn't.

For years, one of my favorite songs (as people who know me and have ridden in my car can confirm) has been "abdel kader." I didn't know it was a hit song, much less a hit in France (a country I don't especially like).

Anyway, one of the stars who performs it in every version of it that you'll find is "Faudel." I never paid attention to where any of these people come from, but as it happens, Faudel is French, and of Algerian descent.

Here's Faudel, performing the song:

OK, so I was pretty much browsing in YouTube for other stuff by Faudel, and I ran into a video titled "Nicolas Sarkozy et Faudel."

Huh? Sarkozy is the right-winger, right? The guy the New York Times tells us is so utterly hated by all young French Algerians.

Watch the video and look carefully for the "hatred":

Faudel loves him, and he campaigned for him.

This surprised me, as it contradicted everything I've read and (I'm now sorry to admit) assumed was true.

What gives here? Why does the Times want to stereotype Sarkozy as a right winger and a racist bigot? Perhaps to tailor the meme to American tastes? Because American tastes demand that all conservatives are bigots, and all bigots are conservative?

Why did it take my innocent YouTube search to reveal a dishonest political agenda?

It makes me wonder what else I'm missing.

(I should keep reminding myself what I should have learned in four years of blogging: never believe anything that hasn't been confirmed.)

UPDATE: Faudel is being denounced for the crime of supporting Sarkozy at a website run by angry Moroccans in Holland. Among other things, his sexuality is attacked:

That gay ass motherfucker off a Faudel is as dumb as Arabs can get.I hope the paparazzi will catch him someday, with his pants on the ground while Sarkozy is behind him.
Sound familiar? The message seems to be along the following lines:

  • 1. All conservatives are racists and bigots
  • 2. Members of minorities who support conservatives are not only traitors, they're gay.
  • White conservatives with minority friends are merely using them as pawns -- which is "tokenism" and (because they're supposed to hate the people they pretend to like) they're guilty of the additional crime of "hypocrisy."

    Those who agree with the above "principles" might consider a career with the Times, Media Matters, or the Hillary Clinton campaign.

    posted by Eric at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

    They Take Liberalism Seriously

    The University of Chicago sent my mate and I a generic College survey asking generic questions about our opinion of our son's college experience.

    We come to the usual race class and gender questions such as:

    This college is a place where...
    students of all religious backgrounds can feel welcome

    people of all economic backgrounds can feel welcome

    people of different sexual orientations can feel welcome

    people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds can feel welcome

    However, this last one really surprised me and my mate.
    This college is a place where people with differing political points of view can feel welcome.
    Fortunately our answer was AGREE strongly. At Chicago they take liberalism seriously.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:08 PM | Comments (2)

    careful what you wish for!

    If you think Kelo confiscations are bad, get ready. In the name of combating anthropogenic global warming, a package of new laws are being readied which Kimberley A. Strassel describes as "an extraordinary new tool to allow environmentalists to lock up private property across the country" affecting "every dirt clod in America--publicly or privately owned."

    Despite the fact that there's still a constitution in this country, the new laws would allow the federal government to basically confiscate any and all private property it wanted -- as long as it invoked the anthropogenic global warming mantra:

    the big prize was an unprecedented new power allowing green groups to micromanage U.S. lands. That section creates "a new national policy on wildlife and global warming." It would require the Secretary of the Interior to "assist" species in adapting to global warming, as well as "protect, acquire and restore habitat" that is "vulnerable" to climate change. This is the Endangered Species Act on steroids. At least under today's (albeit dysfunctional) species act, outside groups must provide evidence a species is dwindling in order for the government to step in. This law would have no such requirements. Since green groups will argue that every species is vulnerable to climate change, the government will be obliged to manage every acre containing a bird, bee or flower.

    It's a green dream come true, carte blanche to promulgate endless regulations barring tree-cutting, house-building, water-damming, snowmobile-riding, waterskiing, garden-planting, or any other human activity. The section is vague ("protect," "assist," "restore") precisely so as to leave the door open to practically anything. In theory, your friendly Fish & Wildlife representative could even command you to start applying sunblock to your resident chipmunks' noses.

    Naturally, the laws have been written by environmental activists:
    The draft of Mr. Rahall's bill was greeted by a glowing letter from 13 environmental outfits--EarthJustice, Environmental Defense, American Rivers, the usual crew--voicing their "strong support" for the legislation. As they might, since it appears they wrote it. A May 29 letter from Defenders of the Wildlife Executive Vice President Jamie Rappaport Clark--President Clinton's onetime wilderness guru--crowed that her group "worked with committee and congressional staff as they developed" the new global warming wildlife program. She also extols the big bucks that will flow to federal and state wildlife agencies as a result of that global warming initiative.
    Fortunately, it's not law yet, as lameduck Bush still has veto power.

    But will he use it?

    Glenn Reynolds wondered whether the Republican Party is on a suicide mission lately. While I'm cynical enough to think that what's going on might be a power sharing deal secretly brokered at high levels, I have no proof for what I admit is basically a conspiracy theory, which I offer for entertainment value only (much the way I might offer an astrological theory).

    But wide-open lunatic regulations like this make me wonder whether the Democrats might have a similar death wish. If they keep doing stuff like allowing activists to write draconian and unconstitutional legislation, and the Republicans bend over and let them do it as part of a loser strategy, the resultant voter backlash might cause the Republicans to win in 2008 -- especially with an outsider like Fred Thompson on the ticket. (It wouldn't be his fault, of course!)

    Putting aside for now the Freudian question of whether we all have an unconscious death wish, there's plenty of irony in analyzing death wish strategies by the degree to which they generate voter backlash.

    It's like, whoever wants to die more, wins.

    A hell of a way to die.

    posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (7)

    Gun control as a "human right"?

    Today's Wall Street Journal profiles a human rights activist named Mustafa Ibrahim, who's demanding that Hamas start implementing gun control in Gaza ASAP:

    Mr. Ibrahim, the human-rights worker, says dramatic action is needed -- not only to stem the flow of guns, but to deal with arms already on the streets. Hamas must begin "collecting the illegal weapons which have spread in the Gaza Strip," he says, and immediately ban people from carrying arms in public.
    What I found more than a little disconcerting was that he's not just calling for Hamas to disarm Fatah, or other militias, but ordinary citizens who only want to defend themselves:
    ...what concerned Mr. Ibrahim and many other residents was not only guns in the hands of militias, but also that weapons on the streets would beget more weapons. Ordinary people, he says, "started getting weapons to defend themselves."
    Can ayone blame them? Hamas, long known for persecuting people wearing the wrong clothes or even listening to music, is now engaged in an orgy of executions, including throwing people off buildings, as it installs an Islamist dictatorship.

    Fatah is a corrupt and evil joke, and cannot and will not protect private citizens. Ordinary citizens are attempting to flee from Gaza -- to Israel.

    And as Roger L. Simon points out in a piece titled "Gaza: Better Call Human Rights Watch... or someone," no one seems to like the Gazans.

    (Don't look at me; I'm disinclined to like people who vote for Hamas, or Fatah. Of course, I wonder what would happen to some poor Gazan clueless enough to write in "Libertarian Party"....)

    So, are they better off disarmed entirely? If the right to keep and bear arms in self defense is a human right, and if governments (especially ones like Hamas) are the greatest violators of human rights, then it strikes me that as human rights dilemmas go, disarming private citizens and not the government is by far a worse evil than disarming everyone.

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of Hamas, under the circumstances, how is it that private citizens arming themselves can be seen as a human rights violation? It strikes me that it's the only defense people have.

    Who is this Mustafa Ibrahim, and why does he want Hamas to disarm private citizens? It would be all too easy to see him as a spokesman for Hamas who's hoodwinking journalists, but I'm not so sure about that. I Googled his name and nothing stood out at me, but the name is common enough. Human rights organizations do exist in Gaza.

    The rhetorically twisted position of Human Rights Watch is that governments should impose gun control -- in the name of "human rights."

    Human Rights Watch holds that it is governments' responsibility to help solve a problem that governments have largely helped create. They should do so by developing binding norms and implementing measures to halt flows of arms, especially small arms and light weapons, to human rights abusers. It is also imperative that governments muster the political will and bolster their ability to bring to justice those who by misusing small arms, or facilitating their illicit flows, have been either instrumental in perpetrating human rights abuses or have acted in contempt of international humanitarian law.
    Governments? The same governments that violate human rights should be encouraged to disarm their victims? That's like using criminals to disarm law abiding citizens.

    Among other things, Human Rights Watch demands that arms not be sold to governments which are "not actively engaged in the creation of national and regional registers for small arms."

    Which means Hamas better get on the gun control band wagon fast!

    FWIW, I think the human rights activists have it backwards. Rather than have the Hamas government disarm the citizens, I think it would be better to disarm the government first.

    The larger issue (forgetting the detestable Gaza) is the false dichotomy that's being drawn between guns and human rights. Being armed is a human right, as is the right to self defense. It's almost as if the activists are saying that self defense violates the human rights of governments or something. What's next? Private property and free speech as human rights violations?

    I think someone's been listening to "Imagine" too many times.

    UPDATE: Pajamas Media links this Jerusalem Post report about the fate of Christians living in the Gaza:

    Masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church in Gaza City, using rocket-propelled grenades and then burning crosses, Bibles, and nearly everything else inside. Christians living in Gaza City have called for protection against Muslim extremists and many want to leave the Strip as soon as the border crossings are reopened.
    I don't know whether Hamas is disarming the Christians, but I wish activists like Mustafa Ibrahim didn't use terms like "human rights" to describe what is precisely the opposite.

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

    Who will promise to imprison the largest number of women for abortion?

    According to, Fred Thompson's abortion record is being scrutinized:

    Combing through Thompson's archive, Newsweek found several files on his campaign strategy on abortion that could roil his 2008 bid. On a 1994 Eagle Forum survey, Thompson said he opposed criminalizing abortion. Two years later, on a Christian Coalition questionnaire, he checked "opposed" to a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of human life. In a campaign policy statement filed in the archives, he also said he believes "the decision to have an early term abortion is a moral issue and should not be a legal one subject to the dictates of the government." During an interview with the Conservative Spectator, a Tennessee newspaper, he claimed to be pro-life but also said that, "The ultimate decision on abortion should be left with the woman and not the government."
    The Tennessean has more, and while Thompson's statements to various organizations and media outlets have varied over the years, his overall voting record indicates he's philosophically opposed to abortion. (A federalist, he thinks Roe v. Wade was wrong, and voted repeatedly to ban partial birth abortion.)

    But I guess to certain ideologues, you have to want to put women in prison or else you'll be labeled "pro abortion."

    Voters who think abortion should always be illegal (I assume that means they want to put women in prison, but I can't be sure that they've all thought it through) were 16% of the 2004 electorate, and 12% of Bush's voters. I think if they compare Thompson's record to Clinton's or Obama's, they'll vote for Thompson if he's the candidate in the general election.

    I don't know where people get the idea that the president can do much about abortion one way or another, but it certainly fuels a lot of passion.

    posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (7)

    Decadent bureaucrats mutilate soldiers
    "Decadence" is the essential condition of "a society which believes it has evolved to the point where it will never have to go to war."

    --Air Force Colonel Robert Wheeler

    From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers this week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons.
    While the Inquirer shifts the focus to "zero tolerance" in general, I think the larger issue is an anti-military, anti-boy mindset, and I see the cutting off of the tiny plastic guns as a perfect example of the bureaucratic eunuchoid class run amok.

    There's a great blog post here which reprints the full story, with pictures of the offending mortarboards. What I enjoyed most was the boys' spirited defense of the wounded troops.

    wounded.jpgFor obvious reasons, the picture on the left is not getting much mainstream media play. I can't think of a better way to expose the anti-war bureaucrats than the boys' simple demonstration that the school bureaucrats had wounded the troops. No words can match the eloquence of the bloodied bandages!

    I wrote several posts about eunuchs, and I think this is as good a place as any to add a few words about Phil Bowermaster's post about transmasculinity, which Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday. I have no problem with the idea of transmasculinity (or androgyny), and don't think it is remotely the same as state-enforced policies forcing boys to become eunuchs.

    As Bowermaster observes from personal experience, we've gone from persecution to persecution, in little more than a single generation:

    I was born in 1962 and attended public schools in the 1960's and 1970's. So depending on whom you ask, I either suffered under the early stages of a dehumanizing PC agenda that was trying to "feminize" me, or I enjoyed the last few halcyon days of a golden era when boys were allowed to be boys. In point of fact, I think the latter is closer to the truth, but let me just point out one important feature of that lost golden age: it could pretty much suck for boys who weren't terribly interested in boy stuff.

    Personally, I hated sports when I was a kid. I read a lot, and very indiscriminately -- meaning that I cheerfully read books that my older sister was reading or had just finished, even though many of these were "girls'" books. When I was in the 5th grade, I wanted an Easy Bake oven for Christmas. It's hard to imagine in the age of Emeril what a stigma there once was around a boy showing an interest in cooking. For these points of divergence with mainstream boyhood, I was rewarded with a label which -- unlike tomboy -- was never considered complimentary: I was a sissy, later a queer or fag. Some thought it cute for a girl to be a tomboy; nobody ever thought it was cute for a boy to be a sissy.

    What I would have really liked when I was a kid was for other people to leave me alone and let me be who I was. But no such luck -- and I don't think the peer pressure to be "masculine" had as much to do with trying to raise a just and noble and manlike society as it did preventing boys from growing up to be homos. I was always getting crap about how I walked. There was this bizarre belief that boys who "walked funny" had started down a one-way highway that ended in Queersville.

    But as we all know, the opposite of crazy is still crazy. And in this case, we get craziness on a much vaster scale. My longed-for world of live-and-let-live never really came about. Instead, rather than persecuting the few boys who don't have traditional masculine inclinations, we've put a system in place that persecutes that vast majority of boys who do have such inclinations. Progress!

    I avoided the whole thing by being morbidly subversive, Machiavellian, and reptilian. (I'm not proud of some of the things I did, but it was survival stuff, and my way of fighting back.)

    It's the heavy arm of the state being brought to bear that I think is the larger problem here. Social engineering when practiced by tyrannical boys against each other is inevitable. While it should be policed by responsible authorities when it gets out of hand, the idea of reshaping boys by doing things like carving up their little plastic toys based on a government edict -- at a time when we are at war -- is simply an outrage.

    But again, I don't think it's so much feminization that's going on as it is neuterization, or eunuchization. John Lennon "Imagine" pacifism is not feminine, but neuter -- and in my opinion, decadent.

    The problem is, it has taken over the bureaucratic establishment.
    Pajamas Media links Westhawk's review of a new article by Robert Kaplan:

    Mr. Kaplan thinks there are two Americas, a pacifist Establishment and a warrior class, two Americas that hardly know each other.
    I'm afraid that the pacifist class wants to castrate the warrior class in any way they can, and at every opportunity -- beginning with the enforced mutilation of tiny plastic soldiers.

    The real soldiers are being symbolically castrated with kindness. This includes the very condescending approach of pitying them as victims. According to Kaplan, soldiers want respect, not pity:

    I cannot remember how many times a soldier or marine told me that we don't want to be pitied as victims, but respected as fighters.
    How can they be respected as fighters by a society that forces children to sever their fighting parts?

    This seemingly tiny incident is not as tiny as it appears.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome to all!

    (In answer to Glenn's question, I think bureaucrats may have zero tolerance for decency.)

    MORE: Glenn links this post from Marc Danziger offering some suggestions for the Netroots left:'ve got a choice. You can build a movement of the soy-latte drinkers who know tats, startups, and hip underground bands and represent a highly visible 15% of the country and consider themselves madly progressive. Or you can accept the challenge laid out years ago by John Schaar, who wrote of the failure of the early New Left in America:
    "Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960's. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow."

    So here's the suggestion. Move to the suburbs. Buy a minivan. Reach out and understand the hopes and fears of the average American. Help them reclaim our country.
    A good start would be helping their children reclaim their toys.

    (Beyond that, maybe getting over the idea that suburbs are evil vectors of sprawl and minivans are proper targets for attack.)

    I don't mean to sound cynical, as I generally agreed with the post.

    Come to think of it, a year ago I wrote a post about the Netroots and middle America.

    posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (16)

    Another Attempt At Friendly Discourse Goes Awry

    From the comment section of Denialism Blog, a slightly abridged comment. The bolding is mine...

    Mark, you are simply missing the point. You take yourself very, very seriously - and no doubt the issues at stake are serious, both economically and environmentally. Blair, on the other hand, is just a joker. Everything he writes is basically a joke - but usually one with a certain wry observation or kernel of truth in it.

    It is a totally different kind of writing to the kind of pseudo-scholarly discourse (or is it really an "Inquisition", as Harry would have it?) going on here. It's a bit like you getting upset watching a roadrunner cartoon: "That doesn't make sense - that coyote would be dead by now" kind of thing. Your "quote mine" was little more than a handle for a new joke to rest on. Most of Tim Blair's readers don't give a damn what you think or believe.

    Contrary, to Wes' assertion, the link is there for readers to follow as they wish. I think that you should be glad to get this kind of exposure from a very popular Australian blog - assuming that your objective really is to reach out and persuade. I have had a good look around and there is some very interesting material here.

    Posted by: Bob Bunnett | June 8, 2007 12:30 AM

    Not well received. Nice try, though.

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

    Educated Incapacity
    From The Expert and Educated Incapacity , by Herman Kahn
    Educated incapacity often refers to an acquired or learned inability to understand or even perceive a problem, much less a solution. The original phrase, "trained incapacity," comes from the economist Thorstein Veblen, who used it to refer, among other things, to the inability of those with engineering or sociology training to understand certain issues which they would have been able to understand if they had not had this training.

    The training is essential to gain the skill, and society wants these people to have the skills, so I am not objecting to the training. But the training does come at some costs by narrowing the perspectives of the individuals concerned...

    When a possibility comes up that is ruled out by the accepted framework, an expert--or well-educated individual--is often less likely to see it than an amateur without the confining framework.

    For example, one naturally prefers to consult a trained doctor than an untrained person about matters of health. But if a new cure happens to be developed that is at variance with accepted concepts, the medical profession is often the last to accept it...

    Educated incapacity in the United States today seems to derive from the general educational and intellectual milieu rather than from a specific education...

    Individuals raised in this milieu often have difficulty with relatively simple degrees of reality testing--e.g., about the attitudes of the lower middle classes, national security issues, national prestige, welfare, and race. This is not to say that other groups might not be equally biased and illusioned--only that their illusions are generally reflected in more traditional ways.

    posted by Justin at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

    Slow Motion Singularity: 1968

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

    The great dinosaurs had long since perished when the survey ship entered the Solar System after a voyage that had already lasted a thousand years...

    They were patient , but they were not yet immortal. There was so much to do in this universe of a hundred billion suns, and other worlds were calling. So they set out once more into the abyss, knowing that they would never come this way again. Nor was there any need. The servants they had left behind would do the rest. On Earth, the glaciers came and went, while above them the changeless Moon still carried its secret.

    With a yet slower rhythm than the polar ice, the tides of civilization ebbed and flowed across the galaxy. Strange and beautiful and terrible empires rose and fell, and passed on their knowledge to their successors. Earth was not forgotten, but another visit would serve little purpose. It was one of a million silent worlds, few of which would ever speak.

    And now, out among the stars, evolution was driving toward new goals. The first explorers of Earth had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and plastic.

    In these, they roamed among the stars. They no longer built spaceships. They were spaceships.

    But the age of the Machine-entities swiftly passed. In their ceaseless experimenting, they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter.
    Into pure energy, therefore, they presently transformed themselves; and on a thousand worlds, the empty shells they had discarded twitched for awhile in a mindless dance of death, then crumbled into rust.

    Now they were lords of the galaxy, and beyond the reach of time. They could rove at will among the stars, and sink like a subtle mist through the very interstices of space. But despite their godlike powers, they had not wholly forgotten their origin, in the warm slime of a vanished sea.

    And they still watched over the experiments their ancestors had started, so long ago.

    If you'll allow that evolution really does happen, and that intelligent life can endure, intelligently, for millions of years, then the above doesn't seem at all farfetched. Indeed, the first few steps seem inevitable. As for the lattices of light and subtle mist stuff, who can say? Not me, that's for sure. We still don't know enough to say it's either possible or impossible with an acceptable degree of certainty. But we're getting there.

    Where the Singularitarian Kids lose me is their insistence that they will live to see it. Frankly, I question the timing. What looks to be possible in three hundred years, probable in three thousand, a sure thing in three million, looks flatly impossible in a mere thirty. And yes, I do know about Moore's Law.

    Concluding, let's just back up a bit textually, eh?

    Those who had begun that experiment, so long ago, had not been men--or even remotely human. But they were flesh and blood, and when they looked out across the deeps of space, they had felt awe, and wonder, and loneliness. As soon as they possessed the power, they set forth for the stars. In their explorations, they encountered life in many forms, and watched the workings of evolution on a thousand worlds. And they saw how often the first faint sparks of intelligence flickered and died in the cosmic night.

    And because, in all the galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped.

    And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.

    Ah. The good old stuff.

    posted by Justin at 04:45 PM | Comments (2)

    Victorian Wisdom: 1934

    From A London Child Of The 1870s, by M.V. Hughes

    On one of my bad days I refused to finish up my rice pudding, was sent from the room, and fled in angry tears to my bedroom. Soon Aunt Lizzie came up to me with the information that 'it says in the Bible that the disobedient are to burn for ever in the Lake of Fire, with idolaters and murderers and liars'.

    This sounded all too likely, and without questioning the accuracy of her quotation I went back and choked down that rice pudding...

    In spite of the fun that we made of Aunt Lizzie we were really fond of her, because she never gushed and would do any thing for us. And we all knew her tragedy. She had run away to be married, and her husband had turned out a drunken brute with no redeeming attraction.

    He tortured her to such an extent that she was obliged to flee from lodging to lodging to avoid him, and to make a living for herself by giving music lessons. It is no wonder that she took gloomy views of life, and had such vivid ideas of Hell.

    Victorian times are supposed to have been so settled and happy and care-free, but my recollections hardly tally with this rosy picture. Surely to-day no woman would endure such humiliations year after year.

    If only Aunt Lizzie had listened to Leon Kass. She should have courted her beau, rather than eloping with him, the brute. Lucky she had her music teaching to fall back on, eh?

    From The End of Courtship by Leon Kass

    On the one side, there is a rise in female assertiveness and efforts at empowerment, with a consequent need to deny all womanly dependence and the kind of vulnerability that calls for the protection of strong and loving men, protection such men were once -- and would still be -- willing to provide...

    ...the economic independence of women, however welcome on other grounds, is itself not an asset for marital stability, as both the woman and the man can more readily contemplate leaving a marriage. Indeed, a woman's earning power can become her own worst enemy when the children are born.

    Give the doctor his due. He fully recognizes that men are bastards. That's why Aunt Lizzie should have been more careful...

    Not all the obstacles to courtship and marriage are cultural. At bottom, there is also the deeply ingrained, natural waywardness and unruliness of the human male. Sociobiologists were not the first to discover that males have a penchant for promiscuity and polygyny -- this was well known to biblical religion.

    Men are also naturally more restless and ambitious than women; lacking woman's powerful and immediate link to life's generative answer to mortality, men flee from the fear of death into heroic deed, great quests, or sheer distraction after distraction. One can make a good case that biblical religion is, not least, an attempt to domesticate male sexuality and male erotic longings, and to put them in the service of transmitting a righteous and holy way of life through countless generations...

    Ogden Nash had it right: "Hogamus higamus, men are polygamous; higamus hogamus, women monogamous." To make naturally polygamous men accept the conventional institution of monogamous marriage has been the work of centuries of Western civilization...

    Glad that's settled. So, which century would you rather live in?

    posted by Justin at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

    Boron Fusion Rocketry: 1977

    From The Jupiter Theft, by Donald Moffitt

    The ritual spying had become a way of life during the year-long preparations for the joint Chinese-American Jupiter mission...The big prize in the game was the new boron fusion/fission engine that was going to power the Jupiter ship, courtesy of the United States. The Chinese didn't have one yet...

    Jameson was familiar with the basic principle: You inject a proton into boron 11, with its six neutrons and five protons, and you get an unstable nucleus that explodes into three helium nuclei, with two protons and two neutrons apiece, plus a liberated proton. But it took temperatures in the billions of degrees to start boron fission.

    So to get the hot protons needed to trigger the boron reaction, you had to have a fusion reaction first. That was being supplied, courtesy of the Chinese, via a more conventional deuterium-tritium fusion triggered by carbon dioxide lasers.

    The security problems at the interface of the two systems were nightmarish.

    Some would say that science fiction rots the mind. And that was just the short form. A longer version (with high performance deep space rocket ship!) follows...

    The Jupiter ship drifted among the stars, a gigantic hoop and stick perforated with light from its blazing ports...the camera pinnace, hovering a prudent fifty miles away, zoomed in to the limit of its magnification, and the hoop became an enormous puffy doughnut, bumpy with outside structures, and the stick swelled to an immense cylindrical shaft...

    Somewhere inside the long shaft, Chinese technicians bustled around a massive globate housing that bristled like a hedgehog with converging laser assemblies. Towering stacks of capacitors marched endlessly down the arched chamber. Pipes and cables disappeared through a thick bulkhead. On the other side of the bulkhead, a team of American technicians tended the dull buging shapes of of cryogenic storage vats and monitored a bewildering array of computer displays.

    A walnut-size pellet of boron dropped into a vat. it was hollow on the inside, and beautifully machined, with twelve precise pinholes slanting through its jacket. It was immediately stuffed with a tiny snowball made of frozen deuterium and tritium

    A computer on the American side of the bulkhead positioned the pellet to within an angstrom and fired it through a long pipe into the chamber of the Chinese device. All the lasers fired at once in a burst that lasted only a few picoseconds. They were computer controlled by a single oscillator on the American side...

    Time out for a minute.

    Back in the mid seventies, when The Jupiter Theft was being written, laser induced fusion via inertial confinement was looked on very hopefully. It was seen as a possible solution to the very difficult problems encountered by magnetic confinement devices. Subsequent experience proved it to have problems of its own.

    Back in 1984, T.A. Heppenheimer wrote a quite good history of fusion research aimed at the lay audience. It was titled Man-Made Sun, and I think it holds up rather well, even today, for the curious and non-technical reader.

    He covers the history of magnetic confinement fusion, inertial confinement fusion, a handful of more speculative concepts, and concludes with some tempting prospects for the future. I first learned of Farnsworth Fusors from this book.

    Interestingly, he even gives a pretty fair accounting of Robert Bussard's Amazing Riggatron Fusion adventure with Bob Guccione. Mind you, I haven't opened my copy in over fifteen years, so caveat whatever.

    I'd have to say that my one favorite line from the book was a heartfelt quote from a magnetic machine advocate. "Those laser guys are such liars!"

    We now return to the launch...

    Twelve thread-thin beams of coherent light blasted through the pellets pinholes and converged at the center of the snowball. A tiny volume of space turned into hell. A few cubic microns of hydrogen isotopes became ten times hotter than the interior of the sun. The fusion reaction became self-sustaining. The pressure of the blast crushed superheated plasma to the awesome density of degenerate matter, and held the pellet together for the few picoseconds needed to initiate the next stage of the reaction.

    For hydrogen fusion, a mere 200 million degrees Fahrenheit had been sufficient. For boron fission, a temperature in the billions of degrees was needed. Fusion was only the trigger. The raging nuclear fury in that tortured speck of matter stripped hot protons from surrounding hydrogen atoms and drove them with incredible energy into the now-collapsing nuclei of boron-11 atoms. The extra proton was too much for the boron nucleus to hold. Each atom split into three helium nuclei. The energy released was tremendous--far more than the controlled fusion energy that mankind had unlocked a half century before. a stream of electrically charged helium nuclei sought their mad escape rearward through the ship's nozzles.

    The ship trembled and moved.

    Another pellet dropped. Another chamber turned into hell. Then, three seconds later, another. And another,

    The ship, shuddering, picked up speed. It was accelerating rapidly now, at one percent of a g.

    One hundredth of a gee? Now that's what I call high performance, and I'm not being the slightest bit facetious. One hundredth of a gee will take you anywhere in the solar system if you can keep the engines running long enough.

    You could reach Mars in weeks instead of the months currently envisioned. Jupiter in months instead of years. With constant boost, you'd reach Pluto in less than a year instead of the decades current technology requires. That's what a hundredth of a gee will get you. Of course, it would be nice if we could do better.

    Boron fusion might someday deliver that kind of performance. As far as I know, this is the very first depiction of it in the annals of science fiction. I'm sure I'll hear about it if I'm mistaken.

    posted by Justin at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

    Bicentennial Transhumanism: 1976

    From The Next 200 Years, by Herman Kahn

    It seems very likely that many subtle and sophisticated questions will arise as mankind--increasingly relieved of the burdens of simple sustenance and richer in technological capabilities and economic resources--continues its inexorable march across new frontiers. Indeed, some such questions are already arising.

    The fundamental physiological and psychological aspects of human life are being altered today, and will be changed further tomorrow. Most of the great diseases of the past have been all but eliminated (smallpox, for example, will soon be a memory almost as distant as scurvy and beriberi), and death increasingly will be mainly the result of either accident or the simple wearing out of vital organs (here, too, new opportunities for life extension are arising through the rapidly growing science of organ replacement and soon of organ regeneration). As man progresses further in genetic research, he will move closer to the time when he will be able to influence the design of his offspring, perhaps even produce them ectogenetically. Man can now alter his mental state with drugs, and over time even influence his personality. Will man, within 200 years, be able to condition his mind to increase his ability to learn, to communicate, to create, and will he he have the power to affect others similarly, perhaps without their knowing it?

    How will all of these potential changes, many of which are quite likely, affect human beings for whom work--in the post-industrial era--will be an activity of relatively short duration, and of a primarily self-serving nature? It is almost impossible to imagine such an existence. But already there are available electromechanical devices that effect enormous savings of labor, and the next generation of such devices--spurred by the computer revolution--will probably free man from the need to manage them, except for the preselection of appropriate computer programs.

    What kind of a life will a genetically engineered, vital-organ-replaceable, mental-state-adjustable, computer-robot-assisted human being want to live? Will he seek even more to test himself in the combat of sport, the risk of adventure or the challenge of exploration? Or will he be able and prefer to experience all of this--and more--through artificial stimulation...

    The postindustrial world we foresee will be one of increased abundance, and thus hopefully of reduced competition; it will be one of greater travel and contact, and thus possibly one of diminished differences among its peoples. But it will also be one of enormous power to direct and manipulate both man and nature; and thus its great issues will still be the very questions that confront us now, though enlarged in range and magnitude: Who will direct and manipulate, and to what ends?

    posted by Justin at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

    as the noose tightens, the hangman becomes respectable

    In more posts than I can count, I've raved against AB 1634 (mandatory spay and neuter), and my position on anthropogenic global warming is beyond that of a mere denier; I'm a defier. Not that I advocate using incandescent bulbs or not spaying pets for other people; my position is a very simple one. I don't want the government telling people what to do in their personal lives.

    My house, my dog, my car, my guns.

    It's my business whether I own (yes own, not act as a state-appointed "guardian" for) my dog, or my car and my guns, and it's my business what I do behind closed doors in my house.

    California's endless litany of ever tightening restrictions (detailed here and linked by Glenn Reynolds who likened the place to Singapore) tend to be laughed at by the rest of the country.

    So let's all go ahead and laugh at California!

    In particular, let's have a good laugh at Berkeley.

    In Berkeley's green future, there will be no incandescent lightbulbs, Wedgewood stoves or gas-powered water heaters. The only sounds will be the whir of bicycles and the purr of hybrid cars -- and possibly curses from residents being forced to upgrade all their kitchen appliances.

    Six months after Berkeley voters overwhelmingly passed Measure G, a mandate to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, the city is laying out a long-term road map for residents, business and industry. It includes everything from solar panels at the Pacific Steel foundry to composted table scraps.

    While San Francisco, Oakland and other local governments in the Bay Area have approved policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Berkeley is the first to begin spelling out how people would be expected to reduce their carbon footprints.

    Some measures will be popular and easy, like a car-share vehicle on every block and free bus passes. But others will be bitter pills, such as strict and costly requirements that homes have new high-efficiency appliances, solar-powered water heaters, insulation in the walls and other energy savers.

    Ah, silly Berkeley! Big Brother in Birkenstocks! Ha ha ha ha ha!

    Laugh at your peril.

    Because it is your peril. As a collective process, what is going on has been likened (via Samizdata) to a series of fence posts placed in the ground:

    The problem is, they will outlaw almost everything while enforcing very little. Imprisonment by stealth. People will not know they are encircled until it is too late - like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose to nail whomsoever they desire.
    I'm reminded of the line from the movie Goodfellas, in which the local mob boss locks the doors to the bar from the inside, then turns around and says, "Now youse can't leave."

    But the problem is, people vote for it, and we live in a democracy. Perry de Havilland has also called the process "Democratic totalitarianism":

    ...a total state really is what a great many people have in mind for us all. They seek a sort of 'smiley face fascism' in which all interactions are regulated in the name of preventing sexism, promoting health, and defending the environment. The excuses will not invoke the Glory of the Nation or the Proletariat or the Volk or the King or the Flag or any of those old fashioned tools for tyrants, but rather it will be "for our own good", "for the Planet", "for the whales", "for the children", "for the disabled" or "for equality".

    But if they get their way it will be quite, quite totalitarian.

    It would be an error to dismiss such warm and fuzzy totalitarianism as the product of top-down rule by a Leviathan state. Pliant and well-meaning citizens (some of whom I suspect in my darker moments are wannabe eunuchs) voluntarily condition themselves first to accept self-imposed limitations, following which it becomes easy to impose them on others. The "fairness" principle lies at the heart of this
    We have all been doing our part in fixing our pets the state-sanctioned companion animals of which we're now guardians, substituting bicycles for cars, replacing our lightbulbs and windows with "green" alternatives. Is it really fair for a small minority of recalcitrant denialists to live like pigs greedy American kulaks at the expense of the rest of us?
    Freedom be damned. Your "liberty" is unfair to the rest of us! You're polluting us all -- and we must stop your, your footprint!

    "I saw you driving your car to the store yesterday!"

    As I say, the noose is tightening. As California goes, so goes the nation. You think there's an escape? Think again. I admit, I sometimes fantasize about escaping: I am, minding my own business and not so much as inconveniencing anyone, while an ever-growing number of people want to make me into a criminal. As it is, I'm forced to live as an exile from California, where my dog and my guns would be criminal activities.

    So, should I just sit around in Pennsylvania and imagine it could never happen here? Or should I move South and hope it doesn't happen there?

    Wherever I go, it seems that it's easier and easier to become a criminal by doing nothing.

    The way things are going, I almost prefer returning to Berkeley. I was ahead of the game there.

    Here I sit and wait for the ideas to spread, and then wonder what the hell is wrong with everyone. In Berkeley I knew what was wrong with everyone, and they knew what was wrong with me. In a city of kooks, I'm just one more kook -- even if I'm on the "wrong" side. The difference here is that once the ideas spread, they've become so trendy and entrenched that people don't realize how kooky they are.

    I guess I'd rather be tyrannized by kooks than by the normal majority. It has less of a sting. True, freedom is lost either way, but it's comforting to the soul to know that your enemies are as crazy as you are. Seen another way, it's better to be rended by wolves than suffocated by sheep. (More dignified, anyway.)

    But those are just my personal issues. The rest of society be warned.

    Now youse can't leave.

    posted by Eric at 09:25 AM | Comments (8)

    hot times in Kuwait

    Two videos.

    The first one is labeled, simply, "Kuwait dancer"

    (I don't know what the song is, but the dance is interesting. The title should say "Kuwait dancers" as there are two of them, plus a couple of spectators.)

    And the second one is titled "Kuwait scandal 2" -- and quite a scandal it is!

    (Actually, while they might not be quite ready for prime time, they do a pretty good job of dancing to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." As spontaneous amateur choreography goes, it's not bad.)

    In all honesty, sometimes Youtube makes me feel as if I'm invading the privacy of strangers. But then, I was just browsing for Mideastern music, and there they were. And because Saturday night is YouTube night at Classical Values, I have to share the best of whatever I find.


    posted by Eric at 11:52 PM | Comments (1)

    Eunuchly American literary figure(s)

    I was all set to write a post about Sidney Sawyer, but when I Googled "Sidney Sawyer" and "eunuch" or "Sidney Saywer" and "neuter", the only links I got were to my own blog.

    I had in mind a long-winded essay about how the best way to avoid raising a eunchoid son would be to have him read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but this took the wind out of my sails.

    (Things are really desperate when all you get when you Google is your own stuff.)

    To make a long post short, I think what's important about Sidney is that he is, literarily and metaphorically speaking, a neutered boy -- the equivalent of a eunuch. Not gay, not a sissy, or anything like that, but a pliant, obedient, well-behaved lover of authority who does as he's told, runs to the authorities for protection, undermines the accomplishments of others, and thwarts those with free will and stubborn independence. (And who in all probability would think sex is icky.)

    Sid Sawyer has been on my mind lately because of a couple of posts about eunuchs -- one from a modern (mostly figurative) perspective, and the other from an ancient (more literal) perspective.

    "The Dangerous Book for Boys" strikes me as a Tom Saywer/Huck Finn sort of restoration project in the making, and an antidote to the growing neuter movement. How could anyone in their right mind could object to that? I Googled the book to look for objections, and found none. However, it didn't take long for an angry whiner to come crawling out of the woodwork in the form of Glenn Greenwald -- a genuine Sidney Sawyer if ever there was one. I was a bit taken aback, but I shouldn't have been, really. It was just so in character for Greenwald to object to this book. So, so, perfectly fitting. His attack on "The Dangerous Book for Boys" is a true testament to the perpetually recurring nature of the Sidney Sawyer eunuchoid personality that is unfortunately as much a traditional American character as his brother Tom. IMO, the ideal American spirit is Tom Sawyer, not Sidney. I don't think most parents would want to raise a Sid Sawyer (or a Glenn Greenwald) as a child. Nor should the schools be encouraging the development of such personalities. (Instead of banning Tom Sawyer, I think they ought to make it assigned reading.)

    Regardless of whether the Sid Sawyers of the world are comfortable with it, this stuff has important consequences -- some of which were discussed in a Wall Street Journal article that Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday:

    You can't build a civilization and defend it against barbarians, fascists and playground bullies, in other words, with a nation of Phil Donahues.
    Nor with a nation of Sidney Sawyers.

    The author (Tony Woodlief, who also wrote "Raising Wild Boys Into Men: A Modern Dad's Survival Guide") amplifies:

    The good father, then, needs to nurture his son's moral and spiritual core, and equip him with the skills he'll need to act on the moral impulse that we call courage. A real man, in other words, is someone who doesn't run from an Osama bin Laden. But he may also need the ability to hit a target from three miles out with a .50 caliber M88 if he wants to finish the job.

    Not only do I believe that trying to take the wildness out of boys is a doomed social experiment, but I'm certain that genetic scientists will eventually discover that males carry the Cowboy Gene. That's my name for whatever is responsible for all the wrestling in my house, and the dunking during bath time, and my 5-year-old's insistence on wearing his silver six-shooters to Wal-Mart in order to protect our grocery cart. I only pray that when the Cowboy Gene is discovered, some well-meaning utopian doesn't try to transform it into a Tea Party Gene.

    If anyone had the Tea Party Gene, it would have been Sidney Sawyer. He'd not only run from Osama bin Laden, but he'd tattle on the Tom Sawyers who risked their lives to go after him.

    UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

    Considering the recent forced mutilation of toy soldiers by educrats, I think a Tom Sawyer revival is long overdue, as the Sidney forces seem to be winning.

    All the more reason not to forget about Tom!

    posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (11)

    Thinking globally, acting locally.
    We can change the world

    Rearrange the world

    It's dying - to get better

    -- Graham Nash

    In a self-reproaching post yesterday, I grudgingly admitted that the ice at a local lake is showing clear signs of global warming, and I don't want it said about me that I am one of those passive types who sits around and gets alarmed, yet refuses to take active measures to stop the crisis which even fourth graders in Maine describe as a "huge pending global disaster," but that "we all have the means to change it together."

    Change starts at home. (And I don't mean changing light bulbs, for much as I love my CFLs, in all honesty they have not resulted in any demonstrable cooling in my house.)

    Via leading Australian environmental advocate Tim Blair, I am persuaded that the best place to start is in my kitchen.

    Encouraging others to pitch in with personal stories of how they helped cool the world, Mr. Blair started the Blair Fridge Project, and overwhelming reader response led to another post, with an utterly inspiring group of photo submissions, showing that we truly can change the world, by making it a cooler place! One fridge at a time!

    This fits in with the civic message that each citizen must be held accountable. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. This finds justification in the Bible:

    "And all went to be taxed. Every man into his own city."
    Like the incredibly cool Denver -- which is planning to tax citizens based on their individual coolness or uncoolness. And just think -- in Denver 9 of the 10 warmest years occurred before 1955, which means the cooling must already have been working in an anticipatory manner for years!

    (I'd note parenthetically that Denver is also cracking down on methane producing animals, with the worst offenders being ordered to "leave the city or be killed." Well, even though the overwhelming scientific consensus does say that animals are the number one cause of anthropogenic global warming, mass killing goes too far to suit my tastes.)

    Better for now just to tax and spend, and use incentives to encourage citizens to turn in deadbeat noncomplying emitters.

    But clearly, it's not enough merely to use CFLs. What is needed are active cooling measures, like the citizen refrigerator. Think of it! If each citizen runs at least one refrigerator, I don't know how much cooling that is, but the sum total is obviously way cool and I wonder whether the scientists have been taking accurate spot measurements into account in their averages, because it wouldn't be accurate to declare that my house is 90 degrees just because it's 90 degrees outside! You have to average in the refrigerator temperature along with the air-conditioning, to get the full picture.

    Anyway, I want it known I'm doing my part, so here's my better-late-than-never submission:


    In particular, note the heavy-duty industrial thermometer on top of the fridge. Its gauge goes all the way up to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can't say I'm not prepared!

    Changing the world is a matter of degree.

    posted by Eric at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)

    A sign of the times

    If this isn't considered proof positive of the anthropogenic global warming/scientific alarmist consensus, I don't know what is!


    The above picture was taken yesterday, and, skeptic that I am, I have to admit that things are worse than the sign ever anticipated. The ice isn't just thin; it no longer exists.

    As you can clearly see, the ice has melted away. To nothing except bare water (and very dangerous water at that).

    What this means is that I can't keep up my skating-on-thin-ice act forever. Sooner or later, I'll have to admit it's gotten warmer, and then I'll have to go from pretending to skate on thin ice to pretending to walk on water, or whatever one does in a meltdown.

    posted by Eric at 05:38 PM | Comments (12)

    A sudden emergency to legalize millions

    Today's Inquirer has a great op ed from Victor Davis Hanson in defense of the critics of the immigration bill:

    Washington pundits and Beltway politicians are furious at critics of the bill, from radio talk-show hosts and writers for conservative magazines, to frontline congressional representatives and Republican presidential candidates such as Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney and likely aspirant Fred Thompson.

    These critics are dubbed cynical nativists - or racists - who have demagogued the issue and scapegoated hardworking illegal aliens. Even President Bush alleged that conservative obstructionists were somehow not working in America's best interests.

    But who's really being cynical when it comes to illegal immigration? The government? Of course. It has caved to pressure groups for more than a quarter of a century.

    The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 ensured neither reform nor control. Instead, the law simply resulted in millions entering the United States through blanket amnesty and de facto open borders.

    In many cities, current municipal laws bar police officers from turning arrested illegal aliens over to immigration officials.

    So why should the public believe that the proposed new law, with hundreds of pages of rules and regulations, would trump local obstructionism or effect any real change?

    The public shouldn't believe it, and frankly, I question the timing -- especially the timing of the urging of this dire sense of urgency.

    What's the hurry? These people have been illegally crossing the border for years, and nothing was done to stop them. Now, it's urgent that they be legalized? Why? I'm not enough of a hardliner to advocate rounding them all up and deporting them, but as I said before, this situation is a classic illustration of the principle that sometimes doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing. IMO, legalizing the millions of illegal border crossers would be doing the wrong thing.

    As to the timing, I suspect the whole thing is an attempt to swell the voter rolls in time for the 2008 election, and I am therefore deeply suspicious. Calling people "racist" for not wanting millions of unassimilated illegal border crossers legalized is just the cheapest of cheap shots, and reveals desperation, and, as Hanson points out, elitism:

    Most cynical of all, however, are the moralistic pundits, academics and journalists who deplore the "nativism" of Americans they consider to be less-educated yokels.

    Few of these well-paid and highly educated people live in communities altered by huge influxes of illegal aliens. Their professed liberality about illegal immigration usually derives from seeing hardworking waiters, maids, nannies and gardeners commute to their upscale cities and suburbs to serve them well - and cheaply.

    In general, such elites don't use emergency rooms in the inner cities and rural counties overcrowded by illegal aliens. Their children don't struggle with school curricula altered to the needs of students who speak only Spanish.

    But such elites will doubtless love having a president whose campaign is co-chaired by the former head of La Raza.

    Anyway, I think Hanson is right, and his piece contains much food for thought.

    Considering the previous post, it's probably worth a reminder that uncontrolled immigration has been considered a contributory factor in the fall of Rome.

    posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (4)

    Where have all the eunuchs gone?
    The mystery of Western thought is how a term that originally meant the manliness of a man came to mean the chastity of a woman.

    -- Leo Strauss

    In an interesting review of Mathew Kuelfer's "The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, Gender Ambiguity, and Christian Ideology in Late Antiquity," Hagith Sivan touches on some issues which I doubt will ever be settled but which nonetheless fascinate me as an admitted traitor to both sides of the Culture War. I have long believed that certain aspects of the Culture War derive from an unresolved struggle over human sexuality during the late Roman Empire (early posts here, here, and here), and it has long baffled me that so many contemporary American moralists blame the Fall of Rome on sexual freedom, when in reality the Fall was accompanied by unprecedented restrictions on sexual freedom, and the birth of a new sort of "chaste" Christian maleness. Not surprisingly, this leads activists (always quick to point blaming fingers) to engage in post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. I think the Rome's fall was far too complex to blame on newly emerging religious views of sexuality. IMO, the growth of bureaucracy, high taxes, and most importantly, the deterioration of the military were far more important factors. Common sense suggests to me that regardless of what is going on in a culture, if there is not a strong military presence to defend it, sooner or later outside opportunists will realize that things are ripe for the plucking.

    Here's reviewer Hagith Sivan and the chapter on waning masculinity, the farming out of military service to barbarians, the staffing by eunuchs, and the concomitant decline in the Roman military:

    Chapter two ("Men receive a wound and submit to a defeat: masculinity, militarism, and political authority") examines the waning ancient masculine ideals in men's public lives as reflected in aversion to serving in the late Roman militia, either military or civilian. The basic assumption here is that the coming of the barbarians as military recruits and of "servile outsiders" (eunuchs?) to staff the bureaucracy must have affected individuals as well as the "very idea of what it meant to be a man among the elite classes of Roman society" (p. 37). According to MK the very essence of manliness had been the image of a soldier, as imperial panegyrics indeed reiterate ad nauseam. But he also knows that "there is little evidence for overwhelming numbers of Romans in the armies of the later empire" (p. 39). The exclusion of senators from military life had been a policy of the emperors since the third, if not the second century. For MK senatorial absence from the militia is to be linked to their own waning enthusiasm. No distinction is made between senatorial readiness, if not downright enthusiasm, to vie for administrative honors (below), and their apparent small representation in the army.
    While much has been made of the fact that Christians tended to avoid military service, the reviewer doesn't think this was as significant a factor as the author believes:
    MK appears to believe that Christians in general opposed serving in the army. There are indeed cases that suggest such antipathy but there are also numerous instances of Christians who were more than happy to pursue promotion through the military (the families of Valentinian I and Theodosius I are merely two of many). Because "men of the later Roman land-owning classes were more likely to be the victims of military aggression rather than its perpetrators" (p. 40) such powerlessness entailed a decline of manliness intertwined with denial of military crises (p. 41), desertions from the army (p. 43) and widespread employment of barbarians as defenders of all that was Roman.
    Denial of military crises? Employment of barbarians?

    This sounds much too familiar! Ye gods!

    (I'm still allowed to have a little fun, right?)

    The review touches on some of my favorite themes, including the redefinition of virtue -- from original Roman martial male virtues into the new Christian chaste female ones (with obvious implications for the replacement of from virtues to values) and reminds us of various, long-forgotten paradoxes (some of which may have implications for modern times) including the moralization of anatomy and disease and what I'm sure some would call the dissemination of "eunuch culture" via early Christianity:

    Chapter three ("A purity he does not show himself: Masculinity, the later Roman household, and men's sexuality") discusses "the decline of the masculine ideals in men's private lives, in changes to family life and sexuality" (p. 6). It begins with a look at the decline of patria potestas, already a phenomenon of the Republic and the early empire, and places its final demise in late antiquity with "the deterioration of Rome's military greatness", demographic decline, new laws regarding betrothal arrangements ("reverse dowry") and a general change of women's rights of possession and of inheritance. MK uses the evidence of the Theodosian code to explore this specific erosion of paternal authority over children and over wives before turning to investigate the relationship between the "elite Roman male" and his body. Here he sees a clear connection between "sociopolitical changes and changes to sexuality". Because "sexual prowess was central to masculine identity in classical Rome", the "changes to male sexuality in late antiquity assimilated men's sexuality to women's" and "eroded the separation between men's and women's roles and identities" (p.78). Sexual abstinence becomes manliness, linked with "an unmanly fear of sex" that "pervaded later Roman culture" (p. 79) due, perhaps, to the threat of diseases. The idea that "sex was deadly" (p. 80) is interesting if perhaps overstated. MK connects the avoidance of sex with a new morality that set up husbands as (chaste) marital models to their wives, with laws that prescribed harsher penalties for adultery and for sexual offences (including visits to prostitutes), and with the scarcity of slaves or rather with decreased availability and legal restrictions regarding the use of slaves for sexual purposes.

    To complete his survey of the sexual horizons of sexual chastity and impudicitia MK turns to pederasty and to legal restrictions on males that display rhetorical disgust with male sexual passivity. He observes a "reformulation of male pudicitia" which necessitated the "abandonment of any sexual relationships between males" (p. 95). Instead, these men were called upon to exercise greater self control over their bodies, being judged, paradoxically, on the basis of the criteria that had traditionally molded stereotypes of women. Concluding once more with eunuchs K. examines how they functioned in individual households as live reminders of the problematization of male sexuality, namely their control of women and over themselves. Once more Claudian's In Eutropium provides a rich illustration of the range of eunuchs' activities, if hardly a document that "must be interpreted in the context of the loss of men's authority over their wives and the sexual morality restricting men's sexual freedoms" (p. 99).

    I think it should be stressed that seeing too many parallels to American culture in this would be a huge mistake, as the ancients were so different in so many ways. For starters, we don't really have eunuchs. While there might be cultural eunuchs (and while I often suspect that the growth of bureaucracy represents institutionalized eunuchs), it has to be remembered that the neutering that is going on is on a philosophical and moral level. Men remain men and women remain women. Eunuchoid bureaucrats might write the rules and might want us all to live in a safe and padded world in which we can call 911 when danger threatens, but when the chips are down, instinct rules, and people will behave as did the passengers on Flight 93. Despite the criticism of the passivity of Virginia Tech students in the face of an armed attacker, I don't think the same situation would be repeated now that people know what to expect. John Lennon's "Imagine" sounds nice in a song, but when armed invaders threaten to kill, the old "conservative is a liberal who's just been mugged" tends to kick in. (Which is why so many pacifists changed their thinking after 911.) The flying Imams are another example; the bureaucratic eunuchs would have us sit there and be terrorized not only by provocateurs like that, but by "rules" which encourage them to sue anyone who dares to oppose them.

    Anyway, there's a lot more to the book, and to the review:

    Thus far the first part of the book. The second and longer part ("Changing ideals") encompasses five chapters (4: "I am a soldier of Christ. Christian masculinity and militarism"; 5: "We priests have our own nobility: Christian masculinity and public authority"; 6: "My seed is hundred times more fertile. Christian masculinity, sex and marriage"; 7: "The manliness of faith: Sexual differences and gender ambiguity in Latin Christian ideology"; 8: "Eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: Castration and Christian manliness".).

    Not unnaturally Martin of Tours provides a lively illustration of a new ideology of militarism and pacifism through the internalization of the battles that a 'man' must conduct throughout life. The analysis purports to show that "the manly self-image of Christian men did not depend on the success of the armies of the Roman empire but on the victories of an interior struggle" (p. 124). This is precisely what Gibbon deplored. Another aspect of a new Christian masculinity is explored through the terminology of marriage. Because God was the ultimate source of authority, a Christian man could speak about himself as a submissive woman, but only when relating to the divine (p. 142).

    "It was this feminine identity in their private lives that permitted Christian men to assume a manly stance in the exercise of public authority" (p. 142). Here MK correctly discerns a jarring note or a flat contradiction between the rhetoric of Christian humility, especially with regards to "episcopal lowliness" (p. 156) and the elevated social status of many bishops in late antiquity. This is, of course, a rhetoric of false humility, a political weapon that is still widely exercised.

    This distinctly echoes Strauss's "mystery of Western thought."

    I'm not a Christian theologian, nor am I an expert on eunuchs, so I can't state with confidence that I completely agree with the author's contentions that Christianity represented a sort of triumph of eunuch culture. The danger with this stuff (and frankly, I was a little hesitant to write the post), is that people get emotional when they see "their" religion being attacked. First of all, let me say that I don't believe in attacking anyone's religion. But despite my concerns about the early Christianity of the late Roman period, is it really fair for anyone to compare it to modern Christianity and claim it as "theirs"? When was the last time a modern pastor quoted Jesus on eunuchs, for example? So, please bear in mind that I think this is useful not as a religious analogy, but as a cultural analogy. We don't have early Christians taking over as they did in Rome, nor do we have a eunuch staff running the military. However, I think there may be parallels between Christians and socialists in the ecological niche sense (Christian theology is often interpreted as having a soft spot for socialism, which IMO has caused a great deal of trouble), and I think we could be experiencing tyranny at the hands of the modern equivalent of eunuchs (people who abhor masculinity and femininity and who, while they may talk the talk about sexuality, are in reality a bunch of unattractive, "spineless, ball-less wimps" if I may borrow the phrase.....)

    In what must have been the ultimate paradox for the Romans, the antithesis of manhood now became manhood. And sex became a sin:

    Chapter 6 deals with Christian perceptions of adultery including the ambiguity which seems to permeate the castigation of the traditional double standard that Christian moralists attempted to counter, in vain it seems. MK suggests that "Christian leaders encouraged the code of male sexual restraint not only as a sign of Christian conviction but also as a sign of manliness" (p. 170). Sex became sin, a moral legacy with which we are still battling. From this there was but one logical step to the elevation of celibacy at the expense of marriage, as Jerome did with vigor and vehemence. Spiritual marriage came to the fore with few personal examples and much greater verbosity. Concomitantly, MK observes the encouragement given to male friendship, if not to intimacy among males. Here the ancient ideal of amicitia may have been infused with a new life through the assiduous cultivation of many Christian writers. But a thinker like Jerome also provides an interesting example of the ambiguities of this new type of 'friendship' which by its very nature excluded women yet could also embrace women as intellectual equals. Combining issues of gender relations MK strives to demonstrate how leaders of the church could extend their authority beyond the immediate family by a clever appropriation of patriarchy (p. 204). The point is well taken.

    The last chapter focuses on eunuchs and on the meaning of being a Christian in heart, mind and body. Since the teaching of Jesus allocated a place of honor to eunuchs, Christian theologians had to come to terms with an understandable reluctance to inflict self-mutilation on the devotee and their own touted desire to follow Christ wholeheartedly. The result was a construction of a manly eunuch, a lifestyle of manly perfection achieved through a deliberate divorce from other males (and females) and from conventional virility. This ideal was taken to its ultimate performative level in monasticism, a brotherhood of the most 'manly' of 'men'.

    Again, the lessons is not religious, but cultural.

    Cutting off balls has consequences.

    posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (5)

    Lung Cancer Stopper

    Well what do you know? Marijuana can stop lung cancer.

    The administration of THC significantly reduces lung tumor size and lesions, according to preclinical data presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Los Angeles.

    Investigators at Harvard University's Division of Experimental Medicine reported that THC inhibited the growth and spread of cells in vitro from two different lung cancer cell lines and from patient lung tumors. They also reported that THC administration reduced the growth of lung tumors in mice by more than 50 percent compared to untreated controls over a three-week period.

    Researchers noted that THC appeared to block a specific cancer-causing protein in a manner similar to the pharmaceutical anti-cancer drugs Erbitux (Cetuximab) and Vectibix (Panitumumab).

    Results of a large-scale, case-controlled population study published last year found that smoking cannabis, even long-term, is not positively associated with increased incidence of lung-cancer. Investigators in that study noted that one subset of moderate lifetime users had an inverse association between cannabis use and lung cancer, leading them to speculate that cannabinoids may possess certain protective properties against the development of lung cancer in humans.
    So what do you think a plant extract might do to the market for anti-cancer drugs like Erbitux (Cetuximab) and Vectibix (Panitumumab)?

    I will let you draw your own conclusions about why the pharmaceutical companies are the biggest supporters of the Drug Free America Campaign.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at Classical Values

    posted by Simon at 01:00 AM | Comments (2)

    dangerous thoughts on "neutrification"

    In my numerous posts about AB 1634 (California's mandatory Spay and Neuter bill), my focus was on dogs -- primarily the right of dog owners to decide for themselves what's best for their dogs.

    By focusing on the role of government, I didn't focus much on cultural factors, because my primary goal is to defeat what I see as awful legislation, not argue over the propriety of neutering dogs.

    However, I have been noticing an increasing societal tendency towards neutering in general which deeply disturbs me.

    I decided to explore this because there's recently been a lot of discussion in various posts (and a Glenn and Helen podcast interview) of "The Dangerous Book for Boys," which looks like a great book about the sort of stuff of interest to boys when I was growing up. (This one also looks interesting.)

    Many people believe that society (especially the educational establishment) is trying to make boys into girls, or like girls. I don't think that's exactly what's going on. Rather, I think the goal is to neuter boys, which is not quite the same thing. I don't think this is a distinction without a difference, either, because they're doing the same thing with girls. Not trying to make them like boys, just neuter. Boys are being made non-boys. Girls are being made non-girls.

    Not boys into girls, or girls into boys. The idea is that masculine traits and feminine traits are to be gone. That the distinction between the sexes (which is physically a fact and hormonally based) can be eliminated by an official policy of neutering.

    Neuter is poised to become the national sex standard if it hasn't already.

    I find this chilling and depressing, and I am not enjoying this post. Perhaps that's why I saved it for a cold and depressing day. For there is something truly colorless and depressing about neuter. Not masculine, not feminine. Not even androgynous (which is sexual and colorful), but cold, sterile, bleak, ugly, and utterly devoid of both masculine and feminine components.

    If I don't like the fact that people were being first conditioned, now forced, to get used to having their dogs neutered, why should I like the fact that they're conditioning people to get used to having their kids neutered?

    It's not just kids. Several years ago, a brilliant essay ("The Pussification of the Western Male") by Kim du Toit pointed out how this is happening with men, and while I agreed with much of what he said, if the essay had been mine to write (fortunately it wasn't) I'd replace the word "pussification" with "neutering," or maybe "neutrification" if that isn't too much of a monstrosity. As I pointed out in reaction to the du Toit essay, I don't like anyone defining manhood or the lack thereof or telling anyone what to do, though. So I think there's an individual right to be neuter, or downright effeminate. (BTW, it's off-topic, but I think a deliberately effeminate man is more of a man than a pussified man. And a sissy boy has more integrity than a neuter boy, because at least he is striving for something involving the human spirit.)

    But in terms of the overall picture, these are minor objections. The fact is that there is an ongoing process which seems hell-bent on neutering us all: men, women, dogs and pussies cats.

    The contrarian in me has long had this wild and irrational suspicion (I say "irrational" because I can point to no supporting science) that the primary social value of The Pill is not contraception, but neutering women so that they are better workers. I say "neutering" because I have heard too much anecdotal evidence from women who say that the pill cuts off not just their ability to procreate, but their procreative instincts. They feel less feminine. Whether these stories are true for the majority of women, I don't know. Not being a woman, I cannot guinea-pig myself to find out. But suppose -- just suppose -- that the Pill has created a number of women who are close to being female eunuchs -- neuter women. Is that not an enormous benefit to an economy reliant on working women? And if there are ever-growing ranks of neuter women and neuter men, why should it surprise anyone that there's a movement to make children neuter?

    Little wonder there's so little opposition to the state using government force to neuter all dogs. When I was a kid, people didn't cut off the family dog's balls. Nor did they stop boys from rolling in the dirt with toy guns.

    Tell me it's all a coincidence and maybe I'll cheer up.

    Of course, if I look at this another way, things might not be as glum as they appear. Despite my paranoid concerns about possible socioeconomic side effects of oral contraceptives, no one is suggesting the physical neutering of human beings. Until they start doing that, hormones may prevail.

    There is evidence that even in animals, deliberate attempts at sissification ("girls would dress Centipede up in dresses and put lip stick on him") far from being a feminizing influence, only serve to encourage the warrior spirit in unneutered males. And until the 20th century, boys wore dresses -- a fact that did not stop them from becoming warriors.

    The sexes are so different that barring surgery or hormonal treatment, neutering may be impossible. The human spirit (especially the male spirit) chafes at the bit.

    No wonder The Dangerous Book for Boys is so popular.

    MORE: While I hadn't been thinking about him lately, Glenn Greenwald is having fits over "The Dangerous Book for Boys" -- and is now accusing Glenn Reynolds of treehouse loving behavior:

    That same dynamic is what enables an effete and bloated figure like Rush Limbaugh to parade around as the icon of masculinity, and it is what drives him not only to dismiss -- but to overtly celebrate -- the abuses of Abu Grahib and other torture policies as just good, clean fun had by real men (like Rush, as proven by his support for it). As John McCain pointed out in the GOP debate in South Carolina, men who have actually served in the military find torture to be dishonorable, dangerous and repulsive. Only those with a throbbing need to demonstrate their masculine virtues would glibly embrace things of that sort.

    This dynamic is depressingly pervasive, yet incomparably significant. It's what causes someone like Glenn Reynolds -- who, by his own daily admission, devotes his life to attending convention center conferences on space and playing around with new, cool gadgets in the fun room in his house, like a sheltered adolescent in his secret treehouse club -- to fret: "Are we turning into a nation of wimps?," and directly in response to that concern, to urge "more rubble, less trouble" -- meaning that he wants to watch on his television set as the U.S. military flattens neighborhoods and slaughters more people in the name of "strength," "resolve," and "power."

    It's a tough job to nail someone for the crime of liking a children's book. No wonder he throws in Abu Ghraib and Rush Limbaugh. Especially Rush Limbaugh:
    And just as Glenn Reynolds has done, Rush has developed a virtual obsession with the book The Dangerous Book for Boys, geared towards teaching "boys how to be boys." Rush spent the week hailing it as the antidote to what he calls the "Emasculation of America."

    Identically, Reynolds on his blog has promoted the book a disturbing 17 times in the last six weeks alone. When doing so, he routinely proclaims things such as "maybe there's hope," and -- most revealingly -- has fretted: "Are we turning into a nation of wimps?" It is the identity of the "we" in that sentence where all the meaning lies. Perhaps if "we" torture enough bound and gagged prisoners and bomb enough countries, "we" can rid ourselves of that worry.

    Imagine, counting the times Glenn Reynolds mentioned a book he likes! Obsessive though I can be, it's never occurred to me to count how many times a book is mentioned.

    The thing is, I did Google the title earlier in an honest attempt to find someone -- anyone -- who objected to the Dangerous Book for Boys, and I couldn't. And here, right under my nose, was a guy who linked the book to Abu Ghraib and Rush Limbaugh!

    No fair!

    Anyway, to continue, Greenwald is furious, and he's now morphed from Giuliani Derangement Syndrome to Thompson Derangement Syndrome. I guess Guiliani wore a dress, and apparently Thompson is too butch to do that, but never mind; the point is neither one of them is enough of a neuter to please Greenwald. Rather than characterize Greenwald, I should be fair here. He once called Giuliani an "authoritarian narcissist" -- "plagued by an unrestrained prosecutor's mentality -- who loves coercive government power," "hates dissent above all else," and "would make George Bush look like an ardent lover of constitutional liberties." But now, Greenwald has issues with Thompson's "tough-guy military persona" and there's stuff about "smells and arousing masculinity and the "daddy" qualities of various political officials" which would only be offensive to a genuine angry and vengeful neuter.

    Sorry, folks, but I do think Greenwald is a neuter. (I know some people have called him "gay," but I think he might be too much of a neuter to really be gay.)


    Again, there's nothing wrong with being masculine, feminine, straight or gay, or any combination thereof.

    But neuter is not both masculine and feminine; it's neither. It's not straight nor is it gay.

    I'm reminded of castrated male dogs who hate dogs with balls.

    UPDATE: Ace's translation of what Glenn Greenwald meant ("Glenn Greenwald Calls Instapundit A Faggot") takes a slightly different view, but the dynamics are similar. However, I think this assessment may only be partially accurate:

    I really think that questioning others' masculinity is a game probably better left to people who haven't had more cock in and out of them than a Tyson Chicken regional distribution center.
    While he certainly has no business questioning others' masculinity, I think it's entirely possible that Greenwald is one of those "spineless, ball-less wimps who thinks sex is icky."

    Has anyone actually seen him sweating and grunting in the act?

    MORE: If we assume Ace's theory is correct, then Greenwald means it as a smear, right? But here's my question: how can the imputation of homosexuality be considered a smear unless Greenwald thinks there is something wrong with being gay?

    What gives here? Doesn't Greenwald also claim there's nothing wrong with being gay? If there's nothing wrong with being gay, then why smear Glenn Reynolds with that? It always struck me that attacking people for being gay (whether they're gay or not) constitutes anti-gay bigotry.

    But Greenwald claims to be gay -- as if that makes it "better."


    What sort of gay person would go around imputing homosexuality to people in a condemnatory manner?

    Something doesn't make sense.

    (Unless, of course, Greenwald is one of those self-loathing homosexuals I keep hearing about....)

    If you doubt my logic, imagine a heterosexual man imputing heterosexuality to another man as a smear. It wouldn't work, would it? That's because few heterosexual men would hold another man's heterosexuality against him. In fact, most modern American heterosexual man would not hold another man's homosexuality against him. Unless I am wrong, it seems that the only people who hold homosexuality against people are the following:

  • old fashioned anti-gay heterosexuals
  • political leftists (both gay and straight) who hate gay conservatives
  • homosexuals who accuse heterosexuals of homosexuality.
  • Now, I think all three groups have to be considered prejudiced. But it strikes me that only the first group is being honest. The second group is trying to have its cake and eat it too, while the third group is hating something which isn't there, but which they want to be there.

    The problem is that the only reason they want it to be there is so they can hate it. Yet what they hate is what they do.

    Hating someone for doing what you do is either hypocrisy or self loathing. And if you hate them for doing what you do even though they don't do what you do, that means you're hating a projection of your own fantasies (which only heightens the hypocrisy and the self-loathing).

    In the case of a eunuch though (who can't really do anything), I suppose it might be projected form of jealousy...

    (Damn if this doesn't get complicated!)

    posted by Eric at 05:57 PM | Comments (4)

    Mr. Bloomberg, Tear down the Brooklyn Bridge!

    In Philadelphia yesterday, I saw the foundations of the house which Robert Morris lent to the fledgling executive office and which was occupied by George Washington and John Adams. When the foundations were first unearthed, I ridiculed the contentions of activists of a historical coverup, as the place was torn down in 1832 to become a store and no one -- then or now -- has ever denied that George Washington owned slaves. The first reports were fairly tame, and only hinted at a coverup:

    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.

    I had a lot of fun speculating about hidden passageways:
    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!

    I might have had too much fun with my satire, because what appears to be little more than a basement hallway (used by persons unknown between 1767 and 1832) morphed from a "hidden passageway" to an underground tunnel from hell!

    What amazes me if the unquestioning acceptance which is being given to the shrill claims of biased activists, as in this ubiquitous AP report:

    PHILADELPHIA -- Archaeologists unearthing the buried remains of George Washington's presidential home have discovered a hidden passageway and other ruins, still intact, used by his nine slaves.

    The findings have created a quandary for National Park Service and city officials planning an exhibit on the site, which is steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The officials are now trying to decide whether to incorporate the remains -- which powerfully show freedom and slavery side by side -- into the exhibit or go forward with plans to fill in the ruins and build an abstract display detailing life in the house.

    Whatever decision is made, a dramatic story waits to be told, said Michael Coard, a Philadelphia attorney who leads a group that worked to have slavery recognized at the site.

    "As you enter the heaven of liberty, you literally have to cross the hell of slavery," Coard said. "That's the contrast, that's the contradiction, that's the hypocrisy. But that's also the truth."

    Washington and John Adams each lived at the mansion, a block from Independence Hall, when Philadelphia was the nation's capital between 1790 and 1800.

    Archaeologists have uncovered an underground passageway where slaves slipped in and out of the main house, so they wouldn't be seen by Washington's guests. They found remnants of a bow window, an architectural precursor to the White House's Oval Office. Other discoveries include a large basement that was never noted in historic records.

    Googling "Philadelphia slavery" brings up hundreds of news hits to stories with headlines like "Slave passage found at Washington house," "Founding father's passageway for slaves discovered," and "Washington's slaves used tunnel."

    Googling "George Washington" and "underground passageway" yields over 11,000 Google hits, almost all to stories which recite the "discovery" uncritically.

    Only a few writers -- Rick Moran being a notable exception -- have raised questions about perspective.

    For starters, the house in Philadelphia was not owned by George Washington, but was lent to him by philanthropic revolutionary financier Robert Morris. As to who built the "secret slave tunnel" or why, anyone familiar with colonial architecture (or even later Victorian architecture) knows that homes built for people affluent enough to afford household servants usually had separate entrances, separate quarters, and separate stairways. That was so servants could come and go as inconspicuously as possible, and it was not dependent on the servants' status. Whether slaves or free, servants were expected to be in the background. Condescending by modern standards, but I'd hardly call it a coverup. While in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I stayed at a bed and breakfast which had been a huge Victorian mansion. Sure enough, there was the usual grand formal staircase in the entry area -- and a tiny servants' staircase in the rear. Wisconsin was not a slave state, but I suppose if the same house had been older and located south of the Mason-Dixon line, it would be reasonable to conclude that the tiny staircase might very well have been used by slaves.

    To call what appears to be a basement hallway a "slave passage" motivated by a coverup is, IMO, and exercise in political hyperbole dressed up as scholarship. First of all, no one is asserts that Washington built the "tunnel." Did he? Or was it part of the original Morris design? And how on earth could anyone possibly know that it was only for the use of Washington's nine slaves? How do we know that George and Martha didn't use it themselves for reasons unknown? And what might John Adams have done with it? True, he didn't have slaves, but does that mean that he had no household servants, and that if he did he might not want them coming and going through the same entrances and using the same staircases as visiting dignitaries?

    I think this is puffed up nonsense.

    What I'd like to know is why only Philadelphia, and why this one president? There is no historical dispute that slaves worked in and were kept in the White House under a number of presidents. It's considered fourth grade history:

    When George Washington was president (1789-1797) he lived in New York and Philadelphia. He brought cooks, maids and coachmen from Mount Vernon -- all of them slaves -- to work at his house alongside white servants. The presidents in the early days were expected to hire and pay for their own staff. Since many of the early presidents were southern planters, they brought their slaves to work for them in Washington, D.C. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) brought slaves from Monticello, and during his presidency the second child ever born in the President's House was born to his slaves, Fanny and Eddy. Paul Jennings was the personal servant of President James Madison (1809-1817). He was a slave who wrote down his memories of living in the Madison White House. You can read them by clicking here. Tennesseans Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) and James K. Polk (1845-1849) also brought slaves from their farms, and almost always they lived in basement rooms. Enslaved craftsmen helped build the White House. Black servants helped save documents and art when the British burned the structure in 1814. Most of all, African Americans made the president's household operate efficiently. But it was a man who never held others as property, Abraham Lincoln, who would make sure that slaves would never work in the White House again.
    Yes, but what about the coverup? Didn't White House slaves use separate entrances and passageways? And what about those underground basement rooms?

    Why aren't we hearing more about the full nature of the true White House horrors?

    And why aren't we hearing about the coverup of Washington's household activities in New York, where he lived in not one, but two presidential executive residences?

    In February of 1790, the executive mansion was moved from the Osgood house at 3 Cherry Street to the Macomb house at 39 Broadway. A much larger dwelling, the Macomb house provided two drawing rooms and a number of additional spaces that required furnishing. Accordingly, the furniture already procured by Congress for the Cherry Street residence was moved to the new household and was supplemented by that ordered from local cabinetmakers. Washington privately purchased for the residence a number of items from the Comte de Moustier, including a suite of French seating furniture, some examples of which are in the Mount Vernon collection. The French furniture was placed in the larger and more formal of the two drawing rooms, while the smaller drawing room contained the government-owned pieces brought from Cherry Street. Despite the larger dwelling and the addition of French furniture, one visitor to this residence confirmed that the interior appointments remained in keeping with other American elites. William Hazlitt recalled: "The drawing-room in which I sat, was lofty and spacious, but the furniture was not beyond that found in dwellings of opulent Americans in general, and might be called plain for its situation."

    In 1790, the seat of government moved from New York to Philadelphia, and the Washingtons relocated again. Most of the furnishings used in New York, and all of the mahogany furniture, was transferred to the new executive residence at 190 High Street in Philadelphia.

    It's the former 190 High Street (now Market Street) location that's stirring the present controversy.

    Let's start with the site of the nation's first vast historical coverup. Few Americans know it, but the first executive residence was located on Cherry Street! And in what may be one of the most sinister coverups of all time, it's now home to the Brooklyn Bridge! (No, really; here's a piece which appeared in the New York Sun, titled "A Piece of History Stands Hidden on Brooklyn Bridge"

    On an otherwise nondescript anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge, a small brass plaque pays tribute to another era. As cars and trucks whiz by, observant passersby may notice the tarnished marker placed on the bridge more than a century ago to commemorate the site of George Washington's first presidential mansion.

    They would have to look for it under years of grime and overlook the garbage strewn nearby, a fact that has upset a group of local residents who recently renewed their campaign to have the plaque moved. They say the location is too remote and that steelwork added to reinforce the bridge in 1998 has further obscured the historic landmark. "It's a pretty historical spot, but nobody knows it," the district manager of Community Board 1, Paul Goldstein, said. "This thing is basically not visible to the public."

    The site in question is located at the intersection of Pearl and Dover streets near an entrance to the FDR Drive. The plaque is little more than a foot wide and half as tall. It is affixed to an anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge, where historical documents indicate the presidential mansion once stood at 1 Cherry St.

    Although that portion of Cherry Street no longer remains and the area bears little resemblance to the "uptown" neighborhood once populated by Revolutionary statesmen, the mansion was rented by Congress for Washington's use, according to New-York Historical Society papers. He lived there between April 1789 and February 1790, before moving to 39 Broadway. Later occupants included Samuel Osgood, DeWitt Clinton, a bank, and a piano shop.

    The white colonial building was razed in 1856 to make way for wider streets, and the subsequent construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883.

    Obviously part of an ongoing historical coverup. I'd be willing to bet that the plethora of Brooklyn Bridge jokes find their origin in an early disinformation campaign spread by secret operatives wanting to hide the real crimes of George Washington from future historians.

    After Washington left the Cherry Street house, he moved the executive residence to the Macomb Mansion, at 39 Broadway. This later became a hotel called the Mansion House.

    BroadwayMansion.gif If you look at the picture of it, and see for yourself how large it was. There's no way the place could have operated without servants, and the fact is that slavery not only existed in New York independent of any of the household activities of George Washington, it thrived. At the time of the founding, there was more slavery in New York than in any other American city except Charleston South Carolina had a higher concentration:

    ...New York City once had the highest concentration of slave ownership among all American cities, except for Charleston, South Carolina. Much of early lower Manhattan, including the original Trinity Church was built using slave labor. The New York Historical Society presented a comprehensive review of New York City's involvement with slavery last year.

    After the American Revolution, New York and New Jersey were alone among northern states in not abolishing slavery. Then-Governor Morris and John Jay attempted to insert a clause into the founding state constitution suggesting the eventual elimination of slavery, but were rebuffed. Almost a decade later, a political coalition including members of different parties, Gov. Clinton (owning eight slaves), Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay (owning five slaves), along with prominent abolitionists formed a group to urge state abolition of the institution of slavery in New York. The practice of slavery became gradually restricted in following years, but in 1788 the group pressed to have the deportation of New York slaves to southern states outlawed, as many slaveholders worried about continued limitations tried to unload their human inventory to southern plantation owners. The port of New York, however, remained open to slave-trading ships. In 1786 40% of all households within ten miles of New York were slave owners and more than two-thirds of Brooklyn households owned slaves.

    As to modern slavery in New York mansions, that's probably considered irrelevant to this discussion, as we're talking about collective guilt over things that happened hundreds of years ago, not events of 2007.


    The Brooklyn Bridge and Broadway Mansion coverups have been so complete and thorough that despite due diligence, I have been unable to determine how many slaves lived there, or whether they, too, were forced to use secret passageways.

    But I suspect they were. New York always gets away with these kinds of things, leaving Philadelphia to get screwed at the taxpayers' expense.

    I say, it's time to tear down the Brooklyn Bridge and see what they're hiding!

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

    Vital issue of national importance

    Forgive me for the frivolous nature of this post, but I have run completely out of time for blogging, as this as sandwiched between afternoon and evening obligations which are putting the squeeze on me.

    Anyway, I have a goofy bust of a silly Caesar (no idea where it came from), and to heighten its silliness I stuck a badminton shuttlecock on top of Caesar's head, which looked like this:


    However, yesterday while I was running in the rain I noticed a rather odd-looking object lying forlornly on the ground -- the severed top end of Superman! I should have left it there but I stuck it in my pocket and ran home with it. The only place it seemed to "belong" was on top of Caesar's head.


    What does this mean?

    Half a Superman beats a whole shuttlecock?

    A rended Superman rendered unto Caesar?

    In a startling and shocking coincidence, while I was writing this post a friend send me video (which also appears at YouTube) showing a great trick by the magician Criss Angel -- who directs what appears to be the shocking tearing-in-half of a woman.

    While the spectators are clearly shocked, the trick is "debunked" (if that's the right word) at

    The "half man" Johnny Eck from "Freaks" used to do a similar trick back in the 1930s. A contortionist helper is required to perform the role of the lower end.

    Of course, in his present condition, Superman can't fly.

    But the shuttlecock still can.

    posted by Eric at 03:01 PM | Comments (3)

    putting an alliance where a war ought to be is cultural treason!

    One of my pet peeves is that libertarians and Christians -- especially fundamentalist Christians -- have more in common than they realize, but they are distracted by spurious (yet highly emotional) issues which cause extreme animosity. This animosity causes them to forget the big picture, which is an area where they have a lot in common. So much in common that it dwarfs their differences.

    I'm afraid I'm beginning to repeat myself here, and I really dislike repeating myself, but the issues don't change. Like the bull who charges the red cape instead of focusing on the matador, people think that the "issue" is condoms in the schools and wear themselves out fighting over it -- in the process missing precisely what is meant to be missed -- the dysfunctional nature of schools which are unable to impart basic skills necessary for citizenship.

    Keeping in mind my aversion to repeating myself, here's one of my arguments about the condom-on-the-banana "issue":

    Arguments over penises and sexual morality become quasi legalistic arguments over rights based on membership in identity groups. Ironically, the state is far more involved with matters of personal sexuality and privacy than ever before.

    Because people get caught up (hung up, really) in these personal debates (what we call the "culture war"), the real debate -- which should be over confiscation of wealth and loss of freedom -- is avoided.

    In schools, students are taught how to put condoms on bananas. As I have argued before, I don't think the goal is to "protect" them from AIDS, but as a diversion to inflame the sentiments of conservative parents -- who will then expend vast amounts of time and energy getting condoms out of the classrooms -- while the more horrendous reality that schools can't or won't teach (and prefer to indoctrinate instead) is ignored.

    (In a real war, this would be called "flypaper strategy" of course.)

    In my conclusion last year, (which showed obvious signs of Culture War fatigue), I opined that the Culture War itself is largely a diversionary one:
    How can I make this more obvious? The Culture War is not a war, but a tactic, and to a large extent a diversionary one. Time wasted battling over what people do with their penises is precisely what the tacticians hope to accomplish. If demoralization results as a byproduct, fine. But the beauty of cultural, personal strategies is that they are malleable, and change according to the styles of the times. If a cultural attribute that shocked one generation (say, long hair) fails in another, well, then politicize head-shaving in another, and so on.

    When tactics are cultural, fighting over them is as much a waste of time as it would be to police the sale of gasoline because people might use it to make Molotov cocktails. The phony Culture War thus insidiously subverts the real war (to protect freedom) into innumerable and constantly changing petty squabbles over personal behavior.

    By its nature, the "culture war" is a tactic -- a viral, mutable one, but a tactic nonetheless.

    (Plenty of unpleasant busywork for a blog like this...)

    I don't know how I tolerate repetition, much less repetition of repetition. I'm afraid this is all sounding very tired to regular readers, and I didn't want to do that, so much as I wanted to call attention to Part II of a brilliant Pajamas Media essay by Oleg Atbashian:
    if I choose to plunge into deviancy I want it to be my personal decision, not the whim of some sneaky TV producer who suddenly feels like mixing his otherwise insipid didactic jumble with sleazy nuggets, sending me and my family, along with millions of other TV viewers on an unsolicited communal trip into the gutter. And I certainly don't want them taking my children for a ride in the deviancy amplification spiral; a media roller coaster attraction that glamorizes depravity, making it seem common or acceptable.

    A truly free market would not only allow a diversity of media content, it would also sort the markets in the order of magnitude, keeping the mainstream in the mainstream and the marginal on the margins. This would be a refreshing change from the upside-down Big Media of today that mainstreams the marginal and marginalizes the mainstream. This compulsion furthers an elitist perception of the American audiences as some harebrained violent perverts with the attention span of a fruit fly, the mental aptitude of a walnut, and the moral fortitude of a gerbil. This isn't just an insult: according to analysts such perception generates aversion and hatred of this country among more socially conservative and less tolerant populations overseas, especially in the Muslim world.

    The elitist media's view of its customer base as nitwits is the rationalization of its own failure, after decades of proselytizing, to convert America to the ideas of "progress." After all the marvelous columns, news stories, movies and shows with filtered facts, exaggerated failures and understated successes, after all the free unsolicited advice bestowed upon them by the media, the American people went ahead and reelected George W. Bush. Who would the media elites rather blame for it - themselves or the unworthy recipients of their wisdom? Come to think of it, one group in this equation deserves to be called nitwits, and it's not the American people.

    Atbashian makes it clear that the media elites thrive on regulation. They create a process which lures their opponents to join in the clamor for more regulation in much the same way that social conservatives battle for "inclusion" in processes which are illegitimate, because they derive from quasi-governmental monopoly-based systems. (Like public education and public airwaves theory.)

    So there's a war between God and sex. Jesus versus penises. Even between differing ways of viewing the unknown. An illegitimate war over inclusion. In reality, the government has no business in these things.

    While I've touched on things beyond the proper scope of a blog post, for those who are interested, I recommend reading Edmund Opitz's Libertarian Theology of Freedom, which I read years ago and which convinced me that I was not insane as I thought I was when I used to wonder whether the animosity between libertarianism and Chistianity was necessary.

    I'm sorry to read (via Reason) that Reverend Opitz died last year, so I thought I'd close with a quote:

    "There is a place for government in the affairs of men, and our Declaration of Independence tells us precisely what that place is. The role of government is to protect individuals in their God-given individual rights. Freedom is the natural birthright of man, but all that government can do in behalf of freedom is to let the individual alone, and it should secure him in his rights by making others let him alone."
    Reverend Opitz should not be relegated to obscurity. Far from it; his ideas and work ("founder and coordinator of The Remnant, a fellowship of conservative and libertarian ministers and a founder and secretary of The Nockian Society") are timeless in nature and scope. Among other things, he was the founder of The Remnant -- a "fellowship of conservative and libertarian ministers" as well as The Nockian Society.

    Considering Bill Whittle's brilliant essay discussing "The Remnant," is it too much for me to hope that these radical ideas are becoming contemporary?

    posted by Eric at 10:07 AM | Comments (4)

    Winning by shutting up the loudest?

    When I first contemplated the candidacy of Fred Thompson in mid-March, my reaction was positive. I was sick of the election then, and I'm more sick of it now, but I might as well repeat what I said:

    I would not be surprised to find that because Thompson is the equivalent of genuine combat veteran of the worst political war this country has seen in modern times, he has a different view of the process than your typical ego-driven, hard-charging political animal.

    The man has been in the arena and seen the worst of it.

    What appears to be an absence of drive might indicate the presence of something much more important and in generally short supply: political wisdom.

    I think Fred Thompson has sufficient political wisdom that he might be worthy of being drafted into service even if he expressed no interest in the office.

    Since then, he's made it clear that he doesn't need to be dragged into running, but at the same time, I think he's wise enough to be cognizant of a genuine problem which is missed by the political junkies.

    The problem is, it's too early to be sick of the election -- mainly because it's too early for there to be an election to be sick of! (That this is lost on political junkies is not surprising, because like any other variety of junkie, they have a craving not shared by non-junkies.)

    What I like most about Fred Thompson is that he doesn't seem to be in all that much of a hurry to kowtow to the political junkies. I think he senses that there's huge disgust among ordinary people over the growing movement to estabish a national culture of, of....

    Election addiction? I don't know exactly what to call it. Many commentators have been talking of campaign fatigue -- and if there's fatigue at this early stage, what are the implications for the future? If one thing's certain, it's that the culture of "premature election" (which is what this is) will not go away anytime soon. Instead, it will get more and more relentless. There's already talk of ruining the Fourth of July with more premature announcements that people just don't want to hear.

    So far, Fred Thompson has made it quite clear that he won't mind being a candidate when he's good and ready, but he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to insult ordinary voters by being in everybody's face. It's a delicate balancing act, but I hope he keeps it up, because I hate this seemingly irreversible process of premature elections that won't go away.

    For shutting up the loudest and not beating people over the head, Fred Thompson gets an A. As to how to go on being a front runner (or near front runner) without running in a campaign nearly all normal non-junkie types are totally sick of, I wouldn't know how to advise him, though.

    Maybe he can make his announcement, then take a summer vacation.

    UPDATE: I'd be willing to bet that Fred Thompson neither owns nor wears a pair of these. (The wearing of which a prominent law professor deems impeachable.)

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

    Fusion News: Chris Wants Some Help

    Chris wants some help:

    American Express is having a contest to fund one idea to "make the world a better place". They have received several thousand ideas, and will pick the top 50 (in their opinion), and then let people vote to pick the best. The top idea will be funded for between $1M and $5M, depending on how many people sign up to vote.

    The amount of response that each idea receives before the selection of the first 50 has some bearing on which ideas are selected.

    Because of the rules of the contest, you can not ask for a specific entry to be funded, or even mention trademarkes like Polywell. So, there is a very generic entry for P-B11 fusion at:

    American Express Fusion funding.

    If you are so inclined, you can rate it and add comments to try to get some more attention for the idea.

    If it makes it to the top, then some form of P-B11 fusion will be funded. I know it's a long shot, but at the very least, it will raise awareness.

    The deadline is June 17th, so spreading the word as soon and as much as possible would be great.




    More about Bussard Fusion Reactors here:

    Bussard Fusion Reactor
    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion
    IEC Fusion Newsgroup
    IEC Fusion Technology

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 02:54 AM | Comments (0)

    "Can you play something to make me feel happy?"

    That's the question asked by some anonymous European fan in the audience to Champion Jack Dupree at the beginning of this video.

    Dupree (a former boxer) promises something to "knock him out."

    An utterly charming video -- especially for people who like the barrelhouse piano style, of which Dupree was a master.

    It's amazing to find something like this on YouTube, as I've been a fan of Dupree since high school when I heard "Blues From the Gutter." (I have the original LP, and I'll be damned if it isn't available on CD at Amazon. According to one modern reviewer, it's "proof that you can sing about things other than women that get you down too, like addictions, having bad blood, bumps on your face and tuberculosis.")

    By any standard, the man led a fascinating and colorful (if sad) life, which included being orphaned as an infant by Ku Klux Klan arson and imprisoned for two years in a Japanese POW camp. He moved to Europe to escape racial prejudice in 1959, eventually dying in Germany in 1992.

    "When you open up a piano, you see freedom. Nobody can play the white keys and don't play the black keys. You got to mix all these keys together to make harmony. And that's what the whole world needs: Harmony."

    -- Wiki quotation.

    MORE: Whoever provided the YouTube link to the video stated that "I do not have any details re the Venue," but I'm wondering whether the second guitarist in the background might be Eric Clapton, who was known to have played with Dupree. It's blurry, but the guy kind of looks like Clapton.

    posted by Eric at 06:46 PM | Comments (2)

    Preventive Health care, John Edwards style

    On the front page of Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer is a shocking expose on what I think is a corruption of medical practice -- the fact that the once-risky (and distinctly icky if not unnatural) procedure of delivering babies by cesarian section is "now is used in about a third of U.S. births":

    "This is mostly about changes in culture," said Eugene Declercq, an expert in maternal and child health at Boston University's School of Public Health. "In all the gray areas of clinical decision-making, obstetricians have moved to cesareans. Mothers are more accepting, too."

    Cesarean critics worry that doctors are frightening mothers into the surgery.

    "A woman who is given reason to be scared that something bad might happen to her unborn child will do anything to avoid it," said Jose Gorrin Peralta, a University of Puerto Rico obstetrician. "If the doctor says, 'Your baby could die unless I do a cesarean,' what woman is going to say, 'Don't do it'? I call it obstetrical terrorism."

    Far be it from me to call it "obstetrical terrorism," but if we must call it that, shouldn't we also be looking for the root cause? Is it that there's a new generation of doctors who just enjoy cutting women open? Or is something motivating them?

    Sure, it's easier to perform a c-section than ever before, but the rates are still four times that of a normal delivery. The Inquirer hints at economic factors:

    ....the specter of lawsuits heavily influences the use of cesarean.

    At Lankenau, for example, the cesarean rate rose from 28 percent in 2001 to 36 percent the very next year. The jump was largely triggered by a lawsuit contending that a child was born with cerebral palsy because a cesarean was not performed. The parents won a $24 million verdict.

    "You can imagine there is that fear of what can happen," said Nancy Roberts, the chief of obstetrics.

    A Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine study of 31 hospitals found that the more physicians perceived they were at risk of being sued, the more cesareans they did.

    I know Lankenau Hospital very well, and the implications of the statistical change shocked me.

    I think it is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath for a doctor to take into account potential legal liability in deciding to cut a woman open instead of waiting for nature to run its course.

    It's not preventive health care on behalf of the patient; it's preventive legal care on behalf of the doctor and the hospital.

    Doctors, of course, counter that it isn't their fault, and a number of commentators have pointed the finger at John Edwards:

    Edwards specifically has made much of his fortune suing doctors for not performing C-sections, arguing that they help prevent cerebral palsy in children. In 1970, six percent of all births were C-sections; in 2003, that number had climbed all the way up to 28 percent. However, as John Stossel reports, there had not been a decrease in prevalence of cerebral palsy during that time. Hence, although Edwards' lawsuits have not, apparently, prevented anycases of cerebral palsy, they have, at least in part, yielded a great increase in the occurrence of C-sections. Now doctors do C-sections "just to be safe," meaning safe from lawsuits, though the procedure is not so safe for mothers. While C-sections are not overly dangerous, women are four times more likely to die during a C-section than during vaginal birth; this is not an insignificant risk.
    Michael Fumento has more on the c-section scam, especially the role of John Edwards:
    Medical malpractice was his specialty, and he reportedly tried more than 60 such cases, winning more than $1 million in over half of those. Most involved Ob/gyns. Indeed, he was so feared, according to the Center for Public Integrity, "that doctors would settle cases for millions of dollars rather than face him at trial."

    Edwards' specialty was cerebral palsy, a set of permanent conditions affecting control of movement and posture that usually appear at toddler stage. There is no cure, although stem cell studies in both humans (umbilical cord cells) and rats (neural cells) have produced promising results. More than 10,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with it yearly. Edwards claimed the disease developed because negligent doctors ignored fetal heart monitors indicating the child might not be getting enough air during birth and thus failed to deliver it immediately through cesarean surgery.

    Yet Edwards won his cases not because scientific evidence favored him but because of his smooth-talking "trust-me" demeanor -- and heart-wrenching pleas in which he ghoulishly sometimes pretended to be the voice of the unfortunate child crying out for justice.

    The rise in c-sections parallels the rise in this legal strategy:
    in what's called "defensive medicine," lawsuit fears increased the number of "When in doubt, cut it out" C-sections. Cesareans in the U.S. had begun dropping in the late 1980s, going as low as 22 percent of deliveries. As Edwards and friends spread fear across the Ob/gyn land, rates began to climb again. The rate is now 30.2 percent, a record high for the nation.

    There are probably many reasons for the increased popularity of C-sections, before and after the Edwards era. One is that women often choose it over the pain of labor Dr. Bruce Flamm, clinical professor of Ob/gyn at UC Irvine, told me. Still, "The biggest reason is probably the litigation issue" he said.

    Photos released by the Edwards campaign often feature him surrounded by his wife and kids. No doubt he loves them very much. It's too bad he thinks so little of the families of others.

    One advantage of blogging is that I'm allowed to mention stuff that the Inquirer fails to mention, and I can easily understand why John Edwards' role in the rise of c-sections might be off-limits.

    I'm not saying this is the Inquirer's fault, either.

    There's just too much money involved, and too much money is why there will never be meaningful tort reform, as trial lawyers like Edwards fill the coffers of the Democratic Party money machine.

    But Edwards is a man of the people, right? There's been some discussion recently which was linked by Glenn Reynolds to the effect of how unfair it is that rich guy like Edwards is seen as phony whereas in the old days, the sincerity of patricians like FDR went unquestioned. I agree with Glenn that identity politics is largely to blame -- because it assumes that in order to speak for the poor, you must be poor, in order to speak for a woman you must be a woman, etc.

    ....FDR was a rich guy who cared about the poor, he says, so why can't John Edwards be?

    Well, John Edwards is no FDR. But the answer to Krugman's complaint is found in the post 1960s political zeitgeist. Back before identity politics, and the notion that "the personal is political," the idea of a rich guy representing poor people was entirely plausible. He could be rich, but still have ideas about poverty, and care about them. But now that we have identity politics and the like, that's impossible: If only a woman can represent women, only a black person can represent blacks, etc. -- Barbara Boxer even suggested that Condi Rice couldn't understand mothers because she was childless -- then obviously only a poor person can represent poor people. And since there are no poor people in American political office, poor people perforce go unrepresented. Thus, the "progressive" causes of identity politics and personalization mean that the progressives' key clients can't get "authentic" representation. This is probably bad for the country, but it's certainly a bed that the progressives have made for themselves.

    It is a shame, because I'm sure there are progressives like FDR who should be able to legitimately advocate on behalf of the poor.

    His father James Roosevelt was heir to a huge coal and railroad fortune, while his mother Sara Delano was heir to an opium fortune amassed by her drug-smuggler father. Such a background might (along with heavy influence of Endicott Peabody) well have contributed to the development in young Franklin a sense of guilty noblesse oblige, and a genuinely earnest desire to help the poor.

    No matter what might be said about the sources of FDR's parents' income, no one can say that he made money by taking it from the needy (especially in the form of 40% contingency fees).

    I agree that John Edwards is no FDR.

    And while I don't agree with the way identity politics has thwarted genuine noblesse oblige, I don't think the man has any more moral authority to speak for the poor than anyone else.

    I'm not even sure that Edwards has earned the moral authority to speak for the handicapped babies he's enriched, because he's taken so much of their money doing it.

    What about the pregnant women who've been hoodwinked into having themselves cut open unnecessarily by obstetricians fearful of Edwards-style litigation? While it might not be "legal terrorism," it sure isn't FDR-style moral authority.

    posted by Eric at 02:17 PM | Comments (7)

    Praying For Fusion

    I visited the site of the world's first atomic pile CP-1 (which stands for Chicago Pile One) while I was in Chicago for my son Jonathan's graduation from the University of Chicago.

    There is a Henry Moore sculpture at the site. I hugged it and climbed in it to commune with the gods of energy. I was praying for success for the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

    A really neat interactive picture of the Moore sculpture was done by VictorZaveduk. The orange building in the background is the Max Palevsky Residential Commons a.k.a. dormatories, where Jon lived while he went to U Chicago.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 01:18 PM | Comments (2)

    war on dogs?

    In a comment to my earlier post about the shooting of a dog by Philadelphia police, NickL pointed out that "it seems that it is now standard practice for police to shoot the family dog when turning up to arrest someone," and cited two very disturbing posts by Radley Balko. The first one discusses two incidents -- one in which the officers charged into a private backyard in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who lived elsewhere, then shot the dogs who lived there for defending the yard (a primary reason people keep dogs), and another incident in which (quoting this report) a SWAT team in Maricopa County, Arizona forced a 10 month old pit bull puppy to be burned alive, Waco style:

    [I]n the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.

    Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog's owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.

    "I was crying hysterically," Andrea Barker, one of the dog's owners, tells me. "I was so upset. They [deputies] were laughing at me."

    Balko notes that aside from the torching of the building and the torturing of the dog, all the police had to show for their efforts was the arrest of one suspect -- for traffic violations. My reaction is to find myself hoping that somehow this is all made up by Balko or someone else. I don't want to think that I live in a country where police act like this. I'm trying not to be emotional, and I realize that this was just a dog. And I'm quite aware of the irony that I should be more sympathetic with the people and I therefore agree with the spirit of Balko's remarks about that distinction:
    On a slightly lighter note, I relayed my "they always shoot the dog" observation to a colleague here at Cato. He told me he's discoverd something as he's given interviews and speeches over the years about the Waco massacre.

    Apparently, people who think that perhaps the government acted properly in invading and burning down a house of largely innocent (but admidetly weird) people get really pissed off when they learn that the federal government also slaughtered the Brand Davidian dogs. Women and children? Meh. Weirdo cultists probably deserved it. But...

    "They killed the dogs? Aw, man. That's bullshit."

    It's like, sure, they have a right to burn up gun-toting religious crackpots, but the dogs? That goes too far!

    No, I do not think that way, although to be fair, while dogs are not human (and legally they are property) they are nonetheless innocent in a way that humans are not, because they have no human awareness of criminal intent.

    However, it also occurs to me that men who think it's funny to watch a puppy burn to death might not be the right candidates for law enforcement work, and I hope that their boss (celebrity sheriff Joe Arpaio) will or has fired them, assuming the allegations turn out to be true. Call me a bleeding heart liberal for saying it, but I would not want to be taken prisoner by people who entertain themselves by burning puppies to death.

    The other Balko post cites two more incidents -- one in which the police entered the wrong house in the quest to track down a burglar alarm signal and shot a Rottweiller simply for behaving as a watch dog. And in the second incident, police shot a pit bull for defending another yard they entered in "hot pursuit," then beat the owner for coming to the aid of his dog:

    Blu was in the couple's fenced yard on Sixth Street when the officers opened the gate to pursue a suspect, then shot the dog 11 times with pistols and a shotgun. When Parr ran up and asked the officers, "Why'd you shoot my dog?" police "pointed their guns at him, kicked and punched him and threw him to the ground," the suit said.

    Police arrested Parr on suspicion of obstructing police officers, but no charges were filed.

    It's not funny, as it could happen to me, my dog, or anyone's dog.

    I say this not simply to promote my libertarian crank theories, but because I was once mistaken by the police in hot pursuit of SLA bankrobbers as a member of the SLA -- in my own backyard. Oddly enough, I recalled the story about three years ago when contemplating another dog shooting incident:

    If some cops came into my yard and shot my dog, I would want to get even any way I could. Police tend not to apologize in these situations, because they feel they were just "doing their job."

    Well, what about the dog? Wasn't he just doing his job too?

    Mistakes like this can be intolerable, and can create lifelong rage. It's been more than 30 years since it happened, but I've never forgiven the cops who held guns (two pistols and a shotgun) to my head, made me lie on the ground and called me names, simply because they thought I was with the Symbionese Liberation Army, which had robbed a nearby bank. (I wasn't with the SLA; I was in my own backyard and had no idea a bank had been robbed.)

    At least I was alive! People have been killed because of such mistakes.

    There's no getting around the fact that it just isn't nice to shoot someone's dog, especially when there was no criminal culpability involving the dog's owner.

    One of the most horrendous examples involved a law abiding man who left his wallet on a gas pump after he'd filled up. This set in motion a series of "bureaucratic errors" leading to a felony stop, and the shooting of his apparently friendly dog who jumped out of the car because the police would not allow the "suspects" to close it:

    In the video, released by the THP, officers are heard ordering the family, one by one, to get out of their car with their hands up. James Smoak and his wife, Pamela, and 17-year-old son Brandon are ordered onto their knees and handcuffed.

    "What did I do?" James Smoak asks the officers.

    "Sir, inside information is that you was involved in some type of robbery in Davidson County," the unidentified officer says.

    Smoak and his wife protest incredulously, telling the officers that they are from South Carolina and that their mother and father-in-law are traveling in another car alongside them.

    The Smoaks told CNN that as they knelt, handcuffed, they pleaded with officers to close the doors of their car so their two dogs would not escape, but the officers did not heed them.

    Pamela Smoak is seen on the tape looking up at an officer, telling him slowly, "That dog is not mean. He won't hurt you."

    Her husband says, "I got a dog in the car. I don't want him to jump out."

    The tape then shows the Smoak's medium-size brown dog romping on the shoulder of the Interstate, its tail wagging. As the family yells, the dog, named Patton, first heads away from the road, then quickly circles back toward the family.

    An officer in a blue uniform aims his shotgun at the dog and fires at its head, killing it immediately.

    For several moments, all that is audible are shrieks as the family reacts to the shooting. James Smoak even stands up, but officers pull him back down.

    "Y'all shot my dog! Y'all shot my dog!" James Smoak cries. "Oh my God! God Almighty!"

    "You shot my dog!" screams his wife, distraught and still handcuffed. "Why'd you kill our dog?"

    "Jesus, tell me, why did y'all shoot my dog?" James Smoak says.

    The officers bring him to the patrol car, and the family calms down, but still they ask the officers for an explanation. One of them says Patton was "going after" the officer.

    "No he wasn't, man," James Smoak says. "Y'all didn't have to kill the dog like that."

    Brandon told CNN Patton, was playful and gentle -- "like Scooby-Doo" -- and may have simply gone after the beam of the flashlight as he often did at home, when Brandon and the dog would play.

    The Tenneseean has more including an analysis of video discrepancies between what the police initially reported and what happened. More here.

    NickL's comment to my earlier post concluded ominously:

    I'm sure there's plenty more as well. Maybe that's what the police get taught during training nowadays?
    I certainly hope not.

    But I notice that police seem to be given wide latitude in shooting dogs -- especially if the dogs are "pit bulls."

    A police account of another shooting is titled Vicious Pitbull Attacks Officer:

    Los Angeles: A vicious Pitbull was shot while officers were searching for a burglar.

    On May 28, 2007, at about 12:30 p.m., Southwest Bike Officers Elbin Quintanilla and his partner responded to assist other officers who were in foot pursuit of a burglary suspect.

    While searching for the burglary suspect, an LAPD Air Unit directed Officer Quintanilla and his partner to a backyard in the 3000 block of Norton Street. The officers were confronted by a vicious Pitbull who charged Quintanilla's partner and was inches away from biting his leg. Officer Quintanilla fired one round and struck the dog in the shoulder. The owner of the Pitbull came out of the house and restrained the dog.

    A perimeter was set and the K-9 Unit was called out. The burglary suspect was located near the area and was taken into custody without incident.

    Again, it appears that at most this dog was defending his backyard. How does the defense of a yard morph into "vicious"? By the assertion that the dog was "inches away from biting his leg"? (The dog bit no one.) Or by the additional words "pit bull"? Well, what was it? A "vicious pit bull"? Or a dog defending his own yard?

    Do dogs have the right to defend yards without being labeled vicious? Or do only pit bulls forfeit this right?

    I found the following YouTube video in which the police gave one of these usual accounts, but if you watch it, you'll see that the neighbors dispute it rather vehemently, saying that the police shot a friendly puppy who came to them when it was called.

    This whole area strikes me as a perfect scenario for a law school question. Under what circumstances do the police have a right to shoot dogs? Obviously, they'll always say that the dogs were attacking, but if the police have invaded private property without a warrant, and the owner of the dogs is given no notice that they were there, how is the dog supposed to know that they were "good guys" and not the bad guys it is their job to protect against? Nothing is more dangerous than police in hot pursuit or police acting under a mistake, as unlike criminals, they're acting under legal authority, and if you don't know they are there, anything might happen.

    What about the right of the dog owner to defend his dog? Legally, it has to be kept in mind that dogs are property, and there is no right to use lethal force in defense of property, even if that property is about to be destroyed or irreparably injured. Thus, if an unlawful trespasser enters my backyard and I see him pointing a gun at my dog's head, I am not allowed to shoot him -- even if that would save Coco's life. That's because Coco is a dog, and the trespasser is a human. Frankly, I agree with this distinction, and no matter how awful it would be to see Coco get shot, that does not entitle me to commit murder to prevent it.

    As a practical matter, though, I am allowed to use reasonable force to defend my property, and I suppose I could run out into the yard, point a gun at the guy, and scream "DROP THE GUN!" What I could not do would be to shoot him. However, if instead of dropping the gun, he turned from Coco and pointed it at me, then I could shoot in self defense.

    But what if the trespasser about to shoot my dog was a cop? Same rule?

    Don't ask me.

    I'm not in law school and I don't have to answer law school questions.

    My worry, though, is that the burgeoning dog control movement may be fueled in part by fearful police, who are after all human beings and who read the same scare stories as everyone else. Moreover, they are routinely (and more and more frequently) being ordered to utilize military methods and tactics while conducting raids on residences without notice to the occupants, many of whom have dogs which are dangerous to dangerous invaders.

    I worry that the war on drugs is fueling a war on dogs.

    MORE: Readers who might think this is all about pit bulls should think again. According to the Responsible Dog Owners of the Western States, a total of 75 different breeds of dogs (plus various mixes) are now being banned or restricted from ownership in the United States:

    BSL is based upon the urban myth of the "pit bull", which is not a recognized breed of dog. Under the guise of banning "pit bulls" any breed may be thus identified. There are at least seventy-five actual breeds, plus any mixed breed now either banned from ownership, or restricted in ownership in the United States. That is about 1/5 of all recognized breeds.
    I won't list them all, but the full list of breeds appears here.

    I guess the idea that a man's home is his castle has become an anachronism.

    UPDATE: Longtime commenter Chocolatier opines that pit bulls can be spotted by a "know it when you see it" test. The problem is that there's no way to define it legal terms.

    If you doubt me, take the famous "FIND THE PIT BULL" test.

    I had trouble with it.

    BTW, I've owned these dogs since the mid 1970s (when they weren't controversial), and when she was a girl my mom was photographed with "Pete" -- the famous Our Gang dog -- at the Atlantic City Steel Pier.

    Nowadays, I find myself judged by the breed of my dog -- a judgment which results not from anything my dog has done, but what other people's dogs have done. Unfair by any standard. And as Radley Balko made clear, it's at least as unfair as gun control:

    ...when pit bulls are criminalized, only criminals will own pit bulls.
    And of course, if every "pit bull" was rounded up and killed, does anyone think the dog killers would stop there?

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that there's apparently a rule that if you take a video of the police shooting a dog, you can be charged with "wiretapping."

    No, really.

    (Which means that even if you're allowed to use reasonable force to protect your dog, you may not use a camera!)

    UPDATE: Link to Nick Schweitzer's fine post fixed, with thanks to Nick for pointing it out.

    posted by Eric at 10:37 AM | Comments (13)

    Adjusting my tinfoil sensitivity

    A bill pending in the California legislature would criminalize the mere possession something I'd never heard of before -- bags lined with aluminum foil. While I'd heard about various cities banning stores from distributing plastic bags and styrofoam cups, this is the first time I'd heard of criminalizing the possession of any type of bag.

    To shoplifters and merchants, these foil-lined bags are known as "booster bags" -- because they defeat RFID technology by blocking radio transmission signals. As blogger sees it, laws against them criminalize intent:

    the real effect of the law would be to lower the burden of proof on prosecutors, and to criminalize intent. I'm not a fan of criminalizing intent; intent is primarily a mental state, and it should be clear that criminalizing mental states is totalitarian and grotesque. This law would criminalize intent because it criminalizes possession of the "booster bag" itself, and not what someone does with it.

    In other words, we already have laws against shoplifting. If someone is caught shoplifting, they should be prosecuted for shoplifting. If we want extra penalties for shoplifting, then we should add those penalties directly, and not create entirely new categories of "criminality" for that purpose. If someone isn't caught shoplifting but is caught with one of these bags, the new law is effectively prosecuting them for intent to shoplift. The bag itself isn't harmful to society. We think (proceeding from my assumption above about the consensus view on "theft") that shoplifting is harmful to society, so we criminalize shoplifting. But if someone has the bag and hasn't done any shoplifting, we can't prosecute them because there's no way to prove that they were going to shoplift. There's plenty of room for reasonable doubt (they might get scared and change their mind). This is one of the major reasons why intent usually isn't criminalized, because you end up attempting both to prove what would have happened in an alternate universe and to read individual minds.

    This legislation would get around that by eliminating any discussion of intent, but intent-to-shoplift is really what's being addressed by it.

    I don't think that we really need to make intent-to-shoplift a crime. Making actual shoplifting a crime seems far enough.

    In addition, we don't need more laws of this kind. Pass enough laws like this, and you end up with a situation where all kinds of things are illegal for obscure reasons, and hence a large chunk of the population is (perhaps unknowingly) in breach of numerous laws a lot of the time. Since they can't all be dealt with (not enough resources, and if we did apply enough resources, we'd have a fully totalitarian state), we get to selective enforcement, where law enforcement agents can choose people at random and have a good shot at finding something illegal about their conduct or possessions--a situation to be avoided at all costs, as it obviously leads to tremendous abuse of power.

    Well put, although with a possessory law, intent is irrelevant. (No one cares, for example whether a man who possesses heroin is an actual user, or whether someone whose computer contains kiddie porn images has the slightest interest in them.) Laws against things, and possessory laws generally, invite the worst sort of abuse, because the possession is the crime.

    Thus, when 88-year-old Kathryn Johnson lay bleeding to death on the floor, the cops who had illegally broken into her house and shot her devoted their time to planting marijuana in her basement. (That's because marijuana requires no intent.)

    In the hands of a creative prosecutor, these laws are wonderful, because the possession of the evil thing is thought of as inherently a byproduct of evil intent. Few sympathize with someone who possesses instrumentalities of crime, as the evil intent is just assumed. I worried earlier about my legal culpability for possessing sudafed within ten feet of my lithium batteries -- and sure enough I learned that the DEA could treat this as a crime if it wanted to (and possibly invoke the "Patriot Act"). Were I taller, larger, covered with tattoos, and a member of the right motorcycle gang, I don't doubt that they would too.

    This is of course all paranoia. The law hasn't passed yet, and if I don't like the little RFIDs I can still wear my tinfoil hat to protect myself from them.

    Hell, I can even wrap my fried chicken lunch in tinfoil and blatantly carry it in my pocket!

    As long as the store isn't using one of these, I'll be safe!

    MORE: Speaking of "creative" prosecutors, did you know that a camera can be considered a wiretapping device? I didn't either, but I share Glenn Reynolds's reaction to the prosecution of Brian Kelly for filming a police stop. It's an outrage.

    Wiretapping? Yes. As Brendan Loy explains, the law in question prohibits "intercepting" oral communications. I share his assessment of the situation:

    Remind me, what country do we live in again?

    Frankly, this kind of thing scares me much more than a lot of the political civil-liberties debates that people get all exercised about. The idea that someone could face a potential seven-year prison sentence for... making a video and audio recording of himself being pulled over in a traffic stop... in America... is beyond terrifying.

    The camera becomes a wiretapping device of course, which means that anyone with a video camera is now a potential wiretapper.

    I think there should be a right to film and record the police. All the more so considering that the police have the right to film and record you!.

    Considering that the police are more and more doing things like entering onto property and shooting dogs, what other recourse do citizens have?

    posted by Eric at 08:01 AM | Comments (4)

    If you don't like it, move to flyover country!

    If San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly gets his way, the Blue Angels would be banned from flying over San Francisco:

    SAN FRANCISCO (Map, News) - The annual aerial show by the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels -- a San Francisco tradition dating back to 1981 that pumps millions into the local economy -- is running into opposition from three local peace advocacy groups that are calling for a permanent halt to the popular Fleet Week flyover.

    CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69, are working with Supervisor Chris Daly on a Board of Supervisors resolution to address concerns over the Blue Angels.

    Daly acknowledged he is considering a call to halt the flyovers because, he said, "they seem dangerous and unnecessary." Daly said he plans on introducing the resolution as early as Tuesday, but is still drafting the language. A resolution is not legally binding, but states a board position.

    The Blue Angels, a team of navy fighter pilots, fly over San Francisco during Fleet Week, which this year is scheduled for Oct. 4 through Oct. 9. For four of the six days, the flashy blue- and yellow-striped planes soar through the skies over the northern waterfront at speeds reaching 700 miles per hour, and perform such maneuvers as vertical rolls. As part of the show, six planes group together in tight formation to perform deft maneuvers.

    In what's probably an indication that even local San Franciscans are furious, Daly seems to be backing down -- for now:
    A resolution that would call for a permanent halt to the Blue Angels annual Fleet Week flyovers won't be introduced to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, according to its potential sponsor.

    Supervisor Chris Daly, when asked about the progress of his resolution, told The Examiner on Thursday, "Because of you, I haven't gotten any work done today, and because of you, I am not going to introduce it on Tuesday."

    Daly was apparently flooded with media inquiries as well as phone calls from residents weighing in on the U.S. Navy Blue Angels on Thursday, after The Examiner reported that he is drafting the resolution with local peace advocacy groups CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69.

    Daly now says he is "going to introduce it some other time."

    How dare the SF Examiner interfere with this man's agenda by causing him to be flooded with inquiries?

    This is of course all very predictable coming from someone like Chris Daly -- a man I think epitomizes smug trendiness, who refused to allow the U.S.S. Iowa in San Francisco's maritime museum, and who of course hates the military with every bone in his body.

    He's also a no-growth progressive, who opposes development, but whose policies encourage sprawl:

    ...fulfillment of the no-growth imperative that brought some of them to office is the greatest legacy of the current, progressive Board of Supervisors. And it's the greatest delight of real estate speculators and other property owners who see their equity increasing in response to a building shortage, and of anti-development lawyers, turf-hungry public-welfare charities, and nonprofit developers adept at gaming the building-approval process.

    In helping their friends, the progressives have ruined things for the rest of us. They've greatly exacerbated the city's housing shortage, discouraged employers from locating here, made impossible in San Francisco the middle-class dream of owning a home, and spurred the environment-destroying sprawl that's degrading once-beautiful Northern California. To listen to supervisors describe it at meetings, you'd think development pressure just went away once housing projects were killed. But the fact is, every person must, and most people do, find places to live, even if they aren't in this city. People move against their better wishes into housing tracts built at the edges of the Bay Area, in what had been open space. Then, by dint of artificially created necessity, they must commute huge distances by car. (You're not going to believe this, but I've heard S.F. progressives claim they favor preserving the environment.)

    In the Mission, the progressives are trying to block 1,000 desperately needed apartments from being built exactly where they should be -- in a blighted neighborhood that's near transit lines and downtown.

    There are unremarked monuments to the failure of San Francisco progressivism across the city. Vacant buildings and weedy, crime-infested blocks -- once slated to be new residential and apartment districts -- pockmark San Francisco. Homeless residents live on the streets, and middle-income families pack into tiny apartments, because neither can afford a better place to live, because progressive policies ultimately work to keep the supply of housing low and rents, therefore, exorbitant. Because housing isn't built here, ugly sprawl development pops up where it can -- across the Central Valley and into the Sacramento River Delta and the Sierra Nevada foothills.

    Leftist city policies actually encourage sprawl?

    I never really thought about it, but it makes a lot of sense.

    Chasing away the Blue Angels will probably have a similar effect.

    "Get out of our smug and trendy city!"

    posted by Eric at 02:06 PM | Comments (6)

    Jonathan Simon Graduates From The University Of Chicago

    Jonathan Richard Simon, the grandson of Esther Simon and the late Manny Simon, son of Michael and Sandra Simon, and brother of, David, Jason, and Camille Simon graduated from the University of Chicago on June 9th, 2007. His degree was in Slavic Languages and Literatures - with Honors.

    Jon was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the Spring of 2006.

    He has been a Student Marshal since 2006.

    Here is what the University has to say about their Student Marshals.

    Student Marshals are appointed by the President of the University in recognition of their excellent scholarship and leadership. Appointment as a Student Marshal is the highest honor conferred by the University upon undergraduate students.
    Congrats Jon!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And now you know why my blogging has been light for the past few days.

    Chicago was my school. However, I dropped out after the first year to pursue other interests. Jon has set a mark of excellence that has far surpassed anything I was able to accomplish in school. Plus he has done me proud by doing it at my old school.

    posted by Simon at 11:18 AM | Comments (3)

    Bombing the bombasts of gaydar hate bombing
    As the key to American politics for at least two decades (and arguably right back to the sixties), cultural polarization deserves serious thought and study, not perpetual denial.

    So says Stanley Kurtz, in a post linked by Glenn Reynolds for other reasons.

    I'm a bit more concerned with the Culture War than most bloggers, as it often seems to me that I've spent four years perpetually avoiding the very denial Kurtz describes.

    Kurtz goes on to observe that if Giuliani doesn't win the nomination, "it will be because the culture wars did him in." That is certainly true. As more than one commentator has observed, the election will be won by whichever party does a better job of not being captured by its "base."

    I'd go further than that, and venture that the election will be won by whichever party does a better job of appearing to not be captured by its base. And beyond that, by whichever party does a better job of portraying the other party of having been captured by its "base."

    In that regard, I think the Democrats have been doing a better job learning their lesson. (Or at least doing a better job of appearing to have learned their lesson. Running nominally pro-war centrists was part of their strategy to take back the House, and it worked.)

    But the real lesson that ideologues hate to learn is that most Americans do not like the bases, because they're shrill, vehement, ideologically-driven people prone to hurl invective at anyone who shows the slightest sign of deviation from what they believe. I got into a bit of a debate the other night with a left wing ideologue, and I ended it by joking that the Democratic Party obviously misses me, and that it's probably time for me to switch my registration back -- so I can go from being a "RINO" to being a "DINO" again.

    He did not like it. He was seriously upset at even the idea that someone with views like mine could legally become a card-carrying Democrat, and no force on earth could stop me if I wanted to.

    It's as if I am a traitor to the Culture War without even knowing which side I am betraying. The more I talk about the Culture War, the more I see it everywhere, and the more resolutely opposed to it I become. I don't care that much about which side I oppose. Mainly, I wish they'd end the tyranny against the individual, especially in the form of personal ad hominem attacks.

    I saw a classic example this morning when I read about left-wing attacks on Iraq-embed reporter Matt Sanchez. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Antiwar activists who have never been to Iraq and have no idea what they're talking about take issue with the reporter's sexual preference -- as if that has affected his reporting. (I don't have time for sexual preference research right now, so I'll treat this nonsense as a "so what?")


    You'd think that after four years of writing a Culture War blog I'd be getting ready to hang up my cleats, but as the old Al Pacino/Sopranos saying goes, "Every time I try to get out, they draaag me back in!"

    Which is my way of saying that I'm finding it impossible to ignore what Glenn Reynolds called the blogpost title of the week -- "Gaydar Love" -- in the context of what ought to be called left-wing "Gaydar Hate."

    So I'm wondering....

    Might the "Gay Bomb" which the military refused to develop back in 1994 might be an effective weapon to deploy against leftists who impute homosexuality to their ideological opponents and then go ballistic over it:

    Let's think this "offensive ... almost laughable" option through as a moral proposition, applying the most progressive, libertarian, gender-orientation accepting, peace-loving standards possible:

    Gay Bomb, good or bad?

    Non-lethal = good.

    Homosexuality is an increasingly accepted sexual orientation and lifestyle. Not that there's anything wrong with that = neutral.

    If homosexuality is OK, then the real problem with the Gay Bomb is not that it would reduce male soldiers' inhibitions and encourage them to boff each other, but that it is intended to cause shame. Shame about gayness = bad.

    But in an increasingly open, GLBT-tolerant society, is the shame and disruption of unit cohesion then simply because of unrestrained, indiscriminate sexual activity, regardless of its orientation? Shame about sexuality = bad.

    This is complicated to analyze militarily, and not nearly as relevant to the troops from a tolerant Western country (who, except a few extreme ideologues, can be expected to handle whatever culture shock might be produced by the bomb) as it is to intolerant, extreme-shame-based, Islamist combatants.

    Thus, Crittendon links this point from Hot Air:

    The "gay bomb" works best against those enemies least tolerant of gays -- you'd think that element of poetic justice would mitigate its offensiveness somewhat.
    I think the intolerant shame-based left would be very susceptible to the application of the gay bomb. They have a much narrower view of homosexuality than even their counterparts on the intolerant right, and they are far more subject to having their equilibrium disrupted. I realize that what I just said sounds counterintuitive, for the right wing is generally stereotyped as being far more intolerant of homosexuality than the left wing, so I'll try to explain this paradoxical Culture War quagmire to the extent that I can.

    For starters, the left is given credit (by itself) as being the Far More Tolerant, even The Officially Certified. Officially, intolerance of homosexuality is Not Tolerated, so anyone who is on the left is entitled to an automatic presumption of non-bigoted status. The mere assertion of Support for Gay Marriage is seen as the equivalent of an official badge, saying "No One Is More Tolerant Of Gays Than I!"

    However intolerance of non-comforming homosexuals is not only tolerated, it is mandatory. That's because homosexuals who disagree with the party line are seen as ungrateful, but because it is disconcerting to credit them as actually hating the left, they must be seen as being guilty of hating themselves. (An easy twist to make considering the premise that Only The Left is Officially Not Bigoted.) And if someone hates himself, it follows according to leftist logic that it is OK to hate him. Perhaps then he'll come to see the error of his ways, and come back to the left, for only there is he allowed to love himself.

    But now we come to the Hateful Right, and it gets very tricky, because while there is such a thing, the fact is that the actual homo haters on the right are far fewer in number than commonly believed. Sure, they've got some web sites and a few organizations which can be depended on for the statements that fuel the left, but a serious and growing problem for the left is that many conservatives really don't give a rat's ass about other people's sexual preferences. I mean, when even a notorious "homophobe" like Rick Santorum pointedly refuses to fire an outed gay staffer, you know you've really got a problem with the ordinary conservative rank and file. On top of that, conservatives tend not to see homosexuality as ideological treason. Rather, those who are squeamish would tend to see it as an individual's problem -- one which some of the "homophobes" might think deserves some sort of religious "cure" but one which very few would link to ideology.

    On top of that, it is almost unthinkable that any conservative would consider a left-wing homosexual to be a traitor to his penis the way the left does about a right-wing homosexual. There simply is no counterpart, as conservatives tend to abhor identity politics in general, and in any event would never consider homosexuals to be "theirs." True, some think that homosexuals should be "property" of the left, but even these people would not see a left-wing homosexual as a traitor to the right.

    My thesis is that the left wing is far, far more intolerant of nonconforming homosexuals than the right, and thus more vulnerable to the effects of the "Gay bomb."

    Or, well, at least a modified form of the bomb. I notice that the original news reports Crittenden sites date back to 1994. Hasn't our scientific technology advanced since then? Wouldn't it be possible to come up with a bomb which makes people not only gay, but also conservative?

    Or is surgical precision in the Culture War too much to hope for?

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

    Change The World In Three Minutes

    Dr. Robert Bussard talks about how to change the world and it only takes three minutes.

    For a deeper look at this technology:

    Bussard Fusion Reactor

    The video at this one is deep on physics and lasts an hour and a half, however the last 30 minutes has the implications. The three minute video is excerpted from this longer version:
    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

    IEC Fusion Newsgroup
    IEC Fusion Technology

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

    swept away?

    Here's something I enjoyed seeing in today's Philadelphia Inquirer -- Glenn Reynolds' review of Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture" -- which sees the book as:

    basically an extended paean to the lost Golden Age of middlebrow taste-makers and big-media megaphones, and an extended jeremiad against an age in which people are free to make up their own minds, and make their own contributions. Keen is even sad about the declining influence of small-scale taste-makers: He decries the absence of the "deeply knowledgeable Tower clerk" in the world of online record sales, and he seems to think that the musical snobs in the book (and film) High Fidelity were supposed to be appealing characters.

    Keen's thesis is that talent is rare and that worthwhile products - whether we're talking about news reporting, music composition or filmmaking - can be produced only if that talent is nurtured at great length and filtered to a great extent. Only a long and expensive process of refinement can dispose of the common dross and produce the pure gold of quality work.

    This argument would be more impressive if the "quality work" from the big media organizations he describes were, well, golden. Keen references Bach and the Beatles as examples of quality music, but when he complains about the music industry's current travails he doesn't note that today's record industry isn't giving us Bach and the Beatles - it's giving us Britney. Likewise, he blames Internet piracy for declining movie attendance when the cause appears to be elsewhere: a recent Zogby poll found that people are going to the movies less often because they think the films stink and, in a more literal way, so do the theaters.

    I've never been impressed with Keen's arguments, and I've disputed them in a number of posts, so naturally I couldn't agree more with Glenn Reynolds.

    Read the whole review.

    My problem is that I'm old enough to have grown up in the "lost Golden Age of middlebrow taste-makers and big-media megaphones," and I always thought of mainstream media culture as glorifying mediocrity, and attempting to instill a numbing conformity to a certain lowest common denominator. (It helped me as a child that whenever I'd start to imagine that a program was good, my parents would correct my misperceptions, often by ridiculing the acting or the writing.) As I got older I watched less and less TV, and by the 1970s I was watching very little. Thus, I find myself largely out of touch with TV culture, and even on the Internet I'd rather read something than watch it on a video. (My first reaction when learning of an important video I should see is to try to find a transcript.) The blogosphere struck me as a wonderful new thing, as a true meritocracy where the cream would naturally rise to the top. The very antithesis of the "flattening of culture" of which Keen complains.

    Keen has long struck me as blurring the vital distinction between aristocracy and meritocracy, and I think he has been blinded by an obsessive hatred of what he calls "amateurism." He forgets that in a meritocracy, talented amateurs (like James O. Hall) can rise to the top, and at some point they are no longer amateurs. But in an aristocracy where favoritism, nepotism, and money rule, there's no guarantee of quality.

    Keen thinks "amateur" is a synonym for schlock, and in a February tirade about the degradation of Superbowl television commercials, he pointed a blaming finger at the Internet -- and at "American Idol": technology is undermining the wages of the American middle class. Web 2.0 technologies which enable amateurs to make dumbed-down replicas of professional work are particularly responsible for what Bhagwati calls the "tsumani" of downward pressure on wages created by new technology.

    Amateur content on user-generated video sites such as Google's YouTube is undermining the value of professionally-made video content. American Idol now has an online competition called "American Idol Underground," which is making the traditional music A&R person redundant. HarperCollins is undermining the traditional role of literary agents by running online competitions to "discover" amateur writers. The result of all this democratization of media is fewer creative jobs and more amateurish books, movies, and music. And commercials, too.

    Because of my decades-old aversion to television, I have never watched "American Idol" and I don't plan on watching it, because people whose judgment I trust have told me that it glorifies talentless hacks and lousy performers. Now, it strikes me that anyone with half a brain can tell the difference between someone who sings out of key and a good singer (the ears can tell the difference), but I recently attended an event which included a number of musical performances which were so unbelievably bad that I found myself wondering what could possibly be going on. And I was told that it's the "American Idolization" of culture.

    Schlock performances are now OK. Even cool! Hey, I can remember karaoke. Isn't that the same thing? No, I was told. Karoake is a drunken, let-your-hair-down thing, the antithesis of a formal performance on stage. It is "American Idol" which has broken new ground by promoting as "legitimate entertainment" the sort of thing which Howard Stern used to play to impishly annoy the ears of his listeners.

    Whose fault is "American Idol"? The blogosphere? The Internet? Keen apparently would have us believe that it is. Call me a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but I have a darker view.

    I think it's a direct result of the same condescending aristocratic thinking which deliberately promulgates the dumbing down of education, the degradation of art, and the view that no one is better than anyone else (except those who deem themselves to be worthy of ruling over the rest of us). "American Idol" is, IMO, their way of degrading the culture while laughing all the way to the bank.

    The tragedy here is that Keen doesn't seem to like what's happening any more than I do. But he paradoxically blames the people who have turned off their televisions and looked elsewhere. While I would agree with Keen if he saw the problem as the old aristocracy having grown decadent, what he is doing amounts to blaming decadence on the critics of decadence. Not only is this a fundamental error, but he compounds it with needless ad hominem attacks and even calls for censorship. (A classic example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.)

    But I'm starting to rant here. It's ironic, because I agree with Glenn's conclusion that Keen "would be better served trying to come up with ways to make the new world better, than by ranting on behalf of a world that is now history." I often find myself ranting on behalf of a better world that is now history, even though I completely disagree with Keen's contention that the Internet has made it worse. New is not always an improvement, but old is not always better. The Internet, IMO, gives the champions of what is best about the old a fighting chance to preserve it.

    Bill Whittle's recent essays (especially about The Remnant and the Ejectia!) shine as a perfect example.

    To deride such work as "amateurism" is to commit a grievous error.


    What I'm trying to avoid here is another rant against Keen as an iconoclastic Luddite ranting against the future. I've done it before, and ranting only begets ranting.

    So I'll just say that Keen sweeps with too broad a broom.

    UPDATE (06/11/07): Considering the way other bloggers feel about him (as well as the tenor of my earlier posts), it may be that I've been too kind to Andrew Keen in this post.

    Terry Heaton describes Keen's book as "a whining, outrageous and defensive fantasy based on sweeping generalizations, falsehoods, paranoia and a form of condescension so pissy that it blinds the author to anything resembling reality," while Dan Gillmor calls it "shabby," "dishonest," loaded with "falsehoods and demagoguery," "blatant misrepresentations" and "inadequate reporting."

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who will only go so far as to venture that he doesn't "think the book is being well-received."


    It's now a rainy Monday morning and I had little time for blogging over the weekend --- three circumstances which can usually be depended on to make me feel nasty and get my bile going.

    And on top of that I look very guilty -- as if I am not doing my job as a blogger! I mean, what's going on with me? I've totally savaged Keen in the past. What is my defense for having been such a damned bleeding heart fuzzy-wuzzy liberal in this post?

    In my defense, I will say this: I neither bought nor read Keen's book, and I don't plan to!

    Do I really have to spend money on "whining, outrageous and defensive fantasy based on sweeping generalizations, falsehoods, paranoia and a form of condescension so pissy that it blinds the author to anything resembling reality"? No way! I trust these reviewers to tell me how deeply disturbing it is, and it made them suffer. True, they suffered on my behalf, and for that I am grateful, as Heaton makes clear that the book is a "tough read":

    I'm serious when I say the book is a tough read. It's tough, because the mind's search for substance is always confronted by extremism, emotion and haughty disdain for anybody who doesn't meet his professional "standards" or think as he thinks. I can't count the number of "Holy Craps" I uttered while working my way through the pages. And I think this is a big problem for a man who's trying to ask some legitimate questions.
    It made me wince just to read about the book.

    The problem is that I'm just not enough of a masochist to pay money for more.

    Besides, there are plenty of shabby, dishonest, loaded-with-falsehoods-and demagoguery, blatant misrepresentations and inadequate reporting to be found which can be experienced for nothing!

    So, I think Glenn is right to say the book is not being "well-received."

    Probably understatement in my case, for it isn't being received here at all.

    posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (7)

    "most Americans have a profound need to be spanked by someone with a British accent"

    In this week's Philadelphia Weekly, I stumbled onto a review of a pair of little plastic unicorns:

    Cold War Unicorns

    Admit it: The Cold War years were great. Bowie made his best records in West Berlin. Rocky kicked Dolph Lundgren's ass. And Osama bin Laden was still our plucky friend, ripping the Soviets a new one in Afghanistan. Best of all, the toys were unbelievable: spy gadgets, stealth bombers, silent submarines, galactic shit-tons of deadly accurate nuclear hellfire rocketry and the greatest toy of all: the Star Wars missile defense system. So what better way to reminisce about superpower conflict and the sphincter-tightening terror of mutually assured atomic geno-suicide than with the Cold War Unicorns Play Set? "Commie" and "Freedom" are two cute little feudin' horni-corns, decaled with Soviet and U.S. emblems. Sold by for a Cold War-tastic $9.95 a pair, these dolls are great for withdrawing from our terrifying post-9/11 world and battling over simpler questions, like: Which country has the best ice hockey team? Or the coolest fighter jets? Like My Little Ponies for people who read the National Review, Cold War Unicorns take American culture back to what it does best: cartoonish metaphors for why we rule and everyone else sucks. You heard it here first. Celebrating American exceptionalism through mythical beast dolls is the next big thing. One day when all this Al Qaeda nonsense blows over, your grandchildren will be begging for War on Terror Griffins. (Tom Cowell)

    The unicorns are available for sale here, and they look like this:


    As to the "Al Qaeda nonsense," I guess the writer thinks that in time it will also become a "cartoonish metaphor for why we rule and everyone else sucks," because it's all about American exceptionalism. Maybe someone can sell little plastic models of the Twin Towers being rammed by Al Qaeda unicorns with "CIA" emblazoned on the side. Yuk yuk!

    The reference to Osama bin Laden as "our plucky friend" also intrigued me, as the idea that he was working for the US or trained by the CIA has been exposed as an urban legend by Peter Bergen of CNN:

    The story about bin Laden and the CIA -- that the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden -- is simply a folk myth. There's no evidence of this. In fact, there are very few things that bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the U.S. government agree on. They all agree that they didn't have a relationship in the 1980s. And they wouldn't have needed to. Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently.

    The real story here is the CIA didn't really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him.

    Yeah, but Philadelphia Weekly says he was our plucky friend!

    (So much for the right wing CNN, I guess.)

    Well, even if I don't agree with his political philosophy, this PW writer at least has a sense of humor. And if Americans in general are into exceptionalism, in Philadelphia, this exceptionalism manifests itself as a desire to be zombies:

    At the very top of Chestnut Hill we find government administration graduate student Tom Cowell hunkered over a pile of books in the Borders cafe.

    "Philadelphia is without a doubt the zombie-est town I've ever lived in. Oh god, yes," says Cowell. "Why are there so many zombie movies? Well, Shakespeare said we must hold up a mirror up to ourselves, so obviously we like seeing ourselves as slack-jawed, inoculated-against-logic morons. We're revolting against the happy ending. All anybody ever does in the end is die and get eaten. That's it. That's the essential truth told by zombie movies. Everything else is just your mother stroking your hair and telling you everything's going to be all right."

    I guess it must really suck to have to go to school surrounded by a bunch of "slack-jawed, inoculated-against-logic morons," but I'm wondering... Does Cowell thinks the whole country is that way too, or just Philadelphia?

    He seems to be fond of using the word "we" in a sort of self-deprecatory manner, as if he's scolding himself along with the rest of his fellow morons, and I can only conclude that he must truly hate Philadelphia. It must have been like slumming to have to go to graduate school here, and although he seems to have attended a pretty nice program at UPenn's Fels Institute of Government:

    Tom Cowell, from London (UK), graduated from St Peter's College, Oxford in 2002 with a degree in English Language and Literature. After his undergraduate studies, Tom spent a year teaching English in Japan's Toyama Prefecture as a member of the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Program. He taught at an Agricultural High School in Nyuzen-machi. Returning to England, Tom worked in the offices of two British members of Parliament: Geraint Davies MP and Harry Cohen MP. His duties all involved meeting the needs of inner-city London constituents, the most pressing of which were assistance with immigration and housing concerns. Tom is a Thouron Scholar and a member of the British Labour Party.
    What I want to know is why does he use the "we" word in such a way as to imply he's an American? Osama is "our plucky friend." "We rule and everyone else sucks." If I went to England to go to school, no mattter how much I hated it I don't think I'd use the first person plural like that when describing the country. People might get confused.

    On the other hand, Cowell worked on the policy team of mayoral candidate Chaka Fattah's campaign, so I guess he takes American politics seriously. Who knows? He might be planning to take up citizenship here, and maybe he already has. If so, then that would give him the right to be as free with the "we" word as any other American political activist.

    Still, there's this gem reprinted from the Guardian which refers to him as "an Englishman exiled in Philadelphia" who conflates our "founding myth" with a need to be spanked:

    Cultural commentator Tom Cowell [no relation], an Englishman exiled in Philadelphia, says, " I don't know how many times a listener has glazed over, daydreaming about Olde English castles and fairies. It's like a drug."

    But Cowell reckons that the rise of US reality TV's English mafia has a more primal cause than simple anglo-philia. He points to the success of Supernanny in which Jo Frost and her Thames estuary accent inflicts brutal zero-tolerance discipline on middle-class American children. "It's Mary Poppins revisited. All these characters are judging and punishing Americans, and Americans love it. They're desperate for approval from an imagined cultural parent figure."

    As evidence, he refers to a review of So You Think You Can Dance in Entertainment Weekly where the writer called the judges "Redcoats" and imagined a contestant wailing: "Ruin me, Nigel! Govern me! Tax my stamps!"

    "It's beyond Freudian, it's the American founding myth - the rebellious child who needs to be punished. Deep down - actually, maybe not that deep - most Americans have a profound need to be spanked by someone with a British accent".

    I'm just guessing, but I'll just betcha he considers himself precisely the man to minister to our profound need!

    Well, I shouldn't have said "our," because it's not mine, even if an Englishman exiled in my city thinks it is. However, even though I'm not into that kind of stuff, I do think it's really cool that Americans with a fetish for being spanked by traditional British nannies can have their profound needs met. Anything you can think of, someone's into it.

    But not everyone.

    Some impudent colonists over here think the British nanny state has gotten so out of control lately that they're even talking about a "return to tar and feathers."

    I'm sure there's a nice cartoonish metaphor in there somewhere.

    Maybe even little plastic toys for the grandkids.

    posted by Eric at 04:57 PM | Comments (3)

    death of a dog

    This story has been bothering and puzzling me:

    John West can't understand why Little Bit, his 5-year-old pit bull, is dead.

    Last week, in a scenario disputed by West, a police officer fired at the dog on the 2500 block of South 72d Street, hitting the animal in the paw and wounding another officer when a bullet fragment ricocheted and grazed her arm.

    The accounts given by police and West agree on one score: Little Bit, who was euthanized by the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association, did not bite or harm anyone.

    It appears the dog would be alive today except for a pair of mistakes, both of which are under investigation.

    Apparently, the police went to this man's house to arrest him on what is agreed was a mistaken warrant.

    What happened next is in dispute:

    Police said that when the officers arrived, West was sitting on his stoop, and he stood up, opened the door and let out a pit bull and a rottweiler, both of which lunged at the officers.
    OK, it's irrelevant to me whether the warrant was valid or invalid. There is no right to let your dogs lunge at police officers. If the cops came here to arrest me (whether they had a valid warrant or not), I wouldn't dare risk Coco's life by letting her out the door, because she might think it was her job to defend me against attackers.

    But what's missing are the details about the arrival of the officers. The story does not say whether they had made their presence known and knocked on the door, or whether they just drove up at the same time the dogs were being let out. The dog's owner says he let the dogs out to put them in his truck and didn't know the officers were there:

    He said he was in his house getting ready to take Little Bit and Rocko for a run in a park and did not know the officers were there. Outside, he had left the door of his Bronco open so the dogs could jump in.

    "I opened the door and went, 'Get in the truck,' " he said. Then he said he saw the officers - a female near the stoop and a male about 15 feet down the street.

    "He yelled, 'Get your dog, get your dog,' " West said. "He just started firing."

    West said Little Bit had walked past the female officer and was headed toward the other officer, but she was not barking or acting menacing.

    The officer, whose name has not been released, fired four times into the sidewalk, police said.

    "He was a young guy. He had no control of his gun," West said. "It was so quick, the door was still open, because my rottweiler turned around and went right back in."

    The pit bull also retreated, police said.

    "My dog did nothing wrong," said West, who also suffered a graze wound to the arm and whose door has a bullet hole in it.

    The police Internal Affairs unit is investigating the shooting.

    OK, it's tough to know what happened from these conflicting reports. But it is undisputed that the dogs bit no one. My question is this: under what circumstances is it justified to shoot someone's dog?

    And further, is there a different standard for the police than for other people?

    I don't think anyone has to tolerate being attacked and bitten by a dog, but I've been around dogs all my life, and I've never had one just run up and start biting. There's almost always a threatening display of some sort, warning you to get back or else. Common sense suggests to me that even if the dog was acting aggressively, there must have been an interval allowing this officer to give the owner time to get his dog off the street and out of the way before he started shooting. It also strikes me that had this been an aggressive, vicious dog intent on attacking the officer, it would have continued the attack and bitten the officer who would have had to keep on firing until the dog was dead.

    I'd like to hear from the neighbors about this dog, which looks quite gentle in the picture, and I'd also like to hear from the mailman. (They usually know the neighborhood dogs quite well.)

    What bothers me the most about this is my suspicion that the dog might be a victim of anti-pit bull hysteria, and breed-based discrimination. Whoever that cop was, he might have read the usual trumped-up stories and have been in deathly fear of "pit bulls" before he ever showed up in front of that guy's house.

    My suspicion seems confirmed by what happened later:

    While police sorted out the situation with West at Southwest Detectives, West's niece contacted PACCA to say she planned to retrieve the dogs. When they arrived the next morning, they were told Little Bit had been euthanized.

    Tara Derby, chief executive officer of PACCA, said the dog had lost two toes, suffered a shrapnel wound in the paw, and was in severe pain when it arrived at the facility.

    She said the dog probably would have had to have its leg amputated, but acknowledged the animal should not have been euthanized without the consent of its owner, particularly because West's niece had contacted PACCA about recovering the pet.

    Derby said the incident is under investigation and that any staff members who were responsible for the dog's death would be held accountable.

    West said yesterday he would have borrowed the money to get Little Bit the medical care she needed.

    "I had her for so long," he said. "I loved her."

    I suspect they were in a hurry to euthanize the dog, and I wonder what they might have been told by the police.

    It is uncontested that the police were mistaken in being there, the dog bit no one, yet bullets went flying, two people were wounded, and the dog is now dead.

    Under Pennsyvania law, the officer might be liable unless the dog actually lunged at the officer in a threatening manner. I don't think merely running in the officer's direction constitutes lunging in a threatening manner, but again, I don't know what was going through the officer's mind. It worries me that there might be cops out there who would shoot a dog simply for being a pit bull.

    littlebit.JPG No matter who is at fault, the story makes me sad -- especially the picture of Little Bit, which gives every appearance that she was just a plain old nice dog. A family pet, and a good dog, even. She may well have thought she was doing what was best for her home, and for that she was essentially tortured and made to suffer badly -- for reasons she did not understand.

    Knowing no more than I know, I thought the poor dog deserved a blog post.

    posted by Eric at 06:36 PM | Comments (9)

    Elementary alimentary anatomy

    While it is not my point here to debate anyone's religious or political views on homosexuality, I think the anatomical opinions of Dr. James Holsinger are creating a bit of medical confusion.

    From the WSJ, here's James Taranto:

    These are Holsinger's two main claims:
  • The sexes are "fully complementary."
  • Compared with ordinary intercourse, erotic activity that involves the alimentary tract poses far greater risks of injury and infection.
  • The first of these is obvious to all human beings and probably most lower mammals as well. The second is obvious to anyone who has occasion to think about the subject. (To those readers who would rather not, our apologies.)

    At some level this is sort of funny: Mrs. Clinton's church had to find itself a medical expert to explain the facts of life. But what is chilling is that Holsinger now finds himself under political attack for stating the obvious.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Not to pick nits, but I'm not sure that he stated the obvious at all.

    I'll start with the definition:

    alimentary canal

    also called digestive tract pathway by which food enters the body and solid wastes are expelled.The alimentary canal includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. See digestion.

    Oral sex is very common, is widely believed to be less risky than vaginal sex, and while it is certainly less risky than anal sex, the report Taranto discusses does not mention oral sex, but merely compares and contrasts the risks of anal intercourse with the risks of vaginal intercourse. While it is true that anal intercourse involves the alimentary canal and vaginal intercourse does not, I think it is inaccurate to characterize "erotic activity that involves the alimentary tract" as being anal intercourse. (All the more so when it is considered that the vast majority of sex acts involving the alimentary tract involve heterosexual oral intercourse.)

    Had Taranto contrasted "erotic activity that involves the anus" with "erotic activity that involves the vagina" I could see his point. But to the extent that he (and Dr. Holsinger's report, on which he relies) imply that the alimentary tract is a synonym for the anus, they are misusing medical terminology.

    None of this is to suggest that oral sex is safe, of course.

    But it is alimentary.


    I just realized that I forgot something which might be relevant. While it's been a long time now, there was once a presidential pronouncement that oral sex is not sex.

    But will this assist with the alimentary tract analysis?

    Am I supposed to care?

    posted by Eric at 04:42 PM | Comments (3)

    Bush spokesman finally faces pressing issues

    I'm having a bit of a problem with the logic of some of my liberal Bush-hating friends, and I'm wondering whether I'm alone.

    While I make no secret of the fact that I voted for Bush, what I'd like to know is how does that make me a Bush spokesman? There are a lot of things I disagree with Bush on, and I have described my approach to voting as a hold-my-nose experience. Frankly, John Kerry disgusted me a lot more than Bush, notwithstanding Bush's many faults, and in general the Democrats disgust me more than the Republicans. (There are of course many individual exceptions.)

    So why is it that I go to a get-together (I'm a known Bush voter, of course, who doesn't bother to hide it) people start saying "How's George?" in this really condescending manner as if I'm the president's boyfriend or something. (Um, no, I'm not. Just thought I'd make that perfectly clear. And I've long been frustrated by people insinuating that Republicans have some big macho sexual insecurity thing, too, OK? It's really tired. Democrats are just as sexually insecure and frustrated. Trust me.)

    It's as if because I pulled a lever or pushed a button while holding my nose, I'm to be held "accountable?" And for what? The "George" taunt might mean any number of things -- war, the vast Karl Rove plot against mankind, anthropogenic global warming, the Federal Marriage Amendment, or just generalized chimpanzee-like stupidity. I'd prefer it if people asked me more specific questions rather than just taunt me about "George."

    Anyway, I replied that I thought George Washington was a great president.

    But I voted for Clinton too. No one ever came up to me and asked me about my buddy Bubba, or Hillary.

    And why aren't conservatives who are angry with Bush about things like immigration (and I know plenty) greeting me with similar scorn and derision? Is it because they voted for him too?

    If asked about specific issues, I'm always happy to admit what I think. So, if someone's angry about anthropogenic global warming, the war in Iraq, the FMA, or Bush's alleged simianism, I'll be glad to discuss each issue individually. I don't follow anyone's party line, though, and calling me "George" just doesn't give me enough of a clue. In a court it would be objectionable as "vague and ambiguous" as well as "argumentative."

    But we're not in court. We're in my blog. And fair is fair. Notwithstanding my legitimate legal and logical objections to being put on the spot yesterday, I have decided to face the most pressing Bush issue of the day. (Besides, since no specific issue was raised, I feel as if I was given a blank check to address whatever Bush issue I deem most pressing.)

    Not until last week did I finally learn about the Most Pressing Bush Scandal Of Them All -- something which the usual suspects in the MSM seem to have utterly missed. Even bloggers -- usually quick to pounce on the MSM's omissions -- have missed it for the most part (at least I haven't seen any discussion of it in the major blogs).

    The issue, or course is the major fight between George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth over his "divorce war"! And Bush attacked the Queen, God save her!

    "What attack?" "What divorce?"

    Glad you asked.

    Here's the proof -- in the form of a full story which includes pictures of the attack:


    Obviously, the fact that you didn't know about this proves that the MSM and the blogosphere are involved in a vast coverup.

    Here's more:


    My reaction? Well, I voted for Bush, but am I responsible for his alleged messy divorce or the fact of the vast MSM coverup? I don't think it's my business, so how does it become the business of Queen Elizabeth? I mean no disrespect to Her Majesty, but didn't we once fight a war to keep her from having any right to meddle in America's internal affairs?

    But again, I voted for Bill Clinton, and no one said I was responsible for his marital issues, so I think this is all terribly unfair.


    Never let it be said that I have avoided the important issues of the day!

    posted by Eric at 12:23 PM | Comments (6)

    nuts, mutts, and lost castles

    Bad news from California.

    AB 1634 has passed the Assembly:

    SACRAMENTO, CA (June 6, 2007) - "Unbelievable" was the reaction from PetPAC today after Members of the California State Assembly voted 41-38 to outlaw the existence of mixed-breed dogs and cats in the Golden State.

    Assembly Bill 1634, authored by Los Angeles Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, will allow only select purebred dogs and cats to breed. Pet owners who don't sterilize their mixed breed pets by four months of age will face a $500 fine and possible criminal penalties.

    "This crazy measure will end up costing families heartache and taxpayers billions," said Bill Hemby, Chairman of PetPAC, an organization dedicated to the rights of pets and owners. "California will be the poster child for an invasive and overreaching government mandate that is impossible to fund, administer or enforce."

    AB 1634 will blanket all 58 counties in California with an expensive forced spay/neuter law that not all shelters want - or need. According to the State of California, dog impounds have fallen 86% over last 30 years. Puppies and kittens are already being transferred between counties to alleviate a shortage of adoptable pets: San Francisco and Marin Counties need to bring pets in from other areas to be adopted locally. In San Diego County - which has no mandatory spay/neuter law - only one adoptable animal was euthanized in 2004-05.

    The only encouraging aspect of this is that it was closer than I thought it would be. Which means California is not completely insane.

    I will never be able to reconcile my libertarian/individualist thinking with communitarian/collectivist thinking, and IMO this bill is a classic example of the latter.

    So I'll just admit to being a selfish pig, and disclose once again my selfish personal motivation:

    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.

    There's more, of course, but I've sounded off about this in post after post (here here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

    I wish every dog owner would descend on the state legislature, but unfortunately, the reason the committee activist types win is because ordinary people do not like to attend their blasted hearings. I say this as someone who detests hearings, meetings, committees, and long-winded activists. But in the world of those things, communitarians tend to win, and individualists tend to lose.

    Libertarians and communitarians are like tar and water. The difference seems to lie in how they interpret the word "harm." To a communitarian who favors AB 1634, if I don't cut out my dog's ovaries, I have committed harm against society. Why? Because Coco has produced unwanted puppies? No. Because she might get loose or I might decide to irresponsibly breed her? No. It doesn't matter what I do, because to a communitarian this is not about me or my dog. It's about the greater good of society.

    Huh? But this doesn't make logical, rational sense! And I could say "this doesn't make sense" over and over again (which is what I do in so many of these posts), but that will get me nowhere, because of the different ways of seeing the word "harm." As I see it, I do no harm because I see harm as related to what I do, not what a group of other similarly situated people might do. But to people who see the overall harm done to society from ovaries, ovaries are harmful as a group, and therefore the possession of ovaries must be criminalized. And screw Eric Scheie and his stupid selfish insistence on an "individual right" to not cut out his dog's ovaries! (Yeah, OK, I'm realizing I left out balls. Puff died, but no force on this earth could have made me cut off that wonderful dog's balls.)

    So, I've learned that asking "where's the harm?" does not settle this inquiry at all. That I have done no harm and plan to do no harm is largely irrelevant to a communitarian, for the harm to society results from what others in the collective of ovary/testicle/gun owners do with the liberty I claim as mine. Because my liberty is someone else's license, we must all be forced to give it up. In the name of an ever-more-regulated, better world.

    I prefer the worse world we once had.

    posted by Eric at 03:08 PM | Comments (11)

    some things are inevitable

    The death of Steve Gilliard seems to have struck a chord. Of discord.

    Obviously, some people liked him and some didn't.

    I won't use the occasion of his death to speak ill of Gilliard, but OTOH, I don't think eliminationist rhetoric and use of the n word are called for because another blog did.

    The vitriol is amazing, really.

    Apparently for the crime of not saying enough about the vitriol, Glenn Reynolds found himself accused by Oliver Willis of having "an agenda and a cause to push." Really? What cause is that? Whatever it is, I've been wondering for some time why there are so many right wing bloggers who make a point of not linking Glenn.

    But never mind that, I liked Glenn's response:

    Oliver seems to care much more about my blogging than I do about his. But then, he's paid to, I guess.
    Normally, we think of success in writing as being when you can make a living by it.

    But isn't it just as much a sign of success when people are paid to read you?

    I'm no economist, but I'm wondering....

    If people are being paid money by the highly funded Media Matters to read Glenn Reynolds (or any other blogger), that's economic activity, isn't it?

    Shouldn't Glenn get a cut?

    I don't mean to single out Glenn Reynolds, as I'd say the same thing if some right wing think had tank paid people to read Steve Gilliard. In fact, if someone paid me to read any blogger, I'd feel guilty about taking the money.

    We're all going to die eventually, aren't we?

    posted by Eric at 12:54 PM | Comments (2)

    Bad boys and bureaucrats. A deadly duo?

    I wrote a post yesterday about the arrest of the "No Guns" activist for selling guns, and I now see that LA Weekly has new story titled "Hector Marroquin's Revenge -- Feds arrest "No Guns" activist for selling guns, while L.A. politicians duck."

    I also see that Patterico has been covering the Marrquin story for a long time, and in his latest post he links and discusses the "July 2005 puff piece naively portraying Marroquin as a good guy who had turned his life around," how the LA Times got "suckered," and the history of hos this criminal leader ingratiated himself with the high and mighty.

    Not that there weren't warning signs -- including an especially gruesome incident involving his daughter, the treasurer of No Guns:

    Police arrested Charleeda in 2001 after she and fellow gang members admitted dumping the badly mutilated body of a young man -- shot at close range in the head at No Guns' offices -- near her dad's property in San Bernardino. The victim was found with his hands and genitals badly burned.
    The young man's brains had been "spattered on a wall" of the No Guns office, but the gang members present (and the mother of one of them) said the young man, who was called "Clumsy," had died playing Russian Roulette. They apparently didn't explain why the carpet was "missing a large cutout area" -- or why "Charleeda Marroquin drove Clumsy's body to a remote area, where she and other gang members burned his genitals and lower extremities -- reasons unknown."
    In an earlier LA Weekly report, the failure to prosecute the daughter was attributed to politics:
    ....perhaps the most unsettling case, for a bunch calling themselves No Guns, involves Charleeda Marroquin, an admitted member of the Hawthorne Lil Watts gang who was appointed treasurer of No Guns by her father. Police arrested Charleeda in 2001 after she and fellow gang members admitted dumping the badly mutilated body of a young man -- shot at close range in the head at No Guns' offices -- near her dad's property in San Bernardino. The victim was found with his hands and genitals badly burned. Local authorities ruled the grisly incident an accidental suicide while the coroner ruled it a homicide. Charleeda was arrested for arson for the postdeath mutilation, but troubled Hawthorne police, pointing to Marroquin's City Hall connections, say the San Bernardino District Attorney refused to prosecute her because it was "too political."
    Aside from being a darling of the bureaucracy, Marroquin has shown himself quick to sue people who dared to criticize him:
    ....some law enforcement officials believed that Marroquin was a front man for the Mexican Mafia prison gang and that NO GUNS was a facade for illegal activity and a channel for public funds.

    One was Richard Valdemar, a retired sheriff's sergeant and expert on gangs who led an investigation that resulted in the first federal racketeering trial of Mexican Mafia members; it resulted in the conviction of 13. Valdemar said the Mexican Mafia has a long history of using anti-gang and drug rehabilitation groups as fronts to acquire public funds.

    "This is a major part of their operation," said Valdemar, whom Marroquin unsuccessfully sued for defamation of character in 2002.

    Valdemar said he and others voiced these concerns to the Sheriff's Department and the city of Los Angeles.

    The man Marroquin sued, retired Sergeant Richard Valdemar, describes himself thusly:
    I am a Hispanic, with 33+ years as a Deputy Sheriff and Gang Expert in Los Angeles. Of the three "Super Gangs" spawned in the streets of Los Angeles, "Florencia 13", "18th Street", and "Mara Salvatrucha 13", are composed primarily of illegal immigrants. These are not the poor working people of 20 years ago.

    The same criminals that traffic in human beings are also trafficking in drugs and false documents. This is how the violent "Sureno" gangs fund the bloody destruction of our society. About 600 are murdered by gangs in L.A. each year. These gangs are growing and migrating into cities and towns across the U.S. and their aim is to first seduce and then destroy our children and our way of life.

    The ugly backlash against this lawlessness will result in social repercussions against both legal and illegal immigrant Hispanics in the U.S. and more racism. We Hispanics should be the first to speak out against this perversion of our culture.

    Sergeant Richard Valdemar, LASD (retired)

    Yes, and it appears that those who dare to speak out run the risk of getting sued by the people they speak out against -- especially when the latter are coddled criminals, or outright enemies of the United States.

    I'm wondering whether frivolous lawsuits against citizens who speak out aren't part of some awful pattern, and while it's easy enough to blame groups like the ACLU, I wonder whether they're being aided and abetted by government bureaucrats we normally think of as being there to protect the rights of concerned citizens.

    In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Attorney Floyd Abrams wrote an Op Ed about his representation of neighbors who were sued for asking questions about the Islamic Society of Boston. The place has ties to terrorist groups -- and it receives help from the taxpayers:

    On May 29 of this year, the potential vulnerability of a plaintiff that misuses the courts to sue for libel once again surfaced when the Islamic Society of Boston abandoned a libel action it had commenced against a number of Boston residents, a Boston newspaper and television station, and Steven Emerson, a recognized expert on terrorism and, in particular, extremist Islamic groups. In all, 17 defendants were named.

    Those accused had publicly raised questions about a real estate transaction entered into between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Islamic Society, which transferred to the latter a plot of land in Boston, at a price well below market value, for the construction of a mosque and other facilities. The critics urged the Boston authorities to reconsider their decision to provide the land on such favorable terms (which included promised contributions to the community by the Islamic Society, such as holding lectures and offering other teaching about Islam) to an organization whose present or former leaders had close connections with or who had otherwise supported terrorist organizations.

    On the face of it, the Islamic Society was a surprising entry into the legal arena. Its founder, Abdurahman Alamoudi, had been indicted in 2003 for his role in a terrorism financing scheme, pled guilty and had been sentenced to a 23-year prison term. Another individual, Yusef Al-Qaradawi, who had been repeatedly identified by the Islamic Society as a member of its board of Trustees, had been described by a U.S. Treasury Department official as a senior Muslim Brotherhood member and had endorsed the killing of Americans in Iraq and Jews everywhere. One director of the Islamic Society, Walid Fitaihi, had written that the Jews would be "scourged" because of their "oppression, murder and rape of the worshipers of Allah," and that they had "perpetrated the worst of evils and brought the worst corruption to the earth."

    The Islamic Society nonetheless sued, claiming both libel and civil-rights violations. Motions to dismiss the case were denied, and the litigants began to compel third parties to turn over documents bearing on the case. In short order, one after another of the allegations made by the Islamic Society collapsed.

    Their complaint asserted that the defendants had falsely stated that monies had been sent to the Islamic Society from "Saudi/Middle Eastern sources," and that such statements and others had devastated its fund-raising efforts. But documents obtained in discovery demonstrated without ambiguity that fund-raising was (as one representative of the Islamic Society had put it) "robust," with at least $7.2 million having been wired to the Islamic Society from Middle Eastern sources, mostly from Saudi Arabia.

    The Islamic Society claimed it had been libeled by a variety of expressions of concern by the defendants that it, the Society, had provided support for extremist organizations. But bank records obtained by the defendants showed that the Islamic Society had served as funder both of the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas-controlled organization that the U.S. Treasury Department had said "exists to raise money in the United States to promote terror," and of the Benevolence International Foundation, which was identified by the 9/11 Commission as an al Qaeda fund-raising arm.

    The complaint maintained that any reference to recent connections between the Islamic Society and the now-imprisoned Abdurahman Alamoudi was false since it "had had no connection with him for years." But an Islamic Society check written in November 2000, two months after Alamoudi publicly proclaimed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, was uncovered in discovery which directed money to pay for Alamoudi's travel expenses.

    To top it all off, documents obtained from the Boston Redevelopment Authority itself revealed serious, almost incomprehensible, conflicts of interest in the real-estate deal. It turned out that the city agency employee in charge of negotiating the deal with the Islamic Society was at the same time a member of that group and secretly advising it about how to obtain the land at the cheapest possible price.

    Solomonia (who has been covering this for a long time) has more.

    Anyone see a common thread?

    In another incident, a blogger was threatened by a bizarre paramilitary Islamist compound run mostly for ex-convicts by a radical Pakistani group called Muslims of the Americas. The compound was described in account linked by Clayton Cramer:

    Islamberg is a branch of Muslims of the Americas Inc., a tax-exempt organization formed in 1980 by Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, who refers to himself as "the sixth Sultan Ul Faqr," Gilani, has been directly linked by court documents to Jamaat ul-Fuqra or "community of the impoverished," an organization that seeks to "purify" Islam through violence.

    Though primarily based in Lahore, Pakistan, Jamaat ul-Fuqra has operational headquarters in New York and openly recruits through various social service organizations in the U.S., including the prison system. Members live in hamaats or compounds, such as Islamberg, where they agree to abide by the laws of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, which are considered to be above local, state and federal authority. Additional hamaats have been established in Hyattsville, Maryland; Red House, Virginia; Falls Church, Virginia; Macon, Georgia; York, South Carolina; Dover, Tennessee; Buena Vista, Colorado; Talihina, Oklahoma; Tulane Country, California; Commerce, California; and Onalaska, Washington. Others are being built, including an expansive facility in Sherman, Pennsylvania. (Emphasis added.)

    The article appears in full at, and the ADL has more on Muslims of the Americas, as does SATP. They have branches all over the place.

    But (as I have to keep reminding myself) we're at war with terrorism. (I remind myself of that every time I see a taxpayer-funded school bus transporting American kids into my local Saudi Madrassa.)

    Anyway, after posting "Springtime in Islamberg," in his blog, blogger Scott Grayban says he received death threats, and reading his account, he does appear to have documented the threat with phone records:

    The first call I missed so I listened to my voice mail and a person with perfect English told me to answer the phone on the next ring and that it was very important. The phone rang and I heard chanting of some sort in the back ground and a middle eastern thick accent person started his hate rant to me.

    The caller said "I had better stop making any further postings about Islamic compounds in the US and to remove the post I had made or I will be killed like the dogs in Iraq are."

    What makes this so creditable is the fact that this person described the vehicle I was in on Saturday going to the mall and the Auto shop that is across from me including that I have solar reflection film on my apartment windows with 3 a/c's in all of them. That I wear glasses and was in blue knee high shorts.

    They took great steps to conceal who they were and where they were calling from. And it seems they have been following me for some time.

    So far as I know, he hasn't been sued. Maybe Gilani's group wants to keep a lower profile.

    Anyway, the bureaucrats up there may have been forced to remove or at least adjust their blinders. According to a recent UPI piece, "authorities" now "have their eye" on Islamberg:

    KINGSTON, N.Y., June 4 (UPI) -- Authorities have their eye on a Muslim commune in New York's Catskill Mountains where neighbors say residents are undergoing military-style training.

    The New York Post Monday reported that Islamberg, a remote 70-acre commune in Tompkins, N.Y., is the headquarters for Muslims of the Americas but is also believed to be a cover for Jamaat al-Fuqra, a radical group founded by the Pakistani cleric Mubarak Ali Gilani.

    The compound is under scrutiny because of reports of training and gunfire there, the newspaper said.

    A resident who would not give his name denied that anything illegal was happening at Islamberg.

    This is my country, the resident told the Post. I love this country. I did a year in the bush in Vietnam for this country.

    Gilani used to preach at a Brooklyn mosque and has returned to Pakistan. The group he started still operates in rural areas, the Post said.

    Gilani is the Muslim cleric that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was trying to meet when he was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in February 2002.

    Tell you what. I'll stick my neck out here and advocate a hardline approach to dealing with these people.

    I say, take away their tax exempt status!

    I haven't been keeping track of the flying Imams lawsuit as I should, but the research I did originally revealed that they too are drinkers from the public trough. (One of them is a Muslim PAC leader and Democratic Party activist who teaches in a taxpayer-funded "parochial" school. Grrrrr.) Because of such solid "community ties," the bureaucracy can be counted on to protect their rights, not the rights of citizens who speak out.

    I agree with this editorial from Investors Business Daily:

    If the bureaucracy can't protect us from terrorists, citizens must step in with 24-7 vigilance. That's the price we pay in a post-9/11 world. We can't be afraid to see what we see -- or report it when we see it, even under threat of being sued by Islamist groups or being labeled bigots.
    The overall picture is not new, as I'm old enough to remember the People's Temple.

    For those who don't remember, this was a San Francisco "church" run by Jim Jones which ended in mass murder-suicide of 912 people in Guyana. Because I'm in a hurry, I would have liked to have cited the Wikipedia entry on Jones, but inexplicably, his solid community and bureaucratic ties are not described. It's probably a source of embarrassment to some that Jones was a powerful San Francisco Housing Commissioner, loved and honored by people at the top levels of government:

    Jim Jones was once a popular community activist in San Francisco who contributed cash and coordinated volunteers to support both causes and political leaders.

    He could turn out thousands for almost any event or effort. During the 70s he appeared with many prominent politicians including then State Assemblyman Willie Brown. In 1976 Mayor George Moscone gave Jones a seat on the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. Governor Jerry Brown was even seen attending services at the Peoples Temple.

    But after the tragic deaths at Jonestown Willie Brown said, "If we knew then he was mad, clearly we wouldn't have appeared with him. But it's not fair to say what you would have done if you knew the kind of madness that would take place years later.''

    Anyone who knew Jones knew that he was a Communist with anti-American views, though. That's why he was so popular in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    None of this is to suggest a moral equivalency between Jim Jones and Hector Marroquin, the flying Imams, the guy Daniel Pearl sought to interview before he was beheaded, or the various Saudi madrassas which spread hateful and anti-Semitic rhetoric all over the United States. They come from very different backgrounds, and each would have to be analyzed differently.

    My concern is with the support they get from government and from the legal system, because that means my money is helping them.

    That doesn't seem fair.

    (Of course, my complaint that it doesn't seem fair would probably be seen as hateful, bigoted, and libelous. My unfair tax dollars at work!)

    posted by Eric at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

    Climate Change Porn

    There seems to be a lot of global warming porn going around. We have examples of porn addicts publicly confessing and swearing off their addiction.

    And others can't get enough. A confirmed "CO2 is rising and we are all doomed" fellow cites the following articles on the drastic consequences of man's interference with the air.

    First off we are going to be missing a lot of Birds.

    Second off whole species will be Extinct by 2050 according to National Geographic. Or they will be on their way to extiction by then. Millions of species. How exciting. I used to get my porn from National Geographic when I was young. It appears not much has changed.

    But wait. I have a few thoughts on the extinction report. The opening from the National Geographic piece. Bolding mine:

    By 2050, rising temperatures exacerbated by human-induced belches of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could send more than a million of Earth's land-dwelling plants and animals down the road to extinction, according to a recent study.

    It could happen.

    They could be going down the road. The question is how far down the road will they get?

    BTW will the coming ice age go down the same road in the other direction?

    Or is our only chance to keep things just as they are?

    Me? I believe in evolution. Adapt or die.

    Plants will certainly like more CO2 in the atmosphere. I like trees. I eat plants. I see a plus there.

    I don't see how a 1 deg C diff in annual variations of 50 deg C is going to make a huge difference in the biota of the planet.

    What is more likey is that the range of various plants and animals will change. Which happens all the time with just weather variations and various predator/prey cycles.

    Well, time to get back to work on Bussard Fusion. However, just like a porn addict I'm not easily convinced to turn to useful work. So I want to take a look at just how hard it will be for plants and animals to adapt.

    In the town I live in, at the the Chicago latitude, winter temperatures of -10 F are regular occurances and -20 F is not unheard of. Summer temperatures of 90 F are regular occurances and 100 F is not unheard of.

    Normal variation is then 100 deg F and extremes can be 120 deg F.

    5/9 * 100 = 55.56 deg C delta
    5/9 * 120 = 66.67 deg C delta (the devil made me do it)

    So temperature variations of 50 deg C over a year are entirely reasonable.

    Do we get that in one day? No.

    Birds - which do not handle such a wide range migrate. Their migration patterns will change.

    A change in average temperature of even a few deg C is not going to kill off millions of species. Unless your analysis assumes that the range of a given population is restricted. Which of course it is not. Same for plants. They don't migrate as fast. However even a 10 deg F change in 100 years is only .1 deg F per year. Annuals will have no trouble. Longer lived plans will spread to their optimum areas by seed migration. Birds are a help with that.

    I think the National Geographic article is just Climate Change Porn.

    Assuming the study the article was based on was done by reputable scientists, all it proves is that given the "correct" assumptions you can get any answer you want.

    I have heard numerous anecdotes that funding for any kind of science is easier to get if you can tie it into climate change.

    One has to wonder if this is an example of that?

    I'd like to see what oil company funded scientists might have to say on the matter.

    Politicized science helps no one. However, it is not unusual. The Soviets were big on that sort of thing. A certain country run by an Austrian Corporal followed a similar path.

    Is something like that happening with Climate Science? I have my suspicions. One of the things that make me suspicious is that the answer always is: restriction on energy use and highger taxes. Technological fixes (nuclear plants and wind turbines) and bio-remediation (planting trees) are never considered viable alternatives. In fact Kyoto specifically rejected bioremediation - a USA proposal. Political? It would seem so.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:09 AM | Comments (78)

    Climate: The Astrology Model

    I was doing some browsing around at Climate Audit, Steve McIntyre's blog and came across a comment from Steve saying the discussion of astrology in relation to climate science was banned. Well you know me. I can't resist a challenge.

    OK. I'm going to bite the astrology thing and risk banning.

    It seems that reliable ionosphere predictions re: short wave communications can be made by the relative positions of the Earth Mars and Jupiter.

    A cursory search did not turn up the "astrology" connection to the ionosphere. I believe I read the piece in Analog Magazine 20 or 30 years ago in a science fact article. I'll report back if I find a reference.

    I found it here at Climate Audit.

    With cites.

    CA is the best!

    Let me quote a bit from the CA comment linked above:

    J.H. Nelson received acclaim from people all over the globe - from those who are interested about what is happening in the earth's ionosphere. The acclaim is the result of Mr. Nelson's achievement of 85% accuracy in predicting magnetic storms affecting radio signals. In this book, long awaited by the scientific community, Mr. Nelson discusses in detail his unique method of charting planetary angles to make his predictions. J.H. Nelson became the president of RCA."

    There is little doubt that Nelson's methods were effective, and to this day the RCA forecasts derived by Nelson's methods are accepted as reliable by their users, particularly airborne geophysical survey contractors and the like who are very sensitive to the impact of magnetic storms.

    An interesting test for scientists is whether they are prepared to look into Nelson's work from a scientific viewpoint. Unlike certain other scientists, Nelson provided his data and methods, and it has turned out that they are indeed replicable. However, we can anticipate that many "scientists" will dismiss his work as "astrology" or similar pejorative terms, without bothering to actually look at the work.

    Climate is much more complicated than the IPCC scientists even imagine.
    I found an article on Nelson's work published in the late 40s or early 50s. The accuracy given is around 80% not the 85% the commenter mentioned.

    Here is an article about a guy who predicts stock market peaks and troughs by a similar method. According to reports I have read he seems to get good results.

    Another article about a scientist, Dr. Landscheidt, who makes climate predictions based on planetary positions. Unlike the above guys who are empirical, he bases his theory on a model of the sun which seems to have some validity.

    Here is a more technical explanation of Dr. Landscheidt's theories. Let me just quote from the grabber at the top of the article:

    Abstract: Analysis of the sun's varying activity in the last two millennia indicates that contrary to the IPCC's speculation about man-made global warming as high as 5.8° C within the next hundred years, a long period of cool climate with its coldest phase around 2030 is to be expected. It is shown that minima in the 80 to 90-year Gleissberg cycle of solar activity, coinciding with periods of cool climate on Earth, are consistently linked to an 83-year cycle in the change of the rotary force driving the sun's oscillatory motion about the centre of mass of the solar system. As the future course of this cycle and its amplitudes can be computed, it can be seen that the Gleissberg minimum around 2030 and another one around 2200 will be of the Maunder minimum type accompanied by severe cooling on Earth. This forecast should prove skillful as other long-range forecasts of climate phenomena, based on cycles in the sun's orbital motion, have turned out correct as for instance the prediction of the last three El Niños years before the respective event.
    I still wonder if the climate change guys are using a valid model to predict the effects of solar output on the earth. Not just raw power output, but geomagnetism, and currents in space.

    One interesting thing I learned through all this is that the orbital period of Jupiter, 11.9 years, is not too far off from the average sunspot cycle which is 11 years. It may just be a coincidence. Or it may be significant. The thing is the IPCC doesn't even address such questions.

    I mean really. If climate change is strictly solar driven what will the Climate Changers do? Tax the sun?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:57 AM | Comments (7)

    No Guns = More Crime!

    I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

    Via Dennis I learned that Los Angeles activist Hecor Marroquin, the founder of a group called "NO GUNS," has been arrested for selling guns. And silencers, and automatic weapons. He's a convicted felon who's said to have boasted that he runs the Mexican Mafia in Cudahy, California, and he's suspected of involvement in a shooting incident, and much more.

    FEDERAL ALCOHOL, TOBACCO AND FIREARMS AGENTS knocked first, then entered the Downey home of purported anti-gang activist Hector Marroquin on Wednesday, arresting him for selling silencers and weapons -- including three assault rifles and a machine gun -- to an undercover ATF agent.

    The gun sales, some of which Marroquin, the founder of the gang-intervention group No Guns, transacted at his bar in the city of Cudahy, were captured on videotape and audiotape, said police officers present at his arrest.

    Inside the house, the 51-year-old veteran of the 18th Street Gang surrendered as his daughter's boyfriend, David Jimenez, a parolee at large, jumped out a window, tossed a gun into the backyard pool and climbed on the roof, authorities said. Officials said ATF agents then confronted him, he climbed back inside and was arrested and charged as a felon in possession of a gun.

    Marroquin, an alleged associate of the prison-based Mexican Mafia, has grown accustomed to such intrusions, having been arrested many times over the years while at the same time being the founder and CEO of No Guns, which has received $1.5 million from Los Angeles City Hall via the much-criticized L.A. Bridges program designed by the Los Angeles City Council to keep youth out of gangs.

    Hey, well, if there's $1.5 million in taxpayer funds to be had, I think most criminals would say they're anti-gun activists too.

    Despite his recent and ongoing criminal activities, tax dollars have been flowing into the pockets of Marroquin, his relatives and various cronies:

    At the time of his arrest Marroquin faced a separate gun possession charge, also reported in December by the Weekly. That trial has been delayed. Meanwhile, his son, Hector Marroquin Jr., a former No Guns officer who police say is an admitted 18th Street Gang member, has been indicted on charges of home invasion robbery and faces up to 40 years in prison.

    No Guns finally lost its funding last year, after city officials found the organization had engaged in nepotism and misappropriation of public funds. Along with his wife, son and daughter, who police say is a member of the Hawthorne L'il Watts Gang, the Marroquins made more than $200,000 a year in salaries -- public funds paid by L.A. taxpayers -- to steer children away from gangs and help active gangsters escape the life.

    However, a report by civil rights lawyer Connie Rice and independent audits have stated that L.A. Bridges, which has funneled more than $100 million to programs like No Guns, cannot show that it has reduced gang activity, and the city council lacks any meaningful measures for determining success. Just last week, another purported gang-member-turned-good, 30-year-old Mario Corona, with a group called Communities in Schools, also a recipient of L.A. Bridges money, was sentenced to 32 months in prison for transporting a large amount of methamphetamine and being a felon with a gun.

    Marroquin grew up on the rough streets of Cudahy, a crime-riddled L.A. suburb largely inhabited by poor Latino immigrants. Ever since founding No Guns in 1996, when he was shot while protecting his son from unknown attackers, Marroquin has been a target of police suspicion. Earlier that year he was convicted of gun charges, and has violated terms of his probation two times. In 1998, he was acquitted of weapons charges. That same year he intervened to resolve gang strife in Santa Monica.

    It seems the convict's most important career move was telling the LA Times he was a "changed man":
    In 2005, he told the Los Angeles Times he was a changed man -- intent on fighting gangs and violence -- but he was arrested last year at his home in Downey when police, while looking to arrest his son, found an unloaded gun on the top of an armoire in his bedroom. His daughter, Charleeda Marroquin, claimed it was hers.
    It just goes on and on, and it makes me wonder how many similar anti-gun outfits run by ex cons are as legitimate as they appear to be.

    For its part, the LA Times now says there had been "suspicions" all along, and points to Tom Hayden as one of Marroquin's most vociferous advocates.

    Former 18th Street gang member Hector "Weasel" Marroquin for years was celebrated and rewarded for having turned his life around.

    He founded the anti-gang organization NO GUNS and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city for his efforts to help steer Latino youths away from a life of crime. His champions included former state Sen. Tom Hayden.

    Admitting that Marroquin appears to have backslided, Hayden (former SDS leader and California State Senator) doesn't seem to think it's a big deal:
    Over the next three years, NO GUNS collected more than $1.5 million in city funds as a subcontractor.

    Marroquin's organization was contracted to help find job training for gang members and to mediate cease-fires, said Angela Estell of the city's Community Development Department.

    The contract continued even though in December 2005, Hawthorne police arrested Marroquin's son, Hector Jr., known as "Little Weasel" and a principal in NO GUNS. He and another man were charged with a home-invasion robbery. Police said he had several weapons in his house. That case is scheduled for trial next week.

    As part of that investigation, police arrested Marroquin Sr. on weapons-possession charges, said Hawthorne Police Det. Chris Port. The case is pending.

    Last summer, NO GUNS lost its city contract after it was discovered that Marroquin had used funds to hire many of his family members, said Gloria Lockhart, director of Toberman Settlement House.

    Marroquin's case illustrates the potential problems that public agencies face when they hire people with criminal pasts for gang prevention work.

    Hayden, author of "Street Wars: Gangs and the Future of Violence," recalled asking Marroquin to help halt violence among Westside gangs in the late 1990s. Marroquin mediated and found construction jobs for several dozen gang members hanging drywall at the Playa Vista development, Hayden said.

    "Police will tell you, when things are really violent ... these intervention workers are key to calming it down," Hayden said. "These guys perform a service. If they backslide, well, who doesn't?"

    Yeah, whatever. Hayden also thinks Muktada al Sadr should be included in the Iraq political process. Obviously, the Mahdi Brigade consists of "intervention workers" who are "key to calming it down," and thus deserving of tax dollars.

    Hey, maybe armed criminals are the key to disarming law abiding citizens!

    It almost sounds as if the left has borrowed the NRA slogan "when guns are outlawed only the criminals will have guns," and revised it to say, "When guns are outlawed, only the criminals should have guns!

    Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

    UPDATE (06/07/07): My thanks to Clayton Cramer for linking this post, and for providing other examples of armed criminals who talk the anti-gun talk.

    In a related post, I look at the possible connection between bad boys and bureaucrats.

    posted by Eric at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

    a nap in my lap beats a null poll

    My answer to the tasteless Scarborough "works the pole" remark which Glenn Reynolds twice noticed?

    Do I have to notice it too? Only if I work real hard, I guess.

    Geez. Now I'm wondering whether I can even say the word "tasteless" anymore in the context of poll workers or whatever they're called.

    But what do I know. "Pole" can be read several ways, poll, pole, and Pole. And a lap can be a lap, as well as a lap-dancing Lapp.

    I have no reaction to this. Zero. None. I can't feel anything anymore.

    I feel nothing!

    As Schultz would say, "I see nothing!"


    OK, so take me to the cooler!

    Considering that my reaction is a tasteless nullity, and I believe in nullification, I might as well weigh in with a tasteless interpretation of Mitt Romney's "a null set" remark.

    He's in trouble with the mathematicians for saying "a null set" instead of "the null set."

    Well, how do we know he didn't mean "anal set"?

    These days, how can we assume anything? Never mind the assume jokes anal-yzing the ass u make of me, OK?

    Just assume I didn't mean whatever I might not have meant to say.

    Here's a tasteless pole worker which the prim and taste-free feminists caused to be banned in England -- in time for a tasteless X-mas!


    Santa's reindeer delivers with nappy panty hose!

    Sorry, they'll never get me to take any of this seriously.

    Not even under torture.

    posted by Eric at 03:25 PM | Comments (7)

    Turkish invasion of Iraq?

    It seems like the reports are mixed:

    ANKARA, Turkey - Hundreds of Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who attack Turkey from bases there, Turkish security officials said. One official said the troops had returned to their bases by the end of the day, but Turkey's foreign minister denied they had ever entered Iraq.

    The senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, characterized the raid as a "hot pursuit" raid that was limited in scope. They told The Associated Press it did not constitute the kind of large incursion that Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks.

    One official said several thousand troops went less than two miles inside Iraq and were still there in late afternoon. "It is a hot pursuit, not an incursion," one official said.

    Another official said by telephone it was "not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands." He also said the Turkish troops went into a remote, mountainous area.

    A third official, based in the border region, said 600 commandos entered Iraq, and were backed up by several thousand troops along the border. He said the commandos raided Iraqi territory across from the Turkish border town of Cukurca before dawn after rebels opened fire from Iraqi soil on Turkish patrols.

    The official said the commandos returned to their bases in Turkey later in the day. There was no immediate explanation for the conflicting accounts of the officials.

    Pajamas Media has a great roundup of reports.

    I guess we'll all just have to stay tuned

    posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

    Avoiding D-Day?

    Today is the anniversary of D-Day, which marked the beginning of the Battle of Normandy. Thousands of Americans were killed just in the first few hours of the initial D-Day landing, and according to the Wikipedia article, American casualties for the Battle of Normandy eventually totalled 29,000 dead, and 106,000 wounded and missing.

    It's tough for most Americans to imagine casualty figures like that today. Yet the country has twice the population as it did in World War II.

    It's easy to analyze these things retrospectively, but it's pretty clear that the awful casualties in the war against Nazi Germany would have been far fewer had Hitler been engaged earlier instead of appeased and allowed to grow stronger.

    In a famous 1940 radio broadcast on the illusory nature of appeasement, Winston Churchill warned that "each one hopes that if it feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last."

    Churchill was right.

    And I think Churchill was right about this too:

    "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."
    At least, I certainly hope he was right.

    I think the reason why Americans like to exhaust all other possibilities before doing the right thing is that if you do the right thing and prevent an awful thing too early, and then the awful thing never happens, people will focus on whether it was ever necessary to do the right thing. Thus, had the Americans lept into an early war against Hitler and taken him out before he grew strong, there'd have been a massive denunciation of an evil and illegitimate war -- and no one would have known that World War II had been avoided. The paradox is that we might be successfully avoiding a larger war right now without even knowing it, but there's no way to know.

    So, we might be able to avoid another D-Day and we might not be. Either way, I think it's important that we remember.

    posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (6)

    "We're just chemical scum...."

    So opines legendary physicist David Deutsch in this fascinating YouTube video, in which he also discusses Global Warming.

    The video is reviewed here in a post titled "The World's Most Elite Libertarian Scientist on Global Warming...":

    Deutsch is the intellectual father of quantum computation, the viability of such likely validating his Multiverse, Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics--a paradigm to be the most radical since the overthrow of classical physcis with relativity and quantum mechanics at the turn of the 20th century. And he is a libertarian--probably, no doubt, the only one at Oxford.

    Deutsche believes in "liberty as an essential human value, the abolition of victimless crimes, favors entrepreneurship and takes the view that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing at a profit."

    Deutsche rejects carbon taxes, regulations, centralized control of output, arguing, that, firstly, it is too late for carbon dioxide emissions controls to work, anyways, and secondly, mankind is better off focusing on ways to adapt to a constantly changing environment, rather than spending huge sums on attempting to prevent that change.

    Bear in mind that Deutsch believes in anthropogenic global warming theory, but I guess because he doesn't share the fetish for draconian restrictions on carbon, which he says would have been too late even had they been implemented in the 1970s (in those days, to prevent a new "Ice Age"). Which I guess makes him another enemy of the New York Times' "overwhelming scientific consensus."

    I'm no physicist, but it does seem to me that the argument involves whether and how to build a better climate.

    The Precautionary Principle is often invoked by the people who want to impose draconian restrictions on carbon, a naturally inevitable byproduct of human and animal activity. But considering the costs and consequences, I think it's just as valid to invoke the Precautionary Principle as an argument against this wildly impractical War on Carbon. What if attempts at "prevention" prove worse than the disease? As Deutsch points out, it is folly to focus on preventing what has happened.

    It's not as if "excessive" amounts of CO2 are new. The fitful scientists might do better to examine the past than demand legal solutions to technological challenges.

    But which scum gets to decide for the rest of us scum?

    posted by Eric at 10:48 AM | Comments (3)

    judicial incompetence

    Clayton Cramer has an interesting post about the legal doctrine of "substituted judgment" which was invoked to determine that an incompetent leukemia victim had the right to refuse treatment for leukemia -- apparently because he would have had the right to refuse treatment had he been healthy!

    ...this guy can't clearly state what he wants or doesn't want, has never done so, has no legal guardian, until this question came up, and most people would choose to live--so the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered him to not be treated. He died three months later of pneumonia, as a result of leukemia.

    If Saikewicz had been able to express an opinion as to whether he wanted to live or die, that would be one thing. If he had been competent to make that decision at an earlier time, and had told someone (even just casually), "I would rather die than go through chemotherapy," I could live with that. If the Court believed that most people facing a similar situation would be inclined to die a relatively quick and painless death rather than suffer the consequences of chemotherapy, I suppose that I would only be griping about them making a decision based on what "most people" wanted. But they had absolutely nothing but their own decision of what an incompetent person would have wanted if he had been competent but he was taking into account that he was incompetent.

    It's a bit convoluted, but so are the implications. If I became incomptent, how could anyone know what I might have wanted if I were competent yet able to take into account my incompetence? It's a hall of mirrors guessing game.

    Cramer calls this "Marxian" as in "Groucho Marxian." I think if the courts really want to play Groucho with these cases, the best way to invoke "substituted judgment" would be to ask what the incompetent victim would do if he were healthy!

    Of course any competent healthy patient would refuse treatment for disease if he were in good health, wouldn't he?

    What's being overlooked here is the right to be incompetent.

    I guess that's reserved for the government.

    posted by Eric at 09:52 AM | Comments (1)

    Bad news from Spain

    Jose Guardia has an eye-opening post (now also a PJM piece) about the Spanish government's weak-kneed capitulation to ETA (Basque) terrorists. The latter now plan to resume their war:

    Three years ago we had a weakened ETA virtually in its last throes after a successful campaign from law enforcement both in Spain and France. Now we got an emboldened one who thinks it can dictate the terms of the negotiation, or put an end to it. That's why above I called the truce a hudna: it was not really an end to violence, but a "time out" to be used to rearm and regroup. It should have been Zapatero's government the one to put an end to it when it realized ETA was unreasonable. And especially after the Barajas bombing at the end of December last year. Instead it chose to keep negotiating, and look what we got now.

    And it couldn't come at a worse time; since they were allowed to run, ETA's so-called 'political arm' got several aldermen elected in quite a few towns, which means ETA has now access to what it didn't have before: databases. Private addresses, unlisted phone numbers, car registration numbers, tax returns, bank accounts, professional and business information from everyone. All databases are interconnected, so they are now in a position of knowing everything about people they want to pressure, or kill.

    I was in Spain at the time of the Barajas bombing, and because I marveled over the beauty of the airport just days before the blast, I'll never forget it.

    Well meaning people never seem to stop imagining that negotiations will work with terrorists, despite clear historical evidence that terrorists thrive in a climate of negotiations, which they see as a way of gaining tactical advantages.

    All they're proving is that terrorism works.

    posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (2)

    the upper class dog show ladies enrichment act

    That's pretty much Randall Parker's take on California AB 1634 (California's mandatory spay and neuter act):

    My late great Australian Shepherd Oakley never got registered (and when I say great I'm describing the consensus of a lot of people who were more objective about him than I was). Under Lloyd Levine's law Oakley, as a non-registered dog, would be barred from breeding in the state of California. Instead, show dogs would breed and anyone who wanted to buy a dog would be required to choose among dogs that upper class dog show ladies find suitable. I do not want to live in that sort of world.

    Among the consequences of Levine's proposal: New breeds could not be created. Any mixed breed dog that was the first attempt at creating a new breed would get neutered. Also, any breeds that exist today without recognition by the AKC or similar breed association would become an evolutionary dead end that would go extinct after the current living generation.

    Levine's proposal fits a larger pattern where the big organizations called governments force more behavior to take place within the context of controls and rules of other big organizations. Want to breed a dog? Gotta get that dog registered and you can only register dogs that fit the arbitrary breed guidelines of existing associations. So the proposal pushes us toward a more bureaucratic society and a more dysgenic one to boot. Tell your elected officials to find another way to reduce dog over-population.

    Damn right. And well put.

    Of course, this is even assuming that dog overpopulation is a problem.

    Christie Keith, Contributing Editor for Universal Press Syndicate's Pet Connection and past director of the Pet Care Forum on America Online makes it quite clear that in San Francisco and elsewhere in California, there is is a dog underpopulation problem:

    I love dogs and cats. And like all people who love animals, I hate to see even one pet put to sleep for lack of a home. So if I thought this bill would actually make that happen, I'd be in favor of it.

    But it won't, because it's a huge, sweeping, one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that has many facets -- a problem that is not, in fact, one problem but many problems, all of which vary from place to place throughout the state.

    In fact, in some parts of California, such as San Francisco, there actually is no problem. Not only are animals not being euthanized for lack of homes, there are more potential adopters than there are animals available for adoption. That's why San Francisco frequently brings pets in from other areas to be adopted locally. Areas that don't have a problem aren't in need of a solution, but they would be forced to implement -- and pay for -- the provisions of AB1634 anyway.

    In other places where there is a problem with homeless animals, the situations are varied and not necessarily targeted by the proposed bill. For instance, many of the animals being euthanized are feral cats. Feral cats are not owned by anyone and will not be affected by this legislation.

    No they won't, and as I argued in an earlier post, cats will not be treated the same way as dogs because the law is tied to licensing, and cats are not required to be licensed.

    Needless to say, the irresponsible people who create most of the dog problems will never obey the law:

    In some areas, the primary source of animals being euthanized is the deliberate or accidental breeding of dogs by people who don't care about the law, don't license their dogs and breed them for fighting or to sell to make a buck. They also don't go to the vet and don't give a damn. Mandatory spay/neuter won't do anything to solve that problem, either, because one thing I know for sure: People who are breeding dogs to fight them are not highly likely to comply with this law.
    Another numbingly familiar attempt to criminalize law abiding middle class people.

    It's hard to believe that Ms. Keith's piece actually appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, but there it is. Read it all.

    HT to Justin for letting me know about both of these developments.

    Anyone who wants to read more about AB 1634, my previous posts are here here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

    And if you find such statist nonsense irritating, be sure to sign the PetPAC petition against it.

    This website is a good place to keep up with developments.

    MORE: Newsday's Animal House has a great column in opposition to AB 1634.

    I've just been told that the vote is very close and is being delayed by the bill's sponsor Assemblyman Levine. I don't know what that means, but now is clearly the time to apply as much pressure as possible.

    AND MORE: I think Dr. Helen's observations about the Nanny state apply in droves to AB 1634:

    In so many ways, the state has become the babysitter and infantilizer of all of us, even adults and the most depressing part to me is that we are allowing it, bit by bit, every time we give the state more and more authority in the form of petty laws that control the lives of countless citizens in ways that take away personal autonomy while at the same time, doing little to prevent or severely punish those who are truly violent. Rebecca Hagelin, the vice president of the Heritage Foundation pointed out in 2003 that "America started out with three federal laws--treason, counterfeiting and piracy. In 1998, the American Bar Association counted more than 3,300 separate federal criminal offenses on the books--more than 40 percent of which had been enacted in just the past 30 years..."

    It may be too much to expect that this book will turn things around, but Harsanyi does a good job of getting his readers to at least start thinking about the larger issues of state intrusion. So maybe the next time a politician wants to pass a new law requiring yet one more nanny state regulation, the voters will make it more expensive to politicians who seek to tyrannize us for "our own good."

    That was in a review of David Harsanyi's "Nanny State", which is what we've become.

    What will it take to wake people up?

    Laws requiring the neutering of boys?

    posted by Eric at 04:49 PM | Comments (3)

    A call for debate

    We are at war.

    We are at war.

    We are at war.

    Sometimes I need to repeat that lest I forget. I have to admit that one of the things I like about the Iraq War is that it tends to focus the war attention on a place where there is something resembling an actual (er, "traditional"), war. Whether you're for it or against it (or whether you think we're losing it or winning it), at least there is a war there, it is palpable, and we're in it. The problem we all tend to forget, though, is that Iraq is only a front in a much greater and much more serious war.

    This greater war is much more difficult to define. Hell, for many people it can't even be admitted to exist, much less be defined. It's called the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The enemy is called various things -- whether Islamists, Islamic fascists, Islamo fascists, Islamic terrorists, or, as Islamic "apostate" Walid Shoebat so simply and bluntly put it in a PJM interview Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday, Islamic fundamentalism. I suggest listening to the interview, as Shoebat makes a compelling, if disturbing, case.

    This is not an easy thing for people to contemplate. I agreed with most of what Walid Shoebat said, but the problem for me is that I don't relish the idea of being at war with all of Islam, and I don't think most people do. Islamic fundamentalism is not all of Islam, but according to Shoebat, it's quickly getting there. Pakistan and Egypt could at any time go the way of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    And I believe that if we pull out of Iraq, Iraq will too.

    Anyway, Walid Shoebat's remarks kept waking me up last night, and at one point I had an idea for a debate.

    Why not have Shoebat debate Dinesh D'Souza? If you Google the names together, you'll see they're clearly on a collision course.

    The former believes that the enemy is fundamentalist Islam, while the latter believes "conservatives" should find common cause with "traditional Islam." (Amazingly, in this debate with Jamie Glazov, D'Souza ended up doing his best to uphold the "traditional Islam" of none other than Sayeed Qutb!)

    Quite remarkably, D'Souza's The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 and Showbat's Why I left Jihad: The Root of Terrorism and the Return of Radical Islam have both been "tagged" at Amazon for "hatred."

    Tagging books might be fun (and certainly it's preferable to burning them), but I don't think it sheds much light on the opinions they contain. Better to read and answer them.

    All the more reason for a debate. I for one would like to know exactly where the line is drawn (if any such line exists) between traditional Islam and fundamentalist Islam, and a debate between these two, while it might not settle anything, would IMO be most helpful in this analysis.

    Too many people have their head in the sand over the nature of the enemy and the definition of this war.

    Are we at war with Islamic fundamentalism?

    Is there a dime's worth of difference between that and radical Islam?

    Might it be in our best national interests to officially pretend that there is?

    I agree with Shoebat a lot more than I agree with D'Souza (who IMO has become an apologist for the enemy), but I have more questions than answers, and I'd love seeing a debate.

    posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (1)

    The slow twitch of my imaginary handlebar mustache....
    "The communities that I represent in Philadelphia are very different than many other communities across this commonwealth. In other parts of the state, they hunt animals; in Philadelphia, guns are used to hunt people."

    -- Philadelphia's State Representative Angel Cruz

    Notwithstanding Representative Cruz's divisively stereotypical remarks, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, surrounded as it is by farming communities, Amish people with their buggies, and beautiful scenery, is normally thought of as a quaint sort of place not plagued with urban crime.

    And no one in his right mind would want it to be otherwise.

    So, it's understandable that yesterday's front page Inquirer story about "gun violence" in Lancaster would draw lots of attention. The Inquirer wants its readers to believe that guns now commit crimes in Lancaster, and in other smaller cities. The problem is not urban violence spreading to the country; it's obviously the guns that have always been there.

    Well, maybe guns in the hands of the "wrong people":

    If you think this is another story about Philadelphia violence, think again. These cases, which happened in Lancaster and York this year, are among a troubling number of gun crimes touching Pennsylvania's smaller cities.

    Compared with Philadelphia, where gunfire has claimed 133 lives this year, the number of shootings in Pennsylvania's next-tier cities is far lower. But the volatile mix of illegal handguns, illicit drugs, and a quick-twitch culture in which minor beefs turn fatal is a common concern.

    A "quick-twitch" culture in which people shoot each other over nothing? Doesn't sound like the Amish to me. Nor does it sound like rural property owners.

    Sounds more like a hardened criminal culture. Anyway, there have been two killings this year:

    "We are not like the inner cities. They see multiple gunshot wounds every day. But in terms of frequency, the frequency is going up. Where we used to see one or two [gunshot victims] a month, now we see one or two a week," said William Adams, 44, medical director of the emergency department at Lancaster General Hospital. "Over the past 10 years we have seen about a fourfold increase."

    The city of Lancaster, population about 60,000, had one homicide in 2005. Last year it had seven. So far this year it has had two.

    Behind those numbers are worries about what some residents describe as the frequent pop of gunfire and the fear of encountering armed troublemakers on the street.

    "Half the time I don't even come out at night," said Eric Fair, 36, a Friendly's store clerk who lives in a a tough section of Lancaster. Underscoring the prevalence of illegal weapons, Fair added that the 20-year-old grandson of the woman in whose house he lives was recently arrested for having a gun.

    "There are just too many guns in the hands of the wrong people," says Lancaster Mayor J. Richard Gray, a strong supporter of Gov. Rendell's initiatives.

    This mayor has teamed up with a bunch of other mayors to "fight" the evil NRA, which is pictured (coincidentally?) in today's Inquirer cartoon as an evil cowboy standing nonchalantly over a Keith Haring style display of dead bodies chalk-marked on the barroom floor.

    The cartoon doesn't seem to have made it into the Inquirer's -- or Auth's -- web site, so I photographed it:


    I'd be inclined to resent the stereotype that's being invoked by that cartoon, but when you've been resenting as many stereotypes as I have for as many decades as I have, resentment is so tired as to be almost beside the point.

    For the record, I might as well point out that I am not a cowboy, I don't own or wear a cowboy hat (no chaps or spurs either), and I don't hunt. Nor do I wave guns nonchalantly over people lying dead in the street.

    Oh, almost forgot! I also don't have a handlebar mustache! But in the interest of full disclosure, my favorite artist, Salvador Dali, did.

    I also try not to be "quick-twitch" in my approach. Usually, I think these things over, and tend not to write about them until the resentments subside and I can be more logical. Hence, the long winded posts.

    And it is my considered opinion that the Inquirer and Tony Auth are being a little "quick-twitch" in their approach.

    Hmm... maybe "quick-draw" is a better term.

    The article recites the various gun control measures which the small town mayors want (the latest meme is a push for local gun control), and arguments in opposition to the measures are labeled "NRA talking points":

    "From Scranton to Carlisle, York to Philadelphia, and Lancaster to Pittsburgh, our mayors know firsthand the devastation that illegal guns and straw purchasers are having in our neighborhoods," [Governor Ed] Rendell said last month. "This is not just a Philadelphia or Pittsburgh problem."

    Straw purchases, in which someone buys weapons in bulk, often from a licensed firearms dealer, and then distributes them on the black market, are a particular concern in Lancaster.

    "Most of the guns seized in Lancaster are not stolen guns," Gray said. "They are purchased and then dispersed" through illegal channels.

    Rendell called on legislators to stand up to the influence of powerful lobbyists for the National Rifle Association and enact "commonsense" gun laws.

    "A lot of us are saying, 'Enough. We've had it,' " Gray said.

    Many state legislators, on the other hand, particularly those from rural counties where hunters predominate, are disinclined to change the gun laws, Gray said.

    York Mayor John Brenner, another Democrat who supports more restrictions on handgun sales, said major change was unlikely soon.

    "I don't think we're at the tipping point yet," he said, noting that in York County gun issues were divisive with legislators, all but one of whom are Republicans, generally "talking the NRA talking points."

    While I realize that anything I might say to these people will be casually dismissed as an "NRA talking point" (another ad hominem stereotype I've seen before -- as tired as it is illogical), an article in today's paper speaks volumes about the problems which are emerging in Pennsylvania's small towns (and maybe in other small towns).

    Big city criminals are on the loose. And (surprise!) they do not stay in big cities.

    As it turns out, the police made an arrest in the recent spate of Lancaster shootings. Despite yesterday's front page story, the story appeared on page B-5. Little wonder, because you don't have to be a gun-toting NRA maniac with a handlebar mustache to read between the lines and see that what's being called small town gun violence isn't necessarily as small townish as it appears. The arrested man was a career criminal from Philadelphia:

    Mark Q. "Mustafa" Galloway, 39, of South Philadelphia, shot his girlfriend, her mother, daughter, 2-year-old grandson, and a family friend shortly after 6 a.m. outside a Lancaster rowhouse, authorities said.

    Police believe the shooting stemmed from a dispute between Galloway and his girlfriend, Tameka Rodriguez.

    Witnesses told police the two began dating last summer.

    "The defendant stated, 'I did it,' and asked, 'How's Tameka doing?' " when interviewed at the prison, according to the arrest affidavit. He later admitted to all five shootings, police said.

    The shooting underscored a growing concern about gun violence in smaller Pennsylvania cities that prompted some mayors, including the mayor of Lancaster, to speak out recently in support of tougher handgun laws. (Emphasis added.)

    What about the gun that did it (or that made him do it)? It turns out that not only was this a convicted felon in illegal possession of a firearm, who had served time for pervious weapons offenses, but the firearm itself was illegal:
    The suspected weapon, a 9mm semiautomatic handgun with an altered or obliterated serial number, was recovered from a trash can.

    Philadelphia court records show that Galloway was sentenced to three to six years in prison on drug and weapons charges in 1995. Last month, the courts dismissed charges that he had assaulted and terrorized someone because of "lack of prosecution."

    Yeah, but it's all the fault of the gun. It made this ex-con possess it, and file the serial numbers off, and shoot people.

    I can't prove my suspicions, but I do think that the push to blame guns is related to the chronic inability of the legal system to put such guys away. (A situation I think is aided, abetted, and aggravated by a well organized movement against putting anyone away).

    Anyway, the story has been widely reported nationally, and because it directly touched on the issues raised in yesterday's anti-gun piece, I thought it deserved more prominent treatment than it got in the Inquirer.

    But at least it was in there as an AP story. In the Local News section. Hey, no one is perfect, least of all me.

    Tell you what. I'll even try harder to slow down the twitching of my imaginary handlebar mustache when I shoot off my "NRA talking points."

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

    It's probably worth noting for new readers that this is not my first post about anti-gun bias at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    As a matter of fact, I have been blogging about the Philadelphia Inquirer's gun control positions for so long that I have lost count of the number of posts. (But that partial list is a start.)

    posted by Eric at 08:58 AM | Comments (14)

    For The Birds

    There is a move afoot in Congress to require new wind turbine project developers to do envionmental impact statements on potential bird kills by turbines and to monitor wind sites for bird deaths.

    The Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act, a wide-ranging energy bill introduced this month, would create new standards for the placement and construction of turbines and mandate post-construction monitoring of their effects on wildlife.

    Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind Associates, the Boston-based firm proposing 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound, said his company already has performed much of the due diligence contemplated in the bill.

    But he said he was concerned about a provision that would forbid construction of new turbines until the Department of the Interior drafts the regulations prescribed by the bill.

    "Any kind of de facto moratorium on renewable energy at a time we need to take action on global warming and energy independence is blatantly poor public policy," he said.

    How is this bill a de-facto moratorium?
    The legislation, introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, calls for development of the regulations within six months of passage of the bill. But wind energy industry officials say they are skeptical that federal regulators will move that quickly.

    Supporters of the bill said careful regulation is important with a relatively new industry.

    So just how important is it to prevent bird kills from wind turbines? Here are some numbers that accompanied the article:
    Human-caused bird deaths

    Domestic cats: Hundreds of millions a year

    * Striking high-tension lines: 130 million - 1 billion a year
    * Striking buildings: 97 million to 976 million a year
    * Cars: 80 million a year
    * Toxic chemicals: 72 million
    * Striking communications towers: 4 to 50 million a year
    * Wind turbines: 20,000 to 37,000

    Source: National Research Council

    So how bad is it? Let us go with the low end numbers for each category mentioned. Rougly 500 million bird deaths a year due to human additions to the landscape. Let us say bird deaths from several thousand wind turbines is 50,000 a year. That comes out to .01% of the total.
    A recent study released by the National Research Council found that fewer than 0.003 percent of human-related bird deaths are caused by wind turbines -- a fraction of the deaths caused by house cats allowed to roam outside. The council is part of the National Academies, which also comprise the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter.

    Gregory Wetstone, senior director of government and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, said the wind industry takes the issue of bird mortality seriously.

    But the wind provisions of the Rahall bill could scare away investment, he said. "This would strangle wind power in the United States," Wetstone said.

    We are currently erecting about one nuke plant equivalent of wind turbines every year in America. With the building rate increasing at such a furious pace that in three or four years we will be installing two nuke plant equivalents of wind every year.

    So who might be trying to kill the wind power industry in America? None other than that great protector of the environment Senator Ted Kennedy

    The list of opponents is a regular lawn party, starting with our own senior senator - and alleged ardent environmentalist - Ted Kennedy. His nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , who has made a career out of tree-hugging is also violently opposed.

    Also aligned with the innocuously named Alliance To Protect Nantucket Sound, according to the book, is longtime Kennedy pal Bunny Mellon, the Listerine heiress who jets back and forth to her Osterville estate all summer in a gas-guzzling Gulf Stream; her former son-in-law, Virginia Sen. John Warner, who was once married to Elizabeth Taylor; ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, doing the bidding of top GOP fundraiser Dick Egan; U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, doing the bidding of the Kennedys; Former Reebok head Paul Fireman, who has a summer place on the Sound in Osterville; and a deep-pocketed bunch of Fireman's neighbors including, oil baron Albert Kaneb, Cape Cod Times publisher Peter Meyer, who has a $1.2 million house on Wianno Avenue and whose newspaper led a jihad against the project, and oil heir and ex-America's Cup winner Bill Koch.

    "The sight of them bothers me," Sen. Kennedy is quoted as telling retired utility exec - and wind farm supporter - Jim Leidell.

    So why does the sight of wind farms bother Senator Kennedy?
    When told that most of the time the turbines - which would generating enough energy to power Cape Cod during peak usage times - would be either invisible or barely visible from the Kennedy Compound, Ted reportedly replied, "But don't you realize, that's where I sail."
    Being a sailor myself I'm all for sailing. I'm currently short a yacht at this time. If some one wanted to rectify that I'd be eternally grateful.

    In any case it really looks like another case of the rich and powerful depriving the little people of a clean source of low cost (considerably lower than natural gas fired power turbines) energy all over the country in order to protect their little corner of the world. You can read Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Soundto find out more of the details.

    H/T Instapundit who has some thoughts and more links.


    We could do away with the need for wind turbines in time with Low Cost Fusion Power that generates no radiation or CO2 (for those that worry about that sort of thing). And yet, such a promising and relatively quicjk to develop approach is being strangled for funds. We are talking of about $5 million for a proof of concept and if that works out around $200 to $300 million to develop a test power reactor. A crash program similar to the Manhattan Project could have power producing reactors on line in 3 to 4 years after proof of concept for a cost of around $2 to $3 billion. Plant costs on a production basis would be 1/2 or less what a coal fired plant costs. Operating costs for fuel would be a few hundred dollars a day for 1,000 MW output.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:20 AM | Comments (22)

    Just say no!

    Unless the government says "Just say know!"

    An interesting look at how the LSD culture got started.

    Your tax dollars at work?

    posted by Eric at 07:42 PM | Comments (2)

    Building a better climate consensus?

    Yesterday I wrote a post about NASA's Michael Griffin, a scientist who earned the wrath of the New York Times for daring to engage in "denial" of what the Times called the "overwhelming scientific consensus."

    Bear in mind that it wasn't the point of yesterday's post to either accept or deny the existence of a consensus (how the hell would I know such a thing unless I polled all the scientists in the world?), so much as it was to agree that Michael Griffin had raised good questions about who should get to decide what is the ideal climate for the world.

    That's because I worry about those who insist on building a better climate, just as I always worry about people who want to build a better world. Moreover, I am concerned about the increasingly cumbersome phraseology which is used to cudgel people into submission, and I tried to come up with reasonable abbreviations.

    Let me cut the bullshit and admit that I have a selfish interest here. I try to be as accurate as I can, but frankly, I am sick to death of typing "anthropogenic global warming" over and over again every time I discuss the people who want to build a better climate. And if I have to add "overwhelming scientific consensus" to that, I end up having to type "anthropogenic global warming overwhelming scientific consensusists" just to be accurate. I'm sorry, but it's too much of a mouthful. So yesterday I used "AGWOSC" instead. Whether there is anthropogenic global warming and whether there's an "overwhelming scientific consensus" really wasn't the point of yesterday's post. I mainly wanted to reserve the right to use an abbreviation to free up my fingers, and maybe avoid a little anthropogenic global warming/overwhelming scientific consensus-related tendonitis. (Henceforth to be called AGWOSCRT, OK? Seriously, if everybody did this, just think of the fonts we'd save!)

    Whether I use the AGWOSC abbreviation or not, I'd better get used to it, because the consensus issue is getting contentious. Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that some people are questioning the very existence of the overwhelming scientific consensus:

    My series set out to profile the dissenters -- those who deny that the science is settled on climate change -- and to have their views heard. To demonstrate that dissent is credible, I chose high-ranking scientists at the world's premier scientific establishments. I considered stopping after writing six profiles, thinking I had made my point, but continued the series due to feedback from readers. I next planned to stop writing after 10 profiles, then 12, but the feedback increased. Now, after profiling more than 20 deniers, I do not know when I will stop -- the list of distinguished scientists who question the IPCC grows daily, as does the number of emails I receive, many from scientists who express gratitude for my series.

    Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing that a scientific consensus exists on climate change. Certainly there is no consensus at the very top echelons of scientists -- the ranks from which I have been drawing my subjects -- and certainly there is no consensus among astrophysicists and other solar scientists, several of whom I have profiled. If anything, the majority view among these subsets of the scientific community may run in the opposite direction.

    So says Lawrence Solomon in Canada's Financial Post.

    Consensus denial!


    I guess it's now fair to ask whether there's a consensus that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus, and if so, who got to make the determination of the consensus? I mean, how would we determine such a thing? It's not as if we're dealing with a congressional roll call vote. How many scientists are there in the world today? Did they count themselves? Or did the journalists count as many as they felt like counting and then declare a consensus of those they counted?

    Does anyone know?

    Has anyone conducted a scientific census? (I honestly don't know, but if this study is any indication, scientists could number in the millions, so I doubt consensus could be based on the opinions of thousands.)

    How many scientists voted or were consulted in order to arrive at the overwhelming scientific consensus? If we are going to be scientific about these things, shouldn't there be some sort of serious scientific methodology?

    A "consensus" means what exactly? Is it a question of this many out of that many?

    I'm beginning to worry that "scientific consensus" in this context is not amenable to a precise or scientific definition, which would mean it's not scientific, nor a consensus, but a political term being used to describe scientific opinion unscientifically.

    Since it's political, why not do the politically fair thing, and let all scientists actually vote? That way, if there really is a consensus, we'll at least know. (And if there isn't, then I can avoid the cumbersome AGWOSC stuff.)

    For now, I've polled myself as scientifically as I can, and my personal consensus is that I'm feeling overwhelmingly underwhelmed by the overwhelming consensus model.

    A hell of a way to build a better climate!

    posted by Eric at 05:56 PM | Comments (26)

    Freeman Dyson: Getting Warmed Up

    Here are a couple of Youtube videos with Freeman Dyson talking about Global Warming mania.

    He starts out in the first video (on the left) talking about vegetation. He says you can't do good science without good data. He notes that the data on vegetation is sparse (as in almost totally non-existant). The money went into computer models instead of data gathering. It figures. Computers are sexy. Electronic wind vanes and anemometers are not. He also notes that the carbon in vegetation dwarfs the carbon in the atmosphere.

    In the second video he says the real problem is not CO2 induced global warming, but CO2 induced stratosphere cooling which may lead to bigger ozone holes.

    He ends with the fact that the lowest cost way to control CO2 in the atmosphere is not by controlling energy production and use, but by planting or cutting down plants. He suggests more irrigation. For that we are going to need cheap fresh water. Here is one way we might get it: Bussard Fusion Reactor.

    H/T Lubos Motl

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    Welcome Instapundit readers.

    posted by Simon at 04:55 PM | Comments (82)

    The Price Of Safety

    Over at The Astute Bloggers Avi Green is discussing the planned attack on JFK Airport in New York that was foiled by an informant who was recruited by the police with the offer of a lienient sentence on a drug crime.

    Reliapundit has this to say in the comments:

    if drugs were made legal as m simon wants then we'd lose this valuable stream of info.

    seems to me we need the death penalty to have something to bargain down against; (without it there less leverage to get co-conspirators in some crimes to turn state's evidence), and we need a drug war to get criminals to turn into canaries.

    To which I replied:
    Of course. How could I be so stupid.

    We need to support a program that does not accomplish what it is supposed to accomplish, persecutes the traumatized, is responsible for 1/2 the murders in the country, kills a few innocents every year in botched police raids, and is responsible for as much as much as 85% of the non-drug crime in order to prevent terrorist attacks. Because the FBI is otherwise incompetent to ferret out terrorists.

    You know, I bet if we made guns illegal we could get a lot more informants on the street and really empower the secret police.

    Tyranny will keep you safe from terrorism. But, is it a good idea?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 12:34 PM | Comments (5)

    "featured in the Inquirer" (But who'd have known?)

    What is "news"?

    Can anyone tell me? Important current events and happenings? What events? What happenings? Important to whom? Certainly there is nothing democratic about the definition. I've noticed that it has less to do with what happens than with what an individual reporter wants to write about (and, of course, what the particular editor might allow). In that sense, a lot of what we call news is no more representative of the most important news events than the subjects a blogger might select for a post. Last night I wrote about my dog's taste in music. What I write about is arbitrary, and very much affected by my biases, feelings. Often I'll respond to "news" but this begs the question of what is news. If a "news" story is a product of the desires, biases and feelings of an individual "reporter," then reacting to it by writing about it is not much different from reacting to a blog post.

    Some news stories are like blog posts. The difference is that they are in newspapers, and they are supposed to maintain the appearance of "objectivity" -- which means avoiding the personal reflections or feelings -- or biases -- of the reporter.

    But there's more than one type of bias. I complain a lot about the Philadelphia Inquirer's anti-gun bias, but few people would deny that stories about shootings are newsworthy events deserving to be reported as news.

    What prompted this inquiry was seeing a small demonstration of less than a dozen people making the front page of the Sunday Inquirer. The issue was not guns, crime, murder, but pate de foie gras:

    To chef David Ansill, foie gras is rich, silky liver, the perfect topping for his signature dish at his Queen Village restaurant.

    To animal-rights activist Nick Cooney, foie gras (pronounced "fwah GRAH") represents the freakishly engorged liver of a brutally force-fed duck or goose.

    So Cooney and about a dozen fellow placard-wielding protesters have gathered twice a week in front of Ansill and other Philadelphia restaurants that serve foie gas. Their goal is a foie-gras-free city.

    Philadelphia has become a new battleground in the war against foie gras, not only regarded as a delicacy but as a cherished symbol of French culinary pride. Primarily prepared in restaurants and not at home, foie gras is deemed by fanciers as the epitome of luxury, one of the pricier ingredients, usually sliced into medallions and quick-seared or sauteed as an appetizer or garnish.

    Restaurateur Stephen Starr removed foie gras from his menus, emboldening protesters to crank up their threats in the last month. Some restaurateurs have conceded just to get rid of them, while others have dug in.

    Initially, the article appears to conform to reportorial objectivity according to traditional journalistic standards. First we hear from chef David Ansill. Then animal rights activist Nick Cooney. But reading on, it becomes clear that the latter is really the star of the article, which is about his long struggle as an animal rights activist:
    The loudest voice - and the reason the foie-gras movement has come to Center City - is a group under the warm-and-fuzzy name Hugs for Puppies.

    Its leader is Cooney, 25, a lanky, long-haired Northeast Philadelphia native who became a vegetarian at 18 and shares a West Philadelphia house with friends and fellow Hugs for Puppies members.

    The hard copy edition features two large photographs of Cooney, and a smaller one of Ansill.

    But the real front page news is the struggle of this one animal rights activist:

    In 2004, an FBI task force raided Cooney's house, searching for materials related to a campaign to shut down an animal-testing company. Cooney and other members targeted Huntingdon Life Sciences, protesting at its New Jersey headquarters and at the homes of employees and business associates. Cooney also was accused in 2004 of violating a court order restricting protests against a corporate executive.

    Cooney said he had turned his attention to foie gras and to community vegetarian outreach. He also said he was not opposed to picketing restaurateurs' homes and had once picketed Starr's.

    Cooney was "inspired" when Starr pulled foie gras from Barclay Prime, his Rittenhouse Square steak house. But Starr declined to credit protesters with his change of heart.

    "Deep down, I did agree with them," Starr said last week31. "I think it is cruel - probably ethically wrong - the way it's raised."

    Starr pulled foie gras from his other restaurants, including Alma de Cuba, Morimoto and Striped Bass.

    Hugs for Puppies members found several dozen other establishments serving foie gras. Picket lines went up.

    Some restaurateurs - including Audrey Taichman at Twenty Manning and Peter Mooradian and Anthony Bonett at Oceanaire - have been receptive, Cooney said. But Perrier "has not been good," Cooney said. "They have never been willing to meet with us."

    Perrier sent his lawyers into Common Pleas Court to seek an injunction to bar pickets. In a compromise signed Friday1 by Perrier's attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union, as many as eight protesters may set up near, but not in front, of Le Bec-Fin. Protesters also must remain 10 feet from Brasserie Perrier, another Perrier-owned restaurant, and may not shout at patrons.

    While protesting Friday night outside Le Bec-Fin, Cooney and eight followers spotted Perrier stepping into his black Mercedes and screamed, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

    Perrier drove off.

    Cooney and four others protested yesterdaysat across from Di Bruno's Bros. near Rittenhouse Square, which sells 6-ounce packages of foie gras with truffles for $19.99.

    The impact of protesters is not clear. Danguin said sales at wholesaler D'Artagnan were at their peak, but foie-gras foes are dubious.

    "Demand is dropping once people learn how the product is made," said Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary, based in Watkins Glen, N.Y., which picketed outside Philadelphia's Four Seasons Hotel on April 28.

    A Four Seasons spokeswoman said foie gras was no longer offered at its top-rated Fountain restaurant.

    In January, Hugs for Puppies approached management at Oceanaire, a seafood restaurant on Washington Square. Foie gras was removed. "It wasn't selling that well, anyway," said Mooradian, the general manager.

    Along with the Starr restaurants, Oceanaire appears on Hugs for Puppies' roster of restaurants no longer serving foie gras. The list contains wishful thinking. Cooney said last week that the Jose Garces-owned restaurants Amada and Tinto were in the process of taking foie gras off the menu, but a spokeswoman said Friday that it remained.

    While the story appears to concern itself with the merits of foie gras, the foie gras issue is a vulnerability the activists hope to exploit in order to advance a radical vegan agenda. (Just as the zoo elephants are a wedge issue to advance a larger agenda of closing zoos entirely.)

    Why it's on the front page, I'm not sure. Perhaps these things do sell papers, and generate discussion.

    Whether the vocal antics of a small group merit such coverage is at least debatable. What's also debatable is the propriety of not letting readers know that Nick Cooney is no ordinary animal rights activist; he's something of a big shot who has written at least two opinion pieces for the Inquirer. Z Magazine describes him thusly:

    Nick Cooney is the director of Hugs For Puppies, a non-profit animal advocacy organization in Philadelphia. His writing has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer and on PBS television.
    If his writing has been featured in the Inquirer, and that's significant enough for another journal to note, why isn't it worth a mention in very paper that's featured him?

    I find it very hard to believe that neither the reporter nor the Inquirer editor knew about their own paper's working relationship with a activist prominently featured on the front page of a long Sunday article, and I can only speculate about the possible reasons.

    It just strikes me that when a central figure in a news story is a well-known activist who has also written for the newspaper that's covering the story, that also should be considered, well, part of the "news."

    At least, it seemed newsworthy to me. Maybe even as newsworthy as a small demonstration against foie gras.

    But again, this begs the question: what is "news"?

    (I know I'm chronically unable to answer my own questions, but I guess that's why I blog.....)

    posted by Eric at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

    Coco does Bartok

    Yes, Coco really does seem to have an intuitive appreciation for the music of Bela Bartok.

    Here she is, in a New Jersey parking lot, carefully listening to Bartok's String Quartet No. 6. The last of his quartets, No. 6 was written in his native Hungary in 1939, not long before Bartok fled the pro-Nazi Hungary for the U.S. (where he died destitute in 1945).

    (The YouTube link is here.)

    The performance Coco is listening to is performed by the Alexander String Quartet.

    If you watch patiently, I think you'll agree that Coco has a unique way of interacting with the music.

    (Not to brag on my dog's behalf, but not every pit bull has such exquisite taste....)

    posted by Eric at 10:28 PM | Comments (3)

    Electron Circulation in Cubic Polywell
    Here is the full page version which has much better resolution.

    What is this all about you ask, other than some pretty pictures and nice music?

    Here are some answers:

    Bussard Fusion Reactor
    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion
    Polywell - Making The Well
    Nuclear Fusion - wiki

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 03:42 PM | Comments (3)

    Are you now, or have you ever been, an AGWOSC Denialist?

    Because I'm fascinated by the dynamics of groupthink (especially the way people are pressured into shifting their opinions), I have been unable to ignore the massive attack on NASA's Michael Griffin. While the man is a believer in anthropogenic global warming theory, this is no longer enough to please the activists I'll call "overwhelming scientific consensusists" (maybe OSC would be easier?), who have cried foul. It is no longer enough to merely believe in anthropogenic global warming (which I guess is now AKA AGW), one must be an AGW believer who also adheres to the ever-more fanatical OSC.

    AGW without OSC now means Denial!

    So say the OSCers, including a "former top scientist":

    Jerry Mahlman, a former top scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is now at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said Griffin's remarks showed he was either "totally clueless" or "a deep anti-global warming ideologue."
    I like the word "deep." It implies that Griffin is covertly running a secret agenda (probably with money from deep oil pockets).

    In an editorial yesterday, the New York Times hurled what is probably the ultimate insult at Griffin -- damning him as dumber than Bush:

    In an interview with National Public Radio, Mr. Griffin acknowledged that global warming is happening but then, remarkably, suggested that it might not be a problem -- or at least one that had to be fixed. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate," he said, adding that he wasn't sure there was any "need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change."

    Those comments were a jarring denial of the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is serious and requires mitigation. It even lagged behind the thinking of President Bush who -- under strong domestic and international pressure -- has now called for a long-term global goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Emphasis added.)

    OK, I just got back from a long trip and I'm sure there's been a lot of blogospheric discussion of Michael Griffin's remarks by bloggers more knowledgeable than I. It is not my purpose here to debate anthropogenic global warming, so much as it is to note that the reaction to Mr. Griffin's remarks shows a major shift in the nature of the debate. It's as if the debate is no longer over anthropogenic global warming, but over whether one is sufficiently worried. I know I've posted about this at least twice, but whenever I see my paranoid speculations confirmed I tend to sit up and take notice.

    I think it's worth a close look at what is now considered Deep Denial Dumber Than Bush:

    "I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a taped interview that aired Thursday on National Public Radio. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that is a problem we must wrestle with."

    "I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take," Griffin said.

    How dare he question the collective arrogance of the AGWOSCs! Hang him high!

    For he now stands convicted of the crime of insufficient worry.

    Notwithstanding my own admittedly insufficiently worried state, I do sometimes worry who gets to decide whether the climate of the Northeastern United States is the best climate for Americans.

    I know it will sound nit-picky, but isn't there more than one climate in the United States? Which particular climate is the best climate? And which particular climate will remain the best climate?

    Who gets to decide these things? And why is it "denial" to ask?

    NewEnglandMap.gifTake the chart to the left. Something about it just strikes me as odd. If the AGWOSCs are right, and the goal is to save energy and Save The World, then why are so many of the social engineers who want to run the lives of the rest of the country still living in this cesspool of energy waste? Why aren't they demanding that the energy conscious AGWOSCs set an example, and move to better climates? Are they afraid that some of the less educated and more naive followers might follow them and move to California and Arizona? Or that they might start asking whether the numbers might change if the climate in fact grows warmer?

    Where do the vast majority of anthropogenic global warming overwhelming scientific consensusists live? I want to know so I can move! (No, I'm not saying where to or from.....)

    Whethe it's a "scientific" truth or not, I can state truthfully that I used to use less fuel when I lived full-time in Northern California. A lot less fuel. The fact is, in the San Francisco Bay Area, you really can get by without heat most of the time. And I never once had any need for an air conditioner at all, nor do the vast majority living there. Living in the Northeast, I resent having to spend large sums of money for fuel, and to be scolded for spending it supplies fuel for my denial, which stems from a bitter resentment of a bitterly cold climate. (I do need AC in the summer, but it costs far less than heat.) In California I could open the door and go running any time of the year, and here I freeze my butt off half the year. I wonder whether there are other people who are forced to burn oil to prevent themselves from freezing to death who also resent being scolded for warming the planet, and who also might ask basic questions about this emerging new morality.

    Who gets to decide these things is not (and should not be) a question of science. It is political.

    Call me an "AGWOSC Denialist" for saying it, but I think those who want to be in charge are in a state of deep scientific denial.

    That's because manufacturing morality and calling it science is a deeply corrupting process. It must be a hard thing to admit, so little wonder they're so angry when a fellow scientist comes along and asks obvious questions which reveal the inherently political nature of their argument.

    I'm still wondering about the basic political question, which is: who gets to decide what climate is best?

    The people who want to build a better climate?

    What's the difference between them and the people who want to build a better world?

    The reason I'm asking is because I'm old enough to remember when socialism was called "scientific," so I haven't lost my scientific skepticism.

    posted by Eric at 10:53 AM | Comments (34)

    The storm before the calm

    I'm back and I'm just not up to speed yet, so this will be a self-indulgent travel-related post.

    Yesterday I drove from Des Moines, Iowa to Rockford, Illinois, and I think it was the most harrowing drive I can remember. It had been raining heavily in Des Moines all morning, but stopped around noon so I thought I'd be OK. What I did not know when I left was that I was following a gigantic storm which did considerable damage in the eastern part of Iowa, and which raged into Illinois along with me.

    Not far from Iowa City, all eastbound traffic on I-80 came to a grinding halt. It wasn't raining there, so I just assumed someone had had an accident. But I kept driving, and there were many accidents. I counted at least a dozen vehicles (including four large trucks and a passenger bus) which were off the road in various positions. It was insane trying to get through, and the police were still arriving, driving on the side of the road to get around the stopped cars. After passing many stuck and smashed I reached the problem which created the chain reaction -- a jacknifed semi which blocked the entire eastbound road, forcing everyone to slowly go around on the shoulder.

    I managed to get this picture while driving:


    I found a local news report describing the mess, which speculates about how it happened.

    Here's another semi, overturned along the side of the road:


    I think that might have been carrying toxic material, as the Newton (Iowa) Daily News website has a picture of it from the other side, and reports that it "struck the rear of another truck, then rolled into the median, spilling several 250-gallon containers of chemicals used to manufacture herbicides."

    Glad to get out of there before it got worse!

    Except things did get worse. No sooner did I cross the Mississippi than I found myself in a ferocious rainstorm, which turned to a hailstorm, and according to a TV report I saw last night, actually dropped 1.5 inches of rain in 30 minutes in Sterling, Illinois while I was passing through the area. My windshield wipers going full force did absolutely nothing, and the hail which was coming down on the car sounded like marbles being dropped. (More here and here about the tornados.)

    Many cars were pulling off to the side of the road, but with the hail I didn't want to risk the possibility that it might get worse, and I just figured if I kept going I could outdrive the storm.

    Finally, I saw a patch of light on the horizon ahead, and kept driving like hell.

    Obviously this was no time for photography (and photos taken in the middle of it would have been useless) but once I got out of the worst of the storm, I managed to get this photo of a funnel cloud.


    Finally, I arrived at Rockford, bringing the storm with me. The worst of the torrential downpour occurred after I had checked in to the motel.

    But no storm would deter me from another evening partying with M. Simon! This time we met up at Rockford's trendy Octane Inter Lounge, which looks like this at night:


    The place doubles as an art gallery.


    As you can see the critics from seem to both be pointing at a particular feature of the painting.

    Here's an exploded view:


    (Now that I'm back in stodgy old Philadelphia I guess I'll have to behave myself....)

    posted by Eric at 08:35 PM | Comments (1)

    Feynman Lectures

    Here is a link to some lectures on physics by Nobel Winner Richard Feynman. If the chunks are too long for you or you don't have the right video player Lubos Motl has some links to the whole thing segmented in shorter clips.

    Feynman is very wise to do what I normally do. When he needs mathematics done he leaves it to mathematicians (which in some cases is Feynman himself). So to get these lectures may be conceptually difficult, however they will not be mathematically difficult. For those of you math challenged, no worries, mate.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:25 PM | Comments (1)

    An Introduction To Blogging

    Eric and I met up again in Rockford, This time we went to the Octane Lounge. Eric will be posting pictures on his return.

    In our long and rambling discussion we talked about the nature of blogging.

    I can think of no finer introduction to the world of competitive blogging than the movie His Girl Friday with Rosiland Russel and Cary Grant. The technology has changed considerably since that movie was released (1940). Human nature, not so much. So watch the whole thing (about an hour and a half). Hilarious and informative.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:03 AM | Comments (0)

    Women In Art

    Women in Art.

    H/T Don Surber
    posted by Simon at 07:06 PM | Comments (1)

    Republicans Support Hillary For President

    The Captain's Quarters has a story up on the fall off in small donations at Republican National Headquarters.

    The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations to all parties and affiliated committees, confirms that the Republicans have a fundraising problem. The smaller donors with whom the RNC's call center interfaced have decreased their contributions considerably, and overall income has dropped significantly. The RNC has done better than the Congressional committees, but only because the RNC also focuses on big donors through other means, such as fundraising events.

    Republican donors have certainly lost some enthusiasm since the midterm losses last year, and the immigration bill has added to their woes. People are angry about the compromise; they have flooded talk radio shows and the blogs to express their discontent, and in return they have been attacked by President Bush as "not wanting what is best for their country." Under those circumstances, the average small donor has one option, which is to cease being a donor at all -- and to communicate that to the people who call for their assistance.

    From what I gather Hillary and her clones have taken over the Republican call center duties.
    Hillary Calling.

    I see '06 in your future.

    I'm looking forward to national health care, totally open immigration, and surrender in the war.

    How about you? Can I count on your support? You promise not to support Republicans? That is good enough for me.

    However, if it sends the Republicans a message it will be worth it.

    The Republican Party is dead. Circular firing squad.

    I'm sorry I signed up with such a bunch of incompetents.

    Unfortunately, I only have the Libertarians to fall back on.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:15 AM | Comments (5)

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