Build a better world by destroying wealth!

A post by Ward Farnsworth at Volokh on "rent seeking behavior" reminded me of one of my objections to lawyering:

....there are two general ways to increase your wealth: by creating things people want, or by fighting over prizes that already exist -- things other people have created or found. Either strategy might be more successful than the other, and perfectly rational to pursue; it depends on the circumstances. Which do you prefer as your own method of choice? Which do you spend more time doing? Why does it matter?

The difference between these methods of gaining wealth -- between, say, competing to build a better restaurant and competing to get to the treasure first (rent seeking) -- is that the first one creates wealth, or better-offness, for the world. Customers are made happy, and restaurants gradually get better. Fighting over who gets the treasure isn't like that. The treasure doesn't get bigger as a result. In a sense it gets smaller because wealth is eaten up in the effort to lay hold of it.

This reminded me of a life changing event. After spending years running a very popular but commercially unsuccessful nightclub, I was advised (by some attorneys who meant well) that the ideal career change for me would be to sue business owners for non-compliance with the ADA.

"Attorneys fees are there by statute!" I was told.

Great. Now that I was out of business, I could be born again as a despicable parasite and help ensure that other business owners would be put out of business. It struck me that if I became a homeless derelict, I'd be doing more for the world than if I helped ruin other people's businesses. (It didn't help much that one of the many reasons my business failed was that the building was cited by the fire marshall for inadequate handicapped access, and there was no way to remedy this without major alterations to the building, which I did not own, for patrons in wheelchairs who never came.)

Think of this on a larger scale and you can see that the more a society spends on rent seeking -- on quarrels over who gets what -- the poorer it becomes. If that's all that anyone did, everyone would starve in due course.
Again, I'd have done more for society by becoming homeless.

Farnsworth concludes with a question:

But probably the most interesting question for my current audience is this: to what extent are lawyers professional rent seekers, and to what extent are they something more worthy of admiration and encouragement?
The answer to that depends on what kind of law they practice. The non-parasitic type of lawyer can help businesses succeed, help advance policies which advance economic growth, or (possibly by teaching) help train young lawyers to see the wisdom of not falling into the "rent seeking" trap.

This piece by Stephen Bainbridge made me realize that lots of parasitic lawyers will soon be waking up to the fact that Global Warming looms large as another rent seeking scheme:

trial lawyers are gearing up to turn global warming into their next pot of gold. A coalition of environmental groups and cities are suing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of the United States for making loans to finance oil pipelines, oil drilling, and similar projects that supposedly result in a net emission of billions of tons of carbon dioxide. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans trial lawyers Gerald Mapes and Timothy Porter sued dozens of energy companies, claiming they had contributed to global warming.

Last year, Business Week reported that there were 16 pending global warming cases of these sorts pending around the country. More are surely in the pipeline, so to speak.

Indeed, the prospect of a boom in global warming litigation is prompting law firms to begin setting up units specializing in climate change issues. According to the Dallas Morning News, for example, Dallas law firms Vinson & Elkins and Thompson & Knight have set up global warming units with 41 and 26 lawyers, respectively.

Bainbridge sees the coming litigation as begging the case for tort reform. As things stand, the average family is being drained to the tune of $3500 per year:
This is a classic example of why tort reform is a pressing need. The Institute for Legal Reform offers some chilling statistics: "America's civil justice system is the world's most expensive, with a direct cost in 2005 of $261 billion, or 2.09 percent of GDP.

"Tort costs were $880 per U.S. citizen in 2005, meaning the average American family of four paid a 'litigation tax' of more than $3,500 due to increased costs from lawsuits and other liability expenses that force businesses to raise the price of products and services. That cost is equivalent to nearly an 8 percent tax on wages."

These costs are having a dramatic impact on the US economy. A nonpartisan report prepared for New York Senator Charles Schumer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, found that the "propensity toward litigation" in the United States is "driving growing international concerns about participating in US financial markets."

Along with regulatory excesses like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the litigation industry in this country is making our capital markets and our economy as a whole less competitive.

It's all too easy to generalize and say that all lawyers make the world a worse place economically. They don't. But a lot of them do. And there but for the grace of God went I.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links an interesting post about the campaign donations of large law firms. I hadn't know that Ken Starr's firm gave "more to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign than to all of the top Republican candidates combined," but I'm not surprised.

Go seek the rent, and ye shall find!

UPDATE (08/01/07): Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

(Now that I think about it, had I listened to the lawyers advising me to go into ADA litigation back in 1994, I might be wealthy and unwise today!

posted by Eric at 03:17 PM | Comments (39)

Meanwhile in Berkeley....

Who needs satire when all you have to do is read news from Berkeley?

By law, elected members of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board (the rent control commissars) are supposed to live in Berkeley. However, according to a report in the SF Chronicle, that legal technicality has not prevented one elected commissioner from living in Oakland (apparently for a long time). This has come to light now that he's fighting eviction -- allegedly with help from a community law center that has a contract with the Rent Board:

Over in Berkeley, Rent Stabilization Board member Chris Kavanagh, who by law should be living in Berkeley, is fighting eviction from a cottage he rents in Oakland.

And here's a twist: Kavanagh is fighting his eviction with the help of a former vice chair of the Berkeley rent board, now an attorney for a nonprofit law firm that has a contract with the panel to represent tenants.

A contract, we might add, that Kavanagh voted for.

"It's complete news to me," rent board Executive Director Jay Kelekian said when we asked about Kavanagh's eviction fight and the help he's getting from the East Bay Community Law Center.

The eviction battle -- and the fact that Kavanagh doesn't appear to live in Berkeley -- are laid out in an exchange of letters between Kavanagh's attorney (and former board member) Marc Janowitz and H. Wayne Goodroe, a lawyer representing a couple who recently bought the cottage and a main house on 63rd Street in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood.

In a letter last month, Janowitz said Kavanagh, who has rented the cottage since 2001, wanted to stay another year, "after which he will move."

(Janowitz is also representing a second tenant living in the main house who's also fighting the toss -- former Black Panther Party member Johnny Spain.)

As recently as two years ago, Kavanagh -- a Green Party member first elected to the rent board in 2002 -- signed a campaign disclosure form, under penalty of perjury, stating that he lived in an apartment on Dwight Way in Berkeley.

Voting rolls also list him as living at the Dwight Way address, though sometime last year he notified the rent board that he was living at 2705 Webster St. in Berkeley, Kelekian said.

When we caught up with Kavanagh this past week at his Oakland digs, he was having dinner on his patio. He said he'd call us later to explain how he's managed to live in two places at once.

He hasn't.

As for Janowitz, he let out a long laugh when we told him what we were calling about -- but said he couldn't really say where Kavanagh lived.

"I'm just defending the eviction," Janowitz said.

He said he didn't see it as a problem that he's representing a rent board member when his firm has a contract with the board. He wouldn't say how much Kavanagh is paying him, calling that "the subject of private attorney-client communication."

Janowitz said the real issue was that the Oakland landlords and their attorney hadn't succeeded in evicting Kavanagh or Spain and now are "attempting to influence the litigation by resorting to extrajudicial gossip -- you being the monger."

What interest might San Francsico Chronicle reporters Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross have in attempting to "influence the litigation" one way or another? Are they partners in the property in question? Janowitz does not say, and I think it's more likely that they have no interest at all in the outcome of the litigation (which appears to involve the new owners trying to evict tenants so they can move in). Unless I am reading the piece wrong (or these reporters have not disclosed an ownership interest in the Oakland property), their interest is simply in the story of a Berkeley Rent Board member who is not living in Berkeley where the law requires him to live, but is instead living in Oakland, where he's allegedly using a non-profit firm the Rent Board has a contract with to defend an eviction in Oakland.

It would appear to be a very newsworthy story. Newsworthy enough for Judith Scherr of the Berkeley Daily Planet to investigate further:

Glen Kohler, manager of the apartment building at 2709 Dwight Way, responded to the Planet's inquiry, saying: "No, he doesn't" live at that address.

Questioned about how long the elected official had been "gone," Kohler answered: "I don't know if 'gone' is the correct word," explaining he meant that during the two and one-half years that he had been managing the apartment, Kavanagh had, to his knowledge, never lived there.

A postal worker delivering mail while the Daily Planet was at the Dwight Way apartment house said Kavanagh had previously received mail there, but hadn't for more than a year and a half.

The mailbox at apartment No. 16, where Kavanagh has said he lives, bears no name.

Asked if he knows where Kavanagh lives, Rent Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian told the Daily Planet on Monday, "To my knowledge he resides in Berkeley."

Kelekian said that Kavanagh had informed the rent board of a change of address to 2705 Webster one time, but had informed Kelekian that address is actually a box at the Elmwood Post Office and that he continued to live at the Dwight Way apartment.

Kelekian said Kavanagh picks up his rent board materials at the rent board office.

If it is determined that Kavanagh doesn't meet the residency requirements of the City Charter, Kelekian said he thinks the rent board would agree that he should step down.

Determining residency is not the rent board's call, he said, explaining it is up to the city clerk's office to investigate.

Rent Board Chair Jesse Arreguin said he is aware that this is not the first time the question has been raised. Reporting a conversation with Kavanagh on the topic, Arreguin said, "He assured us that he rents an apartment in Berkeley and stays with his girlfriend in Oakland."

Apparently the question of Kavanagh's residence has not come before the city's Fair Campaign Practices Commission. "It's never been drawn to our attention," said Eric Weaver, FCPC chair.

"We looked at the fact that he is the most chronic late filer," Weaver added.

As to why Janowitz hasn't accused Judith Scherr of attempting to influence the litigation, I'm not sure.

I don't know anything about the merits of this litigation, and I'm only speculating that the new owners want to move in. If their goal is to live in their own house, I'd support their right to do that.

So, while that would appear to place me on the side of the property owner, I really wouldn't want to "attempting to influence the litigation by resorting to extrajudicial gossip," nor do I think I could. This is only a blog post, and while I don't reach as many Bay Area people as the local press there, I think the legal system can and should run its course regardless of what is said in any report or blog post, whether involving "extrajudicial gossip" or newsworthy facts.

posted by Eric at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

"We cannot have intact testicles on government property!"

So says "Dan Nender, a 1634 supporter who filed suit in Sacramento Federal Court" to have a "marble monument to service dogs, originally set to be displayed in Sacramento, California" altered.

According to the full story at the "Official News Agency" they want the statue's nuts sawed off:

[Sacramento, CA] A marble monument to service dogs, originally set to be displayed in Sacramento, California, may be on its way out of the golden state. The reason? The statue's "manhood" is still intact.

Proponents of the recently-tabled state assembly bill AB-1634, the so-called "California Healthy Pets Act", which would require that most of the state's dogs and cats over the age of 6 months be sterilized, claim that placing the image of an intact male dog on public property is harmful and sends the wrong message to California pet owners.

"Its not an appropriate display, in a state that carries out three million euthanasias a year." said Dan Nender, a 1634 supporter who filed suit in Sacramento Federal Court to have the monument altered.

Pressed about the number, since most reputable sources set that number at 400,000, Nender replied, "One is too many. Concentrate on the point I'm making, not the numbers."

The sculptor who created the piece, Fidel Marquez of Hemingford, Nebraska, has already refused to alter it. "This is ridiculous. I'll put the damn thing on my lawn before I 'neuter' it."

"Frankly, it doesn't matter what the artist wants, or for that matter whether the lawsuit succeeds." responded Nender. "This is the will of the people... and don't ask me which people, and we're going to carry it out. If this guy doesn't want to do the work himself, we'll sneak in there at night and use a Saws-All on it."

"We cannot have intact testicles on government property. As California government officials, at least the ones on our side, will attest to, Sacramento is a testicle-free zone."

Assembly Bill AB-1634 may come before the California legislature some time again in 2008, according to supporters, but in the meantime, they say they will fight the battle their way. "The ends justify the means," said Nender. Even if the means includes vandalism.

California Department of Parks, who oversee this sort of project, did not return our calls immediately, and the Governor could not be reached for comment. However, plans to erect the monument are on hold until the lawsuit is settled or dismissed.

Something about this story seemed too "good" to be true -- especially because I have written so many posts against AB 1634 that I not only want it to be true, I am positively drooling! Spineless eunuch bureaucrats have long been a favorite narrative here, and I do not deny it!

But I regret to say that much as I love the narrative, I'm afraid the report isn't true.

Not only can I find no confirmation of it anywhere, but Googling the artist's name and hometown leads only back to the same story and the various discussion boards that have mentioned it.

Even the Canada Free Press seems to have been conned, for their earlier link to the story is now dead, although I did very much enjoy the Google cache version which adds a bit of commentary to the story.

Attention all non-Hollywood type sheriffs and law officials: They're going to tote the Kool-Aid, don the tinfoil hats and pull the heist off under cover of darkness.

"We cannot have intact testicles on government property. As California government officials, at least the one's on our side will attest to, Sacramento is a testicle-free zone," said Dean A. Ayers, of Animals C.L.U.B. Freedom. "Animal rights activist "perverts" in my book."

Meanwhile can ACLU check in to let us all know whether is it against Fido's rights to be forced to be in the same state as latter day politicians: Neutered?

From the looks of its site, the Animals C.L.U.B. Freedom would seem opposed to mandatory spaying and neutering, and I'd hate to think that the ACLU would mess with my dog's ovaries, but you never know!

Anyway, I hate it when stories that support what I think turn out to be wrong -- especially when they have all the right elements!

There is a serious side to this, and that is the growing emergence of news hoaxes and bogus news sites. Regular readers may remember "Capitol Hill Blue" and the fictitious "George Harleigh." (He didn't exist, and he was debunked, but he's still considered quotable!)

More recently, the Bussard fusion project was falsely reported by a hoax site to be funded by Governor Schwarzenegger.

Of course, the "Official News Agency" does not even pretend to be anything other than a satire site, so it would be laughable to maintain that this rises to the level of a real hoax.

It's a fake hoax, folks!

And what a pity! Because, I really enjoyed another report -- that Harry Reid kicks dogs!

[Washington, DC] Animal rights activists were up in arms Friday, as reports came in that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, savagely kicked a retired ranch dog lying in his path as he toured a property near Reno. Witnesses say that Senator Reid had to be forceably restrained by his staff so that caretakers could attend to the injured animal.

The dog, a mixed-breed working dog named "Pace", was taken to a local veterinary hospital where x-rays showed no broken bones but physical examination revealed substantial bruising.

"Pace is a tough dog," Mark Hassler, a ranch hand who was present at the incident, said. "He's been around the block a few times. He'll be just fine."

"On the other hand, though, that doesn't make this alright. My boss is really pissed... I have to say I'm not happy either. Pace is a member of the family here, and there was just no reason for this."

The ranch owner, and Pace's master, Phillip Dischete (pronounced dish-SHAY), would not speak to the press except to say that Senator Reid is no longer welcome on his property.

It's just not fair that it isn't true, because it's a really good story!

Which means that our superficial concerns over the technical truth can end up obscuring the larger truth -- which is whether the dog Harry Reid might as well have kicked might as well have had balls.

posted by Eric at 11:35 AM | Comments (9)

Crime, punishment, and blurred distinctions

In a long update to my "I should care?" post, I got a little hot and bothered by the idea that disagreeing with gun control means not caring that people are being killed.

This touches on a fundamental disagreement which tends to be lost in the gun control debate, and that disagreement is over CRIME AND PUNISHMENT:

April Saul, who has been chronicling Philadelphia's many teen shooting deaths in a piece called Kids, Guns, and a Deadly Toll [...] explains "why she decided to tell these stories" and at no point does she express even the slightest desire to see the killers caught and punished.

I don't think this means she does not care. Obviously, she cares very much, but in a different way than the way I care. If I had a teenager who had been murdered, I'd want the perpetrators caught and punished, not just for personal reasons, but because I think putting away murderous people is in the ultimate best interest of civilization. April Saul, by saying she would "not try to distinguish between the 'guilty' and the 'innocent,'" in my view is subordinating the distinction between murderer and victim to a narrative which blames the tools used by murderers.

Obviously, I disagree. But what really galls me is this notion that because I disagree over how to address a problem, I don't care about it.

This is by no means a disagreement between me and April Saul (whom I've never met). It touches on a growing chasm in society, between people who see crime as something that deserves to be punished, and people who see criminals and their victims as indistinguishable. Even the views of Philadelphia's Police Commissioner don't sound all that different from those of April Saul:
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson says, "You have a family that's been devastated not only lost one to death but probably going to lose one to life in prison for killing the other family member,"
The suspect (an ex con in felonious possession of a handgun) murdered three people in a bar, yet the police commissioner and a lot of other people would entertain the idea that his imprisonment is tragic. I think this goes to the heart of the cultural chasm, and it might go a long way in explaining the hopeless nature of the gun control debate. For, if it is tragic for murderers to be sent to prison, then simple logic dictates that it would be even more tragic for them to be killed in self defense by armed citizens.

It flows from the proposition that criminals do not deserve to be punished. In fairness to both sides, though, I think it has to be recognized that the debate over crime and punishment is becoming ever more clouded by the war on drugs.

I do not think it is a coincidence that the clamor to eliminate the distinction between criminal and victim has accompanied the growth of an immense criminal, economic, and law enforcement nexus which drives a large portion of the economy in this country and around the world, and which is predicated on the idea that self abuse is a crime against society. I can think of no better way to blur the distinction between criminal and victim than by creating an immense system of law in which criminal and victim are synonymous, and that harming oneself deserves a lengthy prison term. This has consequences, and they're now being seen in the form of ever-wider acceptance of the terrible idea that we should not distinguish between the guilty and the innocent.

Drug dealers are economic offenders, who sell to willing buyers, and who would not exist without a market. That this market is a crime makes it more profitable, and more violent. Drug dealers are seen as people who are trying to make a living in difficult circumstances, and the crimes they commit against each other are being blamed not on the illegal market, but on certain tools of their trade. They are seen as victims, and the gun is seen as the culprit. It would make about as much sense to say that they are victims of the drugs they sell, but no one would listen to that argument, because the drugs are universally illegal, whereas the guns are not. However, making guns illegal is about as likely to solve the gun problem as making drugs illegal has solved the drug problem.

What the drug laws have done is to distort the traditional perception of crime from one of criminal-who-harms-victim to one of criminal-who-harms-self. This in turn has clouded society's normal desire to punish the criminal. Now, there has always been a tendency in some circles to see criminals as victims, but when crime is defined as including self victimization, and when this category of crime becomes as large as it is now, much greater mischief results. The war on drugs has created a large and constantly growing class of angry dissenters who see all criminals as victims.

As for me, I think they're terribly mistaken in their logic. Just because the drug laws have criminalized victimhood does not mean that all criminals are victims.

Murder remains murder, assault remains assault. The motive is secondary; whether someone was murdered for selling drugs on a competing dealer's corner or for refusing to pay a drug debt, that no more justifies murder than jealousy over a girlfriend. The problem is that drug war has vastly enlarged the criminal class and caused people to lose sight of simple reality.

But when on top of that they accuse me of not caring, I must protest!

MORE: A remark by M. Simon in an earlier post bears repeating:

The War On Some Drugs was always a prototype for the War On Guns. If American gun owners really took this to heart the Drug War would be over in America in short order.

posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (2)


Instapundit has brought up a topic near and dear to my heart. Nerds. He gives a few links.

I clicked on this one and got Tom Maguire's view on the subject. Very nice. There was a long discussion in the comments about gangsta culture and its aversion to numbers and all things technical (white).

Some one in the comments was trying to define humanus nerdus and came up with a list which included the following:

unusual conversation skills/topics

There is nothing unusual about wanting to talk about neutron scattering cross sections vs absorption cross sections. Or heat transfer and fluid flow.

Well, I was a Nuclear Reactor Operator in the Navy. About as geeky as you can get and still be a member of the fighting forces. Lotsa numbaz. LOL.

BTW I had some trouble with dating until I put on a Navy uniform. That is when I went from rags to riches. Even better was looking like a hippie (after I got out of the service), ah the 60s.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

The Home Gun Smitth

The Home Has some very neat plans for a home shop built SMG (submachine gun). Here is what the site owner has to say about gun control:

My own view is that the gun not only belongs in the hands of the agents of the state (they can never be disarmed) but in the hands of the people as a whole. This is the surest way of maintaining the correct balance of power between state and citizen. The mad rush of government to create a 'gun free' Utopia will not, of course, have any effect on the crime rate. The criminal, by definition, does not obey the law and is therefore unaffected by any anti firearms legislation. Gun control will, however, create more and more victims of violent crime as long as we allow ourselves to be disarmed behind the smokescreen of 'Crime control'. This is the unpalatable truth you will never read in the media or hear from any politically correct politician.

Unfortunately, while we continue to allow the media anti gun propaganda mills to churn out their lies, myths and misinformation we will continue to see the destruction of the ancient liberties and freedoms once securely enshrined under the "Common laws of England".

When any government deprives a citizen of his freedom or property, the individual must take action to publicise his grievances. To this end, I hope to illustrate in the following pages, the futility of gun control, and that no amount of arbitrary legislation can ever prevent those wanting firearms from owning them. The individual who has the ability to construct his own homemade gun can never be permanently disarmed by any level of gun control legislation.

So as to allow you to get a 'feel' for the subject of homemade guns, the following pages illustrate how a reasonably light weight and portable homemade Machine gun was assembled from readily available 'Off the shelf' materials and components. No lathe or milling machine was required or used.

The firearm that can truthfully be described as "a homemade gun" should be one built using the type of hand tools and materials that the average individual could easily acquire.

The barrel is unrifled so this device will not produce a tight pattern. Where spray and pray is an appropriate tactic this could be an excellent weapon. Spare parts should be easy to come by. Until pipe fittings are made illegal. Don't laugh. Cold medicine is now a behind the counter medicine in the hopes of reducing meth manufacture. As a government tactic this seems to have worked. Now much of our illegal meth is imported. Nice to see our government supporting international trade. This policy also has the advantage of making those with colds suffer if they need more than the government approved cold medicine allowance. The perfect government policy. The War On Some Drugs was always a prototype for the War On Guns. If American gun owners really took this to heart the Drug War would be over in America in short order.

H/T Commenter PRCalDude at Hot Air

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 07:25 PM | Comments (1)

"So many bone-shattering idiocies, so little time."

I usually don't start a post by quoting someone's comment to another post in another blog, but I did so here, because this is just too damned typical, and there are just too many damned typical examples of this too-damned-typical complete lack of common sense which now seems to have modern America in a deathlock.

No, seriously. Via Pajamas Media I just learned that when 13-year-old boys are caught engaging in horseplay (they slapped butts of junior high girls as they raced down the hall), that is now to be treated as a felony meriting ten years in prison with mandatory Megan's Law lifetime sex offender registration.

As I keep saying, there is no longer common sense, and that unfortunate fact is being drummed into children at an earlier and earlier age.

The only good I see in any of this is that the Protein Wisdom post (which I found at Pajamas Media) was written by Darleen Click, and I'm delighted to see her talent being recognized by another long-favorite blog.

Darleen addressed this latest bureaucratic horror with some of the inimitable wisdom to which I've grown fond over the years:

Reasonable people don't excuse obnoxious behavior. Reasonable people would expect the school not only to discipline Cory and Ryan, maybe a few after-school hours, or Saturdays, scrubbing graffiti off the walls, or scrubbing down the restrooms, but to exercise the judgment of alleged educational professionals who work with children on a daily basis. And such judgment would not be to involve the police.

But hey, public school admins are filled with people who substitute written rules for judgment, law for morality. And why should we be surprised that they would want to palm off two immature 13 year olds to the criminal system when some of the purported "adults" involved act as unreasonable as the prosecutor?

I wish I could say that these insane incidents were "excesses" or maybe "unusual." The problem is, I'm reading about them so often that there's no way to keep track (hence the title by the commenter). It's awful. The lunatics are running the asylum, and common sense is a thing of the past.

Naturally, the leftiesphere is chiming in about how these are evil white boys and deserve punishment a la the Duke "rapists." Darleen answers:

The abject stupidity of this writer is jaw-dropping. Only in the most fevered-imaginings of rape is however I define it of radical feminists is adolescent prankish, albeit obnoxious, behavior criminal and akin to rape.

But hey, even Jeffy's spearcarrying for VW's sounds reasonable when compared to one of his co-bloggers, Kathy, who not only picks up Jeff Feckes "prank = little rape" meme, but expands on it by comparing to a brutal gang-rape because...well...because Cory and Ryan are White Boys

The whole thing is sickening. Not to say the boys don't deserve severe punishment by the school authorities. But ten years? Megan's Law?

The systematic destruction of common sense in this country has gotten scary. I worry that the phenomenon truly has become the dominant paradigm I complained about earlier, because it's escalating, and taking on a life of its own. Avoiding the public schools, as Darleen advises parents, might work for now, but the bureaucratic tentacles are metastatic in nature. They grow and grow, and that is because we must pay and pay for them as they inexorably poke, probe, prod and expand, here and there, whether openly or by stealth, finding endless new ways to justifying themselves as they reach out and touch everyone, everywhere, in every last nook and cranny of this once free country, enforcing and reinforcing as they work towards the Orwellian, "democratically totalitarian" goal of zero tolerance for simple common sense.

No, it doesn't much matter who is elected president, or who is elected to the various state or national legislatures, because it is they -- the truly awful they -- who are really in charge and who seek to totally run our daily lives without so much as being elected. (What's really crazy is I don't even know who they are.... Alas! I liked them better when they were just a few kooks in Berkeley. Yes, I know it's an old rant.)

Nice work Darleen!

MORE: Via Dr. Helen (who points out that the girls were slapping butts too) here's Mark Steyn:

A world that requires handcuffs and judges and district attorneys for what took place that Friday in February is not just a failed education system but an entire society that's losing any sense of proportion. Without which, civilized life becomes impossible. So we legalize more and more aspects of life and demand that district attorneys prosecute ever more aggressively what were once routine areas of social interaction.

A society that looses the state to criminalize schoolroom horseplay is guilty not only of punishing children as grown-ups but of the infantilization of the entire citizenry.

posted by Eric at 03:26 PM | Comments (2)

I should care?

Who was Jason Brewer and why was he shot?

Not to pick a murder victim at random, but the web site provides few details about the murders, and I get the impression that the overall tally is more important:

Philadelphia tallied six murders over the weekend, police said, bringing the total for the year to 242.

In addition, two police officers allegedly fatally shot two gun-wielding men in separate incidents under investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau.

I agree that police shootings are presumed not to be murders. There seems to be a corresponding rule of journalism that all other killings are, and while there's no doubt that most of them are, the bleeding heart liberal in me always worries that somehow, somewhere, in that big evil city of crime, someone might be forced to defend his life (or property), and that might result in a killing which would be other than murder.

Back to

This weekend's six murders:

* 2 a.m. Saturday - 15-year-old Raheem Grant was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head on Callowhill Street near 63rd, in the Overbrook section.

* 4:46 a.m. Saturday - Jason Brewer, 25, was shot multiple times near 18th Street and Girard Avenue, in North Philadelphia. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 5 a.m.

If someone is found dead of a gunshot wound, that looks like murder, especially if we assume that the vast majority of shooters and victims have criminal records, which means that by definition they are felonious violators of gun laws.

But should that disincline me to look any further?

Remember, my access to information is solely based on what I am able to glean from the hard copy of my daily Inquirer and online, and my opinions are a result of my textual analysis. (I do not have access to the police blotter, which I'm sure is off limits to lowly bloggers.)

Today's Inquirer has more:

It was a violent weekend in the city, with at least six homicides reported apart from the police shooting, bringing this year's total to 242. They included:


Jason Brewer, 25, of Albanus Street was found shot to death in an apparent robbery in the 1700 block of Harper Street Saturday. Police found Brewer after a companion showed up at St. Joseph's Hospital with a gunshot wound to his ankle and told hospital staff that his friend had also been shot.

Raheem Grant, 15, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in the 6300 block of Callowhill Street after reports of a fight Saturday.

OK, so now we know that the 15 year old had been in a "fight." What kind of fight, we do not know. Was it a gunfight, or a fistfight which ended up with someone pulling a gun? I have a feeling that there'd be more information if it involved the latter, but this is speculation, and as I say, my suspicions are not facts.

But what about the more puzzling case of Jason Brewer? Was he murdered? If he did not live in the 1700 block of Harper, what was he doing there? Was someone trying to rob him? Or was he trying to rob someone else? Was he found lying on the street?

Or are these details meaningless? I think they might matter in determining whether he was a murder victim, or something else.

In an yesterday's version of the story, it was reported that Brewer was found "at a residence."

Police were still investigating the three slayings that occurred yesterday.

At 2:18 a.m., they received a call about a shooting in the 6300 block of Callowhill Street in West Philadelphia, and found Raheem Grant, 15, who lived nearby, dead of a gunshot to the head.

Just after 5 a.m., St. Joseph's Hospital notified police that a patient had walked in with a gunshot wound to an ankle. The patient told police that another victim was at a residence in the 1700 block of Harper Street in North Philadelphia. When police arrived, they found a 25-year-old man dead of multiple gunshots.

OK, if we play detective by piecing the three stories together, the following becomes the factual scenario:
  • Jason Brewer was murdered;
  • in a robbery;
  • at a residence;
  • where he did not live;
  • where his companion was also wounded during the same robbery;
  • As a whodunit, doesn't this just cry out for more detail?

    I'm tempted to say inquiring minds want to know, but that would sound sarcastic and I'm trying to be serious. What I'd really like to know is who are the victims, and who are the perpetrators. For some reason, these things just don't seem to matter in a world divided into good and bad based solely on guns.

    The details don't seem to matter, and I'm left looking at a map of the 1700 block of Harper wondering whose residence might have been involved. Who lived there? Was anyone home? Why no arrests for what is being called a murder? Who might have been robbing whom? As I think about these things which I will probably never know, I'm ever mindful of the numerous admonitions in the Inquirer about how people like me who live in the suburbs just don't care about what goes on in the city. Here's Monica Yant Kinney:

    Whenever I write about Philadelphia's homicide crisis, I hear from suburban readers who think it's a waste of space.

    Poor black people killing poor black people, thugs shooting thugs - why should we cry?

    With alarming regularity, folks living outside the city suggest they'd rather ignore the horrors inside it.

    I keep saying I care, because I really do. But there's that wanting to know part, which is also part of caring.

    And the way these things are reported makes me wonder how much the Inquirer cares beyond the tally and the narrative of the evil gun.

    UPDATE (07/31/07): Today's Daily News has more on Raheem Grant's shooting. Police say they believe it was "retaliatory" -- and neighbors are afraid to talk to reporters:

    In Overbrook yesterday, the news that Raheem Grant may have been killed as retaliation caused little shock in a busy neighborhood where many people work during the day.

    "It's really crazy," said a woman, who called herself a lifelong resident of the neighborhood.

    "There was an explosion a week ago, and there's shootings all the time," she said.

    The woman, who did not want to be identified, paused near the multicolored makeshift memorial at 63rd and Callowhill bearing Raheem's picture, candles and teddy bears.

    Other neighbors agreed that the neighborhood had gone from bad to worse.

    They blamed groups of youths for much of the trouble.

    "What was he doing out so late?" pondered Jason Miller, a resident of nearby Felton Street.

    "I don't know the situation, but why would a 15-year-old be out past midnight?"

    Hanging out late at night shouldn't be a thing for young folks, agreed neighbor Roberta Jenkins.

    "The neighborhood is pretty bad . . . ," she said.

    "Someone I know just got shot two weeks ago. I'm trying to move."

    Darnell Washington, who also lives in the area, said it was hard to believe that Raheem could have been shot over a misunderstanding or an argument.

    "He was real cool . . . ," said Washington. "Shot in the head? That's crazy. Who deserves that?"

    Many passers-by stopped to check out the memorial to Raheem. But in a city gripped by a "don't snitch" mantra, not many would say anything about the shooting.

    One woman said she knew Raheem, but hurriedly walked away when approached by a reporter.

    "I'm sorry," she said, as she walked down 63rd Street.

    "I'm sorry, I'm not going to say anything."

    Today's Inquirer has pictures from a vigil for Grant, and a headline reading "Honoring a Slain Teenager," but it's not online.

    Who was "retaliating" against this teenager at 2:00 a.m. -- and why -- these are things that we who "do not care" will probably never be told.

    (That's because we'd "rather ignore the horrors," of course.)

    Is there any way to get these people to at least stop scolding me for ignoring what they're not providing?

    Seriously, this "you don't care" meme really rankles me, because I suspect that the people who say that are more opposed to seeing the actual perpetrators of these awful crimes punished than I am.

    It's as if "you don't care" means "you don't agree with my position on gun control!"

    MORE: Not only I do care about Raheem Grant enough to want his killers caught and punished, but I cared enough to photograph the Inquirer's photo of the Grant vigil for the readers of this blog.

    Grant_Vigil_3.jpg Why it appears in the hard copy but not on online, I don't know. The photos are by April Saul, who has been chronicling Philadelphia's many teen shooting deaths in a piece called Kids, Guns, and a Deadly Toll. Ms. Saul explains "why she decided to tell these stories" and at no point does she express even the slightest desire to see the killers caught and punished.

    I don't think this means she does not care. Obviously, she cares very much, but in a different way than the way I care. If I had a teenager who had been murdered, I'd want the perpetrators caught and punished, not just for personal reasons, but because I think putting away murderous people is in the ultimate best interest of civilization. April Saul, by saying she would "not try to distinguish between the 'guilty' and the 'innocent,'" in my view is subordinating the distinction between murderer and victim to a narrative which blames the tools used by murderers.

    Obviously, I disagree. But what really galls me is this notion that because I disagree over how to address a problem, I don't care about it.

    posted by Eric at 09:13 AM | Comments (3)

    Minding The Campus

    I just found a new site (via Instapundit) called Minding the Campus that concerns how the Race, Class, Gender (RCG aka Angry Studies) people are undermining liberal education.

    A good place to start is this piece on the Ward Churchill case, recently in the news, by KC Johnson of Durham in Wonderland/Duke Lacrosse case fame.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 05:11 PM | Comments (1)

    A Wartime Holiday

    From Slide Rule, the autobiography of Nevil Shute

    In the autumn of 1915 my father took advantage of a break clause in the lease to give up South Hill, the house at Blackrock. I think he was concerned at the rising cost of everything due to the war and the mounting income tax, which was to rise to the unprecedented figure of six shillings in the pound.

    I think, too, he felt that the house held so many memories of Fred for my mother and myself that it would be better to get rid of it and start again. What he did seems curious now in these days of total war, because for the Christmas holidays he took my mother and myself on a trip to Rome and Naples.

    Wars were localized in those days, when the range of aircraft was small and bombing far behind the lines was not a serious menace. The Western Front was ablaze with war from Switzerland to the sea but this war was completely static; there was nothing to prevent the normal express trains full of tourists from running as usual fifty miles behind the lines, and no currency restrictions then impeded foreign travel.

    One might have thought that the turmoil of war would have prevented my father from leaving his work to take his annual allowance of six weeks' leave, but it didn't. He was a very conscientious man who would never have put his personal interests above the job...

    Rome was full of officers in magnificent uniforms frequently with sky-blue flowing cloaks; the Italians in those days believed in getting some fun out of a war. Naples and Capri followed. My parents prolonged their leisurely holiday so that I had to travel back to Shrewsbury alone from Naples, an interesting and stimulating experience for a sixteen-year-old boy who spoke virtually no Italian and only schoolroom French.

    I think this journey did me a lot of good; although I had to change trains unexpectedly two or three times i had no real difficulties; when I got back to school I found that very few boys had made a journey of that length through wartime Europe. I think my parents showed a good deal of insight and wisdom in pushing me off on it.

    posted by Justin at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

    Bringing back the Peace and Prosperity Channel

    In a very thoughtful Pajamas Media piece, Rick Moran looks at the desire of many Americans for a "return to normalcy" (meaning a return to pre-9/11 world):

    Torn as they are between the desire for a different kind of politics that Obama is offering and the sure handedness that Hillary Clinton is trying to sell, the Democrats (and the nation at large) seem to prefer the familiar and experienced candidate. But might there be something else at work on the voters' minds? Could it be that the change they yearn for is a desire to go back--back to 9/10/2001 when the outside world rarely intruded on our somnolence and where the big debates in Congress were over education and prescription drugs?

    Back in 2004, Mickey Kaus wondered if we hadn't experienced "too much history" in the 3 plus years since 9/11. Peggy Noonan echoed those thoughts, asking if what the American people wanted was a Harding-like "Return to Normalcy."

    While the Republican candidates all seem eager to continue making history in the War on Terror, the American people may want to take a break from the harsh realities and hard future offered up by the GOP and choose instead a more settled hand on the tiller.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    If there are harsh realities (and I think there are), then they are not imaginary realities. This is why I have criticized the people who think that once you get tired of a war, voting it out of existence is as easy as changing the channel on a TV remote.

    Of course, the people who do this will naturally vote for Hillary, because she's marketing herself as Clinton nostalgia. Vote for your old favorite Peace and Prosperity Channel, and we'll bring back the program of your choice!

    This might even appeal to Republicans who suffer from short memories or wishful thinking. But I can't help notice the way Barack Obama keeps forcing Republicans to defend Hillary. Must be handy for Hillary to have someone like that to run against.

    If I were Hillary and I didn't have him, I'd invent him.

    posted by Eric at 11:47 AM | Comments (1)

    The Great War At Home

    From Slide Rule, the autobiography of Nevil Shute

    We had a motor bicycle between us by that time, a new Rudge Multi. My parents must have been very wise to launch out on this extravagance at a time when my father must have foreseen rising taxation, for the Rudge cost almost sixty pounds, a lot of money in those days.

    Although completely unmechanical himself, my father saw good sense in Fred's contention that every officer ought to know something about motors, revolutionary though that doctrine seemed. My mother had another angle on it; she foresaw that in the holidays my life would be empty without Fred since we had been so much together, and she thought that if I had a motor bicycle while Fred was away at the war it would ease the loneliness.

    So in September 1914 when I was fifteen years old I took delivery of the Rudge from the depot in Stephens Green, Fred being in hospital. I had never ridden a motor bicycle before though I had a very comprehensive theoretical knowledge, and I was too shy to admit my inexperience.

    The Rudge mechanic gave me a shove off in amongst the trams and for a moment I was out of control while my body accustomed itself to the unfamiliar weight of the machine and the great surge of power that small movements of the throttle produced, for the Rudge was no lightweight but a man-sized, powerful machine. Then I got the hang of it and rode round Stephens Green a couple of times gingerly manipulating the infinitely variable gear, and finally rode it home in triumph.

    From time to time in life one gets a moment of sheer ecstasty; I had one of them that day.

    Fred had the Rudge at Sandhurst through the winter, and I went back to school where military training was now to take up much of our free time. In the spring he was commissioned and posted to the depot of the regiment at Falmouth, and in the Easter holidays my father and mother took me there to stay for a fortnight so that we could see something of Fred before he went to France.

    I think war was still romantic in those days, early in 1915; certainly nobody yet had any conception of what casualties could do to a nation. Fred was very smart in his new uniform, his Sam Browne belt beautifully polished, his sword impressive, his revolver massive, new, and fragrant with clean gun oil...

    Fred went to Flanders with a draft, and I rode the Rudge Multi home. It was the first big journey I had made alone in my life, and it took me four days to get from Falmouth to Holyhead. Nearly forty years later it is difficult to see why it should have taken me so long, for I did nothing else but travel. I can remember a vague impression that a hundred miles was an enormous distance and a good day's riding, and I think the fact of the matter must be that roads were generally bad in those days, and motor bicycles much slower than we now recollect...

    In adventure and fatigue the journey was probably comparable in these days to a drive from London to Rome or from Boston to Chicago, and that I accomplished it without mishap gave my self-confidence a boost which was rather needed, for I still stammered very badly.

    In the middle of the summer term Fred was badly wounded, at a place called l'Epinette near Armentières...In these days of sulfa drugs, blood plasma, and penicillin nobody would die of the wounds Fred got, extensive though they were. He was evacuated down to the base hospital at at Wimereux and for ten days or so he made good progress. Then gangrene set in and became uncontrollable, in itself an indication of the march of medical science, because the medical attention that he got was very good.

    My father and mother crossed to France to be with him, as was common in those days of gentler war, and he died about three weeks after he was wounded, with my mother by his side.

    If Fred had lived we might have had some real books one day, not the sort of stuff that I turn out, for he had more literature in his little finger than I have in my whole body. He was only nineteen when he died, and after nearly forty years it still seems strange to me to that I should be older than Fred.

    posted by Justin at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

    The details change, the narrative remains

    For nearly a week, a triple murder in a sleazy Philadelphia bar has been much in the news, with the local press has been reporting that the shooting was triggered by an argument over a bet. This story, headlined "Six killed in weekend violence -- Dispute over bet turns deadly" is typical:

    The gunman inside Abay's Wheeler Bar on South 62d Street had won the bet, and flew into a rage when the loser didn't produce any money, said the cousin, Henry Atkins, 18, of the 6200 block of Reedland Street, a block from the small corner tavern.

    Atkins, who was sitting on his steps, staring blankly ahead with moist eyes, said his cousin and next-door neighbor, Arthur Jennings, 20, was one of the dead men. "It was all over a bet," Atkins said, shaking his head.

    He said another victim, Claude "Netty" Snelling, 30, had wagered on Ronald "Winky" Wright, a challenger to light-heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins of Philadelphia.

    Hopkins won a unanimous decision. "Netty bet on Winky, and when the guy wanted his money, he didn't have it," Atkins muttered. Then he stood and abruptly went inside, leaving unanswered the question of how much was owed.

    A neighbor who knows the family said that Snelling was the boyfriend of Jennings' mother and that the two victims lived together. The third homicide victim was Jamar Thompson, 31, of the 3500 block of North Masher Street.

    The story about the bet was reported over and over again, and I had no reason to doubt routine references like this:
    one of seven people killed last weekend in Philadelphia, his case lost in the attention focused on the shooting at Abay's Wheeler Bar in Southwest Philadelphia that left three men dead and a fourth critically wounded after an argument over a boxing bet
    Or editorialist Monica Yant Kinney:
    Monday, Street dragged himself to Abay Wheeler's Bar in Southwest Philadelphia, where a weekend shoot-out - over a boxing bet - left three people dead and one barely breathing.
    But today's Inquirer reports that an arrest had been made -- and that "Police discounted earlier reports that an unpaid bet had led to the shootings":
    Philadelphia police announced the arrest of a West Philadelphia man in the triple murder at a bar shooting last week even as three more people were killed in the city yesterday.

    Vonzell "Pooh" Roundtree, 27, of the 5800 block of Rodman Street, was charged with three counts of homicide and attempted murder in the rampage last Sunday at Abay's Wheeler Bar in Southwest Philadelphia.

    Arthur Jennings, 20, Claude "Netty" Snelling, 30, and Jamar Thompson, 31, were killed after a "very minor argument," police said.

    It was originally reported that a fight had escalated after a wager over the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright boxing match was not paid. Yesterday, police said that story was not the case. (Emphasis added.)

    So, as an explanation, we've gone from an unpaid bet to a "very minor argument."

    Can we be sure?

    Once again, it strikes me that the most important detail is not what may have gone through the criminal's mind at the time of the shooting, but the fact that he was an armed ex-con, whose possession of the gun was in total violation of strong, existing gun laws. Readers have to turn to the inside pages of today's Section B (to page B-6 to be exact), to find the following recital:

    Roundtree had three previous arrests for firearms and drug charges, court records show. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to carrying firearms without a license and was sentenced to three years of probation.
    I think the reason such criminal backgrounds tend not to be stressed is because they don't fit the narrative -- which is that we need more gun laws.

    Nor do criminal backgrounds of shooters fit the narrative of Philadelphia as a city at war:


    The CBS report - which noted that the number of homicides has been increasing in many large American cities - focused on North Philadelphia, where reporter Byron Pitts said that "life is often short and illegal handguns are cheap." To prove his point, a 19-year-old - whose face was obscured and who was said to have been just released from jail - pulled a pistol from his front pocket and said, "Everybody's got a gun everywhere."

    I wonder whether reporter Byron Pitts realized that he was witnessing a gun crime right there. Did he call the cops immediately and report it? No; instead he just covered it up by hiding the criminal's face, in a piece clamoring for more gun laws which are a joke to criminals like the 19 year old.

    Perhaps I should be thankful that the reporter didn't dutifully tag along and help the criminal out with a straw purchase as they did in Boston.

    Yeah, I know that MSM journalists think the First Amendment gives them a special "no snitching" privilege unavailable to anyone else, but they also feel somehow entitled to break the gun laws in order to advance their narrative that because it's easy to break existing gun laws, we need more.

    Yes, it is easy to break gun laws, just as it's easy commit crime. You'd be surprised. Why, I don't see why some "journalist" doesn't just get in his car and prove his point by doing a driveby shooting, then declaring how easy it is to break the laws against driveby shootings! (Why, it's almost as easy as breaking the laws against child molesting or rape!)

    An additional point of the "CITY OF VIOLENCE" narrative here is that Philadelphia is Baghdad. Whether that means Bush is responsible and that we should pull out, I'm not sure. But it's a war, complete with law abiding citizens -- who are... Are what? I can't be sure, so I'll let readers decide:

    The newscast could have come down even harder on Philadelphia. Earlier in the day, reporter Pitts had written on the CBS Web site that Philadelphia is like "a war zone."

    "Just like Baghdad, there are law-abiding citizens whom we met that keep a gun close by when they take their children to school, go to the grocery store and when they close their eyes at night in their own bed," he wrote. "In Philadelphia they're not called 'insurgents'; they're drug dealers and thugs."

    I'm having a little bit of trouble understanding how the law-abiding citizens became first insurgents, then drug dealers and thugs, but I guess that doesn't matter, because the main thing is to remember that Philadelphia is Baghdad.

    But if you keep reading, it seems someone edited that important detail out!

    The televised report, however, did not mention Baghdad. And experts have cautioned that comparisons between Philadelphia and Iraq's war-ravaged capital are a slippery slope, since the death rate is far higher in Baghdad, and the root causes of violence so radically different.

    But one thing is the same 11,000 miles apart, and that is the senselessness of violent death.

    I think it's more senseless to allow violent criminals to run around carrying illegal guns in the first place than it is to wait until they commit murder, only to then decry the "senselessness" of the murders. For all I know, some of these criminals might be thinking that some of these murders are sensible. It seems senseless not to lock them up.

    But unless I am reading him wrong, Philadelphia's Police Commissioner appears not to think that locking up a triple murderer would be a devastating result:

    Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson says, "You have a family that's been devastated not only lost one to death but probably going to lose one to life in prison for killing the other family member,"
    You'd think the chief would be delighted that an arrest had been made, as well as with the possibility that this murderous ex-con might finally be going to prison for life where he belongs, but he doesn't sound that way. It's as if he thinks it's tragic that a criminal has to go to prison for murder.

    Does he actually think that it was the gun drove this ex-con to possess it illegally, take it to a bar, murder three patrons, and wound others?

    I can't be sure, but what he said about concealed carry permit holders last year makes me worry not only about the man's priorities, but whether the anti-gun narrative has blinded him to reality:

    "At this point, right now, we have over 32,000 people in Philly who have permits to carry (and) actually walk the streets of Philly with a gun. We only have 6,400 police officers. We're outnumbered nearly 5-to-1 with people who are on the streets with guns," Johnson said.
    Remember, concealed carry permit holders are among the most law abiding citizens in the city or the state. But the chief thinks that guns in the hands of law abiding people are the problem.

    I think guns in the hands of criminals are the problem, and guns in the hands of law abiding people are part of the solution.

    Unfortunately, disagreeing with a narrative often seems like a waste of time, because disagreeing with it doesn't make it go away.

    (Might as well disagree with the lyrics to John Lennon's "Imagine.")

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

    In a post I wrote this morning, I tried to analyze the facts of another Philadelphia shooting -- and wondered whether the narrative is rendering facts almost superfluous.

    posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (9)

    Drug the children!

    I guess the rule is that it's OK to drug children with benadryl for takeoff if you're an airline, but a criminal offense to use the same drug on them at naptime if you're running a day care center. (Actually, there is a certain logic to this, because it is undeniable that flight attendants have a more compelling interest in quiet children than do day care workers.)

    Then there's Ritalin. It's OK for schools to drug children to make them pay attention in class, so that they'll perform better in school. But it's not OK to drug athletes to enhance their performance in sports. And God forbid that musicians might try improving their musical performance with drugs.

    Somewhere in all of this, there's an exception for drugging under a "performance enhancement theory" -- but it is not being applied consistently.

    Then there's medication for pain. For physical pain, it's OK to drug people -- even at the risk of making them feel good. For mental pain, though, while there might be certain allowable drugs, if a drug used to treat emotional pain makes people feel good, its bad.

    I'm thinking about the manufacture of morality again. It's always tough to keep abreast of these constantly changing standards.

    MORE: The bottom line seems to be that where it comes to drugs, all adults are children.

    Except the authorities (and the "experts")!

    posted by Eric at 12:02 PM | Comments (3)

    Lose so that we can win!

    Bill Hobbs says the war is not lost, but that the Democrats are determined to lose it:

    The war has not been lost. American forces on the ground are in the process of winning it. The American military has never lost a war that the American people and its politicians have vowed to win.

    It's a shame that the Democratic-controlled Congress can't manage to do anything about illegal immigration, earmarks, sleazy congressional ethics or energy, but it would be better if they buckled down and worked harder at those issues than focusing so intently on legislating American defeat in Iraq.

    Do they really want to run in '08 as the party that caused us to lose in Iraq?

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I agree with Bill Hobbs, and I think the strategy is to do everything possible to lose the war in such a way that the Republicans will be blamed. One of the ways this is being done is by discounting the documented military brilliance of experts like General Petraeus, whom the Democrats themselves voted to appoint!

    Obviously, this is a tricky business, requiring cunning, duplicity, and deception.

    Comedian Jackie Mason (while a bit blunt) shows that he understands the dynamics of this elastic inconsistency quite well in this YouTube video:

    I have not fact-checked (and cannot vouch for) everything Mason says, but what I find delightful about the video is that he manages to nail the Democrats on their strategy by applying simple common sense. (No wonder the latter is under attack everywhere.)

    Mason is absolutely right about one thing: the Democrats did vote unanimously to confirm General Petraeus. (And most of them supported entering Iraq.)

    posted by Eric at 11:09 AM | Comments (1)

    Liberal against Hillary Rejects Savage Sullivan conservatism!

    A question I asked myself yesterday about the new "Conservatives for Hillary" phenomenon only seemed to reopen a Pandora's box of endlessly undefinable definitions. (But words fail, because the "box" has been irreparably burst open for a long time.)

    Anyway, Socrates left this comment:

    Sullivan is not a conservative. I don't know what he is.
    The thing is, there is no agreed-upon definition of the word "conservative," which leaves me having to guess at its meaning. The lack of a definition, coupled with the fact that the word really has changed over time ("Goldwater conservatism," for example, while once defining of the word, is today not conservatism, and may even be liberalism) leaves me grasping at straws. I am therefore forced to rely on whether I agree with the views of various people who call themselves conservatives, for what other standard is there? It's not as if I can simply declare myself a conservative in the abstract, and have myself tattooed on the arm. It is easy to say someone is or is not a conservative, but is that definitive? It would strike me that anyone who supports Hillary Clinton (who is a lifelong socialist) cannot be a conservative, but how can I prove that?

    For example, I once tried to maintain that Michael Savage is not a conservative:

    I think I can fairly state that conservatism does not mean sympathizing with radical Islam, or attributing to God the worst attack on the United States since World War II.

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

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

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

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

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

    The problem with that analysis is that it really isn't up to me to determine whether Savage is a conservative, and the fact is, the man is constantly called a conservative -- by people on both "sides" of the spectrum. If it's not up to me to decide whether he's a conservative, and if his views constitute conservativism, then I can only say that I am not. Likewise, if supporting Hillary is declared by Sullivan (and others) to be conservatism, then I can only say that I am not. But if Sullivan and Savage are not conservatives, then maybe I am.

    This makes me crazy, because some of my liberal friends call me a conservative and some of my conservative friends call me a liberal, and I am not middle of the road, and yet "libertarian" is problematic, because I disagree with many of them and many of them would say I'm not libertarian.

    Then there's the political party stuff: as long as I remain a Republican, the "conservative wing" will call me a RINO. Yet if I switch to the Democratic Party, my views will be even more anathema, and I'll be a DINO. (I've had the same views I have now for many years, and had them when I was a Democrat.)

    Yeah, I love rejecting labels. But it's getting tired, and seems a tad overwrought at times.

    Just for today, I'll stick my neck out and say that I am not a Savage/Sullivan conservative.

    If that makes me a liberal, I'll take my lumps.

    MORE: It also occurs to me that there are four possibilities:

    A. Savage is a conservative and Sullivan is not.

    B. Sullivan is a conservative and Savage is not.

    C. Savage and Sullivan are both conservatives.

    D. Neither Savage nor Sullivan are conservatives.

    Unless the word "conservative" has no meaning, it seems that only if D is true is it possible for me to be a conservative.

    And if the word has no meaning, then it is very foolish to worry about whether one can "be" such a thing.

    So why care?

    Well, I didn't start the "Conservatives for Hillary" movement.

    Nor did Sullivan.


    I have to say, the "Conservatives for Hillary" movement strikes me as beyond dishonest or contrived -- to the point of being downright tacky.

    (But I guess if I can get used to "Goldwater Marxism," I can get used to anything.)

    MORE: Regular readers know that I have long doubted the sincerity of Michael Savage. So, apparently, does NRO's David Klinghoffer. Among many other things he cites Savage's contribution of thousands of dollars to ultra-liberal Jerry Brown's campaign for California Attorney General.


    "Why bet on a horse that isn't going to win? Why throw your money into the garbage?''
    Whoa there.

    Leave it to Michael Savage to think up a catchy fund-raising slogan for Hillary!

    posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (2)

    It Is Coming

    I have a friend who reports on the defense industry. Nice Jewish boy.

    He says via e-mail that it is no use wasting your time trying to convince idiots of the obvious (morally it is sound though).

    He says a big war is coming. BIG war. Like Pearl Harbor it will unite us. He says it is a waste of time trying to talk to the idiots. He used to blog a lot on the subject. Now he doesn't bother. He says events are the best convincers. Why does it feel like October 1939 all over again? The period of the "Phony War".

    Which reminded me of this piece by Herbert E. Meyer at the American Thinker.

    For better or worse, it's part of the American character to wait until the last possible moment - even to wait a bit beyond the last possible moment - before kicking into high gear and getting the job done. It's in our genes; just think of how many times you've ground enamel off your teeth watching your own kid waste an entire weekend, only to start writing a book report at 10:30 Sunday night that, when you find it on the breakfast table Monday morning is by some miracle a minor masterpiece.

    However horrific it may be, the knockout punch won't knock us out. Instead, it will shift us from playing defense back to offense - and this time we won't hold back. The president will ask Congress for a declaration of war and he, or she, will get it. We'll bring back the draft, send our troops into battle without one hand tied behind their backs by lawyers, and we won't waste time and energy pussyfooting with the United Nations. And if we've closed GITMO by this time - we'll reopen it and even double its size because we're going to pack it. All of this will take longer to organize, and cost more, than if we'd done it right in the aftermath of 9-11. That's unfortunate, but that's the way we Americans tend to do things. And when we do finally start fighting for real -- we'll win.

    That would be my assessment as well. In my opinion once Bush took on Iraq and then won the 2004 election the die was cast. What ever political winds were blowing after that the die was cast.

    H/T Reliapundit who got me to thinking about this subject with his reports of recent terror alerts.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 05:39 AM | Comments (6)

    more nots

    As it's YouTube night and as M. Simon started the tradition of "Not Fade Away" nostalgia here, so I thought I'd supply a few variations on the theme:

    First, here's the Rolling Stones, from a 1964 appearance on the Mike Douglas Show:

    Originally a Buddy Holly song, "Not Fade Away" was the Stones' first hit in the UK.

    And it was a staple for the Grateful Dead, performing it here in1970:

    Much as I'd love to find the original Buddy Holly version of "Not Fade Away" on YouTube, some things aren't on video and probably never will be. (Well, there is a video showing the original record spinning, but that doesn't count.)

    I think the closest video is this. It's not quite "Not" -- but it is a video of Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy":

    The year is 1958 and the crowd is pretty excited.

    posted by Eric at 12:41 AM | Comments (1)

    We're at war, right?

    Yes, it is a question I feel forced to ask from time to time.

    Reading about horrors like this make me wonder whether the United States government has become almost as dysfunctional as the Saudi government. The latter has a well-known penchant for paying their dysfunctional children go and make trouble all over the world, while our government (if Stanley Kurtz is right) helps ensure that the Saudis indoctrinate young Americans with their hateful Wahhabist bile:

    Unless we counteract the influence of Saudi money on the education of the young, we're going to find it very difficult to win the war on terror. I only wish I was referring to Saudi-funded madrassas in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I'm talking about K-12 education in the United States. Believe it or not, the Saudis have figured out how to make an end-run around America's K-12 curriculum safeguards, thereby gaining control over much of what children in the United States learn about the Middle East. While we've had only limited success paring back education for Islamist fundamentalism abroad, the Saudis have taken a surprising degree of control over America's Middle-East studies curriculum at home.

    Game, Set, Match
    How did they do it? Very carefully...and very cleverly. It turns out that the system of federal subsidies to university programs of Middle East Studies (under Title VI of the Higher Education Act) has been serving as a kind of Trojan horse for Saudi influence over American K-12 education. Federally subsidized Middle East Studies centers are required to pursue public outreach. That entails designing lesson plans and seminars on the Middle East for America's K-12 teachers. These university-distributed teaching aids slip into the K-12 curriculum without being subject to the normal public vetting processes. Meanwhile, the federal government, which both subsidizes and lends its stamp of approval to these special K-12 course materials on the Middle East, has effectively abandoned oversight of the program that purveys them (Title VI).

    (Via Stop the Madrassa.)

    Read it all and weep. I'd like to ignore the whole thing (and I'm sure a lot of people would label Kurtz an Islamophobe), but there's a real Saudi madrassa in my neighborhood, and there's just something about seeing that the majority of Iraqi suicide bombers still remain Saudi Salafists (as were the 9/11 gang) that I find more than a little unsettling.

    What kind of war are we fighting if young people are being systematically taught that the Wahhabist/Salafist enemy is good, but that we are bad?

    I know there are many truly moderate Muslims, including patriotic Americans, but there is nothing moderate about Wahhabism. Why spend tax dollars promoting the philosophy of the enemy in American schools?

    Wouldn't it be cheaper to just not fight the war, and give them everything they want?

    Maybe we already are, but we're still pursuing the war because we imagine the enemies don't realize we've largely defeated ourselves at home. In an interesting piece Glenn Reynolds links, Michael Burleigh asks a good question of England, which might as well be asked of the United States:

    Why is foreign aid not contingent upon warning recipient states that they will forfeit it if clerics they subsidise preach hatred of the West?
    Because we can't hold the recipient states to a higher standard than we hold ourselves, that's why!

    posted by Eric at 07:27 PM | Comments (1)

    A single nuke can ruin your entire freedom!

    In a Reason Magazine piece titled "Gut Feelings and Real Threats: Why civil libertarians shouldn't be cavalier about terrorism," Cathy Young has some common sense advice for libertarians:

    In the past, wars and other national security threats led to far worse assaults on American liberties than anything being contemplated now. Already, the majority of Americans seem willing to accept at least some curtailment of civil liberties in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. Even one more major attack, let alone three a year, could usher in some very dark days for freedom. If champions of civil liberties want to prevent that, they need to take a different approach: to show that the compromises we are being asked to accept will not make us safer, or that there are ways to make us more secure without sacrificing our bedrock principles. If they want to be heard when they warn about loss of liberty, they cannot afford to sound cavalier when they talk about loss of life.
    Read it all; apparently some libertarians are starting to echo the Michael Moore line about how there really is no terrorism.


    Denial is always very appealing, but in real life, there's no TV remote.

    posted by Eric at 06:34 PM | Comments (1)

    "Conservatives for Hillary"?

    This post by Ann Althouse woke me up to the new reality (and a series of posts by Andrew Sullivan supposedly document this new phenomenon.)

    Did I really need another reason why I'm not a conservative?

    posted by Eric at 01:51 PM | Comments (3)

    Bambi activates Lyme

    A Yahoo News item I saw earlier focuses on the growing problem of deer-related traffic accidents:

    ....there are 1.5 million deer-related traffic accidents in the U.S. each year, resulting in $1.1 billion in vehicle damages.

    State Farm Insurance Co., the nation's largest car insurer, began tracking deer-crash data in 2002 and also estimates 1.5 million vehicles collide with deer annually.

    Pennsylvania, with its heavily wooded areas and dense population, has one of the highest numbers of deer-related crashes, with about 35,000 deer carcasses removed from state roads annually, according to a state transportation official. Other states with large numbers of deer-related crashes are Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Virginia, Indiana, Texas and Wisconsin.

    Most occur in either the spring, when deer are most likely to be on the move at dusk and dawn, and during the fall mating season.

    Why the article made no mention of the huge deer overpopulation problem I do not know. If you read it and didn't know any better, you'd almost think humans were causing the problem.

    Some of the collisions can be quite messy. A California friend who worked in an ER near Eureka told me about a buck that went through a windshield -- embedding its antlers in a passenger's head. Paramedics had to kill the still-kicking deer, then sever the antler portion from its head, and a neurosurgeon spent the rest of the day carefully removing the antlers from the skull.

    These days, man seems to be the only natural enemy of deer. I counted thirteen deer in a neighborhood herd, and in nearby Valley Forge National Park, the overpopulation problem is so bad that huge herds roam at will, at times seeming to actually darken parts of the landscape. In the winter, they starve, because hunting is not allowed. Meetings are held, but the default position often ends up being dominated by Bambi sentimentalists.

    The National Park Service is holding the usual public input meetings about the Valley Forge deer problem. Ho hum.

    With unhurried deliberation, National Park Service kicked off a lengthy legal process this month that will ultimately determine the fate of Valley Forge's deer by 2008. A Notice of Intent published Sept. 7 in the Federal Register marked the start of the "public scoping period."
    At a press conference on a rainy Thursday morning in the woods bordering Pawlings Road, park officials and state legislators attributed the denuded park woodlands, prevalence of Lyme disease and deer-vehicle collisions to deer overpopulation in Valley Forge.
    "This is a serious public health issue," said state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, a Democrat representing Chester County's 19th Dist.
    Throughout the past two decades, the deer population has risen substantially, according to the park service. When the animals were counted by park staff between 1997 and 2006, they determined the density rose from 154 to 244 deer per square mile.
    The current density is about 14 times that recommended by the state to sustain forest regeneration in the 3,500-acre park.
    As the park service develops a general management plan, which will include a deer-management strategy, the federal agency must follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The process mandates public meetings.
    The public meetings of course tend to become public whinings. Which can then become dominated by whichever activists scream the loudest. While I know that if there is ever to be any hope of ever being allowed to cull the deer herds, "public input" has to occur, I do not envy the people who have to sit and hold these hearings, because I once sat on a city commission in Berkeley, and I know that public hearings are dominated by activists.

    And activists are sui generis -- a highly specialized, tiny and noisy subspecies in no way typifying that large mass of ordinary people we think of when we use the misleading expression "the public." "Irrational" and "emotional" don't begin to describe people who seem incapable of understanding the simple word "No" -- and who will resort to violence or threats of violence to get their way.

    In the case of deer activists, here's a typical example (of an angry "BambiNo"):

    Today, I am not asking you to stop killing the deer, I am TELLING you to stop killing deer. There will be no more deer-killings at our metro-parks. It is off limits to you and your hunting buddies. If the HCMA continues on its bloody path, then I will execute justice the way I see fit ... and that means constructing a rogue, independent, deer-police unit to protect them from you. KAPISH!

    After the rest of the speeches ended, one HCMA member talked about the importance of civility in discussions. The HCMA commissioner then stood up and claimed - once again - that something had to be done about the deer because they were eating the plants.

    I started waving my hands in a gesture of disgust that signified he was lying. He responded by saying, "Young man don't wave your hands at me."

    I interrupted loudly, took over the floor and said the following:

    "I am waving my hands because you have no idea what you are talking about. And don't give me that nonsense about civility. You don't care about civility and you don't care about the truth. I could tell you Gandhi said, 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.' Is that civil enough for you? Is that truthful enough!

    How about Œ'The life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. The more helpless the creature is, the more it is entitled to protection from humans, from the cruelty of humans.' That's Gandhi too. Is that truthful enough! Is that civil enough! Does that mean anything to you or anyone up there? You don't care about the truth.

    I told you before these deer are off limits. No more killing. No more! For 80 years there have been organized deer kills throughout Michigan. And after 80 years, the deer are still over-populated. When is it going to get under control? When? Another 80 years? I'll be damned if you're going to spend 80 years killing deer in these metro-parks. I am livid and I am fed up with this nonsense. No more killing. There will be hell to pay if you decide to kill these deer."

    Then, I walked over to the row of hunters. There were six of them.

    I pointed to each one and loudly said, ŒSissy, sissy, sissy, sissy, sissy ... PUNK.'

    You think you're tough guys. Put your hands on me and show me how tough animal killers are. Come on!"

    Four officers then approached me and asked me to sit down. Since my point was made, I obliged.


    And while the egalitarian bureaucrats tremble over words like that (worrying, no doubt, over whether their children will be safe from activists if they vote the wrong way), the overpopulated deer are going through windshields, destroying the vital understory on which birds and other animals depend, and infecting dogs and citizens with Lyme Disease.

    The latter is a serious public health problem which, because it is relatively new, often goes unrecognized, and does not get as much attention as it should. Not to sound hysterical, but the neurological symptoms are pretty scary to contemplate:

    Up to 40% of patients with Lyme disease develop neurologic involvement of either the peripheral or central nervous system. Dissemination to the CNS can occur within the first few weeks after skin infection. Like syphilis, Lyme disease may have a latency period of months to years before symptoms of late infection emerge. Early signs include meningitis, encephalitis, cranial neuritis, and radiculoneuropathies. Later, encephalomyelitis and encephalopathy may occur. A broad range of psychiatric reactions have been associated with Lyme disease, including paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia nervosa, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Depressive states among patients with late Lyme disease are fairly common, ranging across studies from 26% to 66%. The microbiology of Borrelia burgdorferi sheds light on why Lyme disease can be relapsing and remitting and why it can be refractory to normal immune surveillance and standard antibiotic regimens.
    Lyme Disease is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. (PDF file.) It's a lot more common than people realize, and I met a couple who told me a horror story about such a misdiagnosis. The wife had actually put her husband in a rest home under the belief that he had become another "Alzheimer's patient," and unless some smart physician had finally thought to test him for Lyme (which many do not!), he'd still be there wasting away. Fortunately, a course of antibiotic treatment cleared it up and he made a full recovery.

    The disease is very common here in the Northeast, and it is spreading rapidly:

    Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America and Europe, and one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the United States. Of cases reported to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), the ratio of Lyme disease infection is 7.9 cases for every 100,000 persons. In the ten states where Lyme disease is most common, the average was 31.6 cases for every 100,000 persons for the year 2005.[41]

    Although Lyme disease has now been reported in 49 of 50 states in the U.S, about 99% of all reported cases are confined to just five geographic areas (New England, Mid-Atlantic, East-North Central, South Atlantic, and West North-Central). Charts and tables for Lyme disease statistics in the U.S. can be found at the CDC website.

    The number of reported cases of the disease have been increasing, as are endemic regions in North America.

    I've often wondered why Lyme Disease doesn't get more press. It seems to me if enough people knew how common and destructive the disease has become, and that it is spread by the deer tick, something might be done about the deer problem.

    Why today's Yahoo news article had not a single word about Lyme Disease, I do not know. The insurance companies are reported to be complaining about the high cost of auto accident claims, but you'd think Lyme Disease would be getting expensive too.

    There seems to be a causal relationship between deer overpopulation and Lyme Disease:

    The presence of Lyme disease and deer ticks indicates significant numbers of deer. The deer ticks cannot spread Lyme to humans without at least 8 deer per square mile. This has been found to be a consistent number in studies across New England.
    Something is very odd about this.

    Why aren't there as many Lyme activists as there are Bambi activists?

    MORE: While I did not want this post to end up sounding like a public service message, the more I thought about the tragic possibility of Lyme Disease being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's, the more my thoughts turned to a famous public official whose recent outbursts about dogs were so bizarrely incomprehensible that they triggered speculation about his mental condition.

    I have to say, when I watched the YouTube video that Ann Althouse linked recently, I was a bit taken aback.

    Stunned, really.

    It is clear that the man (Senator Robert Byrd) is suffering from dementia of some sort. He lets his emotions completely overwhelm him, he stammers, pauses for inappropriate lengths of time, turns pages without reading them, and in general makes so little sense that at first I had a great deal of trouble figuring out what he was talking about.

    Before writing this off as Alzheimer's Disease or "senility," I think it should be borne in mind that Senator Byrd is:

    a) a dog owner, who

    b) lives in an area where Lyme Disease is known to be present, and who

    c) shows signs consistent with neurological symptoms of Lyme Disease infection.

    Is it too much to ask that he be tested?

    I mean, doesn't the guy vote for and against all kinds of important stuff? If a mere course of treatment with antibiotics could clear this up, why, there might even be positive implications for national security!

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for the link! A very warm welcome to all.

    UPDATE (07/30/07): A post linked by Glenn Reynolds this morning provides a reminder that the above video of Senator Byrd (along with my comments) would be illegal in New Zealand:

    New Zealand's Parliament has voted itself far-reaching powers to control satire and ridicule of MPs in Parliament, attracting a storm of media and academic criticism.

    The new standing orders, voted in last month, concern the use of images of Parliamentary debates, and make it a contempt of Parliament for broadcasters or anyone else to use footage of the chamber for "satire, ridicule or denigration".

    The rules apply any to broadcasts or rebroadcasts in any medium.

    Any medium means me!

    And you too, YouTube!

    In a way, such antics are funny, but the threat to freedom isn't. I keep saying that we take our freedom for granted, and our Western allies keep reminding us why we shouldn't.

    posted by Eric at 11:56 AM | Comments (22)

    Seeing beyond sex?

    If you're tired of the endless campaign, relax.

    Howard Kurtz (link via Pajamas Media) thinks that the longer it drags on, the more it will help Hillary Clinton:

    The endless campaign, in my view, could wind up helping Hillary Clinton.

    Put aside all the other questions about her record, her divisive image, Bill's role, the alternating Bush-Clinton dynasties. There remains one immutable fact, the reason why John Edwards (lamely) made fun of her coral jacket: she is a woman. (Or what Post columnist Ruth Marcus calls a "person of cleavage.") And in that capacity, she would break the ultimate glass ceiling.

    That's where the length of the campaign comes in. With most people thinking Hillary is the inevitable Democratic nominee--and believing as well that the Dems are more likely to capture the White House this time around--we have plenty of time to get used to the idea of HRC as commander-in-chief. After awhile, it no longer seems so foreign. If she stays ahead in the polls, she almost starts to feel like an incumbent. So by the time the actual voting starts, the notion of a female president is practically old news, factored into the stock price, as Wall Street would say.

    OTOH, I don't think Hillary Clinton's status as a woman is all that much of an issue, at least in terms of the bigger picture. Maybe it will be a good thing to get it out of the way so people can focus on things that matter. You know, questions involving her character. And principles.

    With sex out of the way, the focus may shift.

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

    Station Of Record

    Climate Audit alerted me to the the Detroit Lakes, MN USHCN climate station of record.

    Station of Record

    Click on the picture to find out more about the surface station audit and to join in or the Climate Audit Link above to get a graph of the station's record. It ain't pretty.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers
    posted by Simon at 02:23 AM | Comments (1)

    Getting Tuned Up

    I was reading this article about the revival of the Wankel engine for use in aircraft. However, this is not just any Wankel. It can burn kerosene.

    There's nothing wrong in sticking with what works but those motors require 70 to 80 moving parts and still use 100-octane low-leaded (100 LL) fuel that has long been displaced by kerosene for commercial aircraft. There are some new advances in combustion chamber design and electronic management systems that are making it possible to develop a reliable rotary engine for small planes running on standard kerosene jet fuel.

    The effort is called EUREKA project E! 2743 KERO and it came into being because Mistral Engines saw the demand for a safer, more reliable motor that could be easily adapted to any model of light aircraft and able to run on industry standard fuel.

    Safety and reliability most important in aviation. Advantages of the design include excellent reliability as there are few moving parts, a high power-to-weight ratio, compactness and smooth running compared with conventional piston-engine designs. Moreover, the engine will run on widely available standard commercial aviation fuels.

    The Wankel engine has a rotor instead of reciprocating pistons, doing away with any need for crankshafts, pistons and springs and reducing the number of moving parts to only two or three. Modern electronics has now made it possible to overcome timing and injection control complications, resulting also in similar fuel consumption figures to piston engines.

    Reading that reminded me that my friend Tom Ligon gave me permission to post something he had sent me in an e-mail. He said Dr. Bussard had seen it and liked it.


    Inertial Electrodynamic Fusion and the Internal Combustion Engine
    By Tom Ligon
    17 June, 2007

    Copyright 2007. This article may be copied and used freely to promote Inertial Electrodynamic Fusion. Please attribute the source.


    The internet is all abuzz about the fusion experiments of the Energy Matter Conversion Corporation, conducted in the fall of 2005, which Dr. Robert W. Bussard claims demonstrate "proof of concept" of a new way to produce fusion, which he believes will lead to workable powerplants.

    A few critics of this approach have used various arguments to either claim that the method won't work, or that the experiment itself did not produce meaningful results. This article will attempt to show, by analogies to an earlier and well-known technology, just where I believe Inertial Electrodynamic Fusion (IEF) now stands, and what some of the misunderstandings are that limit the critics appreciation of IEF.

    At least some of the technical criticisms of the approach are the result of misunderstandings of how the device works. The IEF approach, while it is a "hot fusion" method, is a vast departure from mainstream "thermonuclear" (Maxwellian heat-based) methods. The closest relative to IEF is Inertial Electrostatic Confinement fusion, typified by the Hirsch-Farnsworth fusor. The physics of IEC and IEF devices are so different from the heat-based approaches that the critics often simply make the mistake of applying the same assumptions and analysis to IEF machines that they would to a tokamak.

    Four test runs of a device called WB6 were run in November of 2005. Each of these produced short but intense bursts of deuterium-deuterium fusion. Each test produced only a few neutron counts. The final test attempt burned out one of the magnets that control electron confinement, ending the experiments. So one of the main questions is, are test results, each well less than a millisecond in duration, and producing only a few counts, truly significant?

    The WB6 experiments were conducted as the last of the available funds were running out. EMC2 was forced to close its doors. At present, a non-profit organization, EMC2 Fusion Development Corporation, is attempting to gather funds to re-start the research.

    Very early in my involvement with IEF research, I recognized a parallel with internal combustion engines, and could imagine that the earliest developers of that technology might have faced similar criticism from critics who misunderstood their engines. This little parable uses the internal combustion engine to illustrate where IEF is, and what needs to happen to overcome the objections.

    The following account is pure fiction, but one can imagine that it could have happened that way.

    Continue reading "Getting Tuned Up"

    posted by Simon at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

    Imagining fallen neoclassical Victorians

    I'm not quite sure how to respond to this, but because a section links this blog in general terms I thought it deserved a fairly serious link:

    Has a civilization ever gone from business casual to morning coats? Not without being rebuilt from the ground up in ways too painful to contemplate. We're so far from that today that the concept of hearkening back to Victorian anything is pretty comical. We may as well speak of bringing back the Great Awakening or the good old days of Antiquity. It's not just because of the distance in time: Our culture of slovenliness, gracelessness and, well, just about everything, er, blogging is about is so antithetical to the starched-collar and class-conscious ethos of Victorianism that it is simply impossible to imagine our civilization looking or feeling so civilized -- or, of course, so stratified.
    Imagining civilization is, I admit, one of my pastimes. I like to think that I'm trying to defend it to the best I can, and if defending it includes bringing as much of the good stuff back as possible, that's fine. The "Classical Values" theme is part satire, part reality, and if it's wistful reality, well, I've tried to express it along the lines of "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

    Except the curious part of the above link to this blog is that I found it in the context of a discussion with which I very much agree, and which Glenn Reynolds had linked. To back up, some cretinous slob walked onto the Senate floor wearing bedroom slippers and a Hawaiian shirt, and Ron Coleman was offended:

    How far we have fallen (hat tip for that link to this fascinating blog; check out this, too). It is the Victorian in me, I know, but I am comfortable with that.

    Not with this, though. It is contemptible, but entirely appropriate considering the contempt they have not only for each other, but the people they represent.

    I couldn't agree more. I was offended to read about young people wearing thong sandals to work (and even to the White House), by casual attire worn by bloggers to a luncheon with a former president, by what I see as a deliberately orchestrated campaign against school dress codes, and more. (Why, I even confronted the issue of ill-dressed bloggers, and once jokingly suggested a blogger dress code.)

    Don't read me wrong. I don't believe in telling other people what to do; only trying to remind them that personal appearance is an important aspect of Western civilization. Personally, there is no question that I'm often much more of a slob than a "dandy" around the house, although out of respect for others I try (and yes, sometimes fail) not to go out looking like a slob. I consider traditional business attire to be the modern Western equivalent of, say, the Roman toga -- something not lightly to be discarded. I say this even though I know I am a child of the 1960s, when what had long been considered civilized attire was thrown out like many other things that shouldn't have been thrown out. I'm not talking about styles changing with the times, either. Looking like a slob really does display contempt for other people. It's one thing for people who don't know any better, but those who do know better ought to realize that dumbing down appearances by looking like slobs only helps dumb down everything, and ultimately works against civilization.

    Whether this makes me a Victorian, I don't know. Considering their neoclassicism, maybe. However, I'm not about to put on a toga and Roman sandals, or start wearing a Victorian frock coat and high-button shoes. Such details are styles, fashions and facets of the constantly changing face of civilization.

    There is a difference between changing styles of civilized attire, though, and degrading attire itself to the point where it is barely attire, and no longer civilized. I'm not a fashionist, a dandy, or a fashionista, and I can't spell out the standard, but it's a "know it when you see it" sort of thing. Something about seeing an intelligent and well-educated looking man wearing a t-shirt exposing his armpits and flipflops exposing his smelly feet on an airplane is more than unpleasant. It is uncivilized, and there's a lot of it going around. I can't tell people what to do, but some of them clearly know better.

    I'd hate to see it all lead to no one knowing any better.

    UPDATE (07/27/07): A piece in today's Wall Street Journal focuses on the phenomenon of guests in fine hotels wandering about in bathroom attire: "After years of pushing spa mania, hotels are trying to prevent terry-cloth clad guests from wandering into lobbies, bars and weddings. Hannah Karp on the effort to get robes back into the backrooms".

    Hotels that aren't vigilant risk alienating businesspeople and outside guests who come for power breakfasts or ladies' lunches, or anyone else who would prefer not to see glimpses of hairy bellies and cellulite. Gerry Hempel Davis was having afternoon tea with her grandson earlier this year at the Homestead, a luxury resort in Hot Springs, Va., when she spotted an "oversized male" traipsing through in flip-flops and a robe, revealing "two inches too many" of his bare legs. "Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but to me that is totally unacceptable -- it's atrocious," she says.
    I don't know whether her concerns are "old-fashioned" but new is not necessarily better. New can be gross, and I think people have just as much right to complain as they would if the hotel allowed homeless men to sleep in the lobby.
    "It's extremely tacky," says Ms. Spencer, 46, of Pennington N.J. "I don't know you; I don't want to see you in your bathrobe."
    I wonder.

    What kind of person would want strangers to see him in a bathrobe?

    What bothers me about this is that it really comes down to common sense. There shouldn't be any need for hotels to have or enforce rules. But some people are truly clueless -- as if it never occurred to them that they are tacky. As clueless as some of the lamebrains who hold regular conversations during movies in theaters, or cruise down the highway in the left passing lane going 55 MPH. I've seen them, and I swear, some of them do not even realize they are rude. To me, that's the scariest aspect of this.

    And, because one wants to tell people they're being rude, and employees are afraid to be confrontive (as well as fearful of lawsuits by the "aggrieved"), it is conceivable that hotels and theaters might eventually call for totally insane laws. I doubt this would take the form of the state making it a crime to wear a bathrobe in a bar or talk in the theater, but it would not surprise me to see a clamor for immunity for lawsuits filed by the socially clueless.

    It's tragically preventable.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Ron Coleman for the link and the compliment!

    UPDATE: Ann Althouse writes about a young associate so clueless that he or she sent a text message to a senior associate asking him or her "Are bras required as part of the dress code?" I didn't mean to be facetious about the sex, but the article does not provide a clue. (I suppose if a male associate asked that question it might have been thought of as sexist, though.)

    There's such a complete lack of common sense that I suppose it would be sexist to require women to wear bras and not men. How about pants? Can they be required for men, forbidden for women? And can skirts be required for women, forbidden for men? Or can one sex be allowed to wear what the other is not? There are serious people running around who think such rules involve matters of "fairness" -- with distinct legal implications!

    Seriously, I often worry that the absence of common sense is becoming the dominant paradigm.

    posted by Eric at 05:47 PM | Comments (8)

    Nifong Apologizes

    I just saw a news report that Mike Nifong has apologized:

    DURHAM, N.C. - Disgraced former prosecutor Mike Nifong acknowledged Thursday there is "no credible evidence" that three Duke lacrosse players committed any of the crimes he accused them of more than a year ago, offering for the first time a complete and unqualified apology.

    "We all need to heal," Nifong said. "It is my hope we can start this process today."

    It seems the healing might be motivated by a desire to avoid going to jail:
    Nifong's apology came as a judge began considering whether to hold the former Durham County district attorney in criminal contempt of court for his handling of the case.

    Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III has already concluded there is probable cause to believe Nifong "willfully and intentionally made false statements of material fact" to the court during a hearing in the case last fall. If he finds Nifong in contempt, the now-disbarred former prosecutor could face up to 30 days in jail.

    I can't help wondering whether he's sorry for what he did (which will always haunt the lives of innocent young men), or because things didn't work out the way he hoped.

    posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (5)

    Attention gun nuts!

    I write about Second Amendment issues a lot (especially when I feel inundated by and overdosed on Philadelphia anti-gun bias), but I'm not what you'd call a gunblogger.

    However, this seems like a good time to remind readers who come here that my blogfather -- the guy who originally gave me my start in the blogosphere -- is Jeff Soyer, one of the very first gunbloggers. If you're not familiar with his blog Alphecca, you should be. And if you are familiar with Jeff, and you read InstaPundit, you might have learned that Jeff could use a little financial help right now.

    I can't think of a more steady and articulate Second Amendment advocate than Jeff. I've never seen anything quite like the research and documentation he puts into his blog with stuff like the long-running Weekly Check on the Bias. His regular radio segments on NRA News were always fantastic too. Seriously, Jeff's hard work rivals the stuff that think tanks pay people salaries to do. If you own a gun and believe in the Second Amendment, please go over there and hit Jeff's tip jar, as he has more than earned it. (Plus, right now he more than needs it!)

    Remember, there's no tip jar here, nor would it constitute "begging" if there was. I'm fortunate enough that I don't need money right now, but that doesn't mean I can't make a reasonable request of my regular readers.

    Please go hit Jeff's tip jar. I did, and I hope you will too!

    posted by Eric at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

    Thank you, Cam & Company, and NRA News!

    Today I attended the American Legislative Exchange Council (A.L.E.C.) conference in Philadelphia, where I visited the gang at NRA News. Much to my surprise and delight, host Cam Edwards put me on the air on his Cam & Company Show, and I talked about blogging, and Second Amendment issues.

    I've long been convinced that I have a voice made for blogging (meaning my voice doesn't sound that great on the air), but I did the best I could. Have to say, I was nervous, but they made it fun!

    My thanks to NRA News, to Cam Edwards, Ginny Simone and my old friend John Popp for putting me on the air, and for their kind hospitality.

    posted by Eric at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

    Fusion - False Alarm

    It turns out California To Fund Bussard Fusion is a false alarm:

    Here is Joe Strout's comment at Wed Jul 25, 2007 5:09 pm at Talk Polywell.

    UPDATE: I got a call back from Bill Maile in the Governor's office. He spoke with the Governor's policy advisors, and in brief, the story is false. This is the first anyone in the Governor's office has even heard of the idea.

    He is going to do some research to try and find out the source of the story. Hopefully he'll have better luck reaching somebody at nextenergynews than I have; the site lists no name or phone number, and is registered through But maybe a Governor's office carries enough weight to shake loose some real contact information from them. We'll see... He promised to call me again within two hours, and when he does, I'll let you know what he found.

    This is very disappointing. However it does raise the visibility of the effort and has gotten some exposure at the Governator's office. It is possible that this may have some good fall out. It is starting to reach political circles. Well, I loved the buzz while it lasted.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 05:55 PM | Comments (8)

    Felonious violation of existing gun laws being spun as "road rage" and "genocide"

    There's huge front page story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, with the issue of the shooter's race suddenly becoming relevant:

    Nearly a dozen police officers could be seen posted outside the church as mourners arrived, more than funeral home staff remembered seeing at previous funerals resulting from homicides. The Police Department did not return a call for comment late yesterday.

    Some mourners speculated that the police presence may have been due to concern of possible racial overtones. The 18-year-old charged with Tykeem's July 14 murder - Charles Meyers - is white. He had been free without bail awaiting trial on drug-possession and drunken-driving charges.

    And the issue of race came up during the funeral.

    State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D., Phila.) said a state legislator from outside Philadelphia had called the city's homicide problem "cultural genocide," blacks killing blacks. State Rep. Steve Cappelli (R., Lycoming) did so during a nationally televised ABC news broadcast July 8.

    But Tykeem's case, Thomas said, "represents a burst in the bubble. It represents the roof coming off."

    The mourners applauded and yelled in agreement.

    "It's not about just blacks killing blacks. It's about too many guns and violence dominating life in the city of Philadelphia."

    Thomas said he had asked Cappelli: "Was Columbine a case of cultural genocide?"

    I don't know whether it's fair to say that the case is taking on a life of its own, but in the earlier reports, I'd read about it as being a case of "road rage":

    Law, who was described as a "model kid" by those who knew him, was riding with a group of friends in the 900 block of Federal Street around 4 p.m. Saturday when a burgundy Mazda sedan pulled up behind them.

    The 18-year-old driver of the car, Charles Meyers, of Darien Street near Ritner, in South Philadelphia, felt the boys weren't moving fast enough and he honked his horn and yelled at the bicyclists to get out of the way, said Homicide Sgt. Tim Cooney.

    "Some words were exchanged," Cooney said. "We don't know exactly what was said, but it wasn't a heated or extended argument."

    Law's four friends moved over, but Law stopped in front of the vehicle, got off his bike and moved to the passenger side of the car, according to police.

    "With that, witnesses state the burgundy Mazda inched up, the driver pulled out a handgun, reached across the passenger and fired one shot through the passenger window, striking Tykeem in the chest," Cooney said. "Tykeem staggered onto the sidewalk and fell in front of 921 Federal Street."

    At the end of the story, the shooting is described as a "road-rage incident."
    The officer, Joseph Acavino, radioed in the locations of the alleged crimes, Cooney said. He ordered Meyers and his two passengers to stay in the car until backup arrived. All three were taken into custody; Meyers was charged with murder, possession of an instrument of a crime, and firearms violations.

    Cooney said police are classifying the case as a "road-rage incident."

    This is rapidly morphing into a national story -- presumably from "road rage plus guns equals dead children" to road rage plus guns equals cultural genocide" -- so I thought the facts might be worth a closer look.

    There are numerous references to the firearms violations, and I'd like to see exactly what the charges are. if the initial stories are any indication, the man's previous arrest record makes him appear to be a drug dealer (same story here):

    Charles T. Meyers, the man held in the road-rage slaying of a 14-year-old boy in South Philadelphia, had been arrested twice on drug-possession charges since his 18th birthday in December, court records show.
    Meyers is being held without bail on murder and weapons charges in the fatal shooting Saturday of Tykeem Law.
    Since his 18th birthday? Is it cynical of me to wonder about whether this thug was arrested before then?
    Acquaintances said Meyers, whose last address was on South Darien Street near Ritner Street in South Philadelphia, had been thrown out of his house by his mother and that his life appeared to be in a downward spiral.
    Court records show that on March 28, Meyers was arrested at Seventh and Ritner Streets after a road stop and was charged with possession of 30 Percocet pills with a street value of $150.

    On June 15, the same day he had a court date in the March case, Meyers was arrested at Ninth Street and Oregon Avenue and charged with possession of marijuana and Vicodin and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    Meyers had been free without bail and was awaiting trial in both cases when he was arrested in the killing of Law, described by friends and family as a good kid who loved sports and playing basketball.

    OK, there are plenty of felonies right there. For starters, it is a serious felony for any felon (or anyone arrested for a felony) to possess a gun.

    Why isn't it being made plain that the man was violating existing gun laws, and that had these laws been obeyed, young Tykeem Law would be alive today?Instead, it's all about road rage, and cultural genocide -- caused by a lack of gun laws.

    Then there's this detail:

    Police said it appeared to be "road rage." Two other men in Meyers' car, ages 21 and 33, were questioned and released.
    Is it unreasonable to want to know exactly what was going on with this young thug at the time of the shooting? At 18, he was already a career criminal (or well on his way to that), and it just goes against common sense to declare a shooting by such a man who already had an illegal weapon in disregard of existing gun laws to be simple road rage.

    Oh, and now it's genocide.

    Or would that be "road rage genocide"?

    I don't know the facts, and I strongly suspect we're not getting all of them.

    UPDATE: When I said "arrested" above, I should have said "under indictment" -- as I meant to refer to this man's pending charges, not his arrest. I do not know what (if any) juvenile record he had, nor do I know whether he was under probation at the time. Again, I would like to know precisely what the firearms charges are.

    UPDATE: Meyers was assaulted and beaten (apparently by other prisoners) in his courthouse cell this afternoon:

    PHILADELPHIA - A suspect in the apparent road-rage death of a 14-year-old bicyclist _ a crime that has shaken even this violence-weary city _ was beaten up in a courthouse holding cell and taken to a hospital Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, the suspect's lawyer said there is no dispute that his client, Charles Meyers, fired the shot that killed Tykeem Law.

    "It's uncontradicted that Mr. Meyers did in fact shoot the gun," lawyer Jeremy-Evan Alva said Wednesday. "It's a tragedy. Two families are absolutely destroyed over this."

    Meyers, 18, was in protective custody when he was assaulted in the Criminal Justice Center holding cell, which held other inmates in protective custody, Alva said. Meyers was due in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing on the homicide charge.

    Alva had not yet seen his client and did not know his condition or the name of the hospital treating him.

    I'm still trying to find out exactly how many gun laws were violated, because many people see this case is an argument for gun control. But if he didn't obey existing gun laws, why would he have obeyed more?

    UPDATE: Not only is the shooter's race being called relevant, but so is that of the companion passengers:

    Some at the funeral said they believe that race was the aggravating factor in the shooting.

    "As I told the police commissioner to his face, and as I told the family to their face, we will not let this die," declared Black Panther minister King Samir Shabazz.

    "Three of them are in the car, two are let go, and a black man is laying dead behind me now.

    "So we are out here fighting for justice and pushing and promoting that [the shooter] and the other two really need the death penalty. That's the only way I'd feel justified for Tykeem Law and his mother."

    Until today, I didn't think the race of the shooter mattered.

    But now that everyone's race is said to matter, I guess we need to know the race of the passengers. Will it be reported, or are we just suppose to assume they were white?

    UPDATE (07/26/07): More (but not much) on the origin of the gun:

    Police said yesterday that they had not yet learned how Meyers obtained the weapon allegedly used in the slaying.

    Homicide Sgt. Tim Cooney said the .22 caliber gun used to kill Tykeem was not registered to Meyers, but he declined to say whether it was registered to someone else.

    "An investigation as to the origin of that weapon is ongoing," he said.

    It should be remembered that according to the news reports, the shooter turned 18 in December, and that his first adult felony arrest (mere possession of Percocet is a PA felony) was in March. What this means is that if he had no juvenile record sufficient to prohibit his possession of firearms, no history of reported mental health problems, and could honestly swear he was not a drug user, then it is theoretically possible for him to have legally purchased the gun between December and March. But since the police are now saying that the gun was not "registered to him," I think we can safely assume this did not happen.

    What is not known is when or how he got the gun, or the gun's status.

    If he obtained the weapon with felonies pending, there's an illegal transfer right there. Of course, had he obtained the weapon before turning 18, that would have required commission of a separate felony. Additionally, it is a Pennsylvania felony to possess a loaded firearm in an automobile without having a concealed carry license.

    I am not an expert on firearms laws, but just what I've been able to find on the Internet convinces me that there were plenty of gun laws making it illegal for Meyers to possess of the gun allegedly used to shoot Tykeem Law.

    The problem is that the laws were simply not obeyed, and I am unable to understand how this case can possibly be seen as an argument for more gun laws. Criminals do not obey gun laws, they never have, and they never will. In a murder case like this the firearms violations are lesser offenses anyway, and tend to be sidelined.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link! Welcome all.

    Please bear in mind that I am relying on news accounts, and I am not in a position to have all the facts, which are being reported erratically, from different sources. I am suspicious about the direction of the spin, but my suspicions are not facts.

    I am left wondering, why this is being made into a national story?

    Why is it seen as an argument for gun control?

    UPDATE (07/27/07): I really appreciate the useful comments, which demonstrate that there were many more gun laws than the ones I found. Which were not obeyed, of course. (Therefore, we need more laws which will not be obeyed by criminals!)

    posted by Eric at 01:15 PM | Comments (16)

    Hillary Clinton is not Eva Phillips.
    (And Eva Phillips is not Hillary Clinton.)

    Despite my best attempts to utilize the Ellis approach to tackle unwanted thoughts, the latter sometimes have a way of surfacing and resurfacing (no matter how many times I might try repaving and regrading).

    The other night I saw "Queen Bee" -- a 1955 film starring Joan Crawford as Eva Phillips, grande dame from Hell. A more nightmarishly dysfunctional person would be tough to conjure up, and watching the film was painful. Here's an excerpt from a pretty thorough review:

    Those close to Eva know she's utterly evil and corrupt, but young Jennifer Stewart (Lucy Marlow), a cousin who comes to live in the manor, is not so sure -- at first. As the picture makes quite clear (from a character's speech about bees, to another character actually reading a book about many bees), Eva is, yep, the Queen Bee and those buzzing around are her drones. She will sting anyone who crosses or interrupts her ambitions to get what she wants -- which is, apparently, everything. World domination would not be surprising.
    Ouch! I was as riveted as the reviewer, but it was still a painful film to watch.

    So painful, in fact, that I'm now wondering whether it might have been a factor in why I was too worn out and preoccupied (and perhaps overly concerned with my mental health) to make myself watch the Democratic debate on television the next night.

    It would be too easy (as well as a bit of a cheap shot) to compare Hillary Clinton to Eva Phillips. (For starters, there are too many dissimilarities.) Seriously, I had not been planning to do that at all, for I try to stick to facts, and I didn't watch the debate. So maybe I should blame Hollywood post traumatic stress for the fact that I'm even daring to think these unwanted thoughts about a debate I did not watch, and a comparison I never would have thought to make.

    Then again, maybe it's my interest in nostalgia, aggravated by a hypersensitive imagination with a penchant for making associations. The fact is, I was unable to avoid wincing when I read about Hillary's jacket:

    Wow! She's wearing an orange jacket textured with curving, scalloped lines. It reminds me of a chair we had in the 1950s, but it actually looks rather pretty and definitely sets her apart from the guys who absolutely are not free to wear orange suits. She speaks in a solid, stern voice that has nothing to do with wavy orange patterns. She speaks in a straight, navy blue line.
    For my imagination I have no one but myself to blame. And I might have been able to ignore the jacket, except John Edwards had to aggravate the situation by planting a very evil seed. For it was he who made a public issue -- in a national debate -- of the unsettling nature of Hillary's appearance. He didn't like the unfair jacket! And who could blame him? Obama, that's who!
    Most of them won't say anything bad, but Edwards snarks about Hillary's jacket: "I'm not sure about that coat." Which might seem cute, but might piss women off. Hillary comes back with: "Yes, John, it's a good thing we're ending soon." Which sounds like a wife telling her husband he's had too much to drink. But she's supposed to talk about Obama, so she says: "I admire and like very much Barack." I find it hard to believe a sentence that sounds like it was translated from a foreign language. But then, why should she like very much Barack? She'd like very much less Barack. Then Obama one-ups Edwards with "I actually like Hillary's jacket. I don't know what's wrong with it." Which could be read as a double insult. First, it puts down Edwards for knocking the lady's clothes. And second, it subtly implies that Edwards is feminine: Obama can't tell what is wrong with the jacket, because he's a man and doesn't know about fashion, not like some other men, who aren't manly enough.
    Frankly, while I think it showed good political acumen for Obama to swoop in like that with a snarky hidden insinuation, I find myself wondering whether Obama might have been feeling a little too gray in his charcoal gray suit. Obviously, it wouldn't have done for him to say, "Hillary's jacket makes me feel a little too gray!" but there's no way to ignore a color clash like that. And ignore it he did not. By minimizing his apparent interest in Hillary's flaming jacket (but complimenting it anyway), Obama deftly availed himself of his male prerogative, and not only subtly impugned Edwards for the reasons Althouse gave, but also complimented Hillary on her clothing! That this undeniable burst of political incorrectness (whether voluntary or involuntary) occurred cannot have been lost on the legions of feminist theoreticians and their supporters who obviously watch for such details and who might have even advised Hillary to wear something strikingly colorful in order to trigger "stereotypical male attention" -- which she definitely got, whether from the "unmanly" Edwards or the "manly" Obama.

    FWIW, I think all the men were being had. By a pro.

    Again, I am not saying that Hillary Clinton is Eva Phillips, but the post traumatic stress from the "Queen Bee" film just won't leave me alone.

    Obviously the problem is with me. I must be a total neurotic, and once again, I need to work on my REBT.

    DebateQueenSM.jpg Like it or not, the fact is, I can't even look at a totally normal picture from the debate without feeling stung by that post traumatic Queen Bee stress. I ate dinner in Philadelphia last night, and I happened to pick up a copy of a local throwaway, only to see that picture of the woman in the blazing outfit surrounded symetrically by gray men on each side, as two cadet-soldiers stand grimly and solemnly at attention (as if to add symmetry to the picture) in the background.

    (Isn't it obvious who's in charge?)

    Speaking of cadets, why was the debate held at The Citadel? Is it any coincidence that the DNC would pick a place that lost a famous battle after feminist icon Shannon Faulkner sued to be admitted? There's altogether too much symbolism staring me in the face. You'd almost think someone was sending a reminder about which "side" won.

    But wouldn't it have been a better reminder been to make sure that one of the cadets was female?

    Ah, but that would have not only interrupted the symmetry, but it might have been a distraction. Again, Hillary Clinton is not Eva Phillips, and vice versa.

    Only one Queen Bee at a time.

    (It's probably "nature's way," if you believe in that stuff....)

    MORE: Once again, Ann Althouse shows gets it right.

    "I do love Givhan's idea that the most advanced woman would be so confident about her image as a competent professional that she'd forthrightly use clothing to express her sexuality. If she does this in a profession setting though, she will be surrounded by men in suits who have no way to present themselves more sexily. What's the male equivalent of the Jacqui Smith style? Can Joe Biden wear a codpiece?"
    Via Glenn Reynolds, who doesn't seem overwhelmed by the image of Joe Biden wearing a codpiece.

    Geez, isn't Biden in enough trouble for his hairpiece? Or is that a hair transplant? Sexed up hair, sexed up, um, codpieces. The difference is that men cannot say, "Honey I'm having a bad codpiece day!"

    Advantage, Hillary.

    posted by Eric at 09:55 AM | Comments (1)

    Albert Ellis, 1913-2007

    I'm sorry to see that the great Albert Ellis has died:

    NEW YORK - He came to psychology almost by happenstance, after friends began turning to him for guidance. But Albert Ellis would become one of the most important figures in modern psychology, once ranked by his peers as more influential than Sigmund Freud.

    Ellis, who helped establish cognitive behavior therapy, died Tuesday from kidney and heart failure after a long illness, said his wife, Debbie Joffe Ellis. He was 93.

    "He helped countless people, and a large number of people he helped now help other people," his wife said. "And in that, there's no question that he has influenced the world in an intensely positive way. In this crazy, violent world, he was a compass for truth."

    In the 1950s, Ellis invented what he called rational emotive behavior therapy, or R.E.B.T., which stresses that patients can improve their lives by taking control of self-defeating thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

    I'm a latecomer to the Ellis approach to problem solving, and when I read about him in this post by Dr. Helen, I decided to order the book she mentioned:
    learn to not only accept rejection, but to welcome it, it seems that it is the only way to overcome the irrational belief that the world owes you. It doesn't. Of course, one should fight injustice, but the irrational belief that the world should be nice to you just because you are you is a sure way to end up disappointed about life.

    If you would like to try some of Ellis's techniques to reduce anxiety and gain a sense of mastery over your social reactions, try reading How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable. At 93, his advice is still ahead of its time.

    And now that he's dead, it still is, and I suspect it long will be.

    Ellis's REBT cuts through the usual crap, and I say this as someone who is familiar with conventional psychotherapy. It's based on simply looking at your behavior logically. A sort of "Exactly why I am I feeling this way?" approach, which usually results in the realization that I am making myself feel this way.

    Back to today's obituary:

    After receiving a doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University, Ellis started a private practice specializing in sex and marriage therapy. R.E.B.T. grew out of his own experiences and the teachings of Greek, Roman and modern philosophers.

    While Freud's school focused intensely on childhood and the unconscious to explain the source of neuroses, Ellis' brand of talk therapy asked patients to take immediate action to confront irrational thoughts.

    And why not? If a thought is irrational, and you are having it, and if examining the irrational process helps alleviate the emotional distress caused by your own irrationality, then by learning how to be less irrational is the road to self improvement.

    This is an easy process to understand, but as in most things, the devil is in the details. If you've been doing something irrational all your life, and it's become pervasive, there's no single switch to flip that will transform yourself into perfection. REBT is a constant process, a bit like exercise. Just having the knowledge that it's there -- and as available as my ability to remember it and exercise it -- is a wonderful tool, and I'll always be grateful to Dr. Ellis for having the balls to defy his profession and make something like this available to the general public.

    The obit describes him as "salty" and "irreverent." Music to my ears!

    His work, along with that of others including Dr. Aaron Beck, is considered the foundation of cognitive behavior therapy. Ellis was also known for his irreverent lecture style and salty language.

    Early in his career, Ellis drew criticism from some in the psychological and psychiatric establishment for his critical views about Freud and psychoanalysis.

    "There is virtually nothing in which I delight more," he said, "than throwing myself into a good and difficult problem."

    I think life is a good and difficult problem. Especially the quest to avoid being made miserable by irrationality. If you spend a lot of time thinking that about how everything sucks and how awful you feel, check out one of his innumerable books. He wrote a ton of stuff, by the way:
    Ellis initially tried writing fiction, and when he couldn't get anything published he turned exclusively to nonfiction, promoting what he called the "sex revolution."

    In the late 1930s, as he collected material to make a case for "sexual liberty," his friends began regarding him as an expert on the subject. They often asked for advice, and Ellis discovered that he liked counseling.

    I guess the concerned communitarians for social and moral justice would call him a "hedonist" for that.

    And I'm sure some of the religious communitarian scolds would enjoy calling him an atheist, too -- for he admitted to being a "probabilistic atheist." Hey, so what? I'm a probabilistic deist! What he thought about the unknown is not the point, and really no one's business but his own. The point is, he helped a lot of people, including me.


    UPDATE: Dr. Helen has lots more, and Glenn Reynolds (observing that we could use more of the "Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable" approach in the blogosphere) links Ann Althouse's further thoughts which prompted Ann Althouse to link her even further thoughts here. Thinking further back, I linked the same further thoughts by Ann Althouse post in an earlier post in which I attempted to tackle the ticklish "sociopath" issue which Ann Althouse had raised. I'm not a psychologist, but I had to weigh in, as I'd recently been called a "sociopath" by Amanda Marcotte, and I was intrigued by the debate:

    The Marcotte diagnosis is here. Should I care more? Or should I care less? Am I supposed to care about whether I should care, or am I a sociopath for posing these questions?

    I'm wondering about the "Althouse principle" (I'm using the term loosely) that the more you're insulted, the more sociopathic you become. Might we be confusing a personality that has developed hardened calluses with a personality that was uncaring to begin with?

    I'm not a psychologist. All I can do is look at Wikipedia. I'm not qualified to psychoanalyze myself, but I don't think I have enough of the traits to fit the diagnosis. (For starters, I'm too much of a damned bleeding heart, and I really can't stand to hurt people. I hope that doesn't mean I should develop a thicker skin so I can run for president or something....)

    I'll stick my neck out right now with a further thought -- and opine that being called a sociopath by Amanda Marcotte was probably good for my mental health.

    I think Dr. Ellis might even agree.

    Seriously, REBT is good stuff (even if I'm a beginner and need lots of practice).

    posted by Eric at 08:09 AM | Comments (1)

    California To Fund Bussard Fusion

    Wonderful News!!!! Governor Schwarzenegger of California is planning to fund Dr Bussards IEC Fusion project.

    In a move sure to impress environmentalists and further cement his Earth friendly image, Governor Schwarzenegger is set to launch a multimillion dollar research effort into a revolutionary new source of clean non-polluting power.

    The project is focused on the Inertial Electrostatic Fusion reactor invented by the award winning American physicist Dr. Robert W. Bussard. The Radiation Free Fusion Reactor has the potential to change the whole landscape of energy generation, which is usually a choice between bad and worse options that include Nuclear, Coal and Natural Gas systems.

    The State of California peak energy usage is about 40,000 Megawatts and is only expected to grow steadily over the coming years . Fusion opens a whole new avenue of cheap clean energy that could not on

    ly satisfy growing energy needs but also fuel massive water desalination plants that could help solve California's acute water shortages.

    Fusion is the energy that powers everything in the universe. The sun's energy comes from fusion. Alternatively, fission is the process whereby heavy atoms, which are nearly unstable, are split into two radioactive atoms. Fusion, on the other hand, is when two light atoms merge.

    The fusion process invented by Dr. Bussard takes boron-11 and fuses a proton to it, producing, in its excited state, a carbon-12 atom. This excited carbon-12 atom decays to beryllium-8 and helium-4. Beryllium-8 very quickly (in 10-13 s) decays into two more helium-4 atoms. This is the only nuclear-energy releasing process in the whole world that releases fusion energy and three helium atoms -- and no neutrons. This reaction is completely radiation free.

    It is not completely neutron free. However, the neutron production is minimal.

    This is the break though in funding I have been looking for for the last nine months.

    Better than sex.

    Here are a couple of links explaining what the excitement is all about:
    Bussard Fusion Reactor
    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 04:23 PM | Comments (8)

    Watching the debate would not have helped my mental health

    I have been trying to avoid the election as much as possible, and while I was doing other things, it's probably just as well that I spared myself the agony of watching the Democratic debate last night.

    Seriously, why should I watch? Did I have any duty? I'm no good at "live blogging" things, so it's just as well to leave that to those who are really good at it, like Stephen Green and Ann Althouse. They did a better job of watching the debate than I could. So much better, in fact, that reading their reactions gives me a better idea of what was going on than writing my reactions would have. Seeing them confirm two of my primary suspicions made me feel that I really didn't miss anything.

    Here's Stephen Green:

    Sometimes I really hate all these guys. Even more than the Republicans. And that's saying something.
    Nothing new there. For reasons I'm about to explain, I'm sure I'd have felt the same way.

    And Ann Althouse:

    this is the precise point in the debate where I conclude -- I'd been toying with the conclusion -- that Clinton is the superior candidate.
    Which is another way of recognizing the simple reality that she will WIN. (I've seen it coming for years, and right now she's doing so well that she doesn't need to drag in Bill, whose visibility is, IMO, a barometer of Hillary's perceived performance with the voters.)

    Notwithstanding my problems with the Republican Party, there is no way I could vote for Hillary Clinton. Nor could I vote for any candidate who believes in the following:

  • That this has become the mainstream position of the Democratic Party is too obvious to require extended discussion. I think pulling out in such a way that it emboldens powerful enemies who are poised to take over Iraq is dangerous and irresponsible. The idea that the US should pull out of Iraq because it was wrong to go in is not only illogical, but in light of the Democrats' former statements, it is supremely hypocritical.

  • A simple and recent illustration of how utterly destructive and insane this has become, look no further than the Democrats' deliberate killing of legislation which might have protected people from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior by possible terrorists. (Fausta Wertz has a good post on the subject.)

    If what had happened to me in September of 2001 happened now, I think I'd be sued. What the Democrats did was beyond scummy; it was truly despicable. Identity politics always is. (I believe it is an evil, loathsome virus of the human mind.)

  • Look no further than today's WSJ editorial:

    Rationing via price controls and, as costs rise, waiting periods and coverage restrictions. This is Michael Moore's medical dream state.
    No wonder Hillary is trying to distance herself publicly from Michael Moore -- with a little help from CNN, of course. (I don't think Moore will be welcome at the DNC, at least, not publicly. He might remind people of Hillary's 1993 Health Care Plan from Hell. AKA "The Health care plan that dare not speak its name.")

  • Um, anthropogenic global warming alarmism? (Ugh, not that again!) Nothing like putting environmentalists in charge of the ecomony. What I think Hillary would do is let Al Gore continue to catch the flak for her, then create a new Cabinet level "climate change" position for him. (While the GOP isn't much better, they are nice enough to at least tolerate dissenters.)

  • No, the Democrats will never, ever, ever, stop with that -- even if they have to break the gun laws in order to pimp for more. That's because gun control has long been one of their crown jewels. (Hillary has long worn hers publicly and proudly.)

    Like it or not, the above things are all bread-and-butter issues of the Democratic Party. I disagree on every damned one of them, and I think they are all major issues of vital importance which dwarf the rest. True, many Republicans suck on pork, many suck on individual liberty and lifestyle politics, and many are only half opposed to socialism. Many people get hung up on lifestyle issues and religion, but the GOP is not monolithic about lifestyle politics. Besides, such personal issues are not within the scope and power of the federal government. Much as I disagree with them, I'd hold my nose and vote for a sexual moralist who lacks real power to impose his morality over an environmentalist socialist gun grabber with the power to impose his.

    In short, the things I most hate about a minority of Republicans, they can't do.

    The things I most hate about the majority of Democrats, they can and will do.

    This situation is unlikely to change, and the election is still more than a year away.

    (Probably a good reason not to watch the debates, and instead have my fear and loathing done for me vicariously. Nothing wrong with a little emotional outsourcing!)

    posted by Eric at 02:56 PM | Comments (2)

    Catching up with the tagged

    With apologies to all concerned for my tagging them, I thought I'd return to the scene of the crime and let readers know that so far, at least four of bloggers I tagged have responded!

    While Alan Kellogg had been tagged before, he did reply in a comment that he'll soon have teeth, and opined that "instead of being mutant mushrooms, we might be mutant slime molds."

    (And Immodest Proposal's comment made me wish I'd tagged him.)

    Socrates does a far better job of supplying random facts than I did. (I don't believe I can do things at random, so I used my blog's search engine for random facts, but Socrates' stuff really does seem random. An interesting look at an interesting blogger.)

    I had not known that Sean Kinsell says people think he "looks French" (I don't think he does, and I'm with those who think he looks like Matthew Fox), he hates food made with mediocre ingredients, but nonetheless has a major weakness for Burger King. (Sean, if only you'd told me, we could have held our annual Philly summit there!)

    And Connie du Toit responded with "things I did not mind anyone knowing." These things include a intense dislike for and a desire to destroy all cars blasting people with loud bass (I agree, and the awful noise is inescapable if you live near any cities or college campuses), and an admission that her favorite fast food restaurant is Taco Bell. (So is mine, and I always order their seven layer burrito.)

    I'm not the world's most gregarious blogger, but I have to admit, I'm having more fun with the responses to my tagging than I did being tagged or writing my response.

    posted by Eric at 12:54 PM | Comments (4)

    The timing of the volume

    Has Wonkette become a sort of unofficial anti-Giuliani headquarters of the leftosphere?

    Just take a look at some of the titles of some of their recent posts:

    * Boy-Molesting Priest Also Giuliani Consultant
    * GOP Update: Forgotten Soft-Porn Actress Endorses Divorced Abortionist Fascist
    * Rudy Reveals Secret War!
    * Costumed Fascists: Rudy Giuliani Finds His Political Base
    Bear in mind that I wasn't searching for these posts, but while I was researching the "abrad2345" videos I saw them all listed together right after this post. (Implying, no doubt, that this sleazy fascist abortionist hirer of child molesters would do anything.)

    Why the high-volume, obsessive viciousness right now?

    I can't be sure, but earlier I saw Glenn Reynolds' link to the latest Gallup polll results:

    In a newly released set of 2008 Gallup general election matchups, Rudy Giuliani has edged in front of Hillary Rodham Clinton among registered voters, 49-46, while Clinton has an equally thin margin over Fred Thompson, 48-45. Giuliani comes in ahead of Barack Obama, 49-45, while Obama leads Thompson 51-40.
    Were I trying to help out Team Hillary, I'd be turning up the volume too.

    posted by Eric at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

    Skullduggery in Southern California?

    When I woke up this morning, I was all set to write a long-winded philosophical post about what I think the Democrats would do if given unbridled power when I saw M. Simon's post asking questions about anti-Semitism at Wonkette.

    Regardless of whether anyone at Wonkette actually is anti-Semitic (something I have no way of knowing), echoing the "Jew-liani" and "Jew York Times" stuff strikes me as very sleazy.

    But that is not what distracted me this morning. Things that don't compute always tend to catch my attention, and what I found especially interesting is the way leftist blogs are trying to allege that the "Jew-liani" video came from the right -- the evil "Swift Boat Right" to be exact.

    In a number of posts (see Democratic Underground, the BRAD BLOG, and techPresident) it has been speculated that the youtube user abrad2345 is also MySpace user Public Persuasion, and that this person might be working for the "Swift Boat Right." The story is big enough to have reached ABC News.

    Stevens, Reed, Curcio & Potholm (SRCP), the firm said to be employing "abrad2345" denies that this user was their employee Amy Bradford (as had been speculated), and maintains the personalities were manufactured.

    Arlen Parsa, who writes for the Daily Background has been all over this story from the start (simply scroll through his blog for numerous posts), has been told to stop asserting that there is any connection between the YouTube user "abrad2345" and SRCP. Parsa elaborates here:

    Despite being personally damn-near convinced that Ms Bradford (if not her employer) was behind the videos, I knew that it would be irresponsible to report what I thought to be true- as straight fact. As such, I tried to write the post in such a manner as to leave the possibility that I could be wrong about all of these things I believed to be facts, and that they could be all coincidences (the lede of my post read: "An employee of the Republican ad firm responsible for 2004's controversial "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" advertisements has apparently been producing viral videos which ridicule Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.") Obviously I could have done a better job at this.

    After I published that item, which contained both information I knew to be true, and also information I merely believed to be true, it got some attention. Today, I got an email from the DC law firm Dickstein Shapiro LLP, which represents SRCP. They were worried that I had published inaccurate information, and wanted me to remedy the situation.

    "The thing is complete BS," David All of Tech Republican reported an SRCP source as saying earlier today. "That person and the account is not my firm's employee (it's a fake). We're trying to figure out who created the account and myspace page. Lawyers are involved. It's disgusting."

    Parsa says he operated in good faith, and he seems to be quite forthcoming in his explanations and updates:
    I want to stress that I have and will in the future try to be as transparent as possible, as I consider openness to be a pillar of good blogging.

    I made some mistakes- perhaps most importantly not being more skeptical of a source who in hindsight seemed to have all the right information at all the right times. If indeed it turns out that I've been taken for a ride by the person who was helping me with the research, then it certainly wouldn't be the first time that a reporter- or even a lowly blogger- was taken advantage of.

    So, do I think that SRCP was involved with the YouTube ads? I honestly don't know what to believe anymore, but I am taking what SRCP says in good faith. Is there more to this story? Absolutely. And you better believe I'll be looking into it and covering it, though in a very careful manner. Let's just say that I have no desire to become famous for being "the blogger who the Swift Boat ad firm sued."

    I strongly suspect both "abrad2345" and "Public Perception" are fake personalities. All the videos seem contrived to make fun of the right wing. If you watch them, I think it becomes obvious that the "actor" involved is either deliberately spoofing the right wing, or else he thinks he's really doing a good job of acting but is unable to avoid letting his inner feelings about the right wing shine through. Whether he's a satirist or a failed agent provocateur, I do not know.

    But I think the idea being parroted -- that he or the video maker is working for the right wing attack machine -- is absurd on its face.

    If this video virus spreads, sooner or later someone will figure out who the actor is, which I think would go a long way towards solving the puzzle.

    If you watch this one -- "Rudy Giuliani - Because we can't all be firefighters" -- it's just incredibly obvious that the actor thinks Republicans and conservatives are all a bunch of polluting, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, SUV driving cretins who want to carry their guns within 500 feet of schools. And of course, Rudy is their boy -- because he's one of them!

    The video is subcaptioned "Rudy Giuliani Campaign Ad that raises doubts about Al Gore, global warming and why we should be at war with Venezuela."

    I noticed a few details that might be helpful in figuring this out:

    License plates

    While most of them are blurred, this one showed pretty clearly:


    If you check out the pictures of all 50 license plates, only California and Lousiana fit the layout and color scheme of the above. My initial reaction was that it was a California plate, though, and this was confirmed by --



    They're all over the place, and they are not the Palmetto variety found in Lousiana, but typical of Los Angeles area, which is home to --



    While I can't swear to it, that sure looks like an LAPD car to me. Maybe someone can help out here, but watching the video, I just had the feeling of driving around somewhere in Southern California. Who this man is, I don't know.

    But he's sure as hell not driving around anywhere near Alexandria, Virginia.

    MORE: In another video from "abrad2345" titled "Real Balls" not only are numerous palm trees visible, but so are a number of older Craftsman-style bungalow houses -- typical of Los Angeles and the older suburbs in that area.

    Anyone recognize the hood?

    posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

    Be Careful Out There

    I was reading Althouse about the latest Dem debates and got reminded of some of my favorite music by Ann.

    For those who want to see some concert footage of the Doors and Morrison's ironic comments about American Democracy the third video (right most) is it. The middle one in my opinion is musically better. Manzarek is manic on the organ. He did his best work with Morrison. After Jim died he just wasn't the same.

    posted by Simon at 01:23 AM | Comments (0)

    Wonkette Threatens To Sue

    Wonkette is threatening legal action against My Right Word for asking is "Wonkette Antisemitic?"

    If I understand you and Wonkette correctly, you thought it was cute/clever or whatever, to borrow a term, "Jew--liani", from that clip and, without any comment about its specific ethnic frame of reference, slap it up on a new post the following day. And someone at Wonkette thought that it was so cute/clever or whatever, that they added "Jew York Times" for increased effect, if I am following the thinking over at Wonkette.

    Well, I don't think the way you think. I think it was the grossest of manners on Wonkette's part to repeat the "Jew-liani" bit. Even you, now, seem to admit that it was, at the very least, a slur. But where does the "Jew York Times" come in? Are we now in a Jesse Jackson redux of that 1984 "Hymietown" remark? I'm sure you know what I am referring to but since proper blog manners are to send links, try this one:
    You'll note that Jackson made an emotional apology in the end of the affair.

    I reviewed my blog post. I am pretty sure I did not malign, defame, libel or otherwise use any deprecatory term and phrase that is any worse that anything that appears on your site.

    When Wonkette was new and actually blogged by said Wonkette, I asked her if she had pictures of ass fn (since at the time, according to her own words, she was reputed to be an expert in the subject). She replied that I would have to find my own pictures, which even then were common on the 'net (I did the research). To go from the sublime (so I hear) to Jew hatred is quite a fall.

    In any case given the a f routine I can't imagine how such musings might defame Ms. W. As is usual, threatening law suits against bloggers only brings more attention to matters that the sewers would prefer hidden (and no, that is not a misspelling).

    H/T LGF

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:27 AM | Comments (1)

    "The country's problem"

    Commenting on the Republican candidates, Newt Gingrich seems to think it will be the country's problem if he doesn't become president:

    Asked by the Examiner if he was prepared to commit to a run, Gingrich said, "I'm perfectly happy to do what I do," he said. "Whether that leads to the presidency is the country's problem, not mine."
    Once again, I think Gingrich (who also said he "refuse[d] to shrink to the level of 40-second answers") is Hillary's favorite candidate. I think Giuliani is her least favorite.

    Meanwhile, I see that Stephen Green and others live-blogged tonight's Democratic debate.

    I missed watching it and thus can't opine, but that's the country's problem, not mine.

    UPDATE: Best line from Stephen Green:

    Sometimes I really hate all these guys. Even more than the Republicans. And that's saying something.

    posted by Eric at 11:27 PM | Comments (0)

    brush with Dali

    I'm a Salvador Dali fan as well as a Grateful Dead fan, but it never crossed my mind to inquire whether these two forces of overstimulation of the cosmic imagination ever met up.

    Until today, when, as my cosmic luck would have it, Rock Scully's "Living with the Dead" arrived in the mail. While flipping through it, I quite happened upon page 293, which relates the details of the meeting -- beginning with "Jerry Garcia fondling an ostentatiously embossed invitation...."

    I couldn't find a transcription of the passage online, and I'm too lazy to transcribe portions of the book. But fortunately, a cartoonist has obliged, and here's the text of the invitation as cut from the cartoon (a cut and paste I hope Dali would approve):


    According to Scully (who was the Dead's manager for years), Dali and the Dead did meet up, and it was surreal for all concerned.

    While I hate transcribing, I figured one little detail wouldn't hurt -- especially when that detail involves art. While of course he's much better known as a guitarist, Jerry Garcia was also an artist (whose paintings have turned out to be quite a good investment over time), and it thus would have been natural to expect him to ask a question along artist-to-artist lines.

    Jerry asks what kind of brushes he uses to get such microscopic detail.

    "Tiny brushes. Tiny baby hair, soft as Gala's bottom, made from the pubic hair of capuchin monkeys."

    It's exhausting being geniuses together, and Jerry goes to the bar to get himself a Bloody Mary.

    Whether this is true, I have no way of knowing, but it sounds plausible. It would have been in character for Dali to give an answer like that even if it was hogwash, as he saw words as things to be used in much the same way he used paint, and he enjoyed putting people on in order to get a rise out of them.

    But as a serious fan of Dali and the Dead, I thought this seemingly microscopic detail was worth examining.

    Fortunately for the Capuchin monkeys, there don't seem to be any Capuchin pubic hair paintbrushes under discussion online. Or Capuchin hair paintbrushes. Hardly a thing about Capuchin monkey hair.

    However, my failure to find Google references does not rule out the possibility that some artists might have used Capuchin or other monkey hair to make paintbrushes. Monkey hair has been used to make fishing flies, and according to this account, an artist named Elizabeth Andrews was willing to pay quite a lot of money for monkey hair for paintbrushes:

    She offered me quite a bit of money if I could get pink-speckled monkey hair for her. Apparently, the monkey's hair makes the best paintbrushes in the world."
    So, it's possible (although barely) that Dali used monkey hair brushes, although I'd never heard about it before. I think it's more likely that he heard about it from somewhere, and surrealized the details to fit the surreal narrative he liked to paint of himself. With Dali, there is no way to know.

    In a way, my research into this illustrates how silly blogging can be. Let's face it, very, very few people want to know whether Capuchin public hair was ever used to make Dali's paintbrushes, or whether Dali was having a little fun at Jerry's expense.

    There are, I am sure, more pressing issues facing the world today.


    Like what? Like whether Rudy Giuliani screamed "bull5hit" years ago? Glenn also mentions the floating of rumors that Fred Thompson might be gay. (I was so disgusted after spending time with that non-issue that Capuchin pubic hair now looks refreshing.)

    I don't mean any disrespect, but I think Capuchin pubic hair in paintbrushes is more important than whether Giuliani screamed "bull5hit," and I'll really stick my neck out here and venture that it's of greater cosmic significance than even the false gay rumor-mongering about Fred Thompson.

    Can't we get a little more surreal?

    MORE: I don't know why, but perhaps in a moment of weakness I succumbed to reality, and I watched (albeit grudgingly) the video Ann Althouse links of the supposedly "unhinged" Giuliani saying "bull5hit." Unhinged, my ass! He looks like a New York politician running for office in 1992.

    Surely, they're not serious.

    But I am serious about the need to get more surreal! As an example of how this might work, Glenn Reynolds linked a suggestion by The Economist that Fred Thompson get a toupee. With all due respect for The Economist, I think a toupee on Thompson would be downright tacky -- as well as deadly dull.

    But a pink-speckled monkey hair toupee -- now, that would liven up the race.

    No bull5hit!

    AND MORE: As the subject came up, I thought brief word on toupee surrealism in politics would be in order. While it's been tough to figure them out, here are the rules on toupees as a political issue as best as I can determine them:

    1. If you have a toupee, you will be ridiculed for it if you are a Republican.

    2. If, like Fred Thompson, you "need" but do not have a toupee, you will be ridiculed for needing one.

    3. If you do not need and do not have a toupee, you will accused of wearing one anyway (and ridiculed).

    I don't think I need a toupee, nor would I ever wear one. So far, I have kept a low profile by not running for office and by not being Glenn Reynolds.

    A pink-speckled monkey hair toupee right now would be superfluous.

    posted by Eric at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

    Disempowering lateness

    Because I was in a hurry and late on Saturday I did not have time to finish the thoughts I started here about being late and being made late.

    In an honest and amusing piece, Burt Prelutsky explained why he is irate when people are late:

    As a rule, I'm an easy-going guy. Hardly anything gets my goat, ruffles my feathers or raises even a single hackle. I always try to put myself in the other fellow's shoes, and am always prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt. There is only one area in which I give no quarter. If it were up to me, lack of punctuality would be a felony. And while I might not make it a capital crime, I wouldn't think twice about tossing the terminally late in the cooler for 10 or 20 years; preferably in solitary confinement, so that they wouldn't be distracted while mulling over their anti-social behavior.

    Where punctuality is concerned, my motto is: Better half an hour early than 10 minutes late. They're words I live by, and so should the rest of you.

    Prelutsky notes a double standard I've also noticed -- that many of the chronically late arrivers would never arrive late for a meeting with the boss, a lender (or probably an IRS audit).

    I have a dirty little secret which probably shouldn't be disclosed on this blog, but which I'll disclose anyway because it's a rainy Monday morning (and I'm being told my blog is being read by people who do not like it but who for whatever reason will never let me know about it). I really don't mind it when people are late, as unless they are totally insensitive assholes who offer no apology (itself very revealing), it takes the "edge" off things. Probably involves my low self esteem and adolescent passive aggressive rebellion, but that's just the way it is. If the person is a relative stranger, it's a way to break the ice and evaluate him, and if it's an old friend, they usually have good excuses if they're late (in which case it's no big deal) or else they call into the "chronically late" variety, in which case it's something to plan for (and if you really don't like it, well, you can always discontinue the friendship). I tend to be amused by chronic lateness types, but then, I've spent enough time in cultures where everyone arrives late that I don't get as bothered as some do. My biggest problem in dealing with late strangers is that it makes me wonder whether there was confusion over where to meet -- which means that if I'm wrong, they have more of a right to be indignant over my lateness than I do about theirs!

    Because there are no rules other than "NEVER BE LATE!" a contradictory, seemingly hypocritical attitude towards lateness prevails. If being late and being made to wait is rudeness, then we are all (at least, most modern people are) subjected to a relentless, systematized campaign of chronic rudeness over which we have no control. This, I believe, triggers conscious resentment which is quickly stuffed away as unconscious resentment, because we see ourselves as "not allowed" to feel it.

    Who must wait for others -- and who gets to make others wait with impunity -- involves a classic struggle over personal power dynamics. This touches on respect, disrespect, who has authority, and who should have authority.

    We are all made to wait, put on hold, rescheduled, and literally abused -- all without any input from ourselves -- by total strangers to whom we give near total power over our valuable time. I believe this takes its toll, and because the resentment has nowhere to go, we take it out on those who are "smaller" in much the same way the victim of a bully will often turn around and bully an even smaller victim.

    Abusive airline personnel are a perfect example, which is why I wrote about them, but nearly any petty tyrant will serve as an example. Like it or not, there are people who like to boss people around and use their arbitrary authority, and they are everywhere -- from the most mundane all the way to those who have real power over our lives.

    "Good Morning XYZ Associates would you hold please?"

    Nothing like a command posed as a question, for it is nearly always followed by being on hold. It's rude, but it's so routine that only a crank blogger would even take notice of it. But how many people would answer their home phone that way -- even if they were extremely busy?

    As part of their jobs, airline employees must become accustomed to ruining people's schedules, days, and even entire purposes of trips that if they didn't grow calluses, they'd probably not last long in the job.

    "I'm sorry that you missed your mother's funeral, but we can get you on the same flight tomorrow."

    Only they're not sorry at all. No one is. Never mind that the customer paid three times the usual rate for a last minute emergency flight. If you didn't get what you bought, tough luck!

    The problem is compounded by a lack of clarity over who holds the power in these interactions between "customers" and "providers" of "services." Where is the authority? If you go into a store or a restaurant, the employees are expected to serve you, because you are the customer, and that is the nature of service. You take a cab, and you can usually expect that the driver will take you where you want to go with as little delay as possible, and that he'll be forthcoming and generally polite in explaining delays encountered along the way. But with airlines (and increasingly, on trains and even buses), the idea of "service" or "politeness" is such a joke that complaining to anyone in charge seems so beside the point as to be almost ridiculous. I complained once to New Jersey Transit over the failure of the company to indicate from which track a train was leaving, and how it didn't make the company (a state run monopoly of some sort) look good. From her incredulous expression, it was probably the only complaint like that she'd heard in a long time, if ever, and that I was the one who must be crazy, not New Jersey Transit (which was, after all, only behaving in a completely natural manner).

    Yet just because it is natural does not mean it is natural. That's the contradiction. Customers are increasingly not customers, and service is increasingly not service.

    What are government employees who work in the innumerable bureaucracies? Is the anachronistic expression "public servant" really helpful in describing them? The term would imply that because we the taxpayers pay their salaries, they are working for us. But isn't that a bit silly? A guy comes to inspect your business, with the power to shut you down if he thinks you've got a bad attitude, and he's working for you? Come on. Might as well lecture an officer who's giving you a ticket on why he should be more polite to the guy who's his "boss."

    Anyway, these people -- an endless variety of petty tyrants -- routinely make us wait and mess with our lives, while conducting themselves in a manner more associated with rude bosses than people we are paying for a "service." Attitudes we would find appalling in a bartender or a waiter are simply accepted as a given.

    But the waiter or bartender analogy fails, for the simple reason that there's no competition. You don't like the service of Joe's Bar and Grill, you can refuse to leave a tip, and you can go elsewhere. But if you don't like USAir, it's not so easy, as there may be only one or two other choices, as it's a government-sponsored oligopoly, and if you're not pleased with the quality of your electrical service, or the quality of the passport or drivers license services, forget it. To illustrate further, imagine if these various petty tyrants had their salaries reduced and were made to work for tips. In a government monopoly setting, a massive bribery system would result.

    And of course some hard core socialists advocate pooling of waiters tips in order to eliminate incentives and competition. (They probably imagine that socializing health care would make it better. If you like New Jersey Transit, get ready for their health care system.)

    This is only an attempt to explain unconscious forces that may be at work, and I am in no way trying to say that rudeness justifies rudeness or lateness justifies lateness. It wouldn't be an excuse anyway, and in a case like this, even offering an honest excuse like this --

    "Sorry I'm late, but because I am tired of being put on hold, tired of long delays at the airport, and abused by authority figures masquerading as servants, I'm afraid my unconscious mind may have made you my punching bag!
    -- would strike many people as either extremely rude, or downright insane.

    Hey, I don't like being late or making excuses for it, so the above is not my excuse. But we're living in a world in which brutal honesty, rudeness, and insanity, are not always options. Sometimes I get a kick out of the idea of a covertly polite world where bloggers can say what they really think, and run around pretending they didn't say what they thought in front of people who pretend not to have read it.

    Where else can you go to complain and explain at the same time?

    posted by Eric at 11:16 AM | Comments (2)

    The eye of the beholder

    A few more flowers from yesterday's visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden:




    Coco stayed home yesterday, but I made it up to her today by taking her on a nature walk. Here she stops to admire a large and picturesque fungus:


    While the fungus is more subdued in color than the flowers, I think it more than makes up for it in size and unpredictable attitude.

    UPDATE (07/23/07): Commenter ThomasD thinks the fungus Coco is smelling may be edible, and the link he provides clearly illustrates that it is indeed the "Chicken of the Woods" fungus (Laetiporus sulphureus).

    Intrigued, I found a recipe here:

    Also known as Sulfur mushroom, the Chicken of the Woods should be harvested when they are young and tender. Since it is a variety that may cause discomfort or reactions for some due to the toxins in this mushroom, caution is advised when eating this mushroom. Specimens that are found attached and growing on eucalyptus are considered inedible.

    To prepare, clean the leafy sections thoroughly and cut away the woody core, using only the leafy sections of young tender specimens. If the mushroom is to be stored, keep it refrigerated and use within several days for the best flavor or cut into pieces, blanche or sauté and then freeze. The flavor which represents the name, tastes somewhat like chicken. Meaty in texture, it has a noticeable aroma and desired flavor that provides an excellent enhancement to rice, risotto, curry, and various chicken or poultry dishes, such as chicken and turkey casseroles. The mushroom can also be sautéed in butter, flavored with garlic, onions or shallots, and served as a side dish or an ingredient in egg dishes.

    Unlike the flowers, the fungus was at a local park and not the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

    I'm tempted to give it a try. I don't know how long these things live, though, and for all I know a greedy gourmand (if I may use the word that way) has already beaten me to it.

    posted by Eric at 10:08 PM | Comments (1)

    Creationized New Yorkisms

    Not much to report from New York. The subway system proved to be so dysfunctional that I wasted hours trying to get around. As my luck would have it, yesterday they shut down several major lines for maintenance, and shifted trains to tracks belonging to other lines, while putting up incomprehensible signs like these:

    subwaysign2.jpg I don't know who wrote or designed ("created" is a better word) these absolutely fiendish signs, but what they do not tell you is that not only is there no 3 Train, but that the 2 train which replaces it might or might not run on the 2 Track (depending on the whim of the operator -- and unbeknownst to passengers, who would have to run up and down flights of stairs in the hope of locating the right track). Yesterday the 2 sometimes did run on the 2 Track, but mostly seemed to run on the Number 1 Track. Then, I learned that the 4 Train was sometimes running on the 2 route, but sometimes not and when the 2 train did run it was running on a route no one could figure out, and its movement and stations did not correspond to the electronic displays inside the train. Trying to figure any of this out logically was simply impossible. People were irate and one furious man told me that he rides the subway every day, and that this had never happened before. (I calmly asked whether he thought I should write a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, and this only seemed to make the man angrier.) The MTA employees were unable to predict or explain anything, and eventually it became clear to me that the trains were just being run in an opportunistic, make-up-the-route-as-you-go-along manner, and that in all probability, there was no system at all, and nothing was anyone's fault. I saw foreign tourists who were hopelessly confused, and I wouldn't blame them if they concluded that the evil empire was on its last legs.

    Speaking of signs, I had a great time at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, although I guess it's just as well that I missed the exhibit illustrated by this sign:


    Really and truly, I didn't know there was a plural of "feminism," and now I'm worried, because what are the implications for the other isms? Are we approaching a permanent state of priapistic pluralisms? (Or would that be pluralistic priapisms?) Are there now to be sexisms and racisms? Liberalisms and Conservatisms? Libertarianisms? Catholicisms, Episcopalianisms, Baptisms, Presbyterianisms? Where does it end?

    I just can't keep up with the pace of dysfunctionality, and I tended to identify with the turtle I photographed in the pond at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden next to the museum.


    I also enjoyed the Sacred Lotuses blooming in the water lilly pond:


    They have an interesting history:

    This is a symbol of the sun, of creation and rebirth. Because at night the flower closes and sinks underwater, at dawn it rises and opens again. According to one creation myth it was a giant lotus which first rose out of the watery chaos at the beginning of time. From this giant lotus the sun itself rose on the first day.
    Hey why not? I guess that's as good an explanation as any of the various creationisms.

    It's certainly better than any creation myth I could come up with for the New York subway signs!

    posted by Eric at 11:06 AM | Comments (2)

    Fourth Class Porn

    Lubos Motl is complaining about the invasion of personal gossip into physics.

    David Goss has sent me a flawless article from the July 19th issue of Nature, pages 297-301. Everyone who prefers articles about physics itself over fourth-class porn about physicists sleeping with other physicists - the kind of junk that numerous Woits and Smolins offer to their highly undemanding readers - will enjoy it.
    I personally love the idea of protons coming together indiscriminately in a great orgy of fusion. Changing partners until they find one that is sufficiently excited.

    After a thrill like that male and female mating connectors just don't have the same level of excitement.

    More of that sort of porn is available at IEC Fusion Technology blog. Or you can try: Mr. Fusion.

    Commenter Larry R. at Motl's place thinks I have explained gay physics. It is quite possible. However, not being an expert, I defer to others for the definitive explanation . I do know quite a bit about male and female mating connectors.

    posted by Simon at 01:09 AM | Comments (0)

    Why I'm late -- AGAIN!!!

    Burt Prelutsky has a very amusing piece about people who are chronically late:

    When you live in Los Angeles, as I do, people are constantly arriving late and then using traffic as their excuse, as if they had no reason on earth to expect there might actually be other cars on the road. So, first they insult you by keeping you waiting, and then they follow up by insulting your intelligence. Do they imagine that I, who somehow managed to arrive on time, came by helicopter?
    The exception, of course, is if they're meeting with the boss or asking for money. If it's just plain old you, why, "people who are late think they're entitled to be late."

    How true. I say this as someone who constantly struggles to arrive on time. Like right now, I'm supposed to be driving to New York, and I'm already running late. Why? Because I hate driving, and I hate traffic, so I put it off until I absolutely have to. But that is as irrational as it is irrelevant and unfair.

    You'd think in the more than half a century I've been on this planet, I could learn to tolerate traffic. But what is tolerance? I seem to get less tolerant of banal annoyances as I get older, and the timeworn wisdom of "do the thing you fear and the fear will go away" does not apply to traffic. Or patience.

    I say this as I'm making myself late by avoiding traffic by impatiently writing an impossibly impatient post about the impossibility of patience.

    Air travel is even worse, because it doesn't matter how "on time" you are, as you'll be made late, and there's no revenge. I found myself sympathizing with the woman who got ejected from the plane because her baby kept saying "Bye bye plane!"

    As an attendant reviewed the flight safety instructions, Garren began to bid Houston adieu.

    "There was a plane next to us, and I pointed it out to Garren, and he started saying 'Bye, bye plane,' over and over," Penland said.

    Distracted and upset by the boy's words, the flight attendant went over to Penland after completing her safety demonstration.

    "She leaned over the gentleman who was sitting next to me, and she said, 'OK, it's not funny anymore. You need to shut your baby up," Penland said.

    Penland said she told the flight attendant that she expected her child to fall asleep momentarily.

    "'It doesn't matter. Regardless, I don't want to hear it,'" Penland said the flight attendant told her.

    "'It's called Baby Benadryl,'" Penland said the attendant told her, suggesting she give her child allergy medication to help him fall asleep fast.

    "I said, 'Well, I'm not going to drug my child so you have a pleasant flight,'" Penland said.

    The discussion continued and very quickly what started as an unpleasant flight for Penland and Garren became no flight at all.

    The flight attendant told the captain that Penland had threatened her, and the captain agreed to taxi the plane back to the gate, where mother and child were told to disembark.

    Other passengers who witnessed the argument were stunned, and came to Penland's defense.

    Fellow passenger Sandy Taylor said the flight attendant came back and "in a real arrogant way she says, 'We're going back to the gate.'"

    Reading between the lines, I think the passengers were more amused by the baby than by the safety lesson, and it ticked off the fight attendant, thus triggering the power struggle.

    There's more and more of this stuff, and a recent WSJ piece has a gruesome collection.

    If this Times piece is any indication, passengers are starting to help each other out against their uniformed oppressors (a bad sign for the airlines -- as the usual pattern was more like savage competion):

    Like her, I've noticed that passengers comport themselves remarkably well on stranded planes, even amid appalling conditions like backed-up toilets and a lack of food.

    "Because things are so bad right now with the delays and missed connections, I really feel it's become an 'us against them' attitude." Ms. Ogintz said. "I think people actually tend to be nicer to each other than they used to be."

    Like many passengers on stranded planes, she saw how people looked out for one another. "Five hours was a long time to be sitting there, and I noticed people tried to help each other. If somebody had an extra snack, they would give it to somebody with a kid," she said.

    In another incident, a pair of unaccompanied children were abandoned by Delta Airlines after missing a connecting flight:

    The family of two children traveling alone from Alabama to Alaska says Delta Air Lines abandoned the unescorted minors for more than 20 hours after they missed their connecting flight in Salt Lake City.

    Fifteen-year-old Blake Sims and 10-year-old sister Briana locked themselves in a downtown hotel room until an aunt in Do- than, Ala., arranged for an off-duty Salt Lake City police officer and his wife to pick up the children, feed them and return them to the airport to resume their cross-country trip the next day, said their mother, Adriana Ables.

    "They are doing good. The older one, he was a trooper. The little one, she was fine until she saw me, and then she was real upset," Ables said from her home in Fairbanks.

    The July 1-2 ordeal is the latest in a chain of incidents this year that have stained the public's view of U.S. airlines and stoked enthusiasm for a passenger bill of rights. With jets jammed, fares rising and the on-time arrivals and departures at record lows, frustration levels among passengers - and the parents of two minor travelers - are rising.

    Again, I hate all traffic -- on the road, in the air, anywhere. Rudeness begets lateness which begets rudeness.

    Makes me never want to leave the house. Do I have to?

    Yes! And right now. I hate to be late but it will always be a lurking possibility until the day I'm officially declared "late."

    A video Ann Althouse mentioned last night made my unconscious mind look for and find this video -- "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells.

    (In 1968, it was a lot easier to fly.)

    Through some inexplicable process, this led me to search out and find Tom Petty's original "Learning to fly" video.

    (Hmmm... Decades later, seems we'd forgotten how to fly.)

    Might be too late to learn.

    posted by Eric at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

    Government bureaucrats can be such a pain!

    I complain about bureaucrats a lot, and one of the reasons is that I was a small business owner for years and I know what it's like to deal with bureaucratic inflexibility and ineptitude, when all you're trying to do is run a business or be a small landlord. Inspectors can be a real pain in the ass.

    A Philadelphia health inspector, though, recently proved to be more than just a pain in the ass for a small business. He was -- literally -- a pain in the foot, allegedly running over the foot of a neighbor who tried to prevent him from fleeing with cash stolen from the business:

    A city health inspector has been arrested and charged with stealing $1,200 from a Chinese restaurant in North Philadelphia during an inspection, police said yesterday.

    Clarence Morris, 33, also was charged with assaulting the restaurant owner's wife and a female witness who tried to prevent him from fleeing, officials said.

    Police gave the following account:

    At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Morris was inspecting the Erie Express restaurant on the 3600 block of North Broad Street when the owner's wife discovered $1,200 missing from an area not accessible to customers.

    The woman told her husband, and when they confronted Morris, a tussle ensued.

    Morris made it to his white Health Department-issued Jeep, and while the woman tried to pull him out of the vehicle, another woman who saw what was happening held the door open to prevent the inspector from driving off.

    Still, he pulled the door shut, and when he drove away, he ran over the foot of the woman who had come to the wife's aid.


    I hope this isn't an indication of the kind of people who work for the City of Brotherly Love. They're already having a problem keeping businesses from fleeing the city because of extortionately high payroll taxes, but when the bureaucrats commit strongarm robberies, you have to wonder.

    It appears the city didn't do the greatest job of screening, although the inspector is being fired for having lied about a previous record:

    Police radio soon broadcast an alert for the Jeep used in the robbery. Detectives later tracked down Morris, and he surrendered to Northwest Detectives late Wednesday afternoon.

    Both women were treated at Temple University Hospital and released.

    Morris was charged with robbery, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

    Morris was a probationary employee hired in April, said Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran. He was fired yesterday for lying about past criminal acts.

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but Philadelphia is a city in a state of serious mismanagement.

    People around here love to blame "gun availability" for the huge increase in the Philadelphia murder rate, but if guns were the reason, you'd expect similar murder rate increases in cities with similar laws. In an Inquirer op-ed titled "Guns don't kill people, Phila. does, John R. Lott compared Philadelphia to other cities (like Pittsburgh) where guns are just as available as in Philadelphia, and concluded that Philadelphia's problems have something to do with Philadelphia:

    In the five years from 2001 to 2006, Philadelphia's murder rate soared more than 36 percent while nationally, the murder rate increased only 2 percent. Indeed, only two other cities in the top 40 experienced a sharper rise in murder rates, according to FBI crime statistics.

    But if the cause of more murders in Philadelphia is the lack of yet more gun control, why isn't murder increasing in the rest of Pennsylvania? Pittsburgh saw just a 7 percent increase.

    Why haven't murder rates gone up in the rest of the country? Should Phoenix, the city closest in size to Philadelphia, claim that its murder rate remained virtually unchanged for the last five years because of the supposed lack of new gun control? How should Dallas explain its 24 percent drop in murder?

    It is not that guns are more likely to be used in Philadelphia murders, either. The proportion of murders involving guns is similar to that of other cities.

    It would appear that Philadelphia's problems have something to do with Philadelphia, not the lack of more gun control coming out of Washington or Harrisburg.

    Could it be that Philadelphia simply isn't doing such a great job at law enforcement?

    I don't know, but if their health department is any indication, I'd say the whole city is in trouble.

    posted by Eric at 08:49 PM | Comments (1)

    Respecting Tradition

    Randy Barnett has been doing some writing on Libertarians and War. Most recently this Wall Street Journal piece. Which has spawned a lot of discussion with Randy at the Volokh Conspiracy.

    A number of commenters have noted that the Iraq War started without a declaration of war, but instead Congress gave the President an authorization to use military force (AUMF) and gave him the money to back up that authorization. Not good enough for some Libertarians.

    What ever resources (including judgment) Congress put in the President's hands with respect to our jihadi (a term from the American Colonial period) enemies can be rescinded if the Congress sees fit. In fact some Dems are trying to do just that.

    This is not a usurpation of power. It is delegating to the executive the implementation of the wishes of Congress. Just as the executive enforces laws Congress passes. That is the traditional role of the executive. Don't Libertarians have any respect for tradition?

    Sometimes, I think reality makes Libertarians crazy.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Censorship in Spain

    As Jose Guardia makes clear, political satire (like the picture of Bush and Blair in the last post) above could be censored in Spain -- at least, if it involved the Spanish royal family.

    According to the court, slandering the royals is a crime:

    A spokeswoman for the National Court, who could not be identified because of court rules, said slandering the head of state could carry a two year prison sentence.
    I somehow doubt they'd censor such a depiction of Bush, though.

    Americans take the robust free speech we enjoy here for granted. So much so, that we tend to assume that our European allies must have the same First Amendment that we do. It's a major error, and it must always be remembered that there are plenty of people who'd love to take it away from Americans.

    Fortunately, for now they're stuck with the First Amendment, so they're using various workaround methods.

    UPDATE (07/24/07): Jose Guardia has a new post and says that "El Jueves has published a retraction in the issue to hit the newsstands tomorrow."

    They've cleaned up the cartoon, which is now work-friendly and even kid-friendly!

    No word on the implications for the "bee shortage" (although that might be only an American problem).

    posted by Eric at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

    Right leaning Libertarian socialist orgy?

    A guy named "Gary" came up with a couple of real classics today.

    The comment he left to Dr. Helen's post on gay marriage is too rich to ignore:

    Gary :
    Dr. Helen states in part: "First, let me start by saying that I am for gay marriage. As a right-leaning libertarian, I believe that people should be able to enter into whatever relationship they wish with other competent adults without state intervention. If men want to marry other men and women want to marry other women, have at it."

    "Right leaning Libertarian" that just another label for just another Bed-wetting, bleeding-heart socialist with a difference you spending your tax dollars. What she is saying is "have at it"-a "competent" adult father could marry a competent adult daughter or daughter"s" or a competent adult mother could marry a competent adult son or son"s" or a woman could marry 10 men or 10 women, or you choose the senario. This woman is just another elitist from some Socialist Indoctrinated University. Take advise from this person at your own risk. Conservatives beware.

    As might be expected, this generated considerable debate.

    Commenter "Elitist Bedwetter" called it "a good illustration of the dangers of inbreeding."

    "Gary" replied:

    Sorry I didn't proofread for the highbrow.

    I feel good knowing I hit the bullseye. Try 'Liberal'tarian-the swap wives and husbands highbrow society.

    Wow. I had no idea that Dr. Helen was into swapping out herself and Glenn. If this were true, why would both Glenn and Helen provide links to the charge? Wouldn't they would want to keep such a thing quiet?

    It puts a whole new face on socialism, although I have to wonder how Dr. Helen is going to square it with what she said in her Norm Geras interview:

    What would you do with the UN? > Dismantle it.

    What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

    Hmmm..... I don't see how dismantling the UN will help promote socialism (to say nothing of husband and wife swapping), and normally we think of the latter statement as involving Marxist economics, not sex.

    I'm inclined to think that "Gary" might have a bit of 'splainin to do, although I'd still like to know more about the "swap wives and husbands highbrow society" -- especially Dr. Helen's involvement in it. If there's anything to this, a lot of people might suddenly be very interested in joining the right leaning libertarian socialist movement.

    However, I've been reading Dr. Helen's blog since she started it, and while I can't say I've read every single word and noticed every last detail, I think I'd have noticed something like that.

    But I'll try to follow this argument out. Maybe there's a concern that heterosexual marriage will be dragged down some sort of slippery, "sexual socialist" slope. Does advocating homosexual marriage lead to heterosexual husband and wife swapping?

    Has a study been done?

    If it turns out that Gary is right, then it's not the emerging Nanny State we should be worried about, but the coming Orgy State!

    MORE: It occured to me that terms like "right leaning libertarian socialism" and "swap wives and husbands highbrow society" are a little busy, and I thought I would try to simplify things by using the word "Orgytarian." But Google thinks the word "Orgytarian" should be "vegetarian." What's up with that? "Nannytarian" is a word.

    So why not "Orgytarian"?

    I haven't asked Gary or his people (whoever they may be), but you'd think both sides could agree that "Orgytarian" beats having to say "the right leaning libertarian socialist/swap wives and husbands highbrow society."

    Anything to promote better dialogue, I say!

    MORE: While I hesitate to depart from the topic of libertarian socialist orgy-mongering, Randy Barnett's post about radical libertarian war supporters (which Glenn linked earlier) has left me grasping for words!

    I probably need to do some serious soul searching, because like Randy Barnett (and along with Glenn and Helen), I would have to consider myself solidly in the libertarian war supporters' camp.

    But for terminology purposes, how are we supposed to fit "war" into the "right leaning libertarian socialist/swap wives and husbands highbrow society"?

    The "right-leaning libertarian-socialist war-supporting wife-and-husband swapping highbrow society"?

    Nah, I don't like that, because then I'd have to change the title of this post to "Right Leaning Libertarian Socialist War Orgy" and I don't like changing post titles.

    I do see a clear conflict, though, between the Right Leaning Libertarian Socialist War Orgy Machine and a certain 1960s idea based on a false dichotomy, and recently resurrected in France:


    I thought instead of changing the whole title of this post, I'd just change the valentine to suit the orgy warriors:


    Or would that be war orgiers?

    Either way, they're not a new idea, although in some places orgy warriors (at least their torsos) are to be "endured with sullen solemnity."

    What, you think I'm smiling or something?

    UPDATE: My thanks to Dr. Helen for the link!

    posted by Eric at 01:26 PM | Comments (4)

    My beef with statistics.....

    I like to say that I hate statistics, which of course I do.

    But that doesn't mean I don't find statistics like these an endless source of entertainment:

    2.2lb of beef is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions which have the same effect as the carbon dioxide released by an ordinary car travelling at 50 miles per hour for 155 miles, a journey lasting three hours. The amount of energy consumed would light a 100-watt bulb for 20 days.
    As I keep saying (ad nauseam), the greenies want to make the cars, smokestacks, and "Big Oil" the demons in their anthropogenic global warming power play, while downplaying things things that don't fit the agenda.

    My reaction is to not care.

    MORE: I realize that not caring about statistics does not solve the problem, but I have noticed a recurrent phenomenon. It often happens that statistics are proferred about persons, events, and things which are ultimately unknowable, and never subject to accurate determination. If reasonable estimates by people acting in good faith are offered and they involve noncontroversial topics, fine. But contentious and political issues are another matter. Simply try to discern the following:

    How many illegal aliens are there?

    How many Muslims are there?

    How many homosexuals are there?

    How many abortions were performed before Roe v. Wade?

    How many crimes were deterred by guns?

    You'll find plenty of statistics, but they are all hotly disputed, especially by activists on the various sides. As I have discussed before, estimates of illegal aliens range from 7 to 30 million. That's a huge range, and it demonstrates the impossibility of obtaining an accurate number. (My response was to poll the readers!) This is why I distrust statistics in general, and the more disputed a particular issue is, the more I distrust the stats (and of course, the more likely it is that there will never be agreement on them).

    This is not to say that there are not actual numbers in each case; only that there is no way to absolutely know them.

    Of course, it's easy for me to disregard data, because most of the opinions I hold do not depend on data. Whether there are 7 or 30 million illegals, or whether gays are only two percent of the population, or how many guns deterred crime -- these numbers do not affect my opinions in the least. Why would they? If there were more Hispanics than blacks (or more Muslims than Jews) should that change anyone's opinion about any of these group of people? I would tend to distrust anyone whose opinion about the nature or character of any group of people was based on their percentage of the population -- and that's yet another reason I distrust statistics, because they are wielded to influence the very people whose thinking I most distrust.

    posted by Eric at 09:39 AM | Comments (1)

    Sharing my revelation with the world

    I picked up a new vacuum cleaner the other day.

    Well, it wasn't exactly new. And I'm not sure calling it a vacuum cleaner is completely accurate, because, while it looked like one of those tiny old classic vacuum cleaners, it turned out to be missing the entire motor.

    What I picked up was a shell. Rather like two clam shell halves that had to be screwed back together; the whole thing had been left by a neighbor in a pile for the trash collector, and clueless me (I'm always a sucker for nostalgia) picked it up and brought it home.

    Revelation2.jpg Here it is, being examined by Coco, who wasn't terribly impressed (mainly because it didn't contain food).

    Fortunately, the two little wheels had been left inside, along with the rubber gasket and the long screws which hold the case together, otherwise I'd have put it out in front of my place for the trash collector.

    During the assembly, I began to see a REVELATION. Literally, the word seemed to appear, as if struggling to break through the blue paint and tell me something important.


    I just saw the movie 1408 the other night. It's a great but scary film, and it crossed my mind that I might be suffering from hallucinations induced by Post Scary Film Stress Syndrome on the heels of excessive Grateful Dead nostalgia. When a wacky word like "REVELATION" (well, wacky for a vacuum cleaner) appears like that, struggling to be seen despite a coverup, I've got to remain skeptical.

    Rather than succumb to cosmic fretting, I reached for the steel wool!

    Sure enough, the word "REVELATION" was not only there, it appeared to be a commercial logo of some sort. Googling the term in the vacuum cleaner context, I soon found what I was looking for:

    The Compact vacuums were originally made by the Interstate Engineering Corporation to clean Howard Hughes Corporation aircraft in the 1940's. The first Compact had two rear wheels and two front skids. It had a hose with several attachments so they could easily clean under the seats and the overhead compartments. It was very likely women employees who cleaned the aircraft because Howard Hughes' Corporation employed many of the "Rosie The Riveters" that you've probably heard about working to support WW2.

    The vacuum worked so well that they decided to sell it to the public. The transition was easy because they already had all of the cast and die equipment necessary to manufacture the metal parts for the machines. The first Compact was sold to the public in 1946.

    The salesmen were doing so well selling the Compact door to door that the company made a spin off called the Revelation. The Revelations were only sold in retail stores from 1949-1954. The Compacts were only sold by salesmen. Interstate invented and owned patents on both of the machines.

    So I wasn't crazy after all.

    I'm glad I found the truth about my "revelation" though, because there's another "Vacuum Cleaner Revelation," and I'm afraid I don't have time for it. More than one Vacuum Cleaner Revelation in a day, and there'd be a sucking sound from within my cranial cavity.

    I'm left wondering why someone would have gone to the trouble of painting over the word "REVELATION."

    They probably used lead paint too, so I've shortened my life and lowered my IQ.

    Just to make a planter.


    Well, you can't say I'm not helping the environment. No seriously. If every vacuum cleaner in the world could be turned into a planter, the number of carbon footprints which would never be made would exceed the number the vacuum cleaner would have ever vacuumed up!

    (No, I haven't checked the math, but give me a break; it's a REVELATION I'm dealing with!)

    posted by Eric at 02:43 PM | Comments (3)

    web of guilt

    Via Pajamas Media, Sissy Willis has some excellent macro photographs of spiders, along with some keen observations like this:

    the night stalker had moved its silken bundle across the room to a more secluded wall near the sink. We tried to get a closer look using one of those bar-magnifier rulers. When it inadvertently touched the web, the spider went into a spinning frenzy worthy of a Clinton spokesperson, even as what was left of the silk-encased lacewing hung motionless attached to the wall close by.
    Wonderful! This reminds me of a post I wrote after seeing a funnel weaver spider in my backyard which I thought was "so feminine and graceful in appearance that it reminded me of Salvador Dali's painting of the half human spider Arachne."


    The thing is, I hadn't considered the political ramifications of spiders when I wrote that post, but Sissy has, and it occurred to me that the religious aspects (Pagan though they may well be) might be worth another look. The word "Arachne" is of traditional Pagan origin, and involves a sort of mythological guilt trip:

    Minerva could not stand the insult that Arachne had weaved, so she took her shuffle and tore the weaving to peices. Then she touched Arachne's forehead to make her feel her guilt. Arachne could not stand the guilt any more so she hung herself. Minerva took pity for her and turned her into a spider to let her live.
    This might explain the "spinning frenzy worthy of a Clinton spokesperson."

    Guilt is a powerful motivator.

    So get spinning!

    posted by Eric at 11:19 AM | Comments (2)

    Do I really have to?

    M. Simon has just informed me of some wonderful news!

    Oregon Guy has "tagged" Classical Values!


    But thanks!

    Whether this creates any obligation for me to comply with the rules, I do not know. I did not -- and do not -- make the rules, and I don't think they're legally or morally enforceable. However, as this seems to be an established game of some sort, I'll try to play along to the extent I can.

    I think it's at least fair for me to provide a written response to each rule, so here they are:

    1. Let others know who tagged you.
    I think I complied with that one already.
    2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
    Random? There's no such thing as random when you're replying to a question like that, and I think most psychologists would agree. We are not computers, but biased human beings. What we would reveal in a situation like this would strike me as inherently indicative of something other than random. "Random" denotes objectivity, but providing facts about myself is anything but objective. The only way I might approach true, randomized, objectivity would be if I could have a book containing all known facts and then open it, blindly point to whatever factoid might appear, and repeat this seven more times.

    I don't have a book about myself, but I do have a blog, so here are random facts about me -- gleaned by using the the disembodied poetic method in conjunction with this blog's search engine:

  • In college, I received an A+ grade in a Criminology course called "Sex and Crime."
  • I am a double-transplanted East and West Coaster who moved to California at 18, and grudgingly moved back to the East Coast where I have attempted to be bicoastal ever since.
  • I do not like activists, although I am often overcome by the contradiction of not wanting to fall into the trap of being an anti-activist activist.
  • I love pigs, and I love to eat pork.
  • In college at UC Berkeley, I was told that I should be a writer, and warned that law school would destroy my writing skills. In keeping with my usual pattern, I defied the warnings.
  • AIDS killed the majority of my friends. (My response was to engage in self destructive behavior.)
  • Statistics annoy me.
  • I have faith that there is a God, but that faith extends to no organized or written religion.
  • OK, now that I've complied with Rule 2, I guess the worst is over where it comes to me.


    3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
    I think I'm in substantial compliance with that Restatement of the Rules.
    4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.
    OK, here we come to a problem. I don't like administrative chores (as anyone can see by the insanely disorganized blogroll), and a major reason I object to a chore like that is that I would feel obligated to go about doing it correctly. What are "people"? Does that mean bloggers only? I'm assuming it does, but if so, how do I know the bloggers aren't already "tagged" by someone else? And how do I know that I wouldn't annoy them by tagging them either way? Am I supposed to email them? Should I make sure they comply? And suppose I hate doing this to people I like?


    The following are selected at random, and they are not obligated in any way:

    Loren Heal

    Sean Kinsell

    Connie du Toit

    Agenda Bender

    Alan Kellogg

    A Jacksonian

    Nick Packwood

    Fausta Wertz

    My sincerest apologies to anyone on the above list who finds being "tagged" inconvenient or annoying (or who has already been tagged).

    Otherwise, I guess that ends this exercise.

    Are we having fun yet?

    posted by Eric at 10:41 AM | Comments (6)


    I just read a bit touting Bill Richardson as a strong Democratic contender for President. Here is a bit of what the stands for:

    ...he advocates complete and total withdrawal of troops from Iraq within six months...
    You don't make babies or win wars by total withdrawal.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 04:10 AM | Comments (0)

    The right of the militia to keep and bear arms?

    One of my pet peeves is the inability of so many gun control advocates to recognize that the militia clause in the Second Amendment is not a limitation on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, but explanatory language. An explanation is not a limitation, and had the founders wanted such a limitation, they'd have referred to the "right of the militia to keep and bear arms," and not "right of the people to keep and bear arms."

    Yet "right of the militia to keep and bear arms" is what (under the "collective right" theory) the anti-gun people like to claim that "right of the people to keep and bear arms" actually means. This is absurd.

    Googling "right of the militia to keep and bear arms," I got nearly 9,000 hits, but none of them are saying that the Second Amendment says that. Just the opposite.

    If only more of the gun control people would admit that the "right of the militia to keep and bear arms" is their interpretation of the Second Amendment, the debate would be clearer.

    posted by Eric at 09:41 PM | Comments (1)

    American Morality

    Eric at Classical Values is discussing Clayton Cramers's piece on the prevalence of abortion before Roe. His conclusion about abortion is that it may actually be happening at a lower rate since Roe.

    Clayton's most important point is his conclusion.

    If you have to arrest and try your own citizens for a crime on a massive scale (as would be necessary to enforce a general ban on abortion), it is usually a bad indicator for the moral health of your society.
    I wonder when we are going to apply this kind of thinking to drug prohibition? I look forward to a return of American morality.


    David Hecht made this comment at Classical values:

    "If we can't stop abortion when it's legal, we'll never stop it when it's illegal."

    Words of wisdom.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:39 AM | Comments (6)

    Will your blog be censored as "hate speech"? Or as "spam"?

    Attempts to censor the blogosphere seem never to stop.

    Via Pajamas Media, I read that Gates of Vienna, Atlas Shrugs, and Jihad Watch are all having problems. The latter two report being banned in a number of places. In addition, Atlas Shrugs' Pamela reports a sudden and dramatic Google traffic loss, while Baron Bodissey reports being unable to post anything at his Gates of Vienna, which is being treated as a "spam blog." According to a comment he had to leave in one of yesterday's posts, whenever he tries to publish a post, he gets the following message:

    "This blog has been locked by Blogger's spam-prevention robots. You will not be able to publish your posts, but you will be able to save them as drafts."
    While I don't know, I'm wondering whether there might have been a concerted effort to flag Gates of Vienna as spam. If so, because of the automated nature of the process, this might result in blocking. "Blogger Help" explains why:
    When a person visiting a blog clicks the "Flag?" button in the Blogger Navbar, it means they believe the content of the blog may be potentially offensive or illegal. We track the number of times a blog has been flagged as objectionable and use this information to determine what action is needed. This feature allows the blogging community as a whole to identify content they deem objectionable. Have you read The Wisdom of Crowds? It's sort of like that.
    If it's a concerted, deliberate effort to target a blog, it's not "sort of like that" at all.

    I'm glad I'm with HostMatters and on MovableType, because this Blogger stuff looks ominous. M. Simon left a comment to the Gates of Vienna post advising that this URL is the only way to contact Blogger. Using his instructions I left the following message:

    Gates of Vienna is not a spam blog, and yet it is being treated that way, and the author is complaining that he is still unable to write posts. I am worried that blogspot blogs are being falsely flagged as spam blogs and that this could happen to my blogs.

    Are my concerns misplaced?

    I think it's a good question, and I hope they answer.

    UPDATE (2:32 p.m.): Gates of Vienna is working now, with Baron Bodissey saying this:

    Dymphna and I were cut off from posting for about eighteen hours, having been designated a "spam blog" by the Powers That Be.

    We were unable to consult the Oracles, but someone else must have done so on our behalf, because we have just been released.

    This may have been the result of a deliberate malicious action. A disgruntled reader or troll probably notified Blogger that we were a spam site.

    There's more, and apparently, a single determined troll can convince that a valid blog is a spam blog.

    I'd love to hear an explanation from someone at Blogger/Google.

    posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (5)

    Magical new technology creates signs that work!

    Regular readers know that I write a lot about the issue which the media calls "gun violence." The argument is that guns kill people (often reformulated in an endless loop as "guns make people kill people"). I tend towards the belief that guns are inanimate objects which will not kill anyone unless someone picks them up and fires them. But there is no bridging the gap, as most of the people on both sides made their minds up long ago.

    Occasionally, though, a new idea will appear and, finally, via Frank J. at IMAO, I stumbled onto something that appears to be a genuine technological breakthrough which could stop all gun violence once and for all.

    How it works I don't know, but the video speaks for itself. Apparently, some people have manufactured what appears to be an ordinary sign, but which has magical power to stop gun criminals cold. Unlike using a taser, a dog, or another gun, it works by itself.

    Just watch the video!

    If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes, I'd have never believed it possible.

    And now that I think about it, I'm reminded of the "Nuclear Free Zone" signs which went up on all streets entering the city of Berkeley back in the 1980s:


    Much as I like to consider myself a skeptic, I feel forced to ask myself a searching and fearless question.

    Has there ever been a nuclear attack on the city of Berkeley?

    Obviously, these signs work. What I'd like to know is how.

    I'm stumped.

    posted by Eric at 09:28 AM | Comments (4)

    America Fights The Jihadis 1776 - 2007

    Michael Totten has a fascinating interview up with historian Michael Oren.

    PORTLAND, OREGON - Renowned American-Israeli historian and best-selling author Michael Oren is touring the United States promoting his new book Power, Faith, and Fantasy a sweeping history of America's involvement in the Middle East from 1776 to the present. It's the first and only book on the subject ever written, and it's currently inching toward the top of the New York Times best-seller list for non-fiction.

    I first met Michael Oren under Katyusha rocket fire when he worked as a Spokesman for the IDF Northern Command in Israel during last summer's war against Hezbollah, and I met him again when he came to my home town of Portland, Oregon, last week on his book tour.

    You can read Michael Totten's war time interview with Michael Oren from last summer here. Michael has a new interview of Oren.
    "You cannot withdraw from Iraq and be confident that the enemy is not going to follow you. Because the enemy is going to follow you. America can't detach from the Middle East because the Middle East is not going to detach from America. And America's going to have to learn to fight this fight to win in a much more prudent and effective way. And there are ways America can fight it more effectively." -- Michael Oren
    I wish some one would tell that to Harry Reid and the cut and run Democrats.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

    Pagan fertility aids disrespected by Homeric donut?

    Ridiculous as it may sound, that seems to what angry Pagans are saying about the image of a gigantic Homer Simpson painted on a field adjoining the famous Cerne Abbas giant:

    PAGANS have pledged to perform "rain magic" to wash away cartoon character Homer Simpson who was painted next to their famous fertility symbol - the Cerne Abbas giant.

    The 17th century chalk outline of the naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant is believed by many to be a symbol of ancient spirituality.

    Many couples also believe the 180ft giant, which is carved in the hillside above Cerne Abbas, Dorset, is an aid to fertility.

    A giant 180ft Homer Simpson brandishing a doughnut was painted next to the well-endowed figure today in a publicity stunt to promote The Simpsons Movie released later this month.

    It has been painted with water-based biodegradable paint which will wash away as soon as it rains.

    Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: "It's very disrespectful and not at all aesthetically pleasing.

    I think it's kind of cute, and I'd like to have someone explain to me how it's disrespectful towards Pagans.

    Let's take a look at the picture the BBC has kindly provided.


    Hopefully, there's no BBC photoshopping involved, but these days it's hard to tell.

    The Pagan Federation seems to think Homer and his donut are not only disrespectul to Pagan religious beliefs, but also to "science":

    Ann Bryn-Evans, joint District Manager for the Pagan Federation in Wessex, in whose area the figure resides, said: "It's very disrespectful and not at all aesthetically pleasing. We were hoping for some dry weather but I think I have changed my mind. We'll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away."

    She added: "I'm amazed they got permission to do something so ridiculous. It's an area of special scientific interest."

    The religious objection alone I could almost understand, but I'm wondering what science is involved. Do I need to consult an astrologer?

    According to the Wiki entry, it is considered unlikely that the Cerne Abbas giant (no relation to Mahmoud) is an Iron Age fertility symbol as believed:

    The giant, owned by the National Trust, is thought by many to be an Iron Age fertility symbol but, as it is unlikely that the monks of Cerne Abby would have tolerated such a figure and with no records before the 17th century, this cannot be confirmed.
    Why would Pagans be offended by "disrespect" towards symbols that cannot even be confirmed to be Pagan in origin, much less identifiable Pagan deities? And why would Pagans harbor any particular dislike for Homer Simpson? Or donuts?

    Isn't it more likely that the Homer Simpson image has offended someone more powerful than an obscure group of British Pagans? I think what is being missed becomes obvious if we only look at the subtext. To do that requires taking a Freudian view of donuts, as well as the colloquy between Bill and Hillary Clinton in the famous Clinton "Sopranos" video -- as interpreted by Ann Althouse:

    ....the "O" of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home. She's "looking out" all right, vigilant over her husband, denying him the sustenance he craves.

    Bear in mind that Homer Simpson is an intellectually challenged American father, symbolic of the moronic American patriarchy that Hillary wants to kill off. (It just so happens that the intelligent, self-aggrandizing, Hillary Clinton has been favorably compared by Mother Jones to Lisa Simpson, Homer's daughter.*)

    Taking this a step further, might the father's offer of the donut to the (patriarchal) fertility god be seen as a final plea for help before the male camaraderie that Hillary abhors is literally rubbed out?

    And how can we really know for sure it's not an onion ring that Homer is holding? For the purposes of this analysis, it might not really matter whether the object is an onion ring or a donut (or hell, even a life preserver!), for as Ann Althouse explains, the narrative reduces itself to the timeless struggle over a very simple element:

    The man wants the hole-shaped item, and the woman forbids it.
    I think that's exactly what is happening, and I only wish I could prove conclusively which woman (or women) are involved, and why.

    The nonsensical claim that Pagan beliefs are being disrespected does not fool me, as I suspect a very clever strategy coming straight from the Clinton campaign!

    The Pagans (and other unwitting dupes on the left) are being tricked into thinking that they are helping to preserve fertility when in actuality they are helping to undermine it.

    As to the social conservatives on the right, why, there's no way they're going to be caught defending Pagans. Or Pagan images. Or Homer Simpson.


    The Clinton triangulation strategy is so diabolical that it even works when it's full of holes!


    THE LISA SIMPSON HILLARY: We're seeing of lot of this conscientious Hillary lately. When she ran for Senate, her critics said she was just running on name recognition. "But she was able to give milk prices to upstate New Yorkers," says Helen Thomas, the former upi reporter who has covered the White House since John Kennedy. "Then, in the Senate, she acted like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, asking experienced Republican senators to 'teach me' how it all works." This is the Hillary who got straight A's; the law school graduate who in 1974 wowed the old D.C. pols on the Watergate Committee; the one who attempted to master health care in 1993; and who in 2000 visited Buffalo 26 times and earned its citizens' votes. This Hillary first appeared at age four when, according to her mom, the future senator confronted the neighborhood's meanest girl bully, knocked her down, and then exclaimed, "I can play with the boys now!"

    UPDATE: Commenter Cut N. Paste has shed light on this mystery by discovering this animated gif.

    Still no word from the Clinton election staff.

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

    I can't help noticing that Glenn has characterized the Simpson drawing as a "sacrilege." Does this mean Glenn sympathizes with the Wiccan position? Or the scientific position? Or might Glenn's objection be to graven images in general? (Strictly speaking, I think the latter would be the missionary position.)
    Absent further explanation, I don't know whether to interpret the remark.

    But hey, regardless of what he meant, at least Glenn has weighed in on this urgent issue.

    I'm still waiting for the Clinton position!

    UPDATE: Thanks to Ann Althouse for linking this -- especially for the charming Quoits picture that says it all!

    AND MORE: Forgive the appearance of patriarchal sexism, but I just thought this picture belonged here:


    Well, Hillary did say "I can play with the boys now!"

    posted by Eric at 04:46 PM | Comments (11)

    Conventional wisdom -- please do not disturb!

    Clayton Cramer notes that there were plenty of abortions before Roe v. Wade -- and that there may have been more than there are now.

    ....even before Roe v. Wade (1973), Oregon theoretically made abortion unlawful except to save the life or health of the mother--and yet still had 199 abortions per 1000 live births in 1970. Does anyone really believe that 1/6th of all pregnancies in Oregon required an abortion for the life or health of the mother? You can pass laws, but if a large fraction of the population strongly disagrees, that law will be disobeyed unless you have a very powerful police presence trying to enforce it. Think back to the national 55 mph speed limit, or most restrictive gun control laws.
    I'm reminded of the situation in Pennsylvania, which had similar laws to Oregon's, as did most states. I don't know what the Pennsylvania statistics from the period are, but I do know that as a practical matter it was very easy to obtain an abortion -- provided the individual woman (or her family) had the money to pay for it.

    The key operative word here is "health" -- which doctors were free to interpret in any way they wanted. Most "therapeutic abortions" were done for MENTAL health reasons. A psychiatrist's opinion would be obtained through a referral (fee splitting of course occurred in those days), and all he needed to do was state that the abortion would prevent damage to the woman's mental health. (Emotional distress would result from pregnancy, arguably more than would result now because of the stigma and resultant family pressures.)

    Cramer also links his earlier post on the same topic, in which he concluded that the pre-Roe statistics were "disturbing to the conventional wisdom":

    If you believe that Roe v. Wade started a deluge of murdering babies, then why was the abortion rate so high in states that pro-lifers would consider civilized? Does anyone seriously believe that 16% of Oregon pregnancies required an abortion for the life or health of the mother? It should be obvious that a lot of those were elective abortions, disguised as being for "the life or health of the mother."

    If you believe that before Roe, America was a barbarous place where women had to get backstreet abortions (except for the five "enlightened" states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, and Washington), then you need to explain why the abortion rates in some of the states with severe abortion restrictions were higher than the abortion rates in the states that allowed abortion on demand.

    I find this data fascinating, and disturbing to the conventional wisdom.

    I don't think either side in the abortion debate especially wants any of this publicized, and I think it's worth examining why.

    The pro-abortion people like to paint the pre-Roe world as a patriarchal hell in which oppressed women were either forced to bear unwanted children or else resort to "coat hanger abortions." The anti-abortion people paint the pre-Roe world as governed by the type of values often portrayed in 1930s movies (aka "traditional values" -- but never mind the less traditional 1920s), in which those few women who might get pregnant out of wedlock would never have had abortions because a Godly America would not allow it.

    The truth is unpalatable to both of these "conventional wisdoms."

    Conventional narratives is what they are.

    More accurately, they're activist narratives. Over time, such narratives come to dominate all discussion and debate, because it's risky for non-activists to contradict activists. Once the narratives have taken over, they become the conventional wisdom. (The more conventional the wisdom, the less wise it is to dispute it.)

    UPDATE: Clayton Cramer stresses in the comments below that he did not say that there were more abortions before Roe than there are now. What he said was "there were more abortions per 1000 live births than in the five states that had made abortion available on demand."

    Last year, Megan McArdle discussed the statistics -- which are surprisingly difficult to come by.

    UPDATE (07/19/07): Instapunk has done a huge amount of research into the actual numbers, concluding that this post was seriously in error to state that "there may have been more than there are now." Correction noted.

    My main point in writing this was to state what I remember personally about therapeutic abortions being easy to obtain in Pennsylvania. They were. As to the statistics, how accurate they are or were, and how well they were kept, I simply don't know. (In those days, doctors were able to do a lot of things off the record in ways that would be impossible now.)

    The ever-reliable Clayton Cramer cleared up what I had misunderstood yesterday, and I updated my post last night to reflect that. The Instapunk post (while critical of Clayton Cramer, M. Simon, and me) is huge, and worth a detailed examination, which I do not have time for right now. Last night, though, I noticed that there are statistics all over the place in this debate.

    Right now, I retract my statement that "there may have been more than there are now," because unless Instapunk's data are way off, he has showed that the rate and number of abortions increased -- and substantially -- after Roe v. Wade.

    All who are interested in the data, be sure to read Instapunk's post. Anyone with anything to add, feel free to chime in.

    (BTW, I have no particular axe to grind in this debate, as I am a states' rights type who is morally opposed to abortion, but uncomfortable with the idea of imprisoning women. I just enjoyed Cramer's post and added my mistaken thoughts.)

    UPDATE: In a later post, Clayton Cramer notes correctly that I misread his earlier post, which is true. However, I did not read it as a "defense of Roe v. Wade (1973)." Not only do I know very well that Cramer is against Roe, but as a federalist, I'm against it too! What I did read into Cramer's thoughts were my own very hurried speculations (triggered by my memories of the "therapeutic abortion" phenomenon in Pennsylvania). I do not think it is possible to obtain accurate data on pre-Roe abortions, though, (which has nothing to do with the advisability of Roe v. Wade).

    I have already noted my mistake, and I can only offer my sincere apology to Clayton Cramer, whose excellent research should not be in any way besmirched by my hurried misreading of it!

    posted by Eric at 01:47 PM | Comments (6)

    correlating co-rumination

    Dr. Helen links a fascinating psychological study which found that high school age girls who "co-ruminate" (defined as "talk[ing] very excessively about their problems") are "greater risk of developing anxiety and depression":

    The research was conducted by Amanda Rose, associate professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science. The six-month study, which included boys and girls, examined the effects of co-rumination - excessively talking with friends about problems and concerns. Rose discovered that girls co-ruminate more than boys, especially in adolescence, and that girls who co-ruminated the most in the fall of the school year were most likely to be more depressed and anxious by the spring.

    "When girls co-ruminate, they're spending such a high percentage of their time dwelling on problems and concerns that it probably makes them feel sad and more hopeless about the problems because those problems are in the forefront of their minds. Those are symptoms of depression," Rose said. "In terms of anxiety, co-ruminating likely makes them feel more worried about the problems, including about their consequences. Co-rumination also may lead to depression and anxiety because it takes so much time - time that could be used to engage in other, more positive activities that could help distract youth from their problems. This is especially true for problems that girls can't control, such as whether a particular boy likes them, or whether they get invited to a party that all of the popular kids are attending."

    My immediate reaction to this was to wonder whether the study's methodology ruled out the possibility that the "co-rumination" might itself be symptomatic of depression rather than causal. It strikes me that in order to "excessively ruminate" about problems, there have to be problems, or else what would there be to ruminate about?

    It would not surprise me if these same girls turned out to be more likely to resort to self-medication with street drugs, alcohol, or even cigarettes. However, because of the way adults tend to look at these things, if a girl takes drugs and is later diagnosed as depressed the external factor of drugs is likely to be seen as a cause. (It's less likely that cigarettes would be blamed, although self medication is self medication, regardless of the choice of medication.)

    OTOH, it is also possible that excessive talk about personal problems can magnify them, via the hysteria factor. In an earlier post about mass psychogenic illness, I discussed a girl's boarding school in Mexico in which the girls convinced themselves they were sick, and actually developed symptoms -- which of course disappeared when they were sent home:

    Mass psychogenic disorder is a phenomenon that can be understood as resulting, in part, from the nocebo effect. Think of the nocebo effect as the opposite of the placebo effect. Instead of good thoughts or associations producing a positive outcome, bad thoughts and associations produce bad results.
    If the nocebo effect can produce physical symptoms, it's certainly reasonable to assume that it could cause mental symptoms.

    Is it too politically incorrect of me to wonder whether home-schooled girls are less neurotic?

    What's also probably politically incorrect (but nonetheless fascinating) is the study's additional finding that co-rumination between boys did not correlate with depression:

    Ironically, although co-rumination was related to increased depression and anxiety, Rose also found that co-rumination was associated with positive friendship quality, including feelings of closeness between friends. Boys who co-ruminated also developed closer friendships across the school year but did not develop greater depressive and anxiety symptoms over time.
    How unfair! Perhaps the girls' parents should file a lawsuit to correct this disparity. No doubt a legal presumption of discrimination could be inferred. Common sense suggests to me, however, that neither the parents nor the school would have been able to program such a disparity into boys and girls, and it more likely reflects a basic difference between the sexes. I suspect boys are less inclined to dwell on personal issues -- and less inclined to be affected if they do -- for reasons that have not yet been explained.

    But might this lead to problems in dealing with depression later in life? Men are more reluctant than women to seek treatment for depression, or even admit they suffer from it. A lot of men simply tough it out through the bad stuff, and would rather self-medicate than see a shrink, much less check into a hospital.

    (While this can lead to the loss of an important constitutional right, my speculations about depression in men is off-topic, and best left to other posts.)

    Back to the study at hand, and co-ruminating girls:

    "For years, we have encouraged kids to find friends who they can talk to about their problems, and with whom they can give and receive social support," Rose said. "In general, talking about problems and getting social support is linked with being healthy. What's intriguing about theses findings is that co-rumination likely represents too much of a good thing. Some kids, especially girls, are taking talking about problems to an extreme. When that happens, the balance tips, and talking about problems with friends can become emotionally unhealthy."

    Rose said adolescents should be encouraged to talk about their problems, but only in moderation and without co-ruminating.

    "They also should engage in other activities, like sports, which can help them take their minds off their problems, especially problems that they can't control," she said.

    That is certainly good advice, but I'm still wondering about the possibility that correlation is being seen as causation.

    And what about blogging? Are My Space and Live Journal entries considered a form of "co-rumination"? If so, does that mean blogging can lead to (or be symptomatic of) depression?

    I hope not. But fortunately, I'm a 53-year-old man and blogging actually tends to cheer me up.

    (As long as I avoid blogging about topics like our hopelessly dysfunctional "ally," Saudi Arabia, I'm fine.)

    posted by Eric at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

    Whatever happened to "working class hero"? Or "day job"?

    This post by Glenn Reynolds discusses two of the most whiny-looking books I've seen. Apparently, the "choice" presented in Daniel Brook's The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America is between "selling out" (meaning working for evil corporations which make the world a worse place), and starving as an unpaid or underpaid activist. The argument, apparently, is that society should subsidize activism. We don't already? (I think we do; see these posts.)

    I may be getting old, but I think these whining books are leaving out an important career choice -- to wit, the "working class hero." Considering the well-documented shortage of handyman skills (and presumably, handywoman skills), I don't think it's unreasonable to imagine that many a young person could, by learning the basics, earn a good income. True, they might have to work with their hands, but isn't that part of the whole working class hero ethos?

    The marvelous thing is that by being willing to get your hands dirty, you can do all of the following:

  • improve self esteem by becoming a real part of the working class!
  • Live up to the Maoist goal of being in touch with "the people"!
  • Have something to show for your work at the end of each day!
  • Actually earn a real living!
  • (Most importantly) have something to whine about!
  • These days, it's hard to overstress the importance of the latter. I'm not sure whether the need to whine and complain is basic to humanity, or whether it's an unfortunate baby boomer trait they've managed to pass on to their children, but for the purposes of this post, it does not matter. (Besides, I'm no social scientist and I haven't done the requisite studies -- only because the big corporations refuse to fund me!)

    On the other hand, you can join the working class and not whine at all.

    Molly Hartmann Ahrens graduated from a very prestigious, public service-oriented college with a degree in sociology, and eventually went on to become a professional bartender. She wrote about her experience not long ago for the Philadelphia Inquirer in a piece titled "Bryn Mawr grad's big career? Call it public service". As Ahrens points out, Bryn Mawr is known for producing leaders:

    Among many, it produced Katharine Hepburn (Class of 1928), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Marianne Moore (1909), Nobel Peace Prize recipient Emily Greene Balch (1889) and Drew Gilpin Faust (1968), who will become the first female president of Harvard University in July. To be a student at Bryn Mawr is to be constantly reminded of the legacy of the great women who went before you.
    Such pressures didn't seem to deter Ahrens, who not only became a bartender despite initial reservations, but finds herself quite proud of it:
    Bartending was something a friend of mine mentioned after I quit my second job. I did not like the suggestion. "I got a college degree to become a bartender?" I asked her. But like it or not, I needed the money. So with no other immediate prospects ahead of me, I signed up for a week-long licensing course. At the time I felt like a failure. Going to bartending school felt like a punishment for not being able to withstand a job with a more impressive title.

    I got mixed reactions from people when I told them I was "pursuing a degree in mixology." Most of my friends thought it was hilarious. "But you don't even drink!" they exclaimed. An old college professor I ran into asked me when I was planning to get a real job. My mom tried to sound upbeat, but I knew I was putting an end to 21/2 decades of her bragging about me to her friends. Spending your nights mixing up Purple Hooters isn't exactly the same thing as writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

    After receiving my bartending license last fall, I began to work with a small catering company. We mainly did private parties in large suburban mansions. At first it really depressed me to be "the hired help" (as I have been referred to), but I was soon cheered up by the fact that I made more money bartending than at my previous jobs. Plus, I found the work pretty interesting.

    Interestingly enough, the work enables her to utilize her training in sociology, on an incognito basis:
    At Bryn Mawr, I majored in sociology. Standing behind the bar provided me with a perfect vantage point from which to study people. Dressed in my black uniform, I could easily disappear into the shadows, becoming noticeable only when someone needed a fresh drink. But this invisibility felt very different from the kind I had experienced previously. I used to feel invisible in a bad way; it was not only about not being seen, but about not being able to feel my own spirit inside myself.
    There may very well be a novel in there somewhere (perhaps even a Pulitzer Prize-winner).

    San Francisco used to be the kind of over-educated place where you could get into a taxi and discover that the driver had a Ph.D. in history or something. And what's wrong with that? Lots of people have advanced degrees in fields they never enter, and end up doing something else. (My A.B. was in Rhetoric, so I went to law school, realizing all the while that I might not enjoy practicing law. I tired of litigation and ended up selling real estate, running a (failed) nightclub business, and other things. While I have never felt entitled to complain that I wasn't made partner in a large law firm, I suppose what I'm doing now does constitute a form of rhetorical analysis, but it would never occur to me in my wildest dreams that the taxpayers should fund it.)

    What it is that drives this apparent sense of entitlement that seems to characterize so many people?

    There used to be a concept known as the "day job." Artists, musicians, and other creative types have traditionally worked in offices, or as waiters, cooks, messengers, or even blue collar workers while hoping for a big break. But there never was any sense of entitlement to the big break.

    I can't help wonder whether a two-headed monster has been created.

    A lot of this (one of the monster's heads) stems from the relentless, all-encompassing self esteem movement (beginning in kindergarten if not day care and running all the way through to college and even grad school) resulting in adults steeped in the entitlement mindset. Even people who might have practical degrees in something useful nonetheless think it is beneath them or degrading to have to work in entry level positions and work their way up. Another head of the monster is the creation of a useless and unemployable caste, by the conferring of meaningless degrees in an unending litany of identity group "studies." The holders of these degrees have their self esteem delusionally bolstered by a false belief that the "system" which sees no value in their valueless degrees is victimizing them. TS at The Sophist calls it "an indictment of our college system that someone could graduate with a double major in film studies and gender studies" and while I agree, I also think it's self-indicting to walk around with a degree like that and imagine that it has real value. (Again, false self-esteem prevents the recognition of simple reality.)

    No wonder they feel entitled. If they didn't have the feeling of entitlement, I'm afraid they'd have nothing at all.

    Fortunately for them, there are still vocational training centers and adult education courses available in most cities and communities where they can learn things like bartending and automotive repair. I do hope they eventually learn useful skills, for otherwise they might become an angry class of people seeking "revenge."

    But I don't mean to come off sounding like Marie Antoinette. I not only ran a bar, I once earned a living as an auto mechanic. But as to the "working class hero" stuff, I really can't identify with the concept. Such things are best left to people like Hillary Clinton. (Perhaps her campaign can provide temporary employment for some of the vengeful entitlement set.)

    posted by Eric at 03:46 PM | Comments (3)

    Physicists Should Stick To Physics

    I see Eric has done a post this morning on scientist making policy prescriptions outside their field of expertise. I have a good example from some physicists. I think it is syncronicity.


    I was visiting a physics blog (well the Duke case has lost my interest so I have to do something) and came across this astonishing discussion of economics. They are discussing how stupid the Laffer curve is as presented in a recent Wall Street Journal article. It seems like our vaunted physicists believe a linear curve better fits the data than the third or fourth order curve the Wall Street Journal presented. He shows the two curves with some comments and then says:

    No, I am not being unfair. I did not draw the "Laffer Curve" on top of those data in order to embarrass the WSJ or AEI. They did it themselves; the second graph is how the plot was actually published by the Journal, while the first one was Mark Thoma's subsequent reality-based-community version of the plot. As Kevin Drum says, it's "like those people who find an outline of the Virgin Mary in a potato chip."

    Among other features, we note with amusement that the plotted curve implies that tax revenues hit zero at a corporate tax rate of about 33%, and become dramatically negative thereafter. As of this writing, it is unclear what advanced statistical software package was used to fit the Laffer Curve to the data; the smart money seems to be on MS Paint.

    So I have a question or twenty:

    Can you explain why tax revenues in America have been rising at double digit rates despite the tax cuts of 2003? They started going up as soon as the reductions were passed and have been rising ever since.

    It seems that the experiment is being done and it proves that the Laffer curve guys may be right.

    As a good aerospace engineer I trust the data over theory every time.

    There is a very good reason that, for the most part, money decisions are made by engineers and rarely by scientists. Engineers are expected to make things that work.

    I would like to see more engineers in Congress. More scientists would be a disaster due to insufficient contact with the real world.

    Let me note that the WSJ graph (mistaken in derivation or not) most closely fits the evidence. Lowering tax rates raises government revenue. At least in America.


    B said: If the people in country X want more (public transport? social security? health insurance? unemployment insurance?) to be shared responsibility, the thing to do so is to use taxes.

    Let me rephrase that:

    If the people in country X want to steal other people's money the responsible way to do it is to use taxes.

    I agree.

    Hey physics guys. The USSR failed. Europe can't support its welfare state. America will be severely strained by its welfare state. And you guys want more of the same? With Big Physics on the government dole I understand your orientation. However, it may not be popular with the run of mill citizen who dislikes having his pocket picked.


    I know how you can get back in the good graces of the average citizen. Give them the physics to build a low cost p-B11 (proton - Boron 11) burning fusion reactor which can deliver power to the grid and your esteem in the eyes of the average citizen will go way up. They might be more willing to open their wallets.

    Get cracking.

    BTW I'm working on an open source test reactor along the Bussard Polywell lines. I'm short a plasma physicist. Any one care to join in?

    IEC Fusion Technology blog

    If you are not familiar with Dr. Bussard's work here is a good place to start:

    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion. Actually it is not no radiation. A 100 MW reactor will produce about 1 Kw of neutrons. Not too hard to shield. Not significant for making plutonium. So I learned a bit since I wrote that.


    You really want to do something for the poor of the world? Forget Socialism. Reduce the cost of energy. That is actually within your means.

    Better yet get us off the oil standard.

    Yeah. The LHC (Large - they are not kidding - Hadron Collider) is sexy. And the superconducting magnets are thrilling. Well they thrill me, but I've been known to have some strange fetishes. Evidently that is one of them.


    You guys need to focus for a few years on providing benefits to society. Don't you know there is a war on? It could be ended with physics and I don't mean bigger bombs.

    There are a number of IEC fusion devices out there. From my studies the Bussard Reactor looks to be the most likely to succeed. However, if you don't like that there is a commercial venture Tri Alpha Energy. Or the guys at the University Wisconsin. Or Champaign Urbana.

    Here is a look at some of the small fusion projects [pdf] currently going on in America.

    Give what you can. An hour a week would be a start.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:40 PM | Comments (7)

    In the name of science

    While I often complain in long posts about the way political arguments are dressed up as science, Virginia Postrel has articulated it very succinctly:

    Scientists have gotten way too fond of invoking their authority to claim that "science" dictates their preferred policy solutions and claiming that any disagreement constitutes an attack on science. But, even assuming that scientists agree on the facts, science can only tell us something about the state of the world. It cannot tell us what policy is the best to adopt. Scientists' preferences are not "science." You cannot go from an "is" (science) to an "ought" (policy). Social science, particularly economics, can tell you something about the likely tradeoffs (hence some of my frustrations at Aspen). But it can't tell you which tradeoffs to make.
    How utterly true!

    Unfortunately, many people who get into these debates tend to lose sight of the "oughts" and get caught up in debating the minutiae of scientific facts (more likely, summaries and pronouncements based on disputable facts). Many of these scientific claims are only beyond their understanding and training, but their access to them is pretty much limited by what is made commonly available in ordinary media sources. So, they're not even debating what "is" -- as they're not competent to decide. I'm not sure scientists are either, as I have seen far too many scientific positions revised and reversed. (Studying Paleontology in the early 1970s, I was taught that we were still in the Ice Age.) Nothing is constant. Debating science is an exercise in futility, and because there is so much theory involved, one might as well debate the unknown.

    Injecting science into politics causes a lot of people to become distracted and lose sight of basic principles. Science and politics are both contaminated, resulting in hybridized pseudoscientific nonsense like the "Precautionary Principle" -- which is used to justify the subordination of the economy not to the free market (or even economists or politicians), but to the whims of environmentalists (an ill-defined group of often highly political people who like to call themselves scientists).

    posted by Eric at 09:32 AM | Comments (9)

    Class Stratification

    Commentary Magazine has an interesting article by Charles Murray discussing the origins of Jewish Genius.

    Since its first issue in 1945, COMMENTARY has published hundreds of articles about Jews and Judaism. As one would expect, they cover just about every important aspect of the topic. But there is a lacuna, and not one involving some obscure bit of Judaica. COMMENTARY has never published a systematic discussion of one of the most obvious topics of all: the extravagant overrepresentation of Jews, relative to their numbers, in the top ranks of the arts, sciences, law, medicine, finance, entrepreneurship, and the media.

    I have personal experience with the reluctance of Jews to talk about Jewish accomplishment--my co-author, the late Richard Herrnstein, gently resisted the paragraphs on Jewish IQ that I insisted on putting in The Bell Curve (1994). Both history and the contemporary revival of anti-Semitism in Europe make it easy to understand the reasons for that reluctance. But Jewish accomplishment constitutes a fascinating and important story. Recent scholarship is expanding our understanding of its origins.

    And so this Scots-Irish Gentile from Iowa hereby undertakes to tell the story. I cover three topics: the timing and nature of Jewish accomplishment, focusing on the arts and sciences; elevated Jewish IQ as an explanation for that accomplishment; and current theories about how the Jews acquired their elevated IQ.

    He doesn't come to any firm conclusions. He does ask a lot of interesting questions.

    In the letters to the editor section of the magazine he gets asked a few questions. Here is one.

    To the Editor:

    Charles Murray's consideration of the historical sources of higher-than-average Jewish intelligence and cultural achievement is the most informed and intelligent on the subject that I know of. That it is written by a non-Jew is, I believe, instructive for many of us who tend to take pride in Jewish achievements. We must always keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of great cultural creators of mankind have not been Jewish, and that achievement is by no means a Jewish monopoly.

    We should also be aware that a number of factors--rising rates of intermarriage, the increasing insularity of some religious Jews--raise considerable questions about whether Jewish cultural and creative achievement will be as disproportionately great in the next 200 years as it has been in the previous 200.

    Shalom Freedman
    Jerusalem, Israel

    Charles Murray replies:
    Shalom Freedman's first point is of course correct: Jews are disproportionately represented in the ranks of outstanding achievers but, in raw terms, non-Jews are in the great majority. I proudly join Eoghan Harris in noting that among them are Scots and Irish, and even the occasional Scot-Irish. Mr. Freedman's worries about intermarriage are justified if the question is the survival of a robust Jewish culture, but less so with respect to IQ. On average, Jews do not marry randomly selected Gentiles, but ones they meet in college or workplace, which in turn means spouses whose own mean IQ is also considerably above the Gentile mean. Increasing cognitive stratification independent of ethnicity or social origins is the ignored story of today's evolving class structure--the story that the late Richard Herrnstein and I tried to bring to public attention in The Bell Curve (1994).
    I discusses The Bell Curve and other sources extensively in Inequality. What it comes down to is that these days the big advances in science, technology, and business tend to come from the smartest people. These kinds of advances make us all absolutely richer (the poor in America are fat - some call this a bug, I call it a feature) while it makes the poor relatively poorer (income inequality grows). Personally I think that giving these huge incentives to our brightest people is what makes America what it is. Murray thinks there should be some noblesse oblige provided through government and he is a libertarian. I tend to agree.

    As my friend Jose Arias used to say: welfare is the price we pay to keep the lower classes from revolting. I think what we have done with welfare in terms of encouraging work is a good idea. If for no other reason that it provides some cultural cohesion. We all have our shoulders to the wheel. My friend Bob used to say that "Liberty is just equality in school". There is no way equality in school can be accomplished without destroying the effectiveness of our schools. I might add that Bob was a lot older when he first said that. He is younger than that now.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

    Happy Birthday to Dean Esmay!

    Dean is 41 today and he reports that he doesn't feel 41. (In all honesty, I can't remember how 41 felt, but it would be fun to time travel back 12 years and find out whether 41 felt any differently than 53 does now. I'll try to feel 41 today if I can in Dean's honor, but I might have trouble figuring out how.)

    Happy Birthday Dean!

    posted by Eric at 11:21 AM | Comments (2)

    The Greenwalding of Gender Virtue

    Did God put Glenn Greenwald in charge of gender? Or does Glenn Greenwald imagine himself the God/Goddess/Godz of Gender?

    It might be James Taranto's fault, because in a total violation of the Karl Rove Rule On Glenn Greenwald, he actually linked Greenwald's thoughts on gender (which I think deserves to be titled "I'm the Gender God").

    Not that I blame Taranto for succumbing to temptation. In a manner which couldn't have been calculated to have been more personally insulting, Greenwald displayed the most unflattering pictures he could find of Taranto, apparently because he believes that the pictures are themselves a sort of argument that Taranto is bad. He's an evil, male macho pig. A masculist, perhaps? (Greenwald calls him the "Arbiter of American Masculinity -- the Ridiculer of John Edwards' lack of manliness.")

    Here's the picture that Greenwald sees as representing "awe-inspiring toughness and towering masculinity":


    How is that to be, um, "answered" or "rebutted"? Is Taranto supposed to apologize for his appearance? As the pictures are supposed to be in retaliation for Rush Limbaugh's display of the Breck girl photoshop of Edwards? (Something Taranto didn't do, but we all know that the macho monolithic Arbeiters of American Masculinity think with one mind, don't we?) Taranto is lucky he's not me, for I'd probably upload this picture....


    ....and title it "Glennda Genderwald, the Wicked Witch of the Yeast" or something. And then there'd be calls for Taranto to be fired for sexism or something.

    But I'm not Taranto, so I can't.

    While I haven't met Taranto and don't know whether the ones Greenwald served up are bad pictures or not, the whole thing made me shudder in fear, and made me very hesitant to write this post. Imagine if Greenwald poked around looking for a picture of me. If you Google my name, the very first picture that usually comes up is the one at Frank J.'s "Peace Gallery" -- showing me holding deadly weapons wearing a "NUKE THE MOON" T-shirt!

    Or he might find the picture of me holding crossed swords, and wearing the gun diversity T-shirt -- the same shirt that angry leftists believed Glenn Reynolds should have been fired for wearing. (Lefties have no sense of humor.)


    Fortunately, I'm a pipsqueak by Greenwald's standards, and he'd never deign to malign my pictures as he did Taranto's.

    But the fact is, if Taranto is bad, then I'm really bad!

    We come to the question of gender. I think I am of the male gender, although I try not to take these things for granted, because back in the days when my brain's philosophical wiring resembled that of the sound engineer Ann Althouse discussed recently, I used to contemplate the differences between the sexes until I was convinced that there really weren't any of real, ultimate consequence, and that any that might appear to be there were only nature's way of playing sexual head games (which of course lead to the usual mammalian terrestrial politics). I thought that we were all victims of a cosmic joke that most of us failed to get, and I often still feel that way. While I cannot characterize myself as the Arbiter of American Androgyny, when I force myself to slog through the pathetic ditherings of Glenn Greenwald, I am reminded of similar ditherings on the right about the way God made man and God made woman, and I wish Greenwald would look at the bigger picture, stop being another petty gender tyrant, and just get a effing clue.

    Instead, the man is obsessed by Taranto's remark about how women had been "won over by John Edwards's womanly charms." That is so unbelievably lame! Of course they were won over by his womanly charms; that's part of his androgyne appeal as a trial lawyer, and it's why he's so irresistibly cute that when I uploaded a cute picture of him in drag, even an unquestionably heterosexual retired-blogger found himself unable to avoid leaving the following comment:

    Is it just me, or is that third one kind of cute?
    Worry wart that I am, I tried to shush him up.

    Anyway, what's wrong with the Breck girl business? Are we supposed to gasp in collective horror, and clutch the curtains as we swoon? Since we're on the subject, can anyone explain to me why pictures of Edwards in drag are worse than the pictures of Giuliani in drag?


    Or do I have it all wrong? Might it be that the pictures of Giuliani in drag are worse? I suspect that to the gender-virtuous, pictures of John Edwards in drag are some sort of smear, but that the pictures of Giuliani are a worse smear -- for very different reasons. The Greenwald explanation would be that they're far worse -- a sort of "double reverse" Republican smear against the left grounded in the fact that Giuliani is an "authoritarian narcissist."

    Or would it be that Giuliani is guilty of hypocrisy for allowing gay men to dress him in drag?

    Does that make me a "hypocrite" too?


    Anyone who would run around looking like that is probably looking for a real man:


    Or do I fall into some hitherto unknown category of treason? When I found amusement and not outrage in these sorts of things, I found myself called a "sociopath" by another champion of gender virtue, Amanda Marcotte. Yet the picture of Edwards was -- and is -- undeniably cute!


    Who are these gender virtue people to decide whose gender views are right, and whose are wrong?

    I don't know, but I have a broader gender issue for them to consider. The picture of Edwards in drag was emailed to me along with the pictures of all the other candidates in drag.


    Forgive my sexism and ageism for saying this, but I have to remark a simple truth:

    John Edwards is the only candidate who could have been considered even remotely attractive in drag.

    But it is evil and sociopathic of me to say that, isn't it? Why? The only "rule" that I can discern here is that attractive drag on Democrats is bad because it's Republican sexism. But unattractive drag on Democrats (Kerry) is bad because it's Republican sexism. Likewise, unattractive drag is bad on Republicans because it's Republican sexism. (They're making fun of women, or the transgendered, or something.) I'm not sure how attractive drag on Republicans fits into this equation, so I'll think about it.

    But it's OK to say that the Republicans have uptight macho sexual issues, and that's because the Democrats don't!

    Understand now?

    Good, because I don't.

    Taranto is lucky he's not me, because if I were Taranto, I'd hire a professional make-up crew to see what they could accomplish. That would really give the witches of Gender Virtue something to stew over.

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

    Wish I had more answers to all these "gender issues" than I do, but I just don't. (If you want answers, you'll have to ask the humorless people who have figured it all out for everyone else.)

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds comes a clear sign of hope, in the form of this new campaign pledge by John Edwards: eliminate all unpleasant, disagreeable, or otherwise bad things from all aspects of American life by the end of his second year in office.
    I'm hoping that the plan includes ending the Gender War by simply eliminating all gender.

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (22)

    Climate Of Fear

    It looks like Global Warming Scares have reached their sell by date and are now being discounted. People are starting to fall away from the old time religion.

    Here is a video from CNN. Not exactly your most conservative station.

    Especially check out Bjorn Lumborg at about 9 1/2 minutes into the program. He says global warming will have dire consequences for Britain. He says 2,000 more people a year will die in Britain if warming trends continue. That is terrible and something must be done. However, 20,000 fewer people a year will die from the cold in Britain. Can we just let it happen? Do the math.

    Then Bjorn goes on to list the top five problems in the world where a dollar spent gives many dollars of return. This was worked out by a number of Nobel Laureates and other economic specialists in a document called the Copenhagen Consensus. They are:

    • AIDS

    • Malnutrition

    • Free Trade

    • Malaria

    • Agricultural Research

    Also note that Al Gore comes in for a lot of ribbing. Especially about Kyoto. He was against it before he was for it. Al Gore in his own words. Always good for a laugh. I get it though. When he was Vice President he spoke for the American economy. Now that he is a freelancer all he cares about is his own personal economy.

    Cris Horner at about 29 minutes in talks about how the IPCC gets its consensus. They write the summary for policy makers first and then make sure the science used in the report conforms to the policy prescriptions. You can read more about that in Manufacturing Consensus.

    The host, Glenn Beck, says at the end of the program:

    Just yelling "the debate is over and these people are heretics or Nazis" as loud as you can is not the best way to advance science, however many have discovered it is the best way to secure funding.
    I worry about the Yellowstone caldera. It is 40,000 years overdue and will take out a significant fraction of the world when it goes and almost all the USA. And here we are piddling about a few degrees temperature rise. The money would be better pumped into geology, stress mechanics and hydraulics. Or better yet my field IEC Fusion Technology. Lord know my project is more deserving than all this climate silliness. Besides I promise unlimited energy and an end to the common cold. Did the climate change folks ever promise that? Never. Well you know how it is. Honor dies where interest lies.

    Which is why some debates deserve two or more sides. Some do not. They get them any way. If you have a position be prepared to defend it or acknowledge your faith.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 12:16 AM | Comments (8)

    Psychedelic nostalgia in black and white

    For this outburst I blame M. Simon, who wrote his post because Ann Althouse wrote a post about Augustus Owsley Stanley, III (aka "Bear"), sound and chemical engineer extraordinaire.

    It's the Grateful Dead playing another Pigpen classic, "Easy wind." It's tough to call Pigpen the "leader" of the Grateful Dead, as the band was so anarchic, but in his autobiography "Searching for the Sound," bassist Phil Lesh called Pigpen their "anchor." With good reason; while the rest of the band (and nearly everyone in the audience) were on LSD, Pigpen somehow was able to be cosmic on alcohol. (It took its toll, as he died of cirrhotic liver disease at age 27, in 1973.) There was something about his down-to-earth "cosmic but sensible" grounding that kept the band from getting too far out and spaced out (especially during their experimental days) and it was the Pigpen space that gave the band their ability to always return to earth. I believe that he influenced the sound of their music greatly, and without Pigpen they would not have developed quite the same distinctively adventurous, very American, syncopated style which has been called "chunky psychedelic wit."

    I don't know how many people enjoy it, but I do. Psychedelic nostalgia at its finest.

    Link here.

    Considering that this is 37 years old, the psychedelic light show in black and white seems appropriate.

    MORE: Amazingly, Pigpen video keeps turning up at YouTube.

    Here's a classic version of "Hard To Handle."

    (Have to say, that last one's the best I've seen so far.)

    posted by Eric at 10:00 PM | Comments (3)

    war party games I can't discuss at parties

    There's a theoretical concept that has become such a hot button issue that it's not a safe subject for public discussion. Not, that is, unless you're among trusted friends. That's the idea of using war for political advantage. Because it is seen as so immoral and so despicable by the people accused of doing it, people become indignant, and reasonable discussion is next to impossible.

    Ever since 9/11, Bush has been accused of waging war for the political advantage of his own party. Not only is the mentioning any positive accomplishments in the war seen as political opportunism, but so is any mention of 9/11. (The latter, of course, supplies much of the emotional fuel for the 9/11 Truther movement.)

    But because Democrats see Bush as fighting a war for political purposes, this inclines many of them to want (at least in the political sense) the war to become a hopeless quagmire -- something that can be said to have been "lost" by Bush.

    Beyond this is where it gets tricky. (And highly emotional.) There is a fine line between wanting Bush to screw up so that the voters will see the truth and throw the damned Republicans out on their ass, and actually wanting America to lose the war because America is evil and just plain deserves to lose the war. Not only is it a fine line, but it's a messy, blurry line, because the Democratic Party is home to genuine America haters like Ward Churchill, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Code Pink, Not In Our Name, A.N.S.W.E.R., etc. And naturally, those who hate America indignantly claim that they do not hate America, but only hate its evil deeds and the evil men who run the government -- and that it is those who disagree with them who really hate America (and are unpatriotic).

    I realize that by even attempting to discuss this, I am resorting to the type of generalizations I normally deplore, which is why I don't like to write essays like this very often. People become emotional whenever anyone generalizes about them, and I don't like it either. When I see any of the groups to which I might be said to belong being smeared, I tend to take it personally. Thus, if someone calls gun generalizations, or pit bull generalizations, or genital generalizations, I cannot help wondering whether they're talking about my guns, my dog, or my genitalia. So I should make it clear that I am not talking about pro-war Democrats here -- especially those of the Joe Lieberman variety. Nor am I talking about people who disagree with the war, but do not want the U.S. to lose it. I'm talking about those who want the country to lose in order to take back the White House -- both the "evil America" haters and the "good America" lovers.

    I have to say, I find myself wondering whether it's more honest to want the country to lose because it's evil and because war is evil than to want it to lose in order to win an election. I also find myself wondering what would happen if Bush were cynical enough to play this game along with them.

    To play this out hypothetically (as I'm sure many a Washington Machiavellian political junkie has), let's assume that the GOP's top strategists were able to call the shots, and that they had concluded that because the war called for a longtime occupation in Iraq, that it was not capable of ever being translated into a neat and tidy "victory" in time to win the 2008 election. They'd be faced with several choices:

  • stay in as long as possible and hope the American people would understand
  • pull out ASAP and hope for the best
  • make it appear that blame for the pullout was to be laid at the feet of the Democrats, and do everything possible to ensure that any perceived defeat be seen as the fault of the Democrats.
  • Right now, I don't see any evidence that Bush is engaged in a political strategy geared towards winning the elections. I think he still wants to make sure that Iraq government is stabilized, but that he is forced to admit that it is very difficult. Politically, this might be a bad strategy, but I don't think he cares. (Whether the GOP leadership cares about the political implications more than what's best for Iraq, I don't know. In politics, no one admits anything, and everything is denied, so there's no way to "know.") I have noticed that since al Qaeda's resurgence, there is a sudden tug of war even over the use of the word "al Qaeda" -- with the Democrats seeing the words as a political ploy (or maybe an indictment of the idea of putting "al Qaeda" and "Iraq" in the same sentence lest people be "confused").

    From the viewpoint of longterm political success or defeat, the two major factors are:

  • whether and when there will be a U.S. pullout; and
  • whether the Iraqi government can hold after the pullout
  • I think this is compounded by the fact that many of the Democratic Party's leaders are veteran Vietnam antiwar activists who have drawn so many parallels between Iraq and Vietnam that they really and truly want to see their analogy proven right. And if the U.S. pulls out and the Iraqi government survives, this will disprove the Iraq-is-Vietnam "theory," and worse, it might help the GOP.

    The question reduces itself along the following lines:

    Will thousands of Americans have died for nothing?

    Many people have a vested interest in this being the case, whether they admit it or not (and whether they like it or not) it is in their political interests to want the Iraqi government to fail.

    It's become a downright unpleasant subject for discussion.

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

    Does battery life suck? Or does aging suck?


    The battery that is being held by the bronze medieval alchemist is nearly as useless as my knowledge of battery technology. A lithium ion Motorola BT50, it worked great in my cell phone when it was new, but over the past year or so, it deteriorated to the point where it will only hold a charge for a couple of hours (sometimes even less than that). No matter how long I charged it or how many times, it kept declining steadily.

    But what a difference a brand-new battery makes! I just got one yesterday, charged it up, and 24 hours later, it hasn't registered the slightest drop in the phone's battery strength meter.

    "Battery life sucks!" is an expression I hear bandied around a lot. But what does "battery life" mean? The battery life is fine if we're talking about a new battery. But the battery life is absolutely awful with an old one.

    Battery life is relative to age, but what I want to know is why. The Wiki entries (for batteries and lithium ion batteries) really doesn't explain it, and I get the impression that the chemistry is either a trade secret, or else something the industry doesn't want to let the public know about; Wiki says it is not widely publicized:

    A unique drawback of the Li-ion battery is that its life span is dependent upon aging from time of manufacturing (shelf life) regardless of whether it was charged, and not just on the number of charge/discharge cycles. So an older battery will not last as long as a new battery due solely to its age, unlike other batteries. This drawback is not widely publicised.
    Well, why isn't it widely publicized? Is there any reason people shouldn't know about this? Do the manufacturers want consumer battery knowledge to remain at the level of medieval alchemists?

    According to Wiki, this is what happens:

    It is important to note that lithium ions themselves are not being oxidized; rather, in a lithium-ion battery the lithium ions are transported to and from the cathode or anode, with the transition metal, Co, in LixCoO2 being oxidized from Co3+ to Co4+ during charging, and reduced from Co4+ to Co3+ during discharge.
    Well, why can't this back-and-forth process go on indefinitely? What is the limiting factor?

    I'm wondering whether there are any readers with a background in electrical or chemical engineering (or just well-red geeks) who might be able to explain in lay terms precisely what is happening to these batteries as they age, as I'd love to know. Is there a steady chemical change, and is it irreversible? I've seen car batteries go bad from sulfur accumulation, and I know that they can be taken apart, the plates cleaned, and new acid poured in (a process called "rebuilding"). Is something similar at work inside a lithium ion battery?

    Whatever the problem is, they better figure it out before the Prius converts to lithium ion, or there will be a lot of pissed off owners in 2009! A $10.00 cell phone battery is one thing, but the batteries in a car that costs $75,000 is quite another. Saving the world might be more expensive than imagined.

    I realize my ignorance may be showing, but it seems to me that if today's alchemists can synthesize gold, they ought to be able to prevent lithium aging.

    UPDATE (07/18/07): In today's Wall Street Journal, Lee Gomes discusses the battery tech bottleneck, and he says that Lithium ion batteries are the best to appear so far:

    The famous Moore's Law has computer chips doubling in capacity every two years or so. The progress for batteries is more in the neighborhood of 10% a year, says Lawrence H. Dubois, who heads up physical-sciences research at SRI International, the Menlo Park, Calif., research outfit. Improvements, he said, tend to be incremental, even "mundane," like figuring out a thinner container for batteries and thus saving space.

    Not surprising, device manufacturers regard every advance in batteries as something of a gift from heaven. "With even 20% more efficiency, you could make the phone slimmer or the display bigger and brighter," said Muzib Khan, a Samsung vice president working with mobile phones. "It opens up more opportunities."

    The problem is that the basic design of batteries hasn't changed -- and really can't. One part gives up electrons for energy, one part accepts them and a third part keeps the two separated. Researchers scout for new materials that will provide the most chemical energy in the least weight and space; lithium-ion batteries, used in consumer electronics for the past 10 years, is the best anyone has come up with.

    Batteries are a huge stumbling block.

    The biggest problem with Lithium ion technology appears to be lifespan. As the date of manufacture is more important than any other factor, I'm still not completely sure what accounts for the degradation, but I'm not convinced I'd want them in a car.

    There's a fascinating discussion of Lithium ion batteries in cars here.

    posted by Eric at 06:25 PM | Comments (4)

    Tim Leary And Ron Paul

    Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine takes a look at Timothy Leary.

    Never too comfortable with politics (he dismissed student activists as "young men with menopausal minds" and proclaimed that LSD stood for "Let the State Disintegrate"), he nevertheless hosted a Los Angeles fundraiser in 1988 for the very buttoned-down Libertarian Party presidential candidate Ron Paul (now a congressman from Texas).
    I voted for Ron Paul for President. in 1988.

    I got reminded of the Gillespie article by this Althouse article.

    "Absolutely meaningless. Was I a criminal? No. I was a good member of society. Only my society and the one making the laws are different." LSD folkhero Owsley speaks. More:
    "I never set out to change the world," he rasps in recalling his early manufacture of LSD. "I only set out to make sure I was taking something (that) I knew what it was. And it's hard to make a little. And my friends all wanted to know what they were taking, too. Of course, my friends expanded very rapidly."

    By conservative estimates, Bear Research Group made more than 1.25 million doses of LSD between 1965 and 1967, essentially seeding the entire modern psychedelic movement....

    He found the recipe for making LSD in the Journal of Organic Chemistry at the UC Berkeley library.
    Those were the days of competing chemists. The Jefferson Airplane was supposed to have a Shell Oil chemist who grew his own ergot. It wasn't called Bezerkeley for nothing in those days.

    Well just to get in the mood I have a Dead version of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away on in the background. (Video above).

    Oh yeah. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul.

    However, I'm leaning Fred Thompson these days.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:49 PM | Comments (17)

    "self-sustaining propaganda outfit" upholds standards of Globe!

    Like Roger L. Simon, when I initially saw the story about the Queen of England losing her temper at an American photographer, my sympathies were with the Queen. But as it turns out, the story was falsified by the BBC. Not only had the sequence of events been misrepresented and manipulated, but looking at the video in the link that Roger supplied, it became obvious to me that the Queen not only didn't "storm out" of the photography session, but she wasn't especially bothered by any of it. I think she might have even been slightly amused (although dry British humor can be tricky to read), but either way I agree with Roger's assessment:

    I am not surprised the Beeb lied or "misrepresented" or whatever they call it. That's what they do. (They are a self-sustaining propaganda outfit, just as any public broadcasting system must perforce be. As we all know, the BBC is virtually unsupervised with a mammoth budget that taxes television owners in the UK with less representation than the citizens of colonial America.) But I am a little disappointed that the Queen didn't walk out on Annie Liebovitz. I mean who is Liebovitz anyway? A celebrity photographer! (Okay, a good one, but still just someone who goes around taking pictures of famous people.) It was more than a little funny to envision Elizabeth giving her the gate. Like the recent movie, it made me like the Queen.
    Via Glenn Reynolds, who called the BBC's conduct "outright fakery."

    The thing is, I engage in outright fakery all the time, as I find it entertaining. I also enjoy linking to it, and putting it in my blog.

    I even enjoy pretending it's true, and because of the nature of this blog, I don't feel under any obligation to spell out in detail everything I really think. Not long ago, I had some fun with a front page exposé in the Globe maintaining that Queen Elizabeth had scolded President Bush in his "divorce war." I pretended to take the Globe seriously (and I dutifully uploaded pictures of the "fight" between Dubya and the Queen as "proof"), but I'm sure no one was fooled.

    However, now I see that the BBC is following the Globe standard. What's the world coming to?

    Do I have to start pretending to take the BBC as seriously as I pretended to take the Globe?

    It's going to be tough.

    However, there is still a distinction between the Globe and the BBC, and I think it has to do with the BBC's status as a "self-sustaining propaganda outfit." No matter how comically dishonest it becomes, the BBC must assiduously maintain the pretense of journalistic integrity at all costs, while the Globe has no such burden. Thus, for appearance's sake the BBC must pretend not to be like the Globe, which means that when it is caught, it must pretend to engage in a ritualized "apology" despite the fact that it was caught engaged in deliberate misrepresentation.

    To illustrate how the distinction works, had the Globe had run exactly the same story as the BBC, no reasonable person would have ever expected such an apology (from the Globe or any other tabloid).

    But as long as it insists on being taken seriously, the BBC is still expected to play "let's pretend."

    The downside of pretending to be serious is that it's hard to pull it off if you think you really mean it.

    At the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart, I don't envy the BBC. They're obviously having so much trouble with the moral distinction between fake fakery and real fakery that I should probably be pretending to take them seriously as they're pretending to take themselves.

    At this rate, we'll all soon be on the Globe standard.

    posted by Eric at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

    Climate Change Caused By Dust?

    Here is a report from 2005 that may explain recent climate changes or not.

    This web page documents the increase in severe weather throughout our entire solar system and relates it to the obvious cause, increased solar activity. The increase in severe weather suddenly appeared in 2002, too suddendly to be caused by greenhouse gasses which have been slowly building for generations.

    And Now Cosmic Dust

    Cosmic dust might be the reason for the sun's other strange performance. We are currently in a solar minimum which has aspects of a solar maximum. In the last solar max (2001), there were 3 severe geomagnetic storms and 17 X-flares (the largest of solar flares). As of Sept 2005 there have been 4 severe geomagnetic storms and 14 X-flares even though the number of sun spots is low as you would expect in a solar min (see the Updates section for links to articles).

    Well we are back to the sun. That old nemesis of the AGW believers.
    Sunspots have Increased 1825%

    From a New Scientist article of 02 Nov 2003, "There have been more sunspots since the 1940s than than any other period (of same duration) in the past 1150 years." This is something like a 1825% increase. Sunspot numbers were derived from levels of a radioactive isotope found in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica. Sunspots are the precursors of solar flares and coronal mass ejections and reflect the internal state of the sun. It is interesting to note that the number of sun spots during the last (2000 to 2002) solar maximum was fairly low.

    Cosmic Dust Causes Intense Weather

    The increase in sun activity is related to increases in cosmic dust. In 2000, cosmic dust into our solar system increased threefold. The following years saw exceptionally server weather such as the 2003 hurricane Isabel with wind speeds over 300 MPH (second highest ever recorded). Also in 2003 Arkansas was heavily damaged in one of the most intense outbreaks of tornadoes in 53 years of record-keeping, and a heat wave in Europe killed 12,000. From European Space Agency's online news story of 01 Aug 2003 "we can expect even more interstellar dust from 2005 onwards, once the changes become fully effective." But, that is only the first volley of dust, the second one is three times more intense.

    It seems that the more dire a discovery is, the longer NASA will delay its release. Such a delay discourages the media from reporting the discovery. For example, on 10 May 99, the solar wind "stopped" for two days. This is very scary, because no one seems to know what caused it. NASA delayed the release of the information for six months so the media didn't touch it. BUT, NASA sat on the cosmic dust story for THREE YEARS.

    Much More is Coming

    Between 2005 and 2013 cosmic dust will increase by another factor of 3. Thus making the second increase three times more intense. We are in for a rough ride. Of greatest concern is volcanic activity which has increased 500% over the past 100 years. The timing of this cosmic dust increase is disturbing because the usually dependable (every 600,000 years) Yellowstone super volcano (30 x 50 miles wide) is 40,000 years late.

    So far these predictions have not been borne out in recent history. Global temperatures have been flat to slightly declining for the past 5 to 8 years. Confounding the CO2 folks and this cosmic dust guy.

    I do worry about Yellowstone. As A. Jacksonian says:

    Much, much, much more worrying is a caldera event in Yellowstone National Park. That sucker will be huge.

    And it is overdue.

    And the ground is moving there... slowly...

    Well, it was a lovely park while it lasted.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:55 PM | Comments (8)

    Fusion: The Russians Are Coming

    Zee News reports on a Russian scientist who wants Russia to export fusion power plants.

    Tokyo, July 13: Russia is eyeing on designing thermonuclear plants for domestic and international market in the next 20 to 25 years, nuclear physicist Yevgeny Velikhov said.

    He expressed confidence that Russia will be able to begin commercial production of thermonuclear reactors in 20-25 years.

    "Russia's final goal is clear. We should at least get necessary knowledge to design and build thermonuclear plants for Russia's domestic purposes and for export," Velikhov said.

    He believes that it is high time "to prepare Russia's science and industry to the next stage of commercial production."

    "Our goal depends on ITER not by 100 percent. We should work ourselves as well. We have to prepare the new generation to this as the stage of commercial production will begin in 20-25 years as a minimum," he said.

    America had better get a move on. At this point it looks like ITER will be 50 years from commercialization.

    There is a shorter path. The direction taken by Tri Alpha Energy is one of those paths. The work by Dr. Robert Bussard is another.

    A few of us are so convinced that this work has to go forward that we are working on an open source fusion reactor. You can find out more about it at IEC Fusion Technology blog. If you want to join in the fun you can visit or join the
    IEC Fusion Newsgroup. We talk about the science, the technology, and funding the project, among other things.

    We need to get a move on. The Russians are coming.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

    Vicious coldening strikes innocent Argentines!

    From the Economist:

    Snow fell in Buenos Aires, for the first time in 89 years.
    They even have a picture to go with it.

    BA_Snow.jpg Initially, this struck me as odd, because I hadn't read that Al Gore visited there lately. (A phenomenon known as the Al Gore coldening effect, which has been documented by Tim Blair.)

    I don't mean to joke about things like this. The fact is, it's so cold in Argentina that people are dying. And Al Gore has been described as "angry. Very Angry.."

    Oh, really? Methinks he doth protest too much!

    Because, as it turns out, Al Gore did visit Buenos Aires recently -- in May! His visit was opposed by the Grupo Reflexión Rural, which accused him of staging a "media and propaganda coup in favor of the agrofuels industry."

    Of course, the coup that Al Gore staged in May was only the beginning. We all know what followed.

    It took me a little time to find the clincher, but this headline says it all:

    Live Earth Concerts worked: Al Gore makes it snow in Argentina.
    Case closed, I'd say.

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (1)

    "The owner of this video does not allow video embedding"
    (But Code Pink will forgive Hillary anyway!)

    I stumbled onto a fascinating YouTube video of Hillary Clinton being scolded by Code Pink in March of 2003.


    Hillary Clinton talks about her vote to go to war, Saddam, and WMDs 2 weeks before war in a meeting with Code Pink in March 2003.
    Warning: do not click on this if leftists make you sick, unless you have a barf bag or the medication of your choice handy.

    Yeah, I know you can't watch the embed here. But it's nice to know you can't, because we're all in this YouTube village thing together, aren't we? Those who disable embedding by request undoubtedly have their special reasons for doing so, and I think it's really cool that people are special and take their specialness seriously. Maybe I, too, should be more special. While I only have one YouTube video (of Coco dancing to Bartok), should I disable embedding? (I'll ask Coco for her thoughts....)

    Anyway, for those who don't have the time or the stomach to actually go to YouTube and watch the video, here are a few tidbits:

    CP: "We know you say it takes a village. Well, it takes a bomb to destroy a village!"

    HRC: "no belief that [Saddam Hussein] will [disarm]"

    "[There was] no accounting for the chemical and biological stocks"

    "A "tyrannical" "dictatorial" "reign of terror"

    "A proven track record" [of having WMDs]

    "[I supported the decision] " after carefully reviewing the information and intelligence that I had available."

    "We are in a very difficult position right now"

    "I would love to agree with you but I can't right now"

    [Going into Kosovo] "we did it alone" "we had to do it alone"

    After stating that "I see it somewhat differently," Hillary refuses the "pink slip" the activists offer and gets yelled at.


    [Singing] "Putting our bodies on the line!

    Stop this war while there's still time!"

    Really? I didn't know they were putting their bodies were on the line. (Anyone know how many Code Pink casualties there were?)

    It's easy to laugh at this, but if I were working for Hillary's campaign I would be carefully assembling key footage from confrontations like this (and I am sure there were others), for use later to reassure and shore up the moderate middle American vote.

    I think it's quite clear that Hillary knew the cameras were running, and that she would be running for president -- preferably in 2008. In retrospect, it makes for a nice "Sister Souljah" moment. Hillary does in fact stands up to the radical left in the video, but at the same time you can see that she manages to work herself into quite a righteous lather over Bush's economic policies (going to war without raising taxes) -- and draws applause from the group for that.

    Despite the anger of the crowd, Hillary knew then (and knows now) that she'll ultimately get the vote of most of the women in that room, along with those who agree with them.

    What, does anyone think they'd even consider voting for Giuliani or Thompson? If anything, a strong Republican candidate will only make them less likely to disable their embedding by throwing away their vote on a clown like Ralph Nader.

    I really should try to take this more seriously, but when I can't embed Hillary Clinton and Code Pink in my own blog, that hurts!

    posted by Eric at 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

    Realpolitik is one thing, but this is ridiculous...

    Former CIA Director James Woolsey has co-authored a piece in the Wall Street Journal that I think ought to be read by everyone. Basically, he says that the British finally get it, but the Americans don't.

    On the eve of his departure from office, Mr. Blair gave a television interview taking on those he once courted -- British Islamists who have been quick to level charges of Islamophobia and oppression against Britain and the United States: "The reason we are finding it hard to win this battle [against terror] is that we're not actually fighting it properly. We're not actually standing up to these people and saying, 'It's not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you. Your sense of grievance isn't justified.' . . . Some of what is written on this is loopy-loo in its extremism."

    (Emphasis added to what I think were brilliant remarks.)

    Meanwhile, Bush is busy not only inviting hateful Saudi Wahhabists to important outreach events in the U.S., he's letting them act as gatekeepers to keep out genuine moderate Muslims:
    ....they excluded the truly moderate, who are not Saudi-founded or funded: the Islamic Supreme Council of America, the American Islamic Congress, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the Center for Eurasian Policy, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, the Islam and Democracy Project, the Institute for Gulf Affairs, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and many others.

    These organizations are frequently shut out of U.S. government events and appointments on the basis that they are considered insignificant or "controversial" by the petro-dollar-funded groups. The administration makes a terrible mistake by making such Wahhabi-influenced institutions as the Washington Islamic Center the gate keepers for all American Muslims.

    The actual substance of Mr. Bush's mosque speech -- particularly good on religious freedom -- was overshadowed by the announcement of its single initiative: America is to send an envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference. Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the OIC was created explicitly to promote hostility to Israel, and its meetings largely consist of ritualistic Israel-bashing. At one last year, Iran's president called for the "elimination of the Zionist regime." It has no mechanism for discussing the human rights of its member states, and thus has never spoken out against Sudan's genocide of Darfuri Muslims. It is advancing an effort to universalize Islamic blasphemy laws, which are applied as often against speech critical of the governments of OIC member states as against profanities. Last month the OIC council of foreign ministers termed Islamophobia "the worst form of terrorism." Currently no Western power holds either member or observer status at the OIC.

    The Bush administration is now actively considering whether its public diplomacy should reach out to Muslim Brotherhood groups. While such groups may pay lip service to peace, they do not denounce terror by Hamas, a Brotherhood offshoot. It keeps as its motto: "Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." By choosing those whose definition of terror does not include the murder of Jews, honor killings and lethal fatwas against Muslim dissidents and reformers, the U.S. government makes them look strong -- particularly in the shame-and-honor culture of the Middle East -- and strengthens their hand against the real moderates and reformers.

    Reading the whole thing made me very angry.

    I can only hope that Bush still has some sort of secret plan to lull the Saudis into a false sense of security, the way he lured the suicidal Saudi Salafists into Iraq. (I can dream, can't I?)

    These days, there are plenty of reports and opinion pieces about al Qaeda. Predictably, the left focuses on al Qaeda in Aghanistan and Pakistan (and the "war we should have fought"), while the right focuses on al Qaeda in Iraq (which is, after all, the war we're fighting right now). But few mention the Saudi role in al Qaeda, even though the Saudis and al Qaeda are inextricably intertwined.

    Bret Stephens (also writing in the Wall Street Journal) understands that there's an ongoing, institutionalized problem of American cluelessness:

    Take the case of career diplomat Francis Riccardione, currently the U.S. ambassador to Egypt. In interviews with the Egyptian media, Mr. Riccardione has said that American officials have "no right to comment" on the case of Ayman Nour, the former opposition leader imprisoned on trumped-up charges; that faith in Egypt's judiciary is "well-placed," and that president Hosni Mubarak -- now in his 26th year in office -- "is loved in the U.S." and "could win elections [in America] as a leader who is a giant on the world stage." Mr. Riccardione also admits he "enjoyed" a recent film by Egyptian artist Shaaban Abdel Rahim, best known for his hit song "I Hate Israel."
    What nearly brought tears to my eyes was reasong about U.S. diplomats undermining the struggle by Indonesians against Wahhabism:
    Mr. Taylor, a former telecom executive who moved to Jakarta in the 1990s and speaks fluent Indonesian, has engaged influential and genuinely reform-minded Muslims -- as opposed to the faux "moderates" on whom Mr. Bush lavished praise at the Islamic Center -- to articulate and defend a progressive and tolerant version of Islam.

    In its brief life, LibForAll has helped turn back an attempted Islamist takeover of the country's second-largest Muslim social organization (with 30 million members), translated anti-Wahhabist books into Indonesian, sponsored a recent multidenominational conference to denounce Holocaust-denial, brought Mr. Dhani to Colorado to speak to U.S. military brass, and launched a well-researched "extremist exposé" in order, Mr. Taylor says, "to get Indonesian society to consciously acknowledge that there is an infiltration occurring of radical ideology, financed by Arab petrodollars, that is intent on destroying Indonesian Islam."

    For his efforts, Mr. Taylor has been cold-shouldered by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta -- more proof that when it comes to public diplomacy the U.S. government functions with its usual genius and efficiency. But there's more at work here than a bumbling and insipid bureaucracy. As the scholar Carnes Lord notes in his useful book on public diplomacy, "Losing Hearts and Minds," America's public diplomatists "are today no longer as convinced as they once were that America's story is after all fundamentally a good one, or believe an alternative, negative story is at least equally plausible." Hence someone like Mr. Riccardione can say, when asked about discrimination in Egypt (where a Coptic population amounting to about 10% of the population has one member in the 444-seat parliament) that it "happens everywhere, even in the U.S."

    That's pretty sickening.

    You'd almost think the State Department was being run by Rosie O'Donnell. Or Helen Thomas. Although in fairness (as Glenn also notes) she wasn't elected.

    It may be that Bush is no longer in control of the situation. Perhaps a basic history lesson is in order. I wish the president would read what Glenn linked earlier from Don Surber in response to the Byrd/Clinton axis (to which I'd add the Saudis, O'Donnell, and Thomas):

    "The American people have waited long enough for progress in Iraq," Byrd and Clinton wrote. "They have waited long enough for the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future."

    Really? The war lasted three weeks. The occupation is in its fourth year.

    So what? The North occupied the South for 12 years, and had it hung on a few more years, civil rights would have arrived for black Americans about 80 years sooner.

    American troops are still in Germany. It took 10 years just to calm West Germany down and begin its "economic miracle," i.e. Americans bought what West Germany produced, no matter how awful it may have been.

    American troops are still in South Korea. It took a good 20 years to establish a democracy there. My brother-in-law still recalls the deprivations he faced when he served in Korea.

    That was in the 1970s.

    American troops are still in Kosovo, helping prevent the very genocide that the editors of the New York Times suggest is OK in Iraq.

    American troops are still in Afghanistan.

    I won't go into how long we occupied Italy and Japan. My point is made.

    (Brilliant remark in emphasis.)

    Don Surber concludes by suggesting that Senator Byrd reread his Roman history -- especially "the parts about the fall of Rome."

    I doubt that would help. Besides, Byrd is 89. Rome will outlast him.

    Seriously, I don't think the fall of Rome is upon us yet, but I do think Bush would do better to listen to history than the Saudis. Or Helen Thomas.

    posted by Eric at 10:12 PM | Comments (4)

    The "most hostile"? To what exactly?

    "The most hostile in history to the Bill of Rights."

    According to Clayton Cramer, that's how the Bush administration is being characterized.

    An acquaintance now living in Europe went on one of his rants about how the Bush Administration is "the most hostile in history to the Bill of Rights." This is very typical rhetoric in a lot of circles today, especially by those who are either too ignorant, or too dishonest, to admit the real situation.

    Let me respond to just one of your statements below which really captures how severely you have been lied to. To claim that the Bush Administration is the "most hostile in history to the Bill of Rights"--let's compare their actions (not all of which I have agreed with) to those of previous administrations at war--and sometimes in
    peace. I'm not saying that I approve of all the previous actions, or of all of Bush's actions below; my point is that your overheated rhetoric is profoundly ignorant.

    It's a good post, and I say this as someone who has been quite critical of encroachments on constitutional freedoms.

    But there is a question I'd love to ask the people who believe the Bush administration is "the most hostile in history to the Bill of Rights."

    How are you defining "Bill of Rights"?

    All too often, that term is used as code language concealing a selective cherry- picking of only certain rights from the Bill of Rights. As anyone who has taken basic Civics ought to know, the Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, safeguarding not only free speech and the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, but the right to keep and bear arms.

    Are the Bush critics suggesting that his administration has been the most hostile to the right to keep and bear arms? For that matter, are they suggesting Guantanamo is worse than FDR's Japanese internment camps? Cramer makes an excellent point:

    During World War II, tens of thousands of non-resident enemy aliens were arrested and held for some months while arrangements were made to exchange them for Americans caught in the Axis powers at the start of the war. About 110,000 U.S. citizens and resident aliens were interned. By comparison, what has the Bush Administration done that is even a pale shadow of this?

    What about safeguards against federal encroachment on states rights in the Ninth Amendment?

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
    And the general prohibition in the Tenth Amendment?
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
    Has Bush really been more hostile to the 9th and 10th Amendments than any other president?

    I may sound like a nitpicky and pedantic nerd in my insistence that the Bill of Rights actually contains ten amendments, but I get a little tired of hearing the phrase invoked by people who turn out to be indifferent (if not actually hostile) to some of the other rights in the total package they claim quite sanctimoniously to be defending.

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

    But this worries me. Will Glenn will be accused of "approval" again? Can I be sure that I won't be accused of "approving" of Clayton Cramer's post?

    And what if the accusation involves "approval" of Bush's hostility to the Bill of Rights?

    Oh, and I forgot all about the fact that Bush is forcing us to quarter troops in time of war as well as making poor Mary Cholmondeley waste her life.

    Surely, Bush's backstabber-approved hostility knows no bounds!

    AND MORE: If you haven't read it yet, please do not miss the post by Clayton Cramer which inspired this one.

    It's a must read.

    posted by Eric at 03:45 PM | Comments (14)

    A reminder of why I remain sick of identity politics

    I might be mistaken, but I don't think Ace is terribly sympathetic to Andrew Sullivan's plight. (Or, for that matter, that of Gren Gleenwald, whose hatred and vitriolic excesses I think make Sullivan look kind and reasonable.)

    I should probably warn readers that Ace is pissed, so if you're easily upset, you might want to do your touchy-feely yoga exercises before clicking the links.

    Whether Sullivan is engaged in the type of deliberate rumor-mongering about Fred Thompson that Ace complains of, I do not know. For his part, Sullivan denies it:

    Wonkette inferred some gay rumor, and then the blogosphere ran with it. Please. All I meant was that Thompson, as a single man, had had a lot of dates with a lot of women, something that strikes me - and a lot of Republicans as well - as completely fine. I have never heard a single gay rumor about Thompson and never intended to be interpreted as spreading one.
    If he's never heard a single rumor, then why mention any? In any case, whether they are allegations of rumors or inferences of rumors, they strike me as preposterous.

    This is such total, utter crap. Honestly, I wish I didn't have to write this post, but the country's obsession with sex does not stop simply because I stomp my feet and demand it.

    I do think that to the extent Sullivan encourages any such rumor-mongering, he is engaged in a betrayal of his own principles, and while I don't agree with the characterizations Ace heaps on Sullivan, I think Ace has a good point here:

    Let's flash back: Back to the days when Andrew Sullivan was, he claimed, all about sexual privacy. He shrieked about it, in fact. Exposing someone's private sexual behavior was the worst form of Sexual McCarthyism. As one of his post-titles had it.
    I've defended Andrew Sullivan, and I still condemn the very same sexual McCarthyism that he once condemned. I think it's worth noting that in October. Sullivan did condemn the Democrats' out-the-Republicans campaign as a "witch hunt." (Why that link and many of his older links no longer work, I don't know.)

    I hope Andrew Sullivan's views on sexual McCarthyism haven't changed.

    What worries me is that he seems to be promoting a mindset that I find anathema, but which I've warned is becoming an

    agreement along the following lines:

    RESOLVED: Gays do not belong in the Republican Party.

    In other words, one's political orientation should be driven by one's sexual orientation.

    I think that's identity politics, and it is the antithesis of political freedom.

    It's also the antithesis of sexual freedom, but I guess that's long been a casualty of America's war on sex.

    I hope Fred Thompson doesn't become a casualty of the war on sex, and I don't mean that as gay rumor-mongering. FWIW, I don't think Fred Thompson is gay in the least. I would not care, but the idea strikes me as absurd. However, this good man (who I think has the makings of a great president) is already under attack for the "trophy wife" nonsense, and the campaign hasn't even begun in earnest.

    Does it all really have to be about genitalia?

    I guess so.

    Welcome to the world of premature elections.

    (There's no need to worry about issues, for we all have genitals....)

    UPDATE: The new (apparently moved) link to Andrew Sullivan's "witch hunt is a witch hunt" post is here.

    UPDATE (07/13/07): Writing at Pajamas Media, Rick Moran has a must-read post on the latest battle in the Sex War:

    I could go on and on listing issues that have some bearing on the nation's health and well being or are just huge stories of national and international import.

    And yet, David Vitter gets caught with his pants unzipped and a media frenzy erupts.

    And Larry Flynt is offering to pay a $1 milion bounty -- on Republican sex offenders. For "hypocrisy" of course.

    There's so much hypocrisy all around that it's unbelievable, and I agree with Rick.

    The ultimate question of who wins the Sex War is probably related to who wins the related Hypocrisy War. Right now, there's a relentless push to show that the Republicans are more hypocritical than the Democrats, but I think what's being forgotten is that merely being a Republican does not make one a sanctimonious moral scold. If the noisier Republicans learned how to tap into their laissez faire roots (all they have to do is shut up a little louder) and let the Democrats go too far with the sexual scolding, the ordinary people (especially those who only want to be left alone) might realize that where it comes to upholding sexual morality, no one has a monopoly.

    UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has a really good post titled "Liberalism, Libertarianism and Gay Rights":

    I argued specifically against the liberal recipes for gay equality: against hate crime laws and even against employment discrimination laws. I argued that a conservative position on gay rights would leave private discrimination and prejudice alone and change only the government's stance so that all citizens are treated equally by the state, even if they are subject to discrimination by private entities. Virtually Normal did contribute, I think, to a deeper understand that marriage rights and military service were central to the gay rights movement. In that, it helped revolutionize the gay rights movement - against the wishes of many of its leftist leaders. But I had no luck trying to shift the liberal nannying and tolerance-mongering of the gay establishment.

    Still, we're not all liberals. For the record. But it's a quixotic position, I will sadly concede. Freedom is not as popular as it once was. And liberals have helped whittle it away.

    Once again, I think it's a mistake to pigeonhole Andrew. Whether you agree with him or not (and I often don't), there's a consistency over the years that I admire.

    posted by Eric at 02:43 PM | Comments (5)

    Philadelphia gun control becomes national culture war?

    Extreme anti-gun bias by Philadelphia politicians and media is attracting national attention lately, with an ABC News special echoing and promoting culture war stereotypes of the sort I've been arguing against for years.

    I'll start with the Philadelphia Inquirer. The logic is hard to follow, but the Inquirer recently editorialized that gun control would have helped stop police from firing 85 shots into a man who'd been waving a gun at them:

    Make no mistake, there are situations in which police have no choice but to shoot. In Miller's case, police said he pointed a loaded gun at officers and would not drop it when ordered. But the number of shots went far beyond what was necessary to deal with the threat. Something went awry.

    Understand that officers staring down a weapon have to make split-second decisions whether to fire. They know that all too often in such situations, it's officers who are hurt.

    That's why good training that ingrains smart procedures is so key. Other cities' police departments - New York's, in particular - have done a better job recently of training police in tactics that minimize the need for deadly force in difficult situations.

    Harrisburg lawmakers could help city police by providing sound gun control. With city streets awash in illegal guns, it's no wonder officers frequently face potentially lethal situations.

    Stop illegal guns by passing more laws making them more illegal in the hope that criminals will start obeying the law?

    Yes, that's exactly what the argument is. From another Inquirer editorial:

    It's likely that the firearms used in these killings were illegally obtained by the shooters.

    The odds of that being so are heightened because of the lack of political will in Washington and Harrisburg to displease gun-rights absolutists.

    The Inquirer admits that the shooters broke the law not only by shooting people, but by obtaining illegal guns. Yet if more laws are passed, they will obey them?

    Yes, the people who think this way really believe that laws will stop shootings in Philadelphia.

    NRA-beholden legislators stand in the way of actual progress. Instead of passing laws (which are the only solution that can work here), they only promise commissions and more talk. (Emphasis added.)
    Philadelphia wants its own gun laws -- presumably to disarm citizens, as criminals are already prohibted from owning guns. Where they get the idea that Philadelphia criminals will stop illegally obtaining guns? I don't know, but there's an emerging movement to blame people living outside the city for crime which occurs in the city. I've complained repeatedly about a local professor's attempt to tar opposition to gun control as racist.

    Monica Yant Kinney expressed a typical sentiment:

    Whenever I write about Philadelphia's homicide crisis, I hear from suburban readers who think it's a waste of space.

    Poor black people killing poor black people, thugs shooting thugs - why should we cry?

    With alarming regularity, folks living outside the city suggest they'd rather ignore the horrors inside it.

    Rather than ignore it, I've written so many blog posts about it that I've lost count. But the fact is, police statistics show that it isn't "poor black people killing poor black people" -- but that it is thugs shooting thugs. The latter is a very serious problem, and I don't think it helps to conflate thugs into "poor black people" as it does the overwhelmingly law abiding majority of the latter category a major disservice. It also does them a major disservice to characterize them as "fighting to stay alive":
    "Homicide is a loaded topic. It's not pretty. It's not pleasant."

    And whether you're living comfortably in the suburbs or fighting to stay alive in the city, it's too ugly to ignore anymore.

    Irresponsible Philadelphia lawmakers and journalists have long tried to stoke the fire of what they probably see as a culture war between urban citizens and rural (or non-urban) citizens. In the numbingly typical style of leftist "narrative" politics (more on the mechanics of this at A Second Hand Conjecture in "The Media Narrative"), urban people are portrayed as victims, while rural people are shown as their antagonists. The usual stereotypes are frequently evoked, and Philadelphia State Rep. Angel Cruz went so far as to liken Philadelphia murderers to hunters, saying,"in other parts of the state, they hunt animals; in Philadelphia, guns are used to hunt people."

    This Tony Auth cartoon (which I previously blogged about) is typical:


    It would be bad enough if this bad logic and culture war stereotyping were limited to local politicians and newspapers, but now that I see it's been ramped up on national television, I worry that the fears I've expressed (about a national gun control movement deliberately targeting cities) are confirmed.

    This past Sunday (July 8), ABC's World News Sunday ran an extremely biased program about Philadelphia gun control. Invoking all the culture war stereotypes, Philadelphia is portrayed as a "victim" of the rural redneck culture that rules the rest of the state, and will not allow Philadelphia to enact "its own laws."

    During a plug for the story before a commercial break, anchor Dan Harris portrayed Philadelphia as a "desperate" city that was "in the cross-hairs" of the gun control debate. Harris: "A city desperate to stop the murders finds itself in the cross-hairs of a national debate on gun control."

    Harris introduced the story by relaying the contention of Philadelphia gun control proponents that its city has a higher murder rate because the city must abide by gun laws set by a state government that is "dominated by rural lawmakers." Harris: "Philadelphia has to follow gun laws set by the state government, which is dominated by rural lawmakers. And city officials say that is why they have the highest murder rate of the nation's big cities -- 213 this year and counting."

    Kerley began his report by recounting the story of a five-year-old girl who was shot to death while riding in a car. Kerley then suggested that the reason New York City has a lower murder rate than Philadelphia is because it has stricter gun laws than Philadelphia. Kerley: "Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws."

    The ABC correspondent then turned to one of the "frustrated city officials" who says they will "sue their own state government." City Councilman Darrell Clarke: "I can no longer continue to sit here and allow the level of violence to continue unabated simply because people don't feel it is appropriate to do what I believe is their mandatory duty."

    Again, please bear in mind that according to Philadelphia police statistics, 80 to 85% of the killings were committed by convicted criminals (their victims as well are overwhelmingly convicted criminals), and it's a very serious crime for a felon to possess a gun. But never mind that; what matters is that all the shooters and those they shoot are the urban victims of the rural rednecks.

    This would almost be comical if it wasn't for the fact that we're talking about the Second Amendment here. (You know, it's part of that Bill of Rights thingie?)

    I'm also fascinated by the dichotomy between urban and rural. From the transcript of the ABC docudrama:

    Where you stand on this issue may depend on where you live. Urban Americans tend to favor strict gun laws. Rural Americans do not. But in one big city, they don't get to choose. Philadelphia has to follow gun laws set by the state government, which is dominated by rural lawmakers. And city officials say that is why they have the highest murder rate of the nation's big cities -- 213 this year and counting.
    Accompanying that is a very inflammatory red chart:


    I may be a total aberration, but if the truth were told, I'm not urban, nor am I rural. I live in the suburbs. And not only don't I have a handlebar moustache, I don't have pistols with telescopic sights! (I usually associate the latter with competition shooting at ranges, not drive by shootings, but I guess ABC was just trying to be as inclusive as possible.)

    What's missing from the chart and from the discussion is that Philadelphia's murder rate, while appallingly high, is nothing new. The chart accurately reflects this year's total so far. Last year's homicide total was 406 -- not much different from what was seen in the 1990s:

    Murders peaked at 503 in 1990 for a rate of 31.5 per 100,000, and they averaged around 400 a year for most of the nineties. In 2002 the murder count hit a low of 288, but by 2006 the annual total had surged to 406.
    If you ask me, Ed Rendell fixed a lot of things that were wrong with the city (he was Mayor from 1995-1999) and the crime rate fell steadily, until the years of mismanagement by his successor took their toll. Rendell and Giuliani offer proof that a city's crime rate can be turned around, but IMO the current administration is Philadelphia's main problem.

    I agree with Jeff Soyer that the solution is not more laws, but better law enforcement:

    most of this violence is the result of street gangs, drug gangs, et al. Frankly, I wouldn't worry about the 28,000 legally licensed citizens concealed-carrying. I'd be more concerned about the thousands of criminals who haven't bothered (and never will) obtaining a permit. They're the ones commiting mayhem.

    Bust-up the mutant gangs, throw them in jail, and watch the violence decrease. Don't start leaving the haplass honest folk defenseless.

    Unfortunately, the attitude of the Philadelphia elites along with ABC is that if these "honest folk" want to defend themselves, why, let them move to the country!

    I don't like the idea of two Americas, one urban, one rural, but some people need it.

    posted by Eric at 10:58 AM | Comments (8)

    Lady Bird Johnson, R.I.P.

    I'm sorry to see that Lady Bird Johnson has died at age 94.

    The daughter of a Texas rancher, Lady Bird Johnson she spent 34 years in Washington, as the wife of a congressional secretary, U.S. representative, senator, vice president and president. The couple had two daughters, Lynda Bird, born in 1944, and Luci Baines, born in 1947. The couple returned to Texas after the presidency, and Lady Bird Johnson lived for more than 30 years in and near Austin.
    She was a reminder of a forgotten era when civility reigned -- even in politics:
    Former President George Bush once recalled that when he was a freshman Republican congressman from Texas in the 1960s, Lady Bird Johnson and the president welcomed him to Washington with kindness, despite their political differences.

    He said she exemplified "the grace and the elegance and the decency and sincerity that you would hope for in the White House."

    As first lady, she was perhaps best known as the determined environmentalist who wanted roadside billboards and junkyards replaced with trees and wildflowers. She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to beautify Washington. The $320 million Highway Beautification Bill, passed in 1965, was known as "The Lady Bird Bill," and she made speeches and lobbied Congress to win its passage.

    I remember her quite well, especially the "Keep America Beautiful" campaign. It encouraged volunteerism, and it seemed to work.

    It's sad to see members of that generation go, as their collective wisdom seems to go with them.

    People in those days used to be much more civil, and they got along despite their political differences. How she must have suffered seeing her husband being called a murderer night after night on national television. I'm sure that despite her experience in politics and in social decorum, nothing had prepared her for that.

    She had dignity and class, and I see in her death another reminder that all of us could do better.

    posted by Eric at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)

    Saved from the nanny state scalpel

    Great news!

    I just heard from a friend that AB 1634 (the subject of at least a dozen blog posts here) appears to be dead -- at least for the time being:

    Legislation to require statewide spaying or neutering of dogs and cats was shelved Wednesday after receiving a chilly reception by a Senate committee.

    Assemblyman Lloyd Levine opted not to pursue a vote after it became clear that the Senate Local Government Committee would not accept a last-ditch amendment to narrow the scope of his bill.

    Levine vowed to revive Assembly Bill 1634 next year.

    "I think we can get to a solution," Levine said. "But the first thing opponents must do is to acknowledge that there's a problem and work with me to solve it."

    AB 1634 was a legislative lightning rod that prompted more than 20,000 people to send letters or sign petitions in support or opposition.

    Spectators began lining up outside the Capitol about 6 a.m. Wednesday, nearly two hours before the session of the Senate Local Government Committee.

    It certainly has been a lightning rod. Tens of thousands of opponents contacted their representatives, to the point of breaking one senator's fax machine:
    AB 1634 has produced some of the year's most passionate, crowded and contentious legislative hearings, routinely attracting more than 400 supporters and opponents.

    Roughly 20,000 people have sent letters or signed petitions to argue their case to members of the Senate Local Government Committee, according to a Senate analysis of AB 1634.

    "They've broken my fax machine," said Negrete McLeod, smiling.

    The clincher may have been a surge of dissent through the ranks of veterinarians:
    The campaign promoting AB 1634 received a blow last week when the California Veterinary Medical Association, a former co-sponsor, switched its position to neutral because of division within its ranks.
    Good for them. Maybe they thought it over and realized that the bill would interfere with practicing veterinary medicine as they see fit (and maybe it occurred to them that patients might hesitate to bring in pets once it dawned on them that they were going to be ratted out).

    In any event, I'm glad that this outrage of nanny statism has been defeated for now. But "Lightbulb Levine" vows he'll be back, and I believe him.

    posted by Eric at 07:43 PM | Comments (2)

    May the greatest truths of the greatest masses be told!

    Ann Althouse links a story about a remarkable French cabinet member who all but admits she's a 9/11 Truther. Asks Althouse,

    What's stupider: the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory or that Traffic = Truth Theory?
    The latter theory is explained thusly:
    Asked in an interview last November, before she became minister, whether she thought Bush might be behind the attacks, [Housing Minsiter Christine] Boutin says: "I think it is possible. I think it is possible."

    Boutin backs her assertion by pointing to the large number of people who visit websites that challenge the official line over the September 11 strikes against U.S. cities.

    "I know that the websites that speak of this problem are websites that have the highest number of visits ... And I tell myself that this expression of the masses and of the people cannot be without any truth."

    Yes, there are plenty of 9/11 Truthers running around in the United States. And yes, their expressions cannot be without any truth, so they are allowed to vote.

    But I think it needs to be remembered that 56% of the French actually believe the sun revolves around the earth.

    No really. If you don't believe me, just watch the video:

    (YouTube link here.)

    In the more enlightened United States, only 20% believe the sun revolves around the earth.

    (My insatiably curious dark side would love to know the political breakdown of that group. I'm sure Democrats would maintain they're mostly moronic Republicans, while Republicans would claim they're Democrats, but I just want to know. I really and truly do.)

    But let's apply Minister Boutin's theory to this data. If the earthcentric expressions of 56% of the French masses cannot be without any truth, but those of only 20% of the US masses cannot be without any truth, then which group cannot be without the most truth?

    posted by Eric at 05:51 PM | Comments (5)

    The twilight's last Gleening

    Gleen Grenwald?

    Not bad. I have found myself wondering how Ace could ever live up to his own challenge, but so far he has. (It seems to be a catchy name too.)

    I found an interesting picture of what I think is Gleen Grenwald, riding a bicycle before the greening took place:


    I know, it's hard to take these things seriously, but I'm still managing to find serious things which are increasingly difficult to take -- but only because I believe in increasingly effective Iraqis and back-stabbing approvalism.

    posted by Eric at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

    Random thoughts on the science of defiance

    I've long thought that the anthropogenic global warming/overwhelming scientific alarmism campaign involves a nexus between politics and marketing, and that to this end, the average person (especially in the United States) is being kept in the dark as much as possible about how the practical, day-to-day applications of anthropogenic global warming theory might play out.

    For example, telling people that they shouldn't eat meat is considered a hard sell (something which might generate voter backlash) and is thus very bad. Never mind that by the environmentalists' own "scientific" data, meat is responsible for more greenhouse gases than cars. People are conditioned to see Big Oil as evil, not farmers. An oil refinery is an evil image; a herd of cattle grazing in a pasture is not. I've argued this before, as I think it's vital to understanding the dynamics of the anthropogenic global warming argument, but there's almost nothing about it in the MSM, and despite the best efforts of PETA and a few other animal rights groups, the AGW evil of meat consumption is pretty much a taboo subject.

    Of course, when activists get together (as they did at Al Gore's Live Earth fiasco), there's no way to avoid the touchy subject of meat, but again, it does not find its way into the MSM, and has to be scavenged from alternative journals by bloggers in search of incriminating nuggets.

    Recently, Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters found lots of nuggets in a report from Life Style Extra:

    Peta activists said that Wembley should take meat off the menu after a recent UN report found that the meat industry creates more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, ships and planes in the world combined.
    Noel thinks it's as cool as I do:
    Absolutely fabulous. And, in reality, if the UN was seriously concerned about anthropogenic global warming, wouldn't they themselves remove meat from their cafeterias, and require all employees on the payroll - including IPCC scientists - to immediately become vegetarian?
    Yeah, right! I don't think such an idea would ever reach the level of "scientific debate," much less implementation, because the goal is to sell AGWOSC theory -- and ASAP.

    So don't expect to read about meat in your local paper. There's more juicy stuff at Newsbusters, of course, and PETA is (rightly so, IMO) charging the Live Earth promoters with hypocrisy:

    ....Peta campaigner Yvonne Taylor said that it would be "hypocritical" if the damage caused by the industry was overlooked at the concert, and said that the group had written to the managing director of Wembley Stadium, Alex Horne, urging him not to sell meat at the event.

    She said: "There's no such thing as a meat eating environmentalist.

    Nothing like personalizing the debate. While I don't like prying into people's lives, those who do pry into people's lives would do well to remember that it invites prying right back. I think it eminently fair that those who would pry into our driving habits should be asked about their eating habits.

    If my driving is the planet's business, so is your eating!

    Which brings to mind what Noel calls the best punch line:

    "Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius."
    Here here!

    Why this almost calls for a bumpersticker:


    Except where would a car-free vegetarian put it?

    Another topic unlikely to prove popular with ordinary citizens is the turning off of their electricity to save the planet. While it wasn't widely reported in the U.S., London experienced an Al Gore sponsored mini-blackout called "Lights Out London":

    Between 9pm and 10pm on Thursday 21 June, many of London's most famous landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Canary Wharf, the BT Tower and at least one government department, will execute the black-out to raise awareness of global warming.
    They did, and had Al Gore gotten his way, it could have been worse -- but the national power grid stepped in:
    The campaign has the support of Al Gore, the former US vice president, who suggested a similar plan for Britain last week, only to be blocked by the National Grid. Gore had wanted a massive switch-off of lights by television audiences during next month's Live Earth concerts, a series of 10 shows across seven continents held over 24 hours. The politician-turned-climate campaigner, whose surprise hit film An Inconvenient Truth warns of the imminent dangers of global warming, had hoped that his gesture would be as emblematic as that made by he actor Will Smith when he coordinated people across the world to click their fingers every three seconds during the Live8 concerts in 2005 to convey the frequency with which children were dying in Africa.

    The National Grid vetoed Gore's idea, saying the power surge when people switched their lights back on could cause disruptions in supply and even endanger patients on life-support machines in hispital.

    London's (socialist) Mayor Ken Livingston shared his thoughts on the shutdown:
    The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, believes such events are powerful ways of encouraging individuals and businesses to spend an hour in active, thoughtful semi-darkness.

    'I fully support the initiative,' he said. 'This campaign will bring Londoners together to demonstrate their willingness to tackle climate change. At 9pm on 21 June I will be making sure that none of City Hall's non-essential lights and appliances are on.'

    This was done, and the BBC has some stunning pictures of the blacked out city.

    Hmmm.... I wonder how many ordinary Londoners are old enough to remember the power blackouts that helped elect Iron Maggie Thatcher. Not that there's anything wrong with saving power or the spirit of voluntarism (especially when there's a war or other national emergency), but there's something about Al Gore's concert jet-setters which and the legendary quantities of fuel they consumed which tends to undercut the moral authority of their demands.

    What would have been really embarrassing from a PR perspective would be if people had died:

    IT WAS intended to be the symbolic gesture at a global series of rock concerts next month to alert people to climate change. Al Gore, the former US presidential candidate turned climate doomsayer, had wanted a massive switch-off of lights by television audiences, but the National Grid has vetoed the idea.

    The inconvenient truth, it says, is that the power surge when people switched their lights back on could cause disruptions in supply and even endanger hospital patients on life support machines.

    And another tidbit for those old enough to recall the rise of Maggie Thatcher:
    It would also have given Britain its biggest blackout since the blitz and the miners' strikes of the 1970s - and encapsulated the message of the urgency to save energy.
    Normally, power rationing and blackouts are associated with less developed countries which don't have the economic muscle it takes to keep a power grid up and running. People in the developed West tend to assume that our countries are not like that, and thus we don't have to live that way. I find myself wondering whether guys like Al Gore and his comrade Ken Livingstone might be tickled pink (sorry!) over the idea of having their citizens willingly embrace a Third World standard of living. Especially when this is spearheaded by affluent activists who think slumming is cool, and it's hip to be without power.

    Maybe all citizens should be forced to spend an hour in active, thoughtful semi-darkness! And why stop at an hour? Why not just simply turn off the lights at rotating regular intervals, for as long as it takes to save the planet?

    Speaking of the power grid, one of its principles has long been that electricity is a fungible commodity, something freely tradeable. Thus, (as John Beck explained when I wondered about the possibility of an Internet shutdown by government fiat), electrical power flows freely through a myriad of places.

    I guess I need to get over that idea, for in New Jersey, the power that supplies the power grid is not longer fungible. At least, so says a new law which I suspect the average New Jerseyan is about as likely to have read as the legislators who congratulated each other and Al Gore at the signing ceremony.

    Yes, the same Al Gore. The law is such a big deal that Al Gore flew in as a visiting dignitary for the signing (which was timed to coincide with the concerts that have saved the earth):

    Al Gore, the former vice president turned environmental activist, was on hand Friday as Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation requiring the Garden State to achieve ambitious reductions in emissions of global-warming gases.

    New Jersey became the third state, behind California and Hawaii, to pass a comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction law.

    "In order to inspire hope and build the enthusiasm necessary to get this crisis solved, it's great to be able to tell 'em in every country that yes, the national government is not doing the right thing yet, it's true, but you need to know that state governments are beginning to take the lead, cities are beginning to take the lead, and citizens of this country are beginning to take the lead," Gore told an enthusiastic crowd of lawmakers and environmental activists who had come to the Meadowlands sports complex to witness the bill signing.

    The signing of New Jersey's "Global Warming Response Act" took place on the eve of a series of concerts around the world drawing attention to global warming, including one at The Meadowlands in New Jersey that Gore said he would attend.

    Here's the part that will come as news to energy traders:
    "This is the strictest global warming law in the country for two reasons," said David Pringle, campaign director of the New Jersey Environmental Federation. "Because of the mandatory emissions reductions and because of a provision that says out-of-state power producers can't move power through New Jersey without meeting New Jersey standards."
    Of course, the news won't hit ordinary people until the high electric bills finally start arriving in the mail. By then it will be too late to contact your legislator (as if it was up to his "constituents" or even him how he voted).

    We all hear talk about various "agendas" (usually covert), and what they plan to do if the activists get their way. I've been around left for most of my life, and I have never until now seen such an all-encompassing way to get control over literally aspect of human existence. It's a totalitarian's dream which would allow government to control how we live, where we live, what we drive, what we eat, where we are allowed to travel, what time we have to turn out the lights, and if Big Brother sees fit, when we reenter the Dark Ages. I call it "totalitarianism," but because it's dressed up as science, ordinary people don't understand the implications. That's because the science is over their heads, and the argument is framed in such a way that the political control is said to flow directly from the scientific arguments without passing "go." Of course, ordinary people (the type most likely to become irate if they understood the implications) aren't likely to get past the "science," mainly because they don't have time, patience, educational background, or scientific training. So they are told "the debate is over" without even understanding the nature of the debate.

    My position is that they shouldn't be debating the science, because the political conclusions are so built into it that it's not real science. Forget anthropogenic global warming theory, whether there is an overwhelming scientific consensus, and what it might be. Denial is for libertarian crackpots, free market Republicans, old-fashioned socialists, and nerds.

    What the little guy in the street needs is not denial of science, but defiance.

    In this light, maybe go veggie campaigns and power blackouts aren't a bad idea.

    And why is Hillary's loud silence about all this being so overwhelmingly unreported? Is she going to be allowed to get away with silently sitting around and letting Al Gore's antics make her look reasonable?

    I mean, seriously, Where does she get off describing Al Gore's gas tax as "hardly politically palatable at this moment"?

    I'll just bet she feels the same way about vegetarian diets and power blackouts, but she'll never say anything. Needless to say, this makes me feel completely triangulated, because I have to wear myself out wasting my perfectly good anthropogenic global warming defiance on Al Gore, who isn't running for anything, but whose continuous presence ensures that the anthropogenic global warming crowd will stay in the Democratic Party (while making Hillary look "reasonable" to the people who don't have time to think).

    I hate scientific double standards.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, an incredibly cool way to cut back on online activities:

    When employees of The State came in to work following a three day weekend, they found their workstations overloaded with "cannot logon" and "Exchange communication" error messages. The Network Services folks had it even worse: the server room was a sweltering 109° Fahrenheit and filled with dead or dying servers.

    At first, everyone had assumed that the Primary A/C, the Secondary A/C, and the Tertiary A/C had all managed to fail at once. But after cycling the power, the A/Cs all fired up and brought the room back to a cool 64°. At the time, the "why" wasn't so important: the network administrators had to figure out how to bring online the four Exchange Services, six Domain Controllers, a few Sun servers, and the entire State Tax Commission's server farm. Out of all of the downed servers, those were the only ones that did not come back to life upon a restart.

    They worked day and night to order new equipment, build new servers, and restore everything from back-up. Countless overtime hours and nearly two hundred thousand dollars in equipment costs later, they managed to bring everything back online. When the Exchange servers were finally restored, the following email finally made its way to everyone's inbox, conveniently answering the "why"

    The email is priceless!
    I got a keycard from [the facility manager's] desk and shut off the A/C units. I'm sure you guys can deal with it being warm for an hour or two when you come in tomorrow morning.
    Hair shirts are much more comfortable when it's 109 degrees too!

    Aren't hospitals also wasting a lot of power making patients, you know, comfortable?

    MORE: Here's Ace describing his "favorite hobby":

    clear-cutting forests using the most fuel-inefficient machinery available.
    Now that's a good example of scientific defiance!

    posted by Eric at 09:49 AM | Comments (9)


    I have had to get in rather deeper into geometry than is my usual for the past 30 or so years (since my dome building daze - I built 3 or 4 and even lived in Bucky's Dome in Carbondale - he was no longer a resident alas) because of my design work on the Bussard Fusion Reactor which is ongoing at the IEC Fusion Technology blog and on the IEC Fusion Newsgroup.

    There is a plan for the design of the second demonstration reactor to change from a cubical arrangement of magnets to an arrangement that forms a dodecahedron. Which got me doing some research on the matter of edge lengths vs radius and other such questions in order to work out the geometry.

    In doing my research I came across an extraordinary book on the platonic solids. It explains how the cube is related to the dodecahedron. Through the magic of computers this is the clearest explanation of the connection I have yet come across. In other words - pretty pictures.

    Another thing that makes this interesting is that it is an e-book. I recently blogged about a friend of mine (Sgt. Mom) in Plan B From Outer Space who is going a similar route although in her case an actual book will be delivered. I wonder how the ISBN system will cope?

    Book selling and buying is going to face an earthquake from this direction. Or to mix the metaphors, this train is just starting to get up some steam.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 12:44 AM | Comments (5)

    Notes from the Other

    Dr. Megalommatis is at it again, writing in his usual cryptic style, which is another way of saying that he has posted a confusing and ill-edited op-ed piece.

    The piece in question is an apparent repudiation of an old book that I'm not familiar with, Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations. The book, published a decade and a half ago, was written by a Clinton adviser and apparently endorsed by Henry Kissinger. Make of that what you will.

    I may be crazy, but it seems to me that this blog was also targeted. The name, Classical Values, appears five times not counting the title, and toward the end he uses the phrase 'restoring Classical Values' (it always appears capitalized), which is part of this blog's subtitle: 'end the culture war by restoring classical values.'

    Now, the only way the good doctor could have considered such a piece to be a refutation of this blog was by not reading the blog at all. Of course, I may be imagining things, and building on a coincidence, but why write a meandering, senseless attack of a fifteen year old book, and what does this last bit have to do with Huntington?

    And how can you dare believe that the present Clash of Political - Religious Ideologies is a Clash of Cultures to which you think you may put an end through - again disastrously misperceiving reality - restoring the supposed 'Classical Values'?

    'Restoring' 'Classical Values' on any other territory except Europe consists in sheer Cultural Discrimination; 'restoring' 'Classical Values' in Europe is a suicidal repetition of the same Deception.

    These unrealistic and deceptive, false intellectuals should be told once forever:

    - Your 'Classical Values' are not classical, and are not values.

    (As far as I can gather, Huntington's thesis was that Islam's sense of superiority and divine sanction necessitates new modes of foreign policy, not a restoration or imposition of classical values.)

    I don't think I'll ever have a reason to mention this guy again. Unless he begins to make sense.

    posted by Dennis at 11:23 PM | Comments (1)

    Surrender now, lest Glenn reduce you to Rubble!

    Forgive me, but I'm having a lot of trouble with the idea that there's some sort of lover's spat between Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan. Maybe I'm in denial. Then again, maybe I'm squeamish thinking about the details. But try putting yourself in my position. I write a post late at night that I thought was about Iraq and my disagreement with the New York Times and the next thing I knew Glenn links the post, then Andrew Sullivan goes ballistic -- first accusing Glenn of "approval" he never gave, then later stuffing words in his mouth that he never uttered.

    And on top of that, now there's talk of a lover's spat! Where's that supposed to leave poor clueless me? I'm not in the position of power here; Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds are both huge bloggers, and while I'm doing my best to stay in the ranks of the B-list, most people don't know my name -- let alone how to spell or pronounce it. There's a huge power imbalance! While I'd normally stay out of the way of these feuding titans, there's just something about proximity and timing of my post that worries me, and makes me feel, like, morally blogligated or something.

    But again, what can I do? I'm hoping that the whole thing is not serious, and that in time it will all, like, blow away or something.

    Fortunately, Glenn is not taking this too seriously:

    This is a trivial matter, of course, except for the likelihood that Glenn Greenwald or somebody will start linking to this post of Andrew's while attributing things to me in a misleading way, kind of like they've done with "more rubble, less trouble."

    Does that mean it's Barney to the rescue?


    Far be it from me to attribute things in a misleading way, as I try scrupulously to never ever engage in misinterpretative behavior. But now I'm consumed with worry over how Sullivan might construe Glenn's latest rumblings over what he called the "INVASION OF THE CONCRETE PENISES."

    Will "MORE RUBBLE, LESS TROUBLE" be seen by Andrew Sullivan and his minions as the Aggregated Backstabbers' Final Solution to the concrete penis invasion?

    I hope not, but it doesn't take a Sigmund Freud to see the direction the penis war is headed. Things are getting really scary.

    I'm even starting to see images appear in the sky....


    (I should go back to writing about safe topics like totem poles.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn for linking this with a new exhortation: MORE BLARNEY, LESS BARNEY. But which Barney?

    While there's nothing, um, frank about BLARNEY as talk, it has to be remembered that ultimately it, too, is a stone, and thus capable of readily being reduced to rubble.

    Especially by Dave Price who is not ashamed to be accused of Glenn Reynolds approvalism, or even of the new crime of thinking that the ISF is "increasingly effective." Says Dave: is supremely ironic Andrew calls Glenn a "stab-in-the-backer" while he plunges a rhetorical dagger of disdain into the spine of our troops' work, mocking their progress in the effort to train Iraqi security forces.
    I guess in order to charge someone with increasingly effective, stab-in-the-back approvalism, it helps if you're an increasingly effective stab-in-the-back approvalist!

    We can't be too careful!

    UPDATE: The environmental criminal who skybrushed the smoke has struck again!


    posted by Eric at 03:38 PM | Comments (4)

    "Surrender" may not have been the right word

    By linking my "'stab-in-the-back,' analysis-free, Instapundit-approved grand-standing blog-post on the Iraq civil war," Glenn Reynolds drew the ire of Andrew Sullivan. If Glenn can get in trouble just for linking me (and not even expressing "approval"), I must be really bad. And obviously, I don't even have to analyze; all I need do is plug myself into the "stab-in-the-back" mode. As to the backstab, my analytical skills may need sharpening because I'm unclear on how the concept aplies. It might have to do with the fact that "sooner rather than later," the "far right" (presumably in the form of me) will "surely have to accuse Dick Cheney of 'surrendering'."

    Do I have to analyze, or can I just continue the "stab-in-the-back" mode, and accuse Dick Cheney of outright surrender? (Um, since we're dealing with Cheney, wouldn't that be "shoot-in-the-back"?)

    "Surrender" seems to be a pretty strong word -- even for "stab-in-the-backers like Glenn Reynolds" who doesn't seem to have used the word "surrender" to characterize the Times' position.

    I did, and I think it withstands analysis.

    "Surrender" in the military sense means literally handing over an army to the enemy, and I don't think anyone who is familiar with this blog would imagine that I characterized the Times' position as advocating handing over U.S. troops to the enemy. Militarily, I think the closest analogy to what the Times wants would be the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam in 1973. This was not a formal surrender, but it led to a successful invasion of South Vietnam by the North (once the latter became convinced that the U.S. would no longer back its ally), and ultimately to a formal, unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

    Was this conduct of withdrawal followed by a refusal to help a surrender by the United States? Not in the formal, World War II, military sense of the word. Nevertheless, I do think that under the totality of the circumstances it was a surrender. Certainly the majority of the American public felt demoralized and dishonored watching the final evacuation of the American embassy, and saw their big, strong country has having abandoned a tiny, weak ally.

    In the moral sense, the abandonment of the weak and tiny by the big and strong can be seen as worse than an ordinary surrender, because surrender can be and often is grounded in the honest recognition that one is beaten, defeated. Abandoning a weak ally to certain doom constitutes a surrender of a moral duty, especially if there is still the ability to defend that ally.

    In my opinion, it is far more dishonorable than being beaten. Seen this way, my use of the term "surrender" actually understates the moral case against the Times position.

    The word surrender has a number of meanings:

    1. To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion.
    2. To give up in favor of another.
    3. To give up or give back (something that has been granted): surrender a contractual right.
    4. To give up or abandon: surrender all hope.
    5. To give over or resign (oneself) to something, as to an emotion: surrendered himself to grief.
    6. Law. To restore (an estate, for example), especially to give up (a lease) before expiration of the term.
    If "give up" doesn't apply to the "leave Iraq now" movement, I don't know what does.

    Again, here's the Times:

    It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.
    Notice that (unlike Vietnam) there's not even to be a pause for a peace treaty. The only condition the Times is willing to allow is that the exit be "orderly" -- the ultimate consequences be damned.

    My concern is with the consequences. Does anyone doubt that the enemy would see a U.S. withdrawal as a surrender? That they would intensify and redouble their efforts? That the government which is today begging for help might very well be forced to formally surrender?

    Because I see surrender as an inevitable consequence of what the Times advocates, I don't think I was wrong to say that they are advocating surrender.

    If anything, what the Times advocates is something worse.

    (I don't know if there's a word for deliberate and conscious moral self defeat, though.)

    posted by Eric at 10:15 AM | Comments (6)

    Bureaucracy always puts me to sleep

    Anyone who has dealt with what we call "bureaucrats" knows that one of the most important things to a bureaucrat is having a form filled out correctly. Getting the forms right is the traditional sine qua non of bureaucracy.

    In a previous post, I speculated that a major push for the immigration bill is coming from the bureaucratic classes, and not for the conventionally given reason that they're all a bunch of "Kumbaya" singers who love aliens and want to build a better Third World in America. Rather, it's because aliens make their job difficult:

    IMO, a major push behind the immigration bill comes from bureaucrats and social workers who find the illegal status of the 12 million extremely inconvenient, but would consider their legalization through a complex process to be extremely convenient! Laws are often passed simply because bureaucrats hate to be inconvenienced or because they want more jobs. But both? What a win-win!
    Over the weekend, I saw confirmation of this view in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which documented the growing bureaucratic inconvenience of illegal alien maternity and prenatal care:
    Rocio, a Mexican woman living in Norristown, is scheduled to have her second baby, a boy, by cesarean section next Sunday at Montgomery Hospital.

    At that point, Medicaid, the federal and state insurance program for the poor, will pay for her hospital care and that of her baby, who will be an American citizen.

    In the meantime, Rocio, whose full name is being withheld by The Inquirer, is among an increasing number of illegal immigrants getting prenatal care at clinics run by Norristown's two hospitals.

    Federal Medicaid won't pay for that unless there's an emergency.

    Won't pay? Sounds inconvenient to me. Especially for the poor hospital administrators and for government bureaucrats who have failed to produce the magic papers which are required to trigger the urgently desired flow of taxpayer dollars.

    As to the fact that our government does not pay for prenatal care for these citizens of other countries, it's seen as a "quirk":

    This quirk in the government's insurance program - a sign of the country's ambivalence toward its burgeoning population of illegal immigrants - leaves hospitals and doctors in a quandary: Subsidize prenatal care they believe is essential, or risk confronting much bigger problems when the women arrive in their emergency departments with labor pains.
    Much bigger problems? Might those include lawsuits filed by guys (like John Edwards) who get 40% of whatever the hospitals are forced to pay out if a sympathetic jury decides the child should have been provided with prenatal care?

    Legally, the hospitals have to take care of women in labor. But they've been so strained by the cost of litigation, that already they can't afford it, and then the aliens come along, with the same rights to sue for malpractice that anyone else has:

    By law, hospitals must care for women in labor.

    The small but increasing number of pregnant, undocumented women in Philadelphia and in pockets of the suburbs is adding a financial stressor to the region's already strained maternity-care system, health leaders said. Since 1997, 14 area hospitals have stopped delivering babies. The big problems are inadequate payments from Medicaid and high malpractice-insurance costs, hospital leaders say, but poor funding for undocumented women, who often cannot afford care themselves, is rising in importance.

    "There is a problem with underreporting of how many undocumented women there really are, and they're putting a huge strain on all of the safety-net systems," said Natalie Levkovich, executive director of the Health Federation of Philadelphia. "We're all in the same miserable, leaky boat."

    Undocumented women constitute 60 to 65 percent of about 3,000 prenatal patients treated at city health clinics yearly, said Kate Maus, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's director of maternal, child and family health. Eight years ago, she said, "all of them were insured."

    Much as I dislike bureaucrats, I have to say that if I were a bureaucrat caught up in all this, I'd be tearing my hair out.

    Bear in mind that the Inquirer piece only dealt with a few hospitals in one municipality. Considering 12 million aliens in the US and the thousands of hospitals, I wouldn't be surprised if this one issue alone generates quite a few bureaucratic complaints.

    Add to that the endless army of bureaucrats working in schools, social welfare departments, law enforcement agencies, child protective services, codes and inspections, various safety services -- all of whom need to fill out forms -- and the number of potential complaints and complainants is mind-boggling.

    Does anyone think that bureaucrats will complain to taxpayers? God no! They might be the apparatchiks who run the government, but when they have a problem that needs solving, they complain to the people whose job it is to change the laws to make their job easier -- the legislature.

    In this case the legislature was Congress, which was presented with a humongous piece of legislation hundreds of pages long which no human being could be expected to read, but which, if enacted, would make life a lot easier for bureaucrats who have to work with aliens -- mainly because every alien would have been given (or automatically qualified for) that magic number that is the bureaucratic Holy Grail of every important form:

    The bill would have created a new class of visa, the "Z visa", that would be given to everyone who was living illegally in the United States on Jan. 1, 2007; this visa would give its holder the legal right to remain in the United States for the rest of their life, and access to a Social Security number.
    I know most people focus on other aspects of the bill, but I think a good argument can be made that the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007" really deserves to be called the "No Human Left Unnumbered Act of 2007."

    Not to sound overly frivolous here, but from a purely libertarian perspective, has anyone considered that all these damned aliens running around in an unregulated and unnumbered state constitute a dire threat to the forces which want to keep track of and monitor every last human being? The fact is, illegal aliens have way more privacy than the average American, and if ordinary people figured it out, they might get jealous. Rather than deport round up aliens and deport them (or simply catch them by a process of gradual attrition), the idea is to force them into mandatory numbering. Lots more good jobs for the nanny state that way, with much more to come once the aliens learn that they qualify for benefits.

    It's a little like California's AB 1634 -- California's mandatory spay and neuter act, which I called the "Ease Mental Suffering of Animal Control Bureaucrats Act," and which would effectively put most "companion animal" reproduction under state control.

    This begs the question of who is running the government, of course. We kid ourselves by imagining that we the voters elect the people who actually run the government. We don't. The people who run the government are the same people who run our lives, and while the fiction might be that they answer to the legislators, more often the legislators answer to them. When the apparatchiks say "jump!", the lawmakers say "How high?"

    Of course, sometimes (especially when the apparatchiks are feeling really big for their britches) they don't even need the legislature. They can simply rule by administrative fiat. In what I consider a shocking recent example of this, a few well-placed wretches at OSHA decided that they could use the "workplace safety" meme to attempt a back-door approach to gun control.

    How? The NRA-ILA explains:

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed new rules that would have a dramatic effect on the storage and transportation of ammunition and handloading components such as primers or black and smokeless powder. The proposed rule indiscriminately treats ammunition, powder and primers as "explosives." Among many other provisions, the proposed rule would:
    * Prohibit possession of firearms in commercial "facilities containing explosives"--an obvious problem for your local gun store.

    * Require evacuation of all "facilities containing explosives"--even your local Wal-Mart--during any electrical storm.

    * Prohibit smoking within 50 feet of "facilities containing explosives."

    Naturally, this would prevent most gun stores from selling ammunition, and would make ammunition much more expensive and tougher to obtain.

    Now, I realize that the people who hate guns would think this was a great idea, but can you imagine the outcry if Congress tried to pass laws mandating the same thing? It would be in every newspaper, the NRA would be up in arms, and there'd be a huge public debate. But OSHA does it -- and in language so dense and confusing and ridden with cross references that despite my legal training I was unable to make sense of it -- and there's barely a peep anywhere in the MSM. There's a lot more in the proposed regs, which are analyzed in some detail here. If you don't want to read it, take my word for it that it's some of most God-awful gobbledygook I've ever seen. (As unreadable as it is unconstitutional.)

    Sometimes I wonder whether freedom will end that way. Not with a bang, or even a whimper. But with a long document that no one can read because it's designed to put everyone to sleep.

    posted by Eric at 04:17 PM | Comments (3)

    They wouldn't lie to tourists, would they?

    While I was in Alaska, I did the usual touristy things, saw a lot of wildlife, and took a lot of pictures. I didn't have time for blogging, and because I tend to write about whatever I'm experiencing at the moment, the time to blog about stuff I see or do on vacation would be during the vacation, not when I return.

    However, there are some things I'm unable to ignore, especially when they take the form of disputed history. Whenever I stumble onto an unsolved historical puzzle, my need to figure it out makes me tend to remember it, and then I'll return to it later.

    LincolnFull1.jpg In this instance, the unsolved historical puzzle took the form of a totem pole carved by the Tlingit Indians at the famous Saxman Totem village in Ketchikan, Alaska. Considering the usual narratives about the evil white man, I was a bit startled to see a carving of Abraham Lincoln on the top of a tall totem pole, and even more taken aback to hear (from the local guide) that it was carved out of gratitude to Lincoln for freeing the slaves.

    Yes, the Tlingit Indians did hold slaves, and while it isn't something most high school kids learn about, when Alaska was owned by Russia, Tlingit slavery was a cultural practice that was allowed to flourish. But it wasn't long after Alaska's 1867 purchase that the enslaved Indians were told they were free. And (at least according to the story I was given), the freed Indians were so grateful to Lincoln that they carved a pole in gratitude.

    Sounds plausible, right? It's reflected at websites like this one, but there's a serious historical dispute over what was long considered the prevailing view of history.

    Here's the much-disputed, um, "narrative":

    In 1867, shortly after the purchase of Alaska, a U.S. revenue cutter patrolling Southeast waters overtook a war canoe of Tlingits anxiously fleeing another group of Tlingits, the predatory Eagle clan. The Indians feared being captured and enslaved. The captain of the cutter kindly explained to the fleeing Tlingits that a man named Abraham Lincoln had freed all slaves in America, and they had no need to fear. The Tlingits then settled nearby, in the shadow of a fort, and later erected a totem pole to honor the great American president.

    Reading from a 1947 magazine article, Taylor quoted the Tlingit chief's declaration: '' 'Let Tleda, who speaks with his chisel, carve a memorial to this man who has freed us.' ''

    That's pretty much what I was told along with the other unsuspecting tourists who were there.

    According to the rest of the article (and a number of other sources), the "gratitude" narrative is hotly disputed by a number of Tlingit Indians, who claim they weren't grateful to Lincoln at all, but angry that he'd taken away their cultural property:

    Rosita Worl, a Tlingit anthropologist and head of the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, said oral tradition says the Lincoln pole was carved by chiefs angry about having their slaves taken without compensation.

    ''Slaves were property, and property was prime. When slaves were freed, a debt was created,'' Worl said. ''You don't hear much about it being connected, though, because Tlingits are not proud that they had slaves.''

    Anthropologists have said as many as one out of three Indians living among the tribes of Southeast Alaska was a slave. Some had an eye plucked out and an ear perforated to mark them as property, like Sah Quah, a Haida who appeared before the U.S. District Court in Sitka in 1886, asking to be set free.

    The federal attorney representing the Tlingit slave owner was a Virginian and former Confederate officer. He argued that Alaska was Indian country, where the U.S. Constitution didn't apply to internal tribal matters.

    Judge Lafayette Dawson disagreed. Later federal court rulings would refute him, but that didn't matter: more than two decades after Abraham Lincoln's death, Dawson formally outlawed slavery in Alaska.

    Taylor was right, in a way, that it took U.S. justice to free Alaska's Indians. The important gloss on history added by Wickersham's story was to replace a symbol of defiant chiefs with a symbol of grateful Natives.

    Today the weathered totem, with Lincoln's top hat worn away, stands in the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. The exhibit describes it as the First White Man totem, essentially adopting the version told by Paul. The curator of collections, Steve Henrikson, acknowledges that the unpaid debt over slavery is an equally plausible explanation.

    ''To go back to the original meaning, it's always best to go with the word of the people responsible for its creation,'' Henrikson said.

    But Henrikson, like Paul, says the story of Lincoln the Emancipator has proved impossible to stamp out.

    ''That someone would think this honors the white man -- it's a classic case of things having different meanings to different cultures. White people were so sure they were treating Native people right,'' Henrikson said. ''It's exactly the arrogance on the part of Caucasian people that allowed this story to be perpetuated to the present day.''

    Arrogance? I didn't know anything about this story before I saw the totem pole, and frankly, I think the whole issue of Indian slavery is being covered up -- regardless of whether the pole is a shame pole or a pole of gratitude.

    The "shame" view finds confirmation in the Wikipedia entry about Tlingit slavery (the pole "has since been frequently misinterpreted as intending to honor Lincoln, but it was in fact done as a way to shame the US government into repaying the Tlingits for a profound loss of wealth") and in the totem pole entry:

    The poles used for public ridicule are usually called "shame poles", and were erected to shame individuals or groups for unpaid debts. Shame poles are today rarely discussed, and their meanings have in many places been forgotten. However they formed an important subset of poles carved throughout the 19th century.

    One famous shame pole is the Lincoln Pole in Saxman, Alaska; it was apparently created to shame the U.S. government into repaying the Tlingit people for the value of slaves which were freed after the Emancipation Proclamation. Other explanations for it have arisen as the original reason was forgotten or suppressed, however this meaning is still clearly recounted by a number of Tlingit elders today.

    But what about the idea that there should be different standards for different cultures? One of the things I kept hearing about during the trip was "cultural DNA" which includes things like preserving art, languages, "subsistence hunting rights," and the like. Why can't slavery be just as much a part of a people's "cultural DNA" as "subsistence rights" to throw crude harpoons into intelligent marine mammals?

    What I'd like to know is why the Tlingit Indians who are right there and continue to carve totem poles at the village go along with the "arrogant" Caucasian view that the pole was erected out of gratitude.

    Something does not compute, and something does not smell right. I suspect that there may be an underlying dispute that involves more than a question of simply which competing narrative is true. I wouldn't be surprised that if many of the Tlingits who believe in the "shame pole" theory would nonetheless want tourists to hear the "gratitude pole" theory, because so many people just aren't, you know, cool with slavery, and having to patiently explain to clueless tourists why the Tlingits have a legitimate grudge against Lincoln might be a major pain in the ass.

    Plus it might lead to moral relativism. I mean, once people start thinking that slavery is OK for different cultures and that slaves can be cultural property in some cultures, they might start wondering what gave Lincoln the right to inflict his cultural standards on the South and violate the "cultural DNA" of the Confederacy or something.

    A good case can be made for lying.

    Especially when there are two competing truths!

    I posed at the bottom of another pole, which tells the story of what happened to a Tlingit boy who reached into a place he'd been told not to go.


    The thing is, I'm not really disagreeing with the moral lesson there, as I think children should obey their parents. I'm not a child, though, and much as I'm not trying to put words in anyone's mouth (or go where I was told not to go), my insatiable curiosity is aroused when things don't make sense.

    If there's one thing worse getting stuck between competing truths, though, it's being trapped in the jaws of cultural DNA.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: If we assume that Lincoln pole is a "shame pole," I think it becomes obvious why even the Tlingits themselves would go along with relating (at least to tourists) the original "white lie." Not only is having to apologize for slavery to clueless tourists bureaucratically inconvenient, it's downright embarrassing!

    Bottom line: slavery is bad, and they don't want Indians to look bad!

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (7)

    Another faith-based initiative

    This from the Times Online:

    SAIMA KHAN wants to die a martyr. Life is transient, she told her father in a telephone call last week, and the real glory is to sacrifice it for Allah. Her statement would be alarming at any age, but Saima is only 10.

    As she spoke, rifle shots rang out, the acrid smell of tear gas drifted over Islamabad and hundreds of troops surrounded the pro-Taliban Red Mosque, a religious school complex in the heart of Pakistan's capital where Saima was among hundreds of children being held as virtual hostages in a stand-off between militants and the government.

    Read it and weep.

    posted by Dennis at 07:52 AM | Comments (1)

    Lebanon On The Brink

    Syria looks to be creating new troubles for Lebanon.

    Syria has called on its citizens to leave Lebanon ahead of an expected "eruption" in that country, Arab and Iranian press reports have said.

    The media reports were translated and made available by MEMRI in a special dispatch on Sunday.

    "In the past few days, Arab and Iranian media reports have pointed to the possibility that Lebanon's current political crisis may become a violent conflict after July 15, 2007," the MEMRI dispatch said.

    July 15 comes one day before a special UN Security Council meeting which is expected to discuss the possibility of stationing international experts on the Syria-Lebanon border, in order monitor the ongoing illegal cross border arms traffic to Hizbullah, thought to be originating from Iran and Syria.

    The UN Security Council is also expected to meet next week to discuss a key report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a development which may bode badly for Syria.

    It is well known (though not definitely proved) that Syria was behind the Hariri murder. I don't understand why a UN Security Council investigation scares Baby Assad so much. I wonder what other skeletons are hidden in the Syrian closet?

    H/T Michael Totten who also mentions this report from Al Mustaqbal

    Syrian troops on Thursday reportedly have penetrated three kilometers into Lebanese territories, taking up positions in the mountains near Yanta in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

    The daily Al Mustaqbal, citing sources who confirmed the cross-border penetration, did not say when the procedure in the Fahs Hill overlooking Deir al-Ashaer in the Rashaya province took place.

    The sources said Syrian troops, backed by bulldozers, were fortifying positions "in more than one area" along the Lebanese border, erecting earth mounds and digging "hundreds" of trenches and individual bunkers.

    No mention of this in your regular newspaper? Now what if Israel had done the same thing?

    The Bekaa is a strategic location for Syria. They make a lot of money by protecting the drug trade. You can learn more about it by listening to this Youtube bit.

    Update: 09 July 007 1925z

    Syria is removing checkpoints from the Golan.

    The London based Al-Hayat reported Saturday that Israel was "concerned" that Syria's decision to remove military checkpoints on the road to Kuneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights could be a preparation for war.

    According to the report, the checkpoints in question had been in place for 40 years, ever since the Six Day War.

    Al-Hayat also claimed that foreign journalists were being barred from covering IDF maneuvers conducted on the Golan Heights.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 06:54 AM | Comments (1)

    Surrender now? Do I have to take that seriously?

    In last week's video announcement, Ayman al Zawahiri confirmed what many have long suspected -- that a primary goal of al Qaeda is to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq:

    In the unusually long video -- at just over an hour and a half -- al-Zawahri depicted the Islamic State of Iraq as a vanguard for fighting off the U.S. military and eventually establishing a "caliphate" of Islamic rule across the region.
    It didn't take long for the New York Times to make an unprecedentedly bold editorial announcement:
    It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.
    What's going on? Is the New York Times in a hurry for an Islamic caliphate? Or are they just out of their effing minds?

    The argument seems to be that we've been in Iraq for too long, so we should leave right now. While a case could have been made for getting out right after removing Saddam Hussein, we're way past that stage. I don't care how stupidly things have been handled, the dynamics on the ground right now are such that if we weren't in Iraq already, we'd be plumb crazy not to go in -- simply because our most fanatic and dedicated enemies are there. And the Times says we should leave? Are they kidding?

    Ever since Mogadishu, Al Qaeda has always banked on American weakness, and they're banking on it again.

    I cannot think of a better way to lose the war against al Qaeda than to do as the Times says and leave Iraq.

    Of course, maybe the Times doesn't think al Qaeda really intends to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq. (Yeah, and Castro had no intention of establishing a Communist state in Cuba, and the Ayatollah Khomeini was a holy man who just wanted to kick out the evil U.S. backed Shah.)

    I'd rather not take the New York Times surrender plea seriously, and I cannot believe that any sane human being would. But Don Surber, Jules Crittenden, Glenn Reynolds, and Dave Price make me worry that the Times might have more of a say in these matters than it should, so I thought I should at least weigh in (if only by way of expressing amazement).

    However, I refuse to start making it a habit to take things seriously which I shouldn't.

    Otherwise, I might have to start taking things like Glenn Greenwald seriously.

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

    From the HotAir analysis which Glenn links:

    downplaying Al Qaeda has political advantages for a media opposed to the war and eager for it to end regardless of the consequences.
    I think that explains the Times' characterization of the war against al Qaeda as a "self- inflicted wound."

    Well, there are some people who consider 9/11 a self inflicted wound.

    UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan links this post with the following remarks:

    The latest "stab-in-the-back," analysis-free, Instapundit-approved grand-standing blog-post on the Iraq civil war. Sooner rather than later, the far right will surely have to accuse Dick Cheney of "surrendering". A better term, I think, would be cutting our losses in a war we never backed with enough resources or intelligence to win.
    My thanks to Andrew for the link!

    But, did Glenn really approve? Considering the complexities (and Glenn's sphinx-like style) I'm not sure that I got 100% approval. What I got was a link, and I'm glad to get one from Andrew too! This is an important debate, and yes, I did use the word "surrender" -- whether anyone likes it or not. I don't think Glenn used that word, nor do I think he would.

    So what does "approved" mean? A link? By that standard, I'm now "Andrew Sullivan approved." What is this? An inquisition into what thoughts are approved by whom? (I link Clayton Cramer all the time, btw, and I disagree with him on a variety of things. So what?)

    I will say that considering what BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson said about "using the right tactics but two years too late," I think this might be as good a time as any to start the war in earnest.

    I think that if we leave now, our enemies will see it as a surrender -- even if we don't. (And if al Qaeda sets up a caliphate in Iraq, history will adjudge our withdrawal as a surrender.)

    posted by Eric at 11:29 PM | Comments (59)

    Culture war "dialogue" invades backyard!

    japbeetles5.jpgWhile I hope the pornographic picture on the left will not get me in trouble with the net nannies or the blog rating system, I nonetheless felt obligated to upload it in the interest of science. It is an undeniable fact that my yard is being invaded by Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica), and the little buggers are rapidly reducing leaves to skeletons. So far, weeds and roses seem the most affected.

    Actually, the whole thing makes me a little nostalgic, because when I was a small boy growing up in this area, Japanese beetles (which began their U.S. invasion right here in Philadelphia in the teens) were a huge problem, and a lot of effort was devoted to eradicating them. This was in the pre-Rachel Carson era, when DDT and other pesticides were believed to be a godsend. I don't know whether they were wiped out by chemical pesticides, the fact is that I have not seen a Japanese beetle since childhood, so seeing these little guys procreating brought back very fond memories. I remember thinking they were beautful and filling jars with them, and while I still think they are beautiful, I'm afraid I've gotten too old and stodgy and conservative to get turned on by bug-filled jars.

    Now I just content myself looking at the pictures!

    OTOH, I'm not sure whether it's a good thing to watch the leaves reduced to skeletons. Should I spray? Or should I pray?

    I have no moral problem with using pesticides -- any more than I have with using herbicides. What I'd really like would be to have the Japanese beetles eat the poison ivy that grows in unwanted places, but they don't seem to touch the stuff. Nor do I, but Coco does, and I hate getting poison ivy, so I've been carefully spraying only the poison ivy with herbicides which I'm sure the environmentalists want banned.

    bbgone2.jpg The picture to the left was taken one day after spraying, and it shows that the product (Brush-B-Gon) works, but slowly. To really eradicate poison ivy takes a lot of work, and it keeps coming back because in the fall the birds eat the poison ivy fruit, then redeposit seeds enveloped in natural plant fertilizer.

    I absolutely hate poison ivy, OK? And I'm allowed to hate it, because, like the Japanese beetle, it's an invasive alien species.

    While I'd love it if laws could be passed that would make poison ivy and Japanese beetles illegal, I think the laws would be ineffective, as I doubt the laws would make them vanish -- any more than they'd make guns or drugs vanish.

    Using chemicals might be the only way to kill some of these backyard pests, but chemicals are becoming more and more controversial. Even if you're a conscienceless bastard like me, you never know when some busybody neighbor is going to claim you're poisoning them, and psychogenic illnesses abound. The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating piece on the subject, and the title pretty much says it all:

    Grass Warfare

    Is what you put on your lawn your own business? Growing local movements say using pesticides is a choice that affects the whole neighborhood. The battle over how 'green' your grass should be.

    I love it! The battle against the bugs and the brush turns into a battle with the nosy neighbors.

    Japanese beetles and poison ivy, while you might not be the usual filthy buggers and weeds-with-roots-in-hell suspects, welcome to the latest skirmish in middle America's Culture War!

    In Wisconsin, the village of Whitefish Bay has become a microcosm of the new turf wars. Intent on switching the community over to an organic approach, a citizens' group is hanging tags on residents' doors urging them to lay off pesticides and posting "All Living Creatures Welcome" signs in their own yards.

    "It's really dicey, and some people are receptive and some are hostile," says Sandy Hellman, age 37, a member of the Healthy Communities Project. "I look at it as the secondhand-smoke issue. Kids run back and forth between the yards and windows are open all the time."

    The whole thing is a whiner's dream come true. Opportunities abound to pit neighbor against neighbor:
    "I don't want those weeds -- that's the bottom line," says Gloria Tylicki, who has written Whitefish Bay town officials complaining about the organic results near her home. She hires a service to spray her lawn with herbicides three times a year, and doesn't like the trend of neighbors telling her what to do on her own property. "Can I not plant a certain flower because someone blocks away doesn't care for that?"
    No, lady, you can't! Because, like, we're all in this together, and just as in the old days no bird fell to the ground without God noticing it, now evry living thing -- whether loved, hated, planted or eradicated -- is a proper subject for community involvement!

    According to the communitarian view, you're either part of the problem, or part of the solution:

    Elsewhere, similar battle lines are being drawn. This spring, 7-foot billboards were erected on the platforms of New York area railroads depicting a young father standing on the lawn of his home, cradling his young daughter. The caption: "I've got one great reason not to use chemicals on my lawn." The ad campaign was part of a larger pesticide reduction program being pushed by the Grassroots Environmental Education organization, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based nonprofit.

    Fundamentally, "going organic" simply means getting grass and soil healthy enough to crowd out weeds without pesticides, the umbrella term for chemical substances that destroy unwanted pests or weeds. (A herbicide is a pesticide targeting plants; an insecticide kills insects.) Pesticide opponents say homeowners unwittingly bring the toxics into homes via shoe soles and pet feet, tracking it into carpets where kids play. They also worry about runoff into streams, rivers and groundwater -- and into their own yards.

    I'm more worried about poison ivy being tracked in and spread to me, but then, I'm a documented sociopath.

    Increasingly, the righteous communitarians are turning to the government -- especially on behalf of "the children":

    Just last month, Connecticut extended a ban on lawn pesticides through the eighth grade. Currently at least 20 U.S. towns have pesticide-free parks and several hundred school districts have laws or policies designed to minimize kids' exposure to pesticides.

    Such actions unnerve homeowners such as John Schmaltz in Cromwell, Conn., who fears private property could be next. He sees a hypocritical undercurrent to organic lawn enthusiasts' pleas. "People put on deodorant, perfume and cosmetics, and who's to say about those?"

    I'm glad you asked that question, Mr. Schmaltz!

    Just this week, a woman filed a lawsuit demanding that the federal government order the City of Detriot to ban perfumes and other cosmetics in the workplace:

    An employee in the Detroit planning department filed a federal lawsuit against the city Tuesday, alleging her co-worker's strong perfume has made it impossible for her to do her job.

    City planner Susan McBride filed her complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying she is severely sensitive to perfumes and other cosmetics.

    McBride alleges the city should accommodate her disability by prohibiting people from wearing perfume in the workplace.

    City spokesman Matt Allen declined to comment, saying the city does not normally comment on litigation or personnel issues.

    McBride, who joined the planning department in 2000, alleges problems started in July 2006 when an unnamed co-worker transferred into her department.

    "This employee not only wore a strong scent, but also plugged in a scented room deodorizer," the complaint alleges. "Ms. McBride was overcome by the smell almost instantly, causing her to go home sick."

    The co-worker later agreed to do without her room deodorizer, but not without her perfume, the complaint alleges.

    McBride alleges she has since missed significant time from work, has required medical treatment, and has had to suspend fertility treatments because of other medications she has to take. She is seeking unspecified damages and a court order forcing Detroit to accommodate her disability.

    I'd wager that if she got her way, the next thing that would happen is that she'd develop a psychogenic reaction to ordinary underarm deodorant, and demand that she be surrounded only by sweaty, smelly coworkers. With any luck, some other employee could claim to be allergic to underarm odor, and the Culture War could turn into a battle of competing allergies!

    Similarly, I guess a neighbor could be sued for having poison ivy (which is invasive, and spreads), or in the alternative for using pesticides to get rid of it.

    Truly, this is a job for The Social People.

    Back to the backyard Culture War. People are being encouraged to be scolds -- especially "playing the kid card":

    Given homeowners' passions, things can get tense. Philip Dickey runs the Washington Toxics Coalition, a Seattle-based environmental health organization, and estimates his group has distributed nearly 5,000 Pesticide Free Zone signs with ladybugs on them. To get a sign, homeowners must promise to speak with at least three people about organic care. On the coalition's Web site are talking tips, including playing the kid card (they often run barefoot on grass) and avoiding a "holier-than-thou attitude."
    But at least one individualist sociopath has struck back:
    Still, not-in-my-backyard brawls do surface, Mr. Dickey says. "I got a photograph back from a guy who put up a pesticide-free sign and his neighbor then put up a sign that said Hazardous Material Storage. There is no dialogue going on there." Nor in Harvard, Ill., where Andrew Cook showed his neighbor a note from his wife's doctor explaining she was highly sensitive to pesticides. No dice, his neighbor refused to change her lawn-care regimen. Mr. Cook then aimed one of the ladybug signs squarely at her house. "You can only lead a horse to water," he says.
    No dialogue? Wait a second!

    It might not be pleasant dialogue, but dialogue it is. The neighbor communicated how he feels with a sarcastic sign, and in a manner quite calculated to make his views abundantly clear. Why is that not dialogue? What is he supposed to do? Knock on the neighbor's door and explain patiently that he does not believe that his pesticide use does any harm, and that he intends to exercise his right to use it? Outline the legal doctrine that a man's home is his castle? I don't know how the word "dialogue" is being defined here, but I was always taught that disagreement is not only a form of dialogue, but that being allowed to disagree is essential to having any dialogue at all.

    I'm wondering whether "dialogue" is increasingly being confused with being browbeaten into agreement and doing what you're told.

    I think the man's willingness to speak his mind is admirable, and the country needs more of it. Most neighbors in his position would never have put up a sign. Instead, they'd have said absolutely nothing, and furtively applied the pesticides when no one was watching.

    I probably shouldn't have called the man a "sociopath," even jokingly, because what a real sociopath would do would be to simply put up the organic signs while spraying the hell out of his yards for pesticides anyway, then laugh at the clueless idiots he'd conned into believing he had engaged in "meaningful dialogue."

    For now, I'm such a wimp that I'm allowing the Japanese beetles to screw in my yard without any interference from me. Hell, I might even find some appropriate music to play for them the next time I see them in the act lovemaking.

    It may sound anthropomorphic, but I'll bet my Japanese beetles would love to hear "The Ballad of John and Yoko"!

    Clearly, there's no escape from the Culture War.

    posted by Eric at 12:41 PM | Comments (7)

    And now for the fake news

    Recently links to a dubious interview on an even more doubtful internet news site found their way into my inbox. Under the guise of informed scholarship the interviewee claimed that all languages descended ultimately from Aramaic, and I see now that the interviewer, a certain Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis, is advocating the imposition of Aramaic throughout Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq and the elimination of the 'barabarism' of Arabic. This, he believes, will uproot terrorism.

    Dr. Megalommatis is so prolific that his work appears not only in the American Chronicle (based in Beverly Hills), but also in the California Chronicle (based in Beverly Hills), the Los Angeles Chronicle (based in Beverly Hills), the Pennsylvania Chronicle (based in Beverly Hills), the World Sentinel (based in Beverly Hills). According to biographical blurb on these sites he supports Martin Bernal's radically leftist and pseudo-scholarly Black Athena, and yet also writes for the Conservative Voice, and advocates the annihilation of Iran by means of atomic bombs in a blog comment.

    So just who is this guy, and what are all of these supposed news sources that publish his wisdom?

    Well, it seems that those first four (if you haven't already guessed) are just mirrors of the same site, and that anyone can contribute.

    And what's wrong with that? As a blogger I have to say openly and unapologetically, 'Nothing.'

    Nothing aside from the fact that it's not a blog, but a site designed to look like a newspaper, and one that Google Alerts keeps sending to my inbox as though it is one. Their opinions page makes no distinction between obvious spam ads, vitriolic screeds that defy the supposed editorial oversight, hackish efforts at personal promotion, and viral postings that appear at dozens of other sites to promote social and political causes.

    As for the good doctor, who is supposed to be 'the author of 12 books, dozens of scholarly articles, hundreds of encyclopedia entries, and thousands of articles,' I can find no trace of him either in JSTOR or in WorldCat (both of which I can access through institutional privileges) unless he is, as he claims, the former Cosmas Megalommatis who has one book in WorldCat. Yet he claims in one of his own publications to be 'one of the Middle East's and Greece's foremost historians,' and has so impressive an academic CV one wonders how he ended up a technical writer and not a full professor of all things under the sun.

    I don't know what to make of it, but I didn't trust the first story when it ended up in my inbox, and I'm even less confident now.

    posted by Dennis at 12:26 PM | Comments (1)

    A little help from my friends

    Excuse me while I co-opt Classical Values to solve a little frustrating problem, assuming there are some science fiction readers who may be able to help.

    I guess I've been feeling nostalgic, having recently recovered a very fond memory of a local Philadelphia show called StarStuff. It was like tracking down an old friend.

    And now I'm stuck on a novel I must have read about 10-20 years back. Google hasn't helped my memory at all.

    The story, if I recall correctly, centered around a pair of aliens stranded on earth after a post-graduation joyride through the cosmos. During the long wait for their ride to return, one lets his mind wander to a simple diversion from the monotony, allowing an ape to recognize its own reflection, then letting the apes learn to use weapons against one another. The wait continues long enough to bring us to the modern day, where the plot gets murky for me but involves some earthly intrigue with a white supremacist organization and an afterlife designed to satisfy the expectations of all the world's religions. It's on this point, and doubtless others, that our stranded friends differ.

    Does any one know what I'm going on about?

    posted by Dennis at 11:10 PM | Comments (4)

    Watch while I gag myself!

    Megan McArdle does not think that Sony VAIO customer service is doing a very good job. She's being fairly polite; others with similar problems have used the "s-ck" word to describe their plight.

    But I am determined to improve this blog's rating, so I will not say that Sony VAIO customer service behaves in a manner more befitting a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Plus, I don't have a VAIO; my regular laptop is a Dell I bought used and out of warranty, which means I have no customer service, and thus no way to compare the quality of service given to Megan McArdle to mine.

    I'm glad to link her post, though (which I saw at Instapundit), and I hope Sony realizes that I bent over backwards not to say what I could easily have said.

    They'd better be grateful!

    On the serious side, it's a shame that their customer service is so awful, though, because I am familiar with the product, as two close friend own VAIOs and they like them.

    Sony needs to remember that customer service is part of what people buy.

    UPDATE: Sean Kinsell (who lives in Japan) does not think Sony's customer service there is especially bad, although he notes that Sony products have a special reputation for breaking down:

    ....I don't know that Sony customer service is considered all that bad here; it's just that everyone knows Sony products break down quickly. Hence the expression ソニー時間 (soni jikan: "Sony time"), which is...well, the (unusually low) amount of time it takes your Sony gizmo to conk out. A friend told me the expression started with an urban legend saying that Sony actually rigged its products to break down after a certain period of time, though I don't know that there's any way to verify that.
    I've been quite content with the Dell laptops I've owned, and nothing I've read about Sonys inclines me to switch.

    posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (5)

    Is America losing the war on sex?

    This intriguing Pajamas Media analysis by Burt Prelutsky made me wonder:

    The question some people would ask [about the affair between L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa and reporter Mirthala Salinas] is whether a politician's personal code of morality should matter to his constituents. Being a right-winger, I'm honest enough to admit that I am far more willing to give a conservative the benefit of the doubt. However, there are bigger questions to consider. For instance: What the heck are the French going to say?

    Allow me to explain: Back when Bill Clinton was leaving his mark on history by leaving his mark on Monica Lewinsky's dress, one of the most aggravating aspects of the tawdry affair was having our great nation being patronized by the European media. As usual, the snidest commentary came to us courtesy of the French.

    They were like 80 million cats lapping up cream. Our alleged lack of sophistication is like food and drink to them. They couldn't stop snickering over our bourgeois value system. After all, their premier had a mistress. Only people as backward as Americans would make a fuss over something so natural. All the while, the French ignored the fact that Clinton had committed perjury, which many of us took far more seriously than whether he had cheated on Hillary.

    But, much as I hate doing it, I'm afraid I have to admit that, for once, the French weren't entirely off base. While I regard Clinton as a national albatross for a variety of reasons, quite aside from his having sex with a young intern, I happen to think that where sex is concerned, Americans are, by and large, childish and embarrassing.

    Sometimes, I swear, people are so daffy when it comes to things even slightly sexual that I almost feel like donning a beret, lighting up a stinky cigarette, and snorting through my nose.

    I feel much the same way. I often wonder why so many Americans worry about what people do with their genitalia -- particularly when it isn't being done to them.

    Why, for example, is there such a fiercely determined movement out to show that homosexuality (affecting a minuscule percentage of the American population) is a dire threat to all of Western Civilization?

    To be fair, Burt Prelutsky notes that this same worry is probably more frequently applied to heterosexuality:

    ...Playboy has been displaying even prettier girls in and out of bikinis for about 50 years. Still, every summer, as predictably as the swallows returning to Capistrano, you can count on pundits endlessly kicking the topic around in newspapers and on talk shows. What's more, if I could collect 25 cents for every Sunday sermon in which some minister pondered whether this marked the end of Western civilization, I could run out and buy a new car.
    He has a good point. (Playboy is, of course, a plot to turn regular guys into child molestors.)

    In fairness, I think there really is a sort of war being waged against sex. (At least on sexual freedom.)

    As to who's winning, I don't know. It strikes me that it's a very old war.

    Not that Bill Clinton didn't have his sexual moments. But if the Republican Party is trying to position itself as the anti-sex party, and if the Democrats don't reciprocate by being the "Sex Party," (and there are clear signs they're too smart to do that) the Republicans will be portrayed as looking sillier than they already look.

    While I mentioned the Playboy-makes-men-into-child-molesters crowd, and the Brokeback-Mountain-mean-death-of-Western-Civilization people, plenty of other examples could be found. Dinesh D'Souza thinks the issue is Larry Flynt, and the answer is a conservative alliance with "traditional" Muslims, while Ben Shapiro thinks the issue is the "hypersexualization" of society, and the answer is censorship. And of course, bioethicist Leon Kass has long been against licking ice cream cones. (Whatever would the 80 million French cats say about that?)

    Where does this leave people who aren't sex-obsessed hedonists, but who also aren't sex-obsessed Puritans?

    I just don't think it's fair that the we all have to be dragged into this war on sex kicking and screaming whether we like it or not, while all those French cats are licking and lapping!

    posted by Eric at 02:49 PM | Comments (6)

    "links" to success for Doctors?
    If we were to abandon Iraq, can anyone doubt that the flow of jihadists to those other regions, and more, would increase?
    So asked John Hinderaker in a post linked by Glenn Reynolds yesterday.

    And here's MI5 on the Iraq connection to the recent terrorist attack in England:

    MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence agency, said on its Web site that some Britons had joined the insurgency in Iraq. "In the longer term, it is possible that they may later return to the UK and consider mounting attacks here," it said.
    In the longer term?

    While I think it's a bit of a stretch to call British al Qaeda terrorists who travel to Iraq part of an "insurgency," I'm more interested in precisely what mechanism apparently allows them to travel so freely to the UK (and elsewhere).

    And what are the implications of "in the longer term"? Does that mean when the war is over? Presumably, the Jihadist/Islamists/Islamofascists are going to Iraq to win the war. Remember, these people are fanatic supporters of al Qaeda. The ringleader (Abdullah) seems to have had a penchant for making collegues he considered insufficiently Muslim watch Zarqawi's beheading videos, warning that it could happen to them:

    Born in Britain but raised in Iraq, Abdullah was known by others as intense militant Muslim at the University of Cambridge. His status at the university is unclear but records show he graduated in Baghdad in 2004.

    He also allegedly rented an apartment in Cambridge and frequently visited the city where his grandmother and an uncle lived, according to his friends.

    Shiraz Maher, himself a former member of a radical Islamic group, said he remembered Abdullah berating a Muslim roommate for not being devout enough, showing him a beheading video and warning that could happen to him.

    Maher said Abdullah also claimed to have a number of videos of the then-leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a U.S. air strike last year.

    So, this unabashedly hardline Islamist al Qaeda Zarqawi follower gets his medical degree while the U.S. is occupying Iraq in 2004, then travels back to England where he makes his friends watch his favorite beheading videos (and presumably his collection of favorite Zarqawi films).

    If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that either no one is watching these people, or at least they don't especially care when and wear they come and go.

    Fortunately, for now Iraq seems to be the focus of their wrath. What I don't like seeing is the MI5 speculation about where they might go later. (After they presumably win in Iraq, perhaps?)

    Remember, Abdullah lived quite openly as a terror supporter -- even to the point where his online fanaticism actually interfered with his job performance:

    "He was certainly very angry about what was happening in Iraq. ... He supported the insurgency in Iraq. He actively cheered the deaths of British and American troops in Iraq," Maher told British Broadcasting Corp. television.

    It was in Cambridge that Abdullah is believed to have come to know suspect Mohammed Asha, when Asha worked at the Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Asha was arrested June 30 with his wife, Marwa, on a highway in central England.

    Details have emerged to show that Abdullah seems to be the key link between the suspects arrested in connection with the failed attacks. He reportedly had links to radical Islamic groups on the MI5 database, British security officials said speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

    At the time of the attacks, Abdullah was working under supervision at the Royal Alexandra Hospital outside Glasgow.

    He had been disciplined by his employers for spending too much time on the Internet, according to hospital staff, suggesting the plot may have been planned in cyberspace. Police said they seized several computers from hospitals in Glasgow and other cities.

    "Really doctor! You're spending too much time planning terror attacks! Your patients need you!"

    Hmmm.... Let's look at the root cause of the doctor's problem. Might he have been suffering from an "Internet addiction"?

    I hate to say it, and I know this will sound cynical, but I prefer the old-fashioned kind of doctor who spends too much time on the golf course. How times have changed!

    Even the meaning of the term "links" has changed so that it no longer means golf.

    What, you think it's silly for me to be making a moral comparison like that while yearning for the old days? After all, these foreign terrorist doctors hopping back and forth from Iraq and England are a grotesque medical aberration, are they not? Just because guys like Che Guevara, Josef Mengele and Ayman al Zawahiri (and England's suicide bombers) were doctors, most doctors believe in healing the sick and not murdering civilians.

    Besides, it would never happen here, right? Surely, we have procedures in place.

    Yes we do. And one of them is in place to help foreign doctors get into this country. Right here in Philadelphia.

    FBI spokeswoman Nancy O'Dowd said Mohammed Asha and another suspect had contacted the Philadelphia-based Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, as first reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer. She said Asha, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, contacted the agency within the last year, but apparently did not take the test for foreign medical school graduates.
    He never took the test.

    Is that supposed to be a reassuring statement of how the safeguards are supposed to work?

    "He was applying, (but) we don't believe he took the test," she said.

    O'Dowd could not immediately confirm the name of the second suspect.

    The FBI this week visited the ECFMG's office in West Philadelphia, O'Dowd said.

    Obtaining certification from ECFMG is a first step for foreign medical school students seeing a medical residency in the United States. The organization reviews and verifies each applicant's credentials, the newspaper reported.

    "We verify medical documents, credentials, diplomas and transcripts. The doctors we certify are not guaranteed of anything. It's just another step in the process," Stephen S. Seeling, vice president of operations for the educational commission, told the newspaper.

    Seeling added that roughly 46,000 people applied to take one of the three exams last year.

    Obviously, this huge international story has local implications here in Philadelphia. Today's Inquirer quotes the company spokesman as saying that ECFMG has nothing to do with visa issuance:
    Agents found records related to applications by Asha and Haneef, officials said. The education commission verifies foreign doctors' credentials and administers required exams. It does not issue visas.

    Stephen Seeling, the commission's vice president, who was visited by FBI agents this week, said he could not comment on any applicant.

    Looking closer, however, I learned that while it's true that Seeling's company does not actually issue visas, EFCMG goes out of its way to help applicants obtain visas -- to the point of linking immigration law firms at its website (which must ease the burden for terrorists already exhausted from spending too much time online):
    ECFMG is always interested in providing more information on visa possibilities on our website. Currently, we have links to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service website, as well as to the United States Department of State Exchange Visitor site. Both of these sites offer a wide array of information on J01 and other visa options. We also provide a link to the American Immigration Lawyers Association website which is the premier professional organization in this country for attorneys specializing in immigration and naturalization law. It features legislation updates and other news of interest. Links to three immigration law firms are included because each site includes background information on immigration matters that might be helpful to individuals seeking ECFMG certification. If you have suggestions for additional information on links regarding visa matters, we would be pleased to consider the material.
    It's worse than it appears.

    Let's assume that Dr. Asha had decided to come to Philadelphia -- for the purported purpose of taking the test. ECFMG offers a streamlined process to help him get a visa (including a money-back guarantee):

    When candidates complete the registration process for CSA they are sent notification that they are registered, along with instruction for scheduling their actual CSA [Clinical Skills Assessment] session. Routinely included in the packet is a letter which candidates can take to any consulate explaining the nature of CSA, how it relates to ECFMG certification and the necessity for the candidate to travel to Philadelphia in order to take the examination. Consular staff are requested to provide assistance and consideration to applicants presenting to them seeking appropriate travel visas. In the majority of cases, this form letter seems to be adequate.

    (Emphasis supplied.)

    Well isn't that nice? ECMFG doesn't even need to offer the links to immigration firms as they provide routine visa assistance.

    And, just in case the visas are denied, they'll get a personalized letter from ECMFG -- complete with name, identification number, and date requirements:

    In some cases, however, candidates are denied a visa on their first attempt, and then generally notify us and request additional assistance. At that point we routinely provide them another letter which is personalized to include their name, ECFMG identification number and the date requirements by which they must schedule and take CSA. Once again, this letter urges the consular staff to provide assistance and consideration to these individuals.

    Unfortunately, in a small number of cases this is also unsuccessful and candidates are unable to obtain the necessary travel documents to take CSA. It is, and has always been, standard operating policy for ECFMG to refund all registration fees to candidates who are unable to obtain visas to travel to Philadelphia.

    So, in the unlikely event that Dr. Asha had been one of the rare cases whose visa application was turned down, he'd have had a money back guarantee. Otherwise, he'd have been here to "take the test." (Geez, I'm glad this was just a hypothetical.)

    I say, bring back the old days when doctors neglected their patients by playing too much golf, and when enemies of the United States couldn't freely travel here. Despite the "Iraq is Vietnam" meme, Vietnamese Communists never traveled to the United States to kill civilians. For starters, they'd have had a bit of a problem obtaining visas. But they never considered striking targets inside the United States (this was a job left to underground radicals who now teach at prestigious universities).

    Considering that today's enemies have a stated goal of using international travel to slaughter civilians, you'd think it would be harder, not easier, for them to obtain visas. Why are things made so much easier for today's enemies?

    I'm thinking it may be another example of the "success is not an option" movement.

    posted by Eric at 11:00 AM


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

    Nearest in age to me came Barnholt, and nearest in ideas and pleasant childishness...Lessons of all kinds were a never-ending burden to him. While Tom was good at Latin, Dym at mathematics, and Charles at music and drawing, poor old Barnholt shone in no direction...

    While anything smelling of school-work was poison to Barnholt, any little job of practical work, any errand, any risky adventure proposed, and he was on the spot. 'I say, Barney, do rope this box for me.' 'You might run and fetch me some stamps.' 'Look here, Barney, you go first.' There was no record of a refusal....

    For some reason, different in each case perhaps, Barnholt was everyone's favorite...

    One reason, common to us all, for loving Barnholt a bit extra came from an incident of his fifth year. Although it happened when I was too young to know anything about it, I heard the story often enough to make the details always clear to me, even to the name of the culprit. This was a girl, Emma Lazelle, who took the four boys out for a walk one afternoon.

    I should have been taken too, no doubt, only that perambulators were newfangled things in those days, and we never had one; a baby too big to be carried stayed at home. In due course the party returned to tea, and only then discovered that Barnholt was missing...

    Mother belonged to that school of thought that hopes to hasten a person's return by watching the road. For three nights and the best part of three days she hardly left the dining-room window which commanded the front gate. Strange to say, even the neighbors whose names we didn't know were interested. The wives saw mother hour after hour in the window, and the husbands talked it over with my father in the train going to the City.

    It was this kind of primitive S.O.S that was successful at last, for the police in those days [1869?] had no efficient means of rapid communication.

    On the afternoon of the third day, when mother had begun to lose heart and strength, the gate was pushed open, and a neighbor from the house opposite ran up our path waving her hand excitedly. Mother rushed to the door and heard the words blurted out, 'Your little boy is found.'

    The watch at the window was now a different business, and presently a policeman appeared leading Barnholt by the hand. The little fellow looked very jolly, and his first words were never forgotten: 'Are those for me?'--as he spied some ripe gooseberries on the table.

    It seemed that he had wandered far afield, had been found by a policeman, and could give no information beyond that his name was Barney, his mother's was Mamma, and he lived in the 'black house'...

    The police had evidently been kind to him, but all that he was ever able to tell us was that they had given him some bread and butter and a halfpenny. In fact to him the incident had been a pleasant interlude...

    The jolliest winter of our childhood was in 1878...Barnholt was perhaps the happiest. Released at last from his eternal 'detentions', he had been taken from school and placed in a shipping office, with the prospect of next year fulfilling the dream of his life by going to sea.

    As mother had predicted, he was the first of us to earn his living, to have a real salary, to be a 'man of means'. I fancy that he had suffered a good deal from having to wear the other boys' left-offs, for the first thing he did was buy quite quietly a new suit.

    I can see him now as he walked into breakfast in it. It was a grey tweed, bristling with newness, and we were all full of admiration as he went off with my father 'to the City', while mother proudly demanded to know what she had told us.

    My own grandfather left home at age fourteen, not because he had to, but because he wanted to. He took a room at a respectable widow's boarding house and found gainful employment as a grocer's delivery boy. His vehicle was powered by (one) horse.

    The year before, he had been running wild in the hills back of Mazatlan, with a pair of six-shooters strapped on and his kid brother in tow. His mother and her "close friend" were trying to make a go of an old silver mine there. Adult supervision was minimal at best, but hey, that's why they gave him the six-shooters. There might be snakes, y'know.

    Having tasted freedom, he was understandably reluctant to go back in the box. So he didn't. Back then, before the triumph of "The Social People", that was still an option.

    My, how the times have changed.

    posted by Justin at 10:09 AM | Comments (3)


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

    My second brother had mother's family name of Vivian. This I could not pronounce in my early days, and turned it into Dymond, which soon became Dym.

    He was the only one who took kindly to school-work, and devoted himself to mathematics. Reserved almost to being morose at times, he was a bit lonely, and was glad to have me as a confidante. He had a secret love of poetry, and would get me up into the study alone and read aloud to me.

    He had a marvelously modulated voice, now tender, now thunderous. As I sat on the floor in open-mouthed admiration, he let himself go, moving me to pity over Sir Federigo's falcon, and to great excitement over the poor jester who cried out, 'I am, I am the King!'...

    [He] brought out the idea one day that a stone, if you wrapped it in a cloth, wouldn't break glass. We dared him to try it on a window.

    He said, oh yes, but perhaps it would be better to make it go some distance. We then suggested his trying it on the next-door-but-one's conservatory. I ran down to fetch a stone from the garden, and this was duly tied up in his handkerchief. He had been dared, and from a 'dare' there was no retreat.

    Whizz it went--crash through the glass roof.

    At this, with one accord we became absorbed in pursuits of a studious nature, and after a bit began to feel that the affair had blown over. But then came a message by the housemaid that Master Vivian was wanted in the dining-room. There sat a frail old lady with mother, who was holding the stone-laden handkerchief, marked with Vivian's full name.

    Mother was breathing out the direst punishments on him, but the injured one was pleading that she only wanted it not to happen again, and it didn't matter at all, that boys would be boys, bless them, she only wished she had a child of her own, and so on, until poor old Vivian was a mush of contrition...

    posted by Justin at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

    Tom And Charles

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

    I have never been able to decide which brother I liked best, for each had some special attraction for me. All four were absurdly unlike in character and appearance, and yet so close in age and size that no stranger could pick out the eldest.

    First came Tom...Tom always took my part through thick and thin, and would take me into partnership when I lost heavily at vingt-et-un.

    He told me that he had kissed my head when I was only one night old. I found it hard to believe that I had ever been so young. 'You couldn't walk or talk then,' he would say 'you couldn't even sit up.' 'Oh, Tom,' I would protest, 'I could sit up!'...

    My third brother, Charles, was the only clever one among us. He worked hard at music and painting, but at nothing else would he do a stroke that could be avoided.

    He was clever enough to make the tiniest bit of information do the work of volumes. He would find some remote fact about Zenobia or Savonarola, or some one like that, and then pretend to be shocked at the ignorance of those around him. Of course the family knew him, but his trick carried him far with outsiders. He was known to boast that he had never failed in an examination, while the family knew that he had never been in for one.

    In our continual arguments Charles always seemed to come out top, and his criticisms were merciless. As for me, I was snubbed continually, especially if I fished for a compliment or showed any symptom of self-pity...

    But there was rich compensation for all this in the things he would draw for me, the tunes he would play for me to dance, and the long exotic stories he would tell me, in the style of the Arabian Nights, making them up as he went along.

    And he was kind in unexpected ways, and when people weren't looking.

    posted by Justin at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)

    Children: Beware of this blog!

    I'm shocked. SHOCKED, I say!

    Despite the fact that I go out of my way to avoid obscenity, profanity, pornography, and even nudity, I have been apprised that my blog is nonetheless unsuitable for children under seventeen:

    Online Dating

    Why isn't there any language about accompanying parents?

    According to the rating site, the rating "was determined based on the presence of the following words":

    * gay (15x)
    * dead (8x)
    * death (5x)
    * dangerous (3x)
    * suck (2x)
    * punch (1x)

    My normal reaction would be to tell them that they can all just so suck down a pitcher of my dangerous dead gay death punch, except I won't say that because I try to be polite (a policy to which I try to adhere -- although I was accused of mean-spiritedness yesterday).

    (Via Rand Simberg whose blog is safer for children than this one, but who got it from Virginia Postrel, who shares the NC-17 rating with me -- in her case because of drug talk.)

    I'll try harder.

    UPDATE: On closer examination, I see that Virginia Postrel actually has a "G" rating; it was Reason's Hit & Run that earned an "NC-17" because of drug talk.

    Glad I cleared that up. (Not only do I try to be accurate but I'd hate to be facing a lawsuit for label libel.)

    posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (9)

    Our success must never be an option!

    Kudos to the Philadelphia Inquirer for running this story:

    BAGHDAD - The number-two leader of al-Qaeda called on Muslims in Iraq to unite against their enemies, in a lengthy video released yesterday, at a time when rifts have opened among some Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq and as the U.S. military has detained individuals it says are senior members of the organization.

    The bearded, white-turbaned Ayman al-Zawahiri, the top deputy to Osama bin Laden, spoke for more than an hour and a half about the need to press on with the fight against the "Zionist Crusader project" and to coalesce around the efforts of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    And more:
    The speech is perhaps most significant for its admission that Sunni militants have grown divided over the usefulness of the alternative regime that the Islamic State of Iraq claims to offer.

    In recent weeks, U.S. soldiers have formed partnerships with Sunni insurgents, in places such as western Baghdad and in Baqubah north of the capital, to track down al-Qaeda in Iraq members and find their weapons.

    I think this reflects a major success in the war against al Qaeda, and while I was glad to see the report appear in the Inquirer, I don't think the MSM in general like reporting success in the war against al Qaeda in Iraq, because there's a strong desire on the part of the anti-war crowd to characterize the enemy in Iraq as "insurgents." The MSM are not comfortable with al Qaeda, because they cannot easily be characterized as insurgents. I think this goes a long way towards explaining the seemingly inexplicable, stubborn failure to report the story of recent al Qaeda atrocities (including the beheading of children), despite the fact that it was documented by Michael Yon. The al Qaeda atrocity stories have been linked by countless bloggers (see Confederate Yankee and Pajamas Media; this morning Glenn called it a "blog swarm" as he linked Ron Coleman.)

    I especially agree with Dean Esmay said:

    This is what Al Qaeda in Iraq is all about.
    And it's what the MSM don't want most Americans to know.

    Because, the more the ignorant "little people" are allowed to read about al Qaeda's butchery, the more they'll tend to think entering Iraq might not have been a bad idea after all.

    They might not be in as much of a hurry to pull out and leave the Iraqi children to the tender mercies of the beheaders.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

    Don't miss Dean Barnett's post (especially the picture of Baghdad Harry). And J's Cafe Nette's thoughts about trust:

    I will stick to those who I tend to believe. The boots on the ground, the military blogs and Michael Yon.
    I'm reminded of what Arnold Kling said recently:
    Sometimes, trust is based on experience that leads one to believe that someone else is virtuous.
    (Via Glenn's link.) This is especially true in war, where the first casualty tends to be truth.

    MORE: I almost forgot about Gene Kranz's evil twin brother. (I'm not sure but I think he coined the phrase "Our failure must never be in doubt!")

    AND MORE: Glenn also links John Hinderaker's analysis of the Zawahiri video:

    I've never understood the theory that Iraq is somehow unrelated to the broader war on terror. It would not be possible to read what al Qaeda's leaders have written and listen to their tapes, and hold that view. At one point, Zawahiri exhorts his followers to "[h]urry to Afghanistan, to Iraq, hurry to Somalia, hurry to Palestine, and hurry to the towering Atlas Mountains." If we were to abandon Iraq, can anyone doubt that the flow of jihadists to those other regions, and more, would increase?

    UPDATE: Interested readers might enjoy today's post on terrorist doctors' travel plans.

    MORE: Commenter "Zoe" takes me to task for "congratulat[ing] the Inquirer alone for being brave enough to run" the Zawahiri story and notes that the it originated with the Washington Post. Fair enough, although I don't think I praised the Inquirer for being brave. Nor did I say that the Inquirer was alone in running the story; I just don't think the MSM is especially delighted with it.

    I can't look everywhere, but I do subscribe to the Inquirer. However, Googling the news, I do see that the report not only appears in the Washington Post and the Inquirer, but also in the Boston Globe. And the Concord Monitor.

    What that means is that in addition to congratulating the Inquirer, my congratulations should go to the Washington Post, and these other two newspapers!

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

    I can run, but I can't hide!

    Via Pajamas Media, I just discovered another reason I shouldn't be too quick to switch my party registration from Republican to Democrat. As it turns out, jogging is a right-wing activity:

    Le jogging, originally known as le footing and now more fashionably as le running, caught on in France, as elsewhere, in the 1980s and eight million claim to indulge. But Mr Sarkozy has rekindled a French suspicion that the habit is for self-centred individualists such as the Americans who popularised it. "Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the Right," Odile Baudrier, editor of V02 magazine, a sports publication, told Libération. Patrick Mignon, a sports sociologist, noted that French intellectuals had always held sport in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness.

    Beyond the self-promotion, some commentators see something sinister in the media fascination with le jogging de Supersarko. The "hypnotic" daily images of presidential running are not innocent, said Daniel Schneidermann, a media critic. Mr Sarkozy uses the video images of his jogging as "a major weapon of media manipulation", said Mr Schneidermann.

    You know, I never gave it much thought, but doesn't the evil Bush also jog? Yes, and he's been photographed in the act of jogging with a "US Army soldier who has lost his legs in Iraq."

    I run three miles every other day, and I don't plan to give it up just so I can join the Democratic Party. Yet another reason I'd be wasting my time becoming a DINO again. And if this poll is correct, even the WorldNetDaily wing of the GOP might not hate me as hugely as I often suspect they do.

    But still, every last thing has to be politicized, because there's no running away from the Culture War!

    posted by Eric at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

    Rational Soyophobia

    Those who think that the analogies I often draw between sexuality choices and food choices are misplaced ought to consider the scientific evidence that "Soy is making kids 'gay'":

    Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.
    While it's nice to see such a neat and tidy conflation of my analogy, does this scientific news really change the nature of the debate? Even assuming the scientists are correct about soy as the real cause of homosexuality, doesn't this still means sexuality is a choice? People can choose not to eat soy products, and thus, are free to not choose homosexuality.

    Meanwhile, the tofu based cultures like the Chinese will die out, while the stronger meat and milk-based Westerners will prevail.

    Seen this way, soyophobia becomes completely rational, as there is no reason why anyone should be forced to become gay if he does not want to, and if avoiding soy avoids being gay, then avoiding soy is a rational form of bigotry. (And really no different than refusing to participate in homosexual conduct.)

    Maybe the bottom line is that we should love the sinner, but hate the soy.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Should this be called soy-based sin? Or sin-based soy?

    posted by Eric at 08:31 AM | Comments (3)

    Give me librium, or give me meth!

    Reading (via the NRO link Glenn Reynolds' supplied) the details of Al Gore's benefit featuring Yusuf Islam (notorious Islamist who advocated burning Salman Rushdie to death and even wanted to phone in his location to the Ayatollah Khomeni) made me perversely inclined to sympathize with Gore's son Al Gore, III:

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The 24-year-old son of former Vice President Al Gore was arrested for drug possession on Wednesday after he was stopped for speeding in his hybrid Toyota Prius, a sheriff's official said.
    If my dad did benefits with guys like Yusuf Islam, I'd probably take drugs too.

    And yeah, I'd also be glad to take the Prius. I'd probably feel entitled to it.

    As I say this, it's fair to recognize that I'm not a father, so my perverse sympathies may be uninformed. Roger L. Simon, however, is a father, and he expressed a similar sentiment better than I could:

    If the Gores were my parents, I'd want to medicate myself too. And make no mistake about it, young Gore was trying to medicate himself - not seeking enlightenment through drugs as many of us did in our time (not that we found much). You don't take Xanax and Valium for mind expansion.

    In this case I have plenty of sympathy for the son and absolutely none for the father and mother. They both have been lecturing us for decades -first about nasty music lyrics and now about the environment. It's all the same really, because it does not come from a place of truth. It comes from a place of pomposity. And that's what makes a lousy parent. Someone who is holier than thou but a fake. The boy in the speeding Prius was calling for help. Will his father hear him - or is he too busy saving the world?

    I think the answer is obvious.

    Gore thinks his son needs "treatment."

    Don't we all!

    posted by Eric at 10:05 PM | Comments (7)

    the nanny neuter state -- whose nuts are next?

    Glad to see Drudge has linked this:

    WHEN THE GOVERNMENT "can come into our homes and decide whether our dogs can have gonads," says Carol Hamilton, "that's the day I leave California." She is sitting in the dirt pulling tufts of undercoat from a slight, wheat-colored terrier, using sharp, decisive jerks. Clouds of beige fluff collect around her, emotion rises in her voice, and her fur-tugging gets more urgent. The dog, a Cairn terrier she has just met, lolls contentedly in her lap.
    Read it all.

    I'm too damned tired right now to write another post about AB 1634 (California mandatory spay and neuter), but I'm glad it's getting the national attention it deserves, because nutty ideas like this start in California and then spread. AB 1634 is nanny statism at its worst -- and I've sounded off about this in post after post after effing post (including here, here here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

    posted by Eric at 07:30 PM | Comments (2)

    As classic as it gets!

    An unbelievable find, but I just found it.

    I'm always looking for video footage of the Grateful Dead featuring Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and here he is, belting out a very immortal (hmm, I guess "immoral" depending on your point of view) version of what was their best Pigpen song -- "Turn on Your Lovelight."

    When and where, I don't know. The provider simply said "Had to share this,......whatever the date."

    Whatever is fine with me. This is exactly the way the band looked and sounded when I first saw them and fell in love with their music.

    (Not sure whether there are other early Dead fans out there, but in case there are, I posted another Pigpen video here.)

    MORE: At the end of the song, I recognized John Dawson (perhaps it's David Nelson) of the New Riders of the Purple Sage standing in the back. This would date the video from 1970-1971 (when NRPS played as their opening act, and when I became a Deadhead).

    (The Internet can fill in some very spaced out memory blanks....)

    posted by Eric at 05:26 PM | Comments (2)

    If you want to stop sinning, stop sinning!
    (But please leave me alone.)

    A number of socially conservative sites are abuzz over a man named Michael Glatze, described as a "gay rights activist and founding editor of Young Gay America magazine" who "came out" in a "column written for" and now says he's straight.

    I support the right of anyone to change his sexuality as often as he wants, any way he can, and to discuss it freely, but there's something a bit suspicious about the political 180 which seems to have accompanied Mr. Glatze's sexual 180 which just makes me a bit skeptical. It just seems a little too convenient.

    I mean, I can go down and switch my registration from Republican to Democrat. I've switched it before, and I can do it again. Nothing complicated about it. Lots of times I get sick of being a RINO. The more I read WorldNetDaily, the more I doubt my true conservatism, and in my weaker moments I often wonder whether I might be (perish the thought!) a closet liberal yearning to breathe free! But if I drive down to my local courthouse today and fill out the requisite form, that would not alter the fact that I still have the same opinions. I am still resolutely opposed to socialism and identity politics, I still suffer from Anthropogenic Global Warming Defiance Syndrome, and I still don't want Hillary Clinton to be the president of the United States.

    What that means is that I'd be a DINO. And even though I'm an admitted RINO, I still think I'm better off as a RINO than a DINO despite my inner issues and doubts. Switching my party registration would be as easy as checking a box, but there's no way that switching what I might check in a box could switch what I think.

    I'm not sure that changing one's sexuality is quite as simple as checking a box on a form at the courthouse, though. Not for most people. That's because sexuality is more than just a label; it's a personal thing, and something to be lived. As I've said in this blog more times than I can count, I don't believe in the sexual labeling system anyway, so I could probably check the sexual boxes with impunity, but that's because I think the labels are no one else's business at all, and arbitrary box-checking would be my way of ridiculing them. Of course, I realize that most people don't feel as I do, which is entirely their business.

    Glatze's is an especially interesting case, because on the one hand he seems (like me) to resent the sexual labeling system, while on the other he is adding reinforcement to it. It's this contradiction that intrigues me, and I don't think it's going to get the media attention it deserves.

    After contrasting Glatze's previous statements with what he says now, Clayton Cramer expressed doubt that the Glatze story would receive much press attention:

    I don't think he's going to be getting much press attention now, because of this article
    Well, he is getting press attention -- but not in the MSM. It's mainly limited to the gay press and the anti-gay religious press. (And of course pro-gay and anti-gay blogs.)

    Here's my two cents worth. I think that Glatze (if in fact he has "gone straight") is probably a bisexual man who (doubtless buying into or bullied into the prevailing hype that you have to be one or the other) became a believer and advocate of gay identity politics and a gay rights activist, only to later decide he'd be better off going "straight." Rather than simply do what he wants and get on with his life, he's still as public about his sexuality as he ever was, only he's now advocating a very anti-gay religious mindset despite his own documented prior antipathy to that. Again, this is something he has every right to do, but the political 180 reminds me of David Brock.

    An inconsistency I see is that while he claims to condemn gay identity politics, he's actually feeding it by buying in to the gay versus straight dichotomy while evading the more obvious question of bisexuality. I think bisexuality is feared by gay activists (as well as many activists on the left) because they want to create and maintain a species of human with a palpable, identifiable, sexual identity for political reasons. And OTOH, it is also feared by religious anti-gay activists because it does not fit into the black-versus-white, good-versus-evil, Bible-versus-Satan view of the world. It's a bit tough to tell a bisexual that only Jesus can help him love a woman (or her love a man) if that capacity is already there.

    Whether Glatze is an opportunist, I have no way to know. But it appears that he is now judging people as evil without knowing them, and above all, he is maintaining that he is ashamed of what he did.

    For defying identity politics, I applaud his courage. But I don't understand why he is ashamed, because I do not hold his religious opinion and am thus unable to see his former homosexuality as evil. I have even more trouble understanding why he thinks others should feel ashamed of what they do just because he now says he is ashamed of what he did. It seems to me that he has bootstrapped his own sexual evolution into a religious argument which the anti-gay crowd wants to bootstrap into a political argument.

    What is being forgotten here is the dignity of the individual, and the right to choose. In his WND piece, Glatze doesn't seem to own up to ever having made a real choice:

    Sexual truth can be found, provided we're all willing and driven to accept that our culture sanctions behaviors that harm life. Guilt should be no reason to avoid the difficult questions.

    Homosexuality took almost 16 years of my life and compromised them with one lie or another, perpetuated through national media targeted at children. In European countries, homosexuality is considered so normal that grade-school children are being provided "gay" children's books as required reading in public schools.

    Was the man completely brainwashed into having sex against his will? What else can he mean when he says his own sexual desires "took" 16 years from his life? It's one thing not to want to do something any more and then not do it. That is called making a choice, and lots of people talk about homosexual conduct as being a choice. But to talk about it as an external thing which "took" years away is inconsistent with calling it a choice.

    So is claiming to be ashamed of it and to be guilty for it:

    I was repulsive for quite some time; I am still dealing with all of my guilt.
    I don't know what it is he considers repulsive; his sexual behavior, or his political behavior as an admitted publisher of what he now considers pornography. But let's suppose a fat person said exactly the same thing about his formerly fat self, and his role as a gluttonous gourmet chef and publisher of books glorifying the delights of fatty, creamy foods. Wouldn't that seem as ridiculous as it would to claim that "obesity took almost 16 years of my life and compromised them with one lie or another, perpetuated through a national fast food industry targeted at children"? I like to think there is more to life than sex or food, but we do make choices about both, and we have to live with them. If you don't like the choice you made, you move on if you can, but the fact is, if you did what you did and liked it when you did it, then you liked what you did. To later claim you didn't like what you clearly liked strikes me as schizoid -- at least as a having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too form of inconsistency. I find it hard to identify with people who dwell at length on past "sins" they seemed to have indulged in with abandon only to later become self-appointed, guilt-laden, guilt-inflicting scolds. (This is all the more so when I don't consider the sins particularly sinful.)

    I'm reminded of the anti-smoking activists, the Critical Mass bicycle activists, the people who want to make me mutilate my dog, and the anthropogenic global warming people.

    Do what you want with your life, but it's my car, my dog, my lungs, my stomach, my view of religion, and my penis. (Etc.) I like to think this is a very simple concept, but there are a lot of people who seem hell-bent on making it profound.

    (I'd hate to think they have no choice.)

    MORE: I forgot to add "my guns." My bad. I was sick of the post long before I wrote it.

    (If I thought about it, though, I'm sure I could find a lot more to add to the "Etc." category.)

    UPDATE: From a gay web site site's reaction to Glatze's announcement:

    ....perhaps Glatze was never gay to begin with. Sexual orientation can be a confusing thing and it is certainly something that a person has no immediate control over. Perhaps Glatze was confused and was straight the entire time.
    Notice the either/or thinking. The word "bisexual" does not even appear.

    Similarly, Roy Masters (the man said to be responsible for Glatze's recent conversion) has a long screed here which does not contemplate or posit the existence of bisexuality.

    Does this mean both "sides" are agreed?

    For whom do these people speak?

    posted by Eric at 03:06 PM | Comments (6)

    Love Songs For Physicists

    Here are some very quarky girls you might like to know. When ever I see them my hadrons start to vibrate and my liquid nitrogen begins to boil over. They are The Cernettes.

    For those of you not familiar with CERN here is a video tour of a CERN LHC project. Especially check out the description of the superconducting magnets at 4:20 into the video (15 minutes total).

    Now that you know something about CERN what is so special about the Cernettes? They sing. Physics songs like:

    Strong Interaction

    You quark me up
    You quark me down
    You quark me top
    You quark me bottom

    You quark me up (yeah yeah, I feel your charme)
    You quark me down (tau tau, I feel so strange)
    You quark me top (go go on hypercharge)
    You quark me bottom (shoot shoot on isospin)

    You spin me 'round 'round 'round 'round yeah
    You spin me 'round 'round 'round 'round yeah
    You spin me 'round 'round 'round 'round yeah
    You spin me 'round 'round 'round 'round yeah
    I feel your attraction It's a strong interaction

    You can hear them in Real Audio or Mpeg 3

    The Cernettes are the official band of The Great Convincer. Which relates to the design of a Bussard Fusion Reactor for testing. Which reminds me of a song they haven't written yet. I Want to Fusion With You.

    H/T Lubos Motl

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:27 PM | Comments (1)

    god Stuff

    There is supposed to be a battle raging now on the cultural front between Darwinists and the faithful, and I guess for some people that battle seems real. But it's foolishly shortsighted to treat a theory as a tenet of faith, equally to treat faith as an argument, and doubly so to pit theory against faith.

    At least apples and oranges are fruits.

    When I tried to read Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion I grew tired quickly. Dawkins, a proponent of the laughable Brights movement, is alternately condescending and dismissive, and—irony of ironies—is far too sure of his own beliefs to offer real arguments. Evolution no more disproves gods than does gravity or quantum mechanics. Not only that, but gods do not need to be disproved: they need to be proved. The truly faithful will always disagree because the need for proof is not only unnecessary but is actually antithetical to faith. It is a badge of honor to believe without evidence, while those who seek truth in the material world are to be pitied or worse.

    It was with no surprise then that I greeted David Sloan Wilson's critique of Dawkin's majestic flop in the latest installment of the Skeptic Society's newsletter.

    Professor Wilson agrees with Dawkins that evolutionary theory provides a useful model for the study of religion, but they go about it very differently. Wilson is disappointed in Dawkins just as I am, but based on the weakness of his science. For me, the opposition itself was weak enough. I didn't have to know anything about the evolutionary theory of religion. Wilson at one point exposes Dawkins's logic as fundamentalist, complete with an invocation of Darwin qua deity in support of his own position. By far my favorite bit of the critique, though, involves the invocation of a different sort of character:

    As with religion, Dawkins has not conducted empirical research on cultural evolution, preferring to play the role of Mycroft Holmes, who sat in his armchair and let his younger brother Sherlock do the legwork. Two evolutionary Sherlocks of culture are Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd, authors of the 2005 book Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution. One of the sleights of hand performed by Dawkins in The God Delusion, which takes a practiced eye to detect, is to first dismiss group selection and then to respectfully cite the work of Richerson and Boyd without mentioning that their theory of cultural evolution is all about group selection.

    That seems a bit unfair to Mycroft, though, who was Sherlock's intellectual superior, was nearly always right, and, while lazy, had the weight of the British Empire on his unassuming shoulders.

    The place of group selection in evolutionary theory, and Dawkins's surreptitious appropriation of its benefits, are key points in the critique, the former seeming to explain social differences between the faithful and skeptics, the latter undercutting The God Delusion's fundamental claims.

    Wilson is keen to set his own methodology against Dawkins's, and here I find a snag: both rely on the work of others to an extent that should equally call in to question certain of their conclusions. Wilson, for example, thumbs through the Encyclopedia of World Religions and calls this data.*

    For my tastes Wilson goes too far in making the evolutionary theory of religion a scientific explanation and at times almost sounds like an apologist captivated by the social benefits of religion while blind to the dangers. Humans are not bacteria. He knows this, and makes it clear by the end, but takes the theory to unnecessary extremes throughout, ignoring, for example, the importance of consciousness and the ability humans have to assess, alter, and design social 'evolution.' That, in part, is why it's just a theory, a model.

    Wilson, like Dawkins, makes unnecessary arguments from science about what religion is. What I'm more concerned with is arguments from sense. Where Dawkins believes that science shatters the illusion of a creator, and Wilson believes that religion—irrespective of the truth or falsehood of it's tenets—is a complex, evolutionary social system that serves to the benefit of the group, I simply don't care. There's an important distinction to be made between the study of religion and the case for faith.

    I don't care what religion is on a philosophical level. I don't care how it operates, and I don't care to amass evidence against the possibility of a creator or for the possibility of a universe of chance.

    What I care about is the fact that religions do not make sense, that fundamentalism in every form, in every religion, is absurd, and—worse than that—destructive to the individual and to liberty. They may survive. They may even thrive, unlike Wilson's rapacious viral predators, but they are senseless nonetheless and we should seek out not only whether they survive but why and whether they're even necessary for the survival of man.

    Faith in the primacy of one's own beliefs over and against the beliefs of all others is untenable, especially when based upon ancient, self-contradictory books with varied and corrupted manuscript histories; when based upon devotion to blind belief against the human faculties of reason and experience; when based upon the national inheritance of an idea that makes you the infidel of other true believers who are in turn your heretics.

    It's senseless, and it's senseless by definition, for the faithful are encouraged to abandon the sensual world.

    Recently I've read a book that gets it: Christopher Hitchens's god is not Great. This is not a book that will take readers astray with diversions into Darwinism and philosophical posturing.

    It's an appeal to sense, which is what we need, not the false opposition of scientific theories and religion's ineluctable absence of reason.

    - - - -
    * I would be wary, however, of trusting too much in the work of Mircea Eliade, whom Wilson calls 'the great religious scholar,' by which I think he means 'scholar of religions' (he also misspells his name). Eliade was driven by a hatred of the imposed culture of Christianity and had a delusional, romantic view of 'primitive' ur-religion and ur-culture, like certain German scholars of the past, that makes his work frustrating to say the least. I've found his work to be characterized by an effort to conform all religions to a basic pattern on the assumption that all religions are manifestations of the same drive and thus reducible in the same ways. But this is a very easy game to play, akin to allegory. There is little in the way of science here, and Eliade is fond of picking and choosing disparate and unsupported bits from this and that religion, analogous to what Wilson disapproves of in Dawkins.

    (As an aside, Eliade was the basis for the character of Radu Grielescu in Saul Bellow's Ravelstein, a thinly veiled memoir of Bellow's friendship with Allan Bloom. Bellow paints a very ugly picture of Eliade, repeating a rumor that he was a Nazi who later used the friendship of Jews to hide his past.)

    posted by Dennis at 11:21 AM | Comments (17)

    "I never knew George Washington had slaves!"

    Speaking of ridiculous things, I'm trying to figure out whether it's just the Philadelphia Inquirer which is being ridiculous, or whether the city government, the federal government, or local activists are more to blame.

    Anyway, for two days now, the Inquirer has been promoting Fourth of July slavery celebrations, and the absurd idea that George Washington's ownership of slaves has been covered up by historians.

    Yesterday, the Inquirer featured an emotional article (it would be tough to call it a "report," and I don't think it was intended as an editorial) by Stephan Salisbury. Salisbury goes by the title of "INQUIRER CULTURE WRITER" and I'm not quite sure what that means, or how many there are, because another writer, one Peter Dobrin, also seems to hold that title. At least he did last week, except he's the Inky's music critic. You know, ballet, music, the arts? These are things we like to call culture.

    I guess it's also considered "culture" to scold George Washington for his crimes and hold mock "funerals" for long dead slaves, but Salisbury's emotional piece -- "Washington's slaves finally get full Phila. burial" -- does just that.

    Nine Philadelphia slaves received their proper funeral Tuesday, about 200 years after their deaths.

    Nine Africans, held in bondage by President George Washington when Philadelphia was the capital of the nation and slaves toiled all over town, were eulogized by nine children brought together to honor and remember them.

    In a demonstration across the street from the site where Washington conducted his presidency in the 1790s, hundreds witnessed what they considered a celebration of freedom, long overdue.

    At 6 p.m., after the final eulogy was read, the children simultaneously lifted the tops of nine cardboard caskets laid out on the green grass, and a score of black helium balloons rose into the hazy blue sky over Independence Mall and drifted fast in the wind, heading north.

    "The nine are free, and so are we!" chanted the crowd. "The nine are free, and so are we!"

    While I see three factual errors, I don't know whose job it should be to correct them; mine or the Inquirer's.

    Or is this exercise an absurd and surreal waste of time? Should I just accept the fact that this story is grounded in emotion and not reality, and understand that the Inquirer feels obligated to run it? I really don't know. Are bloggers even supposed to correct errors in obviously emotional pieces? Are there rules? Does it matter that according to historical records, Washington's slaves of African descent who were not born in Africa cannot properly be called "Africans"? Or does that interfere with the cultural "narrative" the Inquirer's readers are expected to swallow in an obedient state of quasi-religious shame?

    What about the plain logical fact that a "burial" simply cannot be held for people who are long dead? Does that matter?

    And does it matter that it is impossible to celebrate the "freedom" of dead slaves? While two of the slaves (Hercules and Oney Judge) escaped, and Washington eventually freed his slaves on his death, the fact is that all of these people are long dead, and they either died in slavery or in freedom. There is no way to free them now, or celebrate their freedom now, much less link their "freedom" to that of nine unrelated individuals -- none of whom can assert any connection to Washington's slaves other than the fact that they belong to the same race.

    Or does logic have no place in analyzing fantasy? Look, I have no problem with fantasy. Some of my best friends are really into fantasy, but I'd find it a little disturbing if their fantasies were reported as news.

    The fantasy being promulgated is that Washington's ownership of slaves -- something I and everyone I know was taught as a child -- is part of a historical coverup which has now been unearthed, and that this "new" historical meme now rivals the founding of the country:

    Each year an activist group - the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition - has demonstrated there, demanding that the federal government and the National Park Service properly recognize and commemorate Washington's slaves, who were quartered at the house site, now steps away from the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center.

    This year was different, however, and not just because of the children. The city and Park Service have excavated the site - the house was demolished in 1832 - and uncovered dramatic evidence not only of white presidential power but also of enslaved African powerlessness.

    The foundation of the house and its great bow window - installed by Washington and said to auger the oval rooms in the White House - and the foundation of the slave's world of kitchen and subterranean passageway are now exposed in stark proximity.

    The excavation, done in advance of a planned memorial to the house and its residents, has proved a powerful attraction to visitors and has inspired unusual dialogs about power and race in U.S. history.

    Now city and Park Service officials are pondering how to incorporate the archeological findings into final plans for the site.

    Until recently, not even the names of the slaves were known to the most dedicated historians. Now, on a warm summer day, children could read the names and speak a few words about each slave: Austin, Christopher, Giles, Hercules, Joe, Moll, Oney Judge, Paris and Richmond.

    Until recently? Names and accounts of the slaves appeared in Stephen Decatur's Private Affairs of George Washington -- a book printed in 1933. I have not conducted historical research so I'll be generous here and assume that before 1933 the names of the slaves were unknown "even to dedicated historians."

    But by what possible standard can 1933 be considered "recently"?

    Historical coverup? If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that the Inquirer is running its own historical coverup.

    And the bottom line is that Philadelphia children "never knew":

    Christopher Waters, 10, who attends Thomas G. Morton Elementary School in Southwest Philadelphia, eulogized Austin, who labored in a variety of capacities for Washington and his wife, Martha. Austin was Oney Judge's half-brother.

    "I felt pretty good about doing it," Christopher said. "But I never knew George Washington had slaves!"

    The 200 who gathered for the demonstration included several Park Service employees.

    Your tax dollars at work play.

    I might have been willing to overlook yesterday's morbid fantasy-horror story if the Inquirer hadn't served up more today, in a story titled "A somber memorial at a site of slavery":

    Outside Independence Hall yesterday, flags were waving and the crowd was snazzy in red, white and blue.

    But the nation's 231st birthday took on a somber note as speakers invoked a painful chapter in the nation's history.

    Standing just a half-block from an archaeological dig that unearthed wrenching evidence of George Washington's slaves, Cheryl Janifer LaRoche called for "a contemplative Fourth of July - a meditation on freedom, liberty, justice and democracy."

    Indeed, LaRoche, the historical archaeologist at the dig, refused to use the word celebrate in speaking of the holiday. Instead, she spoke of marking the day.

    "Tonight," LaRoche said, "let every burst of fireworks that illuminates the night sky penetrate the dark recesses of injustice."

    While historians knew that Washington owned slaves in Philadelphia, only in the last few years has physical evidence been found, including remnants of an underground passage that his nine slaves used to move about.

    Physical evidence? In the form of a passage connecting two buildings? Is there some reason the Inquirer can't see fit to point out that not only are the slave quarters at Mt Vernon never been kept secret, but they've been open to public visitors since 1962? This "underground passage" means absolutely nothing, and (as I've discussed before) sheds no new historical light on a subject which has never been debated by any serious historian -- or for that matter, any American with even the most rudimentary knowledge of history.

    Of course, the true goal here might not involve exposing a historical coverup, but merely alleging one in order to draw more tourists to Philadelphia.

    In that regard, it might be more patriotic of me to go along with the P.T. Barnum approach. (You know.... "Step right up and see George Washington's bloody whipping post!")

    And folks, if you enjoy Philadelphia's historical slavery coverup as much as I do, isn't it about time someone told Mayor Bloomberg to tear down the Brooklyn Bridge?

    posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (6)


    I don't know whether this constitutes a "bad review," but I doubt it. Maybe it's more along the lines of an anonymous personal attack. But I doubt that too, because I'm not providing pictures or naming names.

    Anyway, at the supermarket this morning, I saw a commercialized SUV for a franchised physical fitness center I will not name. But it's one of those places with a quasi messianic message, and I am sure the company prides itself on its, um, "image," and the driver of the SUV happened to be a man in his 30s with a rather large gut. Not that there's anything unusual about having a large gut. Mine have come and gone, and I work out a lot, and try not to be judgmental about normal people, but.... Considering the blaring message custom-painted on the SUV, something about the gut was enormously funny, and made me want to burst out laughing, which I didn't, because the guy would have known why, and I don't enjoy hurting people's feelings. This is the kind of thing which would generate ill-will if I named the company, and the company isn't the point at all (even if I wouldn't advise anyone to go there).

    However, I did find myself wondering about marketing. For all I know, this guy is on the road to genuine improvement and he might a walking advertisement for the company who is able to pull out some truly appalling "before" pictures to inspire obese men to sign up. Then again, he could be a backslider, or just a customer they sent to the store. No way to know. But it seemed a bit like catching a guy who runs a "STOP SMOKING" group lighting up in an alley. Certainly, this does not involve morality on the level of a TV evangelist being caught in bed with a prostitute, but moral fitness is not being marketed here. It's physical fitness. Is it more convincing to have a slim ballet dancer with washboard abs who makes his living as a model and couldn't gain weight if he tried? Or a real person with a real story of major self-improvement with whom potential customers can readily self-identify? (While the former would be a walking advertisement, the latter would have to tell his story.) Might it depend on the target market?

    I don't know, but I'm just wondering.

    Normally, I would have never noticed the man (who looks like countless guys his age) but the circumstances made him look very ridiculous.

    posted by Eric at 08:52 AM | Comments (1)

    I Support Democracy In Iraq - Winner

    We have a winner (finally!) of the I Support Democracy In Iraq contest. No more fitting day either.

    I Support  Democracy In Iraq

    Thanks to Karl Egenberger of Envision Design/ Plum Creative Associates, Towson, Md 21286, who did the design. And Coyote Organics who supplied the contest prize.

    Instructions for joining the campaign and putting up the graphic of your choice are at Join Up!

    posted by Simon at 04:47 PM | Comments (1)

    Virtual Reality: 1948

    From The Lion of Comarre by Sir Arthur C. Clarke,

    Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949

    First, some background...

    One thousand years in the future, Richard Peyton has located the fabled city of Comarre, constructed by a social movement called the Decadents, and lost to humanity for five hundred years.

    It's located in a huge continental nature preserve, where overflights are strictly prohibited. Lucky, that.

    Surprised by its compact form factor (but then, if it sprawled it would have been rediscovered years earlier), Peyton effects a successful entry to the brooding, mysterious structure. Wandering its deserted halls, he finds a strangely uniform interior plan. Most of the structure is devoted to lavishly appointed sleeping chambers.

    Peyton is an engineer, possibly the best of his generation, and he's itching to find and master the legendary technology rumor attributes to the lost city. But time passes and he grows weary. Perhaps a brief nap is in order? Certainly there's no shortage of beds.

    His head has barely hit the pillow when he experiences a curiously vivid dream.
    Then he seems to awaken in a curiously familiar world. Then, things get a little hazy...

    If Richard Peyton had ever known time, that knowledge was forgotten now. Only the present was real, for both past and future lay hidden behind an impenetrable screen...In his enjoyment of the present Peyton was utterly content...

    By a stroke of luck, he is awakened by the ringing of his pocket phone...

    Later he was never able to recollect anything of his life on the island. He had known many companions, but their names and faces had vanished beyond recall. Love, peace of mind, happiness--all were his for a brief moment of time. And yet he could remember no more than the last few moments of his life in paradise...

    He had not been dreaming; he was sure of that. Rather, it was as if he had been living a second life and now he was returning to his old existence as might a man recovering from amnesia. Though he was still dazed, one clear conviction came into his mind. He must never again sleep in Comarre...Unsteadily he rose to his feet and made his way out of the room. Once again he found himself in the long corridor with its hundreds of identical doors. With new understanding he looked at the symbol carved upon them...

    That symbol is the lotus flower...

    The human mind was a delicate, sheltered thing, having no direct contact with the world and gathering all its knowledge and experience through the body's senses. It was possible to record and store thoughts and emotions as earlier men had once recorded sound on miles of wire.

    If those thoughts were projected into another mind, when the body was unconscious and all its senses numbed, that brain would think it was experiencing reality. There was no way in which it could detect the deception...

    All this had been known for centuries, but the builders of Comarre had used the knowledge as no one in the world had ever done before. Somewhere in the city there must be machines that could analyse every thought and desire of those who entered. Elsewhere the city's makers must have stored every sensation and experience a human mind could know. From this raw material all possible futures could be constructed.

    Now at last Peyton understood the measure of the genius that had gone into the making of Comarre. The machines had analysed his deepest thoughts and built for him a world based on his subconscious desires. Then, when the chance had come, they had taken control of his mind and injected into it all he had experienced.

    No wonder that everything he had ever longed for had been his in that already half-forgotten paradise...

    A little later he discovered the thought monitor...After some experimenting he plugged in to one of the circuits and slowly increased the power...He still retained his own personality, but superimposed on his own thoughts were ideas and images that were utterly foreign to him...

    Yes. The consciousness of another sleeper. Luckily, Peyton was a truly brilliant engineer, so the five hundred year old control interface posed few challenges for him...

    One after another he checked the circuits on the board. The great majority were dead, but perhaps fifty were still operating. And each of them carried all the thoughts, desires, and emotions of the human mind...

    Observing from a technicians monitoring board, Peyton is able to gain some insight into the tricks the hardware uses to work its illusions...

    He could see the flaws in these synthetic worlds, could observe how all the critical faculties of the mind were numbed while an endless stream of simple but vivid emotions was poured into it.

    Yes, it all seemed very simple now. But it did not alter the fact that this artificial world was utterly real to the beholder...

    For nearly an hour, Peyton explored the worlds of fifty sleeping minds. It was a fascinating though repulsive quest. In that hour he learned more of the human brain and its hidden ways than he had ever dreamed existed. When he had finished he sat very still for a long time at the controls of the machine, analyzing his new-found knowledge. His wisdom had advanced by many years, and his youth seemed suddenly very far away.

    For the first time he had direct knowledge of the fact that the perverse and evil desires that ruffled the surface of his own mind were shared by all human beings. The builders of Comarre had cared nothing for good or evil--and the machines had been their faithful servants...

    I had initially planned to compare Comarre with "The Matrix", but after thinking it over, I realized it's much closer in concept to "The Menagerie". Unlike Neo's playground of the mind, Comarre is not a multi-user domain. Its builders were looking for an escape from reality analogous to narcotics. The real trick here is the creation of an utterly believable surrogate reality that gives you exactly what you really want. Hmm. Perhaps there's a little bit of Forbidden Planet in there too.

    Here's some bonus futurity for extra credit. To reach Comarre, Peyton had to hike twenty miles through an African nature preserve. It's amusing to see how he coped with the experience...

    For almost the first time in his life Peyton was experiencing Nature as it had been in the days before man existed. Yet it was not the wildness of the scene that he found so strange. Peyton had never known silence. Always there had been the murmur of machines...Peyton found the silence unnerving and did what almost any man of his time would have done. He pressed the button of his personal radio that selected the background-music band.

    Yes, any man of the thirty-first century would almost certainly turn to his pocket radio-phone for a soothing dose of elevator music.

    So, mile after mile, Peyton walked steadily through the undulating country of the Great Reservation...He carried with him that mist of unobtrusive music that had been the background of men's lives almost since the discovery of radio.

    Although he had only to flick a dial to get in touch with anyone on the planet, he quite sincerely imagined himself to be alone in the heart of Nature...

    posted by Justin at 11:42 AM | Comments (4)

    A Perfect Day

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

    Dym and Barnholt had gone one day for a long tramp--train to Barnet, thence to St. Albans, and back by Potters Bar.

    From the outset everything went wrong. They missed the train and had a long wait to begin with. They left their parcel of sandwiches in the rack. The rain, which they laughed at when it began, increased to a steady downpour.

    The tea at St. Albans, on which they had counted to revive them, was only just warm and very dear. Barnholt lost his last coin, a half-crown, through a hole in his pocket, and Dym had only just enough for their fares home from Potters Bar.

    On the way they amused themselves with the fun they would get out of telling their misfortunes to the others, and as they neared the house they agreed that it only needed to find Arthur Collins in the study to crown the day.

    The servant opened the door with the words, 'Mr. Collins is in the study, sir; he has been waiting for you for some time.'

    posted by Justin at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

    Happy Fourth of July!

    "Coexistence with religious fanatics isn't possible."

    So says Christopher Hitchens (author of God Is Not Great) in a great Pajamas Media interview titled "Citizen Hitchens Celebrates July 4th."

    Hitchens, a new U.S. citizen, is quite taken with Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (which Jefferson saw as one of his three principal accomplishments in life), and I can certainly understand why. I see it as a sort of detailed annotation of the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment -- especially the oft-disputed "establishment of religion" part.


    Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry...
    I think of the meaning of the Establishment Clause every time I see a taxpayer funded school bus transporting children to my local Saudi madrassa. It's bad enough that there are people who brainwash children into becoming religious fanatics dedicated to the downfall of freedom, but to know that I am being forced to pay for it -- that hurts.

    I blame the combined forces of left-wing identity politics, and to be fair, some blame must go to the right. For there are a number of conservatives who think it's just fine to spend tax dollars busing children to Saudi madrassas. (In the name of "religious freedom" of course. What they forget is that sauce for the Christian goose is also sauce for the Saudi gander.)

    But I complain a lot. My complaints are minor details in the larger context of freedom.

    I'll close with another picture of a bald eagle I took in Alaska last week.

    eagle4th.jpg Quite coincidentally, this amazing raptor was taken off the endangered species list while I was in Alaska taking my pictures. Noting the remarkable comeback these great symbols of freedom have made, the Chicago Tribune concluded with a warning:

    Having dodged obliteration by a host of modern perils, these winged emblems of independence will never again be able to survive without an assist from mankind. As long as there are chemicals and tall towers and waterfront resorts, the eagle will be threatened in ways that the legal constructs of federal law can't fully anticipate.

    So as we celebrate this 4th of July, let's appreciate a national symbol once given up for gone. Appreciate, and commit ourselves to protect.

    That proudly soaring bird is a symbol of our freedom. It's nice -- even inspiring -- to know that this symbol could be resurrected to the point that is no longer endangered.

    I don't mean to belabor the point, but today is the Fourth of July, and I have to say I'd feel a lot more comfortable if I thought the freedom the eagle symbolizes could be restored as easily.

    So enjoy the Fourth!

    (But don't take its meaning for granted.)

    posted by Eric at 11:01 AM | Comments (2)

    July 4th Bikinis - 2007

    I did a 4th of July Bikini edition last year. It was so popular (with me) that I'm doing it again. I love doing the research. BTW not work safe. Probably not wife safe. Unless you have a forgiving mate such as I do.

    posted by Simon at 10:52 PM | Comments (1)

    Since when did corruption become a "routine exercise"?

    Amazing as it will sound, Hillary Clinton has taken advantage of Bush's commutation of the Libby sentence to defend the Clinton pardon scandal:

    As she campaigns with her husband for Iowa's leadoff precinct caucuses, Clinton has joined other Democrats in ripping Bush's decision. In the interview, she said it was ``one more example'' of the Bush administration thinking ``it is above the rule of law.''

    Her husband's pardons, issued in the closing hours of his presidency, were simply routine exercise in the use of the pardon power, and none were aimed at protecting the Clinton presidency or legacy, she said.

    ``This particular action by the president is one more piece of evidence in their ongoing disregard for the rule of law that they think they don't have to answer to,'' she said.

    I'm amazed that Hillary would say such a thing. I don't think she could possibly have been presented with a more perfect opportunity to keep her mouth shut than on the issue of pardons. Instead, she opened her mouth, and not only slammed Bush for what isn't a pardon at all, but called her husband's last minute pardon scandal (in which her brother figured prominently) a "routine exercise."

    Is she joking? Or does she think that no one in the country has any memory at all?

    Not to be a repetitive bore, but the last minute Clinton pardon scandal was anything but a routine exercise. Called "Pardongate" at the time, hearings were held, legislation was introduced, a Justice Department investigation was launched, and as recently as last summer, the Hugh Rodham pardon payment scandal was raising its ugly head again. Here's what Ed Morrissey said at the time:

    The timeline seems especially damning in this case. Bill Clinton issues a pardon for the Gregorys in March 2000. Two months later, Anthony Rodham begins collecting checks from the company owned by the Gregorys. Over the next 20 months, Rodham gets 16 checks, all marked as loans as cover for the disbursements on United Show's books, until it totals $107,000. Rodham never makes a payment on these loans, and six months later, United Shows files for bankruptcy, leaving its creditors high and dry -- but not Rodham.

    We have often excoriated public officials of both parties for receiving money from lobbyists and contributors concurrently with pushing legislation on their behalf. This is much worse than that. The President overruled his Department of Justice and provided presidential pardons for two people who robbed banks and their depositors through fraud, and two months later the same two people started sending money to the President's brother-in-law, laundered through their company as "loans" without ever seeking repayment.

    By any definition, that is a quid pro quo payoff. Clinton had no pressing reason to issue the pardon except to make it easier for the Gregorys to win government contracts. The DoJ did not want them pardoned, and the pair were already out of prison. One can ask for no clearer indication that the Clinton administration had a fire sale on presidential pardons, and made sure that the money stayed in the family.

    Hillary Clinton needs to answer for this. It involves her brother and her husband, and the family business in presidential pardons can be expected to have a grand re-opening if Hillary wins the presidential election in 2008. George Bush cannot allow this obvious corruption to go uninvestigated, and if the facts bear it out, Bill Clinton and Anthony Rodham should face prosecution for corruption.

    A routine exercise?


    If Hillary's brother taking money for last minute pardons was routine, I'd love to know what Hillary might consider unusual!

    Oh, and Clinton's own pardon attorney Margaret Colgate Love (in a long essay on the irregular nature of the pardons) stated that the they "not only resulted in embarrassing grants, they also left the process by which the pardon power has historically been administered in disrepute."

    Never mind that. The important thing to remember is that a scandal which left the pardon process in disrepute has now become a routine exercise.

    (Pardon me for pointing this out, but I think the routine exercise has left Hillary with a few too many calluses.)

    UPDATE (07/04/07): Today's Examiner has more on the Clinton pardons and the double standard:

    Pelosi had a much different understanding of fairness, justice and the importance of upholding the law back in 1999, when Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 imprisoned members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution of disapproval, but Pelosi said she would have voted no had she been present for the tally. Pelosi was thus defending Clinton's commutations of sentences received for seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to make bombs, bank robbery and illegal possession of stolen firearms, among other things. Between 1974 and 1983, FALN mounted numerous attacks against this nation's police and military, killing six people and maiming many others.

    Then there is Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who saw in Bush's Libby commutation "a clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice." Clinton touts her years as first lady among her qualifications for being president, but she has never publicly repudiated either her husband's FALN commutations or his pardons of Susan McDougall, convicted of mail fraud, and Marc Rich, the stock speculator convicted of tax evasion. McDougall was a former Clinton business partner, and Rich was the former husband of Denise Rich, a major Clinton fundraiser, both of whom clearly qualify as Clinton cronies.

    Pelosi and Sen. Clinton would be vastly more credible on this issue had they simply said they believe the president was wrong and that Libby should be in the slammer, rather than using him to score cheap political points against Bush.

    I couldn't agree more, and I think it's also fair to ask whether pardoning terrorists is also a "routine exercise."

    posted by Eric at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

    But who are they?

    I don't know.

    I complain a lot about assorted government bureaucrats, social workers, educrats, the Imagine people, the government people, academicians and self appointed activists who work hand in hand with those who manipulate public opinion, highly educated people who believe that their credentials qualify them to run people's lives, but there is an enormous class out there. I don't know whether to call them a "ruling class," because Americans are not supposed to be ruled but are self-governing, and "ruling class" is simply not an accurate description of an unelected and undefinable elite that would deny its own existence. But this all begs the question: who are these people who want to rule, and why do they have so much power without ever having to run for office?

    Justin quoted an interesting observation by Herman Kahn about "a vast group of intellectuals" said to "suffer from the most intense anomie of all social groups":

    In becoming a mass profession, they open themselves to sharper criticism as a group because their average standards necessarily decline, their contacts with outsiders wither, they become less self-conscious as a stratum but more actively self-serving, and they make clear their belief that they should wield social power.
    What would we call this vast group of intellectuals whose standards are declining but who believe they should wield social power? The government people? But they aren't necessarily in the government. Nor are they necessarily involved in Democratic Party politics.


    Might they be similar to the people Spiro Agnew once described as "an effete corps of impudent snobs characterizing themselves as 'intellectuals'"?

    That's a bit too much of an intellectual mouthful for me. Besides, I think Pat Buchanan wrote it, and I don't want the impudent snobs to accuse me of agreeing with Pat Buchanan and then stuffing his other words into my mouth.

    Anyway, I'm dumbfounded whenever I try to come up with a definition, but I will never forget as long as I live seeing an elderly Chinese man interviewed on a local San Francisco "man in the street" television program. He was asked his opinion about a controversial left-wing proposal to do some damn thing I've long forgotten, and he flatly refused to say what he thought. This didn't satisfy the questioner, who kept pressing him, and finally asked him outright why he was so reluctant to speak.

    "Because I might get in trouble with people!" the man said.

    This only led to further questioning, and at that point the reporter really wanted to know why he'd be in trouble, and with what people.

    Finally, the old man allowed a slight twinkle in his eyes, and said,

    "You know.... The social people!"

    I do know. It's the social people. They are everywhere, and you really don't want to get in trouble with them. Not if you want to avoid being hassled at your job, go about unmolested, not get targeted or audited by bureaucrats, or scolded at the local church groups, PTA meetings, or (for the wealthier and snobbier) even humiliation at smug cocktail parties and country clubs.

    The social people take note of deviations, and even silence at the wrong time. You can get on their shit list by saying that there are still glaciers in Alaska after returning from a trip there and seeing them.

    The social people want endless government reaching everywhere. Anything that is good for government (meaning anything that generates the need for more government bureaucracy) is considered good -- regardless of whether it solves the underlying problems. In fact, if it aggravates the problem, so much the better, as aggravating the problems leads to cycles of government-grown, government-aggravated growth!

    (IMO, a major push behind the immigration bill comes from bureaucrats and social workers who find the illegal status of the 12 million extremely inconvenient, but would consider their legalization through a complex process to be extremely convenient! Laws are often passed simply because bureaucrats hate to be inconvenienced or because they want more jobs. But both? What a win-win!)

    Whether they think they actually rule or merely want to rule, without exception the "social people" abhor guns, and want gun control. They also want you to cut the balls off your pets, and are now demanding that their activists who used to only scold people into spaying and neutering now be given official force to do it.

    I've written a number of posts about AB 1634, but please don't mistake this as another post against AB 1634 (mandatory spay/neuter) because it's an inside look at the mechanics of the social people. I recently learned that a group of California veterinarians have dared to form a group in opposition to AB 1634, and that this has caused them to be praised for their courage:

    ----California Veterinarians Against AB1634---- PLEASE SUPPORT THIS GROUP VIGOROUSLY. Cross Post and share widely.

    This opposition is NOT limited to California Veterinarians! Sooner or later every vet in the US will have to decide where they stand. These vets have taken a position that hasn't been easy for them.

    I'm sure it isn't easy for them. You'd think that in a free country, opposing legislation you disagree with would be seen as a sort of civic duty, and not something to be afraid of. But these veterinarians who go against what I'm sure is called a "consensus" have every reason to be afraid. The social people are everywhere, and they are more vocal than anyone else. What they call "consensus" is really based more on intimidating people into silence than it is on any survey of public opinion.

    Ordinary dog owners don't have as much to fear, so they aren't as afraid of speaking up, but I'm sure some of them are. That's because the social people package their views as a form of morality, and fewer and fewer people are willing to run the risk of being publicly labeled as immoral. It is now immoral to disagree with the overwhelming scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming alarmism. A woman publicly scolded me for it not long ago, and while I brushed her off, many in my position would not have, as she is a rich local philanthropist, much accustomed to giving orders and making sure that the wrong people don't get invitations to social events, and just because I don't care about being snubbed socially does not mean that others don't.

    The idea that disagreement on such issues is seen as immoral fascinates me on another level, because I think it might shed light on a polarizing aspect of the Culture War. Once it becomes immoral to disagree with the social people, then the only people who will dare to disagree are people who don't mind being considered immoral. I know I'm generalizing here, but I think these divide themselves into two primary groups:

  • libertarians (and atheists) who are resistant to political arguments dressed up as morality; and
  • religious people who have their own view of morality as coming from God.
  • Unfortunately, many ordinary people are willing to have their morality manufactured and directed for them. There is not enough cynicism, and this allows the "vast group of intellectuals whose standards are declining" to wield the vast social power they do not deserve.

    While I still don't know precisely what to call this vast group, my biggest concern is that people who are given undeserved and unearned power are more likely to abuse it than people who at least had the decency to run for office. In a country built on the premise that no one has the right to rule, those who believe they have the right to rule are the last who should be given power.

    (Especially unearned power that can't be taken away.)

    posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (7)

    No stomach for censorship!

    After the bad review I gave American Airlines and US Airways yesterday, I now see that even in our free country where the First Amendment protects the right to utter opinions, a bad review can nonetheless lead to government intervention -- in the form of a libel suit.

    I kid you not. The Philadelphia Inquirer's food critic Craig LaBan (a pseudonymous reviewer) has been hauled into court for complaining about a bad steak!

    In a case that involves issues as lofty as the First Amendment and as basic as which cut of meat was served, a restaurant critic is being sued for libel for describing a $15 piece of beef as "miserably tough and fatty."

    The restaurant is seeking unspecified damages. But the stakes for Philadelphia Inquirer critic Craig LaBan have been raised immeasurably by a judge's ruling that forced LaBan to give a deposition on camera.

    If the footage becomes public, LaBan could be unmasked for all the city's chefs to see.

    Attorneys for the newspaper say that would be the unkindest cut of all.

    "Mr. LaBan's anonymity is important to the process by which he reviews restaurants," Inquirer lawyers said in court papers. "If a restaurant knew Mr. LaBan was in its dining room, it might put on a show for him that would not be provided to the general dining public."

    It all began with a Feb. 4 capsule review of Chops restaurant, a steakhouse owned by Alex Plotkin in nearby Bala Cynwyd. The last two sentences read: "A recent meal, though, was expensive and disappointing, from the soggy and sour chopped salad to a miserably tough and fatty strip steak. The crabcake, though, was excellent."

    The restaurant claims the reviewer misrepresented the details of the steak or something, but I don't care. Whether in newspapers, magazines, TV shows, or lowly blogs, there is a First Amendment right to spout opinions about food, people, products, and services, and I hope the Inquirer not only wins this case, but ends up owning the restaurant involved. I have never eaten at "Chops restaurant, a steakhouse owned by Alex Plotkin in nearby Bala Cynwyd," and I can assure my readers that I absolutely never, ever, will! That's because I am on the side of the Inquirer, and not Mr. Plotkin. I don't care whether the place serves lousy steaks or the best steaks in the world; I refuse to patronize enemies of free speech. (Anything associated with censorship tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth.)

    Of course, if Plotkin is forced to hand the business over to the Inky, I'd be delighted to make a reservation.

    MORE: It appears that Plotkin (owner of the restaurant in question) is a lawyer.

    I don't know where he went to law school, but perhaps the place deserves a bad review for not stressing that little "free speech" part that's supposed to be taught in basic Constitutional Law. I went to the University of San Francisco, and I remember being given a very distinct impression that opinions are offered broad First Amendment protection.

    And according to PhilaFoodie, Plotkin accused the Inquirer critic of some sort of plot along the following lines:

    Plotkin claims LaBan has a "vendetta" against him because Plotkin "jokingly" threatened to reveal his identity to a room full of Chops patrons in 2002. He also claims that LaBan's invite to participate in his weekly Q&A forum was a "set up" during which LaBan planned to further embarrass Plotkin with the aid of (and I love this phrase) "sham 'bloggers'."

    I've been blogging for over four years, but I'm not quite sure I know how to spot a sham "blogger." Assuming that Plotkin is not referring to automated spammer blogs, even if we suppose there are real-life "sham" bloggers, don't they have the same First Amendment rights as non-sham bloggers?

    Speaking of the allegedly "misrepresented" steak in question, according to Philebrity, the owner's version of the story has changed:

    Apparently LaBan dissed on Chops restaurant's "Steak Frites" in a 3 sentence review, and owner Alex Plotkin -- who, it must be said, comes off a little meshuggenah in all of this -- says that LaBan ate something entirely different: "a steak sandwich without the bread." It's the shot heard 'round the nobodyfuckincares. Plotkin even recanted the sandwich misstatement but not before he sued for libel.
    I'd say those who accuse someone of libel based on an alleged mischaracterization of a type of steak ought to avoid conflicting statements about the nature of the misrepresentation. It just doesn't strike me as fair to go after a food reviewer for not knowing the difference between a strip steak and a steak that should be in a steak sandwich when the plaintiff himself confuses breadless steak sandwiches with "steak frites."


    What kind of country are we living in when we can't even say a steak was lousy?

    posted by Eric at 06:52 AM | Comments (3)

    Think air travel couldn't suck more? Think again.

    I'm back a day late thanks to the inability of American Airlines to hold my connecting flight a measly five minutes last night. I would have liked to write a post this morning, but I was en route from O'Hare to Philadelphia, and I guess I should consider myself lucky to arrive today instead of last night. (Delaying an entitlement has a perverse way of making it seem like a heaven-sent gift.)

    Anyway, through a vast interlocking conspiracy of oligopoly and bureaucratic regulation, there is no way to hold airlines accountable for Anything. At. All. They are masters of nondisclosure, deception and outright lying, and the only honest statement you will hear from any of them is that it is all beyond their control. Nothing is the fault of the gate agent, the flight crew, the air traffic control, or the pilot. Just as last night it was beyond the control of the pilot who left on time without giving connecting passengers five measly minutes, it was beyond the control of the incoming flight that made my first flight late and so on. Moreover, what gate agents are allowed to admit is beyond their control, and all lying or misleading statements made by them are not their fault. Indeed, if they say what they are told to say, how can it be?

    I was so riled up that I was going to write a post called "American Airlines Sucks" but I see that 89 blog posts and 1620 web sites have long since beaten me to it.

    The non-ironic irony is that on the flight west, my bags were delayed for a day by US Airways, and I considered myself lucky to get them (and of course I'm sure it was no one's fault that they were lost). I had been thinking of writing a blog post called "US Airways Sucks" but that too would have been redundant. (A whopping 10,500 web entries on that one.)

    It's all air travel that sucks. Period. It's miserable even when it works.

    I should be grateful that things don't suck more than they do.

    Because considering the nature of air travel, they will.

    I don't want to sound too pessimistic, so I should probably point out that for me, Southwest Airlines has consistently done a far better job.

    Hell, at least Southwest gives passengers free pretzels. (On US Airways, they even ran out of the junk food they charge for!)

    UPDATE (07/03/07): Glenn Reynolds had a much better experience with American Airlines than I did, but a terrible experience with Delta -- along with Dean Barnett, who relates a twelve hour nightmare from hell, and who (unlike me) asked the customer service rep a good question:

    I ask him in all sincerity, "Do you have any idea how much your airline sucks?" He begins yelling at me that he's been with Delta for 24 years, and he thinks they're great. I yell back that California will tumble into the sea and Rosie O'Donnell will win the Miss Universe contest before I fly Delta again. We say our farewells.
    I tried to be my usual polite self, but I couldn't help noticing that the deranged red telephone they sent me to had been slammed down so hard it was broken.

    Considering Glenn's good experience with American, and the fact that a family friend worked for them, I should probably point out that I would not have written this post except for the fact that it came on the heels of another hectic overnight delay by in May. I was nice enough not to mention American then, even though I was later told by the car rental people in Chicago that there were no "weather issues" on May 24 at O'Hare, and that American Airlines routinely cancels flights from Philadelphia to Chicago and uses weather as an excuse so they don't have to compensate inconvenienced passengers. The gate agent told me that the law relieves them from any such responsibility in case of weather-related delays. But if there wasn't any weather, it's a mini-scandal to do this to Philadelphia passengers. I have no way of verifying this, but I was told repeatedly that Philadelphia traffic is for some reason subordinated in importance to New York, Boston, and BWI.

    Anyway, two incidents this close together makes me disinclined to ever use American Airlines again.

    posted by Eric at 01:30 PM | Comments (2)

    Mildly Dangerous Victorian Boys Sail Near The Wind

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

    Adventures of a kind that were not forbidden mainly because mother didn't know about them were plentiful enough, and usually carried out in the back garden. One boy would dare another to some perilous act, while I was a delighted looker-on, half dreading and half hoping for the worst.

    An acacia-tree stood at the end of the garden. Into this the boys would climb and then swing themselves over into the street--a considerable drop. Another feat was to walk along the top of the high, narrow wall, endowed with bits of glass.

    The most dangerous of all was climbing round a ledge, some two inches wide, that ran along the house over the area. The boy who attempted this had to flatten himself, spread out his arms, and press his palms against the wall. this particular part of the back premises was invisible from any window, and was therefore chosen when we were 'sailing near the wind', as my father called any near approach to the sinful.

    Presumably there was a potentially lethal drop involved. I used to know some neighborhood kids who would get up to this kind of stunt. Most of them lived.

    posted by Justin at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

    "Transitional Problems of Morale, Attitudes And The Quality of Life"

    From The Next 200 Years, by Herman Kahn

    In the transition to the postindustrial society, a vast group of intellectuals will be created as the need for expertise increases (and for self-serving reasons as well).

    These intellectuals may suffer from the most intense anomie of all social groups. In becoming a mass profession, they open themselves to sharper criticism as a group because their average standards necessarily decline, their contacts with outsiders wither, they become less self-conscious as a stratum but more actively self-serving, and they make clear their belief that they should wield social power.

    posted by Justin at 11:20 AM | Comments (1)

    Benignly Neglectful Victorian Parents

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

    Whether by design or not, we were allowed almost unlimited freedom, to imperil our lives without any sense of fear, and to invent our own amusements. We never had a nurse, or a nursery, or anyone to supervise us. Instead of this we were given a room to ourselves--all to ourselves. In this matter we were better off than any other children we knew then or have known since. For our parents did the thing thoroughly. They provided a large table, a warm carpet, a fire whenever we liked, a large ottoman for storage and to serve as a window-seat; and left everything else to us. We chose the wall-paper and put what pictures we liked on the walls.

    This room, which became a happy memory for us all through our lives, was called the 'study'--perhaps as a hint of its intention. The name added to its dignity without putting, as far as we were concerned, any notion of work into it. As time went on we did our home lessons in it, but the word 'study' is always associated in my mind with sheer fun.

    So greatly was our possession of the study respected that I cannot remember my father or mother ever being in it, except on the occasions when they sat in the stalls during one of our theatrical displays, paying heavily for the privilege and for the programmes.

    While my own parents would never have given us a 'study', they did have a positive genius for ignoring us. Which is not to say that they didn't spring for music lessons, orthodontia, little league, scouting, boating, etc.

    When it came to possessions, or extra-curricular activities, they didn't stint. Much.

    However, they weren't breathing down our necks all the time to make sure that we excelled in our various pursuits. If we asked for help, we got it. If not, we were on our own. There was very little pushing involved, for which I'm duly thankful.

    I pity today's over-scheduled, over-monitored cocoon kids. Given the choice, I always preferred being left to myself.

    posted by Justin at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

    Mars Inc

    A long time ago I read a science fiction story called Mars Inc. It was about a man who paid some scientists to develop all this micro-miniaturized stuff to induce humans to work together. You know "the Martians are coming and how can we compete"?

    I was fascinated by the idea of storing a jukebox full of tunes in a bit the size of a sugar cube.

    With the iPhone and other such products in hand or on the way science fiction has become a reality. Except for the Martians.

    If any one knows the author of Mars Inc. please leave a comment. Better yet is the story on the 'net?

    Commenter Bert Wiener says the story is 'The Martian Shoppe' by Howard Fast. You can read it here.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 10:35 AM | Comments (1)

    Real Americans Love Fireworks

    From 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, By Charles C. Mann

    This book came highly recommended. I second the motion.

    Adriaen van der Donck was a lawyer who in 1641 transplanted himself to the Hudson River Valley, then part of the Dutch colony of Nieuw Nederland. He became a kind of prosecutor and bill collector for the Dutch West India Company, which owned and operated the colony as a private fiefdom.

    Whenever possible, van der Donck ignored his duties and tramped around the forests and valleys upstate. He spent a lot of time with the Haudenosaunee, whose insistence on personal liberty fascinated him...

    When a committee of settlers decided to complain to the government about the Dutch West India Company's dictatorial behavior, it asked van der compose a protest letter and travel with it to the Hague. His letter set down the basic rights that in his view belonged to everyone on American soil--the first formal call for liberty in the colonies...

    The Dutch government responded to the letter by taking control of New Amsterdam...Angered by their loss of power, the company directors effectively prevented van der Donck's return for five years. While languishing in Europe, he wrote a nostalgic pamphlet extolling the land he had come to love.

    Every fall, he remembered, the Haudenosaunee set fire to "the woods, plains, and meadows," to "thin out and clear the woods of all dead substances and grass, which grow better the ensuing spring."
    At first the wildfire had scared him, but over time van der Donck had come to relish the spectacle of the yearly burning.

    "Such a fire is a splendid sight when one sails on the [Hudson and Mohawk] rivers at night while the forest is ablaze on both banks," he recalled...."Fire and flames are seen everywhere and on all sides...a delightful scene to look on from afar." ...

    And it was all blessedly carbon-neutral.

    Early in the last century, ecologists discovered the phenomenon of "succession," the more or less well-defined sequence by which ecosystems fill in open land...If ecological succession were unstoppable, the continents would be covered by climax-stage vegetation: a world of great trees, dark and silent. Early succession species would have vanished.

    Luckily for these species, succession is often interrupted...For more than ten thousand years, most North American ecosystems have been dominated by fire...

    Set off by lightning, wildfires reset the ecological clock, dialing the array of plants and animals back a few successional stages. Fire benefits plants that need sunlight, while inhibiting those that love the cool gloaming of the forest floor; it encourages the animals that need those plants even as it discourages others; in turn predator populations rise and fall...

    I'm told that the Australian Aborigines also employed fire extensively.

    In the Northeast, Indians always carried a deerskin pouch full of flints, Thomas Morton reported in 1637, which they used "to set fire of the country in all places where they come."

    The flints ignited torches, which were as important to the hunt as bows and arrows. Deer in the Northeast; alligators in the Everglades; buffalo in the prairies; grasshoppers in the Great Basin; rabbits in California; moose in Alaska: all were pursued by fire.

    Native Americans made big rings of flame, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "by firing the leaves fallen on the ground, which, gradually forcing animals to the center, they there slaughter them with arrows, darts, and other missiles."

    Not that Indians always used fire for strictly utilitarian purposes. At nightfall tribes in the Rocky Mountains entertained the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark by applying torches to sap-dripping fir trees, which then exploded like Roman candles.

    Barbecue and Fireworks. How American can you get?

    Rather than domesticate animals for meat, Indians retooled ecosystems to encourage elk, deer, and bear. Constant burning of undergrowth increased the numbers of herbivores, the predators that fed on them, and the people who ate them both.

    Rather than the thick, unbroken, monumental snarl of trees imagined by Thoreau, the great eastern forest was an ecological kaleidoscope of garden plots, blackberry rambles, pine barrens, and spacious groves of chestnut, hickory, and oak. The first white settlers in Ohio found woodlands that resembled English parks--they could drive carriages through the trees. Fifteen miles from shore in Rhode Island, Giovanni da Verrazzano found trees so widely spaced that the forest "could be penetrated even by a large army."...

    Incredible to imagine today, bison roamed from New York to Georgia...When the Haudenosaunee hunted these animals, the historian William Cronon observed they "were harvesting a foodstuff which they had consciously been instrumental in creating. Few English observers could have realized this. People accustomed to keeping domestic animals lacked the conceptual tools to recognize that the Indians were practicing a more distant kind of husbandry of their own."

    Indian fire had its greatest impact in the middle of the continent, which Native Americans transformed into a prodigious game farm...

    When Indian societies disintegrated from disease and mistreatment, forest invaded savanna in Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and the Texas hill country.

    Europeans forgot what the landscape had looked like and why. Captain John Palliser, traveling through the same lands as Fidler six decades later, lamented the Indians' "disastrous habit of setting the prairie on fire for the most trivial and worse than useless reasons."

    Afterward even the memory of indigenous fire faded. By the twentieth biologists were stoutly denying its existence. The "open, park-like woods" seen by early settlers, Harvard naturalist Hugh Raup asserted in 1937, were not caused by fire; they "have been, from time immemorial, characteristic of vast areas in North America."

    Raup's summary description of the idea that they were due to regular, wide-scale Indian burning? "Inconceivable."

    I wonder, would that be considered the scientific concensus of the time?

    "It is at least a fair assumption," a widely used college forestry textbook remarked in 1973, "that no habitual or systematic burning was carried out by Indians."

    I guess so. Luckily, science is always marching (slowly) on.

    In the western United States, the geographer Thomas R. Vale wrote in 2002, the "modest" Indian population "modified only a tiny fraction of the total landscape for their everyday living needs."

    Vale is in the minority now.

    Spurred in part by historians like Cronon, most scientists have changed their minds about Indian fire. Using clever laboratory techniques, they have convinced themselves that in most cases the tribal lore and old chronicles were right all along...Carrying their flints and torches, Native Americans were living in balance with Nature--but they had their thumbs on the scale.

    Shaped for their comfort and convenience, the American landscape had come to fit their lives like comfortable clothing. It was a highly successful and stable system, if "stable" is the appropriate word for a regime that involves routinely enshrouding miles of countryside in smoke and ash.

    Kinda makes you wanna dress up in buckskins and blow off a few Roman candles, doesn't it? Well, feel free. It's still your country. Something we should all be grateful for.

    posted by Justin at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

    Taking Liberties With The Indians

    From 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, By Charles C. Mann

    Striking to the contemporary eye, the 117 codicils of the Great Law were concerned as much with establishing the limits on the great council's power as on granting them.Its jurisdiction was strictly limited to relations among the nations and outside groups; internal affairs were the province of individual nations...

    In creating such checks on authority, the league was just the most formal expression of a region-wide tradition. The sachems of Indian groups on the eastern seaboard were absolute monarchs in theory. In practice, wrote colonial leader Roger Williams, "they will not conclude of ought...unto which their people are averse."

    The league was predicated, in short, on the consent of the governed...Compared to the despotic societies that were the norm in Europe and Asia, Haudenosaunee was a libertarian dream.

    In the same sense, it was also a feminist dream...The equality granted to women was not the kind envisioned by contemporary Western feminists--men and women were not treated as equivalent. Rather, the sexes were assigned two separate social domains neither subordinate to the other. No woman could be a war chief; no man could lead a clan...

    According to Haudenosaunee tradition, the alliance was founded centuries before Europeans arrived. Non-Indian researchers long treated this claim to antiquity with skepticism...But both traditional lore and contemporary astonomical calculations suggest that Haudenosaunee dates back to between 1090 and 1150 A.D...Before 1600, the last total solar eclipse observable in upstate New York occurred on August 31, 1142. If Mann and Fields are correct, this was the date on which Tododaho accepted the alliance.

    The Haudenosaunee thus would have the second oldest continuously existing representative parliaments on earth. Only Iceland's Althing, founded in 930 A.D., is older.

    Scholars debate these estimates, but nobody disputes that the Haudenosaunee exemplified the formidable tradition of limited government and personal autonomy shared by many cultures north of the Rio Grande...Important historically, these were the free people encountered by France and Britain--personifications of democratic self-government so vivid that some historians and activists have argued that the Great Law of Peace directly inspired the U.S. Constitution.

    Taken literally, this assertion seems implausible...But in a larger sense, the claim is correct. The framers of the Constitution, like most colonists in what would become the United States, were pervaded by Indian ideals and images of liberty.
    In the first two centuries of colonization, the border between natives and newcomers was porous, almost nonexistent. The two societies mingled in a way that is difficult to imagine now...

    The aging John Adams recalled the Massachusetts of his youth as a multi-racial society. "Aaron Ponham the Priest and Moses Ponham the King of the Punkapaug and Neponsit Tribes were frequent visitors at my Father's House," he wrote nostalgically.

    "There was a numerous Family in this Town, whose Wigwam was within a Mile of this House...and I in my boyish Rambles used to call at their Wigwam, where I never failed to be treated with Whortle Berries, Blackberries, Strawberries or Apples, Plumbs, Peaches, etc."

    Benjamin Franklin was equally familiar with Native American life; as a diplomat, he negotiated with the Haudenosaunee in 1753...As Franklin and many others noted, Indian life--not only among the Haudenosaunee, but throughout the Northeast--was characterized by a level of personal autonomy unknown in Europe...

    "The Savage does not know what it is to obey," complained the French explorer Nicolas Perrot in the 1670s. Indians "think every one ought to be left to his own Opinion, without being thwarted," the Jesuit Louis Hennepin wrote twenty years later. The Indians, he grumbled, "believe what they please and no more"--a practice dangerous, in Hennepin's view to a well-ordered society.

    "There is nothing so difficult to control as the tribes of America," another Jesuit unhappily observed. "All these barbarians have the law of wild asses--they are born, live, and die in a liberty without restraint; they do not know what is meant by bridle and bit."...

    "When an Indian Child has been brought up among us [Franklin lamented in 1753], taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and makes one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return. [But] when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho' ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life...and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, when there is no reclaiming them."...

    Colonial societies could not become too oppressive, because their members--surrounded by examples of free life--always had the option to vote with their feet...

    Historians have been puzzlingly reluctant to acknowledge this contribution to the end of tyranny worldwide.

    posted by Justin at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)

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