Carrying the closet too far

WARNING: Blunt post follows. Sorry, but the Craig situation is getting a bit ridiculous.

Larry Craig, it seems, is a sitting duck. Word from the Washington rumor mill is that he's an inch or so away from resigning. Not that it matters whether he actually broke any laws. What matters is not what he did but the fact that he pleaded guilty, and for that he is being publicly shamed as an admitted pervert even though he won't admit what nearly the whole world believes he already admitted.

He has, of course, fueled this process by denying that he is gay. The apparent preposterousness of these denials makes everyone close ranks, and conclude that he must in fact be not merely a gay man (hardly a new concept) but a cowering pervert, who is so utterly ashamed to be alive that he is incapable of honesty. (Either than or a man so deeply in denial that his judgment or mental health might be open to question.)

In view of modern reality, isn't this all a bit anachronistic?

Regular readers know that I'd defend to the death the right of anyone to be in the closet, for I believe in the right to privacy as akin to human right. But that's a moral argument, and right now I want to pose a pragmatic question. (Not that I advocate coming out for people who don't want to do that. But the guilty plea changed the ordinary dynamics. And not that there's anything wrong with* being in the closet, of course...)

Has it ever occurred to any of the political junkies that if Larry Craig were to simply "come out" and say he was gay, that he might be able to keep his job and even help the GOP?

Certainly, it would salvage the growing doubts over the man's sanity. Because, if we look at this in terms of the most basic logic, Craig either wanted to have sex with that vice officer or he did not. If he did, well, saying he's gay would clear it up, and he might get a pass because the idea that he was gay and in the closet goes a long way towards explaining everything.

On the other hand, if Larry Craig did not want to have sex with the vice officer, what in God's name was he doing tapping his foot, and then pleading guilty? If he is completely heterosexual, well, that presents obvious problems.... I mean, what do you call a heterosexual man who goes into bathrooms and taps other men who are total strangers on their feet?

Um, insane maybe?

Seriously, are there any other explanations? (The only other one I can think of is that he was playing a practical joke on the officer, but that possibility has never been raised.)

So, if we give him the benefit of the doubt on the gay issue, how can we give him the benefit of the doubt on the sanity issue? We can't. But by "coming out" (loathsome though the thought might be to some), Craig can clear up the issue of his sanity. No one will think he is crazy, even if he is. True, it would be at the expense of his "straighthood" but as stigmas go, what is worse? To be gay, or to be insane?

We come to the question of which possibility is more acceptable to the GOP. Right now, they're faced with the intolerable situation of a fully heterosexual man who is unable to resist tapping men's feet in bathrooms. Once again, this might not be a crime, but we're talking about the image of the Republican Party. Would having a gay Republican come out destroy the party? How? It's happened before (I think it was Steve Gunderson -- forgive my earlier mistake), and did anyone really care? Besides, the people who care about such things are in a minority, and they're already hot and bothered. Doubtless they're calling Craig a wicked evil sodomite and all the rest of it. If he comes out, he'll still be an evil and wicked sodomite, only he'll be a more honest evil and wicked sodomite. As it is, they're looking at either a dishonest sodomite in denial, or a heterosexual loony tune.

I realize that there are things missing in this analysis, and of course the biggest problem is that does not involve actual sex, but the perception of sex. In that respect, Craig's "sex" is like the nonexistent sex of Mark Foley, whose crime was not sex, but sending suggestive emails. (Or Vitter, whose name was found in an address book.)

I'll take Glenn Reynolds' "what is it with these guys?" a step further.

What is it with these guys that they can't even run a proper sex scandal?

Who ever heard of sex scandals without sex?

At least when the Democrats have a sex scandal, it involves real, honest to goodness sex. Yeah, I know, Bill Clinton said the sex wasn't sex. But let's face it, it was. Had Bill tapped Monica's foot, the most he'd have been accused of was playing footsie, and there'd have been little to no outcry, much less an impeachment. And as Matthew Sheffield makes clear, the double standard is appalling; Democrats keep their jobs after drowning women in cars or keeping male brothels, while Republicans are hounded out of office for sex scandals without even the component of sex.

If I were the American people, I'd be totally sick of sexless Republican sex scandals by now.

The GOP needs to shape up.

Starting with Larry Craig. Even the moral conservatives ought to be able to recognize that a gay sex scandal without gay sex is even more abnormal than gay sex. I mean really. It's just plain weird. Couldn't the guy have at least managed to get caught in a gay bathhhouse or something, like a normal homosexual?

So, even though it's counterintuitive and against my usual instincts, my advice right now to Larry Craig boils down to two words: COME OUT.

Plus, there's an additional advantage. If he "comes out," the moralists can always offer to "treat" him.

That might even be a win-win. (At least to some people.)

*HT Glenn Reynolds on the wrongness video.

MORE: Commenter gattsuru says that Craig could be bisexual. Fine. He can then "come out" as bisexual. Perhaps I was inartful when I said he denied being gay, because he said more than that. He also said categorically that he never did anything like what he was accused of. The point is, at this point it does not matter whether he is gay, bi, or straight, because he either wanted to have sex with the officer or he didn't. And if he didn't, the only possibilities are that he's crazy, or joking. OR that this was a misunderstanding. But even there, he still looks crazy, for why would anyone plead guilty in the case of a misunderstanding? (Think about it, if you accidentally took an item from a store without paying and they arrested you for shiplifting, would you plead guilty if there was a genuine misunderstanding? Would any sane person?) Besides, the judge asked him to confirm his guilt and he did.

No, I think Craig should come out -- whether he's gay or bi, or even straight. For the good of the party, and for the good of the country.

Even if it's a bit dishonest for a heterosexual to "come out," they ought to think about how dishonest (and how crazy) he's looking now.

As to showing his Senate card to get out of trouble, yes, it's sleazier than soliciting a vice officer. But unfortunately, the public doesn't seem especially interested in that issue, and it isn't hurting the party as much.

(Hell, politicians pull rank to cut in security lines, and few cared.)

Again, this is not a moral argument I'm making here; it's pure political pragmatism. Craig's resignation in a cloud of shame would be worse than a refreshing and candid announcement.

I think it's becoming more and more clear that shame is a losing proposition. (At least it is for the GOP. For the Dems, Republican shame is blood in the water. A very bad political equation, IMO.)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link (I'm awestruck to see the quotation) and welcome all. This is not an easy issue to grapple with, and I do appreciate the comments.

Glenn also links this report that Larry Craig will announce his resignation tomorrow.

It's a crying shame to see a party so dominated by the politics of shame. I can remember when Republicans once derided Jimmy Carter as a silly and naive Baptist Sunday School teacher. The way they act with these sexless sex scandals, you'd think they were running for pastor!

My feeling is that unless the GOP gets over having to be the party of sexual morality, this stuff will just keep happening.

posted by Eric at 05:17 PM | Comments (26)

Yes, life is unfair. (It's why I blog.....)

Most people who suffer from schizophrenia smoke. A lot.

This is one of those stereotypes that not only happens to be true, but there's a special reason why schizophrenics smoke:

Cigarette smoking may improve attention and short-term memory in persons with schizophrenia by stimulating nicotine receptors in the brain, according to a study by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the June issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry.
This explains not only why they smoke, but why they smoke so much more than people who don't have schizophrenia. They are engaged in self medication.
Persons with schizophrenia smoke two to three times more than smokers without mental illness, said the researchers. They found that when study subjects with schizophrenia stopped smoking, attention and short-term memory were more impaired, but, when they started smoking again, their cognitive function improved. No effects from stopping or resuming smoking were observed in smokers without mental illness.

Participants with and without schizophrenia were then asked to smoke while taking a drug called mecamylamine, which blocks nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain, preventing the nicotine from acting on those receptors. Mecamylamine blocked the ability of smoking to improve cognitive deficits in schizophrenia, but not in persons without mental illness. The findings suggest that when people with schizophrenia smoke, they may in part be self-medicating with nicotine to remedy cognitive deficits.

Calls like this have been made for more studies, and new, nicotine-like drugs have been proposed, but never offered.

I have a silly moralistic question, based on what many people would call "fairness." Considering the evidence that as many as 88% of these unfortunate people are resorting to self-medication with a legal drug, and considering the medical evidence that it helps them, is it really fair to punish them with punitive taxes aimed at making cigarettes unaffordable?

There are economics involved. Schizophrenics do not have as much money as other people. Most of them are poor, disabled, and living on social security. (I don't think I need to spend a half an hour finding links to prove something that I know is true, and only a fool would dispute.)

I think that inflicting punitive taxation against these people constitutes simple, gratuitous cruelty. But as I pointed out in my last post, fairness is childish, and in the context of the Machiavellian reality of the bureaucratic legal system, it becomes little more than another tactical argument. As a moral issue, fairness might mean something, but legally it counts for very little.

Here's a true story involving a psychiatric nurse I know quite well. She's an immigrant from a country where fairness has always been the cruel joke it's becoming here, but she's a kind person, and she runs a rest home for chronic schizophrenics -- people who don't have families that will care for them, and who are are unable to care for themselves on their own. (Yes, she makes money doing this. Enough to send her hard working daughter from scrubbing the floors to attending a good college.) The residents are the type of people who but for the rest home would be society's refuse -- hallucinating derelicts walking around aimlessly. Many of them were just that before they managed to find a spot in the rest home. (Society, of course refers to street-walking schizophrenics by the euphemism of "homeless," which is true only in a literal limited sense.)

Anyway, this rather good woman makes sure that the most important needs are met. Her family keeps the place clean, her mother cooks the meals, and she performs the most important function of all -- making sure that each patient takes his or her medication. (If you know anything about schizophrenia, you'll know that this is the most serious problem in working with them.) Naturally, nearly all the residents smoke, but they are no good at managing their money, and buying cigarettes at the local store (where they go for the grotesque price of $6.50 a pack) is directly against their financial interest. That's because schizophrenics tend to self medicate heavily -- often two packs a day.

It might not be as expensive as some of the drugs they have to take, but social security does not cover cigarettes, nor does Medicare, Medicaid, or any health insurance policy of which I'm aware.

Do the math; at current store prices, the cigarettes alone would eat up much of the very limited money. Local liquor stores often allow these people to run up a tab, which means they become indebted -- using their monthly check just to pay for what's a form of medication.

Now, I realize that this very fair country is not about to supply schizophrenics with free cigarettes, and you can be sure that if any tobacco company even thought about such a fair idea, media moralists would be all over them in one of the biggest moral feeding frenzies you've ever seen.

But out of the goodness of her heart, but not knowing enough about the legal system to understand the consequences (her English is poor, by the way), this immigrant psychiatric nurse made the mistake of going on line, where she discovered that cigarettes could be purchased for far, far less than the local store, at websites like this one.

Yes, she should have read the fine print. But on the other hand, the bureaucracy might move with a bit of deliberate speed in cases like where a rest home operator purchases cigarettes in quantity for its patients. Eventually, she received a tax bill for over $9,000.

Most Americans would whine. (In fact, that's probably what I'm doing right now.) Others would scream bloody murder about the cosmic injustice of it all. But this woman knows all about government, and all about bureaucrats. After all, she comes from a country where tyranny is a way of life. She's smart enough to know that Americans might feel sorry for her patients, and take pity on someone in her position.

I encouraged her to exploit the emotional factor to the hilt, and I hope it works. I'm thinking that some taxing authority might either take pity on her, or else be afraid of how it might look. (How things might look is often more important than how things really are.)

But if she succeeds in thwarting the tax collector, it will not be because of cosmic justice, or fairness, because there is none, and she's smart enough to know it.

Why is it that so many Americans see fairness first? As if it's a thing to be expected!

Is this a flaw in the national character? An asset? Or just part of our naive charm?

I can't figure it out, but I'm smart enough to pretend to have it when I need to pretend.

And I'm dumb enough to actually believe (in my naive bleeding heart) that laying extortionate taxes on schizophrenics' cigarettes is profoundly, horribly unfair.

So what, you say?

So I'm writing a blog post, that's what!

posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (6)

If you think government is fair, go to the grocery store and buy me a six-pack!

Well, at issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the right to buy a six-pack.

More properly, the right to sell six-packs to the public. Pennsylvania has a medieval liquor control system under which beer is supposed to be bought by the case at so-called "beer distributors." (Or at bars and places which offer sit-down consumption, where beer can be sold by the six-pack at much higher bar prices.) The beer distributors are specially licensed creations of the state, so naturally they have a powerful lobby, now battling a large retailer which wants to sell beer to go:

The case grew out of a central Pennsylvania chain's long-running attempt to capitalize on the state's arcane liquor laws and sell six-packs at one of its convenience stores. A victory for Sheetz Inc. could produce new profits for such chains and supermarkets.

It could also mean major competition for the hundreds of traditional beer distributors. They worry that customers will stop buying the cases they sell and start buying six-packs elsewhere.

"It's the nail in the coffin," said Chris Fetfatzes, part of the family that owns Bella Vista Beer Distributors at 11th and Fitzwater Streets. "This is our passion. This is our blood, our source of income."

A decision favorable to Sheetz could also affect the thousands of bars and taverns where Pennsylvanians now go to buy six-packs.

On the other hand, a loss for Sheetz could force the Liquor Control Board to review its interpretation of existing law - and that could affect who gets the coveted beer licenses.

"It has the potential to change the way the laws are interpreted," LCB spokesman Nick Hays said. "It could have a tremendous impact."

The beer distributors are not merely a lobby, but like most lobbies they are real people, many of whom worked their asses off, played by the rules, and want to preserve what they feel they earned:
That [a decision in favor of Sheetz] could mean a floodgate of new competitors for beer distributors and tavern owners.

According to the Pennsylvania Beer Wholesalers Association, the economic impact of beer-related businesses to the Pennsylvania economy totals nearly $7 billion. Directly and indirectly, it says, beer employs 80,873 Pennsylvania workers.

Tom Berry, president of the Pennsylvania Tavern Association and owner of Tommy's Tavern in Collingdale, said small businesses like his would take a hit: "It will take away 50 percent of the take-out six-pack sales we make, at a minimum. You can't compete pricewise with, say, a Wal-Mart."

Shawn March, 41, owner of Beermill of Chester County in West Chester, said that allowing beer sales at places like Sheetz would lead to beer sales at big-box national chains, undercutting small businesses such as his.

"I was a high school kid. I worked for a beer distributor, learned to manage a beer distributorship. I worked for 10 years and bought the beer distributorship. I then spent 10 years investing my time and money" in the business, March said.

I am not unmindful of their plight, and frankly, this goes to the heart of how government regulations -- especially where restrictive licensing is involved --distort the free market and wreak havoc with ordinary people's lives. Everyone from cab drivers who bought medallions to guys who bought radio licenses from the FCC can be depended on to defend their livelihood to the death. Who could blame them?

This touches on human nature, and the idea of fairness. Is it "fair" that beer distributors be screwed? While most adults realize that life is unfair (notwithstanding attempts by clueless adults to teach kids otherwise), there is nonetheless a self righteous sense of moral indignation which can be triggered when the state messes around with things like the free market and the work ethic by creating and enforcing "rules."

We are taught as children that rules must be obeyed. That life may not be fair, but that the same rules are supposed to be there for everyone, and that obedience to the rules is the closest thing to fairness. A corollary of this is that if you obey the rules, play by the rules, and are rewarded accordingly you have legitimately "earned" something which someone who didn't play by the rules has not. That is why hard working people tend to resent those who are seen as getting "something for nothing" as it distorts the adult view of fairness. The beer distributors who have built up family businesses under the prevailing system can therefore naturally be expected to be just as resentful of the guy running a grocery store a block away suddenly being allowed to sell beer as a cab driver might be to see cab medallions suddenly available to anyone who wanted one. (Or, worse, if a lawsuit by "pirate" cab drivers forced the government to give them something they are seen as stealing.) Taxpayers have a similar view of tax cheats, and resident aliens who followed the rules and spent years waiting to enter the country have a similar view of illegal aliens. This is human nature. Cynical assholes like me (along with immigrants from countries where corruption is not kept in the closet) realize that the government is inherently corrupting, and tend to see regulatory agencies not as forces based on fairness, but as petty tyrannies. Seen this way, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the FCC, the Berkeley Rent Board, and the IRS are vested with no inherent moral authority. This does not mean that they can be disobeyed, because they have the power to enforce their will -- at gunpoint if necessary. Only a fool would challenge them on the moral ground that they have no moral authority, because they have legal authority. This means, though, that they're sometimes subject to attack on legal grounds, and only then does "fairness" enter the picture (usually as window dressing on a legal argument).

But there's no getting around the expectation of fairness. It causes a lot of heartache. Especially when the government is seen as the parent.

Perhaps one of the reasons so many new immigrants are successful in businesses that no American family would start is that they don't expect fairness. They see the various regulatory and taxing authorities the way their ancestors saw them. As equivalents of warlords, mandarins, pashas, and caudillos. Not as dispensers of fairness, but powerful human beings who simply have to be paid.

Nothing fair about power.

(Except in artificial settings called "meritocracies," but that's another subject.)

You think this is bad? Just wait till they start taking anthropogenic global warming seriously.

UPDATE: Wow, I just saw that Glenn Reynolds linked this post, and all the great comments are flowing! Thank you all for coming, and if you're interested in the fairness issue, don't miss the post I wrote after this one about the fairness of taxing cigarettes used as self medication for schizophrenia.

posted by Eric at 08:41 AM | Comments (39)

House #2

Who does House #2 belong to?

House #2 Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university. This house incorporates every "green" feature current home construction can provide. The house is 4,000 square feet ( 4 bedrooms ) and is nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F. ) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.
Answer here.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)

visualizing whorled gays

wholewhorled.jpg As if we needed any further proof that left-wing gay activists hate gay privacy, a friend just sent me a link to a story about the gay whorled, and the gay indexed. Activists are desperate to discover some sort of identifying feature which they can use to confirm their rather ridiculous notion that all gays are born gay, and that therefore sexual preference is akin to race and not a matter of personal freedom. Accordingly, they assert that there are certain gay physical characteristics, and provide the following list (presumably for use as a home "gay test"kit):

1. Gay men are more likely than straight men to have a counterclockwise hair whorl on the back of their heads.

2. Gay men and straight women have an increased density of fingerprint ridges on the thumb and pinkie of the left hand.

3. The index fingers of most straight men are shorter than their ring fingers, and for most women they are the same length or longer. Gay men and lesbians tend to have reversed ratios.

4. Gay men and lesbians have a 50 percent greater chance of being left-handed or ambidextrous than their straight counterparts.

"Honey, I tested the kids, and they're all gay!"

(Larry Craig, I guess, should consider himself lucky he's bald.)

I'm not sure whether to dignify this with serious comment, or leave it as a joke for peope to play with, but when I read the underlying "scientific data" in New York Magazine, I saw much speculation, and not a lot of proof:

Richard Lippa, a psychologist from California State University at Fullerton, is one of the leading cataloguers of the many ways in which gay people are different. I caught up with him a few weeks ago at a booth at the Long Beach Pride Festival in Southern California, where he was researching another hypothesis--that the hair-whorl patterns on gay heads are more likely to go counterclockwise. If true, it will be one more clue to our biological uniqueness.


By the end of the two-day festival, Lippa had gathered survey data from more than 50 short-haired men and photographed their pates (women were excluded because their hairstyles, even at the pride festival, were too long for simple determination; crewcuts are the ideal Rorschach, he explains). About 23 percent had counterclockwise hair whorls. In the general population, that figure is 8 percent.

Hair whorling to the left (counterclockwise) is generally associated with left-handedness, which is also associated with homosexuality. The problem is that the vast majority of gays are right-handed, and right whorled -- and the heterosexual left-whorled men outnumber the homosexual left-whorled men by a huge ratio. (Meaning that looking at someone's whorl will reveal nearly nothing.) Even assuming that some unbiased group of scientists somewhere used the proper methodology, there is nothing about a higher percentage of left whorls which suggests gays are all born that way. The problem with most of the studies and most of the arguments I've seen is that they're assuming that "born that way" or "not born that way" is an argument which applies to an entire population. I think it's quite likely that some gays are born gay, but the shrill insistence that all are on one side versus none are on the other is just silly, as well as completely unscientific. This remark by another psychologist is typical:
"We're reaching a consensus on a broad question," says J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University. Is sexual orientation "something we're born with or something we largely acquire through social experience? The answer is clear. It's something we're born with."
It's obvious that to Bailey "we" means not some, but all. Maybe he thinks that "consensus" can be achieved by whoever screams the loudest that theories to the contrary are "homophobic."

Regarding the fingers, the evidence is inconclusive. A study cited by CNN found that while there appeared to be a correlation with lesbian fingers, "the pattern for men was more complicated. There did not appear to be a direct relationship between finger length and sexual orientation." A UC Davis pscyhologist calls even the lesbian finger ratios an oversimplifcation:

....University of California Davis psychologist Gregory Herick says using finger ratios as a biological explanation for lesbianism is an over simplification.

"We're going to find there are many different ways people become heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual as an adult," Herick said. "I think one of the problems with interpreting findings of this sort, people have a tendency to say, 'Here's the answer. Now we know.' And they're eventually proven wrong."

That's what I keep saying. They may find what appears to be correlation here and there, with this detail or that detail, but isn't it entirely possible that any such findings might only apply to the "born that way" group?

I have never doubted for a moment that there is a "born that way" group. But if we assume that there is, does that invest them with any particular moral authority over the rest of the so-called "gay community"? I put it in quotes because isn't a community at all, but a diverse collection of people with nothing in common except a sexual interest in members of the same sex. For that crime, they were once persecuted and had their privacy invaded; now they're having their privacy invaded for the crassest political reasons by people who are contaminating science with identity politics.

DISCLOSURE: In the interest of science, I guess I should point out that my whorl runs to the right, and my ring finger is longer than my index finger.

This puts me in with the straight majority, the gay majority, and probably the bi majority -- although psychologist Michael Bailey says there is no such thing as male bisexuality. (It would not surprise me if he thinks bisexuals are gays who live "in the closet." Most of them are, because they can't "come out." At least, not as bisexuals, for if they did that, they'd still be "in the closet" according to him, wouldn't they? Anything that negates his theories indicates the presence of a "closet" -- which is an emergent form of immorality. Who knows? Maybe there's a "closet gene" which hides itself from researchers.)

posted by Eric at 09:54 PM | Comments (11)

Murtha Sued

It seems that at least two Marines are planning on suing John "I Was A Marine" Murtha over his public comments on the Haditha Incident once they are fully exonerated. From the first link:

Well, the Marine Corps investigator has now dropped all charges against 3 of the 8 accused Marines in the case, and only one Marine still stands accused of crimes at the scene. The others are charged with various after-the-fact issues that arose from investigations of Haditha, not the events themselves. Murtha's aim, of course, in accusing the Marines of murder "in cold blood" was to pin the blame on Bush. But in the process of blaming Bush, he slandered those Marines.

One of those Marines, Col. Jeffrey Chessani, plans to sue Murtha once he's exonerated.

I guess Murtha didn't follow events in Durham, North Carolina over the past year and a half.

The evidence is that the Marines were doing their job as trained and within the limits of the rules of engagement.

Based on that reasoning, the case against Wuterich is likely to fall apart too. He is the last Marine against whom charges from that night remain. If the charges against him fall, game over. Jack Murtha will have slandered Marines who acted according to their training during the course of ongoing combat.
Although Murtha is not a prosecutor he has certainly engaged in Nifongery. i.e. adverse pre-trial publicity on the part of a government agent, with reckless disregard for the facts.

The Marines may just have a case.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at Classical Values

posted by Simon at 08:33 PM | Comments (1)

Repetitively Redebunking the repetitively recycled

Is there some kind of statute of limitations on news stories? Any rule about how old they have to be?

Recently, a story has been circulating about a man named "Mark Voegel" in Dortmund, Germany, who was supposedly bitten by a pet Black Widow spider named "Bettina," following which his body was reported to have been substantially devoured by spiders and lizards. Here's the text of the story, which is dated August 31, 2007:

in Berlin

A MAN who lived in his own "zoo" of lizards and insects was fatally bitten by a pet black widow spider -- then eaten by the other creepy-crawlies.

Police broke in to Mark Voegel's apartment to find spider Bettina along with 200 others, several snakes, a gecko lizard called Helmut and several thousand termites had gorged on his body.

Neighbours alerted police after becoming alarmed by the stink.

And horrified officers were met by a nightmare scene.

A police spokesman said: "It was like a horror movie. His corpse was over the sofa.

"Giant webs draped him, spiders were all over him. They were coming out of his nose and his mouth.

"There was everything there one could imagine in the world of reptiles.

"Larger pieces of flesh torn off by the lizards were scooped up and taken back to the webs of tarantulas and other bird-eating spiders."

Loner Voegel, 30, never invited people back to his "jungle" home, a small apartment in the German city of Dortmund.

Police described it as a cross between a botanical garden and the butterfly breeding ground in the serial killer movie The Silence Of The Lambs.

One tarantula had built a nest the size of a swallow's in a corner of the ceiling.

Voegel also had a boa constrictor and several poisonous frogs from South America.

Spider expert and animal cruelty officer Gabi Bayer said he kept creatures "that should never be allowed in a private home".

She said: "He had spiders so aggressive they are the equivalent of a pit-bull in the animal world."

The reptiles were allowed to roam free in the flat.

The heating elements on two tanks containing spiders and their termite snacks had exploded and dislodged the metal tops allowing them to escape.

Voegel is thought to have been dead for between seven and 14 days.

A post-mortem will be carried out in the next few days. But authorities believe Bettina alone was responsible for Voegel's death.

Not only is this story making the rounds of the Internet, it's also managed to find its way into the Washington Post.

I realize that nothing ever happens in August, but was yesterday an especially slow news day or something? (I wouldn't have known, as I was busy tap-dancing along with Larry Craig's T-room footsie saga.)

The problem is that the same story (involving the same cast of characters, and with much of the same wording as "today's" Sun "report") occurs in old discussions as a 2004 Darwin Award story:

Darwin Awards:
Eaten By His Pet Spiders

SPIDERMAN Mark Voegel became a gruesome feast for the creepy-crawlies he loved. They devoured his body after he got a lethal bite from his favorite pet Bettina - a deadly Black Widow.

More than 200 spiders, several snakes, a gecko called Helmut and several thousand termites gorged on their former master for days. Police who were called in after neighbors complained about the smell said it was "like a scene from a horror movie".

They found the remains of 30-year-old loner Voegel draped across a sofa, covered in giant cobwebs.

"Spiders were running all over him," said a spokesman. "They were coming out of his nose and mouth. Larger pieces of flesh had been torn off by the lizards and were taken back to the webs of tarantulas and other bird-eating spiders.

"There were open cages and terrariums everywhere - all bathed in a weird green light. It was horrible."

Police described Voegel's tiny apartment in the German city of Dortmund as a cross between a botanical garden and the butterfly breeding room in the serial killer movie The Silence of the Lambs.

Local expert Gabi Bayer said Voegel should never have been allowed to keep many of his pets.

She added: "Some of his spiders are so aggressive they're the equivalent of the pit-bull in the animal world."

Submitted on 2004Feb28, Submitted by: Dug Fresh, Reference:, Copyright © 2004

Predictably, there are numerous 2004 posts and reports of the same story in the Darwin Award context. (And here's the exact same story as today's posted in 2004. And blogged in 2004.)

Whether the story was ever true, I have no way of knowing, because it's so old that the Dortmund news reports have probably vanished. But some spider geeks seemed to have debunked much of it in 2004, with activist "Gabi Bayer" claiming she'd been misquoted, that there was no verification of any spiders causing the death, and -- get this -- that the Washington Times was irresponsible in reporting the story! Here's "gothmog" commenting on O3-01-2004:

Hi All, first post here

Been following this silly story and just spotted it on the Washington Times website.

The Sun is one thing but isn't the Washington Times supposed to be a proper newspaper?

Hmmm..... OK, I don't know whether the Sun made up this news story in 2004, or why the Washington Times might have run it (whether it was verified or not). Predictably, the Times link no longer works. I guess it would be worse if the Sun did make it up in 2004, because as it stands now, they're recycling news that's over three years old, and pretending it just happened.

I think that by any reasonable standard, recycling old news that was made up in the first place is even worse than recycling old news and claiming it just happened. (At least the Washington Times doesn't seem to have fallen for it the second time around. Not yet, anyway.)

According to the Wiki entry, the Sun is the largest English newspaper in the world, and while it has a reputation for sensationalism, I don't think making up stories and then repeating them as new three years later constitutes sensationalism. It's more on the level of Weekly World News.

Blogger Steven Lloyd actually remembered the story, so he dug into its history and credibility. Apparently it is old, but the Sun keeps running it as new and it keeps getting recirculated, no matter how many times it's disproved:

Members of the forum searched all over the internet and could not find any instances or records of a German man, "Mark Voegel" or "Mark Vogel" or "Mark Vögel" ever having been killed. Nor anybody having been killed by a spider or spiders and/or eaten by reptiles.

The only record of this having ever happend is in the British and the Mirror. If this had happened, surely there would be a German story about it?

The Sun internet address/URL has the code 20040920 which is safe to assume is 2004-09-20, The Mirror's article is dated 8-28-4, or 28th August 2004

This is yet more evidence of media corporations trying to latch onto internet memes without filtering them or checking them for facts first, even if the story was factual (which there is no evidence for!) it is still 3 years old and News is presenting it as current.

This is almost as bad as Capitol Hill Blue!

Longtime readers may remember that I devoted a great deal of time to debunking that rather ridiculous "news site" run by Doug Thompson -- which featured fictitious characters like the disappearing "George Harleigh." I remember being foolish enough to think that because Capitol Hill Blue had been "discredited" that it would just go away. Not so. Capitol Hill Blue and Doug Thompson have a seemingly endless capactity for self reinvention -- which in turn is now forcing bloggers to reinvent the wheel doing what was supposedly done long ago. In "UPDATE 2: He's Baaack - More Lies, Hilarity & Hypocrisy from Doug Thompson & Capitol Hill Blue" and "One Man, Two Phantom Sources, a Few Fictional Friends, and Zero Credibility a very thorough blogger has painstakingly built yet another case against CHB and Thompson. I'm delighted to be cited as a source, but I wish it wasn't necessary for anyone to be doing this all over again -- especially in such painstaking detail.

Much as my hat's off to and to all the debunkers like him, I'm wondering....

Is there any way to debunk anything so that it stays debunked?

posted by Eric at 03:25 PM | Comments (5)

"My name is Hsu! How do you do!"

PawHouse.jpg By now almost everyone has seen the little Paw house on the left. It's the little house on the flight path.

DALY CITY, Calif. -- One of the biggest sources of political donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tiny, lime-green bungalow that lies under the flight path from San Francisco International Airport.

Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee. In all, the six Paws have donated a total of $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005, election records show.

Not surprisingly, the twists and turns of how this apparently modest family came to contribute so much money are not easy to follow, but the pattern looks familiar to experts, who suspect that the Paw family was a conduit for money which came from Norman Hsu -- a crook who fled to Hong Kong:
Kent Cooper, a former disclosure official with the Federal Election Commission, said the two-year pattern of donations justifies a probe of possible violations of campaign-finance law, which forbid one person from reimbursing another to make contributions.

"There are red lights all over this one," Mr. Cooper said.

There is no public record or indication Mr. Hsu reimbursed the Paw family for their political contributions.

There are too many red lights for me, and I apologize for the lengthy nature of this post, but I think the Hsu case merits attention, because it's only the latest example of what appears to be a clear pattern.

An article yesterday elaborates:

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a modest home in a middle-class San Francisco suburb, where the family of mail carrier William Paw resides, is listed as the address for many contributions to the Clinton campaign. Mr. Hsu once listed the home as his address, according to public records, and the Paws' donations closely tracked his.

Mr. Hsu's lawyer, Lawrence Barcella, took issue with a connection between his client and the Paws.

"Like every fund-raiser, he asks friends, colleagues and others to support the causes and candidates he supports. That is what every fund-raiser in America for any cause -- political or nonprofit -- does," Mr. Barcella said in a written statement. "And, in none of these instances, to address the WSJ innuendo, has Mr. Hsu reimbursed them for their contributions."

So says Mr. Hsu. But is it believable? There's just something about a $49,000 a year mailman and his family having all this cash to contribute to a campaign that makes me skeptical.

However, the claim is being made that Hsu "hired" the mailman's son.

Campaign-finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission list Mr. Hsu as a consultant with a company called Components Ltd.; a director of another called Next Components; a designer for Because Men's Clothes; and an independent apparel consultant.

Mr. Hsu has been connected with the Paws for at least a decade, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Hsu recently hired William Paw's 35-year-old son, Winkle Paw, to work for several of his New York apparel companies.

Hired to do what? What did he do? Winkle Paw explains that he has been "fortunate":
In an email last night, one of the Paws' sons, Winkle, said he had sometimes been asked by Mr. Hsu to make contributions, and sometimes he himself had asked family members to donate. But he added: "I have been fortunate in my investments and all of my contributions have been my money."
It's nice to be fortunate, and I don't doubt he has the cash flow. But who is behind the spigot and how does it work?

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, there's a long story headlined "Democrats abandon fundraiser who turns out to be fugitive felon." The details of the story make it quite clear that Hsu is a crook who has fled back to his native Hong Kong. As to his his dealings with Winkle Paw, there are more red flags:

Hillary Clinton and other Democrats scrambled to distance themselves from a big-name party fundraiser who was exposed Wednesday as a fugitive who disappeared 15 years ago after pleading no contest to felony grand theft in the Bay Area.

Norman Hsu, a 56-year-old New York resident, also has been linked to a Daly City family that has become a major Democratic donor. The family has given money to many of the same candidates and party causes as Hsu, their longtime friend and business partner.

Some Democrats also were scrutinizing contributions from members of the Daly City family, the Paws, who could not be reached for comment at their home or over the telephone.

Hsu, whom Democrats acknowledged as an important backer earlier this week, had moved to the persona non grata list by Wednesday.

On Tuesday, for example, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson called Hsu "a longtime and generous supporter of the Democratic Party." By Wednesday afternoon, Luis Vizcaino, a California spokesman for the New York senator's presidential campaign, said it would give all $23,000 of Hsu's contributions to charity.

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, went further. Not only will she return $8,000 Hsu contributed to her campaigns, she also will give back $2,500 from siblings Winkle and Marina Paw, who both live on Shelbourne Avenue with their parents, William and Alice Paw.

Het wait a second! If Paw lives in California, how's he managing to work in New York? Bicoastal commuting isn't easy.

But we are told that Winkle has "recently" been hired by the fleeing fugitive to "work" "for several of his New York apparel companies."

Come on!

No wonder candidates are returning the money.

"When any contribution is called into question in any way by a credible source, it is the congresswoman's position to return the funds," said Lauren Smith, a spokeswoman for Matsui.

San Jose Rep. Mike Honda, Al Franken, who is a Senate candidate in Minnesota, and Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania also said they were purging Hsu's money from their campaigns.

Al Franken? Well, there's a guy with lots of experience at avoiding financial scandals. If he's sending his money back, that's a pretty strong clue that it's funny money.
The presidential campaign intrigue descended upon the Paws' neatly kept, lime-green home in Daly City this week when it was revealed that the family had given more than $200,000 to Clinton and other Democratic candidates for national office in recent years, more money than high-profile donors like the Maloof family, owners of the Sacramento Kings basketball team, have given.
"Intrigue" is definitely the right word, for intrigue it is.

If this story only involved the disappearing Hsu -- the crook Hillary never knew was a crook -- and a few people used as passthroughs to launder the campaign money, that would be one thing. In Hsu's case, of course the evidence is overwhelming that not only is he a crook, but he's a smoke-and-mirrors, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't specialist for whom money laundering would appear to be child's play:

"Bundling is legal as long as everyone is contributing his own money," said Bob Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies. "But when one person supplies the money, that's money laundering, not bundling."

The difference, however, can be hard to prove.

"If everyone maintains the same story - 'It's my money' - there's really no way of challenging that unless law enforcement gets involved," said Susan Lerner of Clean Money California, a group backing public financing of campaigns.

"For candidates, it's a 'Don't ask, don't tell' situation. They keep having shady characters who are wondrous bundlers because they have no incentive to ask, 'Who are you and where does this money come from?' "

In the grand theft case, Hsu was charged with bilking about 20 investors, including his ex-girlfriend, in connection with a business that was supposed to deliver, among other things, latex gloves to a firm that provides supplies to maids and exterminators. Smetana said investors lost about $1 million.

The problem, authorities said at the time, was that Hsu never bought any gloves, and the company he was supposed to sell them to had never heard of him.

Some investors initially received payouts, but those stopped in the spring of 1990. Hsu, prosecutors alleged, even went so far as to file a fake lawsuit against himself to try to explain why he was short of funds.

"What Mr. Hsu was in the business of was running a Ponzi scheme," Smetana said at a preliminary hearing, according to a transcript. "He was taking money and spending part of it on himself and returning it as it was available. As with any Ponzi scheme, the first ones in and the first ones out always do quite well."

Back to the title -- "Democrats abandon fundraiser who turns out to be fugitive felon."

I'd like to offer a slight correction for the headline.

"Democrats abandon another fundraiser who turns out to be fugitive felon."

That's because (notwithstanding the complaint that the WSJ piece is a smear on Asians) this whole thing is so eerily reminiscent of the still unresolved Peter Paul affair that I initially was confused by the headline and thought that might be what it was about. The pattern is similar. Paul held a huge fundraiser, and was so chummy with Hillary that she regaled him with a tale of a blind date:

Nothing wrong with being chummy with the guy. After all, the event raised a small fortune. But when the scandal broke, Paul became Mr. "Who"? because that was Hillary's response when asked about him.

Lest anyone think this is a right wing conspiracy theory just because it involves Hillary, ABC News did a major expose of Paul and the Google video of it follows. (According to the caption, "Disney brass were coerced by Hillary to re-edit the piece the night before broadcast to take out all references to Hillary's finance director, David Rosen.")

If you watch the above videos, you'll notice an older man sitting to HIllary's left. He's Stan Lee, creator of the famed Spider Man. Here's a video of him stating that the money reported as being donated by him was not his:

Showed the check he wrote, Mr. Lee, says it was reimbursed by Peter Paul, exclaiming "I never had a hundred thousand dollars to donate to anybody!"

I think it's kind of sad to drag a distinguished comics artist into a money laundering scheme when he ought to be enjoying his old age. But I guess that's politics as usual.

The Peter Paul and Hillary stuff doesn't really stand out in the Wiki entry for Mr. Lee, but it does link a WaPo piece with a title that's a mouthful -- House Of Cards -- What do Cher, a Hollywood con man, a political rising star and an audacious felon have in common? Together they gave Bill and Hillary Clinton a night they'll never forget -- no matter how hard they may try. To read the details of how Stan Lee was inveigled into the mess, you have to skip to the last page of the article. It's long and complicated, but Paul (a convicted felon) wanted one of those pardons, he didn't get it, and he ended up skipping to Brazil, without much regard for Mr. Lee:

In January 2001, the New York Senate 2000 Committee filed a report with the FEC stating that the Hollywood gala had been produced with in-kind contributions -- meaning goods and services, not cash -- of $401,419. The donor for $366,564 of that was listed as Stan Lee Media.

Sitting in Brazil fuming and scheming, Paul tried to trade what he knew about the financing of the Hollywood gala in exchange for federal prosecutors giving him immunity for securities fraud, court records and correspondence show.

Paul is of course a crook, and I don't blame Hillary for saying "Who?"

The story of Paul with Bill and Hill is also quite amusing, but again, it's all on the last page of the WaPo story. Is that the upside down pyramid style of journalism? The boring stuff on top, and the good stuff lies at the bottom? Even truly great stuff -- like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and Bill Clinton crying over inaugural comings out:

[Bill Clinton] sang along as Diana Ross belted out "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." He wiped away tears when Melissa Etheridge said that Clinton had brought such a spirit of openness to the land that she was inspired to announce during his inauguration festivities that she was gay.

Through it all, Paul sat beaming in the front row right next to the first family, photos of that night show. In one, Paul is at the president's right, with Clinton's hand resting familiarly on his shoulder. To Clinton's left, is Paul's wife, Andrea, a tall, striking blonde, a presidential arm wrapped tightly around her waist.

Crook though he is, Paul seems to be persistent in his attempts to get the false Hillary campaignn disclosure statements corrected (which explains the Stan Lee video).

The Peter Paul scandal doesn't seem to want to go away, and in June Michelle Malkin wrote a post called "Hillary courts the X-men vote" which has another video.

Right now, of course, the focus is on Hillary's latest abandoned fugitive felon fundraiser. Michelle Malkin had a post on that, and today she has a nostalgic post about Hillary's relationship with former fugitive donor Rehman Jinnah.


I hope this abandonment of fugitive felon fundraisers isn't a pattern.

I mean, if I were a fugitive felon fundraiser, my feelings would be hurt!

(All talk of "Castro's Dream Team" notwithstanding. Of course, if the Freepers are right, Castro isn't very fond of Peter Paul.)

QUESTION: If the Hsu story is a smear against Asians, does that mean the Peter Paul story is a smear against elderly cartoonists?

How far does identity politics go?

UPDATE: Norman Hsu has also given (or directed) a lot of money to Pennsylvania Democrats. Governor Ed Rendell is keeping his $37K:

one of Norman Hsu's biggest beneficiaries in the state, Gov. Rendell, said yesterday that he would keep the money - and stand by his friend - unless he learned more damaging information about the case.

"I want to hear him out; I don't want to be one of the guys to pile on," Rendell said. "Norman Hsu's one of the best 10 people I've met. He raised money for me because he believes in all the things we're doing and he never asked for a bloody thing - not a job, not a contract, not [even] to attend a wedding."

Rendell expressed skepticism over the claim that Hsu was a fugitive:
Rendell received $37,866 from Hsu during 2005 and 2006, according to state campaign-finance records. Pennsylvania does not limit the size of contributions.

The governor said he would return the money if California had a "sustainable conviction" in the fraud case. "I'm amazed how he could be a 'fugitive' . . . and one of the most visible people in American politics," Rendell said.

I didn't realize he was "one of the most visible people in American politics," but I guess I wasn't paying attention.

Recently elected U.S. Reps Joe Sestak and Patrick Murphy said they would return the Hsu contributions, but not those from Winkle Paw (described in the Inquirer as "an investor from Daly City, Calif., who has done business with Hsu.")

Paw seems to know how to spread his money around. Business must be great!

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

Welcome all!

I made a few corrections in the above, and I guess here is as good a place as any to note commenter Bill Roper's complaint that I should have called Mr. Lee a writer and not an artist. (My ignorance about the comics field is obviously showing.)

UPDATE (08/31/07): At 8:45 a.m. PDT, Norman Hsu surrendered to authorities in San Mateo, California.

posted by Eric at 10:05 AM | Comments (7)

Flat Earth Climate

I was visiting The Reference Frame where Lubos was talking about the changes required to become 100% carbon free by 2030 and came across this gem:

All industry and traffic will have to be converted to a new kind of energy that either doesn't exist today or looks economically or socially unacceptable. Agriculture, transportation, and industry represent significant fractions of the greenhouse emissions and the basic nature of all of them will have to be radically changed. That won't be enough because even breathing and grilling parties produce carbon dioxide. These processes will have to be banned, too, much like alcohol fermentation, cement production, and dozens of other processes.

How is this complete destruction of our civilization justified? Well, those people think that this radical step will lead to a Flat Earth's Climate (thanks, moptop).

Well I added some emphasis. And capitals.

That just about sums it up. Flat Earth Climate.

Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

posted by Simon at 06:08 AM | Comments (1)

Peak Oil?

Oooops. That one is for the peak oil folks. It looks like all that has peaked is the easy to get oil. Evidently there is an abundance with current technology and prices.

We're flying over the Gulf of Mexico, above some 3,500 oil production platforms, and Siegele is pointing them out with the verve of a birder -- here a miniature oil rig known as a monopod; over there a drill ship almost as big as the Titanic; still farther out, platforms looking like huge steel chandeliers that dropped out of the storm-shaken clouds.

Siegele has reason to be giddy. He works for Chevron, and his team is sitting on several new record-breaking discoveries in the Gulf, a region that many geologists believe may have more untapped oil reserves than any other part of the world. On this trip, the 48-year-old vice president for deepwater exploration has come to a rig called the Cajun Express to oversee final preparations before drilling begins on the company's 30-square-mile Tahiti field.

Looming like an Erector set version of Hellboy -- with cranes for arms, a hydraulic drill for its head, and a 200-foot derrick for a body -- the rig appears at once menacing and toylike. But the real spectacle is below the surface: A drill is plunging down through 4,000 feet of ocean and more than 22,000 feet of shale and sediment -- a syringe prodding Earth's innermost veins. That 5-mile shaft will soon give Chevron the deepest active offshore well in the Gulf. Some land drills have gone deeper, but extracting oil from below miles of freezing salt water and unyielding sediment creates a set of technical problems that far exceed those faced on terra firma.

OK. The technology is very interesting and there is much more on that and what it takes to do the job. What is the bottom line?
Even better, a recent discovery by Chevron has signaled that soon there may be vastly more oil gushing out of the ultradeep seabeds -- more than even the optimists were predicting four years ago. In 2004, the company penetrated a 60 million-year-old geological stratum known as the "lower tertiary trend" containing a monster oil patch that holds between 3 billion and 15 billion barrels of crude. Dubbed Jack, the field lies beneath waters nearly twice as deep as those covering Tahiti, and many in the industry dismissed the discovery as too remote to exploit. But last September, Chevron used the Cajun Express to probe the Jack field, proving that petroleum could flow from the lower tertiary at hearty commercial rates -- fast enough to bring billions of dollars of crude to market. It was hailed as the largest publicly reported discovery in the past decade, opening up a region that is perhaps big enough to boost national oil reserves by 50 percent. A mad rush followed, and oil companies plowed more than $5 billion into this part of the Gulf.
So now you know what the oil companies have been doing with their "excess profits". Working to bring us more oil. Whoda thunk?

Between new oil finds like that and recent funding for Dr. Bussard's Fusion experiments, I'm very optimistic about our energy future. Our transition away from oil will be difficult, but not excessively painful.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:04 PM | Comments (4)

restigmatizing homosexuality perpetuates an old racket

Rand Simberg has a post Glenn Reynolds linked earlier, which is so good that I don't think it belongs in an update to either of the posts I've written about Senator Larry Craig; hence this post.

Commenting on the now-routine charge that Larry Craig is guilty of "hypocrisy" for being against gay marriage, Simberg asks a couple of excellent questions:

what difference does it make what his position is on gay marriage? It would have made as much, or as little, sense to me to have written, "Craig, who has voted to cut taxes," or "Craig, who has voted against more stringent gun controls." The guy's supposedly a conservative. How did they expect him to vote?
With the left, of course. But gay marriage is seen as one of those litmus test things which every gay person must support. This brings to mind another obvious question:
Where is it written that gay people are intrinsically supposed to support gay marriage?
I've asked that myself, as it often seems to me that people concerned with sexual freedom and sexual privacy might think twice about casually giving the government (via Family Law courts) jurisdiction over their domestic lives. And it would happen. Once marriage is there, how would people opt out? Heterosexual couples cannot opt out of palimony or court-implied common law marriage status, and unless special exceptions were passed for gay couples who didn't want to conform, what would stop an angry gay partner from hauling his ex into court on a palimony lawsuit? (Right now, they can't.) A lot of gays are very concerned with preserving their privacy, and they don't especially want the nanny state coming into their lives, with census takers asking them if they have lovers, and things like that. There are bohemian type people who don't want to be mainstreamed and normalized. By what authority do these activists pretend to make them do that? Right now, they have no legal authority, but gay marriage offers a way to let the government -- and activists -- in the bedrooms of people who simply don't want "help."

You'd almost think that there was no moral right to privacy, nor a right for anyone to be in the closet. Indeed, "closet" is a word implying evil. Secrecy. Something to hide. Those who are not open about their homosexuality are considered pathetic misfits, and morally opprobrious by those who demand they "come out." And those who are conservative on top of that are guilty of "self loathing."

Who the hell has any right to demand that anyone else "come out," anyway? I think it's despicable.

Where does it end? And from where does this system of morality derive? I thought the idea was to get past the imposition of sexual morality by society, not reimpose it. With the old system of stigmatized homosexuality, it was believed that normal people had a right to look down on homosexuals, who were disgraced. A man's sexuality was a relevant consideration in determining where he could work, where he could live, and even whether he had the right to freedom itself. Under the new, "improved" system, homosexuals only have limited rights; provided they surrender their privacy by publicly announcing they are gay and declare themselves part of an "identity," they are permitted to claim certain rights and privileges. But if they feel uncomfortable with building a whole identity around their genitalia, they're seen as less than full citizens. Why is that? Whatever happened to the right to make up your mind about how you want to live?

Seriously, this not-letting-people-be-in-the-closet business is the same mechanism that used to tyrannize closeted gay people in the old days. They once feared being outed, and they still fear being outed. Only the identities and political perspectives of the Ask and Tell people have changed. (Of course, they used to pry in order to hurt; now they pry in order to "help." Help the identity politics cause, that is.)

Anyway, I don't know whether Larry Craig is gay, or straight, or bi, or confused, or in the closet. So I can't say that he is "in the closet" -- even though he is considered to be "out" by now. But why doesn't he (or didn't he -- at least before the guilty plea) have the same right to be in the closet as any other asshole walking around on the streets? It seems to me that if Larry Craig had no moral right to be in the closet, then neither do they.

Is that desirable? Should all people have to confess their innermost sexual desires, so that they can be officially tolerated -- but only by the Democratic Party?

It sure seems that way.

What a racket. I'm amazed people can't see past it.

Finally, speaking of rackets, Simberg also discusses the "sex offsets" racket:

So votes for gay marriage and keeping abortion legal are "sex offsets" for Republicans. In fact, come to think about it, it's what kept Republican Bob Packwood in office for so long, despite his long history of sexually harassing women. Apparently, though, he apparently didn't buy enough of them to cancel out his most egregious behavior.

In other words, as long as you vote like a Democrat, you get a free pass, just like them.

I've called this "Official Certification of Non-Bigoted Status" and argued it's often fueled by "homophobophobia" (a deleted Wiki word, BTW).

Beware! This can all lead us straight down the path towards double reverse outing! (It's not as if we weren't warned.)

Whatever happened to the right to be left alone?

Don't ask. It's evil to want to be left alone. Such an obsession with individualism might lead to the closet!

(Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect such a powerful source of shame to be lightly discarded. That's why we have new closet masters.)

UPDATE (08/31/07): My thanks to Matthew Sheffield of Newsbusters for the link -- in a very thoughtful post.

posted by Eric at 05:42 PM | Comments (4)


Another typical example of how I thought I'd come up with an original meme, only to Google-discover how utterly unoriginal I am.

However, if the Moon God theory is correct, the god of the Old Testament is not the same god as the god of the Koran.

Maybe I should have said "ALLAH HATES GOD"? Of the two memes, it's in the Google minority.

Is this a thoughtful thing to think about?

(I'd hate to be guilty of thinking thoughtless thoughts about thoughtful things....)

MORE: If there is a serious side to this, it's the possibility that different religions might be worshipping different gods.

Is that supposed to come as a shock?

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

Live blogging imaginary foot crimes

Michael Vick can heave a big sigh of relief! This morning he's been bumped off the front page by Larry Craig, apparently because the country is more worried about restroom foot-tapping than professional athletes who torture unwilling dogfight combatants to death.

But as I mulled over what might have motivated Craig to plead guilty, it occurred to me that there might be video footage of the incident, because after all, this was an airport bathroom, where video cameras might be expected.

According to a post in Minnesota Monitor, there are no cameras:

The restroom where Craig was arrested is well known among men who seek sex in public places. is a site that runs a bulletin board for such men. "If you enter from the terminal, turn left and go past wash basins, urinals to the back where the stalls are. This place is THE most cruisy public place I have been," wrote one poster. "Just passed thru here the other day. This place is so hot. This place has a constant flow and variety of hot guys," wrote another. Even another poster wrote, "This is the best spot for anonymous action I've ever seen." Of all the postings in Minnesota, the airport restroom was ranked the top by that website.

The site,, lists how to get there: "Across from Food Court. Go through security to main Mezzanine where main shopping is located. Look for Starbucks Coffee stand and Men's Room is across from there," what to expect: "Very cruisy, no security cameras or guards. Most of the time, men will show themselves to you at the urinals and invite into stalls or nearby hotels. Plenty of dark stall action, too!Update: No one is permitted beyond the security checkpoints without an airline ticket now," and some of the biggest pet peeves: "Stall hoggers! Get off and get out! Cleaning crews may be overly curious, but won't interfere."

Naturally, I'm wondering why a bathroom known for sexual activity which is located in an area past the checkpoints wouldn't have security cameras. Clearly, they discourage sexual solicitation of the sort the police are trying to stop, and they might help catch the kind of people who use bathrooms to straighten up their suicide vests, and other contraband.

A commenter elsewhere argues they'd be a deterrent not only against criminals, but against dishonest police

Security cameras in restrooms would be a real..deterrent in other ways too..including in cases where the sex police lie..
Is it possible that police who engage in restroom stakeouts might lie? Might they cut corners? Back to Minnesota Monitor:
The details of Craig's arrest are not unique. According to a post in June at, another public sex site, "Twenty people were arrested within the past week. Plainclothes officers wait in the stalls and tap their feet and even put their foot on yours and then arrest you when you look under the stall wall."
Frankly, the idea that an officer might sit down and start that foot tapping business in a stall right next to me makes me a little nervous. As I said in the last post on this subject, I'm against public sex. And restrooms are public places, right?


Or are they? They seem to be quasi public, but then, if you go inside a stall and lock yourself in, do you have a reasonable anticipation that what you do in there is your business?

Or don't you? Is the business limited to taking a leak, taking a dump, throwing up? What if you're just feeling awful, and overcome by anger, or nervous anxiety, or agoraphobia? Can you just go in there and chill out? I would think so, but would you cross a line if you did anything of a personal sexual nature? In "private"? What is private? I'm not trying to defend Craig here (who I think is an idiot regardless), but I'm now genuinely curious. What can be prohibited in this quasi-private, quasi-public zone?

Well, for starters, you can't smoke in most bathrooms. No privacy there. But Craig wasn't accused of smoking; he was tapping his foot. Regardless of sexual intent, I don't think that he had a right to tap his foot in such a manner that it came in contact with the foot of someone else. But what if he just tapped? That's a "signal," right? Are "signals" illegal? Isn't winking at someone a signal too? How about smiling and introducing yourself to someone? Is that any more illegal in a bathroom than anywhere else?

I'm just curious, what would happen if the next time I'm in Minneapolis, I were to go into that restroom with my little video camera, sit down in a stall, and wait for some asshole to come in and go "tap tap"?

OK, it's time to play "the blogging of the tapping."

The following is hypothetical, OK? I am sitting here in my living room, and no one else is present. (Well, Coco is snoring behind me on the floor.)

So I go in, pull down my pants in order to blend in and look "normal," I sit down, and wait.

Man enters bathroom. I notice him looking under the stalls, and it appears that he sees my feet with my pants falling over my shoes. He then enters the stall next to mine. I don't move my feet, but I turn on the camera, select the video setting, and turn it on, pointing it straight down so that it does not invade the privacy of the stall next door, but only shoots the floor area of "my" stall. After a short while, the man's damn foot reaches over inside my floor area and gives a "TAP!"

At this point I'm confused. What should the proper response be?

"Excuse me, but I need to know whether you are an undercover officer or a normal pervert."

No, that doesn't sound right. Perhaps I should write a question along those lines on a piece of paper, and put it on the floor where he can see it?

"Hi! I'm a blogger, working on a story! Could I ask you a few questions about the Minneapolis foot-tapping culture?"

"I noticed you just tapped at me. Should I tap back at you, or might it be taken the wrong way?"

This is maddening to analyze, and it all made me want to research Minnesota law on the subject. I figured, why reinvent the wheel? With the foot-tapping scandal being front page news everywhere, surely someone at has already done the work for me.

And Dale Carpenter has, with a long and thoughtful analysis, in which he concludes that Craig did nothing illegal:

...assuming for the sake of argument that Craig did everything the officer alleged, how was it the basis for a criminal charge that could get him a $1,000 fine and/or ten days in jail?

Disorderly conduct is a notoriously nebulous crime, allowing police wide discretion in making arrests and charges for conduct or speech that is little more than bothersome to police or to others. The "disorderly conduct" statute to which Craig pleaded guilty provides that one who knowingly "[e]ngages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others" is guilty of the misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2004).

More specific criminal charges were not advanced. A charge of interference with privacy was dismissed. Craig was not charged with any other crime, like public lewdness, indecent exposure, public sexual conduct, solicitation of prostitution, harassment, resisting arrest, or assault.

As Carpenter points out, people seem to be forgetting that not only was there no sex, there wasn't even lewd or obscene conduct. He thinks the cops were being overzealous:
People should not have to tolerate actual sexual conduct in public places, but that's not what happened here. Craig's conduct was not obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy. The officer might have considered Craig's actions "offensive . . . conduct . . . tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others." But if that's so, it seems a pretty thin basis for charging him. A reasonable person faced with Craig's alleged behavior would have moved his foot away and/or muttered a simple "no thanks" or "stop that," which likely would have brought an end to it. A continuation of the unwelcome behavior might then have been enough to charge him with something, but again, that didn't happen. In fact, the officer tapped his own foot in response, indicating the interest was mutual.

At most, Craig was implicitly inviting another adult to engage in some kind of sexual behavior in a public place. I'm not a Minnesota criminal lawyer, but I don't think asking a stranger for sex in a public place, while vulgar and rude under many circumstances, would by itself be a crime under state law. At any rate, Craig wasn't charged with that.

That is called "hitting on someone." It goes on all the time, often in bars, in workplaces, online, and probably in the blogosphere. The normal response to such an unwanted invitation is to tell the person who is hitting on you that you are not interested.

What really seems to have happened is that the airport police had received complaints about sexual activity and were acting over-zealously to deter it, regardless of the niceties of state criminal law. Many gay men throughout our history have felt the sting of these public decency campaigns, have been arrested for alleged sex crimes, and have pleaded guilty at unusually high rates in order to avoid the embarrassment and other consequences of being outed. When newspapers print their names, as they often do, the consequences can be devastating. Like them, Craig probably wanted to avoid publicity and pleaded guilty to "disorderly conduct" in a futile effort to save his reputation and his job. Whatever we think of Craig's views on gay rights, or of the cosmic justice in this particular Senator being ensnared in these particular circumstances, it's difficult to see how he's a criminal.
I suspect that's about right. As to the exact law, Carpenter quotes this from a law professor with expertise in Minnesota criminal law:
Minn. Stat. 617.23, the indecent exposure statute, covers lewd or lascivious conduct in a public place. Sex and masturbation count as lewd and lascivious acts. There is, however, some Minnesota case law suggesting that public restrooms aren't "public places" once you close the door to your stall. State v. Bryant, 177 N.W.2d 800, 803-04 (Minn. 1970).

Even if the completed act would be a crime, it's doubtful that merely asking for sex in the restroom would be a crime.

That was what I suspected yesterday. Under the facts as they are alleged, there appears to have been no crime here.

Moreover, it is not possible to charge someone for attempting something which is not illegal. Minnesota apparently does not criminalize sexual solicitation:

Minnesota, unlike some jurisdictions, does not have a general solicitation statute. Mere solicitation of a crime is not a crime. State v. Lowrie, 54 N.W.2d 265, 266 (Minn. 1952); State v. Johnson, 2005 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 352 at *9. Minnesota does of course have an attempt statute, 609.17, but that requires a substantial step toward completion of the crime, plus the specific intent to commit the crime. I think it's possible but doubtful that Craig's acts would count as a substantial step, and it's also possible but doubtful that you could infer such a specific intent. Or rather -- there's some inference there, but it's not strong enough to support guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I don't see any way that a jury could find that foot tapping is a "substantial step" towards having sex in public. Frankly, what is alleged constituted little more than the appearance of cruising. And if the officer tapped at Craig, then he was pretending to cruise.

Sorry, but I'm not seeing a crime.

I see only foolish behavior by a Senator, and a huge public outcry. The latter is driven mainly by the fact that he's a Republican (and therefore a "hypocrite"), and can expect bitter condemnation by both parties, with very few defenders.

The whole thing makes me not want to go to the bathroom at the Minneapolis airport unless I'm carrying a camera!

MORE: Does the GOP want homos expelled? Left wing blogs like this seem to think so, and as evidence they cite Freeper commenters.

I'm not sure that the Republicans are competent enough to conduct an anti-gay witch hunt even if they wanted to. Besides, if theories like those expressed here and here are correct, then all of the anti-gay Republicans are gay hypocrites anyway, so they should have to out themselves and go join the sodomitic Democratic Party where they belong.

Besides, why should anti-gay Republicans conduct witch hunts when the Democrats are doing their work for them?

I'm struggling with the logic of "all Republican homo haters are hypocritical self hating homos" on the left, coupled with "therefore, they should be forced to become Democrats" on the right.

I think it's a shame to see a relatively minor issue having such a pathological hold on so many people's, um, minds.

(Right. As if the Freeper WorldNetDaily Republicans and their "outing" allies on the left could care less what I think!)

posted by Eric at 08:54 AM | Comments (5)

Idolatry leads to voodoo economics

A WorldNetDaily columnist named Janet Folger has a rather peculiar view of history, and cites a rather peculiar source to back it up. Asserting that America is dedicated to God, she contrasts this country with Haiti, which, claims Folger, is "dedicated to Satan":

Why has God blessed us so richly? Get a glimpse into Western Hemisphere history from a 1789 snapshot:
* In 1789, our first president, George Washington, was sworn in. He immediately kissed his Bible and went to the Capitol for a two-hour worship service. While the ACLU has sandblasted for decades, they still can't erase the fact that our nation was dedicated to God, in whom our national motto declares, "we trust."

* In 1789, the single richest colony in the world was ... Haiti. The sugar-producing French colony was called "the jewel of the Caribbean." Import and export profits of Haiti exceeded those of the entire United States. Then, following a bloody riot, Haiti was dedicated to voodoo.

So America was dedicated to God, and Haiti was dedicated to Satan. Then, rag-tag America conquered the most powerful nation in the world and went on to become the richest nation in the world. Haiti went from the very richest to the very poorest nation in the world.
Sure enough, the link Folger cites does reflect the sentiments of her claims:
In the 18th century Haiti, then called Saint-Domingue and ruled by the French, was the most prosperous colony in the New World. Its enormously fertile soil produced a great abundance of crops and drew thousands of White French settlers. Unfortunately, Black slaves from Africa were imported to help with the work.

In the late 1700's the madness of the French Revolution, with its truly nutty doctrine of racial equality, infected many Frenchmen, and the Black plantation workers were encouraged to revolt. When they did they brutally murdered every White man, woman, and child in the colony and declared Haiti a republic. What had been the richest and most productive part of the New World promptly sank back to an African level of squalor, misery, and poverty. The roads and cities built by the French fell into ruin. A peculiarly African mixture of anarchy and despotism took the place of French law and order.

What is not being pointed out is that this wealth was all based on coffee and sugar production -- which ("unfortunately" or not) demanded hundreds of thousands of slaves to produce:
Saint-Domingue became known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" -- one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire. By the 1780s, Saint-Domingue produced about 40 percent of all the sugar and 60 percent of all the coffee consumed in Europe. This single colony, roughly the size of Maryland or Belgium, produced more sugar and coffee than all of Britain's West Indian colonies combined.

The labor for these plantations was provided by an estimated 790,000 African slaves (accounting in 1783-1791 for a third of the entire Atlantic slave trade). Between 1764 and 1771, the average importation of slaves varied between 10,000-15,000, by 1786 about 28,000 and, from 1787 onward, the colony received more than 40,000 slaves a year. However, the inability to maintain slave numbers without constant resupply from Africa meant the slave population, by 1789, totaled 500,000, ruled over by a white population that, by 1789, numbered only 32,000.

This was a vast slave labor plantation run by the French. Is voodoo to blame for the fact that the French Revolution led to a horrific slave uprising? Wouldn't it be more logical to blame France, which established the slave plantation of Saint Domingue on the western portion of what had been a Spanish run island? (The eastern portion is today called the Dominican Republic, and its economy is by any standard vastly superior to that of Haiti.)

The site relied on by Ms. Folger discusses the anarchy and despotism, the years of United States intervention in Haiti culminating with Bill Clinton's 1994 assistance of Aristide:

Why can't we accept the plain and simple truth that it is as impossible to make democrats out of the Haitians as it is to teach them how to maintain their own roads? Why can't we understand that the Haitians are fundamentally different from us, that they are Africans, not Europeans like us: that they are Negroes, and that left to themselves they must do things in the way Negroes always have done them, with indolence, corruption, and Voodoo?
Negroes? Really? I'm tempted to ask why that statement doesn't apply to 90% black Santo Domingo, which is next door, with its far-superior economy, established tourist industry, and large baseball infrastructure supplying many players for the United States, but I have a feeling the authors might not bother to reply. The piece (which ends with a glorious Aryan picture link to the "National Vanguard" web site that I won't link) concludes that modern scholars would never "write honestly about Haiti," and that voodoo is bizarre and disgusting, and resembles political correctness: would be hard pressed to find a scholar from any university in America or Britain today who would have the courage to write honestly about Haiti, because he knows that if he did he would be condemned as a "racist" by a numerous and noisy faction of his colleagues and would be drummed out of the academy. And even if someone did write a book with observations and conclusions similar to Prichard's, no mainstream publisher would touch it. That's how far downhill our civilization has slid in a century.

The Haitians have their Voodoo, with all of its disgusting and bizarre beliefs and practices. And we have our cult of Political Correctness, our cult of egalitarianism. It is a cult based as much on superstition and as devoid of reason and logic as the Voodoo of the Haitians. And it exercises as strong a hold on its adherents. A Haitian would as soon offend a Voodoo witch doctor and risk having a curse put on himself as one of our modern scholars would risk being labeled a "racist!"

Look, I don't like political correctness either, and I am not about to praise Haiti or the Haitian government, but is voodoo really the problem that this article says it is? As to the fear of being called racist, well, what does it mean to declare that because Haitians are "Negroes" if they are "left to themselves they must do things in the way Negroes always have done them, with indolence, corruption, and Voodoo"?

I think the above is an appallingly racist statement. If that makes me "politically correct," well, maybe I need to reexamine some of my assumptions about the phrase.

There's no denying that Haiti has had many problems in its long and turbulent history. And certainly, Haiti is known for the fact that voodoo is practiced by many of its citizens. But voodoo is also practiced in the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Bermuda, and New Orleans, and doesn't seem to have caused the economic downfall of any of those places. Unless of course Hurricane Katrina is "God's punishment" for voodoo too!

(Maybe I shouldn't be posing such questions, but I'm trying to inject a little humor into a serious subject.)

Voodoo, by the way, is called Vodun, and its practitioners consider the word "voodoo" to be a misnomer, and a description of "an evil, imaginary religion" "created for Hollywood movies." I'm using it purely as a descriptor because the word is in common usage. What I cannot find anywhere is an explanation of how "Voodoo" or "Vodun" (or whatever people might call it) is "Satanic" or that it is any more responsible for economic failure in Haiti than the race of the people living there.

Might it be that this reflects the personal prejudice of the writer? Returning to Janet Folger, she is not only intolerant of Voodoo, but in the same piece she also seems quite convinced that the United States is threatened by Hinduism. Among the incidents Folger relies on to support her claim that Christians are being persecuted in the United States involves the fact that a Hindu from Reno Nevada offered a prayer in the Senate:

Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., preparing to pray when a clear, loud voice came from the Senate gallery.

"Lord Jesus, forgive us, Father, for allowing the prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," said a male protester.

The Senate's sergeant at arms was instructed to restore order, but Zed was interrupted again.

"You shall have no other gods before you. ... "

They were arrested for disrupting Congress, which they clearly were.

Can anyone explain to me how this constitutes religious persecution? I can't. But this writer for WorldNetDaily relied on by Janet Folger says they were "arrested and jailed for praying Christian prayers aloud in the Senate gallery that same day."

What they were arrested for was disrupting the Senate, not praying. Apparently, the Senate has prayers led by Christians, as well as various Jews, and Muslims -- some of whom may love or hate various things. I do not doubt that if I went in there and yelled "Lord Jesus, forgive us, Father, for allowing the prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," I'd be arrested too.

So, I hope, would an Islamist who yelled "BEHEAD THOSE WHO INSULT THE PROPHET!"

Does disruptive speech become protected speech simply because it is religiously motivated, or takes the form of prayer?

Ms. Folger thinks so, and she invokes the Haitians again. It's the voodoo:

"God is not fond of idolatry. Ask the people of Haiti."
Well, considering that Roman Catholicism is the official state religion in Haiti, and the United States has no official state religion, I wouldn't know where to begin.

Would it be too blasphemous to offer the Haitians some lessons in Hindu economics?

MORE: Here's a YouTube video of the Senate's "persecution of Christians."

MORE: Did Zed actually commit "the sin of idolatry, right there in public, violating the first of God's Ten Commandments with full government permission?" The text of his prayer is here, and the idolatry part just isn't staring at me.

posted by Eric at 07:41 PM | Comments (2)

Public foot tapping at the public trough?

Noting the reaction of a gay activist group to the arrest of Idaho senator Larry Craig, Clayton Cramer criticizes this statement from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:

"There is sad irony that a United States senator from Idaho has been caught up in the same kind of thing that destroyed the lives of dozens of men in Boise in the 1950s, so tragically chronicled in "Boys of Boise."

"And by the way, why are Minneapolis tax dollars being used to have plainclothes police officers lurking idly in airport restroom stalls?"

I don't defend sex in public places, and I think it's appalling that anyone would.

However, the facts are that Craig was not arrested for actually engaging in either public sex or indecent exposure, but for public foot-tapping:

"My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall," Karsnia stated in his report. "From my seated position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of Craig seated to the left of me."

Craig was wearing dress pants with black dress shoes.

"At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area," the report states.

Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that "I could ... see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider."

Karsnia then held his police identification down by the floor so that Craig could see it.

Whether this constituted an attempt to engage in public sex would, if the case went to trial, be a question for a jury. I think that under these facts, Craig could probably have beaten the charges, because of the reasonable doubt standard and the burden of proof in criminal cases. It certainly would appear to most reasonable observers, though, that there was an intent to solicit sex of some sort. Whether the sex would have occurred there in public, who knows? I don't know exactly what the Minnesota criminal code prohibits, but solicitation to have sex is a different matter from actual sex.

This has renewed speculation over whether Craig is gay, and of course whether he is a hypocrite, and various bloggers are calling for his resignation. (Pajamas Media links Captain Ed and Hugh Hewitt.)

If the man is gay, I wonder what's up with his apparent resort to a public restroom. Would that be what turns him on? Or might it be grounded in an inability to acknowledge that he's gay? I mean, there are plenty of gay bars, personal ads, and ordinary cruising in the street. Why the furtive nature of the men's room?

In another post, Cramer compares Craig to New Jersey Governor McGreevey, who covered up his homosexuality until he became embroiled in a serious corruption scandal, which he managed to obscure by using his public "coming out" as a coverup.

In Craig's case (assuming the speculation is accurate) the coverup seems to be built into the furtive nature of the alleged sex.

Unlike McGreevey's sordid matter, there's no financial scandal, and I'm seeing nothing by way of an actual sexual "affair," although the Idaho Statesman interviewed a man who claims to have had sex with Craig in another restroom:

In an interview on May 14, Craig told the Idaho Statesman he'd never engaged in sex with a man or solicited sex with a man. The Craig interview was the culmination of a Statesman investigation that began after a blogger accused Craig of homosexual sex in October. Over five months, the Statesman examined rumors about Craig dating to his college days and his 1982 pre-emptive denial that he had sex with underage congressional pages.

The most serious finding by the Statesman was the report by a professional man with close ties to Republican officials. The 40-year-old man reported having oral sex with Craig at Washington's Union Station, probably in 2004. The Statesman also spoke with a man who said Craig made a sexual advance toward him at the University of Idaho in 1967 and a man who said Craig "cruised" him for sex in 1994 at the REI store in Boise. The Statesman also explored dozens of allegations that proved untrue, unclear or unverifiable.

The problem with this is that anyone can say that anyone had sex with anyone. If someone claimed to have had a three-way with Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich in the mid-1990s, would anyone believe it? Probably not, but if it's said it about Craig, they might. What is the standard of proof where it comes to sexual rumors?

From a political standpoint, the most telling aspect of this latest incident is that Craig copped a plea. It makes his denial lack credibility, and in short, he appears dishonest.

Dishonesty in an elected official ought to be of more concern to the voters than the particular details of whatever turns him on.

Of course, in the case of Bill Clinton, the dishonesty was said to have been subsumed within the sex scandal. At the time, I thought the dishonesty was worse than the sex, but it would appear that millions of people disagreed. And still disagree.

Maybe Craig should have offered the officer a cigar.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse disapproves of the public sex aspect of Craig's behavior, but thinks the abuse of power aspect is worse:

Worst of all, to my mind, is the proffering of the business card and the "What do you think about that?"
She also notes that Glenn Greenwald sees this as an occasion to attack her and (of course) Glenn Reynolds, who is accused of "hysterical outrage."

What I think is a hysterical outrage is Greenwald's apparent inability to distinguish between an unverified allegation and a guilty plea.

MORE: Glenn Reynolds asks, "what is it with these guys?" (meaning Republicans in sex scandals) and follows up with a later question:

...either they're more likely to do that stuff, or more likely to get caught in ways that become public. Which is it?
I don't know, but we live in a country which considers assault and battery a more serious crime than foot-tapping in a restroom. Which it is.

Or is it?

Is Republican foot tapping worse than Democratic assault and battery?

I honestly don't know. The crime of assault and battery is certainly more serious than the crime of foot-tapping, even when the latter is a furtive sexual come-on. But the law and morality -- especially political morality -- may be at odds here. It is not my desire to play name the party games, but I thought that maybe a bipartisan bathroom versus battery poll was called for.

Which crime is worse?
Assault and battery
furtively soliciting sex in a restroom
both are equally wrong free polls

Now I'll add a political dimension:

Which crime is worse in terms of political consequences?
Assault and battery by a Democrat
furtive solicitation of sex in a restroom by a Republican
no difference free polls

UPDATE: Senator Craig made a public statement in this video (the text of which appears at his website), in which he says he is not gay, and apologizes for pleading guilty -- "to make it go away":

"In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it."
Go figure.

Whether he did it or not, whether he's gay or not, pleading guilty is hardly the best way to cover something up ("make it go away").

I am a champion of privacy, but like it or not, there are political realities involved here, and this man is a public figure. What in the world was he smoking?

I think that no matter what happened, at a minimum, the Senator's judgment is erratic.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer (who links this post, thanks!) argues that CNN is overdoing it in terms of coverage.

It's called a media feeding frenzy.

In this video, CBS's "Chris and Jeff" are even reenacting what happened.


Tell me they aren't loving it!

MORE: Joining in the fun, Drudge posts a picture of the cop next to Craig:


I can't help thinking that had Craig been a Democrat,* people wouldn't be having as much fun. But the rule is, bleeding Republicans expect no quarter from the Democrats, nor do they get any from their colleagues. (They'll even join in the bloodsport.)

So welcome to the arena!

* I suppose he could switch parties, and really add to the drama. (The Democrats would probably welcome him with open arms, because they're nice and tolerant, while the Red State Republicans beat homos to death with tire irons! It was in the movie, wasn't it?)

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

It occurs to me that it might not be fun to be sitting on a toilet and have an undercover police officer enter the stall next door. I have some thoughts on that unsettling subject here, along with a more detailed examination of the law.

And DON'T MISS Varifrank's humorous and insightful analysis (with which I agree).

posted by Eric at 12:26 PM | Comments (19)

"Forgive me for what I do not admit!"

Among other things, being a con artist means saying whatever your mark wants to hear. Michael Vick has shown himself to be a true con artist by the manner in which he claimed that he is sorry -- for dogfighting only.

"I made a mistake of using bad judgment and making bad decisions. Those things just can't happen. Dogfighting is a terrible thing, and I do reject it."
Dogfighting? What about gratuitously, sadistically, torturing dogs to death because they didn't want to fight? That's not dogfighting. It's on another plane of evil entirely.

He rejects dogfighting? That's an apology? Suppose I were to engage in a massive slander campaign in this blog, and then move on to direct personal harassment, stalking and actual threats to people's lives, and that I used my blog to spearhead the campaign. Suppose further that I were arrested under the various federal laws prohibiting such conduct. If I said "Blogging is a terrible thing, and I do reject it," would that be readily accepted as an apology?

I don't think so.

What I think is being missed in many of the analyses is the dynamics, as well as the degrees, of animal cruelty involved. Bloodthirsty as it is, in traditional dogfighting, there are rules, because the fights are contested, and engaged in for money. The dogfighting in which Vick was involved certainly appears to have been conducted according to rules (tens of thousands of dollars in purse money was involved, and the female which refused to fight was covered with water and electrocuted had refused to fight in a match involving some $13,000). One of the most basic of these rules is that both combatants be willing to fight. Any dog which quits loses. End of fight.

Most dogfighting is done according to what are called "Cajun Rules" -- the most common variety of which were set down in writing by a former Lousiana police chief in the 1950s:

Louisiana is so central to dogfighting history that the most popular set of official regulations used today are called "Cajun rules." A former Lafayette police chief, the late G.A. "Gaboon" Trahan, is credited in dogfighting circles for originating the Cajun rules in the 1950s. Legend has it that Trahan would host twice-yearly matches for dogfighting enthusiasts from all over the South.
The rules are summarized briefly:
....the dogs are paired by weight and fought in a pit, similar to a boxing ring, about 16 feet by 16 feet with a canvas or carpet floor and wooden walls 2 to 3 feet high. The dogs are placed behind "scratch lines" drawn on opposite sides of the pit. When the referee commands the dogs' handlers to "face your dog" and then "let go," the handlers release the animals.

A "scratch" is when the dog charges across the scratch line to bite its opponent -- and when both dogs scratch to each other, it's a stunning display of canine aggression. The dogs grapple until one of them turns its head and shoulders away from its opponent.

The handlers then separate the animals, place them behind the scratch lines, and begin again. The dog who turned must scratch within 10 seconds. Handlers may not touch the dogs unless there's a specific reason; for instance, when a dog "fangs" itself -- that is, gets its lip pierced and stuck on its own tooth. When this happens, the handler is allowed to separate the animals and "unfang" the dog's mouth with a pencil.

The match continues in this way, ending when one dog is too injured or unwilling to continue, jumps the pit, or is killed.

(Trahan's full set of "Cajun Rules" can be found online in their entirety at a variety of underground-style web sites and discussion groups.) Because of the requirement of repeated scratching in turn, most fights end when one dog either quits outright, or fails to make his "scratch." Few dogs actually die in the pit, -- not because of kindness, but usually because a dog that is willing to continue fighting to the death is considered "dead game" and thus extremely desirable, so the owner will try to pick it up and try to save it. For those who are interested in reading about dogfighting (all of which is underground and illegal), the above article appears to be pretty thoroughly researched. It notes the distinction between sadistic owners who abuse their dogs and the more "professional" variety.

I think Michael Vick falls into the former category, and that he is attempting to subsume the cruelty of what he did to unwilling combatants under the rubric of dogfighting. It does not take much logic to understand that a dog that does not want to fight loses, because he or she is not a fighting dog. Obviously, dogfighters do not want such dogs. But torturing a dog to death because it will not fight does not constitute "dog fighting" -- any more than torturing a greyhound that refused to run would constitute "dog racing."

Vick is apologizing for not being honest, and for "immature acts":

He singled out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Blank, coach Bobby Petrino and his teammates for personal apologies, saying "I was not honest and forthright in our discussions."

He also apologized to "all the young kids out there for my immature acts and what I did - and what I did was very immature. So that means I need to grow up."

"I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player," he said.

He concluded by saying, "I offer my deepest apologies to everyone. And I will redeem myself. I have to."

I don't believe him.

Is that mean spirited of me?

Apologies to everyone? What about the dogs he tortured?

I don't even see an apology for what he did anywhere. I'm not alone; here's NBC's Alan Abrahamson:

Before the cameras, Vick apologized at five different points, starting with a sorry "for all the things that -- that I've done and that I have allowed to happen," ending with an offer of his "deepest apologies to everyone."

It is the nature of our society to expect, even to demand, an apology from our public figures when confronted with misconduct.

It's not just what you say and how you say it, though. It's precisely what you say.

Michael Vick spoke in generalities. He did not acknowledge his culpability in clean, clear language. Such an apology doesn't clarify matters. It only raises more questions.

Did Michael Vick say, for instance, "I gambled. I was wrong. I should not have done that."


Not once, in fact, did he mention the words "gambling" or "gamble."

Did he say, "I killed dogs. It was awful. I should not have done that. I was wrong."


Once again, it wasn't just that he killed dogs; he tortured them to death.

Or is it possible that this did not happen and the whole sordid set of allegations were scripted for him by prosecutors working a deal? Might the "dogfighting" plea have been a way of avoiding having to admit to gambling charges (which would have gotten him banned from football), while at the same time setting him up to launch a nationwide campaign against "dogfighting culture"? Yeah, I know that's a stretch, but I have to say that something about this case does not pass my smell test, and I can't put my finger on the reason why. (If Vick teams up with the animal rights activists, and denounces pit bulls, though, my darkest paranoid suspicions will be confirmed.)

What about the gambling, anyway? Aren't we forgetting the reason these dogs are fought in the first place? There's no apology anywhere for gambling. But the man has no problem invoking God.

He did "personally" apologize to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, coach Bobby Petrino and his teammates for "you know, for our -- for our previous discussions that we had. And I was not honest and forthright in our discussions and, you know, I was ashamed and totally disappointed in myself to say the least."

Again, the language. Michael Vick did not say, "I lied. I was wrong. I should not have done that."

Moreover, there is plenty of time between now and Dec. 10, the day Michael Vick stands before the bar of justice and Judge Henry Hudson, to "personally" apologize.

In person.

In the meantime, ask this: when offered the opportunity earlier this year to tell the truth, to Goodell, Blank, Petrino and others, did Michael Vick do so? He obviously did not.

Why? Because he didn't think he'd get caught?

So, now that he has been caught, Michael Vick has abruptly seen the light. He even said Monday that "through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God."

God's judgment ultimately awaits Michael Vick. In the near term, there is Judge Hudson. Who has seen many a sinner stand before him and profess redemption.

And not been moved.

I'm wondering about the morality involved. What is God supposed to forgive here? Dogfighting? Lying? Or sadistically torturing dogs for refusing to fight?

When I explored the issue of whether there can be a libertarian argument against animal cruelty, I tried to make it clear that there is a distinction between pitting two willing combatants against each other and torturing an unwilling combatant to death, but I didn't focus on gambling.

Perhaps my morality scale isn't the same as that of the NFL. Their morality scale seems to rank illegal gambling as a worse sin than either dogfighting or torturing "wimp" dogs:

The NFL in particular frowned upon Vick's admission that he funded gambling on dogfights as it violates the league's strict anti-gambling code.

"Your plea agreement and the plea agreements of your co-defendants also demonstrate your significant involvement in illegal gambling," Goodell continued.

"Even if you personally did not place bets, as you contend, your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player."

Significant involvement in illegal gambling?

So why is he not admitting to the gambling?

I find myself wondering exactly what he has "apologized" for, and whether the apology is a smokescreen. I just have this feeling that the whole thing has been professionally scripted by people who know how to manipulate emotions, and I don't know what to believe.

Outraged as I am by the stories of gratuitous dog torture, I am starting to wonder whether there's a possibility that it never happened. It's highly emotional stuff, admitted to by criminal informants. Has any of it been independently verified? How do we know Michael Vick didn't work a deal enabling him to become a sort of reformed sinner, a poster boy against dogfighting, to lead a national campaign against demon dogs from hell? How do we know that in return for sticking to this script, the gambling charges would be dropped, thus allowing Vick to return to the NFL? (A win-win for the animal bureaucracy, and the NFL?)

This is all speculation and I have no way of knowing the facts, but I'm getting more and more suspicious. The possibility of a coverup by the animal bureaucracy and the NFL is bad enough, but do they really have to resort to what seems like a schmaltzy 1930s morality script? (Really, yesterday's "apologies," the claims of religious redemption, and the talk of letting down "the children" are too much for me to swallow in one pliant mouthful.)

Considering the huge publicity surrounding Vick (the "apology" is front page news everywhere today), it's almost as if there's money behind making the man respectable.

Sorry, but some things go too far.

(Excuse me while I puke.)

posted by Eric at 09:37 AM | Comments (2)

Non-coincidental, six-free, sex-free, evil-free birthday greetings!

Happy Birthday Glenn Reynolds!

(So much for the the serious part.)

I never know how I am supposed to celebrate the birthday of someone like the the blogfather. In 2004 I put on an evil shirt and crossed swords. Then in 2005 I quoted the well wishes from famous people. In 2006. Hmmm.... I didn't do anything! But that was because there were awful tornadoes, I was out of town looking at art, and plus I got checkmated! Oh, and the dog was in heat too! A lot of excuses by any standard.

This year, I have no excuses for forgetting, but no crossed swords, and no pompous greetings from world dignitaries.

Although, as it happens, I am writing this blogfather birthday post despite of the fact that I would have had a perfectly good excuse not to. In another amazing un-coincidence, it just so happens that Coco is in heat yet again.

Here's photographic proof:


(Well, work-safe photographic proof. You'll just have to trust me as to the details.)

I'm wondering.... Can it really be a coincidence that this is the third year in a row that Coco has been in heat on Glenn Reynolds' birthday? "In heat" of course, is little more than another euphemism involving sex. And sex is evil, especially when it involves dogs. And evil involves six, which is so evil that it even sounds like sex! And Reynolds has too much six -- as I'm sure I've documented at least six times -- and talks about too much sex. He's even written a filthy-minded, hedonistic legal theory equating democracy with sex. A theory that was published in 1995 -- for a numerological total of six!

And while I never noticed it before, unless he's lying about his age (and he's gotten Wikipedia to lie for him), the full birthday for Glenn Reynolds is August 27, 1960.

No coincidence there either! 8-27-1960, right?

And 8+2+7+1+9+6 = 33, right?

And what's 3+3?



No wonder this curse is so powerful that even a strong dog like Coco cannot escape it. Cocoincidence? You decide.

While I haven't told Coco about the "puppy blender" business, in honor of Glenn's birthday, I won't. Besides, it wouldn't do to give her any more evil ideas. After all, this is a serious Happy Birthday!

Seriously, Happy Birthday Glenn!

Many thanks!

posted by Eric at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

Gay marriage! For homonormative transsexuals only!

A California group called Vote Yes Marriage is circulating a ballot petition which purports to eliminate the possibility of same sex marriage. What intrigues me is the way it defines man and woman:

Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California, whether contracted in this state or elsewhere. A man is an adult male human being who possesses at least one inherited Y chromosome, and a woman is an adult female human being who does not possess an inherited Y chromosome. Neither the Legislature nor any court, government institution, government agency, initiative statute, local government, or government official shall abolish the civil institution of marriage between one man and one woman, or decrease statutory rights, incidents, or employee benefits of marriage shared by one man and one woman, or require private entities to offer or provide rights, incidents, or benefits of marriage to unmarried individuals, or bestow statutory rights, incidents, or employee benefits of marriage on unmarried individuals. Any public act, record, or judicial proceeding, from within this state or another jurisdiction, that violates this section is void and unenforceable. (Emphasis added.)
OK, for the record, I don't support the ordinance. Not only does it prohibit same sex marriage, it prohibits the "incidents" of marriage (a can of worms I've discussed before).

But this definition of man and woman is an interesting new wrinkle, and I don't think I've seen that written into one of these laws before. I'll try to follow out what this means before I lose what's left of my mind. Let's see:

  • men who have become women by changing their sex from male to female would only be allowed to marry women
  • women who have become men by changing their sex from female to male would only be allowed to marry men
  • Likewise, men who have not changed their sex would be forbidden from marrying men who have, but they would be allowed to marry female-to-male sex changes. And vice versa: women who have not changed their sex would be allowed to marry men who have changed their sex to female.

    So, like it or not, this ordinance would (if it gets on the ballot and passes) cause an instant role reversal of the present "heteronormative" situation. Right now, a man can marry a transsexual woman (a woman who who used to be a man), and such marriages are considered legal heterosexual marriages. If this passes, they'll become illegal homosexual marriages -- all "heteronormative" intentions of the couple notwithstanding.

    And after this passes, there would be created for the first time a protected species of lucky, legal gay couples in California. Think about it: any man in California who found a woman who had changed her sex to male could marry "her" -- even though both would look and act like men, and while they would be be visually undistiguishable from other gay male couples, they'd be permitted to marry for the first time under California law. Ditto for lesbians who want to marry; they need only find a post operative male-to-female willing to exchange vows.

    Transsexuals would be allowed to marry after their sex changes, but only in a homonormative manner.

    If you don't think it will happen, you don't know California.

    Just think. Virtual same sex marriage!

    Brought to you by the American Family Association, the Traditional Values Coalition, and a whole host of other, apparently pro-virtual gay marriage groups!

    (Um, this is satire, right? Will someone please let me know?)

    posted by Eric at 01:43 PM | Comments (8)

    Boycott Olympic blogging and fight Chinese censors

    From Roger L. Simon, here's a relatively painless pledge:

    From this moment on, I will not write about the Beijing Olympics unless the subject at hand is censorship and repression in China. And - unless the Chinese government changes its policies - when the Olympics do come, I will not blog about them at all. I will take the opportunity to write as often as I can about the lack of Freedom of Speech on the Chinese Internet and on the suppression of bloggers and journalists in that country.
    I've written about the lack of freedom in China repeatedly, although probably not as often as I should.

    The only thing more detestable that their censorship is the way American companies like Microsoft and Yahoo are helping to enable it. Because the latter not only should know better, but they're in a position to exercise moral leadership, and instead they offer moral cowardice.

    So, I'll do what little I can here and there.

    Right now, I feel like repairing my own ethernet cable instead of buying a new one. That way, I can help the imprisoned children of China!

    Of course, there's also Saudi censorship, which reaches out and touches Western books.

    (But that's another matter. Or is it? Who's outsourcing what these days?)

    posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

    "Alms for Jihad" update

    Not long ago, I proposed pirating the Saudi-censored book "Alms for Jihad," and a very helpful comment discussion ensued.

    I've now learned that the authors are hoping to republish the book in the United States:

    These sorts of measures [locking up the copies in libraries' rare book collections] may eventually be less necessary, because the authors hope to republish Alms for Jihad in the U.S. Co-author Robert O. Collins, a professor at University of California Santa Barbara, told LJ that he and co-author J. Millard Burr, a former state department employee, are currently negotiating with CUP for a rights reversion. The authors have had several offers from U.S. publishers.

    "We stand by what we wrote and refused to be a party to the settlement," Collins said. "As soon as CUP received notice, they decided to settle as rapidly as possible despite our vigorous defense. CUP did not want to embark on a long and expensive suit which they could not win under English libel law." Indeed, libel laws in England are far more favorable to plaintiffs than those in the U.S.

    Collins said he is confident Alms for Jihad will be republished in the U.S., where Mahfouz's charges would have little chance of succeeding in court. "In reality, the few passages referring to Mahfouz are trivial when compared to the enormous amount of information in the book that is in demand," Collins noted, adding that he has received calls from booksellers offering as much as $500 for copies.

    I'm on the "Alms for Jihad" Yahoo group, and just received an email confirming that thanks to the author's efforts, they are suspending their efforts to preserve and distribute the book:

    Robert O. Collins reports that he has obtained the rights to the book from UCP, and is in negotiations with US publishers to reprint the book. Therefor, our efforts to preserve and distribute the book will be suspended.
    Which is (hopefully) good news.

    posted by Eric at 11:14 AM | Comments (2)

    Climate Science Needs To Go Underground

    I have been doing some more thinking about how to measure climate change. If we actually want to measure if the earth is heating, we ought to actually measure the temperature of the earth.

    If climate was my interest, I'd find the "constant" temperature transition point in the ground and string thermometers (electronic of course) at, above, and below that level below ground. From watching the change in those temperatures over time climate change could actually be determined. Heat flows too. Similarly for the sea. Let the earth or water do your averaging for you.

    From that and satellite measurements it ought to be relatively easy from first principles to figure out what is going on. We will have some measure of the heat flows. Which will give us a much better idea of what is going on than measuring the daily high and low air temperature for a given day.

    If we are going to measure the air we need to measure it much more frequently than at two unknown times to get just the high and low. Because the heat capacity of air is so low, you can't determine heat flows very well unless the recording frequency of temperature measurement goes way up.

    Measurement 4 ft above ground (or what ever the standard is) to get the high and low for the day has so little climate information that it is tantamount to useless for climate observation. Or heat flows either. The only reason to keep doing it that way is that we have always done it that way.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 09:42 AM | Comments (1)

    Tiny details that crimp your lifestyle...

    When does a "little thing" become a big thing?

    Certainly, a tiny, near-worthless piece of plastic is a little thing by any standard. But when that piece of plastic acts as a spring supplying the pressure to hold an RJ-45 plug securely in a computer network card, I can think of few things more annoying than its failure -- especially when it is on the end of a 50 foot ethernet cable which goes to the Internet-connected router.

    I find it extremely annoying that a tiny and stupid piece of plastic can cause me to lose a blog post.

    To add insult to injury, you cannot just go out and replace the tiny piece of plastic when it fails. Mine began to fail by going flat, and instead of springing back against the wall of the female NIC receptacle as it was supposed to, I had to manually pull it back. Finally it broke off, meaning that the RJ-45 plug just sits inside the NIC opening in the most sloppy manner possible, as if waiting for the opportunity to fall out. And fall out it will. All I need to do is walk around, and the cumulative effect of the vibrations on the floor will eventually cause it to loosen. If I'm lucky, I'll be there and see the warning pop up. Then I can go back behind my computer and engage in the hopeless "repositioning" ritual (repetitively shoving it back in).

    Most people in such a situation would go out and buy another 50 foot cable and be done with it, but I'm a cheap and stubborn son of a bitch, and I don't like the idea of paying ten times the actual value of the cable and two plugs because some greedy bastards had an imprisoned child in China do what I can easily do myself.

    And it is easy to do it; the procedure is explained in detail here.

    crimp1.jpg The infuriating little plastic spring which eventually flattens and breaks is of course integral to the RJ-45 plug, but that does not matter, as each plug costs only a few cents. No big deal, right?

    It's a big deal if you don't have the crimping tool and the plugs lying around (which most people don't). So, I went to as directed in the post and looked around. Things must be getting pretty competitive in the crimping tool industry, because I found this one for only $4.99! Such a deal! Of course, a comment warns that it won't last:

    "This was a great product while it lasted but for me was only about two weeks. It's awsome for the price but if you plan on using it a good deal... don't."
    I don't plan on using it more than once, but OTOH, what if I can't? Should I shell out $39.99 for what appears to be the Rolls Royce of crimping tools? Or for just seven more dollars, they have an ergonomically designed model... (Nah, that's probably intended for guys who make cable crimping into a lifestyle.) Maybe I should go with the medium-priced, $19.99 model?

    As for the plugs, they're ten for ten dollars at TigerDirect, but I can get 100 for less than ten dollars on Ebay. However, former are described as being for "round, stranded cables" while the latter are for "Flat Stranded Cable."

    So what's that about? Am I now supposed to become an expert at distinguishing between "flat stranded" and "round stranded" cables lest I spend money and find myself stranded with the wrong strands? Probably so, because another Ebay listing delivers this ominous warning:

    Designed for use with solid or stranded wire! Watch out! Most plugs are designed for stranded wire only and won't work reliably on solid wire!
    Solid wire? How the eff am I going to know whether my wire is solid, stranded, flat, or round without cutting into it? And if I do that before I have the new cable plugs and the crimping tool, then I won't be able to use this effing computer!


    See what I mean about a tiny piece of plastic being a major pain in the ass?

    No wonder normal people just go and spring fifty bucks for a whole new cable. They're sold nearly everywhere now, with stores just waiting to take your money. So easy and convenient! As long as you just pay, pay, pay, and shell out ten times the cost, you won't have to drive yourself nuts acting like a cheapskate. (And you'll help provide more jobs for the imprisoned children of China!)

    See how complicated this gets? And it's all over a worthless piece of broken plastic. I can either spend time and money (surely the former is worth something) learning the intricacies of RJ-45 cables and the repair thereof, or I can pay a lot of money, and throw a perfectly good (and once quite expensive) piece of cable in the trash, where it will eventually end up in a politically incorrect landfill.

    Might there be a better way? I was intrigued to discover evidence that I'm not the only person to realize the absurdity of this situation. An American inventor has designed a Replacement RJ45 latch, which if ever brought to market, would allow people to save suffering Chinese children, and the environment, while saying money:

    The replacement latch includes a housing and a latch within the housing, wherein the latch includes: a substantially U-shaped component having a middle section that joins a first arm of the U-shaped component to a second arm of the U-shaped component, wherein the first arm terminates at a first arm end that has a shape that is geometrically similar to a standard RJ45 retention protrusion, and wherein the middle section is rotatable about a pivot point that is inside the housing, and a horizontal activator having a depressor that is in sliding contact with the second arm, wherein a horizontal movement, in a first direction, of the horizontal activator causes the middle section to rotate about the pivot point to cause the first arm end to engage against a retention lip in a female RJ45 receptacle.
    Sounds like someone paid a technical writer to describe what's basically another little plastic thingie that clamps over the broken plastic thingie in such a way that there's a new spring clip to press against the NIC opening, which you can depress from a housing further back on the cable.

    Hey, right now, I'd buy it. I think a lot of people would.

    I almost feel stranded without it.

    MORE: This site seems very thorough, and offers some details on how to distinguish between stranded and solid connectors:

    The stranded-wire and solid-wire connectors are almost identical, but if you look at the crimping contacts with a magnifying glass, you will see one essential difference between them. The crimps of the stranded-wire connector have two teeth that bite straight down and through the insulation and conductors of each wire. But the solid-wire crimps have two teeth angles away from one another slightly, so that they bit down on either side of the solid conductor inside the wire.
    All good and fine, but how do I know what my existing cable is without taking it apart?

    It's as if I have to choose between becoming an expert about nit-picky and time-consuming details (learning the hard way, through trial and error reinvention of the wheel for a one-time project) or just simply pay up like another clueless chump.

    posted by Eric at 09:13 AM | Comments (10)

    Looking through ancient windows?

    Maybe I've been blogging too long (or maybe it's OCD or something and I was this way before I started blogging) but I just have "issues" whenever I see something that's obviously wrong -- especially if it involves history.

    Last night I saw an otherwise very enjoyable French film, Moliere. Normally, I'm not much of a fan of French films, but since Moliere is their guy and I like Moliere, I was willing to make an exception. Especially because speculative historical fiction can be fun. The problem comes when the speculation crosses the line between factual speculation and factual impossibilities requiring the suspense of all disbelief.

    Where that line is, I'm not exactly sure. We all know, for example, that gladiators don't wear wristwatches. That muskets cannot be fired repeatedly without reloading. That revolvers cannot fire 20 rounds without reloading. Such things are so annoying as to be just plain crass.

    On the crassness scale, the film Marie Antoinette went beyond semi-automatic flintlock muskets, by playing contemporary American music -- not as background but as actual music to which the cast danced at an 18th Century masquerade ball. ("1980s New Wave and post-punk artists such as New Order, The Cure, and Bow Wow Wow represent the music that accounts for the bulk of the soundtrack.") Suspending disbelief with Jason and the Argonauts or Harry Potter is one thing. But 18th century New Wave and post-punk? Sorry; it's just too ridiculous. Nor was it intended as surrealism or fantasy; it just struck me as tacky and contrived. Above all it was condescending -- as if they were trying to make history cool so that "young people" could "relate"! (Ugh.) I can relate to contemporary music, as well as period music. But if any musical mix-and-match goes, why not have Louis XVI's courtiers dancing to Glenn Miller swing, or George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to hip-hop? (Might as well ditch the coach and have Marie riding in a Jaguar!)

    While I would never have seen Marie Antionette had I been warned about the music, what irritates me now is to read that critics actually liked the idea:

    The critical discussion surrounding the film often deals nearly as much with the filmmaker's choice of a "modern" soundtrack as it does with any other aspect of the film. While a film's soundtrack certainly contributes to the manner in which a film is perceived - in this case, the critical preoccupation stems largely from the fact that her choice of songs represent a strong departure from the more "historically accurate" music found in most Period films. In fact some critics have called the inclusion of modern music Coppola's "bravest move"[3] in the film. Regardless, the music does manage to assert itself prominently in the film itself. "
    Yes it does, to the point that it ruined the film for me. Seeing that film critics liked it makes me wonder whether they've been as overwhelmed by post-modernistic drivel as certain history professors.

    It's also worth noting parenthetically that Marie Antoinette did not frivolously and disloyally abandon her little dog at the French border as the film portrays her doing. Quite the opposite; she seems to have put up a stink with the French authorities to keep her dog:

    She is informed that when she leaves her country, she can take nothing of her own with her --- none of her favorite servants, or personal possessions, or even her clothes. At first her mother tells her that she can't even take her dog, Schnitzy; but she begs for him, and the French and Austrian officials change their minds about that.

    The Wiki review of the film recites Marie Antoinette's abandonment of her dog without any notation of the historical inaccuracy, despite the presence of an Inaccuracies & miscellaneous section. I find this odd, because the Marie Antoinette's Wiki entry states unequivocally that "after lengthy negotiations, she was allowed to keep her dog, a Shih Tzu named Schnitzy." Marie Antoinette is often described as misunderstood and maligned, and was clearly the victim of much character assassination during her lifetime, for political reasons. What I can't figure out is why a 2006 film would go out of its way to depict her as abandoning her dog if she did the opposite? I find such things inexplicable, as well as more than a little annoying.

    In terms of historical butchery and prevarication, Moliere certainly didn't go as far as Marie Antoinette. But considering even the small amount I know about the history of technology, it did cross a certain line with the giant glass windowpanes! I could handle the idea of Moliere peeping into a girl's room at night, but must he peep through windows which weren't invented yet?

    Moliere died in 1673. The bankruptcy which generated the film's theme occurred in 1645:

    Historians differ as to who bailed him out, his father, or perhaps the lover of a member of the troupe; either way after a brief (4 week) stint in gaol he returned to the acting circuit with perhaps a little more sobriety.
    In light of the historical differences over who bailed him out, I have absolutely no problem with the film exploring a fanciful idea of what might have happened (which it did quite well).

    But this means that the events in the film (whatever they were) occurred in the 1640s, in the home of a well-off gentleman to which Moliere is brought for purposes of domestic intrigue. It didn't take long for me to notice (and be annoyed by) the windows. They were huge, and made of modern-looking flat glass. There was no way to avoid them, for Moliere shinnies up and down from the third floor and peers into a young woman's window, only to have the shade closed and ruin his view. There's just no way windows like that could have existed in the 1640s.

    Lead wasn't added to glass until the 1670s, and plate glass was not invented until decades later:

    In 1688, in France, a new process was developed for the production of plate glass, principally for use in mirrors, whose optical qualities had, until then, left much to be desired. The molten glass was poured onto a special table and rolled out flat. After cooling, the plate glass was ground on large round tables by means of rotating cast iron discs and increasingly fine abrasive sands, and then polished using felt disks. The result of this "plate pouring" process was flat glass with good optical transmission qualities. When coated on one side with a reflective, low melting metal, high-quality mirrors could be produced.
    Bear in mind that this only the richest of the very rich could have had such windows even after 1688. They were considered a triumph of technology when they were unveiled at the Palace of Versailles:
    In 1688, France improved the production of plate glass, a technique used in the construction of mirrors. By pouring molten glass onto specially designed tables and polishing it with felt disks, French artisans were able to create high-quality glass with remarkable optical properties. One of the greatest creations with this new found technique is the famous Hall of Mirrors in Palace of Versailles.
    No way would a gentleman in the 1640s have had them.

    crownGlassWindow.JPG Additional historical time lines here and here. The most technologically advanced glass a rich gentleman could have had would have been either crown glass or blown sheet glass, both of which would have showed many irregularities, and would have been far smaller than the large, flat, perfectly clear panes Moliere is shown gazing through. He's looking through a modern window, and he would have been looking through something like the window on the left.

    So, in terms of the reality of glass technology, the film is many years out of whack. Other than that, I liked it. (A lot more than Marie Antoinette.)

    posted by Eric at 08:32 PM | Comments (4)

    Who "raised" whose narrative?

    The Vietnam narrative wars (which I touched on yesterday) continue.

    It's even harder to understand why Bush raised a comparison between Iraq and Vietnam.
    So argues Trudy Rubin, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

    I'm not sure it's the comparison she doesn't understand, nor is it the raising of the comparison. I think what she really objects to is not the comparison itself, but the fact that it was raised by Bush, and the fact that it does not agree with hers.

    In April of 2004, Trudy Rubin warned (in a column titled "U.S. still can steer clear of Iraq quagmire") that:

    Iraq is not Vietnam.

    Not yet.

    But she warns that Iraqis are "making comparisons with the legendary U.S. Embassy in Saigon," and that if an occupation occurs, "Americans will indeed drift into an Iraqi quagmire," and that the "parallels [to Vietnam] will be painful."

    A couple of years later, Rubin again invoked Vietnam, this time warning Iraq could be worse:

    "Iraq is not Vietnam; it could be an even bigger disaster."

    In a column titled "Iraq vs. Vietnam," she also said that "the complex Iraqi situation makes the Vietnam war look simple."

    Repeatedly, she invoked Vietnam not as a simple comparison, but by way of contrast to the Iraq War, which shares in common with Vietnam the fact that it's a quagmire. Except, in another respect, Iraq is worse:

    Iraq is more complicated quagmire than Vietnam.
    The above is by no means intended to be a comprehensive collection of every "Vietnam" or "quagmire" reference by Trudy Rubin, nor is it my purpose to debate each one of the columns. However, I do think it's fair to say that Trudy Rubin "raised a comparison between Iraq and Vietnam" -- and did so repeatedly.

    But today, she pretends shock over the fact that Bush dared to touch the "V" word. Especially when he really should have used the "Q" word!

    It's even harder to understand why Bush raised a comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. Needless to say, he never used the word quagmire. His point was that our withdrawal from Vietnam caused immense suffering for the Vietnamese people, as would a withdrawal from Iraq. That's true. I've argued that one reason to stay longer in Iraq is our moral obligation to the Iraqi people.

    But given the current suffering of Iraqis - and the desperate flight already of two million Iraqis who have left the country - this argument isn't sufficient to sway the debate.

    So why would the president raise the specter of a war that haunted Americans for more than a generation? He seemed to imply - though one wonders why he didn't say it - that we could have won the Vietnam War had we stayed longer. Such a claim is popular with part of his conservative base.

    Could have won? Does anyone remember the 1973 Paris Peace Accords? Hardly a document of surrender, it stated that the war was over, and that "All acts of force on the ground, in the air, and on the sea shall be prohibited." The United States withdrew its military forces, and Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. Subsequently, North Vietnam became convinced the U.S. would do nothing to support the South Vietnamese government, and the former launched a series of probing expeditions to test the waters. Sure enough, no response.
    Hanoi's leaders watched closely and anxiously as strikes by American B-52 Stratofortress bombers failed to materialize.
    South Vietnam's President Thieu assumed that because the treaty had been violated, the U.S. would live up to the promises made by President Nixon. In retrospect, this was delusional. Help to South Vietnam was impossible, because Nixon was outflanked politically by Watergate. And of course Congress:
    Thieu still believed the promise made by President Richard Nixon to reintroduce American air power to the conflict if any serious violations of the agreement took place. It was also assumed that U.S. financial and military aid would continue to be forthcoming at previous levels.

    On 1 July 1973, however, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that all but prohibited any direct or indirect U.S. combat activities over or in Laos, Cambodia, and both Vietnams. On 7 November the legislative branch overrode Nixon's veto of the War Powers Act. During 1972-1973, South Vietnam had received $2.2 billion in U.S. assistance. In 1973-1974, that figure was slashed to $965 million, a more than 50 percent reduction.[11] The American president's growing political difficulties (especially the Watergate scandal) and the increasing antagonism between the legislative and executive branches over Vietnam policies, did little to dampen South Vietnamese expectations. Some among the Saigon leadership were more realistic in their appraisal. According to Vietnamese Air Force General Dong Van Khuyen: "Our leaders continued to believe in U.S. air intervention even after the U.S. Congress had expressly forbidden it...They deluded themselves."[12] The shock of reduced aid was compounded on 9 August, when Richard Nixon, the guarantor of South Vietnamese independence, was forced to resign from office.

    Without getting into the details of the domestic political situation in the U.S. at the time (a touchy "narrative" if ever there was one!) I think most fair minded historians would have to conclude that the failure of the U.S. to enforce the treaty provisions was a political, and not military failure. The U.S. fought and bombed the North Vietnam into signing it, and there was a strong faction in the North Vietnamese government which considered rebuilding more of a priority than invading the South, and thus, the tentative nature of the initial invasion.

    What I cannot understand for the life of me is the notion that the U.S. military was "beaten" and could not have engaged in what would have been a relatively simple show of force.

    Nevertheless, the idea that U.S. military was defeated in Vietnam is a very persistent myth, if not the dominant narrative. Back to Trudy Rubin:

    But it [the "we could have won the Vietnam War had we stayed longer" meme imparted to Bush] is impossible to prove and highly dubious. And it goes to the heart of Bush's problem: He has yet to give a coherent argument for how we can stabilize Iraq by staying on.

    The Vietnam analogy highlights this problem in ways I doubt Bush intended. Late in the day in South Vietnam, the U.S. military began to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that was having some success. But a weak South Vietnamese government was unable to capitalize on the gains.

    Notice that Bush did not say that "we could have won the Vietnam War had we stayed longer." By saying that he "seemed to imply" it (and that it is popular with his "conservative base"), she does all of the following:
  • puts words in Bush's mouth,
  • makes him look cowardly for not uttering the words she put in his mouth,
  • and

  • puts words in the mouth of the "conservative base."
  • This makes my job triply difficult. Because it's tough for me to have to defend words which Bush never said, which I never said, and on top of that I don't consider myself a part of Bush's "base." Plus "we could have won the Vietnam War had we stayed longer" in my view misstates what happened, as it implies the withdrawal following the Paris Peace Accords was a "loss" of the Vietnam War.

    The loss came later, by act of Congress.

    Who owns that narrative?

    posted by Eric at 11:42 AM | Comments (4)

    Jewish Porn Sweeps Arab World

    Via Kesher Talk comes more confirmation that Islam will be Defeated by Pornography. From the Italian site ANSAmed.

    (ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV, AUGUST 22 - Despite the diplomatic ice reigning between the respective governments, Israeli erotic sites are reaping enormous success among the Internet surfers of the Arab countries. "We notice on our servers that thousands of users live in Muslim states with which we don't even have diplomatic relations," Nir Shahar, who manages one of the most visited Israeli websites with erotic content, told an Israeli journalist. Up to 10% of the daily contacts of the porn portals in Hebrew come from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq. Some owners have decided to rise the wave of success opening an Arabic version on the websites and registering in this way an immediate surge of the 'clicks'. Others, like Nir Shahar, believe the expense for translation is needless: "The videos and photos we offer do not need much explanation," he says. There is a real passion spreading among the Islamic users: that for the hard Israeli videos in which the actresses interpret, in their way naturally, the role of female soldiers, secret agents or policewomen. One of the most watched films at the moment is 'Codename: Deep Investigation', a spy story which narrates in parody the (real) story of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli technician who had given out the nuclear secrets of the Jewish state. 'The Affair-Vanunu', yet, has another meaning in the video. The preference shown towards the erotism in the language of the enemy is susceptible to many interpretations, one of which is that probably the fact that there are not many erotic sites in Arabic and that in the strictly Islamic countries they are even banned. Yet the Arab Internet users show they follow the erotic deeds of the feigned female soldiers with a special determination: often they have to manage to go round, through a complicated computer procedure, the block which in many of their states usually impedes access to the Hebrew sites.
    Kinky Jews.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

    When losers win, don't dare call them losers!

    Via Glenn Reynolds, my attention was drawn to an interesting observation by Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard:

    Bush's opponents don't have a problem with Vietnam analogies. They have a problem with Vietnam analogies that undermine the case for American withdrawal. They see Vietnam as the exclusive property of the antiwar movement.
    Can there be such a thing as an exclusive right to a "Vietnam narrative"? There's an old saying that "history is written by the victors," but does that apply to "losers"? Well, who lost?

    Perhaps the issue of who "won" is still in dispute, but the way people on the antiwar left are objecting to Bush's Vietnam analogy makes me wonder whether they think that not only was Vietnam a victory, but that it was "theirs."

    You could argue that, but as I tried to explain in an earlier post, you'd also have to argue that for the U.S. to lose is good. I disagree:

    the constant invocation of the Vietnam theme makes me wonder whether the "should have" people just plain want the United States to lose.

    The fact is the "should have" people who harp on Vietnam never portray Vietnam as a war we should have won, or could have won, or as providing lessons on tactical mistakes. They see it as a lesson in defeat, and as a well deserved defeat at that! What kind of people look back on their country's defeat with pride, and want it to happen again?

    I'm not saying defeat can't be seen as a lesson, but I think it needs to be remembered that the United States was not defeated militarily in Vietnam. It was a post-war political defeat, accomplished by the enemy after a peace treaty had been signed and the U.S. had pulled out. True, the U.S. failed to go back in to enforce the treaty, but what is the lesson there?

    It's a lesson in defeat, and I worry that some people see it as a victory. As "their" victory. Hence they believe they hold the exclusive rights to the narrative.

    Geez, the way they're acting you'd almost think this touched on identity politics, by way of a cultural narrative.

    No, that can't be right, because these are just political opinions, and not lifestyle issues or minority group status or anything....

    I mean, otherwise, there'd be no right to disagree with them!

    MORE: Does anyone know who owns the Weimar narrative?

    Thought I'd ask, because there's a whole lot of claimin' goin' on.

    MORE: Via Pajamas Media, here's Howard Kurtz:

    Along with hippies, drugs, poverty programs and classic rock, it seems that my generation--and the country--is destined to keep debating Vietnam till the end of our days. President Bush kicked it off again on Wednesday, but he's only the latest to join the party.
    Maybe there is a culture....

    posted by Eric at 11:14 AM | Comments (2)

    A cartoon is worth a thousand lies

    More than editorial writing, editorial cartoons are subject to interpretation, and different people might interpret them in different ways.

    But, no matter how many times I look at it, I'm having trouble with any interpretation of this Jack Ohman cartoon other than one which makes this confessed animal torturer a victim of the animals he tortured.


    (I'd like to supply a link, but the cartoon does not appear anywhere at the Inquirer's web site, nor can it be found at Jack Ohman's cartoon archives.)

    Perhaps the Inquirer and Ohman don't want people on the Internet to contemplate the misrepresentation involved. (I wouldn't blame them; by any standard, it's hardly Cartoonistan's finest hour.)

    Remember, dogs which didn't want to fight were hanged by the neck until they were gasping and strangling, then drowned in five gallon buckets. A female who quit in a high-stakes match was covered with water and then electrocuted.

    So I'm really having trouble here, and it isn't with libertarian theories of animal rights (which I discussed here). I'm just contemplating the sickening reality of what Vick did to the dogs, in contrast to how the editorial cartoon is presenting it.

    Animal rights aside, can someone please explain to me under what possible theory Michael Vick can be seen as a victim of the dogs he tortured?

    posted by Eric at 08:43 AM | Comments (11)

    Insulting A Beggar

    Here an anecdote from Elie Wiesel's book Souls On Fire. Let me define a few terms first for those of you not familiar with Jewish culture. Rebbe means Rabbi. Zusia is a famous and respected Hasidic Master/Rabbi from Europe. The "him" referred to in the first line is Rebbe Zusia.

    In an inn somewhere, a wealthy guest mistakes him for a beggar and treats him accordingly. Later he learns his identity and comes to cry his remorse: "Forgive me, Rebbe, you must - for I didn't know!"

    "Why do you ask Zusia to forgive you?" Rebbe Zusia said, shaking his head and smiling. "You haven't done anything bad to him; it is not Zusia you insulted but a poor beggar, so go and ask the beggars, everywhere, to forgive you!"

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:18 PM | Comments (2)

    The fascists are still coming!
    But this time, they're libertarians in deadly sneakers!

    I had a pretty good education (at least I like to think I had), and in addition to that, I've read a lot of books about history, including many about the Third Reich. I've studied the origins and rise of both Hitler and Mussolini, and I've read about innumerable fascist and quasi-fascist regimes. The usual stuff like Franco in Spain, Salazar in Portugal, Stroessner in Paraguay, Peron in Argentina (although he was a left/right hybrid), along with some convincing analyses that modern China is actually a fascist, not Communist, state.

    But it was under "Bush fascism" that I noticed a steady deterioration in my skills. Not only was I not "getting it" (and failing to recognize the fascism before my very eyes), but a lot of people weren't. I don't know whether to blame Bush entirely for this, but it was during the Bush regime that the definition of fascism seemed to change dramatically, and become infinitely more complicated.

    I used to think I knew what fascism was, but the longer Bush was in office, the more the word seemed to take on new meanings. It was as if the word "fascism" had developed an elasticized penumbra, and acquired octopus-like tentacles which reached out and engulfed things which in the old days had not been considered fascism, but which now were. Fascist hegemony was being achieved not by goose-stepping soldiers, but by definitional expansionism -- largely accomplished by computer keyboards.

    Quite naively, I resorted to the traditional dictionary definition of fascism:

    fascism n. 1. [often cap.] The principles of the Fascisti; also, the movement or government regime embodying those principles.

    2. Any program for setting up a centralized autocratic national regime with severely nationalistic policies, exercising regimentation of industry, commerce and finance, rigid censorship, and forcible suppression of opposition.

    Webster's New International Dictionary (Second Ed., 1958)

    I was soon scolded by the blogosphere's leading proponent of fascist definitional hegemony, who assured me that the definition of fascism was not to be found in any dictionary, but in the writings of Robert Paxton, whose 2005 definition of fascism is considered widely respected:
    "A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.''
    Notice that the 2005 definition has shifted from the former focus on a style of government to a focus on the thought processes of the people who want to take it over.

    Paxton sees fascism not as a type of government but as a mass psychological phenomenon often involving dissent, anarchy, even revolution -- so long as the emotional factors are present. Paxton cites the Ku Klux Klan as an example, not of a fascist government, but as a backlash against legal government:

    It may be that the earliest phenomenon that can be functionally related to fascism is American: the Ku Klux Klan. Just after the Civil War, some former Confederate officers, fearing the vote given to African Americans in 1867 by the Radical Reconstructionists, set up a militia to restore an overturned social order. The Klan constituted an alternate civic authority, parallel to the legal state, which, in the eyes of the Klan's founders, no longer defended their community's legitimate interests.

    By adopting a uniform (white robe and hood), as well as by their techiques of intimidation and their conviction that violence was justified in the cause of their group's destiny, the first version of the Klan in the defeated American South was arguably a remarkable preview of the way fascist movements were to function in interwar Europe. It should not be surprising, after all, that the most precocious democracies -- the United States and France -- should have generated precocious backlashes against democracy.

    Seen this way, fascism need not prevail, and can exist anywhere. Provided, of course, that there's an "obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity," and the "mass-based party of committed nationalist militants." As I posited in another essay, the Nation of Islam would fit this definition. So would the Ayatollah Khomeini's organization. The former became a bit of a joke, while the latter took over the Iranian government.

    But what about Bush fascism? Not so neat and tidy, even with the expanded definition. To be accommodating, the term "pseudo fascism" has been proposed. This includes people like Rush Limbaugh ("transmitters" of "eliminationist rhetoric") but not Ward Churchill or Louis Farrakhan, no matter how much they might resemble the Paxton formulation.

    Some have noted that there's such a thing as the associational fallacy, and Paxton's book is thoughtfully reviewed here. It's also been pointed out that the motivations behind fascism are often economic

    ...fascist movements prosper most in conditions of economic dislocation, insecurity, unemployment, loss of hope.
    But trying to be reasonable is largely a waste of time with people who want to find fascism in Bush, Republicans, people who are upset about uncontrolled immigration, and Rush Limbaugh.

    I finally concluded that Glenn Reynolds was a fascist. Repeatedly.

    While I think I made a strong case, it was a bit of a strain, because of the need to pin down the motivating passions, the "palingenetic ultranationalist populism," and the rest of it.

    But move over Robert Paxton and David Neiwert! There's a new and emerging definition of fascism which will make everyone's task much, much easier. There's no longer any need to search for signs of eliminationist rhetoric in old posts, or discover cryptic connections to radio talk show hosts.

    At long last, it has finally been demonstrated that Science Fiction and libertarianism are the twin evil corporate handmaidens of the new fascism. And don't be fooled by the lack of goose-stepping jackboots! This is fascism for geeks, nerds, and people who prefer to move silently!

    Writing in the Philadelphia Weekly, Steven Wells scoops David Neiwert on these damning new facts in an article titled Science Friction -- Libertarianism is corporate fascism:

    William Gibson (see A-List, facing page) is the godfather of the cyber-punk genre, which imagines a near-future libertarian wonderland where the corporations have thrown off the shackles of red tape and regulation. The result, inevitably, is a logo-infested fascist hell world where a tiny, super-rich minority live in paranoid enclaves while the rest of humanity languish under a new serfdom.
    Have to say, I knew or should have known it would come to that sooner or later. Probably why I've avoided science fiction. Really, sometimes it helps to be an ostrich. But the next part sounded ominous, and it hurt my feelings a little:
    There are, of course, those people who argue that giving up all democratic regulation of the same multinational companies that run death squads and support military dictatorships in the Third World doesn't necessarily mean the same thing would happen here. But those people are idiots.
    I guess I missed the part where Friedman and Hayek argued that big companies should be freed from having to follow silly government regulations against murder.

    But that's only minor carelessness on my part. The main thing I missed is coming:

    Gibson's new novel Spook Country is described by super-cool British comics writer Warren Ellis as "dictation from the zeitgeist." It contains lines like "the windows of army surplus stores constitute hymns to male powerlessness." And it features "a thinking man's ninja" who wears Adidas GSG9 sneakers--named after the notoriously hyperviolent real-life German antiterrorist police squad.
    Damn! The sneakers! Little did I know, but they're everywhere!
    Madly enough, these sneakers exist in real life. Madder still, the aforementioned super-sneakered German antiterrorist squad is featured in Brit writer Garth Ennis' graphic novel Preacher, in which the incredibly handsome eponymous hero carves a scar resembling the opening of a urethra into the bald head of a renegade GSG9 officer.
    That's twice now that he's mentioned a type of sneaker I'd never heard of before. My only goal here was to try to follow out the emerging definition of fascism (especially now that Libertarianism has become corporate fascism), and while I know I'm out of my league where it comes to science fiction, now I'm told the future libertarian fascist state will have something to do with sneakers that should not be allowed to exist!

    I'm confused. Am I reading him wrong to make the fascist footware connection? I always thought of fascists as being, you know, jackbooted thugs, goosestepping around. Sneakers wouldn't seem quite right for that. But I guess if the Germans are wearing them, well, it must mean... Mean what? He explains:

    This dickheaded theme (an oblique, astute and entirely accidental commentary on the nature of both brand loyalty and sneaker fetishism) is revisited in Ennis' current comic creation Chronicles of Wormwood, in which the Antichrist gives a racist bartender a literal dickhead for making rude comments about the African-American Jesus. Wormwood also boasts a God addicted to constantly and frenziedly bashing the bishop (an English slang term for masturbation referencing the similarity between the head of the penis and a bishop's hat). Which explains a lot when you think about it.
    I'm a little lost there about how it explains a lot. I'm obviously an idiot, because Wells does not explain it. Do his readers think it's self-apparent? Or is it apparent only when you think about it? I'm thinking about it right now, enough that I Googled the phrase. Yeah, there's a lot of discussion of "bashing the bishop" but not much explanation of what explains "a lot" (which I take to mean a self-apparent religious connection -- maybe masturbation is a way of striking back at the tyranny of religious fascist hypocrisy or something).
    Meanwhile Warren Ellis also rocks all things cyber-punky in the comic Black Summer. In the first issue a superhero walks into a presidential press conference covered in blood, and calmly announces he's just offed the leader of the free world for starting an illegal war. And there's also an awesome to-die-for-on-sex-stilts double-page spread where amazing artist Juan Jose Ryp depicts a hot chick on a motorbike taking out an entire GSG9-style pig phalanx with guts, gats and gusto.

    There isn't a lot that connects these works other than a distrust of authority, a hatred of corporatism and a storytelling style that blips, zips and fizzes with appropriately dissonant 21st-century brio.

    Consider this your August reading list. Class dismissed.

    I realize my ignorance is showing, and while I'd like to accept what Wells says on faith, the only consistent point I can understand is that it's all about the fascist footwear -- in the form of the GSG9 sneakers.

    So, I had to look. Sure enough, they exist. And as Wells says, they're maddeningly for sale.

    Here's a pair:


    And they're marked down -- from $159.00 to only $99.00. What's the idea here? An attempt to spread fascism down to the lower classes of libertarians and sci-fi readers?

    My reaction is shock and awe. I try to keep abreast of cultural developments and definitions, and I'm very familiar with the traditional goose-stepping fascists in jackboots, as well as the skinhead-style boots with high-contrast laces. But I have to say, I didn't know about the impending fascist takeover of the world by sci-fi readers and libertarians in sneakers! Egad! They're such a nerdy group already that if they wear the GSG9 sneakers, normal people will never be able to hear them coming!

    And as they creep in wearing the sneakers, they'll probably attempt by stealth to impose a hideous and cruel system they call "freedom." "Freedom" as I demonstrated earlier, is nothing but code language for structural and cultural violence.

    This is even worse than little old ladies in tennis shoes!

    MORE: I just Googled GSG9 Fascist sneakers and there are 66 hits, which is ominous enough. But why am I ahead of the guy who scooped the story?

    Are they trying to set me up?

    Sneaker fascism is scary!

    AND MORE: Only because this is a very serious manner and I believe in being extra-thorough, it occurred to me to check the blogosphere's leading shoe expert, the Manolo. And while the Manolo he does not seem to have mentioned fascist sneakers (much less the GSG9 variety), his co-blogger Izzy discovered some Brooks Brothers wing tip boots that might be just the ticket for stylish libertarian corporate fascist types.

    MORE: Thanks to the link from Glenn Reynolds, stealthy libertarians in sneakers are silently goosestepping all over this post!

    No GSG9 for Glenn, who stomps on women, children, and puppies with an even more tyrannical-looking sneaker called "The Beast" which he brags is "extra deadly." (Another typical example of the mutability of his mobilizing passions.)


    I am not surprised that Glenn would employ something more deadly than the deadly GSG9 sneakers. (To a true libertarian fascist, such savage reprisalism and severe overkill are as natural as putting puppies in blenders.)

    MORE (08/25/07): I just had a terrible thought. Size 14EE, right?

    In numerological terms, 14 equals five. And "E" is the fifth letter of the alphabet, right? So 14+5+5 would be 24, which would be (dare I say it) --


    The number of The Beast!

    Why did it take me so long to get it? (Must be denial.)

    UPDATE (08/26/07): Bill Quick:

    I just love it when the left puts it's neofascist wet dreams on record.
    Now, while Bill is talking about a left-wing military coup proposal by a Huffington Post writer, the libertarians in fascist sneakers seem to be awfully silent. Might they be waiting in the wings? Sure, Glenn links Ed Morrissey's disapproval of the coup, the fact that he calls it "a new high point" instead of a "new low point" makes me suspect that concealed within the usual "CYA" linking, Glenn might actually be giving a cryptic sort of nod to the dark forces of deadly sneaker opportunism.

    You can't be too careful!

    MORE: Those who are interested in definitions of fascism should read this post by A Jacksonian.

    posted by Eric at 03:52 PM | Comments (18)

    Guilty opiate of the rich asses

    Clayton Cramer (not a Communist, nor even a socialist) makes what I'm pretty sure is a sarcastic suggestion that the government confiscate all wealth exceeding one million dollars:

    I've long been of the opinion that most of this countercultural stuff that San Francisco is awash in would evaporate overnight if the government confiscated all wealth exceeding one million dollars. It would also starve the Democratic Party of resources.
    Certainly, such confiscation would put an end to what Michael Barone called the "trustfunder left," but it begs the question of why these wealthy people are on the left. I have long believed it is because they feel guilty about having money they did not earn, and that this irrational guilt makes them want to atone. Accordingly, they fall for the line that the government should confiscate wealth from the most productive members of society, and give it to "the poor" (which means the government bureaucracy).

    I think a better solution would be to search out, attack, and destroy the guilt that the wealth creates. There is no logic at all to this guilt, and I've yet to see any rational explanation of why money is evil. I've posed this question before:

    ...many of the trustfunders feel guilty because they do not have to work, and this guilt (whether deserved or not) is steered for a variety of reasons towards leftist political causes. Their enemies become the rest of the people who do work -- and the more successful they are, the more they're hated (the latter in turn often oblige by hating those who don't have to work). Their friends become all others who don't work. This can include other trustfunders, welfare recipients, penniless bohemians, or homeless outcasts psychologically unsuited for work.

    What surprises me is how seldom people stop to think. Is money evil? Is wealth bad? Why is the presence of gainful employment necessarily more virtuous than its absence? For the most part, these are moral judgments made by other people whose goal is to shame, influence, manipulate. Why should money be a source of shame in a free country? If there is nothing shameful about earning money or creating wealth, then it follows that there can be nothing shameful about giving it to another generation. It follows, then, that inheriting money cannot be more "evil" than making it in the first place.

    Furthermore, those designated as heirs (or beneficiaries of trusts) are guilty of nothing more than an accident of birth. At law, they are the "natural objects" of their parents' bounty. In a country operating with a free economy, why should that be a source of shame?

    Trustfunders who haven't thought these things through are lost sheep. I know the breed well. They're ashamed of their wealth and keep it in the closet. They remind me of the guilty homosexuals whose sexuality presents as a sort of deer-in-the-headlights syndrome.

    And if anyone can explain why the presence of money should be any more a source of guilt than the presence of sexuality, I'd like to hear about it.

    I'm not sure that the comparison of money guilt to sexual guilt is completely apt, though. Such sexual guilt can at least be explained with reference to religion, because there are religious texts which condemn certain sexual practices. But even if we assume that these proscribed sex acts constitute actual sin, having money is not a sin in any religion of which I'm aware, unless Marxism is considered a religion.

    Maybe that's it. Perhaps Marxism is the opiate of the rich?

    Odd, because it isn't in their interests.

    Ah, but addictions are never good for the addict. What makes Marxism so seductive and so addictive is that it alleviates the guilt. If you have wealth, but embrace socialism, all will be forgiven, and the guilt will seem to be erased. But there's that constant, nagging meme, that wealth is evil, that class conflict is justified, that property is theft, that poverty is violence. This creates endless cycles of guilt and atonement, guilt and atonement, as if the individual must constantly prove and re-prove his ideological purity in order to be absolved from sin over and over. But as long as the money is there, the original sin (a niche into which inherited wealth fits nicely) just keeps creating a steady stream of guilt. Somehow, there's always a sneaking suspicion that money means an evil thing called "privilege," and that being "of means" creates an inherent duty borne of guilt. Like an opiate, leftism thus alleviates the guilt that it creates.

    Few stop to examine the rather ridiculous (and by now very old fashioned) underlying assumption that money is evil.

    It's odd that this would survive in the post-modernist era of no truth, because once again, "if there is no truth, there is no injustice." (And thus, no need for the guilt.)

    On the other hand, even if there is truth (and I think there is), how does wealth become evil?

    posted by Eric at 02:05 PM | Comments (6)

    Why my libertarian theories of rights are going to the dogs
    We should be outraged that no one is outraged over this bloodshed. What does it take?

    Apparently, if the Michael Vick case is any indication, you have to be a dog to get anyone to care. If you want jail time, kill a dog.

    But black folks? Nobody seems to care that they are being killed every day. (Emphasis added.)

    So argues Annette John-Hall in a front page editorial in today's Inquirer. FWIW, I care, and I resent this persistent meme among Inquirer columnists that people who live outside of Philadelphia don't care. I've been arguing in favor of jail time for murderers in more blog posts than I can possibly count. The problem is that when shooters are caught, they often go free. There is a stubborn belief among city officials and others that it is tragic for them to go to jail -- a view reflected by Ms. John-Hall herself when she expressed umbrage over felony murder charges brought against family members involved in a criminal shootout. (I'm not sure the race of the victim matters much; a particularly egregious black-on-white murder case wasn't considered Inquirer-newsworthy, although the City Paper's Brian Hickey argued that had the races been reversed it would have been national news.)

    So now the argument is that dogs matter more than people. That's worth addressing. There's no denying that dogs -- especially pit bulls -- receive a disproportionate share of media attention. (Of course, if vicious people received a small fraction of the attention vicious dogs receive, there'd be nothing else in the newspapers, and people would either become so desensitized they'd cease to care, or else stop reading the accounts altogether.)

    Anyway, back to the view that "if the Michael Vick case is any indication, you have to be a dog to get anyone to care. If you want jail time, kill a dog."

    For starters, he didn't just kill a dog. Nor did he just engage in dogfighting. What has so many people (including me) upset is that according to the witnesses, he tortured losing dogs to death. The heinous details have generated many emotional remarks like these from The Football

    We hope the judge gives him the entire sentence and fine allowed under the sentencing guidelines. If financing the dog-fighting ring weren't bad enough, he killed these dogs in the least humane way possible. There should be no room for such cruel actions in our "civilized" society nor should we be lenient with unscrupulous individuals performing cruel and cold-blooded acts. This was not a mistake. Premeditated murder is the correct term. Trying to hang a dog and if it fails, chasing it down and eventually drowning man's best friend in cold blood, unmercifully ignoring its heartbreaking look on its innocent face, in a 5-gallon bucket of water to death, certainly seems like something out of a horror movie, not real life. Why should the judge show any leniency to a man that could not do the same for his victims?
    OK, premeditated murder this is not. It's horrific, but murder is the killing of a human being. However, what happened was appalling. I didn't like reading about the gratuitously sadistic electrocution of a losing female dog, either. (It made me sick.)

    The most infuriating and illogical aspect of this case is the way it has caused a backlash against pit bulls! Through this appalling lapse in logic (whether I like it or not) Michael Vick's dog torture is somehow "helping to perpetuate the stereotype that brands all pit bulls as dangerous."

    It's a classic case of blame the victim.

    And the fact that he'll receive a year in jail is being spun as "you have to be a dog to get anyone to care."

    Sorry, but I think that had Michael Vick hanged human combatants because they lost, then drowned the ones who were still gasping for breath, had he electrocuted a woman who could no longer fight another woman, it wouldn't be hard to get people to care. Yes, and I think that even our decadent and insensitive society would not blame the "culture of mortal kombat" or the combatants themselves. [See my post on "dog violence."]

    What I do not mean to suggest by any of this that cruelty to animals should be treated the same way as cruelty to humans. This is reflected by the fact that Vick will only receive a sentence of a year to eighteen months. I think what he did was depraved and cruel, and went well beyond dogfighting.

    While few people would ever defend dogfighting, Mike Mosedale in the Minneapolis City Pages poses a few philosophical questions:

    Dogfighting has no defenders outside its own insular confines. The inherent cruelty of pitting animal against animal is hard to ignore. As sociologist Evans points out, dogmen rationalize their participation by claiming that the animals are expressing their nature in combat, that they enjoy the fight. Of course, all those instincts are the product of selective breeding and training.

    Still, the vehemence of society's collective condemnation of dogfighting does raise larger questions about the exploitation of animals by humans. There is a huge spectrum of animal suffering in modern society. Dogfighting, despite its popularity within various subcultures, represents a tiny sliver of that suffering. Which raises the question: Why the vehement outrage and nearly universal condemnation of the practice? Does it serve as some sort of moral inoculation against our collective culpability for the brutalization of other animals? Consider the confinement facilities where pigs--smarter animals than dogs and, by that crude measure, more deserving of our sympathy--are raised for slaughter without ever seeing the light of day, without contact, without affection of any sort. Is the behavior of the corporate pig farmer inherently morally superior to that of a professional dogman with a well-tended yard?

    And what of cockfighting?
    And what of chickens? Under Minnesota law, cockfighting is, legally, the equivalent of dogfighting. It is true that the life of a Thai fighting cock usually ends brutally and painfully. But, as Burkhard Bilger points out in his excellent essay, "Enter the Chicken," the fighting cock's life is hardly as awful as that of the commercially produced broiler chicken: "The average broiler chicken lives for six weeks, wing to wing with tens of thousands of others. These gamecocks, by contrast, typically lived for two to three years. And they lived like pashas...if the birds went a little stir crazy, the trainers might even bring around some nice, plump pullets [young hens] to calm them down."

    Back in his office, Streff keeps photographic souvenirs of nature outings. He grew up on a dairy farm in central Minnesota. While vehemently opposed to dogfighting, Streff--like most Minnesotans--regards hunting as an acceptable form of recreation. To Will Grigsby, who fought and raised pits for nearly half his life, hunting seems like the real atrocity. "To me, going out and shooting an innocent animal in the woods, well, that's just not right," Grigsby says. Of course, that's just one dogman's perspective.

    These are some of the many contradictions, and again none of this is said in defense of Michael Vick, or dogfighting. But if two dogs that are straining to go at it, wagging their tails in anticipation of fighting, are allowed to fight, the men who release them to fight are considered so morally reprehensible as to be beyond the pale. Yet if these same two men take these same dogs and release them to pursue and tear apart a wild animal that is fleeing for its life, in many jurisdictions that's considered hunting, and society's only concern would be whether they had paid the appropriate fee for a license and whether the fleeing animals were "in season."

    Once again, society's rules are an emotional -- not logical -- process.

    One of the reasons I call myself a small "l" libertarian is that I have problems with absolutism and dogma, and Glenn Reynolds recently touched on this when he asked whether there is a libertarian theory of animal rights. Glenn links Megan McArdle, with whose view I agree wholeheartedly: seems plausible to me that animals could have limited rights--a right not to suffer for our pleasure, say--even though none of them will ever master the lute.

    Should animals have that right? Obviously, both Julian (who is a vegetarian) and I, who will only eat animals that are not industrially farmed, have both decided that the suffering of animals matters, morally. But should it matter, legally? Creating new rights is a big deal.

    Okay, I'll bite the bullet. As a first principle, you shouldn't be able to burn a sheep alive because it's fun.

    Agreed. But Julian Sanchez sees it differently:
    I will note of existing animal cruelty laws that most contain specific exemptions for agriculture and various other industries, in ways that seem hard to justify. At any rate, I'm having trouble coming up with some coherent view on which "Tender meat is tasty" counts as a justification for the appalling way we treat veal calves but "I like watching violent bloodsports" is no excuse for how Michael Vick treated dogs. If abuse with no better rationale than mild enjoyment is "gratuitous," then factory farming is gratuitously cruel. (Lest it sound like I'm on a high horse here, I should note that, by my own lights, I really ought to either be a vegan or at least consume only dairy of known, humane provenance.) Our inconsistency here suggests that animal cruelty laws are less a function of high principle than of the fact that we like both burgers and cute doggies.
    I understand the point about inconsistency, but I have a few problems with the analysis, because I think a certain amount of this inconsistency is reasonable, and based on the common sense recognition that the dog is in fact man's best friend. We value dogs in ways that we do not value mice, raccoons, or squirrels.

    Dogs are property, but they are an emotional sort of property to which we become uniquely attached, because no two are the same and we bond with them. As I said in my discussion of Coco:

    A dog is personal. And it's property. But it's different than ordinary property, because there is a personal bond, an emotional investment between a dog and his owner that cannot be measured in economic value. Because of this emotional component, a dog may be the most valuable property that a person can have. I can't speak for other dog owners, but if my house was on fire, my very first thought would be to save Coco! I think many dog owners would feel the same way. That is the real test of value.

    So, people who care about property rights ought to care very about this special form of property which, to the people who have it, is the most valuable property of all.

    The idea of the government entering into my relationship with my dog is thus more than an ordinary violation of property rights. It's highly personal.

    But that does not give me a right to mistreat my dog. Dogs being a higher level of property, living property which carries with it the recognition that they are man's best friend and have cast their lot with us, there is a corresponding duty to take care of them even though there is no such duty in the case of a valuable car or article of clothing.

    Beyond that, there is the issue of consciousness, which is manifested in the form of a brain.

    In an earlier post I began with Bill Quick -- a libertarian who said, "I could advance some libertarian ideas against animal cruelty." My reply was that I could too, although I'm not particularly concerned about whether my view is libertarian or not:

    This is the third time I've read about a pit bull (or a close relative thereof) being violated like this, and if "libertarianism" really means letting that son of a bitch do that to the poor dog, then I guess it means I'm not a "real" libertarian. (So what? Will the world weep over my "treason"?) Libertarianism can be criticized for a lot of things, but I just don't see "libertarianism" in allowing this to be done to some poor dog.

    It's a little easier to analyze this case because the animal let the humans know it was in pain. In general, though, there's no way to know, as animals cannot complain. Nor can they consent. There is no such thing as a consenting animal, and unless the animal cries, there is no such thing as a complaining animal. While I disagree -- vehemently -- with the animal rights philosophy that animals are like people, I nonetheless consider them more than ordinary inanimate chattel. Thus, while I would support the right of a person to neglect his car until it conked out (say, to buy an old clunker and run it into the ground), treating a horse that way would be unconscionable, and I support making it illegal. Indeed, the first laws against animal cruelty were passed to prevent the routine working to death of harnessed horses in factories once they had outlived their usefulness. Laws prohibiting cruelty to animals may quite properly define cruelty as including having sex with them for the animals cannot consent to sex. This is no more inconsistent with libertarianism than supporting laws prohibiting sex with minors.

    Likewise, just as one cannot enforce a contract entered into by a child, there'd be no way to enter into a contract with an animal. Consent would be meaningless; suppose a valuable racehorse was "told" that it might sign a contract by imprinting a piece of paper with its hoof. If it did so, no court would consider that a valid contract because a horse cannot enter into a contract.

    What I cannot understand is why common sense doesn't enter into this. Just as an embryo is not a human, a jellyfish is not a dog. My libertarianism is grounded in the recognition that human beings are entitled to individual freedom and dignity, and the right to be left alone. Crime punishable by the state consists of an invasion of this freedom, whether by force or fraud. Even dogmatic Libertarians would recognize that anyone who messes with my dog messes with me, and that the state has the right to punish someone who enters my yard and kills Coco, because they have destroyed my personal property. But if someone inflicts pain on her, I suffer more than I would in the case of ordinary property vandalism, because of the nature of the special relationship with my very personal property. I would hope that many Libertarians would recognize that this additional element of gratuitous cruelty should punishable in a way that simply killing the dog would not be.

    Where I think I part company with libertarians is over the question of whether cruelty to Coco would an independent crime against society above and apart from my property considerations, or even special "emotional property" considerations. I think a good argument can be made that because animals can think (albeit at a lower level), that they are entitled to some consideration. Not full animal rights, but a simple recognition that sentient beings have the right not to have gratuitous cruelty inflicted on them. That you can't just take a dog and nail it to a board or roast it alive simply because no one owns it, or you own it yourself. To not punish this because of some view of individual rights, in my view, carries individual rights theory too far. It has to be recognized that people who torture animals are at least as much of a threat to be protected against as people who steal or commit fraud on Ebay. No, it is not as serious to burn a dog alive as to burn a child alive. But common sense and human conscience suggest to me that someone who tortures a dog has harmed society and is a direct threat to humanity.

    If there is such a thing as enlightened self-interest, it requires that such people be punished for what they have done -- even if only to an animal.

    MORE: Julian Sanchez addresses some of the concerns raised by Megan McArdle and adds,

    A libertarian case for animal cruelty laws will only work if it centers on the problem of the harm to the animals themselves.
    Again, the reason I'm a small "l" libertarian is that while I like to keep government to a minimum, I don't consider myself bound by philosophical doctrines written by other people.

    Hence, I don't worry much over whether my support for the war in Iraq constitutes libertarian heresy. This always makes it interesting to play the "what am I" game, as long as there's no rule that I have to care. (But if I'm not a Libertarian, not a Liberal, not a Conservative, not a Centrist, then what is to become of me?)

    MORE: Overlawyered's Ted Frank asks some thoughtful questions:

    If one accepts limits on the libertarian principle for animal cruelty, does that not imply that a democratic society can rationally choose to bar production of foie gras? I'm happy to have dogfighting outlawed. I'd prefer not to outlaw foie gras. Do I have any argument for the distinction besides my personal preference? Is it just the intelligence difference between dogs and geese? If so, why do we allow bacon?
    I know it will sound irrational, but pigs are not man's best friend. Nor are geese.

    It's a cruel fact of nature, but some animals are more equal.

    posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (8)

    Only blacks show off their underwear?

    Call me a pervert if you will, but I'm fascinated by the political implications of the Atlanta city government's attempt to ban baggy pants which show boxer shorts:

    ATLANTA (AP) - Baggy pants that show boxer shorts or thongs would be illegal under a proposed amendment to Atlanta's indecency laws.

    The amendment, sponsored by city councilman C.T. Martin, states that sagging pants are an "epidemic" that is becoming a "major concern" around the country.

    "Little children see it and want to adopt it, thinking it's the in thing," Martin said Wednesday. "I don't want young people thinking that half-dressing is the way to go. I want them to think about their future."

    I don't want young people thinking that either. For the record, I oppose sloppy attire in public, and I have said so many times. I am in favor of school dress codes, the stricter the better. Children are not adults, and I think institutions that educate them have not only a right but also a duty to tell them what to wear.

    However adults are adults, and if you're an adult, you have a right to run around looking like a slob, regrettable though that might be. I do not think governments - whether federal, state, or local -- have any business getting into telling people what to wear beyond prohibiting nudity, and, I suppose, requiring shoes to prevent the spread of diseases. I hate sagging pants which expose visible underwear, but I would not make that a crime, because whether you like it or not, it is not indecent exposure.

    However, even though I don't consider this an appropriate area for legislation, I fail to understand the racial implications. Debbie Seagraves does:

    The proposed ordinance would also bar women from showing the strap of a thong beneath their pants. They would also be prohibited from wearing jogging bras in public or show a bra strap, said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

    The proposed ordinance states that "the indecent exposure of his or her undergarments" would be unlawful in a public place. It would go in the same portion of the city code that outlaws sex in public and the exposure or fondling of genitals.

    The penalty would be a fine in an amount to be determined, Martin said.

    But Seagraves said any legislation that creates a dress code would not survive a court challenge. She said the law could not be enforced in a nondiscriminatory way because it targets something that came out of the black youth culture.

    It does? I've seen plenty of white men and women wearing these stupid clothes. What does it mean to say that something "came out of the black culture?" That's awfully broad, and I think a number of assumptions are involved. Rock and roll came out of the black culture, so did disco, so did hip-hop, and so did rap. If loud music were prohibited after certain hours, and it could be shown that most loud music was one of these forms, would that constitute discrimination against something that "came out of the black culture"? Is Seagraves arguing that black people invented baggy pants, boxer shorts or bras? Or merely that they decided to wear them in certain ways? I'm old enough to remember when miniskirts first horrified the nation, but would it in any way be relevant to claim that they came out of "white culture" because they first appeared in England?

    But Seagraves goes from her declaration of culture origin to racial profiling:

    "This is a racial profiling bill that promotes and establishes a framework for an additional type of racial profiling," Seagraves said.

    Martin, who is black, said he plans to hold public hearings and vet the proposal through churches, civil rights groups and neighborhood organizations. The proposal will get its first public airing next Tuesday in the City Council's Public Safety Committee.

    "The purpose of the paper is to generate some conversation to see if we can find a solution," Martin said. "It will be like all the discussions we've had around the value of the hip-hop culture. We know there are First Amendment issues ... and some will say I'm just trying to put young black men in jail, but it's going to be fines."

    Makeda Johnson, an Atlanta mother of a 14-year-old girl, said she is glad Martin introduced the proposal. She does not want to see a law against clothing, but said she thinks teenagers are sending a message with a way of dressing that is based in jailhouse behavior.

    Atlanta would not be the first city to take on sagging pants.

    Setting aside my thoughts about the wisdom of the ordinance, it would appear that its proponents are black. Why wouldn't that mean that the dress code "came out of the black culture"? And if so, then according to the laws of identity politics which Seagrave seems to be invoking, white people should not be heard to complain.


    If you think this means Debbie Seagraves is a dissenting black activist, think again. Debbie Seagraves is white. And on behalf of the ACLU, she's decided that a proposal by black Atlanta legislators is racist. (No, she doesn't dress like Madonna, so don't you white heteronormative types go there looking at her picture and expect to be titillated by underwear that wants to be outerwear.)

    Hey wait a second!

    I thought it was against the rules of identity politics for any white people to accuse any black people of racism.

    Is there an exception for white leftists? Or has Debbie Seagraves been getting ideas from Jeff Goldstein?

    MORE: In a more recent post, Jeff Goldstein explains why a white leftist like Debbie Seagraves does in fact have the unique right to castigate blacks with whom she disagrees:

    ...calling a Black man an "Uncle Tom" isn't really racist if you've taken steps to embrace progressive politics, because progressives, bless their selfless souls, have -- along with a dazzling righteousness! -- emotional and ideological purity on their side. And if the wayward Negro they're striving to help would just learn to listen to these sage shepherds of social justice, they wouldn't need to coax the poor dumb ungrateful fuck back on the plantation with such a show of tough love.
    Via Glenn Reynolds, who doesn't think the narrative is being controlled very well.

    Hey, in this instance I can't even figure out what the cultural underwear narrative is, much less who's supposed to control it.

    (I do think that the idea of there being such a thing as stolen cultural underwear simply goes too far. They're not only politicizing the personal, they're playing a dirty game of hardball identity politics!)

    UPDATE (08/24/07): Clayton Cramer has an interesting additional take on this; that it's not only vague, but probably unenforceable:

    the problem with such an ordinance isn't just that the ACLU will challenge it as "racial profiling" or violating freedom of speech. The problem is how do you define "undergarments"? Boxer shorts are not so different from shorts in appearance these days. Would someone wearing briefs, then boxer shorts, then sagging pants be in violation if the boxer shorts were visible?

    For women, the definitional problem is even more severe. The camisole used to be considered an undergarment, but now many women wear them as outerwear. Spaghetti strap camisoles with a bra strap showing would certainly qualify as a violation of Martin's proposed ordinance. (Not to mention that the combination looks ridiculous.) But the camisole alone can range from profoundly provocative to really, really gross, depending on who is wearing it. Is a camisole an undergarment or not?

    I don't have much hope for an ordinance like this to be enforceable....

    Some things are beyond the power of legislation.

    In fact, I'd say that legislation like this only invites more defiance, and more "creativity."

    posted by Eric at 12:52 PM | Comments (6)

    But some of my best friends are tuna sandwiches!

    In the early days of this blog, I used to take online tests and report the results a lot more often than I do now. In fact, Friday used to be "Online Test Day at Classical Values." Why "used to be" (and there's a ton more of such silliness), I don't exactly know. I guess it used to be a challenge to connect my own dots, and eventually it became too much of a "blogligation" and once that happens, the fun tends to suffer accordingly. It's like, if I have to do something that's fun, it ceases to be fun because I have to do it.

    So, the trick is to maintain the "don't have to" space by any means necessary. Well, almost any means. Carried to the ultimate extreme, that would mean no more blogging, which would cut off even the possibility of having fun with the blog. But I often enjoy reminding myself that just as I don't have to blog, I don't have to write about anything simply because I'm "supposed to."

    Like right now, if I put on my blogigatory "supposed to" mental suit of clothes (whatever they might be) I should probably be writing about all kinds of crap that I'm not writing about. Like the Iraq war, the Culture War, the Election War, Gun Control, the Drug War, the Sex War, the scandals which are always somewhere, the endless disputed factual scenarios which should be championed or debunked, or point-of-viewed. (Why, there's even Hillary Clinton's Senior Thesis -- which I refuse steadfastly to read, because, well, I wrote one too which I'm sure was equally bad.) Anyway, I'm sure I'll find something which will irritate me enough to write about it. If nothing else, there are always activists of all stripes abusing logic and twisting the meaning of words in their endless quest to mess with people. While that usually will get a rise out of me, it can get exhausting, and long drives through ghastly New Jersey suburban ghettoes have a way of draining me.

    To the point where here I am, sitting here not wanting to feel blogligated in any way, only to abruptly discover that I am a turkey sandwich!

    Yes, I'm afraid it's true. I clicked on a link at The Anchoress, and took the test. The results border on making me look downright stodgy, set in my ways, and boring!

    You Are a Turkey Sandwich
    Conservative and a bit shy, you tend to stick with what you know and trust.
    You are very introverted, and you prefer to blend in whenever possible.
    Though you may be hard to know well, anyone who does know you considers you a true friend.

    Your best friend: The Ham Sandwich

    Your mortal enemy: The Tuna Fish Sandwich

    In my defense, I should point out that I find turkey sandwiches boring, and normally I don't go out of my way to buy them, although I will eat them.

    How and why the Anchoress got to be a grilled cheese sandwich (something I prefer to a turkey sandwich any day), and I'm stuck with being a turkey, I don't know. It hardly strikes me as fair. I'm not sure I'm comfortable seeing food and personal psychology conflated in this manner, especially when you're stamped as a food which is not necessarily your preference!

    Then there's the question of "mortal enemies." The Ham Sandwich is said to be my best friend, and the Anchoress's mortal enemy! I'm assuming this mean that she is tasked with indicting a ham sandwich, and I with defending it. Sigh. Yet another blogligation I don't want.

    Worst of all, this is triggering that creepy sense of blogligation again. I mean, ham sandwiches in the workplace are under attack these days, at least in England or Scotland or some damn place, and I haven't been doing a good job of defending them, have I?

    [Um, try American schools, Eric.]

    And I see that Doug Mataconis at Below the Beltway is a ham sandwich.

    See how complicated this gets?

    All things considered, I'd rather be a hoagie, for after all, I am what I eat.

    So why doesn't that mean I get to eat what I am?

    Whatever happened to the right to prefer my choices and choose my preferences?

    I hate to sound like a leftist whiner, but I really think that my natural hoagie orientation has been stifled by turkey-normativism.

    Call me paranoid, but I think there might be an element of hoagiephobia.

    (Notice that it's a word that dare not speak its name!)

    UPDATE: It turns out that my good friend Sean Kinsell is, yes, a ham sandwich! He's posted a very amusing description of his plight.

    And I will defend Sean against all indictments!

    posted by Eric at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)

    Confabulation of fabulism?
    "The more ambitious fabulist is not Scott Beauchamp, however. It's Victor Davis Hanson."

    By saying that, Andrew Sullivan is either exercising demagoguery, or else he has lost sight of a rather basic distinction.

    Facts are not the same thing as opinions.

    Sullivan calls Victor Davis Hanson a "fabulist" and argues that he was more dishonest and less accurate than Scott Beauchamp. But attacking Hanson's 2004 opinions about U.S. policy in Iraq by contrasting them with what General Petraeus is doing now is little more than Monday morning quarterbacking.

    (It's worth noting parenthetically that Sullivan may have failed even as a Monday morning quarterback. Via Glenn Reynolds, Hanson maintains quite credibly that "what I wrote proves the exact opposite of [Sullivan's] allegation." If this is true, who indeed is the "fabulist?")

    But the argument I'm making would be the same even if Sullivan were right in his critique of what Hanson said years ago. Offering opinions and advice about the propriety of military policy, or suggestions as to how things might be improved -- that is opinion.

    Far from offering opinion or advice, what Scott Beauchamp did was to give chilling and heinous factual accounts. It has become quite clear that the accounts were false. Hence the "fabulist" title has been bestowed on Beauchamp.

    To make it painfully clear, a "fabulist" is someone who makes things up! If I say that Hillary Clinton will beat Barack Obama and she does not (or offer a candidate advice that turns out to be ill-advised), I do not become a fabulist. However, if I said that during my drive to New Jersey today, I was pulled over and beaten by the police when I wasn't, then I become a fabulist.

    I don't think it should be necessary to spell this out in such exquisitely obvious detail.

    But hey, give me a break. I'm only trying to deconfabulate a word I think is being misused.

    UPDATE: Might there be a neurological explanation of how people form associations? In a brief post about magic, Ann Althouse links a Times piece which implicates the left brain:

    The left brain, as Dr. Gazzaniga put it, is the confabulator, constantly concocting stories.
    I try to use blogging as a way to constantly fisk my left brain.

    Except when I'm feeling creative! That's when I engage and unleash my left brain, and let it do its thing, unfisked and unchallenged.

    (I try not to take it seriously, though.)

    UPDATE: Describing Andrew Sullivan as someone who "inspired me to get into blogging," Lance at A Second Hand Conjecture is now disappointed and saddened:

    Hanson's analysis may be a failure to many, but on this matter it is game, set, match for Hanson.

    Sullivan has sadly deteriorated as his self righteousness overwhelms his talent. At his best he is inspiring, witty and deeply humane. Unfortunately he has become increasingly petty, slapdash in his judgments and accusations, sloppy in his reading and startlingly ungenerous to those he disagrees with. This is more appalling when we consider he saves his most vicious and unthinking attacks for people who hold views he once shared. As if he has a right to act as if holding to those views longer than he, means they deserve no respect, not even the minimal respect of having what they say accurately characterized. He was wrong on the war he now says, so others do not have the right to be wrong in his eyes now for the same reasons?


    It's doubly sad. And I feel the same way.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Pajamas Media for linking this post. And via PJM, Real Clear Politics asks a good question:

    I don't know who's in the most pain: Sullivan, Hanson or their readers looking for a higher level of discourse?
    Again, I think this is sad; the title reflects my usual dark humor.

    I've been reading Andrew Sullivan for years, and I miss being able to count on his good common sense which always used to be there.

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

    More confabulation noted by Confederate Yankee, who has a great recap of the Beauchampt affair.

    And don't miss Mickey Kaus who links Dean Barnett's analysis, and Pajamas Media's roundup on TNR's latest offensive.

    posted by Eric at 11:50 PM | Comments (13)

    Bussard Reactor Funded?

    I just received an e-mail claiming that the Navy has funded Dr. Bussard to complete his WB-7 fusion reactor experiment. In addition the e-mail claims the Navy is on board for the full up power demo if the WB-7 results are positive.

    If I get further confirmation on this and permission to post it, I will. ASAP!


    New Energy and Fuel has a bit more to say on the subject. I can confirm (second and third hand) all the points he makes. It is very likely that we have the same sources.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 08:19 PM | Comments (1)

    Let's make mandatory federal ID cards constitutional

    As a Pajamas Media blogger, it struck me as unseemly to disagree with Roger L. Simon, so I wrote much of this post, but hesitated to publish it. (This blog's archives contain many hundreds of "permanently-hesitated" posts, for other, innumerable reasons)

    But hey, now that Glenn Reynolds has seen fit to say what he thinks, and I'm looking for an excuse not to drive to New Jersey as I'm supposed to be doing right now, I figure that I have two good reasons for finishing what I started.

    I hope Roger will not take offense at my cowardly about-face in deciding to publish what last night I decided to neglect, and I also hope he realizes that I agree with the soundness of his reasoning. In principle, I agree with the idea that we need to be able to identify people more easily. And certainly, the fact that we have no privacy is beyond dispute.

    Here's Roger:

    Pajamas Media is spying on you, as is--assuming you have cookies enabled--nearly every other website you have visited in the last couple of years. At PJM we try to keep this snooping to a gentlemanly minimum but others, like Amazon, seem to know more about us than do our mothers. Then there are the credit card companies and the banks, the department stores and utilities and insurance companies, credit reports, stock brokers, internet providers, cable and satellite companies, the federal and state governments, social security, the IRS, Medicare and your mortuary. I could go on, but you get the point.

    Privacy, to paraphrase the great Preston Sturges, is not only dead, it's decomposed.

    So what's the big deal about a national ID card already?

    Anticipating objections, Roger says:
    I'm sure you'll have some. But please, no ideology. Just practical considerations.

    If not, sign me up, Big Brother. I'm ready for my card - today.

    Fair enough, As to the practical side, there's not much of an argument against it. We've lost our privacy -- big deal or not.

    There is a difference, though, between watching my book purchases because it wants to sell me more and the government watching them because it wants to know whether I'm a political threat. I can easily opt out of Amazon knowing what I read (or any company knowing what I'm buying) by going to a store and paying cash. It's a question of degree. What people and companies do, I can control, and I can decide to withdraw my consent. When the government does it, I can't. can't make me do anything; the government can.

    That element of coercion is what I don't like about national ID cards. I see no way to implement such a thing without making it mandatory in nature. Mandatory, by the way, would mean get one or go to jail. A crime not to have it? I'd be pretty pissed if Amazon were able to get laws passed forbidding me from buying books outside of Amazon, and the gummint is a lot more powerful and threatening than Amazon.

    Now, if the cards were made voluntary, that would assuage some of my concerns. But I just don't like the government telling me that I have to do something (or that an employer has to make me something) or go to jail. Besides, I already have a passport; why should I be forced to get something else? To make the country safer?

    This is not to suggest that there aren't many good reasons for implementing national ID. Roger outlines them in detail. But the desirability of something is not a justification for doing it, especially if the government does not have power to do it.

    Where in the Constitution does the federal government have the power to declare that citizens must have federally-issued ID? Back in 1919, it was believed that the federal government didn't have power to prohibit alcohol; hence the 18th Amendment (which I call the "Telltale Amendment").

    Many good arguments were advanced in favor of Prohibition, and I think a powerful argument can be made for national ID cards, which Roger makes in a compelling manner.

    If there's a huge overwhelming consensus that the federal government involve itself in people's lives to the point of issuing mandatory ID for all, I think that's a perfect case for doing it the right way -- with a constitutional amendment. (Or do we not do things the right way anymore? Could Prohibition be reenacted today by Congress?)

    The Constitution aside, I have one other practical concern. What about the uncontrollable border? Will the ID card requirement stop anyone from crossing the way they do now? I don't see how; all that will happen is that the responsible employers will now have a way of verifying someone's identity, and making sure he has the right to be here, and to work. Won't the countless aliens who hang out at lumber yards and construction sites begging for work still do that? Won't people still hire them to do the unskilled labor that teenagers refuse to do? If stringent gun control measures failed to stop Jose Carranza from getting a gun and shooting innocent college students, what would an ID card requirement have added except another charge?

    As to me, I just don't want to be forced to stand in another long line, and I'm with Glenn when he sites our "current passport woes." Why do I need yet another government-issued document? Not only will it irritate me, but it will irritate hundreds of millions of other Americans, who will probably be even more irritated at the people who don't -- or can't -- get the card.

    What will be done about these people? Who will do it? Exactly how is a tamperproof card for the legals supposed to make the illegals go away?

    I guess the cards won't be for everybody.

    But isn't that just another double standard? Yes, unless they unleash a new policy requiring constant, regular stops for citizens at ID checkpoints, along with mandatory deportation of non-compliant aliens (something I don't think is likely to happen unless Manhattan is nuked).

    Anyway, those are my thoughts, hastily published now, because I have to drive to New Jersey. (Bad as that is, it's better than standing in another huge $%*# line to get the card knowing all the while that the target group will never stand in it.)

    UPDATE: Regarding the terrorist issue, considering that many of the 9/11 hijackers had entered the US legally, I would assume that had there been a national ID card at that time, they'd have each been given one. How would any such card deter terrorism, especially if the cardholder is willing to commit suicide? And if we assume that the visa-holder overstays illegally (as did Mohammad Atta), the card won't turn him in unless it's equipped with RFID technology or feeding into a GPS device like parolees' electronic ankle bracelets.

    As commenter Doug S. points out, "it's not the ID but the database that will be linked to it." Might it do more than that? Technology is relentless; is there any reason why these wouldn't be made "smart" and ultimately behave like implantable biochips?

    Are we just talking about a tamperproof card?

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

    the lowest common denominator keeps getting lower

    A comment from Tom Scott just caused me to write a long and rambling comment that wants to be a post, so rather than expect people to read comments (a process many reasonable people avoid) I guess I should just let the comment become this post.

    Replying to my earlier comment that I had "seen many dogs (especially pit bulls) which have simply wanted to fight without any training," Tom says:

    this reportfrom Tacoma would seem to confirm your point. However, there is no evidence that the dogs were not trained to be aggressive or violent.
    Yes, I saw that story. Drudge (never one to shy from "pit bull" headlines) linked and embellished this version with the following headline:
    NIGHTMARE: Pit Bulls Break Into Home, Maul Woman...
    From what I can see, there was no indication that the dogs had been trained for dog fighting in any way by their young, very flaky-looking owner. It appears that these were simply aggressive, untrained, undisciplined, unsupervised animals who were allowed to roam the neighborhood at will, and one of his dogs was familiar with the woman they attacked (the latter, along with the whole neighborhood, knew they were vicious):
    ...Gorman [the victim] and neighbors say Wilson's pit bulls have long terrorized the area.

    Brad King said his five-pound papillon, Toby, was attacked inside his home when the two dogs entered through his open back door last summer. "They had Toby in their mouths," King said.

    King was able to stop the attack, but Toby suffered a broken jaw.

    Neal Fortner, who lives two houses down from Gorman, said the pit bulls came toward him snarling one morning as he tried to get into his car. He threw rocks to shoo them away.

    "I can't believe she made it out her back door," he said of Gorman. "I'm just glad she made it with her life."

    Gorman said she has called 911 previously when Betty charged her and Misty. She said the animals should be shot.

    "A lot of pit bulls are very sweet, but she's not at all," she said of Betty. "She's got a real mean streak in her."

    I agree with the victim that any animals which run around and terrorize the neighborhood like that should be shot, and I also think an irresponsible owner like that should not be allowed to have them. While this in no way excuses the culpability of the owner, I do think it's nonetheless a bit peculiar that the victim (who has a dog of her own and knew about the dangerous pit bull) left her patio door open, and that not only did the two pit bulls go in, but so did another dog. Video and accompanying story here:
    "I can just say I'm sorry because I can't take it back," said Zack Martin, one of the dogs' owners. He says the other dog belongs to a friend. Martin says one of the dogs chewed on a rope holding up the fence to his backyard, and that's how the dogs escaped.

    "I would never think my dog would do something like that," said Martin.

    Well, the entire neighborhood seems to have known that they roamed at will, and had repeatedly had to fend them off and call the cops.

    I should point out again that notwithstanding the disproportionate media coverage they receive, for this breed, attacks on people are an aberration. While it's not generally well-known, those who bred them for fighting traditionally wanted dogs that were people-friendly in the extreme -- otherwise they could not have been handled in the pit. A very well written piece in the New Yorker explains in more detail than most readers probably want, but here it is anyway. A brief excerpt:
    The supposedly troublesome characteristics of the pit-bull type--its gameness, its determination, its insensitivity to pain--are chiefly directed toward other dogs. Pit bulls were not bred to fight humans. On the contrary: a dog that went after spectators, or its handler, or the trainer, or any of the other people involved in making a dogfighting dog a good dogfighter was usually put down. (The rule in the pit-bull world was "Man-eaters die.")

    A Georgia-based group called the American Temperament Test Society has put twenty-five thousand dogs through a ten-part standardized drill designed to assess a dog's stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness in the company of people. A handler takes a dog on a six-foot lead and judges its reaction to stimuli such as gunshots, an umbrella opening, and a weirdly dressed stranger approaching in a threatening way. Eighty-four per cent of the pit bulls that have been given the test have passed, which ranks pit bulls ahead of beagles, Airedales, bearded collies, and all but one variety of dachshund. "We have tested somewhere around a thousand pit-bull-type dogs," Carl Herkstroeter, the president of the A.T.T.S., says. "I've tested half of them. And of the number I've tested I have disqualified one pit bull because of aggressive tendencies. They have done extremely well. They have a good temperament. They are very good with children." It can even be argued that the same traits that make the pit bull so aggressive toward other dogs are what make it so nice to humans. "There are a lot of pit bulls these days who are licensed therapy dogs," the writer Vicki Hearne points out. "Their stability and resoluteness make them excellent for work with people who might not like a more bouncy, flibbertigibbet sort of dog. When pit bulls set out to provide comfort, they are as resolute as they are when they fight, but what they are resolute about is being gentle. And, because they are fearless, they can be gentle with anybody."

    Breeding for characteristics, of course, is not an absolute science. But in general, coonhounds were bred to go after (and do go after) raccoons, Bulldogs were once bred to go after bulls, Foxhounds to go after foxes, Beagles to go after rabbits, Bloodhounds to follow the human scent, Dobermans to be aggressive towards human intruders, etc. These tendencies can be overcome -- or accentuated -- by training, and there are always aberrations and exceptions. Many a "hunting dog" not only won't hunt, but will run from the sight of a gun. And Saint Bernards (considered one of the most loving of all) have been known to attack children.

    My worry with the pit bull is that its amiable nature (which once went with the fighting genes) is being screwed with by psychopathic criminal breeders who do not seek the same characteristics as the original Victorian gamblers who bred them to be pitted for money. I have seen very friendly pit bulls owned by young thugs who were angered to see their dogs wag their tails and lick me when I pet them. A lot of these kids would do better with a Rottweiler or a Dobie, but they want the muscle-bound look that the pit bull has. (Unfortunately, I suspect that what they want is a pit bull that acts like a Doberman, and I hope such an animal is never created. In my view, such an aberrant variety would constitute a different breed.)

    Sorry to ramble, but I am often concerned. I worry that what is going on in the streets is not in the best interests of a wonderful but misunderstood breed.

    It often reminds me of the gun issue.

    Problem is, there's no Second Amendment for dogs. Which sets this thing up as a debate between loyal and responsible dog owners (accompanied by the usual libertarian hard core) versus concerned communitarians who want to hold everyone to the lowest common denominator.

    The latter mindset means that social policy tends to be written by street scum.

    (Why does that seem fine with the bureaucrats?)

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

    Merry Prankster money

    Quite by accident, I found an oddity in a box of paper money which was for sale, and the seller gave it to me because it was slightly torn. I really didn't care, because something about it intrigued me, and I figured once I scanned it and had the image, no one would care whether it was torn, and it would be mine forever! In my hard drive, the place where nothing ages.


    That's the front side, which indicates that what I have is a 1923 25 pfennig banknote from the Braunschweig area ("Braunschweger notgeld"), and as I was able to ascertain, this was a regional state of the Weimar government, which doesn't appear to have been a very well-run place:

    Strike movements coined/shaped the years 1917 and 1918, whereby beside economical conditions increasingly also the political conditions were criticized. Braunschweig developed to a junction of radically left-wing currents, after the largest part of the SPD members the 1917 again-created USPD (an independent socialist party of Germany) had occurred. Under the guidance of August Merges came it already on 2 November to a mass meeting on the Leonhardplatz. Merges belonged beside the USPD member and influential Anarchisten Sepp Oerter, which was in the years a 1920/1921 Prime Minister of the country, to the pioneers of the revolutionary changes. The learned cutter August Merges was active since 1911 by its contacts to the "people friend", since 1871 appearing and in the people friend house (also "red lock" mentioned) a manufactured social-democratic newspaper, in Braunschweig. During the war it had itself in prominent position in the "revolution club", a union of war opponents, and in the "Spartakusbund" engages. Revolution-well-behaved conditions, which accompanied with prisoner releases, plunderings and occupations, broke already two days off in Braunschweig in former times as in Berlin on 7 November 1918. Representatives of a again educated worker and soldier advice, at whose point August Merges stood, demanded the resignation of duke Ernst August on 8 November. Since this signed after short hesitating still on the same day it submitted deed of abdication, the seizure of power remained unblutig by the worker and soldier advice. This important event lived approx.. 20,000 humans in tension-loaded atmosphere at the lock place. Already two days later, on 10 November 1918, the socialist Republic of Braunschweig was proclaimed and the federal state parliament dominated by the USPD was occupied.
    (My apologies for a very poor translation.) There's more, and Braunschweig fell on harder and harder times, eventually playing an unfortunate role in Hitler becoming a naturalized citizen, and ultimately falling under Nazi rule and losing statehood (summarized here).

    But I depart from the mystery involving my banknote, which turns out to me emergency inflation currency from the Weimar era. The abominable translation continues (the text is to the right of another banknote of similar design):

    Emergency money light from the time of inflation of the Weimar Republic source: City archives Braunschweig, Sign.: H VII: 257 Up to the currency reform 1923 it by rising monetary depreciations and the introduction from coins, due to scarcity of raw materials, came to the spreading of emergency money lights. Despite progressive and reform measures and developments in the 20's, like the social housing construction beginning and the development of cultural life and leisure-time facilities in the city, the situation was intensified again appreciably by the world economic crisis 1929. The number of the unemployed persons rose dramatically, so that particularly in the numbers of the middle class increasingly the influence of the NSDAP [Nazi Party] could be established. These developments of National Socialist tendency at the press organ mentioned "Braunschweiger people friend" are clarified, which increases under political pressure turned out and whose last expenditure appeared on 2 March 1933.
    But the piece of paper really got exciting when I tried to figure out what was on the reverse:


    Looking for owls on Braunschweig "Notgeld" banknotes, it didn't take me long to figure out that what I had pertained to Till Eulenspiegel. The various denominations of currency ffrom the Brauschweig staatsbank featured various pictures of Till Eulenspiegel by artist Gunther Clausen. While owls were also featured on other German currency from the period, Till Eulenspeigel is of particular note because according to legend, he was born in Braunschweig, and his name means Owlglass:

    ...tales are retold from a book that was first printed around 1500 AD as Ein kurzweiliges Buch von Till Eulenspiegel aus dem Lande Braunschweig (A Brief Book on Till Owlglass from Braunschweig Country), and attributed to Hermann Bote. It is one of the most popular books ever that originates in German, and has been translated into many languages. The book consists of farce tales, and Till is a clown.
    Hence the owl.

    Hmmmm..... Closer.

    But learning that "Eulenspiegel" meant "Owlglass" wasn't fully satisfying, because it didn't explain the image on my note. I kept looking, and I finally found the explanation in the form of Tale 61:

    History 61 tells about Till's work for a master baker. One evening his master tells Till - meaning it as ajoke - that he should bake owls and long-tailed monkeys. The next day the master is very angry when he realizes that Eulenspiegel has really filled the bakery with bread formed like owls and long-tailed monkeys baked from the dough he was supposed to make normal bread with.

    That is Till' strategy: He takes every word he is told at face value. After Till has paid for the dough his master chucks him out and Till leaves the bakery with all the funnily fomed bread. He goes back to Braunschweig where he is able to sell his bread to the poeple. Finally he makes more money than he has paid to the master baker.

    Eulenspeigel is known as the original Merry Prankster, and of course his pranks were the inspiration for Strauss's wonderful "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks," with which most classical music fans will be familiar. (Here's a link to a short clip.)

    Until today, I didn't know he made it onto the money.

    The power of his legend may explain why no one took the money seriously.

    I mean really. Suppose Bush decided to put, say The Three Stooges, or Bozo the Clown on United States currency?

    The econony might never fully recover.

    posted by Eric at 05:10 PM | Comments (1)

    Victimized by dog violence?

    Speaking of violence, Michael Vick's guilty plea seems to be giving rise to (or at least encouraging) new phraseology that I consider ominous:

    Now that Michael Vick has agreed to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, animal advocates are hoping the NFL and others take action to continue working against dog violence.
    Dog violence? (Yes, the term is in use!) What is being condemned here by this phrase? Michael Vick's acts of cruelty? Apparently not. The larger issue is dogfighting:
    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it is offering a reward for tips leading to the conviction of those involed in dog fighting. And other groups said they hoped the Vick case brought more attention to the practice.

    PETA spokesman David Perle says that since the Vick case began, law enforcement and PETA are getting tips and leads on other cases across the country. Perle said "PETA is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in dogfighting."

    Bear in mind that it is apparently still the position of this group that pit bulls (the animals which were so cruelly treated by Vick) should all be exterminated. So naturally, I worry that when the complaint is made of "dog violence," they're not just talking about acts of violence committed by humans against dogs, or dogs against humans, but they're judging (and in a rather strange manner) the "violent" acts of dogs!

    If we place the cruelty of Vicks aside for the moment, I'm wondering philosophically whether it is possible for an animal of any sort to engage in what we normally call "violence." I mean, my yard is filled with birds who devour crickets and earthworms, and which are in turn preyed upon by a large hawk which has been raising fledglings in a neighbor's tree. Are these acts of "violence"? If two dogs in heat tie up, that cannot be called rape, any more than a man who sexually abuses a dog can be called a rapist.

    HSUS's Wayne Pacelle, while not quite calling Vick a victim of dogfighting, certainly doesn't single him out as might be expected considering the horrendous underlying facts:

    The president of the Humane Society expressed sympathy for the damage that may have been done to Vick's life.

    "The resolution of this federal case is no cause for celebration -- many dogs suffered terribly and a gifted athlete and his bright career have been perhaps irreparably damaged," Wayne Pacelle said. "The only good that can come from this case is that the American people dedicate themselves to the task of rooting out dogfighting in every infected area where it thrives."

    Today's Inquirer did a good job of reporting, and does not leave out details which show that what Vick did went well beyond dogfighting:

    Three of Vick's original co-defendants already had pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against him. Quanis Phillips of Atlanta and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach signed statements saying Vick participated in executing at least eight underperforming dogs by various means, including drowning and hanging.

    What's being obscured here by the talk of dogfighting and "dog violence" is that that there are degrees of cruelty -- and the cruelty to which Vick is apparently pleading guilty goes well beyond watching two dogs fight. While I don't mean to psychoanalyze animals, I want to look at this from the perspective of common sense. If two dogs go at it and neither one of them displays a desire to run away, it is cruel to sit there and watch, especially for purposes of entertainment, or to make money. But common sense suggests to me if one dog is clearly trying to escape, then it becomes even more cruel, because while it's tough to judge whether anything an animal does is voluntary in nature, trying to get away indicates that the animal does not want to fight. Thus, while it is cruel to allow two pit bulls that are raring to go to actually fight (because we humans are entrusted with their care and owe them better), it is more cruel to sit there and watch one of those same dogs chase down and tear into someone's lapdog which happened to be walking down the street. To not recognize this distinction is, IMO, to abandon logic.

    Thus, if Vick singled out an animal for torture simply because that animal displayed an unwillingness to fight, he did something far worse than dogfighting. Yet instead of complaining about that, the animal rights activists are carrying on about "dog violence." This makes me suspect an agenda.

    There is a problem in using logic with these things, though. If it is more cruel to sic a dog on a dog that wants to get away than to watch two dogs that desire to fight, then that makes coon hunting and fox hunting (which are both done to animals that want to get away) more cruel than dogfighting. This is something few people want to entertain as an idea, because society deems dogfighting inherently more cruel than coonhunting, foxhunting, boar hunting with dogs, or probably bullfighting. (When topics are driven by hysteria and popular prejudices and beliefs, applying logic is a good way to ask for trouble.)

    I see very little logic being applied to Michael Vick. The focus should be on his cruelty to animals, not on "larger issues" which tend to minimize his culpability or even make him look like a victim.

    You'd almost think this case involved the dog control movement.

    MORE: Speaking of relative cruelty, Michael Silence links an interesting post reminding people that abortion is more cruel than dogfighting. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who won't go so far as to call it a defense of Michael Vick. It really isn't. And again, what Vick did was worse than dogfighting.)

    posted by Eric at 10:12 AM | Comments (7)

    the end of violence

    The idea that the status of being poor constitutes "violence" is in some ways quite a relief. Some ideas are so patently illogical as to cross the line that separates the sane from the insane, thus alleviating the need for any argument or discussion. It is literally relieving, because once it becomes clear that plain words and concepts have no meaning, much time can be saved.

    Looking back on BinkyBoy -- who said that Clayton Cramer "threatened" him simply by owning guns and supporting the Second Amendment -- it now occurs to me that the former might have been indoctrinated in this new way of "thinking," which is really no more than a rendering of once-knowable words into utter meaninglessness. If we cannot agree on what "violent" means, then it becomes impossible to have a rational discussion of war, peace, crime, self defense, economics, or politics. I'm reminded of the late Andrea Dworkin's view that "PORNOGRAPHY IS VIOLENCE" because all sex is violent. Penises, like guns, thus become inherently violent, all free will notwithstanding, because, as tools and as objects they become part and parcel of cultural and structural violence.

    I suppose, though, that a larger issue can be seen by posing an additional question: If all disagreeing thoughts and inanimate objects are to be labeled "violence," then what are the implications about violence? Is it being assumed and taken for granted that all violence is bad? Is all physical violence bad? Why? On what basis?

    It occurs to me that when the definition of a word like violence is turned on its head like this, the moral connotation disappears entirely. Once anything can be seen as structural or cultural violence, from where derives any legitimate basis to oppose it? How can there be any moral or ethical system to say that this form of cultural or structural violence is "good," while this form of cultural or structural violence is "bad"? The answer is probably that there is no moral or ethical system, except in the minds of the people who seem to have taken it upon themselves to render moral judgments after just destroying the possibility of rendering moral judgments.

    "My morality is better than your morality!"

    Really? I think that's a culturally and structurally violent thing to say!

    But why should one form of violence be any more wrong than another?

    Galtung, the architect of structural violence, not only believes that Bush is the equivalent of Osama bin Laden, he also thinks the US was the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany in World War II (and in some ways worse).

    And I am sure he believes that disagreement with him is violence, whether he admits it or not. And if he doesn't admit it, well, he's just being violent. To me!

    Yes, I think Galtung has threatened me! With violence! (If saying my country is like Nazi Germany isn't cultural violence, then what is?)

    The problem with all of this is that it negates any basis whatsoever for determining right, wrong, or truth.

    Everything is violence, including opposition to violence, and including freedom. And yet all violence is wrong. Thus, everything is wrong, and everything is right.

    To quote Norm Geras, "'If there is no truth, there is no injustice."

    So what's to argue?

    As I say, not only is it a relief not to have any need to argue anymore, but this "all is violence and all violence is equal" mindset makes it much easier to answer vexing questions, such as this one left in a comment from Triticale:

    If poverty is violence, does this mean we'll all be safer if people who can't be bothered showing up for a seminar on how to find work which a now-disillusioned activist set up on their behalf are all locked up?
    The answer, of course, would be yes! Except that there's no more basis to argue for safety than there is to argue against it.

    Safety is violence!

    Why not? I can say that, can't I?

    posted by Eric at 08:54 AM | Comments (5)

    The Big Heat Pipe In The Sky

    The atmosphere has been described by the Profits of CO2 Doom as a blanket that traps the incoming solar energy and warms the planet. Which is true. At a short time scale. At a little longer time scale the atmosphere is more like a heat pipe. This is on the scale of weather. Day to day changes. I'm going to first explain how heat pipes work and then show how the atmosphere is similar. We will also look at how the ocean is the primary determinant of climate on longer time scales (5 years time constant).

    What is a heat pipe? It is a sealed metal tube (quite often copper) partially filled with a fluid that also has a wick running its full length. The wick is arranged so that it is in contact with the walls of the tube. Here is a simple diagram of a heat pipe.

    How does the heat pipe work? It has a cold end and a hot end. At the hot end the external heat source boils the fluid in the heat pipe the vapor created then condenses on the cold end and the wick then carries the fluid back to the hot end and the cycle repeats.

    Because of the evaporation/condensation method of heat transfer the temperature drop between the hot end and the cold end is much smaller than if the tube had been made of a solid piece of metal. That kind of heat transfer is very efficient. You can get into more of the details at wiki on Heat Pipes. If you want to learn a little of the math and some of the practical difficulties here is a good article on how to build a heat pipe.

    Let me start with an article I discussed earlier at Feedbacks Misdiagnosed. It is by Roy Spencer and discusses the nature of water vapor feedback in terms of weather and climate.

    Let me start out by saying that water vapor is the most prevalent and most effective greenhouse gas in our atmosphere.

    Here is a bit of what Roy has to say.

    For instance, everyone believes that water vapor feedback is positive, and conceptually justifies this by saying that a warmer surface causes more water to evaporate. But evaporation is only half the story in explaining the equilibrium concentration of atmospheric water vapor; precipitation is the other half.
    Which is to say that the whole heat pipe, not just the hot end, must be considered when studying the atmosphere. I covered some of that in Clouds and More Clouds and Clouds In Chambers.

    Roy Spencer discusses how water vapor is the atmosphere's natural air conditioner. Which is not bad. An air conditioner is in many respects a mechanized heat pipe. It can actually transfer heat from a cold space to a hot space. The atmosphere can't do this. So the heat pipe analogy is more apt. Other than that he has some good simple diagrams and pretty pictures to explain what is going on.

    So let me sum up:

    We don't live in a greenhouse. We live in a heat pipe. Actually that is not strictly true. We live in a greenhouse and a heat pipe. The greenhouse slows heat transfer by radiation. The heat pipe increases heat transfer by conduction and convection and evaporation and condensation. Because of heat storage in the ocean there is about a 5 year time constant from the time the extra energy starts coming in until balance is mostly restored.

    In terms of delayed response, the climate problem is similar to the capacitor soakage problem in electronics.

    There is a primary time constant and a number of secondary time constants.

    The secondary time constants are generally not very influential except at very high precisions. Even then their influence is limited to very low frequency signals.

    Roy Spencer and a number of others have worked out the primary time constant by other means and have also come up with a numbers around five years.

    In control theory to assure system stability you generally want a system where a first order lag is dominant. This appears to be the case in the climate system according to a number of different analysis methods.

    In addition because of water vapor evaporation/condensation the atmosphere is more like a heat pipe than a blanket at the time scales (five years) in question. At shorter time scales it is more like a blanket due to the lags. In fact the primary time constant is determined by the evaporation/condensation time constant according to Stephen E. Schwartz.

    I'll go into where the five year number comes from in another post (can't say when).

    For those of you who can't get enough on how the consensus is breaking down you might want to read this link rich piece by a Congressional staffer.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:32 AM | Comments (10)

    Freedom is violence!

    In more than a couple of posts, I've ridiculed a bumpersticker which simply said: "POVERTY IS VIOLENCE."

    But until today I never know what fiend was responsible for that inane and empty slogan which acts as little more than a logic-destroying thought virus. (It helps to know exactly who these people are, so I often wonder, usually to little avail.)

    Glenn's link to Bruce Bawer's "The Peace Racket" provided the answer, at least to this particular round of "guess the sloganeer." The great mind who came up with the theory which equates an absence of socialism with physical violence is a man named Johan Galtung, whose life is reviewed by Bawer largely because of his role in developing another inane idea -- "Peace Studies":

    Peace studies initiatives may train students to be social workers, to work in churches or community health organizations, or to resolve family quarrels and neighborhood disputes. At the movement's heart, though, are programs whose purported emphasis is on international relations. Their founding father is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that "our time's grotesque reality" was--no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West's "structural fascism." He's called America a "killer country," accused it of "neo-fascist state terrorism," and gleefully prophesied that it will soon follow Britain "into the graveyard of empires."
    Does he really have to be Norwegian? I'm of Norwegian descent, and I'm beginning to take this man's very existence as an ethnic slur! What gives him such a profound chip on his shoulder in the name of peace, anyway? The Norwegian Empire never got off the ground? (I guess I don't have to point out that they outdid us in the fascism department back in World War II -- but that's not a judgment on the many Norwegian freedom fighters. But this Galtung coward would probably call Vidkun Quisling a "peace maker.")
    No fan of Britain either, Galtung has faulted "Anglo-Americans" for trying to "stop the wind from blowing." If the U.S. and the U.K. oppose a dangerous development, in his view, we're causing trouble--Milosevic, Saddam, and Osama are just the way the wind is blowing. Galtung's kind of thinking leads inexorably to the conclusion that one should never challenge any tyrant. Fittingly, he urged Hungarians not to resist the Soviet Army in 1956, and his views on World War II suggest that he'd have preferred it if the Allies had allowed Hitler to finish off the Jews and invade Britain.
    Yup. The guy has old Vidkun Quisling's stamp all over him!
    Though Galtung has opined that the annihilation of Washington, D.C., would be a fair punishment for America's arrogant view of itself as "a model for everyone else," he's long held up certain countries as worthy of emulation--among them Stalin's USSR, whose economy, he predicted in 1953, would soon overtake the West's. He's also a fan of Castro's Cuba, which he praised in 1972 for "break[ing] free of imperialism's iron grip." At least you can't accuse Galtung of hiding his prejudices. In 1973, explaining world politics in a children's newspaper, he described the U.S. and Western Europe as "rich, Western, Christian countries" that make war to secure materials and markets: "Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when it's spread in this way to other countries it's called imperialism." In 1974, he sneered at the West's fixation on "persecuted elite personages" such as Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. Thirty years later, he compared the U.S. to Nazi Germany for bombing Kosovo and invading Afghanistan and Iraq. For Galtung, a war that liberates is no better than one that enslaves.
    Yes, because war is more evil than death camps, torture, enslavement, or extermination. The Jews who fought back in the Warsaw Ghetto were no better than the Nazis who burned them out!
    His all-time favorite nation? China during the Cultural Revolution. Visiting his Xanadu, Galtung concluded that the Chinese loved life under Mao: after all, they were all "nice and smiling." While "repressive in a certain liberal sense," he wrote, Mao's China was "endlessly liberating when seen from many other perspectives that liberal theory has never understood." Why, China showed that "the whole theory about what an 'open society' is must be rewritten, probably also the theory of 'democracy'--and it will take a long time before the West will be willing to view China as a master teacher in such subjects."

    Nor has Galtung changed his tune over the decades. Recently he gave a lecture that was a smorgasbord of wild accusations about America's refusing to negotiate with Saddam, America's secret plans to make war in Azerbaijan, Nazis in the State Department, the CIA's responsibility for 6 million covert murders, and so on. Galtung called for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Iraq--to treat America's crimes, not the Baathists'.

    Great guy. (Read the whole thing if you want a good puke.)

    What I cannot understand for the life of me is why he looks like such a kindly and avuncular old man in the Wiki entry picture.

    Anyway, on to Galtung's theory of what makes violence out of poverty:

    The Peace Racket maintains that the Western world's profound moral culpability, arising from its history of colonialism and economic exploitation, deprives it of any right to judge non-Western countries or individuals. Further, the non-West has suffered so much from exploitation that whatever offenses it commits are legitimate attempts to recapture dignity, obtain justice, and exact revenge. Have Third World terrorists taken Americans hostage? Don't call the hostages innocent victims. After all, as Americans, they're complicit in a system that has long inflicted "structural violence" (or "structural terrorism") upon the Third World poor. Donald Rothberg of San Francisco's Saybrook Institute explains: "In using the term 'structural violence,' we identify phenomena as violent that are not usually seen as violent. For example, Western economic domination."
    Considering that Galtung is credited with the term "structural violence," I guess it's fair to call him the Architect of Structural Violence.

    This nonsense architecture includes "structural violence" within "Galtung's conflict triangle":

    ....the assumption that the best way to define peace is to define violence, its antithesis. It reflects the normative aim of preventing, managing, limiting and overcoming violence.
  • Direct (overt) violence, e.g., direct attack, massacre.

  • Structural violence. Death by avoidable reasons such as malnutrition. Structural violence is indirect violence caused by an unjust structure and is not to be equated with an act of God. Hurricane Katrina, which struck the USA in 2005, was a so-called "act of God", but the deaths in the poorer black population of New Orleans are an example of structural violence, since their deaths were related to societal imbalance.

  • Cultural violence. Cultural violence occurs as a result of the cultural assumptions that blind one to direct or structural violence. For example, one may be indifferent toward the homeless, or even consider their expulsion or extermination a good thing.
  • In other words, the mere opinion that a guy panhandling on the street should get a job is violence!

    Structural violence is said to kill far more people than wars, and it is said by doctors to have actual clinical dimensions.

    Most importantly, it is not to be confused by misleading rhetoric about that form of nonsense Republicans like to call "freedom":

    The patterns of discrimination, injustice and exploitation are built into practices, and cultural patterns that we hardly notice or think of. And the ideologies and cosmologies that defend the unjust structures and patterns, are examples of cultural violence. The Republican rhetoric in the USA, for instance, uses the term "freedom" to justify the capitalist system, and lack of solidarity. Such deep cultural rhetoric, must be brought to the light, and we must change thinking and behaviours.
    What this means is that "freedom" is just another word for violence.

    When the Republicans talk about freedom, what they really mean is the freedom to commit cultural violence. Seen this way, "eliminationist rhetoric" does not require any advocacy or threats to kill anyone. Merely opposing socialism, or advocating "freedom" will suffice.

    Is that clear?

    While I'd like to think this is satire, or at least a wacky idea from some way-out province of the lunatic fringe, there is a serious side which isn't funny at all.

    Sincere, hard-working parents all over the country have been enrolling their kids in colleges with innumerable Peace and Conflict studies departments, and there is a movement to make courses like "Peace Studies" (and the closely related "Social Justice") mandatory. Because most people are too busy to examine these things in the detail that is (unfortunately) required, they may fail utterly to realize that "Peace Studies" does not mean painting a dayglo peace symbols on your forehead and listening to Joan Baez and John Lennon. It means being indoctrinated in something which is antithetical to just about every Western liberal tradition, as well as to logic itself. While I'd like to think that if I raised a kid he'd have the sense to see past it, what about all these fine universities that apparently don't?

    And what about the 60 cosponsors of House Resolution 808? This measure:

    ...would authorize a Secretary of Peace to "establish a Peace Academy," "develop a peace education curriculum" for elementary and secondary schools, and provide "grants for peace studies departments" at campuses around the country. If passed, the measure would catapult the peace studies movement into a position of extraordinary national, even international, influence.
    Should tax dollars be used to promote the idea that what we call American freedom is actually "structural violence"?

    Or should I give the congressmen the same benefit of the doubt that I just gave the ignorant but hard-working parents?


    The irony is that if these people ever get their way, there'll be no one to stop the bad guys.

    (Almost creates a niche for Bad Guy Studies.)

    MORE: Um, maybe that's how they should market War Studies?

    posted by Eric at 07:54 PM | Comments (6)

    Catching up with Philadelphia gun violence

    I'm running incredibly behind schedule today; hence the lack of posting.

    However, I am in receipt of a postcard which I thought I should scan and share. The topic is gun violence and the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    I never really made the connection before, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.


    And as the picture makes clear, what we have is a deadly, concealable, easily available handgun, which was manufactured in Philadelphia by John Deringer, and eventually crossed state lines and traveled to Washington DC where it inflicted fatal gun violence on the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

    Unfortunately, I cannot read the text of the Inquirer article, but no doubt the easy availability of readily concealable handguns was the root cause of the gun violence, although I'm sure America's culture of violence also played a role.

    There are other factors which might be said to have driven John Wilkes Booth to do what he did, but by today's standards, is it really fair to blame Booth? As we know today, 98% of gun violence arises out of arguments, which only escalate to fatal violence because of the presence of guns. As is typical of the gun violence today, the gun violence of 1865 also began with an argument:

    Abraham Lincoln was elected president on November 6, 1860, and the following month Booth wrote a long speech that decried what he saw as Northern abolitionism and made clear his strong support of the South and the institution of slavery. On April 12, 1861, the Civil War erupted, and eventually eleven Southern states seceded from the Union. Booth's family was from Maryland, a border state which remained in the Union during the war despite a slaveholding portion of the population that favored the Confederacy. Because Maryland shared a border with Washington, D.C., Lincoln declared martial law in Maryland and ordered the imprisonment of pro-secession Maryland political leaders at Ft. McHenry to prevent the state's secession, a move that many, including Booth, viewed as unconstitutional.
    Imprisoning political dissidents? Even the great dictator Bush never went that far.

    Among men of Booth's cultural background, there was a mindset which resembled today's "code of the street" -- with disputes and arguments often settled at gunpoint. And by any standard, Booth clearly had an argument with Lincoln, and Booth's honor code required that Lincoln be killed!

    The inescapable fact is that without the gun, Booth's argument with Lincoln would never have turned fatal!

    With so many obvious similarities to the gun violence today, it's amazing that it took this country so long to realize that guns were the issue, but it really wasn't until 1968 (many assassinations later) that the country finally wised up and started passing real gun control laws.

    That's why gun violence is a thing of the past, right?

    posted by Eric at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

    Happy Blogiversary, Kesher Talk!

    Today, Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk celebrates five years of first rate blogging.

    Retrospective 50-day multimedia extravaganza here. Go check it out.

    I love blogs that have staying power, and bloggers who keep it up. Kesher Talk was here when I started and is one of my earliest blogroll links.

    Here's to another 5 years, Judith!

    posted by Eric at 10:45 PM | Comments (2)

    Self help books -- for those who hate self help books!

    If you think you might want to improve yourself but don't like self help books, I highly recommend reading Dr. Helen's "Self-Help Cornucopia."

    I have never liked self-help books. One of the few I did like was Albert Ellis' How to Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything: Yes Anything! I originally found it from reading Dr. Helen's blog, and it's among the books she recommends in the cornucopia. There are many more listed, for most of the common mental issues and worries (real or imagined) that plague us.

    But there are a ton of books out there, and no way to know which ones are good. Dr. Helen is not only a professionally trained psychologist, but someone who admits she was skeptical of self help books:

    I used to scoff at self-help books and did not believe in them. I found out through trial and error that I was wrong and that many of them are helpful to millions of people--that is, if one can wade through the bad ones and find the gems.
    You couldn't ask for a better self-help book screener than that!

    posted by Eric at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

    A culture of dictatorship?

    A number of blogs (both rightish, leftish and centrish) seem to be wising up to something that ought to concern everyone. The Democrats are either going along with or giving dictatorial powers to the very Republicans they claim should not have been given the dictatorial powers that they helped give them.

    I don't know what to say, but the last time I suspected a bipartisan power grab was shortly after 9/11. I saw freedom as threatened:

    Bad as it was to see our enemies bring down such a symbol of freedom as the World Trade Center, it was even worse to see ordinary Americans being told that it was their fault. Unbelievably, this message did not come solely from Osama bin Laden and his supporters. People here, on the left as well as the right, told us that we were to blame. Next, a chorus of voices declared that because our enemies had destroyed the Twin Towers, that we had too much freedom, and that some of it must now be taken away. That was too much for me. It has taken me some time to realize the connection, but I now see that our freedom is like the Twin Towers: seemingly strong and indestructible, but at the same time frail and delicate -- and quite mortal in the face of an evil threat.

    I am sorry to have seen the efforts to undermine our freedom meet with some success.....

    You might expect that in a time of national panic, bad laws would passed. (Like the Patriot Act, which is being utilized more for the drug war than the war against terrorism.)

    So what's up now?

    There's an election coming. "Bush the dictator" will be gone soon, right? Someone else will be sworn in on January 20, 2009.

    The "dictator" will be out.

    And what? Long live the dictator?

    Might it just be that the Democrats anticipate taking the White House, and want to have all this dictatorial power for themselves? Might they be greasing the skids?

    If you look at things this way, the Republicans aren't doing a very good job of planning ahead.

    Because, if Hillary Clinton gets caught up in the "culture of dictatorship," it'll be all too easy for her to simply turn around and blame the Republicans!

    MORE: Perhaps in the future the rightists can avail themselves of the phrase "democratic totalitarianism" (also known as smiley face fascism").

    (Might want to put a capital "D" on it as a rhetorical aid....)

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post. Welcome all!

    I'm especially honored to be linked right after Alan Sullivan's analysis of how much easier it is to destroy a nation than build one. I hope we're not doing the former, and I like the way Alan ends on a note of optimism:

    Fortunately our electorate is a little more complex than the ones that elevated Mugabe and Chavez.
    It's absolutely true.

    posted by Eric at 02:28 PM | Comments (9)

    So don't buy the sink, watch the video!

    I loved Jerry Garcia. I wept when he died.

    But really, $16,000 is too much to pay for a stainless steel kitchen sink, even if it came from what was once Garcia's house.

    There was only one Jerry Garcia, but a sink is still a sink. (And a very plain one at that.)

    What I like to remember Garcia for is what he did best. His guitar playing. While I know that styles and tastes vary, I just think the man was a true genius at what he did, and of course he worked really hard -- all the time -- on his music, just living and breathing to do just one thing: play guitar. To the point where he made it look easy to others.

    When I first saw the Grateful Dead, I couldn't believe what I was hearing, but the most amazing part was their attitude. They looked like they were just screwing around, casually having fun. Garcia didn't look or act like an ego-bound rock star; if you made your way up to the stage (no security in those days) he'd just look at you and smile without any hint of an attitude. A very un-rock-starrish thing to do.

    Garcia's whole unassuming style reminds me of what Mikhail Kalashnikov said about his remarkable ability:

    "To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex."
    Garcia with his guitar, like Kalashnikov and his guns, made it look devilishly simple to do things that were in fact very witty and sophisticated.

    In the early 70s, I used to go to a local nightclub in Berkeley where Garcia would play with his own band, the Jerry Garcia Band (also known as "Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders" -- in fact I was there when the CD was recorded). He was even more laid back than when he was playing with the Dead, as there wasn't as much pressure to deliver the mandatory crowd pleasers. He could just be himself and screw around with his guitar, as he does in the video that follows.

    While it's from 1991 (and it's tough to believe that Jerry was still in his 40s as he looks pretty old), it's a remarkable musical picture of the man's range and style. I doubt he was doing it intentionally, but in retrospect, he left a perfect showcase. The nonchalant, unassuming, humorous attitude, the nearly inaudible voice, that appearance of just casually screwing around on the guitar. But if you watch it, you'll notice he playfully runs circles around just about every note, chord, octave and progession in his reportoire. (Just about everything except the kitchen sink.)

    The charm of the man's genius is that he seems almost blissfully unaware of it. He's not playing one of his songs, but Eric Clapton's "Lay Down Sally."

    No responsibility. Just having fun.

    Working, of course. At the kind of work which Mark Twain didn't consider work at all!

    I love it, and I loved Jerry.

    But no, I'm not buying the sink.

    posted by Eric at 01:25 PM | Comments (4)

    Anonymous allegations of nonexistent threats

    As I've said before, Clayton Cramer has always been a gentleman with me (despite disagreements going back to the very inception of this blog), and I have endeavored to do the same. It seems silly to have to point this out, but Cramer has never threatened me in any way, nor is he the type of person who would utter anything remotely resembling a threat. The idea is laughable.

    The problem is, I'm not laughing.

    While I hope it doesn't represent the future of the blogosphere, (because I think it's pretty pathetic) the fact is that an anonymous blogger named "BinkyBoy" has claimed that Clayton Cramer is threatening him. With guns!

    The blogger, BinkyBoy, began with an implicit accusation wrapped inside what appears to be a demand that Cramer stop threatening him:

    ....don't threaten me with guns. No matter how big of a gun you buy your penis will never grow, Clayton.
    I think that's not only a cheap shot, it borders on out-and-out paranoia, for this man does not even know Cramer, and does not point to any threat anywhere. There is no basis whatsoever for the claim of any "threat" -- which seems to be grounded in nothing other than the obvious fact that Cramer has guns and supports the Second Amendment! By this standard, I am threatening anyone who reads this blog, as is anyone else who supports the Second Amendment, belongs to the NRA, or owns a gun.

    And by the same logic, Glenn Reynolds is threatening everyone with knives! I would consider this non-logic a source of humor (as a matter of fact, I did consider it humor just a few days ago when I accused Glenn of plotting a "Knight of the Long Knives" coup), because it it's silly. But here I am, being forced to address in a serious manner a form of nonsense that struck me as hilarious just a few days ago.

    Sorry, but I can't. Life is too short. Besides, I'm already worried about Glenn's knife collection, and now I have to worry the guns of Cramer.

    Hmmm. And probably the penis of BinkyBoy.

    Well? After all, he does have one -- even if it's an "anonymous penis." Should I feel threatened?

    Listen BinkyBoy, don't you threaten me with your penis! Just as I've stood my ground against the knives and guns of Glenn Reynolds and Clayton Cramer, I'm not scared of you and your Idaho schlong!

    (I suppose if I had kids I could also gratuitously interject "don't threaten my children!")

    My apologies for the crudity and infantilism of the comparison, but it's about the level of the logic of BinkyBoy, and like it or not, such logic passes for "dialogue" in some circles.

    Is it just comedy? Might I be missing BinkyBoy's subtle humor and clever wit?

    I don't think so, because after having scolded Cramer for the imaginary threat, BinkyBoy escalated. He now sees Cramer as being somehow connected to anonymous unverified videos posted by David Neiwert purporting to show angry "Minutemen" threatening to shoot -- and actually shooting -- border crossers. Reacting to these videos (at least one of which has been shown to be a hoax), BinkyBoy sees Cramer as not only morally culpable, but poised to threaten him "again":

    right wing xenophobes that peddle in hate speech, others are about to reap from what you have sown.

    Maybe for all of this Clayton will threaten me with his guns some more.

    Obviously, he considers Cramer's mere existence an ongoing threat.

    Does he really think this, or is it political hyperbole? I can't be sure, but if this is serious, I think it's an example of what can happen when anonymity mixes with hyperbole. As I keep pointing out, we all have an unfortunate human tendency to engage in hyperbole, especially in politics. I try to keep mine under control, but I am human. My identity is public, though, and I think that tends to restrain me a bit more than if I hid behind an anonymous blog. An anonymous blogger could be anyone at all, anywhere in the world, and there is absolutely nothing to restrain such a person. (Not even the threat of loss of credibility, because if you burn one blog, burn one identity, you can just shut it down and start it up again somewhere else.)

    As I said, I think hyperbole is addictive, because it is fueled by emotion and adrenaline and in return fuels more, and creates the need for more. (That is why hyperbole tends to be self-escalating.) When compounded by anonymity, the process is fueled further, and it explains why anonymous commenters are generally the ones who become the most unhinged, and the same is true with anonymous bloggers. Not that I would censor either, but I do think that, just as a signed document from a known individual has more credibility than an anonymous writing on a piece of paper, it's fair to take a known blogger or commenter more seriously than an anonymous one.

    I say this not to dwell on "BinkyBoy" (who is as replaceable as a cotter pin), but to comment on a general phenomenon.

    I noticed that another blogger who disagrees with Cramer, Snowflakes in Hell, has also come to his defense:

    I may have my disagreements with Clayton on a lot of social issues, but if this is what passes for reasoned discourse among Idaho progressives, no wonder it's a Republican dominated state. I sincerely hope this site isn't run by grown adults.
    There's no way to know. Whether they are grown adults, or for that matter whether they are Idaho progressives. They could be socialists in Belgium. Or clever right wing agents provocateur pretending to be leftists.

    To the above, Cramer left this comment:

    There are days that I wonder if BinkyBoy even lives in Idaho-where gun ownership is the norm, not the exception.
    That was my first reaction too. There's no way to know anything.

    Cramer's reply to the allegation:

    I've never threatened anyone with a gun, much less BinkyBoy. Such a threat is a criminal offense. BinkyBoy needs to either confess that this is entirely in his head, or file a criminal complaint. Then we can see him go to jail for filing a false report.
    Cramer also notes that another blogger "once tried to have a polite conversation by email with BinkyBoy, and the response was to use the b-word and threaten him with violence if they ever met." (Another example of addictive hyperbole aggravated fueled by anonymity.)

    Anonymous bloggers who make anonymous allegations don't file complaints. Their smear tactics speak for themselves.

    When the unverifiability of a statement lies in the anonymity of a source, the net result is a big fat nothing.

    (At least, nothing to be taken seriously. I think we'll see a lot more of such nothingness, though.)

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and welcome all!

    (Have to say, it certainly was magnanimous of Glenn to give BinkyBoy free career advice, all things considered.)

    posted by Eric at 11:43 AM | Comments (21)

    Beetlemania leads to Arachnophenia

    This beetle was trying to get into my house earlier tonight. (I suspect it was attracted to the light emanating from the monitor, but then, I've become computercentric. It might have just been the regular lighting.)


    But I think if I was a beetle, I'd prefer to be a beetle spider, like this wonderful hybrid:

    VW Beetle spider.jpg

    Yeah, I know there's a Fiat Spyder, but I don't think the offspring between that and a Beetle would be quite as dramatic or artistic.

    Anyway, this bug business makes the song "Boris the Spider" from the Who come to mind.

    I found a great version from 1975:

    What do you call all of this? Arachnophenia?

    Maybe, but I'm afraid there already is such a thing.

    I thought I'd invented the term, but originality has become impossible.

    And Hillary is having Spider Man issues. (Yes, politics can devour even elderly comics artists.)

    MORE: Via Purple Avenger at Ace I found a perplexing question:

    "What kind of love can you get from a spider?"
    I don't honestly know.

    But, from an arachnophile perspective, husbands come in all flavors.

    posted by Eric at 11:23 PM | Comments (2)

    Pirates for freedom!

    "Alms for Jihad" is already at $160.00 on ebay with three days to go.

    Googling the book (including its download form) after reading several sickening accounts of the sucessful Saudi censorship campaign, I learned that a ton of people are looking for it, but no one has it for sale. Even the digital download places don't have it. I tried logging in and went through the whole sign-in process twice, only to be told it was "not available." A place called Mobibooks is said to be the only place that has it, but their website is down.

    I'm so pissed that I feel like buying the damn thing and spending a couple of days scanning it, breaking the copyright laws, putting it out there for the world, and defying the Digital Millenium Copyright Pigs when they come to get me.

    It strikes me that cowardly publishers ought to lose all moral rights to the copyrighted material they pull.

    History, common sense, and the First Amendment all militate that that books which are burned belong in the public domain.

    MORE: Lest anyone think this is only happening in England, the Salafist enemy will use our libel laws to defeat us right here in the United States:

    Another similar case in America involves KinderUSA, a charity that is suing Yale University Press, charging that a book published last year by Michael Levitt called " Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad" (2006) linked the non-profit to support of terrorism.

    Mr. Burr said of his co-authored book now, "Buy it, if you can find one," since it was now a collector's item.

    The press release from Sheikh Mahfouz's law firm said he would donate the money from the settlement to the United Nations Children's Fund. Forbes magazine lists the sheikh's fortune at $3.1 billion, much of which derives from a sale of National Commercial Bank to the Saudi government in 2002.

    KinderUSA? Hah! More on them here.

    MORE: As of yesterday, KinderUSA seems to have withdrawn its lawsuit. For the children:

    Our decision to withdraw the lawsuit was based on an assessment of our financial situation; because the needs of the Palestinian children are so great at this time, we decided to expend our resources in terms of time and energy on alleviating the desperate situation of our beneficiaries instead of on costly legal fees that would have ensued as this case proceeded.

    This resolution is not satisfying to anyone with a sense of justice but it does safeguard the funds KINDER-USA urgently needs to fulfill its mission. With the ongoing blockade of Gaza, humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian children and their families continues with over 80% of the Gazan population reliant on outside food aid. Chronic malnutrition affects over 10% of children under the age of five in all of the occupied Palestinian territories, while in Gaza over 50,000 children are reported malnourished with more than 70% of 9-months old anemic. While families are being drip fed aid, over 10,000 children die each year mostly from preventable diseases and poor care for newborns.

    I'm sure it's not satisfying for enemies of freedom to see censorship thwarted, even if temporarily.

    Excuse me while I go puke.


    Now that I'm back, more here on the KinderUSA stuff.

    UPDATE: Thank ye, Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post! ARRH indeed! And welcome maties!

    I do appreciate any and all advice or suggestions.

    UPDATE: The American Library Association has issued an official statement, reading in part:

    Unless there is an order from a U.S. court, the British settlement is unenforceable in the United States and libraries are under no legal obligation to return or destroy the book. Libraries are considered to hold title to the individual copy or copies, and it is the library's property to do with as it pleases. Given the intense interest in the book, and the desire of readers to learn about the controversy first hand, we recommend that U.S. libraries keep the book available for their users.
    The Heretical Librarian is a good blog too. Check it out!

    MORE: Alyssa A. Lappen, writing in, explains why the Saudi censors are having trouble in the United States:

    Justice Eady then ordered Ehrenfeld to apologize, retract, pay bin Mahfouz $225,913.37 in damages and destroy copies of her book.

    A fearless U.S. citizen, published in the U.S., Ehrenfeld ignored the British default judgement. Rather than respond to false claims of libel, never tried on their merits, Ehrenfeld applied to the Southern District Court of New York to rule the U.K. court judgment unenforceable in the U.S.

    On June 8, 2007, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals justices unanimously found that Ehrenfeld's case merits hearing in an U.S. federal court--and that the case has implications for all U.S. authors and publishers, whose First Amendment rights are threatened by foreign libel rulings.

    The Second Circuit justices also took the unusual step of referring the matter of jurisdiction over bin Mahfouz to the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court --and underscoring its importance to other New York and U.S. authors.

    The Second Circuit panel slammed bin Mahfouz again on June 27, 2007--unanimously denying his request to reconsider their decision on the merit of the case for trial in the U.S. And on June 28, the New York Court of Appeals agreed to hear the arguments on jurisdiction this autumn.

    These rulings have already weakened bin Mahfouz' ability to conduct legal terrorism against U.S. authors and publishers.


    posted by Eric at 05:18 PM | Comments (20)

    And my preference is....

    Via Pajamas Media, I found a fascinating test called "Pick Your Candidate," which tells you which candidates are most aligned with your thinking. It's a relatively simple test, which asks your opinions on various issues, then assigns (or subtracts from) each candidate, based on the following criteria:

    If you agree with a candidate, he gets point(s). If you disagree, take point(s) away. Unkown/other results in no points. The number of points given or taken depends on the weight you set. "Meh" is worth 1 point, "important" 2, and "key" is worth 5. The items you disagree about will be listed directly underneath each candidate (if they score greater than zero).
    And here's my list, ranked in the order I'm said to prefer them:
  • Giuliani 20

  • McCain 19

  • Hunter 17

  • Tancredo 16

  • Thompson 14

  • Romney 13

  • Cox 11

  • Huckabee 8

  • Brownback 7

  • Paul 3

  • Richardson -5

  • Biden -9

  • Dodd -10

  • Edwards -13

  • Gravel -13

  • Clinton -14

  • Obama -15

  • Kucinich -20
  • I would have thought that I'd have ranked Thompson higher than McCain, and Paul higher than Brownback, and while I'm not surprised to see Obama and Kucinich at the bottom, I'd still vote for Obama over Hillary Clinton. (Kucinich, I'm afraid, is off my chart entirely.)

    I ranked the war as a key issue, though, which probably influenced the results accordingly.

    This is not an exact science, as the test cannot tell you who you like. The personal stuff doesn't factor in. For example, I have always loved John McCain, but because of McCain-Feingold, I'd never have ranked as my him number two choice. (A question about McCain Feingold or the First Amendment, of course, would have caused his ranking to plummet accordingly.)

    Had there been any box to check, or way to rate these candidates according to the extreme irritation I have over holding an election this early, I'm sure Fred Thompson would have been the clear winner, because he's the only candidate who seems to have enough common sense to know that ordinary people intensely dislike what's happening.

    All the rest of the candidates are trying to play this dumb premature game of beat the Dominatrix, instead of letting her whip herself into a state of premature exhaustion.

    How much better it would have been if she'd held a premature election and nobody came!

    MORE: Regarding the domination issue, in an outburst of nostalgia, I stumbled onto what might just be the perfect campaign theme song.

    WARNING: This video is only intended for people who are really into whipping themselves into a state of premature exhaustion!

    From the late 70s, early 80s, the immortal Throbbing Gristle, performing their ever popular classic, "Discipline."

    Hey, for the people who need it, I say enjoy!

    (Seriously, the song expresses perfectly my inner feelings about Hillary's permanent election.)

    UPDATE (08/19/07): Stephen Green has been performing a genuine community service, by drunken-live-blogging the Democratic debate (at 9:00 a.m.!!!) so that the rest of us don't have to. How he manages, I don't know. But after 2.5 Bloody Marys, he's charmingly, hysterically, funny:

    9:50am "I'll bring strong spiritual values into the White House," promised Kucinich. You think President Hillary Clinton will give him a day pass?
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Don't miss the recap:
    ....look for John Edwards to slip even further in the polls, even in Iowa. His angry voice/Farrah Fawcett smile is the most off-putting combination I've seen since a failed bartending experiment involving scotch and tonic.

    Barrack Obama: Would make a nice high school history teacher. You know, the one who always wrote his test questions wrong.

    Dennis Kucinich: Makes Kim Jong Il look tall. And also like a supply-sider.

    Mike Gravel: Crazy enough to run, too crazy to quit.

    Chris Dodd: What's with the green tie? Pair it with a like-colored shirt and he could be running for host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

    We should make sure that Stephen Green's liquor cabinet is kept well stocked.

    The country's survival might depend on it.

    posted by Eric at 03:16 PM | Comments (2)

    The evolution of apostasy

    I get regular email from a man named Matt Barber, whose opinions I have discussed from time to time. In his latest mailing, he makes a strong claim that seems worthy of discussion -- that the Evangelical Lutheran Church is guilty of apostasy:

    Washington, D.C. -- At a recent meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the decision was made that the ELCA would ignore the Bible's unequivocal condemnation of homosexual behavior as sinful and permit openly homosexual clergy to pastor ELCA churches. This has stirred up tension between the ELCA and other more Biblically sound factions within the Lutheran denomination.

    In a statement, Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), noted, "This goes contrary to the historic and universal understanding of the Christian Church regarding what the Holy Scriptures teach about homosexual behavior as contrary to God's will and about the Biblical qualifications for holding the pastoral office."

    Matt Barber, Policy Director for Cultural Issues with Concerned Women for America (CWA), said, "The word apostasy is a strong one. It shouldn't be used lightly. Unfortunately, the ELCA's decision to endorse the sin of homosexuality, which Scripture clearly calls an 'abomination to God,' represents nothing short of apostasy.

    "We're witnessing a growing trend within certain liberal sects of Christendom wherein leftist church leaders are pushing new-age, Bible-ala-carte spiritualism. The mindset is, 'If God's Word doesn't comport with my view on morality, then I'm right and God is wrong. He needs to get with the program. Murder pre-born children with abortion - Sure why not? Celebrate sexual deviancy? No problem.'

    "This is America, and people are generally free to say and do what they want," continued Barber, "But if a formal church collective such as the ELCA is going to call itself Christian, the least it can do is honor the Bible, not rip out and trash the pages it doesn't like. There's nothing Christian about that."

    While Barber sent that text in his email to me, it is identical to a story appearing at the Concerned Women for America web site (where he is the Policy Director for Cultural Issues).

    CWFA also links a story about a Dallas church which refused to allow a gay funeral. The pastor stated that celebrating the deceased's homosexuality would be like celebrating a murderer's murder.

    While think the comparison is inapt, the pastor and the church are certainly within their rights to make it, and to refuse to allow the funeral. If you want a gay funeral and the church won't allow it, you can find another church that will. But where's the line here? Suppose the church had allowed the gay funeral. Would that have been an act of apostasy against Christianity?

    This begs the question of what constitutes apostasy.

    While I'm still irritated at Wiki over improper deletions of settled facts, their definition of apostasy seems basically accurate:

    a term generally employed to describe the formal renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to one's former religion.
    It is to be distinguished from heresy:
    The difference between apostasy and heresy is that the latter refers to rejection or corruption of certain doctrines, not to the complete abandonment of one's religion. Heretics claim to still be following a religion (or to be the "true followers"), whereas apostates reject it.
    It strikes me that Barber may have used the wrong word here. If we assume that the ELCA has rejected or corrupted church doctrines, wouldn't that be heresy? Most religious schisms have at one time or another been called heretical by those on either side of the doctrinal dispute. Certainly, Lutherans who believe that the ELCA's interpretation of scripture is wrong have every right to leave their church and start another one, as dissenting Episcopalians have. This begs the question of which side is truly "heretical." The founders of this country were well aware of this process, and hence we have the First Amendment, which allows anyone to be a heretic, a counter heretic, or even an apostate.

    Of course, Barber is well within his First Amendment rights in condemning the Lutheran Church for apostasy, but that does not mean he used the word correctly. I'm assuming he considers other churches that tolerate or accept homosexuality to be apostate churches as well. The Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, most Quakers, Unitarians, Rainbow Baptists, and related spinoffs all claim to accept homosexuality. Most of these outfits would call themselves Christians, and I am sure that their clergy are well aware that Leviticus condemns lying with a man as a woman. (If in fact that is the correct translation.)

    As I've discussed before, a good theological argument can be made that, translation issues aside, the Leviticus prohibitions, as Jewish religious rules governing purity (there are a lot of other prohibitions there), are no more binding on Christians than the rules requiring circumcision, diet, menstrual fluids, beards and haircuts, etc. (The Council of Jerusalem addressed this in general terms.) But whether the Leviticus prohibitions are seen as binding on Christians or not, I don't see how they can be seen as going to the essence of Christianity itself -- to the point where apostasy would result for failure to follow them.

    It seems to me that there is an emerging movement to place opposition to homosexuality within the forefront of Christianity -- to the point where such opposition becomes defining of the term "Christian." And not opposing it becomes not mere heresy, but now apostasy (even though the latter is a word that "shouldn't be used lightly").

    That simply was not the case when I was growing up. I went to a religious school, but I was taught that there were plenty of ways to interpret the various scriptures. Those who interpreted the scriptures literally were in one camp, and while they were called "fundamentalists," in those days the word was a lot less inflammatory than it is now.

    Yes, there were the Ten Commandments. "Lying with a man like a woman" isn't there, but coveting is, and everyone knows we all covet. My school may have been heretical, but it would never have occurred to anyone to declare the acceptance of the covetous to be apostasy. Even Sabbath breakers and makers of graven images were tolerated in those days.

    Christianity -- and apostasy -- had yet to, um, evolve.

    Of course, I try to be tolerant and openminded about these things, and I have to recognize that tolerance by definition must includes tolerance for those who are accused of apostasy, as well as their accusers.

    It's worth bearing in mind that every single one of us is an apostate -- at least to somebody.

    (There's a certain oneness there, if you think about it.)

    posted by Eric at 12:25 PM | Comments (2)

    "If the races were flipped, this'd be a national scandal."

    Those words didn't come from a right wing commentator. They came from the Philadelphia City Paper's Brian Hickey, who's been following a murder trial which went strangely unreported in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Some black thugs deliberately targeted a total stranger simply because he was white, and fatally shot him:

    ....whoever pulled the trigger -- I'd vote to convict even before Wednesday morning's closing arguments -- hurt a whole lot of people more than he could harm himself by manning up. But here's what gets me as riled up as watching a dead kid's family suffer: Six black kids consciously decided to target white people for victimization, and that is no less a hate crime than dragging someone behind a pickup in Texas.

    That they were teens, or that the prosecution needed their cooperation to get a conviction -- which could've come as early as Wednesday afternoon -- means nothing. They set out to catch a white body and they got one, leaving countless lives and families shattered on both sides of Girard in their wake.

    If the races were flipped, this'd be a national scandal. But instead, it's just another day in Philadelphia's justice system, and at least five racist, violence-prone little punks will walk away scot free with enough life in their bodies to play their sick little "game."

    The verdict was "not guilty":
    The announcement sent members of Pierson's family, and some of his still-young friends, into both tears and rage. In fact, a Sheriff's Officer got into a near-tussle with one of the kids outside, a near-fight that was averted when more officers, and calmer-headed relatives came outside the Criminal Justice Center.
    The defendant was convicted on weapons charges, however:
    McCall, however, was found guilty of possessing a firearm and another weapons related charge. Meanwhile, as a Daily News reporter interviewed them after the trial, Pierson's relatives, including his mother Patty Rounds, were livid. In tears, they blasted a system that let a murderer (whether it be McCall or a co-defendant who ratted him out in exchange for dropped charges) walk free. Theirs were tears of pure anger and utter frustration, as they said that nobody's being held accountable for killing their loved one in cold blood.

    Now, McCall remains in custody awaiting an Oct. 17 sentencing on the weapons charge which, while not clear at this point, probably adds up to about 5 years in prison.

    Well, at least when he gets out, it'll be illegal for him to have a gun. Again.

    I have read absolutely nothing about this trial in the Philadelphia Inquirer. While there is an obituary-type entry of over a year ago, it says nothing about the fact that he was deliberately targeted for being white. To its credit, the Daily News does (although I have not seen the Daily News, so I cannot swear it appeared in the hard copy). As to what would account for the disparity in coverage, who knows? The Daily News is more of an urban paper, while the Inquirer reaches the entire metropolitan area. The Inquirer also has a much larger, national circulation.

    Maybe the idea is that only certain racially motivated crimes rise to the national level.

    The irony here is that unlike many of the crimes which are said to be hate crimes, this one involves undeniable targeting of the victim simply because of his race.

    Once again, I do not believe in hate crime laws. But I agree with Brian Hickey that if the races were reversed, this would be huge, huge national news. Here in the Philadelphia area, it doesn't even rate as local news (unless you read the smaller alternatives to the Inquirer).


    Will someone please explain to me why the Inquirer will not report the news?

    It's probably a good thing that the Inquirer has some competition -- even in the form of a free alternative weekly.

    If you relied on Google News you'd think that only two news outlets were covering the Robert Pierson murder case -- the City Paper and the Inquirer.

    But you'd be wrong. Once again, it only appears that the Inquirer covered the story in the daily paper. Yet it isn't there.


    You'd almost think that not reporting news had become a game.

    UPDATE (08/18/07): Here's today's Inquirer:


    I've looked through it four times, and the story hasn't appeared yet in any of the sections.

    For would-be national scandals that can't make the local news, I guess I'll have to start relying on the small leftie alternative newspapers from now on.

    MORE: As to other local "coverage," I did find a deleted comment to this article in the (Wilmington, Delaware) News Journal. The comment references the writeup, with this deleted comment still in the Google cache:

    Posted by: CarlsbergElephant- Fri Aug 17, 2007 9:47 am
    You folks here worried about racism? How about this, an admitted HATE CRIME committed by blacks against whites... DID THIS EVEN MAKE PUBLICATION IN TNJ?????

    Fairmount murder trial ends in acquittal, angerBy JULIE SHAW

    The text of the Shaw writeup follows the deleted comment.

    Why it was deleted, I don't know.

    If that's any indication, there are probably a few more observant citizens in the area who rely on the Philadelphia City Paper or rely on the Internet.

    posted by Eric at 08:49 PM | Comments (2)

    Folk Wisdom

    I love holidays. Especially holidays devoted to sex.

    Pilgrims celebrating the Hindu month of Shravan (mid-July to mid-August) are filling the pockets of marijuana sellers in the Deoghar district of Jharkand, according to a report in the News Post of India. Considered auspicious by followers of Lord Shiva, the month is marked by, among other things, a pilgrimage by millions of adherents to pour water on the Shiva Linga at the Baidyanath temple in Deoghar.

    The pilgrims, clad in saffron, smoke marijuana (ganja) as part of the observance. According to one estimate cited by the News and Post, devotees are buying and smoking 50 to 65 pounds of marijuana a day from happy Deoghhar pot vendors.

    I think the Shiva Linga deserves some explanation. It is the male sex organ.

    Now why would pot and the male sex organ be combined in celebration? I think it is folk wisdom. I wrote an article a while back, Better than Viagra, about the helpful properties of marijuana when it comes to sex.

    It is possible the Hindus are on to something. It is possible they have been on to it for a very long time. It is my estimation that when the boomers figure this out in a big way the drug war will be over. It is hard to stand between a man and sex. Heck the ladies would be quite supportive as well.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 08:05 PM | Comments (1)

    Polish politics and political homelessness

    The stuff I stumble onto never ceases to amaze me, but I just learned about a right-wing Polish cabinet official who makes the Israelis so queasy that last year they officially decided to shun him:

    Israeli officials have decided to refuse all contact with Poland's new education minister because he leads a right-wing party they consider anti-Semitic, a policy that could hinder cooperation in the area of Holocaust education, officials said Sunday.

    Jerusalem is stopping short of a formal boycott of relations with Roman Giertych, but has decided instead to shun any dealings with him, said Tali Samesh, a senior official in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

    "The Polish education minister is the president of a Polish party... that is an anti-Semitic party by definition, therefore we are not interested in having contacts with him," Samesh said. "We are not initiating anything with that minister."

    Poland plays a pivotal role in Holocaust remembrance, because Nazi Germany's death camps such as Auschwitz, Chelmno, Majdanek and Treblinka, were set up on occupied Polish territory.

    Under communism, Poland's authorities downplayed Jewish suffering in the Holocaust; but since the collapse of communism 16 years ago, the country has made great strides in promoting Holocaust education and building strong ties with Israel.

    The League, known by its initials in Polish, LPR, is a small ultra-Catholic and nationalist party that joined the governing coalition in early May, sparking street protests in Warsaw and other cities.

    The Jewish community is also concerned about the party's far-right youth wing, the All-Polish Youth, consisting of members who have used Nazi slogans and gestures.

    It's regrettable that this guy managed to become such a prominent member of the Polish government, because the country really does have an unfortunate legacy, which they've been trying to overcome.

    Poland's last pogrom took place in Kielce in 1946, when a mob attacked desperate Polish Jews who had managed to survive the Holocaust:

    On 4 July, 1946, a mob armed with clubs, iron bars and firearms, and angered by rumours a Christian child had been kidnapped by Jews, attacked a building housing Jewish refugees. When the violence ended a few hours later, 40 men, women and children, many of them Holocaust survivors, lay dead.

    The bloodletting in Kielce prompted thousands of Jews to flee Poland, with an estimated 60,000 leaving in the three months that followed.

    To this day, and despite a formal apology from the Warsaw government, many Poles maintain that the massacre was conceived by Soviet intelligence, eager to discredit Poland in the eyes of the world; a stance regarded by some Jewish groups as evidence of Polish society's unwillingness to confront what they consider to be persistent and pervasive antisemitism.

    According to the Jerusalem Post, similar post-war violence "claimed about 2,000 Jewish victims."

    In addition to the Israelis, the ADL has also condemned the education minister and his LPF organization:

    politics in Poland remains vulnerable to nationalist extremism, intolerance and anti-Semitism. The most worrying indication of this trend so far has been the formation, in May 2006, of a coalition government comprised of the Law and Justice Party in partnership with the extreme right-wing League of Polish Families (LPF) and the populist Self-Defense parties. Ministerial posts were awarded to Roman Giertych, leader of the LPF, and Andrzej Lepper, leader of Self-Defense. Lepper has expressed admiration for Hitler's policies and is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from MAUP, a private Ukrainian university responsible for publishing the majority of the anti-Semitic newspapers and journals available in Ukraine.

    The most disturbing outcome of the coalition's formation has been the appointment of Roman Giertych as Minister of Education. The political orientation represented by Giertych, whose Ministry's responsibilities include tolerance education and Holocaust education, has traditionally been anti-Semitic and xenophobic. The LPF's agenda has been resolutely hostile towards homosexuals and foreigners and many of its leading figures have made anti-Semitic remarks. Its youth wing, the All-Polish Youth, is named after a pre-World War II Polish nationalist movement which successfully campaigned for the introduction of a "Jews bench" in Polish universities to separate Jewish and non-Jewish students.

    For his anti-homosexual efforts, LPF Founder Giertych does seem to have made friends in America. Concerned Women for America's Robert Knight (criticized infra for blaming Abu Ghraib on porn and homos) has praised Giertych's anti-gay efforts in the most glowing possible terms:
    "We have taken our courage in what the Poles are doing," he said. "This is a nation that has suffered enormously over many decades. First from Nazism and then communism. They're a tough bunch of people who appear to have the strength to resist especially the homosexual agenda.

    "If you've been victim of communists and Nazis, you're not going to run in fright from the forces from San Francisco."

    While I understand the idea behind coalition politics, considering the LPF youth wing's use of Nazi slogans, Poland's regrettable past, and the Israelis' present concerns, I probably wouldn't have likened Nazis to "the forces from San Francisco." But maybe Knight sees a different overall picture than I do. Invoking Jesse Helms, Knight thinks it comes down to the principle of "stand up and be attacked by the left":
    Knight said observing Poland reminds him of a principle he learned from watching former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina "stand up and be attacked by the left."

    "His courage gave others the excuse to move toward his position even if they didn't vocalize it publicly," Knight said. "We need that kind of leadership. ... It's far easier to isolate someone and make them out to be a crank or far-right if nobody else is talking the way they are."

    Poland, he said, isn't "waiting to see what others are doing, they are taking leadership."

    "Others will come to them because they are the rallying point," said Knight. "So our hats have to go off to the Poles."

    I've stood up and been attacked by the left too, but that doesn't mean I agree with Knight. Or Giertych.

    It may be true that they're "standing up to the left," but that alone does not mean that everything they say is right. According to this recent analysis, Giertych's party is supported by fewer than five percent of the Poles, and the LPF has stood up not just to "the left," but to Poland's conservative president, and his wife:

    The League of Polish Families has also refused to distance itself from anti-Semitic statements made by the Reverend Tadeusz Rydzyk, the founder of Radio Maryja, a nationalist Roman Catholic radio station. Rydzyk has called Poland's first lady "a witch" and her husband, President Lech Kaczynski, "a cheat who lets himself be influenced by the Jewish lobby."

    Giertych's policies have won him little public support. Were elections to be held now, his party would fail to jump the 5 percent hurdle required to enter the Sejm, Poland's lower house of Parliament.

    Not surprisingly (according to this Forbes analysis), conservative Prime Minister Kaczynski finally concluded that he can no longer work with LPF or the Lepper's "Self Defense" party:
    WARSAW, Poland - Poland's governing party is pushing for early elections after the prime minister said he could no longer work with his two coalition partners.

    Poland has been bogged down for weeks because of infighting between Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's ruling Law and Justice party and the two junior parties in the nationalist government.

    More on the difficulties within the coalition here. No question about it. LPF is a fringe group with very little support, and they've made a lot of trouble for Poland's rightist president.

    In the latest unsurprising development, Giertych was reported as "sacked on Monday." (I guess Knight's support didn't help him much.)

    Forming coalitions with fringe ideologues carries political risks.

    No doubt the Polish left has benefitted enormously from Roman Giertych, via the principle of blowback.

    I've long suspected that Hillary Clinton and her supporters are thinking along similar lines.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that the "Giertych Republicans" (if that's not too harsh a term) would probably consider me an "anti-family interloper." That's OK; I don't want to think about what the Democrats might call me if I went back to being a Democrat.

    Geez. It's been a year since I last characterized myself as "politically homeless."

    How time flies.

    posted by Eric at 06:59 PM | Comments (3)

    "Serial sperm donor?" (No thanks, I gave at the office.)

    While the above phenomenon is not to be confused with "panspermia," (although "which came first" wisecracks do cum come to mind), I keep seeing the above catchy term, and it certainly does describe the reproductive practices of certain men. Then again, it seems more likely to be used in describing the selection practices of certain women.

    Dr. Helen touched on the phenomenon in her Pajamas Media post on altruism:

    ....perhaps it is some combination of low self-esteem on the part of the woman who feels she doesn't quite measure up and yet, if she gets this man who has shown himself to be a serial breeder to want to be with just her, she will feel that she is the winner she thinks that she should be deep down.

    Of course, it could be that the chase of the serial sperm donor is less about getting the man and more about beating the competition. It is in the woman's self-interest to get the guy to commit to her, even if she does not really want him. Why? Because she can then feel that she has beaten out the other women vying for this guy's attention and won the challenge. My guess is that if he did commit to her, she might not want him for long.

    And in her another post, she looks at a British study which hypothesizes that reproductive success might be the reason:
    ....If a male is reproductively successful, it's advantageous to mate with him because he should produce sons who are also reproductively successful. "Sexy sons actually give their mothers more grandchildren," she says. These women are making a trade-off so their genes "can hijack a ride along with his and spread through the population."
    Concludes Dr. Helen, "I guess that explains why serial sperm donors are so successful with women."

    Dr Helen also links Jules Crittenden, who adds that primitivism might be implicated:

    Chicks dig manly studs for messing around, breeding with, but don’t much expect them to put an apron on, wash the dishes, change diapers or wear one of these. Most of the reporting on this important study focused on the superficial finding that women see fem-men as more likely to stick around, help raise the kids and give backrubs. Media femiman bias? All red-blooded blokes out there know what is more important is whether you’re getting some tonight and won’t have to chew your arm off in the a.m., and this study, for lantern-jaws, says yes. Deeper social implications of these findings? None. Cavemen will continue to drag willing women off by their hair. Chinless wonders will still have to plod down the same old well-trodden path of flowers, chick-flick endurance and begging.
    Here's what I don't like about serial donors: in many cases, they are not altruistic about their donations in the least! Not only does this type of man not pay child support, but in some instances he'll arrive to shake down the mother for a portion of her monthly AFDC (rebadged as TANF) stipend, based on the idea that because the child is his, that he's entitled to a portion of whatever government benefits might inure by way of child support.

    While I don't know how common this practice is (and I am by no means generalizing about mothers on child support, nor do I mean to slander any dutiful unmarried dads), I used to witness it firsthand. It always struck me as unfair -- as if it adds insult to injury. It is precisely the opposite of what is supposed to happen in theory, and the fact that it goes on at all in the modern era of child support enforcement efforts directed towards "deadbeat dads" makes a mockery of the system.

    Real sperm donors simply don't practice extortion. They don't need to.

    But am I being fair to the men? Is the term "sperm donor" accurate? If I wanted to donate sperm (which is moot, because for one thing I'm past the age of the type of donor the clinics want), I'd just go down to my local sperm bank, fill out their questionnaire, leave my deposit, and they'd pay me whatever the going fee is these days. It was $35.00 when I was in college, then enough to motivate many a young man to "donate." I guess you could argue that paid sperm donors are not "real" donors, but the point is, there's absolutely no obligation of any sort after the sperm is left behind -- assuming the paperwork is done correctly.

    If not, there can be problems. Being listed as the father on a birth certificate can lead to many years of financial obligation -- especially if the mother ends up on AFDC. Whether this automatic obligation is right or wrong is not as easy a question as it might appear. Putting the legalities aside for the moment, I don't see a whole lot of moral difference between a woman who decides to get pregnant by visiting a fertility clinic and a woman who selects an attractive stud at a bar for the sole purpose of getting pregnant, assuming she never wants to have anything else to do with the man. Society -- and lawyers -- have declared that the man selected at the bar is obligated, whereas the man selected in the catalog is not. Suppose the woman thought sex was "icky" and told the guy from the bar to just deposit his sperm in the measuring cup, and that she would take care of the rest with a kitchen turkey baster. The obligation is the same, because there's no army of clinicians with the right paperwork insulating him from the identical consequences of his actions.

    His actions, right? Or are we talking about the woman's actions? This is why the term "serial sperm donor" so intrigues me. It's as if there are two systems of sperm donation -- one for the rich (or the politically and medically sophisticated), and another for the rest.

    What are the implications for the old saying that it takes two?

    In the biological sense (absent human cloning), it certainly does takes two to make a pregnancy. But the undeniable reality is that only the woman is pregnant. This makes the equation tend to weigh heavily on the side of the woman, who gets to call all the shots, and who is considered to have earned quasi-victim status.

    Unless he is a true donor, the man -- "serial sperm donor" though he may well be -- is considered the primary holder of the legal burden.

    Famous feminist and N.O.W. president Eleanor Smeal declared in a television interview:

    "You can't have someone pregnant against her will."
    That's fascinating in itself, because this is a leading feminist, and I don't think she's limiting this view to rape victims. Against her will means that there is no obligation for any woman to be pregnant.

    If it takes two, then what does this suggest about the obligations for men? Smeal's remarks prompted the following response:

    ...would it be logical to also expect feminists to agree that "no man should have to become a father against his will?"
    Well, would it? While it takes two to create a child, where it comes to having the child, women hold all the cards. The woman alone get to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy, and the woman alone gets to decide whether to put the baby up for adoption. Women are not obligated to support their children, as they have the right not only to demand that men pay for them, but they also have the right to apply for AFDC. Men have no such welfare service to help them care for any children they might produce, and until recently could not demand that the woman pay her share of child support.

    Would someone explain the logic and fairness of this? Seriously, I ask as a certified feminist. I'm all confused. I can't even figure out what a sperm donor truly is.

    If it does take two, then why are only the men obligated to compensate the state for AFDC payments to women? Why aren't women equally obligated?

    I don't know what the numbers are, but this pay-for-AFDC system seems to have created quite a large class of men (in government bureaucratese, they're known as "non-custodial parents"), who simply owe, and owe, and owe, for the rest of their lives, without hope of paying. These people are not allowed to travel outside the United States (they're not eligible for passports, naturally, because they're "deadbeat dads"), cannot obtain drivers licenses (as well as various professional licenses) in many jurisdictions, and as to work, forget it! Because, as a practical matter, if they do find an employer willing to go through the mandatory bureaucratic rigmarole of wage garnishment, there'd be so little left for the guy that he'd probably regard the job as little more than slavery.


    Maybe that's the idea. A serial sperm donor slave caste!

    But what about the old-fashioned idea that it takes two?

    posted by Eric at 09:59 AM | Comments (2)

    Augmenting the pros by linking to them

    Larry Atkins (a professor of journalism at Temple University and Arcadia University) has written a guest editorial in today's Inquirer, with a title:

    Outlets that utilize citizen journalists must be careful
    And an equally impressive subtitle:
    Teach them about safety, ethics and accuracy. Use them to augment - not replace - the pros.
    Well that's fine. They could start by teaching ethics and accuracy to some of the distinguished pros listed here.

    In fact, the list (which Glenn linked earlier) is so inspiring that I figured maybe I could use it to help augment the Atkins editorial itself, in the hope of annotating the points he raises:

    Benefits from citizen journalism include dramatic photos and videos that add insight to news events. After all, media outlets and their reporters can't be everywhere.

    However, there are drawbacks and dangers that shouldn't be ignored.

    For one thing, encouraging I-reports from disaster scenes, crime scenes, or natural-disaster areas could lead people seeking their 15 minutes of fame into dangerous situations. It is inevitable that future I-reporters will chase tornadoes or run toward police shootouts to get a better angle.

    Other concerns are bias, conflicts of interest, and credibility. Some citizen journalists might submit reports to promote certain agendas.

    Of course, there is the potential for scams, fraud, and doctored photos and video. People might stage phony incidents. The fact-checking and source corroboration involved in mainstream media are usually absent from citizen journalism.

    Remember, the links are not his. It's just my amateur way of trying to provide a little "professional satire."

    Atkins point is that citizen journalists (as opposed to "the pros") might do the sort of things listed above -- "in order to promote certain agendas."

    To avoid these pitfalls, news outlets that solicit citizen journalists should set standards and issue warnings to safeguard amateurs.
    Um, considering the links I just added, can I offer a change in the wording? How about.....
    To avoid these pitfalls, bloggers and citizen journalists should set standards and issue warnings to safeguard news outlets.
    Nah. That's carrying satire too far.

    But let's continue:

    The Citizen Media Law Project, jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Citizen Media, has been established to provide tools for citizen journalists. It plans to develop a legal guide that will cover insurance; privacy; access to meetings, records and property; and how to use freedom-of-information laws. plans to recruit and train 75 citizen journalists, one for each Chicago neighborhood, to work with editors to produce a daily news report.
    I have no problem with such outreach, and I think it's commendable that Atkins recognizes the potential value of those he calls "citizen journalists," and wants to help them with safety, ethics and accuracy. No one wants to see bloggers get killed doing things like chasing tornadoes or running into police shootouts to get a better angle.

    But right there I used that awful "B" word without thinking. I'm not sure that Atkins considers citizen journalists and bloggers synonymous, because when he finally gets around to using the "B" word, he describes them with uncomplimentary (if vintage) phraseology:

    Mainstream media have their flaws, including incidents of plagiarism and ethical breaches. However, unlike the army of pajamarati bloggers sitting in their bedrooms, reporters are in the field cultivating sources, interviewing policymakers, investigating and fact-checking. For every insightful I-report, there are thousands of valuable articles, videos and photos produced by veteran reporters.

    Citizen journalism is a good thing, but it shouldn't be viewed as the future of journalism, a substitute for professional reporting by established media. Citizen journalism should augment media coverage, not replace it.

    Sorry to resort to "link satire" again, but why the about-face? How did these dangerous risk takers he wants trained and insured suddenly become an "army of pajamarati bloggers sitting in their bedrooms" in contrast to "reporters [] in the field cultivating sources, interviewing policymakers, investigating and fact-checking?"

    Is he suggesting that Michael Yon, Bill Ardolino, Bill Roggio, Michael Totten are groveling in their bedrooms, while "real" reporters are risking their lives in Iraq? As to the interviewing of policy makers, countless bloggers conduct such interviews, podcasts (the Glenn and Helen Show being one) and some even have daily talk radio shows.

    Fact checking?

    Bloggers don't do that? (Sorry, but there's that list again! It's just too long....)

    Hey, I'm all for augmenting media coverage and not replacing it. That's why I wrote this post!

    I wish someone would tell me whether pajamas are apropriate attire for jumping into tornadoes and dodging police bullets, though. I have this weird thing about maintaining professional amateur standards.

    UPDATE (08/17/07): My sincere apologies for misspelling Bill Ardolino's name. I was in a hurry as I often am. Fortunately, Bill emailed me to set me straight.

    Yes, the lack of accountability and fact-checking in the blogsophere is scandalous!

    UPDATE: Larry Atkins does not seem to count Fox News as among the pros:

    Fox News is a biased propaganda wing of the Bush administration and the Republican Party, yet they consider themselves journalists.
    I guess that means CNN and CBS must be the unbiased pros.

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

    Don't miss Glenn's link to Michael Silence, where I found this gem from Seattle Times Editor David Boardman:

    ...if we allowed our news meetings to evolve into a liberal latte klatch, I have no doubt that a pathological case of group-think would soon set in.
    Hmmmm.... Isn't that what they call closing the barn door after the horses have escaped?

    posted by Eric at 07:29 PM | Comments (6)

    For God's sake, please stop acting like one of those asshole activists!

    I don't know quite how to say this, but I wish that David Ferguson would apologize to Ann Althouse.

    There. I guess I just said it.

    I knew and loved David in his earlier days as a blogger, and I was very upset when he stopped blogging. I had not realized that he was back, and only recently learned that he's acting for the world like a venomous, megalomaniac troll on steroids.

    Really. "Smothered, thwarted lust?" "Anodyne Outhouse... Internet Laughingstock?"

    Perhaps he's been infused with a new calling, and with that goes certain sense of urgency and importance, but I can't believe the things he's saying, the way he's baiting one of my favorite bloggers, and I'm just sorry to see it happening. (Obviously, David knows she has a temper, and he's just tweaking her. It's not funny; it's a little sadistic, and I think David knows it. At least I hope he does. I'd hate to think that a nice person like David could have actually become an activist.)

    We're all guilty of hyperbole some of the time, but I think it can become a drug. If you start saying things like "today's Republican party is merely a JC Penney White Sale away from its cross-burning, lynching, Jim Crow roots," next thing you know, Ann Althouse becomes a Democrat heretic, and in need of a good whippin' and a burnin'.

    David is a much bigger blogger than I am now, all dressed for success like he's ready to meet the next president. He's wearing the suits he once derided -- and for all I know he's ditched his once cool rock'n roll boots for a pair of shiny wingtips too. No crime there; just an indication that David is moving up in the world, and that he might even agree with at least some of my concerns about proper attire for bloggers. (However, just because you're looking like one of those mean-spirited conservatives you think are so evil, does that mean you have to act the way you think they act?)

    Anyway, I'm not a believer in cosmic justice or fairness, so I doubt he'll be inclined to call this Ann Althouse-baiting nonsense off.

    But I can dream, can't I?

    posted by Eric at 03:46 PM | Comments (3)

    "Global Warming is a choice"

    That's the latest meme, according to a YouTube video linked by Darleen Click.

    And all this time, I'd been thinking it was an identity culture, and that the global warmists* must have been born that way.

    Very confusing.

    * Yes, there is such an ism.

    posted by Eric at 11:32 AM | Comments (1)

    Making New Jersey safer?

    I don't know whether this is a case of real life imitating satire, but earlier I was trying to imagine how many gun control laws accused multiple murderer Jose Carranza might have violated. Here are just a few possible violations, just off the top of my head:

  • Illegal aliens are not allowed to buy guns
  • People with criminal records or under felony indictment are not allowed to buy guns
  • Buying a handgun in New Jersey requires lengthy background checks, interviews, and a long waiting period
  • Handguns may not be carried in New Jersey without permits, which are extremely difficult to obtain
  • Buying a gun from other than a licensed gun dealer is illegal in New Jersey
  • Is anyone surprised that a psychopathic murderer violated all of the above laws? Did they even cross his mind?

    Apparently, it is believed that more gun laws will deter future Jose Carranzas. Via Say Uncle, I see that new Jersey Governor Corzine wants to toughen the gun laws.

    Will psychopathic illegal aliens who rape five year olds and murder college students really be deterred by things like increasing the waiting period imposed on law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves?

    Just the opposite, I'd say. The harder it becomes for the law-abiding to have guns, the safer things will be.

    For the future Carranzas, of course!

    posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (2)

    The right to be an unfit parent?

    A friend emailed me a link to this YouTube video, and I'm not sure how seriously to take it. I don't watch much television, and I have never seen the Maury Povich Show, but I just found myself wondering whether this girl and her mother aren't both putting on an act to get attention. (Trash talking slut-girl who "just wants to have a baby" versus her "horrified" mom.)

    While I'm treating it as comedy, is it possible that these people are for real? Posts like this (about how the Povich show removes all doubts that there are pockets of "festering human debris") make me suspect that Povich's guests are carefully selected human freaks, if not actually fraudulent.

    But if the two in this video are real, their performance constitutes either an extreme example of the worst parenting imaginable, or (if they typify any communities today) a good argument for handing all control over the schools to religious conservatives. Whether the girl belongs in a convent or a mental hospital, I'm not sure. If she and her mom really are like that, neither should be allowed to operate heavy machinery, drive, vote, or have children.

    Seriously, I don't think either one is fit to be a parent, and should the girl get her wishes, I'd like to think that the purpose of Child Protective Services would be to take the baby away.

    (It's probably just as well that I don't watch television. If this is what's on I'm not missing much.)

    UPDATE (08/17/07): Aaron Hanscom tackles the subject of bad parenting in two great Pajamnas Media posts -- one about the effects of single-parent households, and another about "hyper-parenting" and hyper kids.

    UPDATE (08/18/07): Glenn Reynolds links a Times article about children running their own town as part of a reality show, and High Desert Wanderer asks a question which I think applies to the mother of the "monster daughter" here:

    Who allows their children to participate in something like this?
    (There's an interesting discussion of parental responsibility in the comments too.)

    While I don't know the facts, the girl in the video appears mentally disturbed to me, and if she is, what kind of mother would put her on national television? (Legally, she had to have parental consent.) Of course, she may not be mentally disturbed. But either way, why put her on? If it isn't a case of bad parenting, I don't know what is. (Good acting strikes me as the only other possibility.)

    posted by Eric at 11:13 PM | Comments (11)

    Correcting wikipedia entries

    Considering the Wikipedia editing scandal that's erupted lately, I don't know whether this is the right time for me to be raising questions which go to Wikipedia's "integrity," so perhaps I should hold off on publishing this post; perhaps not.

    Much as I'm tempted to dive into the Wiki fun roundup that Glenn Reynolds posted yesterday, this involves history more than comedy. What happened might be laughable, but I'd like to get it properly corrected. The truth is, despite my penchant for citing Wikipedia (a source I really want to respect), I still don't have a clue about how to get errors corrected, and there are glaring errors in the Wiki writeup on John Dean, which frankly make Wikipedia look like a crummy, fickle, very partisan source.

    For years, this was part of the Wiki entry for John Dean:

    Dean chronicled his White House experiences, with a focus on Watergate, in the memoirs Blind Ambition and Lost Honor. In 1995 he admitted Blind Ambition was ghostwritten by Taylor Branch, that he never reviewed the book "cover to cover" and that portions of the book were fabricated by "out of whole cloth" by Branch. Branch has denied claims of fabrication.

    In 1992 he brought the first in a series of defamation suits against G. Gordon Liddy for claims in his book Will and St. Martin's Press for its publication of the book Silent Coup by Len Colodny. Silent Coup alleged Dean was the mastermind of the Watergate burglaries and the true target of the burglaries was to seize information implicating Dean and his wife in a prostitution ring. After hearing of Colodny's work Liddy issued a revised paperback version of Will supporting Colodny's theory. This theory was subsequently the subject of an A&E Network Investigative Reports series program entitled The Key to Watergate in 1992. The suit was dismissed although Dean has threatened to renew it given Liddy's victory in another defamation case.

    (For more on Silent Coup, see below.*)

    And here's how the same passage in the Wiki entry reads today:

    Dean chronicled his White House experiences, with a focus on Watergate, in the memoirs Blind Ambition and Lost Honor. Blind Ambition would become the point of controversy many years after its publication.

    In 1992, he hired famed attorney Neil Papiano and brought the first in a series of defamation suits against G. Gordon Liddy for claims in his book Will and St. Martin's Press for its publication of the book Silent Coup by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin. Silent Coup alleged Dean was the mastermind of the Watergate burglaries and the true target of the burglaries was to seize information implicating Dean and Maureen Biner (his then-fiancée) in a prostitution ring. After hearing of Colodny's work, Liddy issued a revised paperback version of Will supporting Colodny's theory.[4] This theory was subsequently the subject of an A&E Network Investigative Reports series program entitled The Key to Watergate in 1992. Liddy's defense team focused on allegations that Blind Ambition was ghost written by Taylor Branch, a charge that Dean denies to this day.[5] In the preface to his 2006 book, Conservatives Without Conscience, Dean strongly denied Colodny's theory, pointing out that the Colodny's chief source (Phillip Mackin Bailley) had been in and out of mental institutions. Dean settled the defamation suit against Colodny and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, on terms which Dean stated in the book's preface he could not divulge under the terms of the settlement other than stating that "the Deans were satisfied." In the footnote to this portion of the preface, Dean stated that the federal judge handling the case forced a settlement with Liddy.[6]

    More below.** (I wrote a couple of posts addressing what Dean said in "Conservatives without Conscience" -- and Glenn Greenwald's favorable review of the book.)

    Anyway, the above was a dramatic change, which removed from Wikipedia a long settled point which had been clearly established by the evidence, and substituted naked and false assertions by John Dean. The removal generated a huge debate among the Wiki editors:

    First, let me say, I'm a little disappointed that a referenced piece of material was removed just because John Dean did an article saying he never said that. I took that line directly from a copy of his deposition that I found when originally doing the revision. I can't find this copy now so I am not going to revert it's removal, I will try to locate this again and will post it here. As I've said, it's in his deposition, he denies he said that but hasn't provided any proof from the deposition as cited nor did he even mention in the article that his deposition was cited as the source. Instead he said he would "watch and wait" to see if it would be corrected. He also stated he can't correct it himself which is complete hogwash.
    Actually, no, he said that while he could, he chose not to -- as his own little experiment on the reliability of on-line information. (And on that score, I think we did pretty well -- his article is datelined September 9, and before the day was out, a note had appeared on the Reference Desk and the edits to the article had begun.) --Steve Summit (talk) 18:10, 17 September 2005 (UTC)
    Whatever the case, I will locate the PDF I had on this, will provide it for others to review and look forward to seeing that passage returned to the article.

    Again, I don't think that cited material should be removed from an article just because someone says it's not true, you should demonstrate the cited material doesn't reflect that fact, especially something that's been there for a substantial amount of time without challenge. --Wgfinley 17:43, 15 September 2005 (UTC)

    This even degenerated into the Wiki editors accusing each other of partisanism, yet it involves a very simple issue:

    Does deposition testimony count?

    If John Dean said what he said at his deposition, why can't that be relied on in a Wikipedia entry in support of the claim that he said that in his deposition? Dean can issue qualifications or explanations if he wants, but to remove any reference to sworn deposition testimony is in my opinion the height of dishonesty.

    What Dean said at his deposition has been commented upon numerous times, analyzed by historians, written up in newspaper and magazine articles, and unless I'd stumbled across the Wiki entry, it would never have occurred to me that Dean (or whoever is assisting him) would be so brazen as to attempt to remove references to a deposition.

    Once again, here's what Dean said under oath:

    WILLIAMS: [Quotes to Dean from his book "Blind Ambition"] "This was the worst blow since Magruder's call. I felt queasy. I really didn't want to know more because I had to assume that if Strachan knew, Haldeman knew, and if Haldeman knew, the President knew. It made sickening sense. Now I understand why Strachan had called earlier." Do you see that?

    DEAN: I do.

    WILLIAMS: Is that an accurate description of your reaction upon absorbing Strachan's name?

    DEAN: No. Pure Taylor Branch.

    WILLIAMS: He just made that up?

    DEAN: Absolutely made it up out of whole cloth.

    WILLIAMS: Didn't you read this? You said you read this after Taylor Branch got through with it.

    DEAN: Not with this kind of detail.

    There's video of a portion of the deposition here, and I am sure that an original certified copy of the deposition could be obtained somewhere, but I have to ask:

    Is this normal procedure for Wikipedia? Has anyone out there had any experience with things like this? Should I set up an account and edit the post myself, or would some pro-Dean activist just erase it, and make me have to put it back again and again? My understanding is that if that keeps happening, eventually the entry might be closed because of what they call "vandalism."

    Any insight or advice greatly appreciated.

    *For more background on Silent Coup (and the nature of the settlement) see below.

    ** John Dean's case against Liddy was dismissed by the court. How that "forced a settlement on Liddy," I'm not quite sure.

    MORE: Die-hard Watergate fans might enjoy this excerpt from Tom Clancy's "Eye of the Storm" video, which includes interviews with Ehrlichman and Liddy, as well as a portion of video from John Dean's deposition in which Dean makes the startling admission that he kept Ehrlichman in the dark about Strachan.

    UPDATE: Viewers who are having trouble might find this version easier to stream:

    Continue reading "Correcting wikipedia entries"

    posted by Eric at 04:15 PM | Comments (6)

    The polygamy lobby revisited

    Must be the season for correcting myself (or being corrected), but I figured since it's that time of the year that I ought to do another searching and fearless moral inventory self pounding.

    In an earlier post asking "what page am I on?" I parenthetically ridiculed the notion that there is such a thing as a "polygamy lobby" in the United States:

    I've been looking for the polygamy lobby, and I can't find them. Hell, I've been unable to locate the incest lobby.
    This caused commenter Kurt Gallagher to snap back,
    Google "polyamory."
    I did, and I found a website called the "Polyamorist PAC."

    My bad? I don't know. Because I read through the site carefully, and while they've been around for a while (copyright is 1998 - 2002), and have all the right phraseology ("empower Polyamorists at the polls".... "a comprehensive grassroots network for Polyamorist voter empowerment"... "foster understanding, knowledge and an alliance between the Polyamory Community and the general public about the Polyamory agenda, issues and concerns"), they don't seem to be taking their work very seriously, as right in the middle of the page it says this:

    This project is currently inactive due to changing circumstances.
    Not much of a lobbying group, I'd say.

    Might the new, supposedly draconian rules have scared them off? I don't see why. I mean, they're cracking down on gifts, dinners, and other tangible things, but there are still plenty of loopholes:

    Lobbyists can't buy a meal unless it's part of a fundraiser, which means that the previous $40 steak can be legalized now by providing a $10,000 check to tenderize it. Lawmakers can't accept gifts to sporting events unless the lobbyists can make sure they get all sorts of attention from the crowd, preferably during election season. Lobbyists can't buy a round of golf for a Senator, but that changes if the round of golf comes at a charity function where lots of press usually attend.
    I've seen nothing which would prohibit promiscuous parties thrown by the Polyamory PAC!

    OK, so maybe they can't give away free Viagra unless it's used in a "well attended event" but I see plenty of wiggle room potential right there.

    So why has the Polyamory Lobby thrown in the towel? I want to be fair to my commenter, but I don't see much evidence of a real, genuine lobbying group, and the presence of a single web site announcing the inactivity of its own activities... well, that just doesn't cut it.

    Still, I cannot announce that my "ridicule narrative" remains safely intact. Because while there might not be a true Polyamory lobby, the phrase I used in my post was "polygamy lobby." And if you Google that, there are 211 hits. Why my post is number one I do not know, and much as I find it hard to take the matter seriously with my own blog at the top of the polygamy heap, I did notice that according to TIME, in Pakistan, there does appear to be a very serious polygamy lobby:

    The feminists found something to focus their anger on last April, when then Prime Minister Mohammed Ali* made his pretty young social secretary his second wife. In response to the outcry, the government assigned an advisory Commission on Marriage and Family Laws (four men and three women) to chart out the dangerous ground between the feminists and the powerful polygamy lobby--Moslem mullahs who seek a theocratic state, and would, according to their critics, confine Pakistan to a 9th-century Arab feudal pattern. (Emphasis added.)
    Standards are being debated:
    The commission sent out thousands of questionnaires in Urdu, English and Bengali, last week reported six to one for reform. Henceforth, it recommended, Pakistani males should get permission for second marriages from special new courts of matrimony; they should prove themselves able to support two families; they should not marry again "merely ... to marry a prettier or younger woman." The commission added that child marriages and the sale of brides should be outlawed, and that women and men should have equal rights of divorce. As of now, Pakistanis can divorce their wives in Islamic fashion by saying "I divorce thee" three times in their presence.
    I'm not a TV (I mean television!) watcher, but I also learned about a show in the United States called "Big Love" -- which has upset certain groups, and might just be stimulating the early vestiges of a lobby of sorts:
    Big Love has provoked a storm of protest in the US and, having relished two episodes, I find it hard to know how to explain this. Naturally, the religious Right is not best pleased about a show portraying fundamentalist Mormons with such intelligence and humour that there have been calls for the legalisation of polygamy in its wake.

    Traditionalists see the HBO series as an outright attack on Reynolds v. United States, the 1878 Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of antipolygamy laws. The Mormon Church officially banned the practice in 1890, so it can't be best pleased either. But to say the series is controversial because it's about an all-American harem doesn't do justice to the multi-layered and many splendoured offence-making that is going on here.

    OK, I don't know or care about another TV show, but what worries me is the name, "Big Love."

    Doesn't that sound like a lobbying conglomerate? You know, like "Big Oil?"

    As if this wasn't bad enough, the Philadelphia Inquirer keeps running stories like this one about a local murder case with a very unsettling subtext. Polygamy:

    ...according to friends and family, Myra Morton, 47, was against her husband's decision to take a second wife after Myra Morton lost the ability to have children.

    Islam allows men to marry as many as four women, provided they secure the approval of their other wives and can provide for them equally. Prosecutors have said they are not sure whether Pennsylvania's polygamy ban applies to a marriage in another country.

    I don't know either. Any family law experts care to weigh in? Because, if this case is any indication, there are probably a number of polygamous Muslim men in the United States. It's called "bigamy" and in the United States, it's a crime. Why the accused woman didn't simply file for divorce and clean the man out, I don't know. Perhaps he was moving his money overseas.

    As things stand now, the second wife might inherit:

    At least some of Jereleigh Morton's estate may go to Toural if Pennsylvania courts recognize her marriage in Morocco to him, said her lawyer Patrick Artur, reached by telephone in Philadelphia yesterday.

    Montgomery County prosecutors charged Myra Morton with first-degree murder, third-degree murder and related counts. They suggested that jealousy and control of the Mortons' more than $6 million in assets were possible motives for the killing.

    Yes, jealousy and money are often strong motivating factors.

    As to the money involved, it came from a medical malpractice settlement:

    The Mortons adopted Islam more than 20 years ago. They lived in a North Philadelphia rowhouse until a medical-malpractice settlement over their teenage daughter's death brought them a reported $8 million in 2005.

    They paid $1 million cash for a suburban home, and Jereleigh Morton retired from his job as a handyman to dabble in real estate. They lived in the home with their surviving daughter and her family.

    As to the new bride, she came from the Internet! (Where else?)
    Jereleigh Morton met Toural on the Internet in December, and Toural said she and Myra Morton had become instant friends when the Mortons first visited Morocco in February.

    "Jereleigh said from the beginning that he wanted to have children, and Myra didn't have any problem with him taking a second wife," Toural said.

    They were already Muslims, they seem to have been required to convert again, officially.
    Toural acted as witness to Jereleigh and Myra Morton's official conversion to Islam before a Moroccan judge, a prerequisite for Jereleigh Morton to be able to marry Toural. Morton bought a large house for the three to use in Casablanca, Morocco's commercial capital.
    At some point, the accused was advised simply to walk away. She also complained that the second wife was involved in terrorism:
    However, Montgomery County authorities said in an affidavit that Myra Morton had complained to friends and family about Toural. Her mother-in-law, Delzora Morton, told detectives that she had advised Myra Morton to "walk away" from the marriage.

    In April, Myra Morton sent a letter to immigration authorities that ended up at the State Department.

    In it, she wrote that her husband was trying to bring Toural over on a tourist visa. She also urged the government to keep Toural out of the United States, going so far as to accuse the other woman of having connections to terrorists.

    "How could she do that?" said Toural, her voice breaking. "I'm not a terrorist. I'm a good person. I took care of her."

    Toural said she found it equally hard to accept that she was a widow: "I'm still in shock. I still ask myself if [Jereleigh] is really gone."

    While headlines listed at the Inquirer's web site refer to the dead man as a "slain bigamist," the print edition (which is what I get at home), was more respectful in tone about what are probably seen as cultural sensitivity issues. In fact, this previous hard copy piece went out of its way to quote a CAIR spokesman on the polygamy issue:
    Islam allows men to take multiple wives, though the frequency of that practice varies.

    "Plural marriage is a minority practice through the Muslim world," said Ibrahim Hooper, executive director of the Council on Islamic Relations in Washington. "Its acceptance and legal requirements vary from country to country."

    What a waffle! I'm not sure whether CAIR is comfortable right now as the Polygamy Lobby, so, much as I dislike the group, I'm not sure I can call them that with a straight face.

    However, I do think it's worth asking why the AP gets to refer to this man as a "slain bigamist" in headlines never appearing in the actual Inquirer.

    I mean, really. Google the term "slain bigamist" and you'll see the AP story with that headline is picked up everywhere, and not just Fox News, but the Washington Post, the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, ABC News, etc.

    What's up with that? I need to be more careful with local news, as I'm repeatedly seeing that even at the Inquirer's own web site, the local spin is often very different than the national spin.

    Should I blame the local polygamy lobby?

    UPDATE: Dr. Helen has a reminder about the case of a woman who shot her preacher husband to death while he was asleep, and is being released after serving only seven months.

    Considering that Jereleigh Morton was also shot to death in his sleep, I guess what remains to be seen is whether wives who shoot bigamists in their sleep are held to a different standard than wives who shoot preachers in their sleep.

    posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (7)

    Feedbacks Misdiagnosed

    I have been following the climate debates rather closely these days. I'd rather be doing IEC Fusion but that is stymied for lack of research funds. So the climate debate keeps my brain engaged until I can put it to more productive uses.

    Let me start from the beginning. Here is how the warmists say global warming works:

    1. Extra CO2 makes the atmosphere less transmissive of heat
    2. That causes the atmosphere to get hotter
    3. That causes more water vapor in the air
    4. Which causes the atmosphere to get much hotter

    Item #4 - more water vapor leads to heating is based on measurements and calculations. The measurements are pretty good in this case since they are done by satellites, so the question is are the calculations correct?

    Roy Spencer says we are not doing the calculations right because we are assuming that certain things are uncorrelated when in fact they are correlated. He says that because of the way the calculations are done that this almost always leads to a positive feedback result from the calculations.

    First he does a software experiment and proves his thesis with that. Well you can prove anything with computers. How about some real live data.

    Now, what we really need in the climate system is some big, non-cloud source of radiative forcing, where the cloud feedback signal is not so contaminated by the obscuring effect of cloud forcing. The only good example we have of this during the satellite era is the cooling after the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

    And guess what? The SW [shortwave - ed.] cloud feedback calculation from the Pinatubo-caused variability in Forster and Gregory was - surprise, surprise! - anomalously negative, rather than positive like all of their other examples of feedback diagnosed from interannual variability!

    So what is Roy's conclusion?
    What I fear is that we have been fooling ourselves with what we thought was positive cloud feedback in observational data, when in fact what we have been seeing was mostly non-feedback cloud "forcing" of surface temperature. In order to have any hope of ferreting out feedback signals, we must stop averaging observational data to long time scales, and instead examine short time-scale behavior. This is why our GRL paper addressed daily variability.
    Richard S. Lindzen has been saying this since at least 2001. Here is a somewhat less technical explanation with better pictures. Until this "experiment" Lindzen had no way to explain why what he thought was true was not explained by the data. It looks very much like the data is correct but our assumptions about its nature are not.

    Which is another good reason why climate scientist must make public their data and methods. There could be other errors.

    OK there is the science controversy. What does this mean politically? If the feed back is negative, not positive, CO2 is way less important than people have thought and the temperature rise from a given amount of CO2 will be much less than calculated by the current models.

    This could be a big thing politically because if it holds up it means that we will not have to cut back our energy use while we work to solve our long term energy needs. Like with that fusion project I mentioned. Which could use $15 or 20 million for research. Contact me.

    Lubos at The Reference Frame has some thoughts.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 02:03 AM | Comments (4)

    As Rove falls, knives sharpen and evil numbers rule!

    Mrs. du Toit asks what I consider question of dire importance:

    Karl Rove has resigned. Oh, nooooooo!!! Who is running the country now????
    What sort of American would not want to know the answer to a question like that? I'm not sure it is entirely fair to characterize those who leave no stone unturned in their search for answers as being engaged in "conspiracy theorizing," though. Merely stating that someone is running the country is not conspiracy theorizing if that is a fact, because facts are not theories. Furthermore, a single leader cannot conspire with himself, so if it is true that someone is a leader, that does not make him guilty of any conspiracy.

    With that out of the way, I want to examine as objectively as possible what I consider to be some very suspicious behavior by Glenn Reynolds. Despite the ominous timing of the Rove announcement, Glenn went out of his way to avoid venturing an opinion about it yesterday (instead he merely linked some observations by others).

    As if this peculiar evasive behavior weren't suspicious enough, Glenn has said absolutely nothing about it the demise of fearless leader Karl Rove all day today.

    Most damning of all, at exactly 9:33 p.m. tonight, he has a post about knives! There were so many links I didn't want to count them. But I forced myself -- only because of the serious nature of my suspicions.



    13 KNIVES at 9 3 3, at NIGHT!

    Of course, NINE upside down is SIX. And three plus three is also....


    And on top of that, today -- the date that will mark Glenn's Night of the Long Knives -- is August 14, 2007! A date which will live forever as the SIXTH day after the SIXTH blogiversary of Instapundit. To celebrate, Glenn gave thanks for his new title of "king kong of rightist bloggers!"

    So in answer to the question "Who is running the country now?" I don't know, but it's all beginning to add up. In terms of numerological omens, the situation looks very bad indeed.




    Isn't it obvious what's really going on?

    I mean, it's not as if I'm the first to notice the evil numerology which emanates from the penumbra of Glenn Reynolds....


    UPDATE: Wow. I don't know whether to express surprise and gratitude -- or shock and awe. Saying "YOU CAN'T GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING," might be seen as an admission of sorts, as can the statement, "It's a fair cop."

    But really. What's with this?

    posted at 10:53 AM
    Come on! Doesn't Glenn know how easy it is to add the numbers together?

    No matter which way you add them, the total once again is 9.

    An upside down 6 !

    As I see it, what we have is a clear admission of guilt, without even a pretense of repentance!

    MORE MATH: As astute commenter Laserlight points out,

    August 14 is of course 8/14/2007 -- 8+1+4 = 13, and the 2+0+0+7 = another 9 while also getting in the "license to kill" 007.
    And if that isn't sinister enough for you, consider this: the 9 3 3 can be interpreted as two sixes, or added together to form a single 6. Because all interpretations must be counted, this supplies an additional 6 to the four previously mentioned sixes, yeilding a numerological value of 66666 . But if we add the additional 6 from the this morning's upside down 9, this can only mean the final launch of the final stage of the final conflict leading to the true end to end all end times, six times the number six.


    That's the most evil number of them all, than which there can be no number more evil!

    UPDATE: According to Instapunk, Glenn is only a red herring! The real truth is that Karl Rove is actually the dangerous Masonic alchemist Comte Saint-Germain -- who seems to have stolen the secrets for eternal life!

    This is really bad, folks. Here's artistic proof.

    (Sure looks like Rove to me!)

    We're doomed.


    posted by Eric at 11:05 PM | Comments (32)

    All crime is unpatriotic, and all criminals are terrorists!

    Glenn Reynolds has repeatedly criticized the use of Patriot Act provisions in ordinary law enforcement. The most recent example of this involves the use of the sneak-and-peek search provisions in a criminal case involving cock fighting.

    "But cock fighting is awful!" you might say. Yes, and you might say that about a whole host of other crimes. But there's no constitutional Fourth Amendment exception for particularly "awful" or "icky" crimes.

    What really bothers me is that I supported the Patriot Act in the wake of 9/11 based on the reassurances from the president and the Congress that these broad new powers were needed to go after terrorists. What shocked me the most today was to read that the vast majority of the time in these sneak and peek cases, terrorism has nothing to do with the invocation of the Patriot Act:

    "This is one of the few provisions of the Patriot Act that was sneaked into the Patriot Act in the middle of the night so that no one knew it was there," said Michelle Richardson, a legislative consultant for the ACLU's Washington, D.C., Legislative Office. "It was passed without everyone knowing about it."

    Prior to the Patriot Act, she said, federal courts had held that agents could conduct secret searches and defer notifying the targets for short periods of time in very limited circumstances, such as when someone's life might be in danger.

    "But this broadens it to include (the risk of) interference with an investigation, and this creates a sort of catch-all for law enforcement when it's inconvenient for them to follow the rules," she said.

    She also said federal authorities aren't required to release information on how many of the searches are done each year, although in 2005 the government confirmed that only 12 percent of them were related to terrorism.

    "The rest are mostly drug cases," she said. "They don't even purport that this is a terrorism tool."

    Twelve percent?

    This case makes me ashamed of myself for supporting the Patriot Act. It's looking like Glenn's earlier characterization was quite accurate:

    ...this had more to do with finding an excuse to enact bureaucratic wishlists into law than with protecting us from terrorism.
    And this, from 2001, applies even more today:
    Despite the wish lists of bureaucrats, let's remember who the real enemy is. And let's take the war to him, not to the American people.

    Don't sacrifice freedom. It's freedom, as President Bush pointed out, that we're defending.

    Six years later, and it has turned out that 88% of the time, the Patriot Act "sneak and peek" searches have had nothing to do with fighting the enemy.

    I feel conned, but at I can't say I wasn't warned. What might the Janet Reno Waco team do with these extraordinary powers? (Don't laugh. Such times may come again, only in updated form.)

    I don't know how to atone.

    Should I send money to the ACLU?

    posted by Eric at 02:34 PM | Comments (4)

    "Never attribute to a coalition that which can be explained by collusion."

    In a scathing analysis of the immigration amnesty bill, William Rusher offers an interesting explanation of Republican and Democratic bipartisanism at work:

    It is extremely difficult to focus the attention of the people at large on any policy, however bad, that is wanted eagerly by an influential minority.

    The policy in question -- namely, to legalize the status of the 10 or 15 million illegal aliens in this country, keep them working here for peanuts, put them on track for citizenship and open the doors to millions more (all in the name of "reform") -- has the support of not one, but two powerful minorities: professional Democratic politicians, who calculate that the great majority of them will vote Democrat if they ever become citizens, and greedy businessmen (mostly Republican), who want their cheap labor no matter what the social consequences for the country.

    My fellow columnist M. Stanton Evans is responsible for the brilliant perception that the Republicans (in John Stuart Mill's formulation, transposed from Britain) are "the stupid party" and the Democrats are "the evil party." Every once in a while they get together and hatch some policy that is both stupid and evil. This is called "bipartisanship," and the immigration reform bill was a spectacular example of it.

    Are we ruled by a coalition of the stupid and the evil?

    While I think both evil and stupidity exists in both parties, the above might go a long way towards explain a lot of things. In particular, the constant frustration which can be created by an overly rigorous application of Hanlon's Razor:

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
    The Hanlon link also references Heinlein's Razor:
    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don't rule out malice.
    Nor should we rule out various combinations of both. There are evil stupid people, stupid evil people, people who are too evil to admit they're stupid, and people too stupid to know they're evil.

    We're all in this together!

    posted by Eric at 12:41 PM | Comments (2)

    NOI group threatens to sue NRA

    Why this didn't get into the Philadelphia Inquirer I don't know, but a group of local activists with the Nation of Islam's Millions More Movement are threatening to sue the National Rifle Association. For lobbying!

    On Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, the MMM [Millions More Movement] Self Defense Committee, under the direction of mosque captain Gregory Muhammad, and in conjunction with Jimmy Muhammad of the Prison Reform Ministry, held a workshop which was attended by 2,500 young people. There were prison lifers there to talk to at risk youth concerning the negative side of going to prison.

    In March, the Youth Committee under the direction of Hank Wilson and Nykia Stith held a two-day event along with television's Judge Joe Mathis where again, the theme was counseling youth. Also, the Youth Committee has held an "All Safe Night Out" event every year since the shootings at Columbine. Min. Muhammad says this is an opportunity to focus entirely on the children through constructive conversation.

    "I am constantly in court defending young Black men who are accused of shooting another young Black man," offers Mr. Coard. He said that there are far too many guns on the streets of Philadelphia, that is why the MMM is now working to file a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has successfully lobbied to prevent any county in Pennsylvania from having anti-gun legislation.

    "We are looking for survivors of victims of gun violence who will sign on to our lawsuit. The object of our lawsuit is to allow Philadelphia to finally be able to pass its own gun legislation," Mr. Coard stressed.

    Both Min. Muhammad and Mr. Coard emphasized the need to declare a health emergency in Philadelphia because of the violence. Both men want safe streets in Philadelphia and are calling on Black men to 'Put It Down' [the guns], which has been a main part of Mosque No. 12's "Stop The Violence" rallies.

    While violence is the Philadelphia MMM priority, there are other programs at work.

    N'COBRA held a three-day Reparations town hall meeting at Temple University, under the guidance of Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Ron Johnson and Ari Morehizer. Min. Muhammad states that gentrification is also on the front burner.

    Coard, it should be noted, is a famous criminal defense lawyer known for representing people like the man accused of murdering LaToyia Figueroa (a case Coard lost, btw), a founding member of the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, and has spearheaded the effort to remanufacture Independence Mall as a slavery memorial.

    And now he wants to sue the NRA, presumably because according to his logic, they're somehow guiltier than the criminal defendants he represents. I guess the argument is that by lobbying against gun control laws which would disarm citizens, the NRA is responsible for the fact that many law-abiding citizens own and can purchase legal guns. I'm assuming he thinks that when criminals violate the existing gun laws, the NRA is to blame because if the guns weren't available legally, they wouldn't be there to obtain illegally by stealing or by illegal straw purchases.

    This is like saying that lobbyists for the automotive industry are responsible for auto theft, drunken driving, and criminal road rage violence. But logic has never gotten in the way of a determined activist.

    While I think any lawsuit filed by MMM would be laughed out of court, I'm not sure the goal is to win the lawsuit, or even file it. I think the threat may be a publicity stunt. By making this threat, Coard gets more publicity and more clients.

    Still, you never know. They might be crazy enough to actually file it.

    I learned about this amazing item from Cam Edwards, who adds,

    It's pretty hard to go after the 1st AND the 2nd Amendment in one fell swoop... but they're trying!
    They may try, but I don't think they'll succeed. In fact, I think this effort may end up helping the NRA, via a sympathy backlash.

    So, if you like the fact that the NRA is standing up for your freedom, help spread the word on this nonsense.

    posted by Eric at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

    Vincent Foster's hard drive found?

    No, not really. (Har har.)

    But there's a big fuss lately about Hillary Clinton's White House records being held back by "archivists" working in Little Rock, Arkansas:

    LITTLE ROCK, ARK --Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton cites her experience as a compelling reason voters should make her president, but nearly 2 million pages of documents covering her White House years are locked up in a building here, obscuring a large swath of her record as first lady.

    Clinton's calendars, appointment logs and memos are stored at her husband's presidential library, in the custody of federal archivists who do not expect them to be released until after the 2008 presidential election.


    Before documents are released, archives staff must read them and, by law, must redact material that they determine contains classified information, invades a person's privacy, reveals trade secrets, reveals confidential advice from presidential advisors or raises other concerns specified in the records law.

    Asked how long it might be before Hillary Clinton's records are released, the library's chief archivist said it could take years.

    "We're processing as fast as we can," Melissa Walker said.

    Not fast enough, in the view of some who have been waiting. A conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch filed suit against the National Archives last month, demanding the release of Hillary Clinton's diaries, telephone logs, daily planners and schedules. In the 1990s, the group filed suits against the Clinton administration that led to revelations about fundraising practices, including Democratic campaign donors being tapped for official trade missions. In the most recent suit, Judicial Watch said it had submitted its request more than a year ago and had received nothing, save for confirmation that the library possessed "a substantial volume" of such papers.

    Staffing pressures have prevented the National Archives from keeping up with an expanding workload. In 2002, the agency employed 334 archivists. This year, the number is down to 301. That 10% drop came during a period when the National Archives assumed jurisdiction over two more presidential libraries: those of Clinton and Richard Nixon.

    Some of the material might be of interest to Democratic candidates running against Hillary right now:
    The healthcare papers that have been released contain gaps when it comes to the part played by Hillary Clinton. A number of records involving her have been kept secret because they include confidential advice between presidential aides. Among the withheld documents are memos about meetings between Hillary Clinton and Democratic Sens. Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph R. Biden Jr. -- now her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    Other records kept from public view include a 1993 memo to the first lady entitled "positioning ourselves on healthcare," and another from that year called "public portrayal of the Medicare program."

    With an election looming, the least they could do is let the public have access to crucial data. (I have a feeling that most of the laws related to presidential archives never contemplated a return to the White House by the same first family.)

    At the risk of sounding like a mad-dog conspiracy theorist, I'd still like to know whatever happened to Vincent Foster's disappearing "now you see it, now you don't" hard drive. (I realize it's probably not as historically interesting as Nixon's "eighteen minute gap," but I just don't like it when reports contradict each other and then disappear. For years I thought the hard drive had been "accidentally destroyed" -- fascinating in itself. I admit it; bumbling coverups excite me even more than the complex conspiracy theories they inevitably generate.)

    And what about the mysterious "White House Data Base" (aka WhoDB)? There's no question it existed; the unresolved argument was over its purpose.

    Come on archivists! The Clinton White House archives don't involve a musty old library full of crumbling tomes which eventually might be of interest to historians and scholars. This stuff is alive, unsettled, unsettling -- and directly relevant to what promises to be one of the most controversial and protracted elections in history.

    Here's William Safire, writing in the Times in 1997:

    You'll soon be hearing more about "Hillary's List"--an unprecedented abuse of Federal power in political fund-raising.

    Officially called the White House Data Base (WhoDB), this computerized list of 355,000 names was compiled over the past four years at taxpayer expense to help the Clintons raise money to stay in power.

    This political cybercorruption was directed from the top: "Both the President and the First Lady have asked me to make this my top priority," wrote White House aide Marsha Scott on Dec. 7, 1993. "Bruce [Lindsey] will be kept fully informed."

    Fifteen months later, Mrs. Clinton's personal involvement in building her base is documented in a staff memo to Ms. Scott: "During the demo the First Lady mentioned that she would like to see the Miles Rubin rapid response list in the database."

    Everybody who got favors or gave money was inputted.

    Lincoln bedroom overnighters, Democratic National Committee fat cats in the Kennedy Center box, private guests at radio talks -- all are still going in at a rate of 10,000 a month, many with children's names, dietary restrictions, special interests, and almost all with Social Security numbers and addresses.

    Never has technology been married to power greed to produce such political gain.

    Despite an early planner's assurance that the data base was "government property and cannot be given to or used by a campaign entity," its central purpose has been fund-raising, and it has been wrongfully used by D.N.C.- paid White House "volunteers" to get payment for Clinton favors bestowed.

    Representative David McIntosh told NBC's Lisa Myers "the taxpayer was fleeced"; his committee will focus on how Erskine Bowles built the Mailing List From Hell. But misappropriating $1.5 million to match donors with favors is not all.

    What has gone unremarked is the rape of individual privacy.

    Coded notations on thousands of files indicate whether somebody on the WhoDB is black, Jewish, Catholic, Hispanic, of Ukrainian or Chinese or other ethnic descent. You want a printout of Italian Jews from California who are gay and got a Clinton holiday greeting? Just click on the demographic icon and cross the religious and ethnicity fields.

    If you are in her data base, you may think that surely your file, containing private information about race and religion that universities and companies are prohibited from collecting about you, will be denied to anybody outside the White House.

    You may be mistaken. Clinton lawyers have written Congress repeatedly that "the Privacy Act [5 U.S.C. 552a] does not apply" to the White House Office.

    Unless successfully challenged, that means that the data will go on to the Clinton Library in 2001. There it will be available to all.

    Available to all?

    When do I get to see it? (For starters, I'd like to know if my name's in there, because I sent the Clintons a lot of letters in that period, and they have to be somewhere.... And I'm willing to allow the rape of whatever remnants of individual privacy might still remain.)

    You'll soon be hearing more about "Hillary's List."

    William Safire sure was prescient back in 1997.

    So prescient that he also said this:

    Ah, but maybe some upright archivist will insist the vulnerable half- million listees be protected from scholars, journalists, reformers and right-wing kooks.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    I wonder. Could Safire have seen what was coming?

    Well, maybe not exactly, because if he had, he would have said this:

    Ah, but maybe some upright archivist will insist the vulnerable half- million listees and Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential Campaign be protected from scholars, journalists, reformers, right-wing kooks, and bloggers.
    But considering he was writing ten years ago, I think Safire did quite well.

    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (3)

    Getting all emotional about pretending to be objective

    Via Pajamas Media, here's John Leo on reportorial objectivity:

    We now live in a docudrama world in which techniques of fiction and nonfiction are starting to blur. Many reporters think objectivity is a myth. They see journalism as inherently a subjective exercise in which the feelings and the will of the journalist function to reveal the truth of what has occurred. Two results are the emotional commitment to powerful but untrue story lines, and a further loss of credibility for the press.
    Well, if it is true that reporters decry journalistic objectivity, then isn't it a waste of time to condemn their lack of objectivity?

    If only they didn't care about the difference between fact and fiction and left it at that, it wouldn't be so bad. It's when they insist on the pretense of objectivity that I get hot and bothered. (Which is why I don't mind seeing fiction in the Globe, but mind seeing it in the BBC.)

    There's something annoying about the "pretending to be objective" charade. I think it goes to the heart of the conflict between the MSM and bloggers, the old versus the new media. If they really were interested in things like truth and objectivity, they'd welcome legitimate corrections of their errors. But instead, by going into damage control mode and behaving as if bloggers are the enemy, they only highlight that they're pretending to be objective. And the more objective they pretend to be, the angrier they get when they're caught. If in fact the pretense is false, if the pretense is a "subjective exercise," then it is reasonable to expect that seemingly righteous anger would all be part of their act. But a lot of times it seems to me that there really is righteous anger.

    Does that mean they actually believe in their own pretenses?

    Yes, I think they really might.

    If so, that's probably where the "emotional commitment to powerful but untrue story lines" comes into play.

    posted by Eric at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

    Doin' the Lambert walk

    Not everybody's name gets to be a verb, but some such enverbed names are better known than others. As Glenn Reynolds (whose blog name is itself much enverbed) noted in remarking the Lamberting of James Taranto, Tim Lambert is one of those guys whose name has become a verb. This is an honor he shares with Robert Bork, although Bork had his name enverbed for what was done unto him, whereas Lambert became a verb by doing unto others.

    If Lambert links you critically, you're described as having been "Lamberted" -- described as "the object of a tirade by Australian blogger Tim Lambert."

    I guess that makes me a slight variation on this theme, because Lambert said this about me almost four years ago (when I was just a little bitty blogger):

    Eric Scheie argues that statistics about guns and crime "have no bearing on basic constitutional rights". I'm afraid that all the pro-gun folks who have based arguments on Lott's statistics would seem to disagree with him.
    So there I was, "Lamberted" (on September 11, 2003, no less!) and not having any idea of what a prestigious honor it was! They hadn't come up with the expression "Lamberted" in those days, or I'd have certainly made note of what has to be considered, in retrospect, an early accomplishment of sorts.

    As I was wrestling over whether I could truly claim to be a member of the exalted ranks of the Lamberted, having only learned about the term years later, I found new cause to doubt the integrity of the honor, because the original Lamberting link no longer works! This worried me, because if the link is gone, that might mean that I had been delamberted! A grim fate, if for no other reason than there's no such word.

    I would have probably given up on the search for my missing Lamberted link, but for the fortuitous fact that not long after he Lamberted me, Lambert went out of his way to Lambert Jeff Soyer, my blogfather! And the link which Lamberted Jeff goes to another link at Lambert's newer archives, where finally, after a little more homework, I found the link which Lamberted me! (Yay!)

    What a relief! I can think of few things more undelightful than to be delamberted!

    UPDATE: I inadvertently borked poor Judge Bork to death in the worst way possible (and I was "Tarantoed" in the comments below for my careless error).

    Judge Bork is not "late," as he's very much alive!

    I stand corrected.

    UPDATE (08/14/07): After reading what commenter S. Weasel said, I deleted the words "the late" in front of Bork's name. Normally I let errors stand and correct them in updates, but matters involving human mortality would seem to militate in favor of a different policy.

    UPDATE: It took a bit of research, but in response to Dean Esmay's comment below, the answer is a resounding yes!

    Dean Esmay, you were Lamberted! (For daring to characterize the British prosecution and sentencing of Tony Martin as "bloody well insane.")

    posted by Eric at 04:15 PM | Comments (6)

    It's not the details that matter in reporting!

    When I read a very long, very maudlin, front-page Inquirer story about crime in Newark, I was left knowing very little about the exact nature of the crimes, other than the fact that there were "shootings in the schoolyard." And here's all there is about the principle suspect:

    Five days after the shootings, Jose Carranza, considered the principal suspect, offered to surrender to Booker in the presence of a well-known Newark lawyer. The two came face to face at police headquarters.

    "I don't think words can describe the level of emotion I feel about what these individuals have allegedly done to these families and what they have done to our community," Booker said.

    Two other suspects, both 15, are being held. Their names have not been released because of their age.

    Carranza pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Friday. After the arrests, Shalga Hightower said she wanted "the right justice" for her daughter, Iofemi, and the other victims.

    "They took three angels away from their families," she said, "but one angel survived, so the story could get told."

    There's almost nothing about the suspect, and even less about the gruesome nature of the crimes. Instead, the piece mainly goes into great detail to stress that the victims had promising lives.

    Why? As details, aren't the gruesome nature of what happened to them, the fiendish nature of the principal defendant, and the callused insensitivity of the criminal justice system, at least as important?

    Rarely have I seen a story so long and yet so woefully incomplete at the same time. Newark is in the New York area, and you'd think that if a report about crime there was important enough to merit treatment on the front page of the Inquirer that they'd at least supply the details.

    To find them, I had to turn to the New York Daily News:

    The illegal immigrant accused in the execution-style killings of three college students in Newark was freed on bail twice this year after being charged with assault and child rape, prosecutors said yesterday.

    The shocking revelation came as cops arrested a third suspect in the schoolyard shootings, which have horrified homicide-weary Newark.

    And as if the crime weren't already heinous enough, Fox News Channel 5 reported that two of the victims may have been sexually assaulted before being shot.

    About 500 people, including Mayor Cory Booker, attended a prayer vigil last night at Mount Vernon Elementary School, where Terrance Aerial, 18; Dashon Harvey, 20, and Iofemi Hightower, 20, were forced to kneel before being shot in the head.

    Aerial's sister, Natasha, 19, was shot in the face and slashed with a knife but survived. She has been helping investigators from her hospital bed.

    An illegal alien accused of child rape was freed to commit torture-murder? Freed?

    And that's not important?

    Carranza's illegal status alone was enough to trigger a headline in the International Herald Tribune, "Murder of three at New Jersey schoolyard stokes immigration debate." The IHT notes that legislation has been sponsored to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future:

    NEWARK, New Jersey: The murder of three people at a Newark schoolyard has further stoked an already contentious immigration debate, with critics of the city's current immigration policies highlighting that one of the alleged attackers was in the U.S. illegally and had faced serious criminal charges before.

    Newark city councilman Ron. C. Rice on Monday said he was introducing a bill that would require local police to notify federal immigration authorities whenever they arrest someone living the U.S. illegal who is charged with committing a felony.

    The bill would be the first piece of legislation resulting from the shooting of four Newark college students, which left three dead and one wounded.

    Not that anyone in Philadelphia would know anything about it from reading the Inquirer, although the article's lengthy (2400 word) nature certainly gives the appearance of thoroughness.

    I'm so tired of spin, editorialized reporting, and withheld details that my fingers are almost too exhausted to keep writing about this stuff.

    While I have no quarrel with reporting that the victims were nice people who had promising lives, does this cancel out any obligation to report the heinous nature of the crimes, the depraved nature of the perpetrator, and the egregiousness of his release?

    I hesitate to blame the Inquirer, because it's an AP story and not written by Inquirer staffers, but I'm wondering if crime reporting is being seen more and more as an opportunity to make the facts fit the narrative that fits the bias of the writers.

    Call it what you will, but I don't see how they can call it reporting.

    Remarkably, it took six AP writers (Erin McClam, David Porter, Jeffrey Gold, Janet Frankston Lorin, Daniela Flores, and Randall Chase) to come up with this story.

    It must be hard work when there are so many details that have to be omitted.

    UPDATE: Please bear in mind that I subscribe to the Philadelphia Inquirer, and this post is based on the long article which appears on today's front page. Commenter Bradley Filkes points out that the Inquirer web site also links another AP story posted today which includes details about Carranza's illegal status and his being freed on bail. While I'm glad it's posted at the web site, that story is not in today's Inquirer.

    MORE: Checking the Inquirer hard copy since Carranza's arrest Thursday, I found one report mentioning his illegal status and the pending charges, which appeared on page B-2 (minus the picture) in Saturday's Local News:

    The latest arrest was announced several hours after another person charged in the crime, Jose Carranza, 28, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which, besides first-degree murder, include the attempted murder of a fourth student and robbery. It was his first court appearance since he surrendered Thursday to Mayor Cory A. Booker.

    His plea came as prosecutors tried to explain why the illegal immigrant from Peru was granted bail earlier this year when charged with assault and child rape.


    Dow would not answer questions about how Carranza was released on bail on previous charges this year, despite his immigration status.

    But a cousin of one victim questioned why that happened.

    "I believe in a higher power, but I can't help but think that had [authorities] done their job in the beginning, this might not have happened," said Latasia Harvey, 22.

    Carranza was indicted by grand juries in New Jersey twice this year - in April on aggravated assault and weapons charges, and in July on 31 counts that included aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 and endangering the welfare of a child he had a duty to supervise.

    He was released on $50,000 bail on the assault case, which stemmed from a barroom fight, and $150,000 bail on the sexual-assault indictment, which charged that the abuse began in 2003 when the girl was 4 and continued to this year.

    In the Oct. 1, 2006, brawl at a bar in West Orange, he faces four counts of aggravated assault and weapons charges.

    In an interview on CNN, Dow said the "uproar" over Carranza's immigration status was "going to have to wait for another day."

    "We realize that's an issue out here in our criminal justice system, and we are addressing it," Dow added.

    "Our focus hasn't been his immigration status," McTigue said.

    Only today did the story make the front page, and unless you had read the local news in detail on Saturday, you'd never know these most important details -- which provide the basis of huge headlines elsewhere. (And there's been nothing in the Inquirer hard copy about the rape of his latest victims.)

    I think it's odd this was buried in local news, because Newark is next to New York, and events there are not considered local news here. But why would they report the most important details in Saturday's local news, then omit them from today's front page story? (It's not as if they didn't know.)

    I think it's quite obvious that between Saturday and today it was decided -- somewhere -- to put a very different spin on what would appear in the front page, supposedly "full" version. Most Philadelphians who are not Internet savvy and don't read New York or Newark newspapers would be unaware of the most important details of the story.

    It's worth pointing out that to some, Carranza's illegal status is only a "secondary issue":

    What I don't understand is why the commentary is not raising questions about violence, about access to guns, and about how brutal indifference to human life has become a part of our culture.

    A recently published letter signed by experts in criminal justice - from sociologists to law enforcement professionals - strongly states the findings of many studies that immigrants, regardless of their legal status, are no more likely to break the law than U.S.-born individuals.

    If they're illegal, they're no more likely to break the law?

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for the link!

    UPDATE (08/14/07): In a writeup similar in tone to the one in the Inquirer, the New York Times mentions Carranza's pending charges, but says nothing about his illegal status:

    The police say the primary suspects are Jose Lachira Carranza, 28, who was out on $150,000 bail despite pending indictments on a charge of raping a 5-year-old, and one of aggravated assault in a bar fight; and Rodolfo Godinez, 24, convicted of theft in 2003. (Mr. Carranza pleaded not guilty on Friday; Mr. Godinez is at large.)
    Is there an emerging rule that the illegal status of criminals ought to be considered irrelevant and should not be mentioned in new reports?

    MORE: the Times reported Carranza's illegal status earlier, then left it out of later reports.

    I don't understand the argument that this is irrelevant (or "secondary"). If placing an immigration hold on this dangerous psychopath would have saved these victims' lives, his illegal status becomes a central issue in the case.

    Here's an interesting tidbit from the earlier Times report:

    Local authorities are not required to report the immigration status of people they arrest. Some municipalities, like Suffolk County on Long Island, have made aggressive efforts to do so as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, while others consider themselves "sanctuary cities" and avoid such questions, in part because of concerns that it could have a chilling effect on immigrants' relationship with the police.
    The "sanctuary city" phenomenon might not be the sort of thing that politicians want the public to know about right now.

    UPDATE (08/14/07): Much to its credit, the Inquirer has a fine article by Tom Hester, Jr. -- (titled "Newark Killings Enter Immigration Debate") at its web site which stresses the importance of this case to the national immigration debate.

    Considering the criticism of some of the commenters below (and the fact that the Hester piece is dated August 13, 2007, the same day as the front page piece), I thought I would go through both yesterday's and today's editions of the Inquirer.

    It simply is not there.

    Had I found it anywhere in the paper -- even in buried form -- I would now note that fact, as I did with Saturday's piece. Although my disagreement involved yesterday's front page article, I should have been more meticulous and gone through the hard copy, and reread and noted Saturday's Local News story, which is my fault.

    But should I apologize for "missing" the many linked AP reports which never appear in the paper? My complaint was with what I saw yesterday, and what I don't think should have been omitted.

    I think the Inquirer is at fault for not printing the stories which appear at its web site. This can create confusion, as it did with the commenter who said that I missed "over a dozen" stories.

    What I said above -- "Not that anyone in Philadelphia would know anything about it from reading the Inquirer" -- applies in spades -- and not just to the IHT story, but to the story by Tom Hester, Jr.

    There's plenty of stuff at the Inquirer's web site (there always is; they do a fine job), and once again, I did not mean convey the impression that there wasn't.

    posted by Eric at 01:13 PM | Comments (22)

    Putting property before people

    According to an interesting piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the campaign against "sprawl" is getting expensive, with local governments discovering that there are actually costs associated with acquiring and owning property. Even if the noble goal is to stop "development" and "the developers," it costs money to cut grass, bring buildings up to code, and police publicly-owned property:

    In town halls across the suburbs, conservation euphoria is giving way to the sober realization that open space can be a money pit.

    "What did we get ourselves into?" is the increasingly common refrain among municipal officials, said John Granger, manager of Solebury Township in Bucks County.

    The shopping spree leading up to that lament has been going on for 20 years. In that time, with their voters' blessings, communities in the region have issued upwards of $300 million in bonds and raised more than $109 million in new taxes for land preservation. They've bought at least 52,000 acres in Bucks, Burlington, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Gloucester and Montgomery Counties.

    In their "race" against developers to acquire land, "the thought was, 'Let's get it and figure out what to do with it later,' " said Jeffrey Marshall, a vice president of the Heritage Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust based in Doylestown. "It's later."

    It certainly is in Lower Makefield, Bucks County. The township bought the 235-acre Patterson farm a decade ago for $7.25 million - a deal in which "there was never a lot of thought given to what we [saw] as the future of this place," said Steve Santarsiero, a township supervisor.

    On the farm are 16 structures, some dating to the 1700s and declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

    They're also falling apart, said Terry Fedorchak, the township manager. One farmhouse alone needs $400,000 worth of work - new roof, new windows, reinforcement of sagging floors and beams - to bring it up to code.

    Meanwhile, even without a clear source of funding for renovations, a committee of preservationists and Lower Makefield residents is looking into ways the buildings could be used by the public.

    Taxpayers in many communities are demanding utility from the land they've bought. They clamor for bike trails and dog parks. Soccer and baseball fields are big, too. In Evesham, recreation groups are pushing for a synthetic-turf playing field, estimated at $1 million, to be installed on a yet-to-be-picked parcel.

    The taxpayers actually want to use publicly owned land? What ingrates! Where do they get the idea that the land is there for them to use? It's there to be preserved, not for people, but to prevent people from using it.

    In the hard copy edition, there's a picture of a sign posted on public land which reads "CLOSED TO PUBLIC," and I think that more and more that sort of thing will emerge as the goal. Parks only invite trouble, maintenance, and above all, lawsuits! While lawsuits are not mentioned as a cost of owning land, the fact is that people routinely sue governments for injuries they suffer while on public lands. Such injuries could include slip and falls, drowning, or even being victimized by criminals availing themselves of untrimmed foliage or unpoliced bathrooms.

    I'm fascinated by the idea of what it is that constitutes the "public" and what is a "use." If land is simply preserved so that it's off limits to developers, is that a legitimate public use? Does the government even have to use land? Who owns this land? The taxpayers? Or the people they elect? The latter are spending the money of the former in order to buy this land, and they're also finding ways to persuade people to deed it over or preserve its open nature by means of restrictive covenants. But doesn't this put the elected officials in a bit of a conflict of interest? Eventually, the land's value will increase, and because governments always need money, they'll end up resembling the greedy families that once wanted to sell the land to the greedy "developers." How do you stop these local governments from succumbing to temptation? (After all, they do have to run for office.)

    To avoid the hassles of property ownership, the new trend is to buy the development rights from the owner, who is still responsible for maintenance:

    In Solebury Township, officials have managed to minimize those headaches by primarily purchasing only the development rights to land, rather than the ground itself. Under such so-called easements, maintenance remains the responsibility of the property owner. So while the township has protected 3,000 acres, only 100 acres have been bought outright, said Granger, the Solebury manager.

    "If we did own [all that] land," he said, "I'm not sure how we'd maintain it."

    In London Grove, a Chester County community just beginning to venture into open-space preservation, Township Manager Steven Brown said one thing is certain: "Mostly easements is the way we are going to go."

    But what the government purchases, the government can later sell. I wonder how permanent any of this permanent protection will turn out to be.

    The irony here is that even though I'm a libertarian free market advocate, the esthete in me very much likes open space, and I hate seeing these hideously ugly developments spring up on what was once beautiful farmland ("fertile farms and verdant woods" as the piece says). But all that land is owned, and there is always a cost of ownership. "The government" can become the owner, but all the government is is a collection of certain people who claim to speak for the rest.

    As a practical matter, I've noticed that what they call "sprawl" is limited by driving time and driving distance to the nearest metropolitan areas. Pennsylvania is a huge state, and much of it is very rural, very "red." "The boonies," as it were. No one cares much about sprawl in such flyover country, because there isn't much, and unless new suburbs and cities spring up, there isn't likely to be very much, and local governments would probably love to entice developers in.

    No doubt, the possible future willingness of local governments to do things like sell land they own (or development rights they aquired), or to allow property owners to build on their own land is very worrisome to environmentalists. What seems to be going on is a preventive attempt to come up with a plan which would envelop local and state governments and assorted conservation groups into a quagmire of environmental bureaucracy. The Inquirer article links the "Regional Green Plan" web site, which outlines the goals:

    With the aid of advisory groups, the Alliance identified three primary uses for open space-agriculture, ecological function, and recreation-and assembled multiple data layers to determine how valuable the region's land is for each use. Each data layer contains a measurable criterion, such as soil quality (for agriculture), land use and land cover (for ecological resources), and proximity to existing parks (for recreation). A full description of all the data layers used to prioritize land for each open space use is provided in the following chapters.

    A raster-based technique is used where each data layer is composed of a grid of 30 by 30 meter cells. In all, there are slightly over 6 million cells in the region. Each of the cells in each layer is assigned a numerical score based on the value of resources in that cell. After cell scores for individual layers are determined, all the layers making up each of the three sub-components are weighted and combined. The process for establishing layer values and weights will be described later in each section.

    Ultimately, each cell in the region receives a cumulative score for agriculture, ecology, and recreation.6 The cumulative numerical scores are then reclassed into "quantile" format. A quantile denotes groups of equal numbers of cells. For example, separating 100 cells into 10 quantiles would result in 10 groups of 10 cells. Separating 100 cells into 5 quantiles would result in 5 groups of 20 cells, and so on.

    For agriculture, ecology and recreation, cells are divided into 10 quantiles. All cells in the highest quantile are reassigned a score of 10. Cells in the next highest quantile are reassigned a score of 9, all the way down to the lowest quantile, which is assigned a score of 1. Using this classification technique, the three major components of this report were assembled: the agricultural priorities map, the ecological priorities map, and the recreational priorities map.

    Finally, the three components were used to create two composite maps. In the first composite map, high priority values, i.e., values of 8, 9 and 10, from each component map were overlaid onto one another. These lands represent the top agricultural, ecological, and recreational priorities in the region. Taken together, they total 466,300 acres. In the second map, the values from each component were combined and reclassified to produce one set of open space priority values for the region.

    Results sound like central planning from Big Brother:
    By overlaying development data on Rural Conservation Lands, it is apparent that they are already experiencing the pressures of development. As of 2000, 175,000 acres were identified as developed-some 22% of the total area of 807,000 acres. Of the remaining 632,000 undeveloped acres, approximately 125,000 acres are protected, leaving 507,000 acres undeveloped and unprotected. Of these 507,000 acres, 401,100 or 79 percent are high-resource-value lands. Development in these rural areas is occurring in a fragmented way, with development sites scattered throughout these lands, threatening their contiguity and connectedness.

    The balance of the five-county region contains most of its residential, commercial, and industrial uses. Within this 602,000-acre area, 451,000 acres are developed and 41,000 protected, leaving 111,000 acres undeveloped and unprotected. Of these 111,000 acres, 68,700 or 62 percent are high-resource-value lands.

    So says the Regional Green Commissariat.

    The key term here seems to be "protection." If land is deemed in need of "protection," the goal is to stop it from being "developed" or even used. How that is defined seems to be up to them, not the citizens, or even the government.

    Perhaps the goal is to change the legal structure to protect and preserve all land, from all threats public and private. Against all rights of ownership, whether private or public? (Why, this promises to turn Marxism on its head!)

    How do you get to be in the protective class, anyway?

    Does anyone elect the protectors?

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

    Propaganda Wise

    Ever since Steve McIntyre nudged the Goddard Institute for Space Studies to correct its error in the "adjusted" data many of the AGW folks (global warming is man made) have been saying that this is a minor correction. [in the comments]

    Without "the hottest year on record was 1998" the climate looks more naturally variable.

    Scientifically this is minor correction.

    Propaganda wise it is a big thing.

    It has also alerted people to the idea that data and methods must be open in science.

    Update 13 Aug 007 1709z:

    Steve McIntyre on why Hansen's Error Matters.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)


    Clayton Cramer has written a piece on how we treat our mentally ill that is just heart breaking. I have seen some of these issues play out with a close relative. Very painful. Sadly, there is not much help out there and hardly any one interested. When we de-institutionalized people with mental problems a considerable good was done to many of them. However, considerable harm has been done to those who have difficulty coping.

    Here is a bit of what Clayton has to say on the subject.

    Many schizophrenics aren't scary. Those who do become violent, even if it is just property damage, create enormous fear in family and friends. Unfortunately, the problem that Vicki is going through is one shared by large numbers of parents across America. Some marriages do not survive the stress.

    I've been planning to start annoying my legislators about the failures of our current system here in Idaho (and unfortunately, Idaho isn't unusual at all), but I've been waiting for a break in my current research project. It's time to turn my energies onto the Idaho legislature.

    Too many lives are being destroyed.

    You should read the whole thing. And this and this (also linked at Clayton's site). Then you should go to work on your legislature.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 06:10 AM | Comments (0)

    The Barry Bonds Harry Potter Greenhouse effect

    There must be something wrong with me. Not only did I go out of my way not to be interested in Harry Potter (and found myself in wholehearted agreement with Dr. Helen's post about what I consider aging adolescent hysteria), but now I'm finding myself having a Harry Potteresque reaction to the Barry Bonds uproar.

    So I find myself in agreement with Megan McArdle:

    I'm not sure about this controversy over Barry Bonds. Yes, the guy 'roided it up. But then so, I imagine, did the pitchers he faced, which should have made their pitches faster and harder to hit. This kind of grumbling seems odd in team sports, when everyone with a chemical or training advantage should see it offset by the same behaviour on the opposing team.
    It's just a big yawn as far as I'm concerned. I cared more about Rush Limbaugh's drug issues, because they touched on political principles, but in general I am not interested in what entertainers do. Rock musicians often use drugs to enhance their performance, and while I can understand the argument that baseball is supposed to be kept "clean," what's clean? I've been addicted to chewing tobacco at various times in my life, and there's no question that it's both a high and a performance enhancer. In the early days of this blog, I wrote posts late at night, and they were largely nicotine fueled. (Nicotine also provided fuel for Harkonnendog.) Now the fuel is usually coffee, aggravated by a natural, despair-be-damned curiosity to discover what I think. (And occasionally I'll have a couple of beers in the evening, and I'll react to especially dire nonsense, but these days blogging is usually a morning thing.)

    Sorry, but I just can't get into Barry Bonds and steroids.

    It's about as exciting as the idea of erotic pictures of Linda Greenhouse. (Via Ann Althouse, who doesn't link to any.)


    posted by Eric at 04:58 PM | Comments (4)

    Monica does Fred

    No seriously. Some leftie writer named Monica has taken issue with the name "Fred":

    Say it out loud. Do it. Fred. Fred. In the South, Fray-ud.


    It has the tonal quality of something being dropped on the floor, something heavy and damp-ish.

    Waterlogged paper towel.

    Bear in mind that Monica wrote the above for the Washington Post.

    Jeff Soyer characterizes it as "what passes for political commentary," and points out that women named "Monica" are hardly in a position to make fun of men for being named "Fred."

    Now what does a name like that conjure up?
    I don't know, but I'm not feeling original, so I'll just take the writer's text, substitute "Monica" for "Fred" and see how it looks.
    Say it out loud. Do it. Monica. Monica. In the South, MOAN-ica.

    Ohhhhhh, MAHHHNIKKAH!

    It has the tonal quality of something being dropped on the floor, something heavy and damp-ish.

    Waterlogged paper towel.

    Yeah, and the last part makes more Monical sense because Fred doesn't really need a waterlogged paper towel to clean off the heavy damp stuff on the floor.

    (You know, the sloppy stuff that doesn't all land on blue dresses....)

    Yes, it's a slow day, but if this is political commentary, I believe in being fair and balanced.

    posted by Eric at 04:10 PM | Comments (4)

    posted by Simon at 02:06 PM | Comments (1)

    what page am I on?

    At the gay issues debate the other night, Bill Richardson (a man I'm sorry is doing so poorly in the Democratic race) said something a lot of people who believe in freedom and free choice might have said about homosexuality:

    At least one candidate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, seemed to stumble when asked by Etheridge if he believed homosexuality was a choice or biological.

    "It's a choice," he said at first. "I'm not a scientist. I don't see this as an issue of science or definition."

    When pressed on the point that opponents of gay rights often assert that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, Richardson said, "I don't think it's a matter of preferences, I think it's a matter of equality."

    In other words, it's a matter of freedom. (Not a popular topic these days.... I've expended many words on this topic since the beginning of this blog.)

    Few would understand, although I think that Ann Althouse quite possibly does:

    Was that really a "stumble"? Maybe Richardson did waltz into a forum on gay rights unprepared to deal with the most basic gay rights subjects. I seriously doubt that. He's no fool. So what's up? It's possible that he takes science seriously -- as opposed to ideologically -- and he's refraining from making declarations about things that he doesn't know to be scientific fact. It's possible that he may mean -- and I think this is the best position -- that even if homosexuality is a matter of choice -- "preferences" -- gay people deserve equal rights. But I suspect that Richardson is interested in maintaining the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior. People who care about gay rights ought to follow up on that, because it's the foundation for justifying discrimination.
    Yes, and it should not be. Freedom is freedom. If there is freedom to do something, why one does it should be secondary. (And of course there is freedom not to do what there is freedom to do.)

    But here's an altogether different reaction to Richardson's remarks:

    All in all, the audience evidently got the answers they were hoping for (with the exception of a unanimous endorsement for "same-sex marriage"). However, the crowd collectively gasped when Governor Richardson said that homosexuality is "a choice," rather than an inborn trait, momentarily sucking all the hot air from the room.

    The debate represented the culmination of decades of relentless propaganda, intended to justify and promote the homosexual lifestyle, foisted on society by an assiduous homosexual lobby.

    The victims of this foisting don't know how immoral they are being by allowing the debate to take place:
    ...the fact that this debate even took place is a sad commentary on the moral state of our union. It's shameful that our nation's moral standards have nose-dived to the point that it's now considered good and "tolerant" to hold a debate organized entirely around the promotion of sexual immorality.

    What's next? Are presidential candidates going to be asked to participate in a debate on how to garner widespread acceptance of adultery or incest? Are members of the growing polygamy lobby and the pedophile group NAMBLA going to tap candidates for a televised debate to promote their chosen lifestyles?

    I've been looking for the polygamy lobby, and I can't find them. Hell, I've been unable to locate the incest lobby.
    Thousands of years of history, every major world religion, the unambiguous science of human biology and good old-fashioned common sense have established that homosexual behaviors are both immoral and destructive to the lives, health and spiritual well-being of those who choose to participate in those behaviors.
    Great Caesar's ghost!

    What am I supposed to say? I've tried politely answering email from this guy, but he never saw fit to answer. He cares -- he really and truly cares -- what other people (strangers he doesn't even know) might possibly be doing with their genitalia. Why else would he send me these emails? Why do people care what others do with their genitalia? (I don't, but there's no inverse Golden Rule.)

    As I keep saying, there's no debating these issues. Seriously, how would supporters of gay marriage debate supporters of sodomy laws? They are not on the same page.

    Any ideas, feel free to speak up.

    MORE: It also occurs to me that this entire issue runs afoul of the old principle of "Never talk about religion or politics." Because of its cultural nature in this society, the gay issue doubly violates this rule, plus it involves sex! Not just sex, but a form of sex with which activists on both sides have very strong feelings.

    As to the people who simply want to be left alone, who don't have strong feelings, who don't know or claim to know the scientific arguments (or who don't especially care what other people do sexually), they are seen as ignorant and uncaring by activists on one side -- and immoral by activists on the other.

    Unfortunately, I'm afraid this issue is not going to go away over the next year.

    posted by Eric at 12:39 AM | Comments (6)

    The Default Interpretation

    I was reading the comments at Coyote Blog since I just finished a bit about a climate article they had put up and I came across this little gem by dearieme posted Aug 9, 2007 12:15:51 PM:

    "Government scientists ..refuse to publicly release their temperature adjustment algorithms or software": the default interpretation of that is that they are crooks.
    It seems like a lot of people are coming to that conclusion.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:12 PM | Comments (1)

    A Shill For Al Gore?

    Coyote Blog has a bit up on the latest Climate Change scandal. The error in the data making 1998 the hottest year on record. James Hansen is head of GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) the source of the error. Michael Mann (inventor of the guaranteed hockey stick method - feed any data in, random numbers are good - get a hockey stick out) stated he was 99% certain that 1998 was the warmest year on record for the last 1,000 years. Actually it is the second warmest year on record in the last 73 years. That means he was only off by 927 years. Not bad for a professional. The error has been corrected in remarkably short time. However, it has brought to light something rather interesting.

    James Hansen gets money from a foundation run by John Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz Kerry.

    Newsweek portrays James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, as untainted by corporate bribery.

    Hansen was once profiled on CBS' "60 Minutes" as the "world's leading researcher on global warming." Not mentioned by Newsweek was that Hansen had acted as a consultant to Al Gore's slide-show presentations on global warming, that he had endorsed John Kerry for president, and had received a $250,000 grant from the foundation headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry.

    You don't suppose the money has biased Hansen do you? Me either. I put such talk down to idle speculation, innuendo, and ugly rumor. Like all true scientist who understand that CO2 is causing global warming, the man is beyond reproach. I think those inquiring into the underlying data and adjustment methods of NASA/Goddard's GISS temperature record are just a bunch of climate hooligans and should be ignored. Mr. Hansen is in charge of GISS. He works for the government. His honesty and integrity are beyond reproach. No need to audit the books.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 10:17 PM | Comments (2)

    Day in recovery

    I just suffered a nearly catastrophic hard drive failure, and I will be attempting a very precarious back up. The hard drive that held most of my accumulated longterm "stuff" crashed badly, and was unreadable by one computer, and one OS. The BIOS warned me that it crashed. Somehow, it remains barely readable as a slave, but only in the second computer.

    Which means I will be attempting to save files all day, and if I'm lucky I'll be able to blog later.

    There's something downright creepy about sudden hard drive failure. When 120 Gigabytes worth of many accumulated memories just disappear without warning, it almost feels like an electronic version of a stroke.

    I know. Prevention. Prevention.

    (Right now I'm in the recovery phase.)

    posted by Eric at 01:21 PM | Comments (3)

    How guns make good criminals bad

    Today's Philadelphia Inquirer has a front page story about a Chinese store owner who was murdered by neighborhood kids.

    While this was an otherwise well-researched story, for some reason the Inquirer left Commissioner Sylvester Johnson out, despite the fact that he appears to have been directly in charge the whole time at the crime scene. I say "well researched" because the Inquirer wouldn't let the perfectly competent Joseph Gambardello write the story alone. Instead, they have added two co-authors, including the Inquirer's visiting Chinese intern Lou Yi whose reportorial expertise seems to be invoked when reports touch on Asian cultural issues.

    I'll return to the Inquirer, but I noticed that a Fox News story does quote Philadelphia's Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who once again seems to think the issue involves guns:

    "It's another example of guns and the person who doesn't want to go out there and work for his money, thinks the way to get it is to rob somebody," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

    The owner was shot in the chest. His wife and daughter were there when it happened and were able to identify the gunman.

    "This male had robbed them previously about a year ago," said Commissioner Johnson.

    The shooter was 15 years old, and while he hasn't yet been caught, there's a mug shot of him here, presumably taken a year ago, when he last robbed the same store. Frankly, he doesn't look at all like a child. While it may well be that he "doesn't want to go out there and work for his money," on the other hand it might be difficult to find employers who are willing to risk running afoul of the various restrictions on hiring "children" under 16. I mean, he's supposed to be in school studying hard so he can get into the college of his choice, right? I don't mean to sound skeptical, but that is the theory.

    Guns always get the blame in cases like this, and it's easy to see why. It just doesn't seem right to blame a "child." The victim's family seems to understand this intuitively, for the Inquirer quotes the slain grocer's family as giving up on Philadelphia, presumably because there isn't enough gun control:

    The Lu family, meanwhile, has given up on the city and plans to move to New York.

    "I know Philadelphia is not safe. But I have never imagined this tragedy . . . could happen to my family. It is a nightmare," Lu LiXia said.

    "Everybody's got guns in all of the neighborhood," she said. "We can't stay anymore. If we came back, next time it could be me or my mom. American law is too good to the juveniles. . . . They should do something about gun control."

    I hate to be a constant nag, but the fact is, there are already very strict gun control laws involving minors and felons. The accused shooter was not allowed to buy or possess the gun. If his 19 year old accomplice had a felony record, then his possession of the gun would have been a felony. Likewise, their carrying it concealed without a permit is another crime.

    It was a crime for the shooter to have the gun.

    Exactly what kind of gun control is supposed to work in cases like this, where kids in their mid teens don't want to go out and work for a living and for all I know aren't buckling down in school? Actually, I can't be sure about the latter, as it's speculation on my part. It is possible that the shooter might have been an honor student with a perfect attendance record.

    Certainly, his family and neighbors (notwithstanding his previous armed robbery) seem to think he's a good kid, and that the crime is a tragedy for both "sides":

    Yesterday afternoon, Canady's mother, Camilla Brown, sat on the front porch of the family house on tree-lined Carver Street, two blocks from Lu Grocery.

    "My sympathy goes out to the family," she said. "I feel grief and remorse. It's a tragedy on both sides. They lost their loved one and . . . I don't know."

    A neighbor, block captain Dinette Brown, described Canady as a good kid who helped to sweep the street during neighborhood cleanups and wanted to play football.

    "He was always respectful to me," she said. "He helped me carry my groceries. . . . You raise your children the best you can, but there's peer pressure out here. . . . I'm just as shocked as everybody else.

    "He had dreams like everyone else," she said. "Nobody wants to be a robber or a killer."

    Nobody wants to be a robber or a killer? Then why are there robberies and killings? Because of peer pressure? Because of the guns? I guess if we apply the block captain's logic, no one wants to have a gun either. Somehow, though, the guns manage to make the children find them them and possess them illegally and then shoot people with them even though they don't want to? For inanimate objects, these guns are awfully powerful.

    While the shooter's character is described as good, neighbors don't seem so sure about the victim of the slaying, who now stands accused of, well, racism:

    Like some other residents, she expressed some discomfort with Lu Jiaxing, saying she thought he viewed black people with suspicion. Other residents, though, said Lu made a point of knowing his customers so well that he knew what each typically bought at the store.

    "About two months ago, when it got dark at about 6 or 7 p.m., he started closing down and selling food through a slot," Brown said. "I did have a problem with that. But he did seem to be a decent man. Once, I lost my ... card in his ATM and he went out of his way to get it back for me the next day."

    Assuming this is all true, if we weigh the good (helping the block captain find her lost ATM card) against the bad (viewing "black people with suspicion"), I still don't really see the relevance. A kid who robs a store, and then a year later puts a bullet through a store owner in a second robbery simply does not strike me as a good kid, and even if the deceased store owner was a racist grouch, that is in no way a mitigating circumstance. (Unless, of course, slutty looking women deserve to be raped.)

    Another neighbor is quoted as being upset by the victim's wife dismantling a makeshift "memorial" to her husband:

    Another neighborhood resident, Edward Molizone, 74, touched on the suspicion that often exists between black residents and Asian merchants.

    "A lot of blacks don't go to the Chinese store because they feel the Chinese think they steal from them," he said. "I don't have a complex about that."

    But Molizone said that he was disturbed when he heard that Lu's wife dismantled a makeshift memorial to her husband created by neighborhood residents.

    "I was hurt this morning when she took all the teddy bears and put them in the trash," he said.

    Does this mean Lu's wife must now face neighborhood ostracism on charges of "insensitivity"? Again, this is all speculation, but isn't it possible that she's in a grief-stricken state, and that seeing stuff being piled up on the sidewalk wasn't her idea of a proper memorial? But it is the neighbor who now says he has been "hurt." Isn't it possible that a woman whose husband was murdered two days ago is feeling a little more hurt? Or am I engaging in "insensitive" speculations?

    I don't know anymore, but it strikes me that if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt on sensitivity here, it ought to be the victims. In that regard, the Inquirer touches on something that must be really painful for the daughter to contemplate. When last year's robbery charges were thrown out, it may have been because Philadelphia bureaucrats didn't make much of an effort to help her testify:

    Lu LiXia recalled her father's last minutes.

    She was upstairs in the family's apartment when she said she heard her father shouting and ran to find him struggling with two masked robbers.

    "I joined the fighting and we pulled off their masks. I saw that they were customers who came to buy snacks and drinks almost every day," Lu LiXia said.

    Police said the Lus first forced Canady out the door, followed by White. But instead of running, one of them - detectives believe it was Canady - fired twice into the open door, hitting Lu in the chest before fleeing.

    Lu LiXia also recognized Canady as the youth who tried to rob the store in November with what officials said was an inoperable BB gun.

    Canady originally was charged as an adult, but the case was transferred to Family Court, where a judge dismissed the charges for lack of evidence.

    Lu LiXia recalled answering a subpoena and waiting for hours at Family Court before officials told her to go home. But when she apparently did not appear for a subsequent hearing, the charges were dismissed.

    I can well understand the terror going through the mind of a robbery victim having to show up and wait for hours in a situation like that, and I find myself wondering whether every effort was made by the City of Philadelphia to assist her, or if maybe they didn't care whether she showed up.

    As to Commissioner Johnson, he says he doesn't know:

    As far as the teen allegedly robbing the place before, Johnson would only say they arrested the teen for it and they found a gun but he doesn't know what happened in court.
    Well, someone ought to know. Even if the witness was frightened, the police had the gun.

    Like many other crimes, this one could have been prevented had the criminal justice system simply done its job properly in the first place. I keep reading about crime after crime committed by released criminals. In Connecticut, a pair of recently paroled convicts are accused of....

    ...breaking into the suburban Cheshire home of Dr. William Petit Jr. on July 23, holding his wife and two daughters hostage and terrorizing them for nearly six hours.

    Police say the pair raped and strangled the doctor's 48-year-old wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit. The couple's daughters, Hayley Petit, 18, and Michaela Petit, 11, were tied to their beds and the youngest was raped before the men poured gasoline around their beds and set fire to the family home, according to police.

    No shooting, though. So despite the abominable and horrific nature of the crime, there will be no accompanying cry for gun control which already exists. And I doubt anyone will be heard to say that these were good men (even though one of them seems to have been adopted by a highly cultured family.)

    Likewise, there will be no claim of good-man-led-astray-by-uncontrolled-guns in this murder case:

    A pregnant South Jersey woman who was run down by an enraged motorist's SUV as her horrified husband watched has died of her injuries, police said.

    Rosa Maguire, 27, received severe brain injuries when she was struck Aug. 1 by an SUV driven by a man who had been freed on bail the day before.

    The Cumberland County woman, who was three months pregnant, died Thursday night in Atlantic City at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, authorities said.

    "It looks like the child was a victim as well," said Capt. Al Della Fave, spokesman for the New Jersey State Police. A hospital spokesman said he could not comment because of a request for privacy from the Maguire family.

    Jack Yator, 22, of Port Norris, was charged with one count of murder and other offenses yesterday by Cumberland County Prosecutor Ronald J. Casella. Other charges may be filed. Police said Yator affiliates with members of the violent Bloods gang.

    Had Yator shot this same woman, people would be decrying the "easy availability" of guns it would have been a felony for him to possess.

    That's because guns make good people go bad and break the gun control laws which don't work because the guns are so awful they make the good people on parole for committing crimes they didn't want to commit go out and break the laws against having guns -- even though they don't want to do that either. This means that we need to make it illegal for good people to have guns! That way, everyone who has a gun will be automatically guilty of a gun crime (and bad), and the good people who don't have guns can join forces to defeat the common enemy of 200-plus million guns.

    As for me, I just keep having a mental stumbling block.

    Why can't I understand that guns are way more evil than criminals?

    posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (7)

    Problems in Asia

    It has come to my attention that there are problems with the the temperature record in Asia.

    At virtually the same time NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies was correcting historical climate data with the assistance of Climate Audit's Steve McIntyre, a British mathematician discovered serious flaws in papers used and cited by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its most recent Assessment Report.

    Douglas J. Keenan, a former Morgan Stanley arbitrageur and current independent mathematical researcher, identified "fabrications" in such studies that suggest a "marked lack of integrity in some important work on global warming that is relied upon by the IPCC" and that "the insignificance of urbanization effects on temperature measurements has not been established as reliably as the IPCC assessment report assumes."

    The errors are so glaring that one might conclude fraud was involved. Such a conclusion would be premature.

    There are links to the studies involved and other links at the above url.

    H/T Reliapundit

    Update: 11 Aug 007 1711z

    Questions about the Russian data.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:45 AM | Comments (4)

    Might As Well Be Walking On The Moon

    It appears that China is interested in mining the moon.

    Chinanews, Guiyang, Aug 10 -China plans to survey every inch of the soil on the moon during the Chang'e project, said Ouyang Ziyuan, China's chief scientist for the moon exploration project.
    So why would China be spending money on moon exploration. Do they have something practical in mind? Yes they do.
    "There are altogether 15 tons of helium-3 on earth, while on the moon, the total amount of Helium-3 can reach 1-5 million tons. Helium-3 is considered as a long-term, stable, safe, clean and cheap material for human beings to get nuclear energy through controllable nuclear fusion experiments. If we human beings can finally use such energy material to generate electricity, then China might need 10 tons of helium-3 every year and in the world, about 100 tons of helium-3 will be needed every year. This means that the helium-3 reserves on the moon can serve human society for at least 10,000 years," he said.
    It turns out that if this alternate fusion scheme works, out we will not have to go to the moon for fuel. We can leave the He3 on the moon for use in space travel. On earth we can use Boron 11 and hydrogen. Hydrogen is abundant. There is enough Boron 11 for around 100,000 years. More than enough time to figure out what is next. Plus we need not get into resource wars over goodies in space. At least not for a while.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 03:15 AM | Comments (1)

    Gavin Newsom speaks, but with credibility?

    Gavin Newsom (who would like to ban dogs based solely on their breed) never seems to run out of crazy ideas.

    As Clayton Cramer documents in a post titled "San Francisco's Mayor Newsom Decides To Punish Illegal Acts By Criminalizing Legal Acts," Newsom wants to ban gun shows at the Cow Palace -- not because illegal gun sales occur there, but because (claims Newsom) illegal sales occur in the parking lot. There's a problem for Newsom, though. The Cow Palace isn't in San Francisco. So he wants a state law passed ending gun shows at the Cow Palace. Presumably, he thinks he has power beyond his jurisdiction, based on his say so.


    Let me get this straight: what's happening in the Cow Palace is legal--background checks are being run, people who can't legally buy guns are prevented from buying them. What is happening in the parking lot is illegal--people are buying and selling guns without background checks, waiting periods, etc. So the city needs to shut down the lawful activity?

    I'm sure that Mayor Newsom thinks that if the gun shows didn't happen at the Cow Palace, there would be no illegal gun sales going on in the Cow Palace parking lot. He's probably right. But they would certainly be taking place elsewhere in San Francisco. So which is it easier for the police to do? Look for unlawful transfers in one relatively small place (the Cow Palace parking lot), or the entire city of San Francisco?

    My recollection of the Cow Palace parking lot suggests that a few police officers on top of the surrounding buildings with spotting scopes could see situations that undercover officers could rapidly respond to, and catch unlawful transfers as they take place, or shortly after they have taken place. Video footage through zoom lens in combination with actually catching people in possession of firearms would be sufficient to get convictions, and because this is all in a public place, there's no basis for claiming that the criminals were having their rights to privacy violated, or that there was a requirement for a search warrant.

    If you can see some sort of covert or semicovert transaction taking place in the parking lot, this would seem like probable cuse to search the participants for the items that were exchanged.

    The gun shows at the Cow Palace are making it easier for the police to enforce the existing law, by bringing criminals together into the parking lot. A sensible elected official (unlike Mayor Newsom) would regard this as a benefit of the gun show, not a problem. But this is really more about appearing tough on guns rather than about doing something about San Francisco's violent crime problem.

    To that I'd add that I went to countless gun shows at the Cow Palace back in the 90s, and I talked to many, many gun dealers and individual patrons. The parking lot was crawling with BATF agents, and it would have been the last place in the world that anyone in his right mind would have attempted an illegal sale. BATF agents would actually solicit illegal sales, and the gun dealers and their customers were well aware of it. If you wanted to get in trouble with the BATF fast, the parking lot of a gun show was probably the best place to do it.

    Is it possible that things have changed over the past few years, and that the BATF, California State Police and the local San Mateo County police have decided to turn a blind eye on anything that goes on right outside a well-known gun show on the outskirts of one the most anti-gun cities (in one of the most anti-gun states) in the United States?

    Possible, but I doubt it.

    I wish I was in the area, because I'd like to ask some of the dealers.

    Looking further into this, it appears that Newsom and his gun-grabbing pals have no direct evidence of sales occurring in the parking lot:

    San Francisco political leaders Thursday called for the end of gun shows at the Cow Palace, saying the shows on state-owned property are effectively turning California into "a merchant of tools of death."

    Standing in the parking lot of the indoor arena, District Attorney Kamala Harris, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Police Chief Heather Fong and Assemblyman Mark Leno said the shows - including Crossroads of the West Gun Show, which comes to the palace Saturday and Sunday - are directly contributing to the proliferation of illegal guns and spiking homicide rates in San Francisco.

    They admitted to having no direct proof, but said they have heard countless stories from neighbors about guns - including AK47s and sawed-off shotguns - being illegally sold in the adjacent public housing developments and in the arena's parking lot during the gun shows.

    Frankly, based on what I know about the place, I don't believe it. While I don't doubt that guns are sold in the public housing development, I'm wondering about the credibility of the unverified stories implicating the gun show. The guns shows are crawling with cops, because no one wants trouble.

    I also see that the shows in question are run by Crossroads of the West, still run by Bob Templeton, whom I got to know quite well.

    Bob Templeton, president of the Utah-based Crossroads of the West Gun Show, disputed that claim, saying he has asked officials with the Daly City Police Department, Cow Palace management and the California Department of Justice whether they know of any illegal gun sales that have ever taken place at the shows. They all said no, according to Templeton.

    Templeton added that the show has come to the arena for 23 years, and there have never been any arrests or charges filed against anybody for selling illegal guns there. He added that two uniformed Daly City police officers are always stationed at the show and that the show is monitored by the Gun Show Task Force, part of the state Justice Department that was created seven years ago by state legislation.

    "It's distressing when politicians, for their own ends, make charges like these. These are simply allegations made by people who don't like guns," he said.

    "We are selling guns to people who are hunters, outdoorsmen, law enforcement people and honest, law-abiding citizens," he said, noting that all purchasers go through mandatory background checks and are subject to 10-day waiting periods.

    I'm smelling a rat here. Is there any way to verify what Newsom says? Or is he just reciting fourth hand hearsay from self-appointed activists like Shawn Richards?
    Shawn Richards, director of Brothers Against Guns, said people during the gun shows drive through the public housing developments near the arena, including Sunnydale, and illegally hawk weapons to residents. They also illegally sell weapons in the parking lot of the arena itself, he said.
    Did Richards witness this? Did anyone call the cops? Why should I believe it? Richards, BTW, is described as an "Ex-gang member (a few), ex-con (3 years in the state penitentiary), ex-dealer and current God Of The Projects." (And he's also said to be a former gun dealer who now complains that gun shows are "disrespectful" and "a slap in the face.")

    A look at some of the "facts" Richards recites here hardly inspires, um, confidence:

    Yee: Assault rifles -- they're hitting the streets in alarming numbers. Shawn Richards, founder of Bruthas Aginst Guns, is pretty clear where they're coming from.

    Richards: All over. Different world countries. China, Phillipines, Mexico. They comin' in. And they comin' in off these tankers.

    [cut to cargo tanker in SF Bay]

    Yee: Tankers Richards can see from his Hunter's Point apartment. The projects, where doors are guarded with metal bars, windows boarded with plywood, and neighbors shoot neighbors.
    [Is she TRYING to make people laugh with that comment?]
    Yee: Yesterday, reportedly with a high-powered weapon.

    Cheko Wells (of B.A.G.):The shooting..that happens, you know, folks with a high-powered rifle scoping down on each other, that's..that's a whole nother game. I'm like, whoah.

    Then they cut to the gun-store scene of an AR with detachable 30-round mag and comment how these guns are in the hands of criminals for a couple hundred bucks in just a couple of hours.

    And then this gem from Richards, the Bayview's role model for anti-gunners, in his message for kids:

    Cuz at the end of the day, somebuddy's goin to jail and somebuddy's gonna be deyud, if they don' handle they bizness correctly.

    Another piece of journalistic excellence from the local press. Woohoo.

    A man who says "tankers" are unloading "assault weapons" from all over the world, which are then sold in gun stores? Putting aside the fact that they're illegal in California, I don't think this is a credible source.

    But I guess if you're Gavin Newsom and the issue is guns, who needs credibility?

    posted by Eric at 06:27 PM | Comments (0)

    Prohibition works almost as well as socialism!

    While I don't think it would be fair to speculate over how he feels about revenuers, Glenn Reynolds linked a particularly amusing post by Don Surber, who notes an ominous new trend -- high taxes on beer:

    ....Reuters Health news service reported earlier this week that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "is campaigning for tighter rules on the taxation of beer and on its availability, especially late at night and early in the morning." In its September 2003 report, the federally funded Institute of Medicine recommended raising alcohol excise taxes, stating that "top priority should be given to raising beer taxes."

    The increased taxes could, after all, help subsidize future beachside conferences for nanny state bureaucrats.

    Says Surber,
    Tis the return of the temperance movement. Except instead of using hatchets to smash taverns, these Carrie Nations are just going to tax the hell out of adult beverages.
    Yes, they are. And once again, I don't think they care whether the policies are doomed to fail. I'm reminded of what John Stossel said recently about Russia:
    The fall of the Soviet Union deprived us of the biggest example of how socialism works. We need laboratories of failure to demonstrate what socialism is like.
    How fast we forget history! And I'm not just talking about the failure only of Russian socialism and American prohibition. Shortly before socialism collapsed, Gorbachev attempted the famous 1985 crackdown on alcohol consumption.
    The first rules restricting access to alcohol came into effect on 1 June 1985. These were important, as they included a series of actions that could be enforced at once and where the impact of enforcement was highly visible, such as banning drinking of alcohol at all workplaces, including formerly legal bars, such as those in higher education establishments; banning sales before 2 p.m.; restricting alcohol sales to off-licences; and banning sales on trains (including dining-cars) and similar establishments.

    In August 1985 prices increased by 25%, with another increase in August 1986. Subsequently there was a series of further measures to restrict access, with cuts in production leading to massive shortages.

    Unfortunately for the government, higher liquor prices translated into a dramatic decrease in revenue. Reason? People made their own!
    ....perhaps the most convincing evidence of its effectiveness was what ultimately led to its demise, its impact on public finances. The figures published at that time for spending on alcohol from official outlets fell in 1985 by 5 billion roubles from that in 1984 (note that the campaign only began in May 1985, so this is consistent with other evidence that consumption was falling before the campaign began), but by 1986 it had fallen further, by 15.8 billion roubles and by 1987 by a further 16.3 billion. The consequences for government revenues, together with the loss of power by Ligachev and Solomentsev, who had played an important part in the genesis of the campaign, are thought to have played a major part in its abandonment in 1988.

    The effect of the campaign was short-lived, because of the rapid substitution of illicit production. (Emphasis added.)

    Not only did the crackdown create a shortfall in government revenue, as the Mises Institute notes, it also created a severe sugar shortage:
    Gorbachev's attempt to raise the level of sobriety in the country was a disaster. It brought a severe sugar shortage, as ordinary people rushed to produce their own vodka, privately. These consumers were the lucky ones.
    (Yeah, they didn't die from drinking poisoned brews made from anti-freeze and other toxins.)

    Like the Americans, the Russians have a long tradition of making their own:

    With his political reforms during the 1980s, former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev introduced a nationwide crackdown on alcohol, but that didn't stop people from brewing their own.

    "We paid no attention. We kept on going, quietly. We can't live without alcohol, and we can't afford vodka," she explained.

    Her samogon sells for about 70 cents for a half-liter, compared with about $1.25 for the cheapest commercial vodka available there.

    Oh, and here's the recipe:
    Take an old Russian washing machine, toss in a few ounces of yeast, a 22-pound sack of sugar, a gallon of fresh milk and 10 gallons of water, churn the brew for two hours and distill.
    That's a pretty crude method, but the principle is just getting the yeast to do its job and convert the sugar into the maximum percentage of alcohol (the point at which the yeast becomes pickled and stops working).

    Distilling isn't all that complicated; a modified hot water heater (details here) will work beautifully. Or you can buy whatever you might need here, here, or any number of places. You could even use a modified water distiller like this, although regular water purification distillers are not calibrated to the right temperatures for distilling alcohol.

    I haven't researched the law but this web site advises contacting the BATF if you intend to distill alcohol:

    In the United States, those wishing to distill alcohol must contact their local BATF office to obtain an appropriate licensing prior to performing home distillation. It is the sole responsibility of the distiller to know and abide by all applicable laws.
    It's worth noting that distillation does not constitute the manufacture of alcohol. That's accomplished by the initial fermentation. Distillation only concentrates the existing alcohol.

    monsterplus_m.jpgDrinkable alcohol, by the way, is ethanol. Whether that means that there will eventually be a showdown between the greenie weenies and the neo-Prohibitionists I do not know. But the fact is, ethanol has become such a big deal that making it is now encouraged -- a fact which has not gone unnoticed by Mile Hi Distilling -- your "one stop source for all of your home distilling needs." Their web site helpfully provides the BATF's standard Form Fuel Application, which can be downloaded in pdf. Be sure to check out Mile Hi's models too! Typical still life on the left!

    Obviously, ethanol is good for drinking or driving, but not both.

    Anyway, I would never advise anyone to break the law here, and this blog post is only offered as a history lesson and a historical warning. People are too quick to forget the past.

    My digression into distillation aside, as Don Surber notes, the current bureaucratic discussion involves raising taxes on beer, which is legal, easy, and cheap for almost any adult to make.

    Numerous web sites like this will tell you how:

    The basic homebrewing equipment is not all that expensive - you can probably get everything you need to start for $100 - $150 - and we'll be glad to direct you to it online in our related products section. Of course, you could also choose to ruin our fun and buy it from some local brewing supplies store. In order to start brewing, you will need the following items:

    1. Brewpot
    2. Primary fermenter
    3. Airlock and stopper
    4. Plastic hose
    5. Bottling bucket
    6. Bottles
    7. Bottle brush
    8. Bottle capper (if glass bottles are used)
    9. Stick-on thermometer
    10. Household items

    Now we will explain what these items are and give you a basic idea of what you do with them, although the more detailed brewing instructions come in steps 2, 3, and 4.

    Home brewing is already a fairly major industry, and if these people are serious about raising beer taxes (as they appear to be), it might be a good time to "get in on the ground floor" as the saying goes.

    Who knows? If they're stupid enough to raise the beer taxes, they might be stupid enough to raise them even higher when the projected revenues don't pan out. Then home brewing would skyrocket, and then they'd really have to raise the taxes. (This process is called static analysis, and it's typical of the bureaucratic mindset.)

    As far as the bureaucrats are concerned, this history lecture is probably a waste of time. Like the people who know that socialism doesn't work, these people also know that prohibition (even in the form of high taxes on alcohol) will not work.

    But hey, if the program doesn't work, it's back to the drawing board for more meetings and more programs. And hiring new people to figure out how to "improve" on the old program.

    If it failed before, and it fails again, we'll just have to keep getting it wrong so we can keep fixing it again.

    If you don't like it, drink!

    posted by Eric at 03:23 PM | Comments (9)

    "Who wants to go through a perp walk?"

    Here's an update on the case I posted about over the weekend in which a university dean was charged with something (criminal negligence, I guess), because a student drank himself to death in a hazing ritual.

    The dean, Anthony Campbell, has pleaded not guilty. What this means is that apparently the DA thinks he has a criminal case against the dean, although I still can't figure out precisely what the legal theory of criminal liability is.

    Neither can the dean's lawyer:

    Before yesterday's hearing, Campbell's lawyer, Rocco Cipparone Jr., said his client wasn't at the party and played no role in arranging it.

    "I'm not aware of any set of facts and circumstances that could remotely serve as a basis for a conviction of a crime," he said.

    Standing with Campbell after the hearing, Cipparone said his client had received many supportive phone calls and e-mails. He described Campbell as a "very caring dean of students."

    If convicted of the hazing charge, the officials and fraternity members would face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

    Prosecutors said the defendants "knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated or engaged in conduct which resulted in serious bodily injury" to DeVercelly and another student, William Williams, who survived.

    Let's say you're a dean. Students have a fraternity party, and one drinks himself to death. Does the fact that you know the fraternity is there, and that underage students might at some point break alcohol laws constitute "organizing, promoting or facilitating"? The most I can see is possible civil negligence. But the theory seems to be that the dean committed a felony by failing to adequately police these young men (some of whom were legally allowed to drink, some of whom were not). As I said before, if he's criminally liable for their drinking, then why not their sexual behavior?

    I don't think they have a good case, and while I initially suspected prosecutorial grandstanding, for some reason the DA is neither quoted nor mentioned in today's report. But the desire to send a message is:

    Doug Fierberg, a lawyer who's represented hazing victims since the mid-1990s, said it's rare for a university official to be held responsible for hazing.

    "This involves a watershed event where the public has to recognize that universities have to be safe and have to take these kinds of events seriously," said Fierberg, who's been retained by DeVercelly's parents.

    Henry Nuwer, a college professor who's studied campus hazing for years, said the case will send a strong message to higher education officials about their accountability for hazings.

    "Who wants to go through a perp walk? That would scare anyone to death. It's not what you go into teaching for. The pay isn't good enough," said Nuwer, an assistant professor of journalism at Franklin College in Franklin, Ind.

    Nuwer said it will be difficult for prosecutors to prove Campbell and Badgley committed a crime.

    "I haven't seen the reckless disregard you would need for a conviction," Nuwer said.

    Campbell and Badgley are still employed by the university. A university spokesman, Jonathan Meer, has said a decision on their status is expected next week.

    I'm wondering why the DA (Joseph Bocchini Jr.) isn't mentioned, and why he isn't spelling out his theory of the dean's crime. If he brought this case just because wanted to "send a message to deans across the country," that's not enough. By his status of being a dean sitting in his office (he had nothing to do with the party), he had less direct involvement in student drinking than the liquor store which sold them the booze, and no DA would charge a liquor store owner criminally for legal sales to adults -- notwithstanding the fact that liquor sales could be logically construed as "facilitating" fatal alcohol consumption.

    I think this is a bad case.

    posted by Eric at 10:08 AM | Comments (5)

    Climate Audit Hit

    It appears that Climate Audit after posting on a NASA error that made 1998 the warmest year on record (it is now second warmest after 1934, Power and Control link) has been hit with a denial of service attack according to a commenter at Watts Up With That?

    Evidently the news was too much for some people to bear.

    More news here.

    Michelle Malkin sent an e-mail. She thinks it was a mention of Climate Audit by Rush L. that did it. Possible. Steve McIntyre has posted at A. Watts' site saying it may be a while before CA returns. Maybe a week. The usual DOS type attack is cleared in a couple of days or less. So I'm still wondering. More news as it becomes available. Michelle has more details on the main story and some thoughts on why Climate Audit is Down.

    Clayton Cramer has some thoughts.

    Update: 10 Aug 007 2258z

    What really happened by some one who was actually there.

    I know the DOS attack on was real, as I helped them try to troubleshoot the problem, and the attack continues even now.
    BTW Climate Audit is back up.

    Update: 11 Aug 007 1838z

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

    posted by Simon at 01:13 AM | Comments (6)

    Yes, terrorists sell drugs too.

    Most readers know that I strongly disagree with the war on drugs, while strongly applauding the war on terror. (While I don't like or defend drug dealers, I can't help noting ironically that more people defend terrorists than defend drug dealers.)

    When I read reports that illegal drugs are being used to fund terrorists, it makes me very angry. At the despicable drug dealers, and of course at the terrorists.

    Moslems in the [South American] region, religiously and ideologically sympathetic to terror organizations like Hizballah and Hamas, if not actual members of the groups, have taken notice of the local rampant drug trafficking industry combined with the notoriously inefficient law enforcement as an ideal opportunity to raise funds for those groups.

    The don't alway do so by avoiding the authorities - in some cases, they are cultivating their relationships with certain regimes. The rise of contrarian governments like Hugo Chávez's in Venezuela and Evo Morales' in Bolivia, and the growing rabid anti-Americanism they represent have shown potential for alliances.

    There have reportedly been, in the past few years, many high level meetings between Hizbullah operatives and senior FARC leaders, both in Colombia and in Lebanon.

    I agree that the arrest of a high level drug dealer like billionaire Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía is something to be applauded, because it will mean less money going to terrorists from that particular source.

    But I see the fact that terrorists are turning to the highly profitable drug trade not as reason to applaud the war on drugs, but as a major indictment of it. Terrorists simply want money, and they'll go with whatever is the quickest and fastest way to get it. Where huge profits can be made simply by breaking laws that fuel anti-American sentiment (and cause people to elect scum like Morales), of course they're delighted to oblige.

    Taking away the huge profit gleaned from the illegality of drugs won't stop terrorism, but it would dry up this source of revenue, and it would also free up countless busy law enforcement agents to devote more time to the war on terror. Right now, huge amounts of time are spent apprehending and imprisoning individual users and street level dealers, and law enforcement is being militarized in a strategy which makes growing citizens ever more distrustful of law enforcement generally. I don't think such ill will helps in fighting the war on terrorism. Added to this are instances of "Homeland Security" and Patriot Act provisions being invoked in the war on drugs despite the fact that these measures were intended to fight terrorism, and I worry that an important distinction is being blurred. Ordinary drug dealers and users may be many things, but they are not terrorists. Even if terrorists did profit from the production or distribution of the drugs ultimately sold here, that no more links street dealers and users to terrorism than filling my gas tank links me to Hugo Chavez.

    Or the terrorist-financing Saudis.

    As a pragmatist, I harbor no illusions that this country will ever have enough common sense to legalize re-legalize drugs, and thus deprive terrorists of this valuable revenue source. As I've said before, a more likely scenario would be for some patriotic American to use recombinant DNA technology to create a drug-producing form of yeast or bacteria which would allow users to regenerate their supply in sugar water:

    I think the Drug War stinks, and I can't think of a better way to empower anti-American commies.

    And now Evo Morales has risen to power from his base (pun unintended) as a leader in the opposition to the United States' coca eradication efforts.

    What the hell are we trying to do, anyway? Transform a phony war into a real one? As I pointed out in a comment the other day, I don't think this nonsense will end until some libertarian idealist with nothing to gain resorts to a different sort of bioengineering.

    With the cat was out of the bag and the drug making organism in circulation, there'd be no way for anyone to profit from its invention. Not Morales, nor Chavez, nor Hizbollah, nor Osama, and there'd be fewer temptations to corruption in banking and law enforcement.

    I like the idea of putting bad people out of business.

    posted by Eric at 08:16 PM | Comments (4)

    queen of clean for a day?

    Via Glenn Reynolds, Ed Driscoll quotes an interesting analysis from Howard Husock that rang so true:

    With Mrs. Clinton now the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, it's worth reflecting on that formative political experience -- and the extent to which it may still influence her campaign approach.

    In addition to its "bring the troops home now" message, the McCarthy campaign also introduced new tactics into campaigning, ranging from its reliance on a core group of ideologically-motivated funders -- presaging George Soros -- door-to-door canvassers brought in from out of town, and, perhaps most memorably, a tactic which its young volunteers adopted known as "Clean for Gene." Viewed most simply, it involved long haired New Left types getting haircuts, before hitting the streets of Concord and Manchester.

    In his definitive 1970 memoir of that campaign, "Nobody Knows," McCarthy speechwriter Jeremy Larner described the tactic this way: "There was to be said here for the self-imposed discipline of the youth corps. 'Clean for Gene' was a policy of practical political sophistication. For several years, the peace movement had been having a mixed effect on America. In New Hampshire it was possible for students to work effectively against the war and the assumptions behind the war without an exchange of hostility."

    In other words, "Clean for Gene" was about much more than a haircut. It was a tactic designed to package one's beliefs behind a misleading façade -- to present oneself as the kid next door, an All-American boy or girl. In other words, this was a tactic meant not so much to disarm as to deceive. Notably, it established a pattern. Time and again, left-leaning organizations have, in the years since, sought to wrap themselves in an outer mantle of traditional Americanism, despite their distaste for it. Think of " People for the American Way" and its founding president, Anthony Podesta, whose younger brother John was the founding president of Center for American Progress. Or think of the abortive left-leaning radio talk show network, Air America, or the 2004 Kerry campaign bumper sticker, "Support America, Defeat Bush." All stem from the "Clean for Gene" tactic -- asserting one's tie to American traditionalism no matter one's actual politics.

    One can go further and wonder, indeed, whether Mrs. Clinton's nominally difficult to understand record -- voting initially for the war in Iraq, offering apparently centrist views on everything from abortion to flag-burning to statements about the importance to her of "faith" -- are themselves a long-playing version of "Clean for Gene."

    At 14 in 1968, I was a bit young for the "Clean for Gene" stuff, but I do remember a similar phenomenon when I worked for Bobby Seale's 1973 campaign for Mayor of Oakland. Just about every worker (myself included) was a scruffy unwashed type, and you just don't send people who look like that out ringing doorbells (unless, that is, you wanted to ensure a high turnout for Seale's opponent, incumbent Mayor John Reading). They made men wear slacks and shirts with collars, and women were similarly supposed to be nicely attired, and every attempt was made to ensure all workers who went door-to-door looked clean and well groomed. If you came into the office wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans, you simply were not allowed to work in a public manner. "Respect the people!" "Be polite to the people!" "Make a good impression on the people!" were phrases repeated constantly. (We were told not to knock on Republican doors or waste time with obviously conservative types of voters, but I do remember having nice talks with people who, while they'd have never voted for the Black Panther Party Chairman in a million years, were genuinely curious about how a seemingly nice young man like me was going door to door for him.) Anyway, things can be made to seem other than the way they are. (I actually was seemingly nice, and I still can be if I'm driven to it. Actually being nice is much harder.)

    The "Clean for Gene" piece reminded me of tonight's identity-politics-driven gay issues debate. The whole thing couldn't possibly be more calculated to place Hillary solidly in the center.

    First, by doing absolutely nothing, the GOP candidates are placed by default in the automatic anti-gay position. If Hillary is lucky, after the debate, the angry anti-gay GOP minority will sound off with some inflammatory remarks about gays, thus cementing into place the well-worn routine that the GOP hates homos, whose only possible friends are to be found in the Democratic Party. (That self-hating 25% group of homos for Bush better get with the program fast, for soon the GOP will show its true colors and start demanding for the death penalty for sodomy!)

    The candidates further to the left than Hillary can be depended upon to stake out positions too radical for middle America, and if Hillary gets really lucky, there might even be some boos from angry ACT-UP types. (A "sissy Souljah" moment, maybe? I can dream. Well, she did kicked Code Pink butt, didn't she?)

    Forgive me my diversion into Hillary's heterocentristnormativism, but Driscoll's "clean Gene" analysis reminded me of my reaction to this morning's Inquirer:

    Logo, available in 27 million homes, offered to hold a second forum for Republican candidates, but the GOP front-runners - less supportive of gay-rights initiatives than the Democrats - showed no interest, Logo general manager Lisa Sherman said.

    The Democrats will appear sequentially at 15-minute intervals during the two-hour forum, never sharing the stage with one another.

    All of them support a federal ban on job discrimination, favor repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, and support civil unions that would extend marriagelike rights to same-sex couples.

    So far, only two long shots, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, have endorsed nationwide recognition of gay marriage, which a majority of Americans oppose.

    "No viable mainstream contender for president is going to support gay marriage in this election cycle," said Ethan Geto, an adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton on gay-rights issues. Geto suggested that Clinton's hesitancy on same-sex marriage stemmed from her religious upbringing.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Nothing like having your religious opposition to gay marriage confirmed by your advisor on gay issues!

    You'd think he was reminding people to keep it clean for the debate.

    Yeah, wink-wink and all that. I don't get the Logo channel, so I'll miss out on all the fun.

    MORE: I could not get the Logo video to stream at all, and I had to go out, so I am relying on the kindnesses of strangers who were nice enough to liveblog the debate.

    Glenn Reynolds has a roundup including liveblog journals from GayPatriot and Ryan Sager. Unfortunately GayPatriot had trouble streaming from the Logo site and there's not much from Hillary. (I'm glad I had to go out, or I'd have had the same frustrating experience. It's bad enough to watch one of these debates even when you can! When it won't stream, it's unbearable.)

    A blogger in Charleston, SC ("Gay Charleston") supplies about the closest I'll get tonight to a transcription of Hillary's remarks, which were a disappointment to moderator Melissa Etheridge:

    [Richardson] says homosexuality is a choice. The poor man is losing the crowd here. "I don't like to answer questions like that."

    Mellisa: "It's hard when people tell you it's a choice when you were born that way."

    Here's the question. People say that gays and lesbians can choose and change. What does Richardson say.

    He says it's about full equality for everybody.

    If anybody blew it tonight, it was Richardson. He has set Hillary Clinton up for a home run.

    Oh, I bet John is chatting up the green room about that jacket as we speak.

    Why no legislation to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

    "The very simple answer is that we didn't have a chance with a Republican Congress and George Bush as president."

    Ready to lay the groundwork to get it done. She says DADT was a stop-gap measure.

    "We've moved a long way on this and other issues. ... It was not implemented appropriately."

    She may spend her 15 minutes on this one question.

    Same-sex marriage opposition. "I prefer to think of it as being very positive to civil unions."

    "We believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're having."

    Says she supports states rights on marriage. It will be where we see our victories. I agree.

    "I'm very optimistic." Polling at 48 percent, I'd be optimistic about a lot of things.

    Mellisa: Not so optimistic. "Our hearts were broken. We were thrown under the bus. All those great promises that were made to us were broken."

    Hillary: "I don't see it quite the way you describe. ... We certainly didn't get as much done as I would have liked." But she says they got a lot done.

    "If I were sitting where you are sitting, having gone through what you've gone through, I would feel the same way. ... As president, I feel like I have an opportunity to reverse the assaults on people. ... That is over."

    Apparently Rosario (the maid, not Dawson) is in the audience.

    Hillary: "I'm your girl." What? No Z-snap?

    Not sure about the last bit of editorializing, but it does appear that Hillary held the center, and managed to get a nice question allowing her to tout her presidential experience, while reminding everyone she was on their side. ("WE" got a lot done!)

    Is that only a royal "we"?

    UPDATE (08/11/07): Marc Ambinder thinks Hillary has cinched the gay support, and I agree:

    ....a kind of détente has arisen: HRC and other gay organizations don't push too hard on the marriage question, and Democrats support almost all of the rest of what they're asking for: a federal hate-crimes law, civil unions, repealing Don't Ask, etc.

    Of course, not everyone wants in on this deal, as Etheridge and a few others make clear. But that hasn't stopped Clinton from making serious headway with the gay community, despite a few tense moments like the ones last night. So don't be misled. One of the underappreciated stories of this campaign is how effectively Clinton has shored up endorsements and support, and in few places is this truer than the gay community. The impression I've been given is that HRC's eventual endorsement of Clinton is a mere formality.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Considering Hillary's overall lukwarm record on gay issues, I guess this means that it will no longer be considered a sign of "self loathing" to oppose Hillary, and that gays will be allowed to make up their own minds over whether to support the GOP.

    You know, free citizens being allowed to make up their own minds?

    I can dream, can't I?

    posted by Eric at 05:19 PM | Comments (4)

    Making socialism not work
    "Socialism in one country!"

    -- Stalin

    "Socialism in one state!"

    -- Wisconsin legislature.

    Because of my liberal tendency to assume in good faith that people say what they mean (and mean what they say), I'm often dumbfounded to see so many people seeming to devoutly believe that socialism can be made to work. Whether "this time" or any other time.

    Considering socialism's proven track record , I often ask myself in despair. "why would anyone want policies that have been proven to fail?" I'm not alone in my amazement. Lots of people ask the same question, and I'm sure it was very much on John Stossel's mind when he wrote about impending socialized medicine in Wisconsin, and what it will do to health care:

    The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes."

    And, of course, down the road it will cost much more than that. Even the $15 billion is based on the usual Pollyannaish assumptions such as millions in savings "from putting more emphasis on primary care."

    As usual, most of the new taxes will be imposed on employers. Progressives believe money taken from them doesn't cost anything. Rich corporations will simply waste less on lavish perks and excess profits. But taxes on business are often paid by workers, stockholders and consumers. Businesses that can't pass the taxes on to someone else will close or move out of state.

    But progressives are oblivious to this fact. They see Wisconsin becoming a fairyland of health happiness supervised by the 16-person "authority" that will oversee the plan. Socialism will work this time because the "right" people will be in charge.

    Does it never occur to the progressives that the legislature's intrusion into private contracts is one reason health care and health insurance are expensive now? The average annual health-insurance premium for a family in Wisconsin is $4,462 partly because Wisconsin imposes 29 mandates on health insurers: Every policy must cover chiropractors, dentists, genetic testing, etc. Think chiropractors are quacks? Too bad. You still must pay them to treat people in your state.

    Want to buy insurance from another state, like nearby Michigan, where an average policy costs less? Too bad. It's against the law to buy across state lines. Your state's Big Brother knows best.

    Read the whole thing. Stossel speculates (somewhat cynically, which endears me to the man) that allowing socialism "in one state" will supply a much-needed lesson to the rest of us:
    The fall of the Soviet Union deprived us of the biggest example of how socialism works. We need laboratories of failure to demonstrate what socialism is like. All we have now is Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, the U.S. Post Office, and state motor-vehicle departments.

    It's not enough. Wisconsin can show the other 49 states what "universal" coverage is like.

    I feel bad for the people in Wisconsin. They already suffer from little job creation, and the Packers aren't winning, but it's better to experiment with one state than all of America.

    Certainly, it's always better to lose one than lose all, but I'm afraid I'm even more cynical than Stossel about the learning-the-lesson part.

    I think that those who know socialism doesn't work already know that socialism doesn't work. No lesson is needed. Unless acknowledging a few simple facts of history constitutes cynicism, there's nothing cynical about that.

    Rather, my cynicism involves a growing suspicion I harbor. I think that some (not all) of the people who have been confounding me and others for years are running a con game, and it's been successful. We're still reduced to arguing over the ricidulous (and settled) question of whether socialism works, as if people of good faith are trying to convince each other to see the error of their ways. I don't think it's so simple, and I think the good faith opponents of socialism are overlooking a strong possibility that the proponents of socialism are not operating in good faith.

    They know socialism does not work!

    They have to know. These are not stupid people. They've studied history. They know the predictable results of policies that have been proven to fail.

    And I am so cynical as to believe that they actually want policies that fail.

    Who are they, you ask? Good question. I wrote a post on that very subject. They consist of "a vast group of intellectuals" which Herman Kahn described as "suffer[ing 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.
    This class is growing by leaps and bounds, and if there's one thing they know, it's that they are entitled to have power. But the free market has no use for them, so their unelected jobs must come from government or from the myriad of entities relying on government support.

    To follow my cynicism out, if we take it as a given that socialism does not work, but that it is imposed by government, what generally happens when government programs don't work? Why, new programs to fix the old programs, of course. The government will "fix" the problems the government creates. Seen this way, imposing socialism guarantees a vast expansion of the innumerable busybody classes -- especially if it doesn't work. It explains why they have to have socialism.

    And the fact that socialism doesn't work, why, it's not a bug, it's a feature!

    (And much as it kills me to be fair, I have to admit that if the goal is endless expansion of government, socialism does work!)

    posted by Eric at 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

    idle wonderings about idle wonderings in the Economist

    An economist I am not. I get all confused by graphs, charts, and numbers. Plus, I hate statistics, as they are so often invoked to justify telling individuals what to do based on group norms.

    However, when I read The Economist, I expect to see arguments based on economic principles of some sort, and supported by data (whether I can understand it, or like it or not). Not a personal opinion based on personal idiosyncracies, a political lecture, or a moralistic scolding.

    A recent piece which purports to be "The argument for giving up fish" has me utterly baffled. Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but it just seems like one individual's very personal rant about why he or she (the author is anonymous, but I'll go with the she-subsuming "he") doesn't want to eat fish:

    Gather your oysters while ye may--because, come September, fish will be banned from my diet. I tried this once before, when I became a vegetarian at the age of ten. The precipitating event was a pig-roast picnic held by my grandparents. I can still remember my anguish as that huge animal turned slowly on a spit.
    Hey, I can remember lots of anguishing moments! Do the readers of the Economist want to hear about them too?

    Apparently, the fish eating was a "concession" to the author's parents, but (for shame!) it actually tasted better than the profoundly bland tofu he ate but didn't prefer:

    Initially my vegetarianism extended to fish too. But as a concession to my parents--two meat-eaters worried about raising a waif--I decided after a few months to reinstate seafood. The occasional grilled swordfish or blackened tuna was a welcome break from fried tofu, my profoundly bland protein alternative.
    No one was making him eat fried tofu, and his parents were worried. Yet, there seems to be an element of pride in the profound blandness of his diet. This begins to sound like a hair shirt mentality.

    He's worried about overfishing, and the fact that fish is popular:

    In the past few years I have been worrying about the dramatic decline of fisheries around the world. Everybody wants to eat fish because it is healthy (mercury issues aside). So consumption is growing--as is the world population. In a report last year to Congress, the National Marine Fisheries Service stated that 25% of fish stocks appearing in American waters were overfished (insofar as they can be categorised; for many more types of fish, officials do not have enough information to determine their status). If even America cannot keep its fisheries in robust health, imagine the problems offshore of India or Africa.

    The bad news is that there may be very few fish in the sea left within a few decades.

    Rather than eat fish that aren't overfished or farm-raised fish, the author thinks it is easier to give up fish entirely. This enables him to avoid the "tiresome" process of educating people about the difference between good and bad fish. Besides, even people who mean well just don't get it; one relative was so cruel as to boil a lobster alive! is tiresome to explain the distinction between good fish and bad fish to people who are kind enough to feed me. Perhaps I should seize the opportunity to educate them; but I am not boorish enough to inflict the minutiae of my dietary preferences on those who invite me to their homes. There are already enough people in this world who seem to be on wheat-free, dairy-free, no-peanuts, only-local-foods diets.

    Broad, simple categories are best: fish or no fish. (Mocking my fish consumption, my brother once called himself a "meat-eating vegetarian".)

    Finally, by eating fish but not meat for two decades, I have ensured that fish has been constantly on my menu. Last month one of my relatives fed me a lobster while everyone else ate steak. It was very considerate, but I was sorry that it had been boiled alive for my sake--and idly wondered how well Maine's lobster fisheries were managed.

    Idly? Why not actively? I mean, here he is, writing for the Economist, and instead of investigating the issue of whether lobsters feel pain or how well managed their stocks are, the reader is left wondering about idle wonderings! But let there be no doubt that fish will be banned. No exceptions.
    So after a summer of indulgence, I will ban fish. No sushi, not even if it is made with troll-caught tuna. Worse, no oysters. I have, at least, learned how to cook tofu creatively.
    I'll just bet... Notice he doesn't say it tastes good; only that it's now cooked "creatively."

    Actually, I have learned how to make tofu taste good, but the key is to use plenty of oyster sauce!

    The latter contains oysters, though, which means my "argument" probably does not measure up to the Economist's hair shirt standards.

    But I guess if everybody gave up fish, there'd be a better world, right?

    UPDATE: Commenter "Eric Blair" reminded me of another point:

    That whole essay just drips with the sort of self-indulgent drivel (plenty of which Eric points out) that passes for "meaningful" commentary these days.
    Look, many, many blogs (including this one) are loaded with what could be called "self-indulgent drivel," and there's no reason why they shouldn't, as it's a personal process. Depending on the perspective, and depending on my mood, I may or may not enjoy reading about someone's personal feelings on a given subject. But with blogs, you know what you're getting into, and if you read a blog regularly, you know what to expect from that person, whose identity and philosophy are generally no secret. (Even anonymous bloggers usually develop a very characteristic style or persona.)

    The trouble with this piece is that while it reads like a typical self-indulgent blog post, there's no identification of an author, a persona, or his or her overall philosophy.

    Just "The Economist."

    Did "it" just wake up one day and start prattling anonymously about personal feelings?

    MORE: It is not my goal to imply here that there isn't a problem with overfishing. Far from it. But supplying moralistic and emotional reasons to not eat fish fails to address the reality of what to do. OTOH, this analysis does:

    Ecologist Garret Hardin wrote his classic, "The Tragedy of the Commons" in 1968. The logic of this article is straightforward. When no one has control over a resource, be it a parcel of ocean or a dormitory lounge, it tends to be poorly maintained, overused, or depleted. This explains why prized resources, such as ocean fisheries, available to all, will be over exploited.

    Without social or legal constraints, the incentive is for people to seek narrow personal advantages at the expense of the group and the resource. Few people act as wise stewards because others take a "free ride" on such actions, and rarely reciprocate.


    ...Other open access resource problems, ocean fisheries for example, can be solved by assigning property rights to fishermen in the form of tradable quotas.

    It's a challenge to extend property rights to wildlife and their ecosystems.
    The traditional approach has been to create protected areas and limit human use (usually with a uniform and badge). But this frequently fails, especially in developing countries where poverty drives people to exploit the natural world and there are no institutions to foster conservation. A key to success is to structure institutions such that local people have incentives for conservation.

    Over a decade ago, a group of conservationists gathered to discuss an approach that was sensitive to the aspirations of local people. They collected their thoughts in an attractive booklet, "The View from Airlie." Conservation success often depends on the active involvement, rather than the exclusion, of local communities.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    People who fish and people who eat fish have the most at stake here. It strikes me that the Economist would do better to present an argument based on how to preserve and expand the stock of fish than share the feelings of a newly minted crusader against fish.

    posted by Eric at 12:34 PM | Comments (4)

    Life's a bitch, because we're all assholes! (Even feminists!)

    Despite all the predictable stereotypes, it turns out that Glenn Reynolds's wife -- Dr. Helen the InstaWife -- is a feminist! A total feminist! So says an online test she took after self-styled feminists declared she wasn't.

    And, notwithstanding my many snide remarks and wisecracks, it turns out that at heart I'm a real, total, feminist too!

    No really. Here's the proof:

    You Are 95% Feminist
    You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).
    You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.

    I've long suspected that feminism has degenerated from a belief in equality to a belief in replacing the old sexist male role model patriarchy with a new one based on big government, so I very much agree with what Dr. Helen said about "feminists":

    Equality between men and women is no longer the real issue with many "feminists"--it is more about special rights for women without responsibilities (like trying to get rid of the word bitch but not prick etc.), "empowerment" without the work that comes with actually doing anything, and allowing women to do things to men that if men did to women, would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, you know, like shoot them in the back while they sleep.
    I agree that the above "sounds more like a Democratic political action committee than a real sense of justice between men and women."

    And would could be more lame than the crass focus on getting rid of words? The abolition of the word "bitch" is a perfect example. Men can be jerks, assholes, pricks, dicks, bastards -- and I've heard a lot of them called "bitches" too. And while it is never nice to refer to someone as their genitalia in the pejorative sense, I think the slang terms for penis are much more commonly used to insult men than is the slang term for vagina to insult women. Moreover, there's a double standard at work with the slang term for anal orifice. Men are routinely called "assholes" -- day in and day out -- but women? It rarely happens. It's only rarely that women are called "assholes" -- yet both sexes have them. This is totally unfair, and the problem will only be aggravated by getting rid of the word "bitch."

    Moreover, removal of "bitch" from our vocabulary smacks of rank speciesism. What are we to call our female dogs, especially those like Coco who are still possessed of ovaries? (For the record, Coco protests against the bitch removalist movement in general, and ovary removal in particular.)

    If I didn't know any better, I'd speculate that part of the problem might be that men are less offended than women over being subjected to genital-based insults, and thus, less inclined to demand government help.

    I don't know whether it's related to this question, but men also seem to take more pride in their genitalia. Maybe it's hubris rather than real pride, but whatever it is, a Google search found over 14,000 occurrences of the phrase "he has balls" -- and barely 1400 instances of the phrase "she has ovaries."

    What would account for this discrepancy? Sexism alone?

    I believe in fairness, but not in government meddling. Women who take umbrage over being called "bitch" should simply respond in kind. Call the men bitches right back. Better yet, call them "b1tc4es with d1(ks"! That oughta take 'em down a few pegs.

    As for me, I plead guilty to being both a dick and an asshole. (In light of my test results, do I get to I call myself a "feminist dick" and a "feminist asshole," or would that go too far?) I think a lot of men are assholes, and to be fair, so are a lot of women. Actually, in light of a post I saw the other day positing that we are all assholes, the world may be divided into those who admit to the truth of their assholism, and assholes in denial:

    In his novel Lifehouse, Spider Robinson has a character discuss something called the "Asshole Principle." According to him, everyone is an asshole, but the biggest ones are people who believe that somewhere, there are people who are NOT assholes and want to be mistaken for one of them. If you just accept that you're an asshole, you can get through a lot.
    The problem is that being an asshole is hard to take, especially in a world full of assholes. And does admitting to being an asshole justify acting like one? Or is that only permitted in the company of bigger assholes?

    Asshole that I am, it nonetheless strikes me as the height of both assholism and bitchiness to only want to remove the word "bitch" and not "asshole," "bastard" or "dick" from the language.

    (Yes, and by now my blog is banned on all filters for using all these evil words. I don't know whether I should bend over and take it or go back and engage in clever numerical "as$4ol3" "b1tc4" "d1(k" coverup games.)

    As to the possible political ramifications behind the bitch removal campaign, I checked Google in the hope of ascertaining whether there's a double standard. There is, but not the one you might imagine. While the conventional wisdom might have Republican males calling Democratic females bitches, I found a full 78,000 occurrences of "Bush is a bitch" -- a phenomenon dwarfing many times over the number of similar applications of that word to the former first lady and leading Democratic contender. Using the word "asshole," the disparity was even more dramatic: nearly 50,000 to a minuscule five or seven.

    It seems to me that real feminists who want real equality should have nothing to do with these silly word games.

    As to the fake "feminists," you'd think they would realize that they're already ahead.

    Isn't anyone keeping the assholes abreast?

    posted by Eric at 03:34 PM | Comments (7)

    The Inflationary Universe

    Michael Turner of the University of Chicago talks about the Big Bang and the Inflationary Universe. A deep subject given a light hearted treatment. You might want to get up to speed on the physics idea of "time horizon" in relation to the speed of light before digging in. Or keep repeating the section from about 7 1/4 minutes in on the first video until it makes sense. His "view graphs" owe a lot to Batman Comics. The videos require "Real Player".

    Michael Turner - video 1

    Michael Turner - video 2

    More Cosmology Videos

    H/T Commenter Cynthia at The Reference Frame

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

    bringing the war blogging home?

    As I've said too many times, war blogging is not my shtick. That's because I support the war but don't have access to facts. In a war, facts are limited, statistics debatable, and stories are often anecdotal, or made up. There are propaganda machines on both sides which attempt to persuade people to support or oppose the war, or support or oppose one or more factions involved in the fighting. Because of the nature of propaganda, virtually any factoid can become grist for the mill. Trying to verify or debunk these facts can be very difficult, and in the larger picture, I see most of them as irrelevant anyway. For example, whether soldiers laughed at an injured woman or ran over a dog has absolutely nothing to do with my view of the war. If things like that happened, they may or may not be matters for appropriate discipline. But they have nothing to do with whether the war is right or wrong, and they have even less to do with whether "all war" is right or wrong. War is an inevitable part of the human condition. A human natural law, almost akin to a law of physics. Anyone who cannot see this from even the most cursory study of history is in my opinion foolish. And the worst fools are those people known as "pacifists" who actually believe war can be abolished. Wittingly or unwittingly (often both), pacifists become grist for enemy propaganda machines. While I tend to have more intellectual respect for people who actually support the enemy than I would a pacifist, in practical terms I must recognize that pacifists are not a direct physical threat, so as antiwar people go, I have to consider them the lesser of the two evils.

    Where it gets murky is with the people who claim not to be pacifists, who claim to support necessary wars, but who don't support a particular war.

    "Yes, we need to fight al Qaeda, but not in Iraq!"

    This is logically frustrating, because we are in Iraq, and so is al Qaeda. But the argument is that they only went in there because we went in there and they wouldn't be there if we weren't there, so if we pull out, so will al Qaeda, and we can go back to fighting them in Afghanistan or Pakistan where they belong. I see that as wishful thinking, and I don't see much difference between saying we're responsible for al Qaeda being in Iraq than saying we were responsible for al Qaeda being in New York and Washington on 9/11. Ultimately, I see such arguments as being based on What We Should Have Done. "Should have" is no way to fight a war you are in. It's more appropriate for looking at Vietnam. And the constant invocation of the Vietnam theme makes me wonder whether the "should have" people just plain want the United States to lose.

    The fact is the "should have" people who harp on Vietnam never portray Vietnam as a war we should have won, or could have won, or as providing lessons on tactical mistakes. They see it as a lesson in defeat, and as a well deserved defeat at that! What kind of people look back on their country's defeat with pride, and want it to happen again?

    I'm not saying defeat can't be seen as a lesson, but I think it needs to be remembered that the United States was not defeated militarily in Vietnam. It was a post-war political defeat, accomplished by the enemy after a peace treaty had been signed and the U.S. had pulled out. True, the U.S. failed to go back in to enforce the treaty, but what is the lesson there? Is anyone arguing that a sufficient show of U.S. military force at the right time (in response to North Vietnam's initially careful expeditionary probings) would not have deterred the enemy? It certainly deterred them before, brought them to the peace table, and it would have again.

    So what is the "should have" lesson there? How to avoid defeat? Or how to ensure defeat? Or is Vietnam simply being invoked as a broad "never should have gone in in the first place" argument?

    How is that in any way helpful if the goal is to avoid defeat?

    Again, I can't do much by way of war blogging other than offer my opinion based on the limited facts at my disposal. But what's easier for me to understand (and what really brings the war blogging home, as it were) is that, at the same time the "Iraq is Vietnam" meme is being pushed, there's a growing meme to declare that Philadelphia is Baghdad, and the Iraq war is here!

    We may all be stuck in the same narrative together, folks.

    Hey, if the war is right here in my neck of the woods, and if it's the same thing as Iraq, there's no way to ignore it, right? Pretty soon it'll be Vietnam all over again, and we'll have to accept defeat, and it will be All Our Fault. Right?

    Don't look at me. I don't make up these memes. But I suppose if they want to try to force me into "Philadelphia war blogging," I could say I've been there all along, as I have written more posts about local crime issues (especially Philadelphia homicides and the attempt to blame guns) than I can count. Whether that means I'm a war blogger depends on whether there's a war.

    Recently, CBS News argued that Philadelphia was a "war zone" (and "just like Baghdad"), and in today's Inquirer, a local trauma surgeon supplies more fuel for this Baghdad narrative in a piece titled "An Army surgeon tells of war on our own turf":

    In the swirl of screams and moving figures, my mind drifted to my recent experience in Iraq as an Army surgeon. There we dealt regularly with "mascals," or mass-casualty situations. In Iraq, ironically, I found myself drawing on my experience as a civilian trauma surgeon each time mascals would overrun the combat hospital. As nine or 10 patients from a firefight rolled in, I sometimes caught myself saying "just like another Friday night in West Philadelphia."

    The wounds and nationalities of the patients are different, but the feelings of helplessness, despair and loss are the same. In Iraq, soldiers die for freedom, for honor, for their country, and their buddies. Here in Philadelphia, civilians die without honor, without purpose, for no country, for no one.

    Doesn't this beg the question of what is war?

    The Philadelphia murder rate today, while high, is not as high as it was in the 1990s. Those who are killed in Philadelphia are overwhelmingly the victims of criminal violence, and the victims are often involved in criminal activity themselves. The results look the same to a trauma surgeon, but then, is the daily carnage on the highways any prettier? Any more "purposeful"? Would it be proper to call the thousands of highway fatalities war casualties? Deaths are tragic, and violence is gruesome, but death and violence do not equal war.

    Nor do numbers. Back to Dr. Pryor:

    More young men are killed each day on the streets of America than on the worst days of carnage and loss in Iraq. There is a war at home raging every day, filling our trauma centers with so many wounded children that it sometimes makes Baghdad seem like a quiet city in Iowa.
    Children? Doesn't that depend on the definition of the word "child"? And what is meant by war? Gun deaths only? If the national statistics supplied by Economics professor Richard Ebeling are any indication, I don't see the number of children becomes a war:
    In 1997, the statistics for accidental deaths among children under the age of 14 show that the primary cause was automobile accidents (2,608 deaths), followed by drownings (1,010 deaths), pedestrian crossings (675 deaths), bicycle accidents (201 deaths) and then gun accidents (142 deaths). Homicides caused by the use of guns for the age group under 14 was 346. Adding up these categories of accidental children's deaths, firearms account for only 3 percent.
    I'm not saying that death by homicide is the same as death by automobile accident, but I don't understand the argument that homicide can constitute war. Each homicide typically involves some sort of dispute between individuals, none of whom are fighting on behalf of any country, or organized group dedicated to achieving political power. Only on rare occasions (the recent case of a member of a black Muslim group shooting a journalist to deter a story being one such example) are there attributes which resemble war. True, there are gangs, and gang-related killings, and many killings are also drug-related, but to call this phenomenon "war" is simply an exercise in rhetorical hyperbole.

    Hyperbole or not, it seems to be catching on, as Pryor's editorial piece also appeared in Sunday's WaPo, with a different title -- "The War In West Philadelphia."

    Dr. Pryor's Iraq experience certainly checks out; last summer he wrote a piece titled "A surgeon at the Iraqi front whose soul is often wounded" in which he describes the death of a Marine, and what he would say to the parents:

    ...The Marine will be brought to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and eventually home and to his final resting place.

    If I could say something to this Marine's parents, it would be this: I am so sorry that you have lost your son. We, more than almost everyone else, know he was a true American hero. I want you to know that the Marines, medics, doctors and nurses of the 344th Combat Support Hospital did everything possible to save him. I want you to know I personally did everything I could, and that I am sorry that it wasn't enough. Although we never knew your son, we loved him. I want you to know that although he lost his life, we preserved his dignity after death. We held his hand when he died and prayed for his soul and for God to give you strength. I want you to know that he had great friends who cared deeply for him, and that they were also here when he died. He was never alone for his journey back to you. I also want you to know that I will never forget your son, and that I will pray for him and all of the children lost in this war.

    It may be a minor point, but I tend to think of Marines as something other than children. Children are innocent victims, but don't Marines die for their country?

    So I may be confused on this minor point, but it might go to the heart of a philosophical disagreement. "All of the children lost in this war" probably means more than just the U.S. Marines and soldiers.

    The argument seems to be that children die in Iraq, and they die in Philadelphia, so Philadelphia is Iraq. But if Iraq is like Vietnam, then clearly, Philadelphia is Vietnam too. (Yes, because children died in Vietnam! Case closed.)

    What are the local implications? Should we pull out now, or pull out later? Or should we have pulled out before we went in? Is defeat inevitable? How do we apply the lessons learned in Vietnam? Somehow, I'm unable to follow the analogy. But again, I never said Philadelphia was Iraq.

    I'm not sure I like Philadelphia war blogging any more than Iraq war blogging!

    posted by Eric at 10:01 AM | Comments (1)

    Propaganda consumes valuable time

    Rather than update my previous post on the Scott Beauchamp affair, I just thought I'd note here that it has been abundantly confirmed that the Beauchamp allegations were utter bunk. Glenn Reynolds has a roundup here.

    Beauchamp's tales seem to have been accepted on faith, and I agree with Bill Quick:

    None of the MSM challenged Beauchamp's fantasies when they were first published. And why would they? Scott's lies fit the the story they want to believe, and tell. The challenge came from the right blogosphere and, once again, the blogosphere was the New Media venue that got it right.

    The biggest mystery to me is why the mainstream media has any credibility left at all. Maybe its users aren't looking for credibilty any more. Just reinforcement. Perhaps the MSM has become a cult, supported on faith alone, little more than the latest incarnation of the Holy Church of the True Believer.

    Notice that despite Beauchamp's own retraction, TNR has still not retracted the story. QandO notes that they're on vacation!

    In a comment I posted in response to criticism, I questioned the manner in which TNR claimed to "verify" Beauchamp's claim of dog torture:
    I don't like to speculate about unverifiable anecdotes which devolve into propaganda along narrative lines, but unless Sanchez has invented the claim about the military's investigation, Beauchamp's allegations have been found to be bogus.

    I can't help notice the way they're trying to "prove" the dog torture by linking an unverified video of a injured dog having nothing to do with Beauchamp or his unit, and by asking the manufacturer of the Bradley fighting unit whether it is capable of running over a dog! Amazingly, it is! This is "confirmation"? Are you kidding? Might as well claim that I run over dogs by checking with Toyota to find out whether my car is capable of it!

    The Beauchamp story strikes me as squalid partisanship, and has the clear aroma of blatant anti-military propaganda. It seems designed and calculated for no other purpose than to inflame American sentiments against the war. Yet, like much propaganda, it has nothing to do with the war, and I'd prefer to ignore it. It's just that unfortunately, it's become too loud to ignore.

    Nothing that Beauchamp said would have changed my mind on the war one way or the other. But it's irritating to think that lying antiwar propaganda managed to get spun as legitimate journalism.

    Unfortunately, ignoring propaganda doesn't make it go away.

    My hat's off to many debunkers -- bloggers like Ace -- who don't ignore it, so that I can.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more, including reports that TNR is trying to weasel its way out of Beauchamp's earlier retraction.

    Ann Althouse examines both sides and concludes "there's a big fight on."

    I guess there always is. I predict that few if any minds will be changed.

    Propaganda wars don't work the way they once did.

    MORE: "Why is there a market for lies?" Don Surber asks. As he explains, it's what some people want to hear. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who has another roundup.)

    "Affirmation, not information," says Tom Maguire.

    Here here!

    posted by Eric at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

    Record Highs

    Sacramento California has been reporting record highs this summer.

    Don't tell Al Gore, but global warming is taking a holiday in Sacramento this week. The maximum temperatures Sunday and Monday set records each day -- as the coolest "highs" for the dates since record-keeping began in 1877.

    Forecasters credit a deep marine layer and a potent low-pressure trough with funneling the cool air this way. It's as if Mother Nature cut herself a wedge of Santa Barbara weather and plopped it down on Sacramento's plate.

    We're talking, for once, about the all-time lowest maximums, instead of the all-time highest. Monday's downtown high was just 74 degrees, 3 degrees cooler than the previous record of 77 degrees set in 1906, according to the National Weather Service. Sunday's downtown high of 76 frosted the previous low maximum of 78, set in 1962.

    I'm wondering if like the Gore effect there might not also be a Newsweek effect.
    Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless.
    So what I want to know is: why isn't my check in the mail?

    However, I'm not a true denialist. The IPCC projection of sea level rise has gotten me seriously worried. My advice to people living close to the shore? "Run for your lives before it is too late" the IPCC predicts a 3 mm per year rise in sea level. That is one foot in a century. Think of the devastation that wave would cause if it happened all at once. A one foot wave is unprecedented. It will be the end of civilization as we know it. OTOH "dude, surf's up".

    OK so could a 5 deg F temperature change be deadly to the flora and fauna on earth? You are telling me that a system that varies over a range of 120 deg F in a year's time is going to be seriously disturbed by a predicted 5 deg F change? And is already out of whack from a 1 deg F change? You are telling me that the biota will not adapt? That adjustments will not be made?

    You are telling me that we must assume a signal which is much less than the noise will have big effects on the system? Doubtful. That 120 F yearly variation and 20 F daily variation tends to anneal out the effects of very small very low frequency variations at least until they get significant relative to the yearly variations.

    Well any way, I'm willing to become a full fledged denialist if it pays well. I think $2,500 a month would be sufficient to start. Just let me know the check is in the mail.

    Several sites have suggested this Marc Morano article:

    The only problem is -- Newsweek knew better. Reporter Eve Conant, who interviewed Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, was given all the latest data proving conclusively that it is the proponents of man-made global warming fears that enjoy a monumental funding advantage over the skeptics. (A whopping $50 BILLION to a paltry $19 MILLION for skeptics - Yes, that is BILLION to MILLION - see below)
    Mann. I'm on the wrong side in this argument. I guess the check will not be in the mail.

    There are also some good links here.

    H/T papertiger

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:42 AM | Comments (7)

    Mutilating the gender normative narrative
    For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

    -- Jesus, from Matthew 19:12, King James Version.

    I've always been a bit skeptical about the transgender phenomenon, because I've known male-to-females who have been bitterly disappointed with the results, and who confided in me that they wouldn't have had the surgery if they had the choice to do it all over again.

    However, the transsexuals I knew were all adults when they decided. A new and emerging (and controversial) treatment is changing that, by interrupting and shortcircuiting the process of sexual maturation:

    The preferred drug for the controversial process is Lupron Depot. Slogan for the pediatric version: "Pause the child within." It's potent, yet reversible, and incredibly expensive, and for transgender kids backed by increasingly supportive parents, it's ushering in a new era. Boys who've always known they were girls won't get beards or deep voices. Girls who feel like boys will never have to grow breasts or tinker with a tampon.

    Long prescribed to temporarily stave off puberty in kids who start developing too young, the drug blocks the brain's release of the compound that triggers the chain of hormonal reactions, body mutations, and moody angst. Now an unknown number of doctors in the Bay Area, the country, and across the globe are following the lead of a fledgling treatment pioneered at a Dutch clinic that's sparked debate in medical and ethical circles alike. The Dutch clinicians are suspending kids in physical childhood to buy them time to decide if they wish to begin the sexual reassignment process. If so, after a few years of continued psychological monitoring, they can start hormones to induce an "opposite-sex puberty." If not, the teen can stop taking the periodic Lupron injections and appear to develop normally, as kids treated with the drug for early puberty have for years.

    My concern is that there are always certain individuals who cannot handle being effeminate males or masculine females, who feel pressured by society to fit in, and who, without fully thinking it through, can commit themselves to "conform" to something external to their individual uniqueness.

    While opponents of sex change surgery are generally stereotyped as religious, certain radical feminists oppose it too. And the high rate of dissatisfaction with the results confirms the anecdotal evidence with which I'm familiar.

    Too many times, I think people feel pressured into accepting the premise that it is "wrong" for a man to be like a woman, or vice versa, and that they gravitate towards a surgical solution in order to be "normal." (And conforming.) Considering that this occurs in adults, how could anyone predict what might be happening with a child? Might this same "desire to be normal" be even more overwhelming in children? Back to SF Weekly:

    Some doctors say kids need to experience puberty to truly know if they're misplaced in their bodies, and warn that the long-term side effects of diverting nature's route are still unknown. A few doctors believe medicine should never intervene to change a person's body to match gender identity, no matter the age -- what one transwoman doctor dubbed the "you should be what God made you regardless of how miserable you are" camp. Paul McHugh, the psychiatrist who spearheaded the closure of the sexual reassignment clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1970s, is an appointee to the President's Council on Bioethics. He calls the Lupron treatment "a modern form of child abuse."

    Indeed, some U.S. doctors don't seem to be clamoring for attention. Norman Spack at Children's Hospital Boston, who has supported the treatment in a medical article and on ABC's 20/20, declined to comment for this story. A doctor at Kaiser Permanente identified by a Bay Area family as their son's provider of the Lupron treatment also would not speak. But Schreier of Children's Hospital Oakland says he's not worried: "What we're doing is based on data, not based on emotions or religious beliefs."

    All seem to agree on one issue: No matter how reversible Lupron may be, when studies indicate that the vast majority of kids with some gender-variant behavior in childhood will grow out of it, how do you block puberty in the right kids?

    And what are the right kids? The mom of one says she just knew her child was the right child, because she wanted to be a boy:
    When she saw an astronaut, politician, or athlete on the TV, she said, "I want to do that!" "Of course you can!" the mothers would answer. She ignored dolls, but loved trucks. Somewhere around age two and a half, Marty refused to raise her arms when her mother tried to put a dress on her, the first time she'd ever rejected an outfit. One day out of the blue, she looked her mother in the eye and asked, "When is it my turn to be a boy?"
    I've known a lot of boys who were sissies from day one. I can't tell you how many effeminate gay men have told me over the years that they wanted to be a girl, but eventually realized they were just effeminate gay men. This would appear to be confirmed by a study mentioned in the article:
    With studies showing anywhere from 75 to nearly 90 percent of children with gender-variant behavior will eventually be comfortable with their biological sex, tight screening is key.
    Should these children be "fixed"? Again, why?

    I'm skeptical about this, because it strikes me as the epitome of what many activists would condemn as "gender normative."

    It begs the question of whose gender normativeness is to be considered normative. I'd like to think that there are parents out there who might be brave enough to defy the normal gender normative narrative, and simply reassure their children that there's no rule saying that just because you want to be a woman you should remove your dick, or that just because you want to be a man you should remove your breasts.

    Of course, I'm not telling anyone what they should do.

    This whole thing begs the question of what is conformity.

    While it may sound politically counterintuitive, there's even an indication that some transgendered activists are uneasy about the possibility of such early treatments wiping out transgenderism!

    After living 17 years as a male, followed by years of hormones to transition, Alexis Rivera of the Transgender Law Center says she decided to go off hormones and settle into a space somewhere between male and female, and now at 29, has proudly done so.

    "If medical technology keeps advancing, are we going to eradicate transgenderism?" Rivera asks. "The younger the transition starts, the younger you start socializing a biological female as a boy, they're not going to have that transgender identity. They're not going to have to walk this earth as their genetic sex."

    I'm glad to see genetic sex earth-walkers speaking up before it's too late.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Clayton Cramer for the link. His additional observations are also worth reading.

    posted by Eric at 10:28 AM | Comments (7)

    Thugs at the trough. (But they "perform a service"!)

    In the wake of the murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey, there's been a lot of speculation about the reasons for downplaying the story -- particularly after a suspect was arrested and confessed. It strikes me that there's an unsettlingly urgent desire to have closure, ASAP, with as little fanfare as possible.

    I speculated that a primary reason is that journalists were successfully intimidated by the killing of one of their own, as well as desire not to offend multiculturalists and identitarians.

    Andrew Walton of the Hawaii Reporter -- in a shocker titled "Taxpayer-funded Muslims Arrested in Murder of Oakland Editor" -- thinks that the relationship typifies a systematic working relationship between thugs and the left:

    In spite of its lengthy criminal ties, "Your Black Muslim Bakery" was able to establish retail locations at Oakland International Airport and the Oakland Coliseum. They received $1,100,000 in taxpayer money as a business development 'loan' in 1995--about a year after leaders pled guilty in the felony torture of Mr Olasunkanmi Onipede. The loan has never been repaid. While they allegedly murdered Oakland residents, they sold "natural" "reinvigorating" baked products through several Bay Area health food stores. Bey's company was even recommended to provide security at Oakland's Airport and Container Terminal.

    Why is this group still in business? It is not because the accused-child-molester Bey was popular, he won only 5% of the vote in his 1994 run for Oakland mayor. Politically correct Bay Area authorities have a long history of coddling gangsters who attach political rhetoric to their crimes. And it is done publicly and openly.

    Airport security? If true, that bare fact alone provides a good reason for a coverup.

    What's with the deliberate coddling of gangsters? In another piece, Walton elaborates:

    Most leftists are too effete to physically enforce their own ideology. This is why they need thugs to do it for them. Substantial portions of Hillary Clinton's 1969 senior thesis are about the benefits of "test(ing) whether the mechanisms of (Chicago) gang structures could not assist in shifting attitudes toward productive adult citizenship." (p. 34.) Hillary's mentor, Saul Alinsky, spent years working with Al Capone's Chicago gang.

    It was not a problem when the victims were other members of the Bey group or private citizens in Oakland, but with the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the thugs made the mistake of taking out one of the elite - a journalist. Suddenly the "very thin" Oakland police find themselves permitted to make multiple arrests and shut down the bakery. It is not yet clear whether Oakland authorities will actually finish the job and dismantle the Islamist monster which they have for years cultivated in their midst. But a line has been crossed. With the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the Islamists have killed one of the cultural elite.

    I have not verified whether Hillary Clinton really wrote that, or whether she might have meant it. She might have only been trying to get a good grade in the course, which is a very different thing than agreeing with what she wrote, if she wrote it. However, there's no denying the penchant in certain quarters of the left for working with (and funding) outright gangsters. I spent three decades in Berkeley and like anyone who lived there I remember the Panthers, Jim Jones and the People's Temple. (Yes Temple! To the left, separation of church and state only applies to certain, um, "churches." As Christopher Hitchens asked pointedly, "what if this racket had been named the White Christian or Aryan Nations Cookie Parlor?")

    The Black Muslim Bakery is par for the course; if a thuggish group or cult can supply muscle and deliver votes, its excesses will be overlooked until they no longer can be. A recent example of the latter was the Los Angeles gang leader who was caught selling guns -- his taxpayer funded "NO GUNS" group notwithstanding.

    Tom Hayden's reaction?

    "These guys perform a service. If they backslide, well, who doesn't?"
    I suspect a lot of lefties feel the same way about Your Black Muslim Bakery.

    posted by Eric at 09:18 AM | Comments (5)

    When good people can't talk....

    I've noticed that the louder and more opinionated a person is, the more likely he is to see a political disagreement with his position as a personal attack. Perhaps it's because he's put so much of his persona into it by being so loud. I think these types are best dealt with in blogs, where insults and ad hominem attacks tend to be self discrediting, WHERE YOU CAN'T SHOUT ANY LOUDER THAN THIS, and the loudly opinionated boors are reduced to inferior-looking lines of text.

    Real life is another, very ugly matter.

    Commenting on the malignant shouting down of a soldier who attempted to suggest publicly that the surge might be working, Roger L. Simon wonders whether a larger pathology is infecting the political ethos:

    ...Soltz is not alone in this. We see it everywhere from the Internet to our cable news networks to the boardrooms of our most respected newspapers. And we see it on all sides of the ideological spectrum. People identify their very selves with their political views. To say this is not good is an understatement. Besides making it almost impossible for people to change their minds, it makes it exceptionally difficult for them even to talk to each other, let alone reason together. Interestingly, that was the "naïve" Aguina's point - that "good people" should be able to talk together about what was going on.
    Identity politics (which Goldstein and others have called "identitarianism") has spread to include even people who don't belong to any special group, but who nonetheless wear their political views as badges to such an extreme that disagreement becomes a personal affront. When I was in high school, I remember not liking someone's favorite rock group could be taken as a personal insult, but this is much worse. I'm often hesitant to say what I think in public lest it be taken as a personal attack on someone who might disagree.

    Yes, people are that delicate. Speculating about why the war in Iraq might have been justified can trigger instantaneous, reflexive anger, and very awkward social situations. So can questioning the need for alarmism over anthropogenic global warming.

    Or questioning ethnic theme dormitories (which of course encourage segregation):

    I was the only one in the room that opposed the dorms. The moderator targeted me with most of her questions and many times took it upon herself to refute my arguments. Those in the audience also grilled me on how I could be so narrow-minded.

    The "dialogue" was a travesty. Although the right to free speech supposedly protects minorities, many of the so-called minorities in the room harangued me for openly stating my beliefs. While they refrained from tarring and feathering me, many once again told me that I had no business speaking on the issue of race because I was white. I wondered why they even invited me if I was not allowed to speak about race, which was the focus of the discussion.

    (via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The more the underpinnings of the right to disagree are removed in this way, the more disagreement becomes akin to discrimination, and thus, is seen as quasi criminal in nature -- something requiring immediate moral condemnation, in the shrillest possible terms. (Similarly, supporting the war in Iraq can lead to a charge of criminal culpability, and disagreeing with anthropogenic global warming theory is like Holocaust Denial.)

    Disagreement with some people becomes more than disagreement. If you're in a group of people who disagree with you, it can become self indictment.

    I've always had friends who disagree with me, but things are getting a little ridiculous where it comes to meeting new people. When I meet new people, I often wonder about the advisability of telling them what I think, especially if they show signs of being in kneejerk group agreement on a given issue.

    So why bother? Even disagreeing in the most diplomatic manner can require an enormous expenditure of energy, which is pointless when you're dealing with a drunken pack of people you know disagree with you 100% and can't wait to pounce.

    Is there a duty to publicly disagree when that can turn an otherwise enjoyable social event into an ordeal?

    Roger continues:

    We live in a veritable politics of rage. We no longer have a society where what would appear to be good news for our country - success for the surge - would be applauded by a decent majority of our citizens. Something has gone very wrong. And there is plenty of responsibility to go around, a whole culture of people defining each other as "moonbats" and "wingnuts," those two execrable neologisms of our times. And our politicians and media have only encouraged it.

    Right now we are in the high season of the extremes of our political parties - these "ragers" - controlling our electoral process. Historically, after the nominating process, the candidates abjure these extremes and return to the Great American Center. But I wonder if it will happen this time. Too much water is under the bridge, virtual and otherwise. Too many statements have been made, recorded forever on hard drives, and the pathology has grown deeper. There may be no rescue.

    I think the pathology will get worse between now and the 2008 election. Because, "too much is at stake!"

    It will of course fuel the blogosphere, and even I can't resist the occasional temptation to tell people that I try to avoid discussing my thoughts offline.

    There may be a guilty paradox in there, but I still think blogging is good for everyone's mental health.

    Thanks to blogging, it's a lot easier for me to keep my mouth shut in public, even on those occasions when my views are known or discovered, and I am confronted like a cornered rat.

    If cornered, I can just plead guilty to the various indictments, and laugh it all off. After all, I can return to my blog, where I'm still permitted to think what I think -- and have the last word 24 hours a day.

    That 24 hours a day part, though....

    It sometimes seems like a downside.

    UPDATE: Sean Kinsell links this post (thanks Sean!) and adds some of his inimitable wisdom:

    Frankly, I don't like conversations that give me indigestion any more than the next guy. Having been brought up the old-fashioned way, I avoid being the person to bring up politics (or religion) among people I don't know very well. But surely once a topic has been put on the table by others, it's fair game. I'd generally be happy to let these things pass were it not for the fact that they come from the sort of people who maintain that Americans are complacent and ignorant about the state of the world because we're not exposed to dissenting views!

    posted by Eric at 01:43 PM | Comments (16)

    An Interesting Question

    Commenter Cormac-ballz asks:

    What I don't get is: Congress is less popular than Bush because they didn't stop the war/stand up to Bush etc.

    But Bush should be less popular because he's the one persecuting the war in first place!

    Is there something about U.S. citizens that I fail to grasp? Is it because they don't sympathise with people they view as wimpy (e.g., Congress).

    The Democrats won Congress by replacing the Republicans in the South with Blue Dog Democrats.

    Those Democrats who won in the South promised not to damage the war effort. This has disgusted 1/2 the Democrats. The Republicans are disgusted to begin with. The other 1/2 of the Democrats are disgusted with the disgusted Democrats and no one is interested in solving the overspending problem.

    So you have the Republicans who still support Bush - 24% and no one who supports Congress.

    There is also the wimp factor which underlies the attitude of the Southern Democrats. They come from a martial culture. It transcends Republican/Democrat.

    In many ways the Republicans won the last election. Southern Democrats are closer to the Republicans than they are to San Francisco liberal Democrats.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 11:51 AM | Comments (1)

    Blaming Kevin Bacon
    (But he's just the tip of the iceberg)

    Glenn's link to Frank J.'s post blaming Kevin Bacon for bridge collapses has made me do some very serious homework, because it occurred to me that this might be about more than just bridges and infrastructures collapsing.

    Anywway, I'll start with Frank J.'s simple yet elegant reasoning:

    1. Boooosh had an illegal war in Iraq.
    2. War draws money away from states.
    3. States no longer manage their infrastructure.
    4. Bridge collapses.

    I don't think they're looking at the whole picture though. The bridge collapse is obviously the fault of Kevin Bacon. This is why:

    1. Kevin Bacon starred in Footloose.
    2. The movie inspired Americans to rise against the system and dance.
    3. This carefree attitude gradually evolved into structural engineers feeling life is too short to properly inspect bridges.
    4. Bridge collapses.

    I tell you, nothing in this country that goes wrong isn't somehow linked to Kevin Bacon. Someone has to stop him.

    I complete agree that the whole picture is not being looked at, and that Frank J. really puts the finger on it when he says nothing goes wrong that isn't somehow linked to Kevin Bacon.

    But I thought I should look further, because that's what we conscientious bloggers are supposed to do when confronted with unpleasant realities. My philosophy is that whenever there might be unconnected dots, it is our job to find them and then rigorously connect them.

    So on to the dots. If we take a detailed look at Kevin Bacon, the facts are indeed horrifying. From his IMDB page, we learn that by a very simple process, he can be connected to virtually anything evil in Hollywood:

    ....Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, whereby people have to link any given actor to him by no more than six steps. For instance, to do Fred MacMurray, you could observe that MacMurray worked with Lee Marvin in The Caine Mutiny (1954), which is one step; and Marvin worked with Jane Fonda in Cat Ballou (1965), which is two steps; and Fonda worked with Jack Lemmon in The China Syndrome (1979), which is three steps; and Lemmon worked with Bacon in JFK (1991), which completes the link in four steps.
    The liberal media and the academicians like to call this a "game" but I think such a diversionary tactic must be seen for what it is. They know the connections can't be hidden, so they try to dismiss them with humor. (The way some might dismiss the cogent reasoning in Frank J.'s post.)

    As Wikipedia makes clear, the notorious Ed Asner has a Bacon number of 1, while Elvis is a Bacon 2:

    The way you link an actor with Bacon is like so:

    * Pick any film actor in history.
    * Link the actor you've chosen to Bacon via the films they've shared with other actors until you end up with Kevin Bacon himself.

    Here is an example, using Elvis Presley:

    1. Elvis Presley was in Change of Habit (1969) with Edward Asner
    2. Edward Asner was in JFK (1991) with Kevin Bacon

    Therefore Elvis Presley has a Bacon number of 2.

    Obviously, the subtext of Frank J.'s post is that the above "game" is no game. These connections are real, and undeniable.

    There are also very stubborn, ineradicable dynastic legacy issues, as spooky as they are damning.

    First of all, Kevin Bacon and George W. Bush had famous fathers. Simply for having had Kevin Bacon and George W. Bush, both of these fathers have considerable blame for the damage done to the world by their notorious sons. While Kevin Bacon's father is not quite as well known as George H. W. Bush, the former, a man named Ed Bacon was considered the father of modern urban planning. This means that not only is he responsible for most of the problems in most of the cities in America, but he helped design and build much of the aging infrastructure that his son's irresponsible movie meme is now destroying (as Frank J. proved).

    On a more personal level, Keven Bacon's father is directly responsible for the worst traffic nightmare I have ever had to face -- the Schuylkill Expressway (the fact that they gave it a name impossible to spell is no coincidence):

    Constructed over a period of ten years from 1949 to 1959, a large portion of the expressway predates the 1956 introduction of Interstate Highway System; many of these portions were not built to contemporary standards.[3] The rugged terrain and limited riverfront space covered by the route has largely stymied later attempts to upgrade or widen the highway, despite the road being highly over-capacity; it has become notorious for its chronic congestion.[4]
    And look at the other roads for which Kevin Bacon's father is to blame:
    Much of the city's highway system was planned and built during Bacon's tenure, including the Delaware Expressway (I-95), the Schuylkill Expressway, the Roosevelt Boulevard Expressway, and the Vine Street Expressway.
    What this means is that not only did he build the decaying infrastructure his son wants to destroy, but he's also responsible for some of the worst traffic jams in American history!

    His policies have spread like a virus, and he wrote a book which is in use everywhere:

    In 1965 Bacon was appointed by President Johnson to serve as a member of the White House Conference on Natural Beauty, where he was one of four panelists who reported directly to the President. In 1967, Bacon wrote Design of Cities, still considered an important urban design text.
    A little known fact about Kevin Bacon's father is that at 92, the man actually rode a skateboard -- thus closing the circle, as if in full embrace of the "Footloose" policies his son designed.

    We are in big trouble, folks!

    And there is more. So much more.

    Back to the legacy issue. While it is beyond dispute that both Bacon and Bush are incredibly guilty sons of incredibly guilty men, the guilty connections only start there. Few people know it, but according to readily accessible public information, Kevin Bacon is related to Richard Nixon!

    His father was a seventh cousin of President Richard Nixon.
    Get ready for an even bigger shock.

    George W. Bush is also related to Richard Nixon! (It's beyond dispute, and all laid out at the site.)

    A much more shocking, and even less known fact, is that in addition to being related to Nixon, Boooosh is a Jooooo! As for the right wing cynics who don't trust Washington Monthly, the evidence is uncontestable, and not only appears at many reliable web sites, but is documented in numerous videos like these. But beware! The Jooos are making the facts disappear! (Pretty soon they'll destroy the evidence of the Bush family Jewish Nazi conspiracy.)

    After all of the ample documentation above (most of which was never intended as satire), I hardly need to point out what this portends.

    Kevin Bacon is related to Boooosh the Joooo!

    We're doubly, triply, quadruply, doooooomed!


    (Which is Latin for "case closed.")

    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (3)

    Suspicious Lack Of Coverage

    Eric at Classical Values is wondering why there is so little coverage of a story about a reporter murdered in Oakland California.

    I think the answer is that the press does not wish to call attention to the connections of Barack Hussein Obama with the Nation of Islam's leader or the Nation of Islam itself.

    Well it is a theory. Is it testable?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 07:47 PM | Comments (4)

    Something Is Wrong

    Here are some interesting quotes from American Judges who don't like mandatory minimums for drug offenses.

    Judge Morris S. Arnold
    Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
    Appointed by George H.W. Bush, 1992

    "You may say that I said that many of our drug laws are scandalously draconian and the sentences are often savage. You may also quote me as saying the war on drugs has done considerable damage to the Fourth Amendment and that something is very wrong indeed when a person gets a longer sentence for marijuana than for espionage."

    That is only one quote. There are more.

    The Drug War shreds our Constitution and wastes resources. Apparently there are some folks in government who actually understand that we are in a real war and that the Drug War is a waste.

    Taken from a study: Republican Judges Speak

    Cross Posted at Power and Control and at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 03:45 PM | Comments (2)

    Handy word?

    Glenn Reynolds links this Newsbusters report about how the broadcast networks are ignoring the murder of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey.

    I noticed that the Inquirer has buried the story with a tiny little notice in a column of collected news items on page A7. A very small headline reads "Handyman says he killed editor," and here's the copy:

    OAKLAND, Calif. - A 19-year-old handyman at Your Black Muslim Bakery has admitted to police that he ambushed and killed Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, investigators said.

    Police said Devaughndre Broussard told them Friday night that he shot and killed Bailey with a shotgun because he was angry over stories the journalist had written about the bakery, its employees and its leaders.

    Investigators said Broussard was also concerned about stories that he thought Bailey might be working on. Bailey, 57, had apparently been working on a story about the Muslim splinter group and its finances, authorities said. - San Jose Mercury News

    Handyman? That term usually invokes the popular stereotype of a poorly educated, barely employed, possibly homeless sort of person.

    Is it being used to create distance between the Black Muslim Bakery organization and the gunman? Or might the intent be to tone down the story, to make the spin less interesting? I'm frankly worried that the shooting is being downplayed, and not just because it involves black Muslims. I think that the fact that this is a small black newspaper in Oakland makes it less interesting, and I think that had an editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, or even the Des Moines Register, there would have been big headline stories about the killer's arrest in every major newspaper, and it would be a huge story on all the broadcast news. (And I think that had the shooter been white and Christian, it would have received a lot more attention -- even if he was a "handyman.")

    Far be it from me to question whether Devaughndre Broussard is truly a "handyman" as I suppose I could be called a handyman myself.

    But unless there are two people having what appears to be a very unusual name in the same neck of the woods, I noticed something which makes me suspect he might be more than a handyman. According to (UC Berkeley's) Haas Business School, a "DeVaughndre Broussard" was a prize winner in an investment portfolio competition run by the school's "Young Entrepreneurs At Haas" program:

    Investment Portfolio Competition

    At the Investment Portfolio Competition, 38 tenth-grade students presented their top investment choices to a panel of judges at Haas on Saturday, April 26.

    The teams had spent the past year in the YEAH program using a computer simulation called Stock Quest to learn about the stock market. Each team started the year with a fictional one million dollars to invest and worked with a mentor to learn how to analyze target companies.

    At the competition, the teams presented their portfolios, explained the rationale behind their investment choices, and described how those investments fared over a 12-month period. This year's winners were DeVaughndre Broussard, Alberto Fuentes, and Pierre Hudson. All three were mentored by second-year Berkeley MBA Tony Brekke. Each student on the winning team won a $100 savings bond.

    Since 1989, the YEAH program has been using the principles and real-life lessons of business, finance, and entrepreneurship to educate under-served youth and support their advancement to higher education. The program has prepared more than one thousand young people for success in college and in the world of business and finance. Currently, the program serves nearly 300 students from dozens of schools in the Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and West Contra Costa school districts.

    If this is the same young man, how did he go from prize winning young entrepreneur to a mere handyman in just a few years?

    If this is the same guy, you'd think the "handyman's" once promising career would be worth mentioning.

    Looking further, I found that news reports in the Bay Area not only confirm the Haas Business School connection, but the San Jose Mercury News reports that Broussard additionally describes himself with an interesting word -- "soldier":

    In his confession, Devaughdre Broussard told detectives that he considered himself to be "a good soldier" when he shot and killed Bailey on Thursday morning for writing negative stories about the bakery, authorities said.
    He also has at least one felony conviction and more pending, which means he was violating existing gun control laws by merely possessing the gun used in the shooting.

    "Handyman" might be a handy word to use, but it doesn't begin to tell the full story.

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

    MORE: There's something else that's being forgotten here, which I think is at least as important as the racial and multiculturalist overtones.

    The slain editor was trying to write a story about the very group that killed him.

    Let this sink in for a moment. A journalist was murdered in order to stop a story.
    And journalists are afraid to write about it, right?

    You'd think that in this country with our grand and hallowed tradition of a fearless free press with fearless reporters, all reporters would be united in absolute outrage, and yelling holy hell from the rooftops. Furious editorials from every last desk of every last editor in America.

    Yet the only factor which seems to be uniting them is fear. One of their own was murdered, and his fellow journalists can't stand to write about it.

    I don't know whether the murder was intended to "send a message" or simply to silence one writer, but if the idea was to intimidate journalists in general, I'd say things are going according to plan.

    UPDATE (08/06/07): Christopher Hitchens asks "Why did the Oakland police do so little about Your Black Muslim Bakery's thuggery?"

    I am just asking, but what if this racket had been named the White Christian or Aryan Nations Cookie Parlor? (Motto and mission statement: "Don't F*** With Us.") I think that Oakland's mayor, Ron Dellums--who I was startled to find was still alive--would have joined a picket line around the store (as would I). The same would doubtless have been true of Rep. Barbara Lee, in whose district the YBMB was situated. But instead, in its role as a "community business," the YBMB enjoyed warm support and endorsement from both the mayor and the congresswoman. And the guns for past and future slayings were inside the store.

    If this isn't softness on crime, then the term is meaningless. Residents have been complaining for a long time about the atmosphere of hatred and violence--and about what some have called the YBMB's attempt to "cleanse" the neighborhood, either of godless liquor stores on the model of jihadism or simply of business rivals and journalistic critics. What were the police doing all this time, and why did Chauncey Bailey have to be murdered before they could be moved to act? Perhaps they were doing what they do best: confiscating marijuana and rousting whores so as to painlessly improve the crime statistics. I called Bob Valladon, the extremely rude and graceless head of the Oakland police union, but I didn't even get to put my question before receiving a large flea in my ear. Other California law-enforcement officials were adamant in refusing to be quoted in any way. I can't say I blame them: Thousands of their voters and citizens are living in Third World conditions of fear, with a "no-snitch" policy openly enforced at gunpoint, and they cannot be troubled to do anything about it.

    Hitchens concludes ominously:
    As I have written before and am sure I will write again: This has to stop, and it has to stop right now, before sharia baking comes to a place near you.
    Read it all. He's right.

    posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (10)

    When failure to police yourself against crimes you haven't committed becomes a crime

    I'm sure it's just a coincidence that this would be unveiled on the same day that a college dean was charged with a felony for failure to police student drinking, but MADD is postively crowing about Nissan's new car design, which they clearly link to their much-touted "Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving":

    Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. has revealed a new concept car featuring multiple preventative features designed to help reduce drunk driving. Presently integrated on-board a production model Fuga sedan, the various technologies are designed to detect the driver's state of sobriety and to activate a range of preventive measures including immobilization of the vehicle.

    Alcohol Odor Sensors

    1. A hi-sensitivity alcohol odor sensor is built into the transmission shift knob, which is able to detect the presence of alcohol in the perspiration of the driver's palm as he or she attempts to start driving. When the alcohol-level detected is above the pre-determined threshold, the system automatically locks the transmission, immobilizing the car. A "drunk driving" voice alert is also issued via the car navigation system.
    2. Additional alcohol odor sensors are also incorporated into the driver's and passenger seats to detect the presence of alcohol in the air inside the vehicle cabin. When alcohol is detected, the system issues both a voice alert and a message alert on the navigation system monitor.

    Passenger seats? Even assuming that I wanted my car to police my drinking, why would I want the passengers policed? Is the goal here to discourage designated drivers from driving people who are too drunk to drive? You'd think MADD would want to encourage sober designated drivers. Or is that just another step in the "process"?

    "Sorry, but this is an alcohol free car! You're either part of the problem or part of the solution. Besides, I get a lower insurance rate!"

    There's a lot more in Nissan's description (which includes a "Facial Recognition System "to monitor the driver's state of consciousness through the blinking of the eyes," and a general Driving Behavior monitor:

    By constantly monitoring the operational behavior of the vehicle (e.g. sensing if the vehicle is veering out of its driving lane), the system can identify signs of inattentiveness or distraction in the driver. When the system detects such behavior, voice and message alerts are issued via the navigation system. The seat-belt alert mechanism is also activated, tightening around the driver to gain immediate attention.
    And you thought your dishwasher was acting like a fascist control freak!


    I guess if people want to buy these things, they can. What I'm worried about is the long-term, Orwellian goal of making mandatory. Last November the New York Times reported that this was precisely MADD's goal:

    Many states already require the devices, known as ignition interlocks, for people who have been convicted several times. Last year New Mexico became the first to make them mandatory after a first offense. With that tactic and others, the state saw an 11.3 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities last year. Officials say interlocks for first offenders are not a panacea but will reduce repeat offenses. They say the next step will be a program to develop devices to unobtrusively test every driver for alcohol and disable the vehicle. Statistics show that about 13,000 people die each year in car crashes in which a driver was legally drunk."
    MADD is making no secret of it at their web site:
    "The Campaign calls for... exploration and development of emerging technologies that will one day make it impossible for a vehicle to be driven by someone who is drunk and public support for all of these efforts."
    Eliminating drunk driving is certainly a laudable goal. No one is "for" drunk driving. But aren't there a lot of other crimes which occur in society which could be deterred my monitoring? For example, parents who are concerned about the quality of the baby sitters who stay with their kids might want to install hidden cameras, and they might want to monitor their children in various ways. But isn't that the business of the parent? How does it become the business of the state?

    I have no objection to anyone buying a car with alcohol sensors, marijuana sensors, tobacco sensors, or sensors to detect sexual arousal (which has been shown to be a distraction).

    It is one thing to prosecute and punish crime, and when someone has been convicted, I can understand the logic of requiring him to be monitored. But what gives the government the right to step in and require citizens to monitor themselves? What's being discussed here is making it a crime not to use crime prevention devices. Where does it end? Installing monitoring collars and ankle bracelets to keep track of all of us?

    Oh, silly me. Technology is constantly improving. Monitoring collars and ankle bracelets will soon be as outmoded as vacuum tubes (if they aren't already). Microchips and tiny sensors are poised to replace them.

    And activist groups who are no longer content to punish crime will want to make it a new crime not to deter yourself in advance of committing a crime!

    Notice that the language "make it impossible for a vehicle to be driven by someone who is drunk," does not mean what it appears to imply -- that the crime of drunk driving would become impossible. What it would mean is that there would have to be a new category of crime -- the affirmative failure to have crime-prevention devices installed.

    From a constitutional perspective, these devices might be an invasion of privacy, as well as inherently self-incriminating.

    But I just don't like the idea of criminalizing an individual's failure to pre-empt a crime he never committed.

    Might as well stop rape by outlawing penises. Yeah, I know that's ridiculous.

    Besides, the modern and more civilized approach would be to prevent sex crimes by criminalizing the failure to prevent erect penises under certain circumstances.

    (Don't laugh! Such a device could probably be designed. And "if we could save just one..." You know the routine.)

    UPDATE: It's been so long that I almost forgot these words from one of our founding bloggers:

    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty--even liberty from meddling machines.
    When non-meddling machines are outlawed, only outlaws will have non-meddling machines!

    I suppose the rest of us can engage in ancestor envy.

    MORE: I get email, and I just got this:

    Your last post leaves me broiling and despondent. Thanks!
    Well, a similar feeling is often what motivates these posts, and a primary goal is often to determine whether my feelings are right, or whether things are not as bad as they seem. (Often they are not, and in a case like this I'd be glad to be wrong in my suspicions.)

    I also write in the hope of getting the feelings out of my system, and it grieves me to think that by getting these feelings out of my system, I might be implanting them in other people's systems.

    The irony on top of ironies is that I imagine myself trying to police my own feelings -- only to be told that I am spreading them like a virus!

    (I'm obviously even more of an asshole than I realized....)

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

    I noticed Glenn's link to the story about MADD complaining about Amtrak's free drink promotional offer.


    The president of the group is now a man (and unless he's changed his sex, that means he's not a mother, right?) and they've gone from opposing drunk driving to basically opposing alcohol. I have to admit, there's a certain consistency in promoting cars wired to go after passengers, and opposing drinking by train riders.

    I think it's clearly become a professional anti-alcohol, neo-Prohibitionist lobbying group. Perhaps the name should be changed from "Mothers Against Drunk Driving" to "Activists Against All Alcohol Anywhere."

    Nah, the AAAA acronym doesn't have meaning, and sounds like they're just trying to get the first listing in the phone book.

    Perhaps "Neoprohibitionists Against Drinking Anywhere" would be better.

    A little multicultural nihilistic inclusionism?

    posted by Eric at 11:53 AM | Comments (33)

    Aggravated hazing? Or aggravated Nifonging?

    Last night I was reminded that there are murderous Muslim hardliners in this country who are determined to wage a sort of culture war against alcohol.

    Fortunately (at least so I like to think), their efforts are laughable, and ultimately doomed to failure, as we already tried a "Noble Experiment" called Prohibition, and it failed. So, there's an overwhelming cultural consensus that prohibition of alcohol did not work. And people are responsible for their own actions where it comes to drinking.


    Not so fast, if this story is any indication:

    (8/04/07 - TRENTON, N.J.) - Two Rider University officials, including the dean of students, and three students were indicted Friday in the death of a freshman after a drinking binge at a campus fraternity house.

    The school dissolved the Phi Kappa Tau chapter Friday, and authorities said the charges should send a message to students and administrators alike.

    "The standards of college life, when it relates to alcohol, need to be policed carefully," prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr. said.

    Come again? A student acts like an idiot and drinks himself to death, and the dean is arrested?

    Not in America. Please, someone, say it's not true!

    Looking at the allegations, there's no question that he was seriously drunk. And that he told his friends (what a shock!) that he would be drinking:

    DeVercelly's blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .426, authorities said.

    Friends of the freshman said DeVercelly, 18, told them he would be drinking vodka during pledge initiation at the fraternity house, The Times of Trenton has reported.

    The five officials and students charged were:

    -- Ada Badgley, 31, of Lawrenceville, the university's director of Greek life.

    -- Anthony Campbell, 51, of Lawrenceville, the dean of students.

    -- Adriano DiDonato, 22, of Princeton, residence director and house master of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house.

    -- Dominic Olsen, 21, of Kenilworth, pledge master of Spring 2007 Phi Kappa Tau pledge class.

    -- Michael J. Tourney, 21, of Randolph, the chapter president.

    If convicted, the officials and fraternity members would face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

    But what did the university employees do? Stand over him and pour vodka down his throat?

    The prosecutor will not say, exactly. He just remarks the obvious -- that a lot of booze was consumed:

    Bocchini wouldn't discuss evidence in detail, but he has said previously that the investigation revealed some of the pledges drank entire bottles of hard liquor in under an hour.

    Twenty-three other people face charges of providing alcohol to minors or underage drinking related to the event. Three students also face drug charges after a search of the fraternity house, Bocchini said.

    A message left at Badgley's university office was not immediately returned and a home number was not listed. Campbell didn't immediately return a call to his house. Phone numbers for the three university students also were not listed and it was unclear if any had attorneys.

    What the hell is going on?

    All I can see is a statement that "the standards of college life, when it relates to alcohol, need to be policed carefully." Is "not policing carefully" now a criminal offense? What is the exact charge?

    When I was a landlord in Berkeley I rented to students, and plenty of them drank, I'm sure. Was that my fault? How far does this "policing" go? Should the students' residences be subject to search? (Remember, these are not children; they are legal adults.) What is the dean supposed to do, and why stop with booze? If a fraternity threw a party where sex occurred and condoms weren't used and someone got an STD (say, AIDS), would they charge him with "not policing carefully"? Should the dean go into the students' bedrooms and crawl around with a flashlight?

    I'm smelling an anti-alcohol, neo-prohibitionist campaign of some sort.

    (Either that or Nifong changed his name and got rebadged as a New Jersey DA.)

    This is fast becoming a national story. The San Jose Mercury News and the Chicago Tribune have picked it up, and I'm sure a lot more will follow.

    These aren't exactly chump charges either. From the Tribune:

    If convicted, the officials and fraternity members would face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
    For what? "Aggravated hazing" seems to be the only charge described.

    Maybe the DA just wants attention after all.

    UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer has more, but I'm still unclear on how the dean's conduct was criminal in nature:

    Bocchini would not disclose the evidence that resulted in a grand jury indicting the five. However, he previously has said the investigation revealed some of the pledges drank bottles of liquor in less than an hour.

    The grand jury found that the five "knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated or engaged in conduct" that resulted in injury to DeVercelly, as well as William Williams, a freshman who required hospital treatment but survived, Bocchini said.

    In the case of the officials, the grand jury looked at the way they handled oversight of the Greek organizations on campus, Bocchini said.

    "To Rider's credit - unfortunately, after the fact - they immediately took steps," Bocchini said of Rider's new policies to curb campus drinking, including banning alcohol at fraternity parties.

    The "way they handled oversight"? So, by not setting a school policy prohibiting alcohol at parties (never mind that many students are over 21), you're committing a major felony?

    Remind me not to go into the dean business.

    It's getting easier and easier to be a felon these days!

    AND MORE: Bocchini hits jackpot makes the New York Times:

    The charges against the Rider officials, who were not present at the fraternity house at the time of the hazing, represent one of the first cases in the country in which a university or college official has been held criminally responsible for excessive student drinking.

    It is much more common for students, or their families, to file civil lawsuits against the institutions or their officials over drinking, hazing and other student misconduct, several education lawyers and prosecutors said yesterday.

    Joseph L. Bocchini Jr., the Mercer County prosecutor, said yesterday that while the charges might not prevent under-age drinking on campuses, they would send a message that such activities could have legal consequences. If convicted of aggravated hazing, the five charged face up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    "If it doesn't send a message, then colleges and universities are asking for trouble in the future," Mr. Bocchini said.

    Perhaps my legal education was an anomaly, but in law school I do remember being taught that public prosecutor's job is to uphold the law, and to seek justice.

    I don't remember the "sending a message" part.

    I could see a partisan organization like MADD wanting to do this, but DAs are not supposed to advance partisan agendas. I might be wrong, but something about the stated goal of the prosecution being to "send a message" to "colleges and universities" sounds like deliberate partisan grandstanding.

    MORE: On a more cheerful note, the Times reports some encouraging student remarks:

    ....several students on campus said that university officials could hardly be blamed for students who drink too much. "If a student chooses to do it, that's not the dean of students' fault," said Hamzah Abushabun, 18, a freshman.

    Courtney Allen, 19, also a freshman, said that students had to police themselves and that Mr. DeVercelly was responsible for his actions.

    I like seeing evidence of young people defying the system by actually engaging in common sense!

    MORE: The Mercer County DA has now acheived international stardom!

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (7)

    Chauncey Bailey murder appears to be solved

    Via Pajamas Media, I just read Michelle Malkin's post linking a report that murdered Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey had been working on an investigative piece about "Your Black Muslim Bakery" just before he was killed, and that the OPD had surrounded the place this morning:

    Oakland and Fremont police have surrounded the Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland.

    Television stations KPIX and KTVU report that S.W.A.T team negotiators and various high-ranking police officials are at the scene.

    The incident is happening along San Pablo Avenue near the border of Oakland and Emeryville. A command center has been set up in Emeryville, but there are few other details at this hour...

    ...longtime Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey was reportedly researching an investigative piece into Your Black Muslim Bakery before he was shot and killed just yesterday morning.

    Malkin also links a 2005 SF Chronicle report about the notorious bakery run by the notorious Yusuf Bey. I used to live not far away, and I remember the place and him quite well. He was a political figure to be reckoned with in Oakland for years.

    Looking further, I found that according to the San Jose Mercury News, seven arrests were made, and the police think they found the weapons used in yesterday's murder:

    Seven people were arrested on homicide and other charges after police raiding the Your Black Muslim Bakery recovered firearms that they believe were linked to the ambush slaying of the editor of the Oakland Post newspaper Thursday.

    "The search warrant yielded several weapons and other evidence of value including evidence linking the murder of Chauncey Bailey to members of the Your Black Muslim Bakery," said Assistant Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, who according to the Associated Press said the raids were part of a year-long investigation into violent crimes.

    The AP reported that it was unclear if any of the homicide or other charges were tied to Bailey's slaying but that homicide detective Lt. Ersie Joyner said "scientific evidence" had linked the firearms to the daytime killing of Bailey, 57.

    Good police work.

    News of the raid also made CNN, which adds this:

    The warrants stemmed from an investigation that began in May after a case involving kidnapping, robbery and torture in East Oakland, Joyner said.

    "It became apparent Your Black Muslim Bakery had some involvement in the case," he said. In addition, police were able to connect two slayings in July -- both men shot and killed near the bakery -- using gun evidence.

    Police would not reveal the suspected motive in Bailey's death or in the other killings.

    The investigation does not involve the Nation of Islam, another African-American Muslim group, police said, and "should not be seen as an investigation of any faith tradition."

    Your Black Muslim Bakery has a history of legal troubles, according to CNN affiliate KTVU. When Yusuf Bey died in 2003, he was awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl who worked at the bakery.

    In the wake of Bey's death, his son and designated heir, Antar Bey, was shot to death as he talked on his cell phone at an Oakland gas station in October 2005. That slaying remains under investigation, KTVU said.

    In November 2005, several group members, including Yusuf Bey IV, were accused of vandalism and other charges in connection with the trashing of liquor cases at convenience stores. Police said at the time that the group's religious opposition to alcohol fueled the incidents, according to media reports.

    I remember those incidents quite well, and I wrote this about it:'s shocking to see attempted enforcement of "Islamic Law" in the United States. The San Fransico Chronicle has more, including a report of arson at another store, and the abduction of the owner later found locked in a car trunk.
    "This is crazy. This is America," Hernen [the store manager] said. "They got hate in their heart."
    Yes, but will any brave prosecutor dare charge it as a "hate crime"?

    I doubt it. That's because multicultural hatred is not hatred.

    Good riddance to them this time, I hope. They sound like they want to be an American copycat version of the Lal Masjid Red Mosque.

    Not to make light of a a serious matter, but a friend just emailed me about the case, and said this:

    when Yosef Bey ran for mayor of Oakland he claimed that the big slave owners in 19th century America were all Jews, and that the major political and military leaders of the Confederacy were also Jews. Do you remember General Stonewall Nussbaum?
    I can't say I do, but then I really haven't studied the Confederate Jewish plot in all that much detail.


    I hope this raid ends a long and squalid chapter in Oakland's history.

    posted by Eric at 11:25 PM | Comments (6)

    Dogs were tortured, so the war is immoral?

    I have spent several hours trying to get caught up with the Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair, and had concluded that he either lied or told the truth. Now it appears he was lying. Anyway, the whole thing is one of the reasons I don't like to do war blogging. Too messy. Too speculative. Too many unknowns, and in cases like this, too many accusations, counter-accusations, insults, recriminations, and endless ad hominem attacks.

    And over what? In this case, allegations which, whether true or false, have nothing whatsoever to do with the big picture. Which is the war in Iraq and the war on terror. Not Scott Thomas Beauchamp and what he says about what a few soldiers did.

    This is hardly a roundup, but I've been reading a bunch of posts from a bunch of people. There are many opinions, and the facts are only beginning to come in

    According to Matt Sanchez, the military has determined the allegations to be false:

    After a thorough investigation that lasted nearly a week the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division has concluded that the allegations made by Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp, the "Baghdad Diarist", have been

    "refuted by members of his platoon and proven to be false"

    The official investigation the 4th IBCT Public Affairs Office qualified as "thorough and professional" concluded late August 1st. Officials would not speculate on the possibility of further action against Private Beauchamp, nor would they confirm his current whereabouts or status.

    Sergeant First Class Robert Timmons, the acting public affairs official of the 4th IBCT, 1st ID, in the absence of Major Kirk Luedeke, remarked that despite the high level of attention this case received in the American media, soldiers at the 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div, a "surge" Brigade, have not been distracted from their missions.

    OK, that report from Matt Sanchez is either accurate or it is not. If the people on the left have anything to refute it, they should say so. Instead, they dredge up old allegations about man's sexual past (which I commented on previously). But what has the the issue of man's sexual past, whether he regrets it, or for that matter whether he dislikes gays now, have to do with the accuracy of his war reporting?

    Everything, according to a certain leftist logic.

    Amazingly (and I don't know where Ace is getting his information) Ace is pretty sure that Scott Thomas Beauchamp is gay (just go to Ace and scroll; there's plenty more), and he's angry that homosexuality was used as an excuse to discredit Sanchez, but it won't be for Beauchamp. (A one-way street for the left, as Ace points out, although I do not feel the slightest personal disgust over anyone's homosexual conduct.)

    This whole affair and the way people's buttons are being pushed reeks of intrigue, deception, duplicity, illogic and culture war irrelevancies from start to finish. Disgusted does not even begin to describe my reaction.

    Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of roundups, including Powerline, Michelle Malkin, and the Weekly Standard, and it definitely appears that he's right when he says there's egg on TNR's face.

    So it appears that some guy made up a pack of lies, his defenders on the left went ballistic, went on the offensive, and now that the lies are exposed, what's next? Allegations that Beauchamp's critics are homophobes with axes to grind? (You can depend on it!)

    Well, I don't give a rat's ass who or what Beauchamp screws!

    Again, what has any of this to do with the war in Iraq?

    I'd say this even if every word Beauchamp said turned out to be true. Yeah, he said some of his buddies made fun of a deformed woman, danced with the top of a skull, and tortured dogs. The latter sounded especially untrue to me as a dog lover, but scumbags torture dogs here too, and it doesn't change my view of Iraq.

    And anyone who can figure out what the sexual preferences of soldiers or reporters should have to do with the war or my view of it, please let me know.

    Sorry to sound disgusted, but this whole affair is pretty sleazy.

    UPDATE (08/04/07): According to Bob Owens, the Sanchez report about the military investigation has been confirmed:

    ....the investigation didn't just stop by stating that the claims were uncorroborated; Col. Boylan states categorically that Beauchamp's allegations were false. Not a lot of wiggle room there.

    It appears that the proverbial ball is now in The New Republic's court. It will be interesting to see what their next move will be.

    (Via Hot Air.)

    I don't know what their next move will be, but Ace thinks the sexual preferences of all sources that might corroborate the above are fair game, and should be investigated:

    ...we do not know if this source has had any homosexual experiences in the past, so admittedly I cannot judge his credibility.

    I am also not sure of Michael Goldfarb's sexual preference, so I suppose it's possible he just completely made this up in some deranged homosexual dreamstate, where reality itself melts away in a blur of fantasy, hallucination, and Bravo original programming. I will be sure to ask his opinions on vaginal sex in our next correspondence.

    Now that I think about it, I'm realizing that there are a lot of reports and blog posts I've relied on over the years without so much as giving a thought to the sexual preferences of the reporters, bloggers, or sources.

    Am I guilty of mere naivité? Or is it a deliberate refusal to examine important issues?

    MORE: If this editorial is any indication, sexual preferences of sources and reporters are more important than whether what they say is true.

    Is there a newly emerging rule?

    posted by Eric at 05:41 PM | Comments (2)

    How to make Bush look reasonable

    Now that John Edwards and Barack Obama have weighed in as warrior chieftains, the conventional wisdom seems to be that they have made Hillary Clinton look sane, sober, and reasonable. I beg to disagree.

    Regardless of the merits of Edwards' and Obama's respective wargame strategies, I think Hillary Clinton's on-again, off-again support for the war in Iraq only proves what many have been saying all along: that she is a finger-to-the-wind politician. A finger-to-the-wind, test-the-waters foreign policy strategy was what the Clinton administration was all about, and I think history shows that it emboldened the terrorists. If the Clinton past and the Clinton present are any indication, I think Hillary Clinton has clearly demostrated that she plans a return to a finger-to-the-wind strategy that worked so well in preventing Mogadishu, Khobar Towers, Kenya, Tanzania, the U.S.S. Cole, and more....

    So, I don't especially enjoy the way she gets credit for being "reasonable" simply because Edwards and Obama have offered unreasonable ideas.

    I know this will sound strange, even bizarre considering the conventional wisdom, but there is someone whose war policies Edwards and Obama have made look eminently reasonable.

    I refer to everyone's favorite punching bag -- the much-maligned George W. Bush.

    I'll start with the Edwards proposal to "get tough" with the Saudis. I do not know of anyone who detests the dysfunctional, corrupt Saudis more than I do. They are the absolute worst "ally" we have ever had, and as I'm pretty sure I've said before, with "friends" like the Saudis who needs enemies? However, the ties and economic interdependency between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are so deep, and go back so far that treating them as an enemy state is all but impossible. It might even have the effect of replacing the monarchy with an even worse Taliban-like state. The problem is, there's no way to go to war against the Saudi government, yet most of the terrorists are Saudi-inspired. (I've called them "suicidal Saudi Salafists" because that's exactly what they are.) Knowing this, the best strategy is go to into a country next door, a country the Saudis dislike anyway, in such a way as to draw the suicidal Salafists out of their country and into it so that they can fight and die against the Americans. By entering Iraq, Bush has done this, and I've long believed that because of the nature of the Saudi realities, it's a brilliant strategy. Edwards says he would "require" the Saudis to "shut down the movement of terrorists across its borders." How? This is completely unrealistic, as the Saudis have less control over their borders than we do. It is a far better idea to kill the terrorists in Iraq, where U.S. soldiers await them. By highlighting the issue of the documented flow of terrorists from Saudi Arabia, Edwards has (whether he realizes it or not) only demonstrated the practical realism of the Bush strategy.

    The Obama plan to invade another dysfunctional "ally," Pakistan (analyzed by Victor Davis Hanson, link via Glenn Reynolds), is even more foolish. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the bastards in Pakistan have the Bomb. (You know, "the bomb, Dimitri... the hydrogen bomb!") And so does their worst enemy India. A U.S. invasion could ultimately trigger a genuine worldwide nuclear war, with China quite possibly siding with Pakistan. Even if it didn't set off a worldwide nuclear conflagration, an invasion of Pakistan might very well cause Pakistani religious hardliners to take power. Then they'd have the bomb. Any idea what they might do with it? I don't want to find out. (I worry that Obama might be forgetting the lessons of World War I.)

    In response to the worst attack ever perpetrated against American civilians, Bush began the response in Afghanistan, and Iraq was next. I don't think he could have selected better targets or a better order of battle.

    Edwards' and Obama's wargame musings only show how right the Bush strategy was, and (in my view at least) still is.

    I'll say this for Obama and Edwards; at least they came up with actual, original ideas. However, much as I disagree with them, I don't think they have made Hillary's waffling war record look good.

    posted by Eric at 11:30 AM | Comments (3)

    fitting punishments that don't fit

    From Trevor Bothwell's commentary -- "Oregon boys being Nifonged" -- in the DC Examiner:

    According to ABC News, Cory Mashburn and Ryan Cornelison, both 13, face up to 10 years in jail and a lifetime as registered sex offenders if convicted, all over a stunt Mashburn claims was practiced by girls and boys alike every Friday during school.

    Bradley Berry, the district attorney who appears to be doing his best Mike Nifong impression by prosecuting the boys seemingly for doing little more than acting like kids, maintains that his office "aggressively" pursues sex crimes that involve children. "These cases are devastating to children," Berry said. "They are life-altering cases."

    Berry is correct, though he isn't referring to Mashburn and Cornelison, whose lives he's apparently trying to destroy single-handedly. Instead, he perversely suggests that teenage girls are going to be ruined for life because a couple of 13-year-olds behaving like clowns smacked them on the backside.

    Bothwell points out that there was nothing sexual about the conduct, and it is inappropriate to treat the kids in a manner normally associated with child rapists.

    I agree, and I wrote an earlier post about this ridiculous but outrageous affair, which I castigated as a a "too damn typical" example of the "complete lack of common sense which now seems to have modern America in a deathlock."

    Complaining about these problems does not seem to make them go away. Nor does complaining about a lack of common sense seem to restore common sense.

    In the old days, boys who did something like this would have had their own butts beaten -- by adults. I suppose if we use today's standard, the adults who beat the boys bottoms would be arrested and prosecuted, not for violating some new law against spanking, but for "felony sexual abuse." And why not? What's good for the goose...

    Does anyone really know what's good for the goose anymore? Are we to look into the mind of the perpetrator to determine what is and what is not "sexual"? There are people who really get off on having their butts spanked, are there not? Likewise, there are people who really get off on delivering the spankings. How are we to know?

    Is a teacher who takes pleasure in spanking a child a child molester? Or is this too inflammatory a question even to pose in this blog? If it is, then I think it's all the more reason to pose it.

    Let's take a trip down memory lane.... These archives are full of accounts of school canings and whippings. I don't think I need to provide lurid examples, but trust me. Caning and whipping may have been abolished in recent years (by a vote of 231-230) but the accounts will live on forever in cyberland.

    Well, perhaps I shouldn't have said "forever." It would not surprise me to see the same governments that abolished what were once standard practices to impose censorship on even utterly factual accounts of them. People might enjoy reading about it, and we can't have that! Bad boys might get ideas. (Fraternity paddling is probably another example of sexual abuse, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if by merely mentioning it I have run afoul of the various net-nanny moralists of the "left" and the "right.")

    And Tom Sawyer's teacher Mr. Dobbins, despite the "merciless flayings" he clearly enjoyed administering, completely escaped punishment for inflicting what were obviously "devastating" and "life-altering" traumas. Why? Because this was completely normal for a Victorian schoolmaster, that's why.

    (To even point this out is by definition moral relativism.)

    Today, Ritalin has filled the ecological niche once reserved for corporal punishment. Whether this is right or wrong isn't up to me. Probably just as well, because many people would consider me highly immoral. For the life of me, I've never been able to understand why whipping someone or punching someone in the face is less harmful than so much as touching the same person's genitalia. When I was a child if I had been given that choice, I'd have gladly chosen the latter as the lesser of two evils, notwithstanding society's determination that it is far, far worse. (I feel the same way as an adult, BTW.) I'm not saying it's right to touch someone on the genitals, mind you. It just strikes me that there is something profoundly illogical going on. But however logical my view may be, many would consider it immoral. Knowing this does not help me understand why.

    I don't know what to do here. Perhaps another unscientific poll.

    First, the punishment of the boys:

    how would you punish the boys who smacked the girls' butts?
    criminal prosecution for sexual abuse
    a stern lecture plus suspension from school
    psychiatric counseling and or appropriate medication
    a severe spanking
    being told in a deep, manly voice to "Knock it off, shitheads"
  free polls

    Finally, a simple either/or question:

    what would you rather have to endure?
    being punched in the face
    being briefly touched on the genitalia
  free polls
    UPDATE: In light of an excellent complaint that the school punishment poll is rigged, I've replaced it with a new one with additional choices. My apologies to those who voted in the previous poll, whose results are as follows:
    criminal prosecution for sexual abuse 10% 1

    a stern lecture plus suspension from school 50% 5

    a severe spanking 40% 4

    Previous voters, feel free to vote again.

    MORE: Had to redo it again, as I had trouble with the "and or." (You cannot use a "slash" mark, so the psychiatric treatment choice would not appear.)

    posted by Eric at 09:34 AM | Comments (4)

    Nostalgia is good for the constitution

    "If we are to live in fear of words, well, we might as well just throw the constitution away."

    So says Frank Zappa in this YouTube video during a discussion of his Tipper Gore era fight against government censorship.

    Zappa (a classic himself) invokes a pre-constitutional classic:

    "Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

    A no brainer, right?

    Not according to CBS. Here's Richard Miniter:

    ....Imus was a known quality. He had been a shock jock for decades. In fact he was paid to be edgy.

    It wasn't the advertisers or the executives, or even Al Sharpton, that cost Imus his job. It was political correctness at CBS in New York. Perry Michael Simon, the news/talk editor of All Access, pointed out that CBS employees handed out a book called "Words Can Hurt" and circulated a petition to end Imus' CBS career. Next they brought in agent provocateur, David Brock and a blogger who has been documenting Imus excesses for over a decade.

    The war on words (which is a war against free speech) always makes me feel nostalgic.

    The war to reinstate the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" (which would monitor words in order to require certain other words to be broadcast) is like Tipper Gore's war against rock lyrics she didn't like, which is like the attempt (by people who don't like a network no one makes them listen to) to bully advertisers .

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Then as now, Zappa gets it right.

    posted by Eric at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

    A little cold war nostalgia

    And why not?

    Anyone old enough to remember "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."?

    Napoleon Solo and Illya Kullyakin are the two agents of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement, who fight evil (primarily an organization of Bad people called, THRUSH) and use charm, wit, and a never ending assortment of gadgets. Ran for 4 years.

    From YouTube, the opening credits (with the incredibly cool theme instrumental):

    It never ceases to amaze me the things that turn up on YouTube.

    posted by Eric at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

    Parody for profit of conservatism?
    Or profitable parody of conservatism?

    I don't know which I consider more newsworthy -- another bizarre outburst by Michael Savage or the fact that Ace has actually linked Media Matters' account of it, but hey, both events happened.


    Now that I think about it, Ace linking Media Matters is a far more unusual event than Michael Savage simply behaving in the way he usually does.

    What Ace found interesting enough to link was the suggestion by Savage that the Democrats might have brought on Chief Justice Roberts' seizure. Here's Savage:

    Am I to believe that there's no connection between Charles Schumer on Friday saying that he would never appoint, or never, excuse me, approve another Bush appointment to the court, to any court? And then the chief justice suffers a so-called seizure two days later? You're telling me there's no possibility of a conspiracy by the Democrats to have caused this seizure in some manner? Tell me that it's not possible. Tell me that the stakes are not so high that the liberals -- who've finally lost the court after 50 years -- that they would stop short of anything like this. Tell me it's not possible, and I'll tell you you're a liar.
    Ace, while no fan of Savage, listened to the recording closely, and thinks it might be parody:
    I really don't like Michael Savage, and I actually began linking this as a slam on him. But as I listened to the tape I realized he was most likely goofing on the Truther Left. Something that Media Matters cannot even acknowledge as a possibility.
    I'm glad to entertain the possibility that Michael Savage is engaged in parody. I don't expect him to disclose it, though, as I doubt he'd want his own Bircher/Trilateral Commission/Bildabetterburger truthers to suspect he's secretly laughing at them.

    But with Savage, yes, insincerity is always a distinct possibility.

    I'm disinclined to believe anything the man says anyway, whether it's undisclosed parody or not. I think Savage has two primary goals:

  • get attention, which means getting ratings any way he can (the irony is that I'm discussing him).
  • discourage liberals who might tune into his show (and who might have otherwise had second thoughts, particularly after 9/11) from drifting towards conservatism.
  • I think Savage's contributions to Jerry Brown speak volumes about the sincerity of his "conservatism."

    I think it's more likely that his conservatism is a parody than his financial contributions. But with Savage, you never know. Perhaps he'll parody Hillary with a few thousand dollars.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Pajamas Media for the link!

    posted by Eric at 01:46 PM | Comments (6)

    "environment-enhanced fatigue cracking"?

    I found that line on the resume of a metallurgical expert.

    I've long been fascinated with the idea that living organisms are not the only things that age. From time to time, I've collected ancient coins, and I learned that forged coins pose a serious problem for the collector, because some of the forgers (especially those in Eastern Europe) use state of the art equipment once belonging to the KGB and its various manifestations. But there's one thing that can't be forged: when coins age, the metal changes. It crystallizes in predictable ways, and experts can tell by microscopic examination whether or not a coin is in fact 2000 years old.

    Knowing that even tiny pieces of metal change simply because of aging, this morning I wondered about a heavily-used metal bridge built in Minneapolis in 1967, when standards were considerably more lax than they are today. Think about the number of cars that passed over that bridge for the past 40 years, the number of times it has been repaired and resurfaced with heavy equipment rattling away, the number of ferocious winters and scorching summers it's been through.

    I'd be fatigued. Who wouldn't be? Who can blame the poor bridge, which is, after all only as strong as the metal supports holding it together.

    After reading this morning's news, I figured I'd go straight to James Lileks. After all, it's his turf. He's understandably very busy with the news frenzy, but he takes time to remember the once elegant bridge:

    I've driven across this bridge every few days for thirty years. There are bridges, and there are bridges; this one had the most magnificent view of downtown available, and it's a miracle I never rear-ended anyone while gawking at the skyline, the old Stone Bridge, the Mississippi. You always felt proud to be here when you crossed that bridge, pleased to live in such a beautiful place. Didn't matter if it was summer twilight or hard cold winter noon - Minneapolis always seemed to be standing at attention, posing for a formal portrait . We'll have that view again - but it'll take a generation before it's no longer tinged with regret and remembrance.
    Lileks linked a video report from an experienced structural engineer who was thoroughly familiar with the bridge, and among other things he referred to "fatigue cracking" which had been observed and noted in reports.

    According to the Star Tribune, the bridge was labeled "structurally deficient" in 2005. It didn't take much time for the Times in London to elaborate, in a very grim report:

    The 40-year-old bridge that collapsed in Minnesota last night, causing the deaths of at least seven people, was graded "structurally deficient" two years ago but was not scheduled to be replaced until 2020.

    Bridge 9340 was of a design known as a "non-redundant structure" by civil engineers, meaning that if a single part failed, the whole structure could collapse. It was completed before fundamental reform of bridge safety in America in the late 1960s.

    In 1967, the year of its completion, another non-redundant bridge, the Silver Bridge in Ohio, fell into the river below because of the failure of a single chain link.

    Forty-six people died and the disaster, like the Ronan Point tower block collapse in London the following year, prompted a period of greater caution in structural design.

    The reforms came too late for I-35W bridge, which was finished in 1967. It had three spans but no supporting piers, to allow barge traffic to continue on the river below. It carried Interstate 35W and 140,000 cars and trucks a day over the Mississippi River just east of downtown of Minneapolis.

    Ordinarily, I'd think this was the sort of thing to be expected in less developed countries, but I guess it boils down to common sense.

    Things age. Aging sucks. Perhaps the anti-aging movement should not be limited to humans.

    This is hardly a Minneapolis problem. ABC News has a story featuring a gruesome picture of the collapse, just under a headline asking and answering a question on everyone's mind right now: How Safe Are America's Bridges?
    Experts Say More Than a Quarter of U.S. Bridges Are Structurally Unstable

    Aging metal fatigue is obviously a serious problem, which will only get worse, because governments would rather spend their money on other things.

    Material Technologies Inc., described as "an engineering, research and development company specializing in technologies to measure microscopic fractures and flaws in metal structures and monitor metal fatigue in real time" offers a few salient "facts about bridges in the U.S.":

  • Visual inspection is the primary method of checking bridges for possible metal fatigue and potential catastrophic failure.
  • One study by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found that over 90% of fatigue cracks were missed with visual inspection.
  • Of all the methods (visual and non-visual) used to detect cracks, only Material Technologies' Electrochemical Fatigue Sensor system can determine whether the cracks are growing. EFS can determine not only whether cracks are growing but whether they are growing slowly or rapidly.
  • Over the past 10 years, on average, there have been one bridge failure in the U.S. every week.
  • According to federal data, 39% of the bridges in the U.S. are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete
  • Federal law mandates that bridges over 20 feet long be inspected every other year, but it does not require any particular method of inspection.
  • SAFETEA-LU, the federal transportation bill currently in effect, mandated that the FHWA carry out a program to identify technologies that detect growing fatigue cracks in bridges. Material Technologies' EFS is part of that program and already has been used in Pennsylvania. It also has been used in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Utah. Overseas, bridge owners in Australia, the U.K. and elsewhere have shown interest in deployment of the EFS in the near future.
  • I'm not an engineer and I have not verified any of the statements above or claims by the company.

    Common sense suggests, though, that age combined with fatigue is a serious problem.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links an excellent report at Popular Mechanics. Bottom line:

    ....investigators will likely find that two factors contributed to its failure: age and heavy use.
    And the conclusion:
    America's gross domestic product in 2006 was $13.2 trillion--we can afford to have world-class infrastructure. As a stepping-off point, we should insist that our elected representatives publicly acknowledge the risk of neglecting the bridges, roads and other essential hardware that goes into making a modern civilization. Then we should hold them accountable for setting priorities and for marshaling the requisite resources to repair our increasingly brittle society.

    UPDATE: Also via Glenn Reynolds, John Hinderaker (who lives in the area) says this:

    It is hard to convey to those who don't live here the astonishment of this sort of catastrophe happening on our most traveled highway.
    It's too easy to cling to the illusion that because this happened "somewhere else" it won't happen here.

    (I shudder to think about the many aging and fatgued bridges in the Newpennsyljerseydelawaria area.)

    posted by Eric at 10:23 AM | Comments (3)

    "Get the bike out of the house!"

    Janet Powell, described as "a Philadelphia funeral director for 22 years," is calling for federal help in solving Philadelphia's homicide rate:

    "There's nobody taking care of the inner-city conditions in this country. It's almost as if it doesn't matter."

    She called for studies to get to the root of the problem and for the federal government to step in with help.

    Actually, the feds (in the form of the FBI) did help crack a recent triple homicide which occurred at a local bar. The gunman (an ex felon in illegal possession of a firearm who was related to one of the three victims) kept on firing in front of two dozen witnesses, yet no one saw anything happen! (One patron seems to have invented a story about how the gunman had lost a bet on a fight. As I observed, the details change, the narrative remains.)

    Other than help find the killers if they have jurisdiction, I'm not sure what the feds can do. I don't think it helps when local authorities consider it "devastating" that a triple murderer might have to go to prison for life. (I hate to sound heartless, but I consider it a relief.)

    Last weekend, 16 year old Luis Navarro was killed for a new dirt bike his mother had given him for his birthday. The story was on Monday's front page, headlined "Killed on the bike he loved."

    I don't think I'm the only person in the area who wants to see these crimes solved, and I wish there was more focus on solving them and locking up the perps, because it strikes me as basic logic that the people who commit the crimes are the primary cause of the crimes they commit. For whatever reason, that is not an idea shared by the powers that be around here.

    I was delighted to see that a suspect was arrested in the Navarro case. While news of the arrest didn't make the front page, it was a very thorough story, and it described how the suspect was caught:

    Chief Inspector Joseph Fox said that Smith did not know the victim and killed him Saturday evening because he wanted the teen's $3,000 Kawasaki motorcycle.

    The break in the case came Monday when a citizen saw Smith and two other teens moving a motorcycle covered with a tarp in Summerdale, about a mile from the park, Fox said.

    He said the man saw part of the bike and recognized it as the one being sought in the murder case.

    The citizen then called 25th District Police Officer Jose Tirado, who said he knew the tipster through his community policing efforts, and alerted him to what he saw.

    Tirado and Officer John Stokes went to the 800 block of Marcella Street, saw the three, and chased them into a house, where they were taken into custody.

    Inside the house, police also found a handgun believed to be the murder weapon, Fox said. The gun is being traced to determine its origins.

    Smith has not made a statement, but Fox said he had been "bragging" about what happened to others.

    The 16 year old suspect seems to have wanted more than just the bike, because if the report is correct, he went out of his way to deliberately shoot Luis Navarro to death:
    Smith, who has had run-ins with the police in the past, stopped Navarro at gunpoint, the chief said. Navarro tried to push the gun away, and Smith allegedly fired twice.

    Navarro tried to ride off, but Smith fired again, hitting the victim, Fox said.

    "There is some indication he may have fired another shot directly into the victim as he lay on the ground," Fox said.

    What kind of parents would raise such heartless kid? you might be asking. I don't know, but if the mother's attitude is any indication, I'd speculate that maybe the parents just weren't very nice people, and that maybe the federal government wouldn't have been able to help much. To put it bluntly, mom seems to have been more interested in covering up the crime than anything else:
    He contrasted the help provided by the tipster with the actions of the mother of one of the youths "involved in this incident" who knew the cycle was in her house.

    She "told her son repeatedly to get the bike out of the house - 'that bike belongs to that dead kid,' " Fox said. But she did not call police.

    "I don't know what that says about the status of some of the parents in some of these cases," Fox said. "You can draw from it what you want to draw."

    The woman and the other teens have not been charged. Fox said the investigation was continuing.

    If she said that to her son, it would not only constitute bad parenting, it would legally be obstruction of justice. I hope she is charged, and I hope Philadelphia's public officials don't try to spin it as another devastating tragedy for a family.

    Some people are bad. Why can't that be admitted?

    While the story of the arrest didn't make the front page, the mom's remark seems to be attracting a bit of interest as national news. An MSNBC headline reads "Police: Adult Told Teens To Get 'Dead Kid's' Bike Out Of House."

    As usual, these stories fuel the clamor for gun control, but what's conveniently overlooked never seems to merit press ink: the guns were illegal.

    While it was mentioned that triple-murder suspect Vonzell "Pooh" Roundtree "had three previous arrests for firearms and drug charges" and that "in 2002, he pleaded guilty to carrying firearms without a license and was sentenced to three years of probation," nowhere is it pointed out that by being a convicted felon he is subject to 24 hour a day stringent gun control measures. The mere possession of a gun by him is a felony.

    Likewise, 16 year old Eric Smith is also subject to gun control. He is not allowed to carry a gun because he is a minor. I'm not sure what "run-ins with the police in the past" might mean, but if he was adjudicated delinquent, he is also not allowed to possess a gun for that reason. Carrying a loaded weapon in public without a permit is also prohibited, as is carrying it in a vehicle. If his parents were felons and they possessed the gun, there are more gun crimes.

    In the midst of all the clamor that guns are the problem, why aren't these violations of the gun laws taken more seriously? As it is, they're not even being reported.

    It is beyond dispute that existing gun control laws aren't being obeyed by the people who are doing most of these shootings (or their mothers). The most obvious explanation is that criminals can't be expected to obey the law.

    I wish someone could explain to me how that's an argument for enlarging the class of criminals.

    MORE: To be fair, Philadelphia's next mayor, Michael Nutter, while a gun control proponent, at least makes the connection between felons and illegal gun possession:

    Nutter has watched in horror with the rest of Philadelphia at the skyrocketing murder rate. He thinks police should be able to stop and frisk known felons for weapons.

    "We should take illegal guns away from people who should not have them," he said.

    Not only should felons not have guns, it is illegal -- another felony -- for them to have them.

    You'd almost think existing gun control laws were being kept secret.

    UPDATE: Via Pajamas Media, common sense from Friendly Fire:

    Is this really so hard to fathom? More criminals behind bars means fewer criminals on the streets. Fewer criminals on the streets means less crime.
    Tell it to Mayor Street, and Commissioner Johnson.

    posted by Eric at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

    The false flag that falsely flags itself

    Contemplating altruism is a hall of mirrors.

    I've tried before, with mixed results. I've looked at altruism in fish and among dying humans, altruism in the context of Dickensian bushmeat dilemmas, post-Katrina dog and gun-grabbing "altruism", my own failed attempts at communitarian altruism, and my last one was a look at altruism at gunpoint, in which I concluded that people are tired of the game:

    I've long suspected there's a huge closet of insincere altruists who'd love to come out, but the Democrats and the Republicans keep them fighting.

    Dr. Helen has a must-read PJM post on the subject of altruism, and she cites convincing evidence that contrary to the conventional wisdom, atruism is selfish:

    In my experience, most people are motivated by some sort of self-interest when they engage in an altruistic act. I used to have discussions with a psychoanalyst I knew who said, like Heinlein, that no one really does anything unless it is in their self-interest in some way.

    People always point to Mother Teresa as a symbol of altruism but Christopher Hitchens points out that her underlying motives for helping the poor might include proselytization for religious fundamentalism and taking large amounts of money for her efforts. Neither reason seems terribly altruistic.

    Some studies on altruism have found people to have darker natures than was ever imagined.

    In Reason Magazine, Steven Landsburg points to a study in which university students were given envelopes with ten one-dollar bills and told to give whatever they wanted to a stranger in the next room. As an economist would predict, the participants gave little or no money to the stranger. If the students thought that the experimenter knew who they were, they gave more money as they thought they were being judged. However the students willingly gave the most money to strangers when the experimenter was matching their contributions three to one.

    Obviously, they wanted to know what was in it for them. (And how do we know that some of the most altruistic appearing ones didn't think God was watching their every move?)

    Dr. Helen concludes by asking some questions:

    I do think most people are self-deceptive about their true motives when they are driven to do things to "help" people but I have seen too many cases that seem to be true altruism. For example, what about living organ donors who give to strangers or acquantances? What about the firefighters and police who gave their lives on 9/11? Was that altruism or was there underlying self-interest there that perhaps we don't know about?
    I don't know that we'll ever know, but there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the actions of these people were profoundly good.

    Via Pajamas Media, Sissy Willis offers a possible explanation for the apparent altruism:

    As for those firemen running into burning buildings, I do think it's an evolutionary survival thing having to do with avoiding shame and capturing honor among one's chosen peers. In today's parlance it comes down to "feeling good about oneself."
    Approval amongst the members of one's group is all important for the psychological bonding that can mean the difference between survival and extinction, but some groups have more to feel good about than others, especially in this politically correct, self-esteem-without-effort era. We hold within us the potential for both extreme evil and extreme good . . . It all depends upon what we do with our human nature.
    What I find utterly mind-boggling about this is that the focus on altruism tends to shift from whether the act was good to whether the motivation was good -- i.e. whether the altruism was "pure" altruism, or whether it was contaminated by selfishness. In asking "Did the person feel good doing it?" feeling good tends to be discredited as a selfish act, and is thus seen as bad. Judging whether an altruistic act is "good" or "bad" by this standard becomes possible only if we define selfishness as bad. Then there is self-deception: that it is not a good idea to do something selfish under the mistaken or deluded belief that it is unselfish.

    This is all predicated on the idea that the motive matters more than the act. Is doing a good thing for the wrong reason worse than not doing the good thing? Suppose someone runs into the street to save a child from an oncoming truck, and manages to push the child out of the way just in time, only to be run over and killed himself. If it turns out later that he was actually a total loser who had been hanging around just looking for an opportunity to make himself into a hero who happened to hit the jackpot that day, should his act be condemned because of a bad motive? Suppose he knew he would be committing suicide but did it anyway. Good or bad? Would it make the act better or worse if he truly believed that he would go to heaven and meet God? How about if the man was highly loved and successful, had a wonderful family, stood to gain absolutely nothing, and his death left a grieving widow and poorer kids. Better? Or what if he was a junkie in abject withdrawal, who figured that if he got run over he'd be given plenty of painkillers in the hospital, and that saving the child might earn him even more points with Sister Mary Morphine.

    If a lifeguard dives into a pool and saves a drowning child, is that less worthy than a poolside stranger doing the same thing, simply because it is the lifeguard's job?

    I ask these questions not because I know the answers, but because I am someone who does not trust my own altruism. I think the main reason many people don't like altruism is that it often results in self-deception. They only imagine (and often say, loudly) that they are being altruistic, but because they are actually selfish, they are both selfish and dishonest. I agree that dishonesty and self-deception are bad, but I'm not sure that selfishness is.

    Altruism may be dangerous, even bad, for a number of reasons, but I don't think it's quite fair to condemn it simply for being selfish. Assume Mother Teresa was selfish. She still did what she did, and I think her many good deeds stand on their own. (Whether they'd have been "better" if she didn't really believe in God or heaven, who knows?)

    Good acts are not, in my opinion, rendered bad simply because someone does them in order to feel good.

    At the other extreme, what is called "altruism" can result in pure evil. Stalin and Hitler were both considered altruists by their demented followers. So were Torquemada, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden, and every evil altruistic slimebag who manages to strap on a bomb and kill innocent people along with himself. Even assuming that some of these monsters had an altruistic motive (an assumption I make only for the sake of argument), it is completely irrelevant to the evil nature of their actions.

    So, the presence of altruism neither makes a good deed bad, nor an evil deed good. Whether it exists or not, I don't think altruism in itself is either absolutely right or absolutely wrong.

    My point is that even though it might very well be selfish, altruism is often very difficult to pinpoint, and if there's a good result, it should not matter. The problem comes from altruism being considered a good thing in and of itself -- which leads us to praise motives regardless of the consequences of the action. I'm sure most readers have seen the posing sanctimonious types who make a point of always stopping to give the "homeless" man a dollar (often with a reproachful glance at his more "selfish" companions, or even at strangers). It does not matter to him if the guy is a wino who's simply going to use the money to destroy his liver, because the donor has "proven" that he is virtuous.

    This is an important issue right now, because the hair shirt, turn-off-the-power, anti-SUV brigades are coming, and they're hiding behind a smokescreen of altruism. It does not matter to them if the restrictions they want the government to impose end up ruining the economy, just as it would not matter if they don't have any effect on the climate -- or even if the whole anthropogenic global warming theory turned out to be bogus. Why? Because they are (so they say) acting out of altruism! Well, I'm not condemning their altruism, as there's no way for me to know anyway. Nor am I applauding it; what I care about is whether the result will be good.

    Or am I allowed to care whether the result will be good? Doesn't that make me an altruist? No, because I don't care whether I am. I don't see altruism necessarily as a virtue, and I don't claim to be any better because of it. There's this thing called an enlightened self-interest that I'd like to think would kick in, but I don't think that's quite the same thing. (As to a sudden and spontaneous altruistic act, I see no way to judge its motivation.)

    Why am I writing this blog post, anyway? Out of altruism? To save the world? Hardly. My selfish goal is to figure out what I think, and that's very challenging. If people like it, I'm delighted, but I am not here to help them. This is not to say that I have not engaged in altruistic acts or pretended to engage in them. (Question: is it worse to pretend to be altruistic, or to delude yourself into thinking you are?) Anything for the cause, right? If I get involved in something which is arguably bigger than myself (and I have), and people who love altruism want to see me that way, fine! It would be cruel to disappoint them, and why would I do that? I like to think that I am generous, but that's not because I'm hung up thinking it's a virtue; it just makes me feel good to be nice to people. Try it some time! If people want to call it altruism, that's cool with me.

    What, I should tell them that I'm just being nice to them out of selfishness? That would hurt their feelings and make me feel bad. What kind of monster would do that? Is there a rule that I am supposed to tear my hair out worrying about whether or not I am being selfish by being nice to someone?

    Who wrote this rule?


    Here's a true story about a real act of altruism I once pulled off. As anyone who used to be a Deadhead can tell you, it was quite difficult to get tickets to their always-sold-out New Years Eve shows. Scalpers could demand hundreds of dollars for tickets, if they had any to sell. But merely having hundreds of dollars was no guarantee that there'd be any sellers. In an attempt to be fair, the Dead used to sell these tickets by means of a mail order lottery system, in which you'd send in your money order, and you had a one chance in five of maybe getting a ticket. This was one of those shows. Tickets were impossible to come by, and I had an extra, because a companion couldn't go at the last minute. Rather than sell it for $200.00, I thought I'd make a total stranger happy. A deserving stranger, to be chosen completely at random, by me! There were the usual hordes outside, begging, pleading, waving cash, and getting as close as possible to people with tickets, as if physical proximity to one of those precious tickets might cause one to clone itself or fall from the heavens. I finally spotted my mark, who just looked like a nice guy who knew he wasn't going to get in, but was hanging around anyway. (No, he was not holding one of those "I NEED A MIRACLE!" signs! They failed my arbitrary test for gratuitous altruism.) Just a look at this guy's face, and I knew how delighted and surprised he'd be. So I just said "here's a free ticket," and handed it to him on my way in. There wasn't much time for him to do much more than blurt out a "hey thank you," but once he saw the ticket wasn't a fake he was radiant. Never saw him again of course, and I didn't look for him.

    Whether my act was truly altruism or not, I do not care. It felt good. A lot better than it would have felt had I sold the ticket. But you could argue that this wasn't "fair" to the people who were right there offering money, and it might have been downright cruel, because it was so arbitrary. So, so selfish!

    (Yes, I know. People worked hard to earn the money they were offering me, and I gave away the ticket to some anonymous ne'er-do-well just so I could feel good about myself! And meanwhile, the oppressed masses in China didn't get to have any Dead tickets at all!)

    Analyzing altruism is a trap, because you have to analyze it by its own rules. And by its own rules, it is not selfish. So if it is selfish, it's not altruism. And if it's not altruism because it is selfish, then it's only bad if altruism exists, which of course it doesn't.

    If altruism does not truly exist, then how can it be bad?

    Maybe we should pretend.

    posted by Eric at 04:34 PM | Comments (2)

    After Pakistan

    The song at the left is meant to parody the right wing obsession with bombing every thing in sight where the right observes international political problems.

    Except that it seems like, in the words of the great Jimmy Durante, "Everyone is trying to get in on the act." It appears that my esteemed Senator from Illinois and Presidential Contender Barack Obama is trying to get in on the act.

    WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would possibly send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists, an attempt to show strength when his chief rival has described his foreign policy skills as naive.

    The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he must do more to shut down terrorist operations in his country and evict foreign fighters under an Obama presidency, or Pakistan will risk a U.S. troop invasion and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

    "Let me make this clear," Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005.

    You can't make this stuff up. I'm surprised he didn't mention Saudi Arabia. For that matter we know Iran is "holding" some pretty high level Al Queda members. Perhaps it is past time that Obama got on the bomb Iran bandwagon.

    Update: I found out why he didn't mention Saudi Arabia. Edwards already has it.

    Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

    posted by Simon at 02:09 PM | Comments (4)

    Hillary has "political post-traumatic stress disorder"

    So says Andrew Sullivan, in a damned good post contrasting Hillary Clinton with Barack Obama.

    Clinton is from the traumatized generation; Obama isn't. Clinton has internalized to her bones the 1990s sense that conservatism is ascendant, that what she really believes is unpopular, that the Republicans have structural, latent power of having a majority of Americans on their side. Hence the fact that she reeks of fear, of calculation, of focus groups, of triangulation. She might once have had ideals keenly felt; she might once have actually relished fighting for them and arguing in thier defense. But she has not been like that for a very long time. She has political post-traumatic stress disorder. She saw her view of feminism gutted in the 1992 campaign; she saw her healthcare plan destroyed by what she saw as a VRWC; she remains among the most risk-averse of Democrats on foreign policy and in the culture wars.
    While I don't always agree with Sullivan, I've been reading him a long time, and this is a sage analysis by someone who has been watching Hillary from the very start. I can't resist this either:
    The traumatized Democrats fear the majority of Americans are bigoted, know-nothing, racist rubes from whom they need to conceal their true feelings and views. The non-traumatized Democrats are able to say what they think, make their case to potential supporters and act, well, like Republicans acted in the 1980s and 1990s. The choice between Clinton and Obama is the choice between a defensive crouch and a confident engagement.
    Considering that Obama doesn't have a prayer, I'm hoping that the choice in the 2008 general election will also be between the defensive crouch and a confident engagement.

    The mere thought of reelecting Hillary is enough to activate my own political post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Must be a contagious disease.

    posted by Eric at 01:01 PM | Comments (1)

    Laundering alimentary values

    A friend emailed me a truly frightening story, and because Coco reads this blog, I'm not sure it's a good idea for me to even to link it, much less discuss it, lest I give her evil ideas.

    But I've decided to be brave, and I hope Coco is mature enough never to do something like this:

    MENOMONIE, Wis. (AP) -- Debbie Hulleman's dog Pepper has been known to gnaw on lipstick, munch on shampoo bottles and chew on toothpaste. But Pepper got Hulleman into a real mess after gobbling nearly $750.

    "This is probably the worst," Hulleman said Thursday, recalling how she poked through vomit and dog piles left in the yard to recover the cash.


    Talk about a direct threat to family values! What could be more valuable than the family cash itself?

    The problem with dogs eating things is that even though they do it all the time, few people are inclined to believe the truth -- all because snot-nosed second graders have been using "The dog ate my homework!" as a traditional excuse for many, many decades. Not that anything is fair about this. I never used that excuse. So if we suppose that Coco did something like that to me (or something worse, like eating an important legal document), why should I be penalized because of an apocryphal tradition of lying 7 year old brats?

    Hulleman's mother recovered some of the money that Pepper spit out, thinking she had it all. But when Hulleman returned from the trip and went to clean up her dogs' mess outside, she noticed a $50 bill hanging from one pile.

    The chore of sorting through dog feces netted about $400, the 50-year-old dog lover said. Between that and other bills that Pepper had either vomited or simply chewed on, the family recovered $647.

    "We have a $100 bill that can't be recovered because you need three-fourths of a bill and it is only half of a bill," Hulleman said.

    That's true. They have to be able to match up the serial numbers from both sides, otherwise, how are they to know you're not running around scamming different banks with two halves?
    "It wasn't that bad. I soaked it and strained it and rinsed it. I just kept rinsing it and rinsing it. I had rubber gloves on of course," Hulleman said.

    "Everyone said, 'I can't believe you did that.' Well, for $400, yeah, I would do that," she said.

    Well, who wouldn't? Heroin dealing rings have to go through far worse stuff than doggie poop in order to pull out the balloons stuffed with freshly smuggled smack. And then (as if to add insult to injury), it gets repackaged in smaller balloons, which end up being put into the oral cavities of street dealers, who either spit them out for customers on demand, or swallow them in the event of a police search -- only to go through the whole "retreival" rigmarole all over again. (No wonder the more civilized addicts tend to prefer pharmaceuticals!)

    Hey, if that sounds gross, consider the huge amounts of cash they handle.

    Any idea where your unlaundered money might have been?

    posted by Eric at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

    Anticipating an epiphany (on behalf of "ordinary people")

    Today's Philadelphia Inquirer features a front-page story headlined "Seizure casts chief in new light" by the New York Times' Linda Greenhouse. What I cannot figure out is why the story appears nowhere on the Inky's web site. Perhaps there are copyright reasons?

    Anyway, I found the same text at the New York Times, with a different headline -- "Uncertainty Now in a Golden Youth's Trajectory." The idea is that because he had a seizure, not only has Chief Justice Roberts "lost" his "privacy" (a thing I didn't know he had), but that there might be a chance that he'll become, you know, more human.

    No matter what his doctors eventually tell John G. Roberts Jr., or the world, about the diagnosis and outlook for his seizure disorder, it is clear that something changed irrevocably following the 52-year-old chief justice's momentary loss of consciousness on a vacation island dock on Monday afternoon.

    He lost his privacy, and with it the aura of invincibility that came with his youthful good looks and spectacular career path.

    Privacy? Aura of invincibility? I'd say whatever privacy or invincibility he might have had was lost when activists tried to impute that he was gay because he once wore plaid pants. As for privacy, isn't having your four year old child accused of being gay a bit more of a loss than a visit to the hospital following a fall on a dock?

    But Greenhouse doesn't stop there. She invokes medico-historical expertise in the hope that Roberts' fearful "condition" will somehow prove to be an epiphany -- from which he will awaken, suddenly in touch with ordinary mortals. Apparently, an important characteristic of ordinary, lesser beings is that unlike Roberts, we don't file our appeals on time.

    In October, when he returns to his seat at the center of the Supreme Court bench, will colleagues and courtroom spectators see the same golden youth whose trajectory was unmarked by setback or sorrow? Or will they see someone suddenly vulnerable, with a medical condition that, while treatable and shared by millions, can still inspire fear?

    Or to dig deeper, might this encounter with illness even change the way John Roberts sees himself, his job or the world?

    Prof. William H. Chafe, a historian at Duke University, published a book last year, "Private Lives, Public Consequences: Personality and Politics in Modern America," in which he presented portraits of prominent 20th-century Americans, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

    Professor Chafe argued that trauma or tragedy strengthened them and gave them the qualities of leadership they displayed later in life. Could adversity temper a jurisprudence that critics of the chief justice have discerned as bloodless and unduly distant from the messy reality of the lives of ordinary people who fail to file their appeals on time?

    What can Linda Greenhouse possibly be referring to? If you read the rest of the article, there's no specific reference to any filing deadline, so....

    Might there be a hidden subtext? Something the "ordinary people" aren't aware of? I'm just wondering, because Linda Greenhouse is not an ordinary reporter. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who has been covering the Supreme Court since 1978.

    She's known for her leftist political views, and is considered so powerful that "rightists" like Laurence Silberman have complained about the "Greenhouse effect":

    Some critics on the political right, notably retired Appeals Court Judge Laurence H. Silberman have complained of what they call the "Greenhouse Effect." They believe that some federal judges have changed their opinions to win favorable coverage, either in the New York Times or in the legal press in general, which they view as being part of the "Liberal Establishment." This criticism seems directed less at Greenhouse personally than at a general assumption of a liberal media bias. (See [4] for more).

    In 1989, she was rebuked by Times editors for participating in an abortion-rights rally in Washington. Though the New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent attests that he has never received a single complaint of bias in Greenhouse's coverage,[2] some other media observers have been critical of the perception of bias that her personal actions create.

    Harvard speech

    She has also faced criticism for expressing publicly (at Harvard University in June, 2006) her personal views supporting abortion rights and criticism of US policies and actions at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Haditha.[2]

    Greenhouse said that she started crying a few years back at a Simon & Garfunkel concert because her (Sixties) generation hadn't done a better job of running the country than previous generations:

    And of course my little crying jag occurred before we knew the worst of it, before it was clear the extent to which our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other places around the world. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism. To say that these last years have been dispiriting is an understatement.
    Without getting into her views in detail, I think it's fair to assume that when someone like Linda Greenhouse refers to "ordinary people who fail to file their appeals on time" she's talking about something specific.

    And indeed she is. If you go to the NOW website, right at the top there's a link to their analysis of the Supreme Court case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.. The leading headline is "Adding Insult to Injury: Let Goodyear Know What You Think," and to say that NOW is pissed would be an understatement:

    Adding Insult to Injury

    Let Goodyear know what you think!

    After 19 years with Goodyear, Lilly Ledbetter discovered she was being paid less than the male managers, so she sued. The jury agreed, and awarded her $3 million in back pay and punitive damages -- which the judge cut to less than $300,000 because in 1991 Congress set a maximum amount that a company can be ordered to pay for willful sex discrimination.

    Then in May the Roberts Supreme Court took away even that pittance of compensation -- not because Ledbetter hadn't proved her case, but because they said she had missed the 180 day filing limit. In other words, she lost on a technicality. So Goodyear got off scot-free after nearly twenty years of treating Lilly Ledbetter like a second-class employee.

    Now Goodyear has the audacity to go after Lilly Ledbetter to pay their court costs. Shame on them!

    There's also a link to a story about the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and a lot of discussion about how the evil Roberts court cut off the rights of Lilly Ledbetter. It's a huge case in feminist, and various leftist, circles, and there's a WaPo article on Ms. Ledbetter here.

    My point being that it's quite obvious that when Linda Greenhouse used the phrase "ordinary people who fail to file their appeals on time," she's making a clear reference to Lilly Ledbetter case.

    If it's so clear, then why write a blog post? Why go to all this trouble to prove my point?

    Because I don't think it was made at all clear to readers, that's why. If the readers are "ordinary people," then why not tell them about the pressing case said to involve the cutting off of their rights? I suspect that the reference to "ordinary people who fail to file their appeals on time" is meant as inside code language -- aimed not at ordinary people at all, but at the elite few who know about Ledbetter and its repercussions.

    How many readers of the Philadelphia Inquirer read the phrase and caught the subtext? Isn't there a principle somewhere that journalists ought to let their readers in on what it is they're referencing? The whole thing strikes me as condescending -- especially considering that "ordinary people" are under discussion.

    Of course, if "ordinary people" is being used as code language for NOW activists, that might explain why Ms. Greenhouse is uncomfortable explaining the Ledbetter reference.

    But what a pity it was to have missed such a great opportunity. Seriously, if ever there was a time and place to educate the ordinary masses about why their daily concerns should include remembering important appellate filing deadlines, this was it!

    UPDATE: Those who imagine that epilepsy might induce a leftist epiphany of the sort prayed for by Linda Greenhouse might want to read this post by Ace. (Via Jim Lindgren.)

    UPDATE: Ann Althouse likens Greenhouse's epilepsy epiphany to "a script for a movie starring Tom Hanks or Steve Martin."


    I guess such stuff does happen in the movies.

    posted by Eric at 08:25 AM | Comments (1)

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